Unification of the Twelve Yanas
At that time I still had projects of translating the Chinese Sutras, the Diamond Sutra and the Sutra of Bodhisattva Earth Treasure, together with my works on these Sutras into English, hence I did not work on the instruction right away.
However, I never forgot it. Recently I had finished those translation projects already, so I started to study works that are related to this topic.
Then I pondered over the principle and direction to do this work. As a result, I had written an article on this topic in Chinese. In the evening of the day when that work was done I began to translate it into English. And this is the translation.
Nevertheless, hardship and suffering of sentient beings have not been universally reduced; in some areas the difficult situations have even become worsen or more enhanced due to technological developments.
Thus it is clear that happiness and technological development are not necessarily synchronized. Human knowledge is confined within the sphere of deduction based on data that are verifiable through sensual experiences, and hence it could not probe into spheres that are beyond sensual experiences.
Therefore, in order to comprehend thoroughly the real situation of the universe and to possess the wisdom to handle suitably various problems of human life we need to look for approaches that are outside human cognition.
All these teachings are pedagogical devices to suit beings of various propensities in variegated situations, and they all share the same goal of guiding beings toward the right and full enlightenment.
Consequently, all sorts of Buddhist teachings should not be regarded as the same as ordinary human knowledge, nor should they be subjugated to the evaluation or interpretation of current scientific views.
Only in this way can one thoroughly appreciate the real benefits of the Dharma.
What Buddha attained and realized was just the auto-appearance of original purity that is indescribable because it is free from duality and hence beyond the reach of words, and further it is beyond the sphere of sensual experiences and hence inexpressible.
Since it is a matter that all sentient beings have originally, therefore any sentient being could comprehend it and thereby return to the original state. When opportunity and conditions of a given sentient being is suitable it is possible for the sentient being to attain enlightenment without outside help or through the kind blessing and guidance of some enlightened being to facilitate the return to original purity. This is the reason why there are Chan anecdotes that are beyond grasping and without handles.
from the great compassion that arises automatically from this oneness there arises intolerance to the deluded state and its consequent sufferings of sentient beings, and hence naturally all sorts of salvation activities will come forth.
In responses to various propensities of sentient beings and variegated situations there naturally arose and developed pedagogical devices of multiple levels so that suitable but gradual guidance and propagation on the path toward original state could be achieved.
And there could hardly be a unified comprehension of the whole system through that approach.
In this essay, based on the traditional classification, I will first mention briefly the main teachings and practices of these twelve yanas. Next, I will explain the graded evolution from lower yanas to higher yanas.
Therefore, while we follow the graded steps of the twelve yanas as a reference scheme, we should not demand or expect artificial compliance.
As to adjusting the variance between theory and real situation, if one has an authentic Guru to rely on for guidance, then it is more likely that mistakes and deviations could be avoided and that a suitable shortcut might be indicated.
- Charyayoga, or Upayoga
- Atiyoga, or Mahasandhiyoga; in Tibetan, Dzogpa Chenpo
II. Brief Indication of Main Contents of Each Yana
It teaches the insight that persons are intrinsically selfless. (Note: I am using intrinsic selflessness instead of the usual terminology of "no self" or "non-self." This new terminology seems to be more in line with the view and expression of original purity.)
It comprehends the insights that persons are intrinsically selfless and that things in general are also intrinsically selfless, and yet it still considers that there are ultimately indivisible elements that are solid.
It trains in concentration stability and the contemplation of the Four Noble Truths as well as of the Twelve Links in the Chain of Interdependent Causation, both in its successive order and in its reverse order.
It teaches that all things are intrinsically selfless.
It trains mainly in the Six Paramitas.
It contemplates the intrinsic selfless nature of persons as well as of things. It goes through training in the Thirty-seven Bodhi Branches to complete the sequential course of views, training, practices and fruition.
It emphasizes on strict observation of tedious ritual details.
Within sixteen lives one would attain Buddhahood complete with three bodies and wisdom complete with five aspects.
5.Charyayoga or Upayoga
Within this life one would attain various accomplishments.
It emphasizes visualization.
It trains in visualization with five classes of actualization.
7.Mahayoga (Development Stage)
8.Anuyoga (Perfection Stage)
9.Atiyoga or Mahasandhiyoga (in Tibetan, Dzogpa Chenpo)
All are naturally self-arising and self-appearing.
All things are naturally self-arising and self-appearing.
Wisdom light of original awareness is naturally omnipresent and eternal, transcending the framework of time and space and all dualistic distinctions, and therefrom all sorts of Buddha bodies and salvation activities naturally and unceasingly arise.
