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:

All Dharmas are Thus;
So too are the states of all Buddhas,
Even to the point that there is not a single Dharma
Which is subject to production and extinction in the midst of thusness.

Living beings falsely discriminate:
This is the Buddha, this is the world.
For one who completely penetrates the nature of Dharmas,
There is no Buddha and no world.

The Tathagata universally appears before us,
Causing living beings to believe and be happy.
The Buddha’s substance cannot be obtained;
Neither can it be seen.

Commentary:

All Dharmas are Thus. Previously the Bodhisattva said that all Buddhas are inconceivable. “Who is able to conceive of the Buddha?” “Who is able to perceive proper enlightenment?” “Who is able to manifest the most supreme body?” and now he says, “All dharmas are thus.” “All dharmas” include form dharmas, mind dharmas, dharmas interactive with the mind, non-interacting dharmas, and unconditioned dharmas. All these dharmas are still and unmoving. The substance of dharmas is Thus. “Thus” means they are quiescent and still. Originally, they’re just the way they are. They’re neither produced nor destroyed; neither defiled nor pure; and neither do they increase nor diminish. All dharmas are Thus; a single Thusness, not two. So too are the states of all Buddhas. The states of the Buddhas are also Thus. They are also not created. Originally, they’re just the way they are--they are Thus. This is true Even to the point that there is not a single Dharma which is subject to production and extinction in the midst of Thusness. If you use your mind to discriminate finely enough the wide variety of dharmas, you’ll find that:

Not a single dharma is established;
The myriad dharmas are all empty.

There isn’t a single dharma because all is Thus. “Thus” also means the original unmovingness of all dharmas. In the midst of Thusness, there isn’t any production or extinction.

Living beings falsely discriminate. Dharmas are neither produced nor extinguished, but living beings use their false, attached minds to make discriminations. They say that there’s production and extinction. Discriminating, they hold that the Buddha comes into the world and enters Nirvana. They say, “This is the Buddha, this is the world.” Living beings make many discriminations. For one who completely penetrates the nature of Dharmas, there is no Buddha and no world. If you understand the principle substance of the true mark of all dharmas, the (real) Buddha is Thusness, living beings are Thusness, and worlds are Thusness. All are originally unmoving. This is also saying that originally, there’s nothing. There’s no Buddha, no living beings, and no world. That’s speaking ultimately. It is only because of living beings’ attached minds that they say there are Buddhas, worlds, and living beings. This is just a case of having nothing to do and creating something to do. As the Sixth Patriarch put it,

The wind is not moving, nor is the flag.
Your minds, Worthy Ones, are moving.

It’s only because people’s minds move that discriminations arise, causing them to say, “This is Dharma, this is Buddha, these are living beings, and this is the world.”

The Tathagata universally appears before us. The Buddha universally manifests before all living beings, Causing living beings to believe and be happy. He causes all living beings to bring forth a mind of happiness and delight. However, The Buddha’s substance cannot be obtained. Originally, the Buddha can’t be attained by marks. As the Vajra Sutra says,

All marks are false and illusory.
If one can see that all marks are false and illusory,
Then one can see the Thus Come One.

So the Buddha’s body can’t be obtained. You can’t get attached to the marks of the Buddha. And Neither can it be seen. The Buddha’s true Dharma body also can’t be seen. The Buddha is nowhere present and yet nowhere not present. All living beings abide within the Dharma body of the Buddha, it’s just that they aren’t aware of it.

Sutra:

If you can, while within the world,
Be far apart from all attachments,
And be happy and unobstructed in mind,
Then you’ll enlighten to the Dharma.

What appears through spiritual powers
Is called the Buddha.
At all times throughout the three periods
He may be sought; But he doesn’t exist.

If one can know this,
Then the mind and all Dharmas
Are completely known and perceived;
And one can quickly become a Tathagata.

Within words and language is revealed
The self-mastery of all Buddhas.
Proper Enlightenment transcends words and language;
Yet words and language are falsely used to express it.

