Gradual Cultivation and Sudden Enlightenment頓悟與漸修

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It may seem that gradual cultivation and sudden enlightenment are very different methods, but in fact they are interrelated and even complementary practices.

Different paths to Buddhahood

What does gradual cultivation mean? It means gradual practice and attainment, going through the various stages of cultivation from a mortal all the way to becoming a Buddha. Just like going to school, we start from elementary school, go on to high school, college, eventually earning a doctorate degree. Climbing step by step, we ultimately perfect all virtues and merits and reach Buddhahood-this is called gradual cultivation.

What is sudden enlightenment? Being enlightened means that we are awakened to this present mind, this awareness, this bodhi mind that is originally pure. When enlightened, this mind is Buddha, this mind is the Way. Once awakened, we still need to maintain this enlightened understanding and practice until we achieve perfection. This means that whether we are in stillness or in motion, whether it is day or night, the mind is always free from clinging and delusion; it is always clear, mindful, and in command. Maintaining this enlightened state until perfection, until Buddhahood is reached, is the practice of sudden enlightenment. So, sudden enlightenment is to realize that if this present ordinary mind is free from any effort or pretension, then this very mind is wisdom, true suchness, the profound bodhi mind of the Tathagata (Buddha). When we are enlightened, then we realize that everyone possesses Buddha nature, that everyone can become a bodhisattva. We then realize how precious and real we are and that all human beings in this world are endowed with infinite hope and infinite life.

Gradual cultivation means to realize the “fundamental principle” by way of (perfecting our) actions. Sudden enlightenment means to realize the fundamental principle first and then perfect our actions. If we don’t have the chance or causal conditions to practice sudden enlightenment then we can practice gradual cultivation. It may seem that gradual cultivation and sudden enlightenment are very different methods, but in fact they are compatible and not conflictive.

Relative and Absolute Truths

Buddhism is the truth of our life. There is only one ultimate truth. But there are also various conventional truths. For example, family ethics, school regulations, and social order are all different kinds of conventional truth. There are many conventional truths, but they change with time and space. However, the Buddha Dharma does not change with time and space. The Buddha Dharma is the truest of all truths. The principle of gradual cultivation and sudden enlightenment is the truest of all truths in Buddhism.

Worldly laws or truths change with time and space because they are relative truths. For example, what is considered good and correct in the United States may not be the case in Mainland China or Taiwan. This is because in the United States, in China, and in Taiwan, lifestyles, cultures, and histories are different. In some places, such as Afghanistan and some tribes in China, a husband can have several wives, while most other countries believe in monogamy. Who is right? Who is wrong? It is not easy to determine. This is because with different times and in different places, the nature of this kind of ethics, culture, or history changes. This is called relative truth.

The truth that we want to discuss today doesn’t change with time and space; it is the same in the past as it is in the present day. This truth is that everyone has this mind, this sentient mind, regardless of race, age or gender. Everywhere in the world, everyone in the past, present or future has this mind. This is a fact. It is the Absolute. The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch states that, “In terms of space, there are east, west, north, and south; in terms of people, there are rich, poor, noble, and common; but this mind that everyone has is neither in the east, west, north nor south; neither rich, poor, noble nor common; neither male, female, old nor young.” So this is an absolute truth. We say that everyone has life; everyone wants to stay alive and is afraid of death. We all want to be happy and to avoid suffering. In this respect everyone is the same. So the sutras tell us that everyone can be a bodhisattva or a Buddha since everyone has this mind, this awareness. Because of this, we should cherish and take care of ourselves, and we also should respect and care for the lives of others.

Even though we all have this mind or awareness, the level of wisdom and compassion that emanates from each being is different. Why are there such differences? If some people are wiser than others, it doesn’t mean that they have more awareness than others; it just means that their minds are clearer. They are less discriminative, and have less vexations and delusions. When people don’t have a high level of wisdom, they have more deviant views and more attachments that delude the mind. So we should understand that everyone is equal in their inherent awareness, but we have varying degrees of ignorance and vexations that determine how wise we are, how rich or poor we are, how happy or unhappy we are. It can even affect our life span. If we wish to reach the highest state, we need to practice Buddhism diligently.

The Four Stages of Achievement

There are four different levels of achievement leading to the highest state. The first level is that of the arhat. The arhat’s wisdom and awakening are much higher than those of the ordinary being. The second level is called the pratyekabuddha. The pratyekabuddha’s wisdom and mind surpass those of the arhat. The third level is called the bodhisattva. The bodhisattvas wisdom surpasses that of the pratyekabuddhas if they can remove the “ignorance of Dharmas” (lacking in insight and knowledge of different Dharma paths) so they can liberate all beings. Finally, the fourth level is that of the Tathagata or the Buddha. The Buddha has eradicated all the three different kinds of ignorance (the ignorance of erroneous views and habits, the ignorance of Dharmas, and the ignorance of beginningless delusion) and has reached perfection. Arhat, pratyekabuddha, bodhisattva, and Buddha are the four kinds of saints in Buddhism, each one having achieved a higher level of enlightenment. Only the Buddha’s enlightenment is the most complete. What does it mean to be a saint, a holy one? It means that if the mind, this very mind that is listening to the lecture now, can purify its afflictions and eradicate its attachments, then this mind is exactly the same as the mind of the Buddha. How do we reach the state of the Tathagata or Buddhahood? There are two paths: the first is gradual cultivation and the second is sudden enlightenment.

The Path of Gradual Cultivation

The path of 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 these six paramitas, one will reach Buddhahood. One must achieve perfection both in terms of time and in terms of merit. In terms of time, it is like going to school; it takes so many years to complete elementary school, high school, college, and so on. Besides the time it takes, one also needs to finish the required courses; this is equivalent to perfecting the merit. In terms of time, it takes a bodhisattva three asamkheya kalpas (eons) to reach perfection. In terms of merit, the six paramitas need to be completed.

