Showing posts with label Ven. Yin Shun. Show all posts
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Collection of Buddhist Works by Master Yinshun Volume Two of the "Wonderful Cloud Collection": "Lectures on the Treasure Accumulation Sutra" [Back to Table of Contents] [Read Next Page] [Read Previous Page]

Section 2: Discerning Profound Meanings Section 1: Revealing the Meaning of Emptiness **Sub


Sub-section 1: Dharma Emptiness "Furthermore, Kasyapa! A true observer does not render all dharmas empty merely because of emptiness; it is the nature of dharmas to be inherently empty. Nor does one render dharmas signless because of signlessness; dharmas are inherently signless. Nor does one render dharmas desireless because of desirelessness; dharmas are inherently desireless. Nor does one render dharmas without arising, without birth, without taking, without nature, because of their lack of arising, birth, taking, or nature; dharmas are inherently without arising, birth, taking, or nature. Such an observer is called a true observer."

This section, although having already explained the Middle Way and emptiness, emphasizes that the concept of emptiness is profoundly deep and requires further discernment and clarification to avoid misunderstandings by practitioners. This is divided into three parts, beginning with the explanation of the meaning of emptiness. ‘Revealing’ here means using language and text to make the meaning of emptiness clearer, discussing both dharma emptiness and self emptiness.

Here, it is appropriate to briefly discuss the different types of emptiness as taught by the Buddha. All forms of emptiness are methods of practice, but they can be broadly categorized into three types: 1. "Analytical Emptiness": Attaining emptiness through analytical meditation, known in the scriptures as scattered emptiness and in Tiantai Buddhism as analytical emptiness. For instance, when analyzing the nature of material form, breaking it down progressively until it cannot be further divided, one reaches "adjacent empty particles," touching the edge of emptiness. Advancing further, the aspect of emptiness becomes apparent. However, this is an indirect observation, not a direct one, as even when divided into billions of parts, there is still existence, still form. 2. "Meditative Emptiness": As in the practice of yogis, who meditate on the mind's freedom, where meditating on blue brings forth the aspect of blue, and meditating on emptiness brings forth the aspect of emptiness. This is because the mind transforms according to its focus, revealing its emptiness. Yet, this is not complete, for by using the method of observing emptiness to observe emptiness, the observing mind itself cannot be emptied. In fact, they do not admit that the mind too is empty. These two methods, though indeed taught by the Buddha and capable of alleviating many afflictions and delusions, are not ultimate. The ultimate is the third type, "Inherent Nature Emptiness": It is not that things are empty only after being broken down, nor are they empty just because the mind conceives them as such; emptiness is the inherent nature of all dharmas. As stated in the Agama Sutras: "All formations are empty: constantly empty... self and what belongs to self are empty; it is their nature." Thus, when the Buddha speaks of the emptiness of dharmas, it is not about annihilating anything through observation, but rather understanding the true nature of all dharmas through observation. This is like the ancient story of "seeing a snake in the shadow of a bowstring" - believing one has swallowed a snake, thus suffering from anxiety and illness. Now, by realizing that there was never a snake to begin with, the anxiety and illness are cured. Therefore, observing emptiness is about removing false perceptions and attaining the inherently empty nature of all dharmas, which is the ultimate meaning of emptiness in Mahayana Buddhism. Otherwise, sentient beings, bound by emotional views, fail to fully comprehend true emptiness and eventually revert back to clinging to "existence."

Emptiness here refers to the inherent emptiness, the ultimate emptiness beyond all speculative discussions, thus embodying the Middle Way when expressed as "emptiness." However, for the sake of adapting to different capacities, it is also described as signlessness, desirelessness (ancient translations as non-action), collectively known as the three gates to liberation. It also involves teachings on non-arising, non-birth (non-ceasing), non-taking, non-nature, guiding all sentient beings towards the same ultimate reality. According to the ultimate understanding in Mahayana, "emptiness, signlessness, and desirelessness are interdependent with true reality." Emptiness is free from views, signlessness is free from distinctions, and desirelessness is free from grasping and desires. However, they can also be explained from a more relative perspective: based on "all dharmas lack self," it is called emptiness; based on "Nirvana is quiet and peaceful," it is called signlessness; based on "all formations are impermanent," it is called desirelessness. These can be further interpreted in terms of depth and shallowness: emptying everything yet manifesting the aspect of emptiness (though ultimately emptiness is also unattainable), thus leading to the teaching of signlessness. Even when reaching a state where phenomena are signless, the mind may still cling, thus leading to the teaching of desirelessness. But these are all expedient means; the three gates to liberation are essentially equal and uniform. The arising referred to here is immediate arising, birth is coming into being, both closely related to arising; but arising could be mistaken, while birth is due to causes and conditions. In this translation, "non-self" is also included under non-arising. Referring to other translations, this seems to be an added text, and hence has been removed. Non-taking refers to not grasping anything. Non-nature means having no inherent nature. As explained in general characteristics, from signlessness to non-nature, all are alternative names for emptiness.

Now, let's interpret the text based on the scripture. The Buddha said: "Kasyapa! True observation" - the correct view of the Middle Way is as follows: "not by the power of the 'emptiness' samadhi, making 'all dharmas' have the nature of 'emptiness,' but 'dharma nature is inherently empty.'" The inherent nature is empty; observing it is merely realizing its original state. This is the inherent emptiness, self-emptiness, not other-emptiness; this is the true and correct view of the Middle Way. From this, it is clear that the view of emptiness, true observation, and the view of the Middle Way are the same. Similarly, "not by the power of the 'signlessness' samadhi, so that 'dharmas are signless, but dharmas are inherently signless.'" Also, "not by the power of the 'desirelessness' observation, so that 'dharmas are desireless, but dharmas are inherently desireless.'" In this way, the Buddha's teachings of 'non-arising, non-birth, non-taking, non-nature' are inherently so. Being able to 'observe' the inherent emptiness in this way is called 'true observation,' and not the view of analytical emptiness, meditative emptiness, or other forms of external emptiness.

Sub-section 2: Self Emptiness "Furthermore, Kasyapa! It is not because there is no person that it is called empty, but emptiness is inherently empty. Emptiness in the past, emptiness in the future, and emptiness in the present. One should rely on emptiness, not on persons."

Self emptiness refers to the emptiness of self. The meaning of self emptiness, as stated above, is the same as that of dharma emptiness. The Buddha further said: "Kasyapa! It is not because there is no self that it is called empty, but emptiness is inherently empty." This means that it is not by eliminating the self through the view of non-self that something is called empty, but rather the nature of self is inherently unattainable. To illustrate the inherent unattainability of this self (or "I"), the Buddha continued: "Emptiness in the past, emptiness in the future, and emptiness in the present." The term 'boundary' refers to the edge; the past boundary refers to the past extending into the distant past. The future boundary refers to the future extending into the distant future. The present, in between the past and the future, is called the present boundary. The self (or "I") is the subject of transmigration from past lives to the present, and from the present life to future lives. If the self or "I" were truly existent, it would certainly be found within these three boundaries. But upon true observation, the self of the past is unattainable, the self of the present is unattainable, and the self of the future is also unattainable. Since the self is unattainable in all three periods, it is evident that the nature of emptiness is inherently non-self.

