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

It is true that one the Eight Dharmas of Respect that Bhikshunis uphold calls for Bhikshunis to show due respect to Bhikshus. But before a Bhikshu can be respected by others, he must first have a little self-respect. And his mind has to be very pure. Such a Bhikshu is worthy of being respected. If a Bhikshu doesn’t do anything all day long but have false thinking, there’s absolutely no way that he can be called a Bhikshu. He’s just the same as an ordinary person. It’s not to say that you can put on a robe of a Bhikshu and be Bhikshu. You have to actually practice the dharmas of a Bhikshu and to always be striving to purify your three karmas of body, mouth, and mind.

The meaning of the word Bhikshu is”

  • One who begs for food.
  • One who frightens the demons.
  • One who destroys evil.

To “destroy evil” means to destroy all impure thoughts. If you have impure thoughts you should be greatly ashamed. This respect we’re talking about isn’t a superficial respect: it has to be earned. It comes from maintaining purity of the three karmas of body, mouth, and mind. A Shramanera, a male novice, can’t look down on Bhikshunis. So whether you’re Shramanera, a Shramanerika, a Bhikshu or a Bhikshuni, you have to cultivate pure karma of body, mouth, and mind. If you three karma are impure, you should be greatly ashamed.

This doesn’t have anything to do with how well-educated you are. If you’re impure in the three karmas of body, mouth, and mind, it’s not going to work--you’re not going to make it. By means of the purification, one gradually certifies to Arhatship--the first, second, third, and forth fruitions. One who certifies to the fruit is called an Arhat who is apart from desire. “Apart from desire” means that one has cut off desire. To cut off desire is to be pure. When you’ve reached the level of having cut off all desire, when you can truly remain unmoved by what’s going on around you--by states--then you may be counted as having done something. If you are not turned by states, then your three karmas of body, mouth, and mind can be said to be pure.

If that is the case, you can say whatever you want, and it’s all Buddhadharma. But if you haven’t cut off desire, then no matter what you say, it’s non-ultimate dharma. In fact, if you’re like that, then when you’re lecturing Sutras, you can talk around and around in circles but you’ll just be dwelling on the surface. You won’t be able to get down to the genuine bones and marrow, the true doctrine within the Sutra.

Sutra:

If there is one who is respectful of the Buddha,
And mindful to repay the Buddha’s kindness,
That one will never be apart
From dwelling with all Buddhas.

How could a person with wisdom
Having seen or heard the Buddha,
Not cultivate pure vows
And walk the Buddha’s path?

Commentary:

If there is one who is respectful of the Buddha, and mindful to repay the Buddha’s kindness, that one will never be apart from dwelling with all Buddhas. To be “mindful” is to want to repay the Buddha’s kindness. One always thinks of repaying the Buddha’s kindness, and wants to constantly follow the Buddhas in study. This person doesn’t ever want to leave the Buddhas, he doesn’t want to leave the Way Place. What is a Way Place? “The straight mind is the Way Place.” The straight mind is the place where all Buddhas dwell.

How could a person with wisdom having seen or heard the Buddha, not cultivate pure vows? If this person is able to constantly see the Buddha and constantly hear the Dharma, how can he not gives rise to or cultivate pure vows, And walk the Buddha’s path? You should constantly want to walk down the path of all Buddhas. You don’t want to follow your own mind and casually talk and casually create karma. That is not walking the path of the Buddhas. To walk the Buddha’s path, your three karma of body, mouth, and mind have to constantly be pure. You don’t want to create the three evils of the body--killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct; the three evil of the mind--greed, hatred, and stupidity; or the four evils of the mouth--irresponsible speech, false speech, abusive speech, and divisive speech. You shouldn’t do any of these. If you don’t engage in these evil, then your three karmas are pure and you are in fact, walking the path of all Buddhas.

Sutra:

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

Commentary:

At that time, Courageous Banner Bodhisattva spoke verses. This Bodhisattva is so-named because he is courageous, vigorous, and pure. He courageously changes his faults and he bravely advances. So he’s courageous and vigorous. He’s not lax, not at all lazy, and he never lets the time pass in vain. Whatever mistakes this Bodhisattva has made, except for those that he doesn’t know about, he immediately repents of. He changes his faults. Therefore, he’s called Courageous Banner Bodhisattva. The mention of this Bodhisattva’s name is a way of reminding living beings that whenever they create offense karma, they should immediately bring forth a mind of repentance, change their former faults, and go towards the good.

