Yesterday, a reader commented on Thursday’s post, “What is Faith”:

This one was written for the advanced student, I think. It was difficult for me to understand, anyway. What is “provisionally existent?” What provisions?

Does one have faith in nothingness? What is faith in nothing? Nothing in nothing. I’m confused. A rank beginner, obviously.

This understanding is a challenge for everyone. The first thing we need to do, though, is to forget about the words “nothing” and “nothingness.” That is not what we are talking about at all.

In Thursday’s post, I quoted Kuan-Ting discussing Chih-i’s concept of the Threefold Truth (Emptiness, Conventional Existence, and the Middle Way):

. . . all entities are empty, [and yet] they are nevertheless provisionally existent, and that they are the middle between these extremes.”

Ancient painting of T'ien-t'ai master, Chih-i

As I stated in the post, Chih-i (538–597 CE) is considered the de facto founder of the T’ien-T’ai (“Celestial Terrace”) school. He was the first Chinese Buddhist to produce meditation manuals and the first Chinese Buddhist scholar to attempt to unify the various and contradictory Indian teachings. In the process, he developed a number of new doctrines, his work based mainly on the teachings of Nagarjuna. The Threefold Truth, then, was an expansion on Nagarjuna’s Two Truths.

Truth or satya, according to the Soothill dictionary of Buddhist terms, means “To judge, examine into, investigate . . .” In Buddha-dharma, truth is not arbitrary or arrived at through revelation. As one scholar, Yao-Yu Wu, puts it: “Truth is the investigation of reality, the principles of reality learned through investigation are called Truth.” This investigation is done primarily through the process of meditation.

In Fundamental Verses on The Middle Way, Nagarjuna says,

The teachings of the Buddha are based on two truths, the mundane and the ultimate. Those who do not know the distinction between these two do not understand the profound meaning in the teachings of the Buddha.”

According to the ultimate truth, all things (dharmas), all phenomena, are devoid of an essential self-being (Skt. svabhava) or selfhood. They are empty (Skt. sunya). Self-being is an intrinsic nature that is permanent, unconditioned, independent, and un-caused. In Buddhism, the existence of self-being is impossible. For this reason, we say that things do not exist on their own, independently, eternally, without causes and conditions.

This, however, does not deny the reality of the phenomenal world. From the perspective of the mundane (relative or conventional) truth, all things do exist. But, due to the fact that they lack this intrinsic nature or inherent existence, they are only “provisionally existent.” In other words, it is a temporary existence.

Nagarjuna further says, “All things neither exist (as substantial Being) nor inexist (as nothingness).” Paul Swanson, in Foundations of T’ien-t’ai Philosophy, explains:

Therefore, “non-existence” is affirmed in the sense that though phenomena have conventional existence, they have no substantial Being. “Not inexistent” is affirmed in the sense that though phenomena have no substantial Being, they are not complete nothingness.”

When we look into the mirror, we see a person, a being, who is unique. There is no one else in the world who looks exactly like us, has the same personality, thinks exactly as we do, with the same personal history, etc. Yet, all the characteristics that seem to make us unique are temporary, they will cease to exist when we die, and all of that uniqueness comprises perhaps less than 2% of our entire being. The other 98% is exactly alike everyone else. From this perspective, it is just as Kuan-Ting wrote, “all entities are alike, ultimate, pure and unimpeded.”

Buddhism teaches that all things come into being as the result of causes and conditions, that they are interconnected. This we call pratitya-samutpada – dependent origination, conditioned co-arising, or interdependency.

Chinese character for "The Middle Way"

Chih-i pointed out that within the doctrine of the Two Truths there was actually a third truth implied. He based this on Nagarjuna’s famous maxim:

Whatever arises through interdependency is emptiness. However, this is a conventional designation. It is the meaning of the Middle Way.”

Chih-i maintained that emptiness and provisional existence are merely different extremes or aspects of one reality. Things are empty, in that they do not exist in themselves, but at the same time, they are not nothing. They are midway between these two extremes, and that middle ground (or Middle Way) constitutes a third truth.  On this point, Paul Swanson says,

Chih-i interpreted reality as a threefold truth, a single unity with three integrated aspects . . . The threefold truth is an integrated unity with three aspects. First, emptiness (Skt. sunyata), or absence of substantial Being, often identified with the ultimate truth (Skt. paramartha-satya). Second, conventional existence, the temporary existence of the phenomenal world as co-arising, often identified with the worldly truth (Skt. samvrti-satya). Third, the Middle [Way], a simultaneous affirmation of both emptiness and conventional existence as aspects of a single integrated reality.

For Chih-i these three components are not separate from each other but integral parts of a unified reality.

That’s why Kuan-Ting says that these three views are also provisional, because they are not independent. None of the three truths can stand alone. And when he says faith is conviction, he does not mean any sort of blind faith. Along with meaning a strong belief, the word “conviction” also conveys “the state of being convinced” (Merriam-Webster). And how are we to be convinced? Through our investigation of reality. In this way, the principles of reality learned through investigation that we call truth or satya, become the objects of our conviction, our faith.

To have faith in the Threefold Truth of Emptiness, the Provisional, and the Middle Way is to see reality as it truly is. Chih-i called it chen-k’ung miao-yu or “true emptiness, wondrous existence.”

Chen-k’ung or “true emptiness” refers to the realm of thought, the mind that realizes the emptiness of all things. It’s a state of mind that, free from attachments, is likened to space – it’s non-obstructive, open, and vast. Miao-yu, “wondrous existence”, says Buddhist scholar Ng Yu-kwan, “would imply an affirmative but non-attaching attitude toward the dharmas [things] in the world.” So, once again, emptiness does not deny or reject existence – emptiness is never nothingness – rather it is insight into the mystery of existence, it’s inexplicable reality, and our faith is in the glorious interdependency of all things.

This is a rather simplistic explanation, and I left a number of things out (like the Five Skandhas) in order to keep it as simple as possible. Nonetheless, I hope it helps answer the questions and does not add to any confusion.

