The Gradual and Sudden Paths of Tibetan and Chan Buddhism: A Pedagogical Perspective
“Lord Buddha taught 8400 paths catering for the 8400 types of sentient beings ”. In essence, these 8400 paths may be categorized into two distinct approaches - the gradual path and the sudden enlightenment.
The Council of Lhasa was often quoted to show the apparent conflict of these two approaches. Legend has it that in the 8th century the Indian scholar Kamalashila (蓮花戒) (740-795) engaged in a series of debates with the Chinese monk Hwashang Mahayana (摩訶衍那：大乘和尚) at Samye Monastery (桑耶寺) in the presence of the Tibetan king, Trisong Detsen (赤松德真) (742-797). The former held that enlightenment can only be attained by gradual yogic practices while the latter subscribed to the belief of sudden enlightenment. In the debate Hwashang Mahayana was defeated and left in disgrace because the Tibetan did not accept the idea of sudden enlightenment though nowadays Hwashang Mahayana is still highly respected by the Tibetans and is regarded as one of the eighteen Arhats (羅漢) .
In fact, such a debate happened in the history of Chan (zen) 禪 school of Chinese Buddhism itself. Undoubtedly, sudden enlightenment is the heart of Chan Buddhism. Its origin may be dated back the dialogue between Sakyamuni Buddha (釋迦佛) and Kasyapa (迦葉) (see below) and was much elaborated later on by the Sixth Patriarch Hui-Nang (六祖慧能) (638-713) decades after Chan was transmitted to China by the Indian master Boddhidharma (菩提達摩). The famous story about Hui-Nang goes like this. When the Fifth Patriarch (五祖) was about the pass his lineage to his disciples, he asked those of his followers who wished to take up Patriarchship, to submit verses illustrating their level of realization. First came the great disciple Xen-Xiao (神秀) (? - 706), who wrote
- “The body is a boddhi-tree; 身似菩提樹
- The mind is the stand of a clear mirror; 心如明鏡台
- Cleanse it at all times, 時時勤拂拭
- So it will not get dirty”; 莫使惹塵埃
then came Hui-Nang who wrote
- “There is no tree in the boddhi (awareness) 菩提本無樹
- Nor has the clear mirror any stand; 明鏡亦非台
- There is nothing what-so-ever; 本乘無一物
- Where can the dirt adhere ?” 何處惹塵埃
These two verses clearly illustrate the difference between gradual path and sudden enlightenment. By accumulative yogic practices, as in the continual cleansing of dirt, it is anticipated that one could reach enlightenment. There is a similar line of thought in the analogy given by H.E. Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche : “When pure gold is covered by dirt it is not obvious that it is gold, even though this dirt is temporary. But once it is removed we realize that the gold is gold. In the same way, when our confusion is purified, the wisdom which is our basic wakefulness is made manifest”. We should note, however, that this saying does not apply exclusively to either the gradual or the sudden approach to enlightenment.
Traces of sudden enlightenment can be found in the scriptures too. Two parables in the Surangama Sutra (楞嚴經) tells of a person who suddenly recognizes the different directions in a city in which he had lost his way while another person realizes he hasn’t, in fact, lost his head though he sees it in the mirror. The Sad-dharma-pundarikam (妙法蓮華經) (Lotus Sutra) also talks about a beggar who suddenly realizes he is carrying a wish-fulfilling gem without noticing it and all of a sudden becomes rich. These parables clearly contain the notion sudden enlightenment.
Advocates of the gradual path, however, insist that enlightenment can only be fulfilled through practices over a period of three immeasurable aeons (kalpas 劫) as stated in the scriptures . Such notions are often pictorially presented in a series of “Ox-herding pictures” 牧牛圖, usually with poems attached (Figure 1). The pictures are said to be originated from Ma-Zu 馬祖 (709-788) and followed the gradual Xen Xiao tradition . The attached poems were composed by Monk Pu-Ming 普明.
In the pictures, the path to enlightenment is likened to the process in taming the bull, beginning with searching for the bull, seeing the traces, finding and catching the bull, soothing it, returning home on its back, then the bull is forgotten and return to the origin and the source to begin again by entering the market place with bliss-bestowing hands. A similarly elephant-taming series of pictures is found in Tibetan tradition (Figure 2).
Between the gradual and the sudden approaches there is an eclectic view. Nan said “It was mentioned in the scripture that, ‘There is no definite number of kalpas’” and “who knows for sure that this life is not the last of the three kalpas ” In a way, sudden enlightenment could be the final stage after lifetimes of gradual practices. Hui-Nang did mentioned that his way was specifically tailored with topmost calibre.
The gradual path can best be likened to the elaborate teachings concerning the generating and completion stages in Tibetan Buddhism, in particular, the Nine Vehicles (Yanas) of Samantabhadra (普賢王如來九乘). On the other hand, sudden enlightenment has often been demonstrated by great acts of Chan masters through the ages.
The wide variety of traditions and paths in Buddhism reflects the numerous capacities of its followers. In Nyingmapa (寧瑪巴：紅教), all these different paths are synthesized into a single system showing the different stages of spiritual development under the name of Nine Vehicles of Samatabhadra . In sum, according to the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, the Buddhist path exhibits a very structured training schedule which begins with preliminary practices, visualisation and training of inner energy, and finally reaches the summit of great perfection (大圓滿). This view may be quite different with those expressed in the ways Chan masters used to enlighten their disciples.
