Human-Centered Buddhism. Venerable Master Yinshun. (1906-2005). Venerable Master Taixu . (1889-1974). Ven. Master Jen Chun. ( 1919-2011).
Buddhism for Human World:A Teaching that is in accordance to the Acceptance Level of the People從依機設教說明人間佛教Explaining Buddhism among Mankind as a Religion Suited to Conditions
A talk given in 1952 to the monastic residents of a monastery named Jing Ye Lin (淨業林)in Jiang Su (江蘇),
Riding the Buddha Vehicle through History: Buddhist Vehicles and Buddhist History in the Thought of Ven. Master Yin-Shun
2 Analysis of Various Vehicles that are Tailored to the Temperaments of Sentient Beings
2.3 Bodhisattva Vehicle Based on the Human-Celestial and Śrāvaka Vehicles
Why are there these two purpose i.e., cultivating wholesomeness and restraining from unwholesomeness?
As to the other two siddhantas: to cultivate wholesomeness and to restrain from unwholesomeness
In conclusion, when one is spreading Buddha Dharma, in order to match the teachings of the Buddha with the spiritual capacities of the audience , one should
They might learn the doctrine of Śrāvaka Vehicle before they came to learn Mahāyāna doctrine.
Ven. Taixu’s way of classifying bodhisattvas into three types is very meaningful: Human, Celestial, and Two-vehicle Bodhisattvas.
Use the mandalas to Illustrate the differences in the doctrines and intended hearers between the three periods.
The out-most layer consists of spirits and deities, ranging from Śuddhāvāsa deva (Deity of Pure Abode) to ghost and animals.
During this period, the monastic community were moved to the right side, it no longer occupied the central place, it was regarded as the audience for whom certain expedient means were made. They became auditors in classroom.
They were depicted as blaming themselves for not knowing and practicing earlier the Boddhisattva Path. But, eventually, they all decide to turn to the Great Vehicle.
Deities (including spirits and animals) were elevated to the left side of the center. For example, the Vajradhara, a guardian of Buddhism during the time of the Buddha, was a yakṣa. In this period of Mahāyāna, it was honored as the transformation body of bodhisattva.
The teachings of benefiting others in Mahāyāna Buddhism are full of the spirit of a Bodhisattva as described in the Jātaka stories. Meanwhile, there is an inclination of deities worship, and their role became notable gradually. So this is Buddhism getting more and more involved with humanization as well as deification.
The amiable lay Bodhisattvas were moved to middle ring, while monastic disciples relocated to the outermost layer. This can be clearly discerned from Tantric Maṇḍala.
In short, the pure practice of Human Bodhisattva is to arouse Bodhicitta as a human, to help sentient beings with the help of wisdom and compassion, and to go directly to attain the supreme enlightenment.
Analysis of Vehicles’ Adaptations
Buddhism is closely connected to ancient Indian culture. We have to see through this connection and not to be bound to it, so that we will not misunderstand an expedient teaching, which was made to accommodate ancient Indian culture , as the universal and everlasting truth.
These two streams of religious thought are very close to the teachings of Human-celestial Vehicle.
Repeated birth and death is a big puzzle, which needs to be resolved once and for all.
In Indian religions, people followed six types of practice to obtain present-life happiness and better rebirth in either human or celestial realm.
As to the rite of sacrifice in ancient India (and also for religions such as Judaism and Zoroastrianism), fire was set up in house for the whole year, and would never be put out.
The Homa found in the Esoteric Buddhism originated from the oblation with fire in Brahmanism. There were more complicated rites of sacrifice that require to be performed by a priest with three different fires.
Incantation in India were sometimes part of the sacrificial rituals, where the motive was still upright. But, there were other incantations that are used with evil intention to benefit oneself by harming others. .
These three kind of conduct mentioned above are the practices leading to present-life and after-life happiness. (Among them, sacrifice is also meant for ultimate happiness)
In Magadha and Aṅga, there were many ascetics, highly respected by the public. They practiced so to gain rebirth in the heaven and ultimate liberation.
In conclusion, of the six practices described above, sacrificial offerings and incantation were the most common practices, motivated by the wish of rebirth as a human or as a deity.
