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Spiritual Penetrations in the Palace
of the Trayastrimsha Heaven

Chapter 1



They came from the Birth of Blessings Heaven, the Love of Blessings Heaven, the Abundant Fruit Heaven, the No Thought Heaven, the No Affliction Heaven, the No Heat Heaven, the Good Views Heaven, the Good Manifestation Heaven, the Ultimate Form Heaven, the Maheshvara Heaven, and so forth, up to the Heaven of the Station of Neither Thought Nor Non-Thought.

All those groups of gods, dragons, ghosts and spirits came and gathered together.


They came from the Birth of Blessings Heaven . What is the Birth of Blessings Heaven? Beings in this layer of heaven have ended the causes that led to suffering and abide in extreme bliss. He does not experience any suffering and is not attached to bliss. What does it mean by “He does not experience any suffering and is not attached to bliss”? Although pulse stops in the First Dhyana Heavens, he still experiences suffering and afflictions. At the Second and Third Dhyana Heavens, suffering and afflictions have not yet ended.

At the Fourth Dhyana Heavens, the Birth of Blessings Heaven, “he does not experience any suffering”. The seeds for suffering are no more. Although suffering disappears, is he happy? He is not attached to happiness, so “he is not attached to bliss.” He has left behind the suffering and afflictions of the First Dhyana and the sadness of the Second Dhyana Heavens. The beings in the Second Dhyana Heavens have not yet ended their sadness. When they reach the Fourth Dhyana, the sadness of the Second Dhyana is gone.

What are the causes of the suffering? They are desire. Desire is the cause of suffering. What are desires? Desires are the causes of suffering. Without desire, there is no suffering. Without lust, there would be no cause for suffering. Beings in the Fourth Dhyana Heavens do not have lust. All the desires are severed; they vanish. The gross marks all disappear, there is a kind of pure blessings and virtue. This is a quality in the Birth of Blessings Heaven, the first of the Fourth Dhyana Heavens.

Most people only know about the heavens, but how many? In the Buddhist sutras, there are all of the Six Desire Heavens, the three heavens of the First Dhyana, the three heavens of the Second Dhyana, and the three heavens of the Third Dhyana, and in the Fourth Dhyana? There are nine heavens. The Birth of Blessings Heaven is the first layer of the Fourth Dhyana Heavens because his pure blessings manifested.

The Love of Blessings Heaven. The blessings of this heaven are lovely. In this heaven, renunciation is perfected to a point that it is interpenetrating and unhindered. They can renounce what they could not renounce before and they renounce what they can renounce of course; they let go of what they could not let go before and let go of what they could already let go all the more. This is the perfection of renunciation. Pure in victorious understandings, he enjoys a blessing that cannot be obscured. It supersedes the bounds of heaven and earth. He gets his wishes to come true, and he can do as he pleases.

At this time, both suffering and blessing are left behind. There is no suffering or bliss. Although suffering and bliss have left, they do not obstruct existence of the Form Realm. They may enjoy the realm of existence but they accumulate merit for another pursuit, another goal. What is that? He hopes for the states enjoyed in the two heavens above the Love of Blessings Heaven: the Abundant Fruit Heaven and the No Thought Heaven. However, the Abundant Fruit Heaven is one of the Four Dhyana Heavens while the No Thought Heaven is where heretics live. Before reaching the Abundant Fruit Heaven, one may go to the Abundant Fruit Heaven or the No Thought Heaven. No Thought Heaven is a state of heretics, so it is easy to become diverted down the wrong path here. One can become born in the heavens and walk into the heretics’ heaven still.

What is the Abundant Fruit Heaven? The Abundant Fruit Heaven is the fruition for ordinary beings. All the Six Desire Heavens are fruitions that ordinary people reach. The finest state that ordinary people can reach is the Abundant Fruit Heaven. The Abundant Fruit Heaven leaves the defilement of the heavens below. They enjoy boundless and limitless joy in the Abundant Fruit Heaven; their spiritual powers also have endless fruitions. So it is not easy to become reborn in the Abundant Fruit Heaven. The wonderful accord is a vast amount of wonderful accord more than that of the Love of Blessings Heaven. They can cultivate to reach this fruit as they so wish. This is the Abundant Fruit Heaven.

