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The Teachings

The Twelve-Fold Teaching


The Second, clarifying the Teachings in which it is contained. The Teachings fall into two categories: One, the Twelve-Fold Teachings of characteristics held in common, which also divides into the Great and the Small. This will be explained later in the Ten Treasuries Chapter.


The Second, clarifying the Teachings in which it is contained. Within the Second Door – the Sutras and Teachings in which it is Contained – the Stores in which it is contained were discussed before, and now discussion of the Teachings in which it is contained begins. What is meant by the Teachings? Teachings are methods of study: the methods which Budhhas, Bodhisattva, and all the Sagely Worthies of the Sangha past and present instruct you to study. The Teachings are also what the Sages use to teach and transform ordinary living beings and cause them to go back to the origin and return to the source turn back from confusion and take refuge in enlightenment. “Teachings” can also mean religions, such as Buddhism, Taoism, Catholicism, and Protestantism – of which there are many.

However, Buddhism is a religion that teaches people to end birth and death, whereas other religions teach people to undergo birth and death. The difference between them is that of being able to ultimately end birth and death as opposed to ultimately not being able to and so undergoing birth and death. So they are called “Teachings,” but one Teaching is not equivalent to another.

People are all called “people,” yet they too differ from one another. Some want to be good people, while others want to be bad people; some want to be wised people, while others like being stupid people. You may say, “I don’t believe this dharma the Dharma Master is speaking. Everyone wants to be a wise person, and no one wants to be a stupid person. Everyone wants to be a good person, and no one wants to be a bad person.” Well, if they all want to be wise people – have wisdom – then why do they do things that lack wisdom?

The Teachings in which it is contained, fall into two categories: One, the Twelvefold Teaching, of characteristics held in common. That characteristics are held in common means they are common to all Sutras – to all canonical works – and that it is twelvefold means there are twelve divisions to it, not eleven or thirteen. The number is precise and each division is distinct and different; each is an independent Teaching on its own. Together they make up the twelvefold teachings, yet one division is not the same as another. They are the Twelve Divisions of the Canon which the verse lists:

Prose, Resumptive verses, and Predictions;
Interjections, Spontaneous Speaking Unrequested;
Causes and Conditions, Analogies, as well as Past Lives’ Deeds;
Deeds of This Life, Expansion, the Hitherto Unknown;
Explanations, together make twelve terms,
As in the Great Sutra, number thirty-three

Together they constitute the Twelvefold Teaching. Which also divides into the Great and the Small, the Great Vehicle and the Small Vehicle. Right now we won’t try to determine which of the twelve divisions are Great Vehicle and which are of the Small Vehicle. If you want to know, this will be explained later in the Ten Treasuries Chapter.

Today I’m not going to discuss the Twelve Divisions of the Canon, but talk about Buddhism instead; what region it belongs to, where it came from. Buddhism has no place that it comes from, and no place that it goes to. You say, “That’s not right. Buddhism comes from India. Shakyamuni Buddha was born in India.” Buddhism isn’t Indian, nor is it Chinese. It isn’t Japanese, and it’s not Ceylonese or Burmese or Thai. Buddhism is the world’s. It belongs to the entire planet, and it’s the Buddhism of all people, or all living beings. If you try to confine it to India or China or Japan or Thailand or Burma or Ceylon or Vietnam or Cambodian, you are wrong.

That’s because Buddhism teaches living beings, and living beings form one category, with no distinctions of national boundaries. Every living beings has the Buddha nature, and so every country has Buddhism. So Buddhism isn’t America’s Buddhism either – but the customs of each country alter the external aspect of Buddhism somewhat. But what is the basic, fundamental character of Buddhism? It is simply instruction for people in how to recognize true principle, how to eliminate selfishness and establish what is public, to have a public-spirited, unselfish attitude, not to set up barriers of nations and lands, races or clans, nor make distinctions of self and others.

All under heaven is one family,
And ten thousand Buddhas are one person.

We ordinary people who are studying the Buddhadharma should get rid of our attitudes of selfishness and self-benefit. If you don’t rid yourself of selfishness and self-benefiting, then even if you are a Buddhist; I don’t consider you one. Why not? It’s because you fundamentally do not understand Buddhism. If you did, then you wouldn’t have selfish and self-benefiting attitudes. So, to tell if someone is a Buddhist or not, just see if the person is selfish and out for self benefit.

You may say, “Dharma Master, the principles you lecture sound just fine, but right now you are in charge of Gold Mountain Temple. What if someone came along and wanted to take charge, would you let them or not?” Of course. Any time you want to come and do it, I will immediately hand it over to you. all you have to do is want to. I absolutely would never say, “You can’t, it’s mine.” It’s not mine. I don’t have anything at all. After this, I extend a million percent welcome to anyone who wants to come and be Abbot of Gold Mountain Temple. And this absolutely is not deceptive talk.

Ultimately, what is the Buddhadharma? What is not the Buddhadharma? If we were to give Buddhism another name, what would be a good name for it? I’ll tell you. Buddhism is just the Teaching of living beings. If there were no living beings, there wouldn’t be any Buddhism. And the Teaching of living beings is just the Teaching of the Mind. Every person has a mind, and it is that teaching. That teaching is not obtained from outside. You have it to start with.

If you believe that teaching, you have that teaching; and if you don’t believe that teaching, you still have that teaching, because everyone has a mind. You can’t say you don’t have a mind. If you didn’t have a mind, that teaching wouldn’t exist, and without that teaching there wouldn’t be living beings. And if there were no living beings, there wouldn’t be Buddhas either. That’s the name I give it: the Teaching of living beings, and the Teachings of the Mind – Buddhism. The three names refer to the same thing.

I also give it a very simple name: the Teachings of People. It’s the Teachings of every person – every person’s religion – whether the people believe in it or not. It’s not that the religion doesn’t exist if you don’t believe in it. Whether you believe in it or not, there is that religion. But if you do, you should study Buddhism, for by so doing, not only can you be an average person, you can be a good person, a worthy person, and even a sagely person.

And if you study this Teachings you can be a Bodhisattva, an Arhat, and ultimately become a Buddha. Becoming a Buddha occurs when a person returns to the origin and goes back to the source. Everyone came from the Buddha. We’ve just taken the wrong road, and so the farther we go, the farther away we get; and the farther away we are, the less we are able to return home. So we keep bobbing and sinking in the sea of rebirth. We remain “outsiders.” We are but paupers. When you go home, then you obtain your rightful inheritance.

So Buddhism is the Teachings of living beings, the Teachings of the Mind, and Teachings of People. Now that I’ve told you these names, you wonder why you didn’t think of them yourself. Don’t forget them, and when people ask you what Buddhism is, you can use them to answer. But if I ask you another time, you can’t just parrot back those answers, because there is no fixed Dharma.

When you study Buddhism, what in fact do you study? You study Enlightenment, going back to the origin, returning to the source. It means enlightening to what you are not enlightened to. It means enlightening your greed so you are not greedy; enlightening your anger so you’re not angry; and enlightening your stupidity so you are not stupid. It means eradicating the three poisons of greed, hatred, and stupidity, and increasing the three non-outflow studies of precepts, samadhi, and wisdom.

When you eradicate the three poisons, you lighten your karmic obstacles. When you increase in the three non-outflow studies, then your wisdom – Bodhi – grows bigger every day. So we who study the Buddhadharma shouldn’t get nervous and wonder, “Why am I not enlightened yet?” Why do you want to be enlightened? When you get enlightened, you still have to eat and wear clothes and sleep. It’s just that:

Every day you wear clothes, but do not wear a single thread. Every day you sleep without ever closing your eyes.

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