Questions and Answers 

Maha Acarya Yang Fo Xing

(Replies given by Maha Acarya Yang Fo Xing to a list of questions raised by practitioners in Beijing on June 19, 1999 on the Chinese Lunar Calendar - Anniversary of Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva¡¯s Pravraj-Renouncing the Worldly Life and Becoming A Bhikkuni)


Q1: If the conditions for practice are confined,  for instance, when we share a room with other students in the university, we cannot have our altars or perform Mudras (hand gestures), how can we practice?

A: I had this problem in the past. Some university students have received the Cundi Ritual and some even have received the Samaya Sila. They must practice the corresponding rituals. But how can they practice the rituals when conditions are confined? They should be flexible in handling such situations. As one verse quotes ¡°The Buddha Land is pure when one¡¯s heart is pure¡± and ¡°Righteous mind is the Bodhimandala (place for practice)¡±, we can practice even if we are in the dormitory, the classroom and even the conference room. You can visualize the Mudra first and then close your eyes to recite the Mantras silently. I was a teacher and needed to prepare the lessons for the students. In order not to attract other people¡¯s attention, I always put a book on the desk and then closed my eyes to recite the Mantras silently. Other people thought I was thinking about the teaching plan. To sum up, the important element for practice is utmost sincerity, just as the saying goes: ¡°One¡¯s utmost sincerity can penetrate even the hardest gold rock.¡±


Q2: We eat in the dining hall and it¡¯s inconvenient for us to take vegetarian food, how can we solve this problem?

A: First of all, you must understand the meaning of taking vegetarian food.

1.The Buddha says that all beings are equal. The Confucians also say that everyone has a sense of pity, so they can¡¯t bear to eat the flesh of animals when they hear the miserable sounds from animals upon being slaughtered. A Buddhist Sutra quotes: ¡°After a man dies, he can be reborn as a sheep while a sheep may be reborn as a man after it dies.¡± This sentence clearly illustrates the Buddhist teaching that if animals kill and eat one another mercilessly, due to their heavy karmic obstructions, they will be bound by the Law of Cause and Effect and transmigrate in the Cycle of Life and Death. It is just because they have heavy Karmic obstructions, ignorance and stupidity that they are reborn as animals. In order to show great compassion to animals, to observe the precepts and not to be affected by the ignorance caused by the heavy Karmic obstructions of animals, a Buddhism practitioner had better take vegetarian food.

2.Someone said that intelligence, diligence and one¡¯s character were the important factors to determine a person¡¯s future. One¡¯s character is especially important as it decides whether he can get along well with other people. Besides, carnivorous animals are far more ferocious than herbivorous animals. You now know the importance of having a good character for one's life, so you had better take vegetarian food for its sake.

3.Modern medical experiments show that animals can produce poisons in the process of being killed and struggling for life. Such poisons will stay in their carcasses to become substances that cause cancers. Besides, taking meat will easily make a person suffer from diseases in the heart, the brain, the blood vessels and the digestive system because meat contains high cholesterol and fat that are hard to be digested by the body. On the contrary, vegetarian foods are healthful as they can prevent a person from catching diseases, make him sober-minded and even beautify the skin. Now many people in foreign countries, especially educated people take vegetarian foods. In the history of the world, there have been many famous people and scientists who were vegetarians. For instance, Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Albert Schweitzer (a famous doctor), Pythagoras of Samos (ancient Greek mathematician, philosopher who believed the theory of reincarnations), Steven Jobs (the founder of Apple Computer Company).

The Sixth Patriarch Hui Neng had to take vegetables cooked with meat when he was with the hunters. As for university students who have received the Samaya Sila, you should try to take vegetarian foods. If the conditions are confined, you can take vegetables cooked with meat. For those who have only received the Simplified Cundi Ritual, when in a confined environment, you could take the Three Kinds of Clean Flesh, namely, the meat of animals not killed by you, not killed for you and you haven¡¯t seen or heard the animals being killed.

Of course, different people have different aims in life. We are born to make contributions to mankind instead of eating flesh. Vegetarian foods are healthful both to our body and mind. Taking such foods is a civilized action. But there are still some people who oppose to taking vegetarian foods and call it superstitious. Their comment clearly shows that these people indeed confuse right and wrong.


Q3: How can we coordinate the relationship between Buddhism practice, our work and family? As our time is limited, how can we divide our time to each of them?

A: As for lay practitioners, we always advocate that one¡¯s Buddhism practice and study or work should complement each other and one should become accomplished in both of them. Can you really achieve this aim? My students J and LHS are good examples. How can you realize this goal? The first step is to improve your intelligence and wisdom. Practicing the Cundi Ritual can make this goal come true. Take J for example. She devotes sixty percent of her time to Buddhism practice and forty percent to her academic studies. But what is the result? She is one of the top students in her department. A graduate student is supposed to complete all the courses for Master¡¯s degree in three years. However, she completed all the courses in just two years. Because of her outstanding academic achievement, she was chosen as Graduate Student with Honor and awarded with scholarships. She spends much time on her Buddhism practice. It actually helps her academic study instead of affecting it. Now she is a candidate for Doctor of Medicine degree. Another student X told me that it was very difficult to get governmental grant for scientific research as the competition is fierce. Even people who got their PH.D degrees in foreign countries in his institute cannot get such grant. But she got the grant the first time she applied for it. This fact shows that both her intelligence and wisdom are improved through her Buddhism practice and she could write high quality paper.

Some might wonder why I¡¯ve only mentioned their academic achievements instead of talking about their attainment in practice. It¡¯s difficult to describe one¡¯s internal realization and we shouldn¡¯t do so. It¡¯s beyond the comprehension of those who haven¡¯t reached this stage. For instance, the logo for our website ¡°the T¡¯ang Dynasty Esoteric School The Perfect Voice net¡± is what she internally saw in Samadhi. She is really a good example for other Buddhism practitioners. Another good example is LHS who also has similar achievements in both her Buddhism practice and study.

For practitioners who work in the society, they should try to live up to the requirement ¡°Buddhism practice and work complement each other and they are accomplished in both of them.¡± In this manner, both he himself and his employer will benefit. The social value of Buddhism can also be shown to the public.

