Breaking Through at the Point of Contact

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All legitimate Chinese Ch’an practitioners access the empty mind ground from varying socio-economic conditions that boil down to two distinct positions in life; either that of a lay-person or that of a monastic.  Both lay and monastic practitioners are both ‘Bodhisattvas’, of course, but a Bodhisattva can be a lay-person, a monastic, or a man or woman, etc.  Within Chinese Ch’an Buddhism, lay and monastic Bodhisattvas follow the Vinaya Discipline to various degrees, as well as the Bodhisattva Vows.  The Bodhisattva Vows mirror the commitment and severity of the Vinaya Discipline, but whereas the Vinaya Discipline focuses on the enlightenment of the individual practitioner, the Bodhisattva Vows focus on the enlightenment of all other beings – together, both sets of rules form a perfect emphasis of all round self-cultivation, and this explains why Chinese Ch’an monks must take both the Vinaya Discipline and the Bodhisattva Vows during the ritual that governs the process of transition from the condition of laity to that of Buddhist monastic.  However, there is one vital difference between the Vinaya Discipline and the Bodhisattva Vows, namely in that the Vinaya Discipline demands an end to all sexual activity in the mind and body, so that the agency of ‘desire’ is thoroughly and fully uprooted and not expressed in any way (either subtly or grossly) in thought, speech or behaviour.  The Bodhisattva Vows, by way of contrast, do not demand this commitment to celibacy, and can, therefore, be followed by the laity without any interruption to their normal activities within ordinary society.  The enlightened lay people Vimalakirti and Pang Yun (together with his wife and children) are prime examples of Bodhisattvas who realised complete enlightenment, despite not having followed a path of strict celibacy.  However, within the Chinese Ch’an tradition, a ‘Bodhisattva Monk’ is not a lay-person who follows the Bodhisattva Vows, but is rather a Buddhist monastic who fully adheres to the Vinaya Discipline, and who has further taken the Bodhisattva Vows as a supplement to his or her Dharma practice.  Obviously a lay-person is not a ‘monk’ because they have not undergone the transition ritual that manoeuvres them from the desire-ridden condition of lay-existence, into that of the ‘pure’ condition of the Vinaya Discipline.  This fact is true regardless as to whether the Bodhisattva Vows have been taken or not.  Therefore, a layperson who considers themselves a ‘monk’ is suffering from the delusion of misrepresentation, and is not pursuing the correct Dharma.  This is exactly the same as an ordained monastic considering themselves a lay-person, which is no less delusional.  In the West, this distinction is of fundamental importance because of the spread of a form of distorted Japanese Zen Buddhism (conveyed by Japanese War Criminals), that deviates from legitimate Zen as practised in Japan by many orthodox sects, and which certainly has no relation or connection to Chinese Ch’an Buddhism.  If Westerners cannot get this basic foundation correct, then they are not practising authentic Chinese Ch’an Buddhism as practised within Mainland China.  This problem of misrepresentation of Chinese Ch’an Buddhism extends to many Ch’an sects in Taiwan, that have been historically influenced by the fifty-year colonial presence of the imperial Japanese, who ruled the island from 1895-1945.  This dominance included the eradication of ‘Chinese’ cultural influence, and its replacement with Japanese nationalist culture.  Master Xu Yun (1840-1959) often stated that the pursuance of the ‘Way’ depended entirely upon the possession of ‘correct’ or ‘authentic’ knowledge and guidance.  Without this authentic knowledge that distinguishes between the ‘false’ and the ‘true’, no progression can take place, and the stream of thought that obscures the empty mind ground, cannot be broken-through.  All the rest of it then just becomes a matter of the ego arguing with itself in a delusional game of winning popularity from others who are equally mistaken.  If the presence of correct knowledge disturbs the mind that encounters it, then that mind is delusional.  If a mind is ‘freed’ when it encounters correct knowledge, then that mind is enlightened.  It is not the correct knowledge that is the problem, but the response of the delusional conditioning of the mind that has not been properly disciplined in even the most basic of Ch’an technique.  The deluded mind will always respond with anger and hatred toward that which will uproot its very angst.  It is this angst that must be ‘seen through’ if enlightenment is to be achieved, and any mind can have its inverted functionality remedied, given the presence of good and authentic instruction.

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