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To help Buddhist cultivators select a kind and knowledgeable guru from whom they can learn, the United International World Buddhism Association Headquarters has held public exams to people of the master level for two years. We wanted to select someone virtuous, who practices cultivation, who has dharma power, and who knows Buddha Dharma. There have been a total of 11,657 Buddhists from all over the world who came to register for the test, including Dharma listening masters, Dharma transmitting masters, the venerable ones, dharma kings, rinpoches, dharma masters, and laymen. Three thousand two hundred seventy-three people formally entered the written test on Sutra, Vinaya, and Sastra, consisting of one hundred problems, and there were only 1,085 people who had the final qualification for taking the holy examination.
This Headquarters held the holy test on the foundation of the one-hundred-question written test on Sutra, Vinaya, and Sastra. Those questions test the correct understanding and correct teaching of Sutra, Vinaya, and Sastra. Now we show a few example items as follows:
- Are the viewpoints of Buddhism the same as those of the other religions? Is Buddhism a god-worshiping system (神仰論)? Or is it not a god-worshiping system (非神仰論)?
- What is the relationship between the power of prajna wisdom and mantras?
- Explain the origin and effects of concentration and wisdom.
- Briefly describe the theoretical concepts of Prajna (般若), Madhyamaka (中觀) and Kosa (具舍); what are their commonality and contradictions?
- Describe the pros and cons of 1. The view of total annihilation and 2. The view of permanence. Which way is accurate?
- What differentiates the esoteric sect from the exoteric sect?
- Briefly explain beliefs, vow, practice, precept, concentration, and wisdom.
- What is the goal of Zen meditation? What exactly is to obtain?
- What constitutes the Three Spheres (三界)? What is the Dharma Sphere (法界)?
- What is the cause within the effect* (果中之因)?
- What is the mind of false thoughts (妄念心)? What is the state of prajna wisdom (般若智境)?
- Explain why the Supreme and Unsurpassed Mahamudra of Liberation surpasses the fast track of attaining accomplishment by way of Zen, Pure-land, and Esoteric Buddhism.
- Explain what exactly is attaining Buddhahood in Bardo (中陰成佛) of the Intermediate Existence Dharma Gate (中有教授).
- What is the Unconditioned Dharma (無為法)? What is Conditioned Dharma (有為法)?
- Explain the effects of the Dharmas Fangyankou (放焰口lit. almsgiving to hungry ghosts), Homa Fire Offering (?護摩火供), Rite of Water and Land (水陸法會), Chöd (施身法), and Vajra Faman (金剛法曼)
- What are the views regarding liberation for the Consciousness Only Dharma Characteristics School (唯識法相)? What are the differences among the Huayan School (華嚴宗aka. Avatamsaka), the Vinaya School (律宗), and the Agama School (阿含宗)?
- What does each of these terms mean: Dead Emptiness* (頑空), Small Emptiness (小空), Grand Emptiness (大空), Empty Emptiness* (空空), Emptiness of Annihilation (寂滅空), True Emptiness (真空), or the Eighteen types of Emptiness (十八空)?
- What is the evidential measure* (現量) and inferential measure* (比量) of hetu vidya? What are the wisdom of the known state (已知境智) and the wisdom of the unknown state (未知境智)? What is the non-duality wisdom* (無二智)?
- List the Five Initiations of Esoteric Buddhism. In each of them, who is the administer of the initiation? Are they inner tantric, outer tantric, or holy tantric?
- Describe in general what Zen, Concentration, Samatha (Cessation), and Vipassana (Contemplation) are. What are the effects of the Four Levels of Zen Meditation and the Eight Levels of Concentration (四禪八定)? What are the effects of the Three Bodies and the Four Wisdoms (三身四智)?
- Explain in detail what the View of Natural Wisdom* (自然智見), the View of External Emptiness* (他空見), the Emptiness of Self (我空) vs. the Emptiness of Dharma (法空), and the Emptiness of Others (人空) vs. the Emptiness of Dharma (法空) are. What are the differences? Which sects or schools are they originated from?
- What commentaries did each of Nagarjuna (龍樹), Aryadeva (提婆), Dinnaga (陳那), Candrakīrti (月稱), Vasubandhu (世親), Asanga (無著), Sankarasvamin (商羯羅), and Buddhapālita (佛護) primarily write? What are the primary viewpoints in each of those commentaries?
Having answered the one hundred problems in the written test, one can then enter the holy test. In the Holy Test, Famen Gongyu (法門宮羽) is used as the Zejue (i.e., Determination by Holy Selection) Dharma to determine the qualification of the person. The central part of the test takes place in the Samsara Eight-wind Array and the Vajra Array, which can be either the grand array or the lesser array. The Holy Test of the Eight-wind Array or the Vajra Array is witnessed by seven holy masters and ten witnesses, as well as many other disciples who are also taking the test. The test is conducted in the conditions of collectiveness, openness, fairness, and equality. It is just like having a rock on the ground where everyone can try to pick it up equally. Some people can pick it up in the first and second times but fail in the third time, some can pick it up for the first time but cannot do it the second time, and some cannot even pick it up for the first time.
For example, we encircle a parcel of land that is about 20,000 square feet with a rope. Although only a string separates the area and everyone can see the ground very clearly, some test candidates who have enough levels can walk in, but others who do not have enough levels cannot step beyond the rope. Some may even collapse in a faint outside the land before the string. All the test candidates can watch and monitor one another.
