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Buddhism A to Z: "C" Entries

causation ¦]½t

Bodhisattvas are afraid of the cause, not its result;
Living beings are afraid of the result, not its cause.
(Ven. Master Hua)

Deep is this doctrine of events as rising from causes, and it looks deep too. It is through not understanding this doctrine, through not penetrating it, that this generation has become a tangled skein, a matted ball of thread, like to munja-grass and rushes, unable to overpass the doom of the Waste, the Woeful Way, the Downfall, the Constant Round [of transmigration]. (Dialogues of the Buddha II 50)

Basic Teachings about Cause and Effect

"A cause refers to the cause you plant, from which you reap a corresponding result. If you plant a good cause, you will get a good result. And if you plant a bad cause, you will obtain a bad result. . . . You plant a certain cause, myriad conditions assemble, and a certain retribution or result is brought about." (EDR VI 215)

Cause and effect "is not a matter of belief or disbelief. If you believe in it, there is such a thing as cause and effect; if you do not believe in it, cause and effect operate just the same. For example, if you go punch someone, you will certainly get hit back. Your initial punch is the cause, and your being beaten in return is the effect . . . . " (SPV 128)

"The cause is the seed. What contributes to its growth are the conditions. Planting a seed in the ground is a cause. Conditions are the aiding factors which contribute to the growth--soil, water, sunlight, and other such things..." (SS II 112)

Causes and Effects Operate Over Many Lifetimes

From causes made in lives gone by comes your present life;
Results you'll get in lives to come arise from this life's deeds. (AS 30)

The Interwoven Net of Karmic Responses of Cause and Effect

"The Dharma Realm is not large; a mote of dust is not small. Why? All is one, and one is all. Yet there is something more wonderful, subtle, and difficult to believe than even this: the net-like interweaving of karmic responses and the wheel-like spinning of cause and effect.

"For example, the karmic influences between countries are interwoven; the causes and effects of their mutual debts and repayments compel them to ceaseless wars. It becomes difficult to stop the murders and massacres which increase endlessly until the final destruction of the countries and the annihilation of all races when everything is eradicated and brought to an end. There is a saying, 'Plant good causes, reap good results; plant bad causes, reap bad results.' How true it is!

"There is also this interweaving of karmic influences as well as the causes and effects of mutual debts and repayments between families. When there is kindness, there is harmony, but when enmity arises there is revenge. The participants do not understand and continue to rail at each other for life. Who awakens from this?

"A Sutra text says, 'Even though a hundred thousand kalpas pass, karma which is created does not perish. When causes and conditions come together, retribution will still be personally undergone.' In all our actions, how can we possibly not be cautious and attentive, 'as if standing on the edge of a deep abyss, as if treading on thin ice'!" (WM 41 rev.)

The Buddha gave this advice in The Buddha Speaks the Sutra of Cause and Effect in the Three Periods of Time:

Wealth and dignity come from one's destiny
From causes planted in lives in the past.
People who hold to this simple principle
Will reap good fortune in lives in the future.

Kind men and women, listen to the causes,
Hear and remember this Sutra's reminder
Of the causes and effects of karmic deeds
In the past, in the future, and in the present.
Cause and effect is no small care.
True are my words; don't take them lightly

Sometimes people have plentiful goods,
The reason, in fact, again is quite fair.
In the past these people gave food to the poor.

Others don't have food or drink.
Who can guess the reason why?
Before those people were plagued with a fault:
Stingy greed made them squeeze every penny.

Enjoying blessings and justly prosperous,
Are people who reap a fitting reward.
In times now past they helped build temples
And saw that the Sangha had huts and shelters.

Some have long lifespans; why are they lucky?
Liberating creatures, they ransomed lives.
Have you seen how many suffer short lifespans?
Their wanton slaughter of beings is why.

Most cows and horses were humans before--
People who didn't settle their debts.
Many former people are now pigs or dogs
Because they injured and cheated others.

In our myriad deeds, whatever we do,
We reap our own rewards, it's true.
Who can we blame for our woe in the hells?
Who can there be to blame but ourselves?

Don't say that cause and effect is unseen.
Look at you, your offspring, heirs, and grandchildren.
If you doubt the good of pure eating and giving,
Look around and find those enjoying fortune.
Having practiced of old, they now harvest abundance.
To cultivate now will bring blessings anew.

If you care to know of past lives' causes,
Look at rewards you are reaping today.
If you wish to find out about future lives,
You need but notice what you are doing right now.
(FHS I 24-32)

1) Ch. yin yuan , 2) Skt. hetu-pratyaya, 3) Pali hetu-paccaya , 4) Alternate Translations: causes and conditions, conditioned cause, causal conditions.

See also: Twelvefold Conditioned Arising, karma, rebirth.

