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Buddhist Meditation Systematic and Practical - 6

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Chapter VI


A Talk by the Buddhist Yogi C. M. CHEN



Chapter VI



A day of sunshine and warmth after most of the rains had finished, seemed to promise well for this important subject. With our host, who was greatly pleased to speak upon the unity of the Dharma, we quickly cleared up some matters outstanding from previous talks. This finished, Bhante sat rosary in hand to listen, while the writer's pen was posed to try to catch Mr. Chen's meaning and secure it captive on paper, so far as can be done with such elusive and exalted matters...

Today's talk is to answer the question in our title but before doing so, we should explain the meaning of our homage and its bearing upon our subject.

A. The Dedication

The Buddha himself has said that the Dharma existed before him (as previous Buddhas had also preached this Ancient Way ), and in this sense the Buddha is produced by the Dharma. The Dharma is the central Jewel of the Triratna and according to Tibetan tradition, it is more precious than the Buddha. Some examples to emphasize the primacy of the Dharmaratna are seen in the Tibetan practice of never placing an image on a Dharma-book: the Buddha is never placed over the Dharma. The arrangement of shrines follows this, and the sacred Tripitaka is never stored below the figures of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, but is placed above or to one side. Again, in Tibetan books, images are not usually printed in the center of the page, the words of the Dharma occupy the middle and pictures are placed at both ends.

Therefore, in the doctrine of all the three yanas, the first importance is given to the timeless Jewel of the Dharma.

1. What does "Dharma" mean ?

Five definitions have been made and to each one we should give our earnest obeisance.

a. Every phenomenon, interior or exterior, psychological and physical, all are called "dharmas." Besides these dharmas, we can find nothing else, for no "thing" or event lies outside this system. The subject of meditation, its objects, and conditions for meditation all are included. Without understanding the Dharma, Buddhist meditations cannot be practiced. Among the five definitions, this is not the main one, but its meaning is very vast in extent.

b. Both worldly laws and mundane Buddhist rules are called "Dharma." The law is thus the many regulations and precepts of the Vinaya and the different sila taught by the Buddha, which are the preparation and true foundation of meditation. Mostly these are Hinayana doctrine; we should deeply respect it and be grateful to our teacher for having made so firm a foundation for his Dharma. However, the meaning here is still not the main definition.

c. The doctrines taught in the three yanas is the principal meaning. Here are included all the teachings of the Buddha found in the Tripitakas of the Hinayana and Mahayana. We shall talk about the meditations practiced in all three yanas, these being the subjects for several succeeding chapters. These various doctrines should receive our humble and sincere reverence.

d. The Truth, or Bhutatathata. This is where Dharma has been recognized with profound insight as Dharmata, the true nature of everything. This is a narrow definition of the term, but all our meditations aim at this realization, and here also we should offer our deep veneration.

e. The Wisdom of the Buddhas, or the Dharma considered as Perfect Enlightenment. This is our goal to which we make profound worship and towards which we earnestly strive.

Mr. Chen paused a moment and then said:

Now we come to the second great division where a general explanation is given of the Three-ways-in-one and its relation to meditation.

B. The Why and Wherefore of Three-in-one (Triyana)

"I was requested by you," the yogi said to the writer, "and by Bhadanta Sangharakshita about a month ago to talk upon this subject of Triyana meditation. The Buddha's custom was to ask disciples questions although he was already all-knowing (Sarvajna), in order to teach them and benefit others in the future, so although you know the subject of Triyana well enough already, I could only obey your request. Already Bhante here has his temple named Triyana and knowing this, I guessed that his conception might be the same as that presented here: of the Three-vehicles-in-one."

We have to consider the whole system of the three yanas, not each one separately. The three yanas are certainly mentioned in the Lotus Sutra (Saddharma Pundarika Sutra) but the three-yanas-in-one as found in this book is rather different. The Buddha wanted the three not separate but united. He said that no three yanas can be found, only one. Thus to make our meaning quite clear, we usually avoid the term "Triyana" and use the terms "Three-yanas-in-one." This stresses that the three are continuous from one to the other; they are three stages of one path. In truth, there are neither three yanas separately, nor is there only one. To think of each as complete in itself is to fragment the unity of the Dharma, and to talk of only one might imply the claimed superiority of one particular school's doctrine over others. We shall discuss this in detail later.

