THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
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Praises in the Tushita Heaven Palace

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

Sutra:

The form-body is not the Buddha;
the same is also true of sound.
Yet it is not apart from forms or sounds
That one sees the Buddha’s power of spiritual penetrations.

One with little wisdom is unable to know
All Buddhas’ true and actual states.
When one has cultivated pure karma for a long time,
Then one is able to understand this.

Commentary:

The form-body refers to the Buddha’s thirty-two fine marks and eighty minor characteristics. But the form-body is not the true Buddha. The true Buddha isn’t simply a form-body. This is to say, everything with form is false.

Everything with form is empty and false.
If one can see all marks as no marks, then one sees the Thus Come One.

If you can see marks and yet be apart from marks, then you will not have attachments. Why does the Buddha manifest the thirty-two fine marks and eighty minor characteristics? It is just because living beings are all attached to marks. If the Buddha were without marks, then living beings wouldn’t recognize him. If there are marks, then living beings will know it’s the Buddha. Apart from marks, they won’t know that empty space and the Dharma Realm are all the Buddha’s body. So it says,

If one wishes to know the state of the Buddhas,
First one to make one’s mind pure like empty space.

In empty space there aren’t any obstructions--there’s not even a single thing. If people can cultivate to the point where there are no obstacles then they can come to understand the Buddha’s body. The Buddha’s body doesn’t come or go. The Buddha’s body is neither produced nor destroyed. The Buddha’s body is neither defiled nor pure. The Buddha’s body doesn’t increase or decrease.

The same is also true of sound. The form-body isn’t the Buddha, so is the Buddha’s sound the Buddha? No, it is not the Buddha either. If you are attached to sound, you are making another mistake. Yet it is not apart from forms or sounds. It’s not apart from the form-body or the substance of sound That one sees the Buddha’s power of spiritual penetrations. The Buddha uses the substances of forms and sounds, skillfully combined with his wonderful spiritual penetrations, to bring about inexhaustible changes and transformations. But you don’t want to get attached to any of these!

One with little wisdom is unable to know. If you are a person who doesn’t have wisdom--the kind of great wisdom which can thoroughly fathom the source of dharma--you won’t be able to know the states of the Buddhas. You won’t be able to understand All Buddhas’ true and actual states. When one has cultivated pure karma for a long time, then one is able to understand this. If you wish for a true mind, then cultivate pure Way-Karma for a long time. This means ridding your mind of defilements. When cultivating, you don’t want to cheat yourself. You should ask yourself whether or not you have thoughts of desire. False thoughts of food, drink, clothes, money, and / or fame, are all thoughts of desire. Perhaps you have a desire for fame. Then you’re defile by the desire for fame. Or perhaps you have desire for benefit. Seeking benefit is also defiling. Maybe you have desire for forms, so you end up being defiled by forms. Or, if you have desire for sleep, then you become defile by sleep.

You don’t want to cheat yourself. Instead, you should return the light and illumine within. Ask yourself, “Have I really cut off desire?” If you haven’t cut off desire, then at all times you should very carefully not give rise to it. You shouldn’t follow your desire. Don’t be lead away by desire-thoughts. To indulge in desire is to be impure. Therefore,

If you’re off by a hair in the beginning,
You’ll be off a thousand miles in the end.

This is the place where you should apply your skill. Day after day ask yourself: “Are my desire thoughts increasing or decreasing? Are my desire thoughts diminishing? Am I clear in mind with few desires? Have I cut off desire and done away with love? If you haven’t, then you should quickly cultivate pure Karma. You don’t want to cultivate defiling dharmas. You should only cultivate pure karma. This isn’t a matter of one day and one night. In life after life without end, you want to cultivate pure karma. If you cultivate pure karma, then you can obtain true wisdom. If you can obtain wisdom, it can take you to the “other shore.” If you don’t cultivate pure karma, then you become very stupid. Every day your seeking for wealth gets you in a frenzy. Every day you look at forms, until it drives you crazy. Every day you strive for fame and end up going mad. Even if you don’t have enough to eat, you absolutely go insane. If you don’t get just the right amount of sleep, it drive you up the wall. This isn’t having pure karma.

