THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
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The Four Holy Truths_____

Chapter Eight. A Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua

SUTRA:

“DISCIPLES OF THE BUDDHA, IN THE WORLD CALLED LOCK AND KEY, THE FOUR HOLY TRUTHS CAN BE DESCRIBED IN FORTY TRILLION NAMES SUCH AS THESE, WHICH, BY ACCORDING WITH LIVING BEINGS’ THOUGHTS, CAN CAUSE THEM ALL TO BE TAMED AND SUBDUED.

COMMENTARY:

Manjushri Bodhisattva says: DISCIPLES OF THE BUDDHA, IN THE WORLD CALLED LOCK AND KEY, THE FOUR HOLY TRUTHS are known by different names. I have explained forty of them to you, but those forty can expand to ineffably many names. They CAN BE DESCRIBED IN FORTY TRILLION NAMES SUCH AS THESE, WHICH, BY ACCORDING WITH LIVING BEINGS’ THOUGHTS, CAN CAUSE THEM ALL TO BE TAMED AND SUBDUED with skill-in-means. These holy truths are explained to living beings in a way that they like to hear. Then living beings become tamed and subdued in body and mind, and resolve to cultivate this most pure door of practice.

SUTRA:

XI. THE WORLD OF ROUSING SOUNDS

“DISCIPLES OF THE BUDDHA, THE HOLY TRUTH OF SUFFERING AS EXPLAINED IN THIS SAHA WORLD. IN THE WORLD ROUSING SOUNDS IS PERHAPS CALLED CONCEALING BLEMISHES, PERHAPS CALLED WORLDLY, PERHAPS CALLED THAT WHICH IS RELIED UPON, PERHAPS CALLED ARROGANCE, PERHAPS CALLED NATURE OF DEFILED ATTACHMENT, PERHAPS CALLED PROPELLING CURRENT, PERHAPS CALLED CANNOT BE DELIGHTED IN, PERHAPS CALLED HIDING AND COVERING, PERHAPS CALLED SPEEDY DISINTEGRATION, PERHAPS CALLED HARD TO SUBDUE.

COMMENTARY:

Manjushri Bodhisattva says: DISCIPLES OF THE BUDDHA, THE HOLY TRUTH OF SUFFERING AS EXPLAINED IN THIS SAHA WORLD is known by many different names. IN THE WORLD ROUSING SOUNDS, it IS PERHAPS CALLED CONCEALING BLEMISHES. One conceals one’s bad habits and shortcomings. “Blemishes” refer to all the bad habits or improper actions that people become engaged in. PERHAPS it is CALLED WORLDLY. What is worldly is suffering; suffering belongs to the world. PERHAPS it is CALLED THAT WHICH IS RELIED UPON. It is what afflictions rely on. PERHAPS it is CALLED ARROGANCE. When one has a big view of self, with a lot of pride and conceit one has much suffering. PERHAPS it is CALLED NATURE OF DEFILED ATTACHMENT. The self-nature is originally pure. Once it becomes blemished, it is no longer pure, and greed, anger and stupidity are born. PERHAPS it is CALLED PROPELLING CURRENT. The cycle of birth and death is a driving force, a madly raging torrent that keeps us going round and round without end. PERHAPS it is CALLED CANNOT BE DELIGHTED IN. Because of living beings’ bad habit energies, they are completely upside down and very lax. They don’t follow the rules, and live their lives in dissipation. Mistaking a thief for their son, they take suffering as bliss. When left home-people cultivate, they aspire toward ultimate and true bliss, that is, the Four Virtues of Nirvana;

Permanence
Bliss
True Self
Purity

However, most people aren’t willing to seek true happiness. They are content with gaining a temporary relief from the myriad sufferings, and mistakenly call that transitory state “pleasure.” Actually this pleasure provides only a very short respite from the pain, and quickly turns into more pain. Most people never realize that there is a real joy (deep and abiding bliss).