In our case, we have three-in-one, which seem separate. Why are they separate? Because of the different stages of meditators and the degrees of practice suitable for them. Thus some are skilled, some unskilled, some neophytes and some experts; this the Buddha knew and arranged his teachings accordingly, saying: first take this (Hinayana) and after that comes Mahayana, and from that go on to the Vajrayana.

Why are the three united? They are so because the Buddha taught many teachings over a long period, and these collectively are called "the Triyana." Without seeing truly how they are related, people will be confounded. These yanas are not two ways or three, but follow from one another in a certain sequence forming different levels of the same path. And so, for these reasons, we should try to see the unity of the three, and unite these three-in-one in our practice.

Someone might at this point object, saying, "Why not talk about the five yanas?" In answer we should say that to begin with the five ways have already been mentioned (See Ch. V, C. 4) and then give a detailed explanation.

The first two of the five are the preparation, the skin and flesh and not the main part or heart of meditation.

The second two are both Hinayana. These yanas should be considered as one.

The last one concerns the Bodhisattva career, but teaches only the exoteric doctrines. The Vajrayana must still be added.

Therefore, the system of the three yanas is less in number than five, but more comprehensive in range.

Now we come to the point-by-point answer to the talk's opening question, "What is the reason why we propound the whole system of Three-yanas-in-one?"

1. Arguments between Yanas and Schools

The first purpose is to get rid of nonsensical arguments between the various yanas and schools. We should consider a number of examples of this.

a. Hinayana versus Mahayana

The Hinayana generally, (though now only the Theravadins of the Southern Buddhist tradition remain as an independent school), do not admit the Mahayana Sutras to be the sayings of the Buddha. Let us examine a number of points in this connection.

i. Some Hinayanists say that the canonical literature of the Great Way is not Buddha-word but the invention of Nagarjuna or Asvaghosa. But those believing this should know that even if the Mahayana teachings were revealed by these sages, there is still good reason to have faith in them. The Buddha has many bodies, one of which is called the "Nisyandakaya" (from Chinese we get the meaning, "Equal throughout"). This body is an impartial outflowing; a flowing everywhere of the preaching Buddha, even into the heavens and descending to hells. The Buddha, creating human appearances, causes them to do whatever he wishes, and so is unlimited by conditioned circumstances and has appeared in other realms; for example, in the world of dragons (Nagaloka).

It is recorded that at first, Nagarjuna, who was very intelligent but proud, wanted to establish his own religion as he was not satisfied with the Hinayana teachings of the Buddha. It was his conceit which caused him to think of establishing a religion superior to Buddhadharma.

Then the Naga-king invited him to come to his palace and read the extensive teaching left there by the Buddha. Nagarjuna read the Avatamsaka Sutra and by this was converted to the Mahayana. This great sutra he brought back with him to the human world.

If all the sutras of the Great Way were composed without the grace of the Buddha, why then did Nagarjuna not establish his own religion as he first intended?

Not only have the great teachers of the past discovered the Buddha's Teachings, I myself was asked by a divine voice during my meditation, "You should repeat the Sutra of the Dragon-king Buddha." This discourse I had never seen separately printed and had not taken any care to study, although I had read the Tripitaka four times. I took out this sutra and studied it, finding therein many excellent doctrines and holy instructions. In this work, the Venerable Sariputra, the first in wisdom among the disciples and present at the deep teachings of sunyata in the Heart Sutra, followed the Buddha to his preaching in the naga palace. Listening, he realized that he had never heard such an excellent discourse in the human world. Then he asked the Buddha why he had not preached this highest truth among human beings. The Buddha then warned him not to look down upon or dislike the state of dragons. He said that there were many Bodhisattvas, bhiksus, and upasakas there who, through the commission of a little evil, fell into this watery realm. The nagas being to some extent prepared, the Buddha was able to leave with them many more doctrines than could be taught in the world of men.

