THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
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The Ten Dwellings ___

Chapter Fifteen. A Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua

Sutra:

“…the wisdom of all faculties, whether superior or inferior; the wisdom of the variety of different understandings; the wisdom of the variety of different realms; the wisdom of where all paths lead; the wisdom of all dhyanas, liberations, and samadhis; the wisdom of past lives without obstruction; the wisdom of the Heavenly Eye without obstruction; and the wisdom of having universally exhausted outflows in the three periods of time. Those are the ten.

Commentary:

These ten dharmas, which are hard to obtain on the part of a Bodhisattva, are called ten wisdoms; on the part of the Buddha, they are called ten powers. Bodhisattvas don’t have solid samadhi power and so with them these are only wisdoms, not powers. The Buddha’s samadhi power is ultimate, so the wisdom becomes power.

The wisdom of all faculties, whether superior or inferior. The Bodhisattva can recognize the superiority and inferiority of the roots of all living beings’ faculties and of his own. The six sense organs are the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind. As to the six, there are those which are superior and those which are inferior. The eyes, for instance, can see in front but not behind, whereas the ears can hear sounds from all around. Some living beings have some deficiency in their six sense organs; that is what is meant by inferiority. Some living beings have perfect sense organs; that is what is meant by superiority. Some have both superiority and inferiority in their six organs; they eyes can see in front but not behind, while the ears can hear sounds in front, behind, and on both sides. This criterion applies to the others as well. Wisdom such as this discriminates the superiority and inferiority of the organs, but this understanding is not based on discrimination. Rather, it is illuminated by wisdom which is devoid of discrimination such as that made by consciousness.

The wisdom of the variety of different understandings. Different understandings refers to being clear about all dharmas—understanding the real mark of all dharmas—being clear about everything.

The wisdom of the variety of different realms. The variety of realms of living beings is understood. Each kind of living being is known.

The wisdom of where all paths lead. This is ultimate knowing, ultimate wisdom. The wisdom of all dhyanas, liberations, and samadhis. There are four dhyanas, eight samadhis, and nine successive stages of samadhi. There are eight liberations. This is the wisdom of knowing these samadhi powers. The wisdom of past lives without obstruction. Past lives refers to former lives of people, and the lives before those—life after life. This wisdom is the ability to know them all. It is being able to know what a person was in his former life and on back, back into the distant past—to know the causes and conditions, the retributions and effects.

The wisdom of the Heavenly Eye without obstruction. The Penetration of the Heavenly Eye can see all the basic natures of the gods. And the wisdom of having universally exhausted outflows in the three periods of time. The three periods of time are the past, present, and future. People living in the present are still linked to the three periods of time. This present life and our past lives are connected. This life and the karmic retribution of future lives are connected. How? It is through outflows in the three periods of time. Outflows are bad habits and faults which flow out into the three realms of desire, form, and formlessness. Why are there outflows? Because of desire and ignorance. If you have no ignorance or desire, you have no outflows. But outflows may be few or many, small or great.

Few outflows means that you have too many bad habits. Great outflows means that you cannot control them, so your desire becomes a great outflow. Small outflows means although you have outflows, you can control them and return to what is proper. The outflow of ignorance is not understanding why you have these bad habits and faults. Perpetual false thinking is also an outflow. If the things you want to do are not proper, they are outflows. The outflows in the three periods of time means that this life is connected with both past lives and future lives. Plant a cause with outflows, and you reap a fruit of affliction. When the outflows are exhausted, it means they are gone; then there are no more outflows.

Those are the ten. These are the ten dharmas which are difficult to obtain, by means of which a Bodhisattva produces the mind and dwells in the Dwelling of First Bringing Forth the Resolve.

Sutra:

“Disciples of the Buddha. This Bodhisattva should encourage the study of ten dharmas. What are the ten? They are: diligently making offerings to the Buddhas; happily dwelling in birth and death; guiding the world and effecting the eradication of evil karma; using the supremely wonderful Dharma to constantly instruct; praising the unsurpassed Dharma; studying the Buddhas’ merit and virtue; being born in the presence of all Buddhas and constantly being gathered in and received by them; expediently proclaiming in the stillness of samadhi; praising the leaving far behind of the revolving wheel of birth and death; and acting as a refuge for suffering living beings.

