"In One Lifetime"

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"In One Lifetime"

Postby Nilasarasvati » Tue Jun 04, 2013 10:06 pm

I've been wondering about several things. I hope the discussion and perspectives especially from other East Asian schools of Buddhism can clear up this issue:

In Tibetan Vajrayana constant emphasis is placed on the superiority of the Vajrayana as it is the swift path within one can achieve perfect Buddhahood in one lifetime.
My question for us Vajrayana folks: How rare is that, then? Because as far as I know, even really great teachers continue to incarnate again and again and again (or is my understanding of perfect Buddhahood skewed?)

Repeatedly we hear, I'm assuming from a Sutric context, that the "normal" Bodhisattvayana takes 3 countless Aeons to achieve the paths and Bhumis.

But I'm fairly certain other masters in other schools are purported to have achieved enlightenment. And that the end goal of their practices is the same as ours: Enlightenment. And I believe their methods work. So is the exclusivist language just the Vajrayana fanclub hype? A way of increasing devotion/vigilance?

Do any other schools really say "Yeah! Join the Soto school! With our tried and tested methods, it only takes 3 countless Aeons to become a Buddha!"
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Re: "In One Lifetime"

Postby Astus » Tue Jun 04, 2013 10:24 pm

The majority of East Asian Mahayana schools claim that enlightenment in this life is possible, the exception is the Pure Land school where they guarantee your liberation in your next life in Sukhavati. However, since Buddhism is not a centralised church, different teachers can say different things, including the requirement for aeons of bodhisattva practice. Or it can be also said that the important thing is to become a bodhisattva - who is an enlightened being by the way - and then continue to help all beings.

Talking about the Soto school, their basic doctrine is practice-enlightenment, i.e. that the moment you do zazen right there you are buddha.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: "In One Lifetime"

Postby Nilasarasvati » Tue Jun 04, 2013 10:55 pm

Astus wrote:The majority of East Asian Mahayana schools claim that enlightenment in this life is possible, the exception is the Pure Land school where they guarantee your liberation in your next life in Sukhavati. However, since Buddhism is not a centralised church, different teachers can say different things, including the requirement for aeons of bodhisattva practice. Or it can be also said that the important thing is to become a bodhisattva - who is an enlightened being by the way - and then continue to help all beings.

Talking about the Soto school, their basic doctrine is practice-enlightenment, i.e. that the moment you do zazen right there you are buddha.


Makes sense. Thank you.
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Re: "In One Lifetime"

Postby Monsoon » Tue Jun 04, 2013 11:44 pm

At the risk of sounding blunt (and probably more than a little crass), it seems as though lots of people are still hung up on the notion of goals.

I guess I am missing something major here? A lesson, perhaps?
Let peace reign!

Metta,

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Re: "In One Lifetime"

Postby Nilasarasvati » Tue Jun 04, 2013 11:51 pm

for now, Santideva says, I am permitted one delusion: that there is an end to reach. :anjali:

Thank you, though, for the reminder of the lojong: Abandon all hope of fruition.
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Re: "In One Lifetime"

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Wed Jun 05, 2013 12:35 am

I think lots of things are just skillful means to motivate people, even silly conventional stuff like goals can be the difference between people practicing or not sometimes.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: "In One Lifetime"

Postby dude » Wed Jun 05, 2013 12:45 am

Nilasarasvati wrote:I've been wondering about several things. I hope the discussion and perspectives especially from other East Asian schools of Buddhism can clear up this issue:

In Tibetan Vajrayana constant emphasis is placed on the superiority of the Vajrayana as it is the swift path within one can achieve perfect Buddhahood in one lifetime.
My question for us Vajrayana folks: How rare is that, then? Because as far as I know, even really great teachers continue to incarnate again and again and again (or is my understanding of perfect Buddhahood skewed?)

Repeatedly we hear, I'm assuming from a Sutric context, that the "normal" Bodhisattvayana takes 3 countless Aeons to achieve the paths and Bhumis.

But I'm fairly certain other masters in other schools are purported to have achieved enlightenment. And that the end goal of their practices is the same as ours: Enlightenment. And I believe their methods work. So is the exclusivist language just the Vajrayana fanclub hype? A way of increasing devotion/vigilance?

Do any other schools really say "Yeah! Join the Soto school! With our tried and tested methods, it only takes 3 countless Aeons to become a Buddha!"




"In Tibetan Vajrayana constant emphasis is placed on the superiority of the Vajrayana as it is the swift path within one can achieve perfect Buddhahood in one lifetime."


If it is, isn't it the road to ride?
If it isn't and some other path is, shouldn't one be abandoned for the other?