Furthermore, we should not forget that the Buddha foretold the coming of Nagarjuna in the Lankavatara Sutra, saying that after eight hundred years have passed, such a sage will arise. The Buddha sent him so that he might cause the Dharma to flourish. It is also written in Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita Sutra that Nagarjuna was a Buddha in the past named "Buddha of Mysterious Clouds." Asvaghosa was once a Buddha as well, and in a past aeon bore the name of "Great Light."

ii. As the followers of Hinayana may doubt that Nagarjuna himself wrote these scriptures, therefore we cannot give these teachings as proof that he did not do so. Now, Buddhism is simply a religion of Truth and certainly not one of blind faith and superstition. The Buddhist is always encouraged by his teacher to find out where the highest truth has been taught most clearly; he may compare the Hinayana and Mahayana teachings and a thorough examination may determine that he prefers the latter to the former, thinking that in the latter the truth preached is complete, whereas the truths of the former are not ultimate. It is the exoteric Buddhist tradition to believe the truth but not who said it: truth (but not the person) is the most important. Supposing Nagarjuna had established a religion with a teaching going further than the Buddha's preaching in the Hinayana, then we should believe Nagarjuna and not Buddha, since the former would then have taught a more complete truth.

In the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, a list of Four Reliances are given: First, our faith relies on truth and not on persons; second, we believe in the truth itself but not in letters and words of scriptures; third, we believe in the ultimate but not in the incomplete truth; and finally, we lay stress on wisdom (prajna) and not on mere consciousness (vijnana).

Wise readers should prove for themselves that the Mahayana canonical discourses are Buddha-word by making a thorough and unbiased comparison.

iii. In the Mahayana, it is never said that Hinayana is not Buddha-word. It is said that the Buddha preached the Lesser as foundation for the Great Vehicle, and this despite the fact that the Mahayana is already so complete. The latter does not at all mind admitting and indeed respecting the Hinayana, so why in their turn should the Theravadins be so narrow in their outlook?

iv. If the four Agamas are carefully read, then in some places we do find references to Bodhisattvas, the three yanas (of disciples, solitary Buddhas, and Fully Enlightened Ones), past Buddhas, and other subjects often thought of as treated only by the Mahayana. The Agamas are not only the teaching of the Sravakas, though principally concerned with them.

In the well-known invocation to the Buddha Sakyamuni widely used in Theravada lands (in Pali: Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Samma Sambuddhassa), there are significant meanings to the three epithets of the Buddha. The first is Bhagavat (the Excellent One among men): this title belongs to the position of cause, representing the human body appearing among mankind but exalted above them. Second is Arhat (the Worthy One): this is in the position of course, since the Buddha practiced as an arhat and bhiksu himself, by his own life showing the way to enlightenment. The third is samyaksambuddha (the Fully Enlightened One): this is the aim of the Bodhisattva, which is in the position of consequence.

Although the teachings of the Agamas do not mention clearly the six paramitas, still the elements can be discovered. For instance, in the Dharmapada, a Hinayana work, are found the following verses on Dana:

"In this world it is good to serve mother

And good to serve father as well,

Good it is to serve the monks

And good to give to the Noble Ones."

"Truly, the miserly fare not to heaven worlds

Nor indeed do fools praise liberality,

But the wise man rejoices in giving

And by such acts alone, he becomes happy hereafter."

Great importance is also given to sila as may be seen from the many stanzas on this subject in the Dharmapada:

"Hasten to do good, restrain your mind from evil.

Whoever is slow to do good, his mind delights in evil."

"Let none find out the faults of others

Nor what is done or left undone by them.

But one should only see

What is done and not done by oneself."

"Do not speak harshly to anyone,

Those spoken to thus will retort.

Indeed, angry speech is hurtful;

Beware lest others retaliate."

"Whoever in this world

Destroys life,

Utters lies,

Takes what is not given,

Consorts with others' wives,

Or is addicted to taking strong drinks—

Such a man digs up his own root (of goodness) in this very world."

"The wise are controlled in body,

Controlled in speech are they,

And controlled in mind (as well).

Truly, they are well controlled in every way."

Ksanti (patience) is also praised in this book:

"If, like a broken gong, you utter nothing,

Then you have reached Nirvana, for anger is unknown to you."

"Forbearance and patience are the highest penance,

'Nirvana is supreme,' proclaim the Buddhas,

Hurting others bodily, one is not a monk.

One is not a recluse oppressing others."

