Questions about the Way and Past Lives
A Shramana asked the Buddha, "By what causes and conditions can I know my past lives and understand the ultimate Way?"
The Buddha said, "By purifying your mind and preserving your resolve, you can understand the ultimate Way. Just as when you polish a mirror, the dust vanishes and brightness remains, so too, if you cut off desire and do not seek, you then can know past lives."
The thirteenth section helps people gain knowledge of past lives and an understanding of the Way. The Buddha tells us that if knowledge of past lives is our goal, we must understand the Way.
A Shramana asked, "By what causes and conditions can I know my past lives and understand the ultimate Way?" "What causes and conditions, or what Dharma-doors, should I cultivate in order to obtain knowledge of past lives? How can I understand true principles?"
The Buddha said, "By purifying your mind and preserving your resolve, you can understand the ultimate Way." The Buddha said, "You should make your thoughts pure and guard your resolve. Firmly keep your resolve. Whatever vows you have made, you should uphold them. You can't make vows and then forget them after only a few days. You can't withdraw them after a short while. That's not permissible. That's not preserving your resolve. If you can purify your thoughts, if you can get rid of the darkness in your mind--all the false thoughts, greed, hatred, and stupidity--and if you can preserve your resolve, you will come naturally to understand the true Way, the highest Way." What is it like? Now I will give you an analogy.
Just as when you polish a mirror, the dust vanishes and bright-ness remains. It's just like cleaning a mirror: when the dust is gone, the brightness of the mirror appears. This brightness refers to the penetration of past lives.
So too, if you cut off desire and do not seek, you then can know past lives. If you can cut off your thoughts of desire and reach the level of not seeking for anything, then you can attain the penetration of knowing past lives. When people cultivate the Way, they certainly should not indulge in any scattered thinking or false thoughts. If you can do away with false and scattered thoughts, then no matter what Dharma-door you cultivate, you will quickly succeed with it. If you have false and scattered thoughts, as well as greed, hatred, and stupidity filling up your belly, then you certainly aren't going to obtain a response, no matter what Dharma-door you cultivate.
When we study and cultivate the Buddhadharma, we should first cut off desire and cast out love. You should sever thoughts of desire and reach the level of seeking nothing. If you seek for anything, just that seeking is suffering. No matter what you seek, if you cannot obtain it, you will experience the suffering of not getting what you want. Everyone should pay attention to this. When we cultivate, what is it that we cultivate? We cultivate to get rid of false thoughts and thoughts of desire. That isrealskill. If you cleanse yourself of jealousy, obstructions, greed, hatred, and stupidity, then you can obtain the penetration of knowing past lives.
Asking about Goodness and Greatness
A Shramana asked the Buddha, "What is goodness? What is the foremost greatness?" The Buddha said, "To practice the Way and uphold the truth is goodness. To unite your will with the Way is greatness."
The fourteenth section explains that there is no greater good than genuine cultivation. "Greatness" is realizing and certifying to genuine principles. This is the foremost greatness.
A Shramana asked the Buddha, "What is goodness? What is the best thing? What should be done? What is the foremost greatness? What is the most awesome, the most important, the most essential phenomenon?"
The Buddha said, "To practice the Way and uphold the truth is goodness." If you can cultivate the genuine Buddhadharma, that's the best thing to do. Don't follow cult practices and religions that lead outside the mind. What is the genuine Buddhadharma? It is not being selfish; it is being open and public-spirited; it is letting go of your views that discriminate between self and others. We shouldn't have an ego. We should not be selfish or seek for self-benefit. In every move we make we should cultivate the Bodhisattva Way and benefit living beings.
However much we understand, we should teach others to understand that much. When we obtain benefit, we should let others obtain that benefit. To be unselfish and seek no personal advantages is the greatest goodness. To practice the Way and uphold the truth means to uphold true principles and not to uphold empty and unreal dharmas. In cultivating, we must understand true principles. If we don't understand true principles, then we are not upholding the truth. Upholding the truth is the best thing.