The Nine Vehicles of Samatabhadra (普賢王如來九乘)
The long journey to buddhahood are often described by the Five Paths 五道(accumulation, joining, seeing, cultivation and no-learning 資糧道、加行道、見道、修道、究竟道). By undergoing such paths, various stages will be attained at times. For instance, the 60 stages to enlightenment (which are symbolized by the Buddhist stupa 佛塔 ) was one such descriptions. These 60 stages are: the four foundations of mindfulness 四念處 (cattari satipatthani), the four efforts 四正勤 (cattari sammappadhanani), the four psychic powers 四神足 (cattaro iddhipada) the five faculties 五根 (pancindriyani), the five forces 五力 (panca balani), the seven factors of enlightenment 七覺支 (satta bojjhanga), the eightfold path 八正道 (attha maggangani), the tenfold knowledge 十智 (nanam) and the thirteen mystical powers 十力三念處.
The three paths were also used to erect different landmarks in the gradual paths of enlightenment. Such a classification has its origin in the Gelugpa (格魯派：黃教), the school of the Dalai Lamas. In fact, the Gelugpa is renowned, among others, for the profound teachings the three paths elaborated in Lam-rim Chen-mo (菩提道次第廣論) by Je Tsong-kha-pa (宗喀巴) : “Practices free from desire are taught to those interested in the lowly [the hearer - going for human rebirth); practices of the grounds and perfections to those interested in the vast [[[Wikipedia:solitary|solitary]] realiser - going for liberation of the self); and practicies of desire to those specially interested in the profound (mahayana - going for liberation of all sentient beings)” .
The wide variety of traditions and paths in Buddhism reflects the numerous capacities of its followers. In Nyingmapa, all these different paths are synthesised into a single system showing the different stages of spiritual development, put under the name of Nine Vehicles of Samatabhadra. In the following account of the Nine Vehicles , one can realize how the great variety of buddhist teachings can be put into such a highly structured hierarchy.
THE THREE CAUSAL VEHICLES (因乘)
1. Shravakayana or The Way of the Hearers (聲聞乘) The followers of the vehicle realize the selflessness of personalities but uphold the self identity of phenomena. They observe the eight vows (pratimoksha) 八關齋戒. They meditate upon the Four Noble Truths (四聖諦) and perform other shamatha (calm abiding) 奢摩他止) and vipashyana (contemplation) 毘舍那(觀) practices. The fruit of arhat (羅漢) is finally attained.
2. Pratyekabuddhayana or The Way of the Solitary Realisers (緣覺乘) They understand the lack of identity of both personality and phenomena but hold the smallest moment of consciousness as ultimately real. They observe the vows and perform the practices as in the above category. In addition, they meditate on the link of the twelve inter-dependent origination (pratityasamutpada) 十二因緣 in successive and reverse orders. The fruit is Pratyekabuddha (silent buddha - a self-enlightened buddha who would not preach the doctrine) 緣覺佛.
In brief, the above two is regarded as “small vehicle” (Hinayana) 小乘, in which the practitioners only aim at self-accomplishment whereas those in the following great vehicles (Mahayana) 大乘 aims at the liberation of all sentient beings and sees all sentient beings as inseparable with the “self”.
3. Bodhisattvayana (菩薩乘) They see that all phenomena are without any self-identity and by the six perfections of giving, ethical discipline, tolerance, diligence, meditative stability, and wisdom and by developing the four quantities for attracting others (Tib.: bsdu.dngos.bzhi), the fully awakened state (Dharmakaya) 法身 and the two perfect form-bodies (Sambhogakaya 報身 and Nirmanakaya 化身) were accomplished through the thirty seven aspects of path (三十七道品).
THE SIX RESULTANT VEHICLES (果乘)
4. Kriya or Action Tantra (作密) By performance of ritual actions and deity meditation, the result of Vajra-Holder of the Three Knowledge will be attained in seven or sixteen lives. However, the visualization of oneself as deity is not involved. Accomplishment is only granted by the deity in the lord and disciple relationship.
5. Charya or Upa Yoga Tantra (行密) By visualizing the deity situated in front of oneself as partnership, the state of Vajradhara (金剛持) will be attained in seven lives. Again, visualization of oneself as deity is not involved, accomplishment is granted by the deity, which takes a role of ones partner.
6. Yoga Tantra (瑜伽密) By means of five perfect qualities of enlightenment, the buddhahood in the realm of the Beautiful Array will be attained in three lifetimes. These five qualities are perfections of lunar seat (realm), seed syllables (speech) 種子字, attributes (mind), complete form (mandala) 壇城 and wisdom. Though one visualizes oneself as deity, it is only done in the practice session and there are still supplication and sending back of the deity.
8. Anu Yoga (阿奴瑜伽) In the completion stage (圓滿次第), the energy channel (nadi) 脈, energy flow (prana) 氣, energy drops (bindu) 點 are practiced and purified. The psychic centres (chakras) 輪 are also involved in the practice. The attainment of complete enlightenment within the space is thus attained in one lifetime.
9. Ati Yoga (阿的瑜伽) The great completion (dzogchen) is practiced in which the experience of everything is encompassed without acceptance or rejection. Dzogchen practices are classified into the categories of the mind (sams.sde) 心部, expanse (klong.sde) 界部 and concealed instruction (man.ngag.sde) 口訣部. First one’s mind should be trained to attain the state of intrinsic awareness (rig.pa) 明體, following this are the practices of “cutting to the essence” (khregs.chod) 且卻 (立斷) and “instantaneous arrival” (thod.rgal) 妥噶 (頓超). Namkhai Norbu summarizes these path by pointing out the essense of sutrayana (the first three yanas) is renunciation, that of tantra (the fourth to the eighth yanas) is transformation whereas that of dzogchen is self-liberation .
