Chapters: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23
|24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 Contents previous next
The Wondrous Adornments of the Rulers of the Worlds
Chapter One, Part Two
C. Individual explanations of the dharmas attained and praises of the Buddha
1. Celestial beings
a. Heavens of the Form Realm
1) Heavens of Great Self-Mastery
Specifically, Celestial King Ocean of Wondrous Flames from the Heaven of Great Self-Mastery gained a passage into liberation of using the power of quiescence and expedients throughout the Dharma Realm and space. Celestial King Radiant Freedom and Renown gained a passage into liberation of universally contemplating all dharmas with complete ease. Celestial King Eyes of Pure Merit and Virtue gained a passage into liberation of knowing through effortless practice that all dharmas do not come into being or cease to be, and neither come nor go.
Specifically, Celestial King Ocean of Wondrous Flames from the Heaven of Great Self-Mastery, gained a passage into liberation of using the power of quiescence and expedients throughout the Dharma Realm and space. Among the kings of the Heaven of Great Self-Mastery mentioned earlier, there was one named Ocean of Wondrous Flames. What is the Dharma Realm? “The Dharma Realm is not beyond a single thought. A single thought can encompass the Dharma Realm.” What is space? It is our inherent nature. In this passage into liberation, “quiescence” refers to concentration, and “expedients” refers to movement. In both motion and stillness, this king has obtained liberation. Motion does not impede stillness, and stillness does not impede motion. Motion and stillness are one suchness.
Celestial King Radiant Freedom and Renown gained a passage into liberation of universally contemplating all dharmas with complete ease. He universally contemplates all dharma doors: form dharmas, mind dharmas, and all other dharmas, and is extremely free and at ease.
Celestial King Eyes of Pure Merit and Virtue gained a passage into liberation of knowing through effortless practice that all dharmas do not come into being or cease to be, and neither come nor go.This Celestial King’s purity and light pervade all of space and the Dharma Realm. He understands that all dharmas do not come into being or cease to be, and neither come nor go. This is effortless effort, functioning without a function. There is no contrivance or use of force in reaching this kind of liberation, and so the text says, “effortless practice.”
Since dharmas do not come into being, they also do not cease to be. Since they neither come into being nor cease to be, they neither come nor go. Also, since they neither come nor go, they neither come into being nor cease to be. Experiencing this passage into liberation is effortless and leaves one very much at ease.
Celestial King Delightful Great Wisdom gained a passage into liberation of using oceanic wisdom in beholding the Character of Reality of all dharmas in the present moment. Celestial King Comfortable Unmoving Light gained a passage into liberation that allowed him to enter the Samadhi of Great Expedients, and thereby bestow boundless peace and joy upon sentient beings. Celestial King Magnificent Eyes gained a passage into liberation of enabling beings to observe quiescent dharmas so as to dispel their dark delusion and terror. Celestial King Brilliance Derived from Wholesome Reflection gained a passage into liberation of pondering all of existence by proficiently entering infinite realms without creating any karma.
Celestial King Delightful Great Wisdom gained a passage into liberation of using oceanic wisdom in beholding the Character of Reality of all dharmas in the present moment. Right at this moment, he can perceive the Character of Reality. He can observe the ultimate reality of all things. The Character of Reality is devoid of character, and yet there is nothing that is not characterized by it. With this passage into liberation, his wisdom is as profuse as the ocean.
The Celestial King named Comfortable Unmoving Light gained a passage into liberation that allowed him to enter the Samadhi of Great Expedients, and thereby bestow boundless peace and joy upon sentient beings. He can bestow boundless peace and joy upon sentient beings, freeing them from afflictions and hindrances. Since they experience no hindrances, they are happy and peaceful. He enters this Samadhi of Great Expedients, within which he causes all beings to attain boundless peace and joy.
