THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
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The Names of the Thus Come Ones

Chapter Seven. A Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua

Sutra:

Wonderful Enlightenment was all perfected.

Commentary:

Wonderful Enlightenment is called wonderful because the Buddha’s enlightenment transcends the principles to which most people become enlightened. It is the very highest, with nothing above it—it’s inconceivable. That’s why it is called the Unsurpassed, Right, Equal, Proper Enlightenment. “Wonderful” means Unsurpassed, Right, and Equal. This is enlightenment taken to the ultimate point, and so it was allperfected. That means there was nothing more that could be enlightened to—the enlightenment was ultimate. Therefore the Buddha is called the Unsurpassed Knight, for there is no one wiser than him. That his “wonderful enlightenment was all perfected” means that he had perfected the enlightenment of self, the enlightenment of others, and his practice of enlightenment. This kind of enlightenment is such that,

There is nothing which one does not know,
And nothing which one cannot do.

It was previously explained that this is Chapter Seven, The Names of the Thus Come Ones. Starting from the line of text that says, “Wonderful enlightenment was all perfected” this section praises the Buddha’s virtue, his virtue which was in no way deficient but rather complete and perfect. It can be called wonderful enlightenment, or good enlightenment as well as proper enlightenment, because the prefix ‘su’—in Sanskrit, which this is translated from—has those three meanings:

  • wonderful,
  • well or good,
  • proper

It can be translated those three ways, so you can say “wonderful enlightenment”, or “good enlightenment”, or “proper enlightenment”. In general, this term means the Buddha has:

Virtue in no way deficient,
Wisdom nothing less than full, and
Blessings with no endowment lacking.

His wisdom, his virtuous characteristics, and his reward of blessings are all perfect and complete. The nine statements that follow all proceed from this first statement “wonderful enlightenment was all perfected”. The phrase “wonderful enlightenment was all perfected” is the general statement, which includes the meanings of the nine phrases that follow. The principles of the nine subsequent statements are all contained within that one phrase, so it is called a general statement. Each of the nine phrases of Sutra text which follow, down through the line “He universally saw throughout the three periods of time”, are particular statements. There is the general and then there are the particulars. The general is a general version of the particulars, and the particulars are the particular instances of the general.

Sutra:

The two activities were forever ended.

Commentary:

The two activities were forever ended. If you can’t tell me what the “two activities” are then I won’t be able to tell you either. Absolutely all of you should be able to answer; otherwise what Buddhadharma are you studying?

The two activities are the activity of afflictions and the activity of what is known. The very best is not to want afflictions at all. You shouldn’t want even the most seemingly insignificant afflictions, for if you can’t give up those seemingly insignificant afflictions, you still won’t be able to get out of the Three Realms. How much less should you want the very worst afflictions! The obstacle of afflictions can obstruct your resolve for Bodhi. Afflictions have to do with common people. The only thing that appears before ordinary people is afflictions. No matter what comes up, they get angry and have afflictions. What is the essential cause of afflictions? They come from being selfish and self-seeking. If something is not to your own advantage you get angry. Or, if something doesn’t go the way you want it to, you get mad. Or if something is harmful to your own reputation or position you will get afflicted. All of you think it over: the basis of afflictions is selfishness and seeking for self-benefit. If you are unselfish and not out for self-benefit, you won’t have any afflictions. If in every way you are not afraid of being obstructed by other people, if you feel, “No matter how they treat me, it doesn’t matter”, then how could you have afflictions? Wouldn’t you agree?

Besides the obstacle of afflictions, there is the obstacle of what is known. Those of the Two Vehicles possess the obstacle of what is known. They are obstructed by what they know. They say, “I know the Buddhadharma. I know how to cultivate the Four Noble Truths and the Twelve Links of Conditioned Co-production. I can end birth and death. I know all of the Buddha Dharmas.” Those of the lesser vehicle say, for example, “The Dharma I know was all spoken by the Buddha.” People of the small vehicle have small knowledge and small vision, small minds and small measure. They halt halfway down the road. Halfway there, they set limitations for themselves, saying, “That side isn’t mine, this side is.” People of the lesser vehicle know the events within 80,000 great kalpas, but they don’t know anything beyond 80,000 great kalpas. That is what’s called knowing what is near but not knowing what is far away. When one knows what is close at hand but doesn’t know what is distant, then there are things one knows and things, which one does not know. There is that which is not known—because there is that which is known. One knows the near and doesn’t know the far. One knows the ordinary, and does not know the sagely. One knows what common place people are like, but doesn’t know what sages are all about. As it is said:

Those on the First Ground don’t know the realm of the Second Ground.
Those on the Tenth Ground don’t know the realm of Equal Enlightenment.
Those of Equal Enlightenment also don’t know the realm of Wonderful Enlightenment.