Some people argue, “After you leave the home life, you aren’t of much help to your parents or your brothers and sisters.” That is a mistaken notion. To leave home and cultivate is to be truly filial to your parents and be truly helpful to your siblings. It is said,

When on child attains the Way, his ancestors from nine previous generations ascend to the heavens.

When one child in the family attains the Way, nine generations of his ancestors can leave the suffering of the hells and ascend to the heavens. In addition, his parents from every past life are able to leave the Triple World, separate from suffering, and attain bliss.

PERHAPS this truth of suffering is CALLED HIDING AND COVERING. When people make mistakes and don’t divulge their offenses and repent, but instead hide their offenses, they are never truly at peace with their own conscience. Some people blatantly deny the workings of cause and effect and say “People shouldn’t develop guilty consciences. They are just being masochists!” But if people don’t develop a sense of shame about their own offenses, then they can very easily go on to murder their fathers, or their mothers, to kill, plunder, and commit arson. They can do any evil they wish and still feel totally guiltless. If this happens, then families will fall apart, society will sink into chaos, and the entire world will become wild! So it is absolutely impermissible to suggest in any way that people don’t need to reflect upon offenses and divulge their mistakes. To advocate such a position would be to contribute directly to the ruin of the world.

On the other hand, if people understand that all the ghosts and spirits are constantly aware of everything they do, and if they can develop a sense of shame, they can strive to make sure that all their actions can stand the light of day. Then they won’t have to bow their heads in shame before their ancestors, and the world will be a peaceful and law-abiding place.

You should never do things that are illegal or that contradict principle. If you have a sense of shame and a resolve to abide by the laws and rules, then there is hope for your cultivation. If you can change from the deviant and return to the proper, then you have a chance to renew yourself.

PERHAPS it is CALLED SPEEDY DISINTEGRATION. It quickly demolishes all joy, and only serves to increase one’s suffering. PERHAPS CALLED HARD TO SUBDUE. For example, stubborn living beings are very hard to tame and subdue; therefore they undergo much suffering.

SUTRA:

“DISCIPLES OF THE BUDDHA, IN THE WORLD CALLED ROUSING SOUNDS, THE TRUTH OF THE ACCUMULATION OF SUFFERING IS PERHAPS CALLED THAT WHICH NEEDS TO BE REGULATED AND CONTROLLED, PERHAPS CALLED HEART’S TENDENCIES, PERHAPS CALLED ABLE TO FETTER, PERHAPS CALLED ARISING FROM THOUGHTS, PERHAPS CALLED REGRESSION, PERHAPS CALLED CONJOINING, PERHAPS CALLED DIFFERENTIATION, PERHAPS CALLED GATEWAY, PERHAPS CALLED FLOATING AND TOSSING ABOUT, PERHAPS CALLED HIDING AND CONCEALING.

COMMENTARY:

Manjushri Bodhisattva calls out: DISCIPLES OF THE BUDDHA, IN THE WORLD CALLED ROUSING SOUNDS, THE HOLY TRUTH OF THE ACCUMULATION OF SUFFERING IS PERHAPS CALLED THAT WHICH NEEDS TO BE REGULATED AND CONTROLLED. You have to get your afflictions under control; only then can you separate from suffering and attain bliss. At the beginning of every Sutra lecture, someone requests the Dharma and asks the Dharma-lecturing host to “turn the Dharma wheel to teach living beings to separate from suffering and attain bliss. But most people don’t want to “separate from suffering,” and they don’t want to “attain bliss.” Human beings are very strange. The more you teach them to leave suffering, the more they incline towards suffering. PERHAPS it is CALLED HEART’S TENDENCIES. The hearts of ordinary people tend toward afflictions. You teach them to go toward a happy place, but they aren’t willing to cultivate. Instead, they head toward evil destinies. PERHAPS it is CALLED ABLE TO FETTER. This truth of accumulation is able to cover over the wisdom of living beings; it ties up their inherent potential for developing their spiritual powers. PERHAPS it is CALLED ARISING FROM THOUGHTS. Afflictions arise as a result of your false thinking. A single false thought will bring about a flood of afflictions. If you don’t have false thoughts, then you won’t have afflictions. Therefore, I often say,

Let everything go its own way.
Melt your afflictions.
The ignorance will never arise,
And your karmic offenses will all be gone.

