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An Eternal Now

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 Actually the 'light beings' are still within the realms of Samsara, particularly the 2nd Jhana of the Form planes of existence. As you said they are planes 'lower' than the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas because they still belong to samsaric/non-enlightened realms. They are called light-sound beings, and use light to communicate. They don't use 'verbal' language. 'Yi Zhen Fa Jie' and 'Hua Zhang Shi Jie' are talking about quite different matters, they are talking about the nature of reality which I will explain later.

One of the points of the teaching of the origin of Mankind is that Buddhism does not accept the teachings of a creator, for human beings have not 'descended' from the creation of a personal God but are the natural evolutions of the devas from the 2nd Jhana Light-Sound (Abhassara) realm of heaven.

They are also not really 'Hua Zhang Shi Jie' or 'Yi Zhen Fa Jie'... Yi Zhen Fa Jie, which is the One-Thus-Dharma-Realm is talking about non-duality, it is talking about the true nature of all planes of existence altogether. That means of the 10 realms of existence (the 6 samsaric + 4 saintly realms of existence), whether they are the realms of ordinary sentient beings or enlightened beings, there is only One Taste, One Reality, One Mind... which is luminous[[[Wikipedia:aware|aware]]]-emptiness inseparable. Wherever you are and whatever you experience are only of this One Reality, One Dharmadhatu. Hence 'Yi Zhen Fa Jie' is not a particular place, but is the nature of all phase of existence. It is your true non-dual nature, which is the essence of everything.

The experience of non-duality is described by Ken Wilber as such, "And so how do you know that you have finally and really overcome the Cartesian dualism? Very simple: if you really overcome the Cartesian dualism, then you no longer feel that you are on this side of your face looking at the world out there. There is only the world, and you are all of that; you actually feel that you are one with everything that is arising moment to moment. You are not merely on this side of your face looking out there. “In here” and “out there” have become One Taste with a shuddering obviousness and certainty so profound it feels like a five-ton rock just dropped on your head. It is, shall we say, a feeling hard to miss.

At that point, which is actually your ever-present condition, there is no exclusive identity with this particular organism, no constriction of consciousness to the head, a constriction that makes it seem that “you” are in the head looking at the rest of the world out there; there is no binding of attention to the personal bodymind: instead, consciousness is one with all that is arising – a vast, open, transparent, radiant, infinitely Free and infinitely Full expanse that embraces the entire Kosmos, so that every single subject and every single object are erotically united in the Great Embrace of One Taste. You disappear from merely being behind your eyes, and you become the All, you directly and actually feel that your basic identity is everything that is arising moment to moment (just as previously you felt that your identity was with this finite, partial, separate, mortal coil of flesh you call a body). Inside and outside have become One Taste. I tell you, it can happen just like that!"

But this nondual “state” is not itself another experience. It is simply the opening or clearing in which all experiences arise and fall. It is the bright autumn sky through which the clouds come and go- it is not itself another cloud, another experience, another object, another manifestation. This realization is actually of the utter fruitlessness of experiences, the utter futility of trying to experience release or liberation. All experiences lose their taste entirely- these passing clouds.

You are not the one who experiences liberation; you are the clearing, the opening, the emptiness, in which any experience comes and goes, like reflections on the mirror. And you are the mirror, the mirror mind, and not any experienced reflection. But you are not apart from the reflections, standing back and watching. You are everything that is arising moment to moment. You can swallow the whole cosmos in one gulp, it is so small, and you can taste the sky without moving an inch.

That is why in Zen, it is said that you cannot enter the Great Samadhi: it is actually the opening or clearing that is ever present, and in which all experience- and all manifestation- arises moment to moment. It seems like you “enter” this state, except that once there, you realize that there never was a time this state was not fully present and fully recognized- “ the gateless gate.” And so you deeply understand that you never entered this state; nor did the Buddhas, past or future, ever enter this state.

In Dzogchen, this is the recognition of mind’s true nature. All things, in all worlds, are self-liberated as they arise. All things are like sunlight on the water of a pond. It all shimmers. It is all empty. It is all light. It is all full, and it is all fulfilled. And the world goes on it ordinary way, and nobody notices at all.

