From Bodhi Mind to Ultimate Enlightenment發菩提心 成無上道

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If we can observe the pure precepts, awaken to the bodhi mind, and are replete with practice and principle, we are in accord with the way of the great bodhisattvas. In the future, we will surely attain perfect enlightenment, truly benefiting ourselves and all others.

Buddhism comprises the methods of gradual cultivation and sudden enlightenment, as well as Mahayana (*1) and Theravada schools. The Theravada practitioner’s aim is to attain arhatship, be freed from the three realms and attain liberation. The Mahayana practitioner concentrates on the six paramitas (or six perfections), benefits self and others, liberates all sentient beings, and broadly cultivates good affinities with others, until all virtues and merits are perfected in order to attain buddhahood. Mahayana and Theravada teachings, the methods of sudden enlightenment or gradual cultivation, or other Buddhist teachings, are all directed at the different capacities of sentient beings, using various expedient means. They are all based on the same principle – bodhi and nirvana, which are the ultimate aim of cultivation in Buddhism.

       Since everyone’s aspiration is different, his or her achievements also differ. Whether we wish to attain the fruit of the arhat (*2) , the pratyekabuddha (*3) , the bodhisattva (*4), or the buddha; whether we wish to achieve samadhi (*5) , or the stages of non-regression – not regressing from our attainment, actions, or mindfulness – we need to work hard on our cultivation. If we wish to attain the Way by practicing meditation, we must be in accord with this pure mind, this unconditioned mind of wu-wei (無為, non-action), because the Way is not apart from the mind. When enlightened, this mind is the Way. Unenlightened, this mind is deluded.

      In Buddhist cultivation, whether it is by principle or by practice, gradual cultivation or sudden enlightenment, the exoteric or esoteric school, we must follow two important principles: first, “bring forth the bodhi mind,” and second, “uphold the precepts of purity.” When we have achieved these, we will not let ourselves down in this life; even if we do not attain enlightenment, we will attain the stage of non-regression. By strictly upholding the precepts, the three karmas of body, speech, and mind will be pure; we will attain the state of true emptiness and achieve arhatship. Furthermore, if we cultivate the six paramitas and other myriad practices, we will attain the fruit of the bodhisattva; when the bodhisattva way is perfected, we will attain buddhahood. Yet, all these practices are not apart from the bodhi mind and the precepts. Therefore, giving rise to the bodhi mind and upholding the pure precepts are the two most important factors in our cultivation.

The ultimate state of bodhi and nirvana

The bodhi mind is the awakened mind; it is the mind that is pure, lucid, undefiled, and the master of itself. It neither moves nor wavers, neither comes nor goes, neither arises nor perishes. A scripture says, “If we do not bring forth the bodhi mind in our
cultivation, it is like farming without planting seeds.” If we diligently till the soil and plow the field, but do not plant the bodhi seed, how can we expect fruition from our cultivation?

The Perfection of Great Wisdom Treatise by Nagarjuna states: 

                The bodhisattva’s initial resolve,
                 Is to attain ultimate enlightenment.
                 “I will become a buddha” 
                 That is the bodhi mind.

       So we can see that the most important thing in our cultivation is to bring forth the bodhi mind.

        If we wish to attain this mind of purity, we need many auxiliary conditions to help us bring forth the bodhi mind. These conditions are the precepts. A difference between Buddhism and other religions is the upholding of specific precepts. If the rules of conduct are based on erroneous views, heterodox views, mistaking wrong causes for right causes, or misunderstanding the actual consequences of an action, then they will not bring about conditions for achieving nirvana.

      What is nirvana? Nirvana is not death. It is the mind that has arrived at the highest and most tranquil state; it is the realization of emptiness. Yet, we must realize not only emptiness, but also the bodhi mind.

      There are four stages of nirvana: “nirvana with residue,” “nirvana without residue,” “nirvana of non-abidance,” and “nirvana of pure, inherent nature.” In achieving “nirvana with residue” and “nirvana without residue”, we realize emptiness. In achieving “nirvana of non-abidance” and “nirvana of pure, inherent nature,” we realize the bodhi mind. Actually, all the different types of nirvana are states of this present mind, with the realization of emptiness in different degrees. It also matters how long one can maintain a mind of clarity and absolute stillness. If we can only maintain it for three minutes before the mind becomes drowsy or has delusive thoughts, then this bodhi mind is not unveiled very long.

     The bodhi mind and nirvana are our highest aim. If we cannot yet realize this, the Buddha offers us some expedient means to calm our mind so that one is not in panic or fear, so that one can find a temporary resting place. This is the Buddha’s compassion. However, if we truly wish to attain buddhahood, we must be awakened to the bodhi mind. The sutra says, “Only the buddhas can enter this door; the pratyekabuddhas and the sravakas  cannot reach it.” This means that even if pratyekabuddhas and  sravakas (*6) are as numerous as the grains of sand of the Ganges River, they cannot know the state of the Buddha. Why? Because the bodhi mind is the foundation of buddhahood; the bodhi mind is the seed of all buddhas. All the buddhas and bodhisattvas practiced for innumerable kalpas  (*7) to give rise to this mind; then they worked diligently to swiftly attain ultimate enlightenment. The bodhi mind is the great mind that bodhisattvas, practicing Mahayana, must bring forth at the beginning. Therefore, it is extremely important to be awakened and to realize this mind.

Different degrees of enlightenment

     What really is the bodhi mind? How do we bring forth the bodhi mind? The Diamond Sutra says, “The mind should act without any attachments.” The bodhi mind is a mind of non-abidance. The Chan School says, “With sudden enlightenment of the original mind, one directly realizes buddhahood.” This is the bodhi mind; it is our awakened inherent nature.