The last three paramitas (virya, energy; dhyana, meditation; and prajna, wisdom) are to be found mentioned often in Hinayana texts as desirable spiritual qualities, if not as perfections. Though we may trace these qualities going by the same names in both yanas, yet there is a difference in their underlying philosophy.

These qualities are not paramitas since they lack the teaching of nonegoism (of both persons and dharmas). The Hinayana philosophy of an atomic theory of indivisible particles and the idea of similarly indivisible instants of time in which "minds" arise, abide, and decline, make this teaching incomplete. Why should these little ideas of permanence be clung to?

(Mr. Chen here refers particularly to the Sarvastivada Abhidharma theories of matter and time with which Theravada Abhidharma has something in common.)

However, the Buddha first preached to those of undeveloped faith and therefore encouraged his hearers to prove his doctrines of sunyata by analysis until there remained only particles regarded as unbreakable. Only later was he able to teach the full voidness teachings to those who could understand them in their own nature and without recourse to analysis.

In his lifetime among men, comparatively long though it was, the Buddha could not complete the preaching of the Dharma. It was necessary for others, by the power of the Tathagata, to reveal to the world the more advanced teachings when the time was ripe. Such teachers were, for instance, Asvaghosa, Nagarjuna, and all the other great sages upon whom he has in the past and may in the future bestow his Dharma as he wishes.

Though so poor in Enlightenment, I myself have received many doctrines bestowed by the Dharmakaya in the holy light of meditation. Among all of my Dharma-treasures seen in the holy light, there were only a few mudras (sacred hand gestures) that have been proved by my Chinese guru. He imparted to me some mudras from the Japanese Tantra by correspondence after I had seen them among my Dharma-treasures in the holy light and most of them have never yet been proved by my gums from Tibet , as some had died while others were not with me in my hermitage. These mudras were not uncaused, nor were they made by myself, If I should claim they were self-made or made by me, it would be a great lie against the Dharma, for all of them are treasures from the Buddha's grace. A lie of such magnitude should bear the punishment of falling into the hells.

Mr. Chen assured us:

I never tell a lie about Dharma, and if indeed my statements about the Dharma revealed to me in meditation are such, may I at once fall into hell!

v. In history, only 450 years passed between the Buddha's Parinirvana and the birth of Asvaghosa. In the meanwhile, Manjusri, who had so often heard the Lord preach, remained purposely on this earth so that the works of Asvaghosa were undoubtedly blessed by the inspiration of this Bodhisattva's presence and by the Dharmakaya. The knowledge of an intelligent Brahmin was turned towards the Buddha's teachings and, blessed in this way, he wrote the Mahayana-sraddhotpada Sastra. The Buddha indeed intended this for the development of the Mahayana.

The four great Councils of the Hinayana (according to Sarvastivada tradition) at Rajagriha, Vaishali, Kusumapura, and Kubha (or Kasmir), we do believe to be true. In the Mahayana also there have been councils held by Manjusri. It is recorded in the last chapter of the Prajna-paramita Sastra that he was commanded by the Buddha shortly before his Parinirvana to collect together all the Mahayana teachings. For the faithful there can be no doubt about this as this sastra was written by the famous teacher Nagarjuna himself would be dare to tell a lie? To convince the sceptical is more difficult, as they may point out that this work was composed by a champion of the Great Way .

b. Exoteric versus esoteric

In China , Mahayanists have sometimes said that the Vajrayana is not the Word of the Buddha. They have been called "heretics," or "outsiders," like followers of Brahmanism. Such statements are the work of the ignorant. Unfortunately, very few understood well the old Vajrayana tradition in China , since knowledge of it was confined to a few only—to the Emperor and his court—and did not influence society in general. The three sages from India who taught it in the Tang dynasty, Vajrabodhi, Amoghavajra, and Subhakarasinha, knew the Vajrayana very well, but as it was restricted to a few people, the unlearned say that it is not Buddhism: they do not know properly. This must be emphasized because we want to make very clear the whole and complete system of the yanas, Three-in-one.

