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Hua-yen school

The Hua-yen school derived its name from the title of the Chinese translation of Avatamsaka-sutra. Avatamsaka literally means “Flower Garland”. (Fig.1 Hua-Yen Temple)

 The first complete translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra in Chinese was done by Buddhabhadra(359-429) between 418-421. This translation is in sixty fascicles and has thirty-four chapters. It is also referred to as “Sixty Hua-yen” or “Old sutra”.

A latter translation of the Sutra under the same title was completed by Siksananda(652-710) in Tang dynasty. This translation is in eighty fascicles and has thirty-nine chapters. It is also referred to as “Eighty Hua-yen” or “New sutra”.

The third translation of the Sutra was done by Prajna not too long after the second translation. The origin of this Sanskrit source was from different part of India and the content was similar to the last forty fascicles of the Avatamsaka-sutra therefore it is called “Forty Hua-yen” or “Last Hua-yen”.

The first two translations are quite similar, the second being perhaps more literal and somewhat longer because it contains new material not found in the earlier version. And the last one is a re-translation of the second part of the sutra with minor regional differences.

As one of the longest texts in the Buddhist canon, the Avatamsaka is one of the most comprehensive compendiums of the Buddhist teaching. It was held in the highest esteem by the followers ever since its presence in Chinese Buddhist society.

The main subject of this sutra is the description of the Buddha’s enlightenment. It provides a detail guide for practitioners to pursuit the Bodhisattva’s Path, from the awakening of Bodhicitta to the accomplishment of perfect Buddhahood. The Bodhisattva Path is presented in four sets of ten stages, culminating with the two levels of enlightenment, the final goal of Mahayana Buddhism.

The school was officially founded by Fa-tsang (or Shan-shiang 643-712) based on his scholarly contribution to the Hua-yen theory. His religious work attracted a lot of attention and eventually produced significant influence on the emperor. With strong political support from the emperor, Fa-tsand was able to create a new school system that outspread quickly during the time. Even this school was started from Fa-tsand, its earliest theory and structure go back to the masters Tu-shun(or Fa-shun, 557-640) and Chih-yen (602-668), who are considered the first two patriarchs of the Hua-yen school. Tu-shun’s “Five levels of teaching” and “Ten profound gates” formed the root of the school system. And he was regarded by his successors as an incarnation of Manjushri.

Further important representatives were Cheng-kuan (or Ching-liang 738-839), under whom the school gained great influence. Cheng-kuan was the master of several emperors. With his special relationship to the political leaders, Cheng-kuan earned the title “the Hua-yen Bodhisattva” and was regarded as the fourth patriarch. The fifth patriarch of the school was Tsung-mi (780-841), who initiated the concept of merging Zen and Hua-yen in one school. After the death of Tsung-mi, Hua-yen declined during the general suppression of Buddhism in China.

The Hua-yen school distinguishes itself from the other Chinese Buddhist schools in an important viewpoint. The practice in this school concentrates on the relationship between phenomena and not on that between phenomena and the absolute. This notion is called the “universal causality of the Dharma-dhatu (universal principle),” i.e., everything in the universe arises out of itself and the principles of all activities (phenomena) are essentially one, and that unity is essentially plural. Since all things participate in a unity and this unity divides into the many, therefore the manifold is unified in this one. Based on the theory, there are an infinite number of Buddhas and Buddha realms in the universe and they all share the same true Buddha body and live with the same principle in the similar Buddha realm, they are just like individual waves of the same sea and these waves cannot exist independently. Because the equality of all things and the dependence of all things upon one another are so essential in this school, this teaching is known as the “teaching of totality”.

From this point of view everything in the world, whether animate or inanimate, is an expression of the highest principle (Dharma-dhatu) and is thus one with Buddhamind. This view is explained in the division of the universe into four realms and in the thesis of the six characteristics of things. They are in either a state of “true suchness” (tathata): (I). The static aspect of which is the realm of “principle” (“li”). (II). The dynamic aspect of which is the realm of phenomena (“Shih”). These two realms are so interwoven and dependent on each other that the entire universe arises as an interdependent conditioning. The four realms of the universe are as follows:

  1. The realm of phenomena: The Small teaching and Begin teaching define this realm as the world of Dharma.

     

  2. The realm of the principle (absolute): The Begin and Sudden teachings define this realm as the world of Dharma.

     

  3. The realm in which phenomena and principle mutually interpenetrate: The End teaching defines this realm as the world of Dharma. It touches the basis of Middle Way and provides the integrated system for the phenomena and principle realms.

