On Chan and Dzogchen

A talk given by Guru Yutang Lin
Buddhist Center in Rzeszow, Poland
October 19, 2010

Reviewed and Revised by Guru Lin
Transcribed by Disciple Ji Hu
Interpreted in Polish by Disciple Rafal Seremet

Q1: Being aware in that moment, here and now; how about this in Tantra? In Tantra they also teach, we should be aware here and now? Or why they teach like that?

A: To come to this question, first, let us understand there are different levels of realization in this saying: concentrate at here and now. First of all is that, usually when doing the Hinayana practice, they say, oh, be mindful of the present—you walk, you watch your breathing, all those things. That kind of mindfulness actually is observation based on stability; but what we mean by "stability" is a state of mind which can be called "a state of concentration." That means your mind is clear, without scattered thoughts, and also you are not unaware of what you are doing. Because sometimes you have no thoughts, but you can be like falling to sleep. So, this kind, the technical term is called "Dhyana." And when translated into Chinese is called "禪那(Chan Na)." But then in China later, they are starting from Bodhidharma, the teaching of Chan. But unfortunately, the first word is the same, Chan Na and Chan, is the same Chinese character. So, people who have not really studied it or experienced it, confused the two and said, think that they are the same. 

But, why do we need to bring this distinction out? Because actually the two are at very different levels of practice. So far as Dhyana is concerned, that is like a basic requirement for all practices, whether you do Hinayana, Mahayana or Tantra. Because unless your mind is clear, free from distractions, how can you do anything else? Even in daily life, you need certain degree of stability, concentration. But now, because we are just talking about it, so we can say, oh, this is so fundamental, so basic. But actually if you try to practice, you know that even this is actually very difficult, because our mind is used to thinking about this or that, all the time we have no control of it. And the few occasions that we are free from this, is because we fall asleep. So, actually this is very difficult, and so, it's important that we try to cultivate this awareness, so, at this level, it's common to all, and it's important, too. 

So, first, now we can understand that, of course, even in Tantra, this awareness is important; of course, why not? But, for example, when in Tantra, you start to do even foundational practice, or visualization, or even higher practices, ideally, of course, you do it on the basis of Dhyana, of stability. So, of course, you are aware of here and now, but you need to realize that this here and now, is already not an ordinary people's here and now. What does this mean? Because ordinary people's "here and now" is, eh, he has a "self," he said: I, and this is what I know as "here", this is what I know as "now." So, there is this process of duality involved. But actually, because Tantra is supposed to be the top of all Buddhist teachings, so strictly by theory, when you start to do all this, even foundational practices, you should be already at a much higher level. What is the level? That is, you actually are supposed to do all these based on the Sunyata philosophy. And what does that mean? That means actually you are doing it from, free from duality; and when you are free from duality, actually, ideally, you are even free from the concepts of time and space. So, at that level, the "now" is all the time—past, future, present, all together. And the "here" is just, not just this body or this room, or this country, but everywhere without limitations. So, if you understand there is this kind of notion, then the "here and now's" are so different. 

And now, if we talk about the Chan, the Zen, you have to realize that it's no longer the basic, just concentration, practice. A real and sincere Chan practitioner, first of all, renounced everything, everything of the world, even his life, he no longer cares. He tries to attain full enlightenment at an instant, but, of course, it's not that easy to get it at an instant. But the Chan practitioner works on some question constantly, all the time; and with this effort, after he has already renounced everything, with this effort, he tries to, all of a sudden, remove all obstacles, the self-limitations. But, if you look into it, how many can really sustain that kind of effort? It's no longer just, oh, I sit here, and it's no longer, oh, I just sit here and I can sit one hour, two hours, that kind of thing. 

