The Methods of Transmitting Buddhadharma in Vajrayana

Today, we will talk about the methods of transmitting Buddhadharma.

In ancient times, the methods of teaching and transmitting the Buddhadharma could be broadly divided into two types :

1) Through oral transmission ( spoken words )

2) Through the void.

Oral transmission is to teach through spoken words and students learn by listening and understanding what is being spoken. The main points are spoken, the most important main points are spoken.

In Vajrayana, many teachings and techniques need to be taught by the spoken words, because they can't be understood by just reading from books. You may not understand the real meaning of the author, by just reading what was written.

The important points were spoken by the guru, you listened, perfectly understanding and comprehending the meaning and hidden essence of the teachings, this is Oral Transmission.

Let's have a simple example: Hongren, the Fifth Patriarch of Zen Sect, summoned the future Sixth Patriarch, Huineng, to his quarters at night. He spoke a few words to Huineng, and transmitted the Dharma to him, handing down the patriarch position to him, along with the robe and beggar's bow, objects passed down the generations. Just like that, Huineng succeeded the Fifth Patriarch's lineage and position.

This transmission of Dharma didn't take much time. Hongren just spoke for one night. He then asked Huineng to leave. This kind of Dharma teaching is known as Oral Transmission, just passing down the most critical points to the student.

This kind of Dharma transmission is very simple, only a few important points in the Vajra Sutra (Diamond Sutra): “No self, no others, no sentient beings [space], no lifetimes [existence of time].”

Perhaps, the Fifth Patriarch said this to the Sixth Patriarch, “It's simple. You come in. Let me tell you… Do you know? There is no I, no you, no others, and no existence of time! End of teaching! Alright, you are the Sixth Patriarch now, you may go.”

This needs perfect understanding from the student. The Fifth Patriarch said to the Sixth Patriarch: “You put into practice those words that I said to you, you are the Sixth Patriarch.” And he left. This is the transmission of Dharma, wholly transmitted the Dharma to him.

The Sixth Patriarch perfectly understood these verses, he left and put it into practice, and practiced it well. You know these verses are extraordinary! These four verses from the Vajra Sutra, “No Self, No Others, No Sentient Beings (Space), and No Lifetimes (Existence of Time).” If you have perfect understanding of these verses and practice according to them, you reach Sagehood.

Just a few simple verses, after the Sixth Patriarch was enlightened by it, when others seek the Dharma from the Sixth Patriarch, he was able to shorten the four verses to two verses or even simpler, and transmitted to them. If you are enlightened by it, then you are the Seventh Patriarch, for after the Sixth Patriarch, there is no formal successor to the lineage.

What did the Sixth Patriarch teach? “Not thinking of good, Not thinking of evil.” (*) Alright! You have already been transmitted the Dharma; you can go. You then go and experience yourself “Not thinking of good, Not thinking of evil”, which is not that simple. Therefore, there is no need to expound a lot about Buddhadharma, or read thousands and thousands of sutras, which in the end, would explode your brain! These few words, if you can practice them truly and deeply, you have reached Sagehood.

Just two words, “No Self,” alone. Okay! Can you really say you attained No Self? It is very hard! If you truly become No Self, which is emptiness [sunyata], you are already an Arhat and transcended the Three Realms!

“No Self, No Others, No Space, and No Existence of Time” is emptiness. “Not thinking of good, Not thinking of evil” means one has entered samadhi and reached emptiness. If one is always in the state of neither thinking of good nor thinking of evil, one has reached no thought. Under the state of no thought, emptiness emerges, and Buddha-nature reveals naturally. If you realize these few verses, you are eradicating attachments – freeing from all your attachments. These two words, eradicating attachments, means freeing from all your attachments.

If you have truly realized the state of no attachments, and not thinking of good or evil, truly speaking, you are complete. Your inner light manifests and you have validated emptiness. These are the states you must attain in practice.

Many patriarchs of Vajrayana transmitted key formulas verbally, such as how to practice inner fire? How to emit and transform into light? How to merge with light? How to experience emptiness and grow Bodhicitta? All these are important. They all have key formulas in them.

How do you fulfill that everything is pure and pristine? This is an achievement! Not just theory. If you want to talk merely theory, then everyone is already a perfectly enlightened person in the Buddhist context. If you truly attain the Sixth Patriarch's “Not thinking of good, Not thinking of bad,” you are the Seventh Patriarch. The Zen Sect has no formal Seventh Patriarch, but if you are enlightened and have perfect understanding of what the Sixth Patriarch Huineng said, you become the Seventh Patriarch! Next would be the Eighth Patriarch.

If Grandmaster were the Seventh Patriarch, I would say two words: “Eradicate attachments,” eradicating all your attachments. You come and seek Buddhadharma. I will tell you, “Eradicate attachments.” You then go back and contemplate “Eradicate attachments.” What is “Eradicate attachments”? It is to let go of the attachments. Just the two words, you realize it in your daily life, you are the Eighth Patriarch.

Of course, due to the troubles and problems caused by the lineage passing, the Sixth Patriarch declared that he would not have a successor, because he was very tired of it. This is the Oral Transmission. There are many essences and key formulas in the oral transmission of Vajrayana. Many skills must be taught personally by the guru. This is taught through ear and mouth and is one of the methods to transmit Buddhadharma. We will end today's session here.

Om Mani Padme Hum.

Aug. 5, 1996 at True Buddha Tantric Quarter in Seattle, WA, USA.

Translated by TBTTs

Translator: Brandon Liew

Editors: Tommy Liu and DJ Chang

慶賀真佛宗根本傳承上師八十聖壽 「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。