A distinction between the lower tantras (Kriya, Charya and Yoga) with the upper ones (Maha, Anu, Ati) were drawn in Longchen Rabjampa’s The Four-themed Precious Garland 四法寶鬘 of Longchen Rabjampa 龍青巴 , “In the three outer classes of tantra, ... you abandon and adopt in turn (what is appropriate) and thus eliminate taints by (applying their) antidotes”. The commentary of H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche further explained that since “you are unable as yet to transform delusions or defilements into pristine awareness. Therefore you abandon the former and adopt the latter. You apply direct opponents or antidotes to the moral and mental defilements ...”. Furthermore, “as for the inner (tantras), through pristine awareness which is an undivided unity, those things to be abandoned become the path through (the application of) means” and we have the commentary as “... there is no need for the deliberate action of ‘abandoning’ delusions; they are automatically transcended with such awareness. This is the distinctive feature of the three higher tantras”.
Thus, one can see that, in the buddhist path according to the Northern buddhist tradition (that of the Nyingmapa in particular), exhibits a very structured training schedule. The stages of practices that sprung out from the four dharmas of Gampopa]] (1079-1161) 岡波巴四法 can best portray the graduated path of the nyingmapa. It begins with the four thoughts which reverse the mind. “..., first we think about the difficulty of gaining the precious, free and well-favoured human form, because this form is the basis of the spiritual path of liberation. Then we reflect on impermanence and death; everything that exists is subject to change and death. Then, even though one dies one is not free, one goes on circling in samsara from birth to rebirth and that is why the nature of samsara is suffering; we comtemplate on that. Then pattern of karma is inescapable. These are called Lo Dok Nam Zhi: the four thoughts which reverse the mind. Their purpose is to make the mind turn away from samsara and turn towards the practice” .
Next, the practitioner begins with the preliminary practices: take refuge 皈依 and cultivating the enlightened mind (buddhicitta) 發菩提心, purification (repentance) practices 懺悔, mandala offering for accumulation of merit 獻曼達 and guru yoga (being oneness with the spiritual master) 上師瑜伽. Contemplation of a meditational deity 本尊 (creative visualisation) is the centre of the generation stage which begins with contemplating a deity in front of the practitioner and shift to contemplating self as non-two with the deity, bringing to the realisation that everything, which appears to be concrete, is transcended with pristine awareness. The practice of the generation stage will end up with the completion stage which works with the contemplation and transformation of energy channels, energy currents and creative energy (wisdom drop). Great perfection is the peak of nine vehicles in which everything is encompassed without acceptance or rejection .
Though much has been said about the similarity and differences between Chan and Dzogchen (at least Chan and Trechod ), let’s turn for a while to the ways used by Chan masters aiming at enlightening their disciples.
The legend of the origin of Chan Buddhism tells us that once when Lord Buddha was about to deliver a sermon in Gridhrakuta Mountain (靈鷲山), he did not say anything. Instead, he held a flower in his hand. Upon see this, the great disciple Kasyapa 迦葉 smiled; and Lord Buddha declared that Kasyapa had realized the meaning and will pass on this “lineage beyond words”. The following stanza was uttered by the Buddha:
- “The way resembles no ways whatsoever, 法本法無法
- The no-way is in itself a way, 無法法亦法
- Now is the time to transmit the no-way, 今授無法時
- When did various ways follows a way ?” 法法何曾法
Thus, the Chan masters follows various peculiar ways, but none of them was better known than the beating of De-Shan (德山棒) and the shouting of Lin-Ji (Rinzai) (臨濟喝). In Cai’s analysis, she identified three categories of such “non-routine” modes of teaching used by Chan masters: use of symbols, use of words, use of gestures (including the raising of the eyebrow, erection of finger, snapping of the fingers, slapping the face, waving of the hand, beating and shouting) and silence (pause, remain in solitude, rise from the meditation seat, dismiss and return to the Master’s room) . Nan further classified the underlying purposes of such teaching techniques as (a) receiving the disciple, (b) delineating the state of realization, (c) assessing the caliber, (d) drillings and practices, (e) exchanging the states of realization, and (f) preparing for future application .
However, most of these transmissions are conveyed “from heart to heart”. Great Chan masters know the purpose themselves. When such methods are used, they never explicitly tell the principles behind them. Since all these are adjusted according to the temperament of individual students and are implemented according to each situation, it would be of little use repeating them in other similar situations. That is why the Chan master Huang-Bo (黃檗) exclaimed that “there is no Chan master in the Tang empire (大唐國裏無禪師)” . We will explore the Chan's way in the following four aspects.
- “Once Shan-Gu (山谷) asked Abbot Hui-Tang (晦堂) ‘What is the profound mystery of Chan ?’ Abbot Hui-Tang responded, ‘Haven’t you heard the words in The Analects of Confucius, “I have concealed nothing from you ” (吾無隱乎爾) In Chan, nothing is hidden from you’. The man reflected that he still did not understand. Thus, Abbot Hui-Tang took him into the woods. The Master asked, ‘Do you smell the fragrance of the osmanthus ?’ When the man responded, ‘Yes !’ the Master exclaimed, ‘There, I haven’t hidden anything from you !’”
What Abbot Hui-Tang was referring to is the awareness in personal experience. In fact, similar themes have been expressed in Chinese scriptures, the most famous of which is the dialogue of Confucius with his student . One day when Confucius said, “I want to remain speechless”, his disciples Zhi-Gong (子貢) asked, “If the Master remains speechless, how can we disciples elaborate on your words ?” To which Confucius replied, “Do the heavens speak ? (天何言哉) The changing of the seasons, the growth of various beings, do the heavens speak (in order to express these phenomena) ?”
Thus, experiencing is far more important than the delivery of knowledge. Here is another story.
