THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
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A Commentary by the Venerable Master
Hsuan Hua

The Coming into Being of Worlds

Chapter 4

Sutra:

The Coming into Being of Worlds

Chapter Four

Commentary:

A world is a juncture of time and realm. “Time” refers to the three periods of time--the past, the present, and the future. “Realm” means an area, and it means a delineated area. Because it has a boundary, a demarcation, a differentiation, it is called a delineated area.  

How is there The Coming into Being of Worlds? Worlds have their creation and also their extinction. In general, worlds have a period of formation that lasts twenty small kalpas. They also go through periods of dwelling, of decay, and of extinction; each lasts for twenty small kalpas. Twenty small kalpas make a middle-sized kalpa, and four middle-sized kalpas together make a great kalpa. Each small kalpa is made up of a thousand common kalpas. These thousand kalpas are calculated thus: one increase and one decrease make one kalpa. At the point when the average human life span is eighty-four thousand years long, for every hundred years that pass, the life span is shortened by one year, and the average human height decreases by one inch. When this decreasing has reached the point that people’s life span is only ten years, then an increase will begin again. During that increase, every one hundred years their height will increase by one inch and their life spans by one year until the life span again reaches eighty-four thousand years. That one increase and one decrease make one common kalpa. A thousand of these kalpas make one small kalpa. Twenty small kalpas make one middle-sized kalpa, and four middle-sized kalpas make one great kalpa. It takes that long for a world to come into being, dwell, decay, and become empty again. This is Chapter Four of the sutra.

I. Pervasive contemplation by means of the Buddha’s power

Sutra:

At that time Universal Worthy Bodhisattva Mahasattva, by means of the Buddhas’ spiritual power, pervasively contemplated the ocean of all worlds, the ocean of all beings, the ocean of all Buddhas, the ocean of all dharma realms, the ocean of all beings’ karma, the ocean of all beings’ roots and desires, the ocean of all Buddhas’ Dharma wheels, the ocean of all three periods of time, the ocean of all Tathagatas’ vow-power, and the ocean of all Tathagatas’ spiritual transformations.  

Commentary:

At that time was when Universal Worthy Bodhisattva Mahasattva was about to speak the fourth chapter, “The Coming into Being of Worlds.” Universal Worthy Bodhisattva is a great Bodhisattva among Bodhisattvas. He takes the Dharma Realm as his body and has accomplished all of the merit, virtue, spiritual penetrations and transformations of all Buddhas. He is exactly the same as the Buddhas in all respects. But he is still very modest, and in everything he says he relies on the great and awesome spiritual power of all Buddhas; and so by means of the Buddhas’ spiritual power he pervasively contemplatedthe ocean of all worlds. Contemplating everywhere, he investigated, “How do worlds come into being? How do they dwell, decay, and then become extinct?”

He contemplated the ocean of all beings. Universal Worthy Bodhisattva understands how worlds come into existence. What purpose does a world serve? A world is a place where beings can sustain their existence. Beings are not of only one kind, but of so many species that they could never all be counted, and so they are called “the ocean of beings.” Each being has its own causes and conditions, and its own retribution. For that reason, there are many principles concerning the ocean of all beings that one should know.

He contemplated the ocean of all Buddhas. If beings of the worlds develop wisdom through cultivation, they will become Buddhas. Therefore, all Buddhas are made from beings.

Universal Worthy Bodhisattva also contemplated the ocean of all dharma realms. “Realms” doesn’t refer to regions in this world only, but to the infinite worlds of the ten directions, exhausting dharma realms and pervading space. All dharma realms are like a sea, oceanic in extent. What, though, is the Dharma Realm? To put it simply, it’s just a single thought of the mind. By means of a single true, pure thought, beings gain direct entry into the sea of dharma realms.

Within the ocean of all dharma realms, there are boundless beings, and so the Bodhisattva also contemplated the ocean of all beings’ karma. The karma beings create is likened to an ocean. The karma of each kind of being is unique, and each being’s karmic obstructions are different. Good karma enables beings to ascend and bad karma causes them to fall. If they hold the five precepts and practice the ten good deeds, they can be reborn in the heavens.

The Ten Good Deeds

1. not to kill

2. not to steal

3. not to engage in sexual misconduct

One does not commit these three evil deeds involving the body.

4. not to lie

5. not to speak divisively

6. not to speak harshly

7. not to speak loosely

One does not commit these four evil deeds involving the mouth.