Celestial King Magnificent Eyes gained a passage into liberation of enabling beings to observe quiescent dharmas so as to dispel their dark delusion and terror. By leading sentient beings to contemplate still and quiescent dharmas, he destroys their dark delusions and ends all their fears. He attained that passage into liberation. Celestial King Brilliance Derived from Wholesome Reflection gained a passage into liberation of pondering all of existence by proficiently entering infinite realms without creating any karma. He is skilled at entering boundlessly many states, and yet does not create any mental karma while reflecting upon beings in the Three Realms of Existence. The Three Realms of Existence include the Twenty-five Levels of Existence in the Desire Realm, the Form Realm, and the Formless Realm.
As for the principles discussed in the Flower Adornment Sutra, those who have not listened to the sutras may feel there’s a lot of repetition—the same thing is said over and over again. Actually, it is not mere repetition. There is a meaning behind repetition, anyway. After you’ve listened longer, you will understand.
Celestial King Delightful Great Knowledge gained a passage into liberation of traveling everywhere throughout the ten directions to speak Dharma, while neither moving nor relying on anything.
Celestial King Delightful Great Knowledge gained a passage into liberation of traveling everywhere throughout the ten directions to speak Dharma, while neither moving nor relying on anything. He can go everywhere throughout the ten directions, and yet he hasn’t gone anywhere. His body pervades the ten directions, and yet he hasn’t gone anywhere. He remains unmoving; he hasn’t come back from anywhere. He has no coming and no going. He is his own master; he doesn’t rely on people or dharmas. Since he is independent of all things, he gained this passage into liberation, literally, “liberation door.” Don’t think there is an actual door or passage.
This is a metaphor. There really isn’t a door. If there were a door, there wouldn’t be any liberation. Don’t take the text literally, thinking there is a door through which one can enter or exit. Actually there is none. If there were a door and liberation were inside it, then there could be no liberation outside it. Or, if liberation were outside the door, then there could be no liberation inside it. And if you said that liberation is both within and without, then what would be the purpose of having a door, anyway?
Therefore, door is simply a metaphor for the attainment of self-mastery and liberation. Don’t go looking for an actual door. Although the text refers to a passage, literally a door, don’t become attached to the notion of a door, thinking that you have to find a door through which to enter. If that were the case, then, through which door should you exit? If there is still entering and exiting, how could that count as liberation? Be sure to understand the meaning of a passage into liberation.
In listening to the sutras, you shouldn’t think, “I’ve listened to an entire lecture, and I haven’t gained anything.” To hear even one important line would be enough. If you know how to listen to the sutras, you will listen for the underlying meaning. If you don’t know how to listen, you will only listen for a literal interpretation of the words. In everything people do, there are those who know how to go about it, and those who don’t. Listening to the sutras is no exception. Some people, upon hearing a sutra lecture, feel as if they’ve tasted the flavor of sweet dew or as if they’ve gained a precious treasure. To people who don’t know how to listen to the sutras, it seems that the Dharma Master keeps talking and talking and still they cannot quite understand what he’s saying. The more they listen, the more they want to go to sleep. The more they want to sleep, the less they are able to stay awake. They doze off for the entire lecture, and that’s a great shame.
Celestial King All-Pervasive Voice Resembling a Glorious Banner gained a passage into liberation of entering the Buddha’s tranquil state and universally displaying bright light. Celestial King Brilliant Renown Derived from Wholesome Vigor gained a passage into liberation of abiding in his own enlightenment while embracing the conditions of great, vast, and boundless states.
Celestial King All-Pervasive Voice Resembling a Glorious Banner gained a passage into liberation of entering the Buddha’s tranquil state and universally displaying bright light. He has realized the Buddha’s samadhi and wisdom, the tranquil state that is the Buddha’s state. Since he has attained the Buddha’s samadhi and wisdom, he can universally display bright light and gain this passage into liberation.
Celestial King Brilliant Renown Derived from Wholesome Vigor gained a passage into liberation of abiding in his own enlightenment while embracing the conditions of great, vast, and boundless states. Since he has enlightened to boundless, vast, and great states, these states serve as the causes and conditions for his cultivation. He investigates vast and great states of being.
At that time Celestial King Ocean of Wondrous Flames received the Buddha’s awesome spiritual power, universally contemplated the multitudes of the Heavens of Great Self-Mastery, and spoke the following verse:
The Buddha’s body pervades all great assemblies everywhere,
Filling the infinite reaches of the Dharma Realm.
