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  【Basic Buddhist Terms】The Four Reliances四依止(2)
  2009/6/27 | 作者:佛光大學佛教研修院碩士班 | 點閱次數:1018 | 環保列印
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  3)Rely on the words rather than the letter of the teachings{1}

Language and letters are an expedient mean{2} through which we acquire knowledge and attain the truth. It is only a provisional positing{3} and a tool used to interpret principles, not the essence of truth it-self. In our everyday life, language and letters{4} act as a bridge that enables communication between peo-ple. Nevertheless, it can be misunderstood due to dif-ference of languages and ways of expression; and sometimes our words may even be quoted out of con-text. Not only does this happen to regular conversa-tions, the same issue is also confronted by the pro-found and wondrous Dharma{5}, or truth. That is why in the Ch’an School, discarding the use of letters or words{6} is advocated by its practitioners. The Sixth Ch’an Patriarch Master Huineng{7} even said, “letters are irrelevant to the wondrous truth taught by all buddhas.{8}” The subtle and profound teachings and truth cannot be conveyed through the use of letters alone. Instead, they should be understood in a conceptual way, rather than trying to deliberate, debate, or become attached to words. Oth-erwise these words will only become obstacles that block us further from the buddha path.

4)Rely on the ultimate meaning rather than the provisional meanings{9}

The Dharma can be categorized into provisional truth (samvrti-satya){10} and absolute truth (para-martha-satya){11}. The former is the non-ultimate{12} but expedient mean, while the latter is the absolute truth. Expedient means were introduced by the Bud-dha to teach the Dharma in a way that is suitable to the different aptitudes of sentient beings{13}. This expe-dient mean cannot be regarded as the ultimate way, which is in fact to connect with the buddha’s mind. Therefore it is important that we rely on the ultimate meaning, which represents the buddha’s mind; and utilize the provisional meanings as an expedient mean when we learn the Dharma.

The Four Reliances is a very important guideline to a learner of the Dharma, and it must be followed pre-cisely. The Diamond Sutra{14} says, “Those who know the discourse on dharma as like unto a raft, should forsake dharmas, still more so no-dhar-mas.{15}” The Buddha taught different types of Dharma to help sentient beings find their true nature, that is, the buddha-nature. It is like the finger that points to the moon, it only shows us where the moon is. If we become attached to the finger, we may be blind sighted and make our search for the truth a futile effort.



【Key Words】

{1}Rely on the words rather than the letter of the teachings 依義不依語

{2}expedient mean 方便

{3}provisional positing 假名

{4}language and letters 語言文字

{5}profound and wondrous Dharma 微妙佛法

{6}discarding the use of letters or words 不立文字

{7}Sixth Ch’an Patriarch Master Huineng 六祖惠能大師

{8}letters are irrelevant to the wondrous truth taught by all buddhas 諸佛妙理,非關文字

{9}Rely on the ultimate meaning rather than the provisional meanings 依了義不依不了義

{10}provisional truth(samvrti-satya) 世俗諦

{11}absolute truth (paramartha-satya)勝義諦

{12}non-ultimate 不究竟

{13}aptitudes of sentient beings 眾生根機

{14}Diamond Sutra 金剛經

{15}Those who know the discourse on dharma as like unto a raft, should forsake dharmas, still more so no-dharmas
知我說法,如筏喻者,法尚應捨,何況非法。
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