THE ESSENCE OF MAHAYANA PRACTICE (with Annotation)

BY MASTER BODHIDHARMA

Translated from Chinese by the Chung Tai Translation Committee


COMPLETE TITLE: "GREAT MASTER BODHIDHARMAS ESSENTIAL DISCOURSE ON

ENTERING THE MAHAYANA PATH BY PRINCIPLE AND BY PRACTICE"


Page 5

Fourth, to act in accordance with the Dharma. The principle of intrinsic purity is the Dharma. By this principle, all forms and characteristics are empty, without defilement and attachment, without self or others. The sutra says, “In the Dharma there are no sentient beings, because it is free of the impurities of sentient beings. In the Dharma there is no self, because it is free of the impurities of self.” When the wise believe in and understand this Principle, they should act in accordance with the Dharma. There is no stinginess in the Dharma, so practice the giving of body, life, and possessions, with a mind free of parsimony. Understand and achieve “triple emptiness”, with no reliance and no attachment. Practicing for the sake of removing impurities, one liberates others without becoming attached to form. This benefits oneself, benefits others, and also glorifies the bodhi path. This is the perfection of dana; it is likewise with the other five paramitas. In order to relinquish delusions, one practices these six perfections, yet there is nothing that is practiced. This is to act in accordance with the Dharma.

 

四稱法行者。性淨之理,目之為法。此理眾相斯空,無染無著,無此無彼。經曰:法無眾生,離眾生垢故;法無有我,離我垢故。智者若能信解此理,應當稱法而行。法體無慳,身命財行檀捨施,心無吝惜。脫解三空,不倚不著,但為去垢,稱化眾生而不取相。此為自行,復能利他,亦能莊嚴菩提之道。檀施既爾,餘五亦然。為除妄想,修行六度,而無所行。是為稱法行。

[Annotation]

Act in accordance with the Dharma: Finally, this practice of six perfections (pāramitā) brings one’s action and mind back to the single, ultimate Principle.

Intrinsic purity: All dharmas (lowercase dharma means all phenomena) are neither good nor bad, beyond dualistic discrimination. Therefore it is called “intrinsic purity;” this purity is absolute, like the empty space, which can neither be contaminated nor cleansed.

Forms and characteristics: The Chinese word (xiang) means forms, marks, or appearances; it is extended to mean all perceived characteristics of any phenomena.

Impurities of sentient beings and self: Ordinary sentient beings have the deep-rooted delusion of an intrinsic self, which develops into the ego and subsequently gives rise to greed, anger, ignorance, pride, and a host of false views; they then lead to the suffering of sentient beings. Being delusions, these false views and vexations have no real substance. Therefore, all dharmas are intrinsically “free from all impurities.” To act with this understanding of no-self is to act in accordance with the Dharma.

Dāna: The practice of charity, which involves giving of possessions, body, Dharma, encouragement, etc. One is not able to give freely because of the attachment to the self. Without the selfish ego (“impurities of the self”), one can give anything others need, which benefits others as well as the self.

Triple emptiness: The highest form of dana is to give without the concept of the giver, the receiver, and the given, because all are empty. Then one can truly give without expectations, without the ego being involved. This is the perfection of dana, or dāna pāramitā.

Six pāramitās: Dāna, śīla (moral conduct, precepts), ksānti (tolerance, patience), vīrya (diligence, effort, persistence), dhyāna (meditation), and prajñā (wisdom) are the six perfections, the Mahayana path to Buddhahood. The practice of the six paramitas can remove our impurities/delusions, which are originally empty, so in the end, nothing is gained and nothing is lost. Still, one then becomes a Buddha; without the practice, the Buddha nature is latent and one is an ordinary sentient being imbued with suffering.

Glorifies the bodhi path: bodhi is “awakening.” To glorify the bodhi path (path to Buddhahood) means the Mahayana ideal of bringing countless beings to enlightenment along with one’s own enlightenment.    


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