China Academic Lectures
Sponsored by
China Institute in America, N.Y.  USA
By Dr. C. T. Shen
     Let me make it clear, first of all, that the joy I refer to here
is not the kind of temporary joy that can be the cause or source of
later suffering. For example, one does have a sensation of joy and
being carefree when one i drunk, but the actions one might commit
while intoxicated could be so foolish that one might feel deep regret
afterward, or they could cause such irreparable consequences that the
suffering created thereby would be much greater and longer lasting
than the temporary joy that accompanied the drinking. That kind of
joy, if you still wish to call it joy, is classified in Buddhism as
suffering--it is not joy, because it is the beginning of suffering.
     The joy I refer to here can be better defined as the opposite of
suffering, or the cessation of suffering: for example, the kind of
feeling one enjoys when one can fall asleep quickly and soundly,
without drugs, after suffering insomnia for many years, or when one is
able to rest after a number of hectic days in a political campaign or
a demanding day in the business world. One might find oneself enjoying
that relaxation in a mountain-lake region.  As one gazes at the high,
snowcapped mountains and the huge pine trees, the world and its
worries seem a thousand miles away; one feels so very small yet at the
same time so great that one feels alone in the universe.
     In Buddhism, there are several ways to classify human suffering.
The most common is a listing of eight categories of suffering as
1. Suffering because of birth
   Although no one remembers the Pain experienced upon leaving the
mother's womb, the very fact that a newborn baby cries rather than
smiles indicates that there is no bliss at birth.
2. Suffering because of age
   Although aging is a slow process that takes place over a number of
years, the sometimes sudden realization of the reduction of youthful
strengths and ability is a painful experience for most people past
the age of sixty. Evidence of this feeling could be found on a visit
to a home for the aged, or simply in speaking to any older person on
the subject.
3. Suffering because of sickness
   Very few people can claim immunity to sickness or injury. I do not
have to elaborate on the painful experience of being sick.  This kind
of suffering is particularly prevalent among people who live in places
where nutrition and medical care are inadequate.
4. Suffering because of death
   The majority of human beings suffer painfully because of their
awareness of the inevitability of death. Such suffering is
particularly severe for those who have a strong ego, great power, or
great wealth, as it is very difficult for them to contemplate giving
up these things.
5. Suffering because of separation from loved ones
   Death is considered by most to constitute permanent separation. One
who has had the experience of losing a loved one knows how painful
that experience can be, and the suffering it brings can hardly be
remedied. Heartbreak, worry, the expectation of bad news--all these
kinds of suffering are expressed through grief and tears by those
whose loved-one have been kidnapped, or imprisoned in concentration
camps; who have faced the danger of death, been sent to war, or been
forced into an indefinite period of separation because of political
6. Suffering because of an undesirable confrontation with another
   person or thing
   Some examples of this kind of suffering might be an unexpected
meeting between two people who hate each other; a beautiful girl being
chased by a man she does not like; suddenly coming face to face with a
robber or maniac; turning a corner and finding a rabid dog or other
animal on the attack--all these encounters can be sources of great
7. Suffering caused by denial of one's desires
   A child will cry when-he or she wants a piece of candy and the
mother says "no." Other examples are failure to win the heart of the
one you love or failure in business. One can also suffer a great deal
if one needs money desperately and is unable to get it.
8. Suffering because of the burning characteristics of the human body
   and mind
   In Buddhism, this refers to the five aggregates which form the
human body. These five aggregates are form, sensation, perception,
conditioned function, and consciousness. Examples of the burning
characteristics of these five aggregates, or, as I put it in simple
terms, body and mind are anger, anxiety, excessive sexual desire,
hatred, jealousy--all these can be sources of suffering.
     Since the joy I refer to is defined as the cessation of
suffering, it becomes clear, after the description of the eight
categories of suffering, that the root of suffering is, again, our
concept of body and mind. If we do not have body and mind, there is no
birth and therefore no suffering because of birth.  Without body and
mind, aging, sickness, death, and the other four kinds of suffering
have no base from which to operate. Therefore, the root of all human
suffering is the human's concept of and attachment to a body and mind.