8. not to be greedy

9. not to be angry

10. not to be deluded

One does not commit these three evil deeds involving the mind. To refrain from the three evil deeds of the body is to maintain the three good deeds of the body. To refrain from the four evil deeds of the mouth is to maintain the four good deeds of the mouth. To refrain from the three evil deeds of the mind is to maintain the three good deeds of the mind. Maintaining the ten good deeds is requisite for rebirth in the heavens; doing the ten evil deeds will send one to the hells. The ten good deeds are the reverse of the ten evil deeds. Turn the ten evil deeds around and we are practicing the ten good deeds. If the karma that beings create had form and appearance, it would long ago have filled up space to the bursting point! Since it has no form or appearance, however, there is no need to prepare a place to store this boundless, limitless ocean of beings’ karma.

Universal Worthy Bodhisattva contemplated the ocean of all beings’ roots and desires. Among beings there are those who have deep good roots and those who have deep bad roots. People who have deep good roots want to study the Buddhadharma and are filial to their parents, teachers, the Sangha, and the Triple Jewel. Those with deep bad roots are not filial to their parents and do not respect their teachers, the Sangha, or the Triple Jewel.

“Desires” here refers to the five desires, which are the desires for wealth, sex, fame, food, and sleep. The first is the desire to get rich, the second is the desire for beautiful forms, the third is the desire for a good reputation, the fourth is the desire to eat good food, and the fifth is the desire for sleep. These five kinds of desires are the five roots of the hells. These roots and desires are one kind of obstruction that beings have, but if they are changed into good roots they will be very helpful in their cultivation of the Path. All these roots and desires, these faculties and inclinations, are different.

The Bodhisattva also contemplated the ocean of all Buddhas’ Dharma wheels. Beings have so many desires and so many faults! However, Buddhas have just as many dharma doors with which to teach and transform them. That is what is meant when we say they “turn the great Dharma wheel.” They proclaim 84,000 kinds of dharma doors to counter the 84,000 illnesses that afflict beings.

Universal Worthy Bodhisattva also contemplated the ocean of all the three periods of time. The ocean of worlds spoken of previously includes the worlds of the present time, but now the sutra brings up the worlds of the past, present, and future. There are limitless Buddhas in the past, in the present, and in the future. The past, present, and future together make up the ocean of the three periods of time.

He also contemplated the ocean of all Tathagatas’ vow-power. How is it that all Buddhas realize Buddhahood? It is because they make vows. When they achieve their vows, they become Buddhas.

Universal Worthy Bodhisattva further contemplated the ocean of all Tathagatas’ spiritual transformations. When they become Buddhas, they attain spiritual penetrations and the ability to create transformations according to their intent. These kinds of differentiations are incredibly numerous and beyond reckoning, and so they are called “the ocean of all Tathagatas’ spiritual transformations.”

II. Acknowledgement of questions and promise to speak

Acknowledgement of questions and brief praise

Acknowledgement of ten questions on the seas of worlds, and so forth

Sutra:

Having contemplated thus, he spoke to all the Bodhisattvas in the oceanic assemblies in all bodhimandas, saying, “Disciples of the Buddha! The pure wisdom that all Buddhas, World Honored Ones, have of knowing the formation and destruction of the oceans of all worlds is inconceivable. Their wisdom of knowing the oceans of all beings’ karma is inconceivable. Their wisdom of knowing the oceans of arrangements of all dharma realms is inconceivable. Their wisdom in speaking of the boundless oceans of all Buddhas is inconceivable.

Commentary:

Having contemplated thus, after Universal Worthy Bodhisattva finished contemplating all the previously-described oceans of worlds, he spoke to all the Bodhisattvas in the oceanic assemblies in all bodhimandas, saying, “Disciples of the Buddhas! The pure wisdom that all Buddhas, World Honored Ones, have of knowing the formation and destruction of the oceans of all worlds is inconceivable. All Buddhas, the World Honored Ones, of the ten directions and three periods of time, have the wisdom of knowing how all the worlds come into being and how they are destroyed. This kind of pure and clear wisdom is inconceivable; you can’t use your mind to think of it or words to describe it. All of you Bodhisattvas should further progress in your investigation of the Buddhadharma.