Kuan-Ting (also known as Chang-an) was the 2nd patriarch of the T’ien-t’ai school, although some sources cite him as the 5th. In his introduction of the Mo Ho Chih Kuan (“Great Stopping and Seeing”), the monumental work compiled from the teachings of the de facto founder of the T’ien-t’ai sect, Chih-i, he says,

What is Perfect Faith? It is the conviction that all entities are empty, that they are nevertheless provisionally existent, and that they are the middle between these extremes. Though ultimately there are not three separate views, provisionally there are three. To say separately they do not exist forestalls the interpretation that there are three, while to say there are three illuminates the truth in each of them. yet in the absence of either forestalling or illuminating the difference between them, one has conviction that all entities are alike, ultimate, pure and unimpeded. When hearing of the profundity and the vastness, not to fear or doubt; and when hearing of the shallow and the narrow, to still have courage in one’s mind – this is what is called having perfect faith.”

In the text of the MHCK itself, Chih-i says,

It is like talking about burning a candle: it is not beginning, yet not apart from the beginning, not final, yet not apart from ending. If knowledge and faith are complete, when one hears that a single instant is it [bodhicitta: the thought of awakening], by virtue of faith one does not repudiate it, and by virtue of knowledge one does not fear it. beginning and end are both right, both it.

If one has no faith, one will elevate it to the sphere of sages and think one has no knowledge of it. If one has no knowledge, one will become conceited and think one is equal to Buddha. Then beginning and end are both wrong, both not it.

In one of the footnotes of Neal Donner’s translation of the MHCK, he quotes from the Kogi, a Japanese commentary on the MHCK by Chiku (1780-1862):

Faith means to accept the teaching directly without superimposing one’s personal opinions.”

Chinese characters for Xinxin or "faith."

And, of course, Seng-ts’an in his poem Xinxin Ming (“Verses on Faith in Mind”) wrote,

To understand the mystery of this One-essence
is to be released from all entanglements.
When all things are seen equally
the timeless Self-essence is reached.
No comparisons or analogies are possible
in this causeless, relationless state.
Consider motion in stillness
and stillness in motion;
both movement and stillness disappear.
When such dualities cease to exist
Oneness itself cannot exist.
To this ultimate finality
no law or description applies.

For the unified mind in accord with the Way
all self-centered striving ceases.
Doubts and irresolutions vanish
and life in true faith is possible.”

Kuan-Ting translation by Neal Donner; Chih-i translation by Thomas Cleary

Owen Flanagan is a professor of philosophy at Duke University who just published a book entitled, “The Bodhisattva’s Brain: Buddhism Naturalized” (MIT, 2011). According to the publisher:

Atheistic when it comes to a creator god, Buddhism is otherwise opulently polytheistic, with spirits, protector deities, ghosts, and evil spirits. Its beliefs include karma, rebirth, nirvana, and nonphysical states of mind. What is a nonreligious, materially grounded spiritual seeker to do?”

I doubt that such a person will be helped much by Flanagan, who seems like a pretty confused guy to me. I have to wonder about someone who feels that the Mahayana concept of nirvana is “hocus pocus.” To me, concerns of this nature are literary in nature, a matter of understanding how the writers of the sutras used imagery and allegory. Just because they wrote about bodhisattvas flying on lotus leaves doesn’t mean they intended it to be taken literally.

Now I haven’t read Flanagan’s book, but I’ve read about it and read the first pages on Amazon. That’s enough for me to get his general thesis and I find it a bit flawed. Buddhism is already naturalized. If you choose to view it that way.

I also read a piece Flanagan wrote for the Huffington Post. In “Bourgeois Buddhists: Do Americans Miss the Point of Buddhism?” he inflicts these astounding words upon the unsuspecting reading public:

Buddhism has about as little to do with meditation as Jesus’s message of love has to do with prayer, which is some, not entirely nothing; but almost nothing. Thinking that meditation is the essence of Buddhism would be akin to a group of converts to Catholicism thinking that real Catholics say Mass everyday because priests do.”

Acutally, thinking that meditation is not the essence of Buddhism, just because Asian Buddhists, at least in modern times, do not practice meditation as much as many Americans suppose, is akin to a group of converts to Catholicism thinking . . .

Granted, we in the West may be have our own misapprehension about Asian Buddhists, but by putting the focus back on meditation as the prime point, I think we are “naturalizing” Buddha-dharma. I see the problem as entirely the other way around: most Westerners tend to approach Buddhism from the philosophical angle first, and when it doesn’t make sense at first blush or match up to their preconceived notions, if there are a few T’s uncrossed and I’s undotted, they are quick to dismiss or start poking holes in it. I have described many times on this blog how such concepts as rebirth and karma can be viewed reasonably and non-supernaturally. It’s there, if you want it. It’s really up to you.

Flanagan says,

One wonders whether American Buddhists, especially those who think that Buddhism is largely about meditation, and the personal psychological goods, the self-satisfaction on offer from sitting in, what has become, a laughably bourgeois pose, aren’t missing something essential about Buddhism, about what Buddhist philosophy is mainly and mostly about, namely, wisdom and goodness.”

No, what’s laughable is a professor of philosophy and a non-Buddhist who thinks that spending a few hours with the Dalai Lama and reading some books and research papers (and who thinks that “mindfulness” meditation is “almost entirely self-centered”) qualifies him to point out how the rest of us have somehow missed the point.

I’ve done some looking around online and I’ve seen where Flanagan talks a lot about recent research on the brains of Buddhists, but I haven’t seen him talk about his own experience with Buddhism and meditation. Perhaps he does so in his book. But I have a whole slew of other books to read first. I did see where “Flanagan argues Buddhism matters not just for practical reasons, but for philosophical ones.” Perhaps I am wrong, but it seems to me that he’s suggesting that the philosophical aspects are the main thing, and I can’t believe that anyone with a real grasp on dharma would think that.

I can’t help but feel that perhaps he’s missed the point. The philosophy is just there to support the practice. It’s the practice, that “bourgeois” practice of meditation, that is the prime point. That’s how we open our minds to wisdom and goodness on a deep, intuitive level.

Crossing all the T’s and dotting all the I’s is not as important as capturing the spirit of Buddha-dharma. That’s another point that many people seem to miss. If you want to read a good book about Buddhism, I recommend “Stopping and Seeing: A Comprehensive Course in Meditation“, Thomas Cleary’s partial translation of the Mo Ho Chih Kuan by T’ien-t’ai meditation master Chih-i.  It’s not the easiest book in the world to understand, but even if you get only a fraction of it, you will come far closer to capturing the spirit of Buddhism than you probably could reading a hundred books like Flanagan’s.

