Chapter Sixteen. A Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
If the Dharma were Brahma Conduct, then would still extinction be the Dharma? Would Nirvana be the Dharma? Would non-production be the Dharma? Would non-arisal be the Dharma? Would ineffability be the Dharma? Would non-differentiation be the Dharma? Would non-acting be the Dharma? Would non-assemblage be the Dharma? Would non-according be the Dharma? Would non-attainment be the Dharma?
Dharma is a method and a standard. If the Dharma were claimed to be Brahma Conduct and you considered Brahma Conduct to be the method, and the method to be Brahma Conduct, then would still extinction be the Dharma? Dharma is still, extinct, and unmoving, and so Dharma cannot be Brahma Conduct. That is because Brahma Conduct comes into being through cultivation, whereas Dharma does not depend on cultivation. Fundamentally, the Dharma is still extinction, and Nirvana, too, is Dharma. However, there is nothing cultivated about Nirvana, even though it is reached through cultivation. But pure Brahma Conduct is something cultivated, so would Nirvana be the Dharma? Nirvana is certainly not Brahma Conduct, even though it is the Dharma.
Would non-production be the Dharma? Dharma is also unproduced, but Brahma Conduct is definitely not the unproduced. Would non-arisal be the Dharma? The Dharma does not move or arise and has no substance or nature to it. However, there must be cultivation for pure Brahma Conduct to exist. Would ineffability be the Dharma? Ineffably ineffability is Dharma, but that Dharma is certainly not Brahma Conduct. Would non-differentiation be the Dharma? Non-differentiation is Dharma, but non-differentiation is certainly not Brahma Conduct. Would non-acting be the Dharma? Dharma is without discrimination, and therefore there is no place of activity. Although there being no place of activity is Dharma, it certainly is not Brahma Conduct.
Would non-assemblage be the Dharma? Dharma basically does not require gathering together and assembling to bring it about. Anything collected and assembled is not Dharma. What is Dharma is not the least bit contrived or enacted, but that is not true of Brahma Conduct. Would non-according be the Dharma? The method does not accord with states, and so although non-according is Dharma, it absolutely is not Brahma Conduct. Would non-attainment be the Dharma? Dharma basically is such that nothing is attained, but non-attainment is certainly not Brahma Conduct. So if you try to say that Dharma is Brahma Conduct, it simply will not work. The 84,000 Dharma doors are 84,000 Dharma doors, but they definitely are not Brahma Conduct.
Why does the Sutra speak this way? It’s to tell you not to have attachments, not to be attached to a Brahma Conduct, or to the further existence of a Buddha, a Dharma, or a Sangha. Don’t have any attachments at all.
Act as if not acting. Don’t be attached to the fact that you are cultivating. If you have no attachments you can certify to real mark.
When one is certified to the characteristic of reality,
There are no people or dharmas,
The karma of the Avichi is cancelled in a kshana.
-Song of Enlightenment by Tang Dhyana Master Yung Chia
When you truly reach the point of there being:
No self, no others, no living beings,
And none with life-spans,
When people are empty and dharmas are also empty, the self-nature is completely understood. If you can certify to that substance and principle of real mark, then your karmic offenses meriting the Uninterrupted Hell, which are as many as the sand grains in the Ganges River, immediately disappear. Why is it that you still have karmic offenses? It’s because you have not yet broken your attachments. Before attachments are broken, all conditioned and unconditioned dharmas continue to exist. If attachments are destroyed and everything is emptied, the state at that time is:
As when one drinks water and only knows himself if it is warm or cold.
That is when you certify to the substance and principle of real mark. When you do so, then you truly obtain your own effective functioning.
When one speaks of Dharma, there are 84,000 Dharma doors, and all of them are number one. How can one say that they are all foremost? The Buddha himself said:
This Dharma is level and equal, with no high or low.
Therefore, it is called Anuttarasamyaksambodhi.
Whatever dharma matches one’s potentials is number one. Does that mean those that don't match one’s potentials are not number one? No, it doesn’t work that way. What may not suit you may be suitable for someone else, and what is not appropriate for that person may be just right for me. You and I and other living beings all have individual potentials. What matches them is number one, and what doesn’t remains level and equal with no high or low. Superiority and inferiority do not exist.
Because that is the case, we should not give rise to discriminations concerning dharmas or look for ways to make ourselves afflicted.
If one discriminates names and marks, it will never end.
Like entering the sea to count the sand,
Trapping oneself in vain.