If you are off by just a little bit, you won’t know. It’s like when you go to school. When you are in the first grade of elementary school, you don’t know what people are studying in high school. When you get into high school, you still don’t know what is studied in college. When you finally do know what is studied in college, you still won’t know what people preparing for the Master’s Degree are studying. After the Master’s degree is the Doctorate, the Ph.D. It goes step by step, and if you haven’t reached the level, you won’t know what that kind of state is like. Those of the lesser vehicle know the near and don’t know the far. They know the ordinary, but do not know the sagely. If people of the Two Vehicles choose to, they can observe all of the thinking of ordinary people, and know whatever kind of false thought they are having. But they don’t know the movements in the minds of sages. For instance, they don’t know what Bodhisattvas intend to do. They have no way to drill through the skin on the bellies of Bodhisattvas. They can be supervisors for ordinary people, but that won’t work with sages, with Bodhisattvas.

At this point, I won’t hesitate to illustrate this principle with a story. Actually, a good many of you have heard it before; but there are one or two who have never heard it. Those of you who have heard it can stop up your ears, and enter into the Samadhi of the Person of the Way with no Mind. Or after stopping up your ears, you can indulge in the false thoughts you need to indulge in. I am very democratic and an advocate of freedom—very expedient—so everything’s okay. See how wonderful this is? It’s wonderful enlightenment, but it hasn’t been all perfected.

In the past, when the Buddha was dwelling in the world, there was an old man of over eighty who wanted to leave the home life. Just when he arrived to leave home, the Buddha happened to be away from the Jeta Grove either responding to offerings or to see to some special business. Since the Buddha was away and could not be consulted, all of the Great Arhats used their spiritual penetrations to contemplate the causes and conditions of this old man of over eighty years of age who had arrived at the Jeta Grove asking to leave home. Those Arhats wanted to try out their talents and see what factors lay behind the old man’s wish to leave home. All of those disciples of the Buddha—the Great Arhats—were students of the Two Vehicles. They were sages who had certified to the fruit. However, when they looked throughout 80,000 great kalpas, they discovered that the old man hadn’t planted even a hair’s breadth of good roots in all that time. He hadn’t planted a single good root. The Great Arhats all frowned among themselves in consternation. Although they didn’t get afflicted, still they didn’t look too happy about the whole thing, and they said, “We can’t let this person with no good roots leave home.” Having reached this mutual agreement, they said, “Fine, we’ll tell him to go away.” They were brief and to the point with the old man and without going into detail about the last 80,000 great kalpas, just said, “You don’t have any good roots, you can’t leave home.” As it is said;

Don’t think that leaving home is an easy thing to do.
It can happen only from having planted seeds of Bodhi in distant times past.

So the Arhats told the old man, “You haven’t planted the causes for Bodhi, so even if you want to leave the home life, you can’t. It won’t work. You’ll have to go away.”

When the old man heard that, he said, “You see how old I am? My wish to leave home comes with the true intention to cultivate. It’s not because I don’t have any food to eat or clothes to wear that I have come here hoping for good meals and an easy life. I don’t intend to become someone good at eating and lazy at working. That’s not the case at all. I have realized that there is no great meaning to human life, and for that reason I am determined to leave home. So you certainly should accept me.”

The Great Arhats said, “If we say you’re not accepted, you’re not accepted. There’s nothing more to say. Get out of here fast! Otherwise, we’ll beat you!”

