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The Rise and Fall of the Three Schools of Buddhism
This is the explanation by the patriarch of the rise and fall of Buddhism. “The patriarch said: the flourishing of Buddhism…” this phrase is asking what makes Buddhism thrive. “[Is] the same origin of the three schools (Zen, Precepts, and Scriptures).” The three schools are the traditions of Zen, Precepts, and Scriptures. The
“[I]ts second stage,” the word second means change here, meaning a lower grade than ‘flourishing.’ “[T]he independence of the three schools” means the schools of Zen, Precepts, and Scriptures became independent of or separated from each other. It is acceptable for the three schools to become independent, but they should learn from each other, adhere to education, and must not criticize each other. If the three independent schools criticize each other, it no longer has the same flavor and taste and is no longer one family. After Buddha entered into Nirvana, different Buddhist sects were established, and their single origin was forgotten, thus causing Buddhism to decline. This is the beginning of the fall of Buddhism.
“[I]ts decline, arguments among three schools.” Here the word ‘decline’ was used. The first stage (of Buddhism) is ‘flourishing,’ the second stage is ‘independence,’ and the third stage is ‘decline.’ ‘Arguments among three schools’ mean the beginning of criticism among the sects; such as my sect is the best, yours are not better than mine.
This is a common situation in today’s Buddhism; every Buddhist sect is unconvinced of the other sects’ doctrines and practices, praising its own sect and traducing other sects. How could we do this? The doctrines of all Buddhists sects--Precepts, Samadhi, Prajna Wisdom—are all from the teachings of the Buddha or transmitted by the Buddha. How can we vilify any sect? Buddha, the Teacher, transmitted this practice to me and a different one to him. I only admit the teachings I received, but not his. Was the Teacher wrong? Was only what taught to me is right? What was taught to him is wrong?
Actually this occurs when we have not truly absorbed the teachings. If we have truly acquired Buddha’s teachings, we would assuredly praise other sects’ practitioners. “Buddhism will thrive only when all the Shangas praise each other.” If all the sects compete to be number one, criticize, and argue among each other, Buddhism is doomed.
“Its extremes, the internal conflicts of the three schools.” ‘Extremes’ means the absolute end. “The internal conflicts of the three schools” mean the internal competition and purging due to recalcitrant sect members. Eventually, members within the sect do not communicate with each other and branch out to establish their own sect. They praise themselves and revile others to the point of competing for followers and, worst, for offerings. This is the liquidation of Buddhism.
Therefore, any cultivator wishing to succeed in a Way Place (temple) must remember the saying: “Six Harmonies at the Way Place, One Hundred Tolerances as the Family Motto.” What are the essentials of cultivation? It is to be respectful and cultivate the six harmonies, to cultivate the paramita of tolerance. How do we practice tolerance? Tolerance pertains to the personal characteristics of quietude and non-attachment, or no differentiation, as applied to the management of people and things in the workplace and daily life. Everything happens for the highest good. Nothing is bad. Why is this? It is because everything is metamorphosized from Self-Nature, the Oneness. Therefore, how can anything be bad? For example, eyes have their good points and usefulness same as ears, a head, or feet. We cannot do without any one of the sensory organs; otherwise, we will be incomplete or handicapped. All are good; all are number one; there is no number two.
Why is it that the Infinite Lifespan Sutra complied by Mr. Shia Len-Gu is number one among all the complied-scriptures from the past to the present, from the West to the East? It is because every word, every phrase in the Sutra is excerpted from the original scriptures, without redaction, without paraphrasing. There are numerous complied-sutras, historically and worldwide, as contained in the Great Treasure Trove of Scriptures. If we seriously study The Questions and Answers from the Ephemeral Existence, we will understand this point. Only Mr. Shia’s version is most unique in that he was extremely cautious. It took him ten years to finish the compilation after proofreading the text ten times making sure that every word, every phrase, and every sentence is a direct translation of the original scriptures. One can find no fault, or any flaw, in his compiled scripture. Once we have this common knowledge, we will not be fooled by external circumstances or disturbed by gossip. This is very important (for our cultivation)!
