THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
Chapters: 1 * 2 * 3 * 4 * 5 * 6 * 7 * 8 * 9 * 10 * 11 * 12 * 13 * 14 * 15 * 16 * 17 * 18 * 19 * 20 * 21 * 22 * 23
24 * 25 * 26 * 27 * 28 * 29 * 30 * 31 * 32 * 33 * 34 * 35 * 36 * 37 * 38 * 39 * 40 * contents * previous * next

The Ten Inexhaustible Treasuries

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

VIII The Treasury of Mindfulness

Sutra:

“Disciples of the Buddha, what is the Bodhisattva Mahasattvas’ Treasury of Mindfulness? These Bodhisattvas cast aside and separate from all stupidity and delusion, and become replete with mindfulness. They remember the past one life, two lives, up to ten lives, a hundred lives, a thousand lives, a hundred thousand lives, limitless hundreds of thousands of lives; the coming into being of kalpas, the decay of kalpas, the arising and decay of kalpas—not just the arising of one kalpa, not just the decay of one kalpa, not just the arising and decay of one kalpa—but a hundred kalpas, a thousand kalpas, a hundred thousand million nayutas, up to countless, limitless, boundless, unequalled, incalculable, inexpressible, inconceivable, immeasurable, ineffable, ineffably ineffable kalpas.

Commentary:

After speaking about the Seventh Treasury of Wisdom, the Bodhisattva Forest of Merit and Virtue again calls out, “ Disciples of the Buddha, what is the Bodhisattva Mahasattvas’ Treasury of Mindfulness? All of you, do you know what the Great Bodhisattva’s Treasury of Mindfulness is? Now I’ll tell you.”

The following ten meanings are being discussed in the Treasury of Mindfulness.

  • Lives
  • Kalpas
  • Buddhas’ Names
  • Bestowing Predictions
  • Speaking the Teaching
  • The Assembly
  • Explaining the Meaning
  • The Root Nature
  • That which is cured
  • That which is able to cure.

These Bodhisattvas cast aside and separate from all stupidity and delusion, and become replete with mindfulness. They are able to forsake all stupidity and doubt. “Delusion” refers to doubt. They can forsake it and leave it behind. They abandon stupidity and have no doubts and their memory is perfect. They don’t forget anything. They remember the past one life—they remember their last life, from their birth all the way through to their death. They remember everything they did in that one life, from childhood through adulthood on into old age, and finally death. They know whether the merit of good works they did was more or less than the offenses they created. The Bodhisattvas can recollect all of this. Remembering the events of one past life doesn’t count as much, but they also remember everything done in two lives.

They also remember what they did and what their names were in the past three lives, up to ten lives. This means that they remember four, five, six, seven, eight, and nine lives, as well as the tenth. They were born and then died. After death they were reborn. They remember the births and deaths and all that happened in between for ten lives past. Not only do they remember for ten lives, but they also remember up to a hundred lives. They remember giving rise to delusion, creating karma, and undergoing retribution. They remember whether or not they cultivated and whether they brought forth the Bodhi heart. With one glance they can understand it all very clearly. Not only do they remember a hundred lives but they are also able to remember all of the activities done in a thousand lives.

All of the causes planted and fruits that were harvested within these thousand lives are clear to them. They are able to remember all of the karma they created in their activities and all of the retributions they had to undergo. They also remember all of the cycle of karmic retribution that occurred in up to a hundred thousand lives. The same is true for up to limitless hundreds of thousands of lives. Not only that, but they can remember the coming into being of kalpas. They remember all of the fruits of karma and the retributions undergone during that long an interval of time.

Does everyone know what the coming into being of a kalpa is? One complete increase and one complete decrease make up one kalpa. A thousand kalpas, each consisting of an increase and a decrease, make up one small kalpa. Twenty small kalpas are a middle-sized kalpa. Four middle-sized kalpas are one great kalpa. The four middle-sized kalpas represent the four stages of a great kalpa. There is coming into being for twenty small kalpas, dwelling for twenty small kalpas, decline for twenty small kalpas, and emptiness for twenty small kalpas.

What comprises one increase and one decrease which makes up one kalpa? Every hundred years, people’s lifespan decreases one year and their height decreases by one inch. From the age of 84,000 years, the lifespan gradually decreases down to ten years and then it gradually increases, so that every one hundred years people’s lifespan increases by one year and their height increases by one inch, from the age of ten back up to 84,000 years again. This is what is meant by one increase and one decrease, which constitutes one kalpa.