Commentary:

The Bodhisattva Dharma Wisdom called out once again, “All of you disciples of the Buddha. This Bodhisattva should encourage the study of ten dharmas. This Bodhisattva should encourage the study of ten dharmas. Which Bodhisattva? The Bodhisattva at the First Dwelling. “Encourage” means to exhort all living beings. “Study” means to study and practice. He should exhort and teach all living beings to study these ten Dharma doors. What are the ten? What are the ten Dharma doors?

They are: diligently making offerings to the Buddhas. The first Dharma door teaches all living beings to vastly cultivate the giving of offerings to all Buddhas.

“But”, you say, “there are so many Buddhas. How could I make offerings to each one? If I were to go before each Buddha to make offerings, I would not finish in my entire lifetime. I would not fulfill my vow. Why? Because human life has a limit, whereas the number of Buddhas is uncountable. In the ten directions and three periods of time there are limitless, boundless Buddhas. To say nothing of one lifetime, I couldn’t make offerings to each one of them in a hundred, a thousand, or myriads of lifetimes.”

So what’s to be done? We should take the Dharma realm as our mind, take the Dharma realm as our substance, and take the Dharma realm as our mark. To bow to one Buddha is to bow to limitless Buddhas; to make offerings with sincerity to one Buddha is to make offerings to limitless Buddhas. We should contemplate: “I am here making offerings to Amitabha Buddha or Shakyamuni Buddha, or some other Buddha, and in this one offering I make offerings to them all. In making offerings to all, it is still just one offering.” Contemplate our bodies going to the end of space and the Dharma realm to vastly cultivate making offerings in the presence of the Buddhas. This is called “diligently making offerings to the Buddhas.” “Diligently” means not being lazy. We should make offerings every day, at all times, every moment. We should use our bodies, mouths, and minds, and with the purity of these three karmic vehicles make offerings to all the Buddhas in the ten directions and three periods of time. That is “Diligently making offerings to the Buddhas.”

Happily dwelling in birth and death. The Bodhisattva is happy to dwell in birth and death. He abides in birth and death and yet does not retain the mark of birth and death. He is not attached to birth and death. Those of the Two Vehicles are determined to end birth and death, but the Bodhisattvas save all living beings and then after that become Buddhas. So I have said to you all, every one of you: if you see my face, or hear my name, or take refuge with me, and if you have faith, I have vowed that you will all become Buddhas before I do. As long as one of you hasn’t become a Buddha, I will wait for you. I will wait for one life, two lives, one great aeon, two great aeons, three great aeons, one hundred great aeons, ten thousand great aeons—I will wait for you. So this has a similar meaning to the Sutra text where it says they “Happily dwell in birth and death.” Although abiding in birth and death, they have ended birth and death. Therefore, birth and death and Nirvana are the same. The Bodhisattva dwelling in the first of the Ten Dwellings is happy to dwell in birth and death. He does not detest birth and death.

Those of the Two Vehicles detest birth and death. “Ah, birth and death is too dangerous! I don’t want to get involved in it again.” They are like frightened children who have taken a loss and don’t want to do so again. Those of the Two Vehicles can’t stand the idea that they haven’t ended birth and death, and so they insist on doing so. The Bodhisattvas are happy to dwell in birth and death. Then they give themselves over to…

Guiding the world and effecting the eradication of evil karma. “Guiding” means that they are a place of refuge for living beings. They lead the whole world, causing all living beings to cast the deviant aside and return to the proper—go back from confusion and return to enlightenment. They cause all living beings not to do evil and to offer up all kinds of good acts. That is, to cause them to get rid of bad karma.

Using the supremely wonderful Dharma to constantly instruct. They rely on the most wonderful Buddhadharma—the most supreme Buddhadharma—to teach and transform all living beings.

Praising the unsurpassed Dharma. They extol the unsurpassed Dharma doors.

Studying the Buddhas’ merit and virtue. They cultivate and study the merit and virtue of all the Buddhas.

Being born in the presence of all Buddhas and constantly being gathered in and received by them. They are always born during the time when a Buddha is in the world and are always received and accepted by those Buddhas.

Expediently proclaiming in the stillness of samadhi. They use the Dharma door of provisional and clever expedients to proclaim all the doctrines of the teachings, and they cultivate the samadhi which is still and quiet.