Still and quiet, ungraspable, devoid of nature,
He yet appears in order to save the world.
There are four kinds of verse:
1. Anustubh: whether it is prose or verse, any four-line verse with eight words to a line, comprising thirty-two words, is called an anustubh.
2. Gatha is translated as “verse for chanting,” because it can be chanted; or “solitary verse,” because it arises on its own, apart from others. It is also called “direct verse,” because it directly speaks the Dharma in verse form. Gatha has those three meanings.
3. Geya is translated as “fitting verse,” meaning it is proper and fitting for a verse to be spoken.
4. Udana is a type of verse that uses few words to encompass many meanings.
There are eight reasons for using verses in Sutras:
1. To express many meanings with a few words.
2. To praise the Buddhas. The praises of the sages and worthies of the ten directions, as well as the Buddhas, are usually written in verse form. We also write verses in praise of the Patriarchs, one per week.
3. To reiterate the meaning for beings with dull faculties, that is, for beings who are not as quick to grasp the meaning.
4. To reiterate the meaning for people of the future, that is, people who were not present at the assembly but who will come later, such as ourselves in this present time.
5. To speak in the way one likes to speak. According to how one feels inspired, one can enter that kind of samadhi and speak verses.
6. To facilitate remembering and maintaining, to make it easier to remember the principles.
7. To further clarify what has been spoken before, that is, to shed more light on the previous sutra text.
8. To express in verse form that which was not previously expressed in the prose section.
At that time Celestial King Ocean of Wondrous Flames received the Buddha’s awesome spiritual power. Why doesn’t the sutra say that the Celestial King Ocean of Wondrous Flames himself spoke those verses? Why does it say that he “received the Buddha’s awesome spiritual power”? This is an act of honoring the Dharma-speaking host.
In an earlier lecture I said that these beings are not arrogant, and so they rely on the Buddha’s awesome power. None of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas has thoughts of arrogance. The Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and all the sages are never arrogant or conceited. They weren’t arrogant to begin with. It’s not that they are simply putting on a show of not being arrogant. If they were arrogant to begin with, but acted like they weren’t, they would be hypocrites. But as they basically don’t have egos, how could they be arrogant or self-conceited?
These beings achieved the wonderful functioning of spiritual powers by means of the Dharma of the Buddhas of the ten directions. The Dharma of all Buddhas nurtured them and helped them complete their work in the Way and become “disciples of Buddhas.” By means of the Buddhadharma, they understood the principles and cultivated, so their achievements are due to the Buddha’s awesome power. If it were not for the Buddha’s awesome power, they wouldn’t know how to cultivate, nor would they attain the wondrous functioning of spiritual powers and transformations. They wouldn’t attain any of those powers.
These beings were all born from the Buddhadharma; they have grown up within the Buddhadharma and have achieved realization within the Buddhadharma. That’s why the text says, “receiving the Buddha’s awesome spiritual power.” That refers not only to the awesome power of Sãkyamuni Buddha, or Vairochana Buddha, or Nisyanda Buddha, but rather to the power of the Buddhas of the ten directions reaching to the ends of space throughout the Dharma Realm.
Celestial King Ocean of Wondrous Flames universally contemplated the causes and conditions of all the boundless multitudes of the Heavens of Great Self-Mastery, and spoke the following verse. These verses were not spoken for just one god of the Heaven of Great Self-Mastery; they were spoken for the sake of all the gods in that heaven. Not only that, the verses were spoken in praise of all Buddhas of the past, present, and future. They were spoken so that all sentient beings of the past, present, and future would hear them and thereby understand the profundity of the Buddhadharma and rely on the Dharma to cultivate, eventually realizing the Buddha Way. It was for those reasons that Celestial King Ocean of Wondrous Flames spoke the following four-line verse.
