Thursday, September 19, 2002

Beginning with One Good Glimpse

"The Buddha used 84,000 skillful means (teachings)
only to lead us to see the 3 Universal Characteristics in their total reality
which leads to nothing less than ultimate liberation, total Enlightenment and true happiness."

Once you have a good glimpse (not complete realisation) of the reality of the 3 Universal Characteristics (Impermanence of Mind & Matter, Dissatisfaction of Mind & Matter, Insubstantiality or Non-Self of Mind & Matter) through proper insight meditation or equivalent spiritual practice, your life changes forever. This is a turning point- with which your whole life pivots. Not only do you enter the Dharma, it is as if the Dharma has entered you, making learning and practising the Dharma a matter of fact and greater ease. If you are honest to yourself, you will not need convincing that your life has indeed changed forever after you had glimpsed at the 3 Universal Characteristics. When you doubt, you have not yet seen them. When you see these Universal Characteristics, you are seeing the essence of the Universe itself. Only then do you truly enter the gates of the Dharma and start walking the path to Enlightenment. Sometimes this is called entering the stream- it is the end of the belief that you have a self in terms of mind and /or matter, the end of doubt in the Triple Gem's ability to lead to Enlightenment and the end of belief in the ability of attachment to rites, rituals and precepts to lead to Enlightenment. Insight means Wisdom. We need some crucial minimal wisdom to begin to realise ultimate wisdom in its totality. This is likened to needing some Right Understanding, as in the Noble Eightfold Path, in the first place, to be able to practise the other 7 aspects of the path... leading to the perfection of Right Understanding which is Enlightenment itself. Any other way of learning and practising the Dharma which does not lead to at least a good glimpse of the 3 Universal Characteristics is a waste of time.

There are times you come across fellow Buddhists who are new to the Dharma, but who seem to have a good grasp of the essence of the Dharma through direct glimpsing of the 3 Universal Characteristics in meditation or meditation equivalent practice. They seem to be at ease with even the deepest sutras and are able to instinctively live their life according to the Dharma. On the other hand, there are fellow Buddhists who have learnt the Dharma in bits and pieces for years, going around in circles, attending a talk here, reading a book there, getting advice from different friends with different views... sometimes even mixing up Buddhist culture and ritual with the essential teachings. Usually, these Buddhists are the ones who do not truly see the importance of meditation- which is an indispensable aspect of the Noble Eighfold Path, which they think they are already walking in its entirety. Even the Buddha had to meditate! And He even does so after Enlightenment! These Buddhists usually only agree with the 3 Universal Characteristics in theory. They have not even entered the stream; merely frolicking water by the side of the stream. Why keep thinking that stream-entry is difficult? Realise instead, that it is the bare minimum attainment- the first solid step towards Enlightenment- and take this step. Without taking this step, of what use is this life spiritually? We should not have spiritual procrastination since the human birth, which is ideal for spiritual cultivation, which is difficult to attain, has already been attained.

This is not to ask you to be attached to the idea of attainment of stream-entry- but to urge you to just go ahead and take the real first step. Anyway, stream-entry, like any other spiritual attainments, is an attainment of no attainment. If one is bent on attaining it out of craving, one cannot do so. The word "attainment" tends to lead one to think there is something to get; but in spiritual practice, we do not get anything; we only need to let go of our craving and delusions more and more in order to be more and more free. It is likened to the process of clearing dark clouds of defilements which obscure the bright full moon of our Buddha-Nature hidden behind. There is no need to "attain" or get the moon; just rid the clouds and there it is. The moment one is a Sotapanna, he will not be attached to the fact that he is one- because he knows it is a non-attainment. Since he has had a glimpse of the 3 Universal Characteristics, he is also convinced that his "self" does not really exist- although he still needs to practise further to realise non-self totally as at least an Arahant (even if he is on the Bodhisattva path to be a Buddha). Afterall, this is only the first step to Enlightenment. Thus, a true stream-winner does not make a fuss out of being one- since he knows there is no "one" who is truly a stream-winner. In the spirit of the Diamond Sutra, a stream-winner is not a stream-winner, which is why he is a stream-winner:

"The Lord asked: What do you think, Subhuti, does it occur to the Streamwinner, 'by me has the fruit of a Streamwinner been attained'? Subhuti replied: No indeed, O Lord. And why? Because, O Lord, he has not won any dharma. Therefore is he called a Stream-winner. No sight-object has been won, no sounds, smells, tastes, touchables, or objects of mind. That is why he is called a 'Streamwinner'. If, O Lord, it would occur to a Streamwinner, 'by me has a Streamwinner's fruit been attained', then that would be in him a seizing on a self, seizing on a being, seizing on a soul, seizing on a person."

So much said, what are you waiting for? Truly begin walking the path to Enlightenment now- by truly taking the first step. reply

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