The Sutras on which the old Chinese Vajrayana school was based (which is the foundation for the present Shingon-shu in Japan ), are also translated into Tibetan, so Chinese Mahayanists should not think that they were produced in China . Why do they not read the Chinese Tripitaka? There are good translations of both the Vajrasekhara and Mahavairocana Sutras, the canonical bases of the Vajrayana of China and Japan . If Mahayanists suspect the authenticity of the Vajrayana, why do they not read these?

c . The Japanese Tantra versus the Tibetan Anuttarayoga

Teachers and writers on Shingon have said that the highest yoga of the Tibetan Tantras is not the Buddha's teaching. It has also been said that Padmasambhava was not a true Buddhist but rather a follower of Brahmanism! (Even some Gelugpas of great learning have said this.)

Japanese authorities have rebuked the fourth yoga because of its secret Third Initiation yogic practices, saying that these are very bad, immoral, and so forth. They also hold that the fourth yoga is included in the third (the Yoga-tantra, with its teachings of Vajradhatu and Garbhadhatu), and that this third yoga is not found in Tibet . But on both counts they are not correct: firstly, the subjects dealt with in Anuttarayoga are only touched upon in the third tantra-group; secondly, Tsong-khapa in his sNgag-rim deals fully with the Yoga-tantra teaching, though admittedly it is not as stressed as in Japan . The fourth yoga was not, they must recognize, taken to China or taught there by the three tantrika sages. Kumarajiva, the great translator, certainly knew these most secret teachings and practiced them but he did not teach them to others.

A story told about this teacher runs like this: he was envied by some monks who practiced exoteric Mahayana doctrines, since he carried out the Third Initiation with many beautiful companions. Once he invited all these monks to tea. He arranged a cup and a needle before each visitor and asked them to take the needles with their tea. Nobody had the courage to do so, at which he collected all the needles, swallowed them, and again sent them out from the pores of his skin by his power attained through the Third Initiation. Afterward, no one dared speak against him or to feel envy toward him.

Then Mr. Chen advised:

First, one must practice the lower three parts of the Tantras and then the Tantra especially taught in Tibet . I have written a long essay on this subject, entitled "The Japanese Yogi for His Advancement Should Learn Anuttarayoga." There I have advised the Japanese tantrikas to study the Anuttarayoga with the first three yogas since the Tibetans' emphasis on the fourth tends to lead to a neglect of these necessary preparations.

Forty years ago, a famous Chinese monk, Da Yong, took ten of his disciples to Japan , thus exemplifying the way. At first he studied and practiced in Japan the three yogas taught in Shingon. Not feeling satisfied with the results of this meditation, he then went to Tibet and learned the Anuttarayoga. His knowledge in the Tantras complete, he was able to help many monks and lay people understand the Vajrayana.

Only when one has studied everything one may criticize, but not before.

d. Conflicts in Tibet

In Tibet, they surely all believe in the three yanas but there is a little conflict from differences in doctrine between the New Sect (Gelugpa) formed upon the teachings of Tsong-khapa, and the Old Sects (Nyingmapa, Kagyupa, Sakyapa, etc.). We should examine these conflicting points and see whether or not they can be "harmonized."

Tsong-khapa does admit that the Great Perfection of the Nyingmapa or any other Mahamudra realization cannot be attained unless one has first practiced the third initiation which empowers one to meditate using the divine yogic union. He did not want to separate these and said one may only attain the fourth initiation (for instance, Mahamudra) after practicing the third. The Nyingmapas, however, teach two ways: one of liberation and the other of vajra-love practice. Both, claim the teachers of the Red Sect, can lead their practitioners to Full Enlightenment in this life.

Another point controverted by Tsong-khapa related to the teaching of a Chan Master named "Mahayana Monk", who, hundreds of years before, had taught in Tibet . During his stay great numbers of tantrikas followed him, causing some Tibetan and Indian monks' concern. They therefore invited the Indian pandit-bhiksu Kamalasila to come to Tibet and debate with the Chan teacher. This resulted in the Council of Lhasa, after which, due to the king's instructions, Mahayana Monk had to flee, leaving only one shoe behind in Tibet .

He taught that Chan emphasizes nondiscrimination; indeed, it teaches that if one clings to discrimination there is no possibility of enlightenment. He brought quotations from a hundred sutras and sastras to support his assertion.

Tsong-khapa on this point reasons: if there is no discrimination, how can one investigate the truth? Without investigation, how will there be any practice of samapatti?