To unite your will with the Way is greatness. When your will and the Way which you cultivate can unite as one, you can realize the fruition of a sage. Perhaps you can attain the position of Arhatship or walk the Bodhisattva Path. That is the foremost greatness.
Asking about Strength and Brilliance
A Shramana asked the Buddha, "What is the greatest strength? What is the utmost brilliance?"
The Buddha said, "Patience under insult is the greatest strength, because people who are patient do not harbor hatred, and they gradually grow more peaceful and strong. Patient people, since they are not evil, will surely gain the respect of others.
"When the mind's defilements are gone completely, so that it is pure and untainted, that is the utmost brilliance. When there is nothing, from before the formation of the heavens and the earth until now, in any of the ten directions that you do not see, know, or hear; when you have attained omniscience, that may be called brilliance."
This fifteenth section tells us that the strength of patience is the greatest strength. It can end all defilement and enable one to have far-reaching understanding.
A Shramana asked the Buddha, "What is the greatest strength?" He asked, "What is the strongest of all things? What is the utmost brilliance?"What is the brightest and wisest thing?
The Buddha said in reply to the question, "Patience under insult is the greatest strength." If you can be patient under insult, then your strength is great. If you aren't patient under insult, then you have no strength. The strength of patience under insult is infinite. Why is it so great? Because people who are patient do not harbor hatred; because the strength of goodness contains no evil. It is totally good, and therefore it is inexhaustible.
It is said that, "The soft can overcome the hard; that which yields can defeat that which is obstinate." Something soft can overcome something hard, and victory goes to what yields over what is obstinate. I have often asked you, "Why do teeth fall out?" The answer is because teeth are hard. "Why doesn't the tongue fall out?" Because the tongue is soft. Even if you live to be several hundred years old, you will meet only people whose teeth have fallen out; you'll never run into somebody whose tongue has fallen off. The tongue is yielding and can endure; this is the greatest strength. And they gradually grow more peaceful and strong. What is more, the patient person becomes calm, healthy, and robust.
Patient people, since they are not evil, will surely gain the respect of others. If you can be patient under insult, you won't do evil. If you are incapable of doing evil, you surely will obtain people's respect. When the mind's defilements are gone com-pletely,when you extinguish the selfishness, profit-seeking, greed, hatred, stupidity, and related defiled and desirous thoughts from your mind, so that it is pure and untainted, then you become pure to the point that your mind doesn't have any faults, filth, or defile-ments. There's only a pure mind, and that is the utmost brilliance. If you can get rid of the darkness in your mind, that is the greatest brilliance; it is the supreme wisdom.
When there is nothing, from before the formation of the heavens and the earth until now, in any of the ten directions that you do not see, know, or hear; when you have attained omniscience, that may be called brilliance. From beginningless time onwards, throughout the ten directions, there is nothing that is not seen and nothing that is not known. From eons without beginning to the present, you know everything that has happened, and there is nothing you haven't heard of. How can you be this way? Because you have obtained all-wisdom, and only this counts as genuine understanding, genuine comprehension, and genuine wisdom.
Casting Aside Love and Attaining the Way
The Buddha said, "People who cherish love and desire do not see the Way. Just as when you stir clear water with your hand, those who stand beside it cannot see their reflections, so, too, people who are entangled in love and desire have turbidity in their minds, and therefore they cannot see the Way. You Shramanas should cast aside love and desire. When the stains of love and desire disappear, you will be able to see the Way."
This sixteenth section explains the minds of ordinary people. The "water of the mind" is fundamentally pure and clear. But if you stir the water up, it's no longer clear. What is the settled clarity? It is the Way. That which is not clear and pure is love and desire. Desire obstructs us so that we are not able to understand our mind and see our nature. Desire keeps us from seeing the Way, and therefore from realizing the fruition of the Way. One who realizes the first fruition is at the position of the Way of Seeing, which also means seeing the Way.
