Day 7: The Three Types of Enlightenment

The Three Types of Enlightenment

Masters, fellow cultivators, good afternoon. [audience applause] Today is the seventh day of this discourse on An Overview of the Buddhadharma, and today I will be discussing the Ten Powers of a Buddha. The Ten Powers of a Buddha may be regarded as the ten wisdom-powers which are developed in an Enlightened being. Several days ago, I discussed the meaning behind the term `Enlightenment.` An Enlightened being is someone who has achieved awakening. What kinds of wisdom-powers does such an awakened being have? This is what will be covered in today`s teaching.

`Enlightenment` does not happen easily. Generally, when the subject is brought up in conversations, people profess that it is something very far away and hard to attain. Therefore, when a person is able to present proof that it is possible to achieve liberation and Enlightenment in one lifetime, this becomes an extraordinary and powerful testimony. If I told people today that they could, without taking any test, achieve Enlightenment in one second and liberation in three seconds, I suspect the number of people coming to take refuge would be even greater than it is. [laughter] Is such a feat really feasible? I suppose so. All I need is a big cudgel! [audience laughter] With one blow to the top of your head, you will attain Enlightenment. With three blows, you will be truly liberated! [audience laughter] Other than this, I don`t think there is any method that can enable one to attain Enlightenment in one second and liberation in three seconds.

Since I have been talking about `Enlightenment` for the past few days, you have probably grown so accustomed to the term that you think you are already Enlightened. [audience laughter] Indeed, you may be Enlightened in a conceptual sense ?you have understood everything in these seven days of teaching, including the concepts of Impermanence, Renunciation, and Egolessness ?the three bases of arhathood. Arhathood is what one achieves when one is Enlightened through the Buddhist Hinayana. Many of the disciples of Buddha Shakyamuni, among them the ten chief disciples and five hundred arhats, had attained Enlightenment through the practice of these three tenets: Impermanence, Renunciation, and Egolessness. In the future when people ask you, `What have you learned in Buddhism?` You can reply, `All things are impermanent; all things are without self; and nirvana is tranquility.` That is Enlightenment. [audience laughter]

A pet term used by Buddhists nowadays as an answer to another`s inquiry is to say that they have learned `egolessness.` Well, egolessness, very wonderful! However, if I give you a punch, you will probably become mad and discover your `ego` again. [laughter and audience laughter] What happens to your egolessness then? Many people claim they are Enlightened. I had a student call me up on the telephone to tell me that she had become Enlightened. When I heard the word `Enlightened,` I became panic-stricken. [audience laughter] Why? I was afraid that it was a false kind of Enlightenment. Sure enough, a couple of days later, she called to tell me that she had become `unenlightened` again. As `Enlightenment` is no easy matter, I have categorized it into three types. How strange! Isn`t there supposed to be only one kind of enlightenment? Why are there three types? I shall explain.

The First Type: A Fraud

The first type of `Enlightenment` is achieved by swindlers who scheme for certain objectives. Such people announce, `I am already enlightened. I have become a Buddha.` In many people`s minds, a Buddha is a very high and transcendental being with great powers. And people are often gullible, so they go to make homage and offerings to this `Buddha,` hoping to get some blessing in return. They figure that with the blessing from this `Buddha,` everything will be auspicious and money will roll in. However, before one sees any money rolling in, this `Enlightened` Buddha has already `rolled` away. [audience laughter] The point is, as long as one calls oneself an `Enlightened being,` one can also proclaim this mantra: `Om, Money Coming Home.` [audience uproar of laughter and applause] This is to get money by fraud.

Some of these swindlers also scheme for sexual gains. How is this done? They will say, `I am a Buddha. I have this Buddha flavor or power in my body. There is only one way for you to receive this Buddha chi from me.... By touching me, you can receive some of it, but even more by embracing! If you embrace me, all my energy will go to you, and you will become the Buddha and I will become human. [audience uproar] When I practice and recharge my energy, we can do it again.` These are just exploits of swindlers!

A swindler will tell you that he is Enlightened and can open your central channel for you. How is that done? `Bring me your money, and I will use a broomstick to help you.` [audience laughter] Having practiced Buddhism all these years, I have yet to find a tool which will open up someone else`s central channel. A feasibility is to transport some of the chi in one`s own body into another person to enhance the circulation of their chi. Other than that, what can one use? A bicycle pump and applying it on the rump? [audience laughter] Perhaps that is the way to do it! Anyway, after receiving this promised `central channel opening,` one goes home. At first one indeed feels a stream of energy in one`s body, but after a while, one can`t feel it anymore. What is happening? Your teacher calls you back, `You have to undergo the same procedure once a month; otherwise, the drain will be blocked!` Well, that seems to make sense. This then becomes `Om, Money Coming Home.` [audience laughter]