Praising the leaving far behind of the revolving wheel of birth and death. Although they themselves are happily dwell in birth and death, they praise the practice of separating far from birth and death and the transcending of the revolving wheel.

And acting as a refuge for suffering living beings. For all living beings who are in misery, they act as a place of refuge, as a teacher and transformer.

In the Tripitaka, there’s a very short Sutra called The Buddha Speaks on the Demise of the Dharma Sutra. It says what it’s like in the Dharma- Ending Age. A few days ago, I told Kuo Chen to look it up. If you want to investigate how it is when the Dharma is about to become extinct, you should look into it. It’s a very short Sutra, but it says that in the Dharma Ending Age, the Shurangama Sutra will be the first to disappear. The Buddha Standing Samadhi Sutra will vanish next, because this Sutra also represents the orthodox Dharma. Why does the Shurangama Sutra disappear first? It’s because the Shurangama Sutra speaks of people’s faults too clearly. The people of deviant views and knowledge can’t remain. When the Shurangama Sutra is in existence, people must have orthodox views and knowledge and follow precepts. When there is no Shurangama Sutra, deviant people don’t get exposed so clearly. So Great Master Ngo I said, “People say that the Shurangama Sutra is false. No matter who says it is false, I think it was spoken by the Buddha. If the Buddha did not speak it, it couldn’t be so logical and orderly. If the Buddha himself manifested now and told me that the Shurangama Sutra was false, I would think it was a demon speaking and wouldn’t believe him.” Because of this, if we want to uphold the orthodox Dharma, we must deeply believe in the Shurangama Sutra and not have as much as a hair of doubt. So the Shurangama Sutra is representative of the orthodox Dharma. As long as there is the Shurangama Sutra, it’s the time of the orthodox Dharma. Without it, it’s the Dharma Ending Age.

So, the left home and lay people at Gold Mountain Monastery can’t doubt it. Don’t listen to the stupid, senseless people who claim it is spurious. You can’t believe them. But people are that way. If you tell them what is proper, they don’t believe it. If you speak of what is improper, they believe it easily. People can learn bad things without studying them—they understand on their own. If someone tries to teach them what is good, grabs them by the ear and says to their face, “Believe in this, it’s real,” they won’t believe, because people are just that strange. Those of deviant knowledge and views are many. Therefore, the Buddha said, “Living beings are easy to save, but people are hard to save.” People are living beings; they are the smartest of the myriad creatures—too smart—so they are hard to save. It is easy to save living beings but not easy to save people, for people have too much false thinking and it’s hard to influence them towards the good.

Sutra:

“Why is that? From a desire to increase and expand the minds of the Bodhisattvas within the Buddhadharma. When one hears the Dharma, one understands it by oneself, not from the teachings of another.”

Commentary:

“Why is that? From a desire to increase and expand the minds of the Bodhisattvas within the Buddhadharma. Why? Previously ten kinds of causal conditions were enumerated—ten dharmas which we are exhorted to diligently practice. Why? To cause all the Bodhisattvas—the Bodhisattvas who have just resolved their minds, Bodhisattvas who practice the Bodhisattva Way, the Bodhisattvas who cultivate the six perfections and the ten thousand conducts—to expand their minds, so that in the Buddhadharma their Bodhi hearts get bigger every day.

When one hears the Dharma, one understands it by oneself, not from the teachings of another. No matter when or where, if they hear the Dharma, they can understand on their own, and on hearing the Dharma they can become enlightened. They can hear one thing and know ten; they don’t need to be grabbed by the ear and spoken to face to face. So the Bodhisattvas’ vast Bodhi hearts get bigger for this reason.

II The Dwelling of the Ground of Regulation

Sutra:

“Disciples of the Buddha, what is the Bodhisattva’s dwelling of the Ground of Regulation? This Bodhisattva produces ten kinds of thoughts towards all living beings.

Commentary:

Dharma Wisdom Bodhisattva, wishing to speak of the Dwelling of the Ground of Regulation, again calls out, “Disciples of the Buddha, what is the Bodhisattva’s dwelling of the Ground of Regulation? What is the Bodhisattva’s Dwelling of the Ground of Regulation, the Second Dwelling? This Bodhisattva produces ten kinds of thoughts towards all living beings. This Bodhisattva on the Dwelling of the Ground of Regulation, with regard to all living beings, conceives of ten kinds of thoughts to teach and transform them. Therefore, it is called the Dwelling of the Ground of Regulation.