All of you Good and Wise Advisors, these are places where you should apply your skill. If you don’t apply effort at these places, then even if you were to cultivate for eighty thousand great kalpas, you wouldn’t be able to accomplish pure karma. If you are unable to accomplish pure karma then you won’t be able to understand the Buddha’s state. If one can cultivate pure karma, then one is able to understand this. You will be able to understand the principle expressed in the previous verse:

The form-body is not the Buddha;
The same is also true of sound.
Yet it is not apart from forms or sounds
That one sees the Buddha’s power of spiritual penetrations.

Sutra:

The ones of proper enlightenment have no place they come to,
Nor is there anywhere they go.
Their pure and wonderful form-bodies
Manifest because of spiritual penetrations.

Within measureless world systems,
The Thus Come Ones’ bodies manifest.
While extensively speaking the subtle, wonderful Dharma,
Their minds are without any attachments.

Commentary:

The ones of proper enlightenment is a name for Buddhas, also referred to previously as Thus Come Ones--Tathagatas. “Proper Enlightenment” refers to Unsurpassed, Proper and Equal, Right Enlightenment. What is meant by “Proper Enlightenment”? there is no place in which there is not enlightenment. So Proper Enlightenment is also called Great Enlightenment, and it is also called Wonderful Enlightenment. These are all other names given to Buddhas.

They have no place they come to. This is to say, the Buddhas have no place from which they come. Do they have any place which they go to then? If there isn’t any place from which they come, how could they go anywhere? So the next line says, Nor is there anywhere they go. There is no coming and no going. They exhaust empty space and pervade the Dharma Realm. They completely fill up all Buddha kshetras. And so all Buddha kshetras are places in which the Buddha’s Dharma body is found. It is not present, and yet not absent in any place. The places where it is are also the places where it is not.

Their pure and wonderful form-bodies Manifest because of spiritual penetrations. The Buddhas’ form bodies are “pure”, meaning that their body, mouth and mind karmas are all pure. Their bodies don’t have any of the three evil--killing, stealing, or sexual misconduct. What’s more, there isn’t even the thought of killing, stealing, or sexual misconduct. If there were thoughts of killing, stealing, or sexual misconduct, then there wouldn’t be any purity.

“Pure” also means that the three evils of the mind--greed, hatred, and stupidity--are gone. The body which is without killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct, and the mind which is without thoughts of greed, hatred, and stupidity, are purified in one single thought.

The mouth has four evil. It has more evils than either the mind or the body. The mouth is able to engage in irresponsible speech, false speech, abusive speech, and divisive speech. When there is no divisive speech, abusive speech, irresponsible speech, or false speech, the mouth karma is pure. When the three karmas are purified, the wonderful form-body is obtained. The body then manifests the thirty-two file marks and the eighty minor characteristics.

How do these manifest? The Buddhas’ pure and wonderful form-bodies “manifest because of spiritual penetrations.” Their pure and splendid form bodies appear because of the Buddhas’ spiritual powers.

Within measureless world systems, the Thus Come Ones’ bodies manifest. The “World systems” being referred to here include not only our Saha World but Worlds of the ten directions, like fine motes of dust throughout the ten directions in ineffably ineffable and infinite numbers of worlds. The Buddhas go to all these worlds and manifest the Dharma body of Buddha. Originally there isn’t anything, but now they make appear this body. While extensively speaking the subtle, wonderful Dharma, their minds are without any attachments. “extensively speaking” means explaining in such great detail that nothing surpasses what they have to say. It’s higher than anything else. It’s so deep and profound that there isn’t anything more weighty. Nothing else is higher than it, nor is there anything more profound. So this is said to be inconceivably “subtle, wonderful Dharma.” Because the Buddhas speak this subtle, wonderful, inconceivable Dharma, “their minds are without ant attachments.” Their minds are not attached to dharmas nor are they attached to “self.” all attachments are non-existent.