BTTS References: DFS V 936-9; CL II 27 (=SPV Ch. 5); FHS I 22-32 (Buddha Speaks the Sutra on Cause and Effect); BRF 52; SPV 128-9; EDR II 123, 130-1 (Nagarjuna); WM 41, 47-49; SS VII; TT 33-35, 131 par 1; SM I 95; EDR VI 215; FAS Ch7 11; FAS Ch22--2nd Ground; SS II 47 (finger pointing at the moon), 112 (par 2); AS 30;

certification ÃÒ±o

According to Buddhist teachings, all those who realize enlightenment (see entry) must have their enlightenment certified by a truly enlightened master. The master looks directly into the mind of the person seeking certification to see that all traces of attachment to self have been eliminated. This practice insures the proper continuation of the authentic teachings of the Buddha. It also makes clear why lineages (see entry) of enlightened masters going back to the Buddha himself are central to living Buddhism.

Very often, particularly in the West, people think they are enlightened when they are not, or they simply do not understand what is meant by enlightenment. If someone thinks he or she is enlightened and is not, that precludes their making further progress toward enlightenment. They may also seriously mislead others. The requirement of certification keeps these people from damaging themselves and others because of their ignorance. Of course there are also those who deliberately mislead others for their own selfish ends.

1) Ch. zheng , zheng ming , zheng de ; 2) Skt. prapti saksat-krti, 3) Pali , 4) Alternate translations: verification.

See also: enlightenment, lineage, Chan School.

Changzhi (Chan Master) (fl. early 20th cent.) ±`´¼(ÁI®v)

"The Master, whose family name was Meng, was a native of Shuangcheng County ("Twin Cities") in Manchuria. Although he never received a formal education, he was loyal, generous, unassuming, and honest.

"The Master was a farmer, and he treated people kindly and handled affairs in a public and fair manner. He believed in taking a loss, and so when employed to work, he always did more work but took less pay than was usual. His was the spirit of renouncing oneself for the sake of others.

"While Great Master Changren (see entry) was observing the filial practice of living in a hut by one's parent's grave, the Master brought forth the resolve to protect his Dharma. During the first three years, he brought food to Master Changren every day, dauntless even in the wind and rain. During the final three years, Master Changren ate only uncooked rice flour, and Master Changzhi also provided him with that.

"When he was in his forties, the Master, inspired by Master Changren, decided to leave the home-life. His wife and children grasped his feet and wept bitterly, refusing to let him go. The Master said, 'If you do not let go of me now, by tomorrow you will be carrying me out in a coffin.' At that point, they had no other recourse but to release him.

"He then left the home-life under Elder Master Xiuyun. He specialized in cultivating the Pure Land practice of reciting the Buddha's name. Later, he entered seclusion in the house of Layman Ran Yanming. He understood his own mind and saw his own nature. When he came out of seclusion, his wisdom was bright and apparent. He had unimpeded eloquence, and learned discourses would spontaneously flow from his tongue. The educated people of his time were astonished by his wisdom, and all admitted they were not his equal. The Master departed while reciting the Buddha's name.

"A verse in praise of him says:

Loyal, kind, and unassuming,
he was endowed with a sincere nature.
With fervor he undertook charitable works,
and labored in the fields and gardens.

Earnestly he toiled, taking only half the normal salary.
Thrifty and sparing towards himself, he was generous towards
other people.

To help others to accomplishment was what he considered true happiness.

Supporting the filial person, he built a shack for him.
Resolutely, he left the home-life without any impediment.
He suddenly separated himself from wearisome defilements, love, and emotional desire."
(VBS #204, May, 1987, p. 7)

1) Ch. changzhi .

Changren (Chan Master) (fl. early 20th cent.) ±`¤¯(ÁI®v)

"The Venerable Changren was born near the end of the Qing dynasty in the city of Turin, Jilin province, China. His family name was Wang. Although he had no formal schooling, he was endowed with an understanding of the principles of filiality and practiced the filial act of bowing to his parents every morning and evening. Both his parents passed away when he was twenty-eight years old, and at that time he began a six year vigil beside their graves. During that period of time, he lived in a small grass hut and ate only uncooked rice or noodles. During the final three years of that time, he also practiced not speaking, remaining completely silent.

"The venerable Changren had intended to travel to the Thousand Mountain Range for further cultivation after observing his six year mourning period. But one day toward the end of that time, an old monk (who had been alive since the Ming dynasty) appeared at the door to his hut. In his mind the Venerable Changren asked the monk, 'Where had the Honorable One come from?'

"The monk answered aloud, 'I have come from Thousand Mountain Range especially for your sake. Your Dharma-affinities lie not with the Thousand Mountain Range but with those in Shuangcheng ('Twin Cities').' After communicating his message, he went out the door and disappeared.

"On the day that the Venerable Changren came out of mourning, people from forty-eight villages in the surrounding area gathered to celebrate. They formed an organization dedicated to protecting the Triple Jewel. It was this group that built Three Conditions Monastery as an everlasting Way-place. Women and children, as well as high public officials, received his teaching and took refuge with the Triple Jewel under him.

"In 1949, at Beijing's Nanhua Monastery, at the age of seventy-two, the Venerable One manifested the stillness. Some of the many miraculous events that occurred in response to his cultivation are described in detail in the book Water and Mirror Reflecting Heaven(Talmage, CA: Buddhist Text Translation Society, 1982).

