Practices Leading To Enlightenment
From Prajna Petition Sutra: “Dharani is like effective medicine, it is the holy water that cures all sicknesses; drinking it gives safety and happiness.” The Buddha's Crown Dharani Sutra says, “People will have enough of what they need even if they are not vegetarian or receiving any precepts. People still get the fruit of realization even though it is at far. Disasters will vanish, and good things come within reach. Self-cultivation can save others. From the law of cause and effect, one can achieve everything”. From Mantrala Petition: “Whoever recites the Dharani of Buddha, will become one with Buddha. If one recites the secret words of Bodhisattvas, which life and death realms can he not avoid?
Which Nirvana can he not reach?” There are other ways to practice the Way. However one must first thoroughly understand the doctrine of Buddha and must be able to know his own nature before practicing it. This is the right virtue. Not realizing the doctrine and attempting the practice is not the right virtue. For a sick person to study medicine and know the nature of the drugs before he can use it for himself is very hard to do. Such case is only one among thousands.
Dharani subject contains the vast merits and can lead people quickly to enlightenment. Thus Dharani is the essential Way”. Tripitaka master Yi Jing says, “One only needs the help of Dharani to go to heaven and ride a Dragon or to command a hundred Genies”. *Question: By exoteric teaching, one begins by having faith; from faith one achieves knowledge; with knowledge one can successfully cultivate the Way. However, Secret teachings say that no knowledge is needed. One only needs to recite Dharani to attain the fruit of realization. This is beyond the common rules, and it is hard to believe. *Answer: Even though the sick person does not understand the formula of a miraculous prescription, just taking it can still cure him.
Why can it cure him while he has no knowledge of the medicine? In the same way as the medicine of this world is effective even though we may not understand how it works, so too is the Dharani of Buddha effective even though we may not be able to fully comprehend it. Buddha's teaching is hard to understand with the mind alone. There is a definite difference between exoteric and Secret Teachings; therefore one cannot be used to explain the other. From The Beginning of Faith Petition: “To compress the strings at the neck of the guitar and tune it at the same time or to sit by the tree and wait for a rabbit are equally foolish. Having faith and cultivating it will bring faster result. Without faith it is wasting time in vain.
From The Great Compassion Heart Dharani Sutra:
“Reciting Dharani will have realized all the wishes with the condition that there is absolute faith. If doubt arises, all efforts of cultivation through million of life cycles will be in vain. One can never get close to the Triple Jewels”. “Dharani eliminates fear. Heaven Dragons and benevolent Deities always safeguard the person's pupils in his eyes and his life. If he sleeps alone in the mountain or deserted field, Deities will take turn to guard and prevent all disasters. If there is war and looting that causes him to
A God (Heaven Spirit) run away to another country and get lost, Deities and the Dragon King will redirect him. If there is drought or lack of fire in a desolate place, the Dragon King will produce fire and water for him.” That is why it is said that if one has the merciful support of the Celestial Dragon, Deities and Saints; one will experience thousands of Samadhis within a short time of practice. Most Sutras in the Secret Store say that the Dharani practitioner has countless Dragons, the eightfold division of Deities and the Diamond God to protect him during his four noble postures (walking, standing, lying down and sitting).
The Great Buddha's Crown Dharani Sutra says: “If one is confused, but continues to recite Dharani, there will be eighty four thousand Genies, countless Diamond King Bodhisattvas and their relatives giving their protection day and night, making it impossible for the Ghost King to locate him, and keeping small evil spirits within 10 Yojanas. If the ghost's relatives try to bring any harm to this good person, the Diamond Gods will use the diamond pestle to break their heads into pieces as small as dust. They will help this person complete his work as he wishes”. From this it is said: eighty four thousand diamond Gods follow and protect the practitioner in his walking, standing, lying or sitting down.
Most Sutras from the secret teachings emphasize the support and protection for the Dharani practitioner. To know more, please read the teachings in the Dharma storehouse.
When the Dharani practitioner's life is ending, all actions done by his body, speech and mind, either good or bad, become the doctrine of innumerable merits. The Sitatapatra Sutra says: “After reciting the Dharani 18,000 times, one achieves the samadhi of formlessness and one's name is “Self Existing Sturdy Diamond Pillar”. One is called Buddha among human beings. Even when one uses bad words to scold or to insult, it is not considered wrong. To the Deities, those are the marvelous sound of Brahma.
