THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS

No Understanding and No Attaining

Sutra:

And no understanding and no attaining.

Verse:

The Storehouse-Teaching Bodhisattva: six phenomenal paramitas.
The Perfect cultivates to the point of wonderful enlightenment, where noumenon is suddenly clarified.
Without any wisdom, he destroys attachment and empties every characteristic;
Without attainment, he has no verification and comprehends the fusion of dharmas.
He makes a jeweled realm appear on the tip of a single hair.
And he turns the Dharma wheel while sitting on a speck of dust.
These words are spoken, yet few have faith;
I do not know how many know my sound.

Commentary:

Understanding means wisdom. Attaining refers to certification to the attainment of a particular fruition of enlightenment. When you reach this state, you do not want wisdom, and you do not have a fruition which is verified. There isn’t any hope at all. Most people who study the Buddhadharma suppose that they should first study wisdom, and that only after they have learned to be wise will they realize the fruition of Buddhahood. This sutra says that the wisdom of prajna does not exist. There isn’t any attainment either. All is empty. It isn’t that there isn’t any wisdom or attainment; but there isn’t any attachment to wisdom, and there isn’t any attachment to the place one has attained.

The Bodhisattvas of the Storehouse or Tripitaka Teaching practice the dharma-doors of having wisdom and having attainment. These dharma-doors are called the phenomenal paramitas. Thus the verse says, The Storehouse-Teaching Bodhisattva: six phenomenal paramitas.

There are six phenomenal paramitas and six noumenal paramitas. The six noumenal paramitas have no phenomenal characteristics and are without attachment to anything. On the other hand, the six phenomenal paramitas entail attachments. To what? There is attachment to living beings who can be saved and to the Way of the Buddha, which can be realized. To be attached to living beings who can be saved is to have wisdom. To be attached to the Buddha-fruition which can be realized is to have attainment. Now the sutra says, and no understanding and no attaining, which indicates that there is no longer an attachment to the six phenomenal paramitas.

The six phenomenal paramitas are:

1) Giving, which crosses you beyond miserliness and greed. If you cultivate the paramita of giving, you will not be miserly and greedy. If you are miserly and greedy, you will not give. As soon as you give, you cross beyond the mind of miserly greed.

2) Maintaining the precepts, which crosses you beyond defilement and damaging transgressions. When you cultivate and maintain the precepts, you become extremely pure and clear, like a bright pearl. To maintain the precepts is to be without defilement. No Understanding and No Attaining 121 If you do not maintain the precepts, you will become dark and dirty from your defilements. Maintaining precepts crosses you beyond defilements. If you do not maintain the precepts, you will become a white piece of paper smudged with black ink: the more stain, the blacker. If you maintain the precepts, the white piece of paper retains the original purity.

3) Patience under insult, which crosses you beyond anger. If you cultivate patience, you won’t have any temper. If you have a temper, then you don’t have patience.

4) Vigor, which crosses you beyond laziness. You should be vigorous and courageous every day. To the extent that you are vigorous, you won’t be lazy.

5) Dhyana samadhi, which crosses you beyond distraction. If you wish to cultivate dhyana samadhi, you must first sit for a long time until you acquire the ability to enter samadhi. When you have entered samadhi, you will no longer be distracted; you will have samadhi-power.

6) Prajna, which crosses you beyond stupidity.

The Chinese character du , “to cross beyond” or “to take across,” that is, to save, is used to translate “paramita,” but the crossing beyond refers to the six phenomenal paramitas, not to the noumenal ones. The six phenomenal paramitas have perceptible characteristics which can be ascertained in one’s behavior. For instance, though you are generous and not miserly, you are still attached to the thought, “Oh, I can give and am not miserly.” If you practiced the six noumenal paramitas, your giving would be the same as your not having given. You shouldn’t be attached.