"Repeatedly we hear, I'm assuming from a Sutric context, that the "normal" Bodhisattvayana takes 3 countless Aeons to achieve the paths and Bhumis. "
Who do you hear that from, and what sutras do they cite to support that view?

"Do any other schools really say "Yeah! Join the Soto school! With our tried and tested methods, it only takes 3 countless Aeons to become a Buddha!"
Don't you think they do?
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Re: "In One Lifetime"

Postby lobster » Wed Jun 05, 2013 8:12 am

I would suggest 'attainment' for want of a better word is independent of dharma or even necessarily a spiritual form. It exists where perception arises and transmits where and if and to the extent it can. :popcorn:

For example a deeply inspirational sangha may portray, enact, seek and transmit superficial teachings but themselves be devoid of perception and the essential skilful essence. :oops:

This riles people because they feel dharma and transmission should and must take place in a form that they can recognise. Fortunately the shell is often filled by teachers who are both the form and the emptiness, so to speak. This is why the form - the pure, authentic, integrity of the teacher is so important. It also explains the responsibility of the teacher and why those with the capacity are so reluctant to take the mantle . . . and rarely feel ready.

Contrast this with armchair Buddhists like myself, happy to eat popcorn, whilst the inspirational sweat out their one lifetime quests . . . :meditate:

I am now off to flush myself down the loo :toilet:
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Re: "In One Lifetime"

Postby Nilasarasvati » Wed Jun 05, 2013 5:51 pm

dude wrote:If it is, isn't it the road to ride?
If it isn't and some other path is, shouldn't one be abandoned for the other?


In answer to all your questions, Dude...

1. Yeah, I'd say so. And that's why I study Vajrayana Buddhism.
But I also don't think it's that black-and-white.
My point was, overall, that I think most schools say the same/similar things. Or it's an unquestioned assumption in most forms of Mahayana Buddhism that the purpose of practice is to attain enlightenment for all sentient beings, and that is possible within one's present lifetime (or at the time of death).

2. I guess Nyingma Lamas in general use this "three countless aeons" vs. "one lifetime" comparison very frequently. Most immediately in my memory, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche although that should not be taken as if he believes that very literally--he himself says much language like that is merely, like Johhnydangerous says, to inspire devotion and vigilance. You can find it several places in Patrul Rinpoche's writing, and often anywhere where the yanas are compared to one another in the Tibetan tradtion. I have no idea the Sutra, but I'd confidently say any Nyingma practitioner and perhaps all other schools of Tibetan Buddhism commonly use this comparison.

3.
Nilasarasvati: "Do any other schools really say "Yeah! Join the Soto school! With our tried and tested methods, it only takes 3 countless Aeons to become a Buddha!"

Dude: Don't you think they do?

No. Clearly nobody who wanted to encourage people to become Buddhists would! At a certain point numbers like this become pretty meaningless in their immensity...consider your numbness to the difference between these statements: 2 million Jews were killed at labor camp X. 105,001 jews were killed at labor camp Y. They are both unfathomably negative. So for ordinary beings like me, the idea that I might end up in an ephemeral hell for 4 million billion bajillion countless Aeons is ironically less horrifying than the idea of being buried alive in a pine box and suffocating over a period of four hours.

Just to refer back, Astus did a great job answering all of my questions very succinctly. Especially his statement about Zazen--which I've read in Suzuki Roshi's writing as well "When you sit in Zazen, you are Buddha." That's it.
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Re: "In One Lifetime"

Postby Astus » Wed Jun 05, 2013 9:43 pm

Besides the usual teachings about enlightenment in this life, there is another view one can find.

"Sometimes, for the sake of weak-willed men, they show how to attain perfect enlightenment quickly by skipping over the stages of the Bodhisattva. And sometimes, for the sake of indolent men, they say that men may attain enlightenment at the end of numberless aeons. Thus they can demonstrate innumerable expedient means and suprarational feats. But in reality all these Bodhisattvas are the same in that they are alike in their lineage, their capacity, their aspiration, and their realization of Suchness; therefore, there is no such thing as skipping over the stages, for all Bodhisattvas must pass through the three terms of innumerable aeons before they can fully attain enlightenment. However, because of the differences in the various beings, there are also different ways of teaching them what to practice."
(The Awakening Of Faith In Mahayana)

In Chan (and especially Korean Seon) there is a prominent idea called "sudden enlightenment, gradual practice", where while there is a direct entry, it is followed by gradual practice. At the same time this is not necessarily understood as the same level as the bodhisattva vehicle but rather the supreme one vehicle.

