Jul 15, 2017

Posted by in BUDDHISM IN OTHER LANGUAGES | 6 Comments

COUTER-ARGUMENT WITH DR. THICH NHAT TU – ARTICLE NO. 2 (Đối luận với TS Thích Nhật Từ bài 2)

COUTER-ARGUMENT WITH DR. THICH NHAT TU – ARTICLE NO. 2 (Đối luận với TS Thích Nhật Từ bài 2)


Recently, there has been a reader named “Truong” who wrote a comment to express his bad reaction to Dr. Thich Nhat Tu’s statement on Bodhisattva – Bin Nan Lee, and venerable Chin Kung. Mat Tinh Giac gave me the link of this article from website ofthuvienhoasen.org in the United States. Besides, Mat Hue Phapcounter-agrued with Dr. Thich Nhat Tu on a spiritual matter related to monks and lay people in spiritual activities. Especially in meditation, Dr. Thich Nhat Tu pointed out who could deattach themselves from derises, among monks and lay Buddhists. It is the reason for my writing on this issue.



If a practitioner wants to get the first dhyana, in addition to meditation, he should lays great stress on contemplation of 11 subjects which alone can lead one to the first dhyana.

I have seen that link, but I have not read that article on that linkbecause it is not worthy of reading as the example of Hua Do’s story. Based on the presentation of the reader named “truong”, Mat Tinh Giac and Mat Hue Phap, I will give some clarification on this issue in order that readers and my disciples in Song Nguyen Tantra House get clear understanding as well as remind someone of“their treasures of self-respect and respect for others” that were stolen by the thief of “haughtiness”  (Abhimana).

Firstly, we should understand what Dhyana is. The word “meditation” in English cannot express the true meaning of Dhyana. If “Dhyana” is a practice, practitioners cultivate fromconcentration to one-pointedness. In Buddhism, there is a terminology of “the four dhyanas on the form-realms and the eight concentrations (Samadhi)”. So there are dhyana and concentration (samadhi) in spiritual accomplishment. Therefore the achievement of from the first concentration (samadhi) to the fourth concentration (samadhi) is completely different from the achievement of from the first dhyana to the fourth dhyana. If a practitioner wants to get the first dhyana, in addition to meditation, he should lays great stress on contemplation of 11 subjects which alone can lead one to the first dhyana. Therefore, a practitioner achieving the first concentration (samadhi) will be born as a Brahma in the heaven of desire. A practitioner achieving the first dhyana become the deva when he is living, after death, he will be born as an inhabitant in the heaven of form-realm. In short, for the same practice in externalist, those who focus on more contemplation – meditation will get the higher level than those who pay attention to concentrated – meditation. Although those who attain the concentration will have more power on Samadhi, they are not sure to have the perfect quality. Whereas, those who are successful in the dhyana, they must have the good quality. The case of Devadatta is the evidence. Even though he got the fourth concentration (samadhi), he always made wrong doings. When a practitioner gets the fourth jhāna (dhyana), they are overwhelmed by the four immeasurables (benevolence, pity, joy and indifference). They are just waiting for a turn of emptiness, they will get the enlightenment provided that they have taken refuge in the three Jewels.  Otherwise they become devotees specializing in high concentration while their mind sinks into five types of desire (money, sex, fame, food, sleep). Why? Because their power of samadhi is “wrong-concentration” resulting in no wisdom. Thus, the Lord Buddha taught a practitioner needed “right-concentration”, one of the Noble Eightfold Path. Therefore, Buddhism pays more attention to contemplated- meditation than concentrated-meditation on the path to enlightenment. From this reference, I agree with Mat Nguyen Tanh’s point of view in his comment: “Right-concentration” consists of 4 levels: the first concentration (samadhi), the second concentration (samadhi), the third concentration (samadhi),  and the fourth concentration (samadhi). Such an illogical sentence shows his poor Buddhist knowledge. When mentioning “right-concentration”, he should compare with “wrong –concentration”. How ludicrous he is when he listed the levels of concentration. It is “to take the wrong sow by the ear”. He is crazy. Moreover, his sentence is not accurate because the stage of concentration (samadhi) is far different from the stage of dhyana.”


Thus, the Lord Buddha taught a practitioner needed “right-concentration”, one of the Noble Eightfold Path.

