The Specific Characteristics of the Sea in the Buddha Dharma - Thich Trung Sy

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The Specific Characteristics of the Sea in the Buddha Dharma Author: Thích Trừng Sỹ

Sakyト[uni Buddha, a perfectly awakened and enlightened Teacher, has taught the wonderful Dharma in order to bring authentic peacefulness and happiness to devas and human beings. His teachings, which bring the deeply humane features, are very practical in the present, have the values beyond the time, and accord with all abilities and levels of cultivation and enlightenment of every sentient being on this planet.

As you know while teaching, a good teacher often points out illuminating examples for hearers and learners to easily understand and apply his teachings to their daily life. Likewise, in the periods of preaching the Dharma of the Buddha, to let the community be easy to acquire His teachings, He puts forth many specific and different examples and metaphors, which contain the specific characteristics, are usually found in Three Baskets of Buddhist canonical Scriptures (Sutras, Vinaya and Abhidharma), especially the Agama Sutras.

In the Agama Sutras, there are many particularities found, but in this writing "There are the eight specific characteristics of the sea� found in the dialogue occurring between the Buddha and a Brahman. These Eight characteristics, which are presented in the form of metaphors, comparisons and contrasts, are related to Buddha Dharma very intimately. Hereafter, the writer in turn finds out about the meanings and contents of each of the above characteristic. He would like to invite you all to track together.

1. A beach does not have an abyss. 2. The ocean is immensely vast. 3. The sea never contains a corpse. 4. The sea is welcome to receive all the streams of water. 5. The sea is neither full nor less full. 6. Sea water has a uniquely salty taste. 7. The sea nurtures aquatic species. 8. The sea contains many types of treasures.


A beach does not have an abyss.

When swimming, we swim from shallow to deep water gradually. Similarly, when having good conditions to be in contact with the Buddha Dharma, we start to cultivate, learn from low to high levels, gain enlightenment and freedom of each part, each different degree, transform step by step from normal being to holy being, from suffering to joyfulness and happiness.

Moreover, the teachings are preached and presented by the Buddha and His holy disciples from the basic method to the developing method. They have the practical values in the present; conform with cultivation, learning, and realization of every being. Those who have enough good conditions to contact, inquire, and practice the Dharma, are never missed and drowned in it. Conversely, they can enjoy peaceful and happy flowers and fruits right here and now in the present life.


The ocean is immensely vast.

We know the river which is small, narrow is limited. Conversely, the ocean which is immense, vast is unlimited. In this point, in the Plum village in France, there is a popular meditation song with the title of “The River and the Sea.�

“I have never seen the sea, I only see the stream of the river. But after listening to my teacher’ telling, the sea is wider than the river;

the ocean is immense, the immensity of the blue sea is warmly salty a human lifetime is like the river. If anyone lives for all the people, his or her heart is wider than the river. If anyone lives for himself or herself, His or her heart is narrower than the river.�

The sea symbolizes the mind of freedom, immensity, and selflessness; the river represents the mind of tie, narrowness, and selfishness. Cultivation is to recognize and transform the mind of tie, narrowness, and selfishness into the mind of selflessness, freedom, immenseness, vastness like the sea.

The above song is to remind each of us to try to lead a life of mindfulness and awareness, solidity and freedom by apply the Buddha Dharma in the daily life in order to bring peacefulness and happiness to the many right in this life.

The vast sea means in the Buddha Dharma which contains all the substances of forgiveness, tolerance, generosity, embracement, transformation, nourishment, healing, steadiness, freedom, peacefulness, blissfulness, etc. Those who have enough good conditions to live to apply and practice the Dharma of World-Honored One, have the capacity to taste the flavor of peacefulness and liberation, and achieve equality alike.


The sea never contains a corpse.

The here-mentioned sea is understood as the Dharma of World-Honored One; the corpse is understood as misfortune, suffering, afflictions of desire, anger, delusion, wrong view, wrong thought, wrong speech, wrong action, wrong livelihood, wrong effort, wrong mindfulness, and wrong concentration. The sea is symbol for Buddha nature, Bodhicitta, i.e. the mind of insight; the corpse is symbol for ghost nature, the mind of defilement, i.e. the mind of suffering.

