1. Paying reverence to the Buddha.
Praising the virtues of the Buddha (The name of the Buddha reflects
the virtues of the Buddha. Thus, reciting the name of the Amitabha
Buddha is equivalent to praising and recollecting the virtues of all
3. Making immense offerings (s. pujana) to the Buddha.
Making a frank confession of one's mistakes (s. desana) before the
Buddha and sincerely asking for pardon (s. ksana).
5. Rejoicing in the virtues of the Buddha (and of all Bodhisattvas).
Requesting the Buddha to revolve the Dharma wheel (s.
Requesting the Buddha to live on this world, working for the
liberation of all sentient beings.
8. Learning from the Buddha and practising the Dharma.
Following the example of the Buddha, to help, comfort and teach all
sentient beings according to their needs.
Transference of merits (s. parinama) to all sentient beings, hoping
that all sentient beings may attain Buddhahood.
are the practices of the recollection of the Buddha. Since the
practices simply involve mindfully meditating upon Buddha (s.
adhimoksa), and are free from any complicating dependence upon special
external requirements, they can be easily accomplished. To recollect
the infinite Buddha is in fact to contemplate the vows and practices of
all Buddhas (i.e. infinite Buddha-nature variously personified). The
mind meditates upon the Buddhas presiding over the ten different
directions (e.g. Amitabha Buddha in the Western Paradise). This entails
penetrating the Realm of Dharma (s. dharmadhatu) and leads one to
rebirth in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.
most systematic commentary regarding this practice can be found in
"The Sastra of The Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana". It describes
four stages of practice as below:
Mahayanist novices, whose minds are not strong, may lack the
confidence to realize Buddhahood or to avoid rebirth in lower realms.
They are not yet ready for the stage of cultivating confidence by
themselves. The expedient means for them to practice is thus to
concentrate on contemplating and recollecting the Buddha, especially
the Amitabha Buddha, and to transfer the immeasurable virtues
accumulated through this practice for taking rebirth in the Land of
Ultimate Bliss. Confidence can then be established gradually, and can
be sustained by sensing the strong vibrations rippling throughout the
Universe emanating from the ardent will, power and virtues of the
Buddha. (N.B. This differs from the Real-Mark (Self-Nature)
Recollection of Buddha).
The initial stage of a Bodhisattva's career essentially entails
extensive practices aiming to cultivate confidence (i.e. the Stage of
Cultivating Ten Virtues of Mind). Such practices involving the
recollection of the Buddha on the Expedient Path, such as paying
reverence to the Buddha; making a frank confession of one's mistakes
and asking for pardon; rejoicing in the merits of others, transference
of merits etc., all become skilful means for overcoming unwholesome
karma (s. karmavarana). In turn these expedient means help develop
practices on the Profound Path of Buddhist Practice, such as generosity
(s. dana), morality (s. sila), patience and perseverance. Confidence is
further strengthened thereby.
For those Bodhisattvas who have firmly established their faith and
confidence, making a frank confession of their mistakes and asking for
pardon becomes a skilful means to achieve mind concentration (s.
samadhi); while the practices of offering, paying reverence, praising
and rejoicing in virtue become skilful means to develop the stock of
supreme merit. These will assist one to accomplish all great vows
equally and to perfectly support the growth of both wisdom and
compassion. Confidence and faith can then be further developed in order
to achieve the supreme enlightenment.
When a Bodhisattva enters the Realization of Dharma Dhatu of the Ten
Bodhisattva Stages (s. dasa-bhumayah) he still practises recollection
of the Buddha through actions such as making offerings to the Buddhas
of the ten different directions, requesting the Buddha to revolve the
Dharma wheel etc.; all with the purpose of benefitting all other
sentient beings. The Manjusri Bodhisattva and Samantabhadra
Bodhisattva, who have sought rebirth in the Land of Ultimate Bliss,
belong to this type of Bodhisattva. They definitely differ from those
Mahayanist novices who lack the confidence to successfully realize
Buddhahood, or who fear the loss of confidence during the practices.
of Buddha on the Expedient Path of Buddhist Practice is a
consistent feature of the training of a Bodhisattva throughout its
various phases. It is followed in a proper sequence and gradual
progress is made thereby, subject to the spiritual potentialities of
individuals. According to "The Great Wisdom and Perfections Sastra" (s.
