See emptiness, Nagarjuna.


A Sanskrit word meaning 'great.'


1) ch. mwo he , 2) Skt. maha, 3) Pali maha.

Mahakashyapa (Venerable)

The eldest of the Buddha's great disciples, who was foremost in ascetic practices, and first patriarch of the Meditation (Chan) School.

"Maha means great, many and victorious. The Sanskrit word

kasyapa means 'great turtle clan', because Mahakasyapa's ancestors saw the pattern on the back of a giant turtle and used it to cultivate the Way. Kasyapa also means 'light drinking clan', because his body shone with light which was so bright it seemed to drink up all other light.

"Why did his body shine? Seven Buddhas ago, in the time of the Buddha Vipasyin, there was a poor woman who decided to repair a ruined temple. The roof of the temple had been blown off and the images inside were exposed to the wind and rain. The woman went everywhere and asked for help, and when she had collected enough money she commissioned a goldsmith to regild the images. By the time he was finished, the goldsmith fell in love with her and said, 'You have attained great merit from this work, but we should share it. You may supply the gold and I will furnish the labor, free.' And so the temple was rebuilt and the images regilded. The goldsmith asked the woman to marry him, and in every life for ninety-one kalpas, they were husband and wife and their bodies shone with purple and golden light.

"Mahakashyapa was born in Magadha in India. When he was twenty, his father and mother wanted him to marry, but he said, 'The woman I marry must shine with golden light. Unless you find such a woman, I won't marry.' Eventually they found one, and they were married. As a result of their good karma their bodies shone with golden light, and they cultivated together and investigated the doctrines of the Way. When Mahakashyapa left home to become a Bhikshu, his wife became a Bhikshuni called Purple and Golden Light.

"Mahakashyapa's personal name was Pippala, because his parents prayed to the spirit of a pippala tree to grant them a son.

"As the first patriarch, Mahakashyapa holds an important position in Buddhism. When Shakyamuni Buddha spoke the Dharma, the Great Brahma Heaven King presented him with a golden lotus and Shakyamuni Buddha held up the flower before the assembly. At that time hundreds of thousands of gods and men were present, but no one -----------------------------------------------------------------

-----------------------------------------------------------------The First Patriarch, the Venerable Mahakashyapa

responded except Mahakashyapa, who simply smiled. The Buddha said, 'I have the Right Dharma-Eye Treasury, the wondrous mind of Nirvana, the reality beyond appearance. The Dharma-door of mind to mind transmission has been entrusted to Kashyapa.' Thus Mahakashyapa received the transmission of Dharma and became the first Buddhist patriarch.

"The Venerable Mahakashyapa is still present in the world. When he left home under the Buddha, he was already one hundred sixty years old. At the time Shakyamuni Buddha had spoken Dharma for forty-nine years in over three hundred Dharma assemblies, Kashyapa was already over two hundred years old. After Shakyamuni Buddha entered Nirvana, Kashyapa went to Southwestern China, to Chicken Foot Mountain in Yunnan Province. It has been over three thousand years since the Buddha's nirvana, but Mahakashyapa is still sitting in samadhi in Chicken Foot Mountain waiting for Maitreya Buddha to appear in the world. At that time he will give Maitreya the bowl which the Four Heavenly Kings gave Shakyamuni Buddha and which Shakyamuni Buddha gave him, and his work in the world will be finished.

"When cultivators travel to Chicken Foot Mountain to worship the Patriarch Kashyapa, on the mountain there are always three kinds of light: Buddha-light, golden light, and silver light. Those with sincere hearts can hear a big bell ringing inside the mountain. It rings by itself, and although you can't see it, you can hear it for several hundred miles. It is an inconceivable experience." (AS 75-76)

In the Shurangama Sutra, Mahakashyapa explained the method he used to become enlightened:

I contemplated that the world's six sense-objects change and decay; they are but empty stillness. Based on this, I cultivated cessation. Now my body and mind can pass through hundreds of thousands of kalpas as though they were a finger-snap.

Based on the emptiness of dharmas, I became an Arhat. The World-Honored one says that I am foremost in dhuta practices. Wonderful Dharma brought me awakening and understanding, and I extinguished all outflows. The Buddha asks about perfect penetration. As I have been certified to it, dharmas are the superior means. (SS V 42-43)

Also in the Shurangama Sutra, the Buddha commented on Mahakashyapa's enlightened mind:

There is also Mahakashyapa in this assembly, dwelling in the samadhi of extinction, having obtained the stillness of a Sound-Hearer. He has long since extinguished the mind-organ, and yet he has a perfectly clear knowledge which is not due to the mental process of thinking. (SS IV 198)

In the Dharma Flower Sutra the Buddha bestowed upon Mahakashyapa the prediction of future Buddhahood:

My disciple, Mahakashyapa, in a future age will serve and behold three hundred billion Buddhas, World-Honored Ones, making offerings, paying reverence, venerating and praising them; he will broadly proclaim the limitless Great Dharma of all the Buddhas.

In his final body he will become a Buddha by the name of Light Brightness Thus Come One, One Worthy of Offerings, One of Proper and Universal Knowledge, One Perfect in Clarity and Practice, Well Gone One, Unsurpassed One Who Understands the World, Hero Who Subdues and Tames, Teacher of Gods and Humans, Buddha, World-Honored One.