Our present time is the “future” of the time when the verses were spoken. Therefore, these verses were also spoken for us. You could think these verses were spoken especially for you, and I could think they were spoken especially for me. Since these verses were spoken for every single being, would you say they were important or not? The first verse begins:
The Buddha’s body pervades all great assemblies everywhere. This refers to Sãkyamuni Buddha’s body, which is nowhere and everywhere at the same time. There isn’t a place even as small as a mote of dust where the Buddha cannot be found. “All great assemblies” refers to the gatherings where all Buddhas speak Dharma. Since all Buddhas share the same Way, when one Buddha speaks the Dharma, other Buddhas will come to support the Dharma assembly.
Therefore, the Buddha’s body pervades all assemblies, filling the infinite reaches of the Dharma Realm. All of space to the ends of the Dharma Realm is filled with the Buddha’s bodies. It fills this world and other worlds. This world, that world, infinitely many worlds; this land, that land, countlessly many lands are all filled with the Buddhas’ bodies, without end. Once some empty space appears, the Buddha’s body also appears therein. Or, if a country appears, the Buddha’s body also appears therein.
He is still and quiet, ungraspable, devoid of nature. Although the Buddha’s body pervades all assemblies and fills the Dharma Realm, he is still and quiet, without a nature, and intangible. The Buddha’s body cannot be grasped, nor can it be rejected. If you try to take hold of it, you won’t be able to grasp anything. You may try to reject it, but you won’t be able to, either. The Buddha is quiescent in nature, without shape or form, and yet completely embodies the principle of reality. Whether you grasp or reject him, you are actually dealing with nothing. Originally there is nothing to begin with, so what is there to grasp or reject?
He yet appears in order to save the world. All dharmas are originally quiescent in nature. If the Buddha didn’t want to appear in the world, that would be possible. However, there would be no one to save sentient beings. Sentient beings would sink and drown in the sea of love and emotion, not knowing to escape.
The Buddha appeared in the world to save sentient beings, but sentient beings refuse to heed the Buddha’s instructions. They remain muddled, unable to awaken from their sleep. They don’t want to leave this world of suffering and vexation. They might wish to leave the Saha world in one thought, but in the next thought, they don’t wish to leave it anymore. They vacillate back and forth, advancing and then retreating, and never manage to get out of the Saha world. They don’t wish to get out. The Buddha has been waiting for sentient beings, but sentient beings still do not know to return to their origin. Finally, the Buddha can wait no longer; he runs out of patience. And so he says, “I might as well go into the world and find some work to do, even where there is nothing to be done.” So he comes to the Saha world to teach and transform sentient beings. He says, “You’d better quickly wake up from your dreams! You’d better return to your original home. Don’t be so muddled and confused that you forget your roots.”
The Buddha appears in order to save the world. He comes to the world wishing to rescue you and me, us beings laden with deep offenses. If it weren’t for you and me, who are so lost that we don’t know how to return to purity, the Buddha wouldn’t need to come here. Therefore, we should contemplate this and feel very ashamed. Ah! We have taxed the Buddha’s energy, making him come and look for us. Today some of us want to return to lay life; tomorrow someone else wants to go out and find a job; and the day after that, we want to be doing something else. Our idle daydreams are countless in number. We really are shameless!
We have been lecturing on the Flower Adornment Sutra for over a year. Every day we lecture and speak. People come here and listen every day. Having heard a lot, you may have had an awakening (悟 wu). Hopefully, a great awakening, not a small one. However, in Chinese, “awakening” sounds like another word wu (誤) meaning “to have misconceptions.” In what ways may people have been misled? They might think, “Ah, the Flower Adornment Sutra talks about nonobstruction. That means I can do whatever I please. Such acts as killing, stealing, lusting, lying, taking intoxicants and drugs must all be unobstructed. This dharma isn’t bad at all!” That’s the extent of their misconceptions. Since there is nonobstruction, they think they can engage in all evil and not cultivate any good. “If there’s no obstruction, why should I do good?” they think, and want to do evil.
What kind of evil are we referring to? On a large scale, killing and committing arson are evil; on a smaller scale, even scolding and slandering others is evil. These people say, “No problem. Our Dharma Master talks about nonobstruction, so it’s probably all unobstructed. We should be able to beat people up or scold them without any obstruction.”