Here’s a quote from “Stopping and Seeing” that I’ve shared before. I’ll probably share it again many more times:

The second issue is explaining this stopping and seeing (Skt.: samatha-vipassana; Ch.: chih-kuan) so as to promote four kinds of concentration by which to enter the ranks of enlightening beings. One cannot ascend to the sublime states without practice; if you know how to churn, only then can you obtain ghee.

The Lotus Scripture says, “Aspirants to Buddhahood cultivate various practices, seeking enlightenment” There are many methods of practice . . . The general term concentration means tuning, aligning, and stabilizing.

The Great Treatise [Nagarjuna’s “Great Transcendent Wisdom Treatise"] says, “Ability to keep the mind on one point without wavering is called concentration.” The realm of reality is one point; correct seeing [kuan] can stay on it without wavering . . .

This realm of reality is also called enlightenment, and it is also called the “inconceivable realm.” It is also called wisdom, and it is also called not being born and not passing away. Thus all phenomena are not other than the realm of reality; hearing of this nonduality and nondifference, do not give rise to doubt.

If you can see in this way, this is seeing the ten epithets of Buddhas. When seeing Buddha, one does not consider Buddha as Buddha; there is no Buddha to be Buddha, and there is no Buddha-knowledge to know Buddha. Buddha and Buddha-knowledge are nondualistic, unmoving, unfabricated, not in any location yet not unlocated, not in time yet not timeless, not dual yet not nondual, not defiled, not pure. This seeing Buddha is very rarefied; like space, it has no flaw, and it develops right mindfulness.

Seeing the embellishments of Buddha is like looking into a mirror and seeing one’s own features. First you see one Buddha, then the Buddhas of the ten directions. You do not use magical powers to go see Buddhas; you stay right here and see the Buddhas, hear the Buddhas’ teaching, and get the true meaning . . . You guide all beings toward nirvana, yet do not grasp the characteristics of nirvana . . .

Recently I received a comment on my January 28, 2011 post, “The Challenge of Mindfulness,” that I felt expressed concerns perhaps on the minds of others, so I thought I’d answer it here:

Hello! Very recently have I began reading about mindfulness and meditation, and although without seeking professional opinion, I have already identified that should I enroll in a meditation course, I will be unable to focus. As I learn more from books and blogs (like this one) I tend to think that I have been living life mindlessly, doing things merely because it has been my routine for my whole life. I seriously am considering going into a meditation class, changing my perspective in life and being aware of myself and the life I am living. I have always had questioned whether I will be able to attain the state of “inner peace” by being mindful, but I guess I wouldn’t really know until I try. I do hope I will be able to be fully aware, “mindful” of myself. I just need to know the first step.

As we fare along the path of mindfulness, we encounter obstacles. Many of these are self-made. They are inner hindrances. Meditation master Chih-i of the T’ien-t’ai school called them screens because they act as coverings that obscure our vision. One of the screens Chih-i advises us to remove is the screen of doubt. In Chih-kuan for Beginners, he says, “When doubt veils the mind, it is difficult to open any dharma doors.”

Perhaps the hardest doubt to remove is doubt about oneself. We might think that we are not capable of finding inner peace. Chih-i says, “When doubt such as this is at the forefront of one’s mind, the chih-kuan dharma door is closed, and therefore, realization is unobtainable.”

It’s only natural to have some doubts. It’s unwise to be over confident. Then, we may have other kinds of doubts, such as a doubt that we will ever climb Mt. Everest. That’s a perfectly reasonable because not many people do climb Mt. Everest. However, when we doubt our ability to achieve things that are definitely within our grasp, like finding more meaning and joy in our life, this is not reasonable. It’s the kind of doubt that locks the dharma door before we even have a chance to open it.

So we have to let doubt go. Release it.

And there are other screens we need to remove.

We need to let go of expectations. Some people start with a desire to attain enlightenment, to have grand realizations and so on. They set up expectations that become obstacles because they distract from the task at hand. The aim of mindfulness is not that complicated. We merely want to calm our mind and develop more awareness in the present moment. But it takes single-minded focus.

In letting go, we do not give up the intention to realize our expectation, rather we let go of our attachment to expectation. The idea is to transform expectation into aspiration.

We need to let go of fear. Some people feel conflicted about whether or not to take a meditation course because they fear that they might indoctrinated into something. They don’t want to sign up, join up, or anything else. They just want to find some peace of mind. But you don’t have to become a Buddhist to practice mindfulness.

The Buddha did not invent meditation. Yet, his meditation instructions are the first recorded in history. Most forms of meditation, Buddhist and otherwise, begin with the same step-by-step instructions the Buddha gave some 2500 years, and they focus on the same object of meditation he identified as the most effective, the breath. With this in mind, almost any meditation course that teaches you how to meditate while focusing on your breath will do. It doesn’t have to be Buddhist.

I don’t believe you can learn meditation completely on your own, over the Internet, or from a book or video.  Meditation is far too subtle to grasp without some personal instruction. But if you take a secular meditation course and then you want to learn some of the underlying concepts and how Buddhism suggests we utilize this tool, you can always supplement your beginning practice with some reading. Two excellent books are The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh and Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana.

The list of thing we need to release goes on. Letting go helps us approach meditation with an open mind, with fewer hindrances to get in our way. Overcoming these three screens of doubt, expectation, and fear is the best first step.

Anyone, everyone, can find inner peace. It’s not an insurmountable goal. It’s not Mt. Everest. But whether you are climbing a mountain or ascending to the plateau of awakening, you must take steps to get there. The second step is just to do it, to practice, to meditate.

My own daily practice is very simple. Mindfulness and reciting the Heart Sutra. Often I will chant the Heart Sutra mantra for an extended period. I recently saw some discussion about this online. I don’t recall ever coming across any hard and fast rules about how one should chant the mantra. You can chant it once or twice at the end of the sutra or for an hour if you want. It’s up to you. In addition, you can chant the mantra by itself, at anytime. I also chant different mantras and use some other meditation techniques I am familiar with, but I always return to the basics. For silent meditation, that means mindfulness, counting or following the breath the way the Buddha taught.

We do not need to search for anything more. We only need to practice the simple exercises proposed by the Buddha . . .”

Thich Nhat Hanh

Thanks for your comment and I hope this helps.

Monday’s post featured a selection from Chih-kuan for Beginners by T’ien-t’ai master, Chih-i. A reader emailed this question: “What does “shallow” mean in this context: ‘Consequently the chih-kuan dharma door to enlightenment is not shallow.’?”