Doctor of philosophy Thich Nhat Tu used the wrong word “true” for “right-concentration” even though the meaning of the content is not different, then in many contexts why did he use the word “the Noble Eightfold Path” but not use “the true Eightfold Path”? It is a minor detail just like a broken window in a big house. But it is proved that the owner is a weirdo, a reformer, an innovator of the unnecessary things. Take an example, why did he change the word “Sangha” into “core Sangha members”, “Buddhist families’ members” or “congregationalism”; and why did he change “Namo Shakyamuni Buddha” into “Namo Buddha Shakyamuni”?. Should he change the words with the same content? Does he want to express the “transcendent” ego? Similarly, the transcendental essence of Buddhism is more powerful than other externalists due to 84,000 practice which is compatible with all sentient beings’ background. Why did he set out with his own thought of “pure Buddhism” whose name sounds the type of a drink.

Back to the point of view on Dhyana, Thich Nhat Tu wrote:“Right-concentration consists of 4 levels: the first concentration(samadhi), the secondconcentration (samadhi), the third concentration (samadhi), the fourth concentration(samadhi). The core of the first concentration (samadhi) is the transformation of desires (to free from desires enables to arise joy). No lay Buddhists with family life can attain the firstconcentration. Therefore, lay Buddhists cannot get enlightenment. Except for those who are single and they determine to cultivate as a monk’s life with right method, then they enable to get the firstdhyana, from which to attain the fourth dhyana. From such good foundation, they can get Three insights and become an Arhat”

Đại thành tựu giả SarahaActually, it is his careless argument and I give a good example of a counter-argument as follows: If you wrote “the core of concentration is the transformation of desiers (to free from desires enables to arise joy), why did Devadatta make wrong doings as harming Buddha and dividing the Sangha even though he got the fourth concentration (samadhi)? His sentence should be corrected “the practitioner getting the first dhyana will have the state of “free from five desires enables to arise bliss”, the practitioner achieves the first concentration (samadhi) cannot get such state. The Lord Buddha previously did not agree with the practice of one-pointed concentration which made the arrogant externalist so convergent on only one subject that he did not notice 500 cows passing by. The well-known Indian Buddhist poet saint Saraha, known as the Great Brahmin Saraha, in the list of 84 Maha Siddhas of Tibetan Buddhists, was still criticized “wrong-meditation” because Saraha fell into meditation. His meditative absorption was so complete that he remained in samadhi for twelve years. When he emerged from mediation, twelve long years later, he asked the young woman if he could have some of the radish curry. From this standpoint, the first concentration (samadhi) is not the cause for freeing from desires as mentioned by Thich Nhat Tu, only does a practitioner get the first dhyana, he can free from desires. This evidence proves that Dr. Thich Nhat Tu has neither mastered the meditation process, nor does he have comprehensive view of Adhyatma Vidya (the True, Genuine and Authentic Spiritual Knowledge) among Pancavidya. Neither does he understand the Buddhist terminology. Here I would like to emphasize that the phrase “desirable transformation” is completely different from the true meaning of “joy that arises from the abandon of desires.” “The transformation of desire” is a specific practice of Tantric Buddhism, which enables practitioners to transform the five worldly qualities (fame, money, sex, food, sleep) into five kinds of wisdom (The wisdom derived from the pure consciousness – Dharmadhatu-prakrti-jnana, The great ground mirror wisdom- Adarsana-jnana, wisdom in regard to all things equally and universally – Samata-jnana, The wisdom derived from wisdom of profound insight – Pratyaveksana-jnana, The wisdom derived from  the five senses- Krtyanusthana-jnana). Such a core meaning of “the transformation of desires” is not the same as Dr. Thich Nhat Tu’s understanding.

the Great Brahmin Saraha


First, we should understand what “desire” means. Only do we understand the true meaning of “desire”, we can master Zen Buddhism, unless we consider to be “the rich lost the key of our treasure”, “a parrot saying a prayer” from the teaching of Master Gampopa in 14 grievous failures of a Buddhist practitioner.