Hua Zhang Shi Jie is something similar, it is talking about seeing All in One/One in All. It is based on the principles of the Net of Indra. I just sent Thusness and Longchen a link recently, quite interesting... on this topic. http://deoxy.org/watch?v=ldzqbziuT_0&q=indras%20net

BTW, Hua Zhang Shi Jie and Yi Zhen Fa Jie are not Mi Zong/Vajrayana concepts... they belong to the Mahayana schools, particularly the Hua Yen school (for the Hua Zhang Shi Jie) and the Tien Tai school for the latter. But really all traditions are talking about the same thing... whereas Tien Tai calls it 'Yi Zhen Fa Jie', other traditions such as Vajrayana talk about the same thing with terms like 'One Taste'.

THE EARTH PEOPLE - Part 1
People often ask, "Why are there human beings on earth?", "Where did the ancestors of the human race come from?" or "How did the world come about?" Questions such as these have plagued mankind since time immemorial. The answers lie in the Buddhist scriptures and over the next four issues, Venerable Shen-Kai shall deliberate on them.
The ancestors of the human race came from the Light-sound heaven (Abhasvara)

In the Abhidhamma Patika and other Buddhist scriptures, it was precisely stated that the human race originated from the Light-sound heaven. Being the most intellectual of all living things on this earth, the ancestors of the human race could not possibly have been made from clay by some divine gods; this is a myth. They could not have been evolved from apes; this is a fallacy.

People often ask:
Where is the Light-sound heaven?
Why is it called the Light-sound heaven?
How did the human race come from the Light-sound heaven?

According to Buddhism, the various celestial levels of existence, in ascending order, are divided into three worlds, namely:
(i) Field of Desires
(ii) Field of Forms
(iii) Field of Formless

(i) Field of Desires:
Within the Field of Desires, there are:

    Heaven of Four Heavenly Kings (Catummaharajika)
    Thirty-three Heavens (Tavatimsa) - (there are 33 devas in this heaven comprising 8 devas in each direction of East, West, North and South together with the centre being that of Sakka. Sakyamuni Buddha was once the deva-king of this heaven.)
    Heaven of Devas Yama
    Tusita Heaven
    Nirmanarati Heaven
    Paranirmitavasavartin Heave

(ii) Field of Forms:
Above the Field of Desires is the Field of Forms where beings delight in Jhanic bliss achieved by renouncing sense-desires. This field consists of 4 Dhyana Heavens - the Heaven of 1st Dhyana, the Heaven of 2nd Dhyana, the Heaven of 3rd Dhyana and the Heaven of 4th Dhyana.

    In the Heaven of the 1st Dhyana or Jhana, there are:
    - The Heaven of Brahma's Retinue
    - The Heaven of Brahma's Ministers
    - The Heaven of Maha Brahma (Sakyamuni Buddha was once the heavenly king of this heaven)
    In the Heaven of the 2nd Dhyana, there are:
    - The Heaven of Minor Lustre
    - The Heaven of Infinite Lustre
    - The Heaven of Light-sound or Radiant Lustre
    In the Heaven of the 3rd Dhyana, there are:
    - The Heaven of Minor Purity
    - The Heaven of Infinite Purity
    - The Heaven of Extensive Purity
    In the Heaven of the 4th Dhyana, there are:
    - The Heaven of blessing-arising
    - The Heaven of blessing-attached
    - The Heaven of vast-reward
    - The Heaven of no thought
    - The Heaven of no vexation
    - The Heaven of no heat
    - The Heaven of virtue-view
    - The Heaven of virtue-appear
    - The Heaven of form ultimate

(iii) Field of Formless:
There are 4 other heavens within this Field of Formless. The heavens are totally devoid of matter or bodies. These are:

    The Sphere of infinite space
    The Sphere of boundless consciousness
    The Sphere of nothingness and
    The Sphere of no thought, no no-thought
    From the above three Fields, there are altogether 28 levels of heavens.

The Light-sound heaven or Radiant Lustre is at the 3rd level of the Heaven of the 2nd Dhyana or Jhana of the Field of Forms. The beings of this heaven communicate not through sounds, but they emit pure radiant lights from their mouths that represent what they wish to express and the receiving party on seeing the lights is able to understand what they mean. As lights represent sounds, hence this heaven is called the Light-sound heaven. It is the most unique and wonderful level of the three heavens of the 2nd Dhyana and is also called the "Heaven of Radiant Lustre."