Moreover, they remember the decay of kalpas, the arising and decay of kalpas—not just the arising of one kalpa, not just the decay of one kalpa, not just the arising and decay of one kalpa—but a hundred kalpas, a thousand kalpas, a hundred thousand million nayutas, up to countless, limitless, boundless, unequalled numbers of kalpas, all undergoing coming into being, dwelling, decaying, and going empty. For this long a time they remember. The Bodhisattvas are able to remember all of this very clearly and they don’t forget it. This is the Treasury of Mindfulness whereby Bodhisattvas can remember all of the events of the past with extreme clarity.

Not only do the Bodhisattvas remember countless, limitless, boundless, and unequalled numbers of kalpas, but they remember incal-culable, inexpressible, inconceivable, immeasurable, ineffable, ineffably ineffable kalpas. “Kalpas” here refers to great kalpas. The Bodhisattvas can remember everything throughout all that long period of time. Some people wonder if there really was a previous life and if there were past lives reaching back ten lives, a hundred lives, a thousand lives, a hundred thousand lives, limitless hundreds of thousands of lives and many great kalpas? If you think that it is improbable we’ll explain it by way of analogy. We’ll reduce it so that one life is comparable to one day. Now then we’re talking about one day, two days, three days, one hundred days, one thousand days, ten thousand days, up to an ineffably ineffable number of days. You couldn’t disagree at length that one wasn’t able to remember yesterday, the day before yesterday, and several days prior to that. So we start from one life and go up to ineffably numerous great kalpas. Bodhisattvas can remember all of the things included within this very long period of time.

Sutra:

“They remember one Buddha’s name, up to the names of ineffably ineffable Buddhas. They remember one Buddha’s coming into the world and giving a prediction, up to ineffably ineffable Buddhas’ coming into the world and giving of predictions.

Commentary:

“They remember one Buddha’s name, up to the names of ineffably ineffable Buddhas. They can remember all of them.

They remember one Buddha’s coming into the world and giving a prediction to a Bodhisattva, up to ineffably ineffable Buddhas’ coming into the world and giving of predictions to all Bodhisattvas. They can remember all of this.

Sutra:

“They remember one Buddha coming into the world and speaking Sutras, up to ineffably ineffable Buddhas coming into the world and speaking Sutras. As it is with Sutras, so is it with Geyas, Bestowal of Predictions, Gathas, The Nidanas, Udanas, Past Lives, This Life, Vaipulya, That Which Has Never Been Before, Analogies, and Discourses.

Commentary:

This section of text discusses the twelve divisions of the Canon. The Mahayana Canon has twelve divisions, whereas the Hinayana Canon has nine divisions. If you want to go into more detail, you can look them up in a Buddhist Dictionary.

The word Sutra is Sanskrit. Some say the meaning of Sutra translated is “to tally”. Above it tallies or brings together all principles of all Buddhas, and below it tallies with the opportunities of all living beings. It’s also translated as “prose”. Prose here includes from the Beginning “Thus I have heard,” to the end where the assembly “Believes, accepts, and respectfully practices the teaching.” This is called prose, exclusive of the verse sections. It is also called “The General Appearance”. This has four meanings.

  • The basis of the Dharma
  • Sutra
  • Straight Speech
  • The Sagely Teaching

The Dharma that the Buddha spoke is the teaching of the Sages. Great Master Yuan Kung divided “The basis of the Dharma” into five meanings.

  • The teachings are the basis of the principles.
  • The Sutras are the basis of the Shastras.
  • The General is the basis of the Specifics.
  • The first is the basis for the later.
  • The expansive is the basis for the summary.

As it is with Sutras, so is it with Geyas. The second of the twelve divisions is geya. Geya is Sanskrit and means repetitive verse or verses which reiterate the meaning of the prose section preceding it. Geyas are condensation in verse form of the principles that have just been spoken above in prose.

The third is Bestowal of Predictions, (vyakaranam). An elder Buddha bestows predictions upon a Buddha-to-be. Or the Buddha may bestow a prediction upon a Bodhisattva and confer upon him a special name.

The next is Gathas . A gatha is a chanted verse. It doesn’t reiterate the meaning of the previous sections of text like the geya, and it doesn’t have any connection with sections of Sutra text which follow. It is an interjection.

The Fifth is The Nidanas ; translated it means “causes and conditions”. It could be that the Buddha’s causes and conditions are spoken about, or that the Buddha’s disciples’ causes and conditions are spoken about.