However, the Buddha allowed that lay Buddhists make offerings to deities in a moderate way, using such items of incense, flowers, fruits and grains. This is a skillful means to guide sentient beings, and belongs to the Worldly Siddhānta.
Making offerings to ancestors was a common practice in both lndia and China.
The person then asked, "If our parent was not reborn in the realm of the hungry ghost, do we still have to make sacrificial offerings?“
In order to be reborn as a human or a celestial being, one needs to perform human-celestial right conducts. With these right conducts, one acquires happiness in this and future lives.
First, alms-giving is to sacrifice what one possesses and to give away their possessions for the benefit of others, without attachment and unwillingness.
In the Human Vehicle, there are two types of practice : alms-giving and morality.
With respect to the asceticism, the Buddha adopted only its essence (shared by the Human-Celestial Vehicles), and taught wanting-little and contentment; diligence and lion-heartedness; a middle path which avoids self-mortification and sensuality-indulgence.
In short, the practices which Indian religions believed as leading to rebirth in heavens, which is the ultimate liberation for them, were modified and integrated into his teachings by the Buddha, who approved these practices as ways to rebirth in heaven realms, not to ultimate liberation.
Giving and morality, generally speaking, are the virtues of the Human Vehicle. If practiced excellently, they can ,with a little experience of meditation, lead to a rebirth in the celestial realm of sense sphere.
The Human Vehicle was tailored to the dispositions of the Indian people at that time. The practices of Human Vehicle represent the virtues of lay people. From a Buddhist perspective, they are the urgent needs of this human world.
To practice for the ultimate liberation one should follow the 'Three Undefiled Trainings' i.e. morality (sīla), concentration (samādhi), and wisdom (prajñā). Only with the help of these three trainings, can one abandon mental defilements, free oneself from the cycle of birth and death and attain liberation.
Other Indian religions claimed sacrificial offerings as a part of the practice leading to ultimate liberation by a rebirth in the heavens. However, in Buddhism, this sacrificial practice has no place at all in the Śrāvaka Vehicle of Early Buddhism.
The practice of incantation originated from Indian theistic religions, which believed that the liberation of unification with the real “Self” (Brahma) can be achieved by mentally reciting 'Om‘. This incantation practice has no place at all in the Śrāvaka Vehicle of Early Buddhism.
Morality, keeping precepts diligently, was emphasized in the Śrāvaka Vehicle; it is the right path leading to the supramundane dharma.
The supra-mundane practice emphasizes observing precepts. And keeping precepts embraces the essence of asceticism.
Although his contemporaries regarded the yoga practices as a way leading to liberation, the Buddha viewed these practices as ways to develop concentration at most.
Other religions in India emphasized on concentration, but the essence of the teachings of the Buddha is wisdom. To end the round of rebirth, one has to extinguish ignorance [through wisdom] to abandon defilements and self-attachment.
If one just subdues the deluded thoughts by controlling the mind, without correcting the erroneous understanding, one achieves only certain state of deep concentration where the defilements are suppressed only temporarily, and still lying beneath the surface.
This contrast clearly highlights the uniqueness of the Buddhist teachings.
In Original Buddhism, during the time of Sākyamuni Buddha (,which belongs to Śrāvaka Vehicle), many lay disciples attained the noble fruits.
Lay disciples observe the five precepts and sometimes the eight precepts, which are additional. They do not need to adopt the austere asceticism.
Buddhist lay disciples, whether they are farmers, workers, merchants, scholars, or soldiers, all lead a household life.
As long as they cultivate wisdom on the basis of morality, they can put an end to the cycle of rebirth and attain the ultimate liberation even without abolishing the ordinary life.
So we can see that Śrāvaka Vehicle was also adapted to the lay disciples, who were introduced to Śrāvaka Vehicle from Human Vehicle.
The twelve disciplines of dhūtāṅga in Buddhism, are in fact practiced by this type of disciples (these disciplines are originally the practices among recluses at that time).
However, not all monastic disciples lead an ascetic and tough life as such.
