2.1 The Superiority of the Human Mind
speaking, human beings have a strong sense of self-esteem.
Yet often they belittle themselves, feeling that they are
insignificant. We are often unwilling to undertake great tasks or to
strive towards the highest ideals or goals. This is the wrong attitude!
In fact human beings are of great significance.
Dharma tells us that among the six realms, the beings in hell
are too miserable, and the hungry ghosts are always starving. Under
such conditions, these beings cannot practise the Buddha's teachings.
The animals have low intelligence and are unable to understand the
Buddha's teachings. The Asuras are too suspicious and cannot believe in
what the Buddha said. They are also full of hatred and in constant
warfare. The heavenly beings have too much enjoyment, and cannot find
the time and mind to practice the Buddha's teaching. That is why the
heaven of Longevity is considered as one of the miseries of the "Three
Sufferings and Eight Miseries". Hence, it is said in the Buddhist
scriptures, "Human form is difficult to come by", and only human beings
have the ability and opportunity to follow the Buddha.
may ask: "What is the difference between the theistic and Buddhist
teachings?" Theistic teachings claim that the human realm of existence
is inferior to the heavens, but in Buddhist teachings, we claim that
the human world is better than the heavens. Now that we have acquired a
human body, we should not waste it. We should respect our own body and
try to develop fully our maturity. We should strive diligently towards
our goal. This is a speciality in the Buddha's teaching.
is so good about being human? According to the sutras, human
beings are endowed with three supreme qualities which even the devas
cannot exceed. Although Mahabrahman was a noble being he was not as
great as human beings. Therefore, Buddha had chosen the human realm of
existence as the place to be born in and to achieve enlightenment,
setting an example for us to follow.
three supreme qualities of Human are memory, pure behaviour and
Memory - In the Indian language the word human (manusya) means
memory. The human memory is stronger than that of any other creature.
We can remember clearly things that happened in our childhood. We are
also capable of preserving our experiences and history from thousands
of years ago. In this regard, cattle, sheep, pigs and dogs, or even
devas are not as good as us. Because of our memory, we have gained
great wisdom. All the cultural and scientific advances that we have
made to date are the fruit of the progress and development of our
accumulated past experience and preserved memory. This wisdom that we
have derived from memory is incomparable to any other creatures.
Pure Behavior - The control of carnal impulses, the performance of a
moral acts for the benefit of others, often at the sacrifice of one's
own profit, is distinctive only in human behaviour.
Perseverance - Human beings are capable of withstanding a great deal
of suffering and can overcome almost any difficulty that exists in this
Saha world. Determination and perseverance to succeed is another
supreme quality lacking in the devas.
three supreme human qualities if used unwisely, can cause great
suffering and disaster to Mankind. However, when used to perform
meritorious deeds, they become the "great wisdom", "great benevolence",
and "great courage" of the ancient Chinese sayings.
everybody knows that all sentient beings are endowed with the
Buddha-nature and have the ability to achieve Buddhahood. The sutras
say that the Buddha-nature possesses four merits, namely, wisdom,
compassion, faith-joy (the joy of believing in the Dharma), and samadhi
(concentration). Meritorious deeds are equivalent to compassion, and
when there is faith-joy, there will be perseverance, The three supreme
qualities of Human are equal to three of the four merits in
Buddha-nature. These traits are especially well developed in humans,
and because of this human find it easier to follow and succeed in
practising the teachings of the Buddha. Prime Minister Fei Siu of the
Tang Dynasty once said; "All sentient beings can attain Buddhahood, but
among the beings of the six realms, only the human beings can practise
the acts of a Bodhisattva and strive towards perfect enlightenment."
The merits of the Buddha-nature are most developed in the humans, thus,
Man can practise the Buddha's teachings and attain Buddhahood.