The Buddha said, "People who cherish love and desire do not see the Way." To explain this Dharma to Westerners is difficult, because no matter what Westerners talk about, it always concerns love and desire. This is especially true of followers of certain religions who say, "God loves me, and I love God." They love God, just as men and women love one another. In fact, some nuns even say that they marry God. They simply have no understanding of the Way. What people harbor in their minds is love and desire. Everything they do involves love and desire. If you cultivate the Way, but do not understand it, then on the one hand you cultivate, but on the other hand you lose your cultivation. You're advised not to hold onto any love and desire, but your love and desire keep on increasing!
It is just as when you stir clear water with your hand. When love and desire overtake you, you don't see the Way. What's it like? It's like stirring up clear water with your hand so that it becomes murky. The clear water becomes murky because it contains sand and silt; if it didn't contain sand and silt, then even if you stirred it up, it wouldn't get murky. What is this sand and silt? It's love and desire. When you bring forth your love and desire, it's like stirring up the silt in the water with your hand, so that those who stand beside it cannot see their reflections. The water won't reflect their images. Why? Because you've stirred it up. Why don't you see the Way? It is because love and desire have made you so murky.
So, too, people who are entangled in love and desire have turbidity in their minds. From morning to night, people think about such unclean things as love and desire. They become entangled, so that no matter what they think about, it's really only variations on that one theme. The water of wisdom becomes turbid in their minds; their wisdom disappears, and therefore they cannot see the Way. You cultivate day in and day out, but you don't realize the fruition, and you don't see the Way. Why? Because you have thoughts of love and desire. If you didn't have thoughts of love and desire, you would be able to see the Way quickly.
So the Buddha said, "You Shramanas should cast aside love and desire." "Shramanas" includes all of us Bhikshus and Bhikshunis of the present age. We should all give up love and desire. This does not mean that men should say, "I hate women. When I see a woman, I get angry and send her away." That's not the way we should handle desire. How should it be? We should see as if not seeing, and hear as if we hadn't heard. There's no reason to despise them. We simply don't let our minds become swayed by them. To cast aside love and desire means to give them away. It's just like giving money to people; once you've given it, you don't have it anymore. To whom should you give your love and desire? Give it back to your father and mother. When the stains of love and desire disappear--if the impure, turbid filth of love and desire are gone--then you will be able to see the Way.Thiscultivation can lead you to see the Way and to realize the fruition of the Way.
When Light Arrives, Darkness Departs
The Buddha said, "Those who see the Way are like someone holding a torch who enters a dark room, dispelling the darkness so that only light remains. When you study the Way and see the truth, ignorance vanishes and light remains forever."
The seventeenth section reveals that darkness has no independent existence. Since it doesn't have any independent existence, once it vanishes, it is gone for good. Once you see the Way, then all ignorance will vanish.
The Buddha said, "Those who see the Way are like someone holding a torch who enters a dark room, dispelling the darkness so that only light remains." A person who sees the Way is like someone who takes up a torch and goes into a dark room, immediately banishing the darkness so that only the light remains. The darkness is gone because he holds a torch. The torch represents our wisdom. This means that if we have wisdom, we can break through ignorance, which is represented by the dark room. If we have wisdom, the dark room will become bright.
When you study the Way and see the truth, ignorance vanishes and light remains forever. Someone who studies the Way and can see the actual truth will immediately vanquish ignorance, and wisdom will remain forever.
Thoughts and So Forth Are Basically Empty
The Buddha said, "My Dharma is the mindfulness that is both mindfulness and non-mindfulness. It is the practice that is both practice and non-practice. It is words that are words and non-words, and cultivation that is cultivation and non-cultivation. Those who understand are near to it; those who are confused are far away, indeed. It is not accessible by the path of language. It is not hindered by physical objects. If you are off by a hairsbreadth, you will lose it in an instant."
The eighteenth section explains the relationship between the existence and non-existence of mindfulness and cultivation.
