One Must Know what One Is Practicing
(This translation only includes content pertaining to IIP #162 Q-1)
Q1：How are you, Grandmaster? Amitofo. I am sorry for not giving my name. Please forgive me. I took refuge in Grandmaster out of affinity. I subsequently took refuge in two masters from different schools. However, I still mainly practice the True Buddha Tantric Dharma. I highly revere all three of my lineage root gurus because they are all in accordance with the Noble Eightfold Path. They all instruct me to follow precepts, teach me different kinds of virtuous practices, and bestow wisdom that gradually enlightens me more and more deeply. Because of teachings from my other two gurus, I have a greater in-depth understanding of Grandmaster’s teachings. With the wisdom received from these three gurus, I have absorbed teachings from all three schools and have realized that basically, “Tao” is equal and connected throughout.
My question is: I see the lineage gurus of all three schools as buddhas and do not distinguish between them as to which is “higher”, which is “lower”, or which is “most accomplished”. I only distinguish them as to the order in which I took refuge in them. No matter what Dharma I am practicing, I first invoke all three gurus above my crown, and supplicate them for their blessings in order, invoking Grandmaster first, my second guru second, and my third guru last. Subsequently, I invoke the lineage gurus of the True Buddha School (TBS), then the lineage gurus of the second school, and finally the lineage gurus of the third school. I thereafter proceed with my cultivation or practice.
I follow this sequence prior to cultivating the True Buddha Tantric Dharma, during invocations, and when practicing the Fourfold Refuge. The rest of my practice is in accordance with the True Buddha sadhanas. Is it acceptable for me to practice in this way? Thank you, Grandmaster. Amitofo.
A1: This disciple from Indonesia did not reveal his identity. If he had, he might have had many arrows shot in his direction. It seems to Grandmaster that this disciple is practicing True Buddha Tantric Dharma because he said “I am cultivating True Buddha Tantric Dharma as my main practice, but I revere all three of my root lineage gurus”. In his invocation, Grandmaster is always placed first. He then proceeds to practice as described. What do you all think? He cultivates True Buddha Tantric Dharma. He has three gurus, with Grandmaster as his primary guru, and reveres all of his gurus, seeing them all as buddha. If someone has an opinion about this, raise your hand. Otherwise, do not raise your hand.
As for me personally, I think it’s acceptable for him to practice like this. It’s normal for Buddhist beginners to start out in the sequence of hearing, pondering, and cultivating. Usually, they first listen to Dharma discourses, then visit different cultivation venues. It wouldn’t be the case that one would go to just one cultivation venue to learn the Dharma, then afterwards never go to any other cultivation venue. This would be impossible.
Grandmaster began in the same way. I started out as a Christian, then became a Taoist, and finally a Buddhist. In addition, I took refuge in many masters who were neither Buddhist, Taoist, or Christian. I myself have many gurus. Think about it. I formerly took refuge in Hsiao, Chang Ming of Tien De Religion. I paid homage to him and addressed him as Hsiao Chang Ming Fuzi [Master]. Tian De is also called the 20 Characters Tien De Religion.
Lee Yu-chieh of the Tianti Teachings once invited me to dinner at Leofoo Hotel in Taipei. He told me he intended to found a religious sect and wanted me to name it. So, I wrote something down. What was it? I wrote Tianti Chiao, because he was from Tiende and I thought Tianti would be an appropriate name. I therefore wrote down the name “Tianti” for him. Afterwards, Lee Yu-chieh founded the Tianti sect, using the name I came up with. Some of the TBS disciples said “I have gone to Tianti!” They had no idea that I named the sect. Lee Yu-chieh at Leofoo Hotel… (Disciple: Yum Cha at the Diamond Restaurant on the 12th Fl.) Right! Correct! We had Yum Cha in the Diamond Restaurant. Were you there also? I provided the name “Tianti” to Li Yu-chieh. True Buddha disciples also visit different cultivation venues. They attended the Tianti cultivation venues, then took refuge in Tianti. They didn’t know it was Grandmaster who named the sect “Tianti”. There are witnesses, right? We had tea and dim sum (Guangdong style snack) in Leofoo Hotel. He treated me to a meal because he met me at Tien De Religion of Wang Teh-pu.
Grandmaster has also participated in I-Kuan Tao (Yiguandao). I was a Dien Chuan Shi, a master who initiates xuanguan (the heavenly portal), forms the Hetong Mudra, and recites the Five-character Mantra. So, I have been to I-Kuan Tao. Peng Hong Jinzhu, the abbot of Musheng Palace of I-Kuan Tao in Xiangshan, Hsinchu, called me when I was in the US. I was previously in I-Kuan Tao for a while, and still highly respect it. The same for Jesus, I call him my guru and highly revere him as well.
I have formed connections with many gurus, but my primary gurus are Venerable Liaoming (Nyingma), Vajra Acharya Sakya Zhengkong (Dezhong Rinpoche), His Holiness the 16th Karmapa (Kagyu), and Master Thubten Dargye (Gelug). I also established relationships with numerous gurus, and practiced according to their teachings. So, as far as I’m concerned, this is acceptable. One should respect and revere them all. But, one must know what one is practicing.
Our True Buddha Tantric Dharma is the most pure, the most straightforward, and the most suitable for modern times. My own opinion is that one should have a primary guru, and only form a relationship with other gurus.
Grandmaster also has been to many cultivation venues. I am even a certified Taoist, that is, I have a Taoist certificate. My book Paranormal Esoteric Practice concerns Taoist teachings and practices. Therefore, Indonesian disciple Lianhua whoever you are, it is acceptable for you to cultivate the Dharma this way because I have also been through this same process. I give you my blessings for success in your practice, and I hope that in the future, you will propagate the True Buddha Tantric Dharma.
Grandmaster would not be so narrow-minded to say “Becoming a member of Tze Chi is not good”. No, I won’t. Joining Tze Chi is quite alright because you are working on the path of accumulation, which is a good thing. If you go to Dharma Drum Mountain, that’s also fine. At least you will learn to play the drum, playing the Dharma drum and ringing the bell. There is a bell there, a huge bell, the Dharma Drum Mountain bell. Therefore, it is also good to be a member of Dharma Drum Mountain.
Becoming a member of Fo Guang Shan would be good too, because the Tripitaka published by them received praise from all sects for its rich and precious content. Being a member of Fo Guang is good. Attending Chung Tai Chan is another good thing. It’s a Zen monastery, and it’s good to study Zen. Dharma Drum Mountain is also a Zen sect. Students of Venerable Dongchu [the teacher of Master Sheng-yen] are all good, no bad ones. Grandmaster considers all of them to be acceptable. However, one must have a primary guru. Then, it’s fine.
Translated by TBTTs
Translator: Henry Wolf
Editor: DJ Chang