His country will be called Light Virtue and his aeon will be called Great Adornment.

His lifespan as a Buddha will last for twelve minor aeons.

The proper Dharma will dwell there for twenty minor aeons. The Dharma Resemblance Age will also dwell there for twenty minor aeons.

His realm will be adorned and free of any filth or evil, tiles or stones, thorns or brambles, excrement or other impurities. The land will be flat, without high or low places, gullies or hills. The land will be made of lapis lazuli, and set about with rows of jewelled trees. The roads will be bordered with golden ropes. Precious flowers will be scattered about, purifying it entirely. The Bodhisattvas in that land will number in the limitless thousands of millions, the assembly of Sound-hearers will likewise be uncountable. No deeds of Mara will be done there, and although Mara and his subjects will exist there, they will all protect the Buddhadharma. (DFS VI 1104-1109)

In the Mahaparinirvana-sutra the Buddha stated:

Kashyapa will be a great source of reliance for you. Just as the Thus Come One is the place of reliance for living beings, so too will Mahakashyapa be the place of reliance for you. It is the way when a great king who rules many territories goes on a tour of inspection, he entrusts all affairs of state to a great minister. The Thus Come One, in the same way, has completely entrusted all his proper Dharma to Mahakashyapa. (NS, Ch 3)


1) Ch. mo he jya she ; 2) Skt. mahakasyapa; 3) Pali mahakassapa.

See also: Chan School.

BTTS References: AS 75-80; DFS V 869-872; DFS VI 1105-1116; EDR I 220; SS IV 198, 202; SS V 39-43; VBS #165, Jan. 1984, p. 1.

Mahamaudgalyayana (Venerable)

One of the great enlightened disciples of the Buddha, Mahamaudgalyayana was foremost among the Arhats in spiritual powers. He was and had been for many lifetimes a close friend of the Venerable Shariputra.

"Maudgalyayana is Sanskrit and means 'descendant of a family of bean gatherers.' His name also means 'turnip root', because his ancestors ate turnips when they cultivated the Way. He is also called Kolita after the tree where his father and mother prayed to a tree-spirit for a son.

"This Venerable One was the foremost in spiritual penetrations (see Six Spiritual Powers). . . .

"When Mahamaudgalyayana first obtained these penetrations, he looked for . . . his mother. Where was she? His mother was in the hells. Why? Because she had not believed in the Three Jewels: the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha; and what is more, she had slandered them. She had also eaten fish eggs and flesh, and thereby had killed many beings.

"Seeing her in the hells, Maudgalyayana sent her a bowl of food. She took it in one hand and hid it with the other because she was afraid the other hungry ghosts would see it and try to steal it from her. Being greedy herself, she knew that other hungry ghosts were greedy too, and so she covered it over stealthily.

"Although it was good food, her heavy karmic obstacles prevented her from eating it. When the food reached her mouth it turned to flaming coals which burned her lips. Maudgalyayana's spiritual powers could not prevent the food from turning into fire, so he asked the Buddha to help him.

"The Buddha told him to save his mother by arranging an Ullambana offering. Ullambana means 'releasing those who are hanging upside down.' The Buddha told Maudgalyayana that, on the fifteenth of the seventh lunar month, the day of the Buddha's delight and the monks' pravarana [the last day of the monks' rainy season retreat], he should offer all varieties of food and drink to the Sangha of the ten directions. In this way he could rescue his mother so she could leave suffering and obtain bliss.

"Maudgalyayana followed those instructions, and his mother was reborn in the heavens. Not only was his mother saved, but all the hungry ghosts in the hells simultaneously left suffering and obtained bliss." (AS 73-75)

In the Dharma Flower Sutra the Buddha bestows the prediction of future Buddhahood upon Mahamaudgalyayana:

I now tell you that Mahamaudgalyayana will in the future, with various articles, make offerings to eight thousand Buddhas, honoring and venerating them. After the cessation of those Buddhas, he will erect for each of them a stupa one thousand yojanas in height and five hundred yojanas in breadth, and made of the seven jewels--gold, silver, lapis lazuli, mother of pearl, carnelian, pearls, and agate. He will make offerings to it of many flowers, beaded necklaces, paste incense, silk canopies and banners. After that, he will further make offerings to two hundred myriads of millions of Buddhas in the same manner.

"He will then become a Buddha called Tamalapatracandana Fragrance Thus Come One, one worthy of offerings, of proper and universal knowledge, one whose understanding and conduct are complete, a well-gone one who understands the world, an unsurpassed lord, a taming and regulating hero, teacher of gods and humans, Buddha, World-Honored One.

"His aeon will be called Full of Joy. His country will be called Delighted Mind. His land will be flat and even with crystal for soil, and jewelled trees for adornments. Real pearl flowers will be scattered about, purifying it entirely, so that those who see it rejoice. There will be many gods, humans, Bodhisattvas and Sound Hearers, limitless and uncountable in number.

"His lifespan as a Buddha will last for twenty-four minor aeons.

"The Proper Dharma will dwell there for forty minor aeons. The Dharma Resemblance Age will dwell also for forty minor aeons." (DFS VI 1146-1154)


1) Ch. mwo he mu jyan lyan , 2) Skt. mahamaudgalyayana, 3) Pali mahamoggallana.

