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Hua-yen/Kegon School

October 21, 2007

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.

Avatamsaka Sutra, chapter 40

October 21, 2007

(notes to the readers)

Translated by the Buddhist Text Translation Society

On Entering the Inconceivable state of Liberation through the Practices and Vows of the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra[1]

At that time, having praised the exalted merits and virtues of the Thus Come One,[2] the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra addressed the Bodhisattvas, along with Sudhana,[3] as follows:

“Good men, even if all the Buddhas of the ten directions were to speak continuously, for as many eons[4] as there are fine motes of dust in an ineffably ineffable number of Buddha lands, the virtues and merits of the Thus Come One could never be fully described.

“Those wishing to achieve these merits and virtues should cultivate ten vast and great practices and vows. What are these ten?

First, Pay homage and respect to all Buddhas.
Second, Praise the Thus Come Ones.
Third, Make abundant offerings.
Fourth, Repent misdeeds and evil karma.
Fifth, Rejoice at others’ merits and virtues.
Sixth, Request the Buddhas to turn the Dharma wheel.
Seventh, Request the Buddhas to remain in the world.
Eigth, Follow the teachings of the Buddhas at all times.
Ninth, Accommodate and benefit all living beings.
Tenth, Transfer all merits and virtues universally.”

[The explanation of the first to eighth vows is omitted here. What follows is the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra’s exposition of the ninth and tenth vows.]

[Ninth Vow]
“Sudhana, to accommodate and benefit all living beings is explained like this: throughout the oceans of worlds in the ten directions exhausting the Dharma Realm and the realm of empty space, there are many different kinds of living beings. That is to say, there are those born from eggs, the womb-born, the transformationally born, as well as those who live and rely on earth, water, fire, and air for their existence. There are beings dwelling in space, and those who are born in and live in plants and trees. This includes all the many species and races with their diverse bodies, shapes, appearances, lifespans, families, names, and natures. This includes their many varieties of knowledge and views, their various desires and pleasures, their thoughts and deeds, and their many different deportments, clothing and diets.

“It includes beings who dwell in different villages, towns, cities and palaces, as well as gods, dragons, and others of the eight divisions, humans and non-humans alike. Also there are footless beings, beings with two feet, four feet, and many feet, with form and without form, with thought and without thought, and not entirely with thought and not entirely without thought. I will accord with and take care of all these many kinds of beings, providing all manner of services and offerings for them. I will treat them with the same respect I show my own parents, teachers, elders, Arhats, and even the Thus Come Ones. I will serve them all equally without difference.

“I will be a good doctor for the sick and suffering. I will lead those who have lost their way to the right road. I will be a bright light for those in the dark night, and cause the poor and destitute to uncover hidden treasures. The Bodhisattva impartially benefits all living beings in this manner.

“Why is this? If a Bodhisattva accords with living beings, then he accords with and makes offerings to all Buddhas. If he can honor and serve living beings, then he honors and serves the Thus Come Ones. If he makes living beings happy, he is making all Thus Come Ones happy. Why is this? It is because all Buddhas, Thus Come Ones, take the Mind of Great Compassion as their substance. Because of living beings, they develop Great Compassion. From Great Compassion the Bodhi Mind is born; and because of the Bodhi Mind, they accomplish Supreme, Perfect Enlightenment.

“It is like a great regal tree growing in the rocks and sand of barren wilderness. When the roots get water, the branches, leaves, flowers, and fruits will all flourish. The regal bodhi-tree growing in the wilderness of Birth and Death is the same. All living beings are its roots; all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are its flowers and fruits. By benefitting all beings with the water of Great Compassion, one can realize the flowers and fruits of the Buddhas’ and Bodhisattvas’ wisdom.

“Why is this? It is because by benefitting living beings with the water of Great Compassion, the Bodhisattvas can attain Supreme, Perfect Enlightenment. Therefore, Bodhi belongs to living beings. Without living beings, no Bodhisattva could achieve Supreme, Perfect Enlightenment.

“Good man, you should understand these principles in this way: When the mind is impartial towards all living beings, one can accomplish full and perfect Great Compassion. By using the Mind of Great Compassion to accord with living beings, one perfects the making of offerings to the Thus Come Ones. In this way the Bodhisattva constantly accords with living beings.

“Even when the realm of empty space is exhausted, the realms of living beings are exhausted, the karma of living beings is exhausted, and the afflictions of living beings are exhausted, I will still accord endlessly, continuously in thought after thought without cease. My body, mouth, and mind never weary of these deeds.

[Tenth Vow]
“Moreover, good man, to transfer all merits and virtues universally is explained like this: all the merits and virtues, from the first vow, to pay homage and respect, up to and including the vow to accommodate and benefit living beings, I universally transfer to all living beings throughout the Dharrna Realm and to the limits of empty space. I vow that all living beings will be constantly peaceful and happy without sickness or suffering. I vow that no one will succeed in doing any evil, but that all will quickly perfect their cultivation of good karma. I vow to shut the door to evil destinies and open the right paths of humans, gods and that of Nirvana. I will stand in for beings and receive all the extremely severe fruits of suffering which they bring about with their evil karma. I will liberate all these beings and ultimately bring them to accomplish unsurpassed Bodhi. The Bodhisattva cultivates transference in this way.