     

  4. The realm in which all phenomena exist in perfect harmony: This is the teaching of totality. Based on the theory, the Round teaching is able to resolve the different viewpoints from results of different phenomenal experiences.

To explain these many-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many relationships of phenomena, Hua-yen’s teaching defines that the dharma possesses the six characteristics:

  •  
    • Universality: The view of corresponding object as a whole.

       

    • Specificity: The parts of the object only fulfill the specific function and are distinct from each other.

       

    • Similarity: All the parts consist in the fact that they are part of the object.

       

    • Distinctness: All the parts express the distinct functions in the object.

       

    • Composition: The characteristic of integration that all parts together make up the object.

       

    • Decomposition: Every part takes its own particular place and the object can be completed only if each part show the nature of their differentiation.

Like the Tien-tai school, Hua-yen undertakes a division of the Buddha’s teaching into different categories. Unlike Tien-tai’s intention of integrating different Indian Buddhism theories, Hua-yen’s focus was more on synthesizing different viewpoints of Chinese schools during early Tang Dynasty. This school classified Buddhist scriptures and doctrines on five levels. With its own teaching as the highest and most complete teaching of all. These five levels are:

  1. Small teaching: The Hinayana teaching. It is considered the “small vehicle” teaching because it only focuses on individual liberation and it appears in the Agamas period.

     

  2. Begin teaching: The beginning teachings of the Mahayana, which sees all dharmas are emptiness because they arise in a conditioned fashion. And because it denies all beings possess Buddha-nature (with the potential of being an enlightenment one) therefore it is considered an elementary (or begin) teaching. As advocated by the Fa-hsiang and San-lun schools.

     

  3. End teaching: The end teaching of the Mahayana. On this level all things are considered to arise with causality by emptiness nature, and their individual independent existence is admitted. As presented by the Tien-tai school.

     

  4. Sudden teaching: Unlike the previous two teachings that require gradual practice, enlightenment can be attained suddenly through special techniques taught in the teaching. This is the stage of Zen.

     

  5. Complete (Round) teaching: The ultimate and complete teaching of the Buddha’s teaching, the teaching of the Hua-yen school. Where all beings and activities (phenomena) exist in perfect harmony.
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The Eleventh Chapter “Purifying Practice” of the Avatamsaka Sutra

Then The Enlightening Being Chief in Knowledge asked the enlightening being Manjushri, “How can enlightening beings attain faultless physical, verbal, and mental action? How can they attain harmless physical, verbal, and mental action? How can they attain blameless physical, verbal, and mental action? How can they attain invulnerable physical, verbal, and mental action? How can they attain non-regressive physical, verbal, and mental action? How can they attain unshakable physical, verbal, and mental action? How can they attain excellent physical, verbal, and mental action? How can they attain pure physical, verbal, and mental action? How can they attain unpolluted physical, verbal, and mental action? How can they attain physical, verbal, and mental action that is guided by wisdom?

How can they attain birth in appropriate places, among good people, physically complete, with full mindfulness, understanding, completeness in conduct, fearlessness, and awareness?

How can they attain excellent discernment, foremost discernment, supreme discernment, immeasurable discernment, incalculable discernment, inconceivable discernment, incomparable discernment, unfathomable discernment, inexpressible discernment?

How can they attain causal power, will power, skill power, the power of proper conditions and objects of attention, faculty power, powers of observation, the power to stop the mind, powers of analytic insight, and power of contemplative thought?

How can they attain skill in analyzing the psychophysical elements and organs, skill in analyzing interdependent origination, skill in analyzing the realms of desire, form and formlessness, and skill in understanding the past, present and future?

How can they cultivate well the branches of enlightenment – mindfulness, discernment, effort, joy, well-being, concentration, relinquishment? How can they attain emptiness, signlessness, wishlessness?

