How to Choose the Doctrine
There are seven conditions to be gathered which help one choose the right doctrine and teaching to follow and practice. I will first give a brief outline of these conditions and then give more details about each.
The first condition is that you must know the Dharma. Because we are Buddhists we practice Buddhist Dharma so it is this Dharma we must know and choose. The second condition is that you must know yourself. Every person thinks he knows himself, but actually he does not know himself very well. To know yourself means you must know the position you stand in; are you a Bodhisattva, just a Buddhist, a combination of things, just a man or partly of some animal nature? You must know yourself quite well then you will know how to choose the teaching. You must also know to what degree is your accomplishment, your knowledge and your wisdom. Everybody thinks himself very wise, merciful and kind, but actually is he really like this.
You have to reflect very seriously upon what you really are. Knowing yourself, you must know your involvement, your nation, your state, and all your customs. To know how to practice, you have to know yourself. This is the second condition. The third condition is that you must know the contradictory opposite sides of the teachings as well as the one side, and how to resolve and distinguish the two. The fourth condition is to know how to seize the opportunity and chance to work with the teaching. Is this the right chance to teach him or talk to him, is this the time to advise him? All this you must know. The fifth condition is that you must know others, you must know mankind. First you must know yourself, but you must also know others.
This is because we do not practice alone but are always connected with others, so you must know about those others quite well. The sixth condition is to know about time, what is the right time for practising this, is this the right time to practice that. You must know about the correct order, sequence, and time for the teachings. The seventh and last condition is to know all the vinayas, what is this vinaya, what is that vinaya, is this action fixed by this vinaya, or does this break that vinaya. This you must know. If all these seven conditions are known quite well by you, then you will know how to choose the teaching.
I. Know the Dharma
First let me talk about knowing the Dharma. For example, suppose we are just starting to practice impermanence. To practice impermanence does not involve eating, although some Tibetan lamas have said: "You must know impermanence, today you have to eat, otherwise tomorrow you will die. So today you must take enough of this very good meat for everything is impermanent." This is not the Dharma. Some people say, "Oh, I must practice impermanence so I have to sell my car and make many kinds of plans to gather enough money to allow me to practice for three years in a cave. I must take care of these money matters first, then I can practice impermanence." This may seem quite reasonable but it is not really impermanence. To really practice impermanence you must not take care of even tomorrow's rice. My guru whose name was Wu Jin Yee Shi so nicely realized impermanence.
When I remember him I just cry. At that time he was about 50 years old. Every day whenever he received anything he just gave it to others. He said, "Tomorrow I will die, so I just give, give." Actually many tomorrows came and he did not die. His foolish disciples said, "Tomorrow you may die, but tomorrow there will not be even any rice, so we have to arrange for it". I said, "No, this is the Guru's really good renunciation." This Guru died through trouble by his students. He foreknew he would die in seven days and told his students, "I will prepare a seven days meditation and during these seven days I need not even one day's meal, I just meditate. My deep breathing can support me in my life, so don't knock on my door." But these students did not take his advice. After three days they said, "Our Guru has not received food for three days and will die.
What shall we do? We must see what has happened." When they opened his door, he stopped his meditation and immediately died. But he died four days before he should have so those students really killed him. He had already dissolved most of his body but if he still had four more days of quiet meditation without being disturbed, he would have been fully dissolved and attained full Enlightenment. His whole body just remained a height like the length from his wrist to elbow. His disciples with one hand brought what was left for me to see. I felt very sad that the students were so bad. That is why I do not want to have students, for students like those can kill the teacher. Surely there are many gurus who do have students and they do not feel the danger but I have seen such actions. There are very few such lamas any more as Wu Jin Yee Shi. He always told his disciples if anything was given to him to send it away for he did not want anything for tomorrow as he never thought about tomorrow.
If you have long plans to use your car and do this and that, this is not impermanence. Impermanence is not three years or five years away, impermanence means soon you will die so you can not prepare anything but just prepare to die. I am sorry about even myself, with so many books, so much of this and that to do. I said that twelve days later I will send a Dragon Bottle, but actually this is not practising impermanence. How can you guarantee you have twelve more days? You must just strictly practice impermanence according to the Dharma.
Once a Tibetan Guru came to India. The Indian Guru asked him, "Very important is to practice impermanence. After this what shall I do?" "If you really practise impermanence, how can there be something to do after this? You should not ask this question. There is just impermanence!" To practice impermanence strictly is just like this. You must follow the Dharma, not follow worldly things. To prepare your car is a worldly thing, to prepare food is a worldly thing, not the Dharma. For impermanence this moment is here, the second moment you use to diligently practice, nothing else can be involved. Once a guru lived in a cave and practiced many things including the impermanence foundation. He went out to urinate and his robe caught upon a thorn.
