THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS

The Assembly Of Bodhisattvas
Sutra:

Together with all the Bodhisattvas, Mahasattvas: Dharma Prince Manjushri, Ajita Bodhisattva, Gandhahastin Bodhisattva, Nityodyukta Bodhisattva, and others such as these, all great Bodhisattvas, and together with Shakra, chief among gods, and the numberless great multitudes from all the heavens.

Commentary:

Not only were the sixteen venerable Arhats present in the assembly, but there were also all the Bodhisattvas, Mahasattvas, the great Bodhisattvas.

What is a Bodhisattva? Bodhisattva is a Sanskrit word. Bodhi means “enlightenment” and sattva means “being.” The word means “to enlighten those with sentience,” that is, to cause living beings to wake up.

Bodhisattva also means “enlightened among beings” because Bodhisattvas themselves are awake. Enlightenment is simply the opposite of confusion; confusion is simply non-enlightenment. With one enlightened thought, you are a Buddha. With one confused thought, you are a living being. With every thought enlightened, in every thought you are a Buddha. With every thought confused, in every thought you are a living being.

Bodhisattvas are beings who can wake themselves up. Every day they are more enlightened, not more confused.

Bodhisattvas are enlightened beings and living beings are confused beings. Enlightened beings are those who are enlightened among all the confused living beings. In all situations, they are awake. And so it is said,

If you see affairs and are awake,
You can transcend the world.
If you see affairs and are confused,
You fall beneath the wheel.

Bodhisattvas transcend the world; living beings fall beneath the grinding wheel of sense objects. The difference between Bodhisattvas and living beings is that of enlightenment and confusion. We say, “Enlightened, you’re a Buddha.” Enlightened, too, you are a Bodhisattva. Confused, you’re a living being.

Manjushri

Manjushri, also Sanskrit, means “wonderfully lucky,” or “wonderful virtue.” Of the Bodhisattvas, he is foremost in wisdom and is also known as “The Great and Wise Manjushri.”

When the Bodhisattva Manjushri was born, ten auspicious signs manifested to indicate that his merit and virtue were complete and his wisdom foremost:

Why are they called “jewels?” Because they are rare. Whatever is scarce is precious. Earth, for example, is actually very precious. Without it we couldn’t sustain our lives, and yet no one thinks it is special because there is a lot of it. If you tried to give people a handful of dirt, they wouldn’t want it; they’d just throw it away. Water, too, is essential for life, but no one prizes it because it’s everywhere. All living things depend on water for survival. Therefore Lao Zi said,

“The highest goodness, like water, benefits all things and yet does not contend. It goes to places men despise and so it is close to the Way.”

Water benefits all things, but doesn’t struggle. It would never say, “Hey, flower! Fortunately for you there is me, water, and so you have grown so big and bloomed so beautifully. Without me, flower, would this day have come for you? You really should be grateful.” It doesn’t think in this way and it doesn’t wrangle. Travellers will notice that water gathers in the lowlands, in places where men do not like to go. It lives where no one else wants to live and so it is close in its nature to the Way.

Water, fire, metal, wood, and earth benefit all things but because of their abundance, no one considers them precious. Trees are everywhere and so no one values them, but gold is a treasure because it is rare. In the Land of Ultimate Bliss, where the ground is made of gold, dirt would be valuable. If you gave a clod of Saha dirt to someone in the Land of Ultimate Bliss… Ah!… it would be as precious as those rocks they are now bringing back from the moon. They are just rocks, but because they came from the moon they are very valuable. If you sent a worthless clod of dirt to the Land of Ultimate Bliss everyone would exclaim, “Rare indeed!” So, the seven precious gems are called “jewels” because they are hard to find.

Manjushri Bodhisattva has limitless treasuries of jewels. When he was born, the seven jewels welled up from the earth – endless for the taking and inexhaustible in their use.

“Where are these treasuries?” you ask.

They are in the place where Manjushri was born.

“Can I go there?”

Don’t be so greedy. The travel expenses would cost more than the jewels you’d bring back. So don’t have this false thought.

In the Analects, Confucius wrote, “The phoenix hasn’t come and the river sends no map; I am finished.” The phoenix appears when a wise man rules and things are right in the world, as during the time of Emperor Shun (2255 B.C.) when these birds were commonly seen. During the time of Fu Xi (2852 B.C.) a turtle rose out of the river with a chart on its back. The chart gave Fu Xi the idea for the eight trigrams which combine to make the sixty-four hexagrams of the I Ching, the Book of Changes. “But now,” said Confucius, “one no longer sees such auspicious signs. Thus I know that it’s all over. To expound the Way and its virtue is of no use.”

The qilin is also an auspicious animal. In China, during the time of the benevolent Emperor Tang Di Yao (2356 B.C.), there were many phoenixes and qilins, and they were often seen. Later, when people’s karmic retribution grew too heavy, these auspicious creatures no longer appeared. Confucius wrote,

In the time of Emperor Tang Yao the qilin and phoenix abounded.
That time, however, is not the present, so what have you come to seek?
Qilin! Qilin! How my heart grieves…

“During the time of Emperor Tang Yao, qilins and phoenixes often came into the world to roam around; everyone saw them. But that time is not now, so what have you come to seek?” he said.

When the Sage Confucius was born, a qilin appeared. When his mother saw it, she tied a string around its neck. Near the end of Confucius’ life, some hunters killed a qilin. When Confucius saw it, he noticed that it had the string around its neck; it was the same qilin. Seeing this sign, he sighed deeply, for he knew that it would not be long before he died. “Qilin! Qilin! How my heart grieves…” he said.

When Manjushri was born, horses gave birth to qilins.

“You can exchange it for money and buy a lot of grain,” you may say.

I agree. A grain of gold is very valuable.