How can they fulfill the means of transcendence – generosity, self-control, tolerance, effort, meditation, and wisdom? How can they fulfill kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity?

How can they attain the power of knowledge of what is so and what is not, the power of knowledge of consequences of past, future, and present acts, the power of knowledge of superiority and inferiority of faculties, the power of knowledge of various realms, the power of knowledge of various understandings, the power of knowledge of various understandings, the power of knowledge of where all paths lead, the power of knowledge of defilement of purity of meditations, liberations, and trances, the power of knowledge of past lives, the power of knowledge of unhindered clairvoyance, and the power of knowledge of having cut off all taints?

How can they always gain the protection, respect and support of celestial kings, dragon kings, yaksha kings, gandharva kings, titan kings, garuda kings, kinnara kings, mahoraga kings, human kings, and brahma kings?

How can they be a reliance and savior, a refuge and resort, a lamp and a light, an illuminator and a guide, a supreme and universal leader for all sentient beings?

How can they be foremost and greatest, excellent and supreme, sublime and most wonderful, highest and unexcelled, incomparable and peerless among all sentient beings?”

Manjushri said to Chief in Knowledge, “Excellent, O Child of Buddha! You have asked this out of a desire to benefit many, to bring peace to many, out of pity for the world, to profit and gladden celestial and human beings.

Child of Buddha, if enlightening beings use their minds properly, they can attain all supreme qualities, can have a mind unhindered in regard to all enlightening teachings, can remain on the Path of the Buddhas of past, present, and future, never leaving it even while living in the midst of sentient beings, can comprehend the characteristics of all things, cut off all evil and fulfill all good. They will be physically most excellent, like Universally Good; all of their practical vows they will be able to fulfill, and will be free in all ways, and will be guides for all sentient beings, How can they use their minds so as to attain all supreme sublime qualities?

Enlightening beings at home should wish that all beings realize the nature of “home” is empty, and escape its pressures.

While serving their parents, they should wish that all beings serve the Buddha, protecting and nourishing everyone.

While with their spouses and children, they should wish that beings be impartial toward everyone, and forever give up attachment.

When attaining desires, they should wish that all beings pull out the arrows of lust and realize ultimate peace.

On festive occasions, they should wish that all beings enjoy themselves with truth and realize amusement’s not real.

If in palace rooms, they should wish that all beings enter the sanctified state, forever rid of defiled craving.

When putting on adornments, they should wish that all beings give up phony decoration, and reach the abode of truth.

When climbing up in balconies, they should wish that all beings ascend the tower of truth, and see through everything.

When they give something, they should wish that all beings be able to relinquish all with hearts free of clinging.

When in gatherings or crowds, they should wish that all beings let go of compounded things, and attain to total knowledge.

If in danger and difficulty, they should wish that all beings be free unhindered wherever they go.

When they give up home life, they should wish that all beings have no hindrance in leaving home, and that their minds can be liberated.

Entering a monastery, they should wish that all beings expound various principles of non-contention.

Going to tutors and teachers, they should wish that all beings skillfully server their teachers, and practice virtuous ways.

Seeking initiation, they should wish that all beings reach the non-regressing state, their minds without impediment.

Shedding lay clothing, they should wish that all beings cultivate roots of goodness, and abandon the yoke of transgressions.

When shaving off their hair, they should wish that all beings forever divorce all afflictions, and pass on to ultimate tranquility.

Putting on religious garb, they should wish that all beings be undefiled in mind, and fulfill the Way of the Great Sage.

When they formally leave home, they should wish that all beings leave home with the Buddha, and rescue one and all.

Taking refuge in the Buddha, they should wish that all beings continue lineage of Buddhas, conceiving the unexcelled aspiration.

Taking refuge in the Teaching, they should wish that all beings enter deeply into the scriptures, and their wisdom be deep as the sea.

Taking refuge in the Community, they should wish that all beings order the masses, all becoming free from obstruction.

When receiving the learners’ precepts, they should wish that all beings learn self-control well, and not do any wrong.

Receiving a mentor’s instruction, they should wish that all beings bear themselves with dignity, and that their actions be truthful.