Commentary:

If you can, while within the world, be far apart from all attachments, and be happy and unobstructed in mind, then you’ll enlighten to the Dharma. “If” means that this is a hypothetical situation. Basically, people can’t do it, but the Bodhisattva says “if”--just supposing that living beings could do it. Basically living beings do not understand this Dharma, but here, it’s theorized what it would be like if they did understand. So the Bodhisattva proposes this situation. There are two kinds of Worlds: 1) The World of Sentient Beings. This refers to the world of living beings, which is also called the world of Proper Retribution. 2) The Material World. This refers to the world of things and is also known as the World of Dependent Retribution. Now the Bodhisattva is supposing that within the worlds of sentient beings you can “be far apart from all attachments.” “All attachments” includes the things you like. For instance, greed for wealth creates attachments to wealth; greed for form creates attachment to form; greed for fame creates attachments to fame; greed to eat good things creates attachments to food; and for people who are greedy for sleep, there’s an attachment towards sleep.

This is how greed and the five desires work. For example, if you don’t allow someone to get a lot of sleep, that person will get afflicted to the extent that his vicious nature will manifest and he could even be driven to the point of murder, just from not having enough sleep. Greed for good things to eat is also an attachment. If you don’t give people good things to eat, they become very unhappy. They’re greedy for the five kinds of flavors, which are: bitter, hot, sour, salty, and sweet. Everyone has his or her own preference for flavor. Some like things sweet, some like thing salty, some sour, hot, or bitter. So everyone has his or her own attachments.

Then there are people who have an attachment of fame. No matter what happens, they want to save face. They want their names to be well-known, and they can’t break this attachment. There is even a fiercer attachment and this is towards form. Some people are obsessed by beautiful forms, to the point that their every thought is related to the pursuit of sex, and this kind of attachment is also not easy to break. Then there are those who are greedy for wealth. At all times they want to make it rich. They constantly think of money and consequently, are really upside-down. When you look into the Chinese character for “money” (錢), you’ll find it is written with a gold radical on the left and two spears on the right side. As the ancients put it,

Two spears fight for gold, and the killing energy mouths high.
People bicker and squabble just because of it.
Those who can make good use of money can transcend the Triple World,
But those who can’t make good use of it, can’t be separated from their evil offenses.

Whereas those who know how to use money can establish good merit and virtue with it, those who don’t know how to use money only plant bad cause with it. So you should be far apart from all these attachments, to the point of breaking the attachment to a “self.” wanting things only for your own benefit is being selfish. Selfishness and self-benefit are attachments to a self.

You can also develop an attachment to dharma in studying the Buddhadharma. For instance, a person can lecture a Sutra and so that person develops an attachment towards that Sutra. He says, “I can understand the Buddhadharma better that you,” and this is just an attachment to dharmas. Originally there isn’t any attachment before studying the Buddhadharma--he doesn’t produce that kind of attachment--but once he studies the Buddhadharma, he produces this kind of attachment. This person becomes conceited and arrogant. He can’t see anybody else. And this all comes about because of attachment to dharmas.

Living beings are like silkworms making their cocoons. They are themselves up and can’t attain liberation. There are all kinds of attachments, but if you can be apart from them And be happy and unobstructed in mind, then you’ll be able to attain liberation. To be apart from all obstructions is liberation. To be without obstructions is to be happy. At that time, your mind gives rise to great happiness and you truly become free! Not having any attachments is just attaining liberation. Then you’ll enlighten to the Dharma. At that time, you’ll understand that dharmas are originally complete within our self-natures. There’s a precious pearl inside each of us and it can’t be sought after outside of the self-nature. The treasure is in your own pocket; it’s not something you look for somewhere else. So if you can understand that all dharmas are originally within your own self-nature, then you’ll be able to understand and open enlightenment.

What appears through spiritual powers is called the Buddha. The Buddha’s great awesome, spiritual power manifests a response body through transformation. Because he can manifest this, he is said to be the Buddha. This is a transformational body.