Sutra:

With wisdom which is boundless
They thoroughly understand all Dharmas;
Universally entering into Dharma Realms,
They manifest the power of self-mastery.

Living beings as well as all Dharmas
Are thoroughly understood without obstruction.
They universally manifest a multitude of forms and images,
And pervade all kshetras.

If one wishes to seek all-wisdom,
And quickly accomplish Unsurpassed Enlightenment,
One should used the pure and wondrous mind
To cultivate the practices for Bodhi.

Commentary:

With wisdom which is boundless they thoroughly understand all Dharmas. This is praising the Buddhas’ wisdom. It’s saying there aren’t any boundaries to the Buddhas’ wisdom. Because their wisdom doesn’t have any boundaries, they thoroughly understand the Real Mark of all dharmas. Universally entering into Dharma Realms, they manifest the power of self-mastery. The Buddhas’ Dharma body universally pervades the Dharma Realm. It reaches to the ends of empty space and pervades the Dharma Realm. They manifest this power of great self-mastery of spiritual penetrations to teach and transform living beings.

Living beings as well as all Dharmas are thoroughly understood without obstruction. The Buddhas understand all living beings’ minds and all dharmas, totally without obstruction. There are no obstacles to their understanding, and so they penetrate through without obstruction. They universally manifest a multitude of forms and images. The Buddhas everywhere pervade and make appear a variety of forms and images. And they pervade all kshetras. They pervade all Buddha lands.

If one wishes to seek all-wisdom--the unsurpassed, highest wisdom--And quickly accomplish Unsurpassed Enlightenment, one should used the pure and wondrous mind. Then very quickly one can accomplish Unsurpassed, Proper and Equal, Right Enlightenment--the Buddha fruit. You should use the “Pure and wondrous mind.” A mind that is without defilements, that is not upside-down, and that is without ignorance is a pure and wonderful mind. A mind with ignorance is not a pure and wonderful mind. And so you should use a pure and wonderful mind To cultivate the practices for Bodhi. Use this pure and wonderful mind to cultivate practices for Bodhi, and practice to attain the fruit of enlightenment to the Way. Cultivate these practices and separate from all defiling attachments.

Sutra:

If there is one who sees the Thus Come Ones’
Powers of awesome spirit such as these,
One should make offerings to the most supreme Honored Ones,
And not have any doubts.

Commentary:

If there is one who sees the Thus Come Ones’ powers of awesome spirit such as these, one should make offerings to the most supreme Honored Ones . Suppose there are living beings who can see the Tathagatas “power of awesome spirit such as these.” As previously mentioned one should, with the utmost respect, use verses to praise the Buddhas’ great awesome spiritual powers. And one should not have any doubts. You should vastly cultivate the giving of offerings to the most supreme Honored Ones and not produce a mind ridden with doubt. This verse is exhorting all living beings to rely on the Dharma to cultivate and not give rise to doubts. Then the Buddha’s superior, awesome spirit will certainly protect and aid them.

Sutra:

At that time, Solid Banner Bodhisattva, receiving the Buddha’s awesome spiritual power, universally contemplated the ten directions and spoke these verses:

The Tathagatas are superior beyond compare;
Inexpressible, deep and profound.
They transcend the path of words and language,
And are pure like empty space.

You should contemplate these lions among men,
With their powers of comfortable, spiritual penetrations,
Who are already apart from discriminations,
Yet able to cause those who discriminate to see them.

The Guiding Masters proclaim
The most profound, subtle, and wonderful Dharma.
And according to the causes and conditions,
They manifest incomparable bodies.

Commentary:

At that time , that very instant, Solid Banner Bodhisattva, receiving the Buddha’s awesome spiritual power--he received Shakyamuni Buddha’s great awesome, spiritual power-- universally contemplated the ten directions . He everywhere contemplated the causes and conditions of all living beings throughout the ten directions, and then spoke these verses . He used the following verses to praise the Buddha.