Sutra:

“What are the ten? They are: The thought of benefitting; the thought of great compassion; the thought of peace and happiness; the thought of peaceful dwelling; the thought of pity; the thought of gathering in; the thought of protection; the thought of identity to oneself; the thought of acting as teacher; and the thought of being a guiding master. Those are the ten.

Disciples of the Buddha, this Bodhisattva should encourage the study of ten Dharmas. What are the ten? They are: studying and practicing much learning; being at ease in quietude; drawing near good knowing advisors; speaking in a harmonious and pleasant manner; speaking at the proper time; not being timid or fearful; thoroughly understanding the principle; cultivating in accord with Dharma; leaving stupidity and confusion far behind; and peacefully dwelling and not moving. Why is that? From a desire to increase the Bodhisattvas’ great compassion towards all living beings. When one hears the Dharma, one understands it by oneself, not from the teachings of another.

Commentary:

There are ten thoughts. “What are the ten? They are: The thought of benefitting, this is to benefit all living beings, not oneself. The thought of great compassion is always being greatly compassionate at heart to living beings. Compassion pulls them out of suffering. The thought of peace and happiness. If living beings are not at peace, you resolve to cause them to be peaceful and without fear, with the thought of peaceful dwelling , causing all living beings to peacefully dwell steadfast in the Bodhi Way. The thought of pity. Bodhisattvas constantly have thoughts of pity towards all living beings. They see that all living beings are upside down, stupid, confused, and senseless, and so they pity them.

The thought of gathering in. Bodhisattvas always wish to accept and receive living beings. If living beings have some flaw, they gradually lead them to change, using thoughts of acceptance.

The thought of protection. Bodhisattvas resolve to protect the Proper Dharma and cause it to remain permanently.

The thought of identity to oneself. Bodhisattvas resolve that if one person has no food, it is the same as if they themselves have not eaten; if one person has no clothing, it is the same as if they themselves have no clothes to wear. Seeing living beings in pain, it is as if they too, were in pain.

The thought of acting as teacher. Bodhisattvas always wish to keep in mind that they should teach and transform living beings and act as their good knowing advisors.

And the thought of being a guiding master. This is the mind of the Buddha. The Bodhisattvas are as compassionate and generous as the Buddha. Those are the ten. These are the ten kinds of thoughts that a Bodhisattva should resolve himself upon.

“Disciples of the Buddha,” Dharma Wisdom Bodhisattva calls out again, “ this Bodhisattva should encourage the study of ten Dharmas. Bodhisattvas on the Dwelling of the Ground of Regulation must exhort others to study these dharmas. Then, should they themselves not study them? No, they too must study them and encourage others to do so as well.

What are the ten? They are: studying and practicing much learning. They themselves should recite Sutras and listen to lectures, study Buddhism and encourage others to do the same.

Being at ease in quietude is to dwell in a still and quiet place to cultivate.
Drawing near good knowing advisors is also to avoid bad friends.

Speaking in a harmonious and pleasant manner. Bodhisattvas speak in a pleasant way so that people like to hear them.

Speaking at the proper time. When Bodhisattvas speak, they do so when it is appropriate, and when it is not, they don’t speak. They know when it is time to speak and when it isn’t time to. They don’t casually chat. They know when the time is right and when the opportunity is right; otherwise, they don’t carry on all day long doing a lot of totally useless talk.

Not being timid or fearful. Bodhisattvas shouldn’t have any fear in their hearts, and they should exhort others not to have fear.

Thoroughly understanding the principle—they understand the general principles of all the Sutras.
Cultivating in accord with Dharma—they rely on the Dharma which the Buddha spoke to cultivate.

Leaving stupidity and confusion far behind. They destroy ignorance, and peacefully dwelling and not moving, are secure and unmoving in their cultivation of concentration.

Why is that? Why are they like that? From a desire to increase the Bodhisattvas’ great compassion towards all living beings. They exhort them to study these Dharmas so that the Bodhisattvas’ compassion with regard to all living beings will increase.

