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Happily Dwelling Conduct

Chapter 14


As not upside down. What is being upside down, and what is not being upside down? If you do not want to be upside down, you first must know what is being upside down. Ordinary people are upside down in these ways:

1. They consider what is not permanent to be permanent;
2. They consider what is not bliss to be bliss;
3. They consider what is not self to be self;
4. They consider what is not pure to be pure.

Those are the four ways in which ordinary people are upside-down.

Those of the Two Vehicles have their own four ways of being upside down.

1. They consider what is permanent to be impermanent.
2. They consider what is bliss to be suffering.
3. They consider what is self not to be self.
4. They consider what is pure not to be pure.

Even Bodhisattvas have the upside-downness of getting out of the false. Those are all ways of being upside-down. Only Buddhas are not upside down. Thus living beings in the Nine Dharma Realms reside in upside-down environments, and are upside-down. Being upside-down, sometimes they feel good, and sometimes they feel bad. If you understand, then there is nothing that is good or bad in itself. Concepts of good and bad are based on the false speculations that living beings make in their upside-down state. If you can be not upside-down, then you are in accord with the Middle Way.

To be more specific, if you want to study the Buddhadharma, then you are not upside-down. If you do not want to study the Buddhadharma, you are going down the road of being upside-down. If you follow the rules, you are not upside-down. If you do not follow the rules, you are upside-down. If you are deviant, you are upside-down. If you are proper, you are not upside-down.

Now that we are discussing not being upside-down, you should each take a look at yourself to see if you are upside-down. If you are, you should quickly learn how to be not upside-down. If you are not upside-down, you should try to be even less upside-down.

As not moving refers to samadhi. To have samadhi is to not be afraid of anything. You may be sitting in mediation within samadhi and when a tiger approaches you with its mouth wide open ready to swallow you in a single gulp. If you become afraid, you have moved! If you are not afraid, you are unmoved. In addition to not fearing tigers, you must not even fear death. Look upon life and death as the same.

Someone may say, “It is just because I am not afraid of death that I do not need to study the Buddhadharma. People study the Buddhadharma in order to end birth and death, but since I am not afraid of birth and death, I do not need to study the Buddhadharma.”

If you do not study the Buddhadharma because you do not fear birth and death, birth and death will never end. The kind of freedom from fear of birth and death we are talking about is having samadhi, but your type of not fearing birth and death is using your temper and your ignorance. Your attitude is, “What is the problem? If I fall into the hells, I fall into the hells. If I have to undergo suffering, I will undergo suffering. I am not afraid.” You cannot stop birth and death that way. On the other hand, if you do not fear birth and death and are unmoved by birth and death, you have samadhi power. That is entirely different.

There are two kinds of birth and death, known as the “two deaths.” Some people may wonder, “Does that mean dying once, coming back to life, and then dying again?” No, the two kinds are:

1. the birth and death of share and section;
2. the birth and death of change.

The birth and death of share and section means that I have my own share and section, and you have your share and section. “Share” refers to each individual's physical body. You have your body, which is your share; I have my body, which is my share. “Section” can refer to each individual's specific dimensions. You are five foot eight, I am five foot nine, and he is six feet tall. Another meaning of “section” is each individual's lifespan. You live to be eighty, which is your section. I live to be ninety, and that is my section. He lives to be a hundred, and that is his section. Ordinary people all undergo birth and death of share and section.

Those of the Two Vehicles undergo birth and death of change. “Change” refers to the continual change and flow of our thoughts in an unending process. Each changing thought is a birth and death. These births and deaths are the ceaseless flow of false thoughts which have not come to a stop, for one has not attained samadhi. “Not moving” means one has attained samadhi and so one is not moved by the two kinds of deaths.

As not retreating. This means that from having wisdom, one does not retreat into stupidity. When at every moment your mind is still and quiescent—when you have no false thinking—then you have great wisdom and knowledge. That is what is meant by not retreating. It means not retreating into stupidity. Once you have gained prajna wisdom, you never again do stupid things.

As not turning. This means not having to turn on the wheel of rebirth. It means not being like ordinary people who revolve in the paths of birth and death. It also means not being like those of the Two Vehicles who turn from being ordinary people into sages. One does not turn in either of those ways.

As being like empty space.The Flower Adornment Sutra says, “If one wishes to understand the Buddhas' state, one must purify one's mind so it is like empty space.” What we call empty space is not anything at all. Although it is not anything at all, nonetheless, everything is contained within empty space. “Empty space” is only a name. Although it has a name, it does not have a nature of its own. The Wisdom of Contemplation of the Middle Way is also just a name. When you cultivate the wisdom of the Middle Way, that is only a name.