In addition, through practicing Thodgal, Direct Approach, realize the unification of Sunyata and Form as self-arising and self-appearing, and ultimately attain Light Body that is invisible or visible to other beings at will.
III. ppGraded Sequential Order of the Yanas]]
In this section I will give some clarification to illustrate this point of view. Nevertheless, at this point I also would like to emphasize that, indeed all twelve yanas are based on the same reality and are stemming from basic views and principles that run through the whole system.
It is only because that, in order to provide suitable guidance to match variance in propensity of the recipients, teachings at various levels are needed to yield desirable pedagogical results.
Once this is understood, the practical value of each yana in providing salvation guidance is all the same, and due to their appropriate function in providing suitable teachings as guidance, they should all be esteemed with equal respect.
In Pratyekabuddhayana the basic views and practices are no different from those of Sravakayana, but it emphasizes that each individual could, without learning teachings of enlightened beings, comprehend truth through careful observation of causal connections.
In these two yanas once a practitioner comprehends the intrinsic selflessness of persons, a feeling of compassion for others' deluded grasping to a notion of self would naturally arise and lead to salvation teaching activities.
Bodhisattvayana emphasizes instead that the central view should be expanded to the salvation of all sentient beings; through devotion to altruistic services one cultivates departure from self-centeredness, and thereby gradually merges into intrinsic selflessness.
In fact, there is a need and necessity to harmonize these two yanas.
In Bodhisattvayana practitioners keep in contact with the multitude in order to benefit them with Dharma guidance; consequently, many kinds of connections and situations would arise to easily delay the crucial juncture of attaining enlightenment.
In order to help practitioners that have wholeheartedly devoted their efforts to the quest to attain enlightenment sooner the teachings and arrangements of the later Tantric yanas were instituted to provide the experiences of realization as models for imitation.
Nevertheless, such "grade-skipping" practices are not within the capability of ordinary folks.
Therefore, all Tantric practices need to be preceded by receiving blessing through "initiations or empowerments" so that the practitioner would have possessed the seed of wisdom that would grow into real Dharma fruits.
This is a very important fundamental condition that one could not do without it. Many people mistakenly think that it is enough to have books or Dharma texts, then one can start practicing on one's own and engaging in a kind of "building a cart behind closed doors."
The Lower Three Tantras of Vajrayana, Kriyayoga, Charyayoga and Yogatantra, trains one gradually through the processes of attending to Buddhas, befriending Buddhas, up to visualization of oneself as Yidam.
It is based on the view that all things are originally pure.
They are: Semde that teaches all things as appearances of Mind-only and thereby transcends all duality, Longde that teaches all things as originally pure and thereby transcends duality that is based on making distinctions,
Through practicing Thregchod, Cutting Through, the practitioner realizes that all are originally pure in the unification of original awareness and Sunyata, and ultimately attain Rainbow Body that is invisible.
In addition, through practicing Thodgal, Direct Approach, the practitioner realizes the unification of Sunyata and Form as self-arising and self-appearing, and ultimately attain Light Body that is invisible or visible to other beings at will.
for most practitioners it would be possible to realize it only as a result of diligent practice through trainings in Development Stage and Perfection Stage that transform practitioners' body and mind.
IV. The Unifying Philosophic Principle
Out of indescribable experiences teachings that seem to be graspable are skillfully developed only to serve as pedagogical devices so that sentient beings that are lost in their grasping to forms may be guided.
Therefore, in the next lower yanas of Anuttarayoga Tantra this philosophic principle is substituted by other expressions in the form of inseparability of Clear Light and Sunyata, inseparability of Compassion and Sunyata, and inseparability of Joy and Sunyata;
This is because in theory original purity and intrinsic selflessness are congruent and mutually implied each other, while in reality most practitioners could not experience the self-arising of Clear Light of original awareness.
At this juncture I offer the following basic and significant observation: for a basic principle to serve as a unifying principle of all Buddhist teachings it simply need to adopt a monism that transcends duality.
V. Unification of the Twelve Yanas
Once it is understood that the construction of the twelve yanas are all based on experiences of the same reality, that there is an unifying principle that runs through the whole system as its fundamental philosophy,
and that the various diversities that existed among the yanas are merely due to pedagogical considerations so as to suitably guide sentient beings of various propensities under diverse situations onto the path of enlightenment,
Just as in worldly education system, from kindergarten to graduate school the degree of differences may be likened to heaven and earth, and yet they all form a unified and orderly graded sequence of learning.
Dedication of Merits
May all those who come across and receive this teaching comprehend perfectly the universal harmony of the whole system of Dharma, and thereby become able to advance on the practice path at all levels without hindrances, and thus soon attain Great Perfection!