Whatever we can talk, we cannot really reach all this. However, it's good to have this understanding, so you don't confuse them, and always think, oh, they are all the same. So, of course, you start with developing awareness everywhere, every time. But you should also know that the ultimate "here and now" is not the limited one. With this understanding, there will be a chance that someday maybe you open up enough, you know, to make real progress on the path. Otherwise, you become one who just said, "Oh, I am aware of this, I am aware of that," but what do you do? Actually, we have something to do because it's all based on Bodhicitta. So, what we have to do is, on the one hand, (to become) less and less concerned with worldly matters; on the other hand, we work on the Dharma practices, so our mind becomes pure, and then we become connected really with all. Without this understanding, you can say, "Oh, smoking is pretty good, this is here and now; oh, drinking is pretty good, this is here and now, I am fully aware of this"—useless. So, even though this is just reply to that question, but actually, enough said about, up to Chan. 

Now, he also wanted me to talk about DzogchenGreat Perfection (大圓滿). So, we  have to understand that, Chan and Dzogchen, all these are the very last stage, actually no way to talk about them, but because human beings rely on this talk and writing to pass down teachings, so, we still have this literature, or certain methods trying to give us handles on the stage. But actually very few can really use them; like the Chan approach, even though we have hundreds of Gong An (koans), but unless you have a Guru who really knows what the ultimate stage is, all those are useless, actually. Because in most cases, people when they have this, it becomes just words—they're grasping to words; and they give interpretations, they think that it's something that they can solve by thinking, but actually all these are beyond thinking. And this is why, in Chan, they always rely on going to some Guru who is enlightened. Or in Tantra, why we emphasize relying on Guru? Because actually, to transcend, you need to rely on someone who has already transcended; otherwise, you know, it's just blind leading blind. And what is Great Perfection? Of course, if you read the literature, you say, there is Qie Que (tregchöd; 且卻) and Tuo Ga (thödgal; 妥噶), all that kind of thing, and these postures, this kind of view. But actually, Great Perfection itself is the state of Buddha; maybe there are some views, some postures, you try to, say, oh, maybe this will help me, this will help me. But, yah, some people can receive help from that, but those are people who're already almost Buddha, then that can help them. Otherwise, to us, these remain just words and postures. 

But we still can understand the concept of Great Perfection. The best way to understand this concept is, first, you think, why can you say it's "Great Perfection"? Because actually in the world we see so many imperfections, so many sufferings. But I have said already, Great Perfection is exactly the state of Buddha, and what is the state of Buddha? He has already transcended all limitations; he is in oneness with everything, not just sentient beings, everything. So, from our limited view, you know, this is good, this is bad; this is suffering; this is what I like, this is what I don't like. But to him, it's all one, and all limitless, and, this is also me, this is also me—everything. And this part becomes like that, this part becomes like that, all because of all kinds of conditions playing around.  Like a big ocean, with all kinds of water coming in—some strong, some weak; some dirty, some clean. So, you look at this little area, oh, so different. But the ocean sees, oh, all the same; the differences are natural because the conditions are like that. And all these are still just talk to help you see a resemblance of the real thing. The real situation is really one; really one, so no way to talk about anything. Whatever happens and goes happens and goes, and it doesn't matter anymore. Yah, so, from that point of view, it's said: Great Perfection, you know, and no practice, no nothing. Because when you say, oh, there is a view, there is a practice, there is a fruit; all those are stages, but it's all one. 

So, actually from that point of view, even those teachings are all wrong, because that's not the real thing. So, this is the real perfection; the point is, how do we go into that? But, what Buddha teaches us is to tell you, actually you are like that, except that right now you are blinded by your thoughts—you are blinded by just some little bit of thoughts, but it's tied you down to this tiny bit. If you can become free from this, you can become that big ocean—boundless. And it's not an empty talk, when you, through practice, you gradually merge into that oneness, you can—miraculous things just happen naturally. So, what we can say is only so much, and what I can testify is that, my experiences is that, this is really so. 

And, maybe she can tell us what she saw during the ceremony yesterday, and we can also show them the pictures, did you bring that? To show them those lights appearing, yah. So, maybe let her talk, tell first. 

(Here a Polish lady Maria who is clairvoyant told the audiences how blessing lights she saw producing purification to the community and places during the vase offering and the round-cap blessing ceremony.) 