This Bodhisattva was receiving the Buddha’s spiritual power. He received and relied upon the great, awesome spiritual power of Shakyamuni Buddha, and all of the Buddhas of the ten directions and three periods of time. And then he universally contemplated the ten directions. He everywhere contemplated the causes and conditions of all living beings throughout the ten directions and three periods of time; and spoke these verses. He used verses to praise the Buddha.

Sutra:

Just like clear and pure eyes
Which, because of the sun, can see a multitude of forms,
So too, the pure mind in the same way
Can see the Tathagata by means of the Buddha’s power.

Just as with the power of vigor
One is able to fathom the source of the sea,
So too, the power of wisdom
Enables one to see measureless Buddhas.

Commentary:

Courageous Banner Bodhisattva said, Just like clear and pure eyes which, because of the sun, can see a multitude of forms. The analogy he uses is of a person’s clear and pure eyes which have bright light if wisdom. Although one with these pure eyes can see at night, still it’s not as easy for him to see things as it is during the day. With the aid of sunlight he is able to see all kinds of shapes and forms. So too, the pure mind in the same way. “Pure eyes” are analogous to a “pure” mind. However, even if you have a pure mind, but don’t obtain the Buddha’s power, you still won’t be able to see him. But if a mind is pure and it moreover unites with the light of the Buddha’s wisdom, then the principle and substance of the Real Mark come together.

Therefore it says, “So too, the pure mind in the same way” Can see the Tathagata by means of the Buddha’s power. With the Buddha’s power aiding you, you’ll be able to see the Buddha. The power of his aid and protection is inconceivable. If everyone had a pure mind without any defiled thoughts, then each person would obtain the Buddha’s protection and aid. The Buddha would help you. If your mind isn’t pure and you have a lot of defiled thoughts, then it’s not easy for the Buddha to help you. Pure mind is also analogous to pure water--from above, you can see straight to the bottom. An impure mind is like murky water in which there’s a lot of sediment. In that case, your mind is so clouded over that even when the Buddha wants to protect and help you, he doesn’t find it easy. Therefore it is said:

When the mind is pure
The moon appears in water;
When thoughts are still,
There’s certainly not a cloud in the sky.

Just as with the power of vigor one is able to fathom the source of the sea . If one can be vigorous throughout the six periods of the day and night, constantly being vigorous, bring forth a great Bodhi mind, cultivating unceasingly and without any laziness in one’s cultivation, then one will be able to exhaust the great source of the sea. If you work vigorously, you will be able to plumb the source of the sea, which is analogous to reaching the source of all dharmas. It means penetrating the source of all dharmas, and reaching the ultimate place of the Dharma.

So too, the power of wisdom enables one to see measureless Buddhas . “The power of wisdom” is likened to “ the power of vigor.” You want to have wisdom as great as the Buddha’s so you and the Buddha are united as one. If you have great wisdom, then you’ll be able to fathom the ultimate source of all dharmas and see measureless Buddhas. If you are without wisdom, you won’t be able to see even a single Buddha. However, with great wisdom you’ll be able to see measureless Buddhas.

Sutra:

Just as a rich, fertile field
Will certainly nourish and make grow what is planted in it,
So too, the pure mind ground
Produces all Buddhadharmas.

Just as a person who obtains a store-house of jewels
Leaves the bitterness of poverty forever,
The Bodhisattva who obtains the Buddhadharma
Is apart from filth and purifies his mind.
Just as Agada medicine Is able to eradicate all poisons,
So too, the Buddhadharma in the same way
Eradicates the distress of all afflictions.

Commentary:

Just as a rich, fertile field will certainly nourish and make grow what is planted in it, so too, the pure mind ground produces all Buddhadharmas . The Bodhisattva offers another analogy, namely that of a good, rich, and fertile field. This field is very fertile to begin with, so when the seeds of rice, grains, or other things are planted in the field, they certainly will become very abundant and full. No matter what kinds of things are planted, they will flourish. The grains that come from the fields will be shiny as though there were a lot of oil in them, and their color will be a dark, rich green, rather than a dull yellow. If the crops that grow in a field are yellow, that indicates the field is not fertile enough. If the field is fertile, then whatever is planted will thrive and be abundant.

In the same way, a mind-ground which is pure without defilement brings forth all Buddhadharmas. All Buddhadharmas are produced from a pure mind, not from a defiled mind. If your mind is pure, then all Buddhadharmas will come forth from it. The eighty-four thousand Dharma doors are not apart from a single thought in your mind. If one thought is pure, then eighty-four thousand Dharma doors will simultaneously appear. You shouldn’t go out looking for the Buddhadharma. Why not? Because it’s inherent in your nature. Your self-nature originally contains the eighty-four thousand Dharma doors. Therefore, you don’t need to seek outside.