Receiving a teacher’s guidance, they should wish that all beings enter the knowledge of birthlessness, and reach the state of independence.

Receiving the full set of precepts, they should wish that all beings fulfill all means of liberation, and master the supreme teaching.

When entering a hall, they should wish that all beings ascent to the unexcelled sanctuary, and rest there secure, unshakable.

When setting out a seat, they should wish that all beings cause good principles to bloom, and see their true character.

Sitting up straight, they should wish that all beings sit on the seat of enlightenment, they minds without attachment.

Sitting cross-legged, they should wish that all beings have firm and strong roots of goodness, and attain the state of immovability.

Cultivating concentration, they should wish that all beings conquer their minds by concentration, ultimately, with no remainder.

When practicing contemplation, they should wish that all beings see truth as it is, and be forever free of opposition and contention.

When uncrossing the legs, they should wish that all beings observe that all acts and all things, return to dispersal and extinction.

When lowering the feet and resting, they should wish that all beings attain liberation of mind, resting at peace, unstirred.

When raising the legs, they should wish that all beings leave the sea of birth and death, and fulfill all good qualities.

When putting on lower garments, they should wish that all beings wear the foundations of goodness, and have a sense of shame and conscience.

When putting on a belt, they should wish that all beings bundle roots of goodness, and not let them be lost.

When putting on an outer garment, they should wish that all beings attain supreme bases of goodness, and reach the Other Shore of the teaching.

Putting on monastic robes, they should wish that all beings enter the foremost rank, and attain imperturbability.

Taking a tooth-stick in hand, they should wish that all beings attain the wonderful teaching, and be ultimately pure.

When chewing on the tooth-stick, they should wish that all beings be harmonious and pure in mind, biting through all afflictions.

When going to the toilet, they should wish that all beings reject greed, hatred and folly, and clean away sinful things.

When going to wash thereafter, they should wish that all beings speedily go to the transmundance.

When washing off the body’s filth, they should wish that all beings be pure and harmonious, and ultimately without defilement.

When washing the hands with water, they should wish that all beings have pure clean hands to receive and hold Buddha’s teaching.

When washing the face with water, they should wish that all beings attain the pure teaching, and be forever free from defilement.

Picking up a staff, they should wish that all beings establish great works of charity, and point out the road of truth.

Taking up a bowl, they should wish that all beings perfect the vessel of truth, and receive human and divine support.

Setting out on a road, they should wish that all beings go where the Buddha goes into teh realm of non-reliance.

When on the road, they should wish that all beings engage into the Path of the Buddha, and towards the dharma of non-rest.

When on the road, they should wish that all beings tread the pure realm of reality, their minds without obstruction.

Seeing a road uphill, they should wish that all beings forever leave the world, their minds free from weakness.

Seeing a road downhill, they should wish that all beings be humble in mind, and develop enlightened base of virtue.

Seeing a winding road, they should wish that all beings abandon false paths, and forever purge wrong views.

Seeing a straight road, they should wish that all beings be straight and the true in mind, without flattery or deceit.

Seeing a dusty road, they should wish that all beings get rid of dust and dirt, and attain the state of purity.

Seeing a dust-free road, they should wish that all beings always practice great compassion, their hearts refreshing and nourishing.

Seeing a dangerous road, they should wish that all beings abide in the realm of truth, and avoid the troubles of wrongdoing.

Seeing a group of people, they should wish that all beings expound the most profound teaching, that all be harmoniously united.

If they see a big tree, they should wish that all beings divorce egotistic contentiousness, and be free of anger and resentment.

If they see a grove, they should wish that all beings be worthy of the respect of celestials and humans.

If they see high mountains, they should wish that all beings’ roots of goodness stand out, their peak beyond anyone’s reach.

If they see thorny trees, they should wish that all beings may quickly cut away, the thorns of the three poisons.

Seeing trees with luxuriant foliage, they should wish that all beings make a canopy of light, with stability and liberation.

If they see flowers blooming, they should wish that all beings’ mystic spiritual powers be like blossoming flowers.

If they see blossoms on trees, they should wish that all beings’ features be like flowers, with all marks of distinction.