In modern Chinese Buddhism, thanks to the influence of Ven. Yinshun (1906 - 2005), the bodhisattva path is emphasised in Humanistic Buddhism instead of "buddhahood in this life". In his Discussion of The Three-vehicles and One-vehicle Practice he differentiates bodhisattvas to those who attain no-birth (i.e. the stage of no regression, 8th bhumi) gradually and those who attain it suddenly. Then he says,

"It attains understanding of voidness, equality, and great wisdom. It does not attach itself any longer to the three realms of existence nor Nirvana. Nor will it attach itself to the fact that it is ferrying the suffering sentient beings over to the other shore of Nirvana. Neither will it attach itself to attaining Buddhahood. It will work vigorously to cultivate the Six Perfections. The awakened mind will utilize the expedient path to help all beings. These are the ones who have the Bodhisattva spiritual foundation."

Master Yinshun in the book Human-Centered Buddhism categorises both mature Chinese Buddhism and Esoteric Buddhism as Late Mahayana based on the Tathagatagarbha doctrine, something that teaches enlightenment in this life. He compares Late Mahayana to the old age period when people turn to theistic beliefs, fear decline and death, thus they are eager for fast and easy solutions. (p. 49-50) He also says later,

"People fantasize about instant buddhahood and are in such a rush to get there they cast aside the bodhisattva practice. What nonsense!" (p. 77)

Ven. Shengyan (1930 – 2009), discussing the question Can One Become a Buddha Instantaneously? (Orthodox Chinese Buddhism, p. 100-103), using the Tiantai teaching of six identities (六即), says that the Chan claim for sudden buddhahood is only rhetoric, and it's just an initial insight that they actually mean.

The meaning of this criticism of buddhahood in this life is that the theory is contrary to what we can actually see in the Buddhist world. Even respected teachers don't claim any high attainment, so what can we say about ordinary practitioners who have trouble following even the basic precepts? It is this gap between the ideal and the actual that these modern teachers address.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: "In One Lifetime"

Postby Jikan » Wed Jun 05, 2013 9:49 pm

Monsoon wrote:At the risk of sounding blunt (and probably more than a little crass), it seems as though lots of people are still hung up on the notion of goals.

I guess I am missing something major here? A lesson, perhaps?


Not crass at all. It's a fact: many people are demonstrably hung up on the notion of goals. This is intimately related to the topic at hand. One variant of the "in one lifetime" teaching holds that there's no meaningful goal at all. If it is true that realization or waking up is what you have when all ignorance & afflictive emotions cease (with nothing added to it), then it follows that there's nothing to be attained, and the only practice with any meaning is becoming stable in the recognition of one's nature as Buddha. this may involve intense purification, &c... it's not a license-not-to-practice
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Re: "In One Lifetime"

Postby Nilasarasvati » Wed Jun 05, 2013 10:42 pm

Astus:
The meaning of this criticism of buddhahood in this life is that the theory is contrary to what we can actually see in the Buddhist world. Even respected teachers don't claim any high attainment, so what can we say about ordinary practitioners who have trouble following even the basic precepts? It is this gap between the ideal and the actual that these modern teachers address.


Marvelous. Marvelous marvelous marvelous.
This is so liberating. Thank you for your incredibly thorough answers, Astus.

The paradox for beginners like me is that, I know all the greatest masters I revere never claim any kind of attainment and are, in fact, more self-effacing than most beginners. To realize the grain of truth they have--I.E. that the paramitas are truly infinite and that even they are just beginners--without losing reverence for them, however, is difficult for Vajrayana students who must hold the Teacher as an already perfected Buddha. Do you have any insight about reconciling this dualism?
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Re: "In One Lifetime"

Postby Astus » Thu Jun 06, 2013 11:25 am

Nilasarasvati,

I don't recommend taking the idea of sudden or gradual side too seriously. And the emphasis is on idea here, not the actual systems. The many teachings are there to address different inclinations people have. Or we can say, the teachings express certain individuals' approach to the Dharma. As I see it, a teacher's style is determined by his personal experiences he had on the path. Then specific teachers become prominent according to circumstances (within and without the Buddhist community). Naturally, all styles and forms of teaching claim superiority to itself, so such statements practically mean nothing when comparing teachings. What is important is to find what feels personally close and inspiring.

Seeing the teacher as buddha is central in Vajrayana as it uses devotion to allow students to receive blessings. That is, if you trust the teacher you are open to the teachings and can accept them and follow them. No devotion means a closed mind, no blessings means not hearing the teaching. This is a very skilful method, but it requires faith. Actually, faith is important on every Buddhist path, only its style is different.

A teacher is someone who can give you guidance on the path. It depends on the student whether this or that teacher is helpful for a specific problem. A teacher doesn't have to be someone in an official post. It really depends on what actually works. When you receive the Dharma from someone, that person is as the Buddha himself, the first refuge, and this is true for every Buddhist path.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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