Just as a person who obtains a store-house of jewels Leaves the bitterness of poverty forever, the Bodhisattva who obtains the Buddhadharma is apart from filth and purifies his mind . This time the analogy is that of a person who obtains a treasury of jewels. Inside the cache there’s gold, silver, precious gems, crystal, mother-of-pearl, red pearls, and carnelian--the seven jewels. These are seven kinds of precious things found in the earth. Once this person obtains these treasures, he can be apart from the suffering of poverty. The Bodhisattva who obtains the Buddhadharma is also like one who obtains a storehouse of jewels, because by means of it, he can leave the difilements in the mind and attain a pure mind. When the mind returns to its original purity, then All-Wisdom appears.

The last analogy which the Bodhisattva presents is that of Agada medicine. No matter what sickness one has, this medicine can cure it. Even the dead will come back to life. It Is able to eradicate all poisons. No matter what the poison might be, this medicine can get rid of it. This medicine is comparable to licorice root. The Chinese have a saying that “licorice is compatible with all other herbs and can cure all poisons.” Among medicines it is the “Prime Minister.” It’s also said to lend “universal tolerance” because it can dispel poisons and because very few people are allergic to it. Agada medicine is like that. No matter what kind of poisonous illness you have, it can cure it.

So too, the Buddhadharma in the same way eradicates the distress of all afflictions. In the same way, the Dharma which the Buddha spoke is also a kind of Agada medicine that can destroy the eighty-four thousand kinds of afflictions of people. The Buddha spoke the Dharma precisely to cure the eighty-four thousand kinds of illnesses that people have. He spoke eighty-four thousand Dharma doors designed to eradicate all afflictions and calamities. By means of them, the inexhaustible afflictions that people have are cut off. We should want to break off our afflictions and cultivate the Buddhadharma. Therefore, studying the Buddhadharma is the best method to eradicate all afflictions.

Sutra:

A true and actual Good Knowing Advisor
Is one whom the Thus Come Ones praise,
For it is because of his awesome spirit
That one gets to hear all Buddhadharmas.

Throughout numberless kalpas
One might offer wealth and jewels to the Buddha,
But if one does not know the Buddha’s actual mark,
One still cannot be said be truly giving.

Commentary:

A true and actual Good Knowing Advisor is one whom the Thus Come Ones praise . A Good and Wise advisor is “good” in that he is able to teach and transform all living beings. Only the Buddha can be called a true and actual Good Knowing Advisor. Bodhisattvas, Arhats, and all common and sagely Sanghans can be called Good Knowing Advisors, but they aren’t true and actual, completely perfected, Good Knowing Advisor. The kind of Good Knowing Advisor referred to here is one whose speech is true and actual; whose speech is “thus,” and who doesn’t speak falsely. He’s not a Good Knowing Advisor who has greed, hatred, or stupidity, but rather one who diligently cultivates precepts, samadhi, and wisdom.

Anyone who can completely eradicate greed, hatred, and stupidity, and diligently cultivate precepts, samadhi, and wisdom, is a Good Knowing Advisor “who the Thus Come Ones praise.” The Tathagatas praise him and say, “You can be a model for people and gods.” And so, he is a perfect model of a True and Good Knowing Advisor for all living beings. For it is because of his awesome spirit that one gets to hear all Buddhadharmas. Relying upon the Good Knowing Advisor’s awesome spiritual power, you are able to hear all Buddhas speaking the wonderful Dharma. Also, because the Tathagatas praise the Good Knowing Advisor, their spiritual power adds to the aid given all living beings, and enables them all to get to hear the wonderful Dharma spoken by all Buddhas.

Throughout numberless kalpas one might offer wealth and jewels to the Buddha , giving both one’s inner and outer wealth. But if one does not know the Buddha’s actual mark, one still cannot be said be truly giving. One doesn’t know the Buddha’s true and actual marks. The True Mark of the Buddha is originally without marks, but there is nothing that is not marked. If one doesn’t understand this, one isn’t really giving, because one still hasn’t recognized the Buddha. The Buddha is without marks. The Real Mark is without marks, yet there is no place which is not marked. It is just like empty space. If you become attached to giving with marks, then blessings accrued just lead to rebirth in the heavens. A poem explains this well:

Blessings attached to marks reap the result of the heavens.
But just as an arrow shot into space
Falls when its velocity wanes,
So too, what you get next life will make you unhappy.