If you look for something real, there is nothing at all. Thus, It is like empty space. You should not “add a head on top of your head” and ask, “What is empty space?” and go around looking for empty space. Empty space is not anything at all, so what are you looking for? Do not put another head on top of the one you have got. By asking, “What is my head?” you are adding another head. Do not be like that. Nor should you ask, “Why don't I have a head?” as Yajnadatta did. He looked in the mirror and saw a person with a head, and wondered, “Why don't I have a head?” Then he ran out in the street asking everyone he met, “Look at me—do I have a head or not?” and searching all over for his head. Do not be like him.

As without a nature means as not having nature of their own, not having something else's nature, and not having a shared nature, a nature held in common. It also means not having a causal nature or a resulting nature. They are, therefore, without a nature. Everything is empty, and so this, too, is talking about emptiness.

As having the path of language cut off. They cannot be articulated, or even conceptualized. The path of language is cut off, so there is no way to speak about them.

The mouth wants to speak, but the words are lost;
The mind wants to think, but reflections have perished.

The mouth would like to talk but there is nothing that can be expressed in words. The mind would like to involve itself with conditions, but all thinking is gone.

The path of language is cut off;
The place of the mind's activity is extinguished.

What kind of state would you say that is? It is:

Leaving the four predications far behind;
And cutting off the hundred fallacies.

The “four predications” could also refer to stanzas of four lines, such as:

All conditioned dharmas,
Are like dreams, illusions, bubbles, shadows;
Like dew and like a lightning flash:
Contemplate them thus.

This four-line verse is left behind, and the hundred fallacies—ways of being wrong—are all gone. This is an inconceivable state, and so one cannot imagine it. There is no way to express it in words or even to think about it. The inconceivable is the wonderful. If you can understand the wonderful, then you can be said to know a little bit of the flavor of the Dharma Flower Sutra. But if you do not know the meaning of the wonderful, you have no way to listen to the Dharma Flower Sutra. What the Dharma Flower Sutra talks about is the wonderful. In all it says, it is speaking of the wonderful.

Most of you have been applying effort very well, but some of you are still having “false thinking as usual.” I hope that those of you who are having false thinking will have a little less, and that those of you who are applying effort well will do even better and make progress every day. To make daily progress, you must watch over yourself more strictly every day and gather in your body and mind. To gather in your body and mind means not to have false thinking.

When this Summer Session is over, the Winter Chan Meditation Session will begin. This Chan Session will last for a hundred days. Each day there will be twenty-one hours of walking and sitting without a break. Those of you who are not afraid of difficulty can sign up early for the Chan Session. Sitting in Chan is learning about the state that is inconceivable. There is no way you can think about it because its wonderful points are inconceivable!

As not coming into being. What does not come into being? Ignorance does not come into being. Wisdom does not come into being. There is no wisdom and no ignorance. What would you say that is? It is a principle. Because you have no ignorance, you also have no wisdom. Because you have no wisdom, you also have no ignorance. Wisdom and ignorance are opposites. When you produce neither ignorance nor wisdom, you are in the state described as “not thinking of good and not thinking of evil.” If you have a “good,” then you have something that is brought into being. If you have an “evil,” you also have something that is brought into being.

Now, if you have ignorance, then you have something that is brought into being. If you have wisdom, you also have something that is brought into being. What kind of state is it when neither wisdom nor ignorance come into being? That state is a wonderful one. That is because there being no ignorance and no wisdom is a principle, the fundamental substance of principle—the Great Treasure of Light of one's inherent nature. Thus, there is nothing that is destroyed and nothing that destroys. There is no way to destroy it, because it is merely a principle—the principle of not coming into being. In this state, neither practice, nor position, nor cause, nor effect come into being.

As not coming forth means not coming out and not going in— neither exiting or entering. That is the original substance of the Tathagata, the original substance cultivated by the Tathagata until the ultimate point is reached, so that there is no coming forth or entering. This also means there is no ignorance and no wisdom which can be spoken of.

As not arising. When one has certified to the principle of the Tathagatas, the expedient teachings—the provisional dharmas—all become still and quiescent. They do not arise.

As without a name. Isn't there a name for them? There is no name. There is only the principle. By this we mean that there is no name or term that can represent the principle. From “As not upside-down” in the text above through “As not arising,” there is no name that can be their name.

As without an appearance. There is also no appearance that can be said to characterize them. In the same way, from “As not upside-down” through “As not arising,” there is no mark or appearance whatsoever that can describe them. They have no mark. “As without a name” refers to the emptiness of a nature. “As without an appearance” refers to the emptiness of marks.

As in reality non-existent. This if further praise of the contemplation of the Middle Way, which does not fall into the two extremes of emptiness or existence. For that reason, it says “As in reality non-existent.” There is nothing at all.