The six noumenal paramitas are characterized by there being no attachment anywhere. There are many different levels of the six paramitas; for instance, the non-doing of the six paramitas, which is cultivated by the perfectly enlightened. Basically there is no attachment whatever to what is done; it is equivalent to not having done anything. You say, “When I haven’t done something, then, can I say that I have done it? If you can say that my giving is like non-giving, then can we say that non-giving is like giving?” If you give, it is all right to think that it is like not having given, but you cannot say that your not having given is equivalent to your having given.

The Perfect cultivates to the point of wonderful enlightenment, where noumenon is suddenly clarified. The Bodhisattvas of the Perfect Teaching, who are just the same as the wonderful enlightenment Bodhisattvas, cultivate the six noumenal paramitas, along with the Bodhisattvas of the special teaching. They completely understand that giving is the same as not giving and that crossing beyond is the same as not crossing beyond. Therefore, the sutra says, and no understanding and no attaining.

Attachment to the six phenomenal paramitas fundamentally does not exist, so the verse says, Without any wisdom, he destroys attachment and empties every characteristic. There had been an attachment to prajna, but now all characteristics have been emptied. Therefore, the sutra says, and no understanding and no attaining.

Without attaining, he has no verification and comprehends the fusion of all dharmas. There is no attainment to be reached, and there is no attachment to the verification of the fruition of Buddhahood. In other words,

Above, there is no Buddha Way
which can be realized.
Below, there are no living beings
who can be taken across.

That is not to say that there aren’t any living beings to take across. But, although they are taken across, they are not taken across. “Although all living beings have been taken across to extinction, there is not a single living being who has been taken across to extinction.” It isn’t that there aren’t living beings to be taken across, but that there is no attachment. There is no understanding or attaining. This enlightenment is the great, perfect mirror wisdom, in which there is no attachment at all. Thus the verse says, he “comprehends the fusion of dharmas.”

He makes a jeweled realm appear on the tip of a single hair. When there has been certification to the attainment of such a state, the King’s jeweled realm can appear on the tip of a single hair. That is the great manifesting within the small.

And he turns the Dharma wheel while sitting on a speck of dust. This is the doctrine of the Shurangama Sutra.

These words are spoken, yet few have faith; / I do not know how many know my sound.[1] There are very few people who believe, so I don’t know how many people there are who “know the sound,” that is who understand these principles. The Venerable High Master Hsu Yun said, “I have gone everywhere within the boundaries of the heavens in search of someone who knows ‘me’, but I still don’t know if anyone knows my sound.” Someone who knows “me” is a friend who knows “himself.” The one who knows my sound knows the meaning of what I say. If no one knows my sound, then no matter what I say, nobody understands it. People who understand the principle of what has been said are said to know my sound.

You say, “Dharma Master, I understand what you are saying.” Then you know my sound. If you say that you don’t understand, then you don’t know my sound. If you say, “I understand, yet do not understand,” then you know my sound, yet do not. Whether my sound is known or not, I shall still recite these verses and talk about their principles. Whoever cultivates according to them knows my sound. Whoever is not in accord with their principles, and does not cultivate, either, does not know my sound. Whether you know my sound or not is simply whether you believe or not. If you believe in the principles I have talked about, you are one who knows my sound. If you don’t, then you are not one who knows my sound. What principles am I talking about?

“He makes a jeweled realm appear on the tip of a single hair.” On the tip of a tiny hair is manifest a Buddha-country, a country where the Buddha proclaims Dharma to teach and transform living beings. “And he turns the Dharma wheel while sitting on a speck of dust.” Seated upon an extremely small speck of dust – how small is it? You turn the great Dharma wheel to teach and transform living beings. In this kind of state, the large appears within the small. If you understand that state, you are one who knows my sound. If you don’t understand, then you should study the Buddhadharma. Study until you too can sit on a speck of dust and turn the Dharma wheel. Then you will understand.

[1] The term zhi yin, “one who knows my sound,” is usually reserved for a very close friend who deeply understands one.

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