In the highest truth there is no discrimination; all is ultimately sunyata. However, the great Geshe's mistake was to regard Chan as a yana of cause, which it is not, being truly a vehicle of consequence. I have written "An Essay on Tsong-khapa's Lam-rim," in which both sides are "harmonized."

Further, the Chan Master said, "If one meets an Enlightened Master, then immediately one realizes Chan (which belongs to the final Truth and not to immature samapatti). Tsong-khapa said, though, that this applies only to sages and not to neophytes. The Chan, however of one who has attained in this way is just like that of a sage and never again resembles the neophyte's samapatti. If it is admitted that theirs is the same Chan as that of sages, then one should agree that the nondiscrimination of the Chan practitioners is quite right. Chan has never used a common meditative way such as samatha or samapatti. If it did, then discriminations to investigate the truth would certainly be necessary, as Tsong-khapa emphasized.

I have often had the thought that if Tsong-khapa was an emanation (nirmanakaya) of Manjusri, why did he emphasize something different from the Old Sect? Once I was in Lu Huo, Xi Kang hermitage and in my meditative light I saw upon my head the light body of Manjusri, which was transmuted into the light body of Tsong-khapa. Since then, I do believe that he is the emanation of that Bodhisattva. Then I tried to find out what were his reasons for refuting the views of the Old Sect.

In Tsong-khapa's time, the conditions were bad among the old schools, with married teachers living a life of eating and drinking, having married just for pleasure (as contrasted with taking a dakini for Tantric practice); bhiksus, too, were not adhering to their rules. Evil men, saying that they were Tantric teachers, took advantage of the Doctrine for worldly gain and pleasure. Tsong-khapa was determined to change the situation. Without him, to whom we should all be very, very grateful, there would be no Buddhadharma in Tibet . He emphasized practice, just as the old schools had, but also urged that the preparations necessary for it were numerous and take long to perform. He taught that one should complete these before actual practice, so that one is truly ready. In this way, he taught the importance of first acquiring merits, and laid less emphasis on wisdom, which was stressed in the older schools.

Tsong-khapa also said that the difference between an Arhat and a Buddha is that the Buddha has more merits than the Arhat, who is also deficient in sunyata realization. As to sunyata itself, he taught that it is the same in Hinayana and Mahayana.

Certainly, we should not directly practice Mahamudra. First collect merits, and after that practice the first, second, and third yogas, coming finally to the fourth. Tsong-khapa shows so clearly in his teachings, as in his Stages of the Path, that we should go step by step, each level the foundation for the one following. Without this teaching, it is doubtful whether there would now be any Buddhism now in Tibet ; so we must again express our gratitude.

However, I do not agree with him that Hinayana and Mahayana teachings on sunyata are the same. In the two yanas, the purport of sunyata is the same but its power to penetrate good and evil differs. The sunyata of the Hinayana is like a shallow river upon which only small boats can sail; but rivers lead down to the sea, which is like the voidness taught in the Mahayana. It may be compared to a great ocean upon which even the largest vessels may float without obstruction.

All these conflicts are settled by our practice of the Three-ways-in-one system of meditation outlined here. Before we finish this section, one more nonsensical dispute should be mentioned.

e. Conflicts in China

In China there have been many schools, and each one has tried to make a division of the Buddha's teaching to account for the numerous and apparently diverse methods found within it. In southern China , three schools tried to do this, and in the north were seven; all these arose before Tian Tai. Only one monk, Fa Min of the Tang dynasty, made a division into two: the exoteric or Nirmanakaya teachings; and the esoteric, originating from the Sambhogakaya. In general, however, nobody heeded the Vajrayana and, instead of incorporating it, left it to form a separate sect. All the teachers made their divisions with only one object: to raise it above the other schools. This, we can say, is just sectarianism. Thus, we find each school proclaiming one or two scriptures as the highest teaching of the Buddha: the Tian Tai say it is the Lotus Sutra, but the Hua Yan claim it is the Avatamsaka, and so on.

We can settle all these disputes in a very nice way by our practice of the Three-in-one.