See also: karma--"No One Can Escape His/Her Karma", Shariputra (Venerable), world-systems?

BTTS References: DFS V 872; DFS VI 1146-1162; EDR I 220; SS V 86-89; SS VII 86-87; AS 73-75; SPV.


See Nirvana Sutra.


A Sanskrit word meaning 'great being.'' It is the title of a great Bodhisattva.


1) Ch. mwo he sa , 2) Skt. mahasattva, 3) Pali mahasatta.

See also: Bodhisattva.

Mahayana Buddhism

See Mahayana and Hinayana Compared.

Mahayana and Hinayana Compared

"Mahayana" means "great vehicle"; "Hinayana" means "small vehicle" or "lesser vehicle".

The modern representatives of the Hinayana belong to the Theravada School of Buddhism, which is found in Sri Lanka and most of Southeast Asia. Because Hinayana is a pejorative term, it is sometimes referred to as Southern Buddhism, while Mahayana is called Northern Buddhism because it came to be found in China, Korea, Japan, and Tibet.

Mahayana and Hinayana began not as separate schools but as alternative goals which were a matter of personal choice. The adherents of each lived and practiced together. Over the centuries they developed into different schools and eventually spread into different geographic areas.

What then are the different goals? The goal of the Hinayana is that of ending attachment to self and, thereby, becoming an Arhat, who undergoes no further rebirth. The Mahayana teaches that Arhatship is not an ultimate goal; its adherents follow the Path of the Bodhisattva, which leads to Buddhahood. The Bodhisattva is reborn voluntarily in order to aid all living beings to become enlightened. The realization of Buddhahood includes not only realization of the emptiness of self but also of the emptiness of dharmas, that is, of the entire psycho-physical world. (See emptiness.)

The Mahayana accepts all of the teachings of the Hinayana; however, the Hinayana rejects the Mahayana Sutras and does not recognize the "expansive" teachings of the Mahayana about Bodhisattvas and about the Buddhas of the other directions.

"In Buddhism we find an attachment to the Great and Small Vehicles, and much opposition between them. Those of the Small Vehicle won't admit there is a Great Vehicle. And in the Great Vehicle, the attitude toward the Small Vehicle is condescending.

"Within the Buddhadharma itself this difficulty arises. You say I'm false, and I say you're false; as a result, it's become the case that both are false; neither is true. That's because the Buddha's disciples didn't listen to the Buddha's instructions and made the divisions of Great and Small.

"An expression says that one must enter as the master and come out as the servant. If you are a Great Vehicle person, then the Great Vehicle is the master, the lord, and the Small Vehicle is the servant. If you're of the Small Vehicle, then you say the Small Vehicle is the master and the Great Vehicle is the servant. All this struggle occurs right in the basic substance of the Buddhadharma. . . .

"Those of the Small Vehicle should take a step forward and not be so attached. And those of the Great Vehicle should take a step backward and not be so attached. When the two, those of both the Great and the Small Vehicles, don't have any attachments, they can become one. When they become one, then they can benefit one another and not indulge in mutual slander.

"In the Dharma-ending Age all the Buddha's disciples work on a superficial level. They don't apply their effort on the real, fundamental level. It is a very painful situation. . . .

"Is it not strange that people nowadays make discriminations and say there are only Arhats, that there aren't any Bodhisattvas or any Buddhas in the ten directions. They still argue ceaselessly, and that's really too bad. . . . In

Buddhism there shouldn't be any Great Vehicle and Small Vehicle; there is only the Buddha Vehicle. There is no other vehicle. If you look at it this way, you won't be able to be so attached. Also, for the sake of the Dharma you should forget yourself. For the sake of seeking the Buddhadharma, you should spare neither body nor life. It is said that to the ends of space throughout the Dharma Realm, there isn't a place as small as a mote of dust which is not a place where all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the past, the present, and the future have given up their lives.

"All Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have renounced their lives for the sake of the Buddhadharma in order to seek true principle, to seek the unsurpassed Way.

"Nowadays people not only don't seek true principle; they also indulge in slander of one another. Those of the Small Vehicle slander the Great Vehicle; those of the Great Vehicle slander the Small Vehicle. Evolving in this way Buddhism has developed a lot of discriminations: right and wrong, us and them, mine and yours. Such Buddhists don't understand in the least that the practices which the Buddhas of the past cultivated were without self and others, were beyond right and wrong. They concentrated on cultivating many Dharma doors and did not criticize the Dharma doors cultivated by others as being wrong." (LY I 146-150)


1) Ch. a) ta cheng , b) syau cheng ; 2) Skt. a) mahayana, b) hinayana; 3) Alternate Translations: a) Greater Vehicle, b) Small/Lesser Vehicle.

See also: Bodhisattva, Arhat.

BTTS References: LY I 146-7, 150; FAS Ch3 (Great Vehicle); FAS-PII(1) 116-120; EDR I 198-199 (verse); SV 6-7.

Maitreya (Bodhisattva)

Maitreya, also known as Ajita, is one of the great Bodhisattva-disciples of the Buddha. He is foremost in the perfection of patience, and in a future age he will become the next Buddha. He is also the founder of the Consciousness-Only (Yogacara, Vijnanavada) School of Mahayana Buddhism.