What are three asamkheya kalpas? A kalpa is a measurement of time much longer than a million or even a billion years. There are three different kinds of kalpas: the small, middle and large kalpas. What is a small kalpa? Originally, the life span of a human being is 84,000 years. On average, every one hundred years, human life span decreases by one year until the average life span is only ten years. Then, every hundred years it will increase by one year until it reaches 84,000 years again. This whole span is called one small kalpa. A middle kalpa is equal to twenty small kalpas. Four middle kalpas complete the four stages of the life of the universe: creation, duration, deterioration, and emptiness. A large kalpa is equal to four middle kalpas, which is one cycle of the universe. It takes countless large kalpas to make one “asamkheya” kalpa and it takes three asamkheya kalpas to complete the path of a bodhisattva. It takes that long for a bodhisattva to perfect the six paramitas.

Charity Paramita

Charity is the first of the six paramitas. How does one perfect the charity paramita? Contrary to what some may think, donating a million or even a billion dollars doesn’t constitute the perfection of charity. Aside from the giving of money and property, we need to be willing to give up everything we own, even our life, in order to perfect the charity paramita. In his previous lives, charity was the first thing that Sakyamuni Buddha practiced. In order to save a dove, he cut off his own flesh to feed an eagle; he fed himself to hungry tigers so they wouldn’t starve to death. These are examples of giving up one’s life for others.

In a previous lifetime, when the Buddha was a prince, there was a drought in the country and people were starving. He gave all the treasures and food in the palace to the people. His father, the king, became worried and told his son, “If you continue giving this way, there’ll be nothing left in the palace and our reign will come to an end!” So the king expelled the prince from the palace. Even though he was exiled and owned nothing, the prince still wanted to help the people. He remembered that the dragon king of the ocean had a Mani pearl, which can fulfill all of one’s wishes. He tried many ways to obtain the Mani pearl from the dragon king but failed. In desperation, he set forth to empty the ocean water. Drawing the water with buckets day after day, he exhausted himself and finally fainted. His sincerity deeply moved the four heavenly kings who then proceeded to help him; with their powers they emptied half of the ocean in half an hour. The dragon king, startled and moved by the sincerity of the prince, voluntarily gave the Mani pearl to the prince. This is an example of trying to perfect the charity paramita. Every other paramita needs to be perfected, and this takes three asamkheya kalpas. In addition, another hundred small kalpas are needed to perfect the thirty-two physical marks and eighty fine characteristics of the Buddha.

The sutras describe the thirty-two marks of the Buddha. An example is brahma-sound, which means that when he speaks, people of all different dialects are able to understand him; Chinese-, Japanese-, English-speaking people and even animals are able to understand his words without any translation. Another mark of the Buddha is that anything he eats always tastes excellent. In contrast, we have to season our food for it to taste good to us.

Within each of the thirty-two marks, there are eighty fine features and it takes great merits to accomplish each of these marks. What does it take to accomplish the merits for one mark of the Buddha? We consider deeds such as building a temple or saving a life to be of great merit, but these are very far from the merits of the Buddha. The scripture says that if everyone in the world were sick and dying, and you cured them all with your medicine, that is an example of the merits needed to attain one of these marks of the Buddha. We can see that it is not easy to do these great deeds, to complete the six paramitas, to cultivate for three asamkheya kalpas, and to become a Buddha.

The Method of Sudden Enlightenment

The Buddha knew that many people would think that this was a long and difficult path, so he taught us another method-sudden enlightenment of the true mind and directly realizing Buddhahood, which doesn’t take three asamkheya kalpas. This is the method of sudden enlightenment. An analogy is education–normally one starts from elementary school and gradually reaches college. But some smart students can skip grades in high school and go directly to college.

I believe that after having heard of gradual cultivation and sudden enlightenment, all of you will probably want to practice the sudden enlightenment method. Sakyamuni Buddha had to go through three asamkheya kalpas and he doesn’t want us to suffer the same way unnecessarily. That is exactly what we will be teaching in the seven-day Zen retreat. You will learn how to realize the true nature of the mind and become a Buddha.

The Four Stages of Thought

Sudden enlightenment is to understand, as the sutra says, “A mind free from mundane defilement is the way to supreme enlightenment.” That is, the ordinary mind is the Buddha mind. Everyone has a mind, but with all the thoughts in your mind, which mind is the Buddha? For example, when you are thirsty, the thought of wanting to drink water arises. When you see a cup of water, the thought of picking up the cup arises, and when you take a sip, the thought of picking up the cup has ceased and it is the thought of drinking that is in your mind. When you first take a sip, the thought, “This is great!” arises. When you take the second sip, the feeling becomes less enjoyable, and when you take the third sip, the water tastes plain and you don’t want to drink it anymore. By this time the thought of drinking the water has ceased. Then you see a cookie in front of you so another thought arises, “I want to eat the cookie.” In every single thought there are four stages–arising, staying, changing, and ceasing.

