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The Ten Inexhaustible Treasuries

Chapter Twenty-Two. A Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua


“What are the ten?” They are: Benefiting of all living beings; wholesome transference of one’s basic vows; ceaseless practice throughout all kalpas;


Above, the Ten Kinds of Inexhaustible Treasuries were explained. Within them there are also Ten kinds of Inexhaustible Dharmas, and these ten kinds are used to perfect the Ten Inexhaustible Treasuries, which is equivalent to fully perfecting the Buddha fruition of Unsurpassed Bodhi.

What are the ten? What are these ten kinds of Dharmas? They are: the first is benefiting of all living beings. To benefit all living beings is the first kind of Dharma. There is benefit for oneself and benefit for others. One benefits oneself and causes all living beings to receive benefit also. In the practice of the Bodhisattva Path, one uses the entire measure of one’s own strength to benefit all living beings. This is the first Dharma. One practices whatever is beneficial. One does the things one is able to do. If one doesn’t have the power to benefit other living beings, one still wants to do it. Urge yourself on to do what is difficult. This is what is known as being able to practice what is difficult to practice. One should be this way in one’s benefiting of all living beings.

The next is, wholesome transference of one’s basic vows. The person who practices the Bodhisattva Path must make the vows that Bodhisattvas make. What are the vows that Bodhisattvas make? They are the Four Vast Vows:

Living beings are boundless,
I vow to save them all.
Afflictions are inexhaustible,
I vow to cut them off.
Dharma Doors are limitless,
I vow to study them.
The Buddha Way is unsurpassed,
I vow to realize it.

These are the basic vows of a Bodhisattva. Universal Worthy Bodhisattva made Ten Great Vows:

  • To worship and respect all Buddhas.
  • To praise the Thus Come Ones.
  • To vastly cultivate the Giving of Offerings.
  • To repent and reform of all karmic faults.
  • To follow along with and rejoice in merit and virtue.
  • To request the turning of the Dharma Wheel.
  • To request that all Buddhas dwell in the world.
  • To always follow the Buddhas in study.
  • To forever accord with all living beings.
  • To universally transfer all merit and virtue.
These are what are meant by the “wholesome transference of one’s basic vows.” One universally transfers the merit from the vows one has originally made to all living beings throughout the Dharma Realm. One does not seek for oneself only. It is for the sake of all living beings that one practices the path of a Bodhisattva. This is called “Transferring from Oneself to Others.”

Next, there is ceaseless practice throughout all kalpas. “All kalpas” means all countless, numberless, ineffably ineffable great kalpas. During all of those kalpas one does not cut off one’s cultivation. One doesn’t cut off the bringing forth of the heart of Bodhi. One doesn’t cut off the practice of the Bodhisattva Path. One doesn’t cut off benefiting living beings. One doesn’t cut off the transferring of the merit and virtue of one’s original vows to all living beings of the Dharma Realm. At all times, in all places, throughout all kalpas, one does not cut off the practice of the Bodhisattva Path. One benefits oneself and benefits others; one enlightens oneself and enlightens others. One takes oneself across and takes others across. One uses this spirit of selfless giving without weariness for the sake of living beings, in order to benefit them so that they leave suffering and obtain happiness. One goes on ceaselessly and never stops.


“Boundlessness of the totally enlightened mind which exhausts the realms of empty space; transference to what is conditioned without any attachment; having one thought encompass all Dharmas without exhaustion; unalterability of the mind of great vows; well gathering in all dharanis; being those of whom all Buddhas are mindful and protective; and understanding that all dharmas are like an illusion. These are the ten kinds of inexhaustible dharmas which can enable anyone in the world who uses them to obtain these ultimate, inexhaustible, great Treasuries.


Boundlessness of the totally enlightened mind which exhausts the realms of empty space. One understands that the self-nature completely pervades the realm of empty space. Empty space is the self-nature and the self-nature is empty space. We may speak of the limits of empty space, but in fact there are none. If empty space had limits then it wouldn’t be empty space. It would be obstructed. Exhausting empty space and pervading the Dharma Realm, one awakens to the original substance of the Dharma Realm.

One understands the mind and sees the nature,
And turns back to the original source.

One realizes the boundless body of the Dharma Realm. This is the boundless body spoken of before. The Bodhisattva certifies to the principle of emptiness, its original substance. If one is able to certify to this, then one won’t have any attachments at all, nor any afflictions or obstructions. One would be just the same as empty space. If one certifies to the wisdom of empty space while in this world, although one is still in the world, it is as though one were:

Practicing as if not practicing;
Doing as if not doing;
Cultivating as if not cultivating;
Certifying as if not certifying.