Spiritual evolvement is achieved through self effort. Never expect any person to bestow anything upon you. As a guru, I will transmit the teaching to you, but you still have to do the practice yourself. How to distinguish the truly Enlightened being from the fraudulent ones? There is one simple test. Beware of an `Enlightened` teacher who requests money from you. A truly Enlightened being knows that the whole Universe is his and there is no need for him to ask for any money. Something is wrong if this `Enlightened` person tells you, `This is how much you have to pay me before I can give you the empowerment or esoteric teaching.`

Among the so-called `Enlightened,` some are swindlers. Therefore one has to be careful and make sure that such a claimer does not harbor any greed. Greed indicates that such a person does not yet have a heart of equanimity. An Enlightened being is an embodiment of benevolence, compassion, joy, and equanimity. How can someone be Enlightened if he or she still has greed? The heart of an Enlightened being is as vast and infinite as the Empty Space, and the whole Universe belongs to him. There is no longer the need for him to ask for money from others; whatever voluntary offerings he receives is sufficient. Therefore, an `Enlightened` person who asks for money indicates that greed still exists.

One also should observe the behaviors of such an `Enlightened` being. Does he or she get mad unreasonably? It is true that a `Fierce Deity` also gets mad, but is the action justified? Unreasonable anger and capriciousness are unacceptable.

Sometimes a guru will also test his students. When he meets a student who claims that she has attained egolessness, this guru will say, `Fine, you have attained egolessness, will you marry me?` This student then thinks to herself, `How can a guru say such a thing? How can I marry him? I am only in my late teens, and he is so old, with skin all wrinkled up like an orange peel.` [audience laughter] Actually the guru may not want to marry at all, but since she claimed that she had reached egolessness, he decided to administer a test by asking her to marry him.

`Greed, hatred, and delusion` repudiate true Enlightenment. An Enlightened person will speak with Dharma Taste and wisdom. One should be careful if the `Enlightened` person shows a lack of wisdom, acts disorderly, and harbors greed. Be meticulous in distinguishing if a person is Enlightened. As for me, I will sometimes say something foolish, but remember that `a man of great wisdom often appears slow-witted.` [audience laughter and applause] I also sometimes speak ironically. Although I have no personal considerations, I will say words that appear to be self-motivated. Although I am a cultivated person, I will sometimes fly into a rage. These are sometimes necessary as tests or for educational purposes. At such times, you have to judge with your insight. As you know, a person of great wisdom sometimes behaves just like everyone else; only occasionally will his wisdom and Dharma Taste be revealed. As Buddhist practitioners, you must be very meticulous in making such distinctions.

If you discover an `Enlightened` person to be of infinite greed, hatred, and delusion, what should you do? If you have already taken refuge in him, leave him silently, and refrain from slandering him. That is why the selection of a Buddhist teacher should be done carefully. After taking refuge, treat the guru with respect and learn from his virtues instead of his shortcomings. It would be good if you could learn the Buddhadharma from him; if not, go and learn from someone else. When you find a suitable practice for yourself, concentrate on it and devote yourself deeply to it. Use your wisdom to observe and analyze the teacher`s words and actions to determine if they reflect the Buddha`s teachings. If they do not, you will be losing your money and wasting your time.

If someone asks you to take refuge in him, and he has nothing to teach you, then you know he is a fraud. In contrast, when you came today to take refuge in me, I offered you A Complete and Detailed Exposition on the True Buddha Tantric Dharma, a practice replete with subtle Dharma Taste that you may experience and which leads you to Truth and Wisdom. [audience applause]

The Second Type: A Madman

The first type of `Enlightened` being is a fraud. What is the second type? The second type is a madman. A madman is a mentally ill person. One can tell if someone is crazy by the way he behaves. However, not all lunatics are true lunatics, some of them only act like lunatics. One must also be able to distinguish these. For example, Living Buddha Chi Kung [a famous Enlightened Buddhist teacher in China] only acted like a madman and was not mentally ill at all. His crazy behavior was just his way of imparting the Buddha`s teachings. Once, he was observed grabbing lice from his chest and depositing them on his back. Then he would grab lice from his back and put them on his chest. People asked him, `Why don`t you kill the lice?` He replied, `I abide by the precept of non-killing.` People then asked, `Why are you moving the lice around?` Living Buddha Chi Kung replied, `This way the lice are unaccustomed to their new environment.` [laughter and audience laughter] You see, he knew what he was doing. He was teaching that there were expedient methods that one could use without resorting to killing the lice. [audience laughter]

We also have a similar problem here at the Rainbow Villa. We discovered that some rats had recently immigrated here. [audience laughter] So we told Reverend Hsiao Kuang to set up a trap using a five gallon plastic pail. Some peanuts were placed inside the pail which was placed against a wall. When the rats smelled the peanuts, they climbed up the wall and jumped inside the pail. After eating the peanuts, they found that they could not get out because the plastic pail was too slippery. [audience laughter] Reverend Hsiao Kuang then took them for a ride and deposited them someplace very far away ?this way they were unaccustomed to their new environment. [audience laughter] We learned this from the Living Buddha Chi Kung. He might act like a lunatic, but he knew what he was doing.