He wanted to disentangle it, for a long time he tried, and then he thought of Impermanence! He just pulled his robe away and did not mind that he tore it. He urinated quickly and went inside to practice again. This is real diligence. Real practice is to just renounce and diligently practice the Dharma. You must know the Dharma. Impermanence is for the Dharma; one must not waste even a moment because we are dying so we have to utilize every moment, continue to use, use, then if death has not come, the Dharma will come.
Do not choose by thinking, "Oh, impermanence. I must take food today and tonight have enough sexual intercourse with my wife for there may be no next night." This we should not choose. We must choose only the Dharma. Do not plan for any kind of worldly things, even if only rice. This must be extremely seriously done like this.
You must know all about the Dharma, the what-so-called ordinary Dharma and extraordinary Dharma. Suppose your friend asks you for help and you say that Mr. Chen's teachings say don't try to cure other's diseases. But my book said this only in reference to the extraordinary Dharma in the Tantra when you treat yourself as in a Tantric hermitage and you diligently do certain meditations of Samadhi. Then you should not stop such practice for the ordinary case Dharma. For the ordinary case, when somebody comes who is in pain, surely you must help him. This is quite right for a person practicing Mahayana. Suppose you are not yet in a Tantric hermitage and you have the chance to help another but do not try to cure his disease.
This mistakes the Mahayana Dharma as the Tantric Dharma. In the Mahayana, a Bodhisattva uses many kalpas to become Buddha so he has many lifetimes to become a man and to do good and lure people to believe in Buddhism. If you are now trying to practice Dharma but you have a job, and have not perfectly renounced, then you should do some healing if you can. If you are in a Tantric hermitage and are practising the high doctrine, at that time you have no time to do such temporary things. So you must know what Dharma is temporary, what Dharma is eternal, what Dharma is profound, and what Dharma is not profound, what Dharma is ordinary and what Dharma is extraordinary; then you know how to choose the doctrine.
It says in my books that if you practice the Tantra in a retreat, you must diligently follow just one goal and one practice and must at that exact time reach it, so you have no time to do anything else. That is why the Tantric practicioner can shorten the three kalpas into one lifetime.
We have a fire sacrifice; this outward external fire sacrifice is one kind of sacrifice. There is also an inner fire sacrifice we can practice with Tumo as the fire altar, with our two hands as the two offering handles, with food as offerings. And again we can utilize our whole life as a fire sacrifice to do something for others. But for all of these you must know the exact Dharma. When you get food in a restaurant you can at that time think and use this inner sacrifice. When you get some money, you should put it into the outward fire sacrifice. Do not say, "Oh, I have already performed a fire sacrifice just with my belly." In India I met a naked Yogi who came and asked for money. I said, "Please tell me who is your Yidom, is it Shiva or Krishna?" He replied: "Belly, belly!" This is his fire sacrifice!
Christians sometimes say, I am just like Jesus, I used my whole lifetime to do something good, so I have no need of such an external sacrifice, I need not give money for a sacrifice, because my whole lifetime has been a sacrifice. Actually to say this you must know that your level of practice is really the same as that of Jesus or Saint Francis who had no need of such things. When I was in a cave, I had no incense to burn but when I went outside and had money, I bought incense. We must really do whatever we can for the Dharma.
You must not protect your money under the pretext of saying "Oh, I sacrifice my whole life so I need not buy candles", for you really have not sacrificed your whole lifetime. Actually your whole lifetime is just for your family, for this boy or girl, for eating, for picture, or anything else, but not really just for God's will. If you do not choose the teaching according to the Dharma, you can not choose rightly and properly. So we must know the Dharma very well.
Suppose we say we practice the non-self, non-egoism of the personality. We must also know the Dharma of non-egoism in Mahayana which is both non-egoism of personality and non-egoism of Dharma. We must know further the Tantra non-egoism which is also different. The Tantra is not only personality non-egoism and Dharma non-egoism, but also non-egoism of the five poisons. You must know these differences and then you can know how to practice in proper sequence.
