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How to Live, and Die Free of Anxiety——Ming Qi

2009年03月30日 14:17:00 佛教在线 点击:0


Ming Qi

Professor of Doctrine, Ch’an Master in Geneva,Swiss

What’s Buddhism all about, anyway? For other religions this question may be difficult to answer, but for Buddhists the answer is clear. Why did the Prince Siddharta leave his father’s palace? To eliminate suffering! He didn’t understand why with all his privileges of money, youth, health, education and position, he was still subject to sickness, old age, and death. Many of us today possess these things thanks to living in the New China, but we also are subject to sickness, old age, and death. So we too should go seeking a solution to these problems we share with Him and all other living beings. That’s what Buddhism is all about: find a solution to the suffering which comes into each life.

Even before Shakymuni (the wiseman of the clan of the Shakys) became the Buddha, He made an important discovery which became the foundation of his religion: the chain of causation is never broken! Every phenomena and event has a cause, and produces a result. There are no results without a cause, and no causes without a result. So He decided to look for the cause of suffering in order to end it and thereby end suffering.

Buddhists believe the Lord Buddha discovered the cause of suffering: desire. We also believe He discovered how to end our subjection to desire: to replace ignorance with knowledge about the world and how it functions. Thus He tell us: “I have invented nothing; I have simply discovered how the world works.”

If you pratice meditation correctly, under the supervision of a Ch’an master, you will, by observing your thoughts, discover their origin and thereby the origin of all phenomena. With this knowledge you will naturally detach from your worldly desires and obtain satisfaction in place of suffering.

Today I will help you accomplish surmounting that most important of all challenges.

Disciple of Grand Master Jing Hui, head of Bai-lin’s mission in Geneva, Switzerland.

First let’s look at the nature of suffering. It may be physical or mental. If it is mental, it may be result of events or circumstances, past, present or (possible) future. Or it may be a general anxiety about being subject to sickness, accident, old age or death, either yourself or for those for whom you care. Jean-Paul Sartre, famous French philosopher, believed that all human beings were subject to anxiety due to concern about what will happen to them; particularly concerning death.

Thus far, if you practice Buddhism, most of what I’ve said has been familiar; but now I will share with you my recent research.

We will be discussing time: past, present, and future; day-dreaming; your face before your parents were born; your Buddha-nature, and the perfect satisfaction of non-being. Finally, I will show you how to put your experience with these Buddhist ideas to work, to reduce your anxiety.

First, we’ll talk about time. It’s so simple, just look at your Swiss watch. But everyone who has thought carefully about time, including philosophers, know it’s much more complicated. To explain my ideas, I will use an analogy. Imagine we are on a ship going up the Yanzijiang. Time which simply marks the passage of events is represented by the water flowing toward our ship as we move westward. The water ahead of us is the future; that beside our ship is the present, and that behind us is the past. So far it’s very clear, but now you must be good students and listen carefully, so Buddhist teaching may enlighten you. Think of when an event happens. Before it happens it is in the future, afterwards it is in the past. That passage is the present. How long does it last? Some events seem to last for some time. But they are made of micro-events which are instantaneous. How many of you have studied geometry? It uses lines and points. How large are they? They have no dimensions; they are purely theoretical. Here is my first hypothesis: just as a point in geometry is purely conceptual and therefore without dimensions, our idea of the present is also purely conceptual and is a time without duration. Thus the future becomes the past without passing through a “present”. This is contrary to our usual thinking, but please accept it provisionally, in order to understand what follows.

Now let’s talk about empty mindedness. Do you know what it is? Sometimes your mind wanders from the present circumstances. If you’re with friends, they might ask: “Hey! where are you?” In French we answer “dans la lune” (in the moon). In English, the friends would ask: “A penny for your thoughts.” But you can’t earn that penny because you’ve none to sell. You can find more about this in “A Cat’s Tale”, on my web-site: www.jaysquare.com/ljohnson.

That state of mind, or absence of mind, which you have all experienced, is called by a Sanskrit word: “Samahdi”. Some Ch’an masters, including me, think that while in that state, you’re no different than a Buddha! If you think of the last time you where in Samahdi, you will remember how agreeable it was. In Samahdi you’re outside time and space, in a state of complete relaxation, being refreshed and free of all concerns. So much so, that, when someone recalls you to the present, you leave it with regret, even irritation.