"Maitreya Bodhisattva is also known as Ajita. Maitreya is his family name. Ajita is his given name. Maitreya means 'compassionate clan.' Ajita means 'invincible.' Perhaps you have seen images of a fat monk in the dining hall in Buddhist temples. Maitreya is that monk. Maybe this Bodhisattva liked to eat good things and got fat that way. He also liked to laugh, but his laugh was not a coarse "Ha ha Ha !" Rather he always had a big smile on his face. He enjoyed playing with children, and so the children were all fond of him. He was always surrounded by them. After Shakyamuni Buddha retires as the teaching host of this world, Maitreya Bodhisattva will take over that position. Shakyamuni Buddha is known as the Red-Yang Buddha. When Maitreya Bodhisattva becomes a Buddha, he will be known as the White-Yang Buddha. This means that when Maitreya Bodhisattva comes to the world as a Buddha, people's blood will be white, not red. People are red blooded now because of the Red-Yang Buddha." (SS V 112)

As to Maitreya Bodhisattva's perfection of patience, "if someone scolded him, he pretended he hadn't heard it. How did he do that? His face was like rubber, as thick as an automobile tire. If someone scolded him he paid no attention. If someone hit him, he just pretended it didn't happen. He knew how to be patient. . . .

"Maitreya Bodhisattva's stomach was like the sea; you could float a boat in it. His heart was the heart of a Buddha, extremely compassionate. He has a short verse which . . . [I] will repeat for you now:

The old fool wears a tattered robe,
And fills his belly with plain food.
He mends the rags to keep his body warm,
And lets the myriad affairs just take their course.
Should someone scold the Old Fool,
The Old Fool just says, 'Fine.'
Should someone strike the Old Fool,
He just lies down to sleep.
'Spit right in my face,' he says,
'And I'll just let it dry.
That way I save energy
And you don't get afflicted.'
This kind of paramita
Is the jewel in the wonderful.
Now that you know this news,
How can you worry about not attaining the Way."
(DFS II 350-351)

In the Shurangama Sutra Maitreya explains the method of cultivation he used to realize enlightenment:

I remember when, as many kalpas ago as there are fine motes of dust, a Buddha named Light of Sun, Moon and Lamp appeared in the world. Under that Buddha I left the home-life; yet I was deeply committed to worldly fame and like to fraternize with people of good family.

Then that World-Honored One taught me to cultivate consciousSess-only concentration, and I entered that samadhi. For many aeons I have made use of that samadhi as I performed deeds for as many Buddhas as there are


-----------------------------------------------------------------The Assembly of the Bodhisattva Maitreya

sands in the Ganges River. My seeking for worldly fame and fortune ceased completely and never recurred.

When Burning Lamp Buddha appeared in the world, I finally realized the unsurpassed, wonderfully perfect samadhi of consciousness.

I went on until, to the ends of empty space, all the lands of the Thus Come Ones, whether pure or defiled, existent or non-existent, were transformations appearing from within my own mind.

World-Honored One, because I understand consciousness-only thus, the nature of consciousness reveals limitless Thus Come Ones. Now I have received the prediction that I will be the next to take the Buddha's place.

The Buddha asks about perfect penetration. I was intent upon the contemplation that the [ten] directions come only from consciousness. When the conscious mind is perfect and bright, one enters the perfection of the real. One leaves behind reliance on others and attachment to incessant calculating and attains the patience when no dharmas come into being. This the foremost method. (SS V 111-118)


1) Ch. mi lei/lo ; 2) Skt. maitreya; 3) Pali metteyya.

See also: Ajita (Bodhisattva), Asanga (Bodhisattva), Bodhisattva, Bu-Dai (Venerable), Consciousness-Only School, Six Paramitas--patience, Vasubandhu (Bodhisattva).

BTTS References: DFS II 156, 351ff; DFS IX 1584-87; AS 103-105; EDR VII 135; EDR VIII 19; SS V 111-119; VBS #172, p. 10.


Mandala is a Sanskrit word which literally means circle. In Buddhism it usually refers to geometric patterns or images, usually containing circular motifs, that are used for meditation. The two most common types are drawn or painted scrolls and those drawn on the ground, usually with colored pigments. They are used extensively in esoteric (tantric) Buddhism. Mandalas might well be said to be the visual counterpart of mantras (see entry).


1) Ch. man two lwo , 2) Skt. mandala, 3) Pali -----, 4) Alternate Translation: cosmogram.

See also: mantra.

Manjushri (Bodhisattva)

Manjushri is the eldest of the great Bodhisattvas and is foremost in wisdom.

"Manjushri, a Sanskrit word, is interpreted as 'wonderful virtue' or 'wonderfully auspicious.' Of the Bodhisattvas, Manjushri has the greatest wisdom, and so he is known as 'The Greatly Wise Bodhisattva Manjushri.' Among the Bodhisattvas he holds the highest rank, and so he is listed first, before the Bodhisattva Who Observes the Sounds of the World. There are four great Bodhisattvas: Bodhisattva Manjushri, Bodhisattva Who Observes the Sounds of the World, Bodhisattva Universal Worthy, and Bodhisattva Earth Store.

