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[New Book] Muddy Buddha

DURATION: 2022-10-29 ~ 2022-11-29
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The title “Buddha” is borrowed from Pali Buddho and abbreviated as Hu̍t in Southern Min in Tang Dynasty. Briefly speaking, the title represents “the awakened one,” who thoroughly comprehends the suffering of all sentient beings and achieves ultimate happiness through Prajna (wisdom). Therefore, “Buddha” is not a “deity” but the awakened one who comprehends the great doctrine of Tathāgata (meaning “one who has thus come” in Pali), and is called by “World Honored One,” “the Correctly Enlightened,” “the Knower of the Secular World,” “the Tamer,” in the ten epithets. Buddhas of the past, present, and future come to the secular world to preach because of the concatenation of cause and effect. They are self-awakened and enlightening others, saving sentient beings from the painful obstruction. However, Prince Siddhartha Gautama, who had enjoyed all the glory and wealth in the secular world, gave up the opportunity to become a Chakravarti (wheel-turning sacred king) and practiced Tapas (meaning a variety of austere practice in Sanskrit) in the Himalayas six years. What exactly did he comprehend? There is no terminal point of the reincarnation of the six paths; is it possible to liberate all the sentient beings?

Buddha has attained enlightenment through practicing Dhutanga austerities. Before Shakyamuni attained “Annutara-samyak-sambodhi” (supreme correct enlightenment) under the Bodhi tree more than 2,500 years ago, the demon Mara sent his three daughters, identified as thirst, aversion, and desire, to tempt the World Honored One. However, when the demon found Shakyamuni remained unmoved, he sent out thousands of devil troops to threaten him; however, those shooting arrows from the troop became flowers scattered in the sky. At this point, if one was tempted to commit adultery and to become arrogant, they might fall into the path of demons, which is the so-called “state possessed by a demon”—being obstructed by great delusion without any awareness. In such a situation, one is not only unable to break free from the attachment to their ego but is also restricted by the notion of element constructs and sheer external appearance. Furthermore, they cannot comprehend the nature of the void and even cling to the dichotomy of emptiness and existence and fall into the fallacy of the view that the individual has an unchanging self and the concept that one’s consciousness ceases upon death. With such a mindset, there is no difference between an evil deed and a good deed, and one can be reborn as a human being again. On the other hand, what is the difference between them and animals if one is without shame, remorse, and esteem and is even unfeeling, lustful, and lascivious?

Minds are delicate and subtle, and all human behavior and actions come from the mind. Therefore, Mahayana Buddhism summarizes the “conditioned existence” into the “eight consciousness” (including eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mental consciousness, the deluded awareness, and the appropriating consciousness), fifty-one “mental factors” (the five pervasive functions, the five sperate realms, the eleven goodness, the six primary afflictions, the twenty secondary afflictions, and the four indeterminate dharmas). Among which, desire, enmity, ignorance, pride, doubt, and false views are the six primary afflictions. The twenty “secondary afflictions” refer to anger, enmity, vexation, concealing, deceit, flattery, haughtiness, harming, jealousy, stinginess, unscrupulousness, shamelessness, faithlessness, sloth, indolence, depression, flightiness, forgetting, incorrect knowledge, and scattering, are commonly committed by the general public. However, there are twenty-four kinds of “elements unassociated with the mind,” including acquisition, life force, human commonality, nature of unenlightened sentient being, the concentration of non-conceptualization, the concentration of extinction, result of non-conceptualization, a group of names, a group of sentences, a group of text, birth, agedness, abiding, impermanence, transmigration, concomitance, rapid changes, sequence, direction, time, number, completeness, and incompleteness. And the eleven forms comprise eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, form, sound, odor, taste, and touch. In total, they form ninety-four “conditioned existence,” referring to the dharma that appears, changes, and disappears in response to the development of cause and effect. As to the six “unconditioned existence,” which is everything not subject to the principle of cause and effect, including tranquility of unconditional space, the tranquility of the unconditional and selected, the tranquility of the unconditional and unselected, the undisturbedness of unconditional space, non-sensation and non-thought of unconditional space, suchness of unconditional space.

When Buddha entered the ultimate state of soteriological release (the great Nirvana), he instructed Ananda to abide by the four “foundations of mindfulness” (to consider the body as impure and utterly filthy, to consider the sensation as always resulting in suffering, to consider the mind as being dependent and without nature, and consider things as impermanent). The preceptor (here, the author refers to the “ten good deeds,” including not to kill, not to steal, to avoid sexual misconduct, not to lie, abstention from slanderous speech, abstention from harsh speech, abstention from idle talk, non-greed, non-hatred, and right views) will be his guide, and he should always follow the dharmas instead of dharma masters. One should ever cling to “illusion” (or the nature of emptiness), let alone the human-made wooden or stone sculpture. Therefore, five or six centuries after the Nirvana of Shakyamuni Buddha, there were no statues of him to be worshipped. Still, the Buddha was only symbolically commemorated in pagodas and temples (as dharmachakra, ornaments, bodhi trees, pedestals, and niches). It was not until the 1st to the 5th century, when Gandhara (in present-day Pakistan and Afghanistan) and Mathurā (north-central India) became the center of the Kushan Empire, that the thirty-two marks of the Buddha and the eighty secondary characteristics were gradually developed. The Buddha’s statue was then made, and the believers could worship the statues, and Buddhism entered a period of divinization. Over the past two millennia, Theravada, Tibetan Buddhism, Han Buddhism, and Esoteric Buddhism have all developed a systematic and elaborate collection of Buddhist statues and sophisticated rituals, showing the profound depths of Buddhist art.
However, society is gradually deteriorating, and many religious groups are practicing individual worship and accumulating wealth by unfair means under the pretext of charity—many people claim to be living Buddhas and make false speeches. When one enters the realm of devils (Muddy), it is like falling into a trap where one cannot discern the world’s true nature. In the name of Buddha, they develop a cult of personality and showed people their supernatural power. When one’s “five aggregates” (matter of form, sensation, recognition, mental formation, and consciousness) are covered, they fall into the endless pursuit of power, desire, wealth, and appearance, being far beyond the reach of the ultimate release, freedom from all obstacles and worries, and the ultimate emptiness. A moment of thought will last for a long time. The Western Pure Land of the Ultimate Bliss and Avici are determined and demonstrated by our thoughts. If all human beings eventually become ghosts and spirits, then what is death exactly? How can one escape from the “three realms” (the realm of sensual desire, the realm of form, and the formless realm of pure spirits)?

As a grumpy middle-aged artist with no significant strength and power, I also get lost in the pandemic over the past two years. However, I have been trying to reflect on the “every form is an illusion” thinking in Śūraṅgama Sūtra through monochrome photography I have done over the past ten years. Rather than naming this collection “an illustration book of caution,” perhaps people need more of an enlightening “devil-destroying mantra”!