The Great Compassion Dharani Sutra says: “Whatever the Dharani practitioner says either good or bad, all the celestial Dragon hears is the sound of pure doctrine”. Another text says, “Just like magic alchemy transforming metal into gold, Dharani transforms a person into a saint”. From the Magical transformation Sutra: “Dharani will turn the three karmas of the practitioners into the karmas of Buddhas. Therefore, the Buddhas in the 10 directions of the world will support him”. Exoteric teaching considers a strength from outside (external power) and an inner strength. From Essay on the Ten Pillar and Contemplation on the Buddha's Realm:
1. The gate of self-strength This gate is the practicing of the six cardinal virtues and other numerous virtues. This is difficult and is compared to walking a thousand miles. One will be slow to reach the destination.
2. The gate of extra-strength This practice involves calling on the Buddha's help. This is easy to do, and is compared to sailing downstream with favorable wind. The result is thus faster. Secret Dharani have both strengths: From Mahayana Precious Solemn King Sutra: “Everyday, the Dharani practitioner gets all the perfections and merits”. From Great Buddha's Crown Recitation: “One claims to be a vegetarian or claims to observe moral precept when it is not true. Such a person, once hearing the Buddha's Transcendental Dharani, can attain the rank of Prateyka Buddha.
The Four World Guardian Gods
From The Buddha's Crown Petition: “Bodhisattva virtues are achieved depending on one's practice. Without practicing any virtues and yet having them all is due to the power of Dharani, which contains all virtues. This is true.” From One
Word Dharani in the Dharma Ending Stage Sutra: “When I enter Nirvana, my body will become this Dharani.” This means the gate of extra-strength. From Great Precious Immense Palace Sutra: “Even though I have practiced the ascetic way through countless cycles of life, I did not get enlightenment. From hearing the Dharani I became enlightened as my virtues have increased correspondingly.” From Invocation from Five Words Dharani Sutra: “The strength of the Buddha's original vow manifests holy deeds”, and “One will become enlightened without having any good deeds or having gone through the hardships of practice in many life spans.” From Great Magical Transformation Sutra: “Dharani is the great indisputable vehicle, helping one become Buddha with spiritual powers”.
This means if one practices with methods other than Dharani, it is like riding a goat to travel thousand of miles, thus taking a very long time to arrive. Using the Dharani is like covering thousands of miles with the supernatural force thus reaching destination in a split second of a thought. The destination is the same; the method could be either faster or slower. Other methods are like grinding the stone to get to the wish-fulfilling jade, while Dharani gets it easily with supernatural power. From Magical Transformation Petition: “The Bodhisattvas cultivate the ascetic way and practice difficult virtues. They can be as difficult as trying to put out a fire set on oil.
They may be practiced through countless cycles of life without attaining enlightenment. If one cultivates Dharani properly, he will achieve enlightenment in one lifetime. In addition, the Dharani helps to free one from worries or bondage and attain high position. Great Teacher King Sutra says: “If one does not practice according to the secret key of Dharani recitation one cannot fully succeed in the supreme Bodhi Realm.”
From Mahayana Precious Solemn King Sutra: “Even the Buddhas themselves aspire to learn Dharani. Should the common people not be reciting it also?” It says: “Avalokitesvara' Dharani- (Six Words of Wisdom Dharani) is hidden even to all the Buddhas. How can a Bodhisattva at the human level understand it?” To such an extent it is said: “The Buddha on the lotus flower has already become Buddha, he then devotes himself to studying with other Buddhas, wishing to obtain the
Six Words Dharani of Great Wisdom.” *Question: If the Buddha has adequate intelligence, why doesn't he know Dharani?
- Answer: There are three intentions
1. It is to emphasize that this Dharani is the extremely profound teaching that brings victory, and should be respected as such. Therefore it is said that even the Buddha does not know and must seek to learn more from it.
2. The Buddhas mentioned are in the exoteric doctrine such as the Arhat or the Prateyka Buddhas. The highest-ranking position in the Sutra School (exoteric teaching) is not able to understand the supreme encompassing doctrine of Dharani that belongs to the Great Vehicle system (esoteric teaching).
3. The nature of Secret Buddhism Dharani is supreme perfection. It is a Dharma that gives full perfection of achievements. As explained in the Commentary on the Mahayana essay, “Even the Buddhas cannot attain this Dharma of supreme perfection.”
- Question: Why can't the Buddha achieve the perfect enlightenment?