As measureless. The dharmas are innumerable, and cannot be counted. An example of numbered dharmas is the five skandhas—form, feeling, thinking, formations, and consciousness. They have a set number: there are five kinds. The six sense organs are of six kinds, and there are six of the sense objects. Together they are the twelve entrances, which have twelve terms in all. Between the six sense organs and the six sense objects, add the six consciousnesses, and that makes the eighteen realms. The five skandhas, the six sense organs, the twelve entrances (also known as the twelve locations, and the eighteen realms are all numbered. Now in the contemplation of the Middle Way, there are no numbers. Thus there are no measures. Measurelessness is the entire measure—a measure is where there is nothing in excess and nothing lacking, and so they are said to be measureless.

As boundless. Being boundless means there are no boundaries or borders. In the Small Vehicle there are confines and boundaries. All their dharmas are fixed and bounded. What is not fixed does not have bounds. Here, therefore, being “boundless” means there are no fixed dharmas.

As unimpeded. Being unimpeded means universally entering into all dharmas without impediment by means of the wisdom of Contemplation of the Middle Way.

And as unobstructed. There is not a single dharma which can obstruct and cover the Wisdom of Contemplation of the Middle Way.

From the phrase “contemplate all dharmas as empty” to the phrase “as unobstructed,” there are nineteen phrases in all. The phrase “contemplate all dharmas as empty,” which refers to the wisdom that contemplates, together with the remainder of the passage—“…as characterized by actuality, as not upside-down, as not moving, as not retreating, as not turning,… and as unobstructed”—comprise a total of nineteen phrases. The phrase “contemplates all dharmas as empty” is a general heading. The following eighteen phrases are explained separately; they are specific explanations.

A full discussion of the principles involved here would be boundless and without end. Now I am just speaking in general. Excluding the phrase “contemplate all dharmas as empty,” there are eighteen phrases left. These eighteen phrases can be explained as applying to all dharmas, that is to say, “all dharmas are characterized by actuality, all dharmas are not upside-down, all dharmas are unmoving, all dharmas are non-retreating, all dharma are non-turning, all dharmas are like empty space, all dharmas are without a nature, all dharmas have the path of language cut off, all dharmas do not come into being, all dharmas do not come forth, all dharmas do not arise, all dharmas are without a name, all dharmas are without an appearance, all dharmas are in reality non-existent, all dharmas are measureless, all dharmas are boundless, all dharmas are unimpeded, and all dharmas are unobstructed.” That is to explain these eighteen phrases as applying to all dharmas.

These eighteen phrases can also be explained in terms of the Eighteen Kinds of emptiness referred to in the Great Prajna Sutra.

1. “Characterized by actuality” corresponds to emptiness in the Primary Sense.

2. “Not upside-down” refers to the Internal Emptiness of the six sense organs. If inwardly, one is emptied of the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind, there will no longer be a self or attachments to self. If inwardly one is not upside-down, one will not be turned by the six sense organs.

3. “Not moving” refers to the External Emptiness of the six sense objects. With outward emptiness, one is not swayed by the six sense objects, but remains unmoving.

4. “Not retreating” refers to Neither Internal nor External Emptiness, which is actually Both Internal and External Emptiness. One does not retreat to the position of ordinary people, nor to the position of the Two Vehicles. The inner and outer are both empty, so one does not retreat.

5. “Not turning” refers to the Emptiness of the Empty. In this emptiness, all dharmas are broken through, destroyed, and emptied. If all is emptied, how can there be any dharma? If all is emptied, and yet a dharma of emptiness remains, then you have not broken through yet. You are attached to emptiness. When emptiness itself is empty, then all dharmas have been destroyed. What is broken through are the dharmas, and what breaks through them is emptiness. When all dharmas have been destroyed, then there is no attachment to self or to dharmas. Only when there is no attachment to dharmas can there be the emptiness of the empty. When all dharmas are gone, that is the Emptiness of the Empty. But if emptiness itself is not emptied, a flaw remains. When emptiness is empty, there are no flaws, and all dharmas are destroyed. One:

Sweeps away all dharmas,
And leaves all appearances behind.

When all dharmas are empty, how much the less are there any appearances. This is called “not turning” and corresponds to the Emptiness of the Empty.

6. “Being like empty space.” The Prajna Sutra discusses wisdom—prajna, and the principle of emptiness. The Buddha’s disciple Subhuti was good at discussing prajna and was the best disciple at explaining emptiness. Since he exclusively investigated emptiness, his name means “born of emptiness.”

However, he was not really born of emptiness, because there was actually a Subhuti. I think many people may not understand why he was called “born of emptiness,” so now I will explain briefly. Subhuti is a Sanskrit word that means “born of emptiness.” This was because at his birth all the treasuries of wealth and jewelry in his household became empty. Seeing this, his father named him “Born of Emptiness.” Did the empty treasuries mean they were going to be poor? His father consulted a fortune teller who told him not to worry, that such an event was extremely auspicious, and that this was one extremely lucky child.