When one hears the Dharma, one understands it by oneself. When they hear the Buddhadharma, they will understand it on their own. When one hears the Dharma, one understands it by oneself, not from the teachings of another. It is not necessary for the Good Knowing Advisor to exert himself and be like a softhearted old woman who scolds in order to teach and transform them.

III. The Dwelling of Cultivation

Sutra:

“Disciples of the Buddha. What is the Bodhisattva’s Dwelling of Cultivation? This Bodhisattva uses ten kinds of conduct to contemplate all dharmas.

Commentary:

After Dharma Wisdom Bodhisattva finished speaking of the Second Dwelling of the Ground of Regulation, he talked about the Third Dwelling, The Dwelling of Cultivation. So he said, “Disciples of the Buddha. What is the Bodhisattva’s Dwelling of Cultivation?” What is called the Bodhisattva’s Dwelling of Cultivation? How do they cultivate? This Bodhisattva uses ten kinds of conduct to contemplate all dharmas. He contemplates all dharmas using ten kinds of methods of cultivation. Cultivation—at all times one should cultivate. Walking, standing, sitting, and lying down is all cultivation. At all times our minds should constantly practice giving. Giving means giving to others; it is not telling others to give to oneself. Left-home people always give, but if they do it by telling others to give to them, and do not give to others, they give to themselves. However, the most important things to give away are your greed, anger, and stupidity.

You should also constantly cultivate holding precepts. That is not doing any evil and reverently practicing all good—stopping evil and preventing error. To stop evil is to diligently cultivate precepts, samadhi, and wisdom. And to prevent error is to put to rest greed, hatred, and stupidity.

If you constantly hold precepts, that is the Dwelling of Cultivation. Patience means at all times one should practice patience. It is not just being patient when being hit or scolded, but being patient with whatever it is you don’t like—bearing up, enduring. You should be patient when what you don’t like happens. When a situation comes up, you should recognize it and not be turned by it. That is patience. If you can cultivate the practice of patience at all times—and have patience with heat, patience with cold, patience with hunger, patience with thirst, patience with wind, patience with rain—then you can bear all the states you don’t like. It is said that when the tide goes against you and you can accept it, then you will nourish your Bodhi roots. If you can’t bear it, you won’t attain the Paramita of Patience. If you can be patient, you can attain paramita and arrive at the other shore.

Vigor refers to vigor of both body and mind. For instance, you think, “Morning and evening recitation—I certainly will do them. If I don’t that is being lazy. If I do, that is vigor.” Body and mind must both be vigorous. At all times you should think, “I should diligently cultivate precepts, samadhi, and wisdom and put to rest greed, hatred, and stupidity. Aside from morning and evening recitation, I will be vigorous at sitting in meditation.” If you sit in meditation and fall asleep, that is not Ch’an. Besides sitting in Ch’an, all the work you do should be done with vigor. To work vigorously and straightforwardly is also cultivation. Cultivation is just to keep you from engaging in false thinking. All the Dharma doors are for the purpose of counteracting your false thinking. You must be vigorous in body and in mind. Ch’an samadhi is also cultivation. In the midst of your busy schedule you should cultivate Ch’an samadhi. Why?

If you have samadhi, you can give rise to wisdom. You must sit for a long time, and then it’s Ch’an. When you sit and your legs start to hurt, don’t wiggle or move them. You must endure the pain. When the pain passes, it won’t hurt any longer, but if you don’t wait for the pain to pass, then every time you sit in meditation, it’s going to hurt. When you have finally sat through the pain, your legs will no longer hurt. The longer you can sit the better.

After sitting a long time,
it turns into Ch’an.
After staying in one place
for a long time,
You develop affinities.

So you have to use an extended period of time to cultivate Ch’an samadhi, and that too is the Dwelling of Cultivation.

You should also practice Prajna, which is to study of all Sutras and develop your wisdom. But you must have proper knowledge and proper views, not deviant knowledge and deviant views—or you’ll end up with deviant wisdom; if you have proper knowledge and views, you’ll have proper wisdom. Diligently study Prajna and don’t be lazy. In cultivation, what is to be feared is laziness. If you are lazy, your Bodhi fruit will dry up. So diligently cultivate precepts, samadhi, and wisdom; and eradicate greed, hatred, and stupidity. The Dwelling of Cultivation is diligently cultivating the six paramitas and ten thousand modes of conduct. There are said to be ten conducts. These ten engender a hundred conducts, which in turn produce a thousand conducts, which further give birth to ten thousand conducts. The Avatamsaka Sutra speaks of dharmas in tens to represent the dharmas as being multi-layered and endless, inexhaustible, layer upon layer without end.

