Buddha Mandala Monastery Path to Buddhahood Practice System
Buddha Mandala Monastery Path to Buddhahood Practice System
A Brief Introduction
Due to historical and cultural factors, Chinese Buddhism has not fully absorbed the essence of Mahayana’s way to Buddhahood. Though the teachings in Chan Buddhism, transmitted by Bodhidharma, has svabhavakaya practice method, its practice will not lead to the attainment of the states of wisdom Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya and Nirmanakaya (which are practices of clear light, illusory body, tantric deity, death existence, intermediate existence and birth existence found in Esoteric Buddhism). Moreover, Chan Buddhism lacks specific practice method and theory, however, if a practitioner is willing to religiously search for answers based on the theory, he can still attain sainthood, thus the value of Chan Buddhism cannot be overlooked.
The theories and practices in Esoteric Buddhism are exceptionally supreme; they include perfectly explained teachings of sutra and tantra. To sharpen the wisdom of practice, the best in Chan and Esoteric Buddhism should be adopted, to reach a complementary effect.
For those who are determined to practice, both practice systems require the direct guidance of qualified Supreme Masters and Chan Masters. Esoteric Buddhism uses a variety of concentration and visualisation methods to enable a practitioner to make improvement while Chan Buddhism points directly at the nature of mind and uses the slat-and-yell method on the shortcomings of the practitioners; this direct method is truly unbearable for modern people due to their egotism and strong self-esteem, therefore Buddha Mandala Monastery (BMM) will use the theory and practice of Esoteric Buddhism, supplemented with Chan Buddhism’s direct approach, to skillfully nurture and guide its practitioners.
Purpose of Practice
The primary objective is to become a Buddha.
Genuine Faith, Indestructible Will and Immovable Diamond Determination are the prerequisites for every successful believer treading
on the long road towards Buddhahood.
Powered by the above, and through the three trainings in Ethical Discipline, Concentration and Sublime Wisdom; Bodhicitta Practice
and accumulation of two resources (meritorious virtues and wisdom), one begins the journey of practice.
Path to Buddhahood Practice System
Buddha Mandala Monastery’s Path to Buddhahood Practice System is made up of three main systems, namely Theory System, Practice System and Solitary Retreat System. True views of the Teachings of the Three Vehicles, Dual Practices of Chan and Tantra and Vows to be reborn in Maitreya Inner Court form the core of this system. There are seven stages of advancement for sincere Buddhist learners who are determined to tread on this path to enlightenment.
To guide sincere Buddhist learners onto a journey of hearing, contemplation and practice, to lay a foundation for Buddhist learners’ future learning, to do group research and discussion on Buddhist topics, to nurture and train learning sangha members and lay disciples, to protect and enable the continued spread of buddha’s teachings, and to spread the teachings of Maitreya.
1. Seek to Listen, Contemplate and Practice Extensively
Listen, Contemplate and Practice, also known as the three wisdom, are three main stages for learning Buddhist teachings. Buddha’s teachings are made up of theoretical teachings and realisation teachings. Under the Theory System of BMM, students begin by listening to the sutra teachings, followed by contemplating on the words of buddha, and then practicing the teachings to gain realisations on them.
2. Individual Meditational Practice
For adults who are determined to learn Buddhism, a set of practice guidelines based on BMM’s Practice System will be designed for them to lay their foundation for future practice.
3. Group Research and Discussion
Gathering students’ professional expertise to do group research and multi-perspective discussion to respond to all kinds of sharp queries on Buddhism raised by the public; at the same time, with solid religious experience gained from doing the Practice Booklets, students will explore ways to face and resolve the Four Obscurations (namely karmic obscuration, afflictive obscuration, cognitive obscuration and habitual obscuration) and the problems of old age, sickness, death and the like together.
4. Nurture Venerables and Buddhist Lay Disciples
To nurture Venerables and Buddhist lay disciples to have solid Buddhist theory and practical experiences, to be able to rely on their practices to gain inner self-control, to resolve confusion about the mundane world, to leave sufferings from within and to gain the great happiness of leaving the mundane world.
5. Spread of Buddhism
To let human beings, see clearly the origin of sufferings, to know exactly the ways to extinguish sufferings and increase meritorious virtues, and to enable the continued spread of wise and farsighted Buddha’s teachings in the human world.
