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:

“Disciples of the Buddha. This Bodhisattva should encourage the study of ten dharmas. What are the ten? They are: Contemplating the realm of living beings; the Dharma Realm; the realm of worlds; contemplating the realm of earth; the realm of water; the realm of fire; the realm of wind; contemplating the realm of desire; the realm of form; and the formless realm.

Commentary:

The Great Master Dharma Wisdom called out again, “Disciples of the Buddha. You ought to know, this Bodhisattva on the Dwelling of Cultivation, should encourage the study of ten dharmas. He should exhort all beings to study ten methods of practice, and he himself should study them. What are the ten? They are: Contemplating the realm of living beings; the Dharma Realm; the realm of worlds. To “contemplate” means to regard and examine, to employ contemplative wisdom in observing the realm of living creatures.

The realms of living beings are limitless and boundless. Take a look: above are the Bodhisattvas, Sound Hearers, and Ones Enlightened to Conditions. Bodhisattvas are limitless and boundless; Sound Hearers are limitless and boundless; Ones Enlightened to Conditions are also limitless and boundless. So, too, are the gods in the heavens, the asuras, human beings, animals, hungry ghosts, beings suffering in the hells—all these creatures are of countless varieties. Living beings are infinite in kind. If you understand them all—all the different realms of living beings—you can take them all across. It is said,

One exhausts the nature of people;
One exhausts the nature of oneself;
One exhausts the nature of things.

The meaning of this saying is: “People have their limits. I have my limits. I know their limits and I know my own. I also know the limits of all things.”

The realm of living beings is unlimited and unbounded. The Dharma Realm, to the end of empty space, is also unlimited and unbounded. Worlds—that is, this world, other worlds, and infinite worlds—if you observe them you’ll realize that they, too, are without limit. However, if you understand them, you’ll know that all these realms are not separate from the thoughts of the mind. The realm of beings, the Dharma Realm, the world-realms, are all created from the minds of living beings. So it is said,

If one wishes to understand fully
All Buddhas of the three periods of time,
One should contemplate the nature of the Dharma Realm:
Everything is made from mind alone.

Contemplating the realm of earth; the realm of water; the realm of fire; the realm of wind. Not only must you understand the causes and conditions at work in the realm of living beings, the realm of the Dharma, and the realm of the worlds, but you must also observe the realms of earth, water, fire, and air—the four elements. Each of the four elements has a major factor which contributes to its creation. The major factor in the element of earth is its quality of bulk. The earth is made of differing sections: mountains, rivers, and the various shapes it takes. The false thinking involved in contemplating the bulk and shape of the earth is the major factor for the arisal of the realm of earth—inner and outer. Inwardly, the element of earth is present in our bodies. Outwardly there is the earth, which is our planet.

False thinking in terms of moisture, or wetness, is the major factor for the arisal of the realm of water—again, inner and outer. Inwardly there are liquids in our bodies and outwardly there is water on the earth.

False thinking in terms of utility is the major factor in the arisal of the realm of fire. Fire is useful in the ability to burn things. Inwardly, our bodies are warm and outwardly there is fire on the planet.

False thinking in terms of floating is the major factor in the arisal of the realm of wind—inner and outer. Earth, air, fire, and water combine to make our bodies. When they disperse, each returns to its origin. Moisture returns to the element of water; heat returns to the element of fire; solidity returns to the element of earth; air returns to the element of wind.

Contemplating the realm of desire; the realm of form; and the formless realm. The realm of desire refers to the living beings in the realm of the six desire heavens, and the limitless and boundless causes and conditions surrounding them.

Although beings in the realm of form have form, they have no material substance. They can manifest a “form”, but they have no real substance. They cannot be seen with ordinary human eyes. One must first have the penetration of the heavenly eye in order to see the gods in the heavens of form. In the formless realm they don’t even have the appearance of form. All they have is consciousness.

The Bodhisattva on the Dwelling of Cultivation should exhort all living beings to cultivate these ten dharmas. He should study them himself as well.

