About Shang Rinpoche

Rinpoche’s spiritual pursuit began at a very young age and has spanned many years, in which he received lineages of all four major Vajrayana Buddhist schools—Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya, and Gelug—from numerous lineage holders and great yogis of our time in India, Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan. Rinpoche has acquired all the necessary empowerments, transmissions, and teachings to become a fully qualified Vajrayana master. Furthermore, Rinpoche is a recognized tulku (reincarnate lama), authenticated by eminent lineage holders and distinguished masters of our time.
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2015年7月29日 星期三

The Importance of Perseverance

Those who exhibit great passion for life are undeniably ones who never shrink back (from difficulty). Even if all the guns in the world were pointed at their chest, they would still stride proudly forward with their heads high, holding the truth in their hearts. The real reason for my admiration of Galileo lies not in his fame but in his courage to hold the truth in spite of those in power. While carrying out his life imprisonment in Rome, he was asked by one of his visiting students, “Someone once offered you a luxurious house as a gift. Why didn’t you accept it?” Galileo replied, “How could even the most beautiful house in the world compare to the truth in my heart?”

Determined to attain enlightenment and subdue his remaining arrogance while practicing under certain precepts, Tilopa decided to offer himself as a servant to a prostitute. For the following 12 years, he extracted sesame oil for her, never missing a single day. This eventually led to his great achievement. I’ve come to the conclusion that in this world it is not the scientists or artists who have beautified the souls of humanity, but the spiritual mentors such as Buddha Shakyamuni, Jesus Christ, Mohammed, Confucius, Zhuangzi and Martin Luther King Jr. It is precisely the resolution of these Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and holy people, as well as their courage to persevere, that has brought about the transformation of so many peoples’ minds in this world. Whether one can become a person who truly makes an impact on others, then, depends solely on one’s perseverance and resolve.

From Shang Longrik Gyatso Rinpoche

2015年7月20日 星期一

Pure Land and Chan Buddhism Are One and the Same

Many people confuse Chan with Pure Land Buddhism — after all, if you meditate and also recite the Buddha’s name, doesn’t that just mix the two practices together? Actually, these kinds of questions are superfluous. If you only ever have one Dharma in your mind, as soon as another Dharma enters, whatever you had becomes delusive and distracted thought, and any Dharma you practice becomes the same. Without a pure mind, any true practice becomes something other than Dharma. Chan places the mind at the core of everything. If the mind is very clear, then the world’s ‘dust’ and delusion will be left behind and the true enlightened mind will come forth. Another way of saying it is, when you meditate, it’s not your body but your mind that’s meditating. When delusive thoughts arise, it’s the mind that knows; when the mind is clear, it knows it is free of delusive thoughts. The mind never had any ‘internal’ or ‘external,’ and it’s the same mind that knows this to be true. If you can observe your mind in this way in every moment, noticing whether you’ve deviated from this principle — if the mind in motion or at rest doesn’t get influenced by anything external or internal, physical or mental — then you can say it’s abiding in the meditative stillness of its own essence. This is what the sutras call taking good care of your thoughts. If you continue to carefully protect your mind after reaching this level, if the senses of the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind — the six roots — merge together in the end, then you’ve surpassed the ordinary way of seeing and can now see your essence, your own buddha nature. You will discover that everything was already there within you to begin with and there is no differentiation, no impurities. At this point you see all form without giving rise to action or differentiation. This is called great emptiness, or when the five aggregates become completely empty, or merging (with phenomena) without becoming scattered. At this point, away from all form, you’ll naturally realize that all ordinary appearances are illusory reality. You could also say that in the end, it’s Amitabha’s self-nature reciting his own name, and not your mind reciting to an external deity. Amitabha is your own mind and your mind is Amitabha. Even if you don’t recite his name, Amitabha has been in your mind from the very beginning. Whoever understands this will realize the truth of self and Amitabha being one and the same.

All practices in the Pure Land school are anchored in the recitation of Amitabha Buddha’s name along with visualizing the Buddha or in front of a statue of the Buddha. Everyone will go through this stage of their practice, whether it involves the methods of audible or silent recitation, vajra recitation, visualizing the Buddha on the crown of your head, enlightened illumination, visualization, prostrating to the Buddha or the Ten Recitations Method. Whichever method you use, they are all skillful means. The goal of all of them is to merge your mind with the name of the Buddha, so that you’re reciting with your whole mind. This method becomes the state of reciting without reciting. At this stage, even as distracting thoughts are thrust into your consciousness (nearing death) by the dissolution of the four elements (earth, water, fire, and wind), this will not affect your mind, because the intensity of your recitation has already penetrated your stream of consciousness. You will remain undisturbed by any state you may encounter. This is also described as brushing off all remaining dust, the correct way of mindfulness for facing death. At this point you can add your vows, just like Buddha Amitabha, who, in the sutras, says: “If vowing to be reborn in a Pure Land, one should make vows as such, And why is this so? This can allow all those great, good people to gather in the same place.” In other words, reciting the Buddha’s name can bring your mind to one-pointed focus and at your passing you will be received by the Buddha himself; so you should definitely make vows.