Each day of our lives so many thoughts arise. Our mind is always going somewhere; we either have good thoughts or bad thoughts, random thoughts or delusive thoughts; they are like the waves of the ocean, like bubbles on the waves that come and go so quickly. All day long our mind never rests; even at night, it dreams and doesn’t rest. Dreaming means our mind is clinging. The sutra says that each day and night 840 million thoughts go by. In fact, each thought that comes and goes is like a dream. When we say life is like a dream it is not a mere allegory; we are literally living in dreams. Every day we dream about new cars or dancing or playing mahjong; we dream about money, lust or power. These are our dreams when we are awake. Because we are always dreaming during the day, when we are supposed to rest at night, we continue to dream about the events of the day. When the mind is not dreaming then it is asleep. So we can see that half of our life is spent on sleeping and the other half is spent on dreaming-these are attachments and delusions, two big afflictions in Buddhism

Observe the four stages of thought. When we want to drink water, the thought of drinking water arises; when we pick up the cup, the thought of drinking is staying; when we take one and then two sips and our feelings start to change, that is changing; finally we decide we don’t want to drink anymore and the thought goes away. Because every thought goes through these four stages, because our thoughts have births and deaths, that is why in our lives we go through the cycle of birth, aging, illness, and death. That is also why this world comes into being, persists for some time, but eventually deteriorates and becomes empty. This earth is in the “staying” stage now, but it is always changing; many other planets and stars are also aging, and one day this universe will perish. All humans, animals, and plants go through these four stages.

In order to become free from the agony of endless cycles of living, growing old, getting sick, and dying, the mind must be free from arising, staying, changing, and ceasing. To accomplish that we need to realize the bodhi mind, the original nature. The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch states, “Without realizing the original mind, all Dharma learning is in vain.” If we don’t realize the bodhi mind, the profound, lucid, true mind, then all of our practice merely brings blessings that, although pleasant, are nevertheless impermanent. This will not help us much in attaining enlightenment. So, what is enlightenment? It means to understand the mind. Where is this mind, the very mind that is listening to the lecture now?

Functions of the Mind

We can understand this mind from three different perspectives: from its function, from its characteristics, and from its essence. How big is our mind? Everything in the past, present, and future is contained in this mind. The world in all directions, north, south, east, and west, above and below, all space and time are within our mind. The mind is infinite; it has no boundaries. There is a well-known Chinese saying that the mind knows no distance. The mind can function regardless of distance, whether far or near. For example, with the war on terrorism that is going on right now, the United States and other countries have sent troops to Afghanistan. Families of the soldiers back home may be very worried. One night the wife may dream that her husband is sick. She calls and finds out that the soldier is indeed sick. Why is this? It is because the mind knows no distance. No matter how far, whether separated by mountains or oceans, the mind can still function. When the mind is constantly thinking about something, we reach a certain level of concentration that can be powerful enough to overcome physical boundaries. We sleep in a small bed but the mind can dream of mountains and oceans and vast space. Sometimes you have good dreams where you are very happy and when you wake up it all vanishes. When you have a nightmare, the fear you have is very real. Your dreams seem so real but in fact they are really intangible. These are all the functions of the mind. A blind person can walk using a walking stick. There are blind artists who can create sculptures. This is what the mind can do when it is very concentrated. This mind is very profound and subtle. People are used to using their eyes to look outward and their ears to listen to outside sounds. If we can learn to look inward and listen within, we will be able to reach tranquility and peace very quickly.

There once was a Chinese man who had severe arthritis and had been bedridden for over eight years. One day the house suddenly caught fire and everyone in his family grabbed their precious belongings and escaped outside. After the house burned down, they suddenly remembered that the sick man was still inside the house. Surely he was killed! Everyone felt very sorry and mourned for him. Suddenly, they heard the man yelling from a hill asking them to carry him down. Surprised, they asked him how he got up there in the first place. He said that when he saw the fire, he forgot about his arthritis and ran up the hill! They said, “If you could run up, you can come down the same way.” He said, “But my arthritis hurts so badly that I cannot move!” The mind is very powerful if we can learn to focus it..

Practicing the Dharma and meditation teaches us how to focus and use our mind. To use this mind properly we need to awaken the mind. Once awakened, we can purify the mind. Then we can return to the original source. That is why we have a saying, ” To enlighten the mind is to realize the true nature; to realize the true nature is to become a Buddha.” Once enlightened, one is the Buddha; unenlightened, one is a mortal. If the mind has vexations and creates bad karmas then one falls into the suffering realms; if the mind has evil views then one becomes the devil.

Purity of the Mind

I think that everyone wants to realize the true nature of the mind. Where is this mind? In fact, this mind is right here, all of it is ever-present. The great Zen master Bodhidharma has said, “In your eyes, it is called seeing; in your ears, it is called hearing; in your nose, you can smell the fragrance; in your tongue, you can detect the sweetness, sourness, and all the flavors; in your hands you can grab things, and in your feet it is the walking.” These are all functions of the mind. So if everyone already has this mind, why can’t we all become Buddhas? It is because of our delusions and attachments. If we can get rid of these two problems, our mind will be like still water or like a clear mirror; our mind can radiate light and move the earth. People use their eyes to look at the outside world; when we see the good and the bad then we start to discriminate and mental afflictions arise. When our ears hear others praising us, we are overjoyed, and when others criticize us, we become angry. So, afflictions and prejudice often arise from the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and consciousness. In this way our mind is like a pool of muddy water, unable to produce great power, unable to function wisely. It is important for us to reflect and examine ourselves. When our eyes see things we should not cling to them; when receiving praise we should not be overjoyed; when slandered we should not be upset. At all times the mind remains calm and peaceful. This is what the Diamond Sutra says, “Let the mind function without abiding.” When our six sense organs (eyes, ears, .consciousness) are in contact with the six “dusts” (form, sound, . dharmas), we will know what is right or wrong; we will know what is bad or good and yet the mind is not polluted. We are fully aware yet we do not crave or cling to things. In this way our senses revert to purity.

A Zen master once said that Zen practice is to “Walk through a flower field / without a single leaf clinging on you.” What does that mean? It means that everywhere we go and in everything we do, the mind is free from attachment and delusions. We are aware but we do not cling. This is how we purify the mind and our sense organs. This is called “sitting on the platform of white lotuses”. The lotus blossom comes out of dirty muddy water but it is very pristine and pure. Our mind should be like that, rising from impurities but free from contamination.