First, some background: Because it began as essentially a Madhyamaka school, Nagarjuna (150–250 CE) is traditionally held to be the 1st Patriarch of the Chinese T’ien-t’ai (Celestial Terrace) School, while Chih-i (538–597 CE), the 4th Patriarch, is considered its actual founder. Chih-i was one of the great philosophers of Buddha-dharma, and as I wrote the other day, is placed in the same class as the Buddha and Nagarjuna, which is why there is a tradition of regarding him as the “3rd Buddha.”

Chih-kuan for Beginners (also known as Hsiu-hsi chih-kuan tso-ch’an fa-yao; T’ung meng chih-kuan; Hsiao chih-kuan) is considered one of his minor works, but in actuality, it may be his most influential. It was the first popular introduction to meditation in Chinese Buddhism. In the 8th century, it became the model for meditation instruction in the Ch’an school. Japanese scholar Sekiguchi Shindai says that many later meditation manuals were also patterned on this short treatise, including Fukan zazen gi by Dogen (1200-1253 CE).

This introductory manual was supposedly written for Chih-i’s brother, Ch’en Chen, an army general. It’s said that Ch’en Chen was terminally ill but after performing the repentance mentioned in the text, he completely recovered. Most scholars, however, don’t believe that Chih-i personally wrote anything, rather his “works” are compilations of his lectures, fashioned into a number of individual texts, primarily by Kuang-Ting, his immediate disciple. Paul Swanson says, “It [Chih-kuan for Beginners] was probably compiled while Chih-i was sequestered on Mt. T’ien-t’ai (from the age of 38 [575] to 48)—a time when he had a ‘great awakening’ . . .”

Although Chih-kuan for Beginners is a rather short work, it nonetheless contains all the necessary instruction that one needs to begin and maintain a meditation practice. That is not to say that the text was intended to be used as a substitute for personal training with a qualified instructor. “Beginners” is a bit of a misnomer because, in spite of its short length, it goes into nearly microscopic detail on the “essentials” for practice, and thus, it is extremely valuable to more advanced practitioners.

“Consequently the chih-kuan dharma door to enlightenment is not shallow.” “Shallow” is meant literally. Even the simplest teachings of Buddha-dharma are extremely deep. Another translation reads, “If one understands accordingly, then it will be quite apparent that this Dharma entryway of stopping and contemplation is truly not a shallow one.” A few sentences on in the Luk translation it says: “Instead of slighting the seeming shallowness of the text, Truth-seekers should blush to find that these steps are difficult to practice.”

On one hand, Chih-i (or the compiler) is simply expressing some humility. It may be false humility as far as the “seeming shallowness of the text” is concerned, for anyone who reads Chih-i’s works, shallow is the last word that comes to mind. Nonetheless, humility is a good quality for both teachers and practitioners to cultivate.

Earlier in the selection from Monday’s post, Chih-i mentions that if meditation and wisdom are not in equal proportion the practice is unbalanced. To stay balanced I feel it’s important to always go back to the prime points, return to the basics. All these ancient masters say the same thing, that everything you need to fare on the Way you get at the very beginning. Chih-i tells us that the path does not go beyond the practice of chih and kuan, concentration and insight, or as Chih-i understood the terms, stopping and seeing.

That’s why I think it is important to have a “lifetime beginners” spirit, and why I am skeptical of those who claim to have attained arhatship or enlightenment. Even to suggest it says to me that there’s an attachment formed to the idea. So if you become enlightened at 27 or 33, what is there left for you? I can’t help but feel that the attachment only grows until it destroys the seeking mind, the beginner’s spirit. I don’t know if it is what Chih-i calls “stupidity” or “infatuation” but either way, I don’t buy it.

Buddha-dharma is both profound and simple. It is simple because what is so complex about a calm mind? It is profound because it is pointing directly at the true nature of reality, which ultimately is beyond our comprehension. Same thing with meditation. Counting your breath. What could be simpler than that? Staying in the present moment. At times, nothing can be more difficult.

Consequently the chih-kuan dharma door to enlightenment is not shallow. When receiving beginners to initiate them to the Path, it is easy to preach the Dharma which is, however, very difficult to practice. How, then, is it possible to expound in full what is deep and subtle?

For the benefit of beginners, I now briefly present the following ten essentials for treading the right Path so that they can achieve the progressive stages leading to (their realization) of nirvana. Instead of slighting the seeming shallowness of the text, Truth-seekers should blush to find that these steps are difficult to practice. However, if their minds are ripe for the teaching, in the twinkling of an eye their sharp wisdom will have no limit and their spiritual understanding will become unfathomable. If they aimlessly drag about words and terms and allow their feelings (and passions) to distort the teaching, they will fritter away their time and will fail to achieve realization; they are like a man who counts the treasures belonging to others. What advantages can they expect therefrom?


It is an acknowledged but underappreciated fact that the modern Buddhist traditions of Japan owe a lot to the Tendai school and its Chinese parent, T’ien-t’ai. As I mentioned in a recent post, it was because of the efforts of Tendai founder, Saicho, that the Buddhist schools in Japan adopted the “bodhisattva precepts” as the basis of ordination. Furthermore, the Zen, Jodo (Pure Land) and Nichiren schools all originated from Tendai, as their founders were originally priests in that tradition.

Meditation as practiced by the Chinese Ch’an and Japanese Zen schools also developed out of the teachings of the de facto founder of T’ien-t’ai, Chih-i. Today, T’ien-t’ai is often described as a “philosophical school” however this is inaccurate, as it was also very much a meditation school. Buddhist scholar Neal Donner has noted that of thirty-five works by Chih-i which remain extant, about half deal with practice. Indeed,  Chih-i was the first Chinese Buddhist to produce a meditation manual. The fact that Chih-i’s contributions to Buddhist doctrine are such that he deserves to be placed in the same class as the Buddha and Nagarjuna is probably the chief reason that many scholars have tended to emphasize the philosophical aspects of his teachings at the expense of his meditation instruction.

Donner also notes (in The Great Calming and Concentration of Chih-i) that in his early works, Chih-i used the term ch’an (Chinese translation of dhyana or “meditation”) for spiritual practice and later replaced it with chih-kuan:

It is of great interest, however, that while Chih-i used the word ch’an in the earlier work, this was replaced by the word chih-kuan in the MHCK [Moho Chih-kuan] and others of the master’s later opera, so that since that time, it has been the term chih-kuan which has signified religious practice in the T’ien-t’ai (and Tendai) school, while the Ch’an school appropriated for itself the term which Chih-i had already discarded as not being comprehensive enough.

Zazen (Ch. zuo-ch’an), the heart of Ch’an/Zen practice means “seated meditation”, a somewhat generic term. Japanese Zen also uses the terms shikan and shikantaza. Shikan has two referents: it refers to chih-kuan, which is the Chinese translation of samatha-vipasyana (concentration and insight), a term for the traditional method of Buddhist meditation; and it refers to the system of meditation associated with Chih-i and the T’ien-t’ai school: chih-kuan or “stopping and seeing.”

The best explanation of Chih-i’s chih-kuan that I have found is in a footnote to the translation of T’ung Meng Chih-kuan (“Chih-kuan for Beginners”) by Charles Luk (Lu K’uan Yu):

Chih Kuan: samatha-vipasyana. Chih is silencing the active mind and getting rid of discrimination, and kuan is observing, examining, introspecting. When the physical organism is at rest, it is called chih and when the mind is seeing clearly it is kuan. The chief object is the concentration of mind by special methods for the purpose of clear insight and to be rid of illusion.

Donner makes some even more interesting points in the postscript to his thesis. He remarks on the differences between the Mahayana approach to meditation and that of the other branch, which the Mahayanists gave the derogatory name of Hinayana. The Mahayana understanding of emptiness led their meditation practitioners to recognize the non-duality of concentration and distraction. Hinayana practitioners, on the other hand, quoting the Chinese text Ta-chih-tu-lun, “[try to] exclude distraction and seek concentration, developing thoughts of anger amid dharmas of distraction, and developing thoughts of attachment amid dharmas of concentration.”

Donner further notes a tension in early Mahayana between the dhyana (meditation) approach and the prajna (wisdom) approach. He mentions the threefold division of the Eightfold Path, also known as the “three knowledges”, which is dhyana, prajna and sila (morality or ethics), saying “that dhyana (samadhi) and sila produce prajna – in this case, prajna is understood as an effect or result, though it may also be considered a cause, and then is better understood as ‘intellection,’ ‘gnosis’ or ‘discernment.’

And yet, sila was not truly “Mahayanized” until Saicho founded the Tendai school in Japan.

Chih-i’s meditation teachings some centuries earlier then focused essentially on dhyana and prajna. He was not the first Buddhist to stress the need for balance between the two, however, it is a message he repeats often. The key to understanding Chih-i is through appreciation of his non-dualistic, holistic inclination and his love for harmony and inclusion.

It is a message that has relevance to us today, as we see that some persons feel that Buddhism can be learned primarily from study and acquiring knowledge, while others believe that it is only through meditation that any benefit is realized.

Here are the opening paragraphs of Chih-i’s Chih-kuan for Beginners, as translated by Luk:

The attainment of Nirvana is realizable by many methods whose essentials do not go beyond the practice of chih (samatha) and kuan (vipasyana). Chih is the first step to untie all bonds and kuan is essential to root out delusion. Chih provides nourishment for the preservation of a knowing mind and kuan is the skilful art of promoting spiritual understanding. Chih is the unsurpassed cause of dhyana and kuan begets wisdom, he who achieves both chih and kuan is fully competent to work for the welfare of self and others. Hence, the Lotus Sutra says: ‘The Buddha while dwelling in Mahayana used the transcendental power of the dhyana and wisdom (prajna) which he had realized to liberate living beings from birth and death.’ Therefore, we know that this twin realization is like the two wheels of a cart and the two wings of a bird. Partial practice of them is wrong.

Hence, the sutra says: ‘The practice of dhyana alone, while wisdom is disregarded, causes stupidity and the practice of wisdom alone, while dhyana is disregarded, causes infatuation.’ Although stupidity and infatuation are relatively minor faults which differ from each other, their contribution to recurrent wrong views is identical.

If dhyana and wisdom are not in equal proportion, the practice is deficient; how can it lead to speedy realization of the Supreme Fruit? Thus is why the sutra says: ‘Sravakas [voice-hearers, disciples] cannot perceive the Buddha nature because of their excessive dhyana; Bodhisattvas of the tenth stage do not perceive it clearly because of their excessive wisdom; (and) all Tathagata Buddha perceive it clearly because their dhyana and wisdom are in equal proportion.’

Therefore, chih-kuan is the main gate to the great nirvana, the unsurpassed path of self-cultivation, the index to perfection of all excellent virtues and the true substance of the Supreme Fruit. Consequently the chih-kuan dharma door to enlightenment is not shallow.

When receiving beginners to initiate them to the Path, it is easy to preach the Dharma which is, however, very difficult to practice.

John Barrymore as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

The other night I watched John Barrymore in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the 1920 silent version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale. Barrymore’s performance is commanding and holds up extremely well after 91 years.

You can just imagine what computers could do with this story today, especially the scenes where Jekyll is transformed into Hyde. But they didn’t have much in the way of special effects back then. Barrymore performs the transformation sans makeup, with no special effects, and in one take. He relied only on his skills as a masterful actor and his uncanny ability to contort his face. In subsequent shots, Barrymore does use makeup and prosthetics, which he created himself, but not in the initial transformation scene.

Now, if you know the story, originally titled “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” in Stevenson’s 1886 novella, then you know the theme is the idea that human beings have two natures, one good and one evil. Here’s the intertitle from the beginning of the 1920 version:

It seems to me that this is somewhat at odds with some Western philosophy, and certainly religion, which, as far as I understand it, tends to view good and evil as separate “entities” or forces, represented by God and Satan, each opposing the other in the world. I suspect that for many the notion that human beings innately posses both good and evil may a bitter pill to take. Most would like to think they are inherently good and that some temptation or external force imposes evil upon them.

In Buddhism, the view is that both good and evil reside within each living being. As I have previously noted, T’ien-t’ai master Chih-i maintained that the mind, although intrinsically enlightened, contains all the potentials for both good and evil, that it is both pure and stained, and that even Buddhas possess evil natures. While not everyone has been on board with that last point, this is essentially the Mahayana analysis, a non-dual acceptance of the identity of good and evil.

