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07.07.10 : Beyond Self-Improvement | How to Receive the Robe & Bowl | Caring for Each Other (Medicine for the World)

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  • NamoAmituofo
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    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 6, 2010
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      The Daily Enlightenment
       Quote: Beyond Self-Improvement

      The Dharma is not merely for self-improvement, 
      but ultimately for self-perfection - 
      such that selflessness is realised to benefit one and all.


       New Look Soon
       Realisation: How to Receive the Robe & Bowl

      The objective of objects of Dharma
      is to point us beyond themselves - 
      towards the objective Dharma. 


      As recorded in the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch, when Master Huineng was still a layperson, he was conferred the title of the Sixth Patriarch of Chan when he inherited the robe and (alms) bowl from Master Hongren (the Fifth Patriarch of Chan), who explained to him the significance of the items. As the Chinese people had no confidence in the First Patriarch Bodhidharma (who was the 28th Patriarch in India) when he first arrived in China, the robe was handed down (or transmitted) as a physical form of testimony from one Patriarch to the next. For the Dharma though, it is transmitted from heart to heart, though the recipient must realise it by his own efforts.From time immemorial, it has been the custom for Buddhas to verify and pass the quintessence of the Dharma to their successors. However, as the robe may thereafter be cause for dispute and strife, Master Huineng was to be the last to inherit it. If it were to be further handed down to his successor, his life might be endangered. He was then instructed to leave as quickly as he could. With that, Huineng escaped to the South, as there was certainty that he would not be well received in the North due to his lowly worldly status. 

      Two months later, as predicted, when he reached Mount Tayu, he noticed that several hundred men were in hot pursuit of him for the purpose of snatching the robe and bowl from him. One of them there was a monk named Huiming, who was a general of the fourth rank in his lay life. As such, his character was rough and his temper quick. Of all the pursuers, he was the most diligent. When he was about to catch up with Master Huineng, the latter threw the robe and bowl onto a rock and exclaimed, 'This robe is nothing but a symbol. What is the use of taking it away by force?' He then hid himself. When Huiming reached the rock, he tried to pick the items up. To his great shock, he realised that he could not. In sudden yet deep remorse, he repented aloud, 'Lay brother, lay brother, I have come for the Dharma, not for the robe.' Thereupon, Master Huineng calmly emerged from his hiding place. Huiming immediately bowed and requested him to preach the Dharma to him, at which he attained insight. 

      This incident is a powerful reminder that we should never be distracted by status or power struggles when practising the Dharma, but focus on perfecting our compassion and wisdom instead. If even a monk, who was eager to pursue the truth could ended up pursuing only what represented it, it is indeed easier for laypeople to lose mindfulness of spiritual priorities over material gains. As the robe and bowl represented the authentic and immovable karmic right to lead the Dharma assembly by the power of truth, it could not be taken by brute force. The physical strife for the robe and bowl was futile, not unlike trying to grasp the reflection of the moon in a lake, missing the truth that though the reflection represents the real moon, it is never truly the moon, which cannot be grabbed. In a sense, all the objects of office, wealth and such that we struggle for and cling to are our personal mundane and unsubstantial 'robe and bowl'. Are they authentic, in comparison to the real 'robe and bowl'? Even if you have manage to shape and secure your own 'robe and bowl' of sorts, how worthy is it for handing down, for anyone's trouble to inherit? May we authentically deserve the the true robe and bowl soon! - Shen Shi'an

      If we objectify the Dharma without internalising it, 
      the Dharma becomes mistaken and clung to
      as mere external objects.

      - Stonepeace

      Share Articles & Comments: comment@... | More Realisations
       Excerpt: Caring for Each Other (Medicine for the World)

      Whatever medicines are found in the world - many and varied -
      none are equal to the Dharma.
      Drink of this, monks!

      And having drunk the medicine of the Dharma,
      you'll be untouched by age and death.
      Having meditated and seen,
      [you'll be] healed by ceasing to cling.

      - Milinda-Panho (335)

      One time when the Buddha was walking among the dwellings of his monks, he came across a monk who was very ill with dysentery, lying alone in his own excrement. He asked the monk why none of the others were caring for him and was told that he was of no use to the other monks, so they left him to cope with his illness alone. The Buddha immediately sent his attendant Ananda for a bowl of water and together they washed the monk and raised him onto a bed. Then the Buddha called together all the monks of the community and asked why this monk had been left unattended in his distress. He was given the same answer: “He is of no use to us, Lord.” (Mahavagga 8.26)

      “You monks no longer have mother or father to care for you,” the Buddha said to them.“If you do not care for one another, who else will care for you?” He then used the occasion to lay down one of the 227 rules for the monastic community, enjoining the monks to care for each other in times of illness. It is a poignant story, revealing a side to the Buddha seldom seen in the Pali texts. More importantly, I think it has something to say to us about the situation we all find ourselves in today, and it can offer inspiration and guidance on how we can best get ourselves out of difficulty.

      Surely one of the main problems we face, as a species and as a planet, is that we are lying in our own excrement. All the waste products produced by our consumption, from garbage and debris to chemical toxins and exotic poisons, are oozing out of us and soiling the environment we inhabit. And what the Buddha says about everything else surely applies here: Nothing happens without a cause. Things are the way they are not because of chance or the will of a deity but because people have acted in particular ways and generated particular consequences. The world we inhabit is the product of our actions, which are themselves reflections of our minds. [And we have the collective responsibility to care for it together, with one another. If we as the inhabitants of the Earth do not care, who would?]

      Unlimited Mind: The Radically Experiential Psychology of Buddhism 
      Andrew Olendzki
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