     In the autobiographical section of the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch, it is recorded:

     One day, the Fifth Patriarch Hong Ren said to his disciples, “You have practiced under me for a long time. Today, write me a gatha (verse) to describe what you have learned and to show your understanding of the truth.” The erudite Dharma Master Shen Xiu, who was the foremost instructor under the Fifth Patriarch, wrote the following gatha on the wall of the South corridor:

                The body is a bodhi tree,
                The mind a standing mirror bright,
                At all times polish it diligently,
                And let no dust alight.

        This gatha seemed very sensible and meaningful.

        At that time, the (future) Sixth Patriarch, as a disciple under Master Hong Ren, was working in the kitchen, splitting firewood and pounding rice. When he heard someone reading Shen Xiu’s gatha, he had an insight and asked someone to write the following gatha right next to Shen Xiu’s:

The bodhi is no tree,
              Nor a standing mirror bright.
              Since all is originally empty,
              Where can any dust alight?

This means that, in bodhi (i.e. from an enlightened perspective), not a single thing or dharma can be grasped. Therefore, “The bodhi is no tree/Nor a standing mirror bright” – the bright mirror is our mind of absolute clarity and understanding; it is also absolute emptiness. “Where can any dust alight?” – everything is empty, so where can the dust alight? From these gathas, we can see that the realization of Master Shen Xiu was that of “gradual cultivation.” He had not yet truly realized the bodhi mind. But the Sixth Patriarch’s gatha was that of “sudden enlightenment.”

There are different degrees of enlightenment. A cultivator may have “dozens of great enlightenments and thousands of small awakenings.” For example, when we sense that life is impermanent and resolve to cultivate the Way, it is only the beginning of enlightenment. After this awakening, we must continue to cultivate, because we have only realized impermanence or some principles of the phenomenal world; we have not fully realized the true nature of our mind. Therefore, we must persevere to attain great enlightenment in the future. Depending on a person’s level of enlightenment, the depth of truth they realize is different; therefore, the Dharmas that they speak also vary.

     Even though the gatha written by Shen Xiu is of the gradual cultivation path, it can be a motto for most people. If they cultivate according to his method, they can still attain the fruits of the Way.

     “The body is a bodhi tree/The mind a standing mirror bright.” If we wish to attain the Way, it is like planting a bodhi tree – there must be soil, water, sunshine, constant weeding, and tilling of the soil so that it can grow and blossom. Cultivating the Way is the same; we must regulate body and mind, and strictly and heedfully uphold the precepts so that the three karmas generated from the body, speech, and mind are pure. We must also diligently perform good deeds to increase merits. With sufficient merits, the necessities of life needed in aiding our cultivation will not be lacking.

     “The mind a standing mirror bright.” This mind is like a bright mirror undefiled by dust and without bias. “When a  Han (*8) comes, a Han appears; when a Hu comes, a Hu appears.” When an object comes, its image is reflected; when the object leaves, the image disappears. Likewise, the mind is not the least bit defiled; it is totally empty and bright, devoid of greed, anger, ignorance, pride, and doubt, with no attachment to dharmas (all phenomena), no attachment to self – only this absolute mind, is bright as a mirror. To reach this state, we must “polish it diligently.” How do we polish it? By examination, reflection, and contemplation, and by making amends for our offences—this is the method of gradual cultivation.

     The gatha of the Sixth Patriarch elucidates the method of sudden enlightenment. “The bodhi is no tree/Nor standing mirror bright/Since all is originally empty/Where can any dust alight?” This is Hui Neng’s state when he realized prajna , the wisdom (*9) of emptiness – that all dharmas are fundamentally empty, without subject or object; everything is cleansed and is in the state of perfect purity. This is what the Chan patriarchs mean when they say, “When a buddha appears, kill the buddha; when a demon appears, kill the demon.”

      Why should we “kill the buddha when a buddha appears?” Here “a buddha” represents favorable circumstances. When we encounter favorable circumstances, we will develop cravings and attachments towards them. The mind will then create obstacles, inhibiting us from enlightening our mind and seeing our true nature. Therefore, during meditation, even if we see buddhas of the ten directions coming to stroke our heads, to prophesize our future attainment, we should not be overjoyed, because joy will perturb the mind, resulting in a mind trapped in birth and death. That would no longer be the still, pure, and lucid mind. “A demon” represents fearful situations. When we encounter fearful circumstances, we do not have to be afraid. We must reflect that “all appearances are illusory.” Bad circumstances arise from the perception of our own consciousness; they are illusive and unreal because all dharmas are ultimately empty.

      Then what is “to kill”? “To kill” is “non-attachment” – do not cling to either good or bad circumstances; when they come, accept it; when they go, accept it. Continue to harbor right mindfulness, with clarity and mindfulness in every thought, be our own master everywhere; the bodhi mind will then manifest.

      Therefore, whether it is gradual cultivation or sudden enlightenment, the aim is to attain the bodhi mind; only the methods differ.

Sudden enlightenment and gradual cultivation are compatible

      Because people’s capacities are different, methods for their practice – gradual cultivation and sudden enlightenment – also differ. Gradual cultivation means to enter the Way by practice, to realize the fundamental principle  through perfecting our actions. Sudden enlightenment means to enter the Way by principle, to realize the fundamental principle first, and then perfect our actions. Sudden enlightenment and gradual cultivation are compatible and complement each other.

     Enlightenment through gradual cultivation is reached by going through various stages – from that of an ordinary person until all merits and virtues are perfected and one attains buddhahood. Like going to school, one goes through elementary school, high school, college, and all the way up to earning a doctorate, gradually climbing step by step. This is gradual cultivation.

      “Sudden enlightenment” is to awaken to this present mind, this awareness, this bodhi mind, this pure and lucid mind, to awaken to the ordinary person’s inherent pure nature without any affectation; this is the wisdom of the tathagata (*11),, true suchness (*12) , the profound bodhi mind. When we are enlightened to this mind we realize that the mind is Buddha; the mind is the Way. Once we are enlightened, based on the realization of the principle, whether we are in stillness or in motion, idle or busy, this mind is never clinging or confused; it is always clear and lucid, the master of itself; maintaining this state from enlightenment until the attainment of buddhahood. This is sudden enlightenment.