People often ask, "Why are there human beings on earth?", "Where did the ancestors of the human race come from?" or "How did the world come about?" Questions such as these have plagued mankind since time immemorial. In the Abhidhamma Patika and other Buddhist scriptures, it was precisely stated that the human race originated from the Light-sound heaven.
In this Part 2 of The Earth People, Venerable Shen-Kai talks about the first phase of the earth's formation and the arrival of the "earth people".
       
The evolving world goes through four stages, namely:

1. Formation
2. Existence
3. Destruction
4. Void or Emptiness

Each stage has a time span termed a "medium kalpa" . Twenty "small kalpas" make one "medium kalpa". The four stages, each termed a "medium kalpa", make up a "great kalpa".

When the world reaches the final phase of the Stage of Destruction, there will be great fires burning down hell, planet earth, other stars and their cosmic worlds as well as the various heavens within the Field of Desires. Prior reaching the heaven of the 1st Jhana of the Field of Forms, the Devas, Bodhisattvas, Sages and those sentient beings who have performed great virtuous deeds in the lower worlds will naturally be saved. They have already been ascended to the Heaven of Radiant Lustre where they will enjoy happiness and heavenly bliss.

Following the passing of twenty small kalpas in the Stage of Void or Emptiness, the world will return to the beginning of a new Stage of Formation. A big golden heavenly cloud will appear from the Heaven of Radiant Lustre and heavy rain will fall to drench the burning worlds. After the floodwater has receded, the various heavens below the heaven of the 1st Jhana (or Dhyana) will reappear. The massive forces of swirling on the remaining materials left over by the receding floodwater will gradually solidify. This process is accompanied by the reappearance of various planets in the sky - many are spherical in shape and others, elliptical. This will, of course, include our earth and the orbiting moon, as well as all the worlds below including the lowest level of hell. As the extreme heat energies rotate and concentrate, many suns are formed - this is what the astronomers called the stars, planets and satellites. Within each galaxy system, the stars have their orbits rotating around the sun, planets have their own orbits around the stars, and satellites around the planets. The revolving stars, planets and satellites coupled with their own rotations maintain motions, thus creating day and night. Further, the process produces day, month, year and the four seasons. However, it is to be noted that the time scales are different between earth, the various worlds of existence in heavens and other stellar systems.

For this period, a passage in the Chinese Old Text story "Qiong-Lin" recorded similar description on the formation of the world. The text reads:
"When earth was first separated from heaven;
pure light air float to form the sky and the polluted air sink to form the ground;
the sun, moon and five stars are called the seven-Polis;
the heaven, earth and humans are called the three-lords; and
the sun is the master of the "Yang"
with the moon as the image of the "Yin"

The above description is very close to what the Buddha said. Further, records from Buddhist scriptures match very well with what astronomers of today have found. It is in this manner that the world is returned to the great natural phenomenon of the universe.
      
During the first phase of the formation of earth, the earth's crust covering the ground was not fully solidified. The ground surface appeared milky in colour. Looking from the celestial plane, the earth shone brightly and afar. In the heaven of Radiant Lustre, many of those celestial beings whose blissful life in the heaven was coming to an end and who by disposition were more restless and impetuous, on seeing the brightness, and out of curiosity, began to travel down to the earth. They used their "clairvoyance feats" to fly down and reached different continents of the earth. They saw fluid springing out from the ground and they dipped their fingers in it. They tasted the fluid and found it extremely tasty, sweet like honey. While the fluid was so tasty, everyone craved for more. Those who had most, their bodies became rough and heavier. They began to lose their light illusory physical forms and their bodies slowly formed into the material body of bone and flesh. The weight forced them to the ground and they lost their "clairvoyance feats" and "natural heavenly clothes", and were unable to fly through the skies to return to the celestial world. They began to lose many of their intrinsic celestial qualities such as celestial colours, fragrant scent, brightness, beauty, wisdom and their innate miraculous quality. In particular, their "clairvoyance eyes" turned into human eyes; and their "clairvoyance ears" became human ears. They became unable to remember their past lives. They lost their special ability to read the minds of others. They were unable to communicate by radiant light from their mouths and they needed to depend on sounds from the movements of their tongues. While without sufficient languages and vocabulary, they needed sign language to assist them to fully communicate with each other. They became ordinary human beings on earth. After running out of the tasty fluid, they resorted to feed on thick weedy plants, then hard crops from the wild. At that time, the life span of human being was long and there was no disease or sickness. Later, they learned to plant crops and vegetables. During the period of feeding from nature, those who were greedy in feeding themselves acquired darker skin colours, ranging from brown to black. Others who did not feed as much and those who arrived later had lighter skin colour, ranging from fair to yellow. As time went on, together with the influence by climatic conditions of different regions (equatorial, temperate and cold regions), various skin coloured races of people were formed.

