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A Commentary by the Venerable Master
Hsuan Hua

The Manifestations of the Thus Come One

Chapter Two

Outline

I. The oceanic multitudes simultaneously request [Dharma]

A. Requesting by directly asking questions
1. Asking about perfect virtues and abilities
a. The grounds of the Buddhas
b. The states of the Buddhas
c. The ways in which the Buddhas bestow aid
d. The practices of the Buddhas
e. The powers of the Buddhas
f. The fearlessnesses of the Buddhas
g. The samadhis of the Buddhas
h. The spiritual powers of the Buddhas
i. The kinds of self-mastery of the Buddhas
j. The kinds of indestructibility of the Buddhas

2. Asking about salient physical characteristics
a. The eyes of the Buddhas
b. The ears of the Buddhas
c. The noses of the Buddhas
d. The tongues of the Buddhas
e. The bodies of the Buddhas
f. The minds of the Buddhas
g. The auras of the Buddhas
h. The light of the Buddhas
i. The sounds of the Buddhas
j. The wisdom of the Buddhas

3. Concluding request
B. Requesting by referring to examples of Dharma
1. Asking about the universality of transformational abilities
2. Asking about the depth and extent of causal virtues
3. Concluding request
C. Sounds from the offerings pronounce verses in request

II. The Buddha emits lights to summon those with affinities

A. The purpose for emitting lights
B. The source of the lights
C. The substance of the lights
D. Listing the lights
E. Giving the number
F. Showing the retinue
G. Describing the hues
H. Clarifying the far-reaching scope
I. The multitudes can see in response
J. Beckoning with verses

III. Those summoned gather like clouds

A. Congregating in the bodhimanda
B. Manifesting the functions of their self-mastery
C. Speaking from amidst the light

IV. Auspicious portents herald the Dharma

A. Light indicates the Dharma Host
B. The appearance of a lotus represents the principle
C. The appearance of a multitude represents the teaching

V. Acclamation of the Buddhas’ virtues

A. Supreme Sound Bodhisattva (from the Buddha’s brow) speaks in praise
B. Bodhisattvas of the ten directions speak in praise
1. Lotus Contemplating All Supreme Dharmas Bodhisattva of the East
2. Luminous Wisdom of Rejoicing in Dharma Bodhisattva of the South
3. Fragrant Effulgence of Universally Bright Wisdom Bodhisattva of the West
4. Lion-Sprint Wisdom Light Bodhisattva of the North
5. Dharma Sea Wisdom Bodhisattva of the Northeast
6. Wisdom’s Lamp Universally Shining Bodhisattva of the Southeast
7. Exquisitely Blazing Cowl Bodhisattva of the Southwest
8. Awesome Virtue and Wisdom Bodhisattva of the Northwest
9. Wisdom Universally Illumining the Dharma Realm Bodhisattva of the Nadir 10. Vigorous Power and Unimpeded Wisdom Bodhisattva of the Zenith
VI. Concluding with the universal and infinite nature

Commentary:

Thus Come One is one of the ten titles of a Buddha. The Vajra Sutra says, “The Thus Come One does not come from anywhere, nor does he go anywhere. Therefore he is called ‘Thus Come One’.”

Thus Come One carries another meaning: He travels the Way that is “thus” [yathabhutam]—according to Reality—and “comes” to realize Proper Enlightenment. What does “He travels the Way according to Reality” mean? “According to Reality” is the true principle of the one true Dharma Realm. “And ‘comes’ to realize Proper Enlightenment” means that the Buddha attains the truth and has a great enlightenment; he realizes Proper Enlightenment. Proper Enlightenment refers to the Buddha’s enlightenment. Therefore, “He travels the Way according to Reality and ‘comes’ to realizes Proper Enlightenment” is one way of explaining “Thus Come One.”

Still another way of explaining it is that the basic substance of all dharmas is “thus”; all dharmas are “thus.” “Come” is the function of dharmas; the function arises from the substance. That is why he is called Thus Come One.

The meaning of “manifestation” is as follows. Originally the Buddha has no appearance. Why does the Buddha manifest when he is devoid of appearances? He is without an appearance, yet, in order to teach and transform beings, he manifests. What appearance does he manifest? The Thirty-two Hallmarks and the Eighty Subsidiary Characteristics.