One time, Living Buddha Chi Kung went into the Ling Yin Temple. After removing the statue of the Dharma Protector Wei-t`o from his shrine, he placed it on his own back and started running away. People stopped him, `What are you doing with Wei-t`o on your back?` He replied, `We monks are relocating the temple.` People were satisfied with his answer. Actually he was taking Wei-t`o on a demon-subjugating mission. A scholar`s house was plagued by demons. By placing Wei-t`o inside the scholar`s house, Wei-t`o would manifest to subjugate the demons. Although Living Buddha Chi Kung behaved like a madman, he was a rational lunatic.

If someone is incoherent in his speech, or improper in his thoughts and actions, then that person is not Enlightened. In the case of Living Buddha Chi Kung, a truly Enlightened being, although he sometimes acted in an unconventional way, his thoughts were sane and rational. All of his behavior, though idiosyncratic, was motivated by `correct thoughts.` A person who acts erratically, speaks incoherently, and harbors unwholesome thoughts is a true lunatic.

I remember there was a case of a very famous, contemporary monk. He became ill and was hospitalized. What kind of illness did he have? I don`t know the exact diagnosis, but it had to do with a deterioration in his mental status. I did not personally witness the following episode, so it may not be one hundred percent accurate, but many people were there when it happened. Anyway, the monk was lying on the bed when a beautiful nurse walked into the room to give him an injection. His hand reached out and grabbed the nurse at places that I cannot mention. [audience laughter] In addition, when a beautiful nurse or one of his female students came into the room, he would pull his pants down. When this first happened, his attendants and students would say, `Our teacher is Enlightened!` What did they mean? They meant that their teacher had reached an `Enlightened` condition that transcended differentiation. Can such behavior as pulling down one`s pants upon seeing a woman and grabbing at beautiful nurses be that of an Enlightened being? No, that was not Enlightenment. That is why he is now locked up and is no longer seen in public. If he were really displaying a mind transcending differentiation, why didn`t he grab at the male doctors or pull down his pants when his male students visited? A true transcendence of differentiation would have been to pull down his pants regardless of whom he met. Was he afflicted with dementia? He may have been suffering from dementia, but he was still able to distinguish between the sexes.

I do not think that is a case of Enlightenment at all. The truth is, that monk had been suppressing his desires for a very long time, ever since he was young. As an eminent monk, he had always carried himself in a dignified way and surrounded himself with an inviolate aura of holiness. Then came the day he lost control of his mental faculties, and the floodgate to his desires was completely opened. It is a case of lunacy and not Enlightenment.

There are many lunatics inside mental institutions. Take a look at the patients in the wards; they can all see gods and ghosts. They are all agitated. Some claim that they are being chased, but we cannot see anyone pursuing them. Another will say that the Virgin Mary has appeared to him. Still another will be kneeling and praying, his whole body shaking, because he thinks Jesus has come. Sometimes he thinks it is the Buddha, and sometimes it is the Goddess Matzu. From morning till night, he has numerous `visitors` coming to talk to him. Let me tell you, he also thinks he is `Enlightened.` Beware of so many `Enlightened` people. If this is Enlightenment, I would rather remain unenlightened. [audience laughter] To become Enlightened this way is to fly over the cuckoo`s nest. [audience laughter] Although these patients may seem to have all kinds of extrasensory abilities, including psychic vision and hearing, they have no control.

The Third Type: Master of Tao

What is a truly Enlightened person? A truly Enlightened person is a `Master of Tao.` Such a person lives in the present, and all of his actions are in accord with nature. Free, at ease and contented, he abides in `as-is-ness.` Whatever happens to him will not make him wild with joy or grief. Nothing ever perturbs him. In other words, to him, nothing ever happens, so he is able to handle every matter skillfully with his penetrating wisdom. Manifesting through him is a profound, subtle, and non-deliberate virtue. His heart is pure, stainless, and transparent, hiding nothing ?this is a very important point.