I say to them, “Well, if you want to practice nonobstruction, why don’t you be unobstructed in showing respect for others? Why do you have to hit and scold them? Why don’t you respect them instead? If you were to bow to people when you see them, you would be without obstruction, too. Since you can do evil without obstruction, why don’t you do good without obstruction, and put an end to all evil?”
“But,” they protest, “cultivating good dharmas means one still has an attachment and hasn’t reached a state of nonobstruction.”
My reply is, “If you say there’s attachment involved in cultivating good dharmas, why aren’t you afraid of having attachments when you casually commit evil? Don’t you have attachment when you do evil?” Their views are terribly wrong, and anyone who holds to such views and does such evil is involved in unforgivably evil deeds. People who harbor such misconceptions should quickly reflect upon themselves.
The Thus Come One, King of Dharma, appears among us,
Lighting up the world with the lantern of wondrous Dharma.
Boundless and infinite are the states that emerge.
Thus is the realization of Freedom and Renown.
The Thus Come One, King of Dharma, appears among us.The Thus Come One is the Dharma King, and the Dharma King is the Thus Come One. Why does the sutra mention both titles? “Thus Come One” is one of the ten titles of a Buddha, while “Dharma King” is a general term. Although we say that the Thus Come One is the Dharma King and vice versa, nonetheless, these are different names referring to the same enlightened being.
“Thus” refers to stillness, “come” to movement. Since a Buddha comes from nowhere, he does not move. Since he goes nowhere, he is not still. “Neither moving nor still” is the meaning of “Thus Come One.” If one rejects movement in favor of stillness, then one limits this state. If one rejects stillness in favor of movement, one also sets a boundary. The Thus Come One, however, comes from nowhere and goes nowhere. Since he comes from nowhere, the place from which he comes is unattainable; and since he goes nowhere, the place to which he goes is unattainable. The Thus Come One’s Dharma body is present everywhere throughout space and the Dharma Realm.
Therefore, where could he come from? He comes without coming. Where could he go? He goes without going. “Without moving from the Way-place, he pervades the entire Dharma Realm,” and so he’s called the Thus Come One.
“King of Dharma.” How many dharmas are there? There are innumerably many dharmas, as many as the grains of sand in the Ganges River. To sum it up, we say there are 84,000 dharma doors. Those 84,000 dharma doors can further be classified into five kinds of dharmas: form dharmas, mind dharmas, dharmas belonging to the mind, dharmas not interactive with the mind, and unconditioned dharmas. All dharmas boil down to these five categories.
Anybody can proclaim Dharma—gods, Arhats, Bodhisattvas, Pratyekabuddhas, and Buddhas. But only Buddhas can be called Dharma Kings. The others are called speakers of Dharma.
Why does the Buddha appear in the world? He wishes to eradicate sentient beings’ ignorance. He sees that the world is engulfed in darkness, and so he appears in the world.
The Buddha is intent upon lighting up the world with the lantern of wondrous Dharma. How does he light up worlds? He does it with the wonderful lamp of Dharma that pervasively shines on them. The Buddhadharma resembles a bright lamp. Before the Buddha appeared, the world was dark, because there was no Buddhadharma in it. When a Buddha is born into the world, he illumines it with wonderful, inconceivable Dharma. He teaches sentient beings to abandon confusion and return to enlightenment, to renounce the wrong and return to the right, to go back to the source, and to attain true freedom and ease.
If we wish to return to the source, we must first end our own birth and death. If we don’t end birth and death, we won’t be able to return to the source. If we wish to end birth and death, the very first thing to do is to put an end to thoughts of lust. If we don’t put an end to lust, we won’t be able to end birth and death or get out of the Three Realms.
The Surangama Sutra clearly states, “If one does not get rid of lust, one cannot transcend the world.” To not get rid of lustful thoughts and still wish to realize the Way is like cooking sand hoping to get rice. How could anyone cook sand and expect it to turn into rice? That’s impossible. Not to cast out lustful thoughts and still wish to transcend the Three Realms and end birth and death exemplifies the same principle. That is what the Surangama Sutra says. People who have heard the Surangama Sutra, who have lectured on it, and who have investigated it should pay close attention to this point. Neither monastics nor laypeople should forget this principle.