"The Mahaprajna Paramita Sastra") there are different emphases on the
Expedient and Profound Paths for different Mahayanist novices due to
the variability of their spiritual potentialities. However, from the
perspective of the Bodhi Path (s. bodhimarga) as a whole, there is no
contradiction between the Expedient and Profound Paths and it is wrong
to discriminate against either of them. Those who have not read Chapter
40 of the Avatamsaka Sutra, "Samantabhadra's Practices and Vows", will
not understand the profound meaning of the recollection of the Buddha
on the Expedient Path. For those who do not read the sastra of The
Awakening of Faith in Mahayana, it will be difficult to understand the
different stages of practice involved in the recollection of the Buddha
(which is consistent with The Great Wisdom and Perfection Sastra and
The Dasabhumi-Vibhasa Sastra written by Nagarjuna). I would recommend
these sutras and sastras to anyone practicing recollection of the
Buddha so that they will not misinterpret the immense teaching of this
practice and blind themselves to its profound meaning.
by Tan Beng Tiong, edited Ke Rong, proofread by Shi Neng
Dharma About Lay People for Lay
talk given at The Lay People Organization
(Ju Shi Lin), Manila
Lay People Organization "Ju Shi Lin" asked me to give talks for
three days. Because it is difficult to have the opportunity to listen
to the Dharma, I feel very happy to give some talks. There is a saying,
"When you meet a male, you should talk about something that interests
the male; and when you meet a female, you talk about something that
interests the female". Likewise Dharma should be expounded in
concordance to the occasion. This place is the Lay People Organization,
and those of you who are present here are also lay people. Thus I will
use Dharma about lay people as the theme for the talk.
start with the Lay People Organization (Ju Shi Lin). What is a
lay person (Ju Shi)? What is an organisation (Lin)? A lay person is a
"Kulapati" in the Indian language. India has four different castes.
There are the "Ksatriya" which are the royal caste, and "Brahmana" for
those who perform religious ceremonies. The lowest caste are the slaves
("Sudra"). The other caste is the "Freemen" ("Vaisya") whose members
work in agricultural, industrial or business sectors.
"Freemen" gradually obtained their status in the Indian community.
They are similar to the middle-class in the modern world. The name
"Freemen" refers to the strata of lay people at that time. The teaching
of the Buddha sees all sentient beings as equal and discourages
stratification of beings. The term "laypeople" refers to people who
live in a family in Buddhism. When Buddhism arrived in China,
"laypeople" became the terminology that referred to the people who
practised Buddhism at home. In the Philippines, the term "laypeople" is
seldom used. In my country, China, all males and females are called lay
people. Thus "laypeople" has become a general term that refers to
Buddhists who practise at home.
means forests which imply plural. When there are many trees in
the same location we term it a forest. In the olden times, many monks
and nuns stayed in the monastery and thus they called it "Chong Lin"
i.e. "the thickly populated monastery". The thickly populated monastery
was not a temple. It merely referred to the assembly of monks or nuns.
Nowadays we call the lay people who set up the Buddhist organization as
"Ju Shi Lin" i.e. "the thickly populated organisation." Thus "lin"
implies an association or organization.
history of the Ju Shi Lin is short. It started up in the time of
about the tenth year of the Republic of China. At that time, Buddhists
in Hu Ling and Hu Hang set up a Buddhist organization called The World
Buddhist Ju Shi Lin. This was how the word came into being and
subsequently Buddhists in other parts of the world came to use it.
