On Chan and Tantra

A talk given by Guru Yutang Lin
Chan & Tibetan Kagyu Centre, Warsaw, Poland
October 17, 2010

Reviewed and revised by Guru Lin
Transcribed by Disciple Ji Hu
Interpreted in Polish by Disciple Xu Ming

Some of you asked, if Chan and Tantra can be unified. So, I think, I will briefly talk about this first. Of course, they can be unified because the goal is the same—the full enlightenment, and all different Yanas, different schools are just showing you different paths that can lead to the same goal. And from any path, if you thoroughly follow through and reach the realization, then after you reach the realization, you should be able to fully master all other paths. So, to show you the difference between the two approaches, we take the following analogy:

The Chan practice is, right now our situation is like inside a cup, and the Chan practice is, we try to give up everything, so the cup becomes very thin, and then we concentrate our whole energy, working on something with the hope that all of a sudden, the cup is removed. But the Vajrayana approach, the final goal is also to remove the cup. But you look at the structure of the cup and you realize that, there are many aspects, many factors, and many connections. So, you try to work through all this, and remove them gradually, when compared with Chan, is gradually. But, in the Tantric schools, there are still some higher teachings that are similar to the Chan, and those are, for example, called "Mahamudra" and "Great Perfection." But when you come to that level, you are actually at the level of Chan. And since these are realizations, no use to talk too much about it, because, unless you reach it, you really don't know what you are talking about. But still it's beneficial that at this point, we know that they are, like this, connected. So, after this introduction, you know, I would like to reply to your questions you might have.
Q1: Some of us might try to practice Chan and so called "密宗" (Vajrayana) together, and before enlightenment, if it's possible to practice them together, or only after enlightenment?

A: If you fully understand the philosophy, the theory of Tantra, of course, one can sometimes try this, sometimes try that. However, if you are following Chan strictly, no need to rely on anything else because that approach is like that, you throw your life working at one point.

On the other hand, when you practice Tantra, if you want to attain realization in one life, you also have to devote yourself whole heartedly, full life. Because in any approach to full enlightenment, if you cannot let go of yourself, then there's no way that you can really attain the goal. And Chan practice sounds simple, but actually is very difficult because how can one throw away everything including himself, and just trying to work on something, to sustain that, very difficult. Most people don't have that kind of concentration and determination, and sustention. So, in comparison, Tantra maybe easier to grasp on, as it gives you so many things to practice. But if your mind is not really, you know, free from worldly consideration and devoted to Bodhicitta, then you can be just acting without the real essence of Tantra.

So, how to go from, you know, just wishing to attain enlightenment, and becoming really involved, is through the so called "Foundational Practices" because to finish those you will take several years of devotion and practice. And through this process, your worldly hindrance becomes less and less, removed, and your merits become greater, so that you will have the opportunity to really devote yourself to fulltime practice. And we don't have time to go into everything now, so, you know, visit my website because there, you know, I integrated all my understanding of Dharma and how to apply them in daily life, and show them to the world. So, now if you have question on particular practices, you're welcome to ask me.

Q2: For example, when you have self-visualization, like of yourself, and also front-visualization, how to attain this without efforts; this is very difficult, you know it.

A: All visualizations are based on two things; one is the concentration, mental stability, and which, of course, cannot come easily, at least you have to attain the level when all your thoughts naturally ceased, no thoughts. And the other aspect is the comprehension of the philosophy of Sunyata, and the real comprehension can arise only after, in your mind, you are really free from all considerations. And also, you understand that everything is conditional, and therefore, the deities or Mandala you are visualizing can actually arise; you have to have that kind of firm understanding.

Then, there is a chance that, sometimes during your practice, they suddenly appear. And when you are ready, even when you are not practicing, they can appear. And right now probably you can only rely on people's words to believe in this. But if you believe that Bodhicitta is correct, and you actually engage in the foundational practices, you will gradually sense that there are real things behind all this. Because when you are truly devoted and make great efforts, Buddhas will give you blessings, and you sense the blessing in the form of light or power appearing to you, you sense it, you really sense it. And also, it's possible that Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Yidams, Protectors, they appear to you and give you teachings, and the teachings can be on Dharma or about your life. And if you want to devote yourself to Dharma, one aspect is very important, is, of course, to have maintained daily practices. And another way to help is to engage in some Dharma services because if you have only your own practices, sooner or later, you don't know whether it's for self-center or not. But if you also do some Dharma services like helping others to understand Dharma, engage, participate in Dharma groups, then the practices become real to you, it's not just self-centered ego.