- “When the great zipherist Bai-Ya (百牙) learned to play zipher under the Master Cheng-Nian (成連). There came a time when the Master told him that he had taught him all he knew and that he was going to introduce his own master to him. Thus, Master Cheng Nian led Bai-Ya to the seashore and asked him to wait for him while he rowed away in a boat to meet his master. After some days, the Master did not return so Bai-Ya passed the time by practicing the compositions that his Master had taught him. After a while, he realized that his music had become inseparable from the voice of Nature. At that instant, he realized that Nature was his master’s teacher” .
Chan Buddhism stresses the inadequacies of language since most experience is inexpressible in words. It is often said that the theme of Chan Buddhism is the “Non-establishment of words, pointing directly the mind and attaining Buddhahood upon seeing the nature”. The Sixth Patriarch is known to be illiterate but he is by no means ignorant. This could best be illustrated by the dialogues of The Sixth Patriarch Hui-Nang with Nun Wu-Jin-Zhang (無盡藏) and the Monk Fa-Da (法達) .
- “Nun Wu-Jin-Zhang was very familiar with the Maha-parinirvanam Sutra (大般涅槃經), and as she recited the sutra to Master Hui-Nang, the master quickly understood its meaning. When the nun asked the meaning of certain words in the script, the Master replied, ‘I am illiterate but you can ask me the meaning of any part of the sutra’. The nun said, ‘How can you know the meaning when you don’t even know the words ?’. Hui-Nang said, ‘the profound teachings of the Buddha have nothing to do with words’.”
The similar experience of Monk Fa-Da was also told in the Platform Sutra (壇經). Another point to note is that ideas precede words and consciousness precedes ideas. The following story in Record of Lineage Transmission in the Years of Jin-De (景德傳燈錄卷十一) may illustrate this point.
- “Once Xian-Yen Zhi-Xian (香嚴智閑) asked his disciples, ‘Imagine a person climbed up a tree. To hold himself upright, he bites onto a branch. Suddenly, someone asks, “what is the essence of Buddhist teachings ?” Now what can he do ? If he does not respond, he is showing disrespect to the person asking the question but if he opens his mouth, he will drop to the ground and kill himself. Tell me, how can he get out of this embarrassment ?’ Elder Zhao (招上座) answered, ‘I am not concerned about how he reacts when he climbed up the tree, I am more concerned about the time before he climbed.’ At that the Master laughed.”
In this story, Elder Zhao could be referring to the answer prior to specific situations, the innate awareness beyond words. Chan master never missed the chance of grasping the moment when a disciple is about to utter his verbal response to questions to enable the disciple to experience the awareness before the materialization of ideas. This could be the purpose of various “peculiar” methods employed by great Chan masters. The shout of Lin-Ji Yi-Xuan 臨濟義玄 (? - 867) as recorded in The Assembling of Five Lamps (五燈會元) (Sung Dynasty) is one such famous method.
- “The Master (Lin-Ji) 臨濟 told the monks, ‘Sometimes a shout is like a Diamond King sword, sometimes a shout is like a lion crouched on the ground, sometimes a shout is like a inspecting staff making shadows on the meadow, and sometimes a shout is not used as a shout, how can you understand all that ?’ (Just as) the monk wished to debate, the Master shouted.”
In spite of this, could there be some resemblance in the use of sound, gesture and movements of the limbs in Tibetan debates (Figure 3)? In Tibetan Buddhism, spiritual master could sometimes make use of shouts of “PHAT” to help the disciples cutting through attachments in their meditations .
THREAT OF DISCOMFORT
It was said in The Analect of Confucius that “Enlightenment comes when one is stunned and understanding when one is aroused” (不憤不啟，不悱不發) (7:8). Zhu-Xi 朱熹 (1130-1200) also spoke of “if one does not doubt in the study, we should teach him/her to doubt; and when s/he doubts, we should make him/her no doubt; this is the way of growth”. Understanding, as opposed to rote learning, is often stressed in education. It is pointed out by the educational psychologists that the process of problem solving, which may leads to the transcendence of the mind, can start only when one experiences a “threat of discomfort” . Thus, one of the major tasks of Chan masters is to arouse a state of perplexity (疑情) (usually by the use of dilemmas and conflicts) of the disciples. One of the most frequently cited among all Chan stories is the following which appears in The Gate of No-door (無門關)
- “When Monk Koti (俱胝) first seated for meditation in a hermitage, a nun, called Shiji (實際), wearing a rain hat, came. She circled around the hermitage three times then called out, ‘Take away my hat if you can speak’ (道得即拈笠子) . The monk could not respond. At first he decided to leave for other places so that he can put the case to other learned scholars. But one day Master Tian-Lung (天龍) came and Koti told him the story. While listening to him, Master Tian-Lung held up a finger. Upon seeing this, Koti experienced sudden realization. Thus, thereafter, Koti held up a finger to preach without saying a word.
- “One day, a visitor asked Koti’s pupil the way his master teaches. The boy held up his finger. When he told his master what he had done to the visitor, Koti took out a knife and chopped off his finger. The boy thus ran away screaming but Koti called him back and when the boy turned his head, Koti held up his finger. At that moment [when the boy tried to hold up his shortened finger], he suddenly realized.”
While it is not easy to decipher of myth of how Monk Koti get enlightened when his own master held up his finger, the purpose in giving this treatment to his pupil is clear. For a time the boy may have imitated his master’s technique and might even be successful. He simply thought that this action will lead to realization. Actually, every scenario used by Chan masters was written to suit a specific time and situation and for a special disciple. Not only that, they are quoted spontaneous, with no planning (that is why Master Huang-Bo said that there is no masters but there is Chan). Here, the master skillfully posed a dilemma before the boy and it is through his experience that the boy finally comes to realization. Thus, the boy was led to repeat the scenario in a completely fresh way.