1 Kalpa:
1 small kalpa = 16.8 million years
20 small kalpas = 1 medium kalpa = 336 million years
80 small kalpas = 4 medium kalpas = 1 great kalpa = 1.344 billion years

2 Yang:
Chinese philosophy; the masculine or positive principle in nature
 
3 Yin:
Chinese philosophy; the feminine or negative principle in nature

From Celestial Beings to Human Beings

The Abhidhamma Patika and other Buddhist scriptures have stated that the human race originated from the Light-sound heaven. How do they become the human race of today? What will happen to this earth eventually? Venerable Shen-Kai answers these questions and more, in this concluding serial of The Earth People. In addition we learn that the earth, as with all phenomena in the universe, is subject to the four stages of formation, existence, destruction and emptiness. There is no beginning and no end, and the best way for us to live is to emulate the spirit and virtuous deeds of the Bodhisattvas.
 
In the early days, small groups of people lived in scattered places; each group used its own language for communication. The physical separation between the groups and the lack of efficient means of transportation resulted in the creation of hundreds and thousands of different languages. These people were the ancestors of the many different races in the world today.

The early inhabitants, after losing their “celestial clothing”, moved around naked. While they played, their emotions on love and relationship arose resulting in sexual desires. They began to feel shy and shameful. At that time, grass and other plants were grown on earth and they used leaves as clothes, partly to cover their naked bodies and partly to protect themselves from the cold.

From the perspective of the other worlds, the earth’s light had turned green, separating the seas and the land. The devas from other celestial worlds dared not come anymore. The human beings on earth began to live as husbands and wives. They raised children. They lived in caves and later, they learned to build dwelling houses. With improved conditions, the population grew. The six-sensory organs of the human being (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind) began to differentiate and this resulted in affliction and vexation. The innate bright and innocent celestial nature disappeared, and in their places arose greed, anger, ignorance….thereby formed the basis of Asura sentient beings. The Devas, Human and Asura are beings of the three good realms. With the arising of the evil deeds of killing, stealing, sexual misconduct… resulting in the sentient beings in the three evil realms of animal, ghost and hell. Together, these formed the transmigration process in the six realms of existence. With this, all sentient beings have four modes of birth, namely,

i. Womb-born beings (jalabuja);
ii. Egg-born beings (andaja);
iii. Moisture-born beings (samsedaja);
iv. Gaseous form-born beings (opapatika).

and thousands and millions of different life forms.

These constitute the corresponding living spheres of the seas, land, sky and motion.

The thinking of humanity and their lives changed from simple to complex states. Some portions of the human race turned from the barbaric stage to a civilised world. Some portions of primitive man that fed on raw flesh and blood of birds and beasts gradually changed to civilisation. The introduction of farming and trading is the beginning of agriculture and commerce sectors. Some lived on making of farming tools, cooking utensils and production of building materials, this was the beginning of industry. In order to administer peace and justice arising from arguments and fights caused by greed, anger, ignorance, killing, stealing and sexual misconduct, virtuous and upright people were elected to maintain law and order, and to manage the affairs of people in the society. From these came education, social ethic and democratic government. The advent of languages created written texts which led to the flourishing of modern civilisation. The barbaric era ended. Communities moved from small tribal groups into big societies, from societies to countries, and from the competitive nature between countries, and they further evolved through scientific progress into the atomic age and the cosmic age.
      