The old man said, “Well, if you won’t let me stay and leave home, then I’ll go.” He went off crying. As he walked he said to himself, “The Buddha’s disciples aren’t the least bit compassionate. I wanted to leave home and they said I didn’t have any good roots. Then when will I ever have good roots and be able to leave home?” He cried and cried and felt that there was no meaning to being alive, so he decided to go jump in the Ganges River and end his life. As soon as he got there, he wrapped up his clothes and was about to jump into the Ganges River, when all of a sudden the Buddha came up and grabbed hold of him.

“The Buddha said, “Old man, what do you think you are doing? Don’t be so stupid!”

The old man saw that the person who had taken hold of him was a monk, but he didn’t recognize him as the Buddha, for he had never seen the Buddha before. He said, “I wanted to leave home and I went to the Jeta Grove, but none of the left-home people would let me stay and leave home. Now I feel that there is no meaning or worth to human life, and since I wanted to leave home and wasn’t accepted, I’d rather die and get it over with, and put an end to my life.”

The Buddha said, “Don’t kill yourself. Don’t jump into the Ganges River. I’ll let you leave home.”

“Who are you?” asked the old man.

The Buddha said, “I am Shakyamuni Buddha.” Then he took the old man back to the Jeta Grove with him.

When they got back, the Great Arhats still had misgivings about what the Buddha was doing and wondered, “This person doesn’t have any good roots and the Buddha is letting him leave home. That’s not in accord with Dharma. It’s illegal. It’s a mistake in cause and effect.” Yet they didn’t dare to ask about it. So the Buddha let the old man leave home and he stayed right there and started cultivating. Right away he certified to the fruit of Arhatship. Then all the Arhats began to have doubts like, “This just can’t work. It’s impossible. He doesn’t have the least bit of good roots, so how can he certify to the Fruit? It’s too weird and doesn’t fit at all with the principle of cause and effect that the Buddha has taught us.” They kept voicing their objections. Eventually some of them couldn’t stand it anymore and they went and asked the Buddha about it. They said, “Buddha, we really don’t understand this person’s causes and conditions, and so we request the Buddha to explain them for us. Throughout 80,000 great kalpas he hasn’t planted the least bit of good roots, so how can he have certified to the fruit right after starting to cultivate?”

The Buddha said, “Don’t you realize you are only able to see events inside of 80,000 great kalpas? You know about the near but don’t know about the far. You have no idea of the causes and conditions that go beyond 80,000 great kalpas. This elderly person, over 80,000 great kalpas ago, was a wood gatherer in the mountains. One day as he was gathering firewood, he saw a tiger approaching, so he climbed a tree. The tiger started gnawing on the tree to cut it down and eat the man. Just before the tiger could manage to gnaw it through, the man who was watching from up in the tree, in his terror called out once, ‘Namo Buddha!’ In ordinary times he didn’t light a single stick of incense, but when he got nervous, he clutched the Buddha’s feet. As soon as the tiger heard him cry ‘Namo Buddha’, it ran away. Afterwards, since, as the saying goes, ‘Once the sore is healed, one forgets the pain’, he didn’t recite the Buddha’s name anymore. You could say, ‘Once the danger was over, he forgot the Buddha’. But today he was due to reap the fruit of that one cry ‘Namo Buddha!’ so he came to leave home, and upon starting to cultivate, he certified to the fruit. All of you Arhats just know about the common and don’t know about the sagely. You know the near and do not know the far, so you still have what you know and what you don’t know.”

But there is nothing, which the Buddha does not know. The Buddha has no afflictions. He doesn’t have the obstacle of afflictions or the obstacle of what is known. The two activities, meaning these two obstacles, are said to be forever ended.

Are there any questions? If I spoke incorrectly you can bring it up for discussion. It’s not for sure that everything I say is right. There is still “He had reached the marklessness of Dharmas”, which I haven’t finished lecturing. Do you all understand the explanation of “the two activities were forever ended”, now?

I know today that there were people having this false thought, “It’s being lectured so slowly. He only explained four characters.” Who told you to always think before that I was lecturing too fast? You thought I was lecturing too quickly, so now I am lecturing more slowly.

Sutra:

He had reached the marklessness of dharmas.

