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40 new edition

Practices and Vows of
Samantabhadra Bodhisattva

Chapter Forty, New Edition




From all delusions, karma, and demonic states,
Within the worldly paths, I will attain liberation.


From all delusions, karma, and demon-states. What are “delusions” and “karma?” Delusion is confusion or doubt. There are three kinds of delusion: view delusions, the delusions of thought, and the delusions like dust and sand. View delusions are coarse delusions, the delusions of thought are subtle delusions, and the delusions like dust and sand are called the delusion of ignorance.

What are view delusions? “When you encounter a state, you give rise to thoughts of greed and craving.” Thoughts of craving are delusion. And when you have a lot of delusions, you become confused and lack understanding.

What is the delusion of thought? Because you do not understand reason, you give rise to improper discriminating thoughts. This is delusion of thought.

The delusions like dust and sand are extremely many. They are as numerous as the smallest atomic particles or as many as the grains of sand in the Ganges River. The ignorance we have in our minds was originally very little, but it has increased to a great amount. For this reason, it is called delusions like dust and sand: one’s ignorance is as numerous as the minutest particles in the world and the grains of sand in the Ganges River. For example, in your life you may unexpectedly encounter a state and give rise to thoughts of greed and craving. Although this is considered delusion of views, fundamentally it comes from ignorance. Why do you give rise to thoughts of greed and craving? Where do these thoughts come from? If you seek for their source, you will find ignorance. Ignorance, therefore, is the source of birth and death or Samsara. We have not ended birth and death because ignorance obstructs us. These are three kinds of delusion.

How many types of delusion of views are there? There are eighty-eight kinds of delusion of views. How many kinds of delusion of thought are there? There are eighty-one. When one has realized the First Stage of an Arhat, one has cut off the eighty-eight view delusions. When one has realized the Second Stage of an Arhat, one has cut off the eighty-one thought delusions When one has realized the Third Stage of an Arhat, one cuts off the delusions like dust and sand. When one has realized the Fourth Stage of an Arhat, one destroys ignorance. And when ignorance is destroyed, the Dharma Nature is revealed.

However, he has not destroyed ignorance completely. Even the Bodhisattva of Equal Enlightenment has still not destroyed “ignorance concerning the characteristic of origination.” This one last tiny bit of ignorance has not yet been destroyed. If one can destroy this final tiny bit of ignorance, one realizes Wonderful Enlightenment. Wonderful Enlightenment is the enlightenment of a Buddha. But because one has not yet destroyed this tiny bit of ignorance, one is still a Bodhisattva.

“Karma” refers to the good and evil karma that you create. There is a saying, “Even for hundreds of thousands of kalpas, the karma one creates is never forgotten.” There is no way that the karma that you have created can disappear. If you do good, then you have good karma; if you do bad, then you have bad karma. Karma is always with you. The verse continues, “When the causes and supporting conditions come together, the results must be undergone by yourself.”

When the conditions come together, when the time is right, you must undergo retribution. Undergoing your just reward means that you must undergo what is coming to you. If you have planted good causes, you will receive a good reward, but if you have planted bad causes, you will get a bad reward. If you do wholesome deeds, you will get good in return, but if you do evil, you will get evil in return. Therefore it is said:

Even for hundreds of thousands of kalpas, the karma one creates is never forgotten.
When the causes and supporting conditions come together, the results must be undergone by yourself.

I will now give you an example of how causes and conditions are at work. There was once a man who was very rich. How did he get rich? He was a rice merchant. In China, rice was sold by the pound and was measured using a scale or standard sized containers. The wealthy man added water to his rice to increase its weight and size. To one hundred pounds of rice he added ten to twenty pounds of water. The rice looked quite good, because it was larger and weighed more. However, when it dried out, it shrank so that there was not very much rice. He made a lot of money doing business like this.

He also sold liquor in the same way. He thought, “If a person drinks liquor, I should make money off of him. If he has the money to buy a drink, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t get a little more of it. If he doesn’t have money, of course, then he can’t buy it.” At that time there was sorghum liquor. To every quart of this liquor he added about 20% water. So with every 10 quarts of liquor he made a lot of money.