Two Groups of Buddhists
can be broadly categorized into two groups, namely the lay
people and the monastic community. The assembly of monastic community
is the Order of Monks and Nuns (s. Sangha). The organization for those
who practice Buddhism at home is the Lay People Organization. What is
the difference between these two institutions?
terms of faith, they both take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and
Sangha. From the perspective of attainment and enlightenment, there is
not much difference. According to the Sravakayana, lay people can
attain the third Supramundane Fruitions (s. phala) i.e. the
Non-Returner (s. Anagamin), whereas the Sangha can attain the fourth
Fruition i.e. the Holy One (s. Arahat). The difference is only one
the other hand, according to the Mahayana tradition, many
Bodhisattvas are lay people. Among the great Bodhisattvas such as
Manjushri, Samantabhadra, Avalokitesvara and Kshitigarbha, only
Kshitigarbha presents himself as a member of the Sangha. The others all
present themselves as lay people. Thus do not misunderstand that lay
people will not achieve profound enlightenment and think that it can
only be attained by the members of the Order.
there is not much difference, what exactly is the distinction? The
Sakyamuni Buddha was born in India. He then renounced his family life
and later attained Buddhahood. When he spread the Dharma initially, his
followers voluntarily followed his footsteps to lead a monastic life.
The Buddha assembled these followers together, and formed the Order.
members of the Order are forbidden from dealing in business or
holding government positions. The only aim of the Order is to spread
the Dharma. The teaching of the Buddha is then propagated from
generation to generation with the Order as the backbone of this
continuity. In the past, the preservation of Dharma was the emphasis of
the responsibilities for the Order.
draw an analogy from a political party. It must first have an
ideology. The party members must have faith in the ideology and hence
implement and transform the party ideology into reality. As well, it
requires some party members to not only have faith, but to also
concentrate on running the party and make it their profession.
is not to say that lay people do not need to spread the Dharma. As
we all know, lay people have parents, spouses and children at home to
look after. They are also busy in their pursuit of their occupations.
They are unable to concentrate solely on propagating the teaching of
Buddha. Hence it is important and necessary for the Order of Monks and
Nuns to carry out this duty.
monastic community do not have the troubles and worries of family
and occupation. Their environment is more conducive to practicing and
spreading the Dharma. This is the minor difference between lay people
and the Order of Monks and Nuns.
should not think that lay people are tied down and hence cannot
practise and propagate the Dharma. It is actually to the advantage of
lay people. Buddhism is not only observances such as chanting in the
monastery or giving Dharma talks and meditation. It should involve in
changing and directing the world, leading the inhabitants of this world
in upgrading themselves day by day. In this way we may all bathe in the
goodness of the Buddha, and pave the way for each other to attain
lay people are dispersed in all walks of life, it provides
Buddhism with the strength and the vehicle to disseminate to every
corner of the world. The monastic community generally preserves the
sravakayana tradition of maintaining a certain distance from the
general public. Some even practise on their own in seclusion. They may,
temporarily sever their ties with the community. However, the monks or
nuns of Mahayana tradition have all sentient beings as their target of
practice. Thus they choose to reside in villages, towns or cities where
they spread the Dharma and actively become involved in the community.
relationship of lay people and the community may be very intimate,
which makes the task of spreading the Dharma easier. From this we can
see the importance of lay people in Buddhism. Lay people should
particularly learn about the aspects of the Dharma that emphasize how
to live in peace with others in the community. In this way, they may
help those who are in need, and look after and enhance the well-being
of other sentient beings. They should rejoice in the goodness of
should abstain from over-indulging in the pessimistic and selfish
issue of death and dying. There should be co-operation and distribution
of tasks between the Order of Monks and Nuns and lay people to promote
the spreading of the Dharma. If the Lay People Organization functions
in a similar way to a monastery, then it will lose its significance as
an institution for lay people.