"A verse in his praise says,

Especially endowed with natural genuineness,
He returned to the unvarnished truth.
Unable to read a single word,
He still on his own reached the myriad Dharmas.
With virtue most high and utmost filial piety,
He was able to be righteous and able to be humane.
He was just like the Big Dipper,
Which all the stars salute.

"Another verse says of him,

Very silent, of few words, he was slow to speak.
But when it came to practice, he let no chance slip by.
Sincere and earnest to the utmost, he was happy with simple fare.
His wholehearted filial reverence delighted his parents and elders.
For six years he practiced pure conduct in a hut by his parents' graves.
His reputation continues on, seeking those who know his sound.
His virtue is so weighty, beings are transformed by hearing of him.
Once having heard his Dharma, those with faith are ever-mindful of it.
(VBS #193 (June, 1986) v. 17, Series 39, pp. 12, 19)

1) Ch. changren .

BTTS References: RL I; VBS #193, June, 1986, 12, 19; VBS #201, p. 15; WM 14-41.

Chan School ÁI©v

The Dharma banner is raised;
The School's purport is established.
The Buddha very clearly directed that it was to be at Cao Creek.
With Kashyapa, the first, began the transmission of the lamp.
Twenty-eight generations were recorded in India.
The Dharma flowed east and entered this land (China).
Bodhidharma was the first Patriarch.
The robe was transmitted to the sixth generation,
as all the world has heard.
How could one count the people who since then have realized the Way? (SE 56-60)

Chan is an abbreviation of chan-na; the Chinese characters sounded slightly different in the past and were used to represent the sound of the Sanskrit word 'dhyana' (see dhyana). The general meaning of dhyana is meditation. In the Chan School the practice of meditation is foremost. The Japanese pronounce the character chan as 'Zen'.

"The Chan School is foremost among the Five Great Schools of Buddhism in that it transmits the Buddha's Mind Seal, pointing directly to the mind so that one sees one's nature and becomes a Buddha. When the Patriarch Bodhidharma came from India, he widely propagated its method. At that time the practitioners of Buddhism were still very enamored of the language of prajna (see listing), exerting their efforts in composition and phrasing, vying to outdo one another. Even in lecturing on the Sutras they argued over each other's strong and weak points, and in speaking Dharma they would praise themselves and deprecate others. Different schools were set up, and to do battle with words was the mode of the times. Some resorted to individualism, and in an attempt to be unique, they set up theories that were distinctly different from the mainstream, and they perfected the art of unobstructed and clever debate. People wrote books and set up doctrines, disparaging others while advertising themselves. In this way they forsook what was fundamental and pursued superficialities; the theories of teaching schools flourished widely.

"[The four main enlightened teachers in China just prior to the introduction of the Chan lineage were the Venerable Daosheng, Vinaya Master Daoxun, the Great Master Zhiyi, and the Venerable Daoyuan. Each taught meditation in the context of the teachings of his own school.] When the Venerable Daosheng (see Daosheng) was slandered, he retreated to Tiger Mountain and spoke Dharma to the rocks. From this came the saying that even 'insentient rocks nodded their heads in agreement.' The Vinaya Master Daoxun hid his tracks on Zhongnan Mountain, where he enjoyed the food-offerings of the gods. The Great Master Zhi Zhe ("Wise One") (see Zhi Zhe) proclaimed the Teachings, and the Master of Lu Mountain (Ven. Daoyuan) propagated the Pure Land method. Those to whom their teachings were transmitted held them in esteem, yet the scholars were confused by them. Everybody had a different opinion, and people were at a loss as to which way to follow. Standing perplexed at the crossroads, one didn't know which way to turn. Gazing out at the vast ocean of different teachings, one could only heave a big sigh.

"In light of such circumstances, the First Patriarch Bodhidharma made amends for such biased teachings and patched up the flaws. His compassionate instructions were apart from speech; his teachings were not imparted through words. He taught that this mind of ours is none other than the Buddha, that the precious pearl hidden within our robe is not something obtained from outside. One only needs to concentrate one's energy and refine one's mind to a single focus, then:

One day suddenly all connects right through, and then the myriad substances are reached everywhere, whether external or internal, fine or coarse. The great functioning of the entire substance of the enlightened mind is nowhere without clarity.

One becomes open to the vast and ultimate enlightenment, returns to the source and plumbs the origin. At this time one can appreciate the subtlety behind this interchange: the World Honored One held up a flower, Mahakashyapa, the Golden-Hued Ascetic, smiled: originally it was like this!

