Safe Escape - User Friendly Dharma

No holds barred discussion on the Buddhadharma. Argue about rebirth, karma, commentarial interpretations etc. Be nice to each other.

Re: Safe Escape - User Friendly Dharma

Postby kirtu » Sun May 02, 2010 9:54 pm

Huseng wrote:Even in Vajrayana where Buddhahood is possible in a single lifetime it still takes immeasurable merit to do it as well as a perfect teacher, a perfect student and unimaginable dedication.


Sojong and Nyungne. Actually I don't find the practices to be difficult. Khenpo Norgay said that nyungne is a kriya yoga tantra practice with a highest yoga tantra result.

Unless you're that dedicated, invest in your future lives.
phowa - transference to the Pure Land at death. Or just Pure Land practice as you like. Easy (although by Astus' rubrik phowa might not be easy) and safe.

Really "easy" means something clicks in you personally with whatever practice. This may not be easy for someone else.

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Re: Safe Escape - User Friendly Dharma

Postby kirtu » Sun May 02, 2010 10:03 pm

Huseng wrote:Even in Vajrayana where Buddhahood is possible in a single lifetime it still takes immeasurable merit to do it as well as a perfect teacher, a perfect student and unimaginable dedication.


But the Vajrayana also proclaims that it has many methods that enable the practitioner to gain immeasurable merit.

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Re: Safe Escape - User Friendly Dharma

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Sun May 02, 2010 10:23 pm

Astus wrote:One can choose only the best way, for they all claim to be that. But if we agree to that, how can we match different traditions? Or we shouldn't?


I find it very interesting to compare and contrast traditions in a variety of ways. I find it to be edifying to learn about other Buddhist traditions.

I'd just like to remind folks that this is in the Dharma Free For All, so please do enter at your own risk. In my opinion things have been more mild in this free for all section than I've seen at other forums.

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Re: Safe Escape - User Friendly Dharma

Postby m0rl0ck » Mon May 03, 2010 3:31 am

By virtue of this thread i have been thinking about the sudden vs gradual approaches. I cant think of a single advantage of the gradual approach.

You build up merit and good karma on the gradual approach, but what does that mean? If there is no abiding self in this body, how much less in future rebirths? Maybe its for this reason that some zen sage said (sorry i forgot who) that building up merit for its own sake* was like counting the treasures of others.

If you make a good effort in this very life to do the very best you can to end your own suffering and become enlightened, whats the downside? You still have the accumlated merit from the practice and following the precepts and what ever else your tradition customarily engages in as far as ritual etc. Also if you make a good effort to awaken in this life, the likely worst that can happen is that the sincere practice you engage in reduces your suffering and that of those around you and gives you a clearer picture of the human dilemma and greater compassion in dealing with yourself and others. The sudden approach seems like a win/win to me.

Of course im a linchi chan practioner and would think that. So am i missing something here? Can anyone point out advantages to the gradual approach?

EDIT: included the phrase "for its own sake" in the second para above
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Re: Safe Escape - User Friendly Dharma

Postby Indrajala » Mon May 03, 2010 6:14 am

Of course im a linchi chan practioner and would think that. So am i missing something here? Can anyone point out advantages to the gradual approach?


You need merit in order to become enlightened.

If you become enlightened in this life, it means you accumulated sufficient merit in past lives. Enlightenment as defined as no longer being subject to involuntary rebirth.

If you do not become enlightened in this life but generate merit, then in future lives you'll probably enjoy the proper conditions suitable for progressing further towards enlightenment.

If you look at things from the big picture there are always past lives to take into account. If you can have sudden realization in this life it is a result of past efforts.

f there is no abiding self in this body, how much less in future rebirths?


While there is no self, but there is a continuity that forms an individual process of karma-vipaka that we provisionally call a sentient being that is reborn again and again until such time as the fuel for that process cease.
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Re: Safe Escape - User Friendly Dharma

Postby Astus » Mon May 03, 2010 10:52 am

I think that comparing the many lineages of Mahayana, the (Chinese) Pure Land path could be the one to fit the diverse requirements in most of the categories one can think of.

Generally, it has an easy practice (buddha-remembrance) that even busy laypeople can do. It assures birth and enlightenment only on the basis of faith and not understanding (wisdom) or morality (merit). It is a fast (horizontal) escape from samsara.

At the same time the Pure Land path is good for any kind of practitioner, for while its minimum requirements are low, the scope of the teaching is deep and wide. Both theory (Madhyamaka, Yogacara, Huayan, Tiantai) and practice (paramitas, Chan, Mantra) can be used of any school of Mahayana. Buddha-remembrance can be seen as encompassing all the practices in a single one.