World-Honored One’s Dharma, which is the Dharma of enlightenment and awareness, has never contained the seeds of defilements, negativity, misfortune and distress, and vice versa, all the Buddha’s teachings contain the substances of steadiness and leisureliness, joyfulness and happiness, enlightenment and liberation.

We know those who do not cultivate well often have the scornful mind, criticize other people, lose the mind of Bodhi, that of freedom, that of leisureliness, and easiness. Their lives are usually dominated and controlled by defilements and distress, their bodies and minds are not peaceful, gentle, and leisurely.

Good cultivators that know to apply and practice the Buddha Dharma in their daily lives, lead their lives of mindfulness and awareness, solidity and leisureliness, have the ability to eliminate, overcome, and transform the negative seed into the positive seed, the wholesome seed into the unwholesome seed, the seed of affliction into that of Bodhicitta, the seed of suffering into that of bliss, etc. These people have their hearts of joy, love, forgiveness, sympathy, help and share of difficulty and suffering of their own and others’.

Indeed, we can recognize that our suffering is mainly people’s suffering, and vice versa, our happiness is mainly their happiness, and our peacefulness is principally their peacefulness. Understanding and practicing so, we have the capacity to bring authentically joyful and blissful flowers and fruits to other people and ourselves right in this life.

Moreover, as you know when the corpse drifts in the sea, it will be sunk by sea water, or be washed ashore. This point implies that if living to lack mindfulness and awareness, we live as no differently as the corpse. We can do the unwholesome things such as killing, stealing, adultery, lying, the use of intoxicants, etc. Certainly we will be beaten adrift into the shore of birth and death, and be dominated by defilements and suffering.

Clearly aware of the foregoing things, we make much effort to lead our lives of mindfulness and awareness, not to do the evil, to do the good, to purify our peaceful bodies and minds by applying and practicing the Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives in order to bring joyful and blissful flowers and fruits to the many. We learn to live with action, aspiration and the hearts of love, almsgiving, animal release, faithfulness, honesty, mindfulness, awareness, etc.

Understanding and doing so, we not only help our relatives, beloved ones and us have the ability to escape from the sea of birth and death, overcome defilements, transform suffering, but also help other people and ourselves to swim to the shore of authentic peacefulness and happiness right here in the world.

4. The sea is welcome to receive all the streams of water. We know the sea has the capacity to be welcome to receive and contain all the streams of clean water, dirty water, muddy water, rain water, etc., flowing from hundred thousands of rivers, springs, ponds, lakes and so on.

Likewise, in the ancient time as well as in the present time, the Dharma of World Honored One has the ability not only to embrace, overcome and dominate all the doctrines and philosophical theories in the world, including other spiritual cultures and traditions, but also to teach and save the kings, mandarins, court officials, servants, the rich, the poor, prisoners, criminal people, white people, black people, brown people, red people, including courtesans and robbers, etc. Those who have enough conditions to contact and practice the Buddha’s teachings in their daily lives, their peacefulness and happiness can be permeated and make their bodies and minds calm and cool.


The sea is neither full nor less full.

You know all the water currents of rivers, canals, ponds, lakes, etc flow the ocean, but its particularities are neither full nor less full, neither more nor less, neither higher nor lower.

Likewise, in Buddhism, there are so many kinds of different people who come from scientists, spiritual leaders, religious leaders, ethicists, educators, etc., have good conditions to cultivate, apply and practice the Buddha Dharma in an about period of one week, two weeks, three weeks, one month, two months, three months, one year, two years, three years and so on. Yet people have felt, enjoyed and tasted the flavor of the peaceful Dharma equally alike. From here, their Buddha natures, Buddha minds, Buddha aspirations and Buddha actions become suddenly illuminated.

The here-mentioned sea means “Buddha nature” which is available in each of us. Buddha, first of all, means an awakened Person and awareness, peaceful Person and peacefulness, firm Person and firmness, carefree person and carefreeness, etc.; Nature means “Mind.”