When the human inhabitants first arrived on earth, the average life span at that time was longer than 84,000 years. As the people distanced themselves from good deeds and committed various evil deeds, the life span shortened. For every 100 years, the average life span is reduced by 1 year. The human life span continued to shorten and when the life span dropped down to an average of 10 years, disasters and calamities struck. For those who were cultivating good deeds and had been staying away as hermits, they survived. For those who had survived the disasters and calamities, they realised their past mistakes and repented. Each began to cultivate good deeds and promoted to the society to carry out good deeds. With the effect of the communal good karma, the human life span began to lengthen again. And when the age has reached 84,000 years, the same decreasing process would repeat due to the arising of evil or unwholesome deeds. One cycle of such an increasing-decreasing life span is called a “small Kalpa”[1]. Twenty small kalpas make up a “medium kalpa”. With this, the Stage of Formation is completed.

Next come the Stage of Existence. In this stage, the increasing-decreasing life span of human beings also underwent twenty small kalpas before it reaches the Stage of Destruction.

At the beginning of the Stage of Destruction, everything had developed to the extremes. All the natural resources had been completely exhausted and the earth severely damaged. The destruction process also went through a period of twenty small kalpas. In the final days, the seas dried up. Strong winds, big fires and heavy floods prevail. The Three Disasters (The three major disasters for world destruction – fire, water and wind) and Eight Difficulties (The eight conditions in which it is difficult to encounter a Buddha or hear his Dharma: in the hells; as hungry ghosts; as animals; in Uttarakuru (the northern continent where all is pleasant); in the long-life heaven (where life is long and easy); as deaf, blind and dumb; as worldly philosopher; in the intermediate period between a Buddha and his successor.) all come upon the earth. This is truly the “End of the World”.

When the earth is damaged, it enters into the Stage of Emptiness. This emptiness stage also lasts for a long period of twenty small kalpas. At the end of this period, big golden yellow clouds would appear and heavy rain would pour down from the Light-sound heaven to put out the fires. A new world is thereby created.

According to the above described process, the world has to go through the four stages of Formation, Existence, Destruction and Emptiness which are the four “medium kalpas”. One “Great Kalpa” needs to go through four “medium kalpas” totaling eighty “small kalpas”.

In the Buddhist scriptures, the term “Three Great Kalpas” refers to the Great Kalpas of the three periods of past, present and future.

In the previous world before our present earth world, the era was called “Kalpa of Adornment”. During twenty small kalpas in the Stage of Existence of the Adornment Kalpa, there were one thousand Buddhas in existence to maintain the virtuous adornment of their world, hence its unique naming. Today, the current era is called the “Kalpa of Virtue”. In the twenty small kalpas of the Stage of Existence of this era, one thousand Buddhas will also be born. The present Sakyamuni Buddha is the fourth Buddha. When it comes to the fifth Buddha, his name will be Maitreya Buddha. Today, he is commonly referred to as “Maitreya Buddha – the Buddha to be”. He is presently not a Buddha and hence the name.

The next aeon is called the “Kalpa of Stars”. In this Kalpa of Stars, within the twenty small kalpas of the Stage of Existence, there will also be one thousand Buddhas.

When the earth of the “Kalpa of Stars” era is destroyed, a new earth will be formed again. If the people of our present world wish to lead a long and blissful life, it is really possible to fulfil this wish. All that is needed is for the people to carry out good deeds, to cultivate and emulate the aspiration of the Bodhisattvas, to contribute to the beneficial deeds of Bodhisattvas, … and within the birth-death transmigration in the six realms of existence to continually maintain the human form lifetime after lifetime. When finally the “End of the World” comes, their “nature-soul” will be saved and they will be born in the Heaven of Light-sound where they will enjoy heavenly bliss.

The world may become damaged, but our “nature-soul” is non-ceasing. When a new earth is formed, those beings will come down from the Heaven of Light-sound, and due to the effect of the communal virtuous karma, together a new world is created that will be a brighter, more stable, peaceful and blissful Buddha World.