Sutra:

“Why is that? From a desire to make bright the wisdom of the Bodhisattvas. When one hears the Dharma, one understands it by oneself, not from the teachings of another.

Commentary:

“Why is that? The Bodhisattva on the Dwelling of Cultivation contemplates ten kinds of dharmas in his cultivation. Why is this? From a desire to make bright the wisdom of the Bodhisattvas. This is because he wishes to lead the Bodhisattvas on the Dwelling of Cultivation to have bright wisdom, great wisdom. When one hears the Dharma, one understands it by oneself, not from the teachings of another. When they hear the Dharma, they can return the light and reverse the illumination, look within, and thus understand the doctrines—the Dharma. Day by day their wisdom increases in brilliance, and therefore they do not necessarily need a Good Knowing Advisor’s teaching. They can look within and unite with the doctrines of the Dharma, and practice it themselves; and not because of the instruction of another.

IV. The Dwelling of Noble Birth

Sutra:

“Disciples of the Buddha. What is the Bodhisattva’s Dwelling of Noble Birth? This Bodhisattva is born from within the sagely teaching. He accomplishes ten dharmas. What are the ten? They are: Never retreating; deeply bringing forth pure faith in the presence of all Buddhas; well contemplating dharmas; comprehensively knowing all living beings; countries; worlds; karmic actions; retributions; birth and death; and Nirvana. Those are the ten.

Commentary:

“Disciples of the Buddha. Dharma Wisdom Bodhisattva called out again, “All of you great disciples of the Buddha, don’t you know what is the Bodhisattva’s Dwelling of Noble Birth? What is the fourth of the Ten Dwellings, that of Noble Birth? This is a rhetorical question. This Bodhisattva is born from within the sagely teaching. This Bodhisattva on the Dwelling of Noble Birth is born out of the sagely teaching the Buddha spoke. He accomplishes ten dharmas. Within this dwelling, the Bodhisattva accomplishes ten kinds of dharmas. What are the ten? They are: Never retreating. A Bodhisattva only goes forward with vigor and never retreats. He diligently cultivates the six paramitas and ten thousand conducts and is never lazy. He never takes a rest and he never fears suffering. Cultivation is just going forward with vigor. Don’t retreat. There’s a common saying which is appropriate:

If you stand still,
You fall two and a half miles behind.

If you just stand there, you’ll fall way behind everyone else. If you’re vigorous, you won’t fall behind. The Bodhisattva on the Dwelling of Noble Birth attains non-retreat in position, thought, and practice. He is at the position of the Dwelling of Noble Birth and doesn’t retreat to the Two Vehicles to be a Shravaka or Pratyekabuddha again.

Non-retreat in thought means that his every thought is one of bringing forth the Bodhi heart and one of heroic vigor. In every thought he is never lazy, never retreats, and is never upside down. He would never be turned by ignorance, greed, hatred, or stupidity. Non-retreating in practice means that in every life he practices the Bodhisattva Way and cultivates the six paramitas and ten thousand conducts. So he doesn’t retreat in his cultivation. Because he has the three non-retreats, he never, never turns back and therefore, he is capable of deeply bringing forth pure faith in the presence of all Buddhas. He always worships and respects all Buddhas, praises the Thus Come Ones, cultivates the giving of offerings, repents of and reforms all karmic faults, and follows the Buddhas in study. He cultivates these practices in the presence of all Buddhas. Deeply—that is the opposite of shallow. It means very, very profoundly. The pure faith is a clear and pure belief which does not waver between faith and doubt. You must not have a hair’s breadth of doubt about the Buddhadharma or you won’t obtain a response. You must not have a speck of doubt; that is pure faith. Well contemplating dharmas— he is skilled at contemplating the Dharma Realm, that is, always understanding how the nature of the Dharma Realm does not go beyond the mind.