Like most movies, the 1920 production of Jekyll and Hyde departs significantly from the original source. In this version, Henry Jekyll is engaged to the daughter of a Sir George Carew, who at dinner one night chides Jekyll for neglecting his fiancée and other duties by spending so much of his time treating the poor in his free clinic:

Carew: “In devoting yourself to others, Jekyll, aren’t you neglecting the development of your own life?”

Jekyll: “Isn’t it by serving others that one develops oneself?”

Here, too, are parallels to both Chih-i’s thinking and Buddhism in general. One is the ideal of serving others, which Buddhism holds is the real key to liberation from suffering. Secondly, is the notion of entering into evil. However, Carew’s “method” consists of merely indulging in it. A frequent criticism of Mahayana philosophy is that non-dual notions such as bonno soku bodai, or earthly desires are enlightenment (actually, bonno refers to kleshas or afflictions), amount to nothing more than excuses to indulge in hedonistic activities and to commit evil. Perhaps some of the teachers in the Mahayana traditions misbehaving today, have rationalized their actions in this way, who knows?

But that’s not it. Chih-i, for example, taught that one “entered” evil in order to cultivate a mindfulness of evil, an awareness of its non-dual nature and inherent presence, for the purpose of controlling it. The kleshas, being mental states, are subject to change. Thus, it is possible for evil’s influence on each individual to be reduced, transformed, transcended.

In “The Profound Meaning of the Kuan-Yin Sutra” (Kuan-yin Hsuan-i), a commentary on the 25th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, Chih-I says,

Although the Buddha does not remove inherent evil (Ch. hsing-er), he fully understand the nature of evil. As a result, he is not defiled by it and can be the master over evil. Additionally, owing to his observation, evil never arises, and the Buddha does not create evil again.

So, it’s not really evil that is the issue, so much as it is our attachment to evil. Evil can exist, and will exist no matter what we do, but it has no power over us until we become entranced with it and attached to its ways. In being mindful of evil, we can connect with the real world of suffering, the first step in dealing with it.

Jekyll’s problem was that it was not enough for him to study his evil nature. He had to manifest it, and in doing that he began to lead a double life. He allowed himself  to be entrenched in his Hyde persona, becoming more evil. At one point, he even transforms into Hyde without the benefit of the formula. At the end of the film, of course, Hyde destroys Jekyll.

The practical aspect of this for us, is that we don’t need to be afraid of our inner evil, or put more delicately, our inherent non-goodness. At the same time, that is not a license to indulge in evil. We don’t want Mr. Hyde taking over. But, as the intertitle above indicates, it is up to us, and no one else, who we are, Jekyll or Hyde.

Hyde represents ultimate evil, in much the same way that Mara (“murderer”) in Buddhism does. Mara is the evil demon who tempts the Buddha during his night under the Bodhi Tree. In “Stopping and Seeing for Beginners”, Chih-i gives this guidance:

When the practiser is aware of these mara disturbances, he should avoid them. There are two ways of doing so:

a) By the practice of chih (stopping). When encountering these external mara states, he should know that they are all unreal and should never worry or be frightened. Neither should he accept or reject them and give rise to discrimination. Directly he stops all the activities of his mind and sets it to rest, they will disappear by themselves.

b) By the practice of kuan (seeing or insight). When these mara state appear, if he fails to avoid them by means of chih, he should look into the subjective mind that beholds them. He will find that since his mind leaves no traces, no demon can trouble it. By so practicing kuan, these states will vanish.

He should know that the (fundamental) condition of suchness of the mara realm is identical with that of the region of Buddhas. Since both conditions are of the same absoluteness, they are but one and are, therefore, non-dual. Thus he will understand that while the mara realm should not be rejected, the region of the Buddhas should not be grasped and, as a result, the Buddha Dharmas will manifest itself before him, with all mara states vanishing of themselves.

[Ku Kuan Yu (Charles Luk) translation]

I’d like to expand on some things I touched upon in yesterday’s post . . .

Language is a system of expressions used for communication. Words are our tools. They are signs, or symbols, of a meaning, but the meaning is not intrinsic and words do always serve as a sign or symbol for some referent.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, considered one of the leading thinkers in the 20th Century, likened language to a game, and held that meaning is dependent upon the rules used to play the game, i.e., the use of words. Because there are various uses of words, there are various rules. Within group activities, some words are used more than others are and meanings vary from group to group. For instance, in sports one hears the word “ball” a lot. The most common use of this word in sports groups is to signify the object used to play a particular kind of game. In another group, a “ball” might mean a dance.

I suppose it is logical to some individuals, based on the statements they make, that when groups, particularly religious groups, use certain words they are loaded with meanings intended to satisfy some group need beyond mere communication. This may be true to some extent, however, that should not imply that these groups are engaging in a language-game, literal or otherwise, at all times, for as Wittgenstein wrote in Philosophical Investigations, “we often compare the use of words with games, calculi with fixed rules, but cannot say that someone who is using language must be playing such a game.”

A good example is the word “mindfulness.” Within Buddhism this is a somewhat loaded word in the sense that it conveys associative meanings that are usually well-known to Buddhists. Now, this word may be overused, and at times, improperly used, but on the other hand, it represents one of Buddhism’s core principles, so its frequent use should be expected. It is unreasonable, however, to say that its overuse is due to an attempt to cloak comfort or sanctimony. While that is possible in some situations, it is absurd to suggest that it is a universal occurrence or that each time a group uses a certain word the intent is simply to make the members of the group feel good about themselves. Such sweeping generalities are not at all useful.

Also, it is not reasonable to imply that use of certain words, such as “mindfulness”, “faith” and “ignorance” suggests that these are underdeveloped ideas. It’s like saying that in physics the word “relativity” is used frequently because E=MC2 is underdeveloped.

All words are deceptive in that they are artificial. Designation and thing designated (referent) cannot be one. Nagarjuna famously pointed out that if they were one, then wood would burn when you say the word “fire.” He also said they could not be different, but to go into that would take us too far afield.

I think that it is somewhat deceptive to take words out of context and misconstrue their intended meanings under the guise of trying to “validate” the ideas. It seems to me that there is little interest in substantiating or confirming anything. Perhaps they are trying to validate themselves by “standing above the fray.” Certainly, a bit of smugness from what I’ve seen.