"Bodhisattva Manjushri dwells in China on Wu-tai Mountain, where his bodhimanda is located. His efficacious responses are marvelous beyond all reckoning. He became a Buddha long ago and was called Buddha of the Race of Honored Dragon Kings. After becoming a Buddha, he 'hid away the great and manifested the small', in order to practice the Bodhisattva way, teach and transform living beings, and help the Buddha [Shakyamuni] propagate the Dharma. His spiritual penetrations and miraculous functions are inconceivable." (DFS II 144-145)

"Bodhisattva Manjushri . . . is a very special Bodhisattva. When he was born, ten kinds of extraordinary events occurred, which show that he was different from other Bodhisattvas. Manjushri is known for his great wisdom.

"'But the Venerable Shariputra is also known for his wisdom,' you may ask. 'What is the difference between the two types of wisdom?'

"The wisdom of Shariputra is provisional wisdom, and the wisdom of Manjushri is real wisdom. The wisdom of Shariputra is -----------------------------------

Chinese woodblock print of the Bodhisattva Manjusri from Dunhuang, 10th cent.


the Hinayana wisdom; the wisdom of Manjushri is the Mahayana wisdom.

"What were the ten auspicious signs which manifested at Manjushri's birth?

1) The room was filled with bright light, brighter than the light which could be made by any number of light bulbs. The bright light represented the Bodhisattva's great wisdom.

2) The vessels were filled with sweet dew. Sweet dew is miraculous; drinking it will cure all the sicknesses in the world. Then, instead of having to undergo birth, old age, sickness, and death, you'll only have birth, old age, and death to deal with.

3) The seven jewels came forth from the earth. The seven jewels are gold, silver, lapis lazuli, crystal, mother of pearl, red pearls, and carnelian.

"'Why did the jewels appear?'

"Manjushri had cultivated the Six Perfections and the Ten Thousand Conducts to such a high degree of perfection that in response, wherever he goes, precious gems appear.

4) The gods opened the treasuries. Manjushri Bodhisattva's great spiritual powers caused the earth to open up and expose the many treasuries it contains. This differs from the third, in which the seven jewels well up out of the earth. Here the treasuries were exposed when the earth opened up.

5) Chickens gave birth to phoenixes. Even more unusual than the gods opening the treasuries was the fact that chickens gave birth to phoenixes. Basically, of course, chickens only give birth to chickens. But because Manjushri's birth was such a special occasion, they gave birth to phoenixes.

6) Pigs gave birth to dragons. This is even more unusual than chickens giving birth to phoenixes. . . .

7) Horses gave birth to unicorns. . . .

8) Cows gave birth to white tsai. The white tsai is an extremely rare and auspicious animal. . . . It looks like a horse but it has the hooves of an ox. It is in a special category all of its own.

9) The grain in the granaries turned to gold. Do you think that is strange? Some of you probably think it is so strange that you don't even believe it. If you don't believe it, it's because you don't understand it. If you don't understand it, its no doubt because you've never encountered such a thing before. And so how could you possibly believe it?

"However, the world is a very big place and what we have seen and heard is extremely limited. Therefore, it is not strange that there are unusual phenomena which we have not seen or heard. When the grain turned to gold, it could no longer be used as food, but then just a few grains could be exchanged for a lot of food. . . .

10) Elephants with six tusks appeared. As we know, elephants usually only have two tusks. At the time of Manjushri's birth, however, they appeared with six. Is that strange or not?

"Those ten special signs appeared at the time of Manjushri's birth and represent Manjushri's rare eloquence in speaking all Dharmas. . . .

"When he speaks the Dharma, Manjushri does not discriminate among the dharmas. Although he does not discriminate among the dharmas, he, nevertheless, does not not distinguish all dharmas. The wonder lies right at this point, and that is why he is known as 'wonderful virtue'--Manjushri. . . .

"The six tusks stand for the Six Perfections (see Six Paramitas) and the elephants stand for the Ten Thousand conducts. . . ." (DFS II 144-149)


1) Ch. wen shu shr li , 2) Skt. manjusri.

See also: Bodhisattva.

BTTS References: DFS II 144 ff; FAS Ch9 8-10; EDR I 161ff, 226-228; AS 99-103.


Mantras are phrases of sound whose primary meaning or meanings is not cognitive, but on a spiritual level that transcends ordinary linguistic understanding.

Dharma Master Ku Shan said, 'The secret mantras in Sutras, as a rule, should not be translated. In the past Dharma Masters held various opinions about this, but the T'ien-Tai School compiled them into four:

1) A mantra contains the names of kings of ghosts and spirits. When you say the king's name, the subjects all obey, due to their respect for their lord. They dare not cause trouble. This is a fortunate benefit for the world.

2) The saying of a mantra is like the secret password of the military. If the reply is correct, there's no further question. If the reply is incorrect, one is punished. This is of benefit to humankind.

3) A mantra is a secret way to stop evil without anybody knowing it. [This is] like a lowly person who goes to another country and passes himself off as a prince. He marries the princess of that country, but he is bad tempered and hard to attend to. Then somebody comes along who knows him and reveals his disguise. He uses a verse to expose him, which quietly puts him in his place. (SM I 37-38)

"The verse goes:

Lacking virtue, you went to another country,

And cheated all the people there.

Originally you were a poor unfortunate man.

What right do you have to get so angry?" (SM I 38)

This has the benefit of correcting situations and stopping evil.