2. Development of the Buddha's Doctrine

The second reason why we should propound the system of Three-ways-in-one is that we emphasize to the utmost the development of the Buddha's doctrine itself. If we wish to make any division of teachings, it should be according to known historical facts—an objective division, not a subjective one based on our own preference of school. We should not follow ideas such as those of the Hua Yan, who say that only a day or two after the Sambodhi of Gautama, he preached the Avatamsaka Sutra and then, since no one understood, gave a "beginner's" course in the Agama Sutras. Who can prove this? Does not this classification rather glorify the school which made it? We should not like to do this.

a. Historical Sequence

The Buddha first preached to the five bhiksus in the Deer Park near Benares . This is according to all historical accounts, which state that the Sutra called "The Turning of the Wheel of the Law" (Dharmachakra pravartana) was the first taught by the Buddha.

After the Buddha's parinirvana, history again definitely records that 450 years passed before Bhadanta Asvaghosa revealed and established the Mahayana.

Still later, when the Mahayana was flourishing, the Siddha Nagarjuna obtained the Vajrayana teachings from the Iron Pagoda in South India, according to the Chinese and Japanese tradition (see also App. I, Part Two, B, 1). However, the Tibetans say that the heavens opened and the Vajrayana scriptures then descended. Even among them we find the old and new, with the Kalachakra (Wheel of Time) teachings admittedly the latest.

The sequence of teachings is shown in history and there is no good reason for us to turn these matters to our own advantage, this way or that. Our classification should only show the unity of the whole tradition, making it clear that the three yanas are aspects of the One Way. Certainly, as a believer and practitioner of the Three-in-one, I believe the Buddha preached the Hinayana personally in his Nirmanakaya; the Vajrayana in his Sambhogakaya; and some of the Mahayana personally while alive on earth, while other Mahayana scriptures were derived from his Dharmakaya through his outflowing bodies (Nisyandakaya) as Asvaghosa and Nagarjuna.

b. Inherent Nature of the Teachings

The second point to emphasize here is the inherent nature of the various teachings.

The Buddha knew well that people love worldly things; therefore, he first gave teachings on such subjects as the four fundamental mindfulnesses, the need for renunciation, the stress on morality, the fact that pain and pleasure are inextricably bound together, the reason for this, and the Way out of this tangle taught in the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Noble Path. All these factors were not merely taught by him, but lived and realized in his life. Especially is this true of renunciation, of which he gave a wonderful example to all by leading the life of a bhiksu.

When renunciation is well-developed and one knows the pain associated with the world, then only lacking are the aspiration to save others (bodhicitta) and the thorough comprehension of sunyata. Hence, establishment in the Mahayana is necessary.

Those following the Great Way must spend much time to help all sentient beings; and, though it is said in the Bodhisattva precepts that wisdom-beings should meditate three times a day, Bodhisattvas are mostly concerned with universal salvation.

Next comes the preaching of the third yana. Regarding the most important principle of sunyata, in the Hinayana it is not complete, and in the Mahayana it is only realized psychologically; thus, the Vajrayana must be developed, where sunyata is understood in the complete psychophysical sense.

We must have such a sequence of teachings as this, and then we can receive Full Enlightenment.

c. The Sequence of Meditations

We are now concerned with the third reason that supports our Dharma of Three-in-one. For in meditation itself, we should follow the order of these vehicles and unite within our realization all three of them.


First meditate on the Truth of Duhkha, then will follow a thorough renunciation. Some desire is conquered in this stage. However, of the two inner obstacles, the veil of sorrows (klesavarana) is destroyed, while the veil of knowledge (jneyavarana) remains.

ii. Mahayana

From this, one should go on to practice the complementary Mahayana teachings of the paramitas and realization of sunyata with regard to both the person and events. After such practice, both inner and outer obstacles are easily destroyed: the klesa-veil and most of the jneyaveil are torn down.

iii. Vajrayana

Defilements—both jneya and klesa—are of two kinds, acquired (already destroyed in Mahayana meditations) and innate, and the latter are very hard to meditate away. While the former are psychical, the latter pertain to the body, and it is very difficult to still the subtle movements they cause in the mind with their ultra-fine energies. By the Mahayana teachings it will indeed take a long time to do this; it is possible however, by the methods of practice given in the Third Initiation of Anuttarayoga, to rid oneself completely of these very subtle obstacles. This is done by the discovery of the innate wisdom, only possible in the Vajrayana.