The various guru levels or levels of holiness and virtue identified as a result of the test by the array formation include Gold Button Level 3, which is a Great Holy and Virtuous One, such as Wangzha Shangzun. Wangzha Shangzun presided over the entire test on site of the array. A person of Gold Button Level 3 is called Shangzun and belongs to the Great Holy Virtuous Class. They are a non-retrograde Bodhisattva. They do not need to take the test, but since Wangzha Shangzun is the one administering the tests on-site of the array, to lead by example, He proactively requested to take the test.
A person of Gold Button Level 2 is called Jiaozun and belongs to the Holy and Virtuous Class. One who is of Gold Button Level 1 is called Ruzun and also belongs to the Holy and Virtuous Class. Below the Gold Button levels are the Blue Button levels, the highest of which is Blue Button Level 3 with Two Black Buttons and is called Dade (pronounced as dah-duh), or a Great Virtuous One. The next level down is Blue Button Level 3 with One Black Button; It is called Xuande (pronounced as shu-ann-duh); the next level down is Blue Button Level 3 and is called Runde (pronounced as ru-en-duh), the next one down is Blue Button Level 2 and is called Zengde (pronounced as zeng-duh), the next one down is Blue Button Level I and is called Xingde (pronounced as shing-de). It is already not easy to have the suffix ‘de’ in one’s title, which means the virtuous one in Chinese. There is no more level below Xingde, and the range of guru’s qualifications ends. Even those people who are a Xingde, who have only passed for Blue Button Level 1, must have made evident gains in their learning from Buddha and cultivation, or they must have a Dharma-listening center to benefit people. They must do good deeds and have good virtue to be a Xingde. Therefore, even though they are only at Blue Button Level 1, they are also worthy of people to learn from them.
On December 31, 2016, the tests which had been held in public by the United International World Buddhism Association Headquarters for two years formally ended, and no more registration will be accepted for the test. What we are especially telling people is that only Shangzun, the Great Bodhisattva of Gold Button Level 3, and all levels above are non-retrograde. Other than Them, all others can regress in their learning from Buddha and practice of cultivation by falling in the 128 evil and erroneous views. Therefore, this Headquarters will hold random drawings for annual re-examination. The purpose of doing that is to guarantee the safety of those who learn from Buddha and practice cultivation to guard them against being misled by a retrograde master.
At present, there is only one Shangzun of the Great Holy and Virtuous Class who is spreading the Dharma in the world, and He is Wangzha Shangzun, the Great Holy and Virtuous One. All other Shangzuns are not publicly spreading Buddha Dharma. In terms of the Jiaozun Class, there are only two who have passed that level. Both of them are propagating the Dharma, but they do not have any disciple. For the Holy and Virtuous Ruzuns, there are only four of them, and only one has disciples and is spreading the Dharma. The other three do not have any disciple. For the Dades, or those who have passed for Blue Button Level 3, there are only two of them, and they both are doing Buddhist work. None of them has any disciple. There are seven who passed Blue Button Grade III with One Black Button. Except for two who are doing Buddhist work without having any disciple, the other five have disciples and have set up Dharma-listening centers. There are thirteen who passed Blue Button Level 3. All of them have disciples and have set up Dharma-listening centers. Fifty-eight people passed Blue Button Level 2. They all set up Dharma-listening centers, and basically, all have disciples. Very many passed Blue Button Level 1. Some have disciples, and some only have Dharma-listening centers.
Wangzha Shangzun specially admonishes the masters who have passed the levels: “First, congratulations on your obtaining various levels from the test. However, I must caution you one thing. Why is H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III against determining one’s level using the holy test as a final means? I have now realized that, even though the Holy Test can determine the class of one’s guru qualification most accurately through the holy selection and it has made contributions to guarding Buddhist cultivators against evil masters and swindlers, it is impossible for a master to attain accomplishment through it. If you want to attain accomplishment and be liberated, you must listen to the Dharma impartation by H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III, you must understand the Buddha books by His Holiness the Buddha, and you must cultivate yourself and learn Dharma according to the teachings. Only then can you attain accomplishment. Remember, you are a Buddhist. That is, you are the disciple of Shakyamuni Buddha and Buddhas in the ten directions. I am not your master of levels. I, too, am cultivating myself, following the teachings of my benevolent Dorje Chang Buddha Master and Shakyamuni Buddha. Therefore, I hope that you all do everything that is good and not do anything that is bad and really abide by Buddha’s teachings to cultivate yourself and benefit all living beings. Only so can you finally attain accomplishment and liberation, and that is the ultimate purpose.”
People be aware! If you find someone who has taken the test but does not wear Dharma attire with the corresponding level buttons, then it says this master has regressed. He or she is not one who truly practices cultivation and learns from Buddha but is a cheater who deceives people under the disguise of Buddhism! It is because this master is worried that his or her disciples could see he or she doesn’t really have a high level, which is not the same as what he or she had bragged about him or herself before. They will find that this master is already a retrograde cheater in nature. That is why he or she does not wear the attire with the corresponding level buttons completely and hopes he or she can last as long as possible and deceive as many people as possible. Also, in another case, some people had registered for the test but never dared to show up. Some people took the written test but failed so miserably and did not qualify to enter the main examination. Therefore, they have no corresponding level button to wear. Those people do not belong in the range of guru qualifications. We hope they can continue to strive forward and become a virtuous one someday soon.
United International World Buddhism Association Headquarters
January 1, 2017
(Translated by Zunba; last edited 2020-05-30)
Translator’s note: (*) requires further confirmation in word choices