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The Examination Of The Notion Of Self
The belief in immortality is based on the strong instinct of ...

The Law Of Balance In Life
It is also the case with human affairs. Social positions hig...

Introduction Of Zen Into China By Bodhidharma
An epoch-making event took place in the Buddhist history of C...

The Law Of Balance
Nature governs the world with her law of balance. She puts t...

The Errors Of Philosophical Pessimists And Religious Optimists
Philosophical pessimists maintain that there are on earth ma...

Life Consists In Conflict
Life consists in conflict. So long as man remains a social a...

Great Men And Nature
All great men, whether they be poets or scientists or religio...

The Parable Of The Robber Kih
Chwang Tsz (So-shi) remarks in a humorous way to the followin...

The Development Of The Southern And Of The Northern School Of Zen
After the death of the Fifth Patriarch the venerable Shang Si...

The Honest Poverty Of The Zen Monk And The Samurai
Secondly, the so-called honest poverty is a characteristic of...

The Resemblance Of The Zen Monk To The Samurai
Let us point out in brief the similarities between Zen and Ja...

The Mystery Of Life
Thus far we have pointed out the inevitable conflictions in l...

Origin Of Zen In India
To-day Zen as a living faith can be found in its pure form on...

Decline Of Zen
The blooming prosperity of Zen was over towards the end of th...

The Manliness Of The Zen Monk And Of The Samurai
Thirdly, both the Zen monk and the Samurai were distinguished...

The Buddha Of Mercy
Milton says: "Virtue may be assailed, but never hurt; Sur...

The Parable Of The Monk And The Stupid Woman
The confused or unenlightened may be compared with a monk and...

Enlightenment Is Beyond Description And Analysis
In the foregoing chapters we have had several occasions to re...

The Four Alternatives And The Five Categories
There are, according to Zen, the four classes of religious an...

The World Is In The Making
Our assertion is far from assuming that life is now complete,...

The Usual Explanation Of The Canon

An eminent Chinese Buddhist scholar, well known as Ten Dai Dai Shi
(A.D. 538-597), arranged the whole preachings of Shakya Muni in a
chronological order in accordance with his own religious theory, and
observed that there were the Five Periods in the career of the Buddha
as a religious teacher. He tried to explain away all the
discrepancies and contradictions, with which the Sacred Books are
encumbered, by arranging the Sutras in a line of development. His
elucidation was so minute and clear, and his metaphysical reasonings
so acute and captivating, that his opinion was universally accepted
as an historical truth, not merely by the Chinese, but also by the
Japanese Mahayanists. We shall briefly state here the so-called Five

Shakya Muni attained to Buddhaship in his thirtieth year, and sat
motionless for seven days under the Bodhi tree, absorbed in deep
meditation, enjoying the first bliss of his Enlightenment. In the
second week he preached his Dharma to the innumerable multitude of
Bodhisattvas, celestial beings, and deities in the nine
assemblies held at seven different places. This is the origin of a
famous Mahayana book entitled Buddhavatamsaka-mahavaipulya-sutra. In
this book the Buddha set forth his profound Law just as it was
discovered by his highly Enlightened mind, without considering the
mental states of his hearers. Consequently the ordinary hearers (or
the Buddha's immediate disciples) could not understand the doctrine,
and sat stupefied as if they were 'deaf and dumb,' while the great
Bodhisattvas fully understood and realized the doctrine. This is
called the first period, which lasted only two or three weeks.

Bodhisattva is an imaginary personage, or ideal saint,
superior to Arhat, or the highest saint of Hinayanism. The term
'Bodhisattva' was first applied to the Buddha before his
Enlightenment, and afterwards was adopted by Mahayanists to mean the
adherent of Mahayanism in contradistinction with the Cravaka or
hearers of Hinayanism.

Bodhiruci says to the effect that the preachings in the
first five assemblies were made in the first week, and the rest were
delivered in the second week. Nagarjuna says that the Buddha spoke
no word for fifty-seven days after his Enlightenment. It is said in
Saddharma-pundarika-sutra that after three weeks the Buddha preached
at Varanasi, and it says nothing respecting Avatamsaka-sutra. Though
there are divers opinions about the Buddha's first sermon and its
date, all traditions agree in this that he spent some time in
meditation, and then delivered the first sermon to the five ascetics
at Varanasi.