2.2 The Direct Path from Human to Buddhahood
the expedients, for example, trying to be reborn in heaven or
become an Arahat, are generally more tortuous ways of attaining
Buddhahood. For instance, through the practice for achieving a heavenly
realm, we may be reborn in the heaven of Longevity, and be caught in
one of the Eight Miseries, obstructing our progress on the Buddha's
path. On the other hand, those who practise with the aim of
self-emancipation only may attain Arahathood and be released from
samsara, but this will be like a person who gets attached to the
enjoyment on the way of the journey and forgets about the final
destination. This journey is neither direct nor fast.
it is better for us to take the straight and direct route. We
start out as a human and, if necessary, we should try to be reborn as a
human again, remain in this state until we achieve Buddhahood. We
should not aspire to be reborn in heaven nor attain the fruits of the
Arahat practice. It is best if we depend on the human form as we work
towards attaining Buddhahood. Some people think that they are pursuing
the path to Buddhahood, but actually, they are engaging in the esoteric
practices of the devas. Some ignore the cultivation of wisdom and
devote all their attention to acquiring concentration (samadhi), which
really aims at rebirth in the heavens. Some study the Mahayana
doctrines, but do not possess great compassion. This is similar to
following the path of a selfish practitioner. Of course pursuing
courses as such may also lead to Buddhahood eventually, but the way is
a tortuous one.
we practice Buddhism in these modern times, it is important that
we should first pursue the right path as a member in the society, and
not segregate ourselves from home or country. We should start on the
path from Human to Buddhahood in order to avoid any misunderstanding in
the society. Modern people have a different disposition from those of
ancient times, especially the Chinese who lay a great deal of emphasis
on moral human relationships. Chinese Buddhists particularly, must
develop their moral practices and human relationships first.
the accumulation of righteousness in this world, the causes and
merits needed for us to progress towards Buddhahood will also increase.
None of us should waste our time, we should fully utilize the short
life span that we have and strive diligently towards the goal of
3. Faith and Understanding needed in Practising
follow the Buddha's path, faith and understanding are indispensable.
The scriptures give eight logical, solid reasons why we should have
faith in the Buddha-Dharma. We have now simplified them into six
3.1 The authority and merits of the Triple Gem
Triple Gem is the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. The Buddhas
and Bodhisattvas in Mahayana Buddhism all possess supreme wisdom and
compassion and are worthy of our deep reverence. They are also capable
of doing things that ordinary people cannot do. Besides our belief in
the Buddha's and Bodhisattva's authority and merits, we should further
believe in Buddha-Dharma, which is the door towards Buddhahood. The
Buddha-Dharma also possesses merits and powers, which enable us to
attain our ultimate aim if we practise conscientiously.
3.2 The Truth of All Dharma
"All Dharma" we mean all events and things in this world. All
phenomena that we know in this world is not absolute. Why? This may be
explained in two ways.
All things, from human beings to the earth that we live in are in
constant change, they are not permanent and not ultimate.
Everything in the world is relative. When there is good there will
be bad; when there is birth there will be death; when there is a rise
there will be a fall; when there is this, there will be that; when
there is this family, there will be that family, when there is this
nation, there will be that nation; and within the same nation, there
are different parties. In addition, there are parties outside the party
and there are groupings within the party. This is how the world stands.
It is relative and full of contradiction. Hence the phenomena in this
world cannot be considered absolute. Since everything in this world is
relative and changing, human existence cannot be regarded as ultimate
either. Therefore, a true follower of the Buddha must believe amidst
this variegation, that there is an unchanging indiscriminate truth of
absolute equality. If one tries to understand this by proper methods,
and puts this understanding into practice, then one will be able to
experience the Truth. Suffering will then be alleviated and endeavours
towards Buddhahood and Bodhisattvahood will be duly rewarded.
3.3 Pure Karma
people know that Buddhism lays a great deal of emphasis on the Law
of Cause and Effect. But the causes and effects that we have created
may not necessary be pure, Evil deeds such as killing, robbery,
adultery and lies have causes and effects that are not pure. Likewise,
even acts such as almsgiving, paying homage to the Buddha, or reading
sutras are not necessarily pure.
almsgiving for instance, which is undoubtedly a good act.
