Dr. Yin Shun is one of the greatest contemporary Buddhist
masters. He has spent more than sixty years in the Buddhist Order.
Although he has throughout his life suffered almost constantly illness,
his strong determination and perseverance has allowed him to complete a
huge collection of works on Buddhism. Unfortunately, most of his works
remain in Chinese. Only a very small proportion of them have been
translated into English and Japanese. There are experts in Theravada;
in the Mahayana; in Vajrayana; in Buddhist history; on Zen and on
various other schools in Buddhism. But these scholars and masters each
worked, for the most part, in a limited sphere, and very few of them
can give us an integrated understanding of Buddhism as a whole. The
Venerable's collected works serve this purpose very well. They help
clarify confusion regarding Buddhist practices and show us the right
path in order to follow the teaching of Buddha.
has a history of more than two thousand five hundred years.
After the Buddha's Parinirvana, His Dharma continued to develop and
grow in India. Later, it spread throughout the countries of Asia,
adapting its forms and rituals to individual cultures. During its
development and propagation, the teachings of Buddhism were enriched
and necessarily employed skilful means (s. upaya) in order to assist
the transmission of the Buddha Dharma to different individuals.
However, when these skilful means and the absolute truth lying behind
Buddhism cannot be distinguished or understood clearly, confusion may
arise and may even prevent us from pursuing true spiritual development.
As Venerable Yin Shun says in his preface to "Buddhism in India",
deeply believe that during the long period of the development of
Buddhism, some teachings have been changed and even deformed.
Therefore, the core teachings of Buddhism have to be revealed and the
cause of the change in the teachings has to be understood. Only with
this will we be able to distinguish, clarify and distill the
these purposes in mind, as stated in "The Method and Attitude in
Learning Buddhism", Venerable Yin Shun has put most of his efforts into
"searching what are the ultimate and core teachings in Buddhism? How
does Buddhism develop over time? How has the teaching changed in
India?" Furthermore, he uncovers the links between various teachings
and presents the vast system of Buddhist thought as an integrated
whole. Although not all the teachings we find in Buddhism today equally
parallel the core teachings, Venerable Yin Shun is impartial with
respect to the development and mutation of Buddhism through various
schools and traditions. Instead of ridiculing the variety of practices
and beliefs, he expounded the truth. When Venerable Yin Shun comments
on a particular practice in Buddhism he does not draw us into hasty
value judgements. He is always very patient. Customarily his
commentaries start with an explanation of the origin of a certain
practice, and then explicate how that given practice changes in order
to create the forms we see today. In "The Method and Attitude in
Learning Buddhism" Venerable writes: "It is not just a simple question
of right or wrong. We have to perceive these changes as skilful means
and as developmental adaptations."
Yin Shun does not bind himself to any particular school or
tradition. The way he approaches and learns Buddhism, as explained in
"Learning Buddha Dharma Through Buddha Dharma", is based on the Three
Universal Characteristic of Buddha Dharma i.e.
existence and phenomena are subject to change (s. anitya),
All existence and phenomena do not have any substantial reality (s.
The eternally serene state of Nirvana"
state of Nirvana is the ultimate aim of all Buddhist practices.
Therefore the teaching is to be studied, more to be practiced, and
above all to be realized by oneself. Mere learning is of no avail
without actual practice. Only by living in Buddha Dharma can its very
essence be known.
approach by which we understand Buddha Dharma should be grounded in
an awareness of constant flux as the underlying nature of phenomenal
existence (viz. anitya). Discourse on the Dharma also changes and grows
as Buddhism historically develops. Therefore, we should "understand the
changes in Buddhism in order to reveal what is the absolute teaching of
the Buddha Dharma, and what are the relative truths which have been
adapted from time to time."
practising Buddhism, we should have the attitude of egolessness.