“Extreme internal conflicts”means internal conflicts have reached its zenith. “[E]veryone becomes a Dharma destroyer.” A practitioner is no longer learning from the Buddha’s teachings but destroying the Buddha Dharma. This is the present-day situation. All are Dharma-destroyers. “All the Dharma becomes the Dharma of thieves.” This sentence means that all the Dharma has become harmful to people, as tools to attack others or material to malign people. People are no long cultivating according to the Dharma. I use it to criticize you; you use it to criticize him; and he uses it to criticize me. When Dharma is not used for self-cultivation but for criticizing others, this sectarian Dharma will become extinct.
Someone asked me once: ‘Is there any flaws in the teachings of the ancient saints and sages, which have been propagated (transmitted) for thousands of years?’ My answer was ‘Yes.’ He was very surprised and wanted to know the reason. I told him that if you do not understand their teachings, it is not flawless. If you do not recognize gold and treat it as copper; misunderstand the ancients, the saints and sages, or the ancient patriarchs and even the ancient patriarchs can do nothing (to help you). They are virtuous and will not argue with you no matter how you malign them. They are very tolerant. But in the end you have to accept the consequences of your actions. They cannot help you in alleviating your karma. Hence, when the Buddha and bodhisattvas, as well as the Dharma-protecting god, Veda Bodhisattva, see the Dharma being criticized, traduced, and trampled upon silent tears fall. What can we do in such a situation? 「斯時也，非遡其源，曷救正哉？」這個時候唯一的辦法，就是要回過頭來，把源頭找出來。知道是一個源，你不敢再說了；除這個辦法之外沒法子救。源頭是什麼？戒律是釋迦牟尼佛定的，禪是釋迦牟尼佛傳的，教也是釋迦牟尼佛傳的。大家都承認是一個源頭，是一家人，問題才能解決，所以「非遡其源」，就是要追根究底，把源頭找出來，你才能糾正這個問題。
“At this point, except going upstream to the origin, how can it be corrected and saved?” The only way to save this crisis is to return to the origin, to find the fountainhead. To understand that all the sects are from the same source will stop the bickering. There is no other solution except this method. What is the ‘origin’? All must admit to the same origin that precepts were promulgated by the Buddha Shakyamuni; Zen was transmitted by the Buddha Shakyamuni; Scriptures were propagated by the Buddha Shakyamuni. If all the sects admit to belonging to one family, the problem can be resolved. Thus, ‘except going upstream to the origin’ means to trace the roots, to reach the bottom of the ocean, to find the fountainhead, so that this crisis can be resolved.
How can we save the world today when it is in total chaos? Why did Dr. Toynbee say that only Mahayana Buddhism and traditional Chinese culture can save the world? The traditional Chinese culture affirms that “every single human being must be loved,” as expounded in Di Zi Gui. This is about finding the origin. The origin of the Chinese culture is the ‘five ethical relations.’ The Chinese people’s courtesy or propriety are the ‘five constant virtues’, which are: (1) the beneficent love people; (2) the righteous follow rules; (3) the reasonable adheres to propriety, which is also a code of conduct, such as showing respect to others; (4) the wise are not emotional or use our sensibilities instead of senses; and (5) the last one is trustworthiness, never lie to others. These five are the same as the ‘five precepts’ in Buddhism: no killing is benevolence; no stealing is righteousness; no promiscuity is propriety; no false words is trustworthiness; and no drunkenness is wisdom. Why are the five constant virtues the same as the five precepts? It is because they all come from the same root/origin. If every one can adhere to this type of moral education, all our problems will be solved. The world will immediately return to normal. Today we find ourselves in such a predicament that we must find our roots and actualize these virtues and precepts and influence others gradually regardless of their actions.