      Actually, everyone has this mind. From the past to the present and to the future, everyone has it; everywhere in the world, men and women, young and old, rich or poor, noble or lowly, all have this mind that knows and is aware. Even though everyone has the original awareness, which is equal and absolute, neither lesser in the ordinary person nor greater in the saint, the manifestation of wisdom and compassion is very different. This is because the degree of each person’s awareness is not the same. When there are afflictions, attachments, delusions, and erroneous views in the mind, our awareness is clouded and wisdom cannot manifest; therefore, to obtain a mind of purity and clarity, we must make diligent efforts in our cultivation.

       In Buddhism, there are four levels of enlightenment – those of the sravakas, the pratyekabuddhas, the bodhisattvas, and the tathagata. These are the attainment of the saints. Their wisdom surpasses that of the ordinary person. For the ordinary person to reach the state of the tathagata, there are two methods: the first is “gradual cultivation,” the second is “sudden enlightenment.” Gradual cultivation is to practice the six paramitas – charity, moral conduct, tolerance, diligence, meditation, and prajna (wisdom). These are the vows and conducts of the bodhisattva. By perfecting merits and virtue of the six paramitas, one will reach the state of the tathagata. It takes three asamkheya kalpas (uncountable eons) to complete the gradual cultivation path.This is why the Buddha has kindly taught the sudden enlightenment method.

The Lesser Vehicle, Great Vehicle, and Ultimate Vehicle

      There are many methods in practicing Buddhism. The Lesser Vehicle  practices “eradicating afflictions.” The Great Vehicle (Maha-yana) “transforms afflictions.” In the Ultimate Vehicle, “afflictions are bodhi.” Each method is centered on the mind. In the end, they all enable sentient beings to attain unsurpassed complete enlightenment.
      Those who practice the Lesser Vehicle take afflictions as real; therefore, they must exterminate them. They still have the concept of subject and object; therefore, there is still attachment to the dharmas. They only realize the emptiness of self and enter into partial nirvana.
      Those who practice the Great Vehicle use the method of “transformation (of the mind)” because they understand that amid our afflictions there is our inherent Buddha nature. It is like forging steel from iron. The nature of steel is within the wrought iron. If we throw away the pieces of iron, we will not be able to refine the steel. Similarly, “there is no water besides the waves.” Therefore, in Mahayana, bodhisattvas cultivate the myriad good practices of the six paramitas. By benefiting self and others, they transform afflictions, and return to their pure inherent nature. Just as when we practice charity for a long time, we will naturally diminish greed. By contemplation of compassion, anger will naturally subside. When we are diligent in the cultivation of actions, speech, and mind, we can overcome sloth. When the mind is scattered and confused, we must use samadhi to overcome delusive thoughts. This is known as “transformation.”
      The last of the six paramitas is “prajna.” Prajna overcomes ignorance. Our mind is filled with ignorance and confusion; it easily forms attachments to the external environment. If we can reflect inward, without falling into dualism, without the concept of subject and object, and attain “triple emptiness,” we will attain prajna paramita. We can then face each encounter with clarity and mindfulness, thereby extinguish all our afflictions.
      In the Ultimate Vehicle, we neither transform our afflictions nor extinguish them; our mind is originally pure and lucid. This mind is inherent in everyone; we do not need to seek it externally. This is the Chan School’s principle of “affliction is bodhi; birth and death (samsara) is nirvana.”

The bodhi mind is not found externally

The Diamond Sutra says, “All dharmas are equal; none is superior or inferior.” Whichever method we practice, in the end it returns to the bodhi mind. The bodhi mind is our fundamental mind and nature, our inherent awareness. It is not bestowed by our parents, demons, spirits, a god, or even bodhisattvas. It is inherent in everyone. Therefore, the bodhi mind is most real and ever-present.

The bodhi mind is replete within us. If we look for it elsewhere, we will not find it. Just as a Chan patriarch said, “To move the mind is to err, to raise a thought is to stray.” As soon as we look for it we lose it; it is like looking for an ox while riding an ox; we are already sitting on its back, but we do not know it. It is also like looking for a shadow at midday. At this moment, when you are listening to this teaching, the mind that does not raise a single thought is the profound and clear bodhi mind. A mind with no-thought is the mind of total clarity, knowing, and awareness, without a single bit of delusion, drowsiness, or scattered thoughts. When we realize this mind that is unborn and undying, we attain enlightenment.

Once there was a female Chan practitioner who traveled all over the country to study the Dharma, scaling mountains to seek an enlightened teacher. Unsuccessful and exhausted, she finally returned to her native village. As she was leaning on the plum tree by the roadside to rest, she suddenly attained enlightenment and uttered the following verse:

 Straw sandals treading cloud covered peaks
               Seeking spring everywhere.
               In vain, I returned,
               To the fragrance of plum blossoms,
              On the treetops is spring in full glory.

“Spring” represents the bodhi mind. The poem describes a person who suffers great hardships to seek a wise teacher but still cannot attain enlightenment. However, when this mind is no longer seeking everywhere, when we let go of body and mind and come to a complete state of rest, we attain enlightenment. “When I return, I find/To the fragrance of plum blossoms/Spring has already arrived on the treetops.” When we smell the fragrance of the plum blossom, we realize that the Way has always been here. This mind that can see and smell is ever-present.

       The Venerable Po Lo Ti also said, “In the eyes it is the seeing; in the ears it is the hearing; in the nose it is the smelling; in the mouth it is the speaking; in the hands it is the grasping; in the feet it is the walking.” This awareness that sees the plum blossom and smells its fragrance is inherent in us. It is neither more in the saint nor less in the ordinary person. In those who have not attained enlightenment, it is not a bit less; in those who are enlightened, it is not a bit more. That is the bodhi mind.