As in the case of the concept of birth and death and the concept of
karma, the complete cessation of suffering can only be achieved by the
realization of Original Nature, which means the realization that the
body and mind, which appear to our sensory organs to exist, are
changing from moment to moment, are impermanent and unreal, as if one
saw oneself in a dream, or were an actor playing a part  - all is
therefore defined as emptiness, or sunyata.
     Therefore, the realization of Original Nature means complete
cessation of suffering, means ultimate joy. The conclusion of this
theoretical analysis, which I have earlier referred to as Path 3, is
that our own Original Nature is the source of true joy.  May I repeat
that: Our own Original Nature is the source of joy.
     Now, this sounds great, but it is just like saying the clear
autumn sky is the source of cheer at a time when the sky is heavier
overcast and it is raining, if not storming. Buddhism is not just
philosophical study. One who knows everything in theory about swimming
but has never practiced in water will still face the possibility of
drowning if he or she falls into deep water. So, Buddhism places
emphasis on practice. To realize Original Nature one must practice
according to those methods that I have called Path 1 and Path 2.
     Path 1 is designed for the person who is able to divorce himself
or herself entirely from worldly affairs and to practice vigorously
the concentration of the mind on one point. This method is analogous
to launching a rocket from crowded Times Square in New York City on a
stormy day with thick clouds.  Now just imagine how difficult it would
be to fire a rocket under such conditions. Many rockets, even when
launched successfully, probably fall back to earth without ever having
reached the upper level of clouds. Only the ones that have enough
strength to ascend non-stop can penetrate the heavy cloud cover. The
instruments in  those rockets that do make it will suddenly detect
bright sunshine and the endless deep blue sky in all directions. At
that time, what the instruments detect is vast space, quietness,
clearness, and emptiness. Crowded and noisy Times Square in New York
City, and even the whole earth, become so small by comparison that
they lose their significance entirely.
     A similar breakthrough in the human mind, according to Buddhism,
is called enlightenment. At the moment of enlightenment, Original
Nature reveals vastness, limitlessness, and incomprehensible nature
beyond description. All the habits, desires, discriminations, and
attachments of human beings become insignificant. The concepts of
birth and death, karma, and suffering are therefore inapplicable.  One
who achieves this status is called an "enlightened one." Buddha
Sakyamuni - was a human being born about 2,500 years ago in the land
known today as Nepal who achieved enlightenment at the age of 35.  He
set an excellent example for all human beings.
     As I said before, Path 1 is designed for one who is able to
divorce himself or herself entirely from worldly affairs and to
practice vigorously just like Buddha, who gave up the king's throne
that awaited him and went to the mountains to take up many kinds of
difficult ascetic practices. This is like attempting to dig out the
root of a big tree without first cutting down the branches. It should
be considered as the highest standard set by Buddha that a human being
can possibly achieve. Path 1, however, is not for everyone. Buddha
therefore taught many other methods to enable human beings to realize
Original Nature. I consider that these methods belong to Path 2.
     All the methods in Path 2 can be described as aiming at one
principle, that is, "harmony with Original Nature." Here we should
note that the concept of self is still in existence. It is "I" who am
in harmony with Original Nature. In other words, at the stage of
cultivation which I have called Path 2, "I" and Original Nature are,
mentally, still two separate entities. All the methods therefore lead
to a goal of identifying "I" with Original Nature and, finally, "I am
Original Nature and Original Nature is I." There is only Original
Nature. And Original Nature is a term chosen for the convenience of
people at the mundane level.
   With this Principle, "harmony with Original Nature," clear in our
minds, every action and every thought in our daily life could offer us
abundant opportunities to practice harmony with Original Nature. At
the mundane level, Original Nature can be more clearly specified as
nonduality, nondiscrimination, and no self; or even more condensed, as
no attachment. Therefore, in our daily life, those actions and
thoughts which can be qualified as nonduality, nondiscrimination, and
no self--or non attachment--are those in harmony with Original Nature.