The No Thought Heaven. At the No Thought Heaven, their thoughts cease but not forever, just 500 eons. His life is 500 eons so he goes through life without develop one thought, but in 500 eons, he develops one thought. During those 500 eons, for 499 eons he has no thought, but there is one eon where his thoughts cease during the first half but his thoughts occur in the last half of this eon. This is No Thought, where very time in his entire life is spent thinking. This heaven is totally occupied by heretics. Heretics reach this layer of heaven and think this is the ultimate heaven. He thinks that he will reach nirvana here. He stays here to cultivate but he will still fall. This is a place where heretics abide.

The No Affliction Heaven. Heavenly beings have no afflictions from views or thoughts. What are afflictions from views and thoughts? Views come from greed. Thoughts are discriminating opinions due to ideas not understood or not clear about. Without the delusions of view and delusions of thought, they do not have that type of heated afflictions. There is no suffering or bliss. In a state where both suffering and bliss have ended, they have no wish to fight, so their afflictions disappear. Cool and refreshed is the No Affliction Heaven.

The No Heat Heaven . Heat refers to heated afflictions. That heaven is very cool, devoid of heated afflictions.

The Good Views Heaven. What does this mean? Those in this Heaven enjoy views that are vast and far. They can see a long ways away.

The Good Manifestation Heaven . This is a very subtle and wonderful transformation that manifests all the joyful states.

The Ultimate Form Heaven . The heavens described above are all heavens of the Form Realm. This is the Ultimate Form Heaven.

The Maheshvara Heaven . Maheshvara is Sanskrit that means great ease. The Maheshvara god has eight arms, three heads and rides on a great white ox. He thinks he is very much at ease. The Maheshvara Heaven is also called the Great Heaven of Ease.

Among these ten heavens described above, the No Thought Heaven is where heretics and heavenly demons live whereas the other nine heavens are all Fourth Dhyana Heavens. The Fourth Dhyana is also called the Ground of Purity from Renouncing Thoughts. Earlier, we said that pulse stops in the First Dhyana, breath stops in the Second Dhyana, thoughts stop in the Third Dhyana, and the Fourth Dhyana? Thoughts are renounced. The Ground of Purity from Renouncing Thoughts abandons thoughts.

. . . and so forth, up to the Heaven of the Station of Neither Thought Nor Non-Thought. The Heaven of the Station of Neither Thought Nor Non-Thought includes the Heaven of the state of Boundless Emptiness, the Heaven of the Station of Boundless Consciousness, the Heaven of the Station of Nothing Whatsoever, and the Heaven of the Station of Neither Thought Nor Non-Thought. Since even consciousness is gone, it is called “no non-thought”. No thought is not nothing, there is still some thought, not necessarily no thought whatsoever. This is the Heaven of the Station of Neither Thought Nor Non-Thought.

All those groups of many gods, many dragons, many ghosts and spirits came and gathered together in the palace of the Tryastrimsha Heaven.


Moreover, sea spirits, river spirits, stream spirits, tree spirits, mountain spirits, earth spirits, brook and marsh spirits, sprout and seedling spirits, day, night, and space spirits, heaven spirits, food and drink spirits, grass and wood spirits, and other such spirits from the Saha and other worlds came and gathered together.


We talked about all those many heavens, ghosts and spirits, gods and dragons and others, but we are still not done. Moreover, sea spirits, river spirits, stream spirits...These are all the places with water. In the Buddha’s Longer Agama Sutra, it talks about where oceans, rivers and lakes come from. The sun releases heat, as heat boils there is perspiration, forming streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans. Not only do people sweat but earth sweats, trees sweat and all beings sweat. Under the blaze of the sun, things get hot, then perspire. No matter where the sun shines, it releases heat that is a blaze. Too much perspiration in the world creates lots of water that turn into streams and rivers. Water pervades all places throughout space and the Dharma Realm; there is water everywhere.