Sometimes people may do this with the thoughts; "I can perform good
acts", or "I have given more than others", or "I can win someone by
this action to serve my own purposes". In these situations, as long as
there are thoughts of an ego or an expectation of reward for the act,
then the act is not a pure one, and is sullied. Thus, one who follows
the Buddha, must believe in the existence of pure causes and effects;
i.e.: causes and effects that are free from defilements, free from the
attachments of an ego. Pure causes will produce pure effects. One
should adopt the attainment of Buddhahood as one's ideal goal and have
strong faith and understanding in pure causes and their corresponding
3.4 The Possibility of obtaining Bodhi
understanding faith in the three previous sections, does not
guarantee one's path towards Buddhahood. Some may say "I am too dumb or
too busy". If we do not have confidence in ourselves, how can we find
the determination to follow the Buddha? Therefore we must do our best
to strengthen our confidence and believe that everyone possesses
Buddha-nature and be determined to attain enlightenment. We should do
our best and use all the strength we have in the endeavour. If we fail
today, we still have tomorrow. If we cannot be successful in this life,
we still have the next life. With unflinching determination, faith, and
continuous effort, enlightenment will be achieved one day.
3.5 The expedient path
sentient beings are endowed with Buddha-nature and all may become
Buddhas. But Buddhahood is secured through practice. If we practise
according to the teachings, we will eventually become a Buddha. Such
teachings are called expedients to Enlightenment.
use an analogy; it is not enough for us to believe that there is
water under the ground. We must know how to dig down to the water level
and how to bring the water up. If we do not do this, we will remain
thirsty despite the proximity of the water. Likewise, Buddhahood has to
be achieved by certain methods and thus, there is neither a naturally
born Maitreya Buddha nor a naturally existing Sakyamuni Buddha.
3.6 The sacred teachings of Tathagata
of us are Buddhas, so how do we know the path leading to
Buddhahood? After Sakyamuni became a Buddha out of his compassion
towards the sentient beings, he taught the methods for Enlightenment.
These were later recorded in the Tripitaka (the "Three Basket").
Therefore, we should believe in the teachings that are recorded in the
sutras, vinayas and abhidharma and try to understand them. Our faith in
these teachings will strengthen our endeavours to follow the Buddha's
path. Those who can read should read, and those who cannot read should
listen, as in these "Three Baskets", there are helpful methods that can
lead us to Buddhahood.
4. Begin as a Bodhisattva of Ten Meritorious Deeds
we have acquired sufficient faith and understanding of the
Buddha, we should start to practice the Ten Meritorious Deeds like a
Bodhisattva. Many people do not understand the term "Bodhisattva".
There is a lot of misunderstanding about it. "Bodhisattva" is an Indian
word which is made from the two words; bodhi and sattva. Bodhi means
enlightened mind and sattva means a sentient being. Therefore, a
Bodhisattva is a sentient being who seeks an enlightened mind.
are different levels of Bodhisattvas, some are higher in their
practice and some are lower. To an ordinary mind, the term Bodhisattva
usually reminds one of great Bodhisattvas such as Manjushri,
Samantabhadra, Avalokitesvara and Ksitigarbha. In fact, any person who
has made up his mind to be a Buddha is a Bodhisattva. The difference
between a Buddha and a Bodhisattva is that the Buddha represents
supreme perfection, the summum bonum. He is like a person who has
completed all processes of learning, while a Bodhisattva is a student
who is still in school. The students can be in kindergarten, primary
school. secondary school, university or even post-graduate school. They
are all students, with the only difference being the degree of learning
while the process of study is the same for all. Similarly, there are
also Bodhisattvas who have just started on their path. They are not
much different from the common people except that they have made the
decision to seek enlightenment and to become a Buddha. If they continue
to learn and practise the various acts of a Bodhisattva, they will
eventually attain the standards of the great Bodhisattva such as
Manjushri Bodhisattva and Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva.
should not think that it is impossible for us to become like them.