Five kinds of bodh

      There is a Chan saying, “One may cultivate for billions of kalpas, but enlightenment takes only an instant.” Knowing this, we still need to make efforts everyday to bring forth the bodhi mind. To fully realize the bodhi mind there are five stages: “give rise to the bodhi mind,” “taming the mind,” “awaken to the bodhi mind,” “progressive realization of the bodhi mind,” and “ultimate bodhi mind.”

      The first stage is “give rise to the bodhi mind.” This means we make a great resolve to cultivate the Way, vow to realize the bodhi mind, attain buddhahood, and liberate all sentient beings. We constantly work in this direction: do no evil, perform all good, and purify our mind. Whether practicing gradual cultivation or sudden enlightenment, in motion or in stillness, busy or idle, our every thought must be clear and in command. We should adhere to Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha’s great vows, Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara’s great compassion, Bodhisattva Samantabhadra’s great conduct, Bodhisattva Manjushri’s great wisdom, and incorporate these into our daily lives. This is the beginning of the bodhisattva way.

      The second stage is “taming the mind” – this means we resolve to study hard, constantly examine and reflect inwardly, harbor a mind of repentance, and work to gradually gain control of our delusive thoughts and afflictions. For example, if we reflect and find that we have been angry, we can immediately subdue it and not create bad karma. If greed arises, we can also detect it and subdue it. Or, as soon as sensual desires and lust arise, we immediately subdue them. This is “taming the mind.”

      The third stage is “awaken to the bodhi mind.” Due to the power resulting from practicing “taming the mind,” we can finally attain awakening. “Awakening” is to awaken the deluded mind and see its true nature. When we see our original self, we will realize that our mind is inherent, unborn, and undying.

     A Chan patriarch said, “The darkness of a thousand years is shattered instantly by a single lamp.” If we awaken to this present mind, always abide in right mindfulness, all our past karmic obstacles can be totally swept away. For example, after a thousand years in a dark room, if we suddenly turn on the light, the room is instantly filled with brightness. However if we lose our right mindfulness, it is like turning the light off; then everything will again be filled with darkness. Therefore, once we are enlightened, we still must constantly maintain right mindfulness in our daily lives, abide in pure awareness, be totally clear in every thought, and always be master of ourselves.

      A Chan master once said, “When hungry, eat; when drowsy, sleep.” Also, “Eating all day, one has not chewed a single grain of rice; fully dressed, one has not put on a single thread.” What does this mean? It means to know yet not cling, and to firmly abide in right mindfulness. For example, when eating, do not daydream. The “knowing” that can differentiate among the sour, sweet, bitter, and spicy always exists. Do not overeat when the food is tasty, or complain when it is unsavory. Whether facing pleasant or unpleasant circumstances, we know yet do not cling, and do not give rise to greed or anger. This is to truly abide in right mindfulness.

      The aim of cultivation is to attain right mindfulness. Right mindfulness is a mind of clarity and purity; it is liberation; it is the buddha. Right mindfulness is the monastery; it is the Pure Land. Therefore, “Hauling wood and carrying rice is the Way.” In our daily lives, in our eating, dressing, working, and moving, always maintain right mindfulness. Maintain the existence of this “knowing” mind. Thus maintaining inner peace and rightful conduct in life is to cultivate the Way.

     The fourth stage is “progressive realization of the bodhi mind.” After we know where our mind is, we must continue to practice after enlightenment, continue to abide firmly in right mindfulness, and maintain our pure awareness, so that ignorance is totally eradicated and the Dharma body fully manifests. This process is the progressive realization of the ultimate bodhi mind.

      After we have eradicated the last traces of ignorance, afflictions, and delusions, we arrive at “ultimate bodhi mind.” This is the perfection of our awareness and conduct, the perfection of benefiting others and ourselves. This is the ultimate stage.


The ten dharma realms are in this one mind

      The most important thing in Buddhism is our mind. This present mind is replete with the ten dharma realms. Whether we remain deluded or will achieve enlightenment depends on the mind’s resolve. To give rise to the three poisons of greed, anger, and ignorance is to sink into the realms of hells, hungry ghosts, or animals. If we observe the five precepts, we will be guaranteed to return as humans in the next life – to dwell in the human realm. If we can further cultivate the ten virtues and uphold the precepts, our mind will be filled with virtuous thoughts and brightness, and we can ascend to the celestial realm and receive the reward of heaven. Practicing the Four Noble Truths is the realm of the sravakas. Contemplating the twelve links of dependent origination is the realm of the pratyekabuddhas. By committing to the great compassionate vow to benefit others, seeking the Buddha Way, liberating all sentient beings, and practicing the six paramitas, we immediately enter the realm of the bodhisattvas. Going one step further, we should cultivate non-cultivation, be mindful of no-mind, return to the source, and not give rise to a single thought; with total clarity, we enter into the dharma realm of the inconceivable. This mind is then replete with all things. “When one dharma realm manifests, nine other dharma realms fold.” One dharma realm means the true dharma realm; it is the mind of all of you who are listening to the Dharma, not thinking of the past, present, or future, with total clarity in every thought, being master of ourselves at all times. When we are enlightened to this dharma realm, we enter the realm of the buddha.

        “A building ten thousand feet tall begins on the ground level.” Everyone’s mind, from beginningless kalpas, is filled with attachments and delusions, ignorance and erroneous views. Now we have the chance to listen to the true Dharma; it is the result of the merits from our previous virtuous roots. Therefore, we should treasure this opportunity. Buddhism embodies both practice and principle. In practice we must make efforts to cultivate the Way and uphold the pure precepts. To realize the (fundamental) principle we must bring forth the bodhi mind. If we have not yet given rise to the bodhi mind but still observe the pure precepts, in the future we will ascend into the heavens, or at least we will not descend into the suffering realms. If we can observe the pure precepts, awaken to the bodhi mind, and are replete with practice and principle, we are following the way of the great bodhisattvas. In the future, we will surely attain perfect enlightenment, truly benefiting ourselves and all others.


