Mahāyāna (Sanskrit: महायान mahāyāna, literally the “Great Vehicle”) is one of the two main existing branches of Buddhism and a term for classification of Buddhist philosophies and practice. Mahāyāna Buddhism originated in India, and is associated with the oldest historical sect of Buddhism, the Mahāsāṃghika.

The Mahāyāna tradition is the larger of the two major traditions of Buddhism existing today, the other being that of the Theravāda school. According to the teachings of Mahāyāna traditions, “Mahāyāna” also refers to the path of seeking complete enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings, also called “Bodhisattvayāna”, or the “Bodhisattva Vehicle.

Silent Illumination

Silently and serenely, one forgets all words.
Clearly and vividly, it appears before you.
When one realizes it, time has no limits.
When experienced, your surroundings come to life.
Singularly illuminating is this bright awareness.
Full of wonders is the pure illumination.
The moon’s appearance, a river of stars,
Snow-covered pines, clouds hovering on mountain peaks.
In darkness, they glow with brightness.
In shadows, they shine with a splendid light.
Like dreaming of a crane flying in open space.
Like the clear, still water of an autumn pool.
Endless eons dissolve into nothingness,
Each indistinguishable from the other.
In this illumination all striving is forgotten.
Where does this wonder exist?
Brightness and clarity dispel confusion.
On the path of Silent Illumination,
The origin of the tiniest.
To penetrate the extremely small,
There is the gold shuttle on a loom of jade.
Subject and object influence each other.
Light and darkness are mutually dependent.
There is neither mind nor world to rely on,
Yet do the two interact, mutually.
Drink the medicine of correct views.
Beat the poison-spread drum.
When silence and illumination are complete,
Killing and bringing to life are choices I make.
At last, through the door, one emerges.
The fruit has ripened on the branch.
Only this Silence is the ultimate teaching.
Only this Illumination, the universal responds.
The response is without effort.
The teaching, not heard with ears.
Throughout the universe,
All things emit light and speak the Dharma.
They testify to each other.
Answering each other’s questions,
Responding in perfect harmony.
When Silent Illumination is complete,
The lotus will blossom, the dreamer will awaken.
The hundred rivers flow to the ocean.
The thousand mountains face the loftiest peak.
Like the goose preferring milk to water,
Like a busy bee gathering pollen.
When Silent Illumination reaches the ultimate,
I carry on the original tradition of my sect.
This practice is called Silent Illumination.
It penetrates from the deepest to the highest.

Hung-chih Cheng-chüeh (1091-1157)
A monk of the Ts’ao-tung (Japanese, Sōtō) line of Ch’an, known as the author of a collection of poetry and kōans, and the founder of the ‘Hung-chih’ line within the Ts’ao-tung school, and as an avid proponent of the ‘silent illumination’ (Chinese, mo-chao Ch’an) style of meditation.

Gyalwang Karmapa’s Teaching on “Three Primary Elements of the Path”

Karmapa 17

Compiled from { }

Day 1

December 21, 2012

Introductory remarks

The grand Monlam Pavilion, with seating for about 10,000 monks and laypeople, is ablaze with colour in the darkness of early morning. Metal beams spanning the great height of the ceiling are draped with red and gold pleated banners giving an impression of sun rays beaming from Mount Kailash at the back of the stage.

It creates an eloquent statement about both the Buddhist tradition and the Kagyu lineage which the Karmapa uses to great effect in making his opening remarks. The theme that weaves throughout the talk is the essential unity of Buddhist schools and the destructiveness of schisms. Mount Kailash – sacred to 3 Eastern religions- towers above all.

The main teaching of the Monlam is Je Tsong Khapa’s Three Primary Elements of the Path. This particular text was chosen for the Monlam because the commentary is by the first Jamgon Kongtrul, Lodro Thaye, and the 30th Monlam is dedicated to the Kongtrul lineage. Lodro Thaye set a precedent as the Rime [non-sectarian] master who broke through the barriers of Tibetan sectarianism in the nineteenth century.

To introduce the teaching, the Karmapa explained the connection between the Karmapas and Je Tsong Khapa, “the king of dharma”. In an historic meeting on his way to China (or on the way back) the 4th Karmapa, Rolpe Dorje met a child whom he recognised. He predicted “this boy will become like a second Buddha”, gave him the Upasaka vows and a name, Kunga Chenpo. The child was Tsong Khapa.

Through the blessing of Manjushri, Tsong Khapa had a special experience and realised the Madhyamika view coming from Nagarjuna. He also held the lineage of Atisha and practised the Vinaya to such perfection that no one could dispute his conduct; although some people disputed his view of Madhyamika. “He was a great master,” said the Karmapa. The three primary elements of the path are renunciation, bodhicitta and right view. These three elements are the foundation for even crossing the threshold of either sutra or mantra.

“The most important way of honouring the great masters is to understand their experiences and try to practice what they have taught. There is no better way to honour the teacher. Jamgon Kongtrul wrote countless books and out of them all, this one is very useful.”

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Should one fail to enlighten themselves, one should seek the guidance of learned teachers…


The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch : Chapter II : Prajna

Without enlightenment, there would be no difference between a Buddha and other living beings, while a gleam of enlightenment is enough to make any living being equal to a Buddha. Since all Dharmas are immanent in our mind, there is no reason why we should not realize intuitively the real nature of Tathata (Suchness). The Bodhisattva Sila Sutra says, ‘Our true nature is intrinsically pure, and if we know our mind and realized what our nature is, all of us would attain Buddhahood.’ As the Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra says, ‘in an instant, anyone can return to the original mind’.