"This method is one in which the mind seals the mind, a transmission outside of the teachings. One takes one's own nature across. And after one has made one's way across the river (of afflictions), one leaves the raft (of Dharma) behind. How can there be anything else but this?" (WM 70-71)

"As to the Dharma of our sect, when the Buddha ascended to his seat for the last time, he held up and showed to the assembly a golden flower of sandalwood, offered to him by the king of the eighteen Brahmalokas (Mahabrahma Devaraja). All men and gods (devas) who were present did not understand the Buddha's (meaning). Only Mahakashyapa (acknowledged it with a) broad smile. Thereupon the World Honored One declared to him: 'I have the treasure of the correct Dharma eye, Nirvana's wonderful mind and the formless Reality which I now transmit to you.' This was the transmission outside the teaching, which did not make use of scriptures and was the unsurpassed Dharma door of direct realization.

"Those who came afterwards got confused about it and (wrongly) called it Chan (Dhyana in Sanskrit and Zen in Japanese). We should know that over twenty kinds of Chan are enumerated in the Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra, but none of them is the final one.

The Chan of our sect does not set up (progressive) stages and is, therefore, the unsurpassed one. (Its aim) is the direct realization leading to the perception of the (self-)nature and attainment of Buddhahood. Therefore, it has nothing to do with the sitting or not sitting in meditation during a Chan week. However, on account of living beings' dull roots and due to their numerous false thoughts, ancient masters devised expediencies to guide them. Since the time of Mahakashyapa up to now, there have been sixty to seventy generations. In the Tang and Song dynasties (619-1278), the Chan sect spread to every part of the country, and how it prospered at the time! At present it has reached the bottom of its decadence (and) only those monasteries like Jinshan, Gaomin and Baoguan can still manage to present some appearance. This is why men of outstanding ability are now so rarely found and even the holding of Chan weeks has only a name but lacks its spirit." (Luk, tr. "Master Hsu Yun's Discourses and Dharma Words," Ch'an and Zen Teachings, Series One, 49-50)

"One sits (in meditation) to cultivate the Dharma of Chan inquiry in order not to have any thoughts. . . . That which is called the Buddha is not even a single thought arising. But can you go without having a single thought arise? As you sit there, you think of all sorts of things you don't ordinarily think of, and a lot of long-forgotten circumstances that suddenly pop up again in your mind. . . . Is that not having a single thought arise? Of course not. How do you do it? There is no way. There is no way to keep a single thought from arising--but you can keep a single thought from being destroyed. And if you prevent its destruction, you'll keep it from arising. . . . For example, in the one thought, 'Who is mindful of the Buddha?', you can keep the 'Who?' going non-stop. 'Who?' This is searching for the 'Who', not reciting 'Who?'. As long as you keep searching, that single thought isn't destroyed, and therefore it won't arise. A single thought not arising is the Buddha.

"That's the doctrine of the Chan School. If you can be such that not a single thought is produced or destroyed, then the light of your wisdom will appear." (LY II 15)

1) Ch. chan zong .

See also lineage, Five Types of Buddhist Study and Practice--Meditation, meditation, Mahakashyapa, Bodhidharma.

BTTS References: LY II 14-17; WM 70-73; SE 65-70.

Qingliang Chengguan (National Master) (738-840)


"National Master Qingliang of the Tang dynasty in China was a transformation body of Flower Adornment Bodhisattva. He is called a transformation body because he specialized in lecturing on the Flower Adornment Sutra and didn't explain other sutras. National Master Qingliang was named Chengguan and his style name was Daxiu. His surname (lay name) was Xiahou. As a layman he associated with scholars. Born during Emperor Xuanzong's reign, during the fifth year of the Kaiyuan period, he was nine feet four inches tall (in the ancient measurements of China), his hands hung down below his knees, and he also had forty teeth. Most of us have thirty-two teeth; the Buddha had forty-two teeth. People with forty teeth are exceptional, and there are very few of them. National Master Qingliang had forty teeth, and eyes which seemed like everyone else's in the daytime, but if you looked at them during the night, you would see that they glowed. What is more, they didn't move; his eyes were fixed, at night they glowed. That was National Master Qingliang.

National Master Qingliang Chenguan,
Fourth Patriarch of the Huayan School

"During the fourth year of the Qianzhong period (783), he wrote the Flower Adornment Sutra Commentary and Sub-commentary, which is the most famous discussion of the Flower Adornment Sutra in China. Before he wrote it, he sought the aid of Flower Adornment Bodhisattva. One night he had a dream. He dreamt that all the mountain peaks turned to gold. After he awoke from this dream, he knew that the golden mountain peaks represented light which illumines everywhere, whereupon he wrote his commentary on the Flower Adornment Sutra, writing continuously without a break. When most people write articles, they think and then write, think again, and then write some more. But National Master Qingliang wrote continuously because he didn't need to stop and think. He wrote without thinking and completed his commentary in four years. Afterwards, he had another dream, although it is not certain that it was a dream, and so perhaps we should call it an experience; you may say it was a dream or call it an experience. We don't know if it was a dream, but if it wasn't a dream, what was it? It was as if real, and also like a dream. He dreamt that he became a dragon, and then the dragon transformed itself into boundless and measureless tens of millions of dragons, and finally all of them flew off to all the other worlds. He experienced the Flower Adornment Sutra in this way, a manifestation of the Six Spiritual Powers.