These are the ten auspicious signs which appeared at Manjushri’s birth. They represent the Ten Paramitas: giving, morality, patience, vigor, concentration, wisdom, skill in means, vows, determination, and knowledge. They show that Manjushri is not like other Bodhisattvas.

If you would like to meet Manjushri Bodhisattva, you must first remember these ten signs. Then when you see him you will know, “This is my old friend and closest good knowing advisor.”

Manjushri will be very pleased. “Yes! You are my old friend, my very good friend,” he will say. Although he doesn’t discriminate, if you don’t know him, he won’t approach you. The better you know him, the closer he comes. Therefore we should know the states of the Bodhisattvas so that we can be their brothers and friends. All the Bodhisattvas are our good knowing advisors, and in the future we will be Bodhisattvas, too. So don’t take yourselves lightly.

Ajita

Ajita is Sanskrit for “invincible.” Ajita Bodhisattva is none other than Maitreya, “compassionate clan,” Bodhisattva. He specializes in cultivating the “compassionate heart samadhi” and is compassionate toward all living beings. Scolded, beaten, cheated, insulted, no matter how badly he is treated, he is compassionate in return. No matter how obnoxious living beings are, he protects them all even more lovingly than he would protect his own sons or daughters. His compassion and loving concern are limitless and boundless.

In order to cultivate the compassionate heart samadhi, you must first practice patience, and so Ajita Bodhisattva wrote this verse:

The Old Fool wrapped in ragged clothes,
His belly filled with gruel,
He mends old sacks to keep him warm
And lives on chance, Old Fool.
A scolding makes the Fool smile sweetly,
While a beating makes him sleepy;
Spit on his face, he lets it dry
And saves his strength and energy.
His calm, a peace past ridicule
Gets him the jewel within the wonderful;
Now that you’ve heard this song today
Why worry about not perfecting the Way?

The song is about a stupid old man who wears a patched robe and eats his food plain, without soy sauce, hot sauce, or sesame oil. It doesn’t taste like much, but it fills his stomach. He mends his robes to stay warm and whatever happens, just happens:

Something happens and he reflects it;
When it passes, he is still.  

Everywhere according with conditions as the years and months go by;
Minding your own business as the time passes.

When it happens, it happens; when it’s over, it’s gone. He accords with conditions and does not change, does not change and yet accords with conditions. For him,

In movement, there is stillness,
In stillness, movement;
Both movement and stillness
Are still and moving.

But we won’t speak about it too deeply. If we did, it would be difficult to understand.

Scolded, the Old Fool says, “Great!” If someone hits him, he falls asleep. Now isn’t that stupid? If ordinary people were hit, they would glare and shout, “Why did you hit me!” But the Old Fool just falls asleep. Isn’t this wonderful? If you can master this, you’re doing pretty well; you have truly gained some genuine cultivation.

“Spit in my face,” says the stupid old man, “and I just let it dry.” If you spit in someone else’s face, the fire of ignorance would blaze thirty thousand feet into the air. “How can you insult me like that?” he’d say. But the old man doesn’t even wipe if off. He just lets it dry. Although it’s not much effort to wipe it away, he still saves his strength and gives others no affliction.

This is paramita . If you can sleep when people hit you and let their spit dry on your face, this is ksanti-paramita , the perfection of patience. If you do not understand this, what Buddhadharma do you study? You study day in and day out, but when this happens, you don’t know what dharma it is. If someone hit you to test your skill, you’d probably end up saying, “I’ve studied the Buddhadharma for so long. Why can’t I use it when the time comes?”

The paramita is the wonderful within the wonderful, the jewel within the jewel. If you’ve heard this news, how can you worry about not perfecting the Way? The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas would never deceive you.

This, then, is what Ajita Bodhisattva had to say about the perfection of patience, and if we practice accordingly we shall certainly realize the Way.

Gandhahastin and Nityodyukta  

Gandhahastin is a Sanskrit word which is interpreted as “never resting.” Nityodyukta , also Sanskrit, means “ever-vigorous.” “Ever-vigorous” and “Never-resting” competed with each other. One was vigorous and the other never rested; one never rested and the other was vigorous. They watched each other: “If you don’t rest,” said one, “then I’ll be constantly vigorous.”

“If you’re ever vigorous,” replied the other, “then I won’t rest.” In the six periods of the day and night they practiced the Way, each acting as the other’s Dharma protector. They raced every step of the way, and neither would let himself fall behind. Thus Gandhahastin is just Nityodyukta; Ever-vigorous is just Never-resting.

These two have cultivated together as Dharma friends for limitless kalpas. “If you work hard, I’ll work harder! If you increase your efforts, I’ll double mine.” They are genuine cultivators, ever-vigorous and never-resting, Nityodyukta and Gandhahastin.

Shakra, and the multitudes from heavens

Shakra, chief among gods, and the numberless great multitudes from all the heavens.
Shakra, or Sakro Devanam Indra, is the ruler of the Trayastrimsa Heaven, the Heaven of the Thirty-three. He is referred to in the Shurangama mantra as Yin Tuo La Ye . Those who understand the Buddhadharma know that all gods, ghosts, and spirit kings, as well as all the great Bodhisattvas are contained within the Shurangama mantra. Those who do not understand the Buddhadharma say, “Buddhism does not include the heavens, the twenty-eight constellations…” They say this because they don’t understand that the heavens and the constellations, everything is within the Shurangama mantra. Shakra is Sanskrit; it means “the able heavenly ruler.”

Numberless great multitudes from all the heavens. Numberless, the heavens cannot be counted. In general there are thirty-three, but if you were to describe them in detail, you would speak of the limitless heavens within each heaven, just as there are also limitless worlds within each world and limitless countries within each country. Thus, many heavenly beings were present in the assembly.

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