Comprehensively knowing all living beings. He clearly knows the basic dispositions of living beings, countries and worlds. The worlds in the ten directions are created, dwell, decay, and become void. Karmic actions. The karma living beings create—the good and evil karma, and all karmic activity—and, retributions—the retributions they receive. Birth and death. How they are born, how they die, and how to end birth and death: share-section birth and death and change birth and death. Share-section: you have your share: I have mine. Change birth and death: those of the Two Vehicles have ended the share-section birth and death but not change birth and death. Change birth and death is found in thought after thought—the unceasing production and extinction of thoughts. Bodhisattvas can end change birth and death. These two kinds of death must be forever terminated.

And Nirvana. Nirvana is birth and death; birth and death are Nirvana. Birth and death: birth follows death; death follows birth. Nirvana is ending birth and death. Most people think that Nirvana is “still extinction”. Actually, Nirvana is the attainment of permanence, bliss, true self, and purity—the four virtues of Nirvana. In this state there is no birth and death. Those are the ten. The Bodhisattvas on the Dwelling of Noble Birth should accomplish these ten dharmas.

The birth and death of people depends on the karma they have done. If they have done good karma, they ascend; if they have done bad karma, they descend. When one dies, at the very end the eighth consciousness leaves the body. At that time, if it goes from the upper part of the body, one is born in the three good paths; if it goes from the lower half, one is born in the three evil paths. How do you know which way it leaves? The place from which it leaves is still warm. If the soles of the feet are warm, it left from there. From this you can determine in which path a person has been reborn. This is a general statement. But if you do good, you will be born in the three good paths; if you do evil, you will be born in the three evil paths. That is certain. During the first forty-nine days after death, people go through a lot of judgements. After they are judged, if their good karma is heavier, they’re born in the three evil paths. If you would like to not die, you must first be a living dead person. That means your eyes don’t see things, your ears don’t hear, your mouth doesn’t say anything; you are just like a living dead person. If you can be a living dead person, you can end birth and death. It’s not that easy to be a living dead person.

The eyes see forms outside,
but inside there is nothing.
The ears hear defiling sounds,
but the mind does not know.

That’s the way a living dead person should be.

Sutra:

“Disciples of the Buddha. This Bodhisattva should encourage the study of ten dharmas. What are the ten? They are: comprehensively knowing the Dharmas of all Buddhas of the past, future, and present; cultivating and amassing the Dharmas of all Buddhas of the past, future, and present; perfecting the Dharmas of all Buddhas of the past, future, and present; and comprehensively knowing the sameness of all Buddhas. Why is that? From a desire to progress within the three periods of time and obtain sameness of mind. When one hears the Dharma, one understands it by oneself, not from the teachings of another.

Commentary:

Dharma Wisdom Bodhisattva feared that all the Bodhisattvas within the Avatamsaka Dharma Assembly would not be attentive to the Dharma, so he called out, “Disciples of the Buddha. This Bodhisattva should encourage the study of ten dharmas. The Bodhisattva on the Dwelling of Noble Birth—that kind of Bodhisattva—should exhort others to cultivate the ten kinds of Dharma doors and also cultivate them himself. If you only exhort others to cultivate and you yourself do not cultivate, that is intellectual zen. If you want to exhort others to do it, first you have to do it yourself. What are the ten? What are the ten Dharma doors? They are: comprehensively knowing the Dharmas of all Buddhas of the past, future, and present; that is, understanding and knowing clearly the Dharmas spoken by all Buddhas of the past, present, and future. All should be understood.

Cultivating and amassing the Dharmas of all Buddhas of the past, future, and present. It is not enough just to know; you have to actually put them into practice. If you know one part of Buddhadharma, you should put one part into practice. If you know two parts, you should put two parts into practice. To “amass” means to gather from few to many, from small to great. To cultivate the Dharma of the six paramitas and ten thousand conducts, you must do so level by level, practice upon practice. Cultivate and accumulate the Dharma doors of all Buddhas of the past, present, and future.