There are two aspects to egolessness (s. anatman), i.e. the
non-existence of the individual soul (s. pudgala-nairatmya) and the
non-self nature of Dharma (s. dharma-nairatmya). Because of the
egolessness of the individual, "we should learn and practise Buddhism
without becoming attached to our own view and should eschew all
prejudice against others." Because of the egolessness of Dharma
"everything in this phenomenal world exists in the form of
interdependence and interrelationship, conditioned by every other
thing." Therefore, when we study Buddhism we must also understand the
interrelationship between the teachings and the Law of Dependent
Origination. By following the Three Universal Characteristics of Buddha
Dharma, Venerable Yin Shun illuminates for us the right way to learn
Venerable's collected works range widely and include, but are not
limited to, Buddhist text books for primary schools; Dharma talks for
general audiences; commentaries on sutras and sastras; a history of
Buddhism in India; guides to Buddhist practices; and teachings from
various schools and traditions. The selected translations which
comprise Parts I and II are in total just a very small portion of the
works of the Venerable. A substantial proportion of his important
writings lie beyond our abilities to translate at this stage. We
sincerely hope that more people will become involved in their
translation in the future. On the other hand, we sincerely hope that
even this limited selection will enrich the understanding of Buddhism
in the West so that more people can benefit from contact with the
volume, "Selected Translations of Miao Yun Part II", is our second
humble attempt to translate works by Venerable Yin Shun. All the
articles in this selection were selected from the eleventh volume of
the Miao Yun Collection, namely "Buddha Dharma is the Light of
Deliverance." The articles we have selected can be broadly divided into
two categories. The first category includes "Buddha Dharma is the Light
of Deliverance", "Buddha Come to Save and Protect Us", "Two Distinctive
Characteristics of Buddhism", "Let Go of Your Sorrow", "Form Relieving
the Suffering of the Mind to Relieving suffering of the Body", "The
Critical Issue of Life and Death", "What is the Significance of Life"
and "Dharma About Lay People For Lay People". All these articles deal
with the fundamental understanding, perspective and practice of
Buddhism. They try to answer questions such as: Why should we learn
Buddhism? How can Buddhism help us? How do we face life from a Buddhist
perspective? From an understanding of the unique characteristics of
Buddhism we will be able to grasp the true significance of life, and
furthermore realize this significance i.e. achieve Buddhahood in this
very life. These are all important teachings of the Buddha that every
Buddhist should understand from the very outset of his or her
practises. The remaining articles in this selection deal with more
advanced teachings in Buddhism such as voidness (s. sunyata) and the
Middle Way. They assume some prior knowledge in this field and are
therefore more suitable for those who have a deeper grounding in the
would like to take this opportunity to thank the Triple Gem for
guiding our lives. We gratefully acknowledge and express deep
appreciation to Venerable Tsang Hui for his guidance and encouragement.
We would also like to thank Mr. Mick Kiddle. Mr. Gregg Heathcote and
Mr. Michael Morrison for correcting our English and smoothing the
writing. They have made this publication possible. These translations
involved members from the University of New South Wales Buddhist
Society, the University of Sydney Buddhist Society, the University of
Newcastle Buddhist Society and Hwa Tsang Monastery Inc.. Despite their
busy academic and working lives, many people have contributed their
time and energy so that these translations could be completed.
are responsible for any possible mistakes and distortions in the
translations and any remedial suggestions from you would be very
precious, and very welcome. We hope that we have succeeded in
presenting these works of Venerable Yin Shun to you as faithfully and
clearly as we can.
Finally, let us share a message from Venerable Yin Shun,
in the Triple Gem should be developed from right understanding.
The faith derived from right understanding will lead us to skilful
action and further our progress on the path of Buddhahood. Let us bring
benefits both to ourselves and to others. Let us contribute ourselves
to the promotion of Buddha Dharma."
10 July 1996
Buddha Dharma is the Light of Deliverance
Dharma Friends! In this desolate and miserable period, it is
precious to have such a valuable opportunity here and now to share
Dharma with joyful hearts. We should all therefore greatly honor the
benevolence of the Triple Gem and the compassion of the Buddha.
is the first Dharma Talk I have given in Xin Yuan Monastery during
this Chinese New Year. Thus I have taken "The Light" as the theme of my
talk. I have seen so many people looking for brightness and hope in
their lives. No doubt, living in the light is blissful and peaceful.
However, the universe is full of gloom. Who, or what, can give us hope?
The answer is the Buddha and the Dharma. In other words, brightness
will only eventuate if one believes and practises the Dharma.
often hear others commenting that the world is gloomy. Conflicts and
violence are everywhere, and they create agitation and anguish.
Buddhists understand these problems and seek for brightness within the
the perspective of Buddha-Dharma, the cause of darkness and chaos
in this human world is grounded in the sentient beings themselves. We
often think that we are very intelligent and capable. But in actual
fact, we are not. We often mistake the bad deed for the good deed, and
not many of us are interested in doing good. The activities that bring
us suffering are often misconstrued as sources of excitement and
happiness. Do you think then that human beings are really so clever and
me take an example. Human beings are getting more knowledgeable
nowadays. Science and technology are advancing. Harmful products are
continuously being produced by these intelligent minds. What are the
threats that they have brought to the mankind? Fear and worries
consequently arise. Everyone fears the explosion of wars and nuclear
weapons. This is a cogent evidence that our intellect is misleading us.