For example, the Shurangama Sutra describes how dew water comes to a crystal platter held toward the sky on a full moon night. This proves that water exists everywhere. Although it is everywhere, we do not see it sometimes because there is the inherent nature of water but no water in physical form. For instance, one quality of water is wetness and most places are extremely wet, which proves that water exists everywhere. Fire also exists everywhere. The nature of fire and water work together rather than in conflict. How come there is no tangible water everywhere? The universe and water are connected, but the Four Heavenly Kings have a pearl for avoiding water. Without this pearl, water would drown out this world, which is why water is not everywhere. This idea is very wonderful when explained.

What are oceans? Oceans are dark because look while submerged in the ocean and you cannot see anything. You cannot see anything in the huge ocean. You do not know how deep, how wide, or how large it is. This is the ocean that means big or obscure. There are many spirits in the ocean, one of whom is the dragon king. Among the other sea spirits, there is also one called Hai Ruo and one called Yang He. Hai Ruo the sea spirit is a type of beast and not a type of insect. It has 18 tails, eight legs, eight heads and has a human face. This is the highest ranking spirit in the sea. There are many other spirits. If you see any of these while meditating, do not be afraid. Sea spirits came to make offerings to you. Do not be frightened by its grotesque appearance.

How do you explain river? What is the difference between river and ocean? Rivers are larger than streams, oceans are bigger than rivers. Rivers are extremely wide but not very deep. Streams are not as wide as rivers. Oceans are the largest, being the lord of the myriad waterways. All the rivers, streams and lakes funnel into the ocean. It can accept all the waterways, no matter how many. Streams are different, they have to expand to other areas; oceans do not flow toward other areas. The Chinese character for “streams” means impartiality or imperial tribute. All the goods produced along the Yangtze River, the Huaihe River, the Yellow River and the Hanshui River are sent in as tributes to the Emperor.

There is another interpretation for the Chinese character “river” too, which is little known. It means “palms” of the hand. When the river is calm and has no waves, it is like the palm of a hand, even like a mirror. The water spirits, stream spirits and ocean spirits are all spirits in the water.

There are also tree spirits and mountain spirits. The Chinese character “trees” may be explained as production or birth because things grow in the mountains. It can be the word “in vain” in that it shoots the seeds of myriad things without hitting the target.

Earth spirits. Earth is explained as “the bottom” because it can grow all things and carry all things though it is at the very bottom.

Brook and marsh spirits. The Chinese character for brooks also means penetrate, in that brooks go through soil, to other places originally without water. Marshes are also places with water.

Sprout and seedling spirits. What are sprouts? Vegetation that grows to a certain height is called sprouts. Seedlings are seeds when they are being planted into the ground . As a part of the harvest, they are pits.

Day spirit. A spirit in charge of the day.

Night spirit. A spirit in charge of the night. The divide between day and night is midnight. After midnight, it is day; after noon, night begins. Although there is not officially the sun at midnight, yang energy has developed already. People usually experience lust from 3 a.m. to 5 a.m. because the yang energy emerges. Without lust, there is wisdom. Go down one direction, it turns into wisdom; go down another direction, it turns into lust. This is similar to the fork at the road to the Abundant Fruit Heaven and the No Thought Heaven. Maintain proper thoughts then you go down the direction that aids your wisdom; go down the other direction and your desire is helped. After noon is when yin begins. Lust develops at night too. Instead of moving down the path of lust, you would be moving down the path of wisdom. There is also a fork in the road leading either to yin or yang; it is up to you on how you will travel.

And space spirits. Who are space spirits? Space spirits refer to “shunyata” in Ananda’s verse before the Shurangama mantra. “Even could the nature of shunyata melt away, my vajra-like supreme resolve would still remain unmoved.” Do not just let what you hear go by thinking you are not greedy because you are not even greedy for the Dharma. Not being greedy for the Buddhadharma, you better not be greedy for worldly dharma either. If you are not greedy for the Buddhadharma but are greedy for worldly dharma and sit around counting your money all day, then that is a problem too.

Heaven spirits. Food and drink spirits. There are spirits to food too. Spirits supervise people’s food intakes, even if it is just one mouthful of water, one fruit or one food item for the day. If you believe it, it exists; if you do not believe it, it still exists but you just don’t know about it. It is a stupid idea to say that it does not exist unless I believe it. Whether you believe there is such a spirit, it exists.