Song Nguyen Tantra House at night

“Desire” is wanting, it is no doubt to have the phrase “desire for pleasure” meaning “wish”. Which types of desire do human beings and other species wish to get? According to Buddhist scriptures, there are five desires for (1) sexual love, (2) wealth, (3) fame, (4) food and drink, and (5) sleep. The desires arise from the contact of the five sense organs (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and body) with their respective objects (color and form, sound, smell, taste, touch). From this standpoint, the practitioner getting the first dhyana frees from worldly desires and he is worthy of respect from all sentient beings. Therefore, the Lord Buddha affirmed the first dhyana practitioner is one of fourteen beings worthy of offering regardless of Buddhist practitioners or externalist. (in the sutra of Distinction of Offering). With the first concentration, the practitioner needs to practice five factors: (1) Applied thought (vitakka), (2) Sustained thought (vicāra), (3) Joy or rapture (pīti), (4) Peaceful happiness (sukha) and (5) One-pointedness concentration (ekaggatā). For Tantra practice in Vajrayana, the procedure is divided into 9 levels of mind-concentration from mind –forwarding, mind-continuously forwwarding, fixed mind, fully fixed mind, to one-pointedness of mind. The practitioner with high power of samadhi shows his miraculous powers with his boasted ego, leading himself to the evil trap. He considers himself the holy one. In fact, comparing to the old with blind eyes who wholeheartedly recites the name of Amitabha or mantras with the vow of being reborn in Pure Land, the big effort to get samadhi with such a boasted ego is in vain. In the past, the Lord Buddha reminded the Brahmin Saganrava of the harmful effects of miraculous powers, and of ability to know the minds of other beings (ceto-pariya-nana). He affirmed that only knowledgeable and wise power could be the supreme ultimate. It means that we should introduce the knowledge of liberation to all sentient beings so that they can understand the truth of suffering (dukkha), the truth of the cause of suffering(samudaya), the truth of the end of suffering (nirhodha), the truth of the path that frees us from suffering (magga) (The Four Noble Truths).

Therefore, I need to emphasize it is wrong when Dr. Thich Nhat Tu said that a lay person with family life cannot free from desires. Now, let’s take the explanation of quantitative relation to courter-argue. You thought that practitioners “freeing from desier of sex” (for family sexual activities) enalble to get the firstdhyana. In fact, there are five desires; so can the monks in temple get the first dhyana if they only free from desier of sex? No, of course not. Why? Their monastic life is banned to cling to sex, what about other four desiers? They may have attachment on other four desires. What may they attach to? The monks have used the donated money to buy a car or build a house. So what may they cling to? It is indeed the attachment to desire of wealth. Some monks have fought for each other to get the position of the abbot. So what may they cling to? It is indeed the attachment to desire of fame. Likewise, the monks loved money so much that they forget their noble role of Buddhist with right view and they have done a lot of non-virtuous doings with wrong view like working as a fortune teller or horoscope and doing many superstitions relating to foreseeing the bad or good day, worshipping the demons, gods…so which desires do they cling to? The monks are interested in building the big temple, big statues for their fame; which desires do they attach to? How do such kinds of monks find the way to free themselves from five desires? I would like to ask such kinds of monks if they can get the first concentration or the first dhyana. Therefore, Tran Nhan Tong warned:

“The tongue has attachments on good taste, ears cling to sound

     Eyes are tied to shape, nose connects with scent

     Wandering in the samsara as a guest

     Day by day is far away from the Pure Land”

…….he did not affirm the ability to get enlightenment depending on freeing from desire of sex only.

From the above reference, readers and disciples should be aware of that Dr. Thich Nhat Tu wants to show his “advantages” or “his strong points of a monk” who is banned to sex (not free from five desires) for his argument. However, the meaning of worldly desires do not only focus on sex like his careless interpretation with the purpose in lowering the ability of lay Buddhists to get the enlightenment. It is contrary to the Buddhist spirit of “the discipline of the united ones of monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen” (Bhiksu, Bhiksuni, Upasaka, Upasika). Why are only monks and nuns able to get enlightenment but lay Buddhists cannot? While the Lord Buddha himself stated: “I am a Buddha, so are all beings”


“I am a Buddha, so are all beings”

