Requirements for Practicing Buddhism

 This is an ambiguous question that can easily cause confusion. First of all, we basically agree with Confucius’ saying, “People can be taught to act, but not necessarily to understand.” This implies that ordinary people, especially those who are not too knowledgeable, are more likely to follow simple instructions on a single subject, practice diligently, and gain great benefit. Therefore, people who are limited in learning, or are even illiterate, can indeed benefit from learning Dharma. Master Huineng (638–713) is a good example; according to legend, he was a woodcutter who never received any formal education, and yet ultimately became the Sixth Patriarch of the Chan School of Chinese Buddhism. But based on the content of the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch and research by scholars, although Huineng was not a learned scholar, he could not have been illiterate. Moreover, if illiterate, he would be the only illiterate master in the history of Chinese Buddhism to become patriarch of a school with such far-reaching impact.  From Shakyamuni Buddha to the later patriarchs in China, there were many learned scholars with comprehensive knowledge and inner understanding of the five learnings (Skt. pancavidya) of language, logic, medicine, arts and crafts, and spirituality. Very intelligent people do not need formal education or specific cultural training; they have a natural ability to understand, and when they grasp one thing, they will grasp many other things. They can grasp the underlying principle and have a thorough understanding of the whole; so, they do not need to seek the unifying principle through separate studies of the myriad individual objects and phenomena. It is as Master Yongjia (665–713) claimed in his “Song of Enlightenment”: “[To sever the roots of karma]…no point searching for branches or plucking leaves,” and “I only made trouble for myself counting the sands in the sea.&