THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS

Nirvana

Sutra:

Ultimately Nirvana! All Buddhas of the three periods of time attain annutarasamyaksambodhi through reliance on prajna paramita.

Verse:

Virtue is nowhere incomplete, and all the obstacles perish;
This final perfect stillness is called nirvana.
Those passed by, not yet come, and now existing,
All Buddhas of the three periods of time, rooted in a common source,
Through reliance on this prajna paramita,
Reach the genuine and equal enlightenment of the Supreme Immortal.
If those who practice are capable only of diligence and vigor,
What worry can there be about not attaining the field of the Dharma-nature?

Commentary:

Ultimately Nirvana! Because you have destroyed the retribution-obstacle, the karmic obstacle, and the affliction obstacle, distorted dream-thinking can be left far behind. If you examine that sentence of the Heart Sutra, you will see that all the living beings of the nine dharma-realms are dreaming. The Bodhisattva dreams of seeking the Way of the Buddha above, and of transforming living beings below. He wishes to realize the Way of the Buddha in order to take living beings across, yet it is all in a dream.

The Conditioned-Enlightened, the Pratyekabuddhas, are also dreaming. About what? They dream of looking out for themselves alone. Living deep in the desolate mountain valleys, they are Arhats who “comprehend for their own sakes.” That is the meaning of “Looking out for themselves alone, they are incapable of promoting the common good.” That is also dreaming.

Hearers, the Shravakas, dream of the one-sided emptiness which is the one-sided truth of nirvana with residue. The gods have a dream of happiness and peace; they are at ease and enjoy an especially peaceful, superior, and wonderful happiness.

People dream of seeking fame and fortune. They wish to make a lot of money or to become officials. In this life they are all upside down and take suffering to be happiness. Every day they are busy dreaming of fame and fortune.

What dream do the asuras have? They dream of fighting. For instance, it is an asura’s situation when someone goes and fights someone else. To be an asura is to be someone who likes to fight, and to be in the dream of fighting.

Those in the hells dream of undergoing bitter suffering. Hungry ghosts dream of starving, and animals dream a dream of stupidity. Each of the nine dharma-realms has its own dream. The Buddha in ultimate nirvana is the only one who does not dream, and so his is called ultimate nirvana.

People who don’t understand the Buddhadharma say, “Nirvana is nothing but dying.” Yet that dying is not the same as death, because it is a voluntary dying; it is known and understood. What there was to be done is already done, and pure practice is already established, and so you undergo no further existence. Therefore, you wish to enter nirvana, the state in which there is no birth and death. You yourself know beforehand that you are going to enter nirvana: “At a certain time I will enter nirvana and perfect the stillness.” Thus this is dying which is voluntary and understood.

It is said to be understood because when you are about to enter nirvana, you have great clarity. Your body is without sickness or suffering, and your mind has no cravings; it is undistorted. There is no greed in your mind for the objects of the five desires: wealth, sex, fame, food, and sleep. You are not greedy for anything, nor do you long for anything, nor is there any distortion in your mind. When you are about to die, your thoughts are not all distorted and unclear. When people who have cultivated want to enter nirvana, they themselves know it, and they say very clearly to everyone, “in a certain year, a certain month and day, at a certain time, I am going to enter nirvana.” Saying it very clearly to everyone is what is meant by “knowing.” It is not to say that nirvana is just death; nirvana is no birth and no death. You are only able to die because you were born. If you hadn’t been born, you wouldn’t die. Therefore, Ultimately Nirvana. What is meant by “ultimately nirvana?”

Virtue is nowhere incomplete, and all the obstacles perish. Since there are no obstacles at all, the virtuous nature is fully perfected. The complete lack of obstacles is called perfecting the stillness, and it is also called nirvana.

This final perfect stillness is called nirvana. Perfect stillness is a translation of nirvana. “Perfect” refers to merit which is perfect in every particular; “stillness” refers to virtue which is everywhere still. Virtue is everywhere still because, upon reaching the extreme limit, it merges with the four virtues of nirvana – permanence, bliss, self, and purity – and thus the ultimate happiness called nirvana is attained.

Those passed by, not yet come, and now existing. It is not only Bodhisattvas who cultivate according to this dharma door, but also all the Buddhas of the three periods of time, that is, all the Buddhas of the past, present, and future.

Therefore, the verse says, All Buddhas of the three periods of time, rooted in a common source. All the Buddhas of the three periods of time, through reliance upon the profound and wonderful prajna wisdom, are able to attain anuttarasamyaksambodhi, the supreme, the genuine and equal, and the genuine enlightenment. It is supreme in that there is none above it; it is the enlightenment of the Buddha. Genuine and equal enlightenment is the enlightenment of the Bodhisattva. Genuine enlightenment is the enlightenment of those of the two vehicles. The genuinely enlightened are not the same as common people who are unenlightened. Common people do things which are wrong and don’t even know that they are wrong. They don’t know that they should change. That is to be unenlightened. Genuine enlightenment is the attainment of those of the two vehicles, the Conditioned-Enlightened and the Hearers. Being enlightened, they are not the same as common people, but they have not been able to attain the genuine and equal enlightenment of the Bodhisattva Way, which consists of the six paramitas and ten thousand practices for taking oneself across and for taking others across, for benefitting oneself and for benefitting others. Those of the two vehicles are all Arhats who “comprehend for their own sake.” Because they pay attention only to themselves and not to others, they are incapable of genuine and equal enlightenment.

Although Bodhisattvas attain genuine and equal enlightenment, they have not yet attained the supreme enlightenment. The genuine and equal is equivalent to the enlightenment of the Buddha and refers to the Bodhisattvas of equal enlightenment. These Bodhisattvas are different from those of the two vehicles, because the latter comprehend for their own sake, while the Bodhisattva benefits himself in order to benefit others. But the Bodhisattvas of genuine and equal enlightenment are still incapable of the supreme enlightenment.

Only the Buddha is supreme. