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:

At that time, Manjushri Bodhisattva Mahasattva, having received the Buddhas’ awesome power and having universally contemplated all the Bodhisattva multitudes, said, “These Bodhisattvas are extremely rare. All disciples of the Buddha, Buddha kshetras are inconceivable, the Buddhas' dwelling, the adornments of Buddha kshetras, the nature of the Buddhadharma, the purity of Buddhalands, the Dharma spoken by the Buddha, the Buddhas’ manifestations, the accomplishment of Buddhalands, and the Buddhas’ anuttarasamyaksambodhi, all are inconceivable.

Commentary:

The people who compiled the Sutras spoke the section of text from “At that time “to” having universally contemplated all the Bodhisattva multitudes. At that time refers to the time when all the Bodhisattvas of the ten directions came and gathered where the Buddha was. “At that time”, Manjushri Bodhisattva Mahasattva—the superior leader of Bodhisattvas who came from the east, who is foremost in wisdom, spoke. This “wonderfully auspicious (lucky)” Bodhisattva, a great Bodhisattva among Bodhisattvas, having received the Buddhas’ awesome power—the great, awesome spiritual power of the Buddhas, and having universally contemplated all the Bodhisattva multitudes, then spoke. He took a look at all of the Bodhisattvas who had congregated together and observed the thoughts and the considerations in their minds. Then he said, “These Bodhisattvas—with awesome virtue and cultivation, who are undergoing their very last body, are extremely rare. In the world, the Buddha Jewel, the Dharma Jewel, and the Sangha Jewel are extremely rare and difficult to meet. They are difficult to see and it’s hard to even be able to hear of them.

All disciples of the Buddha, you all should know that the causes and conditions of the Buddha kshetras are inconceivable. They cannot be thought or spoken about. The Buddhas’ dwelling—this state of great compassion—is also inconceivable. The adornments of Buddha kshetras—this kind of merit and virtue—is also inconceivable. The nature of the Buddhadharma, which is the result of the Buddhas’ perfected cultivation—the Dharma Body—, is a wonderful nature, which is also inconceivable. The purity of Buddhalands is also inconceivable. How do these Buddhalands come to be pure? Because in past lives great beings held the precepts purely, they therefore obtain Buddhalands which are all pure. The Dharma spoken by the Buddha is also inconceivable. When the Buddha speaks, he speaks wonderful Dharma. The Buddhas’ manifestations are also inconceivable. What are the causes and conditions behind the Buddhas’ manifesting in this world? They are inconceivable. The Dharma the Buddha speaks as well as the Buddhas’ manifestations are inconceivable. The accomplishment of Buddhalands is inconceivable. The doors of practice which are cultivated in order for there to be an accomplishment of Buddhalands are also inconceivable. And the Buddhas’ anuttarasamyaksambodhi is inconceivable. This is referring to the Unsurpassed, Proper, Equal, Right Enlightenment of the Buddhas. All of these states are wonderful and inconceivable. If all of you have wisdom, then you will be able to understand.

Sutra:

Why? All disciples of the Buddha, all Buddhas of the worlds of the ten directions know that the things that living beings like and desire are different. According to their needs they speak Dharma in order to tame and subdue them. They do so in this way throughout the far reaches of the Dharma Realm and empty space. All disciples of the Buddha, the Thus Come One in all the continents under heaven in the Saha World, has all kinds of bodies, all kinds of names, all kinds of physical appearances, all kinds of heights, all kinds of lifespans, all kinds of locations, all kinds of faculties, all kinds of places of birth, all kinds of manners of speaking, and all kinds of observations. All of these cause all living beings to each have a different knowledge and vision.

Commentary:

Why does it say that all the Buddhas’ states are inconceivable? Why? What are the causes and conditions behind all of this? All disciples of the Buddha. Manjushri Bodhisattva says, “All of you disciples of the Buddha should know about all Buddhas of the worlds of the ten directions.” Before, the Sutra talked about worlds in each of the ten directions, as well as the Buddhas in them. Every world mentioned has Buddhas who teach and transform living beings. All Buddhas know all living beings. They understand all the things that make living beings happy as well as the things they enjoy. They know that the things that living beings like and desire are different. The things that they enjoy are also different. Some living beings like to get rich, some living beings like to be officials, some like to live in the mountains, some like to live by the ocean and some like to live in big cities. Each and every living being is different. According to their needs they speak Dharma. All living beings have different roots. Wherever they should hear the Dharma, the Buddha speaks the Dharma. If a Buddha’s body is needed to save them, then a Buddha’s body manifests to speak the Dharma. If a Bodhisattva’s body is needed to save them, then a Bodhisattva body manifests to speak the Dharma. If a Pratyeka Buddha body is needed to save them, then a Pratyeka Buddha body manifests to speak the Dharma. If they should be crossed over by a Brahma King, then the body of a Brahma King manifests to speak the Dharma. If they should be crossed over by the king of a country, then a king will manifest to speak the Dharma. If they should be crossed over by a high monk, then a high monk manifests to speak the Dharma for them. This is all done in order to tame and subdue them. They tame and subdue all living beings in each and every world. They do so in this way throughout the far reaches of the Dharma Realm and empty space. The Buddhas come to speak the Dharma for all the living beings that pervade the Dharma Realm and empty space.

