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Praises at the Summit of Mount Sumeru

Chapter Fourteen



III. The Bodhisattvas speak verses in praise.

F. Good Wisdom Bodhisattva of the Southeast


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


After Vigorous Wisdom Bodhisattva finished the verses he wished to speak, then it was Good Wisdom Bodhisattva’s turn to speak. Because this Bodhisattva had realized the fruition of the Way and perfected his wisdom, he could fathom the reality of all dharmas, the essence of True Suchness, while remaining thus and unmoving, with clear and constant understanding. He was not confused by anything. Hence his name was Good Wisdom. He was good at using his wisdom to illuminate the myriad things without discrimination. This Bodhisattva came from the southeastern direction to join the Flower Adornment Assembly in the Buddha’s bodhimanda. Relying on the Buddha’s awesome spiritualpower, he universally contemplated sentient beings’ causes, conditions, and retributions in the ten directions and spoke in verse. He used verses to speak to the potentials of sentient beings and praised the Buddhas. 


Rare is the great valor and vigor
Of the numberless Thus Come Ones,
Immaculate, with liberated minds,
Who, saved themselves, save others.


Rare is the great valor and vigor / Of the numberless Thus Come Ones. There are few who are able to be courageous and vigorous in cultivating the Buddha Path, never taking it easy or giving up. What’s meant by valor and vigor? It means using the false body to cultivate the true Buddhadharma. Each of us has a body with its particular size and life span, and we are attached to it as being “mine.” For the sake of this stinking skin bag, we do all sorts of confused things. We are selfish, pursue personal advantage, seek fame, and covet benefits for the sake of this stinking skin bag. The attention to the false body has obscured our true wisdom. We crave sleep, food, men or women, fame and profit. All manner of attachments arise, and we become fond of leisure and dislike toil. We are lazy and lack diligence.

Take a look at the chapter “Medicine King Bodhisattva’s Deeds in Past Lives” in the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra. In order to seek the Buddha Path, he wrapped his body with cotton soaked in fragrant oil, then lit up this living lamp as an offering to the Buddha. In seeking the Dharma, he gave his life to the Buddha. That is true vigor. That is a true offering. That’s the way to quickly realize Buddhahood. In the past, Shakyamuni Buddha gave up his life countless times in order to save other sentient beings. Thus it’s said that in the entire trichiliocosm there’s not a single mote of dust where the Buddhas of the ten directions have not given up their lives to teach sentient beings. So the verse says: “ Rare is the great valor and vigor.” To be valorous and vigorous is to ceaselessly make an effort to advance. The Book of Changes says,

Just as the movements of the heavenly bodies are vigorous,
So, too, a superior person makes efforts to advance without cease.

Vigorous also means healthy and strong. A superior person should constantly strive to improve himself. That is what’s meant by being valorous and vigorous.  

The numberless Thus Come Ones are the ones with such rare, great valor. In the past all the Buddhas of the ten directions and the three periods of time vigorously strove to advance toward Buddhahood without regard for their own lives.

The rare, great, valiant ones are those who are immaculate, with liberated minds. They are apart from the two obstacles: the obstacle of afflictions and the obstacle of what is known. The obstacle of afflictions is attachment to self. The obstacle of what is known is attachment to dharmas. If you don’t have any attachment to dharmas, you break through the obstacle of what is known. If you don’t have any attachment to self, you break through the obstacle of afflictions. This is easy to talk about, but not easy to do. Separating from the defilement of these two obstacles, one’s mind is liberated.

The obstacle of what is known is simply discrimination. When you reach your inherent wisdom, you will no longer have the obstacle of what is known. Your original wisdom will illuminate the reality of all dharmas. Only those of great bravery, superior people who constantly strives to improve themselves, can get rid of the attachments to self and dharmas and smash through the obstacles of afflictions and what is known.

They are those who, saved themselves, save others. When you have smashed the obstacles of afflictions and of what is known, you have thereby saved yourself. Having saved yourself, you use the same method to save others. You benefit yourself and others, enlighten yourself and others, and rescue yourself and others. Those who cultivate the Bodhisattva Path should quickly cultivate in order to attain the ability to do this.


I see the Lamp of All the World,
The embodiment of true reality, without confusion.
Through countless eons he is thus.
Cultivators of wisdom share this vision.  