A Bird’s Buddha Nature

Another story will help you realize that this awareness is the Buddha nature. Do not have a single trace of doubt, because if you do, it will be difficult to attain enlightenment. There was devout Buddhist whose name was Pei Du; he was a great benefactor and studied Buddhism in depth. One day he was in the great Xiang Guo Monastery, and saw that a sparrow landed on top of the Buddha statue’s head, left his droppings and flew away. Pei Du was very disturbed by this scene and thought, “The scriptures say that every sentient being, which certainly includes the sparrow, has Buddha nature, so how can this bird leave its droppings on the Buddha’s head?” So Pei Du asked the abbot of the temple for an explanation. The abbot replied that certainly the sparrow has Buddha nature. Indeed it is very intelligent; it knows that Buddha is very compassionate, that is why it left its droppings on the head of the Buddha instead of leaving it on the head of a hawk! The fact that the sparrow knows where it is safe and where it is not, this “knowing” is its Buddha nature. Don’t think that Buddha nature is something too remote or too profound to understand; it is just this mind which knows and which is aware. Everyone has this mind that can distinguish good from evil, right from wrong; it is just that this mind is often deluded and beset with afflictions, thus generating karma that makes us suffer and lose our calm and peace. This is the mind of an ordinary person. If you are absolutely sure that you have this Buddha nature then you are enlightened.

Maintaining the Enlightened Mind

Once enlightened, we need to maintain this Buddha nature so that it will always manifest. We can practice in two ways-in stillness and in motion. “We cultivate it in stillness, and fortify it in motion.” To practice stillness the Zen-7 retreat gives us the best opportunity. Throughout the seven days, we try to keep this awareness clear, unscattered, and in control for 3 minutes, 5 minutes and longer; practicing this way, we will definitely make immense progress. In the Shurangama Sutra it states, “Enlightenment is simply when the deluded mind rests.” The word “rest” is very important. Our mind is always “going,” so in sitting meditation we let the mind rest and remain unmoved; we do not think about the past, the present or the future. When we think about the past, we cling to the past; when we think about the present and the future, we cling to the present and the future. The Diamond Sutra states, “The past mind is intangible, the present mind is intangible, the future mind is intangible.” The past is already past, there is no way that we can get it back; therefore, it is useless to reminisce about the past. If the past was pleasant, thinking about it makes us sad. If the past was sad, thinking about it just adds to our suffering. There is no need to think about the present, it is so fleeting; and speculating about the future is just dreaming.

So where should the mind be? It should “function without abiding.” The past is intangible, so do not dwell in the past; the present is intangible, so do not dwell on the fleeting moment; the future is intangible, so do not speculate about the future. Thus this mind is clear and without deception; it is the profound mind of the Tathagata; it is the original mind, our original nature. If you can maintain this enlightened state of mind for one minute, for three minutes or for ten minutes then you are a Buddha for one minute, three minutes or ten minutes. This is called “maintaining the holy womb.” If you can practice this way then you are truly on the Path.

Many people want to practice but they don’t know where the path is. There are many ways of practicing, such as chanting the sutras, repenting, performing good deeds, and sitting meditation. If we practice all of these without realizing the true mind, we are just doing preliminary cultivation. Because our ignorance and attachment are deeply rooted, we need to practice these virtuous acts to help us temporarily get rid of the pollutants in our mind. If we continue practicing this way, when the time is right, our original nature will suddenly manifest and we will become enlightened, enlightened to this mind of non-abidance. The non-abiding mind is the absolute truth. It transcends time and space. In just one instant, we can realize our original mind, the mind of the instant-it feels utterly tranquil, clear and pure, and hours can pass in what seems like a moment. As the ancient saying goes, “Living in the mountain / there is no sense of time / meanwhile in the mundane world / a thousand years have passed.” “No sense of time” refers to this absolute mind, where time and space do not exist. This is to go beyond this world. To go beyond this world is not something that happens after death. If we realize this original mind, we are immediately transformed from the mundane to the divine, and this world becomes the Pure Land. The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch states, “Having the right view is to transcend this world. Having deviant views is to remain in the mundane world.” This is truly the ultimate right view, the enlightened understanding of the Tathagata.

Because of the nuances of the mind, the world that we perceive is also different. For example, this lecture hall is bright when we turn on the light; it becomes dark when we turn off the light. Is this room dark or bright? Here in the United States it is daytime right now, but in Taiwan it is nighttime. Is it daytime or nighttime now? During the day, humans see more clearly than at night. Yet there are many animals that see more clearly at night. All the different phenomena that we perceive are due to our awareness, our mind that perceives differently under varying conditions.

A famous Confucian poem says, “Calmly observe / and the myriad phenomena become self-evident. / Nature narrates itself perfectly.” If the mind can quiet down then you’ll naturally understand many principles. If the mind is scattered and restless then it is like trying to admire the flowers while riding away on a horse, you won’t be able to discern anything. Therefore, “Sudden awakening to the original mind and directly becoming a Buddha” is really very important, very relevant to our lives and to our living.

Unifying the Gradual and Sudden Practices

I think many people are beginning to understand the nature of this mind; however, this mind is still very restless and cluttered; it never stops thinking about the past, the present, and the future; it is endlessly worrying about this and that. This is a habit because all our lives we have never stopped our mind for ten minutes. This practice is quite alien to most of us. But now we understand this Way, it is a spiritual path we must each walk by ourselves.

