History of Mantras, Chinese Buddhism and Esoteric Practice from India, China and Tibet
by Living Buddha Dechan Jueren
Mantic Arts Wellness Center – East Longmeadow, MA Clear Light Temple
Dechan Jueren: Good Evening, everyone!
Everyone: Good Evening!
Dechan Jueren: I believe it’s everyone’s wish to have good health, and also to have good luck. The question is, can one really achieve good health, and achieve good luck, through one’s own effort? This is the question that, for thousands of years, people have been pondering on. What you wish for, and what you think about, will become a reality, because it’s mind over matter. And what can you do to make that happen for yourself?
Regarding this question and inquiry, over 5,000 years ago in the East, people already began their research. Asian peoples realized that human life must face many things – such as birth and death, and they must face illnesses and growing old. They also realized in addition to that, a o suffers many disasters. And also, the natural environment will surprise them many times with disasters. So what can they do, in order to free themselves from all these problems? Free themselves from the suffering of having to die, growing old, illness, and having bad luck? Perhaps even change their natural environment, in order that they are able to adapt to their environment, that environment will no longer bring disasters on them. These are the problems, and these are still the problems.
The ancient people began their inquiry – they wanted to find the solution to the problems. They seek in different ways. They realized that through certain types of practice to work on themselves, they may be able to achieve that. But in the process of working on themselves and practicing different disciplines, they often reach a bottle neck, unable to go any further, to enter into a deeper, profounder state – the reason for that is that they are unable to transcend the ego. In order to go beyond the limitation of ego, you go higher and deeper experience. (?) Some of these practitioners tend to experiment with more extreme ways. The goal is still the focus on how to overcome the ego.
They realized, people have a lot of desire. Everyone is filled with desires…They would rather take advantage of others because of their desires. It would be a natural desire for them to prefer beating up others rather than being beaten up. They would prefer to torture others rather than to suffer the torture themselves.
So the experiment was, these practitioners would take extreme measures. They let others beat them up, for example. To give everything they have to others. And to go through the path of self-torturing, allowing poison snakes to bite them and to torture themselves with needles. Through this kind of experiment, and more – probably you can call it dumber – experiments, really something began to take place. Something began to change. Because the practitioners realized, when they suffered all these kinds of pain, it was natural for them to yell out. For example, if you suffer from pain, if you are surprised and suddenly feel some pain, you yell out. So the ancient practitioners, even though they willfully self-tortured themselves and allowed others to beat them up in order to conquer their ego, they will be ready for it (Unclear). Of course a couple of beatings are not going to hurt that much. Keep that up, anyone will begin to feel the pain, and will call out naturally!
What they realized was, this kind of yelling out was not going to make them feel less pain. But it does provide a certain kind of relief. Some of these practitioners learned this, or took this class (?) Until today, in India, there are still different kinds of Brahman sects that still follow this practice. With this kind of extreme method, it is possible to make the practitioner conquer the ego in order to enter a deeper meditative state. But there is also a problem with it – it is too painful. So they also realized, through this kind of howling, yelling out, they endured the pain, the sounding out of certain syllables was a certain relief to them. It could change their mind state.
For example, when we are really tired, sometimes we will stretch to relax, and we feel better. When you stretch your arms it is natural for some people to make certain sounds, and this makes even better relief. Everybody has this kind of experience. You do this all the time. But you are not aware of what is obviously happening. Voicing certain kinds of syllables gives you relief, and improves your circulation. Because people from different regions and different lifestyles speak different languages and different dialects, so they voice different types of sounds. These practitioners realized through different ways of pronouncing different sounds that they can affect a change in the condition of their body. That is how mantras came about, and gradually developed into a system of mantras. Most mantras, special Buddhist mantras, that’s how they originated. With their experiment, and the result, they realized that with all these imitated sound they can also achieve a state of mind, and also a sense of relief.
Then they experimented further, because in this system it is understood, for certain types of syllables you will need to chant a certain number of times. Or you need to say for how long. And they also realized, whether you make them out loud or just think about them in silence, it has a different effect. So they began to count how many times they had to say a certain mantra, by using their fingers to count. After a while, as they were counting how many time they were counting the mantra using their fingers, they also began to realize they were feeling certain sensations throughout their bodies. And this is the beginning of mudras.
Put the mantra and the mudra together, and quickly the practitioners will achieve a better condition in their bodies. They can change their bodies. If they have illness, they can make it healthy again. Then they accidentally fumbled on it. They realized, they now begin to use (unclear) all the sensory perceptions. They begin to see things ordinary people cannot see, and hear sounds ordinary people cannot hear. This gradually matured into the Mystery Schools of the Esoteric Dharma.