“Even when the realm of empty space is exhausted, the realms of living beings are exhausted, the karma of living beings is exhausted, and the afflictions of living beings are exhausted, I will still transfer all merits and virtues endlessly, continuously, in thought after thought without cease. My body, mouth and mind never weary of these deeds.

“Good man, these are the Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas’ Ten Great Vows in their entirety. If all Bodhisattvas can follow and abide by these Great Vows, then they will be able to bring all living beings to maturity. They will be able to accord with the path of Supreme, Perfect Enlightenment and complete Samantabhadra’s ocean of conduct and vows. Therefore, good man, you should know the meaning of this”….

“Further, when a person is on the verge of death, at the last instant of life, when all his faculties scatter and he departs from his relatives, when all power and status are lost and nothing survives, when his prime minister, great officials, his inner court and outer cities, his elephants, horses, carts, and treasuries of precious jewels can no longer accompany him, these Great Vows alone will stay with him. At all times they will guide him forward, and in a single instant he will be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. Arriving there, he will see Amitabha Buddha, the Bodhisattva Manjusri, the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra, the Bodhisattva who contemplates at Ease[Avalokitesvara], the Bodhisattva Maitreya, and others. The appearance of these Bodhisattvas will be magnificent and their merits and virtues complete. Together they will surround him.

“This person will see himself born from a lotus flower and will receive a prediction of Buddhahood. Thereafter, he will pass through an immeasurable, incalculable number of eons and, with his power of wisdom, he will accord with the minds of living beings in order to benefit them everywhere throughout the ineffably ineffable worlds in the ten directions.

“Before long he will sit in a Bodhimandala[5],subdue the demonic armies, accomplish Supreme, Perfect Enlightenment, and turn the wonderful Dharma wheel. He will cause living beings in worlds as numerous as the fine motes of dust in Buddha lands to develop the Bodhi Mind.[6] According with their inclinations and basic natures, he will teach, transform, and bring them to maturity. To the exhaustion of the oceans of future eons, he will greatly benefit all living beings”…


At that time, the Bodhisattva Mahasattva Samantabhadra, wishing to restate his meaning, contemplated everywhere in the ten directions and spoke in verse.

1 – Before the Lions Among Men[7]throughout the worlds of the ten directions,
In the past, in the present, and also in the future,
with body, mouth, and mind entirely pure,
I bow before them all, omitttng none.

With the awesome spiritual power of Samantabhadra’s vows,
I appear at the same time before every Thus Come One,
And in transformed bodies as numerous as motes of dust in all lands,
Bow to Buddhas as numerous as motes of dust in all lands.

In every mote of dust are Buddhas as numerous as motes of dust,
Each dwelling amid a host of Bodhisattvas.
Throughout motes of dust in endless Dharma Realms it is the same:
I deeply believe they all are filled with Buddhas.

2 – with oceans of sound I everywhere let fall
Words and phrases, wonderful and endless,
Which now and through all the eons of the future,
Praise the wide, deep sea of the Buddhas’ merits and virtues.

3 – Flower garlands supreme and wonderful,
Music, perfumes, parasols, and canopies,
And other decorations rich and rare,
I offer up to every Thus Come One.

Fine clothing, superior incense,
Powdered and burning incense,lamps and candles,
Each one heaped as high as mount Sumeru,
I offer completely to all Tathagatas.

With a vast, great, supremely liberated mind,
I believe in all Buddhas of the three periods of time;
With the strength of Samantabhadra’s conduct and vows,
I make offerings to all Thus Come Ones everywhere.

4 – For all the evil deeds I have done in the past,
Created by my body, mouth, and mind,
From beginningless greed, anger, and delusion,
I now know shame and repent them all.

5 – I rejoice in the merits and virtues
Of all beings in the ten directions,
The Learners and Those-Past-Study in the Two Vehicles,[8]
And all Thus Come Ones and Bodhisattvas.

6 – Before the Lamps of the Worlds[9]of the ten directions,
who have just accomplished Supreme Bodhi,
I now request and beseech them all
To turn the foremost, wondrous Dharma wheel.

7 – If there are Buddhas who wish for Nirvana,
I request with deep sincerity
That they dwell in the world for a long time
To bring benefits and bliss to every being.

I worship those with blessings, praise them and make offerings;
I request that the Buddhas remain in the world and turn the Dharma wheel;
The good roots gained from following and rejoicing in merit and virtue and from repentance and reform,
I transferto living beings and the Buddha Way.

8 – I study with the Buddhas and practice
The perfect conduct of Samantabhadra;
I make offerings to all the Thus Come Ones of the past
And to all present Buldhas throughout the ten directions.