Perfecting the Dharmas of all Buddhas of the past, future, and present. Upon knowing them, you have to cultivate, and then you can be certified. You must take the six paramitas and ten thousand practices—all the Dharma doors—and cultivate them to perfection. Perfect means not deficient. All is full and complete. There is neither a bit too much nor a bit too little. This is just the same as the adornment with blessings and wisdom of all Buddhas. The six paramitas and ten thousand practices are perfected.

And comprehensively knowing the sameness of all Buddhas. You also clearly know that all Buddhas are impartial and that all the Bodhisattvas’ dharmas are also impartial. Why is that? From a desire to progress within the three periods of time and obtain sameness of mind. Why do you want to encourage the study of these ten kinds of Dharma doors? It is to cause the Bodhisattvas of the three periods of time—past, present, and future—to make progress and to have impartial minds.

When one hears the Dharma, one understands it by oneself. They understand the Dharma which they hear as soon as they hear it, not from the teachings of another. There is no need to have someone teach them. Hearing one, they understand a thousand. So, there is no reason for others to teach them.

V. The Dwelling of the Endowment With Skill-In-Means

Sutra:

“Disciples of the Buddha. What is the Bodhisattva’s Dwelling of the Endowment With Skill-In-Means? All the good roots that this Bodhisattva has cultivated are used to save and protect all living beings; to benefit all living beings; to make all living beings happy; to have sympathy for all living beings; to liberate all living beings; to cause all living beings to separate from all disasters; to cause all living beings to escape from the suffering of birth and death; to cause all living beings to produce pure faith; to completely subdue all living beings; and to cause all living beings to certify to Nirvana.

Commentary:

“Disciples of the Buddha.” Dharma Wisdom Bodhisattva again called, “All of you disciples of the Buddha, What is the Bodhisattva’s Dwelling of the Endowment With Skill-In-Means? All the good roots that this Bodhisattva has cultivated , the good roots the Bodhisattva who is on the Dwelling of the Endowment with Skill-in-Means has planted through his cultivation of the six paramitas and the ten thousand conducts, in cultivating blessings and wisdom—all of those good roots--are used to save and protect all living beings.” He is not out for himself. When all of you read this section of text you should return the light and look within, and see if all the good roots you plant and the things you do are for the sake of saving and protecting all living beings. You should not listen to the Sutra as if you were listening to pleasant songs or music and not look within yourself. When you hear this section of text, you should ask, “Why do I cultivate? Is it for the sake of saving and protecting all living beings, or is it that I am a Self-Ending Arhat? Is it the case that I eat and get full myself and want to end my own birth and death? Or is it that I benefit others and the public? Do I save and protect myself, or do I save and protect all living beings? Am I selfish or profit-seeking?” You should ask yourself, “Why do I cultivate?” It’s to save and protect all living beings. Why do I practice the Bodhisattva Way? To benefit all living beings, that is, to benefit others, not myself.” You shouldn’t think all day long, “I’d like to eat some good food, wear some nice clothes, and live in a nice place and be better off than anyone else—enjoy myself more than anybody else.” That’s not it at all. You cultivate in order to benefit all living beings.

You should benefit all living beings, to make all living beings happy. “When living beings encounter disasters, I wish to save them. If they are suffering, I want to cause them to be happy. I wish to make all living beings happy. I’m not out to make myself happy.” If you think, “I am a living being myself, you know. I should make myself happy,” that’s just being selfish, and it is not cultivating the Bodhisattva Way. Those who practice the Bodhisattva Way are only aware of other living beings; they are not aware of themselves. They do everything in their power to benefit living beings. They also do the things they can’t do. They do what can’t be done, no matter what it is. They forget about themselves and don’t think, “What’s in it for me?” If you can really be like that, then you immediately have become a Bodhisattva on the Dwelling of the Endowment with Skill-In-Means. If you have the thoughts of a Bodhisattva, you are a Bodhisattva. If you have the heart of a Buddha, you are a Buddha. So, it is said,

If you’re determined to be a sage,
you are a sage.
If you’re determined to be a hero,
you are a hero.
If you’re determined to be a loyal minister,
you are a loyal minister.
If you are determined to be a great teacher,
you are a great teacher.
If you are determined to be a Buddha or Bodhisattva,
you are a Buddha or Bodhisattva.