Good Wisdom Bodhisattva spoke this verse in praise of the Buddha and the Dharma. I see the Lamp of All the World. I see the Buddha who is a lamp for the world and for those beyond the world. His radiance disperses the darkness in the Three Realms so all sentient beings attain light. The embodiment of true reality, without confusion. I see the Buddha’s ultimate, fundamental reality, which is not upside-down. Throughout countless eonsheis in the state of being thus and unmoving. He is constantly thus and at ease, still and unmoving, responding to sentient beings. Cultivators of wisdom share this vision. Those who have extensively cultivated wisdom and expedient means understand this principle.

It’s not easy for cultivators to encounter Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Arhats, or good teachers. Even if they encounter them, they don’t recognize them. By the time it dawns upon them, it’s too late. This is called “ missing what’s right before your face; being unaware with whom you’ve brushed shoulders.”

When I was in Manchuria, I went to Leifa Mountain in Jiaohe County. An old cultivator on the mountain told this story: Once there was a person who went hiking in the mountains, and he came upon two white-bearded old men playing chess in a cave. He wanted to enter the cave, but the two old men said, “You are a common mortal. You cannot come in.” Then, when they pointed a finger at the opening, the stone slabs on the two sides of the opening joined together and the cave disappeared. The person knew that the two were sages, and so he knelt very sincerely in front of the place where the cave had been. What proof is there of his sincerity? He knelt there until he died. Nevertheless, the stone door did not open. People buried him there by the stone wall where the cave opening had been.

When I heard this story, I thought to myself how difficult it is to seek the spiritual Path. That person was so sincere that he knelt to death, but the cave still didn’t open. Now would you say he was foolish? Perhaps his spirit went into the cave and the two sages took him as a disciple. It’s not for certain.

It is said:

If you do not seek the Great Path to leave confusion,
You are wasting your talent as an outstanding hero.
A hundred years is just like a spark when stone is struck.
All the events of a lifetime are but a fragile bubble on water.
Let your wife and wealth go, for they are not your belongings.
Burdened by your offenses, it will be hard to fool yourself.
Even if your piles of gold are as high as mountains,
Will they buy off Impermanence when the time comes?

To be born human and yet not seek the path that leads out of confusion and to waste the inherent wisdom you are endowed with—is that the behavior of a heroic person? Even if you live to be a hundred years, it goes by as fast as the flash when lightning strikes a rock. When you die, you have to leave behind your wife and children, your property and wealth, for they are not yours. Your karmic offenses follow after you; you can’t fool yourself. No matter how much gold you have, can you buy off the ghost of impermanence and tell him not to catch you when it’s time to die?

All things are like dreams, illusions, bubbles, shadows, dewdrops and lightning flashes. That’s how we should contemplate them.


Of all the deeds of ordinary beings
None are not ephemeral.
Yet since their nature is like empty space,
One could say their nature has no end.  


Of all the deeds of ordinary beings. “Ordinary beings” refers to all sentient beings of the past, present, and future who have not realized the sagely fruition. Of all the activities of ordinary, worldly beings, none are not ephemeral. No ordinary being can exist forever. If they have not realized the fruition, their existence is impermanent and subject to birth and death. Although they are ordinary beings, they have the Buddha nature. Yet since their nature is like empty space. Empty space means the Buddha nature. Whether one is an ordinary person or a sage, one has the Buddha nature. The Buddha nature is the same in everyone: not produced or extinguished, not pure or defiled, not increasing or decreasing. The inherent nature and the Buddha nature are one and the same. Hence all sentient beings can become Buddhas, because they all have the Buddha nature. What is the Buddha nature like?

It is said:

The inherent nature is like empty space:
True and false are within it.
When you awaken to the original substance,
Understanding one thing, you understand everything.

The Buddha nature is like empty space. Within true emptiness there is wonderful existence. True emptiness does not obstruct wonderful existence, and wonderful existence doesn’t hinder true emptiness. So within the Buddha nature, there is both true and false. If you understand that the inherent nature is like empty space, understanding that one thing, you will understand everything.

When you attain the one, everything is finished.

None of us have attained the one. If you attain the one, then everything is gone. The great matter is finished. 