* (1) Mahayana (大乘): One of the two major traditions of Buddhism (the other is Theravada), emphasizes the path to buddhahood that involves perfection of wisdom, unconditional compassion, and liberation of countless sentient beings. Theravada, primarily the teaching of “The Four Noble Truths” and “The Eightfold Path,” emphasizes attaining nirvana and is the foundation of Mahayana.

(2) Arhat (阿羅漢): One who, by listening and practicing the Buddha Dharma, extinguishes all defilements and achieves nirvana.

* (3) Pratyekabuddha (辟支佛): There are two kinds of pratyekabuddhas. One has ended the birth-and-death cycle by contemplating on the Twelvefold Causal Chain (十二因緣). The other is born in a time without a buddha or the Dharma and achieves nirvana on his own.

* (4) Bodhisattva (菩薩): One who is on the way to becoming a buddha; one who has vowed to liberate all sentient beings.

(5) Samadhi (三昧/正定): A state of deep concentration when meditation is properly practiced.

(6) Sravaka (聲聞): Those who eventually become arhats as a result of listening to the buddhas and following their teachings.

* (7) Kalpa (劫): An inconceivably long period of time. In Buddhism, a kalpa generally indicates the length of time between the creation and re-creation of a world or universe.

(8) A Han is a person from a civilized tribe; a Hu is a person from a barbarian tribe.

* (9) Prajna (般若) wisdom: The great transcendental wisdom, wisdom from understanding the truth, wisdom that can overcome birth-and-death, all suffering, and enlighten all beings.

(10) Li and shi (principle and action): Fundamental principle (理, li), means “principle”, here it refers to the Truth, the true nature of the mind, or the underlying principle of all phenomena. Enlightenment means the realization of this li. Actions (事, shi), literally “things”, or “phenomena”, are the myriad phenomena which manifest in accordance with the “fundamental principle” of nature. In this context, shi refers to the various Buddhist practices such as meditation, charity, tolerance, etc., which are tangible actions that actualize the fundamental principle in real life.

* (11) Tathagata (如來): The Thus Come One, an epithet of the Buddha meaning “thus come, thus gone”, or “neither coming nor going.”

(12) True suchness (真如): the way reality is; Truth; equivalently, the original, pure, perfect state of mind.

若能持戒清淨,又能發菩提心,理事兼備,這就是大菩薩行,將來一定會圓滿菩提,既能自利又能利他。

無論是大乘、小乘,頓、漸之分,是因為眾生根器的不同,所用的方便也因之有所不同,但理上都是一個--菩提涅槃,這是修行學佛的終極目的。

佛法有大乘和小乘之分,小乘希望得解脫、成道證果;大乘修六波羅蜜,普度眾生、廣結善緣,最後功德圓滿,成道證果。此外,還有漸修、頓悟之分,無論是大乘、小乘,頓、漸之分,是因為眾生根器的不同,所用的方便也因之有所不同,但理上都是一個--菩提涅槃,這是修行學佛的終極目的。

由於每個人的發心不同,所以成就也不一樣。不論是成就羅漢果、緣覺果、菩薩果、佛果;或是成就三昧,達到不退位--念不退、行不退、位不退,這些都要努力修行才能得到。希望打坐成道,就必須與這念清淨心、無為心相應才能成道。道不離心,悟了,這念心就是道;沒有悟,這念心就是迷。修行不管是從事上修,或從理上去修,乃至於漸修、頓悟、顯、密,有兩大原則不能違背:第一是「發菩提心」,第二是「持清淨戒」。這兩個原則做到了,這一生就對得起自己,即使沒有成道證果,也能達到不退位。持清淨戒,身口意三業清淨,就證羅漢果,進一步迴小向大,就能證大乘佛果。如果要證菩薩果,就要修六度萬行。總之,這一切都離不開菩提心和戒行。因此,發菩提心、持清淨戒,修行最重要的二件事。

菩提心就是清淨心、能作主的心,要動就動,要坐就坐,要出就出,要入就入,最後達到不出不入。

菩提心就是覺悟的心、清淨的心、不染著的心,是不動不搖、不去不來、不生不滅的。經云:「修行不發菩提心,猶如耕田不下種。」如果只是拼命地耕田犁土,卻沒有播撒菩提種子,怎麼會開花結果?所以菩提心是最重要的。想達到這念心清淨,就必須要有種種助緣,幫助我們發菩提心、種菩提種、開菩提花、結菩提果,這個助緣就是戒行。

佛法和其他宗教不同的地方,就在於戒行;其他宗教的戒,有些不是邪見、見取見,就是非因計因、非果計果,都不是證涅槃的因。涅槃是什麼?涅槃不是死亡。涅槃是指我們這念心,達到最寂靜、最高的一個境界,也就是契悟空性。契悟了空性還不算,必須要有菩提心。菩提心就是清淨心、能作主的心,要動就動,要坐就坐,要出就出,要入就入,最後達到不出不入。

菩提心、涅槃性,是我們追求的一個最高境界。

涅槃有四種層次:「有餘涅槃」、「無餘涅槃」、「無住涅槃」、「自性清淨涅槃」。其中「有餘涅槃」、「無餘涅槃」是證悟「空性」;「無住涅槃」、「自性清淨涅槃」是證悟到菩提心。其實,無論是哪一種涅槃,都是指我們這念心,只不過深淺不同,也就是悟到空性的深淺;或者是證到空性,定力入到空性中有多長,這也有差別。再者,看我們保持這念心清楚明白、如如不動的時間有多久,如果只能保持三分鐘,三分鐘後心就打妄想、打瞌睡,這樣菩提心也保持不長久。