At all times throughout the three periods he may be sought; but he doesn’t exist. The past, the present, and the future are the three periods. Past time can’t be got at, present time can’t be got at, and future time can’t be got at. Why is this? Past time has already come and gone. You say now is the present time, but the present time doesn’t stand still; it doesn’t stop. You make reference to the future, but the future hasn’t yet come. The three kinds of though--of past, present, and future--cannot be got at. The three periods of time can’t be got at. If you go looking for them, you will find they can’t be got at.

If one can know this, then the mind and all Dharmas are completely known and perceived. If you can understand that everything is impermanent, that nothing can be got at, that nothing is true and actual, that everything is empty and false, then you’ll realize that your mind, your intention, and your attention to all the various dharmas are still applications of effort at the gates of knowledge and views. None of them have come to the ultimate state where they are apart from knowledge and views. They are still functions of the gates of knowledge and views of the six roots: the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind. And it’s right there--at the six roots--where you need to apply your skill. If one can do this, then one can quickly become a Tathagata. If you can understand that everything is not true, but is just knowledge and views, then you can very quickly attain the wisdom of the Thus Come One.

Within words and language is revealed the self-mastery of all Buddhas. Through the use of language, the self-mastery of all Buddhas’ spiritual powers is revealed. Proper Enlightenment transcends words and language. Ultimate proper enlightenment transcends all words and language. It is a state wherein,

The path of language and words is cut off;
The place of the mind’s activities is extinguished.

“The path of language is cut off”--there’s nothing. “The place of the mind’s activities is extinguished”--if you try to think about this, you can’t. Although the mouth wants to say something, the words aren’t there. Although the mind wants to contemplate, the thoughts are gone--there’s nothing there. You want to think about it, but you can’t, and this is an inconceivable state.

Yet words and language are falsely used to express it. The Buddha transcends all words and language. Words and language are cut off, and the place of the mind’s activities is extinguished, however, we still use language to explain the state of the Buddha. Originally, words and language are falsely used to explain this state, and no amount of speaking about it can clarify it. Still, words and language are spoken, otherwise people wouldn’t know of the true and actual state of the Buddha. And although we speak about it, there’s no end to this explanation, for it can’t be exhausted with words.

Sutra:

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

Commentary:  

At that time, Constellation Banner Bodhisattva finished speaking verses, and so Dharma Banner Bodhisattva arose from his seat, uncovered his right shoulder, placed his right knee on the ground, put his palms together respectfully, and spoke to the Buddha. He received the Buddha’s, Shakyamuni Buddha’s spiritual power , that is, the great, awesome, spiritual power of Vairochana Buddha, and also of the Buddhas of the ten directions and three periods of time, universally contemplated the ten directions, and spoke these verses. He contemplated the causes and conditions of living beings throughout the ten directions and three periods of time and reiterated his meaning in verses.

* * * * *

When the time comes to circumambulate, take a look to make sure that people are walking in accordance with Dharma. What is meant by “according with Dharma”? when people are circumambulating, some put their palms together, and some have them separated. When we walk, we should make sure that everyone has their palms in a “cupped” position just above their waist, and then when the bell is rung and we switch the chanting pattern, someone can watch to make sure that everyone has their palms together. Maybe someone can be Dharma Protector and make sure that people act in accord with the Dharma.

Perhaps there are new people who don’t understand, and you need to tell them. So when we start circumambulating, someone should stand beside the stairs or beside the window, and make sure that everyone has their palms together. Then this will make everything appear solid and awesome. Everyone should be careful and pay attention to this. When new people come here and don’t know where to bow to the Buddha, you should tell them where to bow. If they don’t know where to sit, you should tell them where to sit. This should be done by the Upasakas and Upasikas; it shouldn’t be done by left-home people. Upasakas and Upasikas are the Dharma Protectors, and should be responsible for these matters. They should protect and uphold the Way-place.

* * * * *

Sutra:

It would be better to constantly and completely endure
All of the world’s suffering,
Than to ever be apart from the Tathagatas
And not see their power of self-mastery.

If there are living beings
Who have not brought forth the resolve for Bodhi,
Upon once hearing the Buddha’s name,
They will certainly accomplish Bodhi.