Why do people have false thoughts? It happens because they have forgotten this very principle. They may pay lip service to it, but subsequent to that they lapse into idle thinking. The Buddha spoke the Dharma to teach us not to indulge in idle thoughts. Without idle thoughts, the darkness is gone, and our thinking clears up and becomes pure. Pure thoughts are the Pure Land. This is the dharma for returning to the source.
It shouldn’t be that having listened to many Sutras, people forget the most important principles, turn their backs on enlightenment, and become immersed in the dust of mundane defilements. Then they won’t be able to abandon defilement and unite with enlightenment. Therefore, the Buddha lights the wonderful Dharma lamp that illumines the world. This is an analogy.
Boundless and infinite are the states that emerge. The Buddha’s state of mind is without bounds and without end. It is multi-layered and inexhaustible, perfectly interpenetrating and unobstructed. It is an inconceivably wonderful state. Thus is the realization of Freedom and Renown. Celestial King Radiant Freedom and Renown realized this state, so this four-line verse was spoken about him.
How inconceivable the Buddha is; he defies description.
He realizes that no form actually exists in the ten directions.
For those in the world he extensively reveals paths to purity.
Pure Eyes is able to observe thus.
How inconceivable the Buddha is; he defies description. Buddha or Buddhaya is Sanskrit and means “the Awakened/Enlightened One.” What did he awaken to? He awoke to that which sentient beings do not understand, that which sentient beings are confused about and attached to, that which they cannot let go of. The Buddha has:
Perfected the Three Kinds of Enlightenment
And is replete with the myriad virtues.
That is why he is called a Buddha. The Three Kinds of Enlightenment are self-enlightenment, enlightenment of others, and the perfection of enlightenment through practices.
1. One who is self-enlightened differs from common people. Ordinary people may think they are enlightened, but in fact they suffer from confusion within confusion. They feel that among confused people they are enlightened, but in truth, not only are they not enlightened, they are doubly confused. Why do I say that? They do not recognize what enlightenment is. If they did recognize it, they would know that they themselves aren’t enlightened, even though they now think they are. And so, not only do they fail to recognize enlightenment, they don’t even recognize confusion. Not to be enlightened is to be confused. They think they are not confused. Such beings are pitiful. One who is self-enlightened is different from ordinary people.
2. One who enlightens others differs from followers of the Two Vehicles, who are able to enlighten themselves, but not others. They don’t want to enlighten others; they only look after themselves.
3. One who has perfected his enlightened practices differs from Bodhisattvas. Bodhisattvas are able to enlighten themselves and to enlighten others, but they have not perfected their enlightened practices. They haven’t reached the state of utmost perfection. The Buddha not only is able to enlighten himself and others, but has also perfected his enlightened practices, and so he is called a Buddha.
The Buddha’s realm is inconceivable. The Buddha’s wonderful modes of transformation cannot be pinned down; there’s no way to fathom his realm of being. It is inconceivable and beyond discriminations. You cannot use your conscious mind to discriminate the Buddha’s state. Later on in this sutra, there is a phrase, “If one wishes to understand the Buddha’s state, one should make one’s mind as pure as space.” You should clear your mind and intellect so that it resembles the void. If you don’t become like space, you won’t be able to understand the Buddha’s state. But if you can make your mind as pure and clear as the void, and be without attachment, you might understand a bit of the Buddha’s state. Space is free from discriminations. Although it is empty, it contains all the wonderful phenomena that exist.
He realizes that no form actually exists in the ten directions. The Buddha’s form is without form, yet it characterizes all form. This doesn’t mean that he has no form. Rather, the Buddha’s form pervades space and the Dharma Realm. There is no way we can see or understand the Buddha’s form, because we are right within it. Therefore we do not know how large the Buddha’s form is. And so in the ten directions his form is like space: present and yet empty.