Many Sravakas and some Mahayana practitioners mistakenly believe that self emptiness and dharma emptiness are different, thus, although they understand self emptiness, they may not recognize or even deny dharma emptiness. However, some Sravakas and Madhyamaka practitioners in Mahayana Buddhism do not agree with this misunderstanding. Self emptiness and dharma emptiness differ only in the objects of correct observation, but the observed nature of emptiness is the same. As with the fire of straw and the fire of coal, when talking about the straw and coal, the strength of the fire may differ; but in terms of the heating nature of fire, how can there be any difference? Accordingly, Sravakas often speak of non-self, and Mahayana often speaks of emptiness. These are slight differences in the terms used, but there is no


difference in the nature of emptiness itself. According to this correct view, if a Sravaka attains the realization of self emptiness, they may not need to further contemplate dharma emptiness, but they will certainly not hold onto the view that dharmas are inherently existent. Because, if they were to truly observe, the way they understand non-self would be the same as their understanding of dharma emptiness. Conversely, if they cling to the inherent existence of dharmas and do not believe in dharma emptiness, then they have not truly understood non-self. Such a person is only an arrogant individual who believes they have achieved enlightenment. Therefore, the Prajnaparamita Sutras clearly state that stream-enterers (Srotapanna) and Arhats will definitely believe in and understand dharma emptiness. The Diamond Sutra even more clearly states: "If one grasps at the characteristics of dharmas, they are attached to the self, to persons, to beings, to longevity. If one grasps at the non-characteristics of dharmas, they are similarly attached." This sutra explains dharma emptiness based on the inherent emptiness of nature, and similarly explains self emptiness. This shows that the correct view of Madhyamaka practitioners fully understands the true meaning of Mahayana proper observation.

Finally, the Buddha said: "One should rely on emptiness, not on persons." These two sentences might seem abrupt, but they are extremely important! Here, 'emptiness' refers to the nature of emptiness (such as emptiness aspect, Tathata, etc.). The correct observation taught by the Buddha should be based on this nature of emptiness for cultivation and realization, not based on persons. Originally, the Brahmanism in India believed that to achieve liberation, one must possess the wisdom of the true self. Only by understanding the true self could one attain liberation. The unique teaching of Shakyamuni Buddha was to completely deny this metaphysical theory of the true self. He consistently taught: "Because it is impermanent, it is suffering; because it is suffering, it is non-self; because it is non-self, there is no possession of self, and thus one attains Nirvana." In other words, only by thoroughly dispelling the notion of a permanent, true self can one attain liberation. Therefore, during the actual realization of the Buddha's disciples, it is always said: "Knowing the Dharma, entering the Dharma, only seeing the Dharma, not seeing the self." The Dharma is the true Dharma (the wonderful Dharma, that is, the nature of the Dharma, Nirvana), and in the state of realization, one only perceives the true Dharma, without any self to be seen or attained. Ordinary Buddhists, not knowing how the self of non-Buddhist teachings is defined, mistakenly believe that their cultivation and realization are different from those of non-Buddhist teachings; in fact, the difference between the practice and realization of Buddhists and non-Buddhists (non-Buddhists also have religious practices and experiences and believe they have achieved enlightenment) lies in very subtle explanations. For instance, when they say: experiencing the true, constant, pure, blissful, unarising, undying, non-dual, indescribable nature. These statements are difficult to distinguish between non-Buddhist and Buddhist teachings. However, such experiences by non-Buddhists are definitely interpreted as the true self (or as God). They personify their religious experiences as the subject of life, absolutely subjective; or they deify it as the true ruler of the universe – Jehovah, Brahma, etc. However, the experience of Buddhist disciples is different from that of non-Buddhists, being "only seeing the Dharma, not seeing the person." Therefore, in secular explanations, even though wisdom is not dual with all dharmas, it is only referred to as the nature of all dharmas, unarising, undying, without attributing any volitional characteristics, and certainly not as the true self, nor conceptualized as a creator god. This sutra, in explaining that the nature of self is inherently empty, specifically states: "One should rely on emptiness, not on persons," which is extremely critical! However, since sentient beings have been deluded by the view of self from time immemorial, there are also Buddhist disciples who still cling to the realization of the true self, mistakenly believing they have attained the ultimate!

Sub-section 2: Dispelling Emotional Calculations Sub-section 1: Taking the Complete to Achieve the True Aspect "If one relies on emptiness upon attaining it, it is a regression in the Buddha's teachings. Therefore, Kasyapa! It is better to have the view of self as big as Mount Sumeru than to have arrogance arising from the view of emptiness. Why? Because all


views are liberated through emptiness. If the view of emptiness arises, it cannot be removed."

In the cultivation and study of the correct view of the Middle Way, if one is not skillful, one may either cling to emptiness or become attached to existence, both of which deviate from the Middle Way. Therefore, the Buddha uses an analogy to explain the renunciation of emotional attachments, beginning with taking the complete to achieve the true aspect.

The complete true aspect refers to dharma emptiness (such as Tathata, the nature of the Dharma, etc.). Traditionally, there are two schools of thought: "Dual emptiness is truth" and "What dual emptiness reveals." The Buddha sometimes refers to it as emptiness, sometimes as the nature of emptiness, the aspect of emptiness, etc. Therefore, in establishing verbal expressions, this is acceptable. Emptiness is useful in removing emotional attachments, but if one solely regards emptiness as negation, that is incorrect, because emptiness also implies what is revealed by negation. However, what emptiness reveals is absolutely beyond conceptual speculation, transcending relative establishment; what could it be called? Although it is permissible to "borrow terms to express the ungraspable, calling it existence" for the sake of worldly convention, isn't it more in line with the ultimate truth to "borrow terms to express the ungraspable, calling it emptiness"? Therefore, the explanations of "Dual emptiness is truth" and what "Dual emptiness reveals" can be explained according to the Sandhinirmocana Sutra: for those with five qualifications, the Buddha directly teaches the emptiness of inherent nature, unarisen, undying, encouraging contemplation and practice to enter into self-realization; emptiness is in accordance with the ultimate truth. But for those without the five qualifications, to prevent fear of emptiness and clinging to emptiness, the Buddha temporarily speaks of the nature revealed by emptiness in worldly terms.

Regardless of whether it's "Dual emptiness is truth" or the nature revealed by emptiness, if one clings to the complete true emptiness (or the nature of emptiness), the fault is very serious! Therefore, continuing from the previous discussion of the inherent emptiness of dharmas and self, the Buddha said: "If one relies on emptiness upon attaining it, it is a regression in the Buddha's teachings." To attain emptiness is to have something of emptiness that can be attained. To rely on emptiness is to cling to emptiness (this is different from the previous text "only rely on emptiness"). This means: when a practitioner is in the state of non-discrimination, the characteristics of birth and death cease, and the aspect of emptiness appears. If one considers this as attaining the complete true aspect, that is a mistake! Moreover, some who practice non-discriminative meditation directly abandon all thoughts, and the aspect of emptiness appears. At that moment, the state is like the clear void, bright and pure; feeling the clarity and serenity, one clings to it. For the Buddha's teachings, this not only hinders further cultivation but also leads to loss and regression. Because such contemplation (or meditation) states, if clung to for a long time, gradually diminish the spirit of diligence, leading to a stagnant life. Some, not distinguishing good from evil, even believe they are equal to the Buddha and demons!