This chapter will explain how the Thus Come One is able to manifest. This is Chapter Two of the Flower Adornment Sutra. It is entitled The Manifestations of the Thus Come One.

Some people may not understand these principles after hearing them; they still don’t understand what is meant by Thus Come One. Therefore I will elaborate further.

“Thus” represents stillness; “come” means movement. The state of the Flower Adornment Sutrais one where movement and stillness are of one “suchness”; movement and stillness are nondual. That is the Thus Come One. Movement does not obstruct stillness and stillness does not obstruct movement; they do not hinder one another. That is the Thus Come One.

Furthermore, “thus” is the principle; it’s the essence of the truth. “Come” is the actual appearance. While “thus” has no appearance, “come” is something that can be seen. This is to say, phenomena do not obstruct the noumenon, and the noumenon does not obstruct phenomena. They interpenetrate perfectly without obstruction.

Thus Come One is one of the ten titles of a Buddha. The ten titles are:

1. Thus Come One
2. One Worthy of Offerings
3. One of Proper and Pervasive Knowledge
4. One Who Is Perfect in Understanding and Practice
5. Well Gone One Who Understands the World
6. Unsurpassed Lord
7. Taming Hero
8. Teacher of Gods and Humans
9. Buddha
l0.World Honored One

The Buddha is now manifesting. When the Buddha first realized the Way, he manifested the inconceivable state of his great, awesome spiritual powers within the great Dharma Assembly. Therefore, Chapter Two is called “The Manifestation of the Thus Come One.”

I. The oceanic multitudes simultaneously request [Dharma]
A. Requesting by directly asking questions
1. Asking about perfect virtues and abilities
a. The grounds of the Buddhas

Sutra:

At that time, the Bodhisattvas and all the world rulers had these thoughts: “What are the grounds of the Buddhas?”

Commentary:

At that time refers to the time when the Buddha was speaking the chapter called “The Manifestations of the Thus Come One.”

There are some Dharma Masters who explain sutras in a fixed way and deliberately make their lectures sound abstruse. Their rigid explanations bind the Buddhist sutras up leaving no flexibility. What is more, such Dharma Masters criticize others who don’t follow the same rigid way of lecturing and binding the sutras up.

Actually, the principles in the sutras can be explained in a myriad ways; there’s nothing fixed about them. The Vajra Sutra says, “There are no fixed dharmas.”

There are those Dharma Masters who deliberately criticize others by saying they are wrong, in order to show that they themselves have a lot of knowledge. When I explain the sutras, I don’t criticize others because I know very little. When lecturing sutras, you should make them come alive and explain their principles very clearly. As long as you feel that your explanation accords with the sutra, that’s good enough. You don’t have to follow a certain person’s style of lecturing.

I am lecturing for you right now, but in the future, when you understand the principles in the sutras, you don’t have to explain them the same way that I am doing. You may explain those principles based on your own understanding.

Once a Dharma Master said that I had explained the words “At that time” incorrectly, and I told him, “That’s the way I lecture it. All you need to be concerned with is that you do not lecture it in that way.” He had nothing more to say. He was a case of someone trying to deliberately show off that he knew better.

In the future when all of you go out to lecture on the sutras and speak the Dharma, you need not listen to certain “erudite” Dharma Masters who deliberately criticize others even when they have lectured correctly. In America, in the future, don’t learn this bad habit. Now, some of you have picked up this habit as you translate the sutras. You say, “Your translation is wrong; mine is right.” That’s just seeking fame and gain. In what way is your translation good? In what way are other people’s translations bad? If you translate well, then go ahead and translate well. If other people don’t translate well, then gradually, they will improve. Some people have a nasty habit of wanting to make their own names a little bigger, a little higher, so they can have greater recognition. This is completely wrong. When you translate the sutras, don’t pay attention whether someone says it’s good or not. Just use your own wisdom and ability and do the best you can for the sake of Buddhism.

You shouldn’t let one little sentence of praise make you overjoyed, or one little criticism get you upset. You shouldn’t be influenced by these states. That’s just the Thus Come One. If you are disturbed by these states, you are not like the Thus Come One.

We are now talking about the Thus Come One. Everyone has the potential for becoming a Thus Come One. If you are not influenced by anything, then you are Thus. If you are always doing your work, then you are Come. Everything can be turned around.