菩提心、涅槃性,是我們追求的一個最高境界。但是如果沒有這個根基,佛就說一些方便法門,暫時使我們的心靜一靜,不要驚慌恐怖,暫時能夠得到一個住所,這是佛的慈悲。真正要想成佛,就要證悟菩提心。經云:「唯佛與佛能入此門,緣覺聲聞不能照。」也就是說,盡恒河沙的聲聞、緣覺,都沒辦法知道佛的境界。為什麼呢?因為佛是以菩提心為根本,所以這一念心非常重要。

《金剛經》云:「應無所住,而生其心。」菩提心就是無住心。

菩提心究竟是什麼?如何發菩提心呢?《金剛經》云:「應無所住,而生其心。」菩提心就是無住心。禪宗則說:「頓悟自心,直了成佛。」也是指菩提心,亦即菩提自性。《六祖壇經》行由品記載:一日,五祖弘忍大師對弟子說,諸位在我座下已修行多時,今天把所學的心得及契悟的道理,寫一首偈給我看看。五祖座下一位首席教授師神秀大師,很有學問,寫了一首偈子:「身是菩提樹,心如明鏡臺;時時勤拂拭,勿使惹塵埃。」這首偈子看起來非常有道理、非常有意義。六祖大師當時也在弘忍大師座下,在廚房裏擔任砍柴、舂米的工作。聽到有人在唸神秀大師所寫的偈子後,他也有一些心得,於是就請人在偈子旁邊寫──「菩提本無樹,明鏡亦非臺;本來無一物,何處惹塵埃。」菩提根本沒有一物一法可得,所以說「菩提本無樹」。「明鏡亦非臺」,明鏡是指清清楚楚、了了分明這念心,是絕對的空性;「何處惹塵埃」,一切都是空寂,那裏惹塵埃?神秀大師尚未真正契悟菩提心,他所契悟的,屬於漸修,而六祖大師則是頓悟。

「時時勤拂拭」,如何拂拭?就是檢討、反省、觀照、改過,這就屬於漸修法門。

悟有深淺,禪宗祖師云:「大悟十八度,小悟不知其數。 」譬如說,由於覺得人生無常,悟到了無常的境界,所以發心修行,這個悟只是開始。悟了以後要知道修行,因為只是悟到無常,並不是徹悟心性,只是悟到事上的道理。每個人所悟的道理都不一樣,因為這念心悟的層次不同,說出來的法,就會有差別。

神秀大師所寫的偈子也可以作為一般人的座右銘,依照這個方向去修行。「身是菩提樹,心如明鏡臺」,要栽種一棵菩提樹,第一、要有土壤,把菩提種子栽植到土裏去;第二、要有水份、陽光;第三、要時時刻刻去照顧,除草、鬆土,菩提樹才會發芽、茁壯,開花、結果。「身是菩提樹」,要想成道,就如同種菩提樹一樣,要善調身心、要持戒,使身口意三業清淨。除了善調身心以外,還要勤修善法,修善法是福報,有了福報,衣食住行就沒有問題。「心如明鏡臺」,這念心像明鏡當臺一樣,一塵不染,漢來漢現、胡來胡現,相來則現、相去則無。就是這念心,不染一點塵垢,一片空靈、光明,沒有貪、瞋、癡、慢、疑,沒有法執、我執,只有這一念絕對的心,像鏡子這麼光明。要達到這個境界,就要「時時勤拂拭」,如何拂拭?就是檢討、反省、觀照、改過,這就屬於漸修法門。如果照這樣去用功,也能成道證果。

「凡所有相,皆是虛妄」,好壞的境界皆由自己意識所現,都是虛妄不實的,因為一切法畢竟空寂。

「菩提本無樹,明鏡亦非臺;本來無一物,何處惹塵埃。」是當時六祖大師契悟般若空性所作出的偈子。惠能大師了悟諸法畢竟空寂,無有能、所,一切皆掃除蕩盡,所以禪宗祖師說:「佛來佛斬,魔來魔斬。」正是這個道理。

「佛」代表好的境界,若是對好的境界,產生貪愛、執著,心當中有了罣礙,一樣不能明心見性。所以,就算是打坐時看見十方諸佛來摩頂、授記,也不要歡喜。因為一歡喜,心就動了,就成了生滅,就不是不動心、清淨心。「魔」,就是指恐怖的境界。看到恐怖的境界,也不用害怕,「凡所有相,皆是虛妄」,好壞的境界皆由自己意識所現,都是虛妄不實的,因為一切法畢竟空寂。

那麼,要拿什麼來「斬」?「不理它」就是斬。好壞的境界都不去理它。它來就讓它來,去就給它去,繼續保持正念,菩提心就會現前,念念分明、處處作主。否則,菩提心就迷失而成為攀緣心了。  所以漸修、頓悟都是相通的,目的都是證菩提心,只是方法不同而已。

修行的法門有很多種,小乘修行是「斷煩惱」;大乘則是「轉煩惱成菩提」。

修行的法門有很多種,小乘修行是「斷煩惱」;大乘則是「轉煩惱成菩提」。小乘把煩惱當作是實實在在的,所以要斷它,有能斷、所斷,仍有法執存在,所以最後證到我空境界,入「偏空涅槃」。

大乘則用「轉」的方式,因為了解煩惱當中有菩提性。如同打鐵煉鋼,廢鐵當中具足鋼性,若把鐵塊扔掉,是無法再煉出鋼的,如同無法離波覓水的道理一樣。

大乘菩薩廣行六度萬行,以轉化煩惱,自利利人。例如布施久了,自然沒有貪心;修慈悲觀,瞋心自然就轉化過來;身口意三業精進,就可以對治懈怠。由於心散亂、顛倒,所以利用禪定對治妄想,這就是「轉」。

六波羅蜜中最後是「般若度」,般若是對治愚癡的,返照自心,無能、無所,三輪體空。我們心中有很多無明、顛倒,對外境起種種執著,如果般若修好了,就能逐物起照,破除煩惱!