In order to “validate” frequently used words, terms or phrases and analyze the motivations behind their use, it is helpful to have a reasonable grasp of their meanings. The “present moment” is one term I see criticized often and I am amazed that so many people interpret this to mean that we should cut ourselves off from or be unconcerned about the future. Actually, the present moment is like the famous “flash of lightening” in the Diamond Sutra – it only lasts but a very brief instant and then, it’s another moment. Trying to capture the present moment is like trying to catch the wind.

What the term “present moment” really signifies is an attitude of awareness where one is centered in the moments that are unfolding before you and not lost in daydreams of future events or caught up in regrets or nostalgia for past experiences. Furthermore, in Buddhism, the past, present and future are interlinked for in each so-called present moment we are experiencing effects of the past and making causes for the future, whether we want to or not.

There are two kinds of understanding. One is understanding what a person’s ideas are and the other is understanding the truth or falsity of the meaning in such ideas. The latter is rather subjective because not all people will agree as to what is true or false. The meaning that each word has in relation to other words is only a small part of the total meaning, which points the blunder of taking words out of context. Isolating a single word, and assigning to it a context or referent different from that originally used, or point to an unintended meaning as proof of some activity designed to hide from scrutiny or stifle dialogue are two very rocky roads. To go that route, rather than lump all members of a particular religious group together, it might be wiser to focus on specific sub-groups and analyze their possible hidden meanings or intentions, as there is sure to be some variation.

Those who fare on the Buddha way should strive to maintain a seeking mind. This means a mind that is open and positive. It’s only common sense that approaching any kind of teaching, religious or not, with a negative, skeptical mind will not get you very far. It may seem that I am overemphasizing this, but I can tell you from my own experience of struggle with the practice that it is a crucial point.

From Chih-Kuan for Beginners, as translated by Lu K’uan Yu (Charles Luk), here is some timeless guidance from T’ien-t’ai master Chih-i for those who sincerely want to understand Buddhist teachings and learn how to use them to transform their lives:

Instead of slighting the seeming shallowness of the text, Truth-seekers should blush to find that these steps are difficult to practice. However, if their minds are ripe for the teaching, in the twinkling of an eye their sharp wisdom will have no limit and their spiritual understanding will become unfathomable. If they aimlessly drag about words and terms and allow their feelings (and passions) to distort the teaching, they will fritter away their time and will fail to achieve realization; they are like a man who counts the treasures belonging to others. What advantages can they expect therefrom?

Words like “confession”, “repentance”, “apology”, and even “prayer” seem out of place in a Buddhist context, at least they often do to me. For instance, if one were to say a prayer of apology, to whom is it offered? There is no God. Buddha is dead. The universe? Well, maybe . . .

And yet, despite how these words might rub against our sensibilities, they are important subjects in Buddhism. It’s taught that a prerequisite for changing karma, or tenju kyojo (actually lessening karmic retribution), is repentance and confession of one’s errors. And the answer to whom is addressed I think is ourselves.

I like to look at it more as recognition and determination. Recognizing one’s mistakes is the first step to not repeating them. Then we make a determination to stay on that course. It’s a conversation we have with our own mind.

The second chapter of Shantideva’s Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life is dedicated to the “Confession of Error.” When we see the word “confession” we might think of it in the Christian sense, of confessing one’s sins to a priest. In Buddhism, monks and priests do not hear confessions, at least not in any formal way, as far as I am aware. It’s a personal and private act.

One of the definitions of “confess” that I found at is “to own or admit as true.” This is close to what we mean by confession in Buddhism – to own our mistakes, take responsibility for them, and by admiting our errors and seeing them as a truth, a fact, we drive another stake into the heart of the delusion that made us want to commit them.

When Shantideva says, “Overwhelmed by the deceptions of ignorance, I rejoiced in what was done, but now seeing these mistakes, from my heart I declare them to the Buddhas”, he is really declaring them to himself. He is opening himself up for his own inspection. Before we can rectify the external situation, we must transform the internal one.

We can’t change until we see ourselves as we truly are, until we become honest with ourselves. And seeing that we have made mistakes, that we have negative tendencies and bad habits, does not make us a “bad” person, merely truthful.

The Chinese T’ien-t’ai master, Chih-i, advanced a theory in the 6th century that was rather controversial at the time. He said that even Buddhas have evil natures. Previously, and still today, many consider a Buddha to be free of errors, completely cleansed of any impurities. But Chih-i maintained that this is not realistic, rather it is dualistic. Good and evil are not two separate things, they are two sides of the same coin.

Chih-i developed a number of meditations of evil, based on the idea, as described by Neal Donner in “Chih-i’s Meditation on Evil”, of “Entering into evil thought and impulses in order to understand them and thereby become liberated from them . . .” Chih-i also authored a repentance rite, known as the Kuan Yin Repentance which is still preformed at various Chinese temples today. In the Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 1987 1412-3, David Chapell comments on Chih-i’s concept of repentance by saying, “repentance for wrongs involves not just a change of behavior, but also a change in understanding . . .  Moral defects are based not just on misdeeds and bad habits, but also at a more basic level on incorrect understanding. Thus, we need to repent errors of behavior . . .  and of understanding . . .”

In Japanese Buddhism, individual repentance is called zange.  It’s often called a “prayer of apology.” Actually it means repentance; confession; penitence. Zange has been associated primarily with the Lotus Sutra sects, but it was also significant practice in Zen.

In the 1970’s a top leader in the Soka Gakkai gave a lecture on changing karma from which a formula for zange was developed. When I first encountered it, I thought it to be rather profound. It’s like a checklist, to go down as one meditates or chants. The idea is to spend some time reflecting on each section or item.

Since I know that few people outside of the Lotus traditions are familiar with it, I thought I would share this zange (with some changes to make it a bit more universal), in case someone might find it useful. Although it seems geared toward reflection on a specific incident, it can be used in a more general way, as sort of a script for this conversation with ourselves, and while  using it, one should keep in mind the points made above.

ZANGE (Buddhist Apology and Repentance)


For being able to practice Dharma.

For being able to change my Karma (Tenju Kyoju).

For being alive at this time.

For all the people around me.

For everything being a teacher to me.


Realize again that for every external cause, there is first an internal cause.

Every hurt, anger, frustration, irritation or painful situation that occurs to me is my responsibility.

Through my karma, I forced that to happen, or forced them to behave that way.

Hendoku Iyaku – I can turn poison into medicine.

Become aware of my own internal “hooks” that drew such an experience to me.

I, alone, am responsible for raising my life-condition.