Thus it is that this Bodhisattva uses ten kinds of conducts to contemplate all dharmas, to observe the Real Mark of all dharmas.

Sutra:

“What are the ten? They are: Contemplating all Dharmas as impermanent.

Commentary:

“What are the ten? What are the ten methods for contemplating and practicing the Dharma-doors for cultivation? They are: Contemplating all Dharmas as impermanent. The first practice is to contemplate all dharmas as impermanent. When Shakyamuni Buddha was cultivating on the cause ground he met a rakshasa ghost, and this rakshasa ghost ate people. The ghost spoke a two line verse, saying, “All dharmas are impermanent, characterized by production and extinction.” When the Buddha heard these two lines of verse, he was very happy and said, “What you are saying is Buddhadharma. There should still be two more sentences. When the Buddha spoke, he spoke in four-line verses, so please speak them for me.” The rakshasa ghost stared with his red eyes and said, “You want to hear Dharma; I need to eat! I’m so hungry, I can’t speak Dharma. If you let me eat you, then I will speak the Dharma.” Shakyamuni Buddha said, “Okay, but first I have to hear the Dharma. If I don’t hear the Dharma and have to die, my heart won’t be content.” “O.K.”, said the rakshasa ghost.

“When production and extinction are extinguished,
That still extinction is bliss.”

After the rakshasa finished speaking, he wanted to eat, but Shakyamuni Buddha said, “Now wait a minute…”

The rakshasa said, “What? Are you backing out?”

“No, you can eat me, but first I have to carve the verse on a tree, and in the future, people will be able to cultivate according to it.”

“O.K.”, said the ghost, and the Buddha carved it into the tree trunk; but then he still wanted the rakshasa to wait. He said, “Wait a minute.”

The rakshasa ghost said, “Wait for what? You’ve written it already.” Shakyamuni Buddha said, “The words on the tree will be eroded by the wind and rain. Wait while I chisel the verse in stone, and then it will not disappear.”

The rakshasa ghost thought it over and said, “Fine”, and Shakyamuni Buddha carved it into a rock. Then he said, “O.K., rakshasa ghost, you can eat me now,” and he shut his eyes waiting to be eaten. He waited perhaps five minutes, and the rakshasa ghost hadn’t eaten him. When he opened his eyes, he found that the rakshasa ghost was gone! Then he looked into the sky and saw that the rakshasa ghost was actually a god who had come to test him. “Good indeed, good indeed”, he said. “You would give up your life for the sake of two lines of verse. You are really vigorous!”

So, all dharmas are impermanent. Dharmas characterized by production and extinction are all impermanent. Non-produced and non-extinguished dharmas are also impermanent. All and everything in the world is impermanent. Basically, in the principle substance of the Real Mark, there is nothing permanent or impermanent. There is nothing which is permanent; there is also nothing impermanent, when you speak of it in terms of the genuine Dharma.

In cultivating, there are ten kinds of related contemplations to practice:

  • Contemplate impermanence.
  • Contemplate all as suffering.
  • Contemplate all as without self; all dharmas are without self.
  • Contemplate food as impure. Food is all unclean. Its seeds, causes and conditions are all impure. For example, we eat food which grows out of the earth, and the earth is basically very dirty, but we don’t look into it very deeply and think it’s okay to eat these things. Meat is even more impure.
  • In all worldly things, there is nothing worth clinging to and nothing which is pleasurable.
  • Death. In the future, you will die.
  • After dying there is impurity. Worms grow in the corpse and eventually it turns into a skeleton. It’s impure in all kinds of ways.
  • Annihilation—going out of existence.
  • Separation.
  • The end. Non-existence. Everything whatsoever is this way.

So, the first practice is to contemplate impermanence. What is impermanent?

Every thought is impermanent. When the following thought arises, the former thought ends. When yet another thought arises, the former thought is done. There is impermanence in every thought. There is production and extinction in every thought. Therefore, you must first contemplate impermanence.