This wealthy man had three sons. Because he loved gold and silver, he named his eldest son Gold and his second son Silver. What did he name his third son? He named him Karmic Obstructions. It is not known how rich he was. He made an excessive amount of money.

When he became old, he contracted an illness and was on the verge of death. He sought out a doctor to cure him, but the doctor threw up his hands and said he was at a loss to help him. He said, “I have no way to help you. You can only bide your time. If you have good things to eat, go ahead and enjoy them. Your time is near.”

The man thought, “I have so much money it seems pointless to die like this. I’ll have to discuss this with my sons and see which one will go along with me when I die. My eldest son is my favorite.”

He called his eldest son Gold to him and said, “Do you know that for my entire life I have cared for you the most?”

His son said, “I know. You’ve been very good to me. As my father you have given me so much money and you have accumulated so much wealth—all of which will be mine in the future. I know you’ve been very good to me.”

His father said, “I care for you so much and now that I’m about to die, I can’t bear to leave you. Could you go along with me when I die?”

His eldest son said, “Your illness has made you mixed up and confused. How can I die with you? Are you joking with me? Please don’t joke like this. You must really be telling a big joke.”

His father said, “No! I’m serious. I’m not joking. Really, can you die with me or not?”

The eldest son said, “No I can’t. You’re asking me to die with you. You arranged for me to get married, so now I have a wife and a son. If I die, what will become of them?”

His father said, “During my entire life I cared for you so much, and yet when I ask you to accompany me in death, you refuse. Okay. Well, if you won’t come along, just forget it.” He wanted to get his second son, so he told Gold, “Quickly go tell Silver to come and see me.”

Then he talked to Silver. “I have treated your elder brother a little bit better than you, but I’ve discovered that he does not have the least bit of filial respect towards me. I feel that you always have a lot of filial respect, and that you are very obedient to your father. Now, I’m about to die. Can you go along with me when I die?

Silver replied, “If Gold won’t die with you, how could I possibly do it? I can’t do this. If you are going to die, then hurry up and die. However, you can’t tell me to die with you.” Then he shook his arm and said, “Father, you are senile. You are truly an ignoramus. I’m still young. I haven’t enjoyed my life enough, and you ask me to die with you. That’s totally ridiculous. Having old people like you living in the world is simply a waste.” Not only would this son not die with his father, but he scolded him as well.

The wealthy man said, “If you won’t die with me, tell my youngest son to come.” And he called for his third son, Karmic Obstructions.

“Karmic Obstructions, I’m about to die. Can you accompany me in death?”

Karmic Obstructions replied, “Of course. I’d be most happy to do this. I’ll accompany you and serve you wherever you go.”

Then the rich man thought, “He’s really not too bad. At least I have one son who will be buried with me.” Then he felt very satisfied.

But what happened when Karmic Obstructions went with his father? They went to see King Yama and King Yama asked the man, “When you were alive, did you add water to your rice and liquor before selling them?”

The wealthy man replied, “No. I would never do such a dishonest thing.”

Can you guess what Karmic Obstructions said when he heard his father’s reply? He said, “Yes, you did. Every time you sold rice or liquor, I saw you add water to them. King Yama is correct. How come you don’t admit this?”

His son had gone along to testify as a witness to all the bad things his father had done. There was nothing his father could say. As a result, he was about to fall into the hells.

He said to his son, “You came along to testify against me, to say that I committed karmic offenses, not to say that I did virtuous deeds. If I had known you were going to be like this, I would have never asked you to accompany me. It would have been a lot better if you had never come. Now I’ve ended up in the hells. Even though I don’t have a defense lawyer, I could have spoken on my own behalf and King Yama would not have known of my bad deeds. But you testified against me.” Then the wealthy man was quite despondent. Therefore it is said,

You can’t take anything with you (when you die).
Neither Gold nor Silver will be willing to go.
Only your Karma will follow you.

You can’t take any of the myriad things that exist with you. Gold and Silver are unwilling to go. Only Karmic Obstructions will go along with you.

When King Yama is interrogating you,
Karma will tell it as it actually is.