Compared to the long and arduous practice for many aeons in the six realms, in Amita's Pure Land conditions are perfect for swift progress to buddhahood. Compared to Chan's sudden enlightenment, this requires no great wisdom to realise immediately nor long retreats. Compared to Secret Mantra it requires no initiation, no complicated rituals, and cannot result in hellish birth.
"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: Safe Escape - User Friendly Dharma

Postby Indrajala » Mon May 03, 2010 12:07 pm

Astus wrote:Compared to the long and arduous practice for many aeons in the six realms, in Amita's Pure Land conditions are perfect for swift progress to buddhahood. Compared to Chan's sudden enlightenment, this requires no great wisdom to realise immediately nor long retreats. Compared to Secret Mantra it requires no initiation, no complicated rituals, and cannot result in hellish birth.


This assumes the Pure Land really is as it is described in scriptures. As you well know epigraphical studies of Buddhist scriptures can easily reveal many many modifications over the centuries including additions and subtractions.

Putting all your efforts into such a practise which is generally not all that verifiable until after death is a bit risky, no? On the other hand, you can experience and empirically verify the more practical wisdom-based methods like Chan, Vajrayana and so on.

I don't deny the existence of Pure Lands as I've stated many times before, but I think it isn't as easy as some would like to think: you just get reborn there and within an instant you're a perfectly enlightened Buddha. As Master Sheng Yen said, the Pure Land path takes a very long time.

Also as it is pointed out in the Vimalakirti-sutra, this rotten Saha universe we abide in with all its faults and horrors is actually the optimal training ground for Bodhisattvas and their fostering of compassion.

If it takes all the horrors of Samsara to foster compassion in Bodhisattvas, then the Pure Land, which is said to be the optimal place in which to become a Buddha, is actually right here right now.
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Re: Safe Escape - User Friendly Dharma

Postby Astus » Mon May 03, 2010 1:02 pm

Huseng,

I like to bring up the Pure Land teaching especially as it raises lot of questions in people's minds, unlike Chan. So here's my reply.

Pure Land as an unreliable teaching doesn't play if one accepts Mahayana as a valid path. It is present in many different sutras and traditions in the Far Eastern as well as Tibetan Buddhism. Experiential confirmation of its existence in this life is possible through meditation (like in the Pratyutpanna Samadhi Sutra), what is generally called the buddha-remembrance samadhi.

How long it takes to attain enlightenment in the Pure Land depends on one's karma (see the 9+1 grades). It can be less than a day or many aeons. When one is already there travelling to myriad buddha-lands is possible, nobody is confined to only that place.

By the way, (arya) bodhisattva's compassion doesn't depend on a specific object, thus it is universal compassion. How could then it be influenced by circumstances?
"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: Safe Escape - User Friendly Dharma

Postby Indrajala » Mon May 03, 2010 1:24 pm

Astus wrote:By the way, (arya) bodhisattva's compassion doesn't depend on a specific object, thus it is universal compassion. How could then it be influenced by circumstances?


What stage of a Bodhisattva are you speak of?

For dumbass Bodhisattvas like me I'm not presently capable of such compassion.
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Re: Safe Escape - User Friendly Dharma

Postby Astus » Mon May 03, 2010 1:29 pm

That's why I put an "arya" in brackets. So bodhisattvas from the first bhumi on who had insight into emptiness, who can follow what the Diamond Sutra says. If one is even below that it's hard to focus on the path and not be distracted by the pleasures of samsara. Therefore, those without enlightenment are even more advised to aspire for birth in the Pure Land. Such an aspiration is not at all contrary to bodhicitta.
"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: Safe Escape - User Friendly Dharma

Postby Indrajala » Mon May 03, 2010 1:29 pm

Here is a relevant quote:


The Licchavi Vimalakirti declared, "So be it, good sirs! It is as you say. The great compassion of the bodhisattvas who reincarnate here is extremely firm. In a single lifetime in this universe, they accomplish much benefit for living beings. So much benefit for living beings could not be accomplished in the universe Sarvagandhasugandha even in one hundred thousand aeons. Why? Good sirs, in this Saha universe, there are ten virtuous practices which do not exist in any other buddha-field. What are these ten? Here they are: to win the poor by generosity; to win the immoral by morality; to win the hateful by means of tolerance; to win the lazy by means of effort; to win the mentally troubled by means of concentration; to win the falsely wise by means of true wisdom; to show those suffering from the eight adversities how to rise above them; to teach the Mahayana to those of narrow-minded behavior; to win those who have not produced the roots of virtue by means of the roots of virtue; and to develop living beings without interruption through the four means of unification. Those who engage in these ten virtuous practices do not exist in any other buddha-field."


