The Five Guidelines

Buddha Shakyamuni used innumerable methods to correspond with the level of attainment of his listeners. However, regardless of the particular method, he never deviated from the Great Perfection. In other words, all his teachings arose from the self-nature. Consequently, all methods are equal. It is like the harmony between the leading role and the supporting roles in the Flower Adornment Sutra. If Buddha Shakyamuni is the leading role then all the other Buddhas are the supporting roles. When Buddha Amitabha is the leading role then Buddha Vairocana will be the supporting role. Any Buddha can take the leading role.

Harmonious cooperation between the roles is also found among the Bodhisattvas. If we regard Guan Yin Bodhisattvas as the leading role in our learning of Buddhism, then all the other Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are the supporting roles. If Earth Treasure Bodhisattvas take the leading role then Guan Yin Bodhisattva or others take the supporting role.

This principle applies to sutras as well. When we choose the Infinite Life Sutra as our primary sutra then all the others become secondary. If we take the Diamond Sutra as the primary then the Infinite Life Sutra and the Flower Adornment Sutra become the secondary. All Bodhisattvas and all sutra are equal in nature. Whichever primary method is chosen it is praised as number one. However, saying that a certain method is number one does not mean that the others are less important or effective. If we forget this, then we commit a serious offense. What offense? Praising oneself and belittling others.

Consider the origin of the Visualization Sutra. When Queen Vaidehi suffered from overwhelming family misfortune, she bitterly said to Buddha Shakyamuni: “Life is filled with suffering. Is there not a place without suffering? I wish to live in such a world.” Through his supernatural abilities, Buddha Shakyamuni displayed for the queen all the worlds of all the Buddhas in the universe. She vowed to be born into Buddha Amitabha’s Western Pure Land, the world of Ultimate Bliss and requested that Buddha Shakyamuni teach her how to accomplish this.

He taught her to practice the Three Conditions explaining that they were the fundamental causes of attaining Buddhahood for the Buddhas of the past, present and future. Therefore, they are a crucial part and foundation of our practice. The Three Conditions are the basis of Buddhism and crucial in our attainment of Buddhahood.