Commentary:

It would be better to constantly and completely endure all of the world’s suffering, than to ever be apart from the Tathagatas and not see their power of self-mastery. To eat but not eat your fill; to dress, but not dress warm enough, is called enduring suffering.

That means at all time one is willing to completely and incessantly endure suffering on behalf of all the people in the world.

There are Three Kinds of Sufferings: the Tree Sufferings, the Eight Sufferings, and the Limitless Sufferings. You want to endure them all. You’d rather undergo this “than to ever be apart from the Tathagatas.” The reason you want to undergo this suffering is so that you’re never separated from the Buddhas. You vow, “I’d rather receive the suffering of living beings than to ever be apart from the Buddhadharma. I want to constantly see the Buddha’s awesome spiritual powers of self-mastery. I want to see the Buddha, hear the Dharma and see the Sangha.”

If there are living beings who have not brought forth the resolve for Bodhi, upon once hearing the Buddha’s name, they will certainly accomplish Bodhi . Supposing in this world there are living beings who haven’t been able to draw near the Triple Jewel, who haven’t been able to meet with a Good Knowing Advisor, who haven’t been able to give rise to the resolve to become enlightened--they haven’t produced the resolve for Bodhi. However, if they can hear the Buddha’s name just one time, it is a certainty that one day they can become enlightened. Fi it passes by the ear just once, it’s eternally a seed of the Way. On this one occasion that they hear the Buddha’s name, a Vajra seed is planted within the Eighth Consciousness, and there is no way that it can be destroyed. So the Bodhisattva assures us in this verse, “They will certainly accomplish Bodhi.” In the future, these people will accomplish Proper and Equal, Right Enlightenment--the fruition of Buddhahood.

Sutra:  

If there is a person of wisdom
Who in a single thought, can bring forth a mind for the Way,
He will certainly become an Unsurpassed Honored One;
But he must be cautious not to produce doubts or delusions.

The Tathagata’s power of ease and comfort
Is difficult to meet in measureless kalpas.
If one produces a single thought of faith,
One will quickly certify to the Unsurpassed Way.

Supposing within thought after thought,
One makes offerings to limitless Buddhas
And yet fails to know the true and actual Dharma:
Then one can’t be said to be making offerings.

Commentary:

If there is a person of wisdom. Now supposing there is a person with wisdom. Originally, he doesn’t have wisdom, but supposing he acquires some. And further, this person in a single thought, can bring forth a mind for the Way. In a single thought, he can bring forth a mind for Bodhi. Then He will certainly become an Unsurpassed Honored One. Because he is a person of wisdom, in a single thought he brought forth a mind for Bodhi, to the extent that in thought after thought his mind is set on Bodhi, and so “he will certainly become an Unsurpassed Honored One.” He will certainly accomplish Buddhahood. But he must be cautious not to produce doubts or delusions. All of you living beings should certainly not harbor any doubts with regard to this principle; you shouldn’t produce a mind of doubt. In a single though you produce a mind for Bodhi, but then you start to have doubts. “Will I be able to accomplish Buddhahood?” you have this doubt, “If I just have one thought of producing a mind for the Way, how can I possibly accomplish Buddhahood?” be careful that you don’t produce such thoughts of doubts and delusions.

The Tathagata’s power of ease and comfort Is difficult to meet in measureless kalpas. The Buddha has self-mastery and great, awesome spiritual powers, and in measureless kalpas is difficult to meet. In measureless and boundless kalpas of time, it isn’t easy to meet the Buddha; it’s not easy to meet one of Proper and Equal, Right Enlightenment. However If one produces a single thought of faith, one will quickly certify to the Unsurpassed Way. If person is able to produce a mind of faith within a single though, then he can very quickly accomplish Buddhahood--the Unsurpassed Way, the fruition of Buddhahood.