It is hoped that everyone will emulate the spirit and virtuous deeds of the Bodhisattvas lifetime after lifetime, and never to regress from the Bodhi path and enlightenment, but to continuously cultivate through the aeon of “Three Great Kalpas”. While there are a thousand Buddhas born in each Great Kalpa, if you could meet the Buddha in your lifetime and be guided and blessed; then it is definitely possible to become a Buddha in the next Great Kalpa after the “Kalpa of Stars” era. Therefore, Jen Chen Buddhism advocates the development of a blissful world on this earth. Such virtuous deeds shall bring about boundless blessings and longevity, and in the coming “kalpa” eras, everyone will become a Buddha.

Kalpa:
1 small kalpa = 16.8 million years
20 small kalpas = 1 medium kalpa = 336 million years
80 small kalpas = 4 medium kalpas = 1 great kalpa = 1.344 billion years

三身 trikāya. 三寶身 The threefold body or nature of a Buddha, i.e. the , 報, and 化身, or dharmakāya, sambhogakāya, and nirmāṇakāya. The three are defined as 自性, 受用, and 變化, the Buddha-body per se, or in its essential nature; his body of bliss, which he "receives" for his own "use" and enjoyment; and his body of transformation, by which he can appear in any form; i.e. spiritual, or essential; glorified; revealed. While the doctrine of the trikāya is a Mahāyāna concept, it partly results from the Hīnayāna idealization of the earthly Buddha with his thirty-two signs, eighty physical marks, clairvoyance, clairaudience, holiness, purity, wisdom, pity, etc. Mahāyāna, however, proceeded to conceive of Buddha as the Universal, the All, with infinity of forms, yet above all our concepts of unity or diversity.

To every Buddha Mahāyāna attributed a three-fold body: that of essential Buddha; that of joy or enjoyment of the fruits of his past saving labours; that of power to transform himself at will to any shape for omnipresent salvation of those who need him. The trinity finds different methods of expression, e.g. Vairocana is entitled 法身, the embodiment of the Law, shining everywhere, enlightening all; Locana is 報身; c.f.三賓, the embodiment of purity and bliss; Śākyamuni is 化身 or Buddha revealed. In the esoteric sect they are Vairocana, Amitābha, and Śākyamuni. The 三賓 are also dharma, saṅgha, buddha. Nevertheless, the three are considered as a trinity, the three being essentially one, each in the other. (1) 法身 Dharmakāya in its earliest conception was that of the body of the dharma, or truth, as preached by Śākyamuni; later it became his mind or soul in contrast with his material body. In Mādhyamika, the dharmakāya was the only reality, i.e. the void, or the immateria1, the ground of all phenomena; in other words, the 眞如 the tathāgatagarbha, the bhūtatathatā. According to the Huayan (Kegon) School it is the or noumenon, while the other two are or phenomenal aspects.

"For the Vijñānavāda... the body of the law as highest reality is the void intelligence, whose infection (saṃkleҫa) results in the process of birth and death, whilst its purification brings about Nirvāṇa, or its restoration to its primitive transparence" (Keith). The "body of the law is the true reality of everything". Nevertheless, in Mahāyāna every Buddha has his own 法身; e.g. in the dharmakāya aspect we have the designation Amitābha, who in his saṃbhogakāya aspect is styled Amitāyus. (

2) 報身 Sambhogakāya, a Buddha's reward body, or body of enjoyment of the merits he attained as a bodhisattva; in other words, a Buddha in glory in his heaven. This is the form of Buddha as an object of worship. It is defined in two aspects,

(a) 自受用身 for his own bliss, and
(b) 他受用身 for the sake of others, revealing himself in his glory to bodhisattvas, enlightening and inspiring them.

By wisdom a Buddha's dharmakāya is attained, by bodhisattva-merits his saṃbhogakāya. Not only has every Buddha all the three bodies or aspects, but as all men are of the same essence, or nature, as Buddhas, they are therefore potential Buddhas and are in and of the trikāya. Moreover, trikāya is not divided, for a Buddha in his 化身 is still one with his 法身 and 報身, all three bodies being co-existent.

(3) 化身; 應身; 應化身 nirmāṇakāya, a Buddha's transformation, or miraculous body, in which he appears at will and in any form outside his heaven, e.g. as Śākyamuni among men.

Source

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