There was a Duan Zheng Yuan in Beijing. Most people called him Master Duan. He met someone who was in charge of the amount of food, water, alcohol, sugar everyone takes in a day; it is fixed. How did he supervise all this? He slept everyday. His father was a commander or some type of officer of that sort, with 400 or 500 people under him. This son was 20 or 30 years old but did not work and slept all day.

The father was very upset, thinking, “I am 50 or 60 and I have to work to take care of you. You’re 20 or 30 but you do not bother to do any work at all. What use are you to the world?” He could not help but scold his son.

His son said, “You are an officer in the human realm but I am an officer in the underworld.” “What kind of an officer are you in the underworld?” “I allot the amount food and drinks each person takes every day.”

His father said, “What nonsense are you saying? People’s food intake has to be allotted? That does not make sense! Tell me what I am going to eat tomorrow. Assign something to me.” “Please wait, let me tell you after I sleep a while. I do not know right now.” His father was so angry: “How ridiculous! You assign my food?” When his son woke up, his son told him, “You will not have any rice to eat tomorrow.” The father howled with laughter, “A high-ranking officer like me has no food to eat? Then what will I eat?” His son said, “Tomorrow you will only get to eat one rotten egg and half a bowl of spoiled congee. That is your food for tomorrow.” “As rich and powerful as I am, how can I end up eating only rotten and spoiled foods?”

Early the next morning, he immediately began butchering chickens and ducks, preparing fish and meat, making a bunch of excellent dishes. When he was about to eat, his superior sent an order, wanting him somewhere immediately to suppress some bandits. He could not delay for one second. Leaving all the cooked food, not having touched any of it at all, he rushed off to beat the bandits. This battle was a total blur and chaos; he was attacking the bandits and the bandits were attacking him too. It was very lively. After all that trouble, they chased the bandits away.

They did not have food yet, so when they finally found a family, it must have been one of the poorest because they said they had nothing to eat. They searched for a long while, there was no rice, no noodles, and no vegetables. They only had a rotten egg and half a bowl of spoiled congee prepared for their pregnant woman of the house. They were willing to give up the food for the commander who wanted to eat now. The commander was so hungry and ate what he got immediately. Since his subordinates did not want any fine foods, they got to eat before the battle so the commander was the only one who did not eat. After he ate that rotten egg and half a bowl of congee, he remembered what his son told him yesterday. It was true that these were the exact things that he ate today. From then on, he knew that his son was an officer in the underworld, so the father let his son be. This is about a food spirit.

Grass and wood spirits. There are spirits to grass, spirits to woods and spirits to trees. Trees stand erect. The largest tree in Southern Jambudvipa is its tree king. When trees are big, they become villages for ghosts and spirits. Ghosts and spirits depend on these trees because they either suffer without these trees as dwellings or enjoy themselves living in these trees. Large trees are called villages for ghosts and spirits.

During the time of Cao Cau, the Three Kingdoms, everyone referred to a large tree as a tree spirit. Cao Cau did not believe the people and ordered the tree chopped down. thereafter he experienced headaches all the time. Later they requested Huatuo to treat him and the diagnosis was that he offended a tree spirit. Four Divisions Vinaya proscribes Bhikshus from chopping down any large tree because there are ghosts and spirits living in them. For example, there was a camphor tree at Nan Hua Monastery that requested to receive the precepts from Elder Master Hsu Yun. Elder Jin Shan of Nan Yu also had a tree that bore white fruits request precepts from him. There are many incredible examples of tree spirits requesting to receive the precepts.

I told you earlier that whether you believe in the spirits or not, they exist. It does not mean the spirits do not exist because you do not believe they exist. Most people will say what exists for them is what they believe and what they do not believe, does not exist for them. With these things though, they exist whether you believe it or not. For instance, there are gold mines in the ground whether you know it or not, believe it or not. You believe that there are spirits because you know whereas you do not believe there are these spirits because you do not know. It is not because these spirits do not exist but that you essentially do not have the knowledge and wisdom to know. We do not simply follow everyone else’s mistaken understandings.

And other such spirits, many others in addition to the ones mentioned here, from the Saha and other worlds came and gathered together at the Tryastrimsha Heaven to listen to the Buddha speak the Dharma.