"National Master Qingliang lived through the reigns of nine emperors and was the teacher of seven. He personally knew nine emperors, of whom seven asked him to be their teacher.

"After he perfected the stillness, he was buried. Later, an elder monk on his way to China from India, met two darkly clad youths on the road. This elder monk was an Arhat, and so he recognized these two young Bodhisattvas and said to them, 'Where are you going?'

"The two youths replied, ' We are going to China to request the molars of Flower Adornment Bodhisattva to take back to India and make offerings to them.' When this Arhat got back to China, he told the emperor about the two darkly clad youths who had come seeking the molars of Flower Adornment Bodhisattva. Thereupon, the emperor had National Master Qingliang's grave opened and found that some of his teeth were missing. These experiences are wonderful and inexpressible. Flower Adornment Bodhisattva had come to China as National Master Qingliang and had these particular characteristics." (UW xx-xxi)

1) Ch. Qingliang chengguan .

BTTS References: UW xx-xxi, xxiii; FAS-VP 15-18; FAS-PI 221-230; VBS #35, p. 1).

City of Ten Thousand Buddhas ¸U¦ò«°

See Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.

compassion ·O´d

Three Kinds of Compassion

"1. An Attitude of Loving Compassion. Average persons love and sympathize with those close to them, but not with strangers. Seeing relatives or friends in distress, they exhaust their strength to help them, but when strangers are suffering, they pay no heed to them. Having compassion for those you love is called an attitude of loving compassion.

"There is as well an attitude of loving compassion that extends to those of the same species, but not to those of other species. For example, not only do people have no compassion for animals such as cattle, pigs, chicken, geese, or ducks, but they even go so far as to eat animals' flesh. They snatch away animals' lives in order to nourish their own. This is not a true attitude of loving compassion. Fortunately, people rarely eat each other. They may eat pork, mutton, beef, chicken, duck, and fish, but they don't catch, kill, and eat each other, and so they are a bit better off than animals that turn on members of their own species for food. People may not eat each other, but they certainly have no true attitude of loving compassion towards animals.

"2. Compassion Which Comes From Understanding Conditioned Dharmas. Those of the Small Vehicle have compassion which comes from understanding conditioned dharmas as well as the attitude of loving compassion discussed above. They contemplate all dharmas as arising from causes and conditions, and they know that:

Causes and conditions have no nature;
Their very substance is emptiness.

Contemplating the emptiness of conditioned dharmas, they compassionately teach and transform living beings without being attached to the teaching and transforming. They know that everything is empty.

"3. The Great Compassion Which Comes from Understanding the Identical Substance of All Beings. Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have yet another kind of compassion. The Buddha's Dharma-body pervades all places, and so the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are of one substance with all beings; the Buddha's heart and nature are all pervasive, and all beings are contained within it. We are living beings within the Buddha's heart, and he is the Buddha within our hearts. Our hearts and the Buddha's are the same, everywhere throughout the ten directions--north, east, south, west, the intermediary directions, above, and below. Therefore, the Buddha and living beings are of the same substance, without distinction. This is called the Great Compassion."
(AS 7-8)

1) Ch. ci bei , 2) Skt. maitri, karuna, 3) Pali metta, karuna, 4) Alternate translations: kindness, friendliness, benevolence,loving-kindness, love, sympathy.

See also: love, Four Unlimited Aspects of Mind.

BTTS References: AS 7-8.

Consciousness-Only School °ßÃÑ©v

The starting point of the Consciousness-Only School is that everything is created from the mind as is "consciousness-only". Everything, from birth and death to the cause of attaining Nirvana, is based upon the coming into being and the ceasing to be of consciousness, that is, of distinctions in the mind. Consciousness-Only doctrine is characterized by its extensive and sophisticated inquiry into the characteristics of dharmas. For if we can distinguish what is real from what is unreal, if we can distinguish what is distinction-making consciousness and not mistake it for the originally clear, pure, bright enlightened mind, then we can quickly leave the former and dwell in the latter. Chan Master Hanshan (AD 1546-1623) has said, "When Consciousness-Only was made known to them (i.e., those of the Hinayana vehicles), they knew that [all dharmas] had no existence independent from their own minds. If one does not see the mind with the mind, then no characteristic can be got at. Therefore, in developing the spiritual skill necessary for meditative inquiry, people are taught to look into what is apart from heart, mind, and consciousness and to seek for what is apart from the states of unreal (polluted) thinking."

The founder of the Consciousness-Only School was the Bodhisattva Maitreya, who transmitted its teaching to the Venerable Asanga. The school was spread in China primarily because of the efforts of Tripitaka Master Xuanzang.

1) Ch. wei shi zong , 2) Skt. vijnanavada (yogacara), 3) Pali ----, 4) Alternate translations: mere consciousness, ideation only.

See also: Maitreya, Asanga, Vasubandhu, Xuanzang, One Hundred Dharmas.