The fault of clinging to the aspect of emptiness is too great, so the Buddha instructs Kasyapa: "It is better" to generate "the view of self, accumulating" it "as big as Mount Sumeru," than to have "arrogance arising from the view of emptiness." Not having attained or realized, but believing one has, is called conceit. Clinging to the aspect of emptiness is the view of emptiness, and mistaking the view of emptiness for having attained the complete true aspect is a great error! Such a comparison of gains and losses is not an exaggeration. Because with the view of self, although one cannot achieve liberation, it does not hinder the extensive cultivation of good deeds for humans and deities. But clinging to emptiness leads to the refusal to do good deeds and ultimately to loss and regression. No matter how great the view of self is, it can still be guided and dissolved by emptiness, leading to the self-realization of emptiness. However, the view of emptiness cannot be removed in this way, because "all views are liberated through emptiness," which means that all views are abandoned through the contemplation of emptiness. If one mistakenly embraces the Buddha's teachings and reverses them, generating "the view of emptiness, then it cannot be removed." Already clinging to emptiness, it is impossible to use emptiness to guide and dissolve it. Nor can the view of emptiness be removed by clinging to existence, for existence only further strengthens


emotional attachments. Therefore, Nagarjuna, in the Madhyamaka treatises, states based on this principle: "The Tathagata teaches the Dharma of emptiness to liberate from all views. If one again perceives emptiness, then the Buddhas do not guide them." This is likened in the commentaries to the analogy of water extinguishing fire; if fire arises in water, there is no way to extinguish it.

Both Madhyamaka and Yogacara scholars do not accept the view of emptiness as something to be grasped or attained. When the saints of the two vehicles (Hinayana and Mahayana) realize emptiness, it is the uncontaminated prajna (wisdom) that directly perceives the non-discriminative nature of the Dharma, and it is not something that can be grasped. Therefore, those who think there is emptiness to be attained and cling to emptiness are arrogant individuals lacking skillful means in their practice of contemplation or meditation.

"The Buddha then gave another analogy, 'Kasyapa! Like a physician who administers medicine to agitate the illness, if the medicine remains inside and is not expelled, what do you think? Would such a patient be cured?' 'No, World-Honored One! If the medicine does not leave the body, the illness will only worsen.' 'Similarly, Kasyapa! All views are extinguished by emptiness. If the view of emptiness arises, then it cannot be removed.'"

The Buddha further clarifies the fault of clinging to emptiness with an analogy: 'Kasyapa! It’s like a physician who gives medicine to a patient. Due to the potency of the medicine, the illness is agitated; influenced by the medicine, the illness should gradually improve. Suppose the medicine taken continuously remains within and is not expelled. Kasyapa, do you think the patient’s illness would completely heal?' 'Heal' here means to be cured. Kasyapa replies to the Buddha: No, it wouldn’t. 'If the medicine is not expelled,' the illness 'would not only not heal but would instead increase.' This is akin to 'the old illness not cured, and the medicine itself becoming the illness.' Then the Buddha relates the analogy to the teaching: 'Just so, Kasyapa! All views are extinguished only by emptiness,' just as all diseases are cured only by taking medicine. 'If the view of emptiness arises, then it cannot be removed,' just as if the medicine remains inside the body without being expelled, causing side effects, and worsening the disease, there is no cure.

"Sub-section 2: Fear of Relying on Other-Emptiness" 'Like a person who fears the void, sadly beating their chest and saying: I abandon the void. What do you think? Can the void be abandoned?' 'No, World-Honored One!' 'Similarly, Kasyapa! If one fears the emptiness of dharmas, I say this person is delirious and has lost their mind. Why? Because they always act in emptiness and fear it.'"

The Buddha continues to address the issue of fearing the emptiness that arises dependently, which is the product of causes and conditions (as emphasized in Yogacara, which takes consciousness as the basis, teaching that dependent arising is the product of mind and mental factors). "All phenomena born of causes and conditions, I declare, are ultimately empty," as stated in the Huashou Sutra, expressing the essence of the Prajnaparamita and other Mahayana sutras. Here, it should be differentiated: 1. If one says that dependently arisen phenomena are empty and completely denies dependently arisen phenomena, considering them like tortoise hair or rabbit horns, this is the deluded attachment of the nihilists, who hold the doctrine of emptiness as a mere label. 2. If one says that the nature of dependently arisen phenomena is empty, but the characteristics of dependently arisen phenomena are not empty, this is the view of those who believe in nominal existence but not emptiness. The first view is an extreme, and the second is insufficient. The ultimate meaning of emptiness is that dependently arisen phenomena are merely nominal, and thus ultimately empty; but the ultimate emptiness does not obstruct dependently arisen phenomena, which are like illusions; this is the Middle Way where emptiness and existence do not hinder each other. However, from the perspective of those who hold the view of real existence (including some in Mahayana who are close to the view of non-emptiness), hearing about the ultimate emptiness is like being stabbed in the heart, unbearable. According to these realists, "the nominal must rely on the real"; how could they say that everything is merely nominal, ultimately empty! If everything is only nominal, then everything is empty; then nothing exists (they consider emptiness as non-existence),


and how could there be any nominal designations! If one cannot say that everything is only nominal, then what is designated nominally, lacking inherent nature, can be called empty, but the inherent existence which is self-established cannot be called empty. Therefore, they fear and resist the ultimate emptiness. Or they try to modify the teaching of ultimate emptiness: saying that all dharmas are empty is not the final truth; in reality, some are empty and some are not. In the midst of ultimate emptiness, they feel they have no ground to stand on, unable to establish the doctrines of life, death, Nirvana, and all dharmas. Therefore, they seek something non-empty beyond emptiness to establish the doctrines of life, death, and Nirvana, and to cultivate the path towards Buddhahood. Sentient beings have always been deluded by inherent views and have always clung to existence and hated emptiness. The Buddha, for those (who lack the five qualifications), sometimes had to skillfully use provisional teachings, hiding emptiness and speaking of existence, to guide them!

For practitioners who fear the ultimately empty nature of dependently arisen dharmas and seek something non-empty outside of emptiness, the Buddha, from the standpoint of ultimate truth, rebukes them with an analogy: 'Like a person who fears the void,' crying loudly, 'beating their chest, saying: "I will abandon the void" and go to a place without void.' The Buddha asks Kasyapa: What do you think? 'Is the void something that can be abandoned?' Kasyapa replies: 'It is not possible.' The void is pervasive everywhere; it is the characteristic of material existence; wherever there is material, there is the void. How can one leave the void and go to a place without the void! The Buddha then relates this to the teaching: 'Similarly, Kasyapa!' Those who hear that all dharmas are ultimately empty and fear the dharma of emptiness, wanting to establish all dharmas in something non-empty, aren't they like that foolish person trying to escape the void? 'I say that person'—who cannot accept the ultimate emptiness of all dharmas and wants to establish non-emptiness—is 'delirious and has lost their mind!' They are deluded by inherent views from time immemorial and lack proper knowledge and views. Why do I say this? All dharmas are ultimately empty; this is the inherent nature of all dharmas. Since time immemorial, sentient beings, whether generating delusions, creating karma, experiencing the results, aspiring, or practicing—everything has always been ultimately empty. Always 'acting in emptiness,' illusorily arising and ceasing without self-awareness, they 'fear emptiness' and seek non-empty dharmas. Isn't this delusion and loss of mind?

"Sub-section 3: Clinging to Universal Calculations and Grasping Existence" 'Like a painter who paints a fierce yaksha demon, becomes frightened upon seeing it, faints and falls to the ground. All ordinary beings are likewise; they create forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches, wander in birth and death, suffer various afflictions, and remain unaware.'