禪宗祖師說:「起心即錯,動念乖真。」菩提心性本自具足,假使另外再起心動念去找,也無法找到。

無論修什麼法門,最後全部都要歸於菩提心。菩提心就是我們的本心本性、本具的覺性,這不是父母、鬼神、上帝、乃至菩薩所給予的,而是人人本具的。所以,菩提心是最真實、最現成的。

禪宗祖師說:「起心即錯,動念乖真。」菩提心性本自具足,假使另外再起心動念去找,也無法找到。因為一尋覓就迷失了,如同騎牛找牛,已經騎在牛背上,卻迷惑不知,仍到處去找牛;又如日中覓影,在大太陽底下找影子,始終是找不到的。

大眾聽法的當下,一念不生的這念心,就是菩提妙明真心。所謂一念不生,是清清楚楚、明明白白,靈知靈覺的這一念,沒有絲毫的妄想、昏沈等雜念。契悟了這本具不生滅的心,即達到所謂的「開悟」境界。

尚未成道的人不減一絲一毫;成道了,也不增一絲一毫──這個就是菩提心。

以前,有一位大覺禪師,為了修行悟道,南奔北走、東參西學,翻山越嶺尋訪明師。一天行腳疲累了,手扶著路邊的梅花樹休息,當下忽然開悟,道出一首詩偈:「終日尋春不見春,芒鞋踏破幾重雲;歸來細把梅花看,春在枝頭已十分。」「春」,代表菩提心。詩境的內容說明為了追求明心見性,歷經千辛萬苦,尋找善知識指點,仍然無法契悟,於是心灰意冷,通身放下,這念心大休大歇,不再東尋西覓。就在放下的時候,忽然開悟了。「歸來細把梅花看,春在枝頭已十分」,細看眼前枝頭一朵朵梅花生趣盎然之際,悟到原來道是現成的,能看的這一念心始終是存在的。

達摩祖師說:「在眼曰見,在耳曰聞,在鼻嗅香,在口談論,在手執捉,在足運奔。」看梅花的這個靈性是本具的,在聖不增,在凡不減;尚未成道的人不減一絲一毫;成道了,也不增一絲一毫--這個就是菩提心。

不生滅心究竟在那裏?就在大眾聽法的這念心當中,清清楚楚、明明白白,這念覺性始終存在,就是我們的本心本性。

古人說:「修行億萬劫,悟在剎那間。」過去沒有契悟以前,所修都是在生滅當中,屬於方便加行。由於加行用功得力,業障消除,心清淨了,因緣成熟豁然契悟心性。原來,這念不生滅心,就是菩提心。

有生一定有滅,物質有成、住、壞、空;人及飛禽、走獸等有情世界的生、老、病、死,都是生滅。仔細觀察起來,分分秒秒皆有眾多生滅、生死不停的流轉,整個世界都屬於生滅法。

凡夫的心念時時刻刻也在生滅之中,一動念頭就是生,第二念生起,前念又滅掉了,譬如早上起床、穿衣、穿襪、刷牙、洗臉,接著又誦經、拜佛……等等,心念不斷地生滅變化,這當中究竟那個是真正的自己?

世間上的人,終日柴米油鹽醬醋茶、上班、下班,整天都在妄想中,迷糊糊地過生活,所有一切都是生滅心的作用,甚至於晚上作夢都還在生滅心當中。所以佛法說人從早上到晚上,有八億四千萬個念頭,這些都是生滅心。生滅心就是自己的煩惱,生滅心帶來的就是生死。

那麼,不生滅心究竟在那裏?就在大眾聽法的這念心當中,清清楚楚、明明白白,這念覺性始終存在,就是我們的本心本性。

修道證悟最後達到絕對不染一塵的境界,如同十五的月亮圓滿無瑕,就屬於「成道位」。

悟後起修就稱為「修道位」。悟了以後,只是如同見到初一的月亮,尚未圓滿,還要繼續保持這念菩提心,時時刻刻安住在心性上,就是所謂的「保養聖胎」。

此時的修行即是「修而無修,言而無言,行而無行」,還是要修,修除習氣、妄想、人我、是非等種種煩惱,修了之後要歸還原點,所以修了等於沒修、行了等於沒有行。原點就是一念不生、就是覺性。無論晝夜、動靜、順逆,時時刻刻始終都要保持這念覺性的存在。

釋迦牟尼佛度化無量無邊的眾生,卻說沒有度一個眾生;演說無量無邊的佛法,卻認為沒有說過一句佛法,正是「言而無言」,歸還原點的道理。如果執著自己說了許多佛法、度了廣大的眾生,就表示並未了悟,因為尚有我執、法執,這念心還在相對的境界之中攀緣,沒有契悟絕對的境界。

修道證悟最後達到絕對不染一塵的境界,如同十五的月亮圓滿無瑕,就屬於「成道位」。這裡的「成」是現成、本具的意思,不假絲毫造作而成。

總歸修道的歷程,可分為「加行位」、「悟道位」、「修道位」、「成道位」四個不同的層次。

每個人都有佛性、覺性,是本具的。

每個人都有佛性、覺性,是本具的。雖然心性本具,但如果起了煩惱無明,這個覺性就變成眾生心了,就變成我執、法執。所以,還要有「始覺」,也就是我們現在開始覺悟的這念心。眾生是「不覺」,沒有覺悟,所以整日花天酒地、吃喝玩樂、醉生夢死,將來必墮入惡道。

有了「始覺」,要繼續保持,如果一曝十寒,沒有發長遠心,就退失了菩提心。所以要繼續不斷覺悟、覺察、覺照、反省,以漏盡自己的貪心、瞋心、癡心、慢心、疑心,轉化心中這些障礙。如神秀大師所說的「時時勤拂拭」,把心當中的灰塵擦掉。由於用功得力,貪、瞋、癡、慢、疑、邪見六個根本煩惱沒有了,就達到「正覺」的境界。

