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The Universal "Trinity" in the Christian and Buddhist Templates of Enlightenment
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The Universal "Trinity" in the Christian and Buddhist Templates of Enlightenment (24 min.) MP3
Transcript of a talk delivered by Brother ChiSing
February 16, 2014 - Dallas, Texas

I would like to share a couple of things with you, and they have to do with the teaching of the Trinity in both Christianity and Buddhism. Instead of looking at the Trinity and the usual way, which is usually very philosophical abstraction and abstruse doctrine, I would like to offer to you because of our mindfulness practice that when we shine the light of mindfulness on religious traditions, we actually uncover the deeper essential core meanings more easily.

So that is what's happened with me for many, many years when I read a scripture or listen to a teaching. Because of my mindfulness practice, suddenly I have an a-ha moment. Here is another meaning. Here is a deeper, essential core truth that may be hidden there. So that has actually happened with me also and looking at different teachings and different traditions. So tonight, just as specifically, these 2 traditions of Christianity and Buddhism, the number 3 is a prominent number. Of course also in the Chinese traditions of Taoism and Confucianism, they also teach the Trinity: heaven, humanity, and earth, which we practice a little bit of tonight and the meditations.

So instead of this abstract philosophy of the Trinity, let's look at it from the point of view of our spiritual practice. Let's look at it as a template of our spiritual journey. Let's look at it as an overall plan about enlightenment or salvation, whichever word you like to use. So when we encounter the teachings in Christianity, we first encounter the figure of Jesus, and we become attracted to him because he is so full of the awakened consciousness. He has fully awakened to the Christ consciousness, the consciousness of his own connection to the divine into the infinite. So when anyone in the planet awakens to that consciousness, whatever they call it—Buddha nature, Christ consciousness, whatever you want to call it—they become attractive and in attracting force in the world. So Jesus was one example of someone who is a very attracting spiritual person.

So as we become attracted to him, we want to know what his secret is. What is it that he did to awaken, and what is he doing to continually shine this beautiful light and radiance? We want what he has. We want to follow his way. Unfortunately, through the centuries of time, instead of being attracted to Jesus to go on to the next step, we get stuck at this first part of the Trinity. Instead of following Jesus to go toward something beyond Jesus, we get stuck at the level of the human Jesus and we start to worship Jesus rather than follow Jesus, and we've start to practice Christendom rather than Christianity. Let me tell you Christendom is really dumb, but true Christianity is to follow Jesus, not to worship Jesus. Christendom worship Jesus but doesn't do a very good job of following Jesus many times.

And instead of a true God realization, we then fall into the trap of Jesus idolatry, turning Jesus into an idol, rather than as our brother and way shower toward God realization. But in true Christianity and true Christian practice, we always follow Jesus to go toward what Jesus is pointing to, which is a realization of the divine in ourselves and in all. That is the whole point of following Jesus, to awaken to that divine consciousness that is the full realization of the divine in, through, and as me and in, through, and as all. That is the real point. So we have a son and a daughter and the word, the divine child, and then the father or mother, source, creator, however you want to name that. That is part of the Trinity. In true spiritual practice, we always get attracted to someone who shows us the way, but we follow that way beyond that person to God realization. We don't get stuck. We have to keep going. Otherwise we are not following. You see?

But be careful. This is only one half of the equation of true enlightenment. This first half is wonderful, but it is not complete, because realizing our non-dual nature is wonderful and our oneness with the divine is awesome, and to experience that fully in the human experience is full of bliss and joy and heart opening, and you lose the sense of separate self. You are one with the whole universe. That is great. But that is not the complete picture. True enlightenment is to go beyond the non-dual and apply it in real, down-to-earth life. So yes, we have mountaintop experiences, but we also come down and shine the light and share with others and be of service in the world.

So, true non-duality is not just about bliss but also taking place and infusing everything in our lives, our thoughts, our actions, our words, our relationships, our jobs, our careers, the way we drive on the highway, everything is then infused with this oneness and this realization. And that in Christianity is called in this context the Holy Spirit, who empowers us, Christs us, anoints us, to gift us with the power to serve and to heal and to love and to build up the kingdom of heaven on earth. You see? Real Christianity is not about dying and going into heaven. Real Christianity is bringing heaven down to earth.

So, part 1 of enlightenment is to go from the human to the divine realization, but part 2 is to take that divine realization and infuse the human and the earthly and the physical with the divine light that you have awakened to and share it and to build up the kingdom of heaven on earth. That is the full picture of enlightenment, part 1 and part 2.

