Sunday, November 18, 2012
Immediate Enlightenment 即刻开悟 versus Gradual Spiritual Awakening
Long time ago in the sixties and seventies, there is a special shop in the Tanjong Pagar Area selling a kind of deep fried pancake sprinkled with generous amount of peanut toppings and stuffed with vegetable fillings. It used to be our family favorite treat, and my father used to make the long journey to Tanjong Pagar and bought these back to us. He traveled by taxi and it was expensive to travel by taxi in those days. We often associate food with fond memories of our past and call it culture or tradition. And we make the mistake to defend our culture and tradition at all cost, even to the extent of taking up arms against our fellow human beings if anyone dared to challenge our concept of food. It is sacrosanct. If you try to change my food, it is like a personal insult, a revenge must be exacted and every force will be employed to defend our custom and culture. This kind of thinking is utter foolishness.. At The Bencoolen Building, behind Singapore's famous Bugis Street there is a shop selling this kind of old-school pancake. The name of the shop is called Xing Hua Vegetarian. This is of course, a veganized version of the pancake with vegetable fillings and no animal contents. I have fond memories of this shop because it was introduced to me by an old friend of mine, who shared common ancestry with me. This friend became a vegetarian when he was a teenager many years before, and so he is a very long time vegetarian and a strong and devout Buddhist. His Buddhist group are staunch supporters of vegetarianism and they opened three vegetarian grocery outlets in various locations, a bakery and a vegetarian restaurant at Aljunied MRT. His favorite food at Heng Hua is the Mixed Vegetable Soup, a vegan version of the dish that used to involve the unimaginable cruelty of killing and taking the ocean being's dorsal fin. This dish is not available at this shop now, because it has been newly renovated and went up-market in price. It can still be found in the branch shop nearby at the Fortune Center, which is a stone's throw from the main shop. One day I became curious about my friend's Buddhism. He is a scholarly man, well-educated with an MBA, and very sincere and pious person. I asked him to describe his religion to enlighten me. He told me that Buddha's life is well documented in a book, a very thick book which I presumed is the Bible of the school of Buddhism he believed in. Every detail about the Buddha is recorded there, in a few hundred pages. And so, the practice of his Buddhism begins by first studying the contents of the book, and that by following the foot steps of the Buddha very very closely, one can then achieve Nirvana, because Gautama Buddha has demonstrated in His life that it is possible to become fully enlightened and attain Nirvana while living in Samsara. It occurred to me slowly, while he was describing his practice that this is a similar concept to the book which I have read in my youth called the "Imitation of Christ" written by Thomas à Kempis (c. 1380-1471). The idea in this book is to attempt to imitate Jesus Christ so as to achieve Christ Consciousness. This is very similar to my friend's Buddhist doctrine. Read about the Buddha's life, follow His outer form very closely and carefully, not missing any details of His habits, His thinking, His philosophy, His outlook, and then one can hope to achieve Enlightenment, just like the Buddha did. This approach is attempting to achieve inner spiritual enlightenment by following outer manifestations of form. I asked more questions and said that ok, you start out with reading the Buddhist Bible, it is a very thick book, maybe five hundred pages or more, At the rate of reading one section every week, how long does it take to finish reading the Bible ? He answered perhaps three to four years. My curious mind asked again, what happened next after reading the Bible for three or four years. To my utter surprise he replied that the next thing to do is to re-read the whole Buddhist Bible from the beginning again. Oh My God, I thought. How many rounds of reading is considered sufficient, and at which time do they start on the actual practice of meditation. Well it seemed from his answers that one life time alone is not considered long enough to fully understand the Bible, and therefore one does not start practising until the Bible is completely absorbed, mentally, intellectually. For a few days I puzzled over his answers. Apparently his school does not start any form of spiritual practice or meditation until the Bible can be fully understood. I was shocked that the process can take many life times and I wondered is it sixteen life time that is needed, or sixteen thousand or sixteen million life times ? When can one see the light at the end of the tunnel ? Then one day, I have an immediate enlightenment of sorts... Oh My God, I realized that my friend belong to the Gradual Awakening School 渐悟!! The well known proponent of the Gradual School was the Buddhist monk called Shen Siu神秀, who studied under the enlightened Master, the Fifth Patriarch of Zen, Hong Ren. One day an illiterate lay person called Hui Neng 六祖慧能wanted to study Buddhism with Hong Ren. The followers of Shen Siu looked down on him with disdain, thinking what does a barbaric Southerner know about enlightenment ? He will never achieve enlightenment ! The story goes that one day the Fifth Zen Patriarch Hong Ren decided to give Initiation. He wanted to find out which one of his disciples is worthy of initiation and so He held a poetry competition. Shen Siu responded with his poetry written on the wall of the temple. The body is the Bodhi tree. Everyone has a mirror. The mirror gets dirty from time to time and you have to clean it diligently to keep it shining pure and free from dirt. When Hui Neng heard about this poem, of course he was illiterate and someone had to read the poetry to Him, Hui Neng immediately knew the level of spiritual consciousness indicated by the poetry was very low. He responded with his famous reply on the wall. Hui Neng said the Boddhi tree was never a tree. There is no mirror. How can the soul be tainted if everything is a Big Void ? Shen Siu's poetry shows that His consciousness is still anchored in Samsara. Hui Neng's poetry shows that He understood the illusory nature of the Holographic Projection of Artificial Reality aka the Quantum Matrix (as in the famous Matrix triology popularized in the movie). The choice of who deserved Initiation was obvious to Fifth Zen Patriarch Hong Ren五祖弘忍. In the middle of the night Hong Ren summoned Hui Neng to His private chambers and gave Hui Neng the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Filled with the Holy Ghost, Hong Ren passed to Hui Neng his begging bowl and monk's robe. Your life is in grave danger now, said Hong Ren, take these as the symbol of having being initiated by me, and flee to the South where there is safety for you. The next day, the followers of Shen Siu was angry that the transmission of the Lamp took place under their nose in secrecy. They vowed to kill Hui Neng, but of course by that time, Hui Neng had already escaped. Hui Neng became the Sixth Patriarch of the Immediate Enlightenment school顿悟. Shen Siu, the founder of northern Gradual Awakening School did not take possession of Saint Peter's Key to the Kingdom of Heaven (Nirvana). It was Hui Neng, who took possession of St. Peter's Key which was transmitted directly to Hirm from Hong Ren. When Empress Wu heard of the fame of Shen Siu, she invited him to join the Court as the Chief Priest; Shen Siu informed Empress Wu, in all humility, that he defers to Hui Neng as the One, whose enlightenment was even greater than himself, ... The One, holder of St. Peter's Key. The One, heir of 5th Zen Patriarch Hong Ren. The One, Sixth Grand Patriarch of Zen, the Living Master (638-713) of the world, the Light of the World, World Saviour, The Redeemer of Karmic Sinners. The One, Perfect Enlightened Master of Immediate Enlightenment School, tracing Hiers lineage back to the First Grand Master of Immediate Enlightenment, Bodhidharma, who Hirmself is the 28th Patriarch tracing Hiers lineage back to Mahakashyapa, one of the ten Chief Disciples of Gautama Buddha. The One, Deliverer of sentient beings from Bondage and liberation from 3 Worlds, and Comforter-to-come (has come). The One, and Only Begotten Son of God (circa 638-713) The One, World Saviour Incarnate (638-713) whose shoe lace I am not fit to untie.. Without the Amazing Grace and Boundless Mercy of God, it is very difficult for anyone to believe in the possibility of immediate enlightenment in this life. Until one meet a living Master of Perfect Enlightenment, then one will realize that Immediate Enlightenment is real and possible.