Esoteric Practice of the Mystery Schools actually was formed way before Buddhism, before Buddha Shakamuni, 1,300 years ago before Buddha Shakamuni. Shakamuni Buddha also learned from the Brahmans. Before he attained enlightenment, he studied with the Brahmans. Of course most people are aware, later he left the Brahman discipline, attained enlightenment, and founded Buddhism. But this kind of Esoteric practice was also adopted into the Buddhist practice. After Shakamuni’s time, Buddhism was mostly in India and Nepal. Around the 8th century, there were three great masters: Subhakarasimha, Vajrabodhi, and Amoghavajra. They came from India and Sri Lanka, and arrived in China. That was about the year of 720 to 760. A few years later, about 747, two other masters – the first one is called Sankarchitta, the second one is Padmasambhava – these two masters entered Tibet. So these are the five main masters – three went to China and two went to Tibet – that brought the Esoteric practice to those regions.
Around the 2nd century, when the Muslims invaded India, they killed most of the Buddhists – so Buddhism actually became extinct in India. Modern day Buddhists in India came from other places. Buddhism mainly now resides in China, and from China … (unclear) to Korea and Japan. Later, a few hundred years later, from China they also passed Buddhist teachings to the South-East Asian countries. It’s not just Thailand, Vietnam and Laos. Throughout the Northern Song Dynasty – we’re looking at roughly 800 to 1,000 years ago – that’s when Buddhism took a long route coming back to India and South-East Asian countries. The Northern ways of practice of Buddhism has a lot to do with China, historically.
Most Westerners today have to learn about Buddhism through the Tibetans, or learn about Tantra practice or Esoteric Dharma through the Tibetans. Here’s a perspective for you: why is the Westerner learning about Esoteric practice from Tibetan Buddhists? It is a Divine Design, or whatever you want to call it. Around the year 1958, Dalai Lama was forced to leave Tibet. On appearance, every one will say this is for political reasons, but it is Divine Design in another perspective. Only if Dalai Lama left Tibet, would the world begin to learn about Esoteric Buddhist practice. Later on, China re-established foreign relationship with the U.S. It is only in the recent past two decades. So China only opened up their country to the outside world for less than 30 years. Therefore most Westerners don’t really know much about China, know about the history of that country. They have not heard of the Chinese Esoteric Lineage.
What are the differences between the Tibetan Esoteric Buddhism and the Chinese Esoteric Lineage’s? There are differences between these two lineages. The Tibetan lineage – in that tradition, a seeker must first learn about open teachings, such as study of the sutras and philosophical discussions and debate before they will be allowed to pursue Esoteric practice. In other words, any practitioner in the Tibetan disciplines, they must first have decades of study in the books, understanding all the sutras, before they will begin to take their practice into the Esoteric Dharma. But in the Chinese lineage of Esoteric Buddhism, the case is different. All the practitioners for the masters in this lineage – every student will go right into the Esoteric practice, and skip the book learnings. They go directly to the most effective means of attaining achievement.
And there are so many other Buddhist schools in China, or from the Chinese lineage. There are many different Buddhist schools. But only the Esoteric school is most closely related to common folks, because they usually are commoners that you don’t notice who are the actual practitioners, unlike other schools where if you become a monk it is very clear who are the monks and who are not the monks. So with this lineage, these dharma teachings can lead a dharma practitioner quickly to change the condition of his body. Not only is he able to change his physical health, his body; he is also able to change his own destiny, change his luck.
Because the fact of the matter is, only when you have good health and you have good luck will you have the energy and the time to focus on the practice to attain enlightenment. If this person has nothing to eat, the first worry that will happen is how to survive. If he has this worry, he will not have the energy left to seek enlightenment. The Buddhist teaching advocates, first change yourself – change your own health, your own physical condition. In other words, the teaching advocates that only when one is able to change himself will he be able to change the conditions of his environment. Only then will there be the possibility to help others. Only when he is able to change himself will he be able to help others. In other words, only he who is truly able to help himself will have the ability to help others.
So if a person who cannot even help himself that wishes help others, has good intention and good heart to help others, it will never be a reality. It is only a wish. In the Esoteric path, the teaching says if you follow the instructions accordingly, and really make an effort, you will effect a change immediately. It will not take you years to get there. This kind of change is very clear. One can see it for themselves, or feel it for themselves.
Last time I came around October last year, and visited Amherst and the Boston area. Some of the people took the workshop back then. This time I met them again, and they are all changed. They are much healthier, and they are stronger, and they feel better. And it’s clear not only to themselves but to the people around them. So Esoteric practice is for real. If you follow the instructions and make your effort, stick to the practice, you will have your fruition.