-Song of Enlightenment
If you start discriminating this dharma and that dharma, discriminating names and characteristics, it will never come to an end. You will never get it all clear in your entire lifetime. It’s like going to the sea and trying to count how many grains of sand it has. You never will be able to count them all. Then what should you do? You should pick a Dharma door you like and use that dharma to cultivate; then in the future you will have accomplishment. But if all you do is become attached to Dharma marks, trying to determine which Sutras are authentic and which are forgeries, you can do research for several decades: but when the time comes to die you still won’t have it clear. Instead, you should select one Dharma door and apply yourself to its exclusive cultivation. It doesn’t matter which Dharma door it is, if you cultivate the one you want, you can accomplish your fruit of the Way.
You may remember how when the Buddha was in the world, there was a person stupid as one can get: Kshudrapanthaka. He was called that name, which means “Little Roadside”, because his mother gave birth to him while halfway on the road while going to her parents’ home for the birth. He was incredibly stupid. He couldn’t learn any dharma you taught him. If you tried to teach him Suffering, Accumulation, Extinction, and the Way, as soon as you asked him, “What did I just teach you?” He would say, “I don’t know.” He wouldn’t have any idea. You could go through it all again and then right away ask him, “What did I just teach you?” He would still say, “I don’t know,” or else, “Nobody.” Time went on and he still had not managed to learn a single line of the Shurangama Mantra, or even one line of the Great Compassion Mantra. Finally the Buddha took pity on him and said, “Okay, I’ll give you a dharma. Just recite the two words ‘sweep clean’.” Of course, he couldn’t even remember those two words. He’d remember “sweep”, but then he’d forget “clean”. Or, if he remembered “clean”, he wouldn’t remember “sweep”. It would be “sweep, sweep, sweep,” but not “clean”; or else “clean, clean, clean,” without “sweep”. He couldn’t clearly remember both at once—for a long time. But, when he finally did recall them clearly, what do you think happened? When he recited the two words “sweep clean”, he got enlightened and was certified to the fruit of Arhatship.
That story illustrates how there is nothing fixed about the Dharma. That’s why the Sixth Patriarch said:
Dharma is neither sudden nor gradual.
Delusion and Awakening are neither slow or quick.
Dharma doesn’t have suddenness or gradualness to it. It’s just a question of whether one stays confused a little longer or gets enlightened somewhat sooner. From that we can see that Dharma is like a key to open a lock. Once a lock is opened, you should put down the key. If you still hang on to it, that’s an attachment. It’s as:
Once you cross the river
You no longer need the boat.
After you get across, you don’t want to walk carrying the boat on your back. Of course if you don’t carry the boat yourself but put it on top of your car and let the car have the attachment it isn’t so much of a problem.
Cultivation is precisely getting rid of attachments. If you have an attachment to self, to people or to dharmas, you won’t be able to achieve liberation.
Now we are opening up new fields and breaking new ground, planting the seeds for the future growth of Buddhism in every single dust mote of the world. In every speck of dust we should turn the great Dharma Wheel and propagate the Buddhadharma. This work is the responsibility of each one of us, not someone else’s job. As Buddhist disciples we should do the Buddha’s work, sending Buddhist disciples to every mote of dust, every country of the world, and eventually throughout the entire Dharma Realm. That is the work we should do.
If the Sangha were Brahma Conduct, then would the procession towards streamwinner be the Sangha? Would the fruit of streamwinner be the Sangha? Would the procession towards Once-Returner be the Sangha? Would the fruit of Once-Returner be the Sangha? Would the procession towards Never-Returner be the Sangha? Would the fruit of Never-Returner be the Sangha? Would the procession towards Arhat be the Sangha? Would the fruit of Arhat be the Sangha? Would the Three Clarities be the Sangha? Would the Six Penetrations be the Sangha?
If the Sangha were Brahma Conduct, as you might want to say, then what is the Sangha? Would the procession towards streamwinner be the Sangha? At the First Fruit, that of Srotaapanna—“Streamwinner”—one has severed the 88 categories of View Delusions. View Delusions means:
With regard to states, producing greed and love.
One becomes greedy for the state, loves the state and wants to grasp the state to have for one’s own. For example, the eyes see forms and produce greed for forms. The ears hear sounds and produce greed for listening to sounds. The nose smells fragrances and produces greed for fragrances. The tongue tastes flavors and produces greed for flavors. The body comes into contact with outside things and the greed to touch things is produced. The mind thinks of dharmas and in the mind produces greed for the dharmas as sense objects. In short, the six sense faculties of eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind produce greed for the states of the six sense objects which are forms, sounds, smells, tastes, objects of touch, and dharmas. With greed, one feels that the object is good, and so begins to love it. The eyes see forms and love forms. The ears hear sounds and love sounds. The nose smells fragrances and loves them. The tongue tastes flavors and loves flavors. The body feels contact with objects of touch and loves the objects of touch. The mind thinks, basing itself upon the sense objects that are dharmas, and loves those dharma-objects. Greed and love are produced when those six sense organs pair with the six sense objects. That is View Delusion because upon viewing one becomes deluded and doesn’t know what one should or shouldn’t do. One is confused.