The Buddha said, "My Dharma is the mindfulness that is both mindfulness and non-mindfulness." The Buddha said, "My Dharma is not being mindful that you are mindful; and even the thought of that 'not being mindful' is not there. Therefore my Dharma is called a mindfulness that is mindfulness, and yet not mindfulness. It is the practice that is both practice and non-practice. In my Dharma, practice also is the Way of effortlessness.' In cultivating, you don't want to have any attachments. It should be the same as not cultivating. Even the shadow of 'no cultivating' should not remain."
It is words that are words and non-words. Don't be attached to words and language. Further, even your intention not to be attached to words and language should be done away with. And it is cultivation that is cultivation and non-cultivation. It is the Way of effortlessness, cultivating and yet not cultivating, certifying and yet not certifying. There isn't any thought of cultivating the Way. That means that you don't have any attachments; all attachments are seen as empty. Even the emptiness is emptied out.
Those who understand are near to it. To understand something means to be clear about it. If you understand this doctrine, you are near to the Way. Those who are confused are far away, indeed. But if you fail to understand and are confused about the principle, then you will be far from the Way. What is the Way ultimately like? I'll tell you: It is not accessible by the path of language. You want to speak about it, but you can't represent it in words. You want to think about it, but you can't formulate the thought. You simply cannot speak of its wonder.
It is said that the path of words and language is cut off, and the place of the mind's workings ceases to be. What the mind wants to think about is gone, and absolutely everything is empty. It is not hindered by physical objects. Physical matter is itself the basic substance of True Suchness. If you are able to realize this state, then you will see that the mountains, the rivers, the earth, and all the myriad things are just the basic substance of True Suchness, and you will not be hindered by physical objects.
If you are off by a hairsbreadth, if you are off by just a fraction of an inch, just a tiny bit, in the way you cultivate, you will lose it in an instant. You immediately lose it and won't be able to find it. You should break through your attachments, and then you will be able to attain this state.
Contemplating Both the False and the True
The Buddha said, "Contemplate heaven and earth, and be mindful of their impermanence. Contemplate the world, and be mindful of its impermanence. Contem-plate the efficacious, enlightened nature: it is the Bodhi nature. With this awareness, one quickly attains the Way."
In the nineteenth section, the Buddha teaches us the principle that everything is made from the mind alone. We must cast aside what is false and keep what is true. Heaven covers us from above, and the earth supports us from below. Seen from the point of view of ordinary people, heaven and earth are eternal and indestructible. But, in fact, they are not eternal and indestructible. They also undergo the superseding of the old by the new. They are not permanent.
The Buddha said, "Contemplate heaven and earth, and be mindful of their impermanence." When you look at heaven and earth, you see that sometimes they are hot and sometimes cold. When the cold comes, the warmth goes. There is the cycle of spring, summer, fall, and winter. On the earth the mountains and rivers are involved in constant transition and do not stay fixed. They are dharmas that are created and destroyed. They are not the uncreated, undestroyed dharmas of the mind. They are impermanent. Therefore, the Buddha said to be mindful of their impermanence.
Contemplate the world, and be mindful of its impermanence. The world changes; it is not static. [In Chinese, the two characters for the concept "world" imply the ideas of time and place.] Both time and place are subject to creation and destruction. Neither is permanent and indestructible. So the text says, "be mindful of its impermanence."
Contemplate the efficacious, enlightened nature: it is the Bodhi nature. You contemplate your own bright, enlightened spiritual nature: it is just the Bodhi-nature. With this awareness, one quickly attains the Way. If you can investigate in this way and gain an understanding, if you can know it as it is, then you will immediately obtain the Way. Because you understand this principle, you will obtain the Way. But if you fail to understand this principle, you will not obtain the Way.
Realize that the Self Is Truly Empty
The Buddha said, "You should be mindful of the four elements within the body. Though each has a name, none of them is the self. Since they are not the self, they are like an illusion."
The twentieth section instructs people to contemplate the human body in terms of the four elements, in order to realize that the body is like an illusion, like a transformation. It is false, and unreal.
The Buddha said, "You should be mindful of the four elements within the body." We should consider the four elements within our bodies. Our bodies are a combination of these four: earth, water, fire, and air. The solid parts of the body are from the element earth. The moist parts are of the element water; warmth comes from the element fire; and breathing and movement are manifestations of the air element.