All future Teachers of Gods and Men
Whose aspirations and vows have been completed,
I will follow in study throughout the three periods of time
And quickly attain Great Bodhi.

In all lands of the ten directions,
Vast, great, pure, and wonderfully adorned,
All Tathagatas sit beneath regal Bodhi trees,
While assemblies circumambulate them.

I vow that every being in all directions
Will be peaceful, happy, and without worry.
May they obtain the proper Dharma’s profound aid,
And may all their afflictions be wiped away, without exception

While striving to attain Bodhi,
I will gain the knowledge of past lives in all destinies.
I will always leavehome-life and cultivate pure precepts,
Without outflows,[10] never broken, and without stain.

Be they gods, dragons, yakshas, or knmbhandas,
Humans, non-human, and the rest,
In the many languages of all such living beings,
With every sound I will speak the Dharma.

I will cultivate the pure paramitas with vigor,
And never abandon the Bodhi Mind.
I will banish all obstructions and defilements,
And fulfill all wondrous practices.

From all delusions, karma, and demon-states,
Amid all worldly paths, I will be freed,
As the lotus does not touch the water,
As sun and moon do not stop in space.

9 – Ending the sufferings of the paths of evil,
And to everyone equally bringing joy,
May I for eons like the motes of dust in all lands
Ever benefit all in the ten directions.

Always in accord with living beings,
Cultivating through all future eons
The vast conduct of Samantabhadra,
The unsurpassed Great Bodhi will I perfect.

May all who cultivate with me
Assemble with me in one place,
Our karmas of body, mouth, and mind the same,
As we cultivate and study all practices and vows.

With all advisors good and wise who aid me
By explaining Samantabhadra’s deeds,
I vow always to congregate together:
May they never be displeased with me.

I vow always to meet Thus Come Ones face to face
And the hosts of disciples who gather around them.
I will raise offerings which are vast and great,
Untiring to the end of future eons.

I will hold high the subtly wondrous Buddhadharma
And illuminate all the practices of Bodhi;
I will be ultimately pure in Samantabhadra’s way,
Practicing until the end of time.

Inexhaustible blessings and wisdom
I cultivate throughout all worlds;
By concentration, wisdom, skillful means, and liberation,
I will gain an endless store of merits and virtues.

In one mote of dust are lands as numerous as motes of dust;
In each land are incalculable numbers of Buddhas.
In every place where Buddhas dwell I see the host assembled,
Endlessly proclaiming all the practices of Bodhi.

In ten directions everywhere, throughout the sea of lands,
Every hair-tip encompasses oceans of past, present and future.[11]
So, too, there is a sea of Buddhas, a sea of Buddha lands;
Pervading them all I cultivate for seas of endless time.

The speech of all Tathagatas is pure;
Each word contains an ocean of sounds.
According with what beings like to hear,
The Buddhas’ sea of eloquence flows forth.

All Tathagatas of the three periods of time
Forever turn the wonderful Dharma wheel,
With these inexhaustible seas of words and languages.
I understand all with my deep wisdom.

I can penetrate the future
And exhaust all eons in a single thought.
In a single thought I completely enter
All eons of the three periods of time.[12]

In one thought I see all Lions of Men
Of the past, present, and future;[13]
I constantly fathom the Buddhas’ states,
Their magical liberations and their awesome strength.

On the tip of an extremely fine hair,
Appear jewelled lands of past, present and future;
Lands on hair-tips as numerous as dust motes in all lands of the ten directions,
I deeply enter, adorn, and purify.

All Lamps of the Future that light the world,
Complete the Way, turn the Dharma wheel, and rescue living beings,
As they perfect the Buddhas’ work and manifest Nirvana,
I draw near and attend to each one and obtain:

The spiritual power to go everywhere swiftly;
The power to enter the Mahayana universally through the Universal Door;
The power of wisdom and conduct to cultivate merits and virtues universally;
The subtle spiritual power to shield all with Great Compassion;

The power to purify and adorn [all] with supreme blessings everywhere;
The power of wisdom which is unattached and independent;
The awesome spiritual powers and the powers of concentration,wisdom, and skill-in-means;
The power of universally accumulating Bodhi;

The power of good karma which purifies all things;
The power to eradicate all afflictions;
The power to subdue all demons;
The power to perfect Samantabhadra’s conduct.

The sea of lands I everywhere adorn and purify,
And I liberate all living beings, without exception.
With skill I make selections from among the sea of Dharmas[14]
And enter deeply into the wisdom sea.

I cultivate the ocean of practices to purity,
Perfect and complete a sea of vows.
I draw near to a sea of Buddhas and make offerings,
And cultivate without fatigue for a sea of time.

To all Tathagatas of the three periods of time,
With Bodhi, conduct, and vows most supreme,
I completelyoffer up my perfect cultivation;
With Samantabhadra’s practices, I awaken to Bodhi.

