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Praises at the Summit of Mount Sumeru

Chapter Fourteen



III. The Bodhisattvas speak verses in praise.

H. True Wisdom Bodhisattva of the Northwest  


Then True Wisdom Bodhisattva, relying on the Buddha’s awesome spiritual power, universally contemplated the ten directions and spoke in verse.  


Then after Knowledgeable Wisdom Bodhisattva had finished speaking Dharma for sentient beings, it was True Wisdom Bodhisattva’s turn. What is true wisdom? It is wisdom attained through true cultivation. It is also the absence of false thoughts and discriminations. If we sentient beings could be without false thoughts and discriminations, we would attain true wisdom on the spot. True wisdom is when not a single thought arises, so there are no discriminations. Since one is no longer covered by the five skandhas—form, feeling, thinking, formations, and consciousness--one obtains true wisdom. This Bodhisattva diligently cultivated the six perfections and myriad practices without regard for his life. That’s how he was able to achieve genuine wisdom. After hearing the verses spoken by Knowledgeable Wisdom Bodhisattva, he also came to the bodhimanda from the northwestern direction bringing many Bodhisattvas with him.  

Relying on the Buddha Shakyamuni’s awesome spiritual power, True Wisdom Bodhisattva universally contemplated causes, conditions, and dispositions of sentient beings throughout the ten directions and spoke in verse to describe the state he had attained for the benefit of sentient beings in that Dharma assembly and in the future, so they could hear the Dharma, become enlightened, and quickly realize the Buddha Path.


I would rather suffer in the hells
And get to hear the Buddhas’ names,
Than enjoy boundless happiness
And not hear the Buddhas’ names.  


I would rather suffer in the hells / And get to hear the Buddhas’ names. We have been born into the world after the time of the Buddha. This is “the difficulty of being born before or after the time of a Buddha,” one of the Eight Difficulties. However, we are still able to listen to the Dharma and hear the Buddha’s name. Some people never get to hear the Buddha’s name in their whole life. For example, people in the northern continent of Uttarakuru don’t see the Buddha, don’t hear the Dharma, and don’t see the Sangha. Some of them can live for one thousand years. Although they enjoy long and happy lives, they don’t get to hear the Buddha’s name. True Wisdom Bodhisattva says, “If only I can hear the name of the Buddhas, I’m willing to undergo all manner of suffering in the hells. No matter how bitter it is, I’m not afraid, because I want to hear the Buddha’s name. I’d rather do that than enjoy boundless happiness / And not get to hear the Buddhas’ names. Though it may be enjoyable, I don’t want to indulge in happiness and fail to hear the Buddha’s name.” 


For countless eons in the past,
I suffered misery and woe,
And drifted aimlessly in birth and death
Due to not having heard the Buddhas’ names.


For countless eons in the past / I suffered misery and woe. If I had heard the Buddhas’ names, I wouldn’t have suffered like that. I suffered because I didn’t get to hear the Buddha’s name. I’m willing to suffer in the hells if I can hear the Buddha’s name, because upon hearing the Buddha’s name, I might not have to suffer in the hells anymore. And I always drifted aimlessly in birth and death / Due to not having heardthe Buddhas’ names. If I hear the Buddha’s name, I have a chance to escape suffering.


Undeluded by dharmas,
One realizes absolute reality.
To separate from all compounded phenomena
Is called unsurpassed enlightenment.  


The Earth Store Sutra says that every thought of sentient beings in Jambudvipa is an offense and a karmic act.

“If someone does a good deed, is that an offense and a karmic act?” you ask. Yes, it is both an offense and a karmic act.

“I don’t believe it. A bad deed can be both an offense and a karmic act, but how does this apply to a good deed?”

If you do a good deed without thought, that is true goodness. If you do it with thought, then it is evil. If you do an evil deed with thought, that’s even more evil. The ancients said it well:

If one does good with deliberate intentions,
Although it is good, there is no reward.
If one does evil unintentionally,
Although it is evil, there is punishment.