Commentary:

He had reached means that he had penetrated through to and understood…what? The marklessness of dharmas. What is the marklessness of dharmas? It is the pure, inherent, wonderful nature of True Suchness. Basically there is inherent purity. One doesn’t need to add or subtract anything. There is neither increasing nor decreasing of the pure, inherent, wonderful nature of True Suchness. That is the marklessness of all dharmas. The marklessness of all dharmas means that one doesn’t attach to any marks. How can you manage not to attach to any marks, and to have the two activities forever ended? You have to perfect wonderful enlightenment. When your wonderful enlightenment is all perfected then the two activities can be forever ended, and you can reach the marklessness of dharmas.

Sutra:

He dwelt in the Buddhas’ dwelling. He had attained sameness with the Buddhas.

Commentary:

He dwelt in the Buddhas’ dwelling. He had attained sameness withthe Buddhas. What is meant by dwelling in the Buddhas’ dwelling? The Buddhas dwell in the Four Unlimited Minds of Great Kindness, Great Compassion, Great Joy, and Great Giving. In order to rescue living beings, at all times, the Buddhas dwell in great compassion and benefit all living beings. Buddhas also constantly abide in three kinds of dwellings, which are:

  • The dwelling of sages
  • The dwelling of the divine
  • The dwelling of purity.

The dwelling of sages includes the sages of the Three Vehicles:

  • The vehicle of Sound Hearers
  • The vehicle of Those Enlightened
  • to Conditions
  • The vehicle of Bodhisattvas.

The dwelling of the divine includes all the gods who dwell in the heavens. Dwelling in the divine is practicing giving, holding precepts, and having a mind of goodness. The dwelling of purity refers to abiding in the pure Brahma dwelling, that is, dwelling in the Form and Formless realms. The dwelling of purity is dwelling in the Four Unlimited Minds.

There is also another meaning to the Buddhas’ dwelling. The Buddhas always dwell in impartial great compassion and forever concern themselves with benefitting living beings. And, finally, all sages dwell in samadhi—proper concentration. All of this is meant by the phrase, “He dwelt in the Buddhas’ dwelling”.

What is meant by “He had attained sameness with the Buddhas”? It means being able to certify to the pure, inherent, wonderful nature of True Suchness. What is certified to and attained is Unsurpassed, Right, and Equal, Proper Enlightenment. One attains wonderful transformations, which are effortless and inconceivable.

Sutra:

He had arrived at the place of non-obstruction, the unturnable Dharma.

Commentary:

He had arrived at the place of non-obstruction, means he had certified to the state of having no obstructions. How does one certify to the state of having no obstructions? One needs to cultivate the Six Paramitas, the Ten Thousand Conducts, and use precepts, samadhi, and wisdom to counteract greed, hatred, and stupidity. Then one has no obstructions. Once one is free from greed, hatred, and stupidity, then one has no obstructions. Why is it that for limitless kalpas to the present we have not become Buddhas? It is just because we have not been able to eradicate the three poisons of greed, hatred, and stupidity. The Buddhadharma tells us to “diligently cultivate precepts, samadhi, and wisdom.” But we change the word “diligently” into “lazily”. It’s supposed to be that we are diligently cultivating but instead, we lazily cultivate them—which just means we don’t really cultivate them at all. We are lazy. We say, “Today, I’ll take the day off, but tomorrow, I certainly will cultivate. I absolutely will cultivate precepts, samadhi, and wisdom.” But then when tomorrow comes, we are as if half asleep: “I’ve got to sleep a little longer.” We keep waiting for tomorrow, tomorrow, and tomorrow until an entire life of tomorrows has passed, and it turns out we never did diligently cultivate precepts, samadhi, and wisdom. That is a case of lazily cultivating precepts, samadhi, and wisdom. We postpone cultivating so in the end we cannot put to rest greed, hatred, and stupidity. Not putting to rest greed, hatred, and stupidity, becomes a case of the more greed, hatred, and stupidity, the better. Whatever it is, one wants it, until one’s greed becomes insatiable. When one doesn’t get all the objects and enjoyments one is greedy for, then one becomes full of hate and resentment.

Accusing heaven and blaming people.