Supposing within thought after thought, one makes offerings to limitless Buddhas. Supposing in each thought you can make offerings to limitless and boundless Buddhas--that many Buddhas. And yet, such a one fails to know the true and actual Dharma: Then one can’t be said to be making offerings. If you can’t understand the true and real mark of the Buddhadharma, if you can’t understand the ultimate dharma of Nirvana, then this can’t be called making offerings. If you can’t understand this true and actual principle, then even if you were to make offerings to limitless and boundless Buddhas, still you wouldn’t be truly making offerings. Making true offerings is when you understand the principle of the ultimate dharma of True Marks. When you understand the principle that the True Mark is without marks; when you understand the principle that all dharmas are empty, and you don’t become attached to marks; when within marks you’re don’t apart from marks and not attached to marks, then this is a true and actual offering. But, if you don’t understand that offerings should be apart from marks, then these offerings can’t be called true and actual offerings.

Sutra:  

If one hears such Dharmas
From which all Buddhas are born,
Although one passes through limitless sufferings,
Still one does not renounce the practice of Bodhi.

Upon once hearing of great wisdom,
This Dharma which all Buddhas enter,
Universally throughout the Dharma realm,
One becomes a Guiding Master of the three periods of time.

Although one may exhaust the bounds of the future,
Pervasively roaming throughout all Buddha lands;
If one does not seek this wonderful Dharma,
One will never be able to accomplish Bodhi.

Commentary:  

If one hears such Dharmas From which all Buddhas are born. Previously, it was said in a verse that:

Supposing within though after thought,
One makes offerings to limitless Buddhas
And yet fails to know the true and actual Dharma:
Then one can’t be said to be making offerings.

So it says, “If one hears such dharmas,” these true and actual dharmas. What are true and actual dharmas? They are dharmas which are apart from marks. What are dharmas which are apart from marks? This refers to the Mind-Seal Dharma. What is the Mind-Seal Dharma? The Mind-Seal Dharma is apart from words and language. It’s the mind that’s apart from the marks of reasoning. It’s apart from language. Apart from all marks is just all dharmas. This is the primary meaning of the Middle Way. What is the primary meaning of the Middle Way? It isn’t one-sided; you do not fall into existence nor do you get hung up in emptiness.

Not being attached to either emptiness or existence is the meaning of the “Middle Way.” The Middle Way is the Real Mark wonderful Dharma. The Real Mark, wonderful Dharma is the understanding of the meaning of the Middle Way. “Such dharma” refers to the ultimate meaning of the Middle Way “from which all Buddhas are born.” What dharmas are all Buddhas produced from? They are produced from the Real Mark, that which is markless and yet not devoid of any marks. This is the Mind-Seal wonderful Dharma, the primary meaning of the Middle Way. It is True Emptiness which doesn’t obstruct Wonderful Existence, and Wonderful Existence which doesn’t obstruct True Emptiness. That is the Dharma spoken of here. And whoever obtains this Dharma will be able to accomplish Buddhahood. If you can rely on this Dharma to cultivate, then you’ll be able to accomplish Buddhahood. If you don’t rely on this ultimate Dharma of the Middle Way to cultivate then you’re still a living being. So the Bodhisattva tells us that it is that “from which all Buddhas are born.” All Buddhas are born from understanding the meaning of the Middle Way.

Although one passes through limitless sufferings, still one does not renounce the practice of Bodhi . If you can cultivate this Dharma--even to the point of personally undergoing limitless suffering--then you won’t renounce the practice of Bodhi. Not retreating from Bodhi conduct is just to cultivate the Ultimate Meaning of the Middle Way. It is also cultivating the wonderful Mind-Seal Dharma, the Real Mark Dharma, the inconceivable Dharma for which,

The path of language and words is cut off;
The place of the mind’s activities is extinguished.

Therefore, one doesn’t ever retreat from the Bodhi conduct. One doesn’t ever turn away from the Dharma of the Middle Way.

Upon once hearing of great wisdom, this Dharma which all Buddhas enter, universally throughout the Dharma realm, one becomes a Guiding Master of the three periods of time . Upon hearing of the Dharma of great wisdom, one produces great wisdom. If you cultivate this Dharma, you’ll produce great wisdom. What Dharma is this? This is what was previously spoken of--the Mind-Seal Dharma, the Dharma “from which all Buddhas are born.” All Buddhas come forth from this Dharma, and all Buddhas enter this Dharma. To enter this Dharma you need to understand it, then you can accomplish Buddhahood. All Buddhas also enter and cultivate this Dharma. This Dharma totally pervades the exhaustion of empty space and the Dharma Realm. Those who cultivate to become Guiding Masters of the three periods of time, become Buddhas of the past, present, and future. As for us living beings of the present, although we haven’t accomplish Buddhahood yet, we’re all future Buddhas. You shouldn’t look down upon yourself as being so small, so unimportant, or so common.