BTTS References: HD; FAS-PII(2) 79-89; "The Transformation of Consciousness into Wisdom: the Path of the Bodhisattva according to the Cheng Weishi Lun, VBS #176, 177, 178 (Jan.-Mar. 1985);


The Buddha proclaimed that on the highest level of understanding the entire cosmos is pure Mind. On the ordinary level of understanding he painted a picture of a cosmos filled with countless world-systems (see entry) with countless planets filled with living beings of every sort. Our particular world-system is neither unique nor central in any way. Other world systems also have their Buddhas, who also teach the path to enlightenment.

The Flower Adornment Sutra describes the universe as consisting of an infinitely large lotus-flower in which our world occupies the thirteenth tier. The lotus is suspended on various oceans of primal mind-energy forces called Great Elements.

Our World System: the Saha World

Our particular world-system, as is the case with all world systems, can be described in both 'horizontal' and 'vertical' directions. The 'horizontal' refers to its layout in space, while the 'vertical' dimension refers to the levels of consciousness of the various types of beings who inhabit it.

The center of our world is Mount Sumeru, which is surrounded by four great 'continents'. Earth is located in the southern continent, named Jambudvipa. The continents are surrounded by seas and rings of iron mountains.

diagram of the Saha world ('horizontal')

Within the Saha world are Six Paths of Rebirth (see entry), that is, six different types of living beings, each with its own distinctive kind of karma. The Beings are generally categorized according to which of the Three Worlds (see entry) they abide in. The Three Worlds are the world of desire, the world of form, and the formless world. The characteristics of some of these beings are described in the entries for gods, ghosts, asura, Six Desire Heavens, Four Dhyanas, Four Formless Realms.

See also: three Worlds, Six Paths of Rebirth, world-system, gods, ghosts, asura, Six Desire Heavens, Four Dhyanas, Four Formless Realms, creation, time.

BTTS References: FAS Ch5; SPV 53-60, 139-143.

diagram of the Saha world ('vertical')

creation (world and humans) ¥Í

There is no creator and there are no creations.
It is only from karma and thoughts that things come to be.
How can we know it is like this?
Because other than this there isn't anything at all.
(FAS--Oct. 5-6, 1975)

The Creation of the World

The Buddha taught that there is no creator god, and he never indicated that there was any beginning to the universe. Individual world-systems do go through cycles of coming into being, developing, decaying and disappearing; however, the cycles are the direct result of the complex net of karmic causes planted by the living beings within the world systems.

Fundamentally, the entire conditioned world as such--seen as an endless series of transformations of matter-energy-mind taking place through time--is unreal. To talk about the coming into being of something that has no reality makes little sense. Therefore, the Buddha was not concerned with the question of whether the illusions of living beings had a beginning, since the whole question of 'beginning' belongs to the realm of illusion. He taught that the primary issue is the permanent ending of those illusions, so that they no longer arise.

In the Shurangama Sutra, when talking with his disciple Ananda about the nature of seeing, the Buddha uses the analogy of a person afflicted with glaucoma to elucidate the true nature of our experience of the world:

What is meant by the false seeing based on individual karma? Ananda,it is just as a person in the world with glaucoma of the eye. At night he alone sees around a lamp a circular image composed of the five colors and their various combinations. What do you think? Are the colors in the circle of light that appears around the lamp at night an aspect of the lamplight, or are the colors an aspect of the seeing? Ananda, if the colors were an aspect of the lamplight, then why wouldn't they also be seen by someone without glaucoma? Why is it only the one with glaucoma who sees the circular image? If the colors were an aspect of the seeing, the seeing would already have created the colors; then how would we account for the fact that only the person with glaucoma sees a circular image? Further, Ananda, if the circular image existed separately from the lamp, then when the person looked around him at a folding screen, a curtain, a table, or a mat, there would be circular images around them too. If the image existed separately from the seeing, it would not be seen by the eyes. How then would the person with glaucoma see the circular image with his eyes? Therefore, you should know that the colors are actually in the lamplight, while the diseased seeing makes an image out of them. The image and the seeing of it are both due to the glaucoma, What sees the glaucoma is not diseased. Thus you should certainly not say that the colors are an aspect only of the lamplight or that they are an aspect only of the seeing, nor yet that they are not an aspect only of the lamplight or that they are not an aspect only not of the seeing. It is like the second moon, which is not a substance, and yet which is not an image. Why? The observation of the second moon is brought about by pressure.

A wise person would not say that what is derived from pressure on the eyes is the moon or is not the moon, nor that it is apart from the seeing or apart from the no seeing. The same is true of the image. It is brought about by the glaucoma of the eye. Can you say now that it is an aspect only of the lamplight or an aspect only of the seeing? You cannot. Even less can you distinguish it as neither an aspect of the lamplight nor an aspect of the seeing... Ananda, when the living being whose false seeing is based on individual karma sees the circular image appearing around the lamp, it seems to be an external object, but in fact what is seen is brought about by the glaucoma in the eyes. The glaucoma exerts a stress on the seeing. It is not created from the colors. But what sees the glaucoma is not defective. For example, you now make use of your eyes to look at mountains, rivers, countries, and all living beings: all are brought about, since time without beginning, by the disease in your seeing. (SS, BTTS draft tr.)