First of all, let me take myself for example. Teachers nowadays have an easier job. In the past, we teachers had hard times for we had to go to the countryside to celebrate the so-called ¡°Revolutionary Spring Festival¡± on the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year and to take students to build dams on the third day. Even though we were fully occupied, I devoted a lot of time to practice. The time spent in preparing the lessons was less, but the result of my teaching was good. The average score of mathematics for the class I taught could always rank the first in the city or even the neighboring regions. I know if you don¡¯t fulfill your duty as a teacher, your leaders, colleagues and students are dissatisfied with you. How can you practice when you are terribly upset?

Practitioner L came to practice Buddhism with me from her home city when she was only 14 years old. At first, her intelligence and academic achievement were average and her mother worried whether she could pass the matriculation exams to university. But she was a nice girl and I like her very much. From then on, she would always come to me in summer and winter vacations to practice the Cundi Ritual. Gradually, both her intelligence and academic achievement were improved. She was admitted to a medical university upon graduation from the high school. She was also a Student with Honor in the university. After her graduation from university, she was assigned to work in another medical university both as a teacher and a doctor. In her spare time, she would come to my place to practice with me. Her Buddhism practice and work complemented each other. As she cured some incurable diseases, within one year, she became so well known that many famous people in China and other countries came to her for treatment. Even though she is accomplished in her career, she always keeps my instructions in her mind ¡°One must have a clear goal in Buddhism practice so that his determination wouldn¡¯t be defiled by favorable conditions or wavered by unfavorable conditions.¡± She will have a bright future.

Practitioner W practices the Three Mysteries with me. She has a clear aim in Buddhism practice. With proper attitude, concentration of mind and determination to accomplish her goal, she practices the rituals and accumulates merits. The effect of her practice gradually shows. She is now a teacher of a university. The average level of her students was lower than that of other classes. After she taught them for one year, every one in the class passed TEM and the average score of the grade ranked number one among all the normal universities in China.

Practitioner K has deep good roots. She is both clever and willing to help others. We all say that a person like her would be popular everywhere. The effect of her Buddhism practice is also noticeable. She graduated from university last year and went to work in a middle school. The class she taught had lagged behind other classes in the grade and the students were not well disciplined. However, under her instruction for one year, they made great progress. They were not only well disciplined but also came out first in the municipal exam for middle school students in the whole city. This is indeed commendable.

Both practitioners W and K are active in doing Buddhist work of merit and try their best to cultivate the act of giving and offering. They accumulate merits and can receive Buddha¡¯s Energy. They try to live up to the two requirements for being reborn in the Buddha¡¯s Pure Land as instructed by Amitabha Buddha and Mahasthahama Bodhisattva: 1. One cannot be reborn in Buddha¡¯s Pure Land if he doesn¡¯t have enough good roots, merits and conditions. 2. He must be single-minded and remain in the state of continuous Pure Thoughts. If these two practitioners can carry on their diligent and dedicated practice without retrogressing, they will definitely be reborn in the Buddha¡¯s Pure Land in the future.

Now I will give you another example. Of all my students, Practitioner H is one who has achieved high stages in practice. She is a worker doing heavy manual labor in a factory under high temperature. She has one hour¡¯s recession every noon. In order to take this opportunity to practice with me, she always puts some rice or noodles with a little soy sauce in a plastic bag as her lunch and eats it in a hurry on the way to my place. The saying goes ¡°One¡¯s utmost sincerity can penetrate the hardest gold rock¡±. She is accomplished in the Samadhi Practice. Deep in Samadhi, she doesn¡¯t feel the existence of her physical body, her mind and breath. She remains in a state of complete agility, tranquility, brightness and bliss. What about her job performance? Last year, the municipal government would select ten young people as Outstanding Youth. Her factory planned to recommend her as a candidate, but she declined it. She knew that she wouldn¡¯t be chosen because she is a Buddhist. The fact that she was chosen as the candidate by her factory shows that she must be a good worker.

Another example is Practitioner Y who manages about 20,000 staff. Of course he is very busy, but he spends two hours every day in practicing rituals. He gets up at three o¡¯clock every morning because it is the quietest time and he wouldn¡¯t be disturbed by telephone calls. His group is run and managed with Buddhist teachings and methods.

As to your question that the time is limited, you must think whether you have attached importance to your Buddhism practice. If you regard Buddhism practice as the foremost thing in life to fulfill, naturally you can find a solution and have time for practice.


Q4: We have practiced for a long time, but we don¡¯t have any effect. How can we keep our confidence?

A: First, you have to check if you practice under the requirements of the Four Kinds of Heart. When Shakyamuni Buddha was about to enter Nirvana, he manifested the way to Nirvana in Rajagraha. The Guardian Deity stood up and asked Buddha for Dharma essence of reciting mantras for sentient beings at the Age of the End of Dharma. The Buddha replied: ¡°Sentient beings at the Age of the End of Dharma lack merits. In the Southern Jambudvipa, the evil ghosts, spirits and various Deva Maras will compete to trouble this world. This situation is especially serious in China. Sentient beings with good roots can recite Dharanis to guard against them. But a person who recites Dharanis must have the Four Kinds of Heart¡ªThe Pure Heart, the Heart with Utmost Sincerity, the Heart of Diligent Practice and the Heart of Repaying the Four Kinds of Kindness. Only then can he have quick effect in practice.¡± If you have practiced for a long time without making much progress, you have to find out if you live up to these requirements. The Sixth Patriarch said: ¡°Deluded people merely talk while the wise ones practice with their heart.¡± If you just go through the motion of reciting mantras and couldn¡¯t live up to the above-mentioned requirements, of course you wouldn¡¯t reap any effect.

Another important step is to subdue consciousness. I always say: ¡°All electric appliances have to be connected with electric current to work properly or they are just waste products. Likewise, no matter which Dharma-door a practitioner practices, he must correspond to the Buddha¡¯s Energy before he can achieve good result in his practice readily, otherwise, it is like setting up a cause to the far future.¡± Maha Acarya Feng Da An said: ¡°When scattered thinking exists, Suchness is veiled¡±. You must practice with a clear aim, right attitude, single-mindedness and strong determination. This is the least you must fulfill. Otherwise, the result will not be satisfactory. If your mind is not focused, your true nature will be deluded for wondering thoughts still exist.