To illustrate the universal miscalculations and delusions of sentient beings, the Buddha introduces the analogy of painting a demon. 'Like a painter who paints a fierce yaksha demon.' Yakshas are powerful and fast demons with terrifying appearances. Although self-created, one should not be afraid of them. But sentient beings are ignorant! Due to the lifelike painting, it looks as real as if it were alive. Seeing it, one cannot help but be moved. The more one looks, the more one fears, to the point of being scared into unconsciousness, 'fainting and falling to the ground.' How pitiful! 'All ordinary beings are likewise' pitiful! They generate delusions and karma, leading to the creation of their current body and mind, as well as various external environments. These are all 'self-created' forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches. The phenomena they encounter due to karma are inherently empty and quiet by nature. However, due to past delusional habits, upon arising, they appear to have inherent characteristics (which is why some scholars say they are self-established), presenting deluded, speculative appearances. Whether internally as body and senses or externally as environmental conditions, they seem truly existent; in the perception of sentient beings, they are naturally and intuitively considered real and non-empty. Therefore, further delusions arise, clinging to them as real, deepening the delusion and continuing to create karma and experience results. Alas! Birth and death are inherently empty, yet sentient beings 'wander in birth and death,' unable to escape. Forms and sounds are inherently empty, yet sentient beings are bound by environmental characteristics, and thus in this and future lives, they continuously 'suffer various afflictions.' In the illusory and ultimately empty nature of existence, they endlessly suffer and transmigrate, 'unaware' of their inherent emptiness, unable to liberate themselves through emptiness. Aren't they like the painter who painted the demon?

"Sub-section 3: Skillful Wisdom and Cutting Off" Sub-section 1: Wisdom 'Similar to an illusionist who creates an illusory person and then eats it. Monks on the path likewise have a view of the Dharma, all are empty and quiet without solidity, and this view itself is also empty.'

After expounding on revealing emptiness and dispelling emotional calculations, the Buddha proceeds to discuss the topic of skillful wisdom and cutting off delusions. Because dispelling attachments and revealing emptiness cannot be achieved without wisdom. With wisdom, one can certainly cut off delusions and karma. However, sentient beings, with their shallow wisdom and limited merits, are also prone to misunderstand wisdom and cutting off, easily falling into inverted attachments and harming the profound meaning of the Buddha's teachings. Therefore, clear discernment is necessary.

First, let's discuss wisdom. Direct wisdom that truly perceives reality arises from contemplation, which is born from contemplating the prajna (wisdom) of the Dharma. Ordinary people who do not understand the meaning of emptiness have two major misconceptions about this issue. First, some believe that the observed phenomena are empty, but the observing mind is not empty. They argue: observing all dharmas as empty means that all dharmas are empty, but surely the observing mind cannot be empty! If the contemplative wisdom itself is empty, then there would be no contemplative wisdom, and thus no possibility of contemplation. Thus, they establish the theory of an existent mind and empty phenomena. This is similar to the Western philosopher Descartes, who initially doubted everything but eventually concluded that the doubting self is unquestionably existent. From the realization of "I think, therefore I am," he established his philosophy. Such an understanding is entirely worldly thinking and does not align with the Buddha's profound teachings of liberation. To refute this misconception of an empty phenomena and non-empty mind, the Buddha uses an analogy: 'Like an illusionist who creates an illusory person, animals, etc. Although all these are illusory and inherently empty, they harm and eat each other.' The illusionist harming and eating illusions, both being unattainable. 'Monks on the path are likewise.' Monks are like the illusionist; the observed phenomena and the observing mind they generate are like the illusory people and animals. Both the observed and the observer, everything is like an illusion, inherently empty, so it is said: 'Whatever view of the Dharma, all' are inherently 'empty,' 'quiet,' without 'solidity'; the 'view itself is also empty.' Although everything is like an illusion and inherently empty, the observed and the observer, everything is established. Therefore, with the view of emptiness that is itself empty, one contemplates the phenomena that are empty; both phenomena and view are empty and quiet. How could one mistakenly hold that the phenomena are empty but the observing mind is not empty! The main root of such a misconception still lies in the belief that emptiness means non-existence; how could there be contemplation if there is non-existence! Misunderstanding the meaning of emptiness, misconceptions arise.

Sub-section 2: Wisdom Leading to the Cessation of Contemplation 'Kasyapa! Like two pieces of wood rubbing together to produce fire, which then consumes the wood. Similarly, Kasyapa! True observation leads to the birth of sacred wisdom, and once this wisdom arises, it consumes the true observation.'

Second, some believe that uncontaminated holy wisdom—the direct realization of prajna—is a wisdom of suchness, a wisdom without discrimination, and therefore the discriminatory contemplation, which is by nature illusory, cannot give rise to holy wisdom. Not only can it not give rise, but it is also an obstacle! Because this is adding delusion to delusion, increasing discrimination within discrimination, like washing water with water, extinguishing fire with fire, forever impossible to achieve freedom from delusion and discrimination. Therefore, they advocate directly experiencing the true mind, being without thoughts and distractions as a method. This completely destroys the boundless skillful means of the Tathagata! The Buddha speaks of contemplation beyond cessation, wisdom beyond concentration, and the wisdom of cultivation (contemplation) arising from hearing and thinking, leading to true realization. How can one say that discriminatory contemplation is useless? Here, the Buddha uses an analogy to dispel these misconceptions. The Buddha calls 'Kasyapa' and says: 'Like two pieces of wood rubbing together,' do not think that adding one piece of wood to another increases the wood. If used as a method, the rubbing of two pieces of


wood together for a long time generates warmth and eventually fire. Once the fire arises, it 'consumes the wood,' burning it away. Similarly, 'due to true observation'—the contemplation of all dharmas as empty—'sacred wisdom arises.' Once this holy wisdom arises, not only do the phenomena cease to manifest, but even the true observation that led to their perception is consumed. This reaches the state where phenomena are empty and the mind is quiet, manifesting the wisdom without discrimination.

What is this true observation? It is the contemplative wisdom. Although in essence it is conditioned and illusory, how can it be called true? It should be understood that there are two types of contemplative wisdom: 1. Conventional wisdom: like contemplating impermanence, impurity, etc., or the purity and splendor of Buddha-lands, which all use "distinctive images" as objects. 2. Ultimate contemplation, or true observation. This contemplates all dharmas as lacking inherent nature, as unarisen, undying, etc. Though this is still discriminatory, it contemplates all discrimination as inherently unattainable, using "non-distinctive images" as objects. Such discriminatory contemplation is in accordance with the ultimate truth; it discriminates yet can overcome discrimination. In the scriptures, there are analogies such as "using sound to stop sound" (like saying "let's all be quiet") and "using a wedge to remove a wedge" to demonstrate the superior function of non-discriminatory contemplation. When uncontaminated holy wisdom is generated, such discriminatory contemplation, which is by nature discriminatory, ceases to arise. Using discriminatory contemplation to cease discriminatory attachment is a great skillful means, a wonderful expedient! Such true observation has the marvelous function of observation without clinging. At the time of entering into the true nature, it is indispensable to have such true observation—the contemplation of the Middle Way.

Sub-section 2: Cutting Off Sub-section 1: Breaking the Lack of Wisdom 'Like a lamp that lights up, all darkness vanishes on its own, with no place from where it came or to where it goes. It does not come from the east nor go to the south, west, north, the four intermediate directions, or up and down. It does not come from there, nor does it go there. And the lamp’s light does not think: I can extinguish darkness. Because by the nature of the lamp’s light, there is no darkness; both light and darkness are empty, with no action or grasping. Thus, Kasyapa! When true wisdom arises, ignorance vanishes. Wisdom and ignorance are both empty, with no action or grasping.'