Therefore various discoveries and so-called material "progress" may in
fact harm us and leave us with a nagging sense of insecurity.
am not condemning the advancement of science and technology, but
demonstrating the ignorance of the human beings. We do not know how to
make proper use of science; rather, we are being used by it. This is
comparable to a kitchen-knife being used as a weapon to kill oneself
rather as a cutting utensil for food. Because science is not used
wisely, we end up living and groping in the dark in spite of our
advanced science and technology. The Buddha Dharma points out the path
to brightness whilst we are groping in the dark.
the darkness, feelings of fear and grief often engender
illusions. We may either see nothing or perceive incorrectly. We may
assume a rope as a snake; or mistake a shadow as a human body; or are
headed in a wrong direction.
in the world believe that they have shown humans the light
and brightness of life. The worldly scholars also assume their own
knowledge as the Universal Truth. But in fact, we can find the truth
most clearly revealed in the Buddha Dharma, the teaching of the Buddha.
Since Sakyamuni Buddha attained enlightenment 2000 years ago, the
bright light began to shine into our hearts and illuminate the whole
universe. The "Amitabha Buddha", whose name everyone recites nowadays,
means "Infinite Brightness". Buddha emits two lights to help sentient
beings. They are the light of wisdom and the light of compassion. The
light of wisdom shows us what has happened before this life and what
will happen after this life. It enhance our understanding of skilful
and unskilful actions, and tells us the causes of suffering. It also
shows us the way to end suffering so that we will be liberated and
happy. If we receive and follow the guidance of this light of wisdom,
many mistakes can be avoided, and the significance of life will
gradually be uncovered and understood. I have just mentioned that human
intelligence is unreliable and man commits many mistakes. There is a
saying of Sariputra, "If we are unable to live in the light of wisdom,
it is just like a blind person who cannot see the light of the external
world and who always lives in darkness."
Buddha radiates not only the light of wisdom, but also the light of
compassion, for the liberation of all beings. His salvation is
proceeding everywhere, every moment. His care for us is far greater
than the care we give to our children. If we receive the light of
compassion radiated from the Buddha, feelings of peace and serenity
will arise while anxiety and annoyance will disappear. This is like a
child who walks alone on the street. His fear of being attacked by
other naughty children will vanish as soon as his mother appears and he
is safely in her company. This is the power of love from the mother. If
one who purportedly practises Buddhism still immerses oneself in deep
feelings of grief and anguish, this must reflect the fact that the
inner self still lacks true faith, and that right understanding of
Dharma has not yet been developed. Therefore, such a one has not yet
received the light of compassion from the Buddha.
light of compassion from the Buddha is illuminating everywhere.
However, there are still some people who wonder why they are unable to
receive it. This is just like one who closed the windows and curtains
to prevent sunlight from shining into one's room. Those who have true
faith in Buddha Dharma are freed from defilements and anxiety, and to
them the light is illuminating. Others may not understand why, with
their kindness and faith in Buddha, they are unable to receive the
light. I have seen a common phenomenon occurring in our country,
Taiwan. People pray for wealth and good fortune in front of the Buddha
or a Bodhisattva. If their wishes are not fulfilled they will begin to
blame the Buddha and Bodhisattva. What a wrong attitude! One should
realize that true faith towards Buddha is not conditional upon
environment and favors received. As long as firm and resolute faith
exists, there will be an opportunity to receive the warmth of the light
from the Buddha.
Buddha appears in this world to teach us the Dharma and to radiate
the light of wisdom and compassion, so that we may all live under this
brightness and be benefitted in the following two regards:
Accomplishment in wholesome activities: What ever activity we
perform, we need guidance. The warm light of Buddha-Dharma guides us to
deliverance so that everyone may become happy and peaceful. All merits,
and all large or minor activities, will be able to proceed to
accomplishment under the illumination of the compassionate and wise
lights of the Buddha.
Fullness of hope: Under the illumination of the light of wisdom and
compassion, we have tremendous hope. Those who practise the Dharma will
not easily give up and fear for failure because they have received the
light of Buddha Dharma and have firm faith in a bright future.
the causes of all problems in the world originate from
ourselves. If everyone accepts the light from the Buddha, the light can
also be transmitted to the others. When one has the right view, one can
influence the others. This is how Buddha works for the salvation of the
world. May I take this opportunity to wish everyone who listens to
today's talk about the "Dharma as the Light of Deliverance", to accept
the light of wisdom and compassion of the Buddha, and to have an
infinite bright future.