One says, “God, you really don’t know how to be god. How come you don’t help me out? Other people have so much money and I’m so poor. You’re too unfair.” That’s accusing heaven. Blaming people is feeling that everyone treats you badly, that no one is right. From accusing heaven and blaming people, one becomes stupid. Once one becomes stupid, one creates the offenses of killing, stealing and sexual misconduct. One is greedy for objects, for beautiful forms, and for all kinds of enjoyments, and then one kills, steals, and engages in sexual misconduct. Why does one do those things? It is due to greed, hatred, and stupidity. When one becomes stupid, one cannot obtain liberation. But when you reach the place of non-obstruction, it means that you cultivate the Six Paramitas and the Ten Thousand Conducts. You:

Diligently cultivate precepts, samadhi, and wisdom, and
Put to rest greed, hatred, and stupidity.

You don’t commit the offenses of killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct, and you are not attached to anything, and then you achieve liberation. Obstructions are gone. Then you truly obtain freedom.

The unturnable Dharma—if interpreted literally, it means this dharma cannot be turned, and if it can’t be turned, that means it can’t be spoken. Someone thinks, “We are turning the Great Dharma Wheel, but this means the Wheel of Dharma can’t be turned, and that means not to lecture the Sutras, right?” Now here we are lecturing Sutras and turning the Dharma Wheel. You’re recording and that is turning the dharma Wheel. Translating is also turning the Dharma Wheel. All of us here now are turning the Great Dharma Wheel within this Way Place. “Unturnable Dharma” means that the Sutras that are spoken and the principles and teachings cannot be broken up by those of outside ways. They can’t smash them. That it is unturnable means that this type of teaching cannot be moved by the theories of externalist paths that worship fire, and heterodox ways that cultivate unbeneficial ascetic practices—there are all kinds of outside ways, each with its own theories. If you don’t have any samadhi power, as soon as they start talking, they’ll turn you. Let’s not talk about anyone else, just take the “Hare Krishnas” who jump up and down and make a lot of noise. They wear gaudy clothes and sing and dance, and make people think, “Wow, that’s a whole lot better than watching a striptease show. See the men and women together, it’s really hot stuff! I’m going to join that group, too. It’s got a lot more going for it than looking into apartment windows.” One is turned by the state. That’s being turned by those of outside ways. But the Dharma of unturnability means that you will become so that those of outside ways cannot move or turn you. Whether it’s striptease or what—women not wearing any clothes, or men not wearing any clothes, or not wearing clothes in the house—don’t be turned by the outside ways.

For example, after having taken refuge with the Triple Jewel, one decides that after awhile one will become a Christian, Catholic, or involve oneself with all kinds of outside ways. The unturnable Dharma means that outside ways have no way to turn you. That’s the unturnable Dharma.

Sutra:

His conduct was without obstruction. He established that which was inconceivable and he was able to universally contemplate the three periods of time.

Commentary:

His conduct was without obstruction. “Conduct refers to one’s actions—how one acts when one does things. Whatever you create, you have to endure. One must endure all kinds of opposing situations. Don’t be turned by opposing circumstances. You want to be able to turn those states, and not be turned by them instead. National Master Ching Liang’s Su Chao (commentary and subcommentary) to this Sutra says;

Regarding all the ways in which people of the world conduct themselves,
Whether opposing, according, demonic, or hateful,
One is able to be unobstructed.

Opposing refers to something that doesn’t accord with one’s intent and thought.

According refers to something that does accord with one’s intent. In opposing conditions you want very much to have things go a certain way, but they don’t. The conditions oppose you. According situations are when you want very much to have things go in a certain way and they do.

Opposition can also be referred to as ‘ni’ oppression. When this occurs, it becomes difficult to fulfill one’s intent. You think everything is good, but then the bad comes along. You aren’t happy when people scold you, then everyday people come and scold you. That’s what opposition means. On the other hand, according means that whatever you want, you are able to obtain. For example, kids are happy when they have candy to eat. They say, “Oh, you have a piece of candy”. That’s an example of according with one’s intent.

Obstructions are sometimes called “demon obstructions”. This is like when you want to cultivate the Way and your children start to cry. You try to sit in meditation and they start crying, causing you to be unable to enter samadhi. This is an obstruction. That’s what is meant by demon obstruction. When one is able to be unobstructed, then others are unable to hinder your cultivation. That is what is meant by “His conduct was without obstruction”.