If one intentionally does good hoping for a good reward in the future, one actually creates karma and offenses. When you receive that good reward, you will then create karma and offenses. For example, a person who is penniless cannot gamble, smoke opium, or take drugs. Gamblers and opium smokers all have money. If someone who is basically destitute does these things, it’s clear that they robbed or stole the money to pay for them. If you gamble with the idea that you can win some money and use it to build a temple, that’s evil. The causes and effects of building that temple are unclean, and probably people won’t be able to cultivate there.

If you think, “I want to build a temple so I can receive a good reward in the future,” the very wish for a reward is already an offense. How should you be? You should do things as if you were just doing your duty. Don’t hope for any reward. Don’t even entertain such thoughts. Such thoughts are delusion. Doing things without discriminating or false thinking is the dharma of nondelusion. If you do something hoping for a reward, you are being greedy. Such greed is delusion.

If one is undeluded by dharmas, one simply does things without giving rise to a single thought. It’s not that one bows to the Buddha and wishes for a good, filial son. That’s totally wrong. You shouldn’t be bowing for the sake of gaining advantages. You should bow to the Buddha, because the Buddha possesses the myriad virtues and deserves our respect. Bowing to the Buddha is not like investing capital, where you can gain a ten-thousandfold return; it’s not a “one bow, and all goes well” deal. If the Buddha were like that, he’d be like any other corrupt official. If you bribe a corrupt official, then he’ll say a person’s innocent even if he’s guilty. Or he’ll say the person’s guilty when he’s really innocent. He has no sense of justice.

If your bowing to the Buddha makes everything okay, then the Buddha is no different from a corrupt official. You should bow out of respect, without hoping for a reward. That is not to be deluded. It’s all in a single thought. With one thought, you are deluded and unable to leave distorted dream-thinking far behind. When cultivating, don’t think, “I want to get enlightened.” The more you want it, the less likely it will happen. It’s very strange. The wish to get enlightened is a false thought. Concern yourself only with planting the fields; don’t worry about the harvest. Be diligent and thrifty; don’t think about the results. Don’t let your thoughts move.

If you have a thought, then it’s false thinking.
If you have no thoughts, there will be a response.

Don’t use the human mind to do things; then you won’t be deluded.

Then one realizes absolute reality. When you don’t have a single thought, just that is the realization of absolute reality. Ask yourself: in one day, how long can you be free of thought? Your mind is like a monkey moving bricks. It moves one brick to the west, another brick to the east. From morning to night, it is constantly busy. Even if you aren’t moving things, your eyes are looking left and right, up and down. These are all thoughts—all false thinking. If you don’t have false thinking, you won’t be looking here and there, gazing up and down. You won’t be doing any of that. You won’t be deluded with regard to dharmas.

To separate from all compounded phenomena / Is called unsurpassed enlightenment. The Shurangama Sutra says that all phenomena which are illusory combinations must be abandoned. This is the supreme bodhi path.


Not compounded in the present,
Nor in the past or future,
All dharmas are devoid of characteristics:
Such is the true substance of the Buddha.


Compounded phenomena are brought into existence by a multitude of conditions coming together. For example, many particles of dust combine to form a mountain. This is an example of a compounded phenomenon. But the Buddha’s real substance is not a compounded phenomenon. It is not compounded in the present,/nor in the past orfuture. Why? All dharmas are devoid of characteristics: / Such is the true substance of the Buddha. Dharmas have no substance or appearance, nor even the absence of substance and appearance. That is the Buddha’s original face, the Buddha’s real substance.  


If in this way one contemplates
The meaning of all dharmas—so deep, profound—
Then one can see all Buddhas and
The true appearance of the Dharma body.


