THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
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The Ten Grounds _______

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

Sutra:  

The Buddha, with no equal, just like empty space, of ten powers limitless, of merit and virtue supreme; among people most victorious, superior in the world: that Shakya Lion’s Dharmas are what gives them aid.

Disciple of the Buddha, receive all Buddhas’ strength, set forth this king of Dharmas’ treasury most supreme: all grounds’ extensive wisdom, practices wondrous and supreme, through Buddhas’ awesome spirit, discriminate and speak.

Those who have the aid of all the well-gone ones, should obtain these dharma jewels entering their minds; that all grounds undefiled, in order be completed, one must possess as well Thus Come Ones’ Ten-fold Power.

Though one may dwell in blazes of kalpas like the sea, if able to accept them, one doubtless hears these dharmas: but those who harbor doubts, and who have no faith, will never come to hear the meanings such as these.

Please do explain the Grounds, the way to supreme wisdom, enter, dwell within, unfold successive cultivation; from states of cultivation arises Dharma wisdom, to benefit and aid each and every living being.

At that time, Vajra Treasury Bodhisattva contemplated in the ten directions, and, in order to cause those in the great assembly to increase their pure faith, spoke verses, saying:

The ways of the Thus Come Ones, great immortals, are subtle, wonderful, and hear to comprehend; not thought, they are apart from every thought: those seeking them in seeing can’t attain them.  

Commentary:  

The Buddha, with no equal, just like empty space. The Buddha is incomparable and like empty space, in that there is also nothing comparable to empty space. Of ten powers limitless, of merit and virtue supreme. The Buddha has ten kinds of powers, and limitless merit and virtue. Among people most victorious, superior in the world. Among people, the Buddha is foremost, and the highest in the world, too. That Shakya Lion’s Dharmas are what gives them aid. The Dharmas of the Lion of the Shakya Clan, the Buddha, are what aid those people who whish to speak the Dharma and explain it.

Disciples of the Buddha, receive all Buddhas’ strength. You, Vajra Treasury Bodhisattva, should receive the power of Shakyamuni Buddha and the power of all the Buddhas of the ten directions, and set forth this king of Dharmas’ treasury most supreme. Come and explain for everyone these most supreme Dharma-doors, the endowment of the King of Jewels. All grounds’ extensive wisdom, practices wondrous and supreme. The Ten Grounds have vast, great wisdoms, and most superior, wonderful practices. Through Buddhas’ awesome spirit, discriminate and speak. The Buddhas will come to aid you enabling you to discriminate and explain.

Those who have the aid of all the well-gone ones, the Buddhas’ might, should obtain these dharma jewels entering their minds and be able to speak according to intent. That all grounds undefiled, in order be completed. The Ten Grounds are all free form defilement. To be able to speak them perfectly, and in order, one must possess as well Thus Come Ones’ Ten-fold Power. By relying on the ten kinds of powers of a Buddha, one can then speak them perfectly.

Though one may dwell in blazes of kalpas like the sea. Even though one dwells in kalpa-fires, periods of coming into beings, dwelling, going bad, and disappearing on the part of kalpas, great kalpas, as many in quantity as there is water in the sea, if able to accept them, one doubtless hears these dharmas. One can hear these kinds of Dharmas for that long a time; one definitely will be able to hear them. But those who harbor doubts, and who have no faith. Maybe there are doubters, disbelievers. They will never come to hear the meanings such as these. They will never have the opportunity to hear these kinds of Dharmas.

Please do explain the Grounds, the way to supreme wisdom. Great Bodhisattva, you should now speak for everyone the Bodhisattvas’ Ten Grounds, the path of most supreme wisdom. Enter, dwell within, unfold successive cultivation. Enter into these Dharmas, and then open them up and set them forth, investigating and explaining them in orderly sequence for living beings, enabling living beings to cultivate. From states of cultivation arises Dharma wisdom. It is from cultivating and experiencing these various kinds of Dharmas that wisdom is attained and Dharma arises to benefit and aid each and every living being. I hope that you, Bodhisattva, will speak for everyone’s benefit, for the sake of all the living beings in this Dharma Assembly.