- Answer: The perfect enlightenment is the Dharma of fundamental nature, which is beyond the law of cause and effect. Therefore the Buddhas cannot achieve it by practicing human virtues and eliminating obstacles but only by grace.
Therefore they must pray to achieve it. Venerable Xia'n Sho`u said: “The Dharma of supreme perfection is the Realm of Ten Tathagatas.” The above ten subjects generally outlined the Secret Scriptures as extracted from the Sutras and not from anyone's own knowledge. The scientific minded person should carefully consider this.
Practices Leading To Enlightenment
Secret Buddhism teachings are like any other Buddhist sect. It has 2 aspects: Theory and Practice. In terms of secret sect, it is the Form of Teaching and the Form of Application. The Form of Teaching is the deep meaning behind the Form of Application as taught by the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. The Form of Application includes practices in mantra chanting, forming Mudras, altar setting and offerings. One must follow strict rules and cannot do whatever comes to mind in performing the rituals. The disciple of the Way should study both aspects without giving more importance to either one. Without studying the teachings, one cannot understand the meaning of the application to perform correctly.
Without studying the application everything becomes pure theories. The doctrine can be learned from books and from Sutras but a guru or a master of Secret Buddhism must teach the application. Beside daily routine practice, essential practice of Secret Buddhism is the meditation on the Three Secrets. There are many different meditation techniques based on the level of each person and their preference. However, all secret meditation techniques emphasize focusing on the spirit of the Bodhisattva's vow before allowing one to choose his own method. That is why thorough knowledge of the precepts and the ability to eventually keep all of them are beneficial to the yogi.
I. The Precepts
During his time on earth, Buddha formed many precepts to teach people with various capacities. When Buddha entered Nirvana, his disciple Upali stood up to read the Buddha's precepts to the first council gathered there to collect the Buddha's scriptures. Later on, the original Buddhism gradually divided into many sects. Each had their own book of laws that were primarily based on the four major precepts and the three groups of precepts to cultivate purity (Precepts on rites, good deeds and being beneficial to others). According to Buddhism, karmas determine our lives.
There are three kinds of karmas: action, word, and mind. Keeping the precepts helps purify karma.There are many precepts for different levels of cultivation, from beginner to advanced such as: The Forbidden Five, the Eight Rules for Vegetarian, the Ten Good Actions, 250 Rules for the Bhiksu (monk), 350 for the Bhiksuni (nuns), and the Great Precepts or the Bodhisattva Precepts. Passive and self-serving precepts used to avoid sins belong to the Small Vehicle School. They are: The Forbidden Five, the Eight Rules for vegetarian, the precepts for the Sadi and Sadini (beginners) Bhiksu, and Bhiksuni. Active and altruistic precepts belong to the Great Vehicle School. They are the precepts for Bodhisattva mentioned in the Brahma Net Sutra; the three groups of Precepts for Cultivation of Purity belong to Great Precepts of other sects.
1. No killing of living species. This precept helps one avoid cruelty, helps one stay out of jail in one's lifetime, or fall in the evil paths (hell, hungry ghost and beasts realms) in the next life.
2. No adultery. This precept helps one avoid conflicts between families, scandal or fights brought by jealousy.
3. No stealing. This precept helps one avoid jail in one's lifetime and karmic retribution in the next life.
4. No telling lies. This precept helps one avoid contempt from others and helps one to have more intelligence.
5. No gambling-smoking-drinking. This precept helps one avoid getting into debt and have savings. It helps one avoid sinful actions when he is intoxicated and help him avoid contempt from others.
They are the above Forbidden Five plus these three:
1. Not to sleep on a beautiful, luxurious bed.
2. Not to play music or listen to opera.
3. Not to use adornments or perfume.
These are the 8 precepts that the Buddha had for lay disciples to practice just as the monks.
1. Not to have gold, silver and money.
2. Not to eat at the wrong time.
The 10 precepts are the foundation for the one entering monk hood. They must work on good deeds to eliminate bad action. The five, eight, ten precepts belong to the Small Vehicle. The first four: killing, stealing, sexual misconduct,
and lying are serious unpardonable offenses by the Small Vehicle. The Great Vehicle allows redemption through repentance from the doctrine of the Middle Way. Drinking is another basic precept as it causes one to break the other four. The
Forbidden Five are fundamental precepts for laypeople as well as monks, and for both Small and Great Vehicle.