The Tathagatas are superior beyond compare. The Tathagatas, the Buddhas, are the most supreme beings. Nothing else can compare to the Buddhas. It is said,

Above and below heaven,
Nothing can compare to the Buddha.
In all the worlds throughout the ten directions,
He is incomparable.
I have exhaustively observed everything in the world,
And none of it comes up to the Buddha.

The Bodhisattva says that the Buddhas are Inexpressible, deep and profound. The Buddhas’ subtle, wonderful state is most profound--it’s measureless, inexpressibly inexpressible. They transcend the path of words and language. They leap over the path of worlds and languages. Words and language aren’t able to praise the Buddhas enough. And they are pure like empty space. The Buddhas’ state is pure like empty space.

You should contemplate these lions among men. All of you living beings, take a look at the Lions Among Men--another name for Buddhas. With their powers of comfortable, spiritual penetrations. They have great comfortable power of spiritual penetrations. They are ones Who are already apart from discriminations. They have already separated from all discriminations of marks and appearances. Their minds therefore, don’t discriminate. Yet they are able to cause those who discriminate to see them. Yet they can enable all those living beings who still discriminate to constantly see Buddhas. The Buddhas are apart from discrimination, but living beings are able to see the Buddhas simply because they allow these beings caught up in discriminations to see them.

The Guiding Masters proclaim the most profound, subtle, and wonderful Dharma . The Guiding Master is just the Buddha. And according to the causes and conditions, they manifest incomparable bodies. Now because Shakyamuni Buddha wishes to open up the causes and conditions for proclaiming this subtle, wonderful Dharma, he manifests this body which, above and below heaven, is without comparison. In the worlds of the ten directions, nothing compares with it. And so it says, “I have exhaustively observed everything in the world, and none of it comes up to the Buddha.”

Sutra:

This is great wisdom:
The place of all Buddhas’ practices.
If one wishes to understand,
Then one should constantly draw near the Buddhas.

With mind karma constantly pure,
One makes offerings to all Tathagatas.
One’s mind is never weary
And one is able to enter the Buddha’s Way.

Commentary:

This is great wisdom. This is just speaking of the Avatamsaka Sutra. The Avatamsaka Sutra is indeed the great wisdom of all Buddhas. “Great wisdom” is also The place of all Buddhas’ practices. Therefore, if you want to have great wisdom, you should recite the Avatamsaka Sutra, and use the principles of the Avatamsaka Sutra in your cultivation. These are exactly the Dharma doors that all Buddhas cultivate. If one wishes to understand, then one should constantly draw near the Buddhas. It you truly wish to understand the principles of the Avatamsaka Sutra, you should constantly draw near to all Buddhas and not be apart from the Buddhadharma. You should forever practice and investigate the Buddhadharma within this Sutra. To investigate the principles of the Avatamsaka Sutra is just to draw near to all Buddhas. This is making offerings to all Buddhas. This is cultivating all Dharma doors, all Buddhas’ places of conduct.

However, this doesn’t mean that you cultivate only when the Avatamsaka Sutra is being lectured and when you’re listening to the Sutra; rather, you should recite and uphold it, read it, receive it, study it, and write it out. Use your pen to constantly write out the Avatamsaka Sutra. Or you can constantly recite the Avatamsaka Sutra. Or you can receive and uphold it. To “receive and uphold” means you don’t need to use a book--you have it memorized. You should constantly receive and up-holt it. All of these practices are ways of drawing near to the Buddha, because the Avatamsaka Sutra is in fact, the Buddha’s Dharma body. It’s the Buddha’s wisdom light itself. If you can listen to the Avatamsaka Sutra, recite the Avatamsaka Sutra, and write out the Avatamsaka Sutra, you are drawing near to the Buddha. You shouldn’t feel you have to see the Buddha in order to draw near to the Buddha. If you see the Dharma of the Avatamsaka Sutra, that in itself is drawing near to the Buddha.