On the other hand, actions and thoughts that possess duality,
discrimination, and concept of self, and are attached in one way or
another, are not in harmony with Original Nature.
     Now I wish to give you a few examples of how to practice in
harmony with Original Nature; They have been useful in my personal
practice. But, since each person has different karma, you may find
another method more effective.
1. Fifteen minutes of meditation on vast space every day
   You may look at the open sky on a clear day.  Concentrate your
effort to see as far out as you can.  If a bird, an airplane, a wisp
of cloud, or any kind of object comes into view, ignore it and don't
let it distract you. If your eyes become tired, close them, but your
mind should continuously "look" at the vast sky without wavering. The
key to this practice can be found in the following verse taken from
The One Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa, by Professor Garma C.C.
"Like the sky devote of edge or center,
Meditate on vastness and infinity."
   That is the teaching Milarepa gave to his woman disciple, Sahle-
Aiu. It clearly emphasizes nonduality, nondiscrimination, and no self.
2. Fifteen minutes of meditation on energy every day
   First, think of the outer skin of your entire body. The skin is
matter and is therefore a form of energy. Then, think of your flesh.
Flesh is also matter and therefore also a form of energy. The bones
are also a form of energy The lungs, heart, stomach -- every part,
from the outside to the inside and then from the inside to the
outside, is a form of energy.
   When you first begin this practice, repeat this process several
times. You will reach the conclusion that everything in your body, and
your body as a whole, is energy and nothing else.
   Then, whatever you are sitting on is matter and thus energy. The
air is energy. The warmth of the air is energy. Light is energy.
People and animals are energy. The room, the house, the village, the
city, the earth, then, the moon, the sun -- everything in the
boundless space you can think of they are all energy. All are
characterized by non duality and nondiscrimination.
   Whenever your mind wavers and cannot keep expanding your vision of
energy, then retreat to the point where your vision of energy is
   Since energy is a good analogy for Original Nature, this practice
can be very effective. It is simple yet in harmony with Original
   I presume that you all know how to sit for meditation, so I shall
not describe it here. My booklet, "What We Can Learn From Buddhism,"
gives a brief yet complete description of how to sit.  You might like
to use it as a reference.
3. Practicing the perfection of giving (dana paramita)
   Giving means to help or benefit others. Twenty-five years ago, when
I first came to this country, I had the distinct impression that the
people of this great nation have, in general, a warm generosity and
willingness to help other people. I must admit, however, that that
good impression has been gradually fading in recent years. I sincerely
hope that this trend will be reversed. It is entirely up to each of
you.  Don't forget that the social environment is the effect of our
common karma.  According to Buddhism, there are three kinds
of giving:
     A) To help or benefit others by giving them the things they
        need. Food, clothing, shelter, vehicles, money, and many other
        items of a material nature are included in this category.
     B) To help or benefit others by giving them right knowledge and
        correct view. In Buddhism the reference is especially to
        Dharma, i.e., the Buddha's teachings because according to
        Buddhism, Dharma is the most important knowledge that can help
        people to rid themselves of suffering. Broadly speaking, the
        teaching of proper knowledge and skill to people to enable
        them to be productive members of society is also giving under
        this category.
     C) To help or benefit others by protecting them from various
        kinds of danger or alleviating their fears. This is called the
        giving of fearlessness. People who contribute to keeping a
        place, say, Central Park in New York City, secure and peaceful
        day and night for the citizens are, indeed, giving in this
        category. To save people from a ship in distress or from
        places hit by earthquakes, hurricanes, tidal waves, or other
        disasters, are good examples of this kind of giving.  A good
        doctor or nurse who comforts a patient who has great fear is
        doing meritorious giving.
     All of the above is giving, but it may not be the perfection of
giving. You may remember that when we talked about karma, I said at
one point that one who does good deeds with selfish motive receives
limited merit, while one who does the same good deeds with no specific
purpose or desire receive infinitely greater merit. Let me now
describe the perfection of giving, which is one of the six Paramitas
or perfections, taught by Buddha.