Observing the potential to dispense the teaching,
They speak the Dharma according to the person.
The Buddhas come to teach and transform living beings.

All disciples of the Buddha. You should all know the Thus Come One in all the continents under heavenin the Saha World is also like this. What does ‘Saha’ mean? ‘Saha’ is a Sanskrit word. Translated it means ‘able to be endured.’ What does that mean? The living beings in this world are able to bear it, even though it’s a lot of suffering. The suffering of this world isn’t easy to bear, but living beings are able to bear it, in fact they think that it is really good. They bear what cannot be borne. This is because they have great hearts of patience.

“All the continents under heaven” refers to the Four Continents under Heaven. These Four Continents are below the heavens that the Four Heavenly Kings rule over.

The Four Continents

These Four Great Continents are what is meant by “all the continents under heaven”. The Four Heavenly Kings are:

1. Dhrtarashtra, in the East, “Maintaining the Country”

2. Virudhaka, in the South, “Increasing and Growing”

3. Vaishravana, in the North, “ Great Learning”

4. Virupaksha, in the West. “Broad Eyes”

The Buddha has all kinds of bodies. The Buddha manifests all kinds of bodies, not only the physical form of a person. He manifests in bodies identical to those of all living beings. He has all kinds of names. He’s not only called ‘Fwo’, Buddha. Just as living beings have all kinds of names, so too does the Buddha. The Buddhas also have all kinds of physical appearances. The Buddha has all kinds of limitless and unbounded shapes and appearances. He has all kinds of heights—he has tall bodies and short bodies which are all different. He has all kinds of lifespans. Sometimes maybe his life is long; and sometimes it might be short. He has all kinds of locations. He is found here at this place. He has all kinds of faculties, all kinds of places of birth, all kinds of manners of speaking, and all kinds of observations. All of these cause all living beings to each have a different knowledge and vision. The Buddha comes in order to teach and transform living beings—to tell all living beings of the different worlds so they will come to be taught and transformed by the Buddhadharma. Then they will bring forth the Bodhi mind.

Sutra:

All disciples of the Buddha, the Thus Come One in the midst of the Four Continents under heaven is perhaps named Accomplishment of all Meaning, or named Full Moon, or named Lion’s Roar, or named Shakyamuni, or named The Seventh Immortal, or named Vairochana, or named Gautama, or named the Great Shramana, or named Most Victorious, or named Guiding Master. There are ten thousand names such as these, which cause all living beings to each receive different measures of knowledge and vision.

Commentary:

Manjushri Bodhisattva said before that Shakyamuni Buddha lived in the Saha World. Now Manjushri Bodhisattva says: All disciples of the Buddha, the Thus Come One in the midst of the Four Continents under heaven in this world is perhaps named Accomplishment of all Meaning, or named Full Moon, or sometimes he is a Buddha named Lion’s Roar, or named Shakyamuni. ‘Shakya’ means ‘able to be humane’ which describes someone who is able to teach and transform living beings. ‘Muni’ means ‘still and quiet’. He turns the Great Dharma Wheel. Or perhaps the Buddha is named The Seventh Immortal.Or perhaps in a particular life the Buddha is named Vairochana, or named Gautama, or named the Great Shramana. Shramana is a Sanskrit word which means ‘one who puts to rest all evil’. Or maybe the Buddha is named Most Victorious, or named Guiding Master. There are ten thousand names such as these. Above, only ten names for the Buddha have been spoken, but if they were all mentioned to completion, there would be ten thousand names in all. Each name can itself be divided into ten names, and each one of those ten names can still be divided into one hundred different names. And yet again, each of those one hundred names can be divided into one thousand names, and those one thousand names in turn can transform into ten thousand names in all.

There are Buddhas’ names such as these, which cause all living beings to each receive different measures of knowledge and vision. Each living being obtains the appropriate amount of knowledge and vision.