In fact, great faith, great doubt, and strong determination were identified as the “three essentials of Chan Buddhism” (禪門三柱) by Kapleau . He elaborated that in Chan, “‘doubt’ implies not skepticism but a state of perplexity, of probing inquiry, of intense self-questioning .”
In the famous dialogue between Socrates and a slave boy in front of Meno, Plato demonstrates that knowledge comes from insight which he calls “recollection” . One way employed by Chan masters is raising conflicting questions in order to create a state of perplexity among the disciples . The questions were asked, not just to get conventional answers like those asked in a quiz, or just to find out the truth, but rather, through a series of assertions and refutations, the disciples is led through an experience of reflection. The debate in the Tibetan tradition where the conclusion is unimportant has the same purpose. This is clear from the words of the Sixth Patriarch Hui-Neng in Chapter 10 of his Platform Sutra where he taught his disciples how to transmit the dharma :
- “If someone asks you of the meaning [of something], use ‘emptiness’ in respond to questions on ‘reality’, use ‘reality’ in respond to questions on ‘emptiness’; use ‘saint’ in respond to questions on ‘mundane’, use ‘mundane’ in respond to ‘saint’. When two phenomena are contrasted together, the middle way will emerge. So we have questions and answers. All other questioning will follow this method and the truth will not be lost. Suppose someone asks ‘What is darkness ?’ The answer could be, ‘Brightness is the cause, darkness is the condition; where there is no brightness, there is darkness’. We use brightness to illustrate darkness and use darkness to show brightness. We our minds go to and fro between these two notions, the middle way will emerge. Other questioning will follows this. When you transmit the dharma in the future, you should adopt this kind of teaching so that the spirit of our school will be maintained.”
REFLECTION AND MINDFULNESS
Cai identified the following uses of words by Chan masters: affirmative statements, negating statements, questioning, interrogative statements, query on given responses, conditioning statements and exclamations . The categories of paradox, going beyond the opposites, contradiction, affirmation, repetition and exclamation of the use of verbal techniques were also identified by Suzuki . In fact, different qualities of questions, yielding different effect, have long drawn the attention of educational psychologists and indeed, we don’t need a second person (the master) to raise all these questions. When one is frequently confronted with various kinds of questions, one is very likely to raise questions for oneself. This could be the basis of introspection and finally one becomes reflective .
- “Watchfulness is the path of immortality:
- Unwatchfulness is the path of death.
- Those who are watchful never die:
- Those who do not watch are already dead”.
A Pedagogical Analysis
The question, “Are all educated men happy ?” seems to be an old but forever new myth for mankind to meditate upon. If indeed, education does not lead to a happier life but brings unhappiness instead, then the education we place so high an expectation can only bring about wrongness. Indeed, knowledge and affliction are classified in Buddhism as the two major impediments to the acquisition of wisdom. Of course, it all depends on how one defines education. From the Buddhist point of view the fully “educated” man is the one who is totally enlightened. Therefore, in this perspective, being enlightenment is the sole aim of “education”.
In his talk “Buddhism is Neither a Religion nor a Philosophy” , Ou-Yang (1871-1943), the central figure of the Buddhist “renaissance” in China at the turn of the century, distinguished Buddhism from other religions. He pointed out that the major aim of a Buddhist follower is to attain Buddhahood. Lau also pointed out that “In other religions, it is not possible for their followers to become the godhead. In Buddhism, every sentient being possesses the Buddha nature and anyone who uttered ‘homage to the Buddha’ will definitely attain Buddhahood” .
The next question would then be, “Who is capable of being educated ?” Buddhists (mahayana, in particular) hold that every sentient beings possesses the Buddha nature. This cannot be expressed more clearly than the following exposition of H.E. Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche.
- “The ground is the Buddha nature, sugatagarbha (佛性), the dharmakaya (法身) of all the Buddhas that is present in all sentient beings. It is compared to pure, undefiled gold endowed with supreme qualities and free from any defects. How is the Buddha nature present in everyone ? The example given is that of oil in a mustard seed. When pressed, a mustard seed always yields old. In the same way, in all sentient beings there is the essence of Buddhahood, the Buddha nature. No one lacks it. All the budddhas and bodhisattvas have Buddha nature, as well as all sentient beings down to the tiniest insect, without any difference whatsoever in size or quality ”.
It was also stated in Maha-parinirvanam Sutra (大般涅槃經卷十) (Chapter 10) that “All sentient beings will eventually become self-liberated and all three yanas have the same Buddha nature ... just as the price of gold is immeasurable after it is cleared of the dirt and refined. Therefore, all sentient beings have, without exception, the same Buddha nature.”
- “Strange, every sentient beings possesses the merits of the Tathagata, but because of inflictions and attachments, they cannot reach realization ”
Brahmajala Sutra (Part II) (佛說梵網經卷下) also says that “All sentient beings possess the Buddha nature” (一切眾生皆有佛性) in relation to the instance with Lord Buddha was enlightened. Furthermore, Park distinguishes between the “doctrinal faith” and the “patriarchal faith” in relation to the beliefs “I can become Buddha” and “I am Buddha” respectively. Park also mentioned that these two kinds of faith leads to the gradual and sudden approaches respectively .
Why should I become a Buddha ? I don't wish to be worshipped as a statue in the temple. Why should I be educated ? Why should I undergo rigorous training ? These are the questions in the heart of those of our students who are “compelled” to attend school by the decree of universal education.
Buddhism skillfully tackles the questions in the reverse manner by stating the fault of not being “educated”. The teachings of Buddha begin by pointing out the faults of samsara (non-realized existence) 輪迴 which is precisely the theme of the four noble truths. When one knows that the nature of samsara is suffering, one is motivated to seek the path to enlightenment, that is, discarding this shore and longing for another shore.