Udanas , is Sanskrit meaning “spoken without request.” For instance, no one requested or asked about the Amitabha Sutra before the Buddha spoke it. All of the Sutras the Buddha spoke were requested by his disciples. The disciples would request the Sutra and then the Buddha would speak it. But the Buddha spoke the Amitabha Sutra without there first being a request from a disciple. At that particular time, none of the disciples understood how to request the Dharma of reciting Amitabha Buddha’s name and so no one asked. But even though no one asked, the Buddha was still going to speak it. So he spoke it without request. That’s Udana.

Past Lives (Itivrttakah) speak about the Buddha’s past lives or perhaps the disciples’ past lives.

This Life (Jatakam) speaks about deeds done in the present life. Vaipulya is translated as the Broad and Expansive Teaching. This division speaks about the Dharma in very vast and expansive terms.

That Which Has Never Been Before (Adbhuta-dharma) means that all the Buddhas of the past had never spoken this Dharma before. It is a very fresh and new Dharma. Or maybe all the Buddhas of the past spoke a particular Dharma, but now in this age no one speaks or understands it. Or maybe it’s very rarely spoken and miraculous. This too, can be called “that which has never been before.”

When the Sutras were translated in the past, everyone working on the translation knew Chinese as well as Sanskrit. They were all very well versed in the literature of both these languages. And now there are some people around and it doesn’t matter whether they are such and such a professor or scholar—but when they say, “this is not right,” they are just deliberately looking for a fault and specializing in faultfinding. When they specialize in saying “this is wrong”, they try to set themselves apart by having a special style, to cause everyone else to pay attention to them, so that people will say, “Oh, such and such a professor says that something has been translated wrong all along and this represents that he has a lot of learning.” Except that his learning and scholarship, in comparison to the Patriarchs and high monks of the past, is not quite the same.

National Master Ching Liang was quite accomplished in Sanskrit. In the Su Chao, he lists the Twelve Divisions of the Canon in Chinese and also gives the Sanskrit for them. The Sanskrit of “that which has never been before” is Adbhuta-dharma. The meaning of Adbhuta is “rarely existing”. This meaning is all right and so is the meaning of “never been before”. The last part of the Sanskrit word is Dharma, but it is not used in the Chinese translation because if it were, then grammatically it could read, “there has never been any Dharma.” It gets by all right in Chinese to say “never been before” and we could leave it at that.

Analogies (Avadanam) , and Discourses (Upadeshah) are the last two categories of the Twelve Divisions of the Canon.

Sutra:

“They remember one assembly, up to ineffably ineffable assemblies. They remember the explanation of one Dharma, up to the explanation of ineffably ineffable Dharmas.

“They remember the various aspects of one faculty, up to the various aspects of ineffably ineffable faculties. They remember the limitless various aspects of one faculty, up to the limitless various aspects of ineffably ineffable faculties. They remember the various aspects of one affliction, up to the various aspects of ineffably ineffable afflictions. They remember the various aspects of one samadhi, up to the various aspects of ineffably ineffable samadhis.

Commentary:

The Treasury of Mindfulness is about much learning and a strong memory. They remember one assembly, up to ineffably ineffable assemblies. They remember the explanation of one Dharma, up to the explanation of ineffably ineffable Dharmas.

They remember the various aspects of one faculty, up to the various aspects of ineffably ineffable faculties. They remember the limitless various aspects of one faculty, up to the limitless various aspects of ineffably ineffable faculties. Before, it said that the Bodhisattvas remembered the Buddha’s speaking Dharma for living beings in one assembly, and now it’s discussing root natures, or faculties. One kind of living being possesses many types of faculties which are not the same. The Bodhisattvas can remember up to limitless various aspects of ineffably ineffable faculties of limitless, boundless species of living beings. The Bodhisattvas can discriminate between them and remember them very clearly.

They remember the various aspects of one affliction, up to the various aspects of ineffably ineffable afflictions. “Afflictions” refer to “That Which is Cured” (#9 of the list mentioned earlier). They remember all the various things that cause afflictions, and the nature of these various afflictions.

They remember the various aspects of one samadhi, up to the various aspects of ineffably ineffable samadhis. Samadhi refers to “That Which is Able to Cure” the sickness of afflictions (#10 of previous list). By using the water of the wisdom of samadhi, one can cure the limitless afflictions in number like motes of dust or grains of sand. The Bodhisattvas remember one kind of samadhi, and, within each kind of samadhi, all the unspeakably many ramifications.

