THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
“Moreover, Shariputra, in that Buddhaland there is always heavenly music and the ground is yellow gold. In the six periods of the day and night a heavenly rain of mandarava flowers falls, and throughout the clear morning, each living being of that land, with sacks full of the myriads of wonderful flowers, makes offerings to the hundreds of thousands of millions of Buddhas of the other directions. At mealtime they return to their own country, and having eaten, they stroll around.
“Shariputra, the realisation of the Land of Ultimate Bliss is thus meritoriously adorned.
Shakyamuni Buddha told Shariputra, “In Amitabha’s country, the gods play music all day and all night,” throughout the six periods: the beginning of the day, the middle of the day, the end of the day, the beginning of the night, the middle of the night, and the end of the night. Mandarava , a Sanskrit word, may be interpreted as, “according to your wish,” or “white flower”. However you would like them to be, that’s the way these flowers are.
At dawn when the sun is just rising, the living beings of this land, with sacks full of the myriads of wonderful flowers, make offering to the hundreds of thousands of millions of Buddhas of the other directions . How long does it take? Not long, just the time it takes to eat a meal, half and hour or so. These living beings can travel to billions of Buddhalands in a very short space of time because they have obtained the Eight Great Freedoms of the Self; they are free and independent, and everything accords with their wishes. Having obtained the “as you will” spiritual penetrations, if they want to go somewhere, they arrive there immediately.
When we bow to the Buddha, we should envision our bodies filling the limitless Buddhalands of the ten directions, personally bowing to all the Buddhas. If you can contemplate the Dharma realm in this way, then your body is as big as the Dharma realm. The Avatamsaka Sutra says,
“If one wishes to understand completely
The Buddhas of the three periods of time,
He should contemplate the nature of the Dharma realm:
Everything is made from the mind alone.”
At mealtime they return to the Land of Ultimate Bliss and having eaten , they go for a walk.
“Moreover Shariputra, in this country there are always rare and wonderful vari-colored birds: white geese, peacocks, parrots, and egret, kalavinkas, and two-headed birds. In the six periods of the day and night the flocks of birds sing forth harmonious and elegant sounds; their clear and joyful sounds proclaim the five roots, the five powers, the seven bodhi shares, the eight sagely way shares, and dharmas such as these. When living beings of this land hear these sounds, they are altogether mindful of the Buddha, mindful of the Dharma, and mindful of the Sangha.
Since Shariputra still had no questions, Shakyamuni Buddha said “I will tell you a little more, Shariputra. In the Land of Ultimate Bliss there are many kinds of multi-colored birds.” They are most unusual and beautiful. White geese are found in our world, too. Peacocks are especially beautiful. Parrots can talk! They may see you and say, “Hello!” Some Chinese parrots say, “A guest is coming, a guest is coming.” Some people even teach their parrots to recite the Buddha’s name so that they can be born in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. Egrets are the kind of bird after which Shariputra’s mother was named. They are also very beautiful.
Kalavinka is a Sanskrit word which means “good sounding bird.” Before it has even hatched from its egg, it sings more melodiously than any other bird. Two-headed birds have two heads on one body. Have you ever seen such a bird? Living beings are born this way as karmic retribution for too much sexual activity. Because the husband’s and wife’s sexual desire was so heavy that they indulged in intercourse day and night, they fell and turned into a bird-body with two heads. They have different consciousness, but the same karmic retribution. So be careful! If your sexual desire is too intense you may become a two-headed bird.
Someone says, “I did like very much to become one of those birds. People would watch over me and feed me and take care of me.”
Perhaps. But the birds are animals just the same, and when their lives are over, they fall into the hells. It is dangerous. Don’t think that being a bird is a lot of fun, even though they can fly when they want to fly and perch when they want to perch. A bird’s retribution is incredible; it’s wisdom decreases life after life. But if you have wisdom, you won’t fall.
In the six periods of the day and night , these birds sing forth harmonious and elegant sounds, like a chorale, very fine music. The birds in the Land of Ultimate Bliss are not born as a result of their karmic offences; they are manifestations of Amitabha Buddha’s merit and virtue. In the Land of Ultimate Bliss, the three evil ways of rebirth do not exist.
“If there are no animals,” you may ask, “then where did all the birds come from?”.
They are manifestations of Amitabha Buddha’s merit and virtue and their songs are Dharma sounds which help him speak the Dharma.
Their clear and joyful sounds sound good to everyone. Everyone who hears them becomes happy because the sounds penetrate right into the heart. What is heard in the clear and joyful sounds? The sounds of the birds are the sounds of Dharma.
The Five Roots :
The five roots germinate Bodhi seeds and cause your Bodhi heart to grow until it fully matures into…
The Five Powers :
The Seven Bodhi Shares , also called the Seven Limbs of Enlightenment, are:
These seven are very important and all Buddhist disciples should know them.