PERHAPS it is CALLED REGRESSION. Whereas the Truth of Accumulation reverts to the three evil paths, the Truth of the Way reaches forward, to the Four Sagely Destinies. PERHAPS it is CALLED CONJOINING. It is a conglomeration of good and bad, pure and defiled all mixed together. When good and bad are all rolled into one, there are bound to be afflictions. When there are afflictions there are karmic obstacles. PERHAPS it is CALLED DIFFERENTIATION. When you have discriminating thoughts, you have afflictions. PERHAPS it is CALLED GATEWAY. It is the gateway to much suffering. PERHAPS it is CALLED FLOATING AND TOSSING ABOUT. It bobs up and down and never keeps still. It is that way by nature. PERHAPS it is CALLED HIDING AND CONCEALING. This refers to the way in which people hide their own mistakes and pretend they do not exist.

SUTRA:

“DISCIPLES OF THE BUDDHA, IN THE WORLD CALLED ROUSING SOUNDS, THE HOLY TRUTH OF THE EXTINCTION OF SUFFERING IS PERHAPS CALLED WITHOUT A PLACE OF RELIANCE, PERHAPS CALLED THAT WHICH CANNOT BE GRASPED, PERHAPS CALLED HEADING BACK, PERHAPS CALLED APART FROM ARGUMENT, PERHAPS CALLED SMALL, PERHAPS CALLED BIG, PERHAPS CALLED GOOD PURITY, PERHAPS CALLED ENDLESS, PERHAPS CALLED VAST AND EXPANSIVE, PERHAPS CALLED INVALUABLE.

COMMENTARY:

Manjushri Bodhisattva calls out: DISCIPLES OF THE BUDDHA, IN THE WORLD CALLED ROUSING SOUNDS, THE HOLY TRUTH OF THE EXTINCTION OF SUFFERING IS PERHAPS CALLED WITHOUT A PLACE OF RELIANCE. Within this truth, afflicitons have no place of reliance. PERHAPS it is CALLED THAT WHICH CANNOT BE GRASPED. Because afflictions have been cut off, there is no more grasping, no renouncing, and no attaining. PERHAPS it is CALLED HEADING BACK – returning to the root and going back to the source. PERHAPS it is CALLED APART FROM ARGUMENT. When one reaches the level of extinction, there is no more striving. Because there is nothing produced or extinguished, there is no basis for argument. PERHAPS it is CALLED SMALL. It is as small as a mote of dust. It is too small to contain even a single thing. PERHAPS it is CALLED BIG. On the other hand, this truth is at the same time called “big.” When one returns to the root and goes back to the source, one attains the fundamental substance, which is so big that nothing lies outside of it. It is the nature of the Dharma Realm. PERHAPS it is CALLED GOOD PURITY. This is a state of wholesome true purity. PERHAPS it is CALLED ENDLESS. This state reaches to infinity and it abides forever and ever. PERHAPS it is CALLED VAST AND EXPANSIVE. The truth of extinction is very wide and all inclusive. PERHAPS it is CALLED INVALUABLE. There’s no way to figure out how much worth it has; its value transcends the realm of numbers.

SUTRA:

“DISCIPLES OF THE BUDDHA, IN THE WORLD CALLED ROUSING SOUNDS, THE HOLY TRUTH OF THE WAY LEADING TO THE EXTINCTION OF SUFFERING IS PERHAPS CALLED CONTEMPLATION, PERHAPS CALLED ABLE TO SMASH THE ENEMY, PERHAPS CALLED SEAL OF KNOWLEDGE, PERHAPS CALLED ABLE TO ENTER INTO THE NATURE, PERHAPS CALLED IMMUNE TO ATTACK, PERHAPS CALLED LIMITLESS MEANINGS, PERHAPS CALLED ABLE TO ENTER WISDOM, PERHAPS CALLED MERGING WITH THE WAY, PERHAPS CALLED FOREVER UNMOVING, PERHAPS CALLED UNIQUE AND SUBLIME DOCTRINE.