Each Tathagata has an elder disciple
Named Samantabhadra, Honored One.
I now transfer all good roots, and I vow
To perform deeds of wisdom identical to his.

I vow that my body, mouth, and mind will be forever pure
And that all practices and lands will be also.
I vow in every way to be identical
To the wisdom of Samantabhadra.

I will wholly purify Samantabhadra’s conduct,
And the great vows of Manjusri as well.
All their deeds I will fulfill, leaving nothing undone.
Till the end of the future I will never tire.

Infinite and measureless is my cultivation;
Boundless merit and virtue I obtain.
Amid limitless practices I will dwell in peace,
And penetrate the strength of spiritual powers.

10 – Manjusri has wisdom, courage and bravery;
Samantabhadra’s conduct and wisdom are the same.
I now transfer all good roots
In order to follow them in practice and in study.

In the three periods of time, all Buddhas praise
Such vows as these, lofty and great.
I now transfer all good roots, wishing to perfect
The supreme practices of Samantabhadra.

I vow that when my life approaches its end,
All obstructions will be swept away;
I will see Aimitabha Buddha,
And be born in his land of Ultimate Bliss and Peace[15]

When reborn in the Western Land,
I will perfect and completely fulfill,
Without exception, these Great Vows,
To delight and benefit all beings.

The Assembly of Amitabha Buddha is completely pure;
When from a matchless lotus I am born,
I will behold the Tathagata’s Measureless light as He appears before me
To bestow a prediction of Bodhi.

Receiving a prediction from the Thus Come One,
I will take countless appearances and forms,
And with wisdom power vast and great, pervade ten directions
To benefit all the realms of living beings.

Realms of worlds in empty space might reach an end,
And living beings, karma and afflictions be extinguished;
But they will never be exhausted,
And neither will my vows.

With myriad jewels in boundless lands in all directions,
I make decorations and offerings to the Thus Come Ones.
For eons as numerous as the motes of dust in all lands, I bring
The foremost peace and joy to gods and humans.

Yet, if anyone believes in these Great Vows,
As they pass by the ear but a single time,
And in search of Bodhi thirstily craves these vows,
The merits and virtues gained will Surpass these offerings.

With bad advisors forever left behind,
From paths of evil he departs for eternity,
Soon to see the Buddha of Limitless Light
And perfect Samantabhadra’s Supreme Vows.

Easily obtaining the blessings of long life,
Assured of a noble rebirth in the human realm,
Before long he will perfect and complete
The practices of Samantabhadra.

In the past, owing to a lack of wisdom power,
The five offenses of extreme evil he has committed;
In one thought they can all be wiped away by reciting
The Great Vows of Samantabhadra.

His clan, race, and color, marks and characteristics
With his wisdom are all perfected and complete;
Demons and externalists will haveno way to harm,
And he will be a field of merits in the Three Realms.[16]

To the regal Bodhi free he will quickly go,
And seated there subdue hordes of demons.
Supremely and perfectly enlightened, he will turn the Dharma wheel,
To benefit the host of living beings.

If anyone can read, recite, receive, and hold high
Samantabhadra’s Vows and proclaim them,
His reward only the Buddhaswill know,
And he will obtain Bodhi’s highest path.

If anyone recites Samantabhadra’s Vows,
I will speak of a portion of his good roots:
In one single thought he can fulfill
The pure vows of sentient beings.

The supreme and endless blessings from Samantabhadra’s conduct
I now universally transfer.
May every living being, drowning and adrift,
Soon return to the Land of Limitless Light!

When the Bodhisattva Mahasattva Samantabhadra finished speaking these pure verses on the Great Vows of Samantabhadra before the Thus Come One, the youth Sudhana was overwhelmed with boundless joy. All the Bodhisattvas were extremely happy as well, and the Thus Come One applauded saying, ‘Good indeed, good indeed!”


[1]Sometimes translated as “Universal Worthy.”

[2]In Sanskrit,”Tathagata,”i.e., Buddha Sakyamuni or the Buddhas in general.

[3]The main protagonist in the next-to-last and longest chapter of the Avatamsaka Sutra. Seeking Enlightenment, he visited and studied with fifty-three spiritual advisors and become the equal of the Buddha in one lifetime. When he was born, myriad treasures suddenly appeared in his father’s home. Thus the name “Sudhana” or “Good Wealth.”Sometimes translated as “Good Wealth.”

[4]May also be translated as “era.” In Sanskrit, “kalpa.”

[5]Bodhimandala: literally, seat or site of Enlightenment. By extension, a temple or place of retreat.

[6]Bodhi Mind, (Bodhicitta, Great Mind). The spirit of Enlightenmnet, the aspiration to achieve it, the Mind set on Enlightenment. It involves two parallel aspects: i)the determination to achieve Buddhahood and ii)the aspiration to rescue all sentient beings.

[7]Lions Among Men: i.e., Buddhas.