“At such times, only non-partisan subjects and rebellious sons, advocate that all three schools are from the same origin.” If you promote this kind of education today, people will ridicule you as a fool, a relic. Modern people are contentious, quarrelsome, and fight for everything. The consequence of people fighting for everything is the destruction of the world. We must restore people’s mentalities to: I will not argue when you are argumentative; I will yield and not fight for fame or profits/benefits when you are combatant. We shall live a simple life, with just enough food to sustain our body, clothing just to keep us warm, and a small place just to shelter us from inclement weather. Our actions shall be virtuous, beneficent, and righteous. This is the correct way, the way of the saints. We shall dedicate our efforts unconditionally and do our utmost to be a good model that can touch people’s hearts and transcend their minds. This is the only way. Therefore, to ‘advocate that all three schools are from the same origin’ means we shall not differentiate sects or even the religions in the world, as all religions are also from the same source. Buddhism expounds the doctrine that ‘everything comes from the mind.’ All religions come from the mind and all minds come from the same origin. Regardless of people’s religions, intrinsically their minds are the same, from the same fountainhead. “[A]ll phenomena are of one entity” depicts that we have reached the fountainhead, identified the karmic conditions, and found the essence. The Sixth Patriarch put it very well when he said: “How unexpected/incredible that our self-nature can manifest all phenomena!” All phenomena manifest from self-nature, which is the essence that can manifest all that are manifested. Since we are all from the Oneness, we are all one family. “All are from the One thusly, the non-duality of self and others, all ethnic groups and religions in the world are from one family--this is the way to save the three schools of Buddhism.” We reconcile to mutual respect and the mentality that you can differentiate, but I shall not; you can disrespect me, but I shall not; you can be inconsiderate towards me, but I shall not; you don’t need to take care of me, but I will take care of you; you don’t need to cooperate with me, but I will be cooperative. Acting this way we can slowly transform the people (around us).
When ‘all ethnic groups and religions in the world are from one family,’ how can we traduce them? Of course we cannot commit the offense of traducement. This raises the question as to why there are so many different religions. If there is a God, the one and only true God, He have to use different methods to teach people of different temperaments living at different parts of the world. Therefore, all His methods are correct and appropriate. In other words, all the Buddhas, all the gods, and all the saints have the perfect wisdom to teach people of different temperaments utilizing appropriate but different methods. Due to the advancement of technology, the ease of transportation, and the development of communications, distance on earth is annihilated. If we cannot cognize the concept of Oneness, there will be competition, fighting, wars, and, eventually, the total destruction (of our civilization). The affirmation of Oneness expands our minds to embrace the universe of immeasurable galaxies. We will be able to accept all kinds of different teachings. Thusly, the society will be secure and harmonious and the people happy and content. It is unethical to instigate competition, combats, and let them escalate into wars. This is a serious crime. All the patriarchs in the Buddhist traditions teach us only to praise each other.
In 1977, the Venerable Master Sheng Yee invited me to visit the
How beneficial are these other Dharma methods? They are all perfect. All these Dharma methods are perfect; there is not a single method that is without merit. All Dharma methods open the myriad of doors to the supreme enlightenment. As said by Shakyamuni Buddha, all methods are equal. The 84,000 or infinite Dharma methods, as long as the method suits your temperament, can equally help you attain Buddhahood. If it does not suit your temperament, you cannot open the door to supreme enlightenment. If you are compatible with the method, you can easily enter through the Dharma door to Enlightenment. Therefore, it is important for a Buddhist to understand his or her temperament. We cannot just pick any Dharma method at random. It is akin to each individual having numerous bodily aches. Everyone’s achiness is different. His medicine is not necessarily suitable to treat my aches. My medicine is beneficial to me but not necessarily to other people. The prescription must cure the illness after proper diagnosis. When the Buddha was transforming the sentient beings, it is like giving out prescriptions. We must have a clear and total understanding of the Dharma; otherwise, it is like ‘turning to any doctor in a sudden illness.” The patient, instead of being cured, may die. We must remember the fact that many Buddhists fall to hell.
Dr. Toynbee, a British historian, and the patriarch were both saying the same thing, the words may be different but the meanings are the same, and that is in today’s world, in this atomic age, at this critical point, the world needs unification. This is Dr. Toynbee’s belief. It is not a political unification, which is very difficult, but the unification of cultures. And the most important unifier of all the different cultures is the unification of the different religions, which will bring everlasting world peace. In the past decades, we have been doing this, promoting the concept that all world religions are from one family. The core of all religions is benevolence and all embracing love. There is not a single religion that does not talk about ‘love.’ Buddhism uses the word ‘compassion,’ not love, to avoid the misunderstanding of selfish-love, which arises from passion and can be destructive. Compassion connotes love with wisdom, not passion. In other words, love from the standpoint of wisdom is called compassion. This is the core and total value of all religions. The synonym of sacredness is love. God loves people. Therefore, the question is how can we, as adherents, embody the sacred love of God and the compassion of the Buddha and bodhisattvas? We should be the embodiment of sacredness, of the Buddha and bodhisattvas. We can demonstrate their sacredness and compassion so that the public can see and feel it. Learning by example is more effective than listening to lectures. To recapitulate, the concept that ‘all world religions are from one family’ can save the world, not just the three schools of Buddhism.