Thereupon Shakya Muni, having discovered that ordinary bearers were
too ignorant to believe in the Mahayana doctrine and appreciate the
greatness of Buddhahood, thought it necessary to modify his teaching
so as to adjust it to the capacity of ordinary people. So he went to
Varanasi (or Benares) and preached his modified doctrine--that is,
Hinayanism. The instruction given at that time has been handed down
to us as the four Agamas, or the four Nikayas. This is
called the second period, which lasted about twelve years. It was at
the beginning of this period that the Buddha converted the five
ascetics, who became his disciples. Most of the Ēravakas or
the adherents of Hinayanism were converted during this period. They
trained their hearts in accordance with the modified Law, learned the
four noble truths, and worked out their own salvation.

(1) Anguttara, (2) Majjhima, (3) Digha, (4) Samyutta.

Kondanynya, Vappa, Baddiya, Mahanana, Assaji.

The first is the sacred truth of suffering; the second the
truth of the origin of suffering--that is, lust and desire; the third
the sacred truth of the extinction of suffering; the fourth the
sacred truth of the path that leads to the extinction of suffering.
There are eight noble paths that lead to the extinction of
suffering--that is, Right faith, Right resolve, Right speech, Right
action, Right living, Right effort, Right thought, and Right

The Buddha then having found his disciples firmly adhering to
Hinayanism without knowing that it was a modified and imperfect
doctrine, he had to lead them up to a higher and perfect doctrine
that he might lead them up to Buddhahood. With this object in view
Shakya Muni preached Vimalakirtti-nirdeca-sutra,
Lankavatara-sutra, and other sutras, in which he compared Hinayanism
with Mahayanism, and described the latter in glowing terms as a deep
and perfect Law, whilst he set forth the former at naught as a
superficial and imperfect one. Thus he showed his disciples the
inferiority of Hinayanism, and caused them to desire for Mahayanism.
This is said to be the third period, which lasted some eight years.

This is one of the most noted Mahayana books, and is said
to be the best specimen of the sutras belonging to this period. It
is in this sutra that most of Shakya's eminent disciples, known as
the adherents of Hinayanism, are astonished with the profound wisdom,
the eloquent speech, and the supernatural power of Vimalakirtti, a
Bodhisattva, and confess the inferiority of their faith. The author
frequently introduces episodes in order to condemn Hinayanism, making
use of miracles of his own invention.

The disciples of the Buddha now understood that Mahayanism was far
superior to Hinayanism, but they thought the higher doctrine was only
for Bodhisattvas and beyond their understanding. Therefore they
still adhered to the modified doctrine, though they did no longer
decry Mahayanism, which they had no mind to practise. Upon this
Shakya Muni preached Prajnyaparamita-sutras in the sixteen
assemblies held at four different places, and taught them Mahayanism
in detail in order to cause them to believe it and practise it. Thus
they became aware that there was no definite demarcation between
Mahayanism and Hinayanism, and that they might become Mahayanists.
This is the fourth period, which lasted about twenty-two years.
Now, the Buddha, aged seventy-two, thought it was high time to preach
his long-cherished doctrine that all sentient beings can attain to
Supreme Enlightenment; so he preached Saddharma-pundarika-sutra, in
which he prophesied when and where his disciples should become
Buddhas. It was his greatest object to cause all sentient beings to
be Enlightened and enable them to enjoy the bliss of Nirvana. It was
for this that he had endured great pain and hardships through his
previous existences. It was for this that he had left his heavenly
abode to appear on earth. It was for this that he had preached from
time to time through his long career of forty-seven years. Having
thus realized his great aim, Shakya Muni had now to prepare for his
final departure, and preached Mahaparinirvana-sutra in order to show
that all the animated and inanimate things were endowed with the same
nature as his. After this last instruction he passed to eternity.
This is called the fifth period, which lasted some eight years.

Nagarjuna's doctrine depends mainly on these sutras.

These five periods above mentioned can scarcely be called historical
in the proper sense of the term, yet they are ingeniously invented by
Ten Dai Dai Shi to set the Buddhist Scriptures in the order of
doctrinal development, and place Saddharma-pundarika in the highest
rank among the Mahayana books. His argument, however dogmatic and
anti-historical in no small degree, would be not a little valuable
for our reader, who wants to know the general phase of the Buddhist
Canon, consisting of thousands of fascicles.

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