Of course, practitioners¡¯ spiritual capacities vary. You should compare your present attainment with your situation in the past. If you¡¯ve made progress, you must be confident.

Besides, if your Guru transmits the authentic rituals and you receive and practice them in a proper manner, the Seed of Enlightenment of the Orthodox Three Mysteries will never perish. And you are hopeful to attain the highest stage of practice one day. Furthermore, if you can keep on practicing properly, your future life will definitely be better than this life.


Q5: What is state (internal realization) in practice? How can we understand it?

A: You can only understand internal realization through your practice. It is beyond any description of words or through your pondering.


Q6: How can we young practitioners properly treat the relationship with our family, friends and love?

A: One must have a definite purpose in Buddhism practice. A worldly person only has his physical life and not the Wisdom Life. We must realize that the Wisdom Life is far more important than the physical life. This physical body can last for no more than a hundred years while the Wisdom Life lasts forever. It is not created, not annihilated, not impure, not pure, not increasing and not decreasing.

Once in the past I went to the Guan Yin Mansion in Guangzhou to listen to the explanation of the Vimalakirti Sutra given by Dharma Master Fa Ke from Hong Kong. The Dharma master said that Manjusri Bodhisattva and Layman Vimalakirti kept on discussing Buddhism. At that time, Sariputra thought to himself: ¡°It¡¯s time to eat. You two sages keep on discussing like this, when can we have our meals?¡± Layman Vimalakirti said immediately: ¡°Sariputra, you come for the Dharma or for food?¡± Sariputra was embarrassed, so he said: ¡°I come for the Dharma, not for food.¡± Vimalakirti continued to say: ¡°A seeker of the Dharma should risk his life for the Dharma, let alone food!¡± I was deeply touched by such words and I have been a vegetarian ever since. I was only 18 years old at that time.

You must have right understanding of Buddhism practice. If you have high aspiration, it is easy for you to deal with the relationships mentioned above.

Further, there are five stages for practitioners to undergo in practicing the Moon Disc Contemplation.

1. Essence of Mind (True nature/self-nature) in the internal realization that lasts for an instant. (Cha Na Xin in Chinese) A practitioner suddenly has internal realization in his practice, but it disappears when his consciousness arises. When he carries on his practice and such state reappears and re-vanishes, he comes to the second stage.

2. Essence of Mind in the state that can be maintained. (Liu Zhu Xin in Chinese) With the deepening of his practice, if he can receive the Buddha¡¯s Energy flowing into his heart continuously, his wisdom and the power of absorptive concentration (Samadhi) merge in total unity and he is extremely happy, he reaches the third stage

3. Essence of Mind in wonderful internal experience. (Tian Mei Xin in Chinese) He can have this experience that Buddhism practice can also bring him wonderful happiness.

4. Essence of Mind in the wonderful state. The sublime state sometimes appears and disappears. (Qi Fu Xin in Chinese)

5. Essence of Mind maintained in permanent residence. This is what we find in the Eighth Expediency of the Nine Kinds of Expediency: ¡°Maintain the Pure Dharmakaya.¡± (An Zhu Xin in Chinese)

Furthermore, in the Vimalakirti Sutra, after Vimalakirti converted the demonesses to Buddhism, the Mara King intended to take all of them away. However, they told him: ¡°We now find bliss in Buddhist Dharmas. We will no longer indulge ourselves in worldly pleasures.¡± From this, you can realize what wonderful happiness is.

Every young person will face the problem of love. I faced the same problem when I was young. Whether you can make the right choice is determined by how you treat your Buddhism practice. Mencius said: ¡°Fish is what I desire. The bear¡¯s foot is also what I desire. Since I cannot have them both, I will take the bear¡¯s foot. Life is what I desire. Righteousness is also what I desire. Since I cannot have them both, I will sacrifice my life for righteousness.¡± A person should be able to make the right choice. In this way he can devote his time and energy to fulfill the most important thing in life. For instance, ordained monks are celibate so that they can make full use of their time and energy for Buddhism practice. Of course, I¡¯m not asking everyone to be a celibate. As lay practitioners, you should learn from Layman Pang¡¯s family for they were all accomplished practitioners. Among my students, there are many families. Maha Acarya Feng Da An once gave an instruction on marriage: ¡°If the couple have the same goal and are not indulged in worldly pleasures, they can help and encourage each other in the path of spiritual cultivation. Getting married will not become an obstruction. Their progress might be quicker after they get married. On the contrary, if the spouse is indulged in mundane passions and doesn¡¯t have the same aspiration, such a spouse will definitely become his stumbling block and he has no hope of attaining fruition.¡±

Q7: Can practitioners of the T¡¯ang Dynasty Esoteric School practice the Pure Land School or the Ch¡¯an School?

A: Actually, some ritual practices of the T¡¯ang Dynasty Esoteric School like the Cundi Mantra and the Ten Sweet Dew Mantra (Amitabha Mantra) are advanced practices of the Pure Land School. Maha Acarya Feng Da An wrote one stanza called ¡°The Red Light Stanza of the Lotus Division¡±, and it can be regarded as advanced Pure Land practice. We practice the two Mantras of the Lotus Division - the Cundi Mantra and the Ten Sweet Dew Mantra. If we have the internal realization in which we experience that one bright red light shines from Ming Gen (5cm below one¡¯s navel, the place where one¡¯s consciousness is located) to the top of our head and the red light is merged in unity with the radiance of red from the right side of our head, we will definitely be reborn in Buddha¡¯s Pure Land. Maha Acarya Feng Da An wrote in reply to a letter from one scholar of the late Qing Dynasty: ¡°With one¡¯s mind set on the Pure Land, one should cultivate the Lotus Division. The red light one internally sees transcends the Three Realms. The Ten Sweet Dew Mantra maintains and develops one¡¯s merits. When one¡¯s realization deepens, he sees Buddhas on top of his head. Even if he doesn¡¯t see Buddhas¡¯ lights, they are present. When he approaches death and with his consciousness subdued, the Buddhas¡¯ lights will take this opportunity to penetrate his mind. If he corresponds to this state, he can see that Buddhas have come to meet and welcome him to the Buddha¡¯s Pure Land. With a pure and joyful heart, he peacefully follows the Buddha¡¯s light to be reborn in the Pure Land. This is the result of cultivating the Esoteric and Pure Land practice.¡±