This way of practice might be called “the Śrāvaka Vehicle with the celestial practice as skillful means”.
Another type of bhikṣus is called the village-dwelling bhiksus. They are entirely different from the two types of śrāvaka disciples mentioned above.
They are different from the lay śrāvaka disciples with respect to their renunciation and alms-seeking and they are different from the forest-dwelling bhikṣus in that they lived together harmoniously and engaged themselves in Dharma preaching as well as their self-practice.
Apart from observing the precepts and developing concentration and wisdom, the village-dwelling bhikṣus also went for alms-giving in towns and villages.
Śākyamuni Buddha also led a life of village-dwellingbhikṣu.
The Tenderness Sutra in Madhyama Āgama said that Buddha enjoyed whatever requisites was available with ease and was praised by people for being content and wanting little.
In the Śrāvaka Vehicle, the practice of lay disciples is based on the practice of Human Vehicle. In contrast, the forest-dwelling bhiksus valued more the celestial practices. The practice of village-dwelling bhikṣus is a compromised combination of the human and celestial practices.
The Buddha taught the teaching of Human-Celestial Vehicle to accommodate the common right conducts in India. He also set up the supramundane teachings of Śrāvaka Vehicle to accommodate the reclusive yoga-practitioners in India.
Before Śākyamuni attained Buddhahood, he was a Bodhisattva who followed the Bodhisattva Path.
These two Bodhisattvas possessed more profound wisdom and greater compassion and vow to serve all sentient beings.
The spirit is even more highlighted in the Jātaka, past-life stories of Śākyamuni, which explain in great detail how the Buddha could not bear to see sentient beings killing each other and consequently initiated Bodhicitta; how he had been practicing loving kindness and compassion diligently; and how he taught Dharma without rest even when he was ill and old.
There is a story about a scabies-infected patient who was in search of a specific cure, ie the blood and bone marrow of a human who never get angry.
As the Chinese saying goes, " I would not regret dying in the evening provided I would have come to know the truth in the morning." The moral of this saying is fully revealed in the Bodhisattva Path.
The Six Pāramitās or the Ten Pāramitās in Mahāyāna Buddhism sum up the attributes of the Bodhisattva practices as described in Jātaka.
For example, one of the stories stated that once, a bird had discovered a fire spreading in the forest.
If these stories are taken literally as facts, we may say, the animals in these stories were the metamorphosis of the bodhisattva, who, out of great loving kindness and great compassion, spares nothing and endures suffering in order to help sentient beings.
We see that the Jātaka stories highlight two important facts about bodhisattvas.
In Jātaka stories, a bodhisattva could be reborn as a deer king, dragon king, elephant king, and etc.
These two aspects had great impacts on the development of Mahāyāna Buddhism in India.
Mahāyāna Buddhism became popular about five hundred years after the Parinirvaṇa of the Buddha. As it is said, "Avataṃsaka in the first three seven days”, “Saddharmapuṇḍarika and Mahāparinirvaṇa in total eight years ", some people believed that the Buddha taught Mahāyāna sūtras when he was alive.
The Mahāyāna sūtras say that the Śākyamuni Buddha adopted a monastic appearance on the ground of skillful mean (i.e. to accommodate the recluse communities of other religions in India).
The Mahāyāna teachings were not necessarily preached by the Śākyamuni Buddha; in most cases they were given by the bodhisattvas.
This is due to the fact that lay Buddhists deeply respected the supra-mundane teachings of the Buddha and live in a secular world.
Another example is the Chapter of 'Skilful Mean' in the Vimalakīrt Sūtra. The Mahāyāna teachings are delivered by Vimalakīrti mainly to the laities.
These two bodhisattvas, one trainee and the other trainer, both integrate the righteous human conducts into the Dharma and make it more rational.
The Bodhisattva Dharma based on the right conducts of Human Vehicle was adapted to and promoted by the lay people in India. This can also be clearly detected from the Mahāyānic practices. The practices of three Vehicles are shown in the following figure.
The supra-mundane Śrāvaka Dharma pays less attention to alms-giving. In contrast, the Human-Celestial Dharma does not address (supreme) wisdom.