Their wisdom of knowing the oceans of beings’ karma is inconceivable. All Buddhas possess the wisdom of knowing the karma of beings; knowing their causes and conditions and their retributions; knowing the retribution that results from each kind of karma. It is said, “As you sow, so shall you reap.” If you plant melons, you get melons; and if you plant beans, you get beans. Beings reap the retribution corresponding to the karma they create; that is the “oceans of beings’ karma.” All World Honored Ones have this kind of wisdom. They know how confused beings are, how they leave home and then want to return to lay-life; they return to lay-life and then want to leave home. They know beings don’t want to die, but still have to die because that’s part of their karma. Yet beings continue to be confused, pursuing fame and profit every day. Such confused thinking is really inconceivable!

Their wisdom of knowing the oceans of arrangements of all dharma realms is inconceivable. Buddhas also have the wisdom to know how all the dharma realms are successively arranged and come into being.

Their wisdom in speaking of the boundless oceans of all Buddhas is inconceivable. They are also able to speak of each Buddha in the ocean of limitless Buddhas. Such wisdom is also inconceivable. Universal Worthy tells the great assembly about those various kinds of wisdom of a Buddha.

Sutra:

Their wisdom of entering the oceans of all desires, understandings, and roots is inconceivable. Their wisdom of universally knowing in a single thought all the three periods of time is inconceivable. Their wisdom of revealing the oceans of all Tathagatas’ limitless vows is inconceivable. Their wisdom of manifesting the oceans of all Buddhas’ spiritual transformations is inconceivable. Their wisdom of turning the Dharma wheel is inconceivable. Their wisdom of establishing the oceans of promulgation is inconceivable.  

Commentary :

Their, all Buddhas’, World Honored Ones’, wisdom of entering the oceans of all desires, understandings, and roots of beings is inconceivable. “Entering” means fathom ing ; penetrat ing and comprehend ing . They understand all the various kinds of desires, understandings, and dispositions that beings have. Their wisdom of universally knowing in a single thought all the three periods of time is inconceivable. Within a single thought they have the wisdom of knowing all the events of the past, present, and future, and their causes and conditions. Such wisdom is also inconceivable.

Their wisdom of revealing the oceans of all Tathagatas’ limitless vows is inconceivable. They are able to display the oceans of countless vows made by all Tathagatas throughout the ten directions and three periods of time. The innumerable vows made by all Buddhas resemble a great ocean and are inconceivable. Their wisdom of manifesting the oceans of all Buddhas’ spiritual transformations is inconceivable. All Buddhas’ spiritual powers and transformations are also inconceivable. Their wisdom of turning the Dharma wheel is inconceivable. All Buddhas, World Honored Ones, use this inconceivable kind of wisdom to turn the wonderful Dharma wheel. Their wisdom of establishing the oceans of promulgation is inconceivable. In establishing the banner of Dharma, all Buddhas set up bodhimandas everywhere and speak all Buddhadharma, which is also inconceivable.

II. A. 2. Acknowledgement of ten questions on the six sense faculties and three karmas

Sutra:

The purification of their Buddha-body is inconceivable. The pervasive and illuminating brightness of the ocean of their boundless forms and characteristics is inconceivable. The purity of their hallmarks and subtle characteristics is inconceivable. The ocean of the radiant orbs of their boundless, immaculate characteristics is inconceivable. The ocean of the luminous clouds of their various physical marks is inconceivable. The ocean of their sublime, blazing jewels is inconceivable. The ocean of their sounds of speech is inconceivable. The ocean of their manifesting three modes of self-mastery to tame all beings and bring them to maturity is inconceivable. The ocean of their courageous taming of all beings, which is never in vain, is inconceivable.  

Commentary:

The purification of their Buddha-body is inconceivable. All Buddhas, World Honored Ones, can purify their Buddha bodies, and this too is inconceivable. The pervasive and illuminating brightness of the ocean of their boundless forms and characteristics is inconceivable. There are boundlessly many physical characteristics, and all kinds of bodies that appear. They are so numerous that they are like an ocean. The pervasive , illumining brightness light s up all Buddhalands. This kind of wisdom is also inconceivable. The purity of their hallmarks and subtle characteristics is inconceivable. Each of a Buddha’s Thirty-two Hallmarks is pure, and each of his Eighty Subtle Characteristics is bright, and so they are called inconceivable. The ocean of the radiant orbs of their boundless, immaculate characteristics is inconceivable. The Buddhas also have innumerable physical characteristics and innumerable bodies, forming an ocean of radiant orbs. These orbs of light are so numerous that they resemble an ocean. They are both luminous and absolutely pure, rendering them inconceivable.

