FEATURES|THEMES|Philosophy and Buddhist Studies

‘The Importance of Reliable Authority and Guidance’: A Buddhist Response (1)

By Buddhistdoor Wong Weng Hon
Buddhistdoor Global | 2011-02-07 |
Novitiate program at Wang Fat Ching She.Novitiate program at Wang Fat Ching She.
Mariusz Popieluch wrote a second unveiling article on the philosophy of life pertaining to ‘Authority and Guidance’. His philosophical thought resonates with what I have been presenting through Buddhistdoor. We must respect authority and guidance of the Buddhist Scriptures, as well as empirical engagement and verification principles espoused by Sakyamuni Buddha. A Scripture is a spiritual map that guides mankind on the Right Path to liberative Truth. Truth is pragmatic as it is related with wisdom and virtue. Wisdom and virtue are sources of Sukha or Eudaimonie. Experiencing Sukha or Eudaimonie, Man returns to his intrinsic wisdom and virtue of the culture of Awakening or Mindfulness.
The spiritual map shows us not only the Right Path but also the Straight Path. The Straight Path averts derailment. Derailment means drifting from the Truth. When the wise respond to the Truth, the scripture and the wise become one. Scripture can also be utilized to regulate and monitor the spiritual journey so that the sequential and progressive spiritual stations are arrived at. The spiritual accomplishments are also to be confirmed by reliance on Scripture. Knowledge, practice and fruits must be evaluated upon by the spiritual map of scripture and guidance to verify actual spiritual accomplishments.
Reliable Sources
The Buddhist Scriptures inform that no Buddhist yogi can reach the higher jhanas before traversing the basic jhanas. No Buddhist yogi can arrive at the attainment of cessation without passing through the station of neither perception nor non-perception. No Buddhist yogi can develop right thought without acquiring right view of Non-duality. No yogi can practise right speech, right actions and right livelihood without having developed right thought determined by right view. Devoid of right thought, right efforts are defiled. Defiled efforts negate right mindfulness. The negation of right mindfulness eliminates right concentration. Without executing the four establishments of mindfulness, no one can reach and taste the Sukha of Nirvana.
Sakyamuni Buddha tells us the inner Heart as one’s own resort: an island of refuge of every sentient human being (Mahaparinibbana Sutta). The opening up of the inner Heart is the final reliable authority and guidance. No authority is higher than the inner Heart according to the Kalama Sutta. The inner Heart is the Buddha-mind by which the Lord or Truth is known. Direct spiritual awareness of the supreme treasure of the inner Heart is of paramount importance soteriologically. The Scripture is the verified Truth empirically experienced and verifie  by Sakyamuni Buddha and all Tathagatas. Every Tathagata is a reliable authority and guidance.
Growth precedes accomplishment
Sakyamuni Buddha espouses that gradual self-cultivation precedes sudden Self-Awakening or Gnosis. Morality-Concentration precedes Wisdom. Mariusz depicts it in his article thus: A gradual and systematic process is involved in order to attain a level of mastery in any field of human activity (art, science and anything else). Any great experienced achiever with experiences of dire adversities will corroborate this proposition. Every accomplishment is the outcome of dependently originated, contingent conditions invigorated by highly challenging frustrations. Accomplishment is the creative outcome of determinate Emptiness (Sunyata).
Dependent Origination
Mariusz also quoted Isaac Newton, a natural philosopher and Theologian. Isaac Newton said, “Gradual growth is an extension of pre-existing accomplishments. Previous accomplishments lead to a lifetime of a great body of accomplishments. Such philosophical propositions do not differ from the Buddhist theme of Dependent Origination. The body of present outcomes or achievements is dependently co-arisen from previous contingent conditions. British Process Philosopher Whitehead describes this causal nexus as the integration of previous actual entities (conditioned phenomena) with the present actual entities. The present entities will integrate with the future actual entities to set off the creative advance of the world. The creative advance is powered by Dependent origination of unity of contingent conditions.
Mariusz has opined that the adept experiences of an expert who has travelled ahead of us in any field of endeavour should be respected and emulated as a reliable source of authority and guidance. The voice of authority is trustworthy reliance. The Voice of a Gnostic is reliable in authority and guidance. The instruction of a Gnostic is an authentic guide for trainee yogi to actualize progressive attainments.  Paradoxically, Sakyamuni Buddha even rejected the Scripture as authority from the intuitive perspective and not from the conventional perspective (Kalama Sutta).
The beyond-scripture approach of Chan tradition should be similarly understood. Chan Wisdom reveals to us that intellect of duality is a big obstacle to enlightenment of the intuition of Non-duality. But after enlightenment of intuitive penetration into Non-duality, intellect is tolerated to preserve the middle path of Unity of duality and Non-duality. Paradoxically, this Unity of the Paradoxes is the highest knowledge by which the consummated Nature of the world (Yogacara’s Parinispanna-svabhava) is insightfully intuited.
Intellect and Intuition
Therefore, the Scripture can be the Buddhists’ guidance for only an intellectual comprehension of the Sadhamma but not intuition. Intuitive wisdom is arisen from the unceasing training of tranquility and insight meditation until breakthrough of insight is experienced. Intellectual learning is preparation for intuitive discernment in meditation. The intuitive discernment of the Sadharma must originate from one’s own direct empirical experience paved by intellectual knowledge. The Buddhist Path is comprised of faith, understanding, practice and self-realization. Faith, understanding and practice are based on Scripture. They are still in the domain of judgmental reasoning. But self-realization is direct empirical experience and verification. It is the domain of intuitive wisdom of non-judgmental reasoning.
May I repeat that Buddhism emphasizes the scientific approach of logical positivism. The Buddha said, “Ehipasiko…”. Ehipasiko means “Come and see” to experience the Dharma yourself and do not rely on tradition, information and authority! Before Self-Awakening, the Word of authority of an expert, such as a Tathagata, is useful guidance anyway. Nevertheless, direct human experience is critically decisive for final verification of Gnosis. Metaphorically put, any doctor without any practical experience is not allowed to practice in private business. Likewise, a Dharma preacher should be experienced esoterically before he or she preaches about Insight. An insightless talk on Insight talk is not effective enough to evoke the arising of the Dharma eye in others.
Shoulders of Giants
Mariusz again described the reliability of scripture and guidance convincingly. A junior would definitely move up more rapidly when he could stand on the shoulders of giants (experts in various fields of endeavour). The giants are the sages or saints who are seniors.  Therefore, the archetype of a sage or saint should be venerated as the philosophy of life. A sage or saint is not instantaneously created. It is gradually and systematically nurtured and produced. An instantaneously Enlightened Chan Master was not really suddenly Enlightened. He had already participated in the development and self-cultivation for countless previous lives before he attained Sudden Enlightenment in this present life. 

Please support our work
    Share your thoughts:
    Reply to:
    Name: *
    Content: *
    Captcha: *
    Back to Top