There is a story: A monk sent his disciple to bring a letter to another monk. The monk told this disciple he would have to make a four-five day journey by foot as there were no post offices at that time. He instructed him, "You must be careful and remember that you have an umbrella, remember that is one, you have the letter, very important, this is two, you have a rice basket, this is three, you have straw sandals, that is four, and yourself is five altogether. You must be careful to stop early at a hotel and leave early in the morning. Don't forget yourself, don't forget all these five things." So the disciple left and the next morning before resuming his journey he counted all his things.
"My Guru said I have five things, but today I count only four. My sandals are here, the umbrella is here, the letter is here, the basket is here, but where is the fifth? Oh, I have to go back to ask my Guru, I have only four. But I did not lose anything!", he cried and cried. When he returned the monk said, "You lost what things?" "I did not lose anything but I count only four." "Count to me!" "This and this and this, the other thing I don't know." "Oh, this is yourself!" The student said, "No, you said no self. you always teach me no self, so how can I count it?" "But I told you to remember yourself, you are not really no self, you still have self. I give you money for self, I give you sandals to put your own feet into, all are yourself."
"I am sorry, now I know what is meant by self, what is meant by non-self." Non-self means you just have the non-volition of self. You should not keep the volition of self thinking, "I am the student of this Guru, so you must carefully serve me, ask the hotel to do this and that." But this your self must take care of the letter.
There are so many mistakes on this and even Arhats sometimes have ignorance. When Buddha prepared to talk about the non-Dharma self the Arhats were very afraid, "Oh, if everything both good and bad is non-self then we may hear Buddha talk about evil things, and must not listen!" So you must know very well what non-ego means and what is the ego and how to destroy that ego self but not all aspects of self. In China there was a monk who did not use his name, "Why", I asked him, "do you not use your name?" "If we have no name, we have no self so if we do not use our names we will forget ourselves." "I don't think so. You do not use your name but when your Guru calls your name, you say Ah! Ah! How can you answer if you have no self."
What is meant by the non-self is not the self of the name or the self of the flesh, of the eyes or ears, but it is the volition of self. Those who say, "I am a very good leader, you must follow me" have this kind of big volition of self. Ambition is just volition, and the ego causes fighting and war. So we do not want that kind of big ego but we want non-ego, while we also have some need of the body. It is very difficult to distinguish what is the right meaning of the ego. That is why many practitioners of the Sunyata do not succeed, do not even find what should be non-ego.
Without volition there is no self. If you have volition of self, everything is centralized about this self, I should do this, I should do that, I am like this, I am like that. So every condition of the flesh and of the consciousness, of inside and outside, has such volition, otherwise you could not work, but increased volition gives one trouble and makes one's sorrow. That is why although we have the same heart, the same body, we live in the same America, some people are so happy, some are so sad, some so worried. It is based upon the degree of volition of self. It is not based upon the body or anything else. So when you know the Dharma you know how to practice and how to choose the teaching.
II. Know Yourself
So first you must know the Dharma, then you must know yourself. Some books say you must renounce, but the sixth patriarch of Ch'an said that there is no need to renounce; here is the Buddha, Ch'an is in the world and there is no Ch'an out of the world, so why need renounce? Some say you must renounce according to Hinayana doctrine, but as you have no self, how can I decide whether to renounce or not? What teaching will help me? What teaching is not fixed for me? All are teachings. The Ch'an sixth patriarch was also a very learned Guru and what he said is not wrong. But some teachings of the Buddha say you must renounce this, renounce that, then which should we choose? You must know yourself, then you can choose.
How to know yourself? That means if you are wise enough, if you have Samadhi enough, if your great compassion is enough, if you have destroyed your volition of self, if you have no attachment, if you go everywhere, just help others and never have selfishness, then you do not need to renounce because you have practised everything quite right, you have renounced completely. This is the high teaching of the sixth patriarch. If whenever I touch a little thing I have attachment, I like all girls, I like any good food, all beautiful pictures and entertainment, so that whenever I get anything I become attached to it, then I am a person who must renounce. You yourself must know, "I am this person, so I must renounce."
You know whether you have attachments or not, you must not cheat yourself. It is always stated that Buddha said, "Have pity on yourself." You must know yourself quite well, then you can know how to choose the teaching. You know, "I am such a lustful person; I must not go into society; I must renounce for the time being." You must think, "I will meditate until my samatha and meditation is very strong, my Samdahi is strong and my attachment is all finished, then I can go into the world, into society, into the nation and do everything for others. But first I must destroy my ego."
