TRUC LAM FOUNDER
The Two Stages of Life
Written by Zen Master Thich Thanh Tu
Translated by Tu Tam Hoang
Enjoy the Way In Life
Wouldn’t commit such transgression
Preserve the bright nature, should not fall into evil path
Practice and follow the principle of Buddhism
Buddha is the mind, so no need to ask Ma Tzu
Discard wealth and outer forms, determined to find the path of Pan Yun
The bright mind has no greed, much less to be at Canh Dieu Yen Tu
Keep reminding to cease false thoughts, no need to sit at San pagoda at the East Mountain
Become well achieved in this mundane world is the most precious blessing
Live in the mountain without knowing these is a disadvantage and a waste of effort
Pray to be near bright scholars and enlightened in one night
A blessing of meeting bright scholars is like Udumbara flowers bloom once in a few kalpas.
If know, (1)
Wouldn’t commit such transgression (2)
The learning then is thorough (3)
If all of us know what have been said in section 2, we wouldn’t make any transgression. Meanwhile, our learning and practice would be thorough.
Preserve the bright nature, should not fall into evil path (4)
Wisdom is our focus in practicing Buddhism, so we should preserve it well and never fall into evil path. Nowadays, many Buddhist followers have fallen into the evil path. They practice exertive, but their intention is to attain the supernatural powers or good blessings. They don’t know to return to themselves to discern the wisdom. The purpose of practicing Buddhism is to attain enlightenment. Greed, hatred, and ignorance needs to be terminated so the wisdom could reveal. This is the principle of Buddhism.
Practice and follow the principle of Buddhism (5)
We need to practice in the way that follows the true principle of Buddhism. Buddhism is a religion of enlightenment. Thus, we need to consider enlightenment as the principle. But if enlightenment is the principle, then there’s no need for supernatural powers. The reason that we make mistake in our practice is our habit of praying for things that are unrelated to the principle of Buddhism. The Buddha attained Buddhahood because of enlightenment. He is a religious leader and also our master. If Buddha could attain enlightenment from his practice, then we should to consider enlightenment as our aim in practice. This is the true practicing method for Buddhist practitioners. It’s also the true principle.
Buddha is the mind, so no need to ask Ma Tzu (6)
Ma Tzu’s principle was “The mind is Buddha.” After Zen mater Fa Chang discerned this principle, he returned to Da Mei Mountain. Later, Ma Tzu asked someone to visit him with a question, “Since the time you returned to the mountain, how is your practice?” Master Fa Chang replied, “From Ma Tzu, I learned “The mind is Buddha.” Until today, it’s still that much.” The visitor said, “Master Ma Tzu no longer says “The mind is Buddha.” He now says “No mind, no Buddha.” Master Fa Chang replied, “I’m careless of the old man who said “no mind, no Buddha. I only know “The mind is Buddha.” The visitor returned to Ma Tzu reported the conversation. Master Ma Tzu called for a meeting and said, “The peach bloom is ripen.” He had confirmed master Fa Chang’s firm belief and his practice was completed. He knew clearly that “The mind is Buddha.”
So when we understand that “the mind is Buddha,” its redundant to ask Ma Tzu because it’s also his teaching.
Discard wealth and outer forms, determine to find the path of Pan Yum (7)
Pan Yun was a Confucian. He was a wealthy government official. After discernment of Buddhist dharma, he threw all of his properties into a river. Since then, he and his family lived with a simple life. He weaved bamboos, his wife did the house chores, his son did farm work, and his daughter Lin Zhiu sold the bamboo shades at the market place. In this line, the First patriarch teaches us not to get attached to money and wealth. We should follow Pan Yun, who is an excellent example.
The bright mind has no greed, much less to be at Canh Dieu Yen Tu (8)
If we don’t’ like wealth and don’t indulge in it we don’t need to get Canh Dieu mount. We can practice right here at the city.
Keep reminding to cease false thoughts, no need to sit at San Pagoda at the East Mountain (9)
If we could reminding ourselves not to arise any thought of forms and sounds, we don’t need to get to San Pagoda at the East Mountain.
Overall, in line 8 and 9, the Patriarch clearly indicated that true practitioners should preserve the bright mind and never be greedy in wealth. If we can do these, we don’t need to get to Canh Dieu mount at Yen Tu. We can practice right here by not attaching to forms and sounds. Indeed, no false thoughts can arise. No need to find a quiet place, but we still feel peaceful at where we are.
Become well-achieved in this mundane world is the most precious blessing (10)
The patriarch had told us everything from his heart in this line. If we could practice and accomplish it right in this mundane world, we would gain respect from everyone.
Live in the mountain without knowing these is a disadvantage and a waste of effort (11)
The patriarch said that at any place that we want to practice, we should determine to practice it right to gain people’s respect. Hiding in the mountains and forests without knowing the truth is a disadvantage and a waste of time.