Basically, our Saha universe, rotten and undesirable as it is to most of us, is actually better than a pleasant easy going place like Sarvagandhasugandha.
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Re: Safe Escape - User Friendly Dharma

Postby Indrajala » Mon May 03, 2010 1:34 pm

Astus wrote:That's why I put an "arya" in brackets. So bodhisattvas from the first bhumi on who had insight into emptiness, who can follow what the Diamond Sutra says. If one is even below that it's hard to focus on the path and not be distracted by the pleasures of samsara. Therefore, those without enlightenment are even more advised to aspire for birth in the Pure Land. Such an aspiration is not at all contrary to bodhicitta.


Astus my friend, as it stands now do you aspire for rebirth in the Pure Land?
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Re: Safe Escape - User Friendly Dharma

Postby m0rl0ck » Mon May 03, 2010 2:58 pm

Huseng wrote:
You need merit in order to become enlightened.



Ok lets say thats true. Its a useless peice of info as far as making a choice between gradual and sudden anyway. You cant know how much merit you have unless you remember your past lives and you cant remember your past lives unless you are enlightened. In other words, knowledge of how much merit you may have is unavailable when you need it and superflous after you are enlightened. So why not go for the win? :)

Anyway its been a fun discussion, found an interesting essay on the subject : http://www.urbandharma.org/ibmc/ibmc2/sudden.html

I know nothing of the organization or the author as far as background or credibility, i just like the essay.
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Re: Safe Escape - User Friendly Dharma

Postby Indrajala » Mon May 03, 2010 4:16 pm

m0rl0ck wrote:Ok lets say thats true.


It is not a matter of "let's say that's true" -- punya is a key component of Buddhist models. That is non-negotiable.

Its a useless peice of info as far as making a choice between gradual and sudden anyway. You cant know how much merit you have unless you remember your past lives and you cant remember your past lives unless you are enlightened.


This is not true. There are many documented cases of children who can recall past lives. See the work of Dr. Ian Stevenson and Dr. Jim Tucker. Also, by way of mastering jhana one can recall past lives. Even non-Buddhist yogis can and do recall their past lives. You do not need to be enlightened to recall past lives. In the case of the Buddha, he recalled all of them.



In other words, knowledge of how much merit you may have is unavailable when you need it and superflous after you are enlightened. So why not go for the win? :)


My previous remarks refute what you're saying here.
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Re: Safe Escape - User Friendly Dharma

Postby Astus » Mon May 03, 2010 4:58 pm

Huseng,

Certainly, this Saha land has many difficulties. But then I'd say Ksitigarbha's practice gains even more merit for any bodhisattva. Also, since the practice of prajnaparamita, seeing of buddha-nature is an attainment encompassing and above all, as one can receive the teaching from a buddha directly, there's hardly any better way.

My primary aspiration is to attain buddhahood. The path I feel the closest to me is Chan. At the same time, Pure Land is an option I'd rather not miss. It's like an insurence, similarly as the name of Amita Buddha is being recited even at the deathbed of Chan masters. Or as Yongming said: Chan with Pure Land together is like a tiger with horns.

But let's look at it how could Chan be the optimal path. Realising the nature of mind is the starting point of Chan. Those who haven't seen it yet can only aspire for entering the gate but they know nothing of what is inside. Thing is, among the many aspirants only a few can pass the barrier. Then those who actually do may or may not perfect it in a single lifetime and become buddhas.

There are many Chan (Zen/Seon) teachers in the west now. A couple of them have been involved in scandals and many lack proper education in Buddhism. While we can see literally hundreds of Dharma-heirs but there might be only a handful of some worth. This is just to show how many are those still outside the gates but claiming they can enlighten students. I think I feel somewhat similar to Ouyi who perceived that there are many false Chan teachers, so people should rather practise buddha-remembrance.

Right now in the west Madhyamaka could be another option. It has enough texts translated to English to have a good basis for study. (Yogacara, Tiantai and Huayan are far from that level.) Madhyamaka is a great choice because textual study and reasoning can help making a clear difference between true and false. Just like Pure Land practice, Madhyamaka theory is a good appandage for Chan. Also, and this I haven't yet heard about, one could actually take up Madhyamaka as a complete path.