There many natural and manmade disasters occurring in San Francisco now. Most recently a typhoon killed more than 90 people in the disaster area. This kind of disaster occurs because living beings’ evil karma ripened. Someone said around May of last year that seismologists predicted earthquakes, but I wrote a guarantee that: as long as I am in San Francisco, there will be no earthquakes. But I will not bother if I am somewhere else outside of San Francisco. I do not like earthquakes; I do not want people around me to fall over into the ocean. Why? I do not want to see the dragon king. I do not want to befriend the sea spirit with the eight heads, eight legs and 18 tails. Out of the eight heads, four are of male features and four are of female features. One body with eight heads of four couples is very strange. It does things strangely too; it is very special. I do not want to interact with it or let people who stay with me see it. I am not being selfish but because nothing good will be accomplished by visiting it.

Someone told me again this year that there will be earthquakes in March or April. Will I be another insurance company that offers guarantees this year? It is the same. In short, do not forget what I said last year: as long as I am in San Francisco that day, I guarantee there will be no major earthquakes, though not minor problems. During this Age where Dharma is on the decline, there are many natural and manmade disasters, so I hope everyone will recite Guanshiyin Bodhisattva’s name more, recite Earth Store King Bodhisattva’s name more. This way, San Francisco will be as stable as Mt. Tai, without major problems.


In addition, all the great ghost kings from the Saha and other worlds came and gathered together. They were the Ghost King Evil Eyes, the Ghost King Blood Drinker, the Ghost King Essence and Energy Eater, the Ghost King Fetus and Egg Eater, the Ghost King Spreader of Sickness, the Ghost King Collector of Poisons, the Ghost King Kindhearted, the Ghost King Blessings and Benefits, the Ghost King Great Regard and Respect, and others.


In addition . . . why “in addition”? It is because not only have so many Bodhisattvas and dragons and spirits of the eightfold division come to the Tryastrimsha Heaven, but there are also those from other lands. All the great ghost kings from the Saha and other worlds came and gathered together. Saha is Sanskrit for bearing with patience, meaning that living beings have to bear this kind of pain. That is why this is called the Saha World. Other worlds refer to the lands of other Buddhas. We are not limiting ourselves to the Saha World.

All the great ghost kings. Most people explain all as many. I am different from other people, how? I explain it not as “many” but as “few”, in fact, one. Some say my explanation is wrong because this means many, not few, or one. I would like to treat it as one. Why? It is because I am really foolish. I cannot remember when there are too many numbers. One is easy to remember, but two requires some thinking. How many is “all” if I treat it as many? It is innumerable, which is problematic, so I explain it as “one.” All is one and one is all; many is one and one is many. This is how I am different in explaining the sutras. All the great ghost kings in my explanation are one ghost king. Which one? The ghost king that I am talking about now. There is the Hateful Eyes Ghost King, the Ghost King Collector of Poisons, the Ghost King Kindhearted, and one after another. I do not mix them up. In Chinese, this “all” can also be an auxiliary word to mean “all those” or “all of one”. This is my unreasonable explanation of the Chinese word zhu ( 諸 ) as “one”. I am explaining this to you because if I do not, you disagree and think I lectured the sutras wrong. So now I explained it to you.

Where did this “many” come from? Look for its source. The many came from one or even none. Since “many” came from one, you might count from one. Remember one, you will know about two, then three. Deduce along this fashion, you end with one is infinity and infinity is just one. “One disperses into infinity; infinity returns to one”. We must return to one as we cultivate. What are we cultivating? We are cultivating this mind. What should we do with the mind? The mind must concentrate. As it is said, “Reach a singleness of focus and everything is achieved.” Reach that single one and there will be no problems. Cultivation is about cultivating this one, cultivating to focus your thoughts. Once your thoughts focus, you can uncover wisdom.