Sutra:

“All dharmas as suffering; all dharmas as empty; all dharmas as without self; all dharmas as without creation; all dharmas as without flavor; all dharmas as non-real names; all dharmas as without location; all dharmas as apart from discrimination; and all dharmas as lacking actuality. Those are the ten.

Commentary:

“All dharmas means that within every dharma, these qualities may be found in part.

As suffering. There are limitless and boundless kinds of suffering. In general, they may be spoken of as the three sufferings:

  • The suffering within suffering,
  • The suffering of decay, and
  • The suffering of process.

The suffering within suffering means that within suffering more suffering is generated. Suffering is added to suffering. Suffering—suffering without end; endless suffering piled upon suffering. This is the hardship of poverty and misery.

The suffering of decay means that originally you weren’t suffering; you enjoyed a bit of the taste of happiness. But then things went bad. Those who are wealthy and honored may suddenly have an accident, be robbed, or fire or earthquakes may strike, or perhaps a hurricane will hit and destroy all of their riches. The wealthy endure the suffering of decay.

The suffering of process means that, if one does not suffer either of the first two, still one grows up, grows old, and then dies. The unceasing change in every thought is the process of life which no one can avoid.

There are also the eight sufferings:

  • Suffering of birth,
  • Suffering of old age,
  • Suffering of sickness,
  • Suffering of death,
  • Suffering of separation from loved ones,
  • Suffering of being near those you hate,
  • Suffering of not getting what you seek, and the
  • Suffering of the blaze of the five heaps.

How can birth be said to be a form of suffering? When we are born, it is as painful as for a live turtle to have its shell ripped off. Then, when you get old, you grow deaf and blind. Your teeth fall out and so your food seems tasteless. Both your legs retire. You’d like to go east, but they won’t go east; you’d like to go west, but they won’t go west. You aren’t free to move around at all. Then, if you get sick, so sick that you can’t even move, that, too, is suffering. Sickness, in all its forms, is suffering.

Dying is as painful as for a live cow to be flayed. When a man and woman love each other, some special circumstance may arise, forcing them to separate. This is also suffering. On the other hand, you may not like someone, you may try to get away from him, but then you run into someone exactly like him. People all have ambition and greed. If your greed is frustrated, if you don’t get what you seek, that is suffering. If you don’t attain your aim, that is suffering. The five heaps: form, feeling, perceptions, impulses, and consciousness, are like a raging fire which no amount of water can douse. If you were to speak in detail, sufferings are limitless and boundless. Thus, all dharmas are suffering. However, people in the Saha world think that suffering is bliss. They don’t understand that it is suffering and think that it is happiness. They say, “The world is really fine. What’s all this talk about suffering?” Actually, they are badly mistaken. They don’t recognize suffering when they see it, and mistake it for happiness.

Because all dharmas are impermanent, they are also involved with suffering. Since they are all involved with suffering, they are also to be contemplated as empty and all dharmas as without self. All dharmas are empty, because they have no substantial nature. They are therefore devoid of any existence. Dharmas do not exist of themselves. There are dharmas only because there are people. If there were no people, there would also be no dharmas. All is empty and suffering and without self. Common folk are attached to the self. They can’t put down the idea of a self. If you can view all dharmas as empty, you will know that all dharmas have no self. There is nothing in reality which is the “self”, and there is nothing which belongs to the self. So don’t be attached to the self.

All dharmas as without creation. Since they have no self, all dharmas have no creator.

All dharmas as without flavor. None of the dharmas has the flavor of happiness. If they lack creation, how could they have a flavor? All dharmas as non-real names. No dharmas have a real appellation. All dharmas as without location. Since they have no self, they also have no dwelling place. And all dharmas as apart from discrimination. In all dharmas, you should not engage your discriminating mind. If you have no thoughts of discrimination, then the Real Mark, the principle-substance of all dharmas, manifests.

And all dharmas as lacking actuality. All the above mentioned dharmas have nothing real, firm, and actual to them. They are all illusory—illusory in their production and illusory in their extinction. Therefore, the Bodhisattva on the Dwelling of the Ground of Regulation, the Bodhisattva on the Dwelling of Cultivation, and the Bodhisattva on the Dwelling of First Bringing Forth the Resolve, should exhaustively contemplate these ten kinds of methods of practice. Those are the ten.

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