煩惱有深有淺,分為見思惑、塵沙惑、無明惑。漏盡這三種煩惱,就得到究竟解脫。所以,無論參禪、打坐、持咒、誦經、念佛……,一切法的目的,都是為了轉凡成聖、轉識成智,最後得以成就佛果。

如果這念心造作惡業,就變成獸性;反迷覺悟了,又變成覺性。

由於用功得力,貪、瞋、癡、慢、疑、邪見六個根本煩惱沒有了,斷除「見思惑」,就證到羅漢果,或者證到緣覺果,這就是「正覺」。但是,不可以得少為足,還要進一步回小乘向大乘,發願上求佛道,下化眾生,這樣帶果行因,修六波羅蜜,行菩薩道,修無修修、念無念念,豁然明心見性,契悟本具的菩提心。

如龍樹菩薩,契入了中道實相,就證到初地菩薩,如此初地、二地、三地,一直到十地滿心,就稱為「分證覺」,乃至於達到「等覺」。最後入金剛定,破無始無明,也就是破最後一分無明,則成就「無上正等正覺」。

總之,這些過程都離不開我們這一念覺性、佛性、靈性,也就是大眾聽法的這念心。如果這念心造作惡業,就變成獸性;反迷覺悟了,又變成覺性。覺悟以後,念念分明、處處作主,有了智慧、感應,心慢慢寧靜,就成為靈性,這都是我們這念心本具的作用。不執著一切法,繼續用功,就能圓成佛性了。

禪宗祖師言:「千年暗室,一燈即破。」只要悟了現前這念心,始終安住在正念上,過去所有的黑暗、業障,全部可以一掃而光。

菩提心的修證歷程有層次之不同。第一、「發心菩提」,也就是發廣大道心,立下志願,希望證到菩提心,成就佛果,普度眾生,要「諸惡莫作,眾善奉行,自淨其意」,時時刻刻朝這個方向努力,不管是漸修、頓悟,或動、靜、閒、忙,都要念念分明、處處作主,以地藏菩薩的大願、觀音菩薩的大悲、普賢菩薩的大行、文殊菩薩的大智,落實在日常生活,這就是菩薩行的開始。

第二階段「伏心菩提」,因為發心用功,時時檢討、反省身心,有慚愧之心,慢慢地就將妄想、煩惱降伏下去。譬如覺察到自己起了瞋心,就能立刻忍下來,不去造作惡業;又如動了貪念,也能覺察並止住;或者起了男女之欲愛、色愛,剛剛一動念,馬上就把這念心降伏下去,這就是伏心菩提。

第三階段「明心菩提」,由於「伏心菩提」加行用功得力,最後就能達到明心菩提。「明心」就是明心見性,見到本來面目,契悟本具不生不滅的心性。

禪宗祖師言:「千年暗室,一燈即破。」只要悟了現前這念心,始終安住在正念上,過去所有的黑暗、業障,全部可以一掃而光。譬如一間千年黑暗的房子,忽然把燈一開,豁然滿室光明。但是,如果失去正念,就如同把燈熄滅,又會呈現一片黑暗。因此,悟了以後,還要時時刻刻安住正念、安住覺性上,念念分明,處處作主。

修行就是要得到正念,正念就是清淨心、正念就是解脫、正念就是佛、正念就是道場、正念就是淨土,所以「挑柴運米都是道」。

禪宗說:「飢來吃飯睏來眠。」又說:「終日著衣喫飯。未曾咬著一粒米。未曾挂著一縷絲。」這是什麼道理?就是要知而不著,堅住正念。譬如吃飯的時候就吃飯,不胡思亂想,能明辨酸甜苦辣的「知」始終存在,好的東西不多吃,吃了不好的食物,也不會怨天尤人。對任何好壞的境界,都能知而不著,不起貪心、不起瞋心,這就是真正安住正念。

修行就是要得到正念,正念就是清淨心、正念就是解脫、正念就是佛、正念就是道場、正念就是淨土,所以「挑柴運米都是道」。日常生活食、衣、住、行當中,始終保持正念,這念「知」要存在,如此安身立命就是修道。

第四階段「分證菩提」,已經契悟心在那裏了,還必須要悟後起修,繼續堅住正念、保任覺性,分分破除無明,分分顯露菩提法身,這個過程稱為「分證菩提」。直至破除最後一分無明,漏盡煩惱惑業,就達到「究竟菩提」。所謂自利利他、覺行圓滿,達到這個境界,才算是究竟。

所謂「一法界顯,九法界隱。」一法界即指一真法界,就是諸位聽法的這念心,不想過去、現在、未來,念念分明、處處作主,悟了這個法界,就是入佛法界。

我們這念心具足十法界:如果能受持五戒,下輩子必定保有人身,故五戒感得人道法界;若能更行十善戒法,心中善念光明,則提昇至天道法界,將來感得升天的果報;起貪、瞋、癡,是地獄、餓鬼、畜生的法界;修四諦,是聲聞法界;思惟十二因緣觀,是緣覺法界。若發大慈悲心與利他弘願,上求佛道,下化眾生,修六波羅蜜,當下就入菩薩法界。進而修無修修、念而無念,還歸原點,一念不生、了了分明,就契入不可思議法界,所以這念心當中圓具一切。

「萬丈高樓平地起」,每個人心中,無始劫以來攀緣、顛倒,充滿了愚癡、邪見。現在能夠聽聞正法,是過去的善根、福報現前,所以要愛惜。佛法中有事有理,在事上要腳踏實地用功修行,持戒清淨;在理上就要發菩提心。如果沒有發菩提心,只是持戒清淨,將來升到天上去,也不至於墮入惡道。若能持戒清淨,又能發菩提心,理事兼備,這就是大菩薩行,將來一定會圓滿菩提,既能自利又能利他。