At the First Fruit of Arhatship, which is called the Position of the Way of Seeing, one has cut off all the 88 categories of View Delusions. There are overall Sixteen Hearts or Minds, involving Eight Patiences and Eight Wisdoms.
The Sixteen Hearts or Minds
The fifteenth Heart or Mind is called Procession Towards the First Fruit. With the Sixteenth Mind, one is certified to the First Fruit, that of Srotaapanna, Sanskrit for “Streamwinner” or “Stream Enterer.” It means:
Entering the flow of the Sage’s Dharma Nature,
Going against the common person’s flow of the six sense objects.
One no longer enters the flow of the six sense objects which are sights, sounds, smells, tastes, objects of touch, and dharmas, but instead wins entry to the stream of a Sage and can now be considered a Sage. The Sage of the First Fruit, having severed View Delusions, when faced with states does not produce greed and love; but he is still not clear about principle. He has samadhi power and is not moved or turned by outside states, and can himself turn the states.
The person turns the states;
The states cannot turn the person.
No matter what kind of thing it is that he has never seen before, he doesn’t become greedy to see it. You can say he is such that:
The eyes see forms and shapes, but inside there is nothing.
The ears hear defiling sounds, but the mind does not know.
enters the flow and forgets the objects.
Would the fruit of streamwinner be the Sangha? First Fruit is entry to the flow of the Sage’s Dharma Nature, so is the First Fruit the Sangha? The only thing is, the Sangha of the First Fruit is not necessarily Brahma Conduct. And so you should contemplate that Brahma Conduct definitely is not the Sangha.
In the Sutra of Forty-Two Sections the Buddha says:
Be careful not to believe your own mind.
Your mind cannot be believed.
Once you have attained the Fourth Fruit of Arhatship,
Then you can believe your own mind.
The Four Fruits of Arhatship
First Fruit: Srotaapanna, “Stream Winner” Position of the Way of Seeing
Second Fruit: Sakridagamin, “Once Returner” Position of the Way of Cultivation
Third Fruit: Anagamin, “Never Returner” Position of the Way of Cultivation
Fourth Fruit: Arhat, “Worthy of Offerings”, Position of the “Killer of Thieves”, Way of Certification; “Without Birth” also, Position of No- Study.
During the first three stages, one cannot have faith in the thoughts of one’s own mind. That is because one’s samadhi is not yet solid, and so if one believes in one’s own viewpoint, one can be mistaken.
Would the procession towards Once-Returner be the Sangha? The Second Fruit is that of Sakridagamin, Sanskrit for “Once-Returner.” He has still to undergo:
One birth in the heavens,
One return among people.
Those of the First Fruit of Arhatship have to undergo seven instances of birth and death, and have not ended birth and death. Those of the Second
Have one birth in the heavens and one return among human beings to undergo. With the Second Fruit one begins to sever categories of Thought Delusions, defined as:
Being confused about principle and giving rise to discriminations.
One is not clear about a given principle, and starts producing all sorts of discriminations. One thinks, for example, “They’re all wrong and I am right.” “They aren’t good and I am good.” “They have no knowledge but I have knowledge.” “They can’t do things but I can do things.” These discriminations arise from lack of clarity about principle, the inability to get principle and specifics straight.
There are nine categories of Thought Delusions in the Desire Realm. After one reaches the First Fruit one works on severing them. When five categories of Thought Delusion in the Desire Realm are severed, that is the Procession Towards the Fruit of Once-Returner. When six categories of Thought Delusion in the Desire Realm have been cut off, one is certified to the Fruit of Once-Returner, the Second Fruit. While one is working on severing the remaining three categories of Thought Delusions in the Desire Realm, that is called Procession Towards the Fruit of Never-Returner. When they are cut off, one is certified to the Fruit of Never-Returner, the Third Fruit. It’s not for sure the Procession Towards Once-Returner is the Sangha; and since even that is not certain, how could it be Brahma Conduct? Weren’t you trying to say that Brahma Conduct was the Sangha? That’s not Brahma Conduct. Well, then, would the fruit of Once-Returner be the Sangha? The Fruit of Once-Returner isn’t the Sangha either. That’s because:
The Sangha means an assembly.