With mind karma constantly pure, One makes offerings to all Tathagatas . When one’s mind is constantly pure one does not have any greed, hatred, or stupidity. No greed, no hatred, no stupidity--just that is having a mind which is pure. Keep the three karmas of body, mouth, and mind constantly pure while making offerings to all Buddhas; vastly cultivating the giving of offerings. “All Tathagatas” refers to all Buddhas of the ten directions and the three periods of time. You make offerings to them. Bring forth a great Bodhi mind and vastly cultivate offerings. With pure mind karma, one’s body karma and mouth karma are also pure. Pure body karma means the body is without killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct. Your mind is without greed, hatred, or stupidity. Your mouth is without the four offenses of irresponsible speech, false speech, abusive speech, and divisive speech. Then the three karmas are purified. Making offerings to the Buddha isn’t a matter of making offerings just once or twice, but constantly making offerings and vastly cultivating offerings.

One’s mind is never weary. No matter how long you make offerings, you mind never grows weary, and you never decide that you don’t want to make offerings. You don’t ever conclude that you’ve made enough offerings and so you’re not going to make them anymore. And one is able to enter the Buddha’s Way. If you are able to constantly make offerings and are without the slightest thought of weariness, then eventually you will be able to enter the path of the Buddha, which means you will have an opportunity to accomplish Buddhahood.

Sutra:

Replete with merit and virtue inexhaustible,
One firmly dwells in the Bodhi mind.
Thus one casts out the net of doubts
And contemplates the Buddhas without growing tired.

Thoroughly penetrating all Dharmas,
One is a true disciple of the Buddha.
Such a one is able to understand and know
All Buddhas’ powers of sovereignty.

This is what vast and great wisdom proclaims:
Desire is the origin of all Dharmas.
One should give rise to supreme hopes and expectations,
And with determination, seek the Unsurpassed Enlightenment.

Commentary:

Replete with merit and virtue inexhaustible, one firmly dwells in the Bodhi mind. People who cultivate should be replete with inexhaustible merit and virtue. One should establish merit, establish virtue, and establish literature. In life after life, you establish merit, establish virtue, and establish literature. From a little comes a lot, and from the small comes the great. From the exhaustible comes the inexhaustible. That is how your merit and virtue becomes inexhaustible.

Once you are replete with inexhaustible merit and virtue, you are able to firmly dwell in the Bodhi mind. You are able to solidify your resolve for enlightenment--your determination to enlighten to the way. If your merit and virtue isn’t complete then your Bodhi mind won’t be solid. What’s it like your Bodhi mind won’t be solid? It is like a person who is straddling two boats and has one foot in each. One boat is headed north and one boat is pointed south. That’s the position you’re in when your Bodhi mind is not solid. In your first thought you want to go to the west, and in your next thought you want to go east. You are lacking in samadhi power. You’re not able to stay on the road that you’ve chosen. Being that way isn’t “firmly dwelling in the Bodhi mind.” With a solid mind for Bodhi, you should think, “I want to make vows and cultivate the Way. No matter what obstructions I encounter, I still want to cultivate the Way. No matter what sufferings or difficulties confront me, I still want to cultivate the Way. I certainly won’t stray from my original intention. No matter what kind of state confronts me, whether it’s according or opposing, I will maintain this attitude:

‘According with conditions, yet not changing;
Not changing, yet according with conditions’”
That is to firmly dwell in the Bodhi mind.

Thus one casts out the net of doubts. Because you firmly dwell in the Bodhi mind, therefore, you break through all nets of doubts. One may wander, “Are there really Buddhas? Are there really Bodhisattvas? Are there really Arhats? Is the Buddhadharma spoken in the Sutras true or not?” one may constantly have these nets of doubts--so many doubts. You’re afraid that if you cultivate the Way, you might not be able to take a loss. You don’t know if there is any hope that you’ll be able to accomplish Buddhahood. All kinds of nets of doubts plague you. Smash the net of doubts to bits and establish the Dharma banner everywhere!