The Eight Sagely Way Shares , also known as the Proper Eight-fold Path, are:
This refers to your manner of regarding something, your mental outlook and your opinions, not to what you view with your eyes. You practice the non-outflow conduct in contemplating yourself. Your own views and understanding must be proper. But you may also explain Proper Views as the view you see with your eyes, that is, you may view what is proper, but not what is improper.
Improper means “deviant,” as when people see something that causes them to give rise to deviant thoughts. The “view” is one’s vision of external manifestations. For example, if a Bhiksu sees an improper person, he should not continue to look at him; if he looks, that is called an improper view. The Sramanera Precepts say, “Don’t sing or dance, use popular instruments, or attend or listen to such events.” Improper thoughts are also improper views. But if you can “see without seeing,” although it is improper, you don’t think of it as such, you may then be said to have proper views.
Internally, where people cannot see, you use non-outflow wisdom. It is most important to be without outflows. I have explained this many times, but it seems that the more I explain it, the more outflows you have! Outflows flow out, you have a tiny bit of the water of wisdom, but you let it flow right out and use instead the fire of ignorance. There is nothing more wonderful in heaven and earth than the dharma-door of no-outflows, and yet you still take no notice of it. Even if Shakyamuni Buddha himself appeared, if you had outflows, he couldn’t take you across.
To be without outflows, you must be free from improper knowledge, be without improper views and have no sexual desire. If you have sexual desire, you have outflows. With no sexual desire, you have no outflows. Just this is proper thought. If you have desire, you have outflows, if you have no desire, you have no outflows. Proper thought belong to the mind, do not give rise to evil thoughts in the mind.
With proper speech what you say is not the slightest bit off-color. Your speech is completely correct.
If someone speaks improperly to you, you should think of it as proper. This is pure mouth karma. Worldly men are of many kinds, and when they speak improperly, do not criticise them saying “Ah! He is speaking incorrectly!” On the other hand, be careful not to get too close to such people either. Proper thought is pure mind karma and proper speech is pure mouth karma.
Proper action refers to pure bodily karma. Use non-outflow wisdom do discard improper bodily karma, specifically sexual desires. I can’t make it too clear, I can’t say it too frankly. Many people say, “Oh well, emptiness is form and form is emptiness,” and they casually play around. This is improper action.
When you use non-outflow wisdom, your behaviour is never improper. People with improper wisdom are not intelligent enough to behave properly, but they can do evil things, things involving men and women, miraculously well, better than anyone else.
Proper action is purity of the body. Proper action, proper speech, proper thought mean purity of the karmas of body, mouth and mind.
Proper livelihood refers to any livelihood which does not fall within the five kinds of improper livelihood:
Manifesting a strange style. “Look at me,” says the Great Vehicle monk dressed in Small Vehicle robes. “I am special. You should make offerings to me.”
“He is special,” say the blind followers. “He is probably a Buddha or a Bodhisattva,” taking the gaudy rick-rack for a treasure.
Speaking of your own merit and virtue. “Do you know me? I have done many good deeds. I put a whole lot of money into building that bridge over there, and people walk back and forth on it because of my merit and virtue. I built a home for the aged and a school and I established scholarships as well. I built a temple where I support several hundred Dharma masters, and I am acting as their Dharma protector. The merit and virtue is mine – all mine!” They can get away with telling such stories to stupid people, but people with wisdom don’t even have to hear what they are saying; they can tell by looking at them that they are just telling stories.
Fortune telling. People consult an oracle. “You should give me a million dollars,” he says, “and do good deeds. If you don’t, you will die tomorrow.”
“A million dollars isn’t too much to pay for my life,” the victim thinks, and so he gives, and the next day he doesn’t die. Of course he wouldn’t have anyway, but still he believes that he might have.
“Tomorrow,” says the fortune-teller, “a very lucky thing will happen if you do a good deed today. Give fifty pounds of gold today and tomorrow you will get five hundred.”
“Ten to one is not a bad ratio,” the man says handing him fifty pounds of gold. But the next day there is no gold, and he can’t find the fortune-teller either! “And I thought I did met an immortal,” he says.
Shouting and bragging. When it isn’t necessary, why shout? A certain Dharma master used to startle people by bellowing at them. People were impressed even though they had no idea what he was saying. His voice was very resonant, but what is the point of yelling? With many people present, you can speak a little louder. Otherwise you shouldn’t yell. Why does a Dharma master shout? He doesn’t know that it is one of the five improper means of livelihood.
Speaking of your own offerings. “I had the best lunch at layman so and so’s house,” he says, reciting the “lunch mantra.” “I had white fungus, mushrooms…”
Another layman hears the mantra and can’t take it. “I did better borrow a hundred dollars and offer some vegetable to the Dharma master.” He doesn’t know that the Dharma master has transgressed the boundaries of proper livelihood by reciting the “lunch mantra” to move the layman’s mind and obtain good offerings.
This means bowing to the Buddha, reciting the Buddha’s name from morning to night, without resting. Strangely enough, if you go to chat with someone, the more you chat, the more energy you have – talking, talking, too much talking. But of what use is all your vigorous talking? It is improper vigor.