It all depends on whether or not you have the determination. So it’s said, “Buddhas are created from people, and Bodhisattvas are cultivated from people.” We, too, are people. Why don’t we think of becoming Buddhas or Bodhisattvas? We should resolve to do so. How? By making all living beings’ happy; and you also need to have sympathy for all living beings. This means seeing living beings’ suffering as your own suffering. “If one living being hasn’t eaten his fill, it’s as if I haven’t fulfilled my responsibility in feeding him. If one living being is cold, it’s as if I haven’t given him clothing to wear.” You must consider others as yourself. Consider the bodies of others as your own. You must have sympathy for all living beings, to liberate all living beings. If living beings are suffering, you must save and liberate them, to cause all living beings to separate from all disasters. Even if it’s impossible, we should still think of a way to cause all living beings to escape all disasters. If we can’t save them all at once, we’ll save them one by one. Whenever a living being has a disaster, we will rescue him from it.

To cause all living beings to escape from the suffering of birth and death.

“If there is a single living being who has not become a Buddha, I will not enter Nirvana.”

“I will cause all living beings to escape the bitter sea of birth and death and ascend the other shore—that is, Nirvana.” To cause all living beings to produce pure faith. Their faith will be clear, pure, and undefiled.

To completely subdue all living beings. “I will get rid of all their afflictions. The stubborn living beings will quit being stubborn, and the afflicted will get rid of their afflictions. They will be tamed. They will renounce the deviant, return to the orthodox, turn back from confusion, and return to enlightenment.”

And to cause all living beings to certify to Nirvana. All living beings will be caused to certify to the wonderful doctrines of Nirvana and attain the happiness of permanence, bliss, true self, and purity.

Sutra:

“Disciples of the Buddha. This Bodhisattva should encourage the study of ten dharmas. What are the ten? They are: knowing the boundlessness of living beings; knowing the limitlessness of living beings; knowing the numberlessness of living beings; knowing the inconceivability of living beings; knowing the limitless forms of living beings; knowing the immeasurability of living beings; knowing the emptiness of living beings; knowing the non-creation of living beings; knowing the lack of existence of living beings; and knowing the lack of a self-nature of living beings.

Commentary:

The great Bodhisattva Dharma Wisdom once again called out,

“Disciples of the Buddha.” He said, “The Bodhisattva in the position of Dwelling in the Endowment with Skill-in-Means, this Bodhisattva, should encourage the study of ten dharmas. He should exhort the study of ten kinds of Dharma doors. What are the ten? They are: knowing the boundlessness of living beings. This Bodhisattva should know that living beings are without bounds. There are twelve categories of living beings and each kind is boundless. Knowing the limitlessness of living beings. And he should know that all living beings—the twelve kinds of living beings—are innumerable. There is no way to count how many there are. Knowing the numberlessness of living beings. He should know that living beings have no limit and no number. Knowing the inconceivability of living beings. He should know that living beings are ineffably wonderful. The upside-downness and false thoughts of all living beings are inconceivable, and the fruits of the Way obtained through cultivation are also inconceivable.

In the past, in Thailand, there was a high monk, a Ch’an master, who studied the Theravada teachings. He lived in the mountains and never came down. He just ate whatever he happened upon. It is said,

In his food he did not seek to be full.
In his dwelling he did not seek comfort.

One eats, but it’s not for certain that one gets one’s fill, and the place where one lives is not necessarily agreeable. So he lived in the mountains and one day when he was in samadhi, a state arose. What was the state? It was inconceivable.

Someone told him, “Tomorrow your old partner is coming to get you and probably give you a lot of trouble. Let’s see what you’ll do.” “Old partner” referred to his wife from a former life, his former spouse. “She is coming to seek you out. If you don’t recognize what’s right before your eyes, you’ll have to start anew.”