[8]Learners and Those-Past-Study in the Two Vehicles. This is a reference to the Arhats (Those-Past-Study) and the three levels of sagehood immediately below them (learners). The term “Two Vehicles” refers to the Theravada tradition as opposed to the Mahayana.

[9]Lamps of the Worlds, Lamps of the Future: metaphors or the Buddhas.

[10]Without outflows: i.e., unconditioned (transcendental). Anything free of the three marks of greed, anger and delusion.

[11]This stanza expresses a key concept of the Avatamsaka school: the complete interpenetration of time and space.

[12]In Buddhism, time is a relative concept; it can be long or short, depending on the state of mind.

[13]All the Buddhas are present in one thought. As the sixth Patriarch said, “An enlightened thought makes one aBuddha” (Platform Sutra, ch. 2).

[14]Dharma(s). a) The teachings of the Buddhas; b)things, events,phenomena, everything; c)duty, law, doctrine.When caphalized, itrefers to the teachings of the Buddha.

[15]This stanza and the following one are well-known in Pure Land. They are incorporated into the daily liturgy and recited over and over.

[16]Fields of merits: Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Arhats and all sentient beings, whether friends or foes, are fields of merits for the cultivator because they provide him with an opportunity to cultivate merits and virtues. For example, needy people provide the opportunity for the cultivator to practice charity. Thus, they are a field of merits for him. As this text states, “Bodhi belongs to living beings.Without living beings, no Bocihisattva could achieve Supreme,Perfect Enlightenment.”


Buddhism Study and Practice Group ( 

Saichõ and Kukai: A Conflict of Interpretations

October 21, 2007

Saichõ and Kukai: A Conflict of Interpretations

                       by Ryuichi A

This article reappraises the interaction between Saichõ (767–822) and Kukai (774–835), founders, respectively, of the Japanese Tendai and Shingon schools of Buddhism. This new appraisal is based on the historical conditions in which these two men sought to introduce new types of Buddhism at the close of the age of Nara Buddhism, rather than on the conventional, idealized characterizations of the two figures as the founding fathers of their respective schools. What emerges is the unbridgeable difference
between Saichõ and Kukai in their interpretive strategies for delineating the role of esoteric Buddhism (Mikkyõ) in establishing a new order in the early Heian Buddhist community, a difference that presented itself as a persistent tension that underlay Saichõ’s alliance with Kukai from the very outset of their relationship.

The Science of Pranayama

October 20, 2007


In yogic terms prana means the vital energy and ayam means exercise. Pranayam defines the regulation of the in and out flow of this vital energy. It explains that the body, breath and the mind are intricately interwoven. When the air moves the mind moves and when the air is stilled the mind also could be stilled. Hence the various techniques employed in Pranayam are to stabilize the flow of air thus to achieve the balanced state of mind.


All breathing exercises are done in empty stomach usually after a warming up of the body by stretching exercises, sun salutation or yoga poses. One has to sit in any comfortable meditative posture and place the back and neck erect. Little deep breathing is carried out to relax the muscles after any of these practices. The inhalation and exhalations are to be performed through the nostrils


Abdominal / Diaphragmatic breathing

Here only the abdomen is focused upon during breathing. Inhale and expand the abdomen, exhale and suck the abdomen in. This exercise is repeated for 9 rounds. To feel the expansion of abdomen, hands can be placed over the stomach

Thoracic / Intercostal breathing

Here the attention is given to the chest. Inhale and expand the chest, exhale and retract the chest. Repeat for 9 rounds.

Clavicular or Shoulder breathing

This is to aerate the upper lobe of the lungs. Inhale and raise the shoulders, exhale and drop it down. Arms stretched sideways, inhale and raise the arms above the head to join the palms; exhale and release the arms till the shoulder level.

Balancing Pranayama – Nadisuddhi Pranayama

Here the inhalation and exhalation are done through alternate nostrils. Sit erect in any meditative pose with back and neck straight. Fold your index and middle finger of the right hand to use the ring finger and thump to block the left and right nostrils respectively. Block the right nostril with the thumb. Inhale slowly and deeply from the left, counting 1,2,3,4 mentally; block the left nostril with the ring and little fingers after inhalation and breathe out through the right nostril by counting 1,2… 6. Again breathe in through the right nostril and breathe out through the left nostril with the same ratio and repeat the same procedure for 9 rounds. This technique helps to purify the nadis (nerves) and Chakras (nerve plexus) and also helps to make the body feel light and balanced.

Ujjayi / Hissing Pranayama

Sit erect in any meditative pose. Inhale from both the nostrils by feeling the air at the upper palate. This is done by partially closing the glottis. Hold the breath internally for a while; make a chin lock by bending the neck forward to touch the chest with the chin. While holding feel the air blocked below the throat. Release the chin lock partially and exhale through the left nostril continuously by producing the hissing noise with the partial closure of the glottis. Release the chin lock by lifting the head slowly up as you exhale. Repeat this cycle for 9 rounds. This will help to check the blood pressure by stimulating the carotid receptors and also will help to improve the circulation to the thyroid and parathyroid glands.