The Five merits
should learn to be a Mahayana layperson and learn to follow the
path of the Bodhisattvas. That is one who aspires to attain Buddhahood
and wishes to pave the way for all sentient beings. In order to achieve
this aim, one has to practice the Five Merits. These Five Merits were
expounded by the Buddha especially for lay people. We should ask
ourselves whether we could gain all the Five Merits, or just a portion
of them. Just as a human needs to possess all five sensory organs to be
complete, a lay person should try to develop these Five Merits.
Faith: Is the faith we have in the Triple Gem strong and firm? If we
have doubt and hesitation, shifting between belief and disbelief, then
it would still be a far cry from the real merit. Therefore, we should
first have firm faith in the Triple Gem.
Precepts (s. Sila): Lay people should have faith in the Triple Gem.
As well, they should strive to observe the Five Precepts because
precepts are the basis for all human morality. A Buddhist should try to
perfect his personality by becoming a "gentleman" or "lady" of the
Listening: Having faith and good moral conduct is not enough. One
should try to approach the Noble ones and listen to the Dharma. In this
way, one may acquire the right views and deepen one's understanding of
the Dharma. Practising the Dharma can be developed from listening,
listening one knows good.
From listening one knows evil.
From listening one gets away from unworthiness.
From listening one may attain Nirvana."
Giving (s. Dana): The above three merits are mainly for one's own
benefit, thus these merits are incomplete. One should contribute
oneself and helps others financially or physically.
Wisdom: The listening merit mentioned above is close to general
knowledge. The teaching of the Buddha deals with detachment, the
overcoming of life and death and the liberation of suffering for all
sentient beings. But one requires real wisdom. One has to listen,
contemplate and put into practice the Dharma. Then one may gain wisdom,
and realize the truth.
Buddhists have profound knowledge; some have very high morality;
some have compassion, loving-kindness, sympathetic joy and equanimity.
Every Buddhist has their own strength. For a lay person to perfect his
practice, he has to learn to gain the above five merits. Only with the
perfection of the five merits, can one develop the characteristics of
lay person aspiring to be a Bodhisattva, to help all sentient beings,
should also learn to acquire the Four All-Embracing Virtues. To
influence others' thinking and hope that they accept our view points,
we must be skilful. We should not look down on ourselves, as though we
would not be able to bring about any effect. A student can lead his
fellow students; parents can guide their offspring; a shopkeeper can
direct his workers; teachers can teach their students. In every walk of
life, there are people who are successful. As long as we have the right
means in attracting and directing them, we may encourage all people
whom we meet in our daily lives with the teachings of the Buddha. We
can teach them and help them. So what are these Four All-Embracing
Four All-Embracing Virtues
1) Giving (Dana)
is practised when we help others either financially,
career-wise, or in thinking constructively. Those who have received
your help will spontaneously have good impressions of you. They will
listen to your advice, follow your guidance; and some may even obey
your instruction although the instruction may be unreasonable.
once asked me, "The teachings of some other religions are quite
superficial, but why do they flourish?" I replied, "The flourishing of
a religion is not due to its teaching only. They may have done a good
job in terms of giving. For instance, they may build schools or
hospitals. There are thousands who have benefitted. With gratitude,
regardless of whether there is a heaven or not, or whether the divinity
will help them, these people will believe in what they say."
Buddhism to prosper, Buddhists should start with the practice of
giving by organizing welfare activities such as education and helping
those in need. Mahayana Buddhism followers who want to help all
sentient beings must practise giving.
should take the perfection (s. paramita) of Giving (s.
Dana) very seriously. Sometimes one may not believe in what is said by
person A but believes in the same words spoken to him by person B. What
is the reason? This is because he has a very special karmic
relationship with person B. Whenever we give, we will establish a
karmic relationship with the receiver. This makes the transmission of
the Dharma easier. Therefore, giving is an essential virtue in the
spreading of Dharma.