This kind of state is that of an awakened mind that is boundless. Within this mind there is a meshing together with empty space. There is no boundary between them. But although it’s like that, we must still make transference to what is conditioned without any attachment. You can’t say, “I’ve been certified to the principle of emptiness. I don’t do anything. I cultivate without cultivating anything, I certify without certifying to anything, I practice without practicing anything, I do things without doing anything. That’s what I call emptiness!” No, it’s not that way. Although one is certified to the unconditioned principle of emptiness, one should still make transference to the conditioned. This means that when you understand the principle of true emptiness, you must still give rise to wonderful existence. To not give rise to wonderful existence and only know true emptiness is of no use at all. Therefore:

Within true emptiness there is wonderful existence.
Wonderful existence doesn’t obstruct true emptiness.

We make transference to all conditioned dharmas. What’s meant by “conditioned”? Everything that has shape and appearance is called conditioned.

All that has appearance is empty and false.
If you see all appearance as no appearances,
Then you see the Thus Come One.

-Vajra Sutra

Although we speak of the conditioned, ultimately it does not exist. However, in dealing with conditioned existence, one should not be attached to the conditioned. The Vajra Sutra says:

All conditioned dharmas
Are like dreams, illusions, bubbles, shadows,
Like dewdrops and a lightening flash:
Contemplate them thus.

One should not make transference to the conditioned and not be attached to it. Act as if nothing were going on.

Having one thought encompass all Dharmas without exhaustion. Within a single thought, one pervades the Three Thousand Great Thousand worlds. It’s said that;

One thought reaches three thousand worlds;
Three thousand worlds are in one thought.

Everything in the human realm is created from a single thought. Take for instance a cultivator who has been at his practice for several years. For him, “not a single thought arises.” But then suddenly, he gives rise to a thought. What kind of thought? He thinks, “In this day and age, worldly dharmas are important. If the worldly dharmas were used to protect the transcendental dharmas, wouldn’t that be great?” So with that one thought he is off and running. He decides he’d like to be President. In his next life what do you suppose happens? He’s carried along by that thought and becomes President. But once he gets to be President, he finds out that the internal workings of government are quite complex and there’s always a lot of trouble to contend with. There are many nationalistic considerations to be taken into account. And there are international relations which always have to be considered. Government is also closely connected with family concerns and the relationships that occur among individual people. He’s immersed in a situation which is a mixture of good and evil, purity and defilement, and it all came about from that one thought of wanting to be President. That single thought brought into being all the subsequent changes and transformations. That’s one way of explaining the scope of a single thought.

Being President is like that, but so is being a cabinet member, or an administrator, or being a chairman or a minister of the interior. Even being an ordinary citizen, a laborer, a scientist, a chemist, a lecturer, or any other kind of professional person is the same. They are all created from a single thought of the mind.

One observes that throughout the world, the leaders of every country are basically very good-natured. They must have all cultivated at one time or another. In previous lives they worked very hard and suffered a lot, but because of a single thought of glory, they become attached to the five desires and end up where they are now. Perhaps they were greedy for wealth. They wanted to be a petroleum magnate or automobile magnate, or an airline magnate. They may have wanted to be a great cotton king, or the great commodity king, or they wanted to be the great excrement king! They had all kinds of plans of wanting to be this or that kind of magnate. And it all comes from a single thought of being greedy for wealth.

Those who are greedy for beautiful forms are unable to smash through the gate of form. With a single unclean thought, sexual desire arises and they aren’t able to smash through the gate of sexual desire. They become attached to beauty and in their next life, they are confused by beauty. If one is greedy for wealth, one becomes confused by wealth. If one is greedy for sex, one becomes confused by that. There are also those who are greedy for fame. They cultivate but then they have a single thought of greed for fame. Pursuing that thought, they imagine how in their next lives their fame will fill the entire world and everyone will know about them. That’s what one thought of greed for fame will do. One becomes confused by fame.

Some may have a single thought of being greedy to eat good things and they are confused by greed for good food. Some are confused by sleep, and they feel that sleep is very comfortable. Experiencing the five defiling objects of forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and tangibles causes one to be really upside down. All are created from a single thought. The transformations of a single thought are inexhaustible. Within the transformations of a single thought there is defilement and purity, good and evil. Everything is included within a single thought, and so the text says, “having one thought encompass all dharmas without exhaustion.” So in cultivating the Way, one must be extremely careful not to have false thinking. It’s just because of striking up a single false thought that we don’t have any way of separating ourselves from the revolving wheel of birth and death. Would you say that is suffering or not?