For those in the world he extensively reveals paths to purity.The Buddha employs many expedient dharma doors to teach and transform beings, and to open up the path to purity for them. Purity means having no defilement. The Buddha teaches us to cultivate dharmas that are undefiled, so we can transcend the dust. Pure Eyes is able to observe thus. Celestial King Eyes of Pure Merit and Virtue can observe and understand this dharma door of the Buddha’s formlessness.
Just now in explaining the first line of the verse, I said that “the Buddha’s wonderful modes of transformation cannot be pinned down.” You could also explain it this way: There is no dharma that is not a method employed by the Buddha, because he has so many methods. There is no method that isn’t used by him in his wonderful transformations. Or, you could say that “wonderful modes of transformation” means going beyond all methods used by people, being finished with all those methods. No method at all is used because they’re all done with. This is “a great square that has no corners.” Such wonderful transformations cannot be pinned down to a specific method, because they’re too wonderful. If they could be pinned down, they wouldn’t be wonderful.
Along the same lines, we say, “Great talent takes long to mature.” A verse in the Three Character Classic says:
Yao Lianghao was eighty-two
When he took the exam in the imperial hall
And came out first among all the scholars.
Yao Lianghao was eighty-two when he became the zhuangyuan—the top-ranking imperial scholar. When he answered the questions in the oral exam that was administered in the imperial court, the young scholars and professors around him couldn’t even understand what he was saying. That was because Mr. Yao had plenty of experience at his advanced age. When Mr. Yao was answering the emperor’s questions, the young professors became subdued and quiet. This was “great talent that took long to mature.” He wasn’t successful until he was eighty-two.
“A great note is hard to hear.” [Laozi Daodejing, No. 41] The greatest sounds are silent. And, “Great skill seems awkward.” [Laozi Daodejing, No. 45] People who are extremely skillful may appear rather clumsy, but from what they do, you see that they are actually quite ingenious. A case in point is Sir Winston Churchill, who, though he appeared rather dull, was exceptionally intelligent. One time the Germans launched an air raid. With a few remaining airplanes, Churchill was able to fool the Germans. The Germans were fed misinformation indicating that the British still had many airplanes. If it were not for that scheme, England would have been defeated by the Germans during World War II. Churchill might have looked foolish, but he was extremely smart. That’s “great skill that seems awkward.”
“Great eloquence seems tongue-tied.” People gifted with true eloquence do not engage in excessive meaningless talk. They don’t say much, maybe just one sentence, but they will manage to defeat you in debate. Someone who is gifted in debate may look like he doesn’t know how to talk. These examples are all part of the meaning of “wonderful modes of transformation that cannot be pinned down.”
During the Three Kingdoms Period [222-265 c.e.], there was a scholar named Zuo Ci who was skilled in debate. Nobody could out-talk him. Cao Cao [the prime minister] happened to have some men in his court who were skilled in debate, but none of them could beat Zuo Ci. One time, when Zuo Ci was expected at Cao Cao’s court, the debaters made a pact among themselves, “Today when Zuo Ci comes here, let’s all ignore him. Let’s not pay any attention to him. We won’t talk to him or look at him and see what he does then!”
They were all prepared when Zuo Ci appeared. The debaters sat there like clay figures and wooden statues. Some had their eyes wide-open, staring as if unseeing. Others had their eyes closed, as if trying to be invisible. As soon as Zuo Ci stepped in the door, he broke out in tears and wept loudly. Shocked, the debaters reacted and asked him, “Why are you crying?” He said, “I’ve come upon a bunch of dead people. How could I not cry?”
The Thus Come One’s wisdom is without bounds.
No one in the world could possibly fathom it.
He dispels sentient beings’ dark delusions forever.
Great Wisdom enters this and abides in profound peace.
The Thus Come One’s wisdom is without bounds. “Thus Come One” is one of the Buddha’s ten titles. His wisdom is without limits or boundaries. The teachings of Buddhism are boundless and all-encompassing. Both Buddhists and non-Buddhists are included within Buddhism. Whether or not you believe is only a matter of time; whether you become a Buddha or not is also a matter of time. Why do we say that Buddhism is boundless? Sentient beings’ minds are also boundless. However vast sentient beings’ minds are, that’s how vast Buddhism is.