Wisdom can observe the emptiness of the nature of dharmas and realize the true nature, and it can also cut off delusions and karma. Delusion, another name for affliction, is generally characterized by ignorance. What is ignorance? In general, it is the lack of knowledge of the Middle Way of dependent origination and emptiness. Specifically, it is not knowing suffering, its origin, cessation, and the path; not knowing the nature, characteristics, essence, function, cause, and effect, etc. Therefore, ignorance is also called lack of wisdom; and prajna, which can destroy ignorance, can also be referred to as clarity. The emergence of wisdom and the cessation of ignorance are inevitable, but if one clings to the actual existence, believing in the real existence of prajna that can arise and real ignorance that can be destroyed, then that itself becomes ignorance and affliction. Thus, the Buddha uses another analogy to demonstrate: 'Like a lamp that lights up,' when the lamp is truly lit, 'all darkness vanishes on its own.' Where does the light come from? Where does the darkness go? If light and darkness are considered to have inherent existence, then light should have a definite place of origin, but light 'comes from nowhere.' Darkness should have a definite destination, but it 'goes nowhere.' Generally, if one thinks of light and darkness as material, then material should occupy space. If it has spatial characteristics, shouldn't light come from one of the ten directions, and darkness go to one of the ten directions? The Buddha succinctly says: Light 'does not come from the east'; darkness 'does not go to the south, west, north, the four intermediate directions, or up and down.' This shows that the light 'does not come from there,' and darkness 'does not go there.' Isn't the emergence of light and the disappearance of darkness like this, without coming and going? Not only is there no place of coming and going, but the light also does not have the actual function of extinguishing darkness. Therefore, it is said: 'The light does not think: I can extinguish darkness.' The light not having this thought indicates that it does not have the


actual function of extinguishing darkness. If it were believed to have such a substantial function, then how does the light extinguish darkness? Does it touch the darkness to extinguish it, or does it extinguish it without touching it? If light and darkness do not intersect, light stays in the light, and darkness stays in the darkness, then how can light extinguish darkness? If light extinguishes darkness without intersecting it, then the light in one room should extinguish darkness everywhere! If it is said that light and darkness intersect, then isn't there light within darkness and darkness within light? Since light supposedly extinguishes darkness, darkness should also obstruct light! This shows that light and darkness are like illusions, as extensively explained in the Madhyamaka treatises. Therefore, it is not that the light truly extinguishes darkness, but simply 'because of the lamp’s light nature, there is no darkness.' 'Both light and darkness are empty,' like illusions. There is no inherent action of extinguishing darkness, thus 'no action.' There is not the slightest inherent existence to grasp, thus 'no grasping.'

Wisdom is like the light of a lamp, and ignorance is like darkness. Based on the above discussion of light and darkness, the significance of prajna extinguishing ignorance can also be understood. The Buddha then tells 'Kasyapa': 'Thus, when true wisdom arises, ignorance vanishes.' This is not about arising or ceasing, coming or going, and prajna does not have the inherent function of destroying delusions. It is simply 'wisdom and ignorance, both empty, with no action or grasping,' the natural state of wisdom arising and ignorance ceasing.

Sub-section 2: Extinguishing Karmic Bonds 'Kasyapa! Like a thousand-year-old dark room, never having seen light, when a lamp is lit, what do you think? Does the darkness have the thought, "I have long resided here and do not wish to leave?"' 'No, World-Honored One! When the lamp is lit, darkness has no power and does not wish to leave; it will inevitably be eradicated.' 'Similarly, Kasyapa! Karmic bonds formed over hundreds of thousands of millions of eons, with a single true observation, are all extinguished. The light of the lamp is sacred wisdom; the darkness is karmic bonds.'

Karmic bonds can be explained in two ways: 1. 'Bond' refers to afflictions, such as the three bonds, the five bonds, etc., which bind people to samsara, preventing liberation. 'Karma' refers to the actions of body, speech, and mind; through manifest karma, non-manifest karma arises, serving as the cause and condition for various sufferings and joys. The previous discussion of ignorance refers to the general aspect of afflictions; here, karmic bonds refer to various afflictions and karma. 2. Karmic bonds are the karma that binds to the three realms: the desire realm, the form realm, and the signless realm. Thus, the previous text refers to afflictions, and this text refers to karma.

Wisdom arises and karmic bonds are extinguished, similar to the emergence of wisdom and the disappearance of ignorance. Therefore, the Tathagata again uses the analogy of a lamp dispelling darkness, differing only in that the previous discussion was in spatial terms (the ten directions), and this one is in terms of time. The Buddha says: 'Kasyapa! Like a thousand-year-old' dark 'room' that has 'never seen light,' the darkness has almost become the master of the room. 'When a lamp is lit,' the light is about to come. What do you think? Does the darkness of the room have the thought, 'I have long resided here, this is my home, and I do not wish to leave?' Kasyapa replies: 'No, World-Honored One! When the lamp is lit, darkness has no power to stay and does not wish to leave. As soon as the light comes, the darkness naturally disappears, 'inevitably being eradicated.' The Buddha says: 'Similarly, Kasyapa!' Likewise, the 'karmic bonds formed over hundreds of thousands of millions of eons' of continuous habituation, although so longstanding, 'with a single true observation,' are all 'extinguished,' just like darkness. Hence, it is concluded that the 'lamp light' mentioned above is 'sacred wisdom,' and the 'darkness' is all 'karmic bonds.'

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Master Yinshun

    Monk, Buddhist Scholar

    Generally referred to in this entry

    Master Yinshun (March 12, 1906 – June 4, 2005), also known as Teacher Yinshun, Elder Yinshun, Dharma Master Yinshun, secular name Zhang Luqin, from Haining, Hangzhou Prefecture, Zhejiang (now part of Jiaxing), a prominent modern Chinese Buddhist thinker known for his emphasis on both understanding and practice as a great monastic practitioner.

    He received a formal doctoral degree from Taisho University in Japan for his book "History of Chinese Chan Buddhism", becoming the first monk in Taiwan's Bhikkhu community to hold a doctorate. He dedicated his life to promoting Humanistic Buddhism, for Buddhism, for all sentient beings. He was also the mentor of Master Cheng Yen of Tzu Chi. In memory of Master Yinshun, the Hsinchu City Government renamed Nansong Bridge in Quxi Li as "Yinshun Bridge".

    Chinese Name: Master Yinshun

    Aliases: Elder Yinshun, Dharma Master Yinshun, Zhang Luqin

    Nationality: China

    Ethnicity: Han

    Date of Birth: March 12, 1906

Personal Relationships

Master Zhengyan


    Master Zhengyan, secular name Wang Jinyun, Dharma name "Zhengyan", character "Hui Zhang", from Qingshui Town, Taichung County, Taiwan, founder of Tzu Chi Foundation, disciple of Elder Yinshun, upholding the teacher's directive "for Buddhism, for all beings", established the Merit Society in Hualien.