The ocean of luminous clouds of their various physical marks is inconceivable. The various manifestations of the Buddhas’ marks are limitless, and the ocean of luminous clouds that appears is also inconceivable. The ocean of their sublime, blazing jewels is inconceivable. These jewels are very special, valuable and unsurpassed. Ordinary jewels cannot compare with them. Each jewel shines resplendently.

The ocean of their sounds of speech is inconceivable. The Buddhas can speak all languages and produce all kinds of sounds. The ocean of their manifesting three modes of self-mastery to tame all beings and bring them to maturity is inconceivable. The three kinds of sovereignty are those of the body, speech, and mind. Buddhas have self-mastery in their karmas of body, speech, and mind. This self-mastery enables them to tame and subdue all beings and bring them to maturity. “Bring to maturity” means leading those without good roots to plant them, those who already have good roots to increase them, those who have already increased their good roots to bring them to maturity, and those whose good roots are mature to attain liberation. “To tame” beings means to cause those who are stubborn not to be stubborn and to help those who persist in going down the wrong road to return to the proper one. This kind of state is also inconceivable.

The sea of their courageous taming of all beings, which is never in vain, is inconceivable. The previous kind of “taming” is not as forceful as the “courageous taming” spoken of here. “Courageous” here definitely does not mean losing one’s temper with others in order to subdue them, however. It means using patience, giving, kind words, beneficial practices, and similar work. Beings form habits that become deeply ingrained. Therefore we use kind words, so they will like to listen to what we say. We can also encourage them to make the bodhi resolve by giving them a little something, which creates affinities between them and us, or by doing something that benefits them, or by mingling with them and working together with them on something. We can also guide them to produce the bodhi resolve. Being courageous doesn’t mean using a big temper to frighten others or make them tremble with fear as if they’d seen a ghost! “Courageous taming” means using such methods as the Six Paramitas—giving, precepts, patience, vigor, samadhi, and wisdom—to teach beings. Whenever a Buddha sees any being, he will immediately try to benefit that being. No matter how many beings there are, he leads them all to make the bodhi resolve. The Buddhas’ efforts are never in vain, never ineffective; and this is also an inconceivable kind of state.

II.A.3. Acknowledgement of ten questions on perfect virtues and abilities

Sutra:

Their abiding on the level of Buddhas is inconceivable. Their entry into the realm of the Tathagatas is inconceivable. Their awesome protective power is inconceivable. Their contemplation of what all Buddhas practice in their wisdom is inconceivable. The invincible perfection of their powers is inconceivable.

Their unsurpassed, fearless merit and virtue are inconceivable. Their dwelling in the samadhi of nondiscrimination is inconceivable. Their spiritual penetrations and transformations are inconceivable. Their pure and independent wisdom is inconceivable. The indestructible Dharma of all Buddhas is inconceivable.

II.B. Promise to speak

Receiving the Buddhas’ spiritual strength and all Tathagatas’ awesome spiritual power, I will now fully explain all of these dharmas.

Commentary :

Their abiding on the level of Buddhas is inconceivable. Their constant “abiding on the level of Buddhas” refers to their cultivation of the Buddhas’ dharma doors, which leads to the realization of Buddhahood. Their entry into the realm of the Tathagatas is inconceivable. Their understanding of the realm of a Thus Come One is inconceivable. Their awesome protective power is inconceivable. The awesome power with which Buddhas protect and support the Buddhadharma is inconceivable. Their contemplation of what all Buddhas practice in their wisdom, the dharma doors that all Buddhas cultivate, is inconceivable.The invincible perfection of their powers is inconceivable. Having perfected the Ten Powers, the Buddhas cannot be vanquished or overcome by anyone. Their state is inconceivable. 

Their having unsurpassed, fearless merit and virtue means that they are not afraid their merit and virtue will be excessive; so their fearless merit and virtue are inconceivable, and no one can exceed it. The Buddha is:

Replete with blessings and wisdom,
Perfect in merit and virtue.

Their dwelling in the samadhi of nondiscrimination is inconceivable. This is a samadhi that pervades all places without discrimination. Their spiritual penetrations and transformations are inconceivable. When you have perfected your cultivation, you will naturally have these spiritual powers.  