When the Fifth Patriarch taught me, I became enlightened and spontaneously realized the True Nature of Tathata immediately after he had spoken. For this reason it is my job to propagate the teaching of the Sudden School so that students may find Bodhi at once and realize their True Nature by perceiving their own minds.

Should one fail to enlighten themselves, one should seek the guidance of learned teachers who understand the teaching of the highest realization to show them the correct way. The position of a pious and leaned master who guides others to realize their True Nature is an exalted position. Through their assistance one may be initiated into all meritorious Dharmas. The wisdom of the past, the present and the future Buddhas as well as the teachings of the twelve sections of the Canon are all immanent in our mind, but should we fail to enlighten ourselves, we must seek the guidance of the pious and learned ones.

On the other hand, those who enlighten themselves need no outside help. It is wrong to insist upon the ideas that without the advice of the pious and learned we cannot obtain liberation. Why? Because it is by our innate wisdom that we enlighten ourselves, and even the outside help and instructions of a pious and leaned friend would be of no use if we were deluded by false doctrines and erroneous views. If we perceive our mind with the True Wisdom (Prajna), then in an instant, all delusions will disappear. Once we attain out True Nature, we immediately enter the Buddha ground.

Those who will be entrusted with great tasks…

( Mencius // The Sage )

Those who will be entrusted with great tasks should first endure hardship both in body and mind, suffering hunger and destitution or failure in their undertakings. Only then will they be able to forge their character, develop patience and endurance and attain outstanding abilities, beyond the ken of the multitude.

Turn Afflictions into Bodhi

Mahayana Buddha

( Master Yin Kuang // Pure Land Zen )

If you suffer financial hardship, I suggest you retreat a step. You should reflect thus: “although there are many in this world more fortunate than I, those who are less fortunate are not few in number. I should seek only to escape hunger and cold; why dream of riches and honor?”

Moreover, if you are content and at peace with your circumstances and surroundings, you can even turn afflictions into Bodhi (Enlightenment), and grief into peace and joy!

If you suffer chronic illness, you should reflect deeply that this body is the very source of suffering, develop a revulsion toward it and strive to cultivate the Pure Land path, determined to achieve rebirth in the World of Ultimate Bliss. The Buddhas view suffering as their teacher, thus achieving Ultimate Enlightenment. Likewise, you should consider illness as medicine, to escape Birth and Death.

Zen Master on Thought

Breakfast time at the Zen temple. I asked Master Henry, referring to the many thoughts that arise during meditation :

Shin Pung : “Master, how do you stop the thinking?”

Master Henry : “Stop before stop. Stop after stop. Let the mind be natural… Natural mind.”

Interpretation : [You have to stop actively thinking before the thoughts will stop. Then you have to maintain not thinking after the thoughts have been stopped.]

Master Henry : “You feel pain? Pain is no pain. You think it’s pain. It’s not pain. No eye, no ear, no tongue… No pain. Let it be… natural.”

Easy in mind… Difficult in practice.

Nagarjuna’s Guide to The Bodhisattva Path // Nagarjuna Buddhism

Excerpts from ( 120-168 )

One’s mind should be like vajra,
Able to penetrate all dharmas.
One’s mind should also be like a mountain,
Remaining unmoved in any circumstance.

Delight in world-transcending discourse
And do not take pleasure in worldly words.
Personally adopt all manner of meritorious qualities.
One should then influence others to adopt them as well.

Cultivate the five bases of liberation.
Cultivate the ten reflections on impurity.
The eight realizations of great men
Should also be the focus of analytic contemplation and cultivation.

The heavenly ear, the heavenly eye,
The bases of spiritual powers, the cognition of others’ thoughts,
And the cognition of past lives and abodes—
One should cultivate purification of these five spiritual abilities.

The four bases of spiritual powers comprise their root.
They are zeal, vigor, mental focus, and contemplative reflection.
The four immeasurables govern them.
They are kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity.

The four elements are like poisonous serpents.
The six sense faculties are like an empty village.
The five aggregates are like assassins.
One should contemplate them in this way.

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It is as if bodhi lay in the palm of one’s own right hand.

Sri Natha Arya Nagarjuna

From the Bodhisambhara Sastra
By Nagarjuna

Where, to benefit beings and make them happy,
One would endure even the sufferings of the great hells,
How much the more the other lesser sufferings,
It is as if bodhi lay in the palm of one’s own right hand.

Where whatever one does, it is not for one’s self,
But solely to benefit beings and make them happy—
Because this all arises from the great compassion,
It is as if bodhi lay in the palm of one’s own right hand.

Where wisdom is such that one abandons frivolous discourse,
Where vigor is such that one abandons indolence,
And where giving is such that one abandons miserliness,
It is as if bodhi lay in the palm of one’s own right hand.

Where meditation is such that one is free of reliances or ideation,
Where morality is such that its practice is perfect and unmixed,
And where patience is such that one realizes non-production,
It is as if bodhi lay in the palm of one’s own right hand.


SOURCE : Guide to The Bodhisattva Path

The Diamond Sutra

Diamond Sutra

Bodhisattvas in Samadhi

Amitabha & Bodhisattvas

“For the sake of the Buddha Path, the bodhisattvas in this great assembly have already diligently practiced vigor for an incalculable number of tens of millions of kotis of kalpas. They have become skillful in entering, abiding in, and emerging from an incalculable number of trillions of kotis of samadhis. They have gained great superknowledges, have long cultivated the brahman conduct, and have become well able to practice in appropriate sequence all of the good dharmas.”

Lotus Sutra ( T09.262.41c )