And you have a center here, you have a lineage to follow, you certainly know all those basic practices. So, just, you know, follow and keep up with those practices, but with the firm belief that you will gradually receive the benefits, as peace of mind and relaxation of body, and also gradually you will become more and more harmonious with your environment to help others.

We have some books for you, and the red book (The Golden Ring) just got published three days ago, and it's about basic concentration practice. See if they have other questions.

Q3: Can you describe what happened during your visit here—what is your feeling and what have you done because they don't know, and how you dreamed about Poland before?

A: even years ago……

Q4: If one experiences some kind of emotional vacuum, is there any practice which could still the feelings, like produce good feeling; ……he has no emotion.

A: The Buddhist approach to solve all our problems is by looking out at the world, at the reality, and then when you look out, what do you see is, things are changing, impermanence. And then everyone, because of changing, everyone has problems, everyone is suffering. Then how can this understanding help us to solve this problem? It helps us to realize, first of all, our duration here is very short, we don't know when it will end. And also, each one of us is so tiny, when you look at the world. But the problem you feel is so great because it's shared by all. So, instead of worrying about this short experience of a tiny being, you open your mind to try to do something that can help all eventually. And when you can open your mind like this, free from worrying just for yourself—right now you feel that emotional vacuum because you are confined by too many thoughts, you are too tight within a small cell. And when your mind can come out and see the world, and see so many real lives, then the real emotion naturally comes out.

And then there are other practices that can help your emotion to come out. For example, everyday you go to a park or some river bank, and you bring some food for the birds, for the animals, and then gradually, when you see any bird, any animal, you worry if they are hungry or not. Before you never care for them, but now if you can even care for animals, how much more can you care for your fellow sentient beings, your other human beings? And if you are lost in your worries, you go to the cemetery, and walk there, and read the tomb stones. Right now you think all these are so important matters bothering you, but actually to everyone of us, in the end it's nothing—the tomb will write only your name and the dates. After each walk, you will find that your worries are gone. So, these are the ways you can help yourself. And also the releasing of lives that we mentioned, that can help, too, because you put your money and your effort, and your time on saving others, instead of just spending them for yourselves. Essentially enlightenment is like this, you free yourself from just looking at yourself, and you see the world, then—no problem. And also when your view is so wide and so far, then you will do differently, you will live a different life.

Q5: So, overly they have the practices which open the heart, why is it so important? What kind of importance is this?

A: Oh, Because the main reason of our problems is self-centeredness, you just worry about this tiny bit, and also the reason that we try to pray for all beings is because, unless everyone is good, there's no real happiness in any tiny individual. And even though it's impossible that anyone can suddenly change the whole world; nevertheless, those who become enlightened can forever gradually revolutionize the world through inner peace—that's what Buddha Sakyamuni had shown us. He didn't say, "we, I start a revolution to change the world"; he just tried to find the way to be free from the cycle of old age, sickness and death. But after he found the openness, realized this, then he started things that are revolutionary, and his approach was not based on forcing others to follow. For example, he was in the caste society of, you know, strict classifications, but because his view is free from the cultural restriction, he said, everyone is same and equal. So, your seniority in the Dharma is just whoever approached Dharma sooner. And, of course, at that time he can help only a few disciples, but now it's been thousand years later, we, in Poland, is still affected by him. This is slow and gradual, but this is the peaceful and realistic way to make changes. And that's why we follow this because it's a beneficial way, without bad consequences. If we don't do like this, you know, we may even create more problems.

We can ask questions later, I start with the ceremony (Guru Rinpoche's Round-cap Blessing Ceremony).

Auspicious completion

November 2, 2010
El Cerrito, California

-----Original Message-----
From: Yutang Lin
Sent: Wednesday, November 03, 2010 8:46 AM
To: Dharma Friends
Subject: Two New Works

I recalled something significant during the talk on Chan, so I added Amendments at the end of E0162.

Another transcript had just been reviewed and revised. My revisions are in yellow highlights.

May all beings attain Enlightenment soon!


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