Q2: He is special, he is smart and intelligent, but he has many problems with emotion. His dog died a few years ago, and maybe he said he sent it to you about Powa for him, and he is interested: what is now with this dog, what's happened to this dog? 

A: Oh, I don't know, but after we do the Powa, most of the time, people understand that it's beneficial because they themselves have some experiences. Sometimes people who requested Powa will see the deceased, like come happy, well dressed, or sometimes they feel relief, suddenly relieved, mind feels light. 

Q3: He is (asking) very, you know, high question because he is asking about fruit of, like fruit of Chan is the same as fruit of Tantra, or fruit of Mahamudra, or fruit of Dzogchen, or they are the same fruits, result at the end, or some differences? 

A: Yah, of course, final result is only one—full enlightenment. But it might appear as if different because of their approaches. Because you take different paths, then you see different sceneries. But, you see, those are all very distant from us because that means becoming Buddha. So, although it is good that we know, oh, there is such a nice place to reach, you know, the real thing for us is still step by step walking. And all, any approach, the basic idea is Sunyata, selfless, and compassion, so …. 

Q4: So, could you say something about practicing Pureland, like, for example, is it good to practice "Om Amitabha Shri," or maybe "Namo Amitabha Buddha," could you explain on practicing Pureland? 

A: Oh, the Pureland practice, they emphasize on, you know, you believe in this, and then you wish that you can get rebirth in Pureland, and then you do the practices. But, unless you have real experience of Pureland, how can you have real faith in this? And unless you know, there's actually that state, how can you really wish to go? But still it's possible to start just with the practice. And if you don't—have no faith in this final goal yet, you can look at the practice as a practice to calm your mind. And when the mind is calm, free from distraction, running thoughts, then the body will become less and less tension—relaxed. So, if you start the practice, you will gradually sense its benefits, so you will (know that it's) worth your doing more. And after you have done enough, you really sense the blessing from Buddha, or you really see Buddha, and, of course, your belief, your faith, and your desire to go, will naturally develop. 

As to which Buddha name or mantra to practice, actually it doesn't matter which one you choose. Because any one will lead you to Pureland; because, after all, what is Pureland? It's Buddha's place. What is Buddha's place? It's the state of limitless-oneness; it's all the same. But, oh, it's important that you choose one and then stick with one—just keep repeating that one. Why? Because only through the power of the force of habit will this one really cut through all your thoughts, and bring you deeper and deeper into concentration, stability, that kind of thing. Essentially all these practices are trying to free you from thoughts, you become without other thoughts, then it's closer to your original state. So, just pick one and stick with it. But, for example, in the case of the so-called "Pureland," the "Amitabha" one, oh, because language is different, in Chinese you can either say: "Na Mo A Mi Tuo Fo," that's six words, or "A Mi Tuo Fo," that's four words. But, for example, if I want to teach this to westerners, I just say "Amitabha," just the name part—to simplify it. Yah, just repeat this simple one is enough. Or, if you choose Tantra, then you just say "Om Mani Padme Hum." (Or practice Om Amitabha Shri?) Oh, that's fine, too. Just choose one. Or "Om Da Lei Du Da Lei Du Lei Suo Ha"; doesn't matter, just choose one. And you have to understand that all Buddhas are all limitless. If you make distinction, that's only because you are limited. And it's not easy to become so pure in mind that you keep repeating one, so you work on this. And the benefits you will gradually experience, so I don't need to say anymore. 

Q5: She is asking, what do you think about, in Tibetan, they are using prayer wheels? 