The reason we cannot return to the source is because we have attachments. Earlier I said that every move and thought of sentient beings is an offense and an act of karma. People regard sentient beings in the three evil paths as being deluded and not doing anything in accord with Dharma. They also see asuras as being deluded and not acting in accord with Dharma. However, when gods look at people--regardless of whether the people do good or evil, whether they study Buddhism and cultivate or not—they consider them all to be deluded and not in accord with Dharma. We people think we are doing good deeds, cultivating, being vegetarian, reciting the Buddha’s name, reciting sutras, bowing repentances, bowing to the Buddhas—in general, applying effort in cultivation—but the gods see us as practicing the dharma door of distorted dream-thinking. Why is this? It’s because you do all these things hoping for a good reward. You hope to be rich, have a high position, or enjoy all kinds of other rewards in your next life. Actually this is all delusion.

If you have thought, it is suffering.
If you seek nothing, it is blessing.

If you have thought, then you are seeking. Without thought, there is no seeking. And so it’s said,

No mind and no thought bring boundless blessings.
Desires and scattered thoughts create offenses.

Any thought or wish is deluded. Even if your wish is to do good, it’s still delusion. Why? It’s true that doing good deeds earns you a reward. But when you enjoy that reward, you get confused again.

It is difficult for poor people to give.
It is difficult for rich people to study the spiritual Path.

It’s hard for a wealthy person to truly cultivate. It’s easy for him to commit offenses and fall. Once he falls, he has to undergo suffering. This is because when he was poor, he did good deeds hoping to become rich in the future. But when he became rich, he not only didn’t do good deeds, but used up his blessings by doing all kinds of improper things, after which he fell and underwent suffering. Now wouldn’t you say that’s confused?

Therefore, students of the Buddhadharma don’t seek for rewards in their next life. They don’t seek to be born in the heavens, because they know that when heavenly blessings come to an end, they still have to suffer. We should learn to be without thought, without greed, and not seeking anything. “No mind and no thought: boundless blessings.” The lack of greed is itself wealth and honor. Why are you greedy? Because you’re still poor. If you are wealthy, then you are always content and happy, patient and peaceful.

Not being greedy, one has true wealth and honor.
Being content, one is a little spirit-immortal.

Not being attached to false, compounded phenomena, if in this way one contemplates / The meaning of all dharmas—so deep, profound— 

Sweep away all dharmas;
Detach from all appearances.
Do not give rise to a single thought;
The myriad things are all complete within you.

If one can contemplate like this, then this is the ultimate meaning of the unsurpassed, profound, and wonderful Dharma. This is absolute reality, which does not admit thoughts of good and thoughts of evil. The Great Master, the Sixth Patriarch, said, “Do not think of good; do not think of evil.” That is every person’s original face. When you are neither thinking of good nor thinking of evil, what is there? This state is easy to talk about, but not easy to attain. If you can refrain from giving rise to a thought for five minutes, your merit and virtue will surpass that of building as many pagodas of the seven treasures as there are sands in the Ganges River.

If a person can sit in stillness for a single instant,
It is better than building pagodas of the seven treasures
in number like the sand grains in the Ganges River.

Why is this? You are nurturing and fertilizing your Dharma body and wisdom-life. That’s why your merit and virtue are so great. This is the state of the unsurpassed, profound, wonderful Dharma.

Then one can personally see all Buddhas of the ten directions and three periods of time. And why? Because one understands the true appearance of the Dharma body. Since you understand the principle of absolute reality, the Buddhas are constantly with you.

* * * * * * * * *

Earlier I said that gods see people as behaving in deluded ways. When Arhats look at gods, they also think the gods act in deluded ways and don’t accord with Dharma. Sages Enlightened to Conditions regard the Hearers as acting deluded and not in accord with Dharma. Bodhisattvas consider Sages Enlightened to Conditions to be deluded in all they do and not in accord with Dharma. Buddhas in turn see Bodhisattvas as being deluded and not in accord with Dharma. Within the Ten Dharma Realms, only the Buddhas are not deluded. They are the only ones without the roots of discrimination and without false thinking. The sentient beings of the other nine Dharma Realms are all deluded, but their degree of delusion varies. Sentient beings, whatever level they are at, think they are doing things right, but in fact they are deluded.

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