Back to the question of Chan, I think faith is as important in Chan as in Pure Land. But here one has to have faith in buddha-nature, to believe that the very nature of mind is buddha and there's no buddha to realise outside of that. Just this sound is the speech of buddha, this smell is the fragrance of buddha, this thought is the mind of buddha. In short, the six senses are the functioning of buddha-mind. While this is something that can be immediately experienced, one cannot even believe it. That's how Pure Land is easier than Chan, and only a few pass the patriarchs' gate but all goes to Amita's land.
"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: Safe Escape - User Friendly Dharma

Postby m0rl0ck » Mon May 03, 2010 5:26 pm

Astus wrote:Back to the question of Chan, I think faith is as important in Chan as in Pure Land. But here one has to have faith in buddha-nature, to believe that the very nature of mind is buddha and there's no buddha to realise outside of that. Just this sound is the speech of buddha, this smell is the fragrance of buddha, this thought is the mind of buddha. In short, the six senses are the functioning of buddha-mind. While this is something that can be immediately experienced, one cannot even believe it. That's how Pure Land is easier than Chan, and only a few pass the patriarchs' gate but all goes to Amita's land.


Well said :bow:
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Re: Safe Escape - User Friendly Dharma

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Tue May 04, 2010 6:28 am

Huseng wrote:this rotten Saha universe we abide in with all its faults and horrors is actually the optimal training ground for Bodhisattvas and their fostering of compassion.

:bow:
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Re: Safe Escape - User Friendly Dharma

Postby Indrajala » Tue May 04, 2010 9:58 am

Astus wrote:Huseng,

Certainly, this Saha land has many difficulties. But then I'd say Ksitigarbha's practice gains even more merit for any bodhisattva. Also, since the practice of prajnaparamita, seeing of buddha-nature is an attainment encompassing and above all, as one can receive the teaching from a buddha directly, there's hardly any better way.



However, it takes more than prajna to become a Buddha -- one needs bodhicitta driven by karuna or compassion which is developed in the wastelands of samsara. I think the result of merely having prajna without punya or merit and bodhicitta is becoming a pratyeka-buddha. Some say understanding of emptiness leads to compassion, but perhaps it is more case by case according to individual vāsanā and so on.

But let's look at it how could Chan be the optimal path. Realising the nature of mind is the starting point of Chan. Those who haven't seen it yet can only aspire for entering the gate but they know nothing of what is inside. Thing is, among the many aspirants only a few can pass the barrier. Then those who actually do may or may not perfect it in a single lifetime and become buddhas.


Do they become a samyak-sam-buddha or just realized to a certain point on the Bodhisattva bhumi?

There are many Chan (Zen/Seon) teachers in the west now. A couple of them have been involved in scandals and many lack proper education in Buddhism. While we can see literally hundreds of Dharma-heirs but there might be only a handful of some worth. This is just to show how many are those still outside the gates but claiming they can enlighten students. I think I feel somewhat similar to Ouyi who perceived that there are many false Chan teachers, so people should rather practise buddha-remembrance.


This is unfortunately the truth. On the other hand, there are a number of growing organizations, most notably Dharma Drum Mountain and Foguangshan, which preserve orthodox Chan practises and also have systems in place to ensure quality control. If you want the real deal so to speak you probably have to go to one of those organizations. It might not be as fashionable and cool as being a Zen Roshi with a sports car or whatever, but it is the real thing.


Right now in the west Madhyamaka could be another option. It has enough texts translated to English to have a good basis for study. (Yogacara, Tiantai and Huayan are far from that level.) Madhyamaka is a great choice because textual study and reasoning can help making a clear difference between true and false. Just like Pure Land practice, Madhyamaka theory is a good appandage for Chan. Also, and this I haven't yet heard about, one could actually take up Madhyamaka as a complete path.


Madhyamika is rather popular as is anything written by Nagarjuna. That area seems to be dominated by Tibetan traditions at the moment. For example Garfield's translation of Nagarjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā uses a Tibetan translation and his own understanding relies on Tibetan interpretations and he pays no attention at all to Chinese commentaries and interpretations. There is Lama Tsong Khapa's commentary on Nagarjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā which of course would draw the attention of any Gelug-pa practitioner. Moreover, Tibetan traditions venerate and study Nagarjuna's works as absolutely fundamental and key, so inevitably any westerner studying Tibetan Buddhism will be exposed to Madhyamika thought.

Unfortunately despite there being actually an enormous amount of commentaries on Nagarjuna in China and elsewhere in East Asia, much of it is either left to the realm of scholars or just ignored. The Sanlun school 三論宗 for example produced many thinkers who might be called the Madhyamika successors in China. The most notable figure being Jizang 吉藏.