Their pure and independent wisdom is inconceivable. When we reach this pure wisdom of self-mastery, we won’t have confused, distorted thoughts and there won’t be a lot of thoughts of desire circulating in our minds. This pure, independent, and inconceivable wisdom comes with the absence of desire. Why are so many people so full of greed? It’s because they lack wisdom. If you had wisdom and could see things as they really are, what would you crave? You wouldn’t crave anything.

The indestructible Dharma of all Buddhas is inconceivable. People who cultivate the Dharma of the Buddhas should fear only that they will fail to truly cultivate. When we truly cultivate, then even though people may slander us and try to ruin our practice, they will not succeed. If we seek nothing and are devoid of greed, anger, and delusion, no one can disturb us. People may scold us or even try to kill us, but we will take it. Therefore the text says, “The indestructible Dharma of all Buddhas is inconceivable.” The Buddhadharma cannot be destroyed, and this is inconceivable.

Receiving the Buddhas’ spiritual strength and all Tathagatas’ awesome spiritual power, I will now fully explain all of these dharmas. Universal Worthy Bodhisattva is preparing to clearly elucidate all the aforementioned qualities of the Buddhas for us.

II.C. Description of the benefits

Sutra:

I do this in order that beings may enter the ocean of the Buddhas’ wisdom; in order that all Bodhisattvas may dwell in the ocean of the Buddhas’ meritorious virtues; in order that all seas of worlds may be adorned with the self-mastery of all Buddhas; in order that the lineage of the Tathagatas may be perpetuated for all oceans of eons; in order to reveal the true nature of all dharmas in all seas of worlds; in order to explain the teachings according to the ocean of all beings’ measureless capacities to understand; in order to expediently bring forth Buddhadharma in accord with the ocean of all beings’ potentials; in order to fulfill the ocean of beings’ wishes and joys and to topple their mountains of obstacles; in order to be attuned to the ocean of all beings’ mental activity so as to lead them to purely cultivate the essential path of escape; in order that all Bodhisattvas may dwell in the ocean of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva’s vows.  

Commentary :

Why does Universal Worthy Bodhisattva wish to proclaim and explain all these dharmas? It is in order that beings may enter the ocean of the Buddhas’ wisdom, so that they can deeply enter the Treasury of Sutras and have wisdom like the sea—wisdom that is identical to the Buddhas’ wisdom. It is also in order that all Bodhisattvas may dwell in the ocean of the Buddhas’ meritorious virtues. He wishes them to abide in the Buddhas’ ocean of meritorious virtues, so that they themselves can practice and perfect the meritorious virtues of the Buddhas. It is also in order that all seas of worlds may be adorned with the self-mastery of all Buddhas. This self-mastery spontaneously adorns all Buddhalands.

It is also in order that the lineage of the Tathagatas may be perpetuated for all oceans of eons. Universal Worthy Bodhisattva wants t o ensure that the lineage of the Buddhas never dies off or gets destroyed throughout the oceanic progression of eons of time.

Universal Worthy Bodhisattva also speaks Dharma in order to reveal the true nature of all dharmas in all seas of worlds. N o thing in this world is real. However, within that unreality, the actua l nature of True Suchness is revealed; and so it is not totally illusory. It is also in order to explain the teachings according to the ocean of all beings’ measureless capacities to understand. If their understanding is small, then he explains just a little; if their understanding is great, then he explains more profound principles. For those who have a total, all-encompassing understanding, he explains the true nature of all things.

It is also in order to expediently bring forth Buddhadharma in accord with the ocean of all beings’ potentials. In order to do this, a Bodhisattva is always sympathetic to beings and understands their dispositions. When he understands their dispositions, he then uses all kinds of expedient methods to lead them to believe in the Buddha. He complies with their wishes and gives them whatever makes them happy. If you understand what makes beings happy, you can speak Dharma for them. He speaks also in order to fulfill the ocean of beings’ wishes and joys and to topple their mountains of obstacles, that is to say, their arrogance and self-satisfaction. It is also in order to be attuned to the ocean of all beings’ mental activity so as to lead them to purely cultivate the essential path of escape. Always attuned to the ocean of beings’ mental activity, he leads them to cultivate the pure dharma doors of the essential path of escape from the Three Realms. It is also in order that all Bodhisattvas may dwell in the ocean of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva’s vows. For all these reasons, Universal Worthy Bodhisattva wishes to speak Dharma for beings.

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