Though each has a name. The four elements all have names. Each element has its own name.None of them is the self. None of them can be called the "self." Consider the body and figure it out: the head has the name "head"; the feet have the name "feet"; the eyes have the name "eyes"; the ears have the name "ears"; the nose has the name "nose"; the tongue has the name "tongue"; the mouth has the name "mouth." From head to foot, every part of the body has its own name. Now, where would you say the self can be found? Which place is called the "self"? There isn't any place called the self. Since there is no place called self, then why do you want to be attached to the self? Why do you want to look upon the self as so important? The entire body contains nothing called the self.
Since they are not the self, they are like an illusion. There is no self, and so the body is like an illusion, like a transformation. There isn't anything real about it. The one who contemplates and that which is contemplated are both empty and false. Both are illusory, and mere transformations. If you can understand that they are like an illusion, like a transformation, you can understand the doctrine of the contemplation of emptiness, falseness, and the Middle Way. When you understand this principle, you will know that the body is empty, false, and unreal.
Fame Destroys Life's Roots
The Buddha said, "There are people who follow emotion and desire and seek to be famous. By the time their reputation is established, they are already dead. Those who are greedy for worldly fame and do not study the Way simply waste their effort and wear themselves out. By way of analogy, although burning incense gives off fragrance, when it has burned down, the remaining embers bring the danger of a fire that can burn one up."
Section Twenty-one teaches that people who seek fame not only don't benefit from it, but are actually harmed by it.
The Buddha said, "There are people who follow emotion and desire and seek to be famous." People give way to their emotions and desires and chase after fame; they are after a good reputation. By the time their reputation is established, they are already dead. By the time you have made a name for yourself, you are already old; and once you are old, you will soon die. So there's no real point to it.
Those who are greedy for worldly fame and do not study the Way simply waste their effort and wear themselves out. People who are greedy for an ordinary, worldly reputation and who don't cultivate to attain the fruition of the Way apply their effort in vain. They wear themselves out. By way of analogy, although burning incense gives off fragrance, when it has burned down, the remaining embers bring the danger of a fire that can burn one up. Suppose you light a chunk of incense. Although you can smell a whiff of fragrance, when the incense has burned down, a fire may flare up from the embers and burn you to death. This is a very dangerous consequence that could occur.
Wealth and Sex Cause Suffering
The Buddha said, "People are unable to renounce wealth and sex. They are just like a child who cannot resist honey on the blade of a knife. Even though the amount is not even enough for a single meal's serving, he will lick it and risk cutting his tongue in the process."
The twenty-second section explains clearly that wealth and sex have little flavor, but cause great harm. So people with wisdom should not be like ignorant children who crave a sweet flavor.
The Buddha said, "People are unable to renounce wealth and sex." In this world, there is wealth on the one hand, and sex on the other. These two harm many people who cultivate the Way. If people who cultivate the Way cannot renounce wealth, they will be greedy for it. If they cannot renounce sex, they will be greedy for sex. If you are greedy for wealth and sex, you cannot accomplish your work in the Way. Most people cannot renounce these two. What are they like? The Buddha brings up an analogy.
They are just like a child who cannot resist honey on the blade of a knife. Even though the amount is not even enough for a single meal's serving, he will lick it and risk cutting his tongue in the process. There's a little bit of honey on the sharp edge of the knife, not even enough for one meal's serving. Seeing the honey on the blade of the knife, a child licks it. Ignorant people who crave wealth and sex are just like the child who craves the honey on the knife and who thus risks cutting his tongue. Therefore, we must certainly see through and put down wealth and sex. Only then can we obtain self-mastery.
A Family Is Worse than a Prison
The Buddha said, "People are bound to their families and homes to such an extent that these are worse than a prison. Eventually one is released from prison, but people never think of leaving their families. Don't they fear the control that emotion, love, and sex have over them? Although they are in a tiger's jaws, their hearts are blissfully oblivious. Because they throw themselves into a swamp and drown, they are known as ordinary people. Pass through the gateway! Get out of the defilement and become an Arhat!"
