Day 1: Great Vehicle - Small Vehicle - Diamond Vehicle


Masters, fellow cultivators, good afternoon. This is the second Dharma teaching held at the Rainbow Villa and the topic is An Overview of the Buddhadharma. On one hand, this may seem to be a very easy subject because its scope is so broad that, no matter what one discusses, the subject would be covered. On the other hand, this is a very difficult topic, because one must be able to extract all the essences from the vast Buddhadharma and present them in a very systematic and orderly manner. Therefore it is both easy and difficult. Anyway, difficult or not, I am going to attempt it. [laughter] I am going to talk about it. [laughter]

Although I have studied the Buddhadharma for many years, taken refuge in many teachers, and penetrated deep into the treasury of the sutras, it still requires careful thinking, intense inner focus, and eloquent communication skills to present, in a very short period of time, a complete presentation of the Buddhadharma. This is a subject as vast as the ocean itself! I hope that everyone will be able to understand the teachings contained in this Dharma discourse, and that they will derive benefits from what they have learned. By putting these teachings into future practice, one may attain Realization. This will bring a great significance to this Dharma teaching.

Great Vehicle - Small Vehicle -Diamond Vehicle

This is the first day and I shall begin today by talking about the different `vehicles` in Buddhism. In Buddhism, there are the so-called Great Vehicle [Mahayana], Small Vehicle [Hinayana], and Diamond Vehicle [Vajrayana], which is the same as Tantrayana. Actually when Buddha Shakyamuni was alive, he did not mention anything about the Great Vehicle, Small Vehicle, or Diamond Vehicle; these differentiations were created by people after the Buddha`s parinirvana. The Buddha himself did not make any reference to `vehicles.` As he was the True Buddha, therefore only the True Buddha can be considered as the True Vehicle. Apart from that, there is no other vehicle. The practice of differentiating the three vehicles came into existence after the Buddha had passed on.

However, in our discussion today, we will be making references to different `vehicles.` Why? This is because the three vehicles are traditions which have been passed down to us by our predecessors in the practice of Buddhism. In reality, the true Buddhadharma has only One Vehicle, which encompasses the Great Vehicle, Small Vehicle, and the Diamond Vehicle. It would not be correct to talk solely about one particular vehicle. This would be like describing a person by considering only the head. The head alone does not represent a person! Similarly, concentrating on the trunk alone would produce only a partial representation of a person. Likewise, it is not correct to consider only the limbs when one is discussing a person. One must describe the head, the trunk, and all four limbs in order to give a complete description of a person. One must also consider all aspects in a description of the true Buddhadharma. Therefore, the true Buddhadharma contains all of the Great Vehicle, Small Vehicle, and Diamond Vehicle. In reality, there is only One Vehicle.

In the context of the Buddhadharma, what does the Great Vehicle teach? It teaches one to seek Enlightenment for the sake of the welfare of all beings. When one generates the bodhicitta, which is a desire to help all sentient beings to reach Liberation, one is generating the Heart of the Great Vehicle.

What is the Small Vehicle? The Small Vehicle seeks the Liberation of oneself. One mainly engages in practices that concentrate on one`s own Liberation.

How about the Diamond Vehicle? This is the esoteric pathway which uses esoteric methods of cultivation to enable one to quickly achieve Realization. After self-sealization, one then proceeds to help other sentient beings as in the Great Vehicle. The practice of the Diamond Vehicle is known as the practice of attaining Buddhahood in the Present Life, because one engages in actual practices of inner realization which enables one`s body, speech, and mind to enter into a union with the body, speech, and mind of the Buddha. These methods of inner realization are methods of the Diamond Vehicle.

Although the Buddhadharma encompasses tenets from all three Vehicles, discord exists among followers of the three Vehicles. Small Vehicle practitioners like to criticize Great Vehicle practitioners for being impractical and for wanting to help other sentient beings without first engaging in actual practice. They also like to point out that the Buddha himself never preached on the Great Vehicle. On the other hand, Great Vehicle practitioners criticize Small Vehicle followers for indulging in their own salvation, while ignoring other sentient beings and failing to generate the bodhicitta. They contend that the highest achievement of the Small Vehicle practice only equal the level of the Arhat and, therefore, falls far short of that of Buddhahood. Such arguments have occurred throughout the history of Buddhism. What about the Diamond Vehicle or Vajrayana? This Vehicle is subdivided into Tibetan Vajrayana, Eastern Vajrayana, and Tien-tai Vajrayana. Many differing views exist among these Vajrayana schools. For example, just the Highest Tantra section alone of the Tibetan Vajrayana has received much slander from other Vehicles. The Eastern Vajrayana has been criticized as consisting of only the lower three parts of esoteric teachings and lacking an authentic Highest Tantra practice. The Tien-tai Vajrayana has been accused of placing too much emphasis on rituals while being deficient in inner realization practices. Therefore, it will take a long period of time before there can be a true integration of the Vajrayana with all the other scriptural schools. The fact is that the three traditional divisions of the Buddhadharma the Great Vehicle, Small Vehicle, and Diamond Vehicle have so far proven unable to be integrated.



An Overview of the Buddhadharma:Day 1
By Grand Master Sheng-yen Lu at Rainbow Villa, May 3rd, 1993
Translated from the Chinese transcript by Janny Chow

「一生一咒」800萬遍上師心咒活動,從今年師尊的佛誕日正式啟動,請參加者到TBSN官網以下鏈接登記資料: 每持滿十萬遍上師心咒者,宗委會將把名單呈給師尊加持。每持滿一百萬遍者,將列名護摩法會功德主,資料請師尊主壇護摩法會時下護摩爐。 億萬虎頭金剛心咒,招財鎮煞降伏瘟疫