During the time of intense practice you may have long hair, a long beard and dirty clothes as you will not have time to wash them. But this will not be an external form which you are attached to as the Hippie culture is. Modern girls like the hippie look of long hair and dirty clothes, very romantic. This is not renunciation. Actually Han-Shan really renounced, that is why he had long hair and a beard. Han-Shan did not care about time so he had no clock. But the modern youths come to an airport and ask others what time it is as they save money and do not buy a watch, but others become their watch. This is not renunciation. When I introduced my friend Charles to His Holiness Kalu Rinpoche, I said, "He seems like a Hippie as he has long hair and a beard but he is a very good person and does everything very diligently and carefully and is not lazy, so don't mistake him because of his long hair."
You always have to reflect on yourself, what kind of person you are, and when you know yourself then you can choose the teaching. If you really see every beautiful girl and have no attachment, if you really eat in every good restaurant and all taste the same, then you can go everywhere. If you can draw back your semen and do everything according to Tantric love, then you can go for a massage. If not, you are just an animal spending a lot of money and will fall into an animal state. So you must know yourself and choose the Dharma which will help you. You must try to change yourself, you must make yourself better than before. This goal you must agree to. If you agree with this goal, you have to choose according to your own attachemnt or detachment. If you have detachment you do not need renunciation. If you have attachment you must renounce. This is very clear.
So many persons read Buddhist books and are very perplexed by them. They seem contradictory to each other so you can not choose which to follow. If you know yourself, you know, "Oh, I am not so high a sage; I have to renounce; I have to keep a distance." This is especially confusing regarding meditation. Some books say a little delusion, never mind, let it be, let it go, just like the birds flying into the air, let it go, every day, let it go. If all your life you let it go, let it go, then your brain just goes the way of deluded mind. "Let it go should not be given this interpretation. So many people mistake the Mahamudra teaching and even many false Gurus also misunderstand "Let it go." They say we can meditate in action, delusion also is mind, delusion also is impermanence. Let it be. But this "let it go" is just for practising after you have achieved the Samadhi of Voidness.
You can only really let go this voidness into the air as a bird in the sky when you have nothing inside and have nothing to be an obstacle. So first you have to really recognize the Sunyata and really realize the entity of brightness of the Mahamudra, then you can let it go, just for this moment, let it go. If your self is not in that position, you just feel a mind of more delusion and trouble and pain, and many bad dreams and many kinds of sorrow come. Therefore, you have to practice Samatha, that means with extreme concentration not allowing the deluded mind to come. When it comes, draw it back, when it comes again, draw it back again. If you draw it back many times, but it still comes, it is better to give up your meditation seat and go around the altar, worship, and repeat Amitabha's name. Because if you repeat Amitabha's name, Amitabha will hear, some ghost will also hear and you will get some merit. If you just meditate on "Let it go", what is the use, you get no concentration.
For the first stage, a person must not allow the deluded mind. But for the sage, for the person who is very good in concentration and also knows Sunyata, he can let it go, because he can make the "let it go" function in Sunyata itself. Just like a big steamer on a great ocean, the more steadfastly the big steamer holds to its direction, that means the goal is right, then the more big winds and waves, the quicker it can go. This method is good, but if you are on a small pond and your boat has many holes, you have to empty the water and then you can slowly, slowly float on the surface.
So the beginner must cut off all delusion. That is why I always emphasize that Samatha practice is very important. After this is accomplished you can go on to the higher teachings. Surely maybe some person is wiser than me, more concentrated; he can let it go. If he really can let it go, he can also let himself go through a stone wall, as did Milarepa. Milarepa practised "let it go" and the Mahamudra very well and then talked with scholars about Sunyata. The scholars doubted his mind. He said, I will show you. Then he came to a large stone boulder and passed right through the big stone and came out. "This is Sunyata" he said. "No, I do not believe it" the scholars replied. Then he flew into the sky and sat there. There is no place to sit, but he sat there. "This is Sunyata, even the sky has no seat but I can sit here." So, he showed them. He really "let it go". If you have such power, then you do not just talk and cheat oneself and cheat others. In the world there are many ways to cheat, why cheat with the Dharma?
III. Know the Opposite Side
You must know that the Buddhist doctrines seem to have some contradictory teachings. Somewhere it is said you must not kill, somewhere that you must kill, somewhere it is mentioned no-mind, no Buddha, somewhere else that mind is Buddha, Buddha is the mind; it seems like every teaching resembles and contradicts another. To help understand these discrepancies there are three pairs of kinds of opposites to be considered.
The first pair is: Right and Wrong. To kill is wrong, not to kill is right, but Buddha said you must kill your ego. The act of killing may seem wrong but to kill ego is quite right. So whether to kill or not to kill must be seen according to the Dharma meaning. If you know the Dharma well enough you will not mistake the meaning of kill and the right or wrong of other Buddhist concepts.