This twenty-third section explains that people are as if smothered by their families and their houses. To be smothered like this is worse than being in jail. People should stay far away from this situation and recognize how dangerous it is.
The Buddha said, "People are bound to their families and homes to such an extent that these are worse than a prison." People are tied up by their families. Houses also bind people. It is said that householders are bound by three kinds of yokes that they wear at all times.
A family is like a wooden cangue locked so tightly around your neck that you can't shrug it off. In the past, you had to wear a cangue as punishment if you committed certain crimes. Once you have family, it is just like a cangue locking you up. For instance, some of our laypeople who have families have lost their freedom. They want to go to heaven, but they aren't free to go. They want to travel around the earth, but they can't go. They are locked securely at home.
That's what it means to be bound up by a spouse so that everything becomes inconvenient. If you have children, it's as if you are handcuffed, which makes it inconvenient to move around. Having parents is like having a ball and chain on your foot. These are the three yokes that bind anyone who has a family. To be bound to your house means that you cannot put it down. You are bound up, and it's worse than being in a prison. Having a family and a house is just like spending your life in prison.
Eventually one is released from prison. The time will come when your sentence is finished and you get out of prison, but people never think of leaving their families. You don't want to leave your family--you may think about leaving them, but you really don't want to. For example, some of you say you want to leave the home-life. If you want to leave home, then go ahead and leave home. Why simply talk about it? You're still just talking about it because you haven't really made the resolve to leave home. You are just singing a tune.
Don't they fear the control that emotion, love, and sex have over them? These people have no fear of being controlled by emotion, love, and sex. Although they are in a tiger's jaws, their hearts are blissfully oblivious. Even though this situation is like being in the jaws of a tiger, you wouldn't mind being eaten by the tiger.
Because they throw themselves into a swamp and drown, they are known as ordinary people. Because they cast themselves into a swamp and drown themselves, they are called ordinary people. Pass through the gateway! Get out of the defilement and become an Arhat! What gateway? The gateway of emotion and desire, of love and sex, and of attachments to families and homes. Pass through the gateway and you will get out of the defilement; you'll become an Arhat who leaves the world of defilement. You will be a sage who is about to attain the fruition of Arhatship.
Sexual Desire Obstructs the Way
The Buddha said, "Of all longings and desires, there is none as strong as sex. Sexual desire has no equal. Fortunately, it is one of a kind. If there were something else like it, no one in the entire world would be able to cultivate the Way."
The twenty-fourth section speaks of people's thoughts of sexual desire. If you are able to cut off sexual desire, it will be easy for you to realize the fruition of Arhatship. Unfortunately, it is not at all easy to cut it off. All living beings have this problem. According to the Shurangama Sutra, "If you cannot renounce thoughts of sexual desire, you cannot transcend the dust of the world." If you can't get rid of sexual desire, then you will not be able to realize Arhatship.
The Buddha said, "Of all longings and desires, there is none as strong as sex." Here, "longings and desires" refer to sexual desire, that is, to the mind of lust. There is nothing more powerful than attraction to the opposite sex. Sexual desire has no equal. It is so strong that there is nothing more powerful than this kind of emotional desire.
Fortunately, it is one of a kind. If there were something else like it, no one in the entire world would be able to cultivate the Way. Luckily, sexual desire is unique. If there were something else equal to it, then none of the living beings in the entire world would be able to cultivate the Way. It is difficult enough with just one obstruction like this; two together would simply devour people, and no one would be able to cultivate. Another illustration of this is when women get confused by desire for women, and when men get confused by desire for men. Men and women both engage in homosexual conduct: men have homosexual relationships with men, and women have homosexual relationships with women. It all amounts to being confused by sexual desire.
The Fire of Desire Burns
The Buddha said, "A person with love and desire is like one who carries a torch while walking against the wind: he is certain to burn his hand."
The twenty-fifth section explains why one must stay away from love and desire.