- “After having begun by giving homage to the lama, first we think about the difficulty of gaining this precious, free and well-favoured human form, because this form is the basis of the spiritual path of liberation. Then we reflect on impermanence and death; everything that exists is subject to change and death. Then, even though one dies one is not free, one goes on circling in samsara from birth to rebirth and that is why the nature of samsara is suffering; we contemplate on that. Then we reflect that whatever one does, whether good or bad actions, the pattern of karma is inescapable. These are called Lo Dok Nam Zhi: the four thoughts which reverse the mind. Their purpose is to make the mind turn away from samsara and turn towards the practice ”.
There has been heated debate in the educational circles on the issue of “nature and nurture”. This issue could be caused by a limited view on life and lifespan. If we regard the termination of this life as the end-point in education, then naturally, not much could be changed (or “educated”) in such a short period, especially if time is measured in relation to the three immeasurable aeons which from the moment of cultivation is the time needed for fully “educated” or enlightenment.
- “Acquire knowledge though you may die next year.
- You may not become wise in this life,
- But if you take it with you in your future birth,
- It will become a precious thing.”
It is likely that the “precious thing” refers not only to factual knowledge. The word “wise” indicates that it may also refer to the level of awareness. Thus, if one goes through all the spiritual practices in this lifetime and still does not attain total enlightenment at the end of it, one’s awareness will be upgraded and merits are accumulated for continuing “education” in the next lifetime .
There is no rigid curriculum for Buddhist “education” although there are general guidelines such as the Three Courses of Study (三學：戒定慧)(vows, meditation and wisdom), the Eight Right Paths (八正道) and the various levels of learning like the nine vehicles of Samantabhadra. Followers of Buddhism will progress along various stages (like the five paths) in the course of their education.
There are numerous ways to enlightenment in both the gradual and the sudden approaches to Buddhism. Indeed, the Buddhist curriculum is an individualized one. Each way is specifically devised for the caliber and temperament of the student. It is often situational and can even be spontaneously “designed”.
Buddhist scriptures explains that from the single syllable AH uttered by Lord Buddha 84000 ways have been derived by sentient beings according to their own caliber and temperament. In other words, a “curriculum”, if there is such a thing, is not differentiated in the sense that profound meanings are hidden from those of a low caliber but each person will derive from it according to his or her need just as there are different antidotes for difference illnesses.
There is no set curriculum in Buddhist teaching and neither is there a “Buddhist way of teaching”. Buddhist master would make use of any means that could enhance the understanding of the disciples. Language and words are means to this end and they are will aware of the limitations of both. The master will give every opportunity to allow his disciple to grasp the nowness (當下) before awareness is transformed into ideas and then later, into words. Before this process begins, it is essential to arouse a state of perplexity and mindfulness in their disciples through engaging them in conflicting dialogues. Details of the principles and methods of conflicting dialogue given by the Sixth Patriarch Hui-Nang have already been discussed.
An indispensable part in Buddhist teaching are the meditational practices. These are not the theme of the present paper but the six categories of common Buddhist practices as set out in “Buddhist and Meditation” are listed here for reference. They are, (1) concentration, (2) contemplation, (3) inhalation and exhalation, (4) chanting, (5) physical exercises, and (6) mind meditation
In the mid-eighties, the revelation of the “success” of the Confucian Cultural Heritage education shook the world. The cover story, “The New Whiz Kids” which appeared in Time may have been the first to bring this phenomenon to the notice of the public, sociologists and educationalists. However, it may be noteworthy that, despite the academic success of Asian students disclosed in the article, a distinction between the Confucian and the Buddhist were drawn. The relatively less successful performance of those coming from Laos and Cambodia was attributed to their gentler, Buddhist approach to life.
Thereafter, the learners and learning environments in the Confucian Heritage Culture were extensively studied and the factor contributing to such outstanding success seems to be their orientation towards achievement the origin of which could be traced to the de-emphasis of non-mundane pursuit so that they can concentrate their efforts on the more immediate goals of this life . In this way, the lives of individuals are “extended” through descendants and heritage.
Thus, in the Confucian tradition, an individual is valued not as an individual but for his or her role in a vast network of kinship. Thus, it is utterly important that s/he plays precisely the role s/he is born into. One of the major functions of education is to train youngsters to act and behave according to the particular role they will take up in society in accordance with their family background and social economic status. In other words, education serves to help the young generation to fit in the society.
This situation, however, has to be re-assessed when the examination system is taken into account because examinations could have an effect on social mobility. An individual, whatever his or her family background, can educate himself or herself, pass different levels of examinations and theoretically climb up the social ladder. Thus, under these new rules of the game, education, in conjunction with the examination system, has a new function; it enables an individual to strive for the highest role attainable by that individual. It is understandable, therefore that the Confucian Heritage Culture, albeit an adapted one, would be strongly motivated towards high academic achievement when the achievement is measured against conventional tests and examinations.
With the widening of the apex of the educational pyramid and job opportunities in the society, the goal and function of school education need to be re-assessed. Students always find school education irrelevant if they look at it solely as a means to help them climbing up of the social ladder. Under this new vision, the Buddhist philosophy of nurturing the potential of every single individual may have strong point over the Confucian one. It is hoped that this paper might provide food for thought towards this end. There is no intention of suggesting that the Confucian way should be replaced by the Buddhist way but it is believed that the Buddhist way of self-development of awareness could shed light and enrich the Confucian philosophy, bringing it to even greater heights of achievement.