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Works of Master Yinshun

    5 Entries, 4458 Reads

    "An Ordinary Life"

    "Lectures on the Mahayana Samgraha"

    "Research on the Tathagatagarbha"


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Brief Biography

Secular name Zhang Luqin, from Haining, Zhejiang. He received a formal doctoral degree from Taisho University in Japan for his book "History of Chinese Chan Buddhism", becoming the first monk in Taiwan's Bhikkhu community to hold a doctorate. Teacher Yinshun dedicated his life to promoting Humanistic Buddhism, "for Buddhism, for all beings", and was also the mentor of Master Cheng Yen of Tzu Chi.

Master Yinshun was ordained in 1930, following Master Taixu into the modern Buddhist revival movement in China. In the late 1940s, he went to Taiwan and founded several renowned Buddhist colleges. Because he advocated Mahayana Non-Buddhist Teachings, his academic thoughts were opposed by many in the Buddhist community in China, leading to a Buddhist Doctrine Seminar and Yinshun Buddhist Thought Seminar held on October 29-30, 2016, in Wuxi. The theme of the meeting was "Buddhist Thought of Master Yinshun: Reflection and Exploration".

Early Life

Master Yinshun, secular name Zhang, Luqin, from Haining County, Zhejiang Province, was born one day before Qingming Festival in the 32nd year of Guangxu's reign of the Qing Dynasty (Western year 1906, year of Bingwu). At the age of 6, he entered private school; at 7 (the first year of the Republic), he followed his father to Xincang Town and entered a primary school. In the winter of his 10th year, he completed primary education and self-studied at home for half a year. In the autumn of his 11th year, he attended the advanced primary school in Xieshi Town, where he received high praise from his teacher, Zhang Zhongwu. At the age of 13, he completed his education at the advanced primary school. That autumn, he studied at a nearby traditional Chinese medicine doctor's home until the age of 16.

In 1921 (at the age of 16) - 1930 (25 years old), he taught at a private primary school affiliated with a local church. During this period, at the age of 20, he read Feng Mengzhen's "Preface to Zhuangzi", which sparked his interest in exploring Buddhism. He then discovered Buddhist texts in the catalog of the Commercial Press, acquiring books such as "Madhyamaka". Reading "Madhyamaka" deepened his appreciation for the profundity of the Dharma and his longing for it. After four to




five years of reading and contemplation, he became acutely aware of the gap between the Dharma he understood and the contemporary Buddhist community, leading to a solemn vow: "For the faith in Dharma and the pursuit of truth, I am willing to leave home and study abroad. Once well-learned, I shall propagate the pure Dharma."

In 1930 (at the age of 25), on October 11th of the lunar calendar, he took monastic vows at Fuquan An under the guidance of Master Shangqing Xiaonian, receiving the monastic name Yinshun, and the honorific Shengzheng. Prior to ordination, he had been guided by the monk Yushan from Prajna Hermitage, and following the customs of Mount Putuo, he acknowledged Yushan as his Dharma father. At the end of October, Yinshun went to Tiantong Monastery to receive full monastic precepts, with Master Shangyuan Xiaoying presiding. After receiving precepts, he went to Minnan Buddhist College at South Putuo Monastery in Xiamen in February 1931 (at the age of 26) and enrolled in the second semester of the first class. In early August, he was tasked with teaching at Yongquan Buddhist College on Drum Mountain, where he met contemporary greats Master Xuyun and Cizhou.

In the spring term of 1932 (at the age of 27), he was assigned by Master Dawakening to teach "The Twelve Gate Treatise" to his classmates. In early autumn, he went to Huize Temple on Buddha Top Mountain to study scriptures. After a year and a half, he went to Wuchang Buddhist College (World Buddhist Library) in January 1934 (at the age of 29) to study the commentaries of the Sanlun School. He spent half a year in Wuchang and read all the commentaries of the Sanlun School, then returned to Buddha Top Mountain for further studies. He spent three years studying scriptures there.

In 1936 (at the age of 31), he was invited to Wuchang Buddhist College to guide the study of "Sanlun" on Master Taixu's command. On July 7, 1937 (at the age of 32), the anti-Japanese artillery fire of Lugou Bridge began; on August 13, the Battle of Shanghai started; by December 4, Nanjing fell; in July 1938 (at the age of 33), the situation in Wuhan became tense, and Yinshun, along with his classmate Master Zhi'an, traveled through Yichang to Chongqing, spending the eight years of the war there. In the first year and a half in Sichuan (August 1938 to the end of 1939), Yinshun studied jointly with Master Fazun at the Sino-Tibetan Doctrine Institute on Jinyun Mountain, Beibei. During this time, he edited Fazun's new translation of "Extensive Commentary on the Stages of the Tantric Path," asking questions whenever he encountered incomprehensible texts, thus gaining an understanding of the Gelugpa views and special characteristics of Vajrayana. Fazun also translated Nagarjuna's "Seventy Stanzas on Emptiness" at Yinshun's request. Through discussions on the doctrine of emptiness with Fazun, Yinshun gained a deeper understanding and consequently no longer focused on the Sanlun School of Chinese Buddhism. Reflecting on his learning experience with Fazun, Yinshun said, "Since my ordination, the most influential figures in my Buddhist study have been Master Taixu and Master Fazun. Master Fazun was a special cause and condition in my studies."

In 1940 (at the age of 35), he went to Guizhou Dajue Hermitage and wrote "Exploring the Consciousness-Only School," his first published work. In 1941 (at the age of 36), he taught the "Mahayana-samgraha" to Masters Yanpei, Miaochen, and Wenhui. The audience was very pleased, so they compiled the notes into "Lectures on the Mahayana-samgraha." In the autumn of the same year, Master Yanpei and several other monks invited Yinshun to teach at Fawang Monastery in Hejiang, where he taught until the summer of 1942 (at the age of 39), completing three years of teaching.

During the eight years in Sichuan, he was often ill but never interrupted his studies, continuously lecturing and writing. In 1942 (at the age of 37), he sent the first chapter of "Buddhism in India" to Master Taixu and asked him to write a pre




face. Master Taixu promptly wrote a commentary titled "Discussion on <Buddhism in India>", affirming Yinshun's view that "Buddhism was an original insight of Shakyamuni, further developed amidst Indian civilization." While Taixu also offered his interpretation, he acknowledged that “despite different explanations, they are broadly similar.” Taixu criticized Yinshun's periodization of Indian Buddhist history, suggesting adjustments and presenting what he considered a more balanced view. Taixu later expanded on his viewpoints in a letter to Yinshun. When Yinshun published the full book, he included "Respectful Response to <Discussion on Buddhism in India>" to address the criticisms.

The main content included three points: 1. Argument on factual reasoning, advocating the rationality of his three-period division. 2. The debate on the sequence of emptiness and permanence, arguing that the true constant mind-only theory emerged after the nominal theory of emptiness. 3. The debate on the selection between emptiness and permanence, advocating that Nagarjuna's doctrine of emptiness is the perfect embodiment of the Bodhisattva spirit.

Taixu's stance grew stronger after reading the full book and Yinshun's responses. In "Further Discussion on <Buddhism in India>", he withdrew his initial affirmation of Yinshun's view on Buddhism's origin and highlighted their differing interpretations, extending his criticism further. Furthermore, in August 1943, he gave a public lecture for the students and teachers of the Sino-Tibetan Doctrine Institute.

This debate ended with Yinshun's silence. However, Yinshun continued to maintain and further develop his stance in his works after Taixu's death. His advocacy of "Humanistic Buddhism" eventually replaced Taixu's "Life Buddhism" as the mainstream thought in contemporary Chinese Buddhism. Hence, the 1940s debate between Taixu and Yinshun was a precursor to the struggle between "Life Buddhism" and "Humanistic Buddhism," warranting attention.