When King Yama asks you what you did during your life, your karmic obstructions will verify what is true and what karma was actually done. Karmic obstructions are very fierce. What is the meaning of karmic obstructions? Karma is all the things that you do. If you do good, then you have good karma. If you do evil, then you have evil karma. The good that you do is called good karma, and the evil that you do is called evil karma. It is bad karma that constitutes your karmic obstructions.

Explaining this reminds me of another short story. It occurred when I was very young, while I was still a Shramanera (novice monk). At Chinese New Year, people always write matched couplets on red paper and hang them on either side of the main entrance of the monastery or their residence. This is called “writing scrolls for the New Year.” If you look downstairs at the entrance of our building (the lecture was giving at the Buddhist Lecture Hall on Waverly Place in San Francisco in 1969), there is red paper posted on either side of the door, which is what I am talking about here. In the monastery someone might write, “May everything be auspicious in accord with your wishes” or some other auspicious words or verse.

At that time I wrote the four characters, “Wisdom like the sea” very quickly and with a lot of strength and power. When a fellow Dharma brother, who was also a Shramanera, saw these four words, he really liked them. And he recited, “Wisdom like the sea, wisdom like the sea, wisdom like the sea,” over and over again. When I had heard him do this so many times, it really irritated me, and so I said, “The force of your karma is like the sea.”

When he heard this he got very upset. He was so angry he wanted to hit me. He said, “ How do you know the force of my karma is like the sea? How can you say my karma is like the sea?” He acted like he was ready to fight with me.

I replied, “Don’t get so upset. What I have said is something that will definitely make you happy. You will certainly agree with me. When I said that the force of your karma is like the sea, not only should you not get mad at me, but you should thank me for wishing you good fortune.”

He retorted, “Ha! That’s really outrageous! You say the force of my karma is like the sea, and I should thank you? That doesn’t make any sense.”

I said, “I’ll tell you the rest of the explanation later.” This literally means “I’ll continue explaining this in the next episode.” That is, I’m not going to explain it to you now. Wait a while and I will tell you later on.

He demanded, “What are you going to explain?”

I said, “Do you know what the meaning of karma is?” He said, “Karma is what people do.”

I said, “There is good karma and bad karma. I meant the power of your good karma is like the sea. How do you feel now?” He stood there wide- eyed with surprise and had nothing to say. I continued, “I didn’t say whether your good karma or bad karma was like the sea. Why did you get angry? My meaning was that your good karma is like the sea. Now what do you think?”

He said, “Oh, no problem. I’m sorry.” He apologized, admitted he was wrong, which means he repented. Look how wonderful this is! Just one word made the difference. By adding the word “good,” suddenly his extreme anger vanished. Don’t you think this is strange? This is also called the wonderful Dharma. Do you understand? Being off by one word and not clearly saying the word “good,” caused him to get angry. But when I added the word “good” to “karma like the sea,” he was beside himself with joy. If you are off by one word, you can cause people to become happy or to get angry.

I told him, “Since I’ve said this to you, you should invite me to lunch.” He said, “Okay, okay!” Then he agreed to invite me for lunch.

Take a look at this. The minds of living beings are very strange. With the difference of one word, they can go from anger to joy. The power of karma is just like this.

There is another story that occurred also during the time that I was a Shramanera. One day I was carrying a roll of paper, and I met a person who was a real busy body. He liked to know about and meddle in other people’s business.

He asked me, “What is it you have there? What are you carrying?”

I replied, “This is a bill of sale. I have just sold you.”

He got angry. Because he would often get angry, I would occasionally do things that would get him stirred up. So this time I told him, “This is a bill of sale. I sold you.”

He got angry and said, “How can you sell me? Huh? How can you sell me? What authority do you have to sell me?”

I said, “Of course I have the authority to sell you. And since I’ve sold you, you should be happy, because I wouldn’t do so if you didn’t like it. I actually have a special authority to sell you.”

He got even angrier. “What kind of special authority?” He was really upset.

I told him, “If there is someone who wants to buy you, you should certainly be happy when I sell you.”

He said, “That doesn’t make any sense. If you sold me to someone, how could I possibly be happy about it? Explain yourself.”