Sutra:

Disciples of the Buddha, to the East of the set of Four Continents there is a world called Wholesome Protection. There the Buddha is perhaps named Vajra, or named Sovereign, or named Possessing Wisdom, or named Difficult to Surpass, or named Cloud King, or named Without Contention, or named Able to Be Lord, or named Heart of Joy, or named Without Equal, or named Severing Words and Discourse. There are ten thousand names such as these which cause all living beings to each receive different measures of knowledge and vision.

Commentary:

Disciples of the Buddha. Manjushri Bodhisattva again addresses all of the Buddhas’ disciples. To the East of the set of Four Continents there is a world called Wholesome Protection. This world wholesomely protects all living beings. There the Buddha is perhaps named Vajra, or maybe in this life he is named Sovereign, or maybe during a particular life he was named Possessing Wisdom, or named Difficult to Surpass, or named Cloud King, or named Without Contention, or named Able to Be Lord, ruling over people in all the worlds under heaven, or named Heart of Joy, or named Without Equal, or named Severing Words and Discourse. There are ten thousand names such as these. Before, we spoke of the Buddha having ten names. That was speaking in simplified terms. If we were to go into detail, there are as many as ten thousand names for the Buddha, which cause all living beings to each receive different measures of knowledge and vision. They cause all living beings to each obtain the wisdom that they should obtain.

Sutra:

Disciples of the Buddha, to the South of the set of Four Continents there is a world called Difficult to Bear. Here the Buddha is perhaps named Lord Shakra, or named Jeweled Renown, or named Departing from Filth, or named Genuine Speech, or named Able to Tame and Subdue, or named Complete Happiness, or named Great Renown, or named Able to Benefit, or named Unbounded, or named Most Supreme. There are ten thousand names such as these, which cause all living beings to each receive different measures of knowledge and vision.

Commentary:

Disciples of the Buddha. Manjushri Bodhisattva further addresses all the disciples of the Buddha. Do you know to the South of the set of Four Continents there is a world called Difficult to Bear. In this world of suffering there are things to be borne without end. Here the Buddha is perhaps named Lord Shakra, who is the lord over all people under heaven, or named Jeweled Renown, or named Departing from Filth, or named Genuine Speech.

Once upon a time, there was a person by the name of Ni Chyan. Ni Chyan was a cultivator of the Way and he held the five precepts. He didn’t lie. One day the king of the country called on him and asked, “Of all the statesmen, officials, magistrates and people with wisdom, are there any among them who have faults?”

Ni Chyan said, “Yes.”

The king asked, “Who?”

Ni Chyan said, “There is a person who has wisdom, but he is jealous. He has the fault of jealousy. Then there is someone with lots of wisdom but he is really lazy. He has the fault of laziness. There’s also a person with a great deal of wisdom but he has the fault of liking to sleep a lot. There’s another person who does have wisdom, but he has the fault of liking to eat. There’s yet someone else who is wise but has the fault of being greedy for wealth. There’s another person who is wise but has the fault of liking sex. Then there’s another person who is wise but then has the fault of being arrogant. Still there’s someone else who has wisdom but who also has the fault of looking at other people’s mistakes.” Then Ni Chyan had no more to say.

The king asked him, “Are there still other people with faults?” Ni Chyan said, “Yes.” The king asked, “Who?”

Ni Chyan said, “You, O Great King, are rotten, cruel, and evil to the core. You are just the worst! You have the fault of being cruel!”

The king said, “Guards! Get him and kill him! This person here says I have faults. Hah!!” So Ni Chyan saw the kings guards coming to get him and take his life and he got really scared and said, “Great King, it’s not only you that have faults, I have faults, too.” The king said, “What are your faults?!”

Ni Chyan said, “I have the fault of speaking what is true. I’m old and experienced enough to know that I shouldn’t say that you’re rotten, cruel, and evil to your face. I should know better and not speak that way.”

The king heard this, understood, and thereby said to his guards, “Don’t kill Ni Chyan.”

Therefore, in speaking the Buddhadharma, true speech is really important. If you are unable to match your words according to your actions, it’s easy to make people unhappy and no one will want to listen.

Or perhaps the Buddha is named Able to Tame and Subdue. This Buddha is able to tame and subdue all obstinate and stubborn living beings.

Or maybe the Buddha is named Complete Happiness, or named Great Renown, or named Able to Benefit, or named Unbounded, or named Most Supreme. There are ten thousand names such as these, which cause all living beings to each receive different measures of knowledge and vision. Each of these names causes all living beings to obtain the share of wisdom that they should obtain.