The Cundi Mantra and the Ten Sweet Dew Mantra were actually spoken by the Buddha. Buddhism was introduced to China from India. The Pure Land practices originated from the Amitabha Sutra and the Wonderful Dharma Louts Sutra. The names of Buddhas people recite were translated from Sanskrit into Chinese sounds. Some practitioners of the Pure Land School don't have much knowledge of the T'ang Dynasty Esoteric School. So they tend to argue about the advantages of the Pure Land School. If we recite "Na Mo A Mi Tuo Fo" (Namo Amitabha or take refuge with Amitabha Buddha) with utmost sincerity until we reach the stage of total concentration of mind, we have the chance to be reborn in the Buddha's Pure Land. Since the recitation of "Na Mo A Mi Tuo Fo" and "Na Mo Guan Shi Yin Pu Sa" (Na Mo Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva) has results, how can there be no effect if we recite the Amitabha Mantra and Avalokiteshvara Mantra? The natural capacity of sentient beings differs. To suit their understanding and liberate them from the bitter sea of life and death, the Buddha spoke different teachings, either expedient or real. Thus, there are different teachings like the Hinayana, Mahayana and other schools. However, Maha Acarya Feng Da An put: "Any medicine that can cure a patient regardless of its value is a good medicine. The same is true with the way of teachings to sentient beings. As there is no such thing as superior or inferior teaching, any teaching that suits sentient beings best is the best teaching." Buddhists should rejoice in and praise all the orthodox Dharmas spoken by the Buddhas. This is the right view they should have.

From Handbook for Esoteric Practitioners, we know that the T¡¯ang Dynasty Esoteric School has very strict and high requirements for Acaryas.

The Fourth Patriarch Nagabodhi Bodhisattva wouldn¡¯t transmit the Dharma lineage unless there was a qualified Dharma successor. He couldn¡¯t find one even when he was very old, so he had to stay in the world for a very long time. When he was almost 700 years old, he met Master Xuan Zhuang of the T¡¯ang Dynasty who went to India to get Buddhist sutras. The Fourth Patriarch knew that he had exceptional spiritual capacity and wanted to transmit the Dharma lineage of the esoteric school to him. But Master Xuan Zhuang was actually an attendant of Maitreya Bodhisattva. He was reincarnated in this world with a mission to preach Vijnanamatra (Consciousness Only) to instigate more good conditions and pure causes for Maitreya Bodhisattva to spread Buddhism in the future. Therefore, the Fourth Patriarch couldn¡¯t fulfil his wish. After one hundred years, Subhakarasimha, Vajrabodhi and Amoghavajra received the Dharma lineage transmission from him. This is like one Chinese saying ¡°A strict master can train good disciples.¡±

Later, the three Dharma Successors introduced the Esoteric School to China, turned the Dharma Wheel and delivered countless sentient beings. They have been called as the Three Mahasattvas of the Kai Yuan Period. Subhakarasimha and Vajrabodhi were both the Fifth Patriarch and Amoghavajra the Sixth Patriarch. Maha Acarya Feng Da An wrote one stanza after he had one internal realization in his Records of Internal Realizations:

?quot;"From Ju Dian (Ming Gen) bursts forth the great and powerful nature The physical body is immediately transformed into the Samantabhadra Body The Fourth Patriarch Nagabodhi had the compassionate wish To stay in the world for a millenium to benefit the later generations."

The first two verses describe the internal states Maha Acarya Feng Da An has reached. The last two verses highly praise the Fourth Patriarch Nagabodhi¡¯s compassionate vow to benefit sentient beings in the later generations.

We are now at the Age of the End of the Dharma and sentient beings lack merits. Qualified Acaryas are rare to encounter while heterodox masters take this opportunity to fool practitioners. You must know that if you receive initiation from an enlightened master, his Suchness will penetrate your ignorance, so you can break off the karmic obstructions and become enlightened. You can reach a state of complete agility, tranquility, brightness and bliss. On the contrary, if you receive initiation for a heterodox master, his ignorance will defile your true nature, your negative karmic obstructions will accumulate and you will suffer from endless mental afflictions. You may have mental illusions and go crazy. From this you know how important it is for esoteric practitioners to choose a qualified Guru. If you don¡¯t know whether the Three Mysteries are orthodox or not, I suggest that you practice the Pure Land School.

As for the Ch¡¯an School, it is interconnected to our Esoteric School in many aspects as explained in my article ¡°Gate Mantra and the Three Stages of Ch¡¯an Practice¡±. For instance, when one corresponds to the Cundi Ritual, he will realize that this is absorption of concentrated mind (Samadhi). But you must attach importance to Maha Acarya Feng Da An¡¯s instruction: ¡°The practice of Buddhism will have true effect when there lives an enlightened Transferer of Buddha¡¯s Energy. Otherwise, no matter how diligent the practitioner is, he can only have superficial understanding of Buddhist doctrines with no hope of attaining fruition¡­¡± Some people have practiced for a long time, but they still practice without their consciousness being subdued. The so-called Transferer of Buddha¡¯s Energy refers to an enlightened patriarch. Only with the blessings of an enlightened patriarch will the practitioners' cultivation be effective. An enlightened master is able to obtain the Buddha¡¯s Energies of the Ten Directions and confer them on the practitioner. The practice without the blessing of an enlightened Guru is like an electric appliance not connected with current. Of course it will not work. But the manifestations of Bodhisattvas with their wishes to deliver sentient beings and those who received the Orthodox Three Mysteries in their previous lives are exception. Therefor, it¡¯s very important for one to choose the Dharma-door and his Guru.


Q8: How can we divide our time among ritual practice, reading sutras and releasing living creatures as work of merit? A: Maha Acarya Feng Da An spoke quite clearly on the relationship: "They focus their spiritual cultivation on actual practice with their comprehension of Buddhist doctrines complementing it." Releasing living creatures is one condition. You can do it according to your capability.