What time is “at that time” referring to? It means the present time that we are lecturing on the Flower Adornment Sutra. You don’t have to say that it’s the time when the Buddha was speaking this sutra. We are lecturing on the Flower Adornment Sutra right now, so it can refer to this very interval of time. “It says ‘that’ time,” you may argue. What difference is there between that time and this time? We’re lecturing on the Flower Adornment Sutra right at this moment, so it’s this time.

In the future, if any Dharma Master tells you that you lectured incorrectly, you can just tell them that when they are lecturing they can lecture it the way they feel is correct.

The Bodhisattvas . Who are all these Bodhisattvas? Perhaps this is referring to all of us who are here now; you and I are those Bodhisattvas. There is certain to be one Bodhisattva among us.

Or, there might be many Bodhisattvas. It’s not certain. Would you agree with that? Someone might say, “I don’t think there are any Bodhisattvas here.” Well, I believe that there are many Bodhisattvas here. It’s just that you don’t recognize them.

All the Bodhisattvas were there with all the world rulers, such as kings and presidents who rule in the world. There aren’t any in this Dharma Assembly; perhaps in the future there will be some.

Together they had these thoughts. All of the Bodhisattvas and the world rulers together were thinking. What were they thinking about? They were thinking about the states of the Buddha. Otherwise, why would the Thus Come One appear? They were all thinking, what are the grounds of the Buddhas? What is meant by the grounds of the Buddhas? All of the great Bodhisattvas and the world rulers, who were extremely intelligent, didn’t understand what was meant by the grounds of the Buddhas. They all wanted to investigate this matter, to ponder over it.

“What are the grounds of the Buddhas?” is similar to the inquiry we make while investigating Chan and look into “Who is mindful of the Buddha?” What are the grounds of the Buddhas like? They can give birth to all Bodhisattvas, all Arhats, and all beings. All beings are born from the grounds of the Buddhas; Arhats all come forth from the grounds of the Buddhas; and all the great Bodhisattvas also come forth from the grounds of the Buddhas. Not only do the great Bodhisattvas come forth from the grounds of the Buddhas, all Buddhas come forth from the grounds of the Buddhas. The grounds of the Buddhas are a place where all sages and worthies dwell; they are the grounds where all sages and worthies practice. The grounds of the Buddhas are complete with both blessings and wisdom. Only when blessings are perfected and wisdom is perfected can one ascend to the grounds of the Buddhas.

And yet, although this is the case, none of the great Bodhisattvas or world rulers understood the state of the grounds of the Buddhas. Now, we are speaking just a little bit about the grounds of the Buddhas. Ultimately, they are wonderful beyond words.

The Bodhisattvas and all the world rulers are now entertaining an idle thought; they want to know what the grounds of the Buddhas are like. For now, I will give you a general idea; later on, I will explain this in more detail.

I.A.1.b. The states of the Buddhas

Sutra:

What are the states of the Buddhas?

Commentary:

The Bodhisattvas want to know, “What are the states of the Buddhas?” To know the state of the Buddha, you must “let your mind be as pure as space.” The state of the Buddhas is empty space. If you know what space is like, then you will be able to perceive the Buddhas’ state. Space contains nothing and the states of the Buddhas also contain nothing. However you perceive space, the state of the Buddhas is that way, too. So there’s a saying, “If there are people who wish to know the Buddhas’ state, they should make their minds as pure as empty space.” Empty space doesn’t possess anything at all, and yet, it contains everything. Although it is empty space, all the mountains, the rivers, the great earth, the buildings, and homes are all contained within it. Therefore, the state of the Buddhas is without any state at all. No state is the true state. Why do we say there is no state? It’s not one particular state; it’s all states. If you tried to speak about all states you would never finish, which is why we say it is without a state, like empty space.

Empty space contains everything. There isn’t a single thing outside of empty space. And there isn’t any state that can go beyond the state of the Buddhas. The state of the Buddhas is just like empty space in that it contains all the myriad things. It reaches the point where a state is not even a state; you have a state, yet there isn’t any state at all. That’s the state of the Buddhas. There are ten kinds of states of the Buddhas that are described in the commentary. If you want to know about them, you should investigate them. What I am discussing here is no state at all; the state of the Buddhas is no state. If you can “sweep away all dharmas and separate from all appearances,” then that will be like empty space, in which there isn’t anything at all.

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