At that time, thereupon, Vajra Treasury Bodhisattva contemplated in the ten directions. He contemplated the causes and conditions of living beings throughout the ten directions, and, in order to cause those in the great assembly to increase their pure faith, the faith and understanding of everyone present, spoke verses, saying:

The ways of the Thus Come Ones, great immortals. He said, “The Buddhas are like Great Immortals. Their ways are subtle, wonderful, and hear to comprehend; not thought, they are apart from every thought. When you have no-thought, you should still go on to become free of all thoughts. Those seeking them in seeing can’t attain them. If you want to see the Buddha and the Dharma by looking at forms and seeking in sounds, that is not possible. Those who do so cannot see the Buddha, nor can they understand the Dharma-doors of the Ten Grounds.”  

Sutra:  

They are not produced, and they are not destroyed; pure of nature are they, and they are always still. Of people undefiled, intelligent, and wise, they are the place of practice, of their wisdom.

Their own nature basically is empty and it’s still; non-dual it is, but it is also unending; when liberated and set free from all the destinies, one dwells within the identity that is Nirvana.  

Commentary:  

The Dharma-doors of the Ten Grounds are just our original Buddha-nature and they are our original wisdom, as well as being the treasury of light of everyone’s own original nature. As to these Dharma-doors, they are not produced, and they are not destroyed. They are not defiled or immaculate, not increased and not decreased. Pure of nature are they, and they are always still. These Dharma-doors of the Ten Grounds are always pure; thus, they are always still and unmoving. Of people undefiled, intelligent, and wise. All great of you great disciples of the Buddha, since you are free from filth, you have obtained true and actual intelligence and wisdom. For each bit of defilement that’s removed, a bit of purity appears. You decrease defilement by the same proportion as you increase purity, because defilements, that increases your stupidity. If you are pure, then day by day you fall, whereas with wisdom, day by day you rise upwards. As it is said:

The superior person ascends;
The inferior person descends.

That is the same principle. In cultivation one purifies the defiled mind. What is defilement? Among all worldly dharmas, the heaviest is sexual desire. That is what is most defiled and most impure, but most people can’t get out of this bind. They get caught up like a silkworm spinning a cocoon, which is binding itself up without even realizing it. Sages turn defilement into purity. Ordinary people turn purity into defilement. Whenever people abandon defiled dharmas and return to original purity, they are intelligent Sages with wisdom. They are the place of practice, of their wisdom. The Dharma-doors of the Ten Grounds are what is cultivated by Bodhisattvas, by intelligent persons who have wisdom.

Their own nature basically is empty and it’s still. The self-nature of us all is basically pure and without anything at all; but we ourselves day by day turn our backs on enlightenment and unite with dust and take suffering for bliss. Therefore, to the self-nature, which basically is pure and still, there are added a great many afflictions. Non-dual it is, but it is also unending. The self-nature hasn’t even one, to say nothing of two. It has no shape or characteristics, spans, “but it is also unending. “ Although it has no mark, it is not that it doesn’t exist. Empty space has no mark, but you cannot deny that there is empty space. When liberated and set free from all the destinies. Liberated through the wisdom of the Ten Grounds, one attains to freedom regarding the four evil destinies -- those of asuras, hell-beings, hungry ghosts, and animals -- and one dwells within the identity that is Nirvana. If you are able to understand the Dharma-doors of the Ten Grounds, then you can understand that birth and death are the same as Nirvana, that samsara is identical with Nirvana, and that afflictions are just Bodhi. If you do not understand the Dharma-doors of the Ten Grounds, then, for you, birth and death are still birth and death, and Nirvana is still Nirvana, without any connection whatsoever.

Sutra:  

They are not beginning, nor middle, nor end; they are not expressible in words; they transcend the three periods of time; their characteristics are like empty space.

The still extinction which the Buddhas practice cannot be described in words. The practice of the grounds is also thus: difficult to express, difficult to accept.

The Buddhas’ states that arise from wisdom are not thought and leave the path of the mind. They are not the doors of skandhas, realms, or places: the wise know intellect does not reach them.  

Commentary:  

They are not beginning, nor middle, nor end. The wisdom of these grounds has no beginning, middle, or end. To say ’The Dharma the Buddha spoke was good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end,’ does not apply here. Nor do the grounds belong to the View of Truth, the View of Emptiness, or the View of the Middle. They are not expressible in words. The Ten Grounds can only be known and cannot be described by words, which is why I do not wish to speak about them. They transcend the three periods of time. These Dharma-doors go beyond all dharmas of the past, the present, and the future, and their characteristics are like empty space.

