THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
41 Pishacha Ghosts
Once there were two pishacha ghosts who jointly owned a suitcase, a cane, and a pair of wooden shoes. The two ghosts fought over these items, each wishing to claim them for his own. They quarreled all day long without ever reaching any kind of settlement. One day an onlooker came by and asked them, “What’s so special about this suitcase, cane, and wooden shoes that causes the two of your to fight over them so bitterly?”
The two ghosts replied, “This suitcase of ours is able to bring forth all manner of provisions such as clothing, food and drink, bedding and mats. This cane is able to subdue all enemies so they don’t dare resist. One who puts on these wooden shoes will be able to fly anywhere without hindrance.”
The man immediately said to the ghosts, “Stand further back, and I will divide these things equally between the two of you.”
The two ghosts moved away. The man quickly snatched the suitcase and the cane, put on the shoes, and flew off. The two ghosts were shocked, and they ended up with nothing. The man said, “I have what you were fighting over. Now there’s no more reason for the two of you to argue.”
The pishacha ghosts are an analogy for demons and heretics. The suitcase is an analogy for giving, for providing all the necessities of life for humans and gods in the five paths of rebirth.
The cane is an analogy for Chan Samadhi, able to vanquish demonic enemies and the thieves of afflictions. The wooden slippers are an analogy for holding precepts, which enable one to ascend to the realm of humans and gods. Demons and heretics fighting over the suitcase is an analogy for those who pursue the rewards of liberation while laboring in the midst of outflows—they will obtain nothing. However, if one is able to practice wholesome deeds, giving, holding precepts, and Chan Samadhi, one will be able to leave suffering and attain the fruit of the Way.
42 The Trader and the Dead Camel
One time there was a trader who went traveling on business. In the middle of his journey, his camel died. The camel was laden with many jewels, fine carpets and other goods. The trader then flayed the dead camel and left it with his two apprentices, saying, “Watch over this camel hide. Do not let it get wet or ruined.”
Later when it began to rain, the two foolish men covered the camel hide with a carpet of superior quality. As a result the carpet was completely ruined. The carpet was much more valuable than the hide, but because of their stupidity, the men covered the camel hide with the carpet.
People of the world act that way, too. The fine carpet is analogous to abstaining from killing. The camel hide is analogous to wealth and treasures. To let the carpet get wet when it is raining is analogous to destroying wholesome deeds through indulgence. To abstain from killing is the most superior, wonderful cause leading to the Buddha’s Dharma body, and yet people do not practice it. Instead they build stupas and temples with their wealth to make offerings to the Sangha. They renounce the roots and grasp the branches, forsaking the basics. As a result they drift along the five paths of rebirth, unable to get out. Therefore, cultivators should intently and sincerely uphold the precept against killing.
43 Grinding a Large Stone
One time a man carved a large stone with great effort. After chipping away at it for days and months, he succeeded in making a small toy cow from the stone. When compared to the strenuous effort that was put into it, the result was trivial.
People of the world are like this, too. Carving the large stone is analogous to diligently pursuing learning. Making the small toy cow is analogous to people mutually deprecating each other because of their wish for fame and recognition. A scholar should intently investigate his learning so that he acquires subtle and all-encompassing knowledge. Furthermore, he should put his learning into practice in order to seek a sublime result. He should not seek fame and in the process become arrogant and haughty. This will only increase his faults and offenses.
44 Eating Half a Cake
Once there was a man who was so hungry, he ate seven pancakes. By the time he had finished eating six and half pancakes, he was full. Remorseful and upset, he slapped his own hand and said, ”Half a pancake filled me up. The other six were wasted. If I had known that this half a pancake could fill me up, I would have eaten it first.”
Worldly people are like this, too. They have never experienced bliss, and yet they convince themselves with their stupid delusion that there is such a thing as bliss, just like that foolish man who was convinced he got full by eating half a pancake. Worldly ignorant people think that wealth and honor are bliss. And yet the pursuit of wealth and honor entails much suffering. To guard them after having obtained them is also suffering. And, having lost them, pining and fretting over them is even more suffering. Throughout those three periods of time, one is never blissful.
This is also like people who delude themselves into thinking that food and clothing are pleasure. Therefore, the Buddhas says, “The three realms have no peace. They are all suffering.” But because they are upside down, ordinary people cling on to their mistaken notions of bliss.
45 The Slave Guarding the Door
Once a man was about to go on a long trip. He instructed his slave, “Watch the door carefully, and keep an eye on the donkey and the rope.”
After the houseowner left, the neighbor started to play music, which attracted the slave. He attached the rope to the door and put it on the donkey’s back, and went over to the neighbor’s to listen to the music. After the slave left, the house was robbed by thieves.
On his return the master asked the slave, “Where is my wealth?” The slave answered, “You entrusted me with the door, donkey, and rope. I know nothing about the rest.”
The master further questioned him, “The whole purpose of your watching the door was to watch over my property. Now that the property is stolen, of what use is the door?”
Foolish people undergoing birth and death, acting as slaves to love, are the same way. The Thus Come One teaches them to always guard the gates of their sense faculties, not to become distracted by the six defiling objects, and to watch over the donkey of ignorance and the rope of love. And yet the Bhikshus do not follow the Buddha’s instructions. Greedy for benefit and offerings, they feign the appearance of purity as they sit in meditation, and yet their minds are racing greedily after the five desires. They are confused by sights, sounds, smells, and tastes. Ignorance covers over their minds and they are fettered by the rope of love. As a result, the wealth of proper mindfulness, thoughts of enlightenment and the shares of the Path are all lost.