Sutra:

Disciples of the Buddha, to the West of the set of Four Continents there is a world called Personal Wisdom. Here the Buddha is perhaps named Water Deva, or named Happy Views, or named Most Supreme Monarch, or named Taming and Subduing God, or named True and Actual Wisdom, or named Reaching the Ultimate, or named Happiness, or named Dharma Wisdom, or named Accomplishing His Task, or named Wholesome Dwelling. There are ten thousand names such as these, which cause all living beings to each receive different measures of knowledge and vision.

Commentary:

Manjushri Bodhisattva once again addressed the Great Assembly and said Disciples of the Buddha, to the West of the set of Four Continents there is a world called Personal Wisdom. The living beings in this world draw near to the wisdom of the Good Knowing Advisor. Here the Buddha—in the past Shakyamuni Buddha living in this world--is perhaps named Water Deva. Maybe in that particular life he was called Water Deva. Or maybe the Buddha was named Happy Views, or named Most Supreme Monarch, or named Taming and Subduing God, or named True and Actual Wisdom, or named Reaching the Ultimate, or named Happiness, or named Dharma Wisdom, or named Accomplishing His Task—in whatever the Buddha did, he reached and accomplishment. Or maybe the Buddha was named Wholesome Dwelling. There are ten thousand names such as these, which cause all living beings to each receive different measures of knowledge and vision. They lead all living beings to draw near to and obtain the wisdom and views of the Buddha.

Question: Could the Venerable Master please explain the following two sentences?

To sever and cast out afflictions merely redoubles one’s illness.
To incline towards True Suchness is also a deviant pursuit.

Answer: These two lines come from a poem written by Ch’an Master Tzu Pai of the T’ang Dynasty at the time of his enlightenment.

Bright light silently illumines worlds as many as rivers’ sands.
Sages and common sentient beings are one family with me.
When a single thought doesn’t arise, the entire substance manifests.
At the movement of the six senses, there’s a covering of clouds.
To sever and cast out afflictions merely redoubles one’s illness.
To incline towards True Suchness is also a deviant pursuit.
Just accord with worldly conditions, be without impediments.
Nirvana, birth and death—all are the same as flowers in emptiness.

Now we’ll explain the two lines that came up in the question.

These two sentences are an exchange of Ch’an banter. What is Ch’an banter? It is a verbal exchange which bases itself on the principle of opposites. Basically something is good but the other person says it’s bad, or something is basically right but the other person says it’s wrong, trying to get you to turn the situation around, telling you to return the light and illuminate within. This is the intention. So it says,

To sever and cast out afflictions merely redoubles one’s illness.

If you still have something to cut off, you still have affliction. You should reach the point where very naturally no affliction is produced. You shouldn’t put a head on top of your head.

Ch’an Master Tzu Pai had already become enlightened and already had no more afflictions but he didn’t know it. So he said,

To sever and cast out afflictions merely redoubles one’s illness.
To incline toward True Suchness is also a deviant pursuit.

If you already have no afflictions what is there to still sever? If there is something still remaining to sever, that is adding a head on top of a head. If one has already certified to some attainment or obtained the Fruit of the Way and still from morning to night thinks of “tending toward True Suchness, tending toward True Suchness,” then isn’t that just seeking outside? True suchness is something within yourself; it’s not sought from outside. This is the general meaning. If one were to go into these two lines in detail, there are lots and lots of meanings. But now, time is up, but maybe what I’ve said will help you understand a bit.

Sutra:

Disciples of the Buddha, to the North of the set of Four Continents there is a world called Lion of Existence. Here the Buddha is perhaps named Great Muni, or named Bitter Practices, or named The One Honored By the World, or named Most Bounteous Field, or named All-Wisdom, or named Good Intention, or named Purity, or named Isvaravana, or named Highest Giving, or named Attainment Through Bitter Practices. There are ten thousand names such as these, which cause all living beings to each receive different measures of knowledge and vision.

Commentary:

Manjushri Bodhisattva again addresses the Great Assembly and says:

Disciples of the Buddha, to the North of the set of Four Continents there is a world called Lion of Existence. Here the Buddha is perhaps named Great Muni, or maybe in this life the Buddha is named Bitter Practices because he always practiced various kinds of bitter practices. Or maybe the Buddha was named The One Honored By the World, or named Most Bounteous Field, or named All-Wisdom, or named Good Intention, or named Purity. Or maybe the Buddha was named Isvaravana. “Isvaravana” is Sanskrit and in Chinese appears as yi lwo ba nwo. But this is an abbreviation and doesn’t represent the full name. The full name is yi shr fu lwo ba nwo. Yi shr fu translates as sovereign (dz dzai), and lwo ba nwo translates as sound (sheng). How can sound be sovereign? This kind of sound is extremely full and perfect. Instead of the full name it is abbreviated to yi lwo ba nwo, and means sovereignty of perfect sound. This kind of sound is extremely perfect.