If you can recognize the Real Mark of the Buddha, then you won’t perceive there to be anyone who gives or anyone who receives, and in between, anything that is given or received. The substance of the three wheels will be empty. True giving is apart from the mark of giving. If you are attached to the marks of giving, your giving is limited. To give apart from the marks of giving is to practice limitless giving.

Sutra:

A multitude of measureless forms and marks
Adorns the Buddhas’ bodies.
Yet it’s not by means of forms or marks
That one is able to see the Buddhas.

The Thus Come Ones of Equal and Proper Enlightenment
Are tranquil and constantly unmoving
Yet they are able to universally manifest bodies
Which pervasively fill up realms in the ten directions.

Just as the realm of empty space
Is neither produced nor extinguished,
So too, all Buddhas’ Dharmas
Ultimately are not produced or destroyed.

Commentary:

The next line says that the forms and marks which adorn the Buddhas’ bodies are by no means the true body of the Buddha. A multitude of measureless forms and marks adorns the Buddhas’ bodies. The Buddhas’ bodies have thirty-two fine marks and eighty minor characteristics. They compose the “multitude of measureless forms and marks.” They are just the Buddhas’ physical adornments. The true, basic substance is by no means the Buddhas’ thirty-two fine marks and eighty minor characteristics. They aren’t the Buddhas’ bodies; they are just one aspect of the adornments of the Buddhas’ bodies.

Yet it’s not by means of forms or marks that one is able to see the Buddhas . If you truly understand the Buddhadharma, you shouldn’t cling to marks when you cultivate. Therefore, the Vajra Sutra said,

If one sees me in form,
If one seeks me in sound,
One practices a deviant Way,
And won’t be able to see the Thus Come Ones.

The Buddhas are without marks. Taking no marks as marks, the Real Mark is the True Mark; the Real Mark is just no marks. You shouldn’t look for the Buddhas in marks, nor seek the Buddhas in sound. If you become too attached to seeking the Buddhas in forms and sounds, you aren’t truly seeking the Buddhas. “It’s not by means of form or marks that one is able to see the Buddhas.” You don’t want to seek the Buddhas in form. If you want to seek the Buddhas in form, then Wheel Turning Kings are also Buddhas, because Wheel Turning Kings and Buddhas are alike in form and marks. You can’t use marks and forms to recognize the Buddhas’ true and actual body--their original substance. What is the Buddhas’ original substance like? It’s like nothingness, or the void in empty space.

The Thus Come Ones of Equal and Proper Enlightenment are tranquil and constantly unmoving. The Buddhas have accomplished Unsurpassed, Proper and Equal, Right Enlightenment. They are constantly still, quiescent and pure. Yet they are able to universally manifest bodies. Although the Buddhas are unmoving, yet in the unmoving stillness, the response accordingly penetrates. This is to be,

According with conditions, yet not changing;
Not changing, yet according with conditions.

The Buddhas are “tranquil and unmoving,” therefore they are not changing. “yet they are able to universally manifest bodies.”

The Buddhas manifest bodies Which pervasively fill up realms in the ten directions. This is also “according with conditions, and yet not changing.”

Just as the realm of empty space is neither produced nor extinguished . The body of the Buddhas is just like the realm of empty space. The Buddhadharma is also just like empty space. And yet within the realm of empty space we speak of there being the Dharma Realm. What is it? It is that there isn’t a place--even the size of a mote of dust--where the Buddhas’ Dharma body doesn’t reside, where the Buddhas’ Dharma isn’t to be found, and where the worthies and sages of the Sangha of the ten directions are not present. Therefore, within True Emptiness is Wonderful Existence. That is just the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha--the Triple Jewel--pervading and filling up empty space. Although they pervade and fill up empty space, there is still True Emptiness.

Within True Emptiness is Wonderful Existence, and
Within Wonderful Existence is True Emptiness.
True Emptiness doesn’t obstruct Wonderful Existence;
Wonderful Existence doesn’t obstruct True Emptiness.  

True Emptiness is not empty and yet manifests Wonderful Existence. Wonderful Existence is not existent, and yet it’s in the realm of empty space. The realm of empty space is just like that.

It “is neither produced nor extinguished.” Tell me, at what point in time is empty space produce? At what point in time is it extinguished? If you are able to smash empty space, you will be able to break your attachments. If you aren’t able to smash empty space, you still have an attachment to empty space remaining. And so the true substance and nature of empty space “is neither produced nor extinguished.” So too, all Buddhas’ Dharmas Ultimately are not produced or destroyed. Ultimately, at no time are they produced or extinguished. The Dharmas of all Buddhas are also not produced or extinguished.

Sutra:

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

In the world of humans and in the heavens above
In all the world-realms there are
One can universally see the Thus Come Ones’
Pure and exquisite form bodies.

