Chinese Ch’an (Zen) Master Hsuan Hua wrote an excellent article on the sects of Buddhism in 1971. It was re-printed in the December 2008 issue of the Vajra Bodhi Sea, and is copied verbatim with permission.
Buddhism has neither school nor sect: no Mahayana; no Hinayana; no Caodong (Soto), Linji (Rinzai), Yun Men, Fa Yen, or Weiyang Sect. There is no Ch’an (Zen), Teaching, Vinaya, Secret, or Pure Land School. The Buddha spoke for the Dharma Realm; he did not divide Buddhism into Chinese, Japanese, Thai, or Ceylonese. These divisions were all made by men who came after the Buddha with nothing better to do than to go out and look for trouble. Every school is a door, and where there was a unity, they created divisions, made walls and windows in the undivided, universal Buddhadharma. In the undivided Buddhadharma, they built partitions by saying: “My door is better than your window! I am from the Soto Sect, the very best; the Buddhadharma is here.”
“My window is better than your door!” some replied. “Rinzai Zen is the highest. The Buddhadharma is here.” People are just people and make trouble by bickering over who is number one and who is number two. What a headache! “My window is not the same as yours!” each cries, showing off his spiritual powers insisting that he is the best.
Within the Buddhadharma, where is good and where is bad? The good comes from the bad, and the bad comes from the good. Don’t split things up into high and low. The Diamond Sutra says: “This Dharma is level and equal with nothing high or low.” The Great Master Sixth Patriarch said: “If I said I had a Dharma to give to people, I would be lying to you.” The Dharma absolutely cannot be spoken.
Some, in other buildings, say they have the Dharma: “The Buddha is here!” If that is the case, of what use is your Buddhadharma stuck there in your building? It’s of no use at all. The Buddhadharma is vast and great, and it encompasses the entire Dharma Realm. There is no place where the Buddhadharma is, and there is no place where the Buddhadharma is not. If you say that you have the Buddhadharma, you are attached; if you say that you do not have the Buddhadharma, you are also attached. The Dharma cannot be spoken.
How can you say one sect is true and another sect is false? All of existence is contained in the genuine Buddhadharma and within it there is no true and no false. The miracle is just here.
I teach those with whom I have affinity and not those with whom I have no affinity. Even Sakyamuni Buddha was not able to teach those who had no affinity with him.
Sakyamuni Buddha and his disciples once went to a different country to have their summer retreat. When the Buddha arrived, the citizens did not welcome him, but when the Buddha’s disciple Mahamaudgalyayana arrived, the citizens were extremely courteous. Someone asked the Buddha: “When you went, the people didn’t welcome you; but when your disciple went, they did. Why?”
Sakamuni Buddha said: “Many kalpas ago, when two woodcutters, father and son, were working in the mountains, they ran into a hive of bees. The father knit his eyebrows together and growled: “Let’s get out of here! The bees are dangerous!”
But the son said: “Don’t be afraid. When I become a Buddha I will cross over these bees first.” Now, the father was Sakyamuni Buddha, the son was Mahamaudgalyayana, and the bees were the citizens of that country, and so they had an affinity for Mahamaudgalyayana, but had no affinity with Sakyamuni Buddha.
If you hear someone say: “The Buddhadharma is here,” you can be sure that the Buddhadharma is not there. If they say: “There is no Buddhadharma outside my building,” their Dharma is dead. What use is the Dharma being stuck in one building? Can the Dharma be kept in one room? There are no fixed dharmas, so how can you keep the Dharma in one little building?
They say: “There is no Dharma outside my building.” I ask: “If your building caught fire and burned to the ground so that there were no doors and windows, would the Dharma run out? Where would it go? The Dharma is not subject to increase or decrease. It is not impure or pure, not produced or destroyed. How can you say it is in your building?”
The Dharma that I speak is neither good nor bad. It is neither here with me nor there with you. If it were just in my building, wouldn’t that be a selfish, stingy dharma? True or false, it’s all the Buddhadharma. Catholicism, Protestantism, all religions are included within in it. Outside the Dharma there is nothing, and everything is contained within it. The Dharma is not absent in even the most filthy places, nor does it linger in the purest places. The miracle is just in this point.
The Buddha crossed over those with whom he had affinity. The Buddha’s disciples should also cross over those with whom they have affinity. The people who have affinity with me wouldn’t leave even if I tried to chase them out by beating them with my incense board. But those who have no affinity with me could not stay even if I bowed to them every day.
I teach the Buddhadharma, and I am not afraid people are going to run away. Whether they come or go, it’s all the same. Why? Because I am the Dharma Realm. In one somersault, the Monkey King went one hundred million miles and was still in the Buddha’s hand. So, running here and there, you can’t get away. You’re still right here.