If they see fruits, they should wish that all beings attain the supreme teaching, and realize the way of enlightenment.

If they see a big river, they should wish that all beings gain entry into the stream of truth, and enter the ocean of Buddha-knowledge.

If they see a reservoir, they should wish that all beings quickly awaken to the truth of the oneness of the Buddhas.

If they see a pond, they should wish that all beings be fully accomplished in speech, and be skillful in preaching.

If they see a well, they should wish that all beings have full powers to elucidation to explain all things.

If they see a spring, they should wish that all beings’ skill in means increases and their good roots be inexhaustible.

If they see a bridge, they should wish that all beings carry all across to freedom like a bridge.

If they see flowing water, they should wish that all beings develop wholesome will and wash away the stains of delusion.

Seeing a garden cultivated they should wish that all beings, in the garden of sense desires, clear away the weeds of craving.

Seeing a forest of “sorrowless” trees, they should wish that all beings forever divorce greed and lust, and not produce anxiety and fear.

If they see a park, they should wish that all beings diligently cultivate the practices, leading to Buddhas’ enlightenment.

Seeing people wearing ornaments, they should wish that all beings be adorned with a Buddha’s Thirty-two marks of distinction.

Seeing the unadorned, they should wish that all beings give up decorations, and practice austerity.

Seeing people attached to pleasure, they should wish that all beings delight themselves with truth, not abandoning love for it.

Seeing the unattached, they should wish that all beings have no care in their minds for fabricated things.

Seeing happy people, they should wish that all beings always be peaceful and happy, gladly supporting the Buddhas.

Seeing people suffer, they should wish that all beings attain fundamental knowledge, and eliminate all misery.

Seeing people with no maladies, they should wish that all beings enter true wisdom, and never have sickness or afflictions.

Seeing people sick, they should wish that all beings know the body is empty and null, and divorce opposition and conflict.

Seeing handsome people, they should wish that all beings always have pure faith in the enlightened and enlightening ones.

Seeing ugly people, they should wish that all beings not become attached to anything not good.

Seeing grateful people, they should wish that all beings be able to know the blessings of the Buddhas and enlightening beings.

Seeing ungrateful people, they should wish that all beings not increase the punishment of those who are bad.

If they see mendicants, they should wish that all beings be harmonious and tranquil, ultimately conquering themselves.

Seeing brahmins, they should wish that all beings always maintain pure conduct, getting rid of evil.

Seeing ascetics, they should wish that all beings by austere practices reach the ultimate state.

Seeing self-disciplined people, they should wish that all beings strongly maintain their will in practice, and not give up the Buddhas’ path.

Seeing people wearing armor, they should wish that all beings always wear the armor of virtue, heading for the teacherless state.

Seeing the unarmed, they should wish that all beings be forever rid of all, doings that are not good.

Seeing people debate, they should wish that all beings be able to relate all erroneous doctrines.

Seeing people of proper livelihood, they should wish that all beings succeed in pure livelihood without improper behavior.

If they see a king, they should wish that all beings become kings of truth, always expounding the right teaching.

If they see a prince, they should wish that all beings be reborn from the truth, and be children of Buddha.

If they see an elder, they should wish that all beings be able to clearly cut off, and not practice evil ways.

If they see a great minister, they should wish that all beings always maintain right mindfulness, and practice all virtues.

If they see a castle, they should wish that all beings gain strong and firm bodies, and indefatigable minds.

If they see a capital, they should wish that all beings collect all virtuous qualities, and always be joyful and blissful.

Seeing someone in a forest, they should wish that all beings be worthy of praise and honor of celestials and humans.

Entering a village to beg, they should wish that all beings enter the profound realm of truth, their minds without impediment.

Coming to someone’s door, they should wish that all beings enter into all doors of Buddha’s teaching.

Having entered a house, they should wish that all beings might enter the vehicle of buddhahood, which is equal in all times.

Seeing someone who doesn’t give, they should wish that all beings never give up supremely virtuous ways.

Seeing those who give, they should wish that all beings forever abandon the three evil paths and their miseries.

If they see an empty bowl, they should wish that all beings be pure of heart, and empty of afflictions.