Everyday, our mind has many scattered thoughts, and when it doesn’t, it dozes off; when the mind is neither scattered nor in slumber then it is bored; these are three biggest problems of the mind. When we try different practices to overcome these problems, then we are using the method of gradual cultivation. Once we overcome them we need to let go of the methods that we use and just keep the awareness (this is the method of sudden enlightenment). If we understand this then we will always know how to practice. Either the method of sudden enlightenment or that of gradual cultivation will benefit us. The scripture says that everyone can become a Buddha. This is not just an ideal or an exaggeration. Indeed everyone truly can become a Buddha; everyone can change from the mundane to the divine. As long as we have persistence, faith, and great vow, we will definitely come to solid terms with ourselves, making our lives more fulfilling, more meaningful, and we will truly realize infinite light and infinite life.

I’ll give a final example to prove the case in point. In the classroom, a teacher explains the course material clearly and interestingly, and the student listens attentively. For the student, time and space seem to disappear; even when a mosquito is biting him he doesn’t realize it. Suddenly the bell rings and he can’t believe that this class has ended so soon. On the other hand, if the teacher just reads from a book but doesn’t explain clearly, and the student neither understands nor cares to understand, the student will then look to the left and right and at his watch wondering why the class hasn’t ended yet. In the same classroom within the same hour, why is there such difference in feelings? It is because the mind is discriminating. When the mind is restless, time seems very long. When the mind is concentrated, an hour passes like a single moment.

The sutra states, “If you put your mind in one place, it can accomplish anything.” The Zen practice is to put the mind back into the Oneness, to make us realize our true nature. If we have many worries, vexations or gripes, then living one day is like living a whole year. On the other hand, if we have a tranquil and open mind, abiding in purity and in the unborn and undying absolute state, then one day, one year, a hundred years or a thousand years will feel just like an instant. Buddhism is the highest truth, the highest state of existence. If you have faith and persistence in following this path, you will find what you truly want. Life will become more meaningful and fulfilling, and you will find true blessing and happiness. Finally, I wish everyone good health, happiness, and peace, and that all will bring forth the bodhi mind and never regress.

 

每個人根機不同所以有頓悟與漸修,目的都是為了要親證這念菩提妙明真心,成就佛道,所以頓悟與漸修是互相融通,沒有矛盾的修行方式。

「漸修」,就是漸次修正,從凡夫一直修正到成佛,這當中的過程就稱之為漸修。如同讀書求學,從小學、高中、大學、到博士學位,循序漸進,次第體悟,最後功德圓滿成就佛道,即是漸修。

「頓悟」,是指悟到當下這念心,這念清淨心、覺性、菩提心。悟到這念心就是「佛」、就是「道」。依據悟到的理來用功、保任。無論「動」、「靜」;白天、夜晚,這念心始終不攀緣、不顛倒、清楚明白、時時作主,從開悟一直保任到圓滿成佛,就是頓悟。

悟到當下這念心,就是如來的智慧、真如、菩提妙心。了解每個人都有佛性,都能成菩薩。體悟到這念心性,生命與希望都是無窮盡的,生活在世界上,便能感受到人生的可貴與真實。

「漸修」是從事入,由事到理;「頓悟」是從理入,由理到事。如果沒有頓悟的因緣,無法當下體悟這念心性,亦不妨礙用漸修的方式來修行。每個人根機不同所以有頓悟與漸修,目的都是為了要親證這念菩提妙明真心,成就佛道,所以頓悟與漸修是互相融通,沒有矛盾的修行方式。

佛法是人生的真理,也是最高的真理。就世間法而言,家庭的倫理、社會的秩序、科學的理論,這些都屬於世間的真理。世間的真理雖多,卻會隨著時間、空間而改變;而佛法是真理當中的真理,經過時間或空間的遷移始終不變。「頓悟」與「漸修」,就是佛法當中的真理。

世間的真理是相對的,所以會隨著時間、空間而改變。舉例而言,在美國為大眾所認同的善法,如果拿到台灣,便不一定會被認同。因為美國與台灣各有不同的歷史、文化、與風俗習慣,這些條件的不同,影響了大眾對事物的認知與判斷。

再舉例來說,世界上大多數國家為一夫一妻制,但有些卻是一夫多妻制,因為國度不同、制度便有所不同,從這個角度觀察,實在很難區分何者為「是」?何者為「非」?這些道德、風俗、歷史習慣所產生的真理,因著時間、空間不同而變異,所以是相對的道理。

而佛法的真理,指的是人人本具的這念心,這念心從過去、現在乃至未來始終都存在,不隨著時間、空間而變動。因為不變、恆存所以是絕對的事實、是最高的真理。

每一個人都有靈知靈覺的心性,都知苦、知樂,也知道貪生怕死,所以這一念能知能覺的心是人人本具的。佛經云:「凡有心者皆當作佛。」每個人都有心、都有覺性,所以要珍重自己,同時也必須尊重大眾。

雖然人人皆有覺性,但所表現出的智慧與慈悲,卻有差別。一個有智慧的人,覺性恆常清明,在起心動念的當下,便少了許多妄想、煩惱與無明;反之,一個欠缺智慧的人,心中的煩惱妄想很多,乃至產生了種種邪見與執著,於是本來清明的真如自性,便為種種妄念塵染蒙蔽而無法彰顯。

人人本具的覺性是平等的,由於這念心當中煩惱、無明的厚薄不同,所以就有智慧高低的不同。因此,若想彰顯覺性的光明,達到生命最高的境界,就必須精進不懈,化除煩惱、無明,增長福德與智慧。

修行的過程中,破除煩惱與執著,可分為四個層次:第一是「羅漢」,羅漢的智慧與覺性,超越了世間凡夫;羅漢之上是「緣覺」,緣覺的智慧又超越了羅漢;緣覺之上還有「菩薩」,菩薩漏盡塵沙惑,所以超越了緣覺;最後,漏盡見思、塵沙、無明三惑,達到「佛」的境界,「佛」就是生命最高的心境。以上四個層次也就是所謂的「四聖位」--四種聖人的果位;由於這四種聖人在覺性、心性與智慧上的層次,都超越了凡夫,所以稱做「四聖位」。