In January 1947 (at the age of 42), Yinshun received news of Master Taixu's passing at the Wulin Buddhist College in Hangzhou. He broke several branches of plum blossoms from Lingfeng and went to Shanghai with others to offer them as a final tribute. After the funeral, he was elected chief editor for the "Complete Works of Master Taixu," completed by April of the following year.

In the winter of 1948, Master Xingyuan held an ordination ceremony at South Putuo Monastery in Xiamen, and Yinshun happily participated. During the ordination, he gave several teachings to the ordinands. He participated in the ordination platform with his teacher Nian Gong as a respected witness. After the New Year, in January 1949 (at the age of 44), he settled in Xiamen. During his time there, he organized the "Dajue Lecture Society" and gave talks on "An Overview of Buddhism." In June, Master Fafang urged him to move to Hong Kong as soon as possible, arranging accommodation and living conditions. Yinshun then went to Hong Kong with his fellow students to seek refuge. During his three years in Hong Kong, he published "An Overview of Buddhism," "Chronicle of Master Taixu," and 15 other books.

In May 1952 (at the age of 47), the Chinese Buddhist Association decided to invite Yinshun to represent the Taiwan region of China at the second World Buddhist Friendship Conference held in Japan. He traveled from Hong Kong to Taiwan. That same year, he took over as president of the "Sea Tide Sound" magazine, holding the position for thirteen years from 1953 to 1965.

In September 1953, he founded the Fuyan Hermitage at Guanyinping in Hsinchu, establishing an independent study group. The residents and students included Masters Yinhai, Miaofeng, Longgen, Zhenhua, Huansheng, Zhengzong, Xiuyan, and Tongmiao. In the autumn of 1957, the "Hsinchu Female Buddhist College" was established at Yitong Temple, with Yinshun and Master Yanpei serving as the principal and vice-principal. The teachers were from the hermitage, and Yitong Temple took care of accommodation and living expenses.

At the end of 1954 (at the age of 49), he was invited to the Philippines to spread the Dharma. In the middle of January, he gave teachings at Xinyuan Temple (7 days) and the lay Buddhist community (3 days). After completing his teachings, he was invited by Shi Xingtong and Liu Meisheng to preach in the southern islands, speaking in the evenings at the Overseas Chinese High School playground in Cebu (3 nights). During his preaching in




Cebu, he facilitated the establishment of the Pu Xian School by Hui Hua and Mei Sheng.

In the summer of 1958 (at the age of 53), Yinshun lectured and celebrated Master Xingyuan's birthday, then returned to Manila to spread the Dharma. During this time, he was elected as the joint abbot (head monk) of both Xinyuan Temple and Huazang Temple. As abbot, he played a key role in the establishment of Neng Ren School.

In 1959, Zhou Xuande and Qiu Hanping initiated the establishment of a scholarship fund for university students to guide them towards Buddhism. At that time, Yinshun was serving as the director of "International Cultural and Educational Affairs" for the Chinese Buddhist Association. While he was in the Philippines, Zhou Xuande sought his approval to set up the "International Cultural and Educational Scholarship Foundation."

In the autumn of 1960 (at the age of 55), "The Path to Buddhahood" was published. At the end of the year, Yinshun established the Huiri Lecture Hall in Taipei. During the three years at the Huiri Lecture Hall, he expounded on several scriptures and treatises, such as the "Treasury of Mahayana Sutras" (Bodhisattva Puming's Assembly), "The Treatise on Rebirth in the Pure Land," "The Treatise on the Dharma-Dhatu of Expedient Means," and others.

In the early summer of 1964 (at the age of 59), he moved to Miaoyun Hermitage in Chiayi, resuming a life of introspective practice, focusing on self-cultivation and writing. He had the opportunity to read the Japanese translation of the "Pali Canon," which he had requested from Japan in 1955. During this time, he wrote "On Devadatta's Disruption of the Sangha," "Study on the Five Hundred Aggregates at Rajagriha," "Where Was Ananda Overwhelmed," "The Buddha's Final Teaching," "On the Seven Hundred Aggregates of the Vibhajyavada," and others.

In the spring of 1965, Dr. Zhang Chengji brought an invitation from Zhang Xiaofeng, the founder of the Chinese Culture University, inviting Yinshun, who was in retreat, to become a professor in the Department of Philosophy. Yinshun accepted the invitation and ended his one-year retreat on May 15, going to Taipei to take up the teaching position, becoming the first ordained Buddhist monk to teach at a university in history.

In June 1968 (at the age of 63), "A Study of Sarvastivada Literature and Masters" was published. In the winter, Master Yanpei established the Prajna Lecture Hall in Singapore, and Yinshun was invited to preside over the opening and consecration ceremony. In January 1969, the Singapore Buddhist Federation invited him to give a two-day lecture at the Victoria Memorial Hall on the topic "Buddhism as the Compassion for World Salvation." Subsequently, Master Bendao invited him to Malaysia to spread the Dharma, lecturing on the "Heart Sutra" at Master Zhuma's Sanhui Lecture Hall.

In the winter of 1969 (at the age of 64), he began compiling the "Miaoyun Collection," completing it in the autumn of 1972 after four years. The collection compiled his past writings and lectures, apart from major works like "Buddhism in India," into a series. The collection was divided into three sections: the first section contained lectures on sutras and treatises in seven volumes; the second section included works over 100,000 characters, such as "Modern Commentary on Madhyamaka" and "The Path to Buddhahood," in six volumes; the third section was a compilation of various writings in eleven volumes, making a total of 24 volumes.

In 1969 (at the age of 64), a discussion arose in the Central Daily News about whether the "Platform Sutra" was spoken by the Sixth Patriarch, sparking a heated debate. Yinshun did not participate in the discussion initially but felt it was a significant issue. He believed that "the resolution of the issue should not isolate the problem but should understand and verify it in the context of historical development, in relation to related works of Shenxiu and the Dunhuang manuscript of the Platform Sutra." Consequently, he referred to early Chan history and wrote the 280,000-word "History of Chinese Chan Buddhism - From Indian Chan to Chinese Chan," including a collation of the "Critically Edited Dunhuang Manuscript of the Platform Sutra." In March 1971, "The Collection of Early Buddhist Scriptures" was published. In June, "History of Chinese Chan Buddhism" was published, and




due to the promotion by Master Shengyan, it was highly regarded by Japanese Buddhist scholars, particularly Uchida Mashiro. After translating it into Japanese, Uchida proactively recommended the book to Taisho University for a doctoral degree. In 1973 (at the age of 68), Yinshun was awarded a doctoral degree by Taisho University in Japan.

In 1976 (at the age of 71), after visiting Master Miaochen, who was suffering from liver disease, in Manila, Philippines, at the Mahayana Xinyuan Temple, Yinshun wrote "The People I Cannot Forget" in memory of him, following Miaochen's passing.

In 1977 (at the age of 72), Master Bendao held a ceremony to transmit the Three Platforms Full Ordination at the Sambao Temple in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia, and invited Yinshun to serve as the preceptor. The ordination began on August 16 and was completed on September 4. After the ordination, Yinshun went to the Prajna Lecture Hall in Singapore to spread the Dharma. During his time in Singapore, he facilitated the compilation of "The Complete Works of Di Guan" by Master Yanpei and wrote the preface for it.