4) The mantra is the secret language of all Buddhas, and only the sages know about it. For example, when the king gives the order for saindhava, which is really one name for four things: salt, water, a vessel, and a horse, the multitude does not know what he wants. Only the wise officials know. A single phrase of the mantra is filled with many different powers: curing an illness, eradicating offenses, producing good, according with the Way, and entering into the primary truth. Mantras have these four benefits . . . [which correspond to the four meanings above]. (SM I 38-40)

Among the better known Buddhist mantras are 1) om mani padme hum (see VBS #11, pp. 29-31), 2) the Great Compassion Mantra, and the Shurangama Mantra.


1) Ch. jou , 2) Skt. mantra, 3) Pali manta, paritta, 4) Alternate Translations: formula, spell, charm, words with supernatural power.

See also: Great Compassion Mantra, Shurangama Mantra, dharani, Five Methods of Buddhist Practice-mysteries.

BTTS References: HS 109-110, 116; SM VI ?; SM I 37-40; RH.


See demon.


A rather vague word in English, meditation is used in the context of Buddhist teachings to indicate the controlling and directing of one's mind inward in the quest for enlightenment. Many different kinds of meditational methods have been taught by the Buddhas and Patriarchs, and meditational practices are found in almost all Buddhist schools. Although meditation can be done while walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, usually emphasis is placed on sitting meditation. The Chan School is most well-known for its single-minded emphasis on direct meditational inquiry. Preliminary meditational practices are usually concerned with the calming and purification of mind and body. Formal stages of meditation prior to enlightenment are discussed in the entries Four Dhyanas and Four Formless Realms.

Three Prerequisites for Sitting in Meditation

I. Patience

"What must you be patient with? You must learn to bear the pain in your back and the pain in your legs. When you first begin to sit in Chan meditation, you will experience pain in your back and legs because you are unaccustomed to sitting that way. In the beginning this pain may be hard to bear, so you will have to be patient.

II. No Greed

"Those who cultivate Chan inquiry should not hope for enlightenment. If you think about how you want to become enlightened, then even if you were meant to get enlightened, that single thought will cover over your enlightenment and prevent it from happening.

"Further, you should not, because of greed, seek speed in your practice. You cannot expect to sit today and get enlightened tomorrow. So many of today's young people are turned upside down, and although they want to do Chan inquiry and study the Buddhadharma, they take drugs, which they say is a way of bringing them enlightenment fast. That is a grave mistake. Not only will such people not get enlightened, the more they study in this way, the more crazy and depraved they become. . . .

"Therefore, I want to stress this: don't try to get off cheap. Don't try to do it fast. Don't think that without putting out any effort you can cash in on welfare. There is nothing of value obtained without doing some work for it.

III. Perseverance

"You must be constant in your practice of Chan. The best way is to sit in full-lotus. This posture is achieved by placing your left ankle onto your right thigh, and then lifting your right ankle onto your left thigh. This posture can quiet your mind. It is your foundation for sitting in Chan. You should train yourself to sit that way. Some of you protest, 'My legs are stiff and I can't sit that way.' Well, then try sitting in 'half-lotus', which is when your left ankle is on your right thigh. 'But I can't even do that,' some may say. Well, then you'll have to sit in a cross-legged position--in whatever way is possible for you. But you should be working to get into half-lotus and eventually into full-lotus. Full-lotus is the foundation for sitting in meditation. Since it is fundamental, you should work to master it. If you try to build a house on bare ground, the first big rain that comes along will wash it away. The first big wind will blow it down. The same is true for meditation without a foundation. Full lotus is the foundation of Buddhahood. If you want to become a Buddha, first master full-lotus.

"Once your legs are in full-lotus, you should hold your body erect. Sit up straight and do not lean forward or backward. Keep your spine absolutely straight. Curl your tongue back against the roof of your mouth. If you secrete saliva, , you can swallow it. Also people who cultivate Chan should not smoke cigarettes or take drugs; they make your saliva bitter. . . .

"Your eyes are not necessarily open and not necessarily closed. If you leave your eyes open while meditating, it is very easy to have false thinking about what you see. If you completely close your eyes while sitting, it is very easy to fall asleep. And so keeping your eyes half open and half closed is a good way to counteract both problems. . . .

"As to your mind--don't think of anything. Don't have any polluted thoughts. Don't think about what state you are experiencing or hope to experience, and don't think about how you want to get enlightened. The affairs of this world are not that simple. A thief who steals others' money ends up with wealth that is not his own. If you work and earn money, then the wealth you accumulate is your own. The same principle applies to meditation. Don't be greedy for speed, hoping to become enlightened fast. Don't be greedy to get a bargain. If in your cultivation you are greedy for small benefits, then you will never get the big ones." (LY II 90-93)

"Meditation, like all cultivation, must be practiced daily without interruption."

"When you sit in Chan (meditation) , you should not be greedy for the flavor of Chan. . . . What is the flavor of Chan? It refers to the bliss of the dhyanas (see Four Dhyanas). When you have been sitting just about long enough, you start to experience a feeling of comfort and freedom. When that happens, you may feel kind of indolent--like you don't want to move; you want to just sit there. You become greedy for that feeling of comfort and ease. That's the flavor of Chan. If you become greedy for a state, it is not easy for you to go on and make progress, because you will want to linger there and will get attached to that flavor of Chan. You will keep trying to get back into that state. You will think, 'When am I going to have that kind of state again? In that state there was no self, no others, no living beings, and no lifespan; no afflictions--no hassles. It was very blissful, very, very comfortable and free. I wonder when I will ever have that experience again.' And you will just sit there waiting for that flavorful experience to recur. And what happens while you wait? You forget all about applying effort--you are no longer able to do the work.