I said, “I’ll explain it to you. I sold you to Shakyamuni Buddha so that you can be a monk forever.”

He was dumbstruck. He stared at me with unblinking eyes. I said, “Is this okay? Are you happy?”

He replied, “That’s okay. You can do that.”

When I was very young, I was really naughty. This is how naughty I was. Look into this. The situation here is the same as the story above. I sold

him just the same, but in the end he was happy. This is also the wonderful Dharma. Do not take it as just a joke.

“From all delusions, karma, and demonic states, within the worldly paths, I will attain liberation.” I have explained “delusion” and “karma” in general, and now I will discuss “demon-states.” If you do not cultivate the Path, demons will not come after you. But if you do cultivate, then demons will come after you. Why? When you do not cultivate you are like a poor person, and demons are just like bandits. Bandits do not rob poor people, because they know that poor people have nothing worth stealing. However, if you cultivate the Path, then you are the same as a rich person. If you are rich, then day and night the bandits will wait for the opportunity to rob you. They will try to steal your valuables. Thus there are demons when you cultivate the Path. It is said,

Demons polish the True Path;
With the True Path, demons come.
The more they polish, the brighter you become;
When you become bright, it should be polished even more,
Polished like the full moon in autumn
Which shines in the sky upon the hordes of demons.
Being revealed by the light, the demonic hordes retreat,
And the original Buddha appears.

“Demons polish the True Path.” Only when you have a little bit of true sincerity, will the demons come to “polish” and test you. Therefore, the next line says, “With the True Path, demons come.” If you truly cultivate, then there will be demons. “The more they polish, the brighter you become.” The more the demon polishes you, the brighter you become. “When you become bright, it should be polished even more.” The brighter you become, the more you should be polished. “Polished like the full moon in autumn.” Demons test you until your light shines like the autumn moon. This is the autumn moon that shines radiantly in the sky during the fall. “Which shines in the sky upon the hordes of demons.” In the sky it illuminates all of the hordes of demons. It means that if you have true wisdom, you can illuminate the hordes of demons. You will recognize all of them. When demons come, you will detect them. “Being revealed by the light, the demonic hordes retreat.” Illuminating the demonic hordes refers to the light of your wisdom, which illuminates the demons so they are unable to find or exploit any weakness in you. “And the original Buddha appears.” At that time the original Buddha comes forth.

When you cultivate the spiritual path and have some achievement, demonic obstacles will arise. For example, let us discuss keeping the moral precepts. You may not want to break the precepts, but you break them nonetheless. You do not wish to kill, but without being aware of it, you find yourself killing and breaking that moral precept. You do not wish to steal, but unbeknownst to you, you break this precept. You do not wish to break the precept against sexual misconduct, but without being aware of it, you find yourself breaking this moral precept.

What does it mean to do these things without knowing it? It means that you are confused, and then your ignorance comes forth. When ignorance arises you forget everything. For example, you might forget that you have taken the moral precepts or that you are vegetarian, and so you eat meat and break the moral precepts. Originally you do not intend to lie, but your ignorance comes forth and you lie. You do not intend to drink wine, but your ignorance arises and you take a drink. These are all situations in which your ignorance covers over your wisdom. And because you lack wisdom, you break the moral precepts. This is one scenario for breaking the moral precepts.

When you meditate and start to develop some power of meditative-concentration, you make a resolve. You realize that romantic relationships are unwholesome, so you think “I must change and refrain from this behavior.” You have obtained a little bit of meditative-concentration, and from this concentration comes a little bit of wisdom. Therefore, you wish to put an end to sexual desire. Previously, when you did not want to cut off your sexual desire, nothing happened. However, as soon as you wish to cut if off, the “demons of lust” come. What do they do? Perhaps when you are asleep and dreaming, they may transform into different kinds of beautiful women. Not just one kind. They will appear as the kind you like the most and then try to seduce you. This is what happens with men. For women, they will manifest as various kinds of handsome men to tempt you. They challenge and test you in your dreams. If you do not have enough self-control, you will break the moral precepts in your dreams. When you do not have enough strength in your meditative- concentration, then you also do not have wisdom.