By the way, I would also like to explain that even practitioners who get the first dhyana to the fourth dhyana, cannot get the enlightenment, let alone the practitioners who get the concentration (Samadhi). Why? Because practitioners who get the first dhyana to the fourth dhyana enable to get the state of peaceful, joyful and clear mind. And the arūpajhānas or “formless meditations” – four successive levels of meditation on non-material objects (including Akasanantya-yatanam, Vijnananantyayatanam, Akincanyatanam and Naivasam-jnanasanjnayatanam) will be in the state of Unconsciousness, Mindless. These states of Unconsciousness and Mindless cannot get enlightenment because Tran Nhan Tong warned of that “do not see Mindless as the ultimate end. Mindless is very far from the enlightenment”

Whoever non-Buddhists or Buddhists are, practitioners get the stage of from the dhyana to fourth dhyana are still in the limitation of the four immeasurables (benevolence, pity, joy and indifference). Their mind is not the Buddha’s mind. To attain the Buddha’s mind, practitioners need the ultimate end of that they contemplate on one among eleven items of emptiness. However, which role does “meditation” play? Meditation is only one of Six Perfections (paramita) (including generosity, morality, patience, diligence, meditation and wisdom) as well as one among ten spiritual activities (including prostrations, prayers, penances, reciting mantra, chanting Buddha name, offering, listening to sutras, lectures, sharing sutras, meditation). So meditation is not the most important factor, why did Dr. Thich Nhat Tu make it up greatness and create the discrimination against lay Buddhists on ground of enlightenment. From my perspective, Dr. Thich Nhat Tu’s argument it goes “getting the first dhyana, then the fourth dhyana, from such background, practitioners get Three insights and become Arhat”, which is sketchy. It proves that he has lack of knowledge on Buddhist teaching and Dharma and he rely on his own thought to write about meditation, which makes listeners misunderstand about meditation.

Meanwhile, the HH 12thGyalwang Drukpa once visited Vietnam and in an interview relating to the concerns of lay Buddhists on their ability to get enlightenment in their family life, he said: “it is wrong to say that a lay Buddhist unable to get enlightenment. If a lay Buddhist’s insight is strong enough to face with five mundane desires in private and social lives, he will achieve (enlightenment) better.”

I totally agree with Mat Hue Phap’s argument on this issue it goes “In sutra of forty-two chapters, Buddha said: “Be wary of trusting your own mind, for it is deceptive. Once you have attained arhatship, you can trust your own mind.” Mat Hue Phap wrote:

Lotus Flower Estrade in Song Nguyen Tantra House

I do not understand which orthodox sutras Dr. Thich Nhat Tu rely on to affirm that a lay Buddhist cannot get enlightenment. Your argument seems to deliberately deny the achievement of the famous saints who had a family life. Do you want to look up to your role of a monk and look down the ability of a lay Buddhist on the path to enlightenment? There is the lay Buddhist Bing Nan Lee in China who was the spiritual teacher of monk Chin Kung and many other high-rank monks in Tibetan.  Guru Rinpoche Padmasambhava had a family life, but he was the founder of Tibetan Buddhism. Or Master Dilgo Khyentse or the lay Buddhist Tinh Lien Nghiem Xuan Hong are noble ones although they both have a family life. What do you think? Do you affirm that such noble masters who could not get the first dhyana or no enlightenment? Did they come to meet you and declare that they did not get enlightenment or have you enlightened already so you know what stage they get on the path to enlightenment? You gave such argument on free from desires leading to enlightenment while you first emphasized on the wisdom as the sole cause in Buddhism, like considering wisdom as the only career for Buddhist practitioners. From this standpoint, wisdom is the only way to transform impure mind into pure mind; obviously, monks, nuns or lay Buddhist who can get the Buddha’s wisdom have an opportunity to get enlightenment. It is in accordance with the Buddhist spirit of “the discipline of the united ones of monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen” and “equal opportunities for all beings”. We should follow the Buddhist teaching on the path to enlightenment, the attachment on which vehicle (yana) we are following causes the schism in the Sangha, and makes us fall into sectarianism. (more detail, please read “Letter No. 137 to disciples: how to verify the authenticity of Buddhist sutras”)

The discrimination between pure Buddhism and other sects in Buddhism you pointed out makes the inconsistency in sangha increase, causing a division within the sangha; because the Lord Buddha stated in the Āgama sutra: “Just as the great ocean has one taste, the taste of salt, so also this teaching and discipline has one taste, the taste of liberation.” It also proves the immeasurably compassionate mind of the Buddha for all beings. No matter which sects the cultivators follow, no matter which methods they apply to practice, if their ultimate goal is to liberate from the circle of births and deaths in accordance to the Buddha’s teaching, then what is wrong? Based on the 64 bodhichitta vows quoted from the commentary of the Master Shantideva and the summaries of the precepts contained in the three sets of vows by Tsewang Samdrup, you violated such below precepts:

1, Reversing others’ aspiration for complete enlightenment.