Surya bhedana Pranayama

It is also called as right nostril breathing. This is a heating Pranayama. Block the left nostril and inhale from the right nostril deeply, now block the right and exhale through the left nostril. Repeat the practice for 9 rounds. Here the internal and external retention can be done for 2 seconds. Not advised in hypertension and in other cardiac illness.

Chandra bhedana Pranayama

This is also called as cooling Pranayama. Block the right nostril; inhale from the left nostril deeply and continuously, then block the left and exhale through the right nostril. Repeat the practice for 9 rounds.

Bastrika Pranayama

Sit in Vajrasana- active inhalations and exhalations with the in and out (flapping) movements of the abdomen called as strokes. Three rounds of bastrika with increasing speed. Normal breathing in between the rounds. The strokes vary from 20 – 40 per round.

Brahmari Pranayama – The Humming Bee Pranayama

Inhale deeply from both nostrils. Use the index fingers to block the ears and when you exhale, try to produce the humming sound of a female bee from the mouth and nose and feel the vibrations of this sound in the head and neck region. Repeat for 9 rounds.

In a fast paced age where stress and depression are widespread, the toll of stress on physical and mental health can be extremely high.

Stress, anxiety and depression are known to be significant factors in the onset and progression of a wide spectrum of illnesses ranging from cancer and HIV-1 infection, to asthma and cardiovascular disease.

Pranayam and its accompanying practices are time-honored stress management/health promotion techniques whose health benefits are being validated by modern medical science.

Independent research has shown that significantly:

Reduce levels of stress (reduce cortisol – the “stress” hormone)

Benefit the immune system

Reduce cholesterol

Relieve anxiety and depression (mild, moderate and severe)

Increase anti-oxidant protection

Enhance brain function (increased mental focus, calmness and recovery from stressful stimuli)

Enhance health, well-being, and peace of mind

These simple, yet powerful breathing practices have a unique advantage over many other forms of treatment: they are free from unwanted side-effects, cut health care costs , and are easy to learn and practice in daily life.

investigation of the pranayam as they relate to physical, social, and emotional well-being. We welcome research collaborations and suggestions from interested parties.

The Science of Breath – Summary of Key Findings

Research Summary-

Improved Brain Function

To study the long-term effects of pranayam on brain function, EEG (electroencephalogram) changes were recorded in 100 pranayam practitioners outside of the practice of pranayam and compared with EEG patterns of 16 controls (doctors and researchers who did not practice pranayam yoga, or meditation).

Significant increases in beta activity were observed in the left frontal, occipital, and midline regions of the brain in the pranayam practitioners, as compared to controls , These results are interpreted by neurologists as indicative of increased mental focus/heightened awareness in pranayam practitioners.

EEG activity was also studied during the practice of pranayam in five females of similar age, socioeconomic, and educational backgrounds.

This study found an increase in EEG alpha activity, with interspersed persistence of beta activity. This indicates a state of relaxation co-existing with heightened alertness.

Effect on Cortisol, the “Stress Hormone”

Several studies have demonstrated significant falls in cortisol levels. In one study, blood cortisol, known as the “stress hormone,” was measured in 121 individuals, 28-50 years of age. Regular pranayam practitioners (Group 1) were compared with beginning practitioners (Group 2) during their pranayam sessions.

The beginning practitioners were also measured before learning pranayam, while listening to classical music (Group 3). Among beginners, the fall in cortisol levels was significantly greater during pranayam than when listening to classical music, suggesting that pranayam produces a better relaxation response.

The significant further fall in serum cortisol levels, during and following pranayam, among beginning and regular practitioners, suggests that regular practice of pranayamprogressively develops greater levels of both relaxation and resilience to stress.

Effect on Blood Lactate

(Indicator of stress and tension)

They undergo intense physical and emotional training daily. Blood lactate was measured in 10 such individuals, both before learning pranayam and after the first session. There was a significant fall in lactate levels after pranayam, suggesting that it induces a state of relaxation.

Effect on Immune Function

Natural killer (NK) cells are believed to be important in the body’s defense against new and recurring cancers. NK cells are the surveillance cells of the immune system and are capable of destroying tumor cells as well as infected cells. NK cells were counted in the peripheral blood of three groups: pranayam practitioners, normal individual’s not practicing pranayam, and cancer patients in remission. NK cells were significantly higher in the pranayam group than in either non-practicing individuals or in cancer patients in remission. The cancer patients then learned pranayam. After 3-6 months of regular practice, there was a significant increase in the cancer patients’ NK cell count.

Effect on Antioxidant Enzymes

Free radicals can react with oxygen and cause oxidant damage, contributing to many diseases, including cancer and such cardiovascular diseases as heart disease and stroke.

