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Understanding Hua Yen Sect (Part 3/4) Buddhism

“Li” and “Shih”

In Hua-Yen’s teaching, it is used to interpret all dharmas in two different ways: One is “Li”. [理] and the other one is “Shih” [事], these are two important words in the vocabulary of this sect.

“Li” is translated from a Chinese word, which means “principle” and “law”. It refers to Absolute, Noumenon, Seekness, Self-Nature, Buddha-Mind, Universal Truth, Abstract etc.

“Shih” is translated from a Chinese word, which means “matter” and “event”. It refers to phenomenon, form and matter, functions, the special and concrete things and ideas, etc.

It is also important to note that “Li” and “Shih” are not dualities because they exist at the same time. It means that every event or matter in the phenomenal world represents the Noumenon completely and perfectly. That is why it always says “the one is the all and the all is in the one”.

Relationship between “Li” and “Shih”

The relationship between “Li” and “Shih” is explained in detail by Master Tu-shun [杜順] in his letterMeditation on the Dharmadhatu“.

  1. The principle that “Li” must include “Shih”
  2. The principle that “Shih” must include “Li”
  3. The production of “Shih” must be based on “Li”.
  4. “Li” is represented by “Shih”.
  5. The “Shih” is canceled by “Li”.
  6. “Shih” can hide the “Li”.
  7. The real “Li” is “Shih” itself.
  8. Matters and events themselves are “Li”.
  9. The real “Li” is not “Shih”.
  10. Matters and events are not “Li”.

The four dharmadhatu

The teaching of Hua-Yen is based on the theory of causation by the universal principle or is called Dharmadhatu in Sanskrit, i.e. H. Dharma realm [法界].

For the two aspects of all dharmas, both “Li” and “Shih” are interpenetrated and all phenomena are mutually identified. All phenomena are manifestations of Noumenon, and every single phenomenon includes every other phenomenon. Thus the four Dharmadhatu are identified.

  1. The Dharmadhatu from Shih [事法界]- This is a range of phenomena in which all things appear as different, discrete and different objects, matter, events and dharmas in the empirical worlds.
  2. The Dharmadhatu from “Li” [理法界]- This is an area in which the principles that underlie all phenomena are seen and the inherent reality that sustains all dharmas. It is an area beyond human perception, but can be made visible to the enlightened by intuition.
  3. The Dharmadhatu of non-disability of “Li” against “Shih” [理事無礙法界]- This is an area where “Li” and “Shih” are considered an inseparable unit. That is, without one, the other would be meaningless. They penetrate each other and are completely identical, i. H. You are not dual. The relationship between “Li” and “Shih” was discussed in Section 67.2. It corresponds to the principle of the non-hindrance of “Li” against “Shih”.
  4. The Dharmadhatu of Shih’s non-obstruction against Shih [事事無礙法界]- This is the ultimate and only dharmadhatu that really exists, as the first three dharmadhatu are merely explanatory tools to approach this area. In this area, every single Shih enters and merges with all other Shih with complete freedom, without the help of Li.

Four types of dependent emergence

In Buddhism it is the universal truth that everything arises from conditions and has no independent nature. According to the Hua-Yen doctrine, there are four types that result from conditional causation.

  1. Arises from karmic influence [業感緣起]- that set out by Hinayana. The conditions of reincarnation arise under the influence of karma.
  2. Arises from the Alaya consciousness [阿賴那緣起]- that of the primitive Mahayana such as the Fa-hsiang sect or Yogacara. Everything arises from the Alaya consciousness.
  3. Out of true search / Tathagata-Garbha [真如緣起]- that explained the advanced Mahayana. Everything arises from True Seekness or Tathagata Garbha.
  4. From Dharmadhatu [法界緣起]- that explained the entire Mahayana, like the Hua Yen sect. All things arise simultaneously without mutual hindrance.

The three aspects of Dharmadhatu

According to the teachings of Dharmadhatu, the founder of the Hua Yen sect, Tu-shun [杜順]established the three positions of Dharmadhatu [法界三觀]::

  1. The view of true emptiness and the absolute sign [真空絕相觀]- to see that all matters and phenomena in Dharmadhatu arise either through causal conditions or through dependent conditions. You have no self-nature. They eventually return to the same and true emptiness. Their existence in terms of the senses and consciousness of beings is an illusion, just like the flowers in the sky.
  2. The view of non-disability between “Li” and “Shih” [理事無礙觀]- to see that the true nature of things and phenomena is the so-called “true search” [真如] or “Li” [理]that has two meanings, one is the “unchanged” [不變] and the other the “compliance with the conditions” [隨緣]. The former is his body, while the latter is his manifestation / functions. Since the true search is unchanged in nature, it can manifest according to the conditions and produce all dharmas or shih. So there is no obstacle between “Li” and “Shih”.
  3. The view of universal inclusion [周偏含容觀]- to see that all dharmas are manifestations of True Seekness, which is the indivisible nature of all dharmas. In other words, every Dharma consists of the complete and perfect nature of True Searching. Thus all dharmas are mutually interpenetrating and identical. Each dharma has no unlimited disability for all other dharma. They are universally inclusive to each other. You are part of me and I am part of you.

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