The Creation of Humans

According to the Buddha, human beings were not created by a creator god, nor are they the result of a long process of evolution, as suggested by Darwinian and Neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory. According to the Buddha's teaching, there have always been people, though not necessarily on this planet. The appearance of physical human bodies in any particular location begins with the mental generation of "human karma". Mind, not physical body, is primary in that process. Human beings are not independent of the other forms of sentient life in the universe and can be reborn in others of the Six Paths of Rebirth (see entry). Likewise, other sentient beings can be reborn as human beings. What is ultimately real about all living beings is their Buddha-nature (see entry), and that cannot be created or destroyed.

"At the very beginning, before heaven and earth came into being, there weren't any people. There was no earth, no living beings, nor anything called a world. Basically none of those things existed at all. And then, at the outset of the kalpa when things were coming into being, people gradually came to exist. Ultimately, where do they come from? Some say that people evolved from monkeys. But what do the monkeys evolve from? If people evolved from monkeys, then why are there no people evolving from monkeys right now? This is really strange. People who propagate this kind of theory basically don't have any understanding. They are just trying to set up some special theory. And so there is the theory of evolution which says that people came from monkeys. Why couldn't it be the case that people evolved from mice? Or caterpillars? Why couldn't we say the mice evolved from people or that caterpillars evolved from people? In general, there can be said to be four kinds of beings--flying, swimming, walking, and plants. Those with blood and breath are called animals, and plants refers to all kinds of grasses, trees, and flowers. Where do all those four kinds of beings come from? What is their origin? Their origin is the Buddha-nature. If there was no Buddhanature, everything would be annihilated. The Buddhanature is the only thing that passes through ten thousand generations and all time without being destroyed. From the Buddha-nature come Bodhisattvas, Sound-Hearers, Those Enlightened to Conditions, gods, asuras, people, animals, ghosts, and hell-beings. Those are the beings of the Ten Dharma Realms, and the Ten Dharma Realms are not apart from a single thought of the mind. This single thought of the mind is just the seed of the Buddha-nature. One true thought is just another name for the Buddha-nature." (TT 149)

"Genesis of the World"

There comes a time . . . when sooner or later this world begins to re-evolve. When this happens, beings who had deceased from the World of Radiance, usually come to life as humans. And they become made of mind, feeding on rapture, self-luminous, traversing the air, continuing in glory, and remain thus for a long, long period of time.

Now at that time, all had become one world of water, dark, and of darkness that maketh blind. No moon nor sun appeared, no stars were seen, nor constellations, neither was night manifest nor day, neither months nor half-months, neither years nor season, neither female nor male. Beings were reckoned just as beings only. And to those beings . . . sooner or later after a long time, earth with its savour was spread out in the waters. Even as a scum forms on the surface of boiled milky rice that is cooling, so did the earth appear. It became endowed with colour, with odor, and with taste. Even as well made ghee or pure butter, so was its colour; even as the flawless honey of the bee, so sweet was it.

Then . . . some being of greedy disposition said: Lo now! what will this be? and tasted the savoury earth with his finger. He thus, tasting, became suffused with the savour, and craving entered into him. And other beings, following his example, tasted the savour earth with their finger. They thus, tasting, became suffused with the savour, a craving entered into them. Then those beings began to feast on the savoury earth, breaking off lumps of it with their hands. And from the doing thereof the self-luminance of those beings faded away. As their self-luminance faded away, the moon and the sun became manifest, months too and half-months, the seasons and the years. Thus far then . . . did the world evolve again.

Now those beings . . . , feasting on the savory earth, feeding on it, nourished by it, continued thus for a long while. And in measure as they thus fed, did their bodies become solid, and did variety in their comeliness become manifest . . . (Dialogues of the Buddha III, 82-83; cf. Mahavastu I, 285).

The World as Created From Mind

Take the analogy of an artist, who distinguishes in his laying out of all sorts of colored shapes
And falsely grasps at differences in their appearance,
While in the great seed there is no discrimination.

In the great seed there are no colored shapes,
And in the colored shapes there is no great seed.
Yet the colored shapes which can be gotten at
Are not apart from the great seed.

In the mind there are no colored paintings,
And in a colored painting there is no mind.
So it is that the colored painting which can be gotten at
Is not apart from the mind.

That mind which is constantly without abode
Is infinite and difficult to conceive of.
It reveals all the colored shapes,
Each lacking knowledge of the others.

Just as an artist, who is unable to know his own mind,
Paints because of what comes from the mind,
So too is the nature of all dharmas.

The mind is like an artist
Who is able to paint the entire world.
The five skandhas are wholly produced from it,
And there is no dharma which it does not create.

As is the mind, so too is the Buddha;
As is the Buddha, thus also are living beings.
One should know that the substance and nature of the Buddha
and the mind are both endless.

If a person knows that the activity of the mind creates all
worlds everywhere,
That person sees the Buddha and comprehends his real nature.