When we feel and taste the peaceful Dharma by practicing and applying the Buddha Dharma in our daily lives, our minds become illuminated, and our bodies become peaceful. We have the capability to overcome afflictions, transform suffering, and obtain awareness, peacefulness, steadiness and carefreeness right here and now in the present life. “Buddha natures� in us appear evident.

“The sea is neither full nor less full” also means in a holy One “Buddha nature” is no more, in a human being “Buddha nature” is no less. This point, has different meaning, is because our enlightened minds are obscured by ignorance and defilements, we cannot see “Buddha nature.” Conversely, thanks to diligently practicing the Buddha dharma, living our lives of mindfulness and awareness, we have the capacity to dispel ignorance and extinguish afflictions. At that time, ignorance disappears, i.e. wisdom appears.

We see “Buddha nature,” the light of insight in us gets evident. The seed of enlightenment in us is waken and sprouted. “Buddha nature,” the light of insight and the seeds of enlightenment in us not only have the ability to offer flowers and fruits of understanding and love to the many, but also “peaceful view, peaceful thought, peaceful speech, peaceful action, peaceful livelihood, peaceful diligence, peaceful mindfulness, peaceful maintained concentration of both body and mind” to all living things and living beings.

Understanding and doing like this, we are really peaceful messengers to contribute to building every person of happiness, every family of joyfulness, society of peace, and human beings of joyful peacefulness on over the planet.


Sea water has a uniquely salty taste.

Although rain water, river water, spring water, fresh water, muddy water, dirty water, etc., flows into the ocean, all kinds of the water become sea water and have a uniquely salty taste. Likewise, in all the teachings of the Buddha and His disciples, or in all the training and learning methods of Buddhism, though you follow TheravÄ da or MahayÄ na Buddhism, though you practice the method of Meditation or that of Pure Land, enlightenment and liberation are still the key factor, peacefulness and happiness for other people and for yourselves are still the leading factor.


The sea nurtures aquatic species.

In the space of immense vastness, the sea contains and nourishes countlessly acquatic species like shrimp, crab, fish, etc. Likewise, In the historical length of nearly three thousand years, Buddhism and its Dharma have had the capacity to gather, accept, and teach the wise, the unwise, the rich, the poor, scholars, unlearned people, etc.

Those who cultivate, learn the Buddha Dharma diligently, lead their lives of mindfulness and awareness, steadiness and freedom, can reap peaceful and happy flowers and fruits for other people and themselves right in this life.


The sea contains many types of treasures.

In the ocean, there are countless types of pearls, jewels like gold, diamond, crystal, ember, etc. Likewise, in Buddhism, there are innumerable kinds of beings born out from oviparity, from viviparity, from moisture, and from metamorphosis. Among kinds of those beings, there is an awakened one, there is an enlightened one, there is a holy person, there is a human being, etc.

Although being human beings, we have good conditions to learn Buddhism, hear the Dharma, and taste the flavor of its peace, Buddha nature and the light of insight in us become illuminated, Bodhicitta in us becomes enlightened and awakened. From here, we each are fresh and beautiful flowers to offer them to life and help life add flavors and colors. Those who understand and practice like this deserve to be treasured by the world like gold, like diamond, crystal, ember, etc., in this life.

In brief, through what is mentioned above, we see the specific characteristics of the sea are representative of those of Buddhism, its Dharma, preachers of the Dharma, practisers and enjoyers of its peaceful taste.

These specific characteristics are only found in Buddhism, apart from it, they are not easily found in other religions and philosophical theories. Although these specific characteristics have been present in the world for nearly three thousand years, their values, which are very practical in the present, are beyond the time, accord with science and social people today, have the capacity to extinguish afflictions, and lead practitioners to their peaceful bodies and minds.

Understand, apply and practice the specific characteristics of the Buddha Dharma in our daily lives diligently and mindfully, then we can bring peacefulness and happiness to the many, and at the same time, we can also contribute to building a realm of Heaven and Pure Land right here in the world.

May you all practice together and enjoy the peaceful taste of the Dharma! Happy New Year to your relatives, beloved ones and you all! Ven. Thich Trung Sy completed this writing on January 1st, 2011 Email:

Ven. Thích Tr ừng Sỹ

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