A: Oh, the Tibetan idea is to make use of all our experiences to set our mind to close to Buddha. So, anything that can help you, they try to use it. Because the traditional term for propagation of Dharma is, say, "Turning the Wheel of Dharma." The actual meaning is: the Wheel of Dharma has the eight spokes, and that means the Eight Rightful Paths; and turning it, meaning to spread this teaching to everyone. But they used this idea into another way; they said, "Oh, I put mantra or Sutras in the wheel, and I turn it; when I turn it, the wind that is spreading will carry the blessing of the teachings to everyone." So, this is an activity that you do with the intention of Bodhicitta, and the Sutras do have blessing power. So, when you do this, you do some exercise, you cultivate your Bodhicitta, and the blessing really goes out. And to turn the Wheel of Dharma, they also use water, did you see that, they have wheels that turn, the Dharma Wheels turn, using the force of water. But it's always making it (turn) clockwise; Buddhists say this is the way to do because Buddha wanted to distinguish Buddhist teachings from Hindu's, so he said we do it clockwise. Yah, opposite to Hindu(ism); right. Also, they have Dharma wheels that use the heat—you have a lamp or candle here, you burn it, and the hot air goes up, and the wheel is moved by the heat.

So, the point is just use everyway to direct your mind to Dharma, to Buddha. Some people lack this kind of understanding, they say, "Oh, if there is an image, there is a statue, oh, this is idol, you are blinded by form." But, of course, we are not that stupid; we know it's an image, a statue. But having it in front of us, making prostration to it, thinking of it as Buddha, it does help you to concentrate on your practice. So, it is actually very wise use of whatever is available to us. They dare not have any form, they are holding on to nothing; that's a kind of attachment to form—the form of nothing. 

Q6: OK, so, his question is: what is the difference between Hindu Tantra and Buddhist Tantra? 

A: Oh, the essential distinction is: one has the understanding of selflessness; the other one does not. Why? They also say, "Loose your little self," but they say, "Go into one with the big Self"; so, still a Self. But the Buddhist view is: No Self. Why no Self? Because everything is conditional; even the big Self can change, nothing is everlasting—that is the Buddhist view. Everything is just composition of many conditions, many factors; nothing there you can say, "This is final, ultimate; no change." 

Q7: He said, in Hindu, they worked with energy in different way, like in Buddhist Tantra, or maybe similar sometimes? They used working with channels, how do you feel? 

A: Oh, that's different, because, first, we still have to explain about those philosophical differences, because, why Buddha first, learn all, everything in Hinduism and then he's not satisfied? Because he was wise enough to notice that, finally there is still a very thin grasping. And, he went beyond that—he let it go. So, he's fully liberated, complete freedom, completely limitless. And why is that very subtle grasping a problem? Because from that (subtle grasping) it can become gross again. So, you see in the Christian text, you know, the God will be angry. Because if you have something, still hold something of an "I," you know, then, those things can happen. As to the energy practices he was talking about, Buddha found that there are simpler ways than the traditional Hindu ways. So, the visualization taught in (Buddhist) Tantra is different from the Hindus. They visualize as, you know, (Kundalini), yah, yah, but the Buddhist way is straight. 

Q8: His question is: in China, working with Qi (inner air) energy, is it similar, like working with Kundalini? And my question is: How is it about Tummo energy, also? But his question was about air and Kundalini. 

A: Yah, I know, the Chinese tradition is again different. Chinese way is: they, through experiments, they discovered, you know, oh, in our body, there are those passages, you know. (Meridian; Jing Luo, 經絡) Yah, they have that kind of thing. So, their way, again, (is) different from the Hindus. And the essential difference, so far as inner wind is concerned, you know, is again because of different philosophy. The Buddhist has the wisdom of selflessness; so, their air is beyond the worldly. The Hindus' way always remained, from the Buddhist point of view, a worldly wind, inner wind. 

So, from the Buddhist view, whatever practice you do in that way, you cannot go beyond Samsara, the transmigration. So, since we have talked so much about this so far, you know, here I added a remark: "Powa actually is very difficult." Because how come Powa can help deceased beings to go up is because, on the one hand, you have to develop the Buddhist channels, open them up, and also, you need that wisdom inner air to help; otherwise, they cannot go beyond the transmigration. 

Q9: He has similar question about this. His question is about, in Chinese tradition of ancestors. In the one way, he likes Chinese tradition, and he tried to keep connection with his father, like he has altar and picture to keep his father, and on other way, his thinking is, maybe, there is some hindrance developing, maybe some attachment, maybe he should keep that thinking about father connection with ancestors, or maybe he should, don't keep any attachment? 