6. Propagate the Teachings of Maitreya
Maitreya Buddha in Han Buddhism is known as Jampa Buddha in Tibetan Buddhism, he is the future Buddha. Kassapa Buddha is the past Buddha while Shakyamuni Buddha is the current Buddha. Together, they are known as Buddhas of the three times. Maitreya was born into a Brahmin family in ancient India during the time of Shakyamuni Buddha. He became Shakyamuni Buddha’s disciple and died before Shakyamuni Buddha entered nirvana. It was said that Shakyamuni Buddha had predicted that Maitreya would take birth in Tushita Heaven where he would give dharma teachings to the heavenly beings there; 5.66 billion years after Shakyamuni Buddha entered nirvana, Maitreya would descend from Tushita Heaven and take birth in the human realm. In Tibet, Jampa Buddha is one of the main Buddha for worship in the Buddha Hall, thus he is much valued by the devotees.
Maitreya is also known as Loving-kindness or Ajita. The name Maitreya means friendliness and loving-kindness. According to the sutras Visualise Maitreya’s Ascend to Tushita Heaven and Maitreya’s Descent, Maitreya was born into a Brahmin family, he later became Buddha’s disciple and died before Shakyamuni Buddha entered nirvana, then he took the form of a bodhisattva to deliver dharma teachings to celestial beings and resides in Tushita Heaven. In fascicle one of the Commentary of Mahāvairocana Tantra, it says “Out of Buddha’s Four Immeasurables, Maitreya Bodhisattva is foremost in loving-kindness; this loving-kindness is born from the tathagata lineage, it can prevent all the seeds of Buddhahood from being severed in the world, thus he is known as Loving-kindness.” The main Maitreya sutras are the Maitreya Triple Sutras, it refers to the three sutras about Maitreya bodhisattva, namely Visualise Maitreya’s Ascend to Tushita Heaven, Maitreya’s Descent, and Maitreya’s Attainment of Buddhahood.
Tushita Pure Land is also called Tushita Inner Court (Tushita in Sanskrit or Ganden in Tibetan means Joyous), it is a place where a bodhisattva who would be the-next-buddha stays. Though Maitreya has already attained Buddhahood long ago, for the benefit of sentient beings, he is appearing in the form of a bodhisattva, residing in Tushita Pure Land, waiting for future conditions to ripen, to be born in the human realm, to show the way to practice and attain Buddhahood. Tushita Pure Land is in the middle of the universe, above the summit of Mount Sumeru, at the top of Tushita Heaven. Tushita Heaven is within the six realms, it is the realm of the gods. Celestial beings living in Tushita Heaven are not liberated from life-and-death in the six realms. However, Tushita Pure Land is Buddha’s Pure Land, it is not within the six realms. Great masters like Asanga, Vasubandhu, Xuanzang, Dixian, Xuyun, Tsongkhapa, Atisa and the like, all took rebirths in this Pure Land. In addition, it is recorded in the Sutras that in the future, when Maitreya takes birth in the human realm to show the way to attain Buddhahood and to deliver the dharma, besides the exoteric teachings, he will also deliver the supreme and difficult to come by esoteric teachings.
Explanation of the Seven Stages of Advancement
1. To start hearing, contemplating and practicing：
- Foundation – Buddhism for Beginners Class:
those who have not studied two to three years of Buddhist courses can apply to study the Buddhism for Beginners course to start build up their foundation on Buddhist knowledge.
- Progressive – True Views of the Three Vehicles Class and Maitreya Sutras and Sastras Class：
this is the transition stage from general understanding to specialised learning of Buddhism, the content is more targeted, participants must have attended two to three years of Buddhist classes.
- Research and Practice – Maitreya Sutras and Sastras Class:
From Discerning Dharma and Dharmata, The Ornament of Clear Realisation, and Sublime Continuum of the Mahayana of Maitreya Five Sastras, research study combined with actual practice is used as guidance, participants must be students of the Progressive Class who are doing Practice Booklets three or beyond.
2. Practice Booklet Advancement Series:
The Basic Meditation Class is where students take the first step towards this progressive practice. After which, they can apply for Vajrayana Practice Booklet 1, there are eight Practice Booklets in total. The unique feature of these booklets is that they combine theory and actual practice to guide practice in stages. In addition, this practice is supplemented by the Sravaka-yana’s Samatha and Vipassana practice, and the Bodhisattva-yana’s recitation of Receiving Bodhicitta Precept Ritual.
3. Application for Solitary Retreat:
Only students of the Progressive Class (any class from the True Views of the Three Vehicles or Maitreya Sutras and Sastras) or Research Class who are doing Practice Booklet 2 or beyond and have studied The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment(Lam Rim Chenmo) or A Guide to the Preliminary Practices of the Great Perfection by Longchen Nyingthig, and familiar with the requirements of each practice method can apply for solitary retreat.