The still extinction which the Buddhas practice. These Dharma-doors are characterized by still extinction. They:

Cannot be seen by looking,
Cannot be heard by listening,
Cannot be perceived by smell.

They are what the Buddhas cultivate, most subtle and wonderful, and cannot be described in words. If you wish me to explain the Ten Grounds, there is no way that I can use words to explain them. The practice of the grounds is also thus. The Dharma- doors of cultivation of the Ten Grounds are just the same as in the previous analogy, difficult to express, difficult to accept. It is not easy to describe them. As it is said:

The path of language is cut off,
The place of the mind’s workings is extinguished.

The Buddhas’ states that arise from wisdom. All the Buddhas’ states are produced from wisdom. They are not thought and leave the path of the mind. This again is:

The path of language is cut off,
The place of the mind’s workings is extinguished.
Right in thought, one is apart from thought:
One thinks, and yet one has no thoughts.

Hence, they are not thought and leave the path of the mind. They are apart from all thoughts of the mind. They are not the doors of skandhas, realms, or places. They are also not the Five Skandhas: form, feeling, thinking, activities, and consciousness. Nor are they are Eighteen Realms, not the Six Sense Faculties -- eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind; not the Six Objects of Perception-- forms, sounds, smells, tastes, objects of touch, and dharmas; and not the Six Consciousnesses -- eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, nose-consciousness, tongue-consciousness, body-consciousness, and mind-consciousness. They are not the Twelve Places -- eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, mind plus forms, sounds, smells, tastes, objects of tough, and dharmas. The wise know intellect does not reach them. If you use wisdom, then you can understand them. If you use your thinking mind, your intellect, there is no way to understand them.  

Sutra:  

As the traces of a bird in empty space, are difficult to express, difficult to discern, so, too, are the Ten Grounds’ meanings incomprehensible to mind and thought.

They who from compassion, kindness, and the power of vows, appear and enter the practices of the grounds; gradually reach perfection of the mind: wisdom’s practices are not reflection’s realm.

Such states as these are difficult to perceive; they can be known but cannot be expressed; through the Buddhas’ power they are proclaimed. You should receive them with all reverence.

Wisdom such as this enters the practices; millions of aeon’s speaking does not exhaust them. I now merely speak them in a general way: the true and actual meanings are unending.

With a single mind, await in reverence, while I receive the Buddhas’ power and speak the supreme dharmas’ subtle, wondrous sounds, with analogies and words appropriate.

Every Buddha’s limitless spiritual powers all come to be embodied by me! These places are difficult to express; I shall now speak a small portion.  

Commentary:

As the traces of a bird in empty space, are difficult to express, difficult to discern. When a bird flies through the air, what trace is there to speak of? What traces can be shown to represent it? So, too, are the Ten Grounds’ meanings. Therefore, it I not easy to express them, not easy for me to instruct you in them, since they are incomprehensible to mind and thought. If you use your ordinary mind and thoughts, you will not be able to understand the meanings such as those contained in the Ten Grounds. They who from compassion, kindness, and the power of vows. When Bodhisattvas speak the Dharma-doors of the Ten Grounds, they all receive the compassion and vow power of the Buddhas, and they appear and enter the practices of the grounds. They appear in the world to cultivate the doors of practice of the Ten Grounds. Gradually reach perfection of the mind. Step by step, the mind of wisdom is caused to be perfected, and the Enlightenment of Bodhi is caused to be accomplished. Wisdom’s practices are not reflection’s realm. These Dharma-doors are cultivated by wisdom. They are not states, that can be understood by people’s thinking.

Such states as these are difficult to perceive; they can be known but cannot be expressed. Knowing of them is easy, but to explain them is not at all easy. Through the Buddhas’ power they are proclaimed. If they cannot be expressed, then how does one express them? It is because the Buddhas of the ten directions lend their strength, enabling one to explain the Dharma-doors of the Ten Grounds. You should receive them with all reverence. All of you Bodhisattvas should respectfully listen to these Dharmas. Wisdom such as this enters the practices. These doors of practice are entered through wisdom. Millions of aeon’s speaking does not exhaust them. In hundreds of thousands of then thousands of millions of kalpas, they cannot be expressed to the end. I now merely speak them in a general way. I, Vajra Treasury Bodhisattva, will now speak of them in general, not completely. The true and actual meanings are unending. The true and actual meanings cannot be expressed entirely.