2, Causing someone to abandon individual liberation.

3, Not knowing the full purpose of compassion.

Besides, you asserted that you have no intention to criticize any Buddhist sects or any Buddhist practitioners, but what did you imply with such a statement: “In 2012, Venerable Chin Kung once made mistake, because the predictions of doomsday or dramatic changes on December 21st, 2012 were based on the superstition belief of Maya ancient calendar.  These predictions caused many people to quit work and sit in wait for death with their relatives. Because of the feelings of national inferiority, many Vietnamese people are interested in something overseas. They followed the extreme Pure Land as mentioned, accidentally destroyed the Vietnamese Buddhism.

In fact, it is also difficult to blame Venerable Chin Kung for his mistake because Venerable Chin Kung had not leant Buddhism from any Buddhism schools, buy only learnt from the lay Buddhist master Bing Nan Lee. The lay Buddhist Bing Nan Lee himself also had not studied Buddhism in any official Buddhism schools. Therefore, it is easy to understand the reason why Venerable Chin Kung had the limited knowledge on Buddhism.

Dear Thich Nhat Tu,

I wonder if you have read the article on this link (http://chuacaolinh.com.vn/vi/Noi-Dung-Chi-Tiet.aspx?id=380&idn=2021)? Did you make a direct call to Venerable Chin Kung to verify the mentioned information? Or you only relied on a handout and then you denied all noble actions of such a well-known Venerable, did not you?

Then your disrespectful attitude to the lay Buddhist master Bing Nan Lee with the above careless statement makes me realize that you imply to look down on all lay Buddhist masters, who have not learnt in any Buddhism schools or do not have any hierarchy. Is it true?  If your purpose is to promote the so-called Pure Buddhism whose name you create, you should focus on the Lord Buddha’s teaching in order that all readers can understand what the Lord Buddha taught, rather than negate the other sects with the purpose of upholding your sects; or rather than “praise yourself and denigrate others.” If my thought is true, I am afraid that the clinging to your egoness leads to your strong attachment on your sect. Instead of spreading the Middle Way in Buddhism, you may engage in the Guruism only (quoted from the comment of Mat Hue Phap)!


chuyen hoa

we can have different approaches to those factors by transforming these feelings into spiritual capacity, as a way of wisdom enhancement.

According to Therevada tradition, the five desires are seen to trigger unwholesome feelings like greedy, hatred, delusion, jealousy, arrogance and many other negative emotions. They therefore are considered impure and should be abandoned to avoid serious aftermaths! But like I said before, we can have different approaches to those factors by transforming these feelings into spiritual capacity, as a way of wisdom enhancement. Like a talented pharmacist who is able to turn poison into medicine.

The Mahayana’s tradition has shown ways of turning SENSORY PLEASURES into PEACE AND JOY. To do so, we need to know the source of suffering! Once our desires are not satisfied (the Buddha called this suffering (dukkha)), we tend to blame for (1) Situation (2) Someone (3) Something. We will complain:” I should have been happy if I have something (someone or been in that situation).”

We stick labels to things or phenomena we are attracted instead of looking into their true nature. Then we put all of our efforts to grasp them, to occupy them. If we fail, we feel so painful and malcontent. The degree of depression depends on the level of our desire. In case we are successful, after some times, what we have possessed turns out not to be as our dream, thus we again dissatisfy and continue to dream of another better ones. For example, when we are poor and stay in a rent house, we dream of a house of our own, though small. But after we own a private house and enjoy its presence for a certain period of time, we start looking at other bigger and more well-equipped ones, wishing to possess them.