In May 1981 (at the age of 76), "The Origins and Development of Early Mahayana Buddhism" was published, suggesting that "Mahayana Buddhism" emerged from the "eternal remembrance of the Buddha," implicitly indicating the controversial idea that "Mahayana is not the word of the Buddha." In December, "Research on the Tathagatagarbha" was published.

In September 1983 (at the age of 78), he compiled and published "Miscellaneous Agama Sutras" and the "Yogacarabhumi Sastra" (section on phenomena). He also wrote "Compilation of the Miscellaneous Agama Sutras," included at the beginning of the volume.

In March 1985 (at the age of 80), "Sixty Years in the Dharma Ocean" was published. In July, "Exploration of Emptiness" was published.

In April 1988 (at the age of 83), "History of Indian Buddhist Thought" was published.

In March 1989 (at the age of 84), he began writing "Humanistic Buddhism: The Unity of Principle and Practice."

On January 6, 1990 (at the age of 85), he fell ill; on January 9, a CT scan revealed a cerebral hemorrhage, and he was urgently admitted to National Taiwan University Hospital for surgery on January 10. The operation went smoothly, and after about a month of recovery, he was discharged on February 10, moving to Yongguang Temple in Dajia.

In response to scholars abroad questioning the authorship of the "Mahaprajnaparamita Sastra" as Nagarjuna or suggesting that Kumarajiva added his views in the translation, Yinshun wrote "The Author and Translation of the Mahaprajnaparamita Sastra" in 1991 (at the age of 86). Master Zhaohui presented it at the "Eastern Religions Seminar."

In 1991 (at the age of 86), Fuyan Hermitage, rebuilt by Abbot Master Zhenhua, was completed and consecrated in October. A Bodhisattva Precepts Ceremony for lay practitioners was held at the hermitage, with Yinshun, Yanpei, and Zhenhua serving as the three masters. Several of Yinshun's disciples who had spread the Dharma overseas, including Yanpei, Renjun, Miaofeng, Yinhai, and Weici, attended the grand event.

In April 1993 (at the age of 88), he compiled his works prior to the major illness in 1971, writings published after the "Miaoyun Collection," and several unpublished pieces into a five-volume "Huayu Collection."

In July 1994 (at the age of 89), his autobiography "An Ordinary Life: Revised Edition" was published. From September 6 to 29, accompanied by his disciple Houguan and others, he visited Xiamen, Ningbo, Putuo, and other places.

On October 18, 2003, Fuyan Hermitage celebrated its 50th anniversary, and Yinshun was invited to the celebration.

On April 30, 2004 (on the twelfth day of the third lunar month), Fuyan Hermitage celebrated Yinshun's 100th birthday. On May 10, he moved to Hualien and underwent a physical examination at Tzu Chi Hospital, where pericardial effusion was discovered. He underwent heart surgery and then convalesced at Jing Si Hermitage.

On April 10, 2005, Yinshun




was hospitalized at Tzu Chi Hospital due to a fever and eventually passed away on June 4, 2005, due to heart failure, at the age of 99.

Throughout his life, Master Yinshun never ceased to teach and write. He authored, compiled, and edited over forty works, amounting to more than eight million words. His works were later collected into the "Miaoyun Collection" (24 volumes), "Huayu Collection" (5 volumes), and specialized books such as "History of Indian Buddhist Thought," "The Collection of Early Buddhist Scriptures," "A Study of Sarvastivada Literature and Masters," "The Origins and Development of Early Mahayana Buddhism," and others. His academic achievements were recognized by the Buddhist and academic communities both domestically and internationally.

Master Yinshun promoted and elucidated the concept of "Humanistic Buddhism" throughout his life, profoundly and broadly influencing contemporary Han Chinese Buddhism, especially in Taiwan. Master Cheng Yen, the founder of the globally renowned charity organization Tzu Chi, was one of his disciples.



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Master Yinshun's teachings and contributions have had a lasting impact on the practice and understanding of Buddhism. His emphasis on Humanistic Buddhism, which focuses on applying Buddhist principles to solve real-world problems and improve human life, has resonated with many practitioners and scholars. This approach bridges the gap between traditional monastic life and lay practice, making Buddhism more accessible and relevant to contemporary society.

His scholarly work, particularly in the field of Buddhist history and philosophy, has been influential. For instance, his "History of Chinese Chan Buddhism" provided a comprehensive analysis of the development of Chan (Zen) Buddhism from its origins in India to its evolution in China. His writings often challenged prevailing views and invited critical reflection, contributing to a deeper and more nuanced understanding of Buddhist teachings.

Furthermore, Master Yinshun's role as a teacher was significant. His guidance and mentorship of prominent figures such as Master Cheng Yen of Tzu Chi highlight his influence in shaping the next generation of Buddhist leaders. His teachings emphasized compassion, wisdom, and practical application of Buddhist principles in daily life.

Master Yinshun's life of dedication to the Dharma, rigorous scholarship, and compassionate teaching continues to inspire Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike. His works remain a valuable resource for those seeking to understand Buddhism in a modern context, and his legacy lives on in the institutions and individuals he influenced.

 John Tan, Yin Ling and myself have found some very nice writings by Ven. Yin Shun.

"Yin Shun
Wikipedia › wiki › Yin_Shun
He is considered to be one of the most influential figures of Taiwanese Buddhism, having influenced many of the leading Buddhist figures in modern Taiwan.

Yin Ling
Soh sent this to me, I really like this short yet powerful paragraph from Ven Yin Shun 印顺法师 on the 3 dharma seals, 三法印。
Soh shared, ChatGPT translation of passage above:
"When the Buddha first turned the Dharma wheel, he spoke of avoiding both sensual pleasures and extreme asceticism — this middle way is the true path. The right path is guided by right view (wisdom), which is the true understanding of the Four Noble Truths. Why do beings experience birth and death repeatedly, undergoing an unceasing cycle of life and death — which is suffering? The main cause (origin) of suffering is the notion of "self": in cognition, it is the view of self (what is perceived by the self); in attachment, it is the grasping of self (what is grasped by the self). The Buddha realized that the notion of "self" is illusory and can be seen through. Hence, all phenomena arise from causes and conditions: since they arise from causes and conditions, they are impermanent; because of impermanence, they are suffering, and due to suffering, there is no self or possession of self. Breaking through this core issue of birth and death leads to Nirvana — cessation. Those who have seen the path (understood the Four Noble Truths) and attained the first stage of enlightenment have the "pure Dharma eye" and have "cut off the three fetters". These three fetters are: the belief in a self, doubt, and reliance on rituals and rites. Cutting off these afflictions and obtaining unobstructed wisdom is like light appearing and darkness vanishing. If one does not sever these delusions (mainly the three fetters), how can they attain the "pure Dharma eye"? The scriptures establish three doors to liberation: liberation through understanding impermanence leads to dispassion, liberation through understanding no-self leads to emptiness, and liberation through understanding Nirvana leads to signlessness. In fact, these three doors to liberation all point to the same truth and are therefore called "the door of non-dual liberation". Generally speaking, there are eighty thousand methods, but those are just initial expedient means. When one truly practices, there is only this non-dual door to liberation. Hence, it is said that "all conditioned phenomena are impermanent", "all phenomena lack self", and "Nirvana is quiescent" are the three Dharma seals, which confirm the true nature of the Buddha's teachings."
Soh Wei Yu
Also, this article by Ven Yin Shun is fantastic. There's many passages I liked very much.

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