How do we do this? We can start by building great Bodhisattvas everywhere. You shouldn’t want to establish small Bodhimandas. Don’t be someone who dwells in a “small hut”--a small Way-place. In Buddhism, in America, people shouldn’t dwell by themselves in small huts. If you dwell in small huts, you’ll certainly fall. You won’t be able to cultivate. When you dwell in a small hut, it’s very easy to become casual since nobody is watching over you. It’s very free and comfortable there with nobody watching over you. If you want to sleep, you sleep. If you want to eat, you eat. Whatever you want to do you can do. This is called “dwelling in a small hut.” It’s seemingly all very “free.” I say this because the day before yesterday, a layman came here and I said to him, “Some people make small temples and I destroy them. Most of the people in them don’t cultivate. I destroy these small temples and create large ones. people should live together in a large monastery and protect each other and mutually help each other cultivate. People who cultivate the Way shouldn’t be looking for what’s convenient or be greedy for ease and luxury or be unwilling to have others watch over them. If nobody’s watching over them, then it’s certainly easy for them to fall.” And so, for the true Buddhadharma to spread everywhere, we must build large temples and not live in small ones. Smash the net of doubts to bits! To do this you have to break up all of your small doubts ad delusions.

And one contemplates the Buddhas without growing tired. One constantly contemplates the Buddha. Contemplating the Buddha means that at all times you don’t want to forget the Buddha; you want to always contemplate the Buddha. Although the Buddha is without marks, living beings seek the Buddha by means of marks. Therefore, you want to tirelessly contemplate the Buddha, and then the Buddha, in turn, will contemplate you without growing tired. If you don’t contemplate the Buddha, then the Buddha does not contemplate you. This is like the situation between two people: if one isn’t looking at the other, the other one won’t look back. But if they are mutually looking at each other, that’s called contemplating. So one contemplates the appearance of all Buddhas at all times, and never grow tire.

Thoroughly penetrating all Dharmas, one is a true disciple of the Buddha. In this way one constantly draws near the Buddhas, make offerings to the Buddhas, and worships the Buddhas. One draws near the Dharma, worships the Dharma, and makes offerings to the Dharma. One draw near the Sangha, worships the Sangha, and makes offerings to the Sangha. One draws near to good and Wise Advisors, and then one is able to thoroughly penetrate all dharmas. When all dharmas are penetrated, then “one is a true disciple of the Buddha,” a true, faultless disciple, a genuine Buddhist disciple. Such a one is able to understand and know all Buddhas’ powers of sovereignty.

This is what vast and great wisdom proclaims: Desire is the origin of all Dharmas. “What vast and great wisdom proclaims” means what the Buddha proclaims, for the Buddha is one of vast and great wisdom. The Dharma he speaks springs from vast, great wisdom. What particular Dharma is this? He says, “Desire is the origin of all dharmas.” Desire is greed. Greed for fame is desire. Greed for food is desire. Greed for sleep is desire, and even you greed for cultivation is desire. Greed for the Buddhadharma is also desire. If you’re greedy to draw near a Good and Wise Advisor, you also have desire. However, you want to uplift this desire. So it said,

The superior man rises,
And the inferior man falls.

The inferior person is constantly greedy for wealth, greedy for sex, greedy for name, greedy for food, and greedy for sleep--the five desires of wealth, sex, name, food, and sleep. People who cultivate the Way are greedy to seek the Buddhadharma, greedy to draw near the Triple Jewel, and greedy to cultivate great wisdom. All of these are desire. All dharmas come about from desire. And so desire is at the source of all dharmas. For example, greed to bring forth a mind for Bodhi and greed to accomplish Buddhahood is also desire. The desires which arise are boundless and inexhaustible, and so the Buddha told us that desire is the origin of all dharmas.

Therefore, One should give rise to supreme hopes and expectations. Since desire is the source of all dharmas, you should give rise to the most superior hope and expectations, the loftiest and purest aspirations. You shouldn’t give rise to defiled desires and expectations. Therefore the verse admonishes us: And with determination, seek the Unsurpassed Enlightenment . If your desire brings forth superior aspirations, then you will resolutely seek the Unsurpassed Enlightenment. Make up your mind that you’re going to cultivate this unsurpassed path for Bodhi, right through to accomplishing Buddhahood.

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