The second pair is: Worldly Knowledge and Unworldly Knowledge. The Buddha in Tantra gives many kinds of Tantric terms which are not in man's ordinary language, but you must carefully know and not mistake these. You must carefully be able to distinguish these two kinds of Knowledge.
The third pair is: Unfinished Doctrine and Finished Doctrine. What is meant by finished doctrine? Finished doctrine means a doctrine very perfectly fixed in truth. Unfinished is temporary for the time being because you cannot practice the perfect one, so Buddha gave a little less full teaching. Hinayana is unfinished doctrine while the Tantra is perfect finished doctrine. You can't compare unfinished doctrine against the finished doctrine. For example, the Hinayana unfinished doctrine stresses that a woman is very troublesome for noivces, so you must keep very far away from them; this is unfinished doctrine.
In Mahayana, a woman is traditionally our mother and sister, you should not keep away. In Vajrayana, a woman is the Dharma mother and Dharma wife--a woman must be worshipped for a woman is very perfect; this is the finished doctrine. So in the finished doctrine a woman is the Dakini, in unfinished doctrine a woman is like the enemy, and in half-finished and half-unfinished doctrine a woman is as the Mahayana sister or mother.
If you are a person who is very lustful, who very easily becomes attached to woman, you must take the unfinished doctrine, hold all girls as your enemy, and visualize them as skull and bones or skeleton. Before you meet a girl you first meditate on her as just bones and then after you meet any girl you just hold the thought of your girl of bones so that you see any beautiful girl as just skull and bones. Then you will not have attachment.
Because you have not finished your attachment, you have to use this unfinished doctrine. If you have already finished this attachment, the very high position of woman is as Dakini, so you treat her as Dakini and you work with her within the Tantric Dharma. At that time you can bring up the semen and transform it into light. So you become Buddha and the woman also becomes Buddha. This is finished perfect doctrine.
The Dharma teachings have such distinctions and opposites: some are finished, some are unfinished; some are temporary, some are ultimate; some seem right, some seem wrong; some are in this world's language, some are in the Buddha's language. So you have to know all of these, then you can choose the teaching.
For instance, Buddha Gautama taught us to be patient in the Great Nirvana Sutra, to kill the enemy of the Dharma and so gain a Vajra Body as he himself did. You must choose the doctrine of patience to kill your own enemy of ego; but if you meet a Maoist who is an enemy of Dharma, you must kill the Maoist in order to save the Dharma. Buddha taught patience for us to keep the Dharma but not for us to kill the Dharma in order to make the Maoist like you.
IV. Know the Opportunity
You must know also about how to take the opportunity and chance to use the teaching. I know how to make a divination and when I was living in Kalimpong some people asked me for divinations. As I was in a hermitage and surely aimed at full Enlightenment, I should not do anything temporary. But so many Tibetans came to India and it was a very bad time when war with China came that many wanted to know whether they should escape or not. At that time I remained in Kalimpong but many Rinpoches had already left. Many persons asked me again and I said according to my divination the Communists would go back by themselves. They said, "Yes, yes, we believe you."
At that time His Holiness remained in Sikkim which was closer to China. He did also say that the Communists would not come. I knew the Communists would go back by themselves as I had a dream; I dreamed that the tiger drove away the cat. In Chinese the word "Mao" means Cat, and Tiger is what I practice, the Wrathful Padmasambhava who rides a tiger, so my prayers will help. About one week later there was a rumour which said that all on the Chinese military front were Tibetans. These Tibetans, when they come close to India, will rebell. The Chinese learned of this message, immediately turned back and so the war was finished.
In the case of such a request for divination, if you do not do it, the person who asks will feel disappointed and very sad. Since that time many Tibetan persons thought my divinations good but I did not charge. I just said I did not want too many persons to interrupt my practice. But sometimes I must accept the opportunity to give a little help for there is no other person to do such things.
Once I met a businessman who asked me various questions. He said, "I left my home so long ago. Do you think my wife has many boy friends?" I said, "This has no need for divination. Ask yourself, if you have one in India, she also has one at home; if you have two, she also has two; no more or less." He was very ashamed and went away. So we just use the cause and effect and he can not say really that I don't know, that I can't give divination for such things. So you must also know what opportunities to take.