If they see a full bowl, they should wish that all beings completely fulfill all virtuous ways.

If they receive respect, they should wish that all beings respectfully practice all the Buddha’s teachings.

If they get no respect, they should wish that all beings not act in any ways, that are not good.

Seeing people with conscience, they should wish that all beings act with discretion, and cover their organs.

Seeing the shameless, they should wish that all beings give up shamelessness, and abide in the way of kindness.

If they get fine food, they should wish that all beings should fulfill their aspirations, and be free from envy and longing.

If they get poor food, they should wish that all beings should not fail to obtain the taste of all meditations.

Getting soft food, they should wish that all beings be imbued with compassion, their minds becoming gentle.

Getting coarse, dry food, they should wish that all beings have no attachments, and cut off mundane craving.

When they eat, they should wish that all beings feed on the joy of meditation, and be sated by delight in truth.

When tasting flavor, they should wish that all beings attain the supreme savor of buddhahood, and be filled with the elixir of immortality.

When the meal is finished, they should wish that all beings accomplish all their tasks, and fulfill the Buddha’s teachings.

When they explain the teaching, they should wish that all beings attain inexhaustible eloquence and widely expound the essentials of the teaching.

When they leave a place, they should wish that all beings deeply enter enlightened knowledge, forever leaving the triple world.

When they enter a bath, they should wish that all beings enter omniscient knowledge, knowing past, present, and future are equal.

While washing their bodies, they should wish that all beings be undefiled in body and mind, radiantly pure inside and out.

In the blistering heat of the day, they should wish that all beings cast off myriad afflictions, putting an end to them all.

When the heat subsides and begins to cool, they should wish that all beings experience the highest truth, and be ultimately cool.

When reciting scripture, they should wish that all beings accord with the Buddha’s teachings, remembering without forgetting.

If they get to see a Buddha, they should wish that all beings be all like Universally Good, handsome and well adorned.

When seeing a Buddha’s tomb, they should wish that all beings be honored as the shrine, and receive the offerings of celestials and humans.

Reverently gazing at the shrine, they should wish that all beings be looked up to by all celestials and humans.

Bowing their heads to the shrine, they should wish that all beings be exalted beyond the view of gods and men.

Circumambulating the shrine, they should wish that all beings act without offense, and develop omniscience.

Circling the shrine rightly, they should wish that all beings practice and attain all kinds of wisdom, without mistake of engagement.

Circling the shrine thrice, they should wish that all beings diligently see the Buddha’s path without indolence of mind.

Praising the Buddha’s virtues, they should wish that all beings fulfill all virtues extolled endlessly.

Praising the Buddha’s distinguishing marks, they should wish that all beings develop the buddha-body, and realize formless truth.

When washing their feet, they should wish that all beings fulfill the bases of spiritual powers, unhindered wherever they go.

When going to sleep at night, they should wish that all beings attain physical case and undisturbed minds.

Awakening from sleep, they should wish that all beings awaken omniscience, perceiving in all directions.

“Child of Buddha, if enlightening beings use their minds in this way, they will attain all supremely wonderful qualities, which cannot be dislodged by any gods, demons, monks, brahmins, gandharvas, titans, etc, or by andy Buddhist followers or self-enlightened ones.”

[Notes: The English translation of this sutra has been quoted from Mr. Thomas Cleary’s words, so I sincerely appreciate his wisdom and compassion from my deepest heart.] Cleary, Thomas (1993) The Flower Ornament Scripture, Boston & London. Shambhala

All the above is extracted from Ven Shih Shin Hong lecture notes  

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Tao Te Ching

The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal name. The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth. The named is the mother of ten thousand things. Ever desireless, one can see the mystery. Ever desiring, one can see the manifestations. These two spring from the same source but differ in name; this appears as darkness. Darkness within darkness. The gate to all mystery.

Virtues of Kong-zi (Confucius)

道 tao; path, right way * 仁 ren, benevolent * 徳 de, virtuous * 禮 li, propriety * 義 yi, morality * 忠 zhong, loyalty * 恕 shu, reciprocity * 信 xin, trustworthy * 命 ming, destiny, fate * 天 tien, heaven, above * 理 li, principle *
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