When we go to school. We start with the kindergarten and gradually
progress to postgraduate school As with a Bodhisattva, the great
Bodhisattvas too had to start from the novice level. Now, lets talk
about the Bodhisattva who have just started their journey as they are
closer to the common people mentally and their example is therefore
much easier to follow.
newly initiated Bodhisattva should lay his emphasis on the following
4.1 Start with a mind of great compassion
one makes a decision to become a Bodhisattva, one needs to
cultivate one's faith, dedication, and wisdom. However, the emphasis
should be on compassion. Those who start out with a feeling of
compassion for all sentient beings and are determined to acquire
Buddhahood with the intention of saving sentient beings are the
Bodhisattvas. Without compassion, Buddhahood cannot be achieved. Even
when a person has thoroughly envisaged the Truth, if he has no
compassion, he will become a selfish practitioner. Therefore, the most
important thing about a Bodhisattva is his compassion. He sees and
shares the sufferings of sentient beings. He thinks of methods to
relieve them from their sufferings. This is the mind of a Bodhisattva,
and the seed to Buddhahood. To take an initial step towards Bodhisattva
is to be compassionate, to set great vows and be determined not to
forget them. Once the mind has decided, we should make a firm stand and
never turn back.
are many ways of cultivating compassion, one of the best methods
described in the scriptures is that of "putting yourself in the other
person's shoes". We should think what it is like to stand in the other
person's position. When we do this, our compassion will naturally grow.
If a question is asked: "What are the things that you love most?" All
of us will almost certainly answer, parents, spouse, friends, country,
nation. But in actual fact, as the Buddha said, "One loves no more than
oneself". One can, of course love one's parents, and others, as long as
they do not hurt one's own interests. Otherwise we will love no one.
everyone loves others with the selfish mind of loving
themselves. If a person can think of other people's sufferings as his
own sufferings, can love others in the same way that he loves himself,
always thinks of the other persons situation rather than his own
perspective, then this can be called true love and compassion. If one
considers the suffering of others, before one's own suffering, then
great compassion will come naturally. It is not necessary for a newly
initiated Bodhisattva to have supernatural power or magnificent body
and appearance, once compassion is aroused, and one aims to acquire
Buddhahood for the salvation of sentient beings, one becomes a
Bodhisattva. However, a mind with an ambition to attain Buddhahood is
still not enough to get us there. It must be strengthened with right
4.2 Act according to the Ten Meritorious Deeds
difference between ordinary people and a Bodhisattva is that the
latter have the determination to seek enlightenment, and perform the
deeds of a Bodhisattva. A novice Bodhisattva is one who performs the
Ten good acts with a mind to be enlightened. He is called a Bodhisattva
of the Ten Meritorious Deeds.
Ten Meritorious Deeds are the ten good acts that counteract the ten
evils. They are as follow:
Not to kill is to love and protect lives.
(2) Not to steal is to refrain from illegal possession of wealth.
(3) Not to commit adultery is to refrain from illicit sexual behaviour.
(4) Not to lie is not to tell something false.
(5) No gossiping tongue is not to tell tales between people thereby
causing disharmony between them.
(6) No harsh speech is not to say things that are coarse or sardonic.
When criticizing others for their wrong deeds we must speak softly
instead of using words that are cruel and hurtful.
(7) Not to speak words that are beguiling is to speak words that are
moral and beneficial for society. Beguiling words are words that sound
nice, but have wrong thoughts and may result in killing, robbery,
adultery, falsehood and other sins. They can be meaningless prattle and
a waste of time.
(8) Not to be greedy is to take only what you deserve, and to be
content with few desires. We should not covet things that do not belong
(9) Not to have any hatred is to have compassion and to refrain from
disputes and fights.
(10)To be free from wrong views is to have right under-standing. This
means understanding and accepting the Law of Cause and Effect, the
existence of past lives and future lives, the cycle of life and death,
the state attainable by the saints and Arahats, and that Bodhisattvas
and Buddhas are able to release themselves from the cycle of life and
death. Do not let wrong thoughts, such as thoughts that claim death as
the end of human existence arise.