With a single mind, await in reverence, while I receive the Buddhas’ power and speak. I receive the great, awesome strength of the Buddhas of the ten directions in order to speak these Dharma-doors, the supreme dharmas’ subtle, wondrous sounds, with analogies and words appropriate. The supreme dharmas are so subtle; no comparison would b suitable to them. Every Buddha’s limitless spiritual powers aid me and enable me to speak these Dharmas of the Ten Grounds. They all come to be embodied by me! These places are difficult to express. The Dharma-doors of the Ten Grounds cannot be expressed to the end. I shall now speak a small portion. Therefore, I shall not be able to explain these places completely. I shall just explain them a little bit.

Sutra:  

Disciple of the Buddha, suppose there are living beings who have deeply planted good roots, well cultivated all practices, well accumulated the aids to the way, well made offerings to all Buddhas, well collected white, pure dharmas, been well gathered in by good and wise advisors, have well purified deep thought, have established great resolutions, have brought forth vast, great understanding, have manifested kindness and compassion, in order to seek the wisdom of the Buddhas, in order to obtain the ten powers, in order to obtain the great fearlessnesses, in order to obtain the Buddhas’ dharmas of equality, in order to rescue all those in the world, in order to purify great kindness and compassion, in order to obtain the wisdom without residue of the ten powers, in order to purify all Buddhalands without obstruction; in order to know all the three periods of time in a single thought, in order to turn the great dharma wheel without fear.  

Commentary:  

Disciple of the Buddha, Vajra Treasury Bodhisattva again says, “All of you disciples of the Buddha, suppose there are living beings who have deeply planted good roots and well cultivated all practices. They are good at practicing the Dharma-doors of the Six Perfections and the ten thousand conducts. They have well accumulated the aids to the way. They have well assembled the Dharma-doors that aid in cultivation of the Way and have well made offerings to all Buddhas. They are skilled at making offerings to all Buddhas of the ten directions and the three periods of time, and well collected white, pure dharmas. They know very well how com accumulate pure, white Dharmas, and have been well gathered in by good and wise advisors. Great and wise teachers are well able to tame and subdue living beings. They have well purified deep thought. They themselves are well able to have pure, deep thoughts with no defiled or mixed-up thoughts, and they have established great resolutions, and have brought forth vast, great understanding. They have produced limitless and boundless powers of understanding and they have manifested kindness and compassion. We who cultivate the Way should always be compassionate, no matter towards whom it may be. Why is that? In order to seek the wisdom of the Buddhas, in order to obtain the ten powers, in order to obtain the great fearlessnesses, in order to obtain the Buddhas’ dharmas of equality, in order to rescue all those in the world, to save all living beings in the world. In order to purify great kindness and compassion. It is also in order to obtain the wisdom without residue of the ten powers, to obtain the Buddhas’ ten kinds of powers without residue, and in order to purify all Buddhalands without obstruction, to adorn and purify all Buddhas’ lands and cause them to be without obstruction. It is, furthermore, in order to know all the three periods of time in a single thought, to know the causes and effects of past, present, and future times, and in order to turn the great dharma wheel without fear. For those reasons they wish to listen to the Dharma-doors of the Ten Grounds.

Sutra:  

Disciples of the Buddha, when Bodhisattvas bring forth those kinds of thoughts, they put compassion foremost. Their wisdom increases. They are drawn in by good and clever expedients. They maintain most superior deep thoughts. They contemplate and distinguish the limitless powers of the Thus Come Ones. With the power of courage and the power of wisdom their unobstructed wisdom manifests. They have compliant and spontaneous wisdom. They can accept all Buddhas’ dharmas. They use wisdom to teach and transform. That is vast and great as the Dharma Realm, ultimately like empty space, to the exhaustion of the boundaries of the future.