凡夫要達到佛的境界,可由兩種方式來努力:即是「漸修」與「頓悟」。漸修,即漸次修習「六波羅蜜」,「布施」、「持戒」、「忍辱」、「精進」、「禪定」與「般若」。此六波羅蜜,是諸尊菩薩在因地中的願行,若能修持圓滿,便能夠達到佛陀的圓滿境界。而此處所謂的圓滿,一是就時間而言,其次,則是就修行法門的功德而論。譬如在世間上讀書求學,經歷了小學、中學、高中、大學的時間,便是「時間圓滿」;並且將這段期間內的功課完成,便是「功德圓滿」。同樣的,修行菩薩道必需經過三大阿僧衹劫的時間──此即「時間圓滿」;進而在六波羅蜜中修行成就,才是真正的「功德圓滿」。假使每一個人在修行的過程中,皆能圓滿「時間」與「功德」,必能臻至佛的境界。

修行必須要含俱時間圓滿與功德圓滿。所謂的「時間圓滿」是指做任何事都有一定的時間,對於修菩薩行而言,就是要經過三大阿僧衹劫,也就是所謂的「三衹圓滿」。「劫」是計算時間的單位,分為小劫、中劫與大劫。人壽最高是八萬四千歲,其後每百年減少一歲,減至平均年齡十歲;再每百年增加一歲,直至八萬四千歲為止,如此一減一增,即為一「小劫」。二十小劫即為一「中劫」,合成住壞空四個中劫為一「大劫」。而所謂的「阿僧衹劫」意指無量個大劫,表極長遠的時間。菩薩行者需歷三大阿僧衹劫,修證六波羅蜜,此即時間圓滿。

「功德圓滿」則是指修行人在行菩薩道,修證六波羅蜜,每一件功德都能圓滿。例如:六波羅蜜中的「布施波羅蜜」圓滿,意指菩薩行者於修持布施法門之時,不僅要能布施外在、有形的錢財或物品,對於自身的生命,也都能夠為了利益眾生而布施,乃至於歡喜布施一切所有,如此方是成就布施的殊勝功德,也才能稱得上是圓滿布施波羅蜜。

每一位修行人若能夠於上述的時間、功德當中,漸次修持圓滿,最後便能夠成就如來佛的境界──圓滿彰顯覺性的光明,達到生命最高的水準。

所謂「功德圓滿」,乃指行菩薩道修六度,每一度皆能圓滿。以布施波羅蜜而言,從布施「財」到生命,乃至所有一切都能布施,如此方稱為布施度圓滿。

釋迦牟尼佛過去生是一位大施太子,當時全國天乾地旱,人民饑渴難耐,太子為了賑濟民眾,便將財寶,全數施予人民,乃至皇宮中的金銀財寶,也布施出去;國王一見宮中的財物逐漸地減少,勃然大怒,便將太子驅離皇宮。

太子離開了皇宮,仍然不捨行布施的大願,想起龍宮裏的龍王,擁有一顆能夠滿人所願的摩尼寶珠。太子便想借用此摩尼珠,救濟群生。海神為太子願心所感,便施展神力從龍宮取出寶珠,送予太子救濟貧乏;不料,事後又為龍王察覺並將寶珠奪回。

失去了寶珠,無法布施救濟饑民。大施太子便發願挑乾海水,來求得龍王的摩尼寶珠。於是,不斷地往返挑水,一天、二天、三天……,挑到骨瘦如柴、奄奄一息,最後因體力不支而昏厥在地。四大天為太子的願行所感,便發心協助太子挑水,由於四大天王神通廣大,一下子海水就少了一半;龍王一見海水所剩不多,驚惶失措,同時也為大施太子行布施道的精神所感動,便將摩尼寶珠親自交給太子,使太子能廣行布施。像大施太子這般不顧自身的修行布施,便是布施波羅蜜功德圓滿。

「三祇修福慧,百劫修相好」意指菩薩要用三大阿僧祇劫的時間,將「六波羅蜜」每一度皆修持圓滿,成就「功德圓滿」;再以一百個小劫的時間,努力修持方能成就三十二相、八十種好的果德。

相好,是指佛陀應化身具足種種殊勝容貌與微妙的形相。佛經上記載,每一尊佛都具足三十二相、八十種好。舉例而言:佛於一切飲食,不論是好、是壞,凡是觸及口中,便是無上甘露味,此即「上味相」。再者,佛具足梵音聲,所謂「佛以一音演說法,眾生隨類各得解」意即佛陀只需演說一種音聲,不須透過翻譯,一切眾生都能會意領解,此即語言三昧,亦是一種相好。

佛典中形容:若世界上所有的人,皆中毒難治,發心救拔,使每一位都回復了健康,就算圓滿一福;而積聚百福方能成就一個相好。由此可知修行人要努力修善積福,圓滿六波羅蜜的功德,才能彰顯相好。必須修滿三大阿僧祇劫的時間方能圓滿成佛,此屬「漸修法門」。大覺慈尊於此之外,再開另一法門,不必歷經三大阿僧祇劫,只要當下頓悟此心,即直了成佛,此屬「頓悟法門」。

頓悟與漸修的差別,好似學生在學校裏唸書,從小學到大學,一階一階地晉級;如果天賦根基好的人,便可迅速升級,自中學跳級至大學就讀,如同頓悟法門,當下頓悟自心、直了成佛。