A: Ah, if you have the right attitude, it's not a problem; why? The Chinese, they consider, you know, having descendants to worship them very important—they try to have (lineage) going on, generations going on; why?  Because, you know, because I am doing this (Dharma services), I help many people with their problems, and I have learned through this process that if the ancestors, they passed away, they still in ghost realm, they need help, then they cannot ask anyone to help them; they can only ask people who are related to them to help. So, if you, you know, make offerings to them, you know; keep them on the altar, you know; then, they are safe, they are happy. But if you ignore them, they have problem, they have no one else to ask for solution, they make problems for you. But, in most cases, they cannot communicate with you. So, the only thing they can do is, make trouble for you. And then, when you have lots of problems, you try to solve the problems, you go everywhere to ask for help, and finally you find out, oh, it's the ancestors.  

So, when it's Chinese, I always say, oh, you better have, you know, name on one tablet, saying "all ancestors," and make offerings to them. But this is not—you don't think of it as, oh, I have one attachment that hinders my enlightenment—no, because what is enlightenment? Enlightenment is, understanding everything is causal, involving many factors. And enlightenment means, we are all one, so we have to help one another. So, everything you have, owed to your ancestors, and it's natural that you try to help them. And all you have to do is, think, now I try to help them not only in the material way—making offerings, but help them also to become enlightened. And think of them as among all the sentient beings—they are also sentient beings that you want to care for. But we have special connections, so I specially make some repayment; so, no problem, yah. 

Q10: He is interested, I know him for long years, so, he is interested about, like UFO (Unidentified Flying Objects), you know, like cosmic ships coming to earth, … What do you think about it? 

A: Well, that part, you know, I don't know. I also heard other people said, oh, they know something about this. But I don't have personal experience, I don't know. But one point is that, actually what human being knows is very limited. Because whatever we called "knowledge, knows," are only things that we can observe. But through inference we know that most of the materials in the universe is, has no light. So, we know there are things, but we know nothing about them. So, our knowledge is limited and maybe completely wrong, when you run into the big universe. 

Q11: And his question is, many people, they are very active. They don't have time, but still they want to develop and going through spiritual way. So, his question is: How we can simple practice during our everyday life if we are very busy? 

A: Then you look at your daily schedule, and try to find one little period of time that you will not be disturbed. And then during that period, you decide you will not be disturbed, and do simple practice of chanting and prostration. And it's important that you do it always at that time, and it becomes a habit. When it becomes a habit, you will have force—the force of habit. 

Q12: She knows some practice from Tantra with mantra and visualization, but she has a trouble: it's easier for her to repeat mantra, but not maybe so easy to make visualization of the Yidam. And she asked, maybe if she just concentrate on the mantra, in future it will be stable, more clear, and the visualization will be more concrete and powerful? 

A: Yes, first, you concentrate on the mantra, and after you know, you can really concentrate on the mantra, and then you worry about visualization. And visualization you do like this: First, you familiar yourself with the image that you visualize; then the trick is, it's not something like, you say, "Oh, I think of it as this, and I want it to appear," because with this kind of intention, it will not appear; Why? Because it's dual—you have a person trying to mentally paint it; it's not like that. The way is to believe that it is there, like that. Like right now, you know, you don't have to make any effort, you see me here—you think of it as appearing like that, without any effort it just appear. Then there's no one person trying to think of something—that is duality. When time mature, it will appear. Just believe as if it's already there—just like that. Of course, you have to know what you are visualizing, but then you just think, oh, it's already like that there, and I do my practice. And also, don't worry about how come he has not appeared; oh, all this kind of thoughts, expectations are just distractions to the practice. Don't worry; just think: Oh, it's a tree, gradually grow, and you have to wait till spring for the flowers to come, like that. The less you worry, the sooner it will appear. And also, they appear, need not be in the form, they maybe appear as a light of blessing to you, or some force or some heat you feel, yah. 

Ok, time to eat dinner. (Laughter from audience.)

Auspicious completion

November 7, 2010
El Cerrito, California

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