Disciples of the Buddha, when Bodhisattvas first bring forth those kinds of thoughts, they immediately transcend the ground of ordinary people and enter the position of a Bodhisattva. They are born in the household of the Thus Come Ones. No one can pronounce any faults in their lineage. They abandon the worldly destinies and enter the way of world-transcendence. They obtain the dharmas of Bodhisattvas. They dwell in the places of Bodhisattvas. They enter into the sameness of the three periods of time. Within the Thus Come Ones’ family, they are certain to obtain unsurpassed Bodhi.

When Bodhisattvas dwell in dharmas such as those, it is called Dwelling on the Bodhisattvas’ Ground of Happiness, because of the connection with non-moving.

Commentary:  

Disciples of the Buddha, Vajra Treasury Bodhisattva again calls out “All you disciples of the Buddha, when Bodhisattvas bring forth those kinds of thoughts, then they put compassion foremost. Great compassion can relieve living beings so they separate from suffering and attain bliss. Bodhisattvas on the First Ground make the thought of great compassion their foremost work of primary importance. Their wisdom increases. If you cultivate the Dharmas of Bodhisattvas, then you will obtain the Bodhisattvas’ wisdom. The more you cultivate the practices of Bodhisattvas, the more your wisdom will increase. They are drawn in by good and clever expedients. You will also obtain the unimpeded eloquence of clever expedient methods in speaking Dharma. They maintain most superior deep thoughts. What they maintain are the most superior, subtle, and wonderful deep thoughts. They contemplate and distinguish the limitless powers of the Thus Come Ones. With the power of courage and the power of wisdom. The wisdom of their skill in contemplation discerns all states, and they have the power of very bravely and vigorously going forward in their cultivation. Their unobstructed wisdom manifests. It always manifests. No matter what state comes, it will not get in the way. They have compliant and spontaneous wisdom, natural wisdom and they can accept all Buddhas’ dharmas. They are able to receive all Dharm-doors spoken by all Buddhas. They use wisdom to teach and transform all living beings. That is vast and great as the Dharma Realm. Those states are as vast and as great as the Dharma Realm. Ultimately like empty space, to the exhaustion of the boundaries of the future. To the ends of the future time it is that way.

Disciples of the Buddha, when Bodhisattvas, great beings, first bring forth those kinds of thoughts of great compassion, they immediately transcend the ground of ordinary people and enter the position of a Bodhisattva. They are born in the household of the Thus Come Ones. No one can pronounce any faults in their lineage. There is no one who can find faults in the Bodhisattvas of the Buddha’s household. They abandon the worldly destinies. They leave behind the four evil destinies, those of asuras, hell-beings, hungry ghosts, and animals, and enter the way of world-transcendence. They certify to the attainment of the Way which transcends the three realms. They obtain the dharmas of Bodhisattvas. They dwell in places of Bodhisattvas. They enter into the sameness of the three periods of time. They obtain the wisdom to enter equally into the past, the present, and the future. Within the Thus Come Ones’ family, the lineage of the Buddha, they are certain to obtain unsurpassed Bodhi, the fruit of enlightenment, and there is nothing higher than that.

When Bodhisattvas dwell in dharmas such as those, it is called Dwelling on the Bodhisattvas’ Ground of Happiness. What is it called when Bodhisattvas dwell in such Dharmas as those? It is the First Ground. They attain the Bodhisattvas’ Ground of Happiness and become very happy. What is that? It is because of the connection with non-moving. Because they already have Samadhi-power, and this happiness is derived from Samadhi, they are joined with non-movement.

Sutra:  

Disciples of the Buddha, when Bodhisattvas dwell on the Ground of Happiness, they accomplish much happiness, much pure faith, much delight, much bliss, much elation, much enthusiasm, much courage, much freedom from contention, much absence of troubling, much absence of anger. Disciples of the Buddha, when Bodhisattvas dwell on the Ground of Happiness, they give rise to happiness because to they are mindful of all Buddhas. They give rise to happiness because they are mindful of all Buddhas’ dharmas. They give rise to happiness because they are mindful of all Bodhisattvas. They give rise to happiness because they are mindful of all Bodhisattvas’ practices. They give rise to happiness because they are mindful of the purity of all paramitas. They give rise to happiness because they are mindful of the supremacy of all Bodisattvas’ grounds. They give rise to happiness because they are mindful of all Bodhisattvas’ indestructibility. They give rise to happiness because they are mindful of the Thus Come Ones’ teaching and transforming of living beings. They give rise to happiness because they are mindful of the ability to benefit living beings.  