Proper vigor means doing that which is beneficial, improper vigor involves doing that which is not beneficial, such as being lazy with respect to the Buddhadharma, but chatting more vigorously than anyone else. A person with proper vigor comes to listen to the sutras when they are being lectured, no matter how busy he is. One with improper vigor doesn’t come, even though he has nothing else to do. Going to the movies, going sight-seeing, going everywhere but to the temple to listen to sutras is called improper vigor. Hunting for the best place to go gambling is also improper vigor.
Samadhi, a Sanskrit word, means “right reception,” or “right concentration.” Use non-outflow wisdom to cultivate samadhi and no improper states will move you. If you could remember even one sentence of the sutras I have explained to you, then when the time comes you could use it. But you forget, and so you meet the state, are turned by it, and run after it. This is because you have no proper concentration, no proper samadhi.
“I know, I know,” you say, “I know I don’t have the proper samadhi.”
If you know you don’t have it, then why don’t you find a way to obtain it? People! If you tell them that they have made a mistake, they say, “I know, I know.” If they know, why do they make such mistakes?
Be mindful of non-outflow wisdom. Do not have outflows. No matter what, don’t indulge in the slightest sexual desire. Having no sexual desire is proper mindfulness. Any thoughts of sexual desire is improper mindfulness. Someone once said, “That person is attracted to me. I can tell by the look in his eyes.”
If you didn’t have sexual desire yourself, you wouldn’t be looking into his eyes in the first place. Just what kind of thoughts are you having when you look into his eyes? If you didn’t have sexual desire, you wouldn’t know that he did. If you were clear, clear, pure, pure, spotless, and undefiled, how would you detect his desire? Speak up! If you know that others have desire, then you have it too, and, not having cut it off, your mindfulness is improper.
You may explain these Eight Sagely Way Shares any way you wish, as long as it is with principle. However, you can’t just open your mouth and not know what to say. In explaining the Dharma you must speak correctly and not deviate from the principle in the least bit.
And dharmas such as these refers to the Four Applications of Mindfulness, the Five Roots, the Five Powers, the Seven Bodhi Shares, the Eight Sagely Way Shares, the Four Right Efforts, and the Four Bases of Supernatural Power – thirty-seven in all, the Thirty-seven Wings of Enlightenment.
The Four Right Efforts are:
The Four Bases of Supernatural Power are:
“Shariputra, do not say that these birds are born as retribution for their karmic offences. For what reason? In this Buddhaland there are no three evil ways of rebirth. Shariputra, in this Buddhaland not even the names of the three evil ways exist, how much the less their actuality! Desiring that the Dharma-sound be widely proclaimed, Amitabha Buddha by transformation made this multitude of birds.
Do not say that these birds came from one of the three evil realms. Why? In the Land of Ultimate Bliss there are not even the names of the hells, the realm of animals, or the realm of the hungry ghosts. How much the less could such creatures actually exist!
“Then where did the birds come from?”
Wishing to spread the Dharma-sound far and wide, with his vow power Amitabha created the kalavinkas and all the other birds to help him. They come from his spiritual penetrations and transformations, not from the three evil paths. Unlike the birds in this world which are born in the realms of animals, they are transformations of Amitabha Buddha’s Dharma power.
“Shariputra, in that Buddhaland when the soft wind blows, the rows of jewelled trees and jewelled nets give forth subtle and wonderful sounds, like one hundred thousand kinds of music played at the same time. All those who hear these sounds naturally bring forth in their hearts mindfulness of the Buddha, mindfulness of the Dharma, and mindfulness of the Sangha.
“Shariputra, the realisation of the Land of Ultimate Bliss is thus meritoriously adorned.
“Shariputra,” said Shakyamuni Buddha, “I’ll tell you how it is in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. The gentle breezes blow through small bells hanging from the seven layers of netting on the seven rows of trees. Their sound helps us recollect the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha and is like a hundred thousand kinds of subtle music playing harmoniously all at once. Those who hear these sounds have no defiled thoughts but instead naturally recite,
Namo Amitabha Buddha;
Namo Amitabha Dharma;
Namo Amitabha Sangha.”
You ask, “Namo Amitabha Buddha,” perhaps, but how can they recite “Namo Amitabha Dharma?”
It’s the Dharma which Amitabha Buddha taught, how can you not say “Namo Amitabha Dharma?” This is also the Sangha which Amitabha Buddha taught and transformed, so how can you not say, “Namo Amitabha Sangha?” Don’t be so unimaginative. My explanation is a new explanation for an old meaning, just like my explanation of Nirvana:
“Nir” means “not produced” and
“Vana” means “not destroyed.”
What is not produced? Sexual desire.
What is not destroyed? Wisdom.
In the realm of Nirvana, the Buddha has no sexual desire, he is clear, pure, and undefiled. He is without improper thoughts of desire. His self-nature constantly gives rise to wisdom which is never destroyed.
“Shariputra!” Shakyamuni Buddha called again. He is especially fond of his great disciple and thinks to himself, “Shariputra has a little wisdom, but he doesn’t know what to ask. I will have to tell him.”