There must be more than four people to constitute a Sangha.* ( foot-note at bottom of page reads- Therefore, although in the central country three masters and seven certifiers are required for transmission of the precepts, in border regions they may be transmitted by five Bhikshus.)
You can’t call just one left-home person a Sangha. So, neither the Procession Towards Once-Returner nor the Fruit of Once-Returner is the Sangha; and since neither of them is, therefore Brahma Conduct is not the Sangha.
Would the procession towards Never-Returner be the Sangha? When one is between the positions of Second and Third Fruit and has not yet certified to the Third Fruit, that is called the Procession Towards the Third Fruit. When one actually is certified to it, that is called the Fruit of Never-Returner—Anagamin in Sanskrit—so called because one no longer undergoes birth and death in the Desire Realm. Would the fruit of Never-Returner be the Sangha? No, the Fruit of Never-Returner is not the Sangha. Would the procession towards Arhat be the Sangha? “Arhat” is a Sanskrit word with three meanings and corresponds to the result of being a Bhikshu, another Sanskrit word with three meanings, which corresponds to the cause. From the cause of being a Bhikshu one achieves the result: the Fruit of Arhatship.
The Three Meanings
Causal Ground: Ground of the Fruit: Bhikshu Arhat
1. “Beggar for Food.” 1. “Worthy of Offerings.”
2. “Frightener of Mara.” 2. “Killer of Thieves.”
3. “Destroyer of Evil.” 3. “Without Birth.”
A Bhikshu on the causal ground is a:
“Beggar for Food.”
He: Seeks Dharma from the Buddhas above, to sustain his Dharma Body,
Begs for food from living beings below, to sustain his life.
Upon being certified to the Fruit of Arhatship on the causal ground, the “Beggar for Food” is called one “Worthy of Offerings,” because as an Arhat he is “worthy of receiving offerings from humans and gods.” As a Bhikshu on the Causal Ground one is also called a “Frightener of Mara.” That’s because when a Bhikshu receives the precepts, at one point the Karmadana asks him,
“Have you already produced the Bodhi Mind?”
He replies, “Yes, I have already produced the Bodhi
Mind.” The Karmadana then asks him,
“Are you a Great Hero?” He answers,
“Yes! I am a Great Hero.”
At that moment, all of the heavenly demons and yakshas spread the news. Earth-travelling yakshas report it to the space-travelling yakshas. The space-travelling yakshas then report it to the heavenly demons in their palaces. They say,
“The Buddha’s retinue has increased by one, and our retinue of demon kings has decreased by one. Now our demonic power is declining daily, and the Buddha’s might daily increases.”
When they hear the news, all the demon kings are frightened and tremble with alarm. That is how a Bhikshu is a “Frightener of Mara,” “Mara” being the name of the demon king.
On the ground of the Fruit of Arhatship, he is called a “Killer of Thieves,” because he slays the demons of ignorance. Ignorance is the basis of the thieves who harm the Wisdom life of one’s Dharma Body. Furthermore, on the causal ground, a Bhikshu is a “Destroyer of Evil,” that is, he destroys the evil of afflictions. On the result ground of Arhatship he is known as one “Without Birth,” for he has ended birth and death and no longer undergoes them. However, it is Share Section Birth and Death that he has ended, not Change Birth and Death. Certification to that Fourth Fruit of Arhatship is called the Position of No-Study, for there is no further need for study or practice. Would the fruit of Arhat be the Sangha? Would the Three Clarities be the Sangha?
The Three Clarities:
- Penetration of the Heavenly Eye.
- Penetration of Past Lives.
- Penetration of the Exhaustion of Outflows.
Would the Six Penetrations be the Sangha?
The Six Penetrations:
With the Penetration of the Heavenly Eye, one can know everything
- Penetration of the Heavenly Eye.
- Penetration of the Heavenly Ear.
- Penetration of Others’ Minds (or: Thoughts).
- Penetration of Past Lives.
- Penetration of the Exhaustion of Outflows.
- Penetration of Spiritual Fulfillments.