Chan Master Zhao Zhou said, “After reciting the Buddha’s name one time, rinse your mouth out for three days.” The point is to be single-minded in your concentration. Yet, it says in the Siliaojian (of Chan Master Yongming Yanshou), “With Chan but no Pure Land, nine out of ten people will tarry or be delayed. When the hidden realm appears before you, follow it as soon as you glimpse it.” Whether practicing Chan or Pure Land Buddhism, everything depends on the mind. If the mind can settle, any Dharma can liberate. There is no need to differentiate countless practice methods based on individual afflictions, delusive thoughts, root senses or life circumstances. Whether it’s observing the origin of thoughts in Chan meditation or reciting the Buddha’s name to understand who Buddha is, all comes from your own mind: they are two paths to the same destination. If you can singlemindedly return to the mind’s original nature and liberate the six senses, there will be nothing to differentiate between Chan and Pure Land. Whether you achieve liberation or fall into the lower realms depends entirely on your mind.

From  Shang Longrik Gyatso Rinpoche

Forgetting the Past, a Potential Realization of Emptiness

Impermanence is not only mentioned in Buddhist teachings. Those who learn from the past to understand the present and more meticulously analyze their surroundings can glimpse the flux and unpredictability of everyday life.
Qin Shihuang considered himself utterly superior, majestic and powerful, thinking that he could go as he pleased and that the world was beneath the soles of his feet. However, even as he was wrapped up in his imperial life, he could sense that the wild and unruly Liu Bang had begun to move against him. Cao Cao was not mistrustful by nature, and was as wise as he was daring, with no equal in the Three Kingdoms. But all of this changed when he narrowly escaped an attempted assassination. Afterwards, his suspicion of even his closest relatives eventually destroyed him his promising future and any chance at ascending to emperorship. In this world, there was a man who, to this day, holds 2.5 billion disciples, all claiming unswerving loyalty and service. But who could have imagined that, at only 36 years old and in the prime of his life, he was nailed to the cross. It’s clear that nothing in this world is certain or controllable at will.

I’ve spoken with many great masters and historians who, in their research and personal experience, all agree that no matter how great the achievements of an emperor or how unparalleled the hero, they all end up under the ground and being pulled into the bardo. Thus, many of them turned to the study of Buddhism, in particular the sutras. Many people, especially scholars, are partial to the Diamond Sutra. It is almost always the scholars who ask me questions about its verses. In fact, this sutra, along with the Heart Sutra, are the Buddha’s best sermons for those wishing to traverse the landscape of the mind and resolve their fear of life and death. Many people misunderstand the Diamond Sutra, believing it to be too abstract, impractical and just a play on words about emptiness. In actuality, many of the secrets of life and the keys to transcending the cycle of birth and death lie in its four-phrasal verses.

For example, the phrase “give rise to a mind which does not abide in anything” means that people need not be attached to external or internal circumstances or the needs we place on them. As well, we ought to use these very circumstances to experience the world in all of its facets, since in the end everything falls back into Emptiness. Is it from this true Emptiness that we obtain enlightened wisdom.
To illustrate this point using the external world: all the things our mind perceives in the material world – our whole planet – is it real? If you say yes, where are the people who lived hundreds of years ago? The Bianjing of old, flourishing Chang’an, the golden age of the Tang Dynasty, Luoyang in Guangdong, their music, their poetry, their merriment and grand celebrations are mere shadows in recollection. We can only pick up the traces of what is left in the cadence of classical Chinese poetry. Can that magnificence be restored? If not, how can we verify whether it is real? On the other hand, you might say it’s empty, but records and ruins serve as evidence of its existence.
Now take the mind as another example: does it exist? If it does, then you should be able to consolidate all of its phenomena into a single whole, but why do they still slip away like smoke? What is there that you can pin down? Truthfully, nothing really exists. Sometimes our mind is above, sometimes below, sometimes to the left, sometimes to the right. The point is, everything your eyes see and your mind thinks are just temporary scenes that vanish as soon as you reach out to touch them. They aren’t real. All of life’s comings and goings are just pieces of information slowly filling up your memory. There is no reason to cling to them. By understanding that “All that has form is illusive and unreal,” you will be able to clearly observe all forms and all of the things that you experience but not be disturbed by them. This is what is meant by “without abiding.” You will be able to maintain inner purity and clarity, remaining unaffected by the sensory experience of what you see, touch and taste. This is an experience of what is known as “without form.” At this stage, with the truly pure mind having arisen from “non-abiding,” everything you see and contemplate will be different.