Unalterability of the mind of great vows. In cultivating, one doesn’t ever retreat from the Bodhi mind. One doesn’t change one’s Bodhi mind. “I intend to cultivate so that at all times I am making my Bodhi mind firmer. I don’t want to ever change it. I don’t want to retreat, but always want to go forward and be courageously vigorous.” How does one do this? One must make great vows. A cultivator is like a person who wants to cross the sea. The great vows of a cultivator are like a boat which can carry him or her across the suffering sea of birth and death to the other shore of Nirvana. The mind which makes great vows must be solid and durable. It must be permanent and unchanging. It must be indestructible. It must be like vajra. One has to make vows with a resolve which is as solid as vajra. One’s vow power shouldn’t be as soft as a pile of ashes. A pile of ashes could be as large as a mountain, but when the wind blows, it all disappears. Don’t let your vows be like that. Don’t let it be that a bit of praise from someone is enough to topple your vows and make them disappear. If someone says, “Oh, you’re really a good cultivator,” and you feel it’s just as sweet as eating honey, or if someone scolds you and you think it’s as bitter as eating goldenseal, then you have been turned by those situations and your resolve isn’t solid. You don’t have vajra resolve. To be like vajra is to be in a state of unmoving suchness. No matter what comes up, your resolve doesn’t waver. You are clear and constantly bright. Great vows should be like vajra so they won’t change.

Well gathering in all dharanis. Dharani is Sanskrit and means “encompassing and upholding”. This doesn’t mean encompassing and upholding just one thing, but encompassing and upholding limitless, boundless things. It is just like how each of the 84,000 Dharma doors is itself both a part of the whole, and foremost in and of itself. That’s why it is said that there is no second Dharma door. That’s why they are called “non-dual” doors. All 84,000 doors are number one. “How do you figure that?” you ask. You figure it as 84,000, that’s how. That is because the Dharma is level and equal, there is no high or low. If any one of them were to be calculated as number two, that Dharma would be unhappy, because Dharmas, too like to be number one. Leaving home is also that way. Everyone is number one and there is no number two. Cultivating the Way is also that way. Everyone is number one and there is no number two. How can I say that? Some are number one in eating, some are number one in wearing clothes, some are number one in sleeping, some are number one in liking fame, some are number one in liking wealth, and some are number one in liking sex. So isn’t that a case of everyone being number one? But even if you are all number one, you have to put down the number one, too. Of the 84,000 Dharma doors there isn’t a single one which is really established.

When not even a single Dharma is established,
The myriad dharmas are all empty.

So don’t be attached to there being a “one”. “One” what? If they are all number one it means that they all don’t exist. In that way, every Dharani is number one. “Gathering in and holding” means skillfully being able to use all Dharanis. If you can’t use it, it’s not number one. Whatever Dharma door you are capable of using, that Dharma door is number one for you. Whatever Dharma door you like to cultivate, whatever Dharma door benefits you is the number one Dharma door. But the other Dharma doors still aren’t number two because they are number one for someone else. Although they might not accord with your particular opportunities, they accord with the opportunities of other people. So all Dharma doors are number one.

Being those of whom all Buddhas are mindful and protective. All Buddhas are protective and mindful of one who is able to gather in and hold all Dharanis. That’s because the Buddhas make vows to protect all of those who gather in and hold all Dharanis.

And understanding that all dharmas are like an illusion. You cultivate back and forth, but in the final analysis:

All conditioned dharmas
Are like dreams, illusions, bubbles, shadows,
Like dewdrops and a lightening flash:
Contemplate them thus.

All conditioned dharmas should be seen as empty, and unconditioned dharmas basically don’t exist. All dharmas are like an illusion, they are all empty and false. Everything about being people is empty and false. We shouldn’t be attached to how things are for us, because no matter how things are, they really aren’t at all! As long as there is a self—a “you”—then you won’t be able to leave the Triple World. The Buddha wants us all not to have a view of self or others. If there isn’t any self but there are still other people, that’s not okay either. There should be no self, no others, no living beings, and no lifespan. That is “sweeping away all dharmas and leaving all appearances.”

These are the ten kinds of inexhaustible dharmas which can enable anyone in the world who uses them to obtain these ultimate, inexhaustible, great Treasuries. They enable all those in the world who practice the Bodhisattva Way, who teach and transform living beings and do what Bodhisattvas should do, to obtain ultimate, perfect, inexhaustible, great treasuries. Ultimately, how many are there? Inexhaustibly many.

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