You know, the word Christ means anointed, but we have made it so fancy this word, like a king crowned with anointing and has now become rewarded to be recognized as the sovereign. That is not what the word Christ really means. Christ means anointed, meaning that you are anointed for a purpose. You are anointed to serve. You are anointed to do a job, a leader, to share, whatever, anointed as a priest, a king, a prophet, whatever you are anointed to do. So really, the word Christ implies not sovereignty but servanthood, and that is what we are all called to be in Christ, to follow the Jesus who became the Christ and also for all of us to become Christs. That is the point of following Jesus, not so he is the one and only Christ, but that he is been the elder brother of many brothers and sisters, as it says in the book of Hebrews. You see? Even though there is only one Christ reality, Christ consciousness, Jesus is not the only one who embodies that. All of us are expressions of that one body of Christ are meant to embody the Christ consciousness. So that is true Christianity, not dumb Christendom.

Now in Buddhism, we have the exact same template. It is so beautiful to see the Trinity in all traditions. Actually, because Buddhism grew up in the context of India at first, it has a lot of Indian influence in some forms of Buddhism. So because Indian spirituality is so vast and rich and full of lots and lots of ways of expression of the divine, so also certain aspects of Buddhism also inherited some of this. There is not actually one way of defining the Trinity in Buddhism, but I will share one particular way that is meaningful for me. But there are many, many ways to look at the Trinity in Buddhism.

So one way is to look at this beautiful being who awakened to his true nature, Siddhartha Gautama, the Shakyamuni Buddha. And so because he became in attracting force in the world, many thousands of people followed his way and listened to his teachings and awakened the step-by-step to their true nature. But over the centuries of time, many practitioners started to get really caught up trying to follow Buddha's teachings by the book only and started to have this conservative tendency and orthodox tendency to just rigidly hold to their understanding of the teachings. However, that is not very life producing, and it is not realistic because truth and awareness of truth always grows.

As human minds evolved through time, our ability to understand grows also, and so we need to always be open the freshness in understandings of truth. That is why a few centuries later the Mahayana movement started, which is a lot more open this idea of freshness of wisdom. In other words, the Mahayana tradition does not just to see the historical Buddha as the only Buddha because true Buddhaness is universal. It is cosmic, and so there are many, many Buddhas in the universe in many different realms of reality, and ultimately there is the ultimate Buddha, the infinite Buddha that has many different names. Some people call it the mother of all Buddhas, Prajnaparamita. Others call it Vairochana Buddha, the cosmic source Buddha, from which all other Buddhas are really manifestations of that source.

And we are all actually manifestations and emanations about 1 Buddha nature called Vairochana. But another way of naming that is Amitabha, and of course Amitabha has many different levels of meaning in different contexts. In one context, he is just one of many Buddhas, but in another tradition of looking at this, Amitabha, like any Buddha, the true essence of Amitabha then is lifted and seen as actually a symbol of ultimate, infinite source Buddha, like Vairochana. So really, Amitabha is simply another name for Vairochana Buddha.

And this is one thing about Buddhism that I like. You can take any Buddha or bodhisattva, practice with that path, and ultimately you realize that the core of who they are is ultimate Buddha. So for you, maybe Kuan Yin is your starting point, and ultimately Kuan Yin then becomes infinite mother of all Buddhas, or you may practice with Amitabha Buddha. You just think of Amitabha as one Buddha among many, but when you keep practicing over many years, you realize that the true core essence of Amitabha Buddha is just one Buddha among many, but is a pathway into the infinite source of all Buddhas.

So any Buddha can become your ultimate Buddha through the practice, because there is no separation. Do you think that there is a separation between all the Buddhas? No. You can just choose any Buddha you like, and I can be the doorway to all Buddhas, right? This is also teaching in Hinduism. There is really only one God in Hinduism, but the one God has many, many different forms of expression, many different gods and goddesses are manifestations and emanations and aspects and qualities of the one, true God of nature. So you can just choose to be devoted to any one particular deity, like Krishna, and through that devotion you touch the core of all that the gods and goddesses true nature, which is the one true divine nature. Do you see what I'm saying?

In the same way, you can do the same thing with Jesus. Jesus can be your primary path of devotion, and when you practice with The Jesus Way, Jesus lead to the Christ consciousness, meaning God realization, and it is through Jesus that you realize that the one God. You see? But of course, some Christians because of their enthusiasm for Jesus—you know, religious language is poetic language. It is romantic language. Don't take it so literally. When we say, "Jesus is the only way," that is like someone saying to their partner, the beloved, "You are the only one. You're the most beautiful woman in the whole world." Well on a literal level, I can't possibly be true. But on a heart level, it is true. Right? So yes. You can love Jesus. You can let Krishna. You can love Buddha. You can love whatever pathway leads to this true pathway, but just don't take it too literally. Okay? Just know that it is simply a romantic, poetic expression of your experience.