There is another story concerning using the chance to choose the teaching. In ancient China there were three friends of about the same age. As was customary at that time, when some official dies they are given a national name to commemorate their passing. These three friends were all given the same national name "Ven Doun", which means "Gentle Serious" as all three were known for their humility and seriousness. After their death a historian wrote down their history. It seems one of these friends became ill and was visited by the other two. After wishing the sick one well the friend said, "I wonder which one of us will leave this earth first?" The ill man replied with his usual seriousness, humility and a bow, "Oh, please, you must go first!" He realized that in this case he was not using the chance to choose and practice the correct teaching and immediately repented and begged his friends forgiveness.
V. Know Others
You must know others also, not only know yourself. What does it mean to know others? It is just like knowing a horse. Buddha said there are four kinds of horses. The first kind of horse begins to run right away, when the shadow of the whip is seen, you do not need to even touch him. This is the best and fastest kind. The second one, you must touch its hair a little and he knows, "Oh, yes, he will hurt me", and then he runs, runs. The third kind you must inflict a little pain on his skin and only then will he go. The fourth kind of horse will not begin even when you inflict pain on his skin, but you have to whip him and even harm his bones, just like an elephant whom you must use a hook on and touch his spinal column before he will run. Likewise, there are four kinds of persons.
The wise one who has faith and humility, one you should not talk too much to; you just say a little and he will know quite well. The second one, you have to talk a little more to, the third one you must even scold, and the fourth one you must beat and strike. Marpa toward Milarepa was like the fourth kind. This was not because Milarepa was not a good horse, but because he had heavy sins from the past. Many think it was only Marpa's wife who was very merciful, really a Dakini, while Marpa was very bad. Actually Marpa's wife stole some things and gave them to Milarepa for use as present to a disciple of Marpa, to help Milarepa get the teachings. This was a sin. So we must talk with some people, and do not talk with others; some we must give a heavy lesson to.
Once a Buddhist Guru came to my place to visit me. He had a disciple who followed him so when the Guru came and I asked him to sit down, the disciple also sat down. The first to talk must be the teacher, not the student, but that disciple was very strong and immediately asked me, "Is it true or not: our Guru said you are a disciple of his past life?" I immediately said, "You must believe whatever your Guru says, don't ask me. Whatever your Guru says is true for you, otherwise he is not your Guru. You shouldn't ask me." Actually,
I am not his disciple of either a past life or this life. This kind of person you cannot fight with by saying "No; why do you say like this? you are a Rinpoche and you should not speak a lie." This cannot be said. You have to speak just a little, saying the Guru should talk the truth and you must believe your Guru's truth, that's enough. So this Guru was very ashamed but still he gave me thanks. For the person I am very familiar with, I give advice very frankly. I never use the third or fourth method, but I am not a Guru.
VI. Know the Time
You must also know the time. In India there is a language in which the word "chantarpo" has four meanings: the first meaning is salt, the second meaning is water, the third meaning is cup; the fourth meaning is horse. There was a king who would just say "Chantarpo" and the servant was expected to bring that certain thing. To do this he must know the appropriate time. When the king was eating something, it meant to bring the salt; when the king was washing, it meant to bring water; when the king was drinking and called Chantarpo, he brought a cup; and when the king was dressing and preparing to go outside, Chantarpo meant to bring the horse. So you must recognize the appropriate time and then you can know what to serve at that particular time.
Our Dharma is also the same. Each time has a different correct application. Even though the Dharma itself does not change, you have to use different explanations and terms at different times and must have some knowledge to distinguish among them. Once I was corresponding with an American musician. I emphasized renunciation and he said, "You are Chinese; it is easy for you to renounce. For us Americans it is very hard to renounce. Your teachings are not for Americans." As time passes, we can change some methods but we cannot change the Truth. For example, turning a large prayer wheel can now be done by electricity instead of by hand as in Tibet, and we can use electricity for light and many technological things for promoting Dharma, this is fixed to our time, but we can not make the truth modernized. The Truth has no time limitation, the Truth was, is and will be.
But to help the person of a certain age, you have first to give this and second give that, so I think a very important method for the West at this time is the Pureland School. It can at least help you get rebirth in Amitabha's Pureland; at least it does not utilize vulgar common love as the Vajra Love of Tantra, or use the Ch'an as an excuse for laziness as many Hippies do. You should not change the Truth fixed in time, but must choose the truth for the time. Thus I emphasize the Pureland School as very good because everybody nowadays likes laziness, and just wants to do a little practice and you cannot ask them to do too much. If you want full Enlightenment, you want to practice deligently deep breathing and Samatha; it is very difficult at this time. It is better for you to have a little short daily practice and every day diligently keep it, repeating "Amitabha, Amitabha,..." becoming as addicted to it as to opium. In this way you can use the help of others not just the help of oneself.