2015年7月6日 星期一

The Difference Between an Elephant and a Rabbit

Master Yong Jia’s "Song of Enlightenment" contains a few lines that could be very meaningful for people of this generation, namely, “The great elephant does not loiter on the rabbit’s path; Great enlightenment is not concerned with details; Don’t belittle the sky by looking through a pipe; If you still don’t understand, I will settle it for you.” Many people take this phrase as an excuse for their erroneous words and actions. But in reality, all well-known practitioners from all the schools, even if they were to follow all virtuous teachings, must first understand wisdom and emptiness and have the experience of having entered into the void. Without this foundation, practicing Dharma can lead to obstacles and to going astray, thus making the practice meaningless. In this lies the goal of all esoteric practices that take wisdom dakinis as the principal deities. The accomplishments of all buddhas originates in the root practice of the Buddha Mother (Dharmas which lead to the attainment of Buddhahood), rather than the physical form of either a male or female Buddhist image. Wisdom is the lamp of the six paramitas, on which all achieved buddhas of the three realms rely. Even when they are involved in worldly affairs or are going against the grain, for a practitioner possessing a foundation in wisdom, everything amounts to all skillful means. As a Buddhist verse states:
When we realize actuality,
There is no distinction between mind and thing
And the path to hell instantly vanishes.
If this is a lie to fool the world,
My tongue may be cut out forever.
Once we awaken to the Tathagata-Zen,
The six noble deeds and the ten thousand good actions
Are already complete within us.
In our dream we see the six levels of illusion clearly;
After we awaken the whole universe is empty.

No matter where they apply their skillful means, true practitioners have a mind as continuously immovable as a mountain and don’t use Buddhist names and appearances to deceive. They wholeheartedly apply themselves to keeping strict precepts, because they’ve already broken through the gross and subtle afflictive obstacles of sight, thought, etc. Therefore, even if they move freely within the eight worldly preoccupations (of disappointment and delight) of the mundane world, they are like a pure lotus flower in the midst of this profane world, a task not easy to accomplish. If Vimalakirti had immersed himself in mundane affairs without fully controlling his mind, then wouldn’t he have been just like an ancient fox spirit who, having gotten drunk, might easily reveal it’s cloven feet? In the real world, even those old master artists who avoided society from the Wei, Jin and North-South Dynasties such as Ruanji, Jikang, Shantao, Liuling, Ruanxian, Xiangxiu, Wangrong and the like, with their emotions dwelling in the mountains and rivers, indulged in (the Way of) Laozi and Zhuangzi, while never before having even heard of such evil acts as killing, stealing, sexual misconduct and such. The reason for this being that they were clear about what they had read in the holy books with regards to how they should behave. Although they didn’t bother about the trifles of outer appearance, living in savage exile, they still actually possessed a code of conduct for how they ought to comport themselves.
How much more so, then, of practitioners who abide in Avalokitesvara’s compassion, Samantabhadra’s vows, Manjushri’s wisdom, Mahasthamaprapta’s courage and the vows of all bodhisattvas? Just like the Sixth Patriarch Huineng as he lived with hunters -- although unable to stick to a vegetarian diet, he ate what vegetables were there alongside the meat; or like Chan master Dao Ji who, although his behavior was beyond anyone’s imagination, still did everything to benefit sentient beings, adapting to worldly phenomena with wisdom -- otherwise he would have kept on incurring extreme karma. As for the Mahayana and Theravada, they should be regarded as the same, otherwise this is akin to the idea that when one praises oneself while slandering another, it brings nothing but disgrace to oneself. There is an old story of a person who had come into contact with the Theravada sutras, yet did not realize that the Mahayana texts also came directly from Buddha Shakyamuni. Later, when he heard them being recited by good knowledge holders, the sutras profoundly affected his mind and he was so ashamed that he wanted to cut out his tongue to atone for his slander. At that time, Asanga Bodhisattva consoled him, saying, “Because you’ve disparaged Mahayana texts in the past, with this very same tongue you should now recite them all. Would that not be true repentance?” So he did just that, writing hundreds of Mahayana commentaries. This is a true story.

A Buddhist verse says, “A virtuous mind gives rise to virtuous words and deeds, an evil mind gives rise to evil words and deeds, mind is the origin of all dharma (worldly phenomena), investigating the mind is the good advice of the Buddha.” From this we clearly see that no matter the school, sect or religion, everything comes from the mind. If our thoughts are impure, all the practice that we undertake becomes demonic. We must observe our minds at all times, reflecting on ourselves constantly, not allowing the mind to become attached or caught up in external circumstances. Gradually our mind will become concentrated, so that at all times, in all states, we can be clear and unhindered, proceeding till we arrive at an understanding of enlightenment and unsurpassed emptiness, abiding in this state until our meditative stillness becomes strong, unrestrained, proficient, without any excuses; these are the concepts practitioners of all faiths should understand.