If we know how to practice in mountains and forests, it’s beneficial and a great blessing. The First Patriarch’s intention is to remind us the keys of practice; understand correctly, practice correctly, and know correctly. The practice location is not an important factor.
Pray to be near bright scholars and enlightened in one night (12)
A blessing of meeting bright scholars is like Udumbara flowers bloom once in a few kalpas (13)
These 2 lines are beautiful. A wish to meet bright master. Being near them, the Bodhi fruition can be attained in one night. It’s like Master Huyen Giac, who could attain enlightenment in one night. Thus, being close to bright masters, a Bodhi fruition definitely will come.
It’s like Udumbara flowers bloom when we’re blessed to meet scholars. These flowers are precious because they’re hard to find.
These two lines describe the importance of bright masters and good scholars. Without them in our practicing journey, our practice is a waste of time.
Once discern the true mind.
Transform Three Poisons to attain Three Bodies
Terminate six senses by terminating six enemies
To become fairies, it requires fairy medicines
To attain Nothingness, needless to hind from sounds or forms
Know the true nature, believe in Prajna, needless to find the Buddha in the East or West.
Discern the true form; know the Nothingness, needless to ask for the Zen principle in the South or North
Read scriptures and study Zen precepts
Burn Five Scents without rituals
If one accumulates human love, righteousness, and practice virtues, he’s Sakyamuni
If one preserves the precepts, terminates greed and jealousy, he’s Maitreya
“Believe it” is an introduction of this section
Once discern the true mind (2)
Ignorance ends (3)
How rational these two lines are! They remind us that as practitioners we should practice to discern the true mind and to end ignorance. IF we don’t discern it, ignorance exists forever. It sounds so simple, but it’s not if we don’t try and live with it.
Let’s try to sit alone and look at the pine forest for 5 minutes with our mind tamed. At this moment, are we bright or ignorant? We’re fully bright. Thus, at any time that our mind is unattached to forms, we have attained One mind. The ignorance ends. A few hours of One mind in one day could lessen much karmas. It’s not a big torment to practice Zen. It’s quite pleasant. When we’re asked to chant, we chant. When we’re called to eat, we eat. When we’re called to mediate, we meditate. Is that day an annoying day? Of course, it’s not. These two lines are quite thoughtful.
Transform Three Poisons to attain Three Bodies (4)
We need to transform the Three Poisons in order to attain the Three Bodies. What are the Three Poisons? Greed, hatred, and ignorance. These three things take us into the Six Directions of Reincarnation. Especially, the Three Evil Paths: hell, hungry ghost, and animal. Such torturing places are made by the Three Poisons. People don’t know that they’re extremely poisonous.
When hearing unwanted words from someone, people’s face turns red in anger. They then raise their arms or legs. This cause leads them to hell. They defend themselves by saying that the other party has provoked them. Such defensive behavior is used to nurture the hatred. This nurturing is the cause that leads them to hell. If we realize hatred is the cause to hell, we would be calm to people’s curses. Remember that cursing is not a big deal because it’s just a vain speech. After we heard it, it vanishes. If we still feel angry, we find ourselves in suffering.
We all see that the three poisons greed, hatred, and ignorance arise from the mind. They leads us indulging in the evil paths of hell, hungry ghost, and animal. Now that we want to practice, what should we do? We need to transform the Three Poisons to attain the Three Buddhist Bodies. These bodies benefit all sentient beings. They are the Dharma body, Retribution body, Response and Transformation body. The Dharma body is an unborn and imperishable body. It doesn’t have a physical form. Retribution body is a physical body, which is formed by each person’s karma. Response and Transformation body is the body that we are transformed into when we attain enlightenment. The Bodhisattvas could transform into any Response and Transformation body to refuge sentient beings. Human transformation depends on their karmas to lead them into the appropriate path. Thus, the Dharma body is is the root, the Retribution body depends on the karmas, and the Response and Transformation body depends on the conditions.
Terminate six senses by terminating six enemies (5)
How different are the Six senses from the Six enemies? Six senses are the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind. Six enemies are also the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind. There’s no difference. But why they have two different names? If the eyes and ears immediately attach to forms and sounds after seeing or hearing them, then they’re called Six enemies. If they don’t run after the forms or sounds, they’re called Six senses. When the senses are fully tamed, they’re called Six Supernatural powers.
How can we terminate Six senses? Don’t miss understand that we should destroy our senses like rubbing the eyes to make them blind, poking the ears to make them deaf, etc… We terminate them by simply not letting the Six senses attach to Six sensual objects. This means that to the forms, the eyes have no attachment. To the sounds, the ears have no attachment. To the flavors, the tongue has no attachment. To the scents, the nose has no attachment. To the objects, the body has no attachment. In addition, to the mental objects, the mind has no attachment. These are how to terminate the sense.