Q9: Many university students practice the T¡¯ang Dynasty Esoteric School because they have high respect and affection for you rather than have proper rational attitude towards the Dharma. This is one big obstacle to the practice. How can we have faith in the ritual practices?

A: The question itself is ambiguous. Practitioners of the T¡¯ang Dynasty Esoteric School vary. Some had studied its theories before they came to receive the initiation from me. Most have come due to their affinity with our school in their previous lives. The Sixth Patriarch said: ¡°If we are treading the Path of Enlightenment, we needn¡¯t be worried by stumbling blocks.¡± The important thing is how one should practice according to the requirements of the T¡¯ang Dynasty Esoteric School. Actually, there should be no obstacles. The major issue is to receive the ritual practices and practice them in a proper manner as required. If one can live up to these requirements, he is rational and there won¡¯t be any obstruction. There are two aspects for one¡¯s success in practice. The first is your spiritual capacity and the other is whether you can fulfill the requirements of the Four Kinds of Heart. If you don¡¯t have Pure Heart, Heart with Utmost Sincerity, the Heart of Diligent Practice and the Heart of Repaying Four Kinds of Kindness, of course you can hardly progress in your practice.


Q10: What is the utmost goal in practice? Is it the improvement of one¡¯s intelligence and wisdom? What is the purpose for improving one¡¯s intelligence and wisdom?

A: The question itself shows that the person who raised it doesn¡¯t have intelligence and wisdom. If you don¡¯t have intelligence and wisdom, you won¡¯t have a clear path in your Buddhism practice; and you cannot know other people well. Then you might make mistake in choosing the right Dharma-door or your Guru. Besides, you can hardly appreciate the wonderful purport of Sutras or Dharma teachings. Without intelligence and wisdom, you cannot progress in your academic study and you cannot do any scientific research. Even if you¡¯re doing post and post-doctoral research, you cannot have any invention. A person who asks this question has to know that he doesn¡¯t have intelligence and wisdom himself.