"But people who sit in meditation and want to make progress need to be free of any obstructions and be without any hangups. They can't be seeking anything or be greedy for anything. You can't get excessively happy, or depressed, and you shouldn't have any fear or terror. You should see your body as being the same as empty space and the Dharma Realm. You don't need to be attached to anything. You don't need to be greedily seeking for anything. Because as soon as you become greedy and seek, you fall into a secondary meaning..." (TT 104)


1) Ch. dzwo chan , chan , 2) Skt. dhyana, bhavana, 3) Pali bhavana.

See also: Chan School, Four Dhyanas, Four Formless Realms, Six Paramitas--dhyana, cultivation, enlightenment, lotus posture, mindfulness, samadhi.

BTTS References: PDS, May, 1985, p. 2 "The Chan Practice...", TT 104ff; LYII 74ff; VBS #205ff "Chan Talks" series.

merit/merit and virtue

"Wholesome merit and virtue are derived from upholding the Five Precepts and doing the Ten Good Deeds. Virtue refers to what is inside, to constantly fortifying oneself with wisdom." (TT 43)

The Sixth Patriarch Hwei-Neng makes the following distinction between the higher practice of merit and virtue and their practice on a lower, worldly level of understanding. He calls the latter 'cultivation of blessings':

Seeing your own nature is merit, and equanimity is virtue. To be unobstructed in every thought, constantly seeing the true, real, wonderful function of your original nature is called 'merit and virtue.'

Inner humility is merit and the outer practice of reverence is virtue. Your own nature establishing the ten thousand dharmas is merit and the mind-substance separate from thought is virtue. Not being separate from one's own nature is merit, and the correct use of one's own undefiled (nature) is virtue. If you seek the merit and virtue of the Dharma-body, simply act according to these principles, for this is true merit and virtue.

Those who cultivate merit and virtue in their thoughts do not slight others, but always respect them. Those who slight others and do not cut off the 'me' and 'mine' are without merit. One's own inherent nature, vain and unreal, is without virtue, because of the 'me and mine', because of the greatness of 'self', and because of the constant slighting of others.

Good Knowing Advisors, continuity of thought is merit, and the mind practicing equality and directness is virtue. Self-cultivation of one's nature is merit, and self-cultivation of the body is virtue.

Good Knowing Advisors, merit and virtue should be seen within one's own nature, not sought through giving and making offerings. That is the difference between blessings and merit and virtue. . . . (PS 133-137)


1) Ch. gung de , 2) Skt. punya/punya-guna, 3) Pali punna, 4) Alternate Translations: meritorious action, virtue, meritorious qualities.

See also: blessings, good roots, karma, transference of merit.

BTTS References: PS 132-137; UW 9-10, 32, 76; TT 43.

Middle Way

The Buddha said: "Those who follow the Way are like pieces of wood in the water which are borne on the current, not touching either shore, and which are not picked up by people, not intercepted by ghosts or spirits, not caught up in whirlpools, and which do not rot. I guarantee that these pieces of wood will certainly reach the sea. I guarantee that students of the Way who are not deluded by emotional desire, nor bothered by myriad devious things, but who are vigorous in their cultivation of the unconditioned, will certainly attain the Way." (S42 #27)

These two extremes, monks, should not be followed by one who has gone forth from the life of a householder to the life of a mendicant. Which two? That which is, among sense-pleasures, addiction to attractive sense-pleasure, low, of the common, of the average man, un-Aryan, not connected with the goal, and that which is addiction to self-torment, ill, un-Aryan, not connected with the goal. Now monks, without adopting either of these two extremes, there is a middle course, fully awakened to by the Tathagata, making for a vision, making for knowledge, which conduces to calming (of passion), to super-knowledge (of the Four Truths), to awakening, to nirvana. . . . And what, monks, is this middle course? It is the Aryan eight-fold way itself, that is to say: right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right mode of living, right endeavor, right mindfulness, right concentration." (Book of Discipline, pt. 4, 15; quoted by Jaini IN "Sramana Conflict")


"'Ultimate' means final, 'meaning' means what is fitting, 'middle' means not going to extremes, and 'Way' means practice. One who abides by the Middle does not go too far, nor does he fail to go far enough. When he goes too far he should bring about a lessening, and when he falls short, he should increase. In either case he should avoid falling into emptiness, or grasping at existence. This is what is meant by the Middle Way, the true substance of the principle of True Emptiness. It is also called the reality-Mark, True Suchness, One's Own Nature, and the Buddha-nature.

"To put it quite clearly once again, it is like the figure zero which is the sole ancestor of heaven and earth, the father of all Buddhas, the mother of all things, and the source of the most subtle of wonders. Everything in life and death comes from it, and there isn't anything which does not return to it. This is what is meant by the phrase 'True Emptiness is not empty; Wonderful Existence is not existence.' One who understands this can be called a 'person of the Way who is without a mind,' one who has overstepped all categories, who has been released forever from the suffering of the wheel, who roams freely at leisure, and who has ended birth and death--a living dead person." (WM 49-50)


1) Ch. jung dau , 2) Skt. madhyama marga, 3) Pali madhyama magga?, 4) Alternate Translations: Way/Path of the Center.