“The Precepts, Zen, and Scriptures of Buddhism all teach people to penetrate into the noumenon of all phenomena, to let go of passions and false thoughts, and return to Nirvana together.” Regardless of the Buddha’s teachings, whether on Precepts, Zen, or Scriptures, the final destination is the same (--Nirvana). As you can see, the origin is Oneness and the final destination is Oneness, this is the way to Enlightenment (attain Buddhahood).
Therefore, “the goal of the
“The goal of the Zen school is to be comprehensively enlightened to the origin of the mind, to have spiritual insight into the mind and self-nature; and, through the profoundest compatibility with the expediency[A5] , realize that not a single dharma can be attained.” ‘Not a single dharma can be attained’ is the ethos of Zen. If you find that there is some dharma you can attain, it is not Zen. The Zen method helps cultivators to have spiritual insight into the mind and self-nature, which comports to people of the uppermost temperament. The Buddha discerns your temperament and will use the most appropriate method to teach you. Whoever meets the Buddha will be enlightened. The Buddha is a best doctor. His diagnosis is never wrong. His prescriptions will cure your afflictions. Finally, how about the
“The goal of the
“Canon and meditation illuminate each other.” Here, meditation means the ‘Insight Meditation,’ or Vipassana-bhavana, of the Zen-tradition. It is wrong for Zen-traditions to exclude or criticize the Scripture-traditions. Both schools are from the Oneness, the non-duality. “Noumenon and phenomena complement each other.” Noumenon is represented by Zen. Phenomena are represented by the
The late Venerable Master Hai-Xian was ordered by Amitabha Buddha to demonstrate the Dharma. What kind of Dharma was he demonstrating? It is to advise us to return to the Oneness, no more arguments, no more criticism, and to cultivate honestly. No matter which Buddhist tradition we practice, we must admit to the truism that all traditions are number one; there is no number two in Buddhist practices, hence, there will be no arguments. This implies that “penetrating deeply into one tradition; cultivating and infusing in it for a long time.” If there is a tradition that is number two, then there is a tradition that is number three or number four, etc., which means the more traditions there are, the lower the grades of the Buddha’s teachings as they count down. Number one also means to adhere to one tradition. My advice to you all is to single-mindedly chant the name of Amitabha Buddha, adhere to the teachings of The Infinite Lifespan Sutra complied by Mr. Shia, and never change your course in your lifetime. We should also only study one annotation to this Sutra complied by Mr. Huang Len-Zhu. Interestingly, both the sutra and the annotation are compiled.
What is wrong with today’s world? It is, just as depicted before, internal conflicts, which include internal contentions and purging of others. In a family, father and son compete, husband and wife compete. Isn’t it contention and purging when couples fight and divorce? Or there is fighting among siblings? All indicate that there is something wrong in the root. What is the cause of such internal fighting? It is due to the lack of education. The chaos created by social problems is deemed as normal occurrences nowadays. The public are contaminated by learning from the TV or the Internet which all teach competition. When every segment of society, such as families, schools, exhibit competition and fighting for possessions, how can society not be chaotic? The ‘Rise and Fall of the Three Schools of Buddhism’ pinpoints the problem! Although, it discusses the mindset of sectarianism, it can be applied to families, groups, or organizations, any place where people gather.
 Or sects of buddhism practices
Dhyana in Sanskrit .
 Also known as the Flower Adornment Sutra.
 Also known as the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Sutra.
 This book was printed in
 Here, dharma in lower case means all the worldly phenomena which are impermanent, illusory, thus cannot be attained. Whereas our self-nature is permanent, never changing, can manifest phenomena, but is not phenomena itself.
 The place where Buddha’s Sambhogakaya and Ground Bodhisattvas reside.
 Avīci Niraja in Sanskrit.
 Mr. Huang was the student of Mr Shia and has received the credence as having received the legacy of Mr. Shia’s knowledge in Buddhism.
[A1]I don’t see the logic in this sentence due to my ignorance. Can some thing be added to this sentence to illustrate why tasting the dharma’s perfection will make buddhism flourish?
[A3]What does this mean in here? I hope that my translation is correct?
[A4]I did not translate this sentence as it is just repeating the text.
[A5]Don’t know if this is correct? 方便=Expedient means?
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