1. Taken from a speech delivered by H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche, Jigdral Yeshe Dorje (1904-87), the supreme head of the Nyingmapa school of Tibetan Buddhism, in Hong Kong, 3 November 1981. Similar citation was found in Rong-Xi (1979) (The evaluation of Nyingmapa in Tibet and Chan Buddhism in China (in Chinese), in M.T. Zhang (ed.) The Studies of Relationships between Chinese and Tibetan Buddhism, 37-44. Taipei: Mahayana Culture Publications): “The Buddha taught 8400 paths in order to tame the 8400 different afflictions of sentient beings, just like the emanation of the Medicine King, he uses 8400 herbs in order to cure 8400 different illnesses”. 融熙(1979)。西藏紅教與漢土禪宗的評價。載張曼濤(編)。《漢藏佛教關係研究》。台北：大乘文化出版社。「釋迦世尊…以眾生有八萬四千煩惱，乃廣演八萬四千法門。像醫王出世，以人們病苦有八萬四千症候，不能不廣用八萬四千藥草」
2. Disciple of Shantaraskshi 寂護(靜命) (725-790)
3. Detailed accounts of this incident may be found in The History of Buddhism in India and Tibet of Buston (English translation: Obermiller, 1932) and the book chapters of Gomez, L.O. “Indian materials on the doctrine of sudden enlightenment” and Guenther, H.V. “Meditation trends in early Tibet” (In L. Lancaster & W. Lai (1983). Early Ch'an in China and Tibet, 393-434. Berkeley: University of California.)
4. See “Olscak, B.C.; Wangyal, Geshé, T. (1987). Mystic Art of Ancient Tibet. Boston: Shambala Publications”. According to “Lohia, S. (1994). Lalitavajra’s Manual of Buddhist Iconography. New Delhi: International Academy of Indian Culture and Aditya Prakashan”, Hwashang is not included in the Sixteen Arhats (Sthaviras) in the Indian tradition but is the last of the eighteen Arhats (Gnas.brtan) in the Tibetan tradition
5. Urgyen Rinpoche, Tulku (1991) (English translation: Erik Pema Kunsang). The four dharmas of Gampopa, in Repeating the Words of the Buddha, 13-32. Hong Kong: Rangjung Yeshe Publications. Tulku Urgyen Tsewang Chokdrup Palbar Rinpoche (1920-1996), leading Reme (non-sectarian) master, lineage holder of Baram Kagyu lineage and holder of Padmasambhava’s teachings as rediscovered by Terchen Chogyur Lingpa.
10. See “Thondup, Ven. Tulku (1982). The Dzogchen Innermost Essence Preliminary Practice. Dharamsala, India: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives” and “Berzin, A. (English translation) (1978). Longchen Rabjampa. The Four-themed Precious Garland. Dharamsala, H.P., India: The Library of Tibetan Works and Archives.” Chinese translation: 黃毅英(1987)。四法寶鬘。載《無上密乘修持三要冊》。台北：密乘出版社(49-94)。
16. Berzin, A. (English translation) (1978). Longchen Rabjampa. The Four-themed Precious Garland. Dharamsala, H.P., India: The Library of Tibetan Works and Archives. (pp. 33-34). Chinese translation: 黃毅英(1987)。四法寶鬘。載《無上密乘修持三要冊》。台北：密乘出版社(49-94)。
19. See (a) Norbu, Namkhai (1984). Dzog Chen and Zen. Oakland: Zhang Zhung Editions. (b) Rong-Xi (1979). The evaluation of Nyingmapa in Tibet and Chan Buddhism in China (in Chinese). In M.T. Zhang (ed.), The Studies of Relationships between Chinese and Tibetan Buddhism, 37-44. Taipei: Mahayana Culture Publications. (c) Wong, N.Y. (1989). Guru’s invited lecture on Dzogchen (based on the lecture of Guru Lau Sonam Chokyi Gyaltsan on Dzogchen at Hong Kong City Hall on 16 September, 1989) (in Chinese), Vajrayana Quarterly, 38, 32. 黃毅英(1989)。上師應邀開示大圓滿簡介盛況。《金剛乘季刊》38期，32。Lau, Y.C. (劉銳之), Sonam Chokyi Gyaltsan (1914-1997), chief disciple and Chinese lineage holder of H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche.
22. Huang-Bo (Tang dynasty) told the disciples: “Do you know, … that there is no Chan master in the Tang empire ?” Then a monk asked, “There are so many abbots preaching, why do you utter such words ?” The master said, “I didn't say that there is no Chan, I only said that there is no master.” Records of Green Cliff, (碧巖集) 1125.
26. Chapter 7, The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch. 《六祖法寶壇經‧機緣品第七》
28. Narag Dong Trug (大幻化網尊引法) transmitted by H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche. Chinese translation: Y.C. Lau (1963). The Oral Instruction of the Great Magic Net Tantra. Hong Kong: Vajrayana Esoteric Society (p. 329). 金剛乘學會。
29. Cronbach, I.F. (1955). The meaning of problems, in J.M. Seidman (ed), Readings in Educational Psychology, 193-201. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
30. The question could have multiple meanings, for instance, “if you can speak out what I am thinking just now”, or more profoundly, “if you can speak out the ‘way’”.