He established that which was inconceivable. The commentary here says;

Setting forth and teaching the Dharma Which transcends words and thought.

“Setting forth” refers to “establishing that which is inconceivable”. “Setting forth and teaching the Dharma” refers to speaking about the teachings, speaking the Dharma, which basically transcends words and thoughts.

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

You wish to speak, but the words don’t come. This is what is meant by “the path of language is cut off”. You want to use your mind to think about it but there is no way to think about it. Within the mind there are no thoughts. Can you see what this is all about? It’s inconceivable. Therefore, it says, “establishing that which is inconceivable”. Upon transcending words and thought, even when one tries to talk about it the words don’t come.

The mouth wants to speak,
but the words are lost.
The mind wants to think,
but reflection perishes.

And he was able to universally contemplate the three periods of time. The commentary here says;

With regards to states of the three periods of time,
If one is wise in discerning both the affairs and the principles,
Then one is without great error.

“He was able to universally contemplate the three periods of time.” He was able to universally able to contemplate the states of the past, present, and future just as though they were right before his eyes. No matter what kind of situation it is, perhaps a theory or discussion, “If one is wise in discerning”, everything can be recollected with extreme clarity and can be thoroughly understood. Then it’s for sure that one can be without the slightest bit of error. If one does things very confusedly, then what one recollects will be very upside down.

“He was able to universally contemplate the three periods of time.” Actually he could not only contemplate the three periods of time, but you could also say he could contemplate above to that which is without beginning and below to that which is without end, which has no inside or outside, which is not big and not small, and which has no coming or going. This is the state of universal contemplation.

Sutra:

He was together with a gathering of Bodhisattvas, their number like dust motes in ten Buddha kshetras. All of them were successors in one life only, and they all came from other directions and gathered together.

Commentary:

Previously the ten kinds of virtuous practices of the Buddha were spoken, and now the Sutra continues to explain that there were a lot of Great Bodhisattvas who were different from the Two Vehicles and from common people. So it says, he was together with a gathering of Bodhisattvas, their number like dust motes in ten Buddha kshetras. There were great beings as many as fine motes of dust in ten Buddha kshetras, and they were all together.

All of these Bodhisattvas were Bodhisattvas of Equal Enlightenment, and their rank was also extremely lofty. That is, all of these Bodhisattvas dwelt in the sagely position. How was it that they were able to dwell in the sagely position? It was because their virtuous practice was sufficient. So the text says, all of them were successors in one life only. They were as many as dust motes in ten Buddha kshetras, and they were all due to succeed to the position of the Buddha in one life. In one life they could succeed to the Buddha position. This is like the present situation of the Venerable Maitreya Bodhisattva, who is to descend in the future and become the next Buddha. He is waiting now. In the future, he will come to this world and become a Buddha in that very life. “One life” has three meanings;

  • Descending to be born in one life.
  • One life in the heavens.
  • One life among humans.

“Descending to be born in one life” means to descend from the Tushita Heaven and in that very life to succeed the Buddha and realize Buddhahood.

“One life in the heavens” means that after one life in the heavens one will be reborn and realize Buddhahood.

“One life among humans” means to come into the world of humans and in one life to become a Buddha and succeed the Buddha position.

There are also four ways to explain “one life”.

  • An expedient device in change birth
  • and death—which means they conveniently or expediently take on this one life.
  • Causal-conditions birth and death.

3. “Having more.” This means that there is still more to existence in birth and death to be undergone. Just as there was a former life, there will be a present life, and there will be a future life. There is more birth and death.

4. “No more.” This means that there isn’t any more birth and death. There is not any change birth and death. The work has been done and one doesn’t have to undergo any further becoming.

With respect to all of these Bodhisattvas, they do not have to undergo birth and death.

And they all came from the other directions and gathered together. Why does it say other directions? If Shakyamuni Buddha had himself personally taught and transformed these Bodhisattvas they would have been in this world following him and they wouldn’t have had to come from other directions. Since the Bodhisattvas came from other directions, this shows that they were not previously following Shakyamuni Buddha. Now that Shakyamuni Buddha has become a Buddha, they have come from afar to draw near to Shakyamuni Buddha. They gathered there all together, all at the same time.

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