COMMENTARY:

Manjushri Bodhisattva calls out: DISCIPLES OF THE BUDDHA, IN THE WORLD CALLED ROUSING SOUNDS, THE HOLY TRUTH OF THE WAY LEADING TO THE EXTINCTION OF SUFFERING IS PERHAPS CALLED CONTEMPLATION. Here one observes and investigates the true mark of all dharmas. PERHAPS it is CALLED ABLE TO SMASH THE ENEMY. This truth can defeat the enemy of suffering, so that one attains joy. PERHAPS it is CALLED SEAL OF KNOWLEDGE. It is the seal of understanding, the seal that certifies to one’s knowledge of all doctrines. PERHAPS it is CALLED ABLE TO ENTER INTO THE NATURE. One can enter and understand the Buddhanature. The home that most of us have now is just an ordinary home, a temporary resting place that is not ultimate. But when we bring our cultiation to success and enter the Buddhanature, we will live with the Buddha. That is our true home.

PERHAPS it is CALLED IMMUNE TO ATTACK. The function of the Way is to vanquish all delusion. It is immune to the onslaught of delusions. Therefore, it is called “immune to attack”; it is invincible. PERHAPS it is CALLED LIMITLESS MEANINGS, This Way contains boundless principles. We cultivate in order to leave the Triple Realm, so that we need not undergo samsara. If we strike up false thinking from morning to night, then there will never be a time in the future when we will be able to get out of the Triple Realm. PERHAPS it is CALLED ABLE TO ENTER WISDOM. If you practice according to this principle, you will be able to enter the Buddha’s wisdom. PERHAPS it is CALLED MERGING WITH THE WAY. Everything meshes with everything else. All is in harmony, perfectly fused and unobstructed. PERHAPS it is CALLED FOREVER UNMOVING. This is a state that is forever abiding. It never changes and never moves. PERHAPS it is CALLED UNIQUE AND SUBLIME DOCTRINE. The doctrine of the Way is especially sublime and real.

When we listen to the Buddhadharma, we have to practice according to it. We must deeply enter the Sutra store and bring forth great faith. If you can meet those three conditions you will attain great benefit. Don’t listen to the Sutras as if you were listening to a fairy tale. That would be a big mistake. For endless aeons, we have undergone uncountable births and deaths. Every time we died, we discarded the body of that life. If the bodies we have assumed throughout all this time, were piled up, they would form a stack as high as Mount Sumeru. That’s why there is a saying,

People eat the earth;
The earth consumes people.

When people are alive, they feed off the grains that grow from the earth. When they die, their bodies return to mother earth. How many of our bodies have been devoured by the earth? And yet we are still wandering aimlessly around as if in a daze because we have not bothered to cultivate. As a result, we have not been able to smash the “enemy,” the three poisons of greed, hatred, and stupidity. These three poisons numb out bodies and minds and turn us upside down. They cause us to take right for wrong and wrong for right; to take black for white, and white for black; to take suffering for bliss, and bliss as suffering. For cultivators of the Way, the primary enemy is sexual desire. If you can’t cut off desire and cast out love, then you can’t cultivate. Therefore love and desire are the greatest obstructions. You must subdue them, get rid of them, and not allow them to stir up waves. Otherwise you will lose the opportunity to become enlightened.

SUTRA:

“DISCIPLES OF THE BUDDHA, IN THE WORLD CALLED ROUSING SOUNDS, THE FOUR HOLY TRUTHS CAN BE DESCRIBED IN FORTY TRILLION NAMES SUCH AS THESE, WHICH, BY ACCORDING WITH LIVING BEINGS’ THOUGHTS, CAN CAUSE THEM ALL TO BE TAMED AND SUBDUED.