Whether or not you believe in Buddhism, you are included within it. You have not been left out of the scope of Buddhism, because Buddhism pervades space and the Dharma Realm. It has no limits. Therefore, “Sentient and nonsentient beings together perfect the Wisdom of Modes.” Sentient beings are beings endowed with blood and breath. Nonsentient beings include all plants, metals, and minerals, which have no sentience. Although they are insentient, they are still endowed with the Buddha nature. Buddhism is totally egalitarian. “All beings are endowed with the Buddha nature; all can become Buddhas.” Wouldn’t you say Buddhist principles are vast and all-encompassing? Buddhism differs from certain religions that set boundaries and limit their scope, maintaining that those who believe in them are their disciples, and those who don’t aren’t. In Buddhism, regardless of whether or not you believe, you are still considered a disciple. You may not believe now, but in the future you will. You have not become Buddhas yet, but in the future you will. Therefore, the text says, “The Thus Come One’s wisdom is without bounds.”
No one in the world could possibly fathom it. No one can fathom or understand the Buddha’s wisdom, because it is without bounds. He dispels sentient beings’ dark delusions forever. Buddhism teaches sentient beings to renounce confusion and return to enlightenment. Deluded individuals can become wise. The dark delusion of sentient beings is destroyed forever. Why do I say that I won’t allow anyone I meet to remain deluded? Buddhism can destroy beings’ darkness and delusions. You should understand this point. The Buddha teaches people to cease being deluded and become wise. Great Wisdom enters this and abides in profound peace. Celestial King Delightful Great Wisdom understands and abides in this deep samadhi, which brings a realization that the Buddha’s wisdom is boundless.
The Thus Come One’s meritorious virtues are inconceivable.
When sentient beings see him their afflictions cease.
He enables everyone in the world to experience peace and joy.
The god Comfortable Unmoving Light observes thus.
The Thus Come One’s meritorious virtues are inconceivable. “Thus Come One” is the first of the ten titles of a Buddha. How did the Thus Come One become a Thus Come One? He did it by means of merit and virtue. Ordinary people’s merit and virtue cannot compare with the Buddha’s merit and virtue, which is beyond conception and impossible to describe. The Buddha’s merit and virtue is boundless and infinite.
Thoughts as many as dust motes in lands might still be counted;
The waters of the great seas might still be drunk dry;
Space might be measured; the wind might be tied;
But the meritorious virtues of the Buddhas
can never be described.
The Thus Come One completely perceives all the thoughts of sentient beings in the Saha world. Not only that, but the Thus Come One also completely perceives the merit and virtue of all sentient beings in worlds as numerous as dust motes or as grains of sand in the Ganges River. The Buddha knows all the thoughts and meritorious qualities of sentient beings, but do sentient beings know about the Buddha’s merit and virtue?
No. Therefore, “Thoughts as many as motes of dust in lands might still be counted.” The Buddha is completely aware of every stirring of thought in the minds of sentient beings in all those lands. However, no one is able to fathom the Buddha’s merit and virtue.
“The waters of the great seas might still be drunk dry / Space might be measured; the wind might be tied.” Basically, space has no finite size, but let’s say that you could measure its scope. The wind basically cannot be tied down, but let’s say you are able to tie it down. The water in the ocean cannot be completely drunk, but let’s say you are able to drink it all up. Thoughts as many as dust motes in lands cannot be known, but let’s suppose you are able to do that. Even then, you could not know the Buddha’s merit and virtue. No one can understand it. Therefore the last line says, “But the meritorious virtues of the Buddhas can never be described.” They cannot be mentally conceived of or verbally discussed, because they are measureless and boundless.
When sentient beings see him their afflictions cease. How does that happen? The Buddha is compassionate and happy with all sentient beings. Therefore, when sentient beings see the Buddha, they also become happy and forget their afflictions. This is a response brought about by the Buddha’s merit and virtue, which inspires joy in sentient beings when they see him.
He enables everyone in the world to experience peace and joy. The Buddha causes them to attain true peace and comfort. The god Comfortable Unmoving Light observes thus. That Celestial King perceives that aspect of the Buddha.