Sutra:

“These kinds of mindfulness are of ten kinds. They are: Mindfulness which is still and quiet. Mindfulness which is pure. Mindfulness which is not turbid. Mindfulness which is bright and penetrating. Mindfulness which is apart from defilement. Mindfulness which is apart from various defilements. Mindfulness which is apart from filth. Mindfulness which is bright and dazzling. Mindfulness which is pleasing, and mindfulness which is free from obstacles.

“When the Bodhisattvas dwell in these mindfulnesses, nothing in the world can disturb or unsettle them. No strange theories can move them. Their good roots from past lives are made pure and they are not defiled by or attached to any dharma in the world. The multitudes of demons and those of external ways cannot destroy them. They can undergo rebirth and receive different bodies without any lapse in memory. They proclaim the Dharma endlessly throughout the past, present, and future.

Commentary:

These kinds of mindfulness are of ten kinds. “Mindfulness” also refers to memory. They are: Mindfulness which is still and quiet. As it is said;

One is still and unmoving,
Yet responds to all requests.

This is mindfulness that is still and quiet. Mindfulness which is pure—there is not one bit of defilement in the mindfulness which is pure . Mindfulness which is not turbid. “Not turbid” means not stirred up or murky. The Mindfulness which is bright and penetrating is bright with light and transparent like glass. Mindfulness which is apart from defilement is a state wherein one is far apart from all dusty defilement and false thinking. The Mindfulness which is apart from various defilements, and the mindfulness which is apart from filth are separate from all defiled, impure dharmas. Mindfulness which is bright and dazzling is able to emit light and radiate brightly. It uses the light of wisdom to sparkle and shine on everything. Mindfulness which is pleasing is the mindfulness of that which is likeable. And the mindfulness which is free from obstacles means at state wherein one is not hindered by anything.

When the Bodhisattvas dwell in these mindfulnesses, these ten kinds of dharmas, nothing in the world can disturb or unsettle them. No worldly dharma can move or perplex their minds. No strange theories can move them. None of the theories of the heavenly demons and externalist paths are able to move the Bodhisattvas’ hearts.

Their good roots from past lives are made pure and they are not defiled by or attached to any dharma in the world. The multitudes of demons and those of external ways cannot destroy them. They are unable to destroy the Bodhisattva. They can undergo rebirth and receive different bodies without any lapse in memory. When this life is over and the Bodhisattva goes off to rebirth, in the next life he doesn’t forget anything. He still remembers the things that happened in his past lives.

They proclaim the Dharma endlessly throughout the past, present, and future. Throughout the ten directions and the three periods of time they proclaim the wonderful Dharma with no exhaustion. This is the benefit obtained by the Bodhisattvas who practice this Treasury of Mindfulness.

Sutra:

“They abide together with living beings in all worlds without every making mistakes. They enter the assemblies in the Bodhimandas of all Buddhas, without any obstacles. They can draw near all the places where there are Buddhas. This is called the Bodhisattva Mahasattvas’ Eighth Treasury, that of Mindfulness.

Commentary:

They abide together with living beings in all worlds without every making mistakes. This is referring to the Bodhisattvas who cultivate the Ten Inexhaustible Treasuries. They enter, leave, and re-enter worlds without any obstructions—not just in a single world, but in all worlds of the ten directions. Although they are Bodhisattvas, they appear to be exactly like living beings and dwell together with them. They “unite the light and mingle with the common lot.” Lao Tzu had a similar expression;

Unite the light,
Join with the dust.

But although they manifest bodies and appear to be the same as living beings, they make no mistakes. Their self-nature is pure; they are separate from all attachments and all greed, hatred, and stupidity. Because of this they never make any mistakes. They abide among living beings but they never commit offenses. They remain pure. This is to be just like the lotus flower which is born out of the mud, but remains undefiled.

They can enter the assemblies in the Bodhimandas of all Buddhas, without any obstacles. They attend all the Dharma Assemblies at the Buddhas’ Bodhimandas and become part of the influential assembly. They help all Buddhas propagate the Dharma and encounter no obstacles. They can go to whichever Buddhas’ Bodhimandas they wish to go to. It would be impossible for an obstruction to arise. And when they are in those Bodhimandas no one obstructs them, because they don’t obstruct others.

They can draw near all the places where there are Buddhas. These Bodhisattvas draw near to and make offerings to all Buddhas in Bodhimandas throughout the ten directions and the three periods of time.

This is called the Bodhisattva Mahasattvas’ Eighth Treasury, that of Mindfulness. This is the Eighth Treasury that all Bodhisattvas should cultivate, that of Mindfulness. By means of this Treasury, they are able to remember all experiences of the past.

previous * next * contents

return to top