Perhaps this happens even when you’re not dreaming, during ordinary times. If you have no concentration power and you lack wisdom, the demons will not bother you. However, if you wish to cultivate the path and make a resolve to practice, this kind of experience with a demonic obstacle can appear. For example if you are a man, your old girlfriend may come around, or if you are a women, your old boyfriend might come to see you. Then without realizing it, you break the moral precepts. Breaking precepts just shows a lack of the power of concentration. When you are without concentration, you are deluded, without any power of wisdom. This is an example of how ignorance covers over your wisdom and causes you to break the moral precepts. This is another kind of scenario for breaking the moral precepts.

Another situation is this. You say that you meditate all day long from morning to night. You investigate Dhyana and meditate. When you are meditating a demonic obstacle can arise. What demonic obstacle? Perhaps you see all kinds of states and experiences. Maybe you feel that you have spiritual powers or you feel that your body is the same as the void. You feel that you’re as big as space. The Shurangama Sutra has a section on the 50 Skandha Demons. All types of these demonic states can appear. These are all demonic states.

In the past there was an old cultivator who practiced Dhyana meditation and cultivated the Path. When he was just about to enter samadhi, he had a state. What was this state? He saw a large boulder weighing a few tons suspended over his head by a fine rope. A mouse was chewing on the rope. If the rope were to break, the large boulder would smash the old cultivator to death. If he had become frightened and tried to run away when he saw this state, he would have been possessed by a demon. The demon king would have his way with him. However, his mind was like still water, and he thought, “If you fall on my head and smash me to death, I won’t pay any attention to you. Even if I die, I will still continue to meditate here.” After this, he entered samadhi, and as a result, no large boulder smashed him to death. If he had become frightened, he could have been possessed by a demon.

Further, when Shakyamuni Buddha was just about to perfect the Path and become a Buddha, the demon king, Pāpīyāṃs and his multitudes became uneasy. The demon king said, “Prince Siddhartha Gautama is about to become a Buddha. We should prevent him from accomplishing the Path and becoming a Buddha.”

At that time, the demon king was thinking back and forth trying to come up with a wondrous method. When he had come to the point where he knitted his brows in frustration and felt that there was no way to stop him, some of his demon daughters arrived.

They asked, “Father, why are you so distraught?”

The demon king answered, “Prince Gautama is about to become a Buddha. I don’t want this to happen. If he becomes a Buddha, our retinue of demons will lose its power and influence. I’m trying to think of a way to stop him from becoming a Buddha.”

His daughters said, “We can disturb his resolve for the Path and cause him to have thoughts of lust.”

Then the demon women got ready to destroy Shakyamuni Buddha’s karma of the spiritual path. These demon women were extremely beautiful. When they went to where Shakyamuni Buddha was, they appeared in various seductive ways, and used this cunning method to try to entice Shakyamuni Buddha to have thoughts of sexual desire. However, Shakyamuni Buddha was fundamentally “thus, thus unmoving” when encountering states like this.

Then he thought, “Now you think you are really beautiful. Yet actually in the future when you’re old you’ll have wrinkles on your face like a chicken and the hair on your head will turn as white as a crane. In the future, you will be very ugly.”

When he made this contemplation, the demon women all of a sudden saw themselves becoming old. Their eyes could not see clearly and their ears had difficulty hearing. And they saw themselves looking old, frail and decrepit. They became very ashamed and ran off.

When talking about demonic states, they are quite numerous. No matter what state or experience we cultivators of the Path encounter, we must not be moved by them. If you are not moved or disturbed by them, just this is having the power of concentration or samadhi. If you have samadhi-power, you can overcome and transform a scattered and restless mind. Dhyana Samadhi transforms a mind that lacks concentration. If you don’t have scattered thoughts, you cannot be possessed by a demon. This is called breaking up the states of demons.

Within the worldly paths, I will attain liberation. Right within the worldly paths, one is able to obtain liberation. One reaches a state of non- attachment and attains liberation. The worldly paths are the mundane paths of existence that we are in now. Within the dharmas or phenomena of the world you can transcend the world. How can you transcend the world while being in the world? Just don’t be attached. If you can separate from your attachments, then you can obtain liberation.

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