His mind does not dwell in his body,
And his body does not dwell in his mind.
Yet he is able to do the Buddha's work
With a freedom and ease never known before.

If a person wishes to understand
All Buddhas of the three periods of time,
He should contemplate the nature of the Dharma-realm
As created entirely from the mind alone.
(HYSC 30:54-70)

Generation of the Mental and Physical Worlds

From the Three Fine and Six Coarse Characteristics

The Buddha said, 'Purnamaitrayaniputra, you have asked why the mountains, the rivers, and the great earth suddenly come into being within what is pure and fundamental. Have you not often heard the Thus Come One say that the enlightenment of the nature and beginning enlightenment are both wonderful understanding? . . . The enlightenment that is our nature is definitely understanding; it is wrong to consider realizing enlightenment a gaining of understanding. Enlightenment is not something understood.

When an understanding is posited, it must have an object. Where there is already an object wrongly posited, a false subject comes into being. Where there is not any sameness or differentiation, what is differentiated blazes forth. What differs from what is differentiated becomes sameness, because of the difference. Once sameness and differentiation appear, then what is neither the same nor differentiated is therefore also established. Thus from the turmoil of this interaction, stress comes into being, and the stress, when prolonged,produces defilement. Internal turbidity follows, and because of it there arises the defiling stress of afflictions.

What arises is the world; what is still is empty space. Empty space is what is the same, and the world is what is differentiated. What is undifferentiated nor differentiated is simply all other conditioned dharmas.

When there is understanding of enlightenment, then emptiness is obscured, and they interact to produce movement. Thus there are mandalas of wind which support the world. Once movement has arisen in emptiness, the light created by the understanding of enlightenment becomes metal which is the precious essence of earth. Thus there are mandalas of metal that support the land. Once there is metal, which is the solidifying of the understanding within enlightenment, and wind, which is the movement within the understanding, then friction takes place between mind and metal. Thus there is the light of fire, which by nature is mutable. The brightness of metal produces a moisture, which turns to vapor under the heat of fire. Thus there are mandalas of water which contain the worlds of the ten directions. Fire ascends; water descends. Their interaction forms a solidity. What is moist becomes the oceans; what is dry becomes the continents and islands. . . . The varying combinations of the false interactions become seeds that are the causes and conditions for the continuation of the world. (SS, BTTS rev. tr.)





apprehension of the 'enlightened' mind as MARK OF COMING 'understanding' ('bright and knowing'); INTO BEING

(a distinction leading to the unknowing

mind in darkness) THREE FINE


illusory subject illusory object


'neither identity nor 'beyond identity and

non identity' diversity'

diversity identity

objective form

clinging to names

karmic activity



(activity) INTO BEING






WISDOM (subtle delusions

of the 7th consc.)



(coarse delusions COARSE

MARK OF CLINGING TO of the 6th consc.) MARKS

NAMES (labelling)


sion and suffering)

1) Ch. sheng, sheng zao , 2) Skt. , 3) Pali .

See also: cosmology, causation, time, God, gods.

BTTS References: TD; TT 51-53, 149-151; FAS Ch24 116-120; SS IV 13 ff; Nirvana Sutra lecture, 8-18-85; VBS #95, 25-28.

cultivation ­×¦æ

'Cultivation' refers to putting the Buddha's teachings into practice on a continued and regular basis. The word itself brings to mind the agricultural metaphor.

You should think of yourself as being like sprouting crops, and of the good and wise advisor as a dragon king. You should think of the Dharma he speaks as seasonal rain, and you should think of cultivation as the process of ripening. (EDR VII 152-153)

Cultivation refers to the nourishing of the seeds of Bodhi by the continual practice of whatever teachings of the Buddha one has been advised to follow.

"What does it mean to cultivate? Here it refers to cultivating precepts, samadhi, and wisdom and wholesome merit and virtue. To walk the other path means to do evil deeds, to involve oneself in greed, hatred, and stupidity." (TT 43)

Cultivation is like climbing a hundred foot pole.
It's easy to slide down, but hard to climb up.
(EDR VII 152)

Although not Buddhist in origin, the following story from the Mencius provides us with a wonderful image of what cultivation means:

The Man of Song

Among the men of Song there was someone who was sorry that his plants did not grow and pulled them higher. Having returned in a dull hurry, he said to his household, 'Today I am really tired! I have helped the plants grow!' His son went running to see them. The plants had withered.

In the world those who do not help the plants grow are few indeed! Those who neglect the plants, considering helping them to be of no use, are those who do not weed the plants. Those who help them grow are those who pull the plants higher. Their help is not merely not beneficial, it is positively harmful! (Mencius, Bk II, Pt. I, Ch. 11)

1) Ch. xiu xing , 2) Skt. carya, bhavana, 3) Pali bhavana, 4) Alternate Translations: practice, self-cultivation.

See also: meditation, Eightfold Path.

BTTS References: EDR VII 152-153; FAS Ch15 30ff; FAS Ch 5-6 89-90; TT 43.

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