Commentary:  

Disciples of the Buddha, calls out Vajra Treasury Bodhisattva again, saying, “All of you disciples of the Buddha, when Bodhisattvas dwell on the Ground of Happiness they accomplish much happiness. They have a great deal of happiness, and much pure faith. Their thoughts of pure faith also increase, and they have much delight. They produce more fondness for the Buddhadharma than you can possibly imagine. They have much bliss. At all times they fell very happy and serene. No matter where they are, they are blissful and there are no obstacles. It does not matter what situations may present themselves, they do not feel them to be obstacles; and no matter what causes for afflictions may arise, they never become afflicted. In all situations and circumstances, they are content at heart. They have much elation. They are always elated that they can hear the Buddhadharma and practice the Bodhisattva Way. They have much enthusiasm. They are always enthusiastic, always vigorous, and never lazy. They have much courage. They are always courageously vigorous. They have much freedom from contention. They never fight or argue with anyone. They have much absence of troubling. They never cause people to become afflicted, nor do they ever deliberately trouble to others or obstruct them in their cultivation. They have much absence of anger. The Bodhisattvas who have realized the First Ground, that of Happiness, never become angry no matter how you treat them.

Disciples of the Buddha, Vajra Treasury Bodhisattva calls out again saying, “All of you disciples of the Buddha, when Bodhisattvas dwell on the Ground of Happiness, they give rise to happiness because to they are mindful of all Buddhas. They constantly remember and think about all Buddhas, and for that reason they are happy. They are not like us common people who, day in and day out, are jealous and obstructive of one another singlemindedly concentrate on thinking of all Buddhas, they have no time to be jealous or obstructive. They give rise to happiness because they are mindful of all Buddhas’ dharmas. They also always remember all the Dharmas spoken by all Buddhas, and they practice in accord with those Dharmas; and so they are very happy. They give rise to happiness because they are mindful of all Bodhisattvas. Not only are they mindful of the Buddhas and their Dharmas, they are mindful of the Sangha, too. They always recollect all the sagely Sangha members, the great Bodhisattvas of the ten directions and the three periods of time, and so they are very happy. If we cultivators of the Way could at all times, be mindful of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, when could we have time to be jealous or obstructive? We would never have the time to spend looking at others’ faults. We would always be seeing out own faults, returning the light and illumining inwards.

They give rise to happiness because they are mindful of all Bodhisattvas’ practices. They are also always thinking of the practices cultivated by all Great Bodhisattvas. Of all the great Bodhisattvas, the Buddhas of the future, some cultivate the doors of the practice of giving, others of holding precepts, others that of patience, others that of vigor, others dhyana-Samadhi, and others wisdom. The Bodhisattvas cultivate those various kinds of practices, the Six Paramitas and the ten thousand practices. Therefore, when Bodhisttvas certify to the Ground of Happiness, they also have the opportunity to cultivate all of those Dharma-doors, and because of that they become very happy.

They give rise to happiness because they are mindful of the supremacy of all Bodisattvas’ grounds. They are always thinking of the supremacy of the positions of all Bodhisattvas, and so they become happy. They give rise to happiness because they are mindful of all Bodhisattvas’ indestructibility. They think of the Bodhisattvas’ realization of the Three Irreversibilities -- in thought, in position, and in conduct -- and how no heavenly demons or externalist ways can destroy them. Therefore, they become very happy. They give rise to happiness because they are mindful of the Thus Come Ones’ teaching and transforming of living beings. They always remember and are mindful of how the Buddhas always compassionately take care of all living beings, causing them to end suffering and attain bliss, and so they become very happy. They give rise to happiness because they are mindful of the ability to benefit living beings. They are mindful of being able to cause all living beings identically to obtain benefits of the greatest kind, causing all living beings to hear the Dharma and be saved and end birth and death -- these doors of practice which are most beneficial to living beings. Bodhisattvas, once they can cultivate those various kinds of activities, can obtain the highest kinds of causes and conditions, and for that reason they become very happy.

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