Through helping oneself it is very difficult to succeed; it is much easier to get help from others. Amitabha Buddha has 48 vows, so to just repeat them fifteen minutes is quite enough and if you can continue this daily, Amitabha Buddha might sometime come to you and tell you your dying date and then come to invite you to his Pureland. In this way it is very easy to succeed. When you escape this world and go to his Pureland, there in his Pureland School you can practice the Dharma for full Enlightenment, then it will be very easy. If you do evil in the name of Tantra you will fall into an animal state, if you practice the Ch'an in laziness, you will fall into the animal state as a pig and just harm yourself. So for the Kali Age, I emphasize the Pureland School. You can choose a Yidam and repeat his Dharma mantra, as "Om Namo Amitabha", and you must keep a simplified practice every day like this, just love it as the man loves his new wife and continually practice, then there might come a good result.
VII. Know the Vinayas
You must also know the different vinayas of Buddhism. There are three kinds of vinaya. One is for one's own liberation, the second is to do something good and gain merit, and the third is to save others. These vinayas, if you compare them, sometimes seem to contradict each other. For example, the vinaya of taking refuge says that when you take refuge in the Dharma you should not read outsiders' (non-Buddhist) books. This is just for the beginners. In the Bodhisattva vows it is said you must read outsiders' books such as the Bible and Koran but not more than one-third of the time. Why do we need to take time to read outsiders' books? Because you have to make contact with and talk with non-Buddhists so you must know their doctrines, then you can use your own doctrines to subdue theirs. If you do not completely read their books, then you cannot talk fully with them.
I heard many Christians give lectures and they spoke of this and that. I said, "You are so foolish; you have not read enough books." Once a preacher said to me, "It is Jesus himself alone who can fly up to heaven. There is neither Buddha nor Krishna." "No, you are so foolish; even your own Bible said in the Old Testament that Elijah also flew up. Isn't that so?" "I did not read the Old Testament." "Oh, but the Old Testament is also part of [[Wikipedia:Christianity|Christianity]].
The Catholics forbid you to read the Old Testament so you only read the Bible of the New Testament and only know about Jesus. But the Old Testament speaks of other sages who flew up to heaven before Jesus." That is why we need to learn about the scriptures of outsiders. The taking refuge vow said we should not read outsiders' books, whereas the Bodhisattva vow says we should read them but not more than one-third of the time. The other two-thirds of our time we must read Buddhists books to keep ourselves strong. Then you can use the outside knowledge to subdue others.
The Ch'an has no need to read books, but one monk did read books. His students came to his house and said, "Oh, you are so clever. You read books and teach us it is forbidden to read books. You just make yourself very wise while we remain foolish." Then the monk held up the book and said, "No, when you read a book you just use your eyes to penetrate even a book made of leather and seize on the words, but when I read a book the words pass like water and it is just like doing nothing, so never mind. It is quite different from when you read books."
According to the vinayas there is also what are called unfinished and finished vinayas. Unfinished is the Hinayana, finished is the Vajrayana. What is their influence? There was once a Hinayana monk who had good meditation and kept the vinayas well. When he died and was burnt up, some relics of his bones remained and were considered very wonderful things. But when this monk was alive he never saw a woman for when a woman came near him he just bowed down and closed his eyes. So when his relics were given to any woman, the relics just flew away. But a Ch'an monk who was very wise said such Hinayana practice caused such a result. Those relics which remain cannot be paid respect to by and benefit one-half of the population of believers who are women.
We must know not only the vinayas of Mahayana but also the vinayas of Vajrayana. One of the Bodhisattva vows said that you should not praise yourself and blame others. But Buddha himself said many bad things about Tipadado who troubled Buddha by throwing stones on his head and doing everything to disturb Buddha. Once Buddha was teaching and this Tipadado made his own disciple a nun of Buddha. She put a washing pot under her clothes to fake a big belly, and then said that Buddha had connected with her and made her conceive. But Buddha had a protector who immediately made this bowl fall down. Buddha talked quite frankly about all these things.
So we must know about these vinayas which sometimes must be kept without talking and sometimes must include mention of others. Suppose you are practising the Six Paramitas, one of which is Patience. Even though others blame you, you must bear it and think that the person whom he talks of is not really you; you did not do it, so let him go on. But if you have some good idea to say something to teach others, you must do so. Suppose Buddha taught his students all about Tipadado, and foretold that Tipadado will fall into hell, and afterwards you learn that all of these did happen. Knowing this would make others refrain from committing sins. If you only say, "Oh, I will contain it; no need to speak about this to others," then you cannot teach others about cause and effect.