Or maybe in one life the Buddha was named Highest Giving, or named Attainment Through Bitter Practices—having cultivated bitter practices, he received the reward of blessings and wisdom. There are ten thousand names such as these, which cause all living beings to each receive different measures of knowledge and vision.

Sutra:

Disciples of the Buddha, to the Northeast of this set of Four Continents there is a world called Wonderful Contemplation. Here the Buddha is perhaps named Subduer of Demons, or named Accomplishment, or named Still Extinction, or named Worthy God, or named Apart from Greed, or named Victorious Wisdom, or named Equanimity of Mind, or named Invincible, or named Sound of Wisdom, or named Difficult Manifestation. There are ten thousand names such as these, which cause all living beings to each receive different measures of knowledge and vision.

Disciples of the Buddha, to the Southeast of this set of Four Continents there is a world called Happiness and Joy. Here the Buddha is perhaps named Ultimately Awesome, or named Mass of Light and Flames, or named Pervasive Knowledge, or named Secret, or named Liberation, or named Nature that Dwells Securely, or named Practicing in Accord with Dharma, or named King of Pure Eyes, or named Great Heroic Strength, or named Power of Vigor. There are ten thousand names such as these, which cause all living beings to each receive different measures of knowledge and vision.

Commentary:

After finishing discussing the Northern direction, Manjushri Bodhisattva continues to speak to the Great Assembly, saying, Disciples of the Buddha, to the Northeast of this set of Four Continents there is a world called Wonderful Contemplation. In this world, the Buddha in every life and at all times teaches and transforms living beings, causing them to leave suffering and attain bliss, to end birth and cast off death. Here the Buddha is perhaps named Subduer of Demons. In a particular life, the Buddha might appear in a world where there are lots of demon kings, so the Buddha’s name is Subduer of Demons. He comes to teach and transform the demons and ghosts. Don’t think that it is the case that he says, “I won’t teach or transform them”, because it isn’t that way. Or maybe the Buddha is named Accomplishment. Maybe it is the case that no matter what they do, the living beings in this world don’t reach any accomplishment. So the Buddha manifests and one of his names is Accomplishment. When living beings draw near to this Buddha, all of their affairs are brought to accomplishment.

Or perhaps the Buddha is named Still Extinction. In this world, perhaps the living beings’ greed, hatred, and stupidity are very heavy, so the Buddha’s name is Still Extinction—‘putting to rest’ meaning to put to rest greed, hatred, and stupidity. Or maybe the Buddha is named Worthy God, or named Apart from Greed. This Buddha teaches living beings to separate from their thoughts of greed. Or named Victorious Wisdom, or named Equanimity of Mind. Living beings are not equally minded. The Buddha explained that we take thieves for our sons and allow ourselves to be led astray. We should all develop level, equal minds.

Or perhaps the Buddha is named Invincible. There is no one who can surpass him. Or perhaps he is named Sound of Wisdom. Upon hearing the sound of the Dharma, he obtains wisdom, so he is called Sound of Wisdom Buddha. Or perhaps he is named Difficult Manifestation. The Buddha is not easy to meet. Here we have met up with the Way of the Buddha so we should quickly bring forth the Bodhi mind. There are ten thousand names such as these, which cause all living beings to each receive different measures of knowledge and vision. The Buddha causes living beings to each receive his or her own level of wisdom. The wisdom that he or she should obtain is what is obtained. It’s not too much and not too little, but each is able to accomplish however much he or she should obtain. Each one is enabled to understand the Buddhadharma and to see the Buddha’s marks.

Disciples of the Buddha. Manjushri Bodhisattva again addresses the Assembly saying, to the Southeast of this set of Four Continents there is a world called Happiness and Joy. Here the Buddha is perhaps named Ultimately Awesome, or named Mass of Light and Flames, or named Pervasive Knowledge, or named Secret, or named Liberation, or named Nature that Dwells Securely, or named Practicing in Accord with Dharma, or named King of Pure Eyes, or named Great Heroic Strength, or named Power of Vigor. There are ten thousand names such as these, which cause all living beings to each receive different measures of knowledge and vision. All living beings obtain the wisdom they should obtain in order to understand the Buddhadharma and see the Buddha’s light.

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