Being done by the living beings among people, in the heavens, and in the hells. With the Penetration of the Heavenly Ear one can hear what is being said by the gods and spirits in the heavens, people in the human realm, and ghosts in the hells—all very, very clearly. With the Penetration of Others’ Minds (or: Thoughts), one knows what other people are thinking, their every movement of thought. With the Penetration of Past Lives one can know the causes and conditions with their retributions of each being’s last life, the life before that, back through limitless past lives. The Penetration of the Extinction of Outflows means that one is rid of all habits, faults, and thoughts of desire, so that even their seeds are gone. When there are no outflows, one no longer undergoes birth and death in the Three Realms: The Desire Realm, the Form Realm, or the Formless Realm. The Penetration of Spiritual Fulfillments is also called the Penetration of Spiritual States. It means having great spiritual penetrations so that one can do whatever one intends, has infinite transformations, and can appear or disappear at will. That kind of state is inconceivable. Those are the Six Spiritual Penetrations. But whether it’s the First Fruit Srotaapanna, the Second Fruit Sakridagamin, the Third Fruit Anagamin, or the Sage of the Fourth Fruit of Arhatship with the Three Clarities and the Six Penetrations, they are the Sangha, aren’t they? They are the Sangha, but none of them is Brahma Conduct; and so you cannot say that Brahma Conduct is the Sangha.
If the precepts were Brahma Conduct, then would the platform area be the precepts? Would the questioning about purity be the precepts? Would the teaching of awesome deportment be the precepts? Would the three karmavachana pronouncements be the precepts? Would the Upadhyaya be the precepts? Would the Acharyas be the precepts? Would the shaving of the head be the precepts? Would donning the kashaya sashes be the precepts? Would begging for food be the precepts? Would proper livelihood be the precepts?
“Precepts” means rules and regulations. Their purpose is:
To stop evil and avoid misdeeds.
Not to do any evil,
But to offer up all good conduct.
The Precept Dharma.
The Precept Substance.
The Precept Mark.
The Precept Dharma includes:
The Five Precepts (for laypeople).
The Eight Precepts (for laypeople).
The Ten Precepts (for novices).
The Ten Major and Forty-Eight Minor Bodhisattva Precepts (for both left-home and laypeople).
The 250 Bhikshu Precepts
The 348 Bhikshuni Precepts.
All of those precepts are to tell you not to do any evil but to offer up all good conduct. You should hold the precepts purely and not go against them.
It is really not easy not to do any evil but to practice only doing good. Therefore, when the Buddha was in the world, all of the Bhikshus took the Buddha for their Teacher; but after the Buddha entered extinction, they took the precepts for their Teacher. The precepts direct all of our actions to be in accord with the Dharma, and so one should act in accordance with the precepts and not in opposition to them. Now it says, If the precepts were Brahma Conduct, if that is what you would like to say, then would the platform area be the precepts? When the precepts are transmitted, a platform must be established, which has to be pure and adorned. The platform is set up for the Buddhas of the ten directions, and the area means where it is located. So, is the area where the precept platform stands the precepts? Of course not.
The Buddhas of the ten directions have to come and transmit the precepts for there to be precepts. Would the questioning about purity be the precepts? During the Precept Transmission it is always asked, “In the past did you do things not in accordance with the rules? Did you kill people or set fires or steal or commit sexual misconduct or engage in false speech or take intoxicants? Did you do any of those things, and if you did, can you change and become a new person and return to purity?” There has to be that asking about purity, but is that questioning the precepts? It’s certain that questioning about purity is not the precepts, but that the precepts are what is transmitted; and so Brahma Conduct is not the precepts.
Would the teaching of awesome deportment be the precepts? When the precepts are transmitted, the Instructing Masters must teach those newly receiving precepts the Four Great Awesome Deportments.
The Four Great Awesome Deportments
- Walking. One should walk like the wind.
- Standing. One should stand like a pine.
- Sitting. One should sit like a bell.
- Lying down. One should lie like a bow.
There is an awesome manner for each of those Four Deportments. When one walks, one should be like a gentle breeze and not jump or dash around like a tornado. Standing, one should be tall and erect like a pine tree. One should sit as steady as a bell, not like a bell’s clapper that sways back and forth. When one lies down it should be like a bow, in the “lucky lying-down position”, with one’s right hand supporting one’s cheek and one’s left hand resting on one’s thigh. The instructing Masters teach those comportments, which means they teach the manners and style becoming to a left-home person. There are:
Three thousand awesome deportments
And eighty thousand refinements of conduct.
That they are awesome means:
One has awesomeness that overawes.
That they are deportments means:
One has deportments which can be respected.
It also means that whether one is walking, standing, sitting, lying down, entering, exiting, going or returning, all of it is in accord with protocol and with the precepts. Is the teaching of awesome deportments the precepts? No, it isn’t. It’s just that when you take the precepts you further need to study the awesome deportments.
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