佛法當中提到:「不起凡夫染污心,即是無上菩提道」,凡夫心就是菩提心、就是佛,頓悟便是要悟這一念心性,直了成佛。

然而眾生心總是善惡念夾雜、生滅不定,所以無法親體自性。舉例而言,喝茶時,動了「想喝茶」這一念心,在伸手拿茶杯,「想喝茶」的這念心就滅掉了。繼之「拿茶杯」這念心現前,拿起茶杯將水送到口中一喝,感覺非常喜悅,「拿茶杯」這念心又滅掉了,「喜悅的心」便現前。再喝一口,感到第二口茶不如第一口茶來得解渴,乃至喝第三口茶,更覺得淡而無味,不想喝了,「想喝茶」這個心就滅掉了。在喝茶的短暫時間當中,心念便有著生、住、異、滅的變化。

我們這念心,從早到晚,念頭來來去去,善惡念夾雜,念念都在生滅當中。白天如此、晚上也如此,白天生滅的心念作不了主,晚上作夢時這念心,也在攀緣。由此處觀察,人生就像一個夢境,一個念頭是一個夢,所以「人生若夢」,並非形容詞,這些因執著與妄想而生的心念,都是令我們無法體悟自性的障礙。

眾生的心念始終在生滅當中,每個心念,都經過生、住、異、滅四個境界,例如:想喝茶這念心是「生」,把茶杯拿到手上,一定要喝茶了,這是「住」;喝茶喝到口裏,感覺很舒適很可口,每一口感受都不一樣,這就是「異」;最後不想喝茶了,喝茶這個念頭滅掉了,這是「滅」。

每個心念有生、住、異、滅四相,所以人就有生、老、病、死的過程;因為人有生、老、病、死的過程,世界就有成、住、壞、空四個境界。世界現在是在「住」相當中,在住相中並時時變異,一天天地在老化,將來終究要毀滅,這就是「空」。

佛經裏用成、住、壞、空形容世界變遷的過程。因為世界有成、住、壞、空,所以地球上的生物,都有生、老、病、死。要逃離生、老、病、死的恐怖境界,先要使這念心,沒有生、住、異、滅,要達到沒有生、住、異、滅就要悟到自性菩提。

《六祖壇經》云:「不悟本心,學法無益」,如果不知要體悟本具的心性,修行便始終在生滅法當中求,始終南轅北轍,對明心見性並沒有助益。所有法門,都是契悟本心的方便,由生滅的方便體達不生滅的心性方為究竟。

所謂「悟」,就是體悟到聽法的這念心,這念心有體大、相大與用大。過去、現在、未來、一切空間、時間,十方三世都在這念心中,廣大無有邊際。這念心「無遠弗屆」,不論遠近都能起作用。舉例而言:有些國家發生戰爭,許多士兵參與作戰;可是士兵的家人,擔心憂慮他們在戰場上的安危。日有所思夜有所夢,忽然夢到所思念的家人在他鄉戰場生病了,經過聯絡果然真的生病了。便說明這念心不論遠近,只要專注,就能與想念的人發生感通。晚上睡在一個小榻榻米上,夢境是山河大地、廣大的世界;夢到苦時,驚慌恐怖;夢到快樂之事,喜悅不已。然而不論恐怖或喜悅都了不可得,都是這念心所產生的影像,心在生滅中,便輪迴於苦、樂中。體達不生不滅的心性,白天能做主,晚上也能作主,不論白天與夢中都能清楚明白,便能遠離人生中苦樂的境界。我們這念心非常微妙,一般人總是兩眼外視、兩耳外聽,缺乏內觀的智慧;如果能往內看、往內聽,覺察到自己的心念,心定下來,很快就能恢復平靜。

過去有一個公案,有一家人,有一病患,患風濕關節炎,臥床八、九年都不能動。有一天,這個房子失火了,危急混亂中,他的家人趕忙將貴重物品往外搬運,當房子燒得乾乾淨淨時,才想到房子裏面還有一位病患,肯定是被燒死了,正在愧疚悲慟時!忽然聽到這位病患從山上傳來的喊叫聲,他叫說想下山來。家人驚訝之餘,趕忙問他是如何逃出火海的?他說,當時看見火勢熊熊,為了要逃命,忘了自己有風濕關節炎的病痛,立即從床上爬起,就跑到山上去了。他的家人又問,既然你能自己上山去,就趕快自己下來吧!但這病患卻說,他的關節炎好痛不能動!

這念心一旦專注,靜下來、定下來,就能產生種種感通妙用,如同這位病患,心念專注想要逃命,所以能忘了病痛。佛法的禪定,告訴我們如何運用這念心。想要運用這念心,要先悟這念心,悟了這念心,時時保任、常寂常照,轉化煩惱、淨化心念,最後歸於無念。不生不滅,便是這念心的原點。

這一念妙明真心是本具現成、無所不在的,大眾這念心應用在眼睛便稱為「見」,在耳朵便稱為「聞」;在鼻子就能辨香臭,在舌根就能知酸、甜、苦、辣;在手知道要執取,在腳則知道走路……;這些都是在日常之中心的作用。

每個人都有這念心,然而凡夫的清淨本心中,時時充斥著妄想、執著,這念心依於眼、耳、鼻、舌、身、意六根,由攀緣外境而起種種煩惱、是非。於是,我們的心便如一潭渾水一般,產生不了智慧與善法。

反之,若能時時刻刻檢討反省,眼根緣色,不起貪心;聞他人讚嘆、毀謗,不起瞋愛,隨時保持自心的寧靜與平靜,如同《金剛經》所說「應無所住,而生其心」。

六根在對六塵境的當下,清楚明白一切事物的是非好壞,心當中始終保持一個「知」,不攀緣、染著,如此就能使六根慢慢得到清淨的境界,乃至於這一念心便能如同一潭止水、一片明鏡,真正能夠六根門頭放光動地。