The bodhisattvas of Mahāyāna enter the world, thus they have to practice alms-giving as much as possible.
The development of patience and perseverance does exist in Śrāvaka Vehicle.
The great compassion is the kind of compassion which necessarily goes along with wisdom. It is close to benevolence and love, but still not the same.
I have said previously that Śrāvaka Vehicle is adapted to the temperament of such śramaṇas in India as the three Kāśyapa brothers and Mahākāśyapa, who used to practice asceticism.
The Bodhisattva Dharma, which is adapted to the lay people, (1) emphasizes the human practices, also (2) inclines to the celestial practices.
Brahmanism in India values sacrifice, incantation, and asceticism. In the course of development, Mahāyāna Buddhism assimilated these elements of Celestial Vehicle and integrated these three practices into Mahāyāna teachings.
The monastic disciples respect the Buddha and their teachers, provide services to them, and follow the advices given. All these can be called making offerings. Making offerings is an ordinary activity and has nothing to do with sacrifice.
For people who understood the teachings, making offerings to Buddha statues is simply a way to show respect and faith toward the Triple Gem.
About one hundred years after the Parinirvaṇa of the Buddha, King Aśoka constructed 84,000 stupas to house the relics of the Buddha.
These practices developed gradually in Śrāvaka schools and attracted more attentions in Mahāyāna.
I’ll teach only the unsurpassed path.”
To help reveal the ultimate truth. “
should enter a pagoda or monastery,
once they exclaim, 'Salute to the Buddha!’
then all attainBuddhahood."
Different kinds of skilful means in Mahāyāna, such as the practices of prostrating, making offerings, repentance, transferring merits, and requesting the Buddha to teach the Dharma, evolve on the memorization of the Buddha.
On the one hand, Mahāyāna emphasized the practice of actively helping sentient beings in this human world, on the other hand, it developed to fulfill the religious sentiment of the common people.
In the early Mahāyāna sūtras, such as the Avataṃsaka Sūtra, Prajñāpāramitā Sūtras, and Mahāsamnipata Sūtra, there are the so-called Forty Two Syllables, i.e. Syllable Dhāraṇī.
If one visualizes the Brahman mentally and recites the syllable 'aum' verbally, he is able to see the “Supreme Self” and attain liberation when the practice fullly succeeds.
In the later development of Buddhism, Indra, Rakṣasa and Yakṣa etc. all recite mantras to protect Buddha Dharma.
The early Śrāvaka Dharma was the most unsophisticated. And Mahāyāna Buddhism relatively emphasizes humanitarianism, and at the same time adopts much more celestial practices from other religions.
Although there were śrāvaka practitioners when Mahāyāna Buddhism was flourishing, they were not the audience intended in the Mahāyāna sūtras.
In Mahāyāna Sūtra, the śrāvaka disciples, like Mahākaśyapa, also regret about their attainment of arhantship, which prevent them from turning to the bodhisattva path. (3 V)
In brief, during the initial development of Mahāyāna, the śrāvaka disciple were not the main concern of Mahāyāna Dharma, rather they are secondary to the practices of Human Bodhisattvas and Celestial Bodhisattvas.
“Relying on this human body to attain Buddhahood”(即人成佛) is the essence of Buddhism.
It’s true that, in order to make the Dharma more adapted to the common folk, Bodhisattva Dharma recognized certain celestial practices, such as sacrifice, incantation, asceticism, or even reclusion and yoga, and thus revolved gradually into a form of Buddhism where the attainment of Buddhahood necessarily relies on the practices of Celestial Vehicle.
Although Bodhisattva Vehicle and Śrāvaka Vehicle in Buddhism are respectively adapted to people who incline to the righteous human conducts and people who incline to the celestial practices, these righteous human conducts and celestial practices in Buddhism are not the same in nature as those in other religions.
The fact that Buddha emerged in this human world implies that that the Buddha values two things: this human world and the attainment of Buddhahood.
What was is said as “Relying on the world to leave the world” and “Leaving the world without neglecting the world” is now changed to be “Relying on the human body to attain Buddhahood” and “Attaining Buddhahood without neglecting human duties”.