To me, Buddhism ought to lead us to experiencing not just the historical Buddha's teachings, but to experience Buddha nature and the source of all Buddhas. You can name that Amitabha or some other Buddha name, but this is the most popular one, so that is the one I have chosen. I always go with the popular crowd. So Amitabha then becomes the word that becomes then the way to point to ultimate reality, and as I practice with, that is what is experienced.

And so because of this Mahayana attitude of always be open to new and fresh revelations from infinite Buddha teacher and not just limited to what the historical Buddha said, then we have many, many wonderful sutras that were then formulated based upon practitioners' insights. We had the Diamond Sutra and the Heart Sutra, the Prajnaparamita Sutra, the Flower Garden Sutra, the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, the Amitabha Sutras, and many, many other beautiful sutras, teaching that were not in contradiction to the historical Buddha's teachings, but were an expansion and an intensification of a greater realization of the wisdom of the teachings of the Buddha.

And so then a few hundred years after that, we had another development in Buddhism that led to what might be called the 3rd turning of the wheel of Buddha Dharma, and one expression of this is Vajrayana Buddhism in Tibet, but they are not the only ones who express this 3rd turning of the wheel. They just think they are, but everyone thinks they are. The Nichiren Buddhists think they are. The Pure Land Buddhists think they are. The Soto Zen Buddhists think they are, but really they all are. They all are these expressions of further refinement of the way of the Buddha.

So, one particular Buddha that started to arise in people's visions in meditations was the Medicine Buddha of healing. So I would like to share about him—him, her, it, they. Because it is not limited to one person. These are archetypal realities. They transcend the form and limitation. These are archetypal realities. So Bhaisajyaguru Buddha I believe is a nice embodiment of this 3rd turning of the wheel to remind us that we are not just trying to become one with the infinite light and love and life and just go to the Pure Land and just bliss out there.

This is the difference between the teaching of heaven and Pure Land. The teaching of heaven usually means you stay there and play harp throughout all eternity. The teaching of the Pure Land is you get enlightened in the Pure Land. You get trained by the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, and then you get to come back to whatever place is needed for you to share the Dharma. You see? It is just simply a stop on your path to then come back to this Earth or to any other realms of suffering and share the light. Isn't that a beautiful metaphor?

So, this is another template to remind us that we don't just want to become enlightened for the bliss and just go to the Pure Land and experience the beauty there, but we want to be trained to come back and as many skillful ways as possible to help many beings in many different ways. So Bhaisajyaguru Buddha, for example, made 12 vows to help shelter those who don't have homes, defeated those who are hungry, to give water to those who are thirsty, to give clothing to those who do not have clothes, to just do all these different things to help beings. And this is really 12 vows, you don't want to take them to literally either because they are just simply a template for your 12 vows because really ultimately, you are called to be Medicine Buddha. You are called to be a healing channel of infinite love and light in this world and in all worlds that you are expressing in.

So ultimately Bhaisajyaguru Buddha is who we are, at least in potential. As we cultivate our 12 vows—ask yourself what are your 12 vows. What are your 12 essential, core intentions? And see if those core 12 intentions actually serve others, or are they only about the self, the ego? Be sure to meditate on that. Make sure your core intentions have something to do with your true profession, which is to be a Buddha. That is your real career. Did you know that? Yes. Hi Buddhas. You are all Buddhas in the making, and this is just another template just like the Christ template. Same thing, same reality, same truth, but just a different way of looking at it. Remember to follow the teachings of the historical Buddha, but allow that to awaken you to your own true Buddha nature and then express that in many healing skillful ways in the world.

So that is one example of how mindfulness practice sheds light on the teachings of religious traditions. That is just one small example. I have so many other examples of how mindfulness active has helped me to understand and see a different angle on the ancient teachings. But you don't have to take anything I said as literal truth. That is just my understanding that it helped me transform my life and to encourage me to follow the spiritual path, part 1 and 2 of enlightenment, the whole shebang. But you also can gain insight through your practice as well.

See, there is not just one being in this room, even though we are all really manifestations of the one beingness. There's really only one Being, capital B, but that one Being, capital B, is expressed in, through, and as all these lowercase Bs. We are all simply cells in the one body of Buddha, the one body of Christ, and we are all very important because we each uniquely express that Buddha nature, the Christ consciousness, in our unique way. So you don't have to compare yourself to Shakyamuni Buddha. You don't have to compare yourself to Jesus the Christ. You have your own unique way of being the awakened one, the anointed one. So stop comparing yourself to others. No one else is supposed to be like you anyway. Only you get to be your crazy self. So enjoy it. Relish it. Celebrate it.

I bow to all of you beautiful baby Buddhas.

Now stop crying and whining and go do something!

Amitabha.

Transcribed by Jessica Hitch