This condition of Enlightenment has been compared to a sunny untainted sky that stretches forever. The state of mind of an Enlightened person is completely transparent and filled with infinite bliss. He or she is neither gloomy nor depressed, for living amid the Dharma Taste is a wonderful and transcendental joy. As described in the High King Avalokitesvara Sutra that we chant, it is a condition characterized by `Permanence, Bliss, Identity, and Purity.` `Permanence` is `to flow in synchronization with nature,` to be at ease and to experience true freedom. `Bliss` is the infinite bliss grounded in Dharma Taste and in the absence of emotional afflictions. `Identity` is the `Universal Self,` the source and its myriad manifestations expressed in earth, water, fire, wind, and space. `Purity` is complete purity and serenity.

Talking about this `Identity,` someone remarked that during this discourse at the Rainbow Villa, the four elements of earth, water, fire, and wind have all come into context. Every day you have had to take a car ride to come here. You have come by land, by `earth,` and not by `air.` The tires of your automobiles have rubbed against the earth for forty minutes to bring you here and take you back. What about water? The other day we had some showers when the dark clouds gathered and turned into rain. What about fire? Yesterday afternoon, the temperature suddenly shot up, and we all felt hot and muggy. What about wind? Yesterday morning, the wind was so strong that one of our tents was blown away. Earth, water, fire, and wind are all here. They should not have bothered us, because our bodies, like the physical Universe, are made up of the same four elements. No separation exists between these elements and one`s `self.` This is `Identity.` A state of well-being is attained when one yields to and meditates with the earth, water, fire, and wind in the Universe and in one`s body respectively. If these four elements are in harmony, one will not become ill and catch cold. [audience applause]

Many students arrived a little earlier for this teaching, and some have colds. I was somewhat worried that I might catch a cold from someone. If one of you coughed in my face just as I breathed in, several thousand viral germs would have entered my body. Although I am a chi practitioner, I would have been coughing for the last seven or eight days if my immune system were weak. How could I teach if I lost my voice? It is an uncomfortable thought. So, during these last few days, when you coughed at me, I immediately performed the Armor Protection and manoeuvered the chi to protect myself. [audience laughter and applause] After all, would a person who coughs uncontrollably in front of the video camera look like an Enlightened being? [audience laughter] People would say, `The Asian sickman! What kind of Enlightened being is he?`

What is a chi practitioner? In Taiwan we used to watch a puppet show called `The Chi Practitioner of the Golden Gourd Hut.` [audience laughter] Tantric Buddhists are all chi practitioners or yogis. A yogi cultivates the chi to open up channels and elevate the light drops in the subtle energy body. When the chi is full, one`s physical body and immune system will be strong and impervious to all kinds of illnesses. The goal of cultivation is to arrive at the `vajra indestructible body` that is immune to all afflictions. However, I should not boast. Fate decrees that one sometimes must experience a certain grave illness in one`s life. If this is so, then there is nothing I can do about it. [laughter] I dare not boast, as each time I have boasted in the past, I was finished! [audience laughter]

`Permanence, Bliss, Identity, Purity.` Permanence is to be eternally present. A person residing in `Permanence` is always at ease and lets events take their course. Although no noticeable features appear to distinguish one from others, one`s inner world is filled with great Dharma Taste and infinite subtle `Bliss.` One always identifies with the earth, water, fire, wind, and air, and each interacts, permeates, and combines with each other. One resides in `Purity` because one is totally pure of attachments. Such a person is an Enlightened person.

An Enlightened person is a Master of Tao, a Dharma Prince, a Son of Buddha. He or she is neither a lunatic nor a swindler, although the three superficially resemble each other. You have to be careful not to get them mixed up, as many self-proclaimed `Enlightened` persons use the Buddhadharma to swindle others. However, some truly Enlightened beings do act like madmen. Didn`t I name one of my essays `Crazy Dharma King Sheng-yen Lu`? Although I sometimes act like a lunatic, I am rational, at ease with myself, always exist in the present, and am free. [audience applause]

On the conceptual level, you are all Enlightened, but you may not necessarily be Enlightened in reality. A person has approached me, saying, `Grand Master, I am already Enlightened. Can I tell you something very important?` So I asked him what was on his mind. Who would have thought that an Enlightened person would need a personal consultation? After half a day, it turned out that he wanted to know why the chickens at his house had been refusing to eat. Did he think I had something to do with his chickenfeed? I still don`t know. [audience laughter] Therefore, pay attention, words of an Enlightened person will shine forth with wisdom. Such a person is an embodiment of wisdom and is without any traces of greed, hatred, or delusion.

Make a wise choice among the three types of `Enlightened` beings. One criterion by which to measure is that this teacher should be able to explain the Buddhadharma and its practices in a rational way. The True Buddha Tantric Dharma, for example, can only be presented together by someone who has, for a very long time, been profoundly involved in its study and practice.

An Overview of the Buddhadharma Day 7

A discourse by Living Buddha Lian-sheng at Rainbow Villa, May 11, 1993

Translated by Janny Chow 

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