So he waited to see what his old partner would be like. The next day, at about the time when he was taking his midday meal, a man who looked like a professor came, accompanied by his daughter. The professor was over fifty, and the girl in her twenties. The professor came up and talked with him and said, “It’s too bitter for you here. This kind of bitter cultivation is hard to take.”

The young girl said to her father that she wanted to marry the old cultivator. Why? She saw how much he was suffering. If he stayed there and cultivated, when he got old there would be no one to take care of him, and in the future it would be very wretched for him. So she wanted to marry him.

The old cultivator said, “No. People who cultivate the Way must not have sexual desire. They cut off desire.”

The young girl began to cry. After all, the old cultivator had been very impolite to her. So she started to cry. The professor got angry and grabbed the old cultivator’s bowl, chop sticks, rice, and flour and took them away, remarking on his being uncivil in having turned down his daughter.

The old cultivator continued to sit in meditation. But as soon as he began to meditate, the image of the young girl weeping appeared before him and there was nothing he could do to get rid of it. “Okay,” he said, “Forget it. I’ll just go on a fast and starve to death and leave it at that.” He began to fast, with the intention of starving himself to death, and so he didn’t even drink water. The first day the young girl still appeared all the time. The second day she also appeared. The third day she appeared off and on. By the fourth day, the image was gone and he was able to regain his former skill, and he didn’t have to starve.

From this it can be seen that living beings’ karmic retributions and their karmic results are inconceivable. Some cultivators of the Way on the one hand cultivate, and on the other strike up false thinking. They cannot control their thoughts of sexual desire. They always have unclean thoughts. Although this may be said to be the karmic retribution from previous lives—the habits accumulated during many lifetimes, many kalpas—still it is because one’s samadhi power is not sufficient and one’s precept power is not strong. How much less to speak of one’s wisdom power! Living beings’ states are inconceivable.

Knowing the limitless forms of living beings. The limitless forms and appearances of living beings, the shapes of their bodies, are not the same. Knowing the immeasurability of living beings. Above it said that living beings are limitless. Now it says they are immeasurable. Basically you cannot know them all by thinking with the mind. Knowing the emptiness of living beings. Living beings are also empty. Birth, dwelling, change, extinction—they are all empty. Knowing the non-creation of living beings. Basically living beings are empty, so how can they create anything? Nothing is created, and there is no one who creates. It is certainly not the case that living beings were created by God. Who made God? You say God made living beings? I could just as well say I made God. Ultimately, who made whom?

Knowing the lack of existence of living beings. You should know that their nature is basically empty. Basically they have no existence. And knowing the lack of a self-nature of living beings. All living beings fundamentally are Buddhas, so there is only a Buddha nature. They have no individual nature, no nature of their own.

Sutra:

“Why is that? From a desire to bring one’s mind to increase and advance in supremacy. With no defiling attachment to the Dharma that one hears, one understands it by oneself, not because of instructions from another.

Commentary:

“Why is that? Why do you want to know all living beings’ boundlessness, limitlessness, numberlessness, inconceivability, limitless forms, immeasurability, basic emptiness, non-creation, and non-existence, and that living beings have no nature of their own? From a desire to bring one’s mind to increase and advance in supremacy. It is for the sake of Bodhisattvas who are upon the Dwelling of Endowment with Skill-in-Means, to cause their minds to be even more supreme, to be even more clear, so that they will have superior wisdom and contemplation and be supreme in everything.

With no defiling attachment to the Dharma that one hears. Whoever is not defiled by attachment to emotional love is one who dwells in the perfection of expedient means. But not having defiling attachments is not easy. If you don’t have massive defilements in your mind, you have small defilements in it. If you don’t have small defilements in your mind, there a still a lot of seeds of defilements in the field of the eighth consciousness. It is not easy to be without them. One understands it by oneself. When the Bodhisattva on the Dwelling of the Endowment with Skill-in-Means hears the Dharma, no matter what Bodhimanda he is in, he will suddenly become enlightened, and he will suddenly comprehend. And it is not because of instructions from another. It will not be necessary for another person to help him become enlightened.

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