Q11: "Esoteric practitioners can internally experience many states in their actual practice. Of course these internal realizations are indications of their accomplishment in practice. However, do they contradict one sentence from the Diamond Sutra "All phenomena are illusive"? A: Nowadays, many writers of Buddhist articles explain the meaning of Void (Sunyata) in terms of relativity, so their explanation isn't good enough. Some Dharma masters also don't explain its meaning in a satisfactory way. Because its meaning is very profound, they tend to misunderstand it. Their misunderstanding results from their efforts to understand the meaning of Void from relativity instead of from absoluteness. Maha Acarya Feng Da An wrote an stanza to end his book An Outline of the Diamond Sutra "Vajra Prajna Paramita directly reveals the subtle and wonderful purport of Oneyana If the essentials of the Five Wisdoms and Four Acts are manifested clearly The Court of the Eight-petalled lotus in the middle of Garbhadhatu can be shown through it Even if people who explain the meaning of Void know that everything is primordially void How can they appreciate the sublime Truth (state) of Dharmadhatu? I would like to offer a piece of advice to Buddhism practitioners in the future Do not stop your practice abruptly before reaching the highest stage of cultivation" The Court of Eight-petalled Lotus with Vairocana Buddha in the center and four Buddhas and four Bodhisattvas on each petal is Phenomenon or Form, and the sublime Truth of Dharmadhatu is the Absolute Reality (the Incomprehensible Entity or Wonderful Existence). Five Wisdoms refer to Dharmadhatu-prakrti-jnana, Adarsana-jnana, Samata-jnana, Pratyaveksana-jana and Krtyanusthana-jnana. The Four Acts refer to the Acts of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva, of Manjusri Bodhisattva, of Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva and of Maitreya Bodhisattva. In the Court of Eight-petalled Lotus, the highest in the middle is Vairocana Buddha. To the North is Divyadundubhimeghanirghosa Buddha. To the South is Sankusumidarajaya Buddha. To the East is Ratnadhvaja Buddha. To the West is Amitayus Buddha. The Four Bodhisattvas are Samantabhadra Bodhisattva, Manjusri Bodhisattva, Avalokiteshvara Bodisattva and Meitreya Bodhisattva. Both the Ch'an School and the T'ang Dynasty Esoteric School are Oneyana. The concept of Void in Oneyana refers to the Wonderful Existence Derived from the True Void. Only when a person has attained the stage where he experiences that the Wonderful Existence arises from the True Void can he correspond to Verse 5 and Verse 6 in Maha Acarya Feng Da An's stanza mentioned above. Otherwise, if the practitioner can only appreciate the True Void without knowing the Wonderful Existence he holds the Hinayana Doctrine of Void which is one-sided dogma in contrast with the transcendental reality of Mahayana. With this view in mind, Hinayana practitioners can only attain to the stage of Arhants or Pratye Buddhas who can not experience the Sublime States of the Wonderful Existence Derived from the True Void themselves. Buddha Shakyamuni spoke the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Sutra in order to enlighten them. The origin of the Ch'an School was a similar case. I'd like to tell you about it. When Mahabrahma arrived at Grdhrakuta, he offered golden Utpala flowers to Buddha and also his body as seat for Buddha to expound the teaching of the highest Ch'an. Buddha mounted the seat, picked one flower and showed it to the assembly. The one million humans and Devas present in the assembly didn't understand the Buddha's message except Mahakasyapa who smiled in apprehension. Buddha said: "I have the Storage of Real Dharma Eye, the Wonderful Mind of Nirvana and the profound Dharma-door that Reality is Formless and I'll transmit these to Mahakasyapa." This was the beginning of the Ch'an School and Mahakasyapa became the first patriarch of the Ch'an School. Why did Shakyamuni Buddha choose Mahakasyapa as the first patriarch of the Ch'an School? Mahabrhma is good at entering Samadhi by banishing mundane desires, so the Samadhi he reached is also Hinayana One-sided Dogma of Void. The Buddha picked one flower and showed it to the assembly. He also blessed them to see who could appreciate its wonderful purport. Mahakasyapa smiled because he had corresponded to the Wonderful Mind of Nirvana and thus internally experienced the pure lotus and sublime state which is the highest Ch'an. The fact that he could correspond to Buddha shows that he had the Storage of Real Dharma Eye. He had attained the State of Real Dharma Eye and Wonderful Existence Derived from Absolute Void, so the Buddha transmitted to him the Mind-seal and made him the first patriarch of the Ch'an School. How should we understand the meaning of Void? Void can be classified into two types. The first type is Void of Relativity. Before a person eradicates his consciousness, he observes all the phenomena from the eight kinds of consciousness. He regards what he can see, know or what scientific tools could measure as Reality or Existence and what is invisible or couldn't be measured as Void. No matter how advanced the science is, they always view phenomena from the perspective of relativity. This is called as Void of Relativity. Therefore, many people including scientists think that people only live this life. As a matter of fact, a person doesn't live only one life. Maha Acarya Feng Da An once gave an instruction on the problem of life and death. It quotes: "After the body of the former existence decomposes, before the new physical life is formed, the consciousness exists in a state devoid of the composition of the Four Great Elements. Such a state of the consciousness is called as the Intermediate Existence Between Death and Reincarnation. (bardos in Tibetan or Zhong Yin Shen in Chinese). This form of existence is so delicate that even ordinary Arhants cannot perceive its existence. Only people who have got the purest Divine Eye (Divyacaksus or the deva-eye)." Some of those people who deny the theory of reincarnation even call themselves as authorities in Buddhism. For instance, a professor in Hong Kong who got his Ph.D. degree in Buddhism from Tokyo University in Japan put forward one idea of "Talking about Samsara from a new perspective'. He said: "The so-called paradise in Buddhism is the improvement of one's quality and the so-called hell refers to the deterioration of one's quality." In my article "A Commentary on Talking about Samsara from a New Perspective", I questioned this professor:"To what extent should a person improve himself can he be reborn in the paradise and to what degree does he degrade to be reborn in the hell?" His concept is rather generalized and ambiguous. He also said: "One lives this life only." This statement itself negates the existence of paradise and hell. If one holds this view that one lives this life only once, it is the idea of annihilation. Therefore, the professor's theory is misleading. The reason why modern people can not see the state of heaven is that they lack both merits and wisdom. Maha Acarya Feng Da An said that people three generations ago had greater merits and they were kind-hearted, so they could see various Devas and gods. They also wrote many poems in praise of Gods. We are now at the Age of the End of Dharma and sentient beings have few merits. They cannot see Devas because of the following three factors. Firstly, their Six Sense Objects are quite insensitive (which make it difficult for them to correspond to Devas' energies). Secondly, they don't have good seeds in their Alaya Vijnana. Thirdly, They don't have the power of concentration. A Stanza on Eight Kinds of Consciousness quotes: "In order to see, nine kinds of conditions are required; to hear, eight kinds of conditions; to smell, seven kinds of conditions." If there aren't seeds of Ten Goodness of various Devas in your Alaya Vijnana, you cannot tune in their channel and you cannot see or discover their existence, so you deny the existence of various Devas. From this we know that viewing things from relativity doesn't reveal the complete truth. The Eight Kinds of Consciousness have their limitations. If we define things within our perception as Existence and those beyond our perception as Void, we don't have rigorous attitude. The second type of Void is Void of Absoluteness as described by one verse in the Heart Sutra "Form is Void and Void is Form." This means that in Samadhi a person experiences the fact that Void is Form and Form is Void. Dharmadhatu refers to the state of Suchness. This is viewing things from the state one internally experiences. The illusive phenomenon derived from conditions is Illusory Existence that can also be described as Wonderful Existence. For instance, in the Vimalakirti Sutra, the Dharmakaya Mahasattva was manifested in the form a Devi to convert Hinayanists. Among practitioners of Hinayana Buddhism, Sariputra had the highest wisdom. In their view, Devis are also mundane sentient beings. So the Dharmakaya Mahasattva deliberately manifested himself in the form of a Devi to teach Sariputra. After he was defeated in discussion of Buddhism with the eloquent Devi, Sariputra was speechless. However, he suddenly required: "With your great eloquence, why don't you transform yourself into a man?" In the view of Hinayanists, women can not reach Buddhahood. The Devi retorted: "Now that I have obtained this wonderful form of woman, what is there for me to be transformed into? For example, when an illusionist transforms himself into an illusory woman, is it reasonable for one to ask him: "Why doesn't the illusory woman transform herself into an illusionist?" After saying this and by using her supernatural powers, the Devi changed herself into Sariputra and Sariputra into a Devi. This is Illusory Existence. Manjusri Bodhisattva also manifested himself as Han Shan Zi and Monk Du Shun. Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva also has thirty-two manifestations and she would manifest herself in suitable form in order to preach Buddhism to sentient beings in Samsara. This Illusory Existence is the Wonderful Existence. The Illusive Form derived from conditions is Illusory Existence and the Dharma-nature from which the Illusory Existence is derived is True Void. The Dharma-nature from which the Devi is derived is Dharmakaya Mahasattva. Likewise, Han Shan Zi and Master Du Shun were also manifested from the True Nature Dharmakaya Mahasattva. This is how we understand Void of Absoluteness. The Void of Relativity is Useless Void. (Wan Kong in Chinese). Such state of Void is stagnant and useless. The Void of Absoluteness refers to the state where the Wonderful Existence Arises from the True Void. They are in the same entity. Existence is Void and Void is Existence. The Void in Prajna-door refers to Void of Absoluteness. If you realize this state in Samadhi, you know that it doesn't contradict what is said in the Diamond Sutra. On the other hand, the Diamond Sutra quotes: "All phenomena are illusive. If they are seen as illusive, the Tathagata will be perceived." The first verse shows that what is derived from consciousness is illusory and the second verse indicates that what is realized through wisdom is real. The Void in Prajna-door is Void of Absoluteness. The Void of Absoluteness corresponds to Prajna Paramita, and the Truth is both clear and alive. When one realizes this state, his mind will be clear and sober instead of being in a muddled state. If it turns into the state of confusion, it becomes the Useless Void. Those who mistake what is not Void as Void deny the Law of Cause and Effect. Now I respectfully quote Maha Acarya Feng Da An's instructions on Void as follows: The Void as understood by mundane beings is Useless Void. It is stagnant and useless and can be subdivided into two types. The first type of beings cannot perceive Substantial Material Forms. As their Five Sense Organs are insensitive, they cannot understand the delicate Substantial Material Forms, so they regard them as Void. The second type don't want to perceive Substantial Material Forms. Even though the Five Sense Organs of such beings are not insensitive, they don't want to accept Substantial Material Forms and they negate their existence. (The beings in the Formless Realm all hold such view.) The Void as seen by Triyana practitioners is not the Ultimate Void. It is the Void in which everything is under the control of the Law of Cause and Effect. It can also be subdivided into two types: 1. Hinayana doctrine of Void which takes Utpadanirodha (birth-and-death) as Existence and Nirvana as Void. Practitioners enter Nirvana in order to be liberated from the cycle of life and death. This is called Entering the State of Void in Order to Transcend All Forms. 2. The Mahayana view of Void at Birth holds that all Dharmalaksana are illusory without real entity. Thus, just like the illusory image in a mirror, there is no such thing as Birth. When practitioners of Twoyana have reached the Incomplete Nirvana, in their Samadhi they can feel that all Dharmalaksana are Void, but they are still bound by the Law of Cause and Effect. When Mahayana practitioners realize the State of Void at Birth, they can experience that all the Dharmalaksana are nothing but illusory forms which also originate from the Law of Cause and Effect. Therefore, Triyana practitioners must abide by the Law of Cause and Effect strictly when they cultivate their practice. Void as understood by heterodox people is also called Evil Idea of the Doctrine of Void that negates the Law of Cause and Effect. It is also subdivided into two types. 1. Misunderstanding of the Hinayana doctrine of Void. They think once they've attained the contemplation of Void, all Dharmalaksana will vanish. There is no Buddha or Law of Cause and Effect. They can abandon Buddha images and even violate precepts. They don't realize that even though they've attained to this stage of Hinayana doctrine of Void, they are still controlled by the Law of Cause and Effect. 2. Misunderstanding of Void at Birth. They think that when they realize such contemplation, the Dharmalaksana that appear are only Illusory Forms. The Buddha Land is not to be valued and the hell not to be dreaded. It's meaningless to cultivate goodness and it doesn't harm to do evil deeds. They don't realize that the Law of Cause and Effect still controls all illusory forms. The two kinds of heterodox practitioners mentioned above are supercilious. When they are reborn in the hell, they experience endless suffering. Some might feel regretful about the absurd views they held in their previous life. But for those who didn't have the ability to perceive Void at Birth but got the heterodox views from others, they have great fear whenever disasters befall them. They are really Maras' followers. The Void of Oneyana is the Ultimate Void (It is also called as the Great Void, True Void and Void of the Ultimate Truth). It's the Void where one's true nature and real existence merge in total union. It can also be subdivided into two types. The practitioner realizes the true nature, namely, he has attained Suchness as Intrinsic Void. Although Triyana practitioners who have realized Emptiness at Birth know that all forms are illusory without birth like the image in a mirror, they don't know the origin from which such Illusory Forms are derived. They always mistake Alaya Vijnana as the origin. Only when a practitioner has completely realized Suchness as Intrinsic Void can he realize that all Dharmalaksana originate from Suchness. He can realize that all forms are void by nature. This is the Ultimate Void of the Perfect Union of Nature and Form. A practitioner who realizes such a state can appreciate the wonderful teaching that Form is Void and Void is Form. (There are differences between the School That Represents the Perfect Doctrine of Buddhism and the Differentiating School. The former can reveal the Equality Wisdom, and all the Dharmalaksana of the Dharmadhatu are revealed to the practitioner at the same time while practitioner of the Differentiating School can only see Dharmalaksana step by step). The practitioner can apply his mind to miraculous usage. Although one who has realized his self-nature can appreciate the wonderful teaching that Form is Void and Void is Form, he cannot apply the Form in Void as he wishes. The reason is that he hasn't corresponded to the Miraculous Usage of Dharmadhatu. If he intends to merge the self-nature with its Miraculous Usage, he has to study deeply the functions of the Six Great Elements (earth, water, fire, wind, space, wisdom derived from self-nature). After he has corresponded to the Wonderful Usage of the first Five Great Elements and can control the first Five Great Elements, he not only realizes the reality of the Ultimate Void but can also make the Wonderful Existence arise from True Void. (The state described in the previous paragraph refers to the Void of Dharma as Void while the state described in this state denotes the Void of Not Void.) A Buddhism magazine in Hong Kong carried the oral teaching (entitled "Ch'an and Life") given by a famous Dharma master. The oral teaching quotes as follows: "A Ch'an master sat on his seat preaching Buddhism. Suddenly he started coughing and sounded as if he would spit. At this moment, he turned around and spat at a Buddha image. The monk in charge of manners and disciplines scolded him: "How can you spit at the Buddha image?" The Dharma Master said after a few coughs: "I'm going to spit at it again. Would you please tell me the place in the empty space where there in no Buddha?" This Dharma Master realized that the Buddha's Dharmakaya is everywhere, permeating through the universe and penetrating into Dharmadhatu. If you just know you should respect Buddha images and don't realize that the Buddha nature is omnipresent, you cannot appreciate the Dharmakaya. Of course, you cannot realize your true nature." Now I'm going to make a few comments on the above-cited passage. First, it was wrong for the Ch'an Master to have spat at the Buddha image. His mistake is that he only knows that Suchness penetrates the Dharmadhatu but he doesn't know the Application of Dharma. He disobeys the law that all Dharma arises from conditions. Buddha image is a condition and Buddha nature is manifested there. The place where there are no such conditions and images might as well be regarded as a place where there is no Buddha. So, when the Ch'an Master spat at the Buddha image, he committed the evil of disrespecting Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. There have been Ch'an masters in history who severely criticized Buddhas and patriarchies. But such people must be enlightened masters who have attained to the state of Suchness as Intrinsic Void and have the ability to judge the spiritual capacity of practitioners. Sometimes they did it on purpose to break off practitioners' attachment. Mundane people shouldn't take the effect as cause in order not to reap evil retribution. Second, I think the Dharma Master who related the story should first speak to the right people who can properly understand the story, as one Chinese saying goes "Shoot the arrow at the target." (One must have a definite object in view.) Besides, he must explain the profound Dharma theories so that listeners wouldn't misunderstand the real meaning of Void.