31. Kapleau, P. (1980). The Three Pillars of Zen, Teachings, Practice, Enlightenment. New York: Archor Books. See also Park, S.B. (1983). Buddhist Faith and Sudden Enlightenment. New York: State University of New York Press. 顧法嚴(譯)(1975)。《禪門三柱》。台北：慧炬出版社。
32. 朱熹：「讀書無疑者須教有疑、有疑者卻要無疑。到這裏方是長進。」；「參禪須是起疑情，小疑小悟，大疑大悟。」─ 禪關策進題解：袁州雪巖欽禪師普說(雲棲袾宏, pp. 436-438)。《佛光大藏經：禪藏，禪關策進卷》(高雄：佛光出版社, 1994) (p. 437)，又見雪巖祖欽禪師(宋)語錄：袁州仰山禪寺語錄(昭如、希陵編，pp. 11635-11733)。《禪宗集成》(台北：藝文印書館, 1968)17冊 (p. 11661)。
37. Suzuki, D.T. (1956). Zen Buddhism. New York: Doubleday Anchor. See also Lau, K.K. (1995). The revelations from Chan Buddhism to teachers (in Chinese), in P.K. Siu & P.T.K. Tam (Ed.s) Quality in Education: Insights from different perspectives. Hong Kong: Hong Kong Educational Research Association. 劉國強(1995)。禪宗之教對教師之啟示。載蕭炳基、譚添鉅(編)。《教育質素：不卓識之匯集》，246-258。香港：香港教育研究學會。
38. Saunder, N.M. (1966). Classroom Questions: What Kind ? New York: Harper and Row; see also Wong, N.Y. (1994). Questioning and mathematics education (in Chinese), Mathmedia, 70, 66-80. 黃毅英(1994)。問答與數學教學。《數學傳播》70期﹐66-80。後載黃毅英(編)(1997)。《邁向大眾數學的數學教育》(頁123-152)。台北：九章出版社。
39. Mascaró, J. (1973) (English translation). Dhammapada. Middlesex: Penguin Books. See also: Chapter 15 of Sparham, G. (1983) (English translation). The Tibetan Dhammapada. New Delhi: Mahayana Publications. (revised, 1986, London: Wisdom Publications).
40. (a) Chan, B. (1981). The Personality Traits and Educational Principles of Buddha (in Chinese). Taipei: Total Enlightenment Academy Scripture Printing Society. 陳柏達(1981)。《佛陀的人格教育》。台北：圓覺學舍印經會。
(b) Ding, G. (1988). The Buddhist Education of China: A comparative study among Confucian, Buddhist and Taoist Education (in Chinese). Chengdu: Sichuan Educational Press. 丁鋼(1988)。《中國佛教教育》。成都：四川教育出版社。
(c) Lau, K.K. (劉國強) (1995). The revelations from Chan Buddhism to teachers (in Chinese), in P.K. Siu & P.T.K. Tam (Ed.s) Quality in Education: Insights from different perspectives. Hong Kong: Hong Kong Educational Research Association. 劉國強(1995)。禪宗之教對教師之啟示。載蕭炳基、譚添鉅(編)。《教育質素：不卓識之匯集》，246-258。香港：香港教育研究學會。
(d) Wen-Zhu, Monk (1966). Buddhism and Education (in Chinese). Hong Kong: Hong Kong Buddhist Youth Association. 釋文殊(1966)。《佛教與教育》。香港：香港佛教青年協會。
(e) Wang, S.Q. (1982). The Educational Thought of Buddha Sakyamuni (in Chinese). Kaoshiong: Fu Wen Publications. 王松溪(1982)。《釋迦牟尼的教育思想》。高雄：復文圖書。
(f) Zheng, S.Y. (1994). Consciousness, Wisdom for Teaching: Applying Chan's way of teaching (in Chinese). Taipei: Long Stream Publications. 鄭石岩(1994)。《覺‧教導的智慧》。台北：遠流出版社。
42. See Lau, Y.C. (1980). The comparison of Buddhism with other religions (in Chinese), Vajrayana Quarterly, 2, 4-5劉銳之(1980)。佛教與他教之比較。《金剛乘季刊》2期，4-5; see also Chang, C.C. Garma (reprint) (1966). What is Buddhism ? (in Chinese). 張澄基(1966)(重印)。《甚麼是佛法？》。香港：香港佛經流通處。
43. See Urgyen Rinpoche, Tulku (1991) (English translation: Erik Pema Kunsang). The four dharmas of Gampopa. In Repeating the Words of the Buddha, 13-32. Hong Kong: Rangjung Yeshe Publications. (p. 16).
44. 「奇哉，一切眾生，具有如來智慧德相。但以妄想執著，而不得證。」(大慧普覺禪師語錄)Other traditions may have different versions, see, for example, Thomas, E.J. (1949). The Life of Buddha as Legend and History. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
46. Dzogchen view of Ngondro, in Sogyal Rinpoche (1990). Dzogchen and Padmasambhava. Berkeley, California: Rigpa Fellowship in California (p. 81). See also Urgyen Rinpoche, Tulku (1991) (English translation: Erik Pema Kunsang). The four dharmas of Gampopa. In Repeating the Words of the Buddha, 13-32. Hong Kong: Rangjung Yeshe Publications.
48. See also Hung, Q. S. (1996). Whole Life Education. Taipei: Time Publications 洪啟嵩(1996)。 《全生教育》。台北：時報出版社。
52. Watkins, D.A., & Biggs, J.B. (1996) (Eds.), The Chinese Learner: cultural, Psychological and Contextual Influences. Hong Kong: Comparative Education Research Centre and Victoria, Australia: The Australian Council for Educational Research. See also “Watkins, D.A., & Biggs, J.B. (Eds.) (2001). Teaching the Chinese learner: Psychological and pedagogical perspectives. Hong Kong: Comparative Education Research Centre, The University of Hong Kong.” and “Wong, N.Y. (1998a). In Search of the “CHC” Learner: Smarter, Works Harder or Something More? Plenary lecture. In H.S. Park, Y.H. Choe, H. Shin, & S.H. Kim (Eds.), Proceedings of the ICMI—East Asia Regional Conference on Mathematical Education, 1, 85–98”.