The Buddha nature is like empty space, and so one could say their nature has no end. When could empty space come to an end? It has no end. All sentient beings have the Buddha nature and can become Buddhas. If we cultivate, then we can become Buddhas. If we don’t cultivate, of course we won’t become Buddhas. Once we understand this principle, we should vigorously go forth and cultivate.


The wise ones speak of it as endless,
Yet nothing can be said in fact.
Because the inherent nature has no end,
To imagine such a state is difficult.

Empty space neither has an end, nor is it without an end. There is no end. Nor is there not an end. The wise ones speak of it as endless. Wise people say emptiness is endless. Endlessness is wonderful existence. Within true emptiness, there is wonderful existence. Yet nothing can be said in fact. In this state of neither having an end nor being endless, nothing can be said. What could you say? You say it exists, but it doesn’t really exist. You say it’s empty, but it’s not really empty. When you postulate its existence, you can’t see it, because it is wonderful existence. When you postulate emptiness, it’s not empty, because it has wonderful existence. Yet you can’t see wonderful existence; that is true emptiness. Therefore, in this state between endlessness and nonendlessness, nothing can be said. It is beyond words.  

Because the inherent nature has no end. Within emptiness, the inherent nature is wonderful existence. Why is wonderful existence said to be within true emptiness? That is because the Buddha nature exists, and the Buddha nature is endless. To imagine such a state is difficult. Therefore, it’s said to be an inconceivable endlessness. You may say it’s eternal, but it’s not. You may say it will be annihilated, but it won’t be. Externalists take nirvana to be eternal, but nirvana is not eternal, our own nature is not eternal and will not be annihilated nor annihilated. One should not fall into either extreme. Thus it is an inconceivable endlessness.


Within this so-called endlessness,
There are no sentient beings.
One who understands all beings’ nature thus
Can gaze upon the One of Great Renown.  


Within this so-called endlessness , the emptiness we are talking about--you cannot say it has an end, nor can you say it is endless. If you say it is endless, how could emptiness have an attribute of coming to an end? If you say it has an end, how could emptiness have an attribute of being endless? The principle of the Middle Way is that there is neither eternalism nor annihilation. According to this principle, there are no sentient beings. Why? Because there is just emptiness, no sentient beings are in it. One who understands all beings’ nature thus, / Can gaze upon the One of Great Renown. If you understand that sentient beings are basically empty, that their natures are empty, then you have reached the essence of the Buddha nature. If you awaken to this principle, then you will always see the Buddhas. You will live in the same house as the Buddhas, wear the clothing worn by the Buddhas, sit in the seats used by the Buddhas, and never be apart from the Buddhas.

Disciple: When the Buddha was practicing the path of the Bodhisattva in his past life, at one point he fed his body to a tiger. Did that tiger have an offense in eating him?

Venerable Master: Do you want to eat that Bodhisattva?

Disciple: I’m a vegetarian; I don’t eat humans.

Venerable Master: You are a vegetarian, but plants are also alive and aware. When you eat vegetables, you are also eating many lives. If you eat rice, in terms of lives, one grain of rice has who knows how many lives in it. If you were to grind the rice into powder and put it in a moist place, many organisms would come into being by transformation. Beings can be born from wombs, from eggs, from moisture, and by transformation; there are many types of living things. You should know that the tiger that devoured the Bodhisattva was also a Bodhisattva. Only Bodhisattvas can eat Bodhisattvas. What is more, the Buddha was giving up his life to feed the tiger; he himself was willing to give his body to the tiger to eat; it wasn’t that the tiger was trying to catch him and eat him by force. Since he was willing to sacrifice his life for the tiger, the tiger had no offense in eating him. In general, if you do something willingly, then it is in accord with the Dharma. If you are unwilling, then it is not.

Disciple: Can a Bodhisattva undergo retribution for a person?

Venerable Master: If he says, “I’m willing to take your retribution for you,” then it’s possible. If you genuinely repent, the retribution can be eradicated. “An offense as great as the heavens can be cancelled in a single thought of repentance.” No matter how great the offense, if you sincerely repent, then you can cancel it. Some repent in front of the great assembly, others repent before the Buddhas, others repent to their teachers. There are various forms of repentance. Repentance means to change one’s faults and go towards goodness, to turn over a new leaf. With regard to everything you did before, you act as if you already died yesterday, and from today onwards, you begin anew.

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