Q12: How can we properly understand the Mind to Renounce This Mundane World?

A: The Wonderful Dharma Louts Sutra quotes: ¡°The three realms are like a house on fire¡± This is to arouse our Mind to Renounce the Mundane Life. But Triyana teachings and Oneyana teachings differ on this matter.

How can we understand the Mind to Renounce the Mundane World? First, we cannot judge whether a person has the Mind to Renounce the Mundane World by his outer appearance. People living in the mundane world are not necessarily without the Mind to Renounce the Mundane World. For example, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva has gone to the hell to deliver beings there who experience the harshest suffering. Can you say that he doesn¡¯t have the Mind to Renounce the Worldly Life? Of course he has. His Mind to Renounce the Worldly Life is for the liberation of sentient beings from the bitter sea. He still leaves and renounces this world even when he is in the hell. In Samadhi what he sees is also the sublime state of Pure Land. The Vimalakirti Sutra mentions the same thing. Whether one has the Mind to Renounce this Mundane World is determined by whether the seeds in his Alaya Vijnana are pure or not.

Sariputra feels that the Buddha Land of Shakyamuni Buddha - the earth is chaotic and not clean. But for Brahma, it is no different from the place where he resides. Who is right? The fact is as their Karma differs, the seeds in their Alaya Vijnana differ and what they see internally are not the same. For instance, when we practice the Cundi Ritual together, some of you can see the sublime state of the Lotus World while others won¡¯t have any internal experience at all.

Second, one must put his Mind to Renounce this Mundane World into action. He cannot merely wish to be liberated from the bitter sea of life and death. It is true that the Three Realms are like a house on fire. Many of you talk about the sufferings of life and your eagerness to be liberated from them. But you should know that you cannot be freed from the cycle of life and death without your practice. Where are your sufferings from? They were created by you, determined by all your evil deeds in the past. Therefore, if you want to apply this Mind to Renounce the Mundane World into practice, you must observe the precepts strictly and practice rituals according to the requirement of the Four Kinds of Heart. In you everyday life, you should try to make your Buddhism practice and study or work complement each other and you should become accomplished in both of them. You are not doing the right thing if you become pessimistic and passive. Some people in despair commit suicide in order to be freed from sufferings. Such people don¡¯t understand Buddhist doctrines. A person¡¯s life doesn¡¯t end when he dies in this life. It will transmigrate to another. It¡¯s stupid of them to kill themselves in order to seek for liberation. Won¡¯t you experience suffering when reborn as a pig? You cannot end you life forever as you wish. Pessimistic people who are weary of this world always hold the view of annihilation.

The Mind to Renounce the Mundane World of the Oneyana is not pessimistic. It in not like that of an Arhant with his goal set on ending his own sufferings and Bhagya without the wish to deliver sentient beings either. Practitioners of Oneyana should have both compassion and undivided equality. They should transform their vexations into enlightenment, practice hard to attain Buddhahood, deliver sentient beings and carry on this forever.


Q13: Is it necessary for us to practice the rituals together besides practicing by ourselves alone?

A: The most important thing is to keep the tranquil state and let Suchness penetrate ignorance. For instance, when you practice with me, you will definitely benefit. The purpose of going away on retreat is to avoid the defilement of the ignorance of this mundane world and maintain the state of penetration of Suchness into ignorance. If you are at the same level, you can practice rituals together. If you want to tranquilize your mind, practicing alone is also good. To sum up, you should know this guiding principle: when Suchness penetrates ignorance, sentient beings can eliminate their Karmic obstructions and reach enlightenment. As their previous delusions disappear and the true nature surfaces, they reach a state of complete tranquility and brightness; their minds become purer and quicker. On the other hand, when ignorance defiles Suchness, their true nature will be veiled by delusion, their negative Karmic actions will accumulate and they will be bound by the cycle of life and death with endless mental afflictions.


Q14: Which Sutras should practitioners of the T¡¯ang Dynasty Esoteric School read?

A: The Mahavairocana Sutra and the Vajrasekhara Sutra are important sutras of the T¡¯ang Dynasty Esoteric School. But some contents can only be read after practitioners have received the ritual practices. You must read Handbook for Esoteric Practitioners and other works or articles by Maha Acarya Feng Da An. You should also read the works, biographies and oral teachings of the first eight patriarchs of the school. Besides, you can also read articles written by masters who have attained internal insight. You should read the Sutra of Hui Neng and the Diamond Sutra. You can refer to my article ¡°One Must Have a Clear Path¡± for details.

Question 15: Some modern scholars say that Mount Sumeru described in Buddhist sutras is Mount Himalaya on earth. Therefore, some people think that Buddhist doctrines relevant to Mount Sumeru cannot stand tests through the means of modern science and technology. As a result, they don't believe that Buddhism is truth. What is your opinion? A: Sumeru means wonderfully high, sublime and extraordinary, and Mount Sumeru is the state perceived through the Deva Eye or Divine Eye. Ordinary people cannot perceive it with their flesh eye, as its structure doesn't correspond to the Heavenly State. The flesh eye can see Mount Himalaya. People are extremely mistaken when they say that Mount Sumeru is Mount Himalaya. (From instructions given by Maha Acarya Feng Da An) The Buddha spoke the Ksitigarbha Sutra in Trayastrimsas located on top of Mount Sumeru. As all Devas have the Divine Eye, they can naturally see Mount Sumeru. Their Divine Eye can see things in their Heavenly Realm and those below it. They can't see the Heavenly Realms which are higher than their own realm because they don't have merits to correspond to them. Therefore, they can perceive all things which can be seen by people with their flesh eye. On the contrary, human beings cannot necessarily see what the Devas can perceive. Some scholars mistake Mount Sumeru as Mount Himalaya. In logic, if the major premise is wrong, the judgment, inference and association will all be wrong. Therefore, practitioners with right faith shouldn't let some scholars' misleading assumption waver their faith in Buddhism.