You have been experiencing vacuity. To understand Ch’an teaching about vacuity, you must realize that it is not nothing. For centuries Ch’an masters have correctly taught that the vacuity (also called the vide, vacuum or ether) is something. Today, modern science has adopted this view: that the vacuity, although it is empty, may manifest in creating out of nothing “virtual” particles. These particles have an extremely short lifetime and spontaneously disappear. Since they don’t last, you can’t see them. The Lord Buddha taught his disciples to look at the dust dancing in sunbeams. But you may see something like them in a glass of water where the “Brownian movement” can be seen moving particles about. They may be the source of the “latent pressure of the vide”, which opposes gravity and keeps the universe from collapsing. Einstein noted that that gravity should have made our universe collapse long ago, and to (as Aristotle would say) “save the appearances” introduced a “cosmological constant”. It was a purely theoretical device which he later described as “my worst mistake”.

Today, however, it is no longer viewed as a mistake, but a possible cause of the dynamic nature of the vide, and the acceleration of the expansion of the universe. Once again, modern science has validated an insight found in the Lord Buddha’s teaching.

You have probably read in Ch’an literature the question: “What was your face before your parents were born?” It is a “koan”, an unanswerable question intended to exhaust your power of reasoning. If so it will expand your mental horizons, you will experience a mini-enlightenment on the road to Buddhahood!

Let me help you. Most people suppose there was an infinity of time before they were born and also after their death. I teach that it is more instructive to consider time as existing only in the world of being. The world of non-being is eventless and therefore timeless. Those virtual particles that appear and disappear spontaneously may be failed attempts to enter time and being from the timeless world of non-being.

At many places in the sutras, the Lord Buddha correctly teaches us that “non-being is perfect beatitude.” He is not saying that life is not worthwhile. On the contrary, He’s teaching over and over again that life is a precious gift and that we should be grateful to be alive every day. So how shall we understand His meaning? If it seems difficult it is because He is sharing His experience with us. Sharing an experience is very difficult, if He attempts to do so, it is due to His compassion for us. We should be grateful, and the best expression of gratitude is by understanding His teaching and to become ourselves Buddhas.

The practice of Ch’an, with the aid of a master, is the supreme vehicle (“Cresta-yana”, in Sanskrit), the way of all the Buddhas. Nothing can replace the practice of meditation. When it is correct, it is the royal road (the “Tao”, pin yin: “Dao”) to enlightenment, the realisation of the Buddha-nature, present in each of you.

However, I believe, and teach my disciples, that effective practice requires understanding. That’s why I am talking to you today, because I believe if you have an intellectual understanding you will progress more surely and more rapidly towards your goal. But, be careful, an intellectual understanding is not the Tao. It is only a useful complement to your practice and should never be considered as a substitute, valuable in itself. Buddhism was never farther from the Buddha’s intentions as during the period of the intellectual debates at the university of Nalanda in India!

In the Ch’an school we say: “Solve the problem of life and death!” Now I am going to show you how to do it, by drawing all my observations together, to form a general hypothesis. It will impose certain conclusions which will not only teach you how to solve the problem of life and death, but also how to live and die free of anxiety.

Here, then is the Buddhist metaphysical breakthrough I promised you. The reasoning I have proposed to you about time, about day-dreaming and Samadhi, about your face before your parents were born, about your Buddha-nature, and the perfect satisfaction of non-being, imply the following conclusions:

Firstly, that the universe and all it contains came into being due to desire. The desire of the non-being, of the vacuity to exist, can be observed in the attempts of numerous virtual particles to break through the frontier with existence. Modern science has observed these particles and acknowledged that they may cause the pressure which holds space open and the acceleration of the expansion of the universe. It also recognizes the possibility that the “Big Bang” may simply be a successful breakthrough of that frontier. If so, the evolution towards higher forms of life and human intelligence may be seen as an expression of this same desire to exist at higher levels of understanding. Now we, as human beings, can experience the limitations of this process. As the Lord Buddha correctly taught, desire is the cause of suffering. To understand this, is to solve the problem of life and death. To understand that life is wonderful but that trying to satisfy desire only brings suffering.

Fortunately the Lord Buddha also taught the way to end suffering by detachment from desire. To do so, you practice meditation, and learn to enter a mental state of Samahdi. You have all experienced it. It is your face before your parents were born. It is a state of perfect satisfaction, outside of time and space. A state of non-being. It is your Buddha-nature!

The Lord Buddha taught enlightenment in this life and in this body. Each of you can obtain it. When you can obtain Samahdi, that state of perfect satisfaction is always available to you. It is, as the sutras teach us, that state of non-being which is perfect beatitude!

When next you see a statue of the Lord Buddha, observe its slight, kindly smile. You should practice meditation daily, so you may soon make that smile your own, forever!

Now I have done my work and it is time for you to do yours, by asking questions. They are important, they permit you to confirm your understanding; but they’re also very helpful for me. Don’t be timid.

Na Mo O Me Ta Fo!


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