The Buddha said, "A person with love and desire is like one who carries a torch while walking against the wind." A person who always indulges in emotional love and desire, who goes along with his emotional desires and lustful thoughts, might as well be holding a burning torch while walking against the wind. He is certain to burn his hand. He is certain to get burned. Now, burning one's hand may not be such a great problem, but I'm afraid he will burn up his entire body. Therefore, in such a situation it's better to simply stay away from these things in the first place.
Demons from the Heavens Try to Tempt the Buddha
The heaven spirit offered beautiful maidens to the Buddha, hoping to destroy his resolve. The Buddha said, "What have you skin-bags full of filth come here for? Go away, I've got no use for you."
Then the heaven spirit became very respectful and asked about the meaning of the Way. The Buddha explained it for him, and he immediately attained the fruition of Srotaapanna.
The heaven spirit referred to here is a demon from the heavens, namely, the Demon King Papiyan. He waited until the Buddha was about to accomplish the Way and then sent a great retinue of demons, a whole army of them, intent upon disturbing the Buddha. But, as the twenty-sixth section explains, the Buddha was not swayed by the demon king. Instead, he was able to convert him into a Dharma-protector of the Buddha.
The heaven spirit offered beautiful maidens to the Buddha, hoping to destroy his resolve. The demon king from the heavens gave three jade women to the Buddha. What is meant by "jade women"? These women were particularly beautiful, as exquisite as jade, with looks that were out of this world. Not only was no one on earth as beautiful, there were no women in the heavens as beautiful, either. The demon king sent the beautiful women, hoping the Buddha would have thoughts of lust. He wanted to destroy the Buddha's determination and vows to cultivate the Way.
The Buddha said, "What have you skin-bags full of filth come here for?" Now, it makes no difference whether you are speaking of men or women, whether it is handsome men or beautiful women. The meaning is not that only women are so terrible, while men are not. The Buddha said the human body is a skin-bag full of filth. Our skin is compared to a leather bag. What's stored in the bag? There is little other than excrement and urine inside it. What could possibly be attractive about that?
You may look just on the surface and say, "Oh, that man is extremely handsome." No matter how handsome he is, he can't be more handsome than Ananda, who was so good-looking that Matangi's daughter fell in love with him at first sight. When Matangi's daughter came before the Buddha, the Buddha asked her what she loved about Ananda. She said, "Oh, his nose is fine, his eyes are beautiful, his ears are well-shaped--all the features on his face are wonderful!"
The Buddha said to her, "All right, if you love his nose, I'll cut off his nose and give it to you. If you love his ears, I'll slice them off, and you can have them. If you love his eyes, then I'll gouge them out, and they're yours. You can take them back with you."She said, "No! That would never do!"
Ultimately, what meaning is there in the love between men and women? No matter how perfect a person may be on the surface, inside there are all kinds of filth. Urine and excrement collect inside, and the nine apertures constantly flow with impurities. Matter comes out from the eyes, wax from the ears, mucus from the nose, and saliva from the mouth. Then there is urine and excrement. Which of these substances is pure and clean? So the Buddha called it a stinking skin-bag full of filth.
Go away, I've got no use for you. The Buddha said, "You've come to give me this? What use is it to me? None! Go away. I don't want you."
When the demon offered the women to the Buddha, the Buddha looked at the three women and had this contemplation: "When you're old, you'll have who-knows-how-many wrinkles on your faces. And when you're old enough to have all those ugly wrinkles, your hair will have turned gray, and you won't be pretty at all." As soon as the Buddha had this thought, the demon women spontaneously took on that appearance. When they looked at themselves in that state, they felt that it was pretty meaningless, and they were very embarrassed. So the Buddha sent them away, saying, "I've got no use for you!"
Then the heaven spirit became very respectful and asked about the meaning of the Way. The demon from the heavens then saw what solid resolution the Buddha had for the Way, and so he became even more respectful and asked the Buddha to speak Dharma for him. The Buddha explained it for him, and he immediately attained the fruition of Srotaapanna (the first fruition of Arhatship).
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