To counteract these free radicals, the human body has a defense system in the form of antioxidant enzymes. A study was conducted to assess the effect of pranayam on antioxidant enzymes. Levels of three major antioxidant enzymes-superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase, and glutathione-were all

found to be significantly higher in pranayam practitioners than in the matched control group, which suggests that people who practice pranayam have an improved antioxidant status and an enhanced defense against oxidant damage.

Effect on Blood Cholesterol

Psychosocial stress is a major contributor to hypertension and coronary heart disease (CHD). In CHD, deposits of LDL cholesterol, fat, and other substances on the arterial walls slow or block the flow of blood, resulting in heart malfunction. A study was conducted to assess the cholesterol levels of individuals before they learned pranayam, as well as after 14 and 90days of regular practice.

Significant drops in total cholesterol and LDL (harmful) cholesterol, as well as increases in HDL (beneficial) cholesterol were observed.These findings suggest that pranayam improves the blood cholesterol profile, and that regular practice may therefore prove to be an effective tool in preventing and arresting hypertension and CHD.

Effect on Depression

Pranayam has been shown to have a 62%-79% success rate in the treatment of depression, regardless of severity.

Relief from depression, determined by psychiatric evaluation and standard psychiatric measures (Beck Depression

Inventory, Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, and others) was experienced within three weeks.

Published studies further suggest that pranayam normalizes patients’ brainwave patterns, increases serum prolactin (a “wellbeing” hormone), and is as effective as standard antidepressant drug regimens. Yet it is safe, free of unwanted side effects, cost effective, and self empowering

For more details, please visit read about pranayam.


Praise To Kwan Yin Bodhisattva

October 20, 2007

Praise To Qwan Yin Bodhisattva 
Gwan Yin Bodhisattva’s compassion for all beings is so vast and inconceivable, our gratitude cannot comprehend nor fully express the magnitude of her blessings. Her body and garments of brilliant, translucent White Light. Her adornments, a white vase of Compassionate Water in her left hand, The Sacred Willow Branch in her right hand. 
Enlightened through infinite acts of compassion countless lifetimes ago. Her feet rest upon a fragrant red lotus flower above a vast ocean. Her brows curved and radiant like the crescent of an autumn moon. With the sweet dew drops she sprinkles from her vase, She relieves the suffering of beings everywhere and always, for countless autumns.
Prayers for help arise from thousands of hearts, and thousands of prayers are answered by her vow of eternal compassion: Beings in Samsara, who sail the ocean of suffering, She will guide and deliver safely to the ultimate shore of enlightenment.

Great Compassion Mantra  
Instructions on how to practice the Great Compassion Mantra (Da Bei Zhow) of Kwan Yin

By Vajra Regent DongShan Wu-Tsen
1. Light incense and place beside shrine;

2. Prostrate 3 times to Kwan Yin;

3. Offer one (or more) glass (es) of water which Kwan Yin will bless;

4. Invite Kwan Yin to come to you and appear;

5. Bring the palms of your hands together in the prayer-mudra;

6. Invite all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to come and be present.

7. Recite the following chant:

Lu Shian dza zo,
Fa Je Mung Shin,
Dzu Fo Haj Whey Shi Yao Wen,
Swey Tsu Dje Shang Yun,
Tsong Yi Fong Yin,
Dzu Fo Shien Chuan Song.
Na Mo Shian Yun Gai Pu Sa Mo Ko Sa. (3 times)

8. Recite the following lines to purify your speech and apologize for the pronunciation errors made by you during this practice:

An Sho Li Sho Lie, Mo Ho Sho Li, Sho Sho Li, Sa Po Ho (So Ha).

9. Recite the Kwan Yin Great Compassion Mantra 3, 5, 7, 21, 49 or 108 times.

10. Recite the short mantra 10 times:

Na Mo Kwan Yin Boddhisattva.

11. Finally, drink the water blessed by Kwan Yin. This water now has healing powers.

12. Dedicate this practice of the Kwan Yin Great compassion Mantra to the benefit and enlightenment of all beings.

Great Compassion Mantra (Da Bei Zhou)