People say few words to you and you can’t put it down. For example, somebody says you’re no good, and it just about knocks you over to the point that you can’t get up. You say to yourself, “Oh, I’m no good; I can’t cultivate! Oh, I don’t have right to be cultivating, I’m really rotten! They all say I’m rotten. My cultivation is absolutely useless!” or you say, “Oh, I’m no good; I don’t have anything going for me. I’m just too rotten!” too rotten?! No, you’re just too good! You can be good. So why do you fall over and not get up? Just stand up! Don’t fall over and let people push you around--don’t be such a spineless worm. A person with any backbone has his feet on the ground and his head in the heavens all the time. So if somebody says you’re no good you should reflect, “You say I’m no good? I’ll give you some thing to look at!” and not, “They all say I’m no good, I can’t handle it any longer, I’m just going to lay down and die--that’s the best.” You prefer to die rather than cultivate. “They all look down on me so I’m going to commit suicide. They’re all bad to me--I just want to die!” you have courage to kill yourself, but you don’t have the courage to cultivate. What meaning is there in this? A person who wants to die and not cultivate can’t even make it into the rank of being considered a stupid person. After all, if you’ve reached the point where you’re willing to die, then it should be even more okay to cultivate. You should have the attitude, “I’ll cultivate and you can just consider me as if dead.” After all, you cultivate in order to be a living dead person”? it means you’re going to kill all of your desires, all of your greed for fame, offerings, and so forth--all of those desires.

One may exhaust the bounds of the future , that is, exhaust all future kalpas, Pervasively roaming throughout all Buddha lands. One goes to all Buddha lands, drawing near to and making offerings to all Buddhas. However, If one does not seek this wonderful Dharma--if one doesn’t seek this wonderful Mind-Seal Dharma, if one doesn’t understand the primary meaning of the Middle Way as being the Real Mark which is unmarked--then One will never be able to accomplish Bodhi. It doesn’t matter how long or how far you travel, you’ll never accomplish Buddhahood. If you want to accomplish Buddhahood, you absolutely have to understand that,

True Emptiness doesn’t obstruct Wonderful Existence, and
Wonderful Existence doesn’t obstruct True Emptiness.
True Emptiness isn’t empty and Wonderful Existence doesn’t exist.

This is the ultimate meaning of the Middle Way. This is the Mind-Seal Dharma. All Buddhas have transmitted this Mind-Seal Dharma. If you don’t understand the Mind-Seal Dharma, you won’t obtain the wonderful Dharma nor will you accomplish Bodhi. No matter how long you cultivate, you won’t be able to accomplish Buddhahood.

The first thing you have to do in order to cultivate this Dharma is cut off all desire. If you can’t cut off desire, then you won’t be able to leave the dust; you won’t be able to transcend the Triple realm. Therefore, in cultivating this Dharma, you have to sever the mind of sexual desire. Each of you should pay particular attention to this point. Men shouldn’t think about finding wives; women shouldn’t go looking for husbands. If you want to cultivate but can’t put down the pleasures of the world, then you won’t be able to attain the fruition. So it’s said,

Fish and bear paws are both delicious,
But you can’t eat them both at the same time.

If you want to cultivate world-transcending Dharmas, you can’t hang on to worldly dharmas. If you want to hang on to worldly dharmas, how are you going to transcend the world? However, although we wish to cultivate transcendental Dharmas, we should realize that,

The Buddhadharma can be found right in the world.
It can’t be looked for apart from the world.
To look for Bodhi apart from the world is like looking for a rabbit with horns.  

--Sixth Patriarch Sutra

 And so you should study world-transcending Dharma right within the world, and not seek them apart from the world.

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