It’s easy to say. In reality, we keep attaching to objects. The eyes attach to beautiful a form is one example. The mental images appear in mind when we’re inactive. Our mind still attaches to complements and cursing even though they have vanished. If we don’t have a chance to respond, we feel uneasy or restless. This means we’re already attached to sounds. If we’re tamed to people’s saying, then we’re unattached to forms and sounds. The matter is quite simple. Don’t let ourselves attach to objects. Everything becomes tamed. Un-attachment is the termination. We need to work hard in terminating Six senses to that the Six enemies can be terminated.
What are the Six enemies? They are the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind. When Six senses are unattached to Six objects, they become Six Supernatural powers. When they attach to Six objects, they become six enemies. There’s a common phrase “The Three poisons are the Six enemies.” How far do you think the Six Supernatural powers are from the Six enemies? Only a tiny bit. Attached, they become Six enemies. Unattached, they become six supernatural powers. The practicing method is quiet simple. We only need to unattached to everything so everything is tamed and controlling. Our goal in practice is to terminate the Three Poison, Six senses, and Six enemies.
To become fairies, it requires fairy medicines (6)
To attain Nothingness, needless to hide form sounds or forms (7)
People who like to become fairies and like to be able to fly. They definitely need the fairy medicines. For those who want to attain the concept of Nothingness, they only need to not attach to anything. We don’t need to run away from sounds or forms because they are just impermanent. Only the nature of Nothingness is the permanent thing that resides inside of us.
Thus, this first line is for those who want to practice to become fairies. They need to take fairy medicines. The second line is for Buddhist practitioners who want to discern the concept of Nothingness. They should not attach to forms and sounds. The true nature of Nothingness then immediate reveals.
Know the true nature, believe in Prajna, needless to find the Buddha in the East or West (8)
Discern the true form, know the Nothingness, needless to ask for the Zen principle in the South or North (9)
Buddhist practitioners should discern the true nature and understand fully the concept of Praina. No need to find Buddha in the Western or Eastern land.
Discern the true form means to discern our identity. Once we clearly the concept of Nothingness, we don’t need effort to study Zen from either Northern or Southern schools. Northern school implies Master Shen Hsiu, while Southern school implies master Hui Neng. Our goal is to discern the true nature and full understand the concept of Nothingness, so no need to ask about Zen from Northern or Southern school.
Read scriptures and study Zen precepts (10)
We need to read Buddhist scriptures and study the Zen principles in order to live accordingly.
Burn Five Scents without rituals (11)
Burn the Five Scents means to burn the Five Dharma Body scents. The Five Scents are discipline, concentration, wisdom, liberation, and liberation of all mental objects. Abide the rules to purify ourselves is the Scent of Discipline. Pacifying our mind is called the Scent of Concentration. Attaining the wisdom is called the Scent of Wisdom. Attaining the liberation is called the Scent of liberation. At last, liberating all hidden obstinacy in mental object is called the Scent liberating all mental objects. The fulfillment of these five tasks is a good offering to the Buddha. No need to buy the incense.
In our practice, we should not concentrate too much on the formality, but focus more on the virtues. Good virtues are the superb offering to the Buddha. They’re precious, but if the virtuesare bad, the Buddha wouldn’t be contented to how much precious our offering are. Here, the patriarch teaches us to use the Five Scents of Dharma Body that we have in us to offer the Buddha. This is the best way.
If one accumulates human love, righteousness, and practice virtue, he’s Sakyamuni (12)
If practitioners know how accumulate the righteousness, love, and have compassion to bring benefits to all sentient beings, they’re Buddha. Thus, right in this life, if we have compassion and can bring benefits to all sentient beings, we are no different from Sakyamuni.
If one preserves the precepts, terminates greed and jealousy, he’s Maitreya (13)
IF we can terminate greed and enviness, we are Maitreya. Does Maitreya look happy or sad? He’s always happy because he already practiced the “Four Unlimited Minds” (kindness, compassion, delight, and renunciation) He forgives anyone who humiliates him. He always loves and helps everyone. The virtues of kindness, compassion, delight, and renunciation are filled in him. Therefore, he always smiles. On the other hands, we can’t happily smile because our ongoing enviness and greed.
We don’t like others who’re better thanus. But in this world, we can stop them from moving ahead of us. At least, there’re 3 people who are better than us among 5 or 7, we’re uncomfortable when they receive complements and we don’t. We feel sad when they’re loved, but we’re not…Thus, we suffer all day. If we’re able to terminate the enviness and greed, what are left for us to suffer? If we could apply the patriarch’s teaching correctly, we should become Sakyamuni or Maitreya.
In this section, we have seen that King Tran Nhan Tong had attained enlightenment. His mind was pure and bright even though he lived in luxurious environment. He truly deserves our respected.
Type date & sent –March 3rd-2019
(Columbia, Missouri, U.S.A)