COMMENTARY:

Manjushri Bodhisattva calls out: DISCIPLES OF THE BUDDHA, IN THE WORLD CALLED ROUSING SOUNDS, THE FOUR HOLY TRUTHS CAN BE DESCRIBED IN FORTY TRILLION NAMES SUCH AS THESE, WHICH, BY ACCORDING WITH LIVING BEINGS’ THOUGHTS, CAN CAUSE THEM ALL TO BE TAMED AND SUBDUED. Although the names are different, their underlying principle is the same. The forty names mentioned above can expand to an infinite number of names. And in compliance with what living beings are willing to hear, they are explained so as to help these living beings to gain an understanding.

CONCLUSION

SUTRA:

“DISCIPLES OF THE BUDDHA, IN THIS SAHA WORLD, THE FOUR HOLY TRUTHS ARE EXPLAINED IN FORTY TRILLION NAMES. TO THE EAST, ARE HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF MILLIONS, COUNTLESS, MEASURELESS, BOUNDLESS, UNEQUALLED, UNCOUNTABLE, INESTIMABLE, INCONCEIVABLE, INEFFABLE WORLDS THAT EXHAUST THE DHARMA REALM AND THE REALM OF EMPTINESS. IN EACH OF THOSE WORLDS WHERE THE FOUR HOLY TRUTHS ARE EXPLAINED, THERE ARE ALSO FORTY TRILLION NAMES. BY ACCORDING WITH LIVING BEINGS’ THOUGHTS THESE NAMES CAUSE THEM ALL TO BE TAMED AND SUBDUED. AS IT IS IN THE EAST, SO TOO, IT IS IN THE SOUTH, WEST, AND NORTH, THE FOUR INTERMEDIATE DIRECTIONS, AND ABOVE AND BELOW.

COMMENTARY:

After describing the different names of the Four Holy Truths in one world, in each of the Ten directions, Manjushri Bodhisattva concludes by saying: DISCIPLES OF THE BUDDHA, IN THIS SAHA WORLD – the world we are currently dwelling in--THE FOUR HOLY TRUTHS ARE EXPLAINED IN FORTY TRILLION NAMES. But this doesn’t apply only to our would system. TO THE EAST ARE HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF MILLIONS, COUNTLESS, MEASURELESS, BOUNDLESS, UNEQUALLED – there is no number to correspond to these many worlds. UNCOUNTABLE – there’s no way to even count how many worlds. INESTIMABLE – this number is so huge that it’s unreckonable. INCONCEIVABLE – you can’t even conceive of it with your thoughts. INEFFABLE – unspeakably many -- WORLDS THAT EXHAUST THE DHARMA REALM AND THE REALM OF EMPTINESS – in infinite universes that pervade the ten directions. IN EACH OF THOSE WORLDS WHERE THE FOUR HOLY TRUTHS ARE EXPLAINED, THERE ARE ALSO FORTY TRILLION NAMES. In each of those infinite universes just mentioned, the Four Holy Truths are explained, and in each case there are forty trillion variations of the same principles. The meanings of the Four Holy Truths are basically the same; nonetheless, according with the tendencies of the living beings in each of those worlds, they are explained in a way that completely suits living beings’ natures and aptitudes, thus causing them to be subdued and to obtain benefit. AS IT IS IN THE EAST, SO TOO, IT IS IN THE SOUTH, WEST, AND NORTH, THE FOUR INTERMEDIATE DIRECTIONS – southeast, southwest, northeast, and northwest -- AND ABOVE AND BELOW – that is, in all ten directions.

SUTRA:

“DISCIPLES OF THE BUDDHA, JUST AS IN THIS SAHA WORLD SYSTEM, THERE ARE WORLDS IN THE TEN DIRECTIONS AS DESCRIBED ABOVE, SO TOO, THERE ARE WORLDS IN THE TEN DIRECTIONS IN EACH OF THOSE OTHER WORLD SYSTEMS. IN EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THOSE WORLDS THE HOLY TRUTH OF SUFFERING IS DESCRIBED IN FORTY TRILLION NAMES. THE HOLY TRUTH OF ACCUMULATION, THE HOLY TRUTH OF EXTINCTION, AND THE HOLY TRUTH OF THE WAY ARE ALSO EACH DESCRIBED IN FORTY TRILLION NAMES. AND ACCORDING TO WHAT LIVING BEINGS LIKE IN THEIR MINDS, THEY CAUSE THEM ALL TO BE TAMED AND SUBDUED.