For current negativity in thought, word and action.

Loving-kindness – offer thoughts for the health and well-being of the person(s) involved, and that they may deepen their own compassion. Ask myself “what can I do to rectify the situation?”


To not want to engage in negative thoughts, words, or actions anymore.

To work harder to be of benefit to others.

To create harmonious relationships in the areas of family relations, school, or work.

One thing all the great Buddhist masters both past and present have understood, is that reaping the full benefits of Buddhist teachings involves practice.

We might ask, what is meant by Buddhism? It’s simply the Western term we use for Buddha-dharma. And what does that mean? The teachings given by the historical Buddha. His take on things. His point of view. Philosophy. And so, to be a Buddhist is to be one who follows the teachings given by the Buddha.

First and foremost, the Buddha taught how to be in the present moment. This, he believed, was the key to transcending suffering because the present is where we suffer the most.

The past is gone: the future has not come. But whoever sees the Truth clearly in the present moment, and knows that which is unshakable, lives in a still, unmoving state of mind.

The Buddha, Bhaddekaratta Sutta

It’s not about stigmatizing people for what they do or don’t do, but at the same time, Buddhism is not Prof. Harold Hill’s Think System: “If you want to play the Minuet in G, think the Minuet in G.” You can think about becoming a Buddha all you want, but unless you do something, that’s as far as you’ll get. I don’t believe the Buddha cared to add yet another philosophy to the world’s storehouse. I believe he was more interested in offering a method for transcending suffering.

In general, we call the technique taught by the Buddha, meditation or spiritual practice. Specifically, the Buddha taught sati, “mindfulness”, or more formally Satipatthana, “The Four Foundations of Mindfulness.” The idea is to train your mind to be in the present moment.

This is too simple for some people who cannot resist the urge to over-intellectualize the teachings, often motivated by some ego-driven desire to claim that they have profound understandings that others don’t. Fortunately, for them, there are no shortage of weighty concepts to plummet the depths of, but in acutality, the Buddha’s core teachings are fairly simple. Buddha-dharma is meant to be grasped by everyone, not just those with learned minds.

This is not to say that being in the present moment is something easily achieved. Anyone can be “in the moment.” That’s not difficult. But The Buddha was pointing to a deeper sense of mindfulness. He was talking about an intuitive awareness that comes from some place beyond the surface consciousness, and he felt that one must train one’s mind in order to experience this true mindfulness.

The biggest challenge, which resists our capacity to understand with intellect alone, is to be able to carry mindfulness of the present moment over into daily life. This takes practice. Spiritual practice. It cannot come from merely thinking, reading and talking about dharma.

The great T’ien-t’ai master, Chih-i had this to say about the practice of Buddhism versus the study of it:

The practice of meditation alone, while wisdom is disregarded causes stupidity, and the practice of wisdom alone, while meditation is disregarded, causes infatuation . . . Thus, if meditation and wisdom are not in equal proportion, the practice is deficient.

Chih-i’s meditation techniques are generally categorized under the term chih-kuan, or stopping and seeing, which is the Chinese translation of samatha-vipasyana. In Japanese, shikan. It is based on Satipatthana, the foundation for all Buddhist meditation. Likewise, chih-kuan is the foundation for Zen’s zazen and shikan taza.

Today, Chih-i is under-appreciated.  He was one of the greatest philosophers to come after the Buddha, perhaps second only to Nagarjuna, his influence on the Ch’an/Zen school was considerable, and unlike Bodhidharma, there is no question of his historicity.

Here is a selection from the Moho Chih-kuan or “Great Stopping and Seeing”, based on Thomas Cleary’s translation (Stopping and Seeing: A Comprehensive Course in Buddhist Meditation). I think I have presented part of this before, but a really good teaching cannot be repeated too often:

Statue of T'ien-t'ai Chih-i

You cannot ascend to the stage of wondrous realization without practice. Only when you become skilled at churning, can you obtain ghee. The Lotus Sutra says, “Those who aspire to Buddhahood cultivate various practices.” There are many methods of practice . . . In general, we refer to them as ‘samadhis’, meaning that one thereby regulates, rectifies and calms the mind. Acarya Nagarjuna, in The Great Transcendent Wisdom Treatise, says, “Skillfully fixing the mind on one spot and not straying is called samadhi.” The Dharmadhatu [Dharma-realm] is ‘one spot.’  With true insight one is able to abide here without straying. In observing the mind and relying on [practice], one regulates and rectifies the mind. This is why we call them ‘samadhis’.

If one is constantly occupied by inner and outer hindrances that block proper mindfulness and they cannot be removed, one should recite the name of one Buddha, reproaching oneself and taking refuge in that Buddha . . . Why is this? It is similar to when people are happy or sad or depressed, they sing or cry or bemoan or laugh, and then they feel better. It is the same with a meditation practitioner. Breath and voice are physical activities, and they help to develop the mind to realize the inherent Buddha-nature  . . . when the mind is weak and one cannot remove the hindrances, chanting the name of a Buddha as a defense, can neutralize disturbing hindrances. If you have yet to grasp the essence of the teachings, ally yourself with the wise and put into practice what they teach you. In this way, you can enter samadhi with one practice, coming face to face with the Buddhas, and realizing the world of Buddhahood.

As for stopping and seeing [chih-kuan], by sitting upright and being mindful, one removes the veils of wrong concentration and does not engage in discursive thoughts. Do not let your mind wander, or cling to appearances. Single-pointedly focus on the Dharmadhatu. With a single thought on the Dharmadhatu, focusing  is then stopping, and seeing is one thought. When you understand that all dharmas are the Buddha’s teaching, before and after dissolve, and there are no more limits . . . one dwells where there is nothing to dwell on, just as Buddhas dwell, abiding in the silence of the Dharmadhatu. For this reason, you should not be afraid of this teaching.

Dharmadhatu is also called enlightenment, as well as the ‘inconceivable realm.’ It is also known as wisdom, for it is not becoming and not passing away. All phenomena are nothing other than Dharmadhatu. Do not let doubts arise while learning of this nondifference and nonduality.

If you can but understand in this manner . . . when one sees Buddha, one does not  think of Buddha as Buddha. There is no Buddha to be Buddha  . . . Seeing Buddha like this is very subtle. It is like space, it has no imperfection, and it promotes right mindfulness . . . Seeing Buddha is then like gazing into a mirror and seeing one’s own face.