所以,禪宗祖師所說:「百花叢裏過,片葉不沾身」,就是指在紅塵世事當中,只要這念心,不攀緣、不顛倒,但能了「知」而不生計「著」,如此慢慢地澄清當下的這一念心,六根一旦回復清淨,此心就能如蓮花一般,出污泥而不染地端坐在清淨蓮台上。

修行要達到定心、淨心,便要肯定人人本具的覺性,沒有絲毫的懷疑,如此才能使心安定下來。

過去在唐朝時,有一位名叫裴度的居士,來到相國寺參訪,一進寺內便看到了一隻麻雀飛到佛像的頭上拉屎;此時裴度就向該寺的方丈和尚請示:佛經曾說:「一切眾生皆有佛性」,而麻雀也有佛性,但為什麼牠卻在如來佛頭上拉屎?方丈和尚一聽便回答裴度言:麻雀確實是有佛性的,而且聰明、有靈性,因為牠明白如來佛很慈悲,不會怪罪於牠,所以才敢在佛的頭上拉屎。

對於佛性,不要存有絲毫的懷疑,也不要將佛性看得太遙遠,佛性就是自己能知能覺的這念心。大眾都有這一念能分別是非善惡的心,不過這念心無始劫來總是生諸煩惱、造諸罪障,種種妄想執著,使得清明無染的心性不得寧靜,心一旦不得平靜,無染的佛性就變成了雜染的眾生性。

所以如果能夠真切的體認本具的佛性、覺性;心自然能定、能靜。體悟到本具的覺性,更進一步要保任覺性,使覺性時時現前;「靜中養成,動中磨練」。放下一切妄想分別,使這一念覺性能夠清楚、明白、如如不動,持續地保任下去,一定能夠「站得住」、「站得長」,乃至有所成就。

《楞嚴經》中明示大眾:「狂心頓歇,歇即菩提」,「歇」是停止不動的意思,由於這念心時時都是妄想分別,人們不是在憶念過去,就是在攀緣未來,這念心始終心猿意馬。而修行,就是要能放下執著、歇止狂心。

《金剛經》說道:「過去心不可得,現在心不可得,未來心不可得」,過去的已然成為過去,想念它又有何用?回憶好事,只是增加失去的悲傷,回憶壞事,更是苦上加苦;對於現在的事,起一念想的心,又是一重生滅;而未來的事尚未到來,想來想去也是一場虛無的夢境。所以過去、現在、未來三心了不可得,這一念心不住現在、過去、未來,安住在不動、清楚明白的心性,便是《金剛經》所說「無住生心」。

要達到「無住生心」,契悟不生不滅的心性,體悟三心了不可得之理。這念心始終清楚,明白,即是如來妙心,也就是自己的本心本性。明白此理,就要保任不生不滅的心性,保任三分鐘就成了三分鐘的佛;保任十分鐘,就成了十分鐘的佛;這樣子就能把不生不滅的心境延長下去,就稱之為保養聖胎。在這上面用功,便是在修道。

一般人「修道」,不知「道」在何處?只能算是修加行,加功用行,如誦經、持咒、拜懺,做種種功德,乃至於打坐,這些都是加行,因為我們的煩惱很深厚,執著很深重,所以用這些善法,使我們這顆心,慢慢除去塵垢,等到將來聽經聞法,忽然一下因緣成熟,就能悟到當下這念心。

這念無住心是絕對的真理,超越時間空間,在靜坐中一瞬那,契悟到這一念心,感覺非常清涼與清淨,一下子就超越了好幾個鐘頭;在佛經上說「山中無甲子,人間幾千年」,所謂「無甲子」,乃指我們這念絕對的心,沒有時間空間的存在,當下契悟了這念心,馬上就成了淨土世界,就超凡入聖。

由於這念心的分別,所觀察到的環境、時空也不一樣;如果處於室內,將電燈一開,就是光明,電燈一關,就是黑暗,究竟這室內是明?是暗?現在是白天,在某些國家則是晚上,那麼現在究竟是白天還是晚上?人在白天能看見東西,晚上就看不見東西,可是有些動物,白天看不見東西,晚上才能看得見,究竟這空間是明?是暗?這些不同的差異,都是由於這念心分別執取而產生不同的境界。

每個人都有這念心,只是這念心始終無法定下來,分別妄想,想過去、想現在、想未來,患得患失,不曾停歇。因為這種習氣與習慣,使得內心很少能保持不動、不打妄想,常常是心浮氣躁,靜不下來,看到外面花花綠綠的境界,攀緣顛倒,看不清楚、想不透徹;人的愚癡障礙往往由此而生。

這念心必須站得穩、清楚明白,不隨外境而動,才有清明的智慧;對於萬事萬物,有清楚透徹的慧觀,才有遠見及光明的未來。所以頓悟自性,非常重要,與我們的生活與生命,息息相關。

眾生的心,妄想顛倒,始終沒有停過,如果沒有妄想,就是疲倦昏沉;沒有妄想昏沉,心當中又覺得無聊。妄想、昏沉與無聊是心念不能作主所產生三個毛病。

例如學生在教室上課,老師在上面授課,課程上得很精彩,學生聽得很歡喜,忽然下課鐘一響,覺得時間過得很快。相反的,如果老師無法教授得清楚,學生聽不懂沒興趣,覺得時間過得好慢、好長;同樣一堂課的時間,快慢的感受,皆來自於心中的分別。

心中有分別、是非、煩惱,真是度日如年;如果心中很平靜、開闊,安住在這一念不生不滅的清淨心上,必定能超越時間空間。

明白此理,這一生的修行就有明確的方向,佛經云「人人都能成佛」,每個人都有佛性,都能超凡入聖;不論頓悟、漸修只要有恆心、信心、願心,這一生努力落實心念的提昇,生活會更實在,生命更有意義。