Siddha Thogme Zangpo

Such dual thought will fill up our mind as we dissatisfy with what we have in hands and searching for another satisfaction. Such mental state keeps spiraling though how weary we become.   It’s not by chance Siddha Thogme Zangpo warns:” Sensory pleasures are like saltwater: the more you drink, the more thirst increases. Abandon at once those breed clinging and attachment – This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.”

Nonetheless, it should be clear that “detachment” does not mean to give up everything but to select and let go such mental states that causes us attached. A Marxism-Leninism philosophy says about negation that: Do selective negation rather than overall negation. That is the true renunciation. Lama Yeshe Rinpoche taught: “When we experience something pleasant, we enjoy it in easy way and claim no more. We have such easygoing attitude for perceiving that such enjoyment is impermanent and that we are heading to higher happiness – accessing the true nature. By this noble goal, we would neither be driven by sensory pleasures nor disappointed at bad things happened to us. In other words, instead of relying on objects of senses as a solution to our satisfaction, we lay belief on our own inner strength”. (“Introduction to Tantra – A Vision of Totality”, p.59).

Lama Thubten Yeshe (1935-1984) – người sáng lập quỹ bảo tồn truyền thống Đại thừa (FPMT)

Lama Yeshe Rinpoche

However, the application of renunciation in lay life must be done in right ways or right orbit of Dharma. The heartwood of renunciation lies in one word “TRANSFORMATION”. Once being fully aware of it, we are able to face with sensory pleasures, turning them into the engine for peace and joy. Hence, the Mahayana, especially Tantric yogis, still peacefully enjoy happiness derived from five desires or five senses (form, sound, scent, taste and physical touch), instead of giving them up as non-Buddhist schools normally do. This means we are not afraid of confronting with sensory pleasures but look directly into their nature with concentration and mindfulness during spiritual life. HH. The 12th Gyalwang Drukpa taught:” Dharma should be attached to worldly life.  Worldly life should be lessons of Dharma.” This is what lay followers are following in their path to liberation.

But the miracle lies in the practitioners’ ability to turn their worldly enjoyment into strongly effective method of practice. Legends tell that a king petitioned the Buddha to teach him ways of spiritual development for a high ranking figure like him. He said: “I am responsible for leading my people. I cannot be like you who gave up everything to live a secluded life in the forest. So I would like you to teach me how to practice Dharma in a high-class life.” The Buddha answered that he knew such way named the Tantric path. “With this path”, he explained, “a king can practice cultivation in daily life without giving up any regal pleasures. You can have all funs and gain spiritual progress as well”. The Buddha taught him the Kalachakra Tantra or the Wheel of Time. This tradition and other esoteric teachings have been maintained uninterruptedly so far. Yeshe Rinpoche aserted: “A countless number of Indian and Tibetan have attained ultimate enlightenment by this method. There’s absolutely no reason we cannot benefit from it as them did.”

Phuoc Thanh village 12thNovember 2015

Thinley Nguyen Thanh

Translated by Mat Dieu Hang

Original Vietnamese version: ĐỐI LUẬN VỚI TIẾN SĨ THÍCH NHẬT TỪ (BÀI 2)

  1. Tantra Mahavita says:
    DEAR GURU :  Thank you so much for this article. But i do not understand the article .OM MANI PADME HUM
  2. Tantra Upatissa says:

    Dear Guru
    I have read this article. It is a very interesting one. Thank you so much.
    May the Guru live long for the sake of all beings.
    May all beings achieve the happiness of Buddha’s nature.
    Om Mani Padme Hum.

  3. Tantra Upatissa says:

    Tantra mahavita you will be able to understand these lessons slow by slow once you start reading many other articles in this website. It would take some time for understanding them. Don’t worry.

    Om Mani Padme Hum.

  4. BeeLay says:
    Dear Guru,

    Thank you, is happy to read the article everday.

  5. Salvatore Antonio Fois says:
    Venerable Guru;

    My name is Tantra Siramitra.

    Thank you very much, for souch profound teachings.



  6. Jennifer says:
    Dear Holy Guru,

    Thank you for sharing this article and explanation of enlightenment. It is a bit confusing to me but I will keep this article and reread it again. Thank you for teaching me and have a blessed, healthy and long life for sake of all living sentient beings.

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