Then the father also named him “Good Fortune.” Seven days later, the wealth and gems reappeared in the treasuries, so his father gave him yet another name, “Good Manifestation.” Thus “Subhuti” has three meanings. Why did all the treasuries become empty at his birth? That was because in many previous lives Subhuti had studied emptiness, and so prajna emptiness manifested at his birth, and all the wealth and valuables disappeared. So he was called “born of emptiness.” “Being like empty space” corresponds to Great Emptiness. There is nothing greater than it. How great is it? No one knows, because it is too great. If someone knew it would not be great.

7. What kind of emptiness does “without a nature” correspond do? Take another guess. Let us see how your wisdom is—let us see if you have truly understood emptiness. I have not said that if you guess correctly, I will transmit the Wonderful Dharma of the Tathagata’s Mind-Seal to you and make you the next Patriarch. Therefore you should not be that anxious. At most, you will have a hard time falling asleep tonight. But tomorrow, whether you know the answer or not, I will explain it for you. If you do not know what kind of emptiness “without a nature” corresponds to, you can look it up in the Great Prajna Sutra.

“Without a nature” corresponds to Ultimate Emptiness. It is ultimately empty, that is, fundamentally empty. It is said,

The Tathagata is like the clear, cool moon,
Ever travelling through ultimate space.
When the waters of the minds of living beings are pure,
Bodhi is reflected in them.

At night, it is very refreshing to look at the clear, cool moon in the sky. The Tathagata is compared to the moon, always roaming through space. When the waters of wisdom are brought forth in living beings and their minds are pure, the reflection of Bodhi appears. Why does “without a nature” correspond to Ultimate Emptiness? Without a nature, there is nothing at all, so how can that be anything but the Ultimate Emptiness? In all dharmas, there is nothing lacking and nothing in excess in their fundamental substance, so they are ultimately empty, and thus without a nature. Having no nature is the ultimate emptiness.

8. “Having the path of language cut off.” What kind of emptiness is this? It is very easy to deduce from the text itself. In fact, the corresponding emptiness can be inferred from each of the phrases of the Sutra text. This phrase means “Emptiness of Everything.” All the paths of language are severed, and so everything is empty. Since everything is empty, nothing remains to be said. The path of language is destroyed.

9. What emptiness does “not coming into being” refer to? Some of you have read the Eighteen Kinds of Emptiness, and you may or may not know their correspondence to these eighteen phrases. If you knew, you would not have said that “without a nature” is the Emptiness in the Primary Sense or the Emptiness of the Nature, because “without a name” corresponds to the Emptiness of the Nature; “without an appearance” corresponds to the Emptiness of Appearances; and “characterized by actuality” corresponds to the Emptiness in the Primary Sense. Now, “not coming into being” is the Emptiness of the Conditioned. Conditioned dharmas come into being through the combination of causes and conditions. Now causes and conditions do not combine, and so conditioned dharmas do not come into being. Since there is no coming into being, there is no combining.

10. “Not coming forth” refers to the Emptiness of the Unconditioned.

Unconditioned, without arising or perishing.
Unreal, like flowers in empty space.

The “unconditioned” means there is a departure from all dharmas into emptiness wherein no dharmas come forth.

11. “Not arising” refers to “Beginningless Emptiness.” There is no beginning because there is no arising. Any beginning would imply an arising, so this is called Beginningless Emptiness in the Great Prajna Sutra. You may search for a beginning, but it does not exist. This emptiness has no beginning.

12. “Without a name” refers to the Emptiness of the Nature.

13. “Without an appearance” refers to Emptiness of Appearances.

14. “In reality non-existent.” Does this also correspond to Ultimate Emptiness or Beginningless Emptiness? No, it refers to Unobtainable Emptiness, one of the Eighteen Kinds of Emptiness.

15. “Measureless” refers to the Emptiness of Existing Dharmas. When they can be measured, they exist. When their measures are emptied, they are called “measureless,” and that is the Emptiness of Existing Dharmas.

16. “Boundless” refers to the Emptiness of No Dharmas. There was the Emptiness of Existing Dharmas, and now the Emptiness of No Dharmas. When there are no dharmas, there are no boundaries.

17. “Unimpeded” refers to the Emptiness of Both Dharmas and No Dharmas. Both are empty and unattainable. Since there is no impediment, dharmas are empty and so are no dharmas.

18. “Unobstructed” corresponds to the last of the Eighteen Kinds of Emptiness, the Emptiness of Scattering. All hindrances and obstructions are gone, so it is “unobstructed.”

The Eighteen Kinds of Emptiness have been used to explain the general meaning of these eighteen phrases. Since the Buddha always cultivated the Eighteen Kinds of Emptiness, I have interpreted these eighteen phrases of the Dharma Flower Sutra based on them.

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