If your thoughts are no focused, then you are chasing for answers outside. If you can avoid letting a thought occur, that is even more wonderful. “Not one thought occurs and the entire substance manifests; the six senses move suddenly and they are covered by clouds.” Although the sutra text describes so many ghosts, if you do not even let one thought occur, there is not one ghost; not only one ghost, but not even one spirit, one Buddha or one Bodhisattva. There is nothing and yet that is when everything manifests. At this time, the Buddhas come, the Bodhisattvas come, Sound Hearers, Those Who Enlightened to Conditions, Pratyekabuddhas and all show up. Why? Because you are gone. If you were present, they would not come. This where it is so wonderful and truly inconceivable. This also applies to zhu.

At the same time, do not mistake zhu as merely “one”. Not even one came. All these great ghost kings but they are all gone. This world vanishes and this world vanishes, what do you have to worry about? No sadness and worries, no obstructions and impediments. By then, “The nature ends, the hearing is quiet and one is the universe.” The human nature, self-nature, and material nature end. By this time, you are heaven and earth; heaven and earth are you. You are all Buddhas; all Buddhas are you. You are not two and no different. Where is the you, I or he? How could there be so many marks of the self, marks of people, marks of living beings, and marks of lifespan? Since everything is gone, what do you have to worry about? All the distresses are cleaned up; by that time, it is purity without remainder. “Not one thought occurs and the entire substance manifests; the six senses move suddenly and they are covered by clouds.” See, such states are really wonderful beyond words.

Wonderful beyond words, so never mind the words. Let’s not talk about it. No! I like to talk so I will keep talking. Unspeakable, unspeakable. Who knows what is unspeakable? Speak on what? Speak about all the great ghost kings. All these great ghost kings are really mean. Ghosts are all mean. The ghost I am talking about here has very long legs. How long? I don’t know how long, they must be several yards. In general, even some professors in China do not recognize ghosts because their legs are so long that most people do not see where they are actually. This word “ghost” in Chinese is a homonym for “returning”. The Chinese has a saying about how dying is like coming home, returning to a place of offenses. Ghosts return to the hells, their home. Why do they believe the hells are their home? It is because they are lost. Let me try an English homonym for ghosts: “go”. They go to the hells. Why? Because they think that place is fun, the best. They run to the mountain of knives, trees of swords, woks of oil! They go and go, going to the hells, to the realm of hungry ghosts, to the realm of animals. So an explanation according to Chinese is returning while an explanation according to English is going. This is a simple explanation of mine. Now, where did this big ghost go? It did not go anywhere, it is in the hells.

They were the Ghost King Evil Eyes. This ghost has real long legs and mean-looking eyes. Evil eyes means when you see how ferocious his eyes are, you tremble.

The Ghost King Blood Drinker . He focuses on drinking living beings’ blood. He goes to drink blood anywhere it is found.

The Ghost King Essence and Energy Eater is Pisaca in Sanskrit. The line “pi sa she” in the Shurangama Mantra is this Ghost King Essence and Energy Eater. He enjoys eating people’s energy and the essence of the five grains. For instance, why do our essence and energy dissipate? It is because this type of ghost sucks your essence and energy away.

The Ghost King Fetus and Egg Eater eats undeveloped fetuses. This type of ghost eats placentas that fall off of newborns born earlier than expected. He also eats ghosts. How come he became this type of ghost? It is because in past lives, he used to like to kill. He will not even share the meat and blood he prepared with his wife, not to mention other people. He eats and drinks his own butchered game. Unwilling to share with others is a sign of stinginess, that is why he died and became a ghost king fetus and egg eater who eats such nasty things.

The Ghost King Spreader of Sickness goes around spreading epidemics, contagious diseases. Diseases occur because some ghost king spreader of sickness is distributing them.

The Ghost King Collector of Poisons is a good ghost and not a bad ghost. He will suck away any venom you contracted and cure you. This type of ghost is a transformation of Bodhisattvas who came to save living beings. He does not poison others; instead he sucks out your poisons, no matter who you are. This is a good intentioned ghost king.

The Ghost King Kindhearted is compassionate. Although a ghost, he enters among the ghosts to save them so that ghosts develop the Bodhi resolve.

The Ghost King Blessings and Benefits is the wealth fortune spirit who bestows and increases blessings.

The Ghost King Great Regard and Respect, and others. All so many ghost kings as described earlier came to the Tryastrimsha Heaven to listen to Shakyamuni Buddha explain the Earth Store Sutra.

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