Email: Understanding Shanti-Deva’s Message in a Time of Chaos! (11.3.2022)

Shanti-Deva At Nalanda University

Dear Yu Dao

Shanti-Deva released the emptiness of mind in all circumstance. This means that he ‘saw through’ ALL of material reality ‘equally’ without preferring ‘good’ circumstance over ‘bad’ circumstance, or ‘rejecting’ bad over good, etc. This matters because when we train – we are taught to prefer ‘good’ over ‘bad’ – and quite rightly so. This teaches virtue through morality. However, Ch’an Masters teach the full perception of the empty mind ground in ALL circumstance – but they refuse to discuss the implication of the realisation of emptiness beyond a certain stage. Remember, the Buddha did state that if the monks and nuns wanted to – they could decide to abandon the Vinaya Discipline (as everything is retained in the Dharma) but they chose not to. Therefore, the following holds true within Buddhism:

a) The Hinayana School teaches that ’emptiness’ can only be realised in a limited set of ‘good’ circumstance (such as a monk or a nun living in a isolated temple situated in a quiet part of a forest).

b) The Mahayana School (such as the Chinese Ch’an) teaches the realisation of emptiness in ALL circumstances – whether lay or ordained – whether in a house or a temple, but the Masters will not discuss the the implications of this understanding (as they do not wish to undermine the importance of the Vinaya Discipline).

c) The Tantrayana School teaches that ‘good’ and ‘bad’ circumstances are ALL equally ’empty’ even if it is agreed that ‘good’ is preferable over ‘bad.’  This means that the Vinaya Discipline, as effective as it is in realising the empty essence of reality, is not necessarily required in the traditional sense – hence the Eighty-Four Mahasiddhas and their very different methods for realising enlightenment. 

Shanti-Deva refused to conform to the ‘strict’ Hinayana-Mahayana Path – simply because he did not have to. He had already realised enlightenment ‘here and now’ and did not require any further contrivance to do so. This is the lesson of his story. 

With Metta


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