COMMENTARY:

Manjushri Bodhisattva says: DISCIPLES OF THE BUDDHA, JUST AS IN THIS SAHA WORLD SYSTEM, THERE ARE WORLDS IN THE TEN DIRECTIONS AS DESCRIBED ABOVE, SO TOO, THERE ARE WORLDS IN THE TEN DIRECTIONS IN EACH OF THOSE OTHER WORLD SYSTEMS. In each universe throughout the ten directions, there are infinite sub-universes and sub-sub-universes reaching out like a net, multilayered and infinite. AND IN EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THOSE WORLDS, THE HOLY TRUTH OF SUFFERING IS DESCRIBED IN FORTY TRILLION NAMES. Also, THE HOLY TRUTH OF ACCUMULATION, THE HOLY TRUTH OF EXTINCTION, AND THE HOLY TRUTH OF THE WAY ARE ALSO EACH DESCRIBED IN FORTY TRILLION NAMES. AND ACCORDING TO WHAT LIVING BEINGS LIKE IN THEIR MINDS, according to their propensities and what they like to hear, these names are explained. They are used to CAUSE THEM ALL TO BE TAMED AND SUBDUED. Those explanations cause living beings to turn away from confusion and return to enlightenment. To stop their ignorance and inversion, and to return to the source.

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LIBERATING THE LIVING

Tomorrow (April 12, 1976) we will hold a ceremony that most Westerners are not familiar with, a ceremony for liberating the living. Since most Westerners have never seen this ceremony, they don’t understand the intent behind liberating the living creatures. Why do we liberate them? It is because if we ransom creatures that were destined to be slaughtered for food and then set them free, then they can live out their natural lifespans. This in turn enables the people who liberate the living to enjoy a long life.

Why are there wars in the world? It is because our collective killing karma is so heavy. If in this life I kill you, in the next life, you’ll kill me, and in the life after that I’ll come back to kill you. This cycle of killing continues forever. People kill animals and in their next life they become animals. The animals which they once killed now return as people to claim revenge. This goes on and on and on. There is endless killing and bloodshed. When incidents of slaughter multiply until the resentment can no longer be contained, they explode into massive world wars, with the resultant huge massacres and horrendous distruction. On the battlefield, people are propelled by resentment and enmity that has accumulated during many lifetimes, and they go absolutely berserk, lashing out at one another like savages. “You kill one person? I’ll kill ten!” They take revenge on one another like that. Wars are the painful results of killing karma created in our past lives.

Therefore, we liberate the living to diminish our killing karma. The more people engage in liberating the living, the less killing they will do. Wars will proportionally decrease. We who cultivate these compassionate practices do not oppose war: we just don’t go to war. We don’t kill but instead we set living creatures free. This is the true and ultimate way to eliminate war. It is also a gateway to long life and health and to the eradication of disasters and illnesses. The merit and virtue that one accumulates from liberating animals is boundless. It enables you to cause living beings to live out the full extent of their natural lifespans. In additions, you benefit personally because illnesses are averted. As a result you enjoy good health and are able to peacefully cultivate the Way.

The purpose of liberating the living is to protect the lives of creatures. It is a Dharma door that exemplifies the Buddha’s compassion. Everyone should protect living creatures and not abuse or slaughter them. When I visited Thailand and Vietnam a few years ago, I saw that Thailand was overrun with frogs, and Vietnam was infested with mice. Those were responses evoked by the heavy killing karma of those citizens of those countries. If we want to have a healthy and thriving country, then we sould exhaust our means to abstain from killing and cherish the living.

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