That might actually reflect trends in scholarship right now. Scholars doing Tibetan Buddhism have a lot of consumer support to work on Tibeto-Madhyamika topics, while not so much support exists for similar studies regarding East Asian developments in Nagarjuna's thought. People want Chan, not Sanlun.

I think one could take up Madhyamika as a complete path and I believe some still do. It is an area of study in present day Chinese Buddhism. In such an environment where sectarian lines are rather fuzzy and organization boundaries have less to do with philosophical doctrines, people have the freedom to devote their energies to one area like Huayan, Chan, Tiantai, Sanlun, etc...
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Re: Safe Escape - User Friendly Dharma

Postby Lazy_eye » Tue May 04, 2010 12:31 pm

Astus wrote:Back to the question of Chan, I think faith is as important in Chan as in Pure Land. But here one has to have faith in buddha-nature, to believe that the very nature of mind is buddha and there's no buddha to realise outside of that. Just this sound is the speech of buddha, this smell is the fragrance of buddha, this thought is the mind of buddha. In short, the six senses are the functioning of buddha-mind. While this is something that can be immediately experienced, one cannot even believe it. That's how Pure Land is easier than Chan, and only a few pass the patriarchs' gate but all goes to Amita's land.


Ch'an is surely quite a difficult path, with many hazards and opportunities for regression. But after reading the QA posted by Rev. Dodatsu in another thread, I'm not convinced that Pure Land is as easy as people make it out to be. Even in Jodo Shinshu, it is quite possible that faith will not develop and the practitioner will find himself/herself in an undesirable situation:

Dr. Inagaki Hisao wrote:Ordinary Shin Buddhists who occasionally say the Nembutsu, chant sutras and attend Dharma meetings will either go to the Transformed Land or continue their samsaric existence under the influence of their karma. Such Shin Buddhists rarely attain birth in the Pure Land.


Meanwhile, those who are more earnest in their practice but lack shinjin will at least reach the non-retrogression stage, but not the Pure Land.

In Chinese Buddhism, I gather, someone who has not cultivated earnestly and developed a strong determination will not be able to make the call to Amitabha with single-minded focus and will remain stuck in the spin cycle.

So it's not necessarily a safe bet. And since Amitabha=buddha nature the differences between Ch'an and Pure Land strike me as having to do more with the level of practitioner than with the content of the dharma. That is, while the majority of people do not meet the basic prerequisites needed to practice Ch'an seriously, you can be a devout Pure Lander even if you are working in the fields from morning to night. It's the inclusiveness with regard to capabilities/practice conditions which makes the difference..."prajna for bonbus", maybe.

We might also consider, more generally, that while complete perfect enlightenment is the ultimate goal, for many the immediate goal is to avoid falling into lower realms. How is this achieved across the traditions? In Theravada it happens by obtaining sotapanna (stream entry), which entails full conviction in the Buddha's teachings and abandonment of the notion of self. In Pure Land, the key is to get to sukhavati, which entails faith in the Buddha and abandonment of the notion of self. In Ch'an, one must have faith in buddha-nature and ditch the notion of self. Faith/conviction and realization of anatta seem to play the deciding role no matter what tradition we're talking about.
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Re: Safe Escape - User Friendly Dharma

Postby Astus » Tue May 04, 2010 1:01 pm

Huseng,

Nagarjuna begins his Twelve Great Treatise with some explanation on what and why he will discuss. There it is said (tr. by Hsueh-li Cheng), "One of the profoundest teachings of Mahayana is called emptiness. If one can understand this doctrine, he can understand Mahayana and possess the six paramitas without hindrance. Therefore, I want only to explain emptiness." That's how it encompasses all there is to it. But this is the reason why the buddha-nature teaching goes better with sudden enlightenment (qv. Daosheng) - you have all the buddha qualities ready to be manifested.

What level of enlightenment means insight into nature is indefinite. I mean, there are different people saying different things, no unity as there is no such thing as "Patriarch of Chan" to tell everyone what to think. If we go by the ancient masters of the Hongzhou school it is indeed buddhahood, anuttarasamyaksambodhi. But if we ask those from the Heze school after Zongmi they say it is only the 1st level of faith in the 52 level system. Shengyan says it is 1st bhumi, Xuanhua says it is 8th bhumi, Xuyun says it is buddhahood. But if we could as people like Huangbo or Linji the answer could be like: gradual stages are not Chan, buddhahood is just a word to bind people.

I believe there are dozens of good teachers in Japan, Korea, China and Vietnam too, it is simply a matter of statistics. For instance, I am a huge fan of Daehaeng Kunsunim, she is like Bodhidharma reborn.
"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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Astus
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