See also: Four Holy Truths.

BTTS References: WM 49; S42 55, 67.


The Flower Adornment Sutra speaks of these ten aspects of mindfulness:

"mindfulness which is still and quiet,
mindfulness which is pure,
mindfulness which is not turbid,
mindfulness which is bright and penetrating,
mindfulness which is apart from defilement,
mindfulness which is apart from various defilements,
mindfulness which is apart from filth,
mindfulness which is bright and dazzling,
mindfulness which is pleasing, and
mindfulness which is free from obstacles.

"When the Bodhisattvas dwell in these aspects of mindfulness, nothing in the world can disturb or unsettle them. No strange theories can move them. Their good roots from past lives are made pure and they are not defiled by or attached to any dharma in the world. The multitudes of demons and those of external ways cannot destroy them. They can undergo rebirth and receive different bodies without any lapse in memory. They proclaim the Dharma endlessly throughout the past, present, and future." (FAS Ch22 129)


1) Ch. nien , 2) Skt. smrti, anusmrti, 3) Pali sati, annusati, 4) Alternate Translations: remembering, immediate presence.

See also: Four Applications of Mindfulness, Buddha-recitation, meditation, Pure Land School.

BTTS references: FAS Ch22 (Treasury of Mindfulness).

moral precepts

The jewelled precepts with the brilliance of vajra are the original source of all Buddhas, the original source of all Bodhisattvas, and the seed of the Buddha-nature. (BNS I 54)

"The world today is filled with terror. People of all races are in a perpetual state of fear, so that they don't feel safe when they walk about; they can't taste the food they eat; and they can't sleep peacefully. What is the principle behind this? Why has such a state appeared? Those who believe in Buddhism should pay particular attention to the principle governing this phenomenon. It is because the evil offenses and evil karma that people are creating are filling up the heavens. Each person keeps creating more karma and never makes an attempt to eradicate the karma that they have amassed. Everyone has committed the karma of killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, taking intoxicants, and lying. It is simply because people do not maintain and uphold the precepts which govern these five actions that slowly, bit by bit, the karma accumulates. When the karma from killing living beings becomes great enough, the energy of animosity will completely fill up a great world system of a billion worlds." (TT 58)

The Buddha said: "My disciples may be several thousand miles away from me, but if they remember my precepts, they will certainly obtain the fruits of the Way.

"If those who are by my side do not follow my precepts, they may see me constantly, but in the end they will not obtain the Way." (S42 74)

Now it is not thus [by the display of various heavenly offerings], Ananda, that the Tathagata is rightly honored, reverenced, venerated, held sacred

or revered. But the brother or sister, the devout man or woman, who continually fulfills all the greater and lesser duties, who is correct in life, walking according to the precepts--it is he who rightly honors, reverences, venerates, holds sacred, and reveres the Tathagata with the worthiest homage. Therefore, O Ananda, be ye constant in the fulfillment of the greater and of the lesser duties, and be ye correct in life, walking according to the precepts; and thus Ananda, should it be taught. (Dialogues of the Buddha II 150-151)

"'Precepts' refer to rules and regulations. Their purpose is:

To stop evil and avoid misdeeds.

Not to do any evil,

But to offer up all good conduct.

Precepts include:

The Precept Dharma.

The Precept Substance.

The Precept Mark.

The Precept Dharma includes:

The Five Precepts (for lay people).

The Eight Precepts (for lay people).

The Ten Precepts (for novices).

The Ten Major and Forty-Eight Minor Bodhisattva Precepts (for both left-home and lay people).

The 250 Bhikshu Precepts.

The 348 Bhikshuni Precepts.

All of those precepts are to tell you not to do any evil but to offer up all good conduct. YOu should hold the precepts purely and not go against them." (FAS Ch16 33-34)

Before the god Brahma, lord of the Brahma Heaven of the pure world of form (see entry for Three Worlds), is suspended a circular net curtain as an adornment. In each hole of the curtain a pearl is found. Each pearl both reflects all other pearls and shines its light on all the other pearls. The result is an incredible display of infinite interreflected light.

The net curtain can be understood analogically. It stands for one's own body and mind. Each hole in the netting represents a particular outflow of one's vital energy. Each pearl represents a moral precept. To the extent that one keeps the moral precepts, the pearls emit light and illuminate one's own body and mind and also those of all other living beings.

Just before the Buddha entered nirvana he said to the Venerable Ananda:

It may be, Ananda, that in some of you the thought might arise, "The word of the master is ended, we have no teacher more!" But it is not thus, Ananda, that you should regard it. The Truths, and the Rules of the Order, which I have set forth and laid down for you all, let them, after I am gone, be teacher for you. (Dialogues of the Buddha II 171)


1) Ch. jye , jye lyu ; Skt. 2) sila, siksapada; 3) Pali sila, sikkhapada; 4) Alternate translations: precepts, moral regulations.

See also: Five Precepts, faith.

BTTS References: SV; BNS I & II; TT 117, 132; FAS Ch16 33-35; FAS Ch11 27; FAS Ch22 15-27; FAS Ch26(2) 5-6; SS I 12, 47; SS III 109; SS VI 9; SS VII 107-108; S42 76.