     Perfection of giving means giving without duality, without
discrimination, and without concept of self. Or, to put it another
way, perfection of giving is giving without any idea as to who is the
recipient, what is being given, or who the donor is.  Therefore,
giving conditionally, or with string attached, is a kind of giving but
it is not the perfection of giving.
     Giving with an expectation of reward is giving, but not the
perfection of giving.
     Giving with discrimination regarding the recipients, such as, 'I
only donate to the church but not to the school,' is giving, but not
the perfection of giving.
     Giving for selfish reasons is giving; but it is not the
perfection of giving.
     The perfection of giving demands a mind of equality, non duality,
nondiscrimination, and no self.  Such giving is therefore in harmony
with Original Nature.
     For those who have not achieved the ability to be in harmony with
Original Nature, intensive prayer to a more tangible supramundane
authority, such as the gods of different religions, the Holy Mother
Mary, Jesus Christ, and in Buddhism, Buddha Amitabha and Bodhisattva
Khan Yin the two most popular names, all serve effective purposes when
one is seriously ill, in danger, desperate, approaching death, and so
forth. Such prayer, particularly for those who have had faith in one
or more of the foregoing in their lives, could quickly bring back
their concentration. The unwavering tranquility of one's mind is
itself a process in harmony with Original Nature--the source of joy.
     I thank you for your patience in listening so intently during
these four sessions. You have probably noted that the key expression
in these lectures has been Original Nature. It may be helpful to offer
you, as my conclusion, the following quotation from Chapter 9 of The
Holy teaching of Vimalakirti, by Dr. Robert A.F. Thurman, entitled,
"The Dharma-Door of Nonduality":
     Then, the Licchavi Vimalakirti asked those bodhisattvas, "Good
Sirs, please explain how the bodhisattvas enter the Dharma-door of
     Thereupon, thirty-one bodhisattvas expressed their views of
nonduality. I quote three expressions as examples:
     The bodhisattva Srigandha declared, "I' and 'mine' are two. If
there is no presumption of a self, there will be no possessiveness.
Thus the absence of presumption is the entrance into nonduality."
     The bodhisattva Tisya declared, "'Good' and 'evil' are two.
Seeking neither good nor evil, the understanding of the nonduality of
the significant and the meaningless is the entrance into non duality."
     The bodhisattva Suddhadhimukti declared, "To say, 'This is
happiness,' and 'That is misery' is dualism. One who is free of all
calculations, through the extreme purity of gnosis--his mind is aloof,
like empty space; and thus he enters into nonduality."
Near the end we read:
     When the bodhisattvas had given their explanations, they all
addressed the crown prince Manjushri: "Manjushri, what is the
bodhisattva's entrance into nonduality?"
     Manjushri replied, "Good sirs, you have all spoken well.
Nevertheless, all your explanations are themselves dualistic. To know
no one teaching, to express nothing, to say nothing, to explain
nothing, to announce nothing, to indicate nothing, and to designate
nothing--that is the entrance into nonduality."
     Then the crown prince Manjushri said to the Licchavi Vimalakirti,
"We have all given our own teachings, noble sir. Now, may you
elucidate the teaching of the entrance into the principle of
nonduality! "
     Thereupon, the Licchavi Vimalakirti kept his silence, saying
nothing at all.
     The crown prince Manjushri applauded the Licchavi Vimalakirti:
"Excellent! Excellent, noble sir! This is indeed the entrance into the
nonduality of the bodhisattvas. Here there is no use for syllables,
sounds, and ideas."
Dear friends, why have I used so many words?
(the following lines were added after the lecture was delivered on
November 22, 1976)
(At this point, Dr. Shen suddenly raised his voice.)
(The audience kept silent.)
Excellent! Excellent! We have so many vimalakirtis here.
(The audience then burst into laughter.)
Now you have experienced it. The very moment that you burst into
laughter was the moment that you were in harmony with Original Nature.
Perhaps you would all like to go home now and practice your harmony
with Original Nature.
I thank you very much.
This lecture converted from printed to digital format and included in
the MOUNT KAILAS BBS TEACHING Library with permission from
Dr. C. T. Shen
Copyright and all rights reserved by Dr. C. T. Shen