Commentary:

Courageous Banner Bodhisattva finished speaking the previous praises of all Thus Come Ones. These verses spoke of the principles of “right within marks there are no marks,” and how one can’t really see the Thus Come Ones in even a single physical mark.

Following him, At that time, Bright Light Banner Bodhisattva also spoke verses praising the Buddhas in order to reveal the Buddha’s state. Bright Light Banner Bodhisattva also diligently cultivates the Six Paramitas. He especially has faith in the Paramita of Wisdom, and he deeply enters Prajna. He deeply enters Real Mark Prajna, and so the light of his wisdom is very sublime. Therefore, his name is Bright Light Banner Bodhisattva. This Bodhisattva’s wisdom light is like jewelled banner which illumines everything. This Bodhisattva, receiving the Buddha’s--Shakyamuni Buddha’s--great, awesome spiritual power, and the aid of all the Buddhas throughout the ten directions, increased and grew in wisdom, and he universally contemplated the ten directions. He everywhere contemplated the causes and conditions of all Buddha worlds within the nine Dharma Realms. As it is said,

Observing the opportunity, he entices with the teaching.
According with the person, he speaks the Dharma, and
Dispenses the medicine based on the the illness.

That is the principle spoken of here. and he spoke these verses. He used simplified verses to praise the Buddha.

In the world of humans and in the heavens above , including all the Buddha lands in the ten directions--In all the world-realms there are--One can universally see the Thus Come Ones’ Pure and exquisite form bodies. All living beings are able to universally see the Buddhas. They see the Buddhas’ pure, awesome, and wonderful physical bodies.

Sutra:

Just as the power of a single mind
Is able to produce all kinds of thoughts,
So too, the Buddha’s single body
Universally manifests all Buddhas.

Bodhi is a non-dual Dharma.
Furthermore, it is without any marks.
Yet within the midst of dual Dharmas,
There manifest the marks of the adorned body.

Upon understanding the Dharma nature is empty and still,
And arises like an illusion,
Then that which one practices is without exhaustion:
In this way, the Guiding Master appears.

Commentary:

Just as the power of a single mind is able to produce all kinds of thoughts, so too, the Buddha’s single body universally manifests all Buddhas. “A single mind” refers to the Mind King. “All kinds of thoughts” are those Interactive with the Mind. “The Buddhas’ single body” is just the true Dharma body of the Buddha, while “all Buddhas” refers to the transformation bodies. The Mind King is able to produce all kinds of dharmas which pertain to the mind--those Interactive With the Mind. The single, true Dharma body of the Buddha is like the previously mentioned Mind King. It’s able to everywhere make appear all the response and transformation bodies of all Buddhas, just like the Mind King produces Dharmas Interactive With the Mind. So all these Buddhas universally manifest and yet are produced from the Buddha’s true Dharma body.

Bodhi is a non-dual Dharma . Bodhi is not two kinds of dharmas. So, if Bodhi doesn’t have two Kinds of dharmas, then is it a single Dharma? Furthermore, it is without any marks. There isn’t even a single dharma that’s set up. There isn’t even a single dharma. Bodhi is just the path to enlightenment. It’s just a name. Names are basically empty. And with not even a single dharma established, the ten thousand dharmas are all empty. Because of this, you shouldn’t have an attachment to the marks of Bodhi. You shouldn’t have attachments to dharmas. You shouldn’t go looking for Bodhi in existence and non-existence.

Yet within the midst of dual Dharmas, there manifest the marks of the adorned body . Within these dual dharmas of existence and non-existence, you aren’t able to go looking for Bodhi. Bodhi has no mark. Within the dharma of one and two, and the dharma of existence and non-existence--right within these dual dharmas--you will find the thirty-two fine marks and eighty minor characteristics which adorn the Buddha’s body.

Upon understanding the Dharma nature is empty and still. One should clearly understand that the nature of all dharmas is basically empty and still.

The path of language is cut off,
And be place of the mind’s activities is extinguished.

One should realize that the Dharma arises like an illusion. If one realizes that it’s just an illusion, Then that which one practices is without exhaustion. Although all dharmas are still and empty and are manifested, like transformations and illusions, nonetheless, they are also like cloud formations in space--multi-layered and inexhaustible. And so, “That which one practices is without exhaustion.” In this way, the Guiding Master appears. The Buddha’s response and transformation bodies are multi-layered and inexhaustible. They manifest without stop. However, you don’t want to be attached to the Buddha’s response and transformation bodies and consider them to be the Buddha’s body, for these aren’t the true body of the Buddha.

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