1. na mo ho la da nu do la ye ye,
2. na mo o li ye,
3. po lu je di sho bo la ye,
4. pu ti sa do po ye,
5. mo ho sa do po ye,
6. mo ho jia lu ni jia ye,
7. an,
8. sa bo la fa yi,
9. su da nu da sia,
10. na mo si ji li do yi mung o li ye,
11. po lu ji di, sho fo la ling to po,
12. na mo nu la jin cho,
13. si li mo ho po do sha me,
14. sa po wo to do shu pung,
15. wo si yun,
16. sa po sa do na mo po sa do na mo po che,
17. mo fa to do,
18. da dzo to,
19. an, o po lu si,
20. lu jia di,
21. jia lo di,
22. i si li,
23. mo ho pu ti sa do,
24. sa po sa po,
25. mo la mo la,
26. mo si mo si li to yun,
27. ji lu ju lu, jie mong,
28. du lu du lu fa she ye di,
29. mo ho fa she ye di,
30. to la to la,
31. di li ni,
32. shi fo la ye,
33. zhe la zhe la,
34. mo mo, fa mo la,
35. mu di li,
36. yi si yi si,
37. shi nu shi nu,
38. o la son, fo la so li,
39. fa sha fa son,
40. fo la she ye,
41. hu lu hu lu mo la,
42. hu lu hu lu si li,
43. so la so la,
44. si li si li,
45. su lu su lu,
46. pu ti ye, pu ti ye,
47. pu to ye, pu to ye,
48. mi di li ye,
49. nu la jin cho,
50. di li so ni nu,
51. po ye mo nu,
52. so po ho,
53. si to ye,
54. so po ho,
55. mo ho si to ye,
56. so po ho,
57. si to yu yi,
58. shi bo la ye,
59. so po ho,
60. no la jin cho,
61. so po ho,
62. mo la nu la,
63. so po ho,
64. si la son o mo chi ye,
65. so po ho,
66. so po mo ho o si to ye,
67. so po ho,
68. zhe ji la o xi to ye,
69. so po ho,
70. bo fo mo jie si to ye,
71. so po ho,
72. nu la jin cho bo che la ye,
73. so po ho,
74. mo po li song ji la ye,
75. so po ho,
76. na mo ho la ta nu do la ye ye,
77. na mo o li ye,
78. po lu ji di,
79. sho bo la ye,
80. so po ho,
81. an si den,
82. man do la,
83, ba to ye,
84. so po ho.

There are 83 Bodhisattvas listed in Great Compassion Mantra, but #43 is not a Bodhisattva.

Benefits in Reciting and Holding The Great Compassion Mantra

Excerpts from The Dharani Sutra
English translation by the Buddhist Text Translation Society,
Dharma Realm Buddhist University, USA

If humans and gods recite and hold the phrases of the Great Compassion Mantra, then when they approach the end of life, all the Buddhas of the ten directions will come to take them by the hand to rebirth in whatever Buddhaland they wish, according to their desire.

Should any living beings who recites and holds the spiritual mantra of Great Compassion fall into the three evil paths, I vow not to realise the right enlightenment. Should any living being who recites and holds the spiritual mantra of Great Compassion not be reborn in any Buddhaland, I vow not to realise the right enlightenment. Should any living being who recites and holds the spiritual mantra of Great Compassion not obtain unlimited samadhis and eloquence, I vow not to realise the right enlightenment. Should any living being who recites and holds the spiritual mantra of Great Compassion not obtain the fruits of whatever is sought in this very life, then he cannot have been making proper use of the Dharani of the Great Compassion Heart.

People and gods who recite and hold the Great Compassion Mantra will obtain fifteen kinds of good birth and will not suffer fifteen kinds of bad death.

The bad deaths are:
1. They will not die of starvation or privation
2. They will not die from having been yoked, imprisoned, caned or otherwise beaten
3. They will not die at the hands of hostile enemies
4. They will not be killed in military battle
5. They will not be killed by tigers, wolves, or other evil beasts
6. They will not die from the venom of poisonous snakes, black serpents, or scorpions
7. They will not drown or be burned to death
8. They will not be poisoned to death
9. They will not die as a result of sorcery
10. They will not die of madness or insanity
11. They will not be killed by landslides or falling trees
12. They will not die of nightmares sent by evil people
13. They will not be killed by deviant spirits or evil ghosts
14. They will not die of evil illnesses which bind the body
15. They will not commit suicide

Those who recite and hold the spiritual Mantra of Great Compassion will not suffer any of these fifteen kinds of bad death and will obtain the following fifteen kinds of good birth:
1. Their place of birth will always have a good king
2. They will always be born in a good country
3. They will always be born at a good time
4. They will always meet good friends
5. The organs of their body will always be complete
6. Their heart will be pure and full in the way
7. They will not violate the prohibitive precepts
8. Their family will be kind and harmonious
9. They will always have the necessary wealth and goods in abundance
10. They will always obtain the respect and help of others
11. They riches will not be plundered
12. They will obtain everything they seek
13. Dragons, gods, and good spirits will always protect them
14. In the place where they are born they will see the Buddha and hear the Dharma
15. They will awaken to the profound meaning of that Proper Dharma which they hear.

Those who recite and hold the Great Compassion Mantra will obtain these fifteen kinds of good birth. All gods and people should constantly recite and hold it, without carelessness.

Kuden The Oral Hermeneutics of Tendai

October 18, 2007

Kuden The Oral Hermeneutics of Tendai 

Ten Verse Kannon Sutra

October 18, 2007


Ten Verse Kannon Sutra of Timeless Life

(repeat 7 times)
I venerate the Buddha;
with the Buddha I have my source,
with the Buddha I have affinity–
affinity with Buddha, Dharma, Sangha,
constancy, ease, the self, and purity.
Mornings my thought is Kanzeon,
evenings my thought is Kanzeon,
thought after thought arises in mind,
thought after thought is not separate from mind.