Buddha also said Maitreya's diligence is not as great as his own. According to the old tradition, the Maitreya Buddha should come before Gautama Buddha but because of Sakyamuni's diligence, he jumped to come before Maitreya. This kind of thing seems to be praising oneself but if Buddha did not teach about this, he could not teach about diligence. So for teaching sometimes he can do like this, but this is the truth, he never lies. Even to teach others you should not lie; if it is the truth you have to speak out. So sometimes I speak about this and that, as saying that I do not open a shop to sell the Dharma, but whenever a person asks me about this and that I have to compare the two sides and make some choices. If what you talk about is not a lie but the truth and can help the person to choose the right teaching, it is a merit and does not break the vinaya.
To really keep the vinaya, we must know all the vinayas very well. The Buddha gave a vinaya that a Bhiksu should not hold money. One of Buddha's disciples held much money and came to see Buddha. The other Bhiksus say, "You'd better not go to Buddha; we hold a little money and he forbids it; you hold so much, you shouldn't go; you will be punished. No! No!" Then he went to Buddha. Buddha blessed him and said, "Oh, this disciple keeps the vinaya very well. He keeps the vinaya vividly alive not as a dead word because this money is not for himself, but he brings it to me from his sponsor for the monastery; the money passes through his hands but he does not get any for himself." Buddha gave such praise but many disciples said, "Wonderful! If we have a copper coin you say it is forbidden but he has so much and you say this is different." "Yes, he transmits money to me for the foundation of a monastery, not for himself." Nowadays in Thailand the Buddhist monks think they keep this vinaya because they don't accept money with their hands but with chopsticks, but this is still breaking the vinaya. So if you do not recognize the meaning and spirit of the vinayas very well, you will fall.
VIII. The Four Dependencies
There is a very good set of principles called the Four Dependencies which can help us to choose the right teaching. First, we depend upon the Dharma but not depend upon a person. Some people seem to have a high position as Gandhi or Nehru, but we must believe and choose the Dharma and not believe in a personality. Don't say this person is a Rinpoche, this one a Tulku, that a layman just like me, but we must choose according to the Dharma, not according to a name. You must know if this Rinpoche really learned a lot of Tantra or read the Tripitaka many times or entered into a three-year retreat many times or practiced on a mountain alone for many years; you must choose by his Dharma practice, not his personality or name. This is the first principle.
The second principle is that you must depend upon meaning, not the word. From words you can sometimes get different meanings, so you must choose the exact, best meaning fixed with the Truth. Do not choose according to the word, thinking this word is from this book, that word is from such a book, but you must choose according to the meaning. The meaning is the word's very essential part. If you do not choose meaning but just choose the word which superficially gives some explanation, this can easily be wrong. Choose the meaning which is fixed with the Dharma or the Truth. This is the second principle.
The third principle is to depend upon the finished doctrine and not the unfinished doctrine. You know the unfinished doctrines has its own time to be practiced, but for your right view you must choose the perfectly finished one whose perfect meaning touches the truth. The unfinished meaning does not touch the truth but has some temporary function.
The fourth principle is to depend on wisdom not consciousness. Choose wisdom over thought and consciousness. Dreams are mostly from thoughts not from wisdom, so don't believe in all dreams although some dreams may be your teacher and are inspired and come from wisdom. From wisdom you can get close to the final truth and the Dharma. Wisdom and Consciousness are quite different. Consciousness is the thought of every knowledge. Science is from consciousness. Buddhists also have consciousness but Buddhism transforms the knowledge of consciousness into Wisdom. When we say Wisdom we mean the Buddha's wisdom, the five wisdom.
We should choose the fixed wisdom but not the knowledge of consciousness. Many sciences flourish only from consciousness, so they are changeable, they have to be advanced, they have to be changed over and over again. That is why many new sciences replace the old sciences. They are from the knowledge of consciousness as all worldly things and all worldly books. All worldly thoughts are from consciousness; but all the Dharma is from Buddha's wisdom.
Buddha achieved full Enlightenment; he touched the Truth and what he said is from the Truth itself. This is the unworldly wisdom; the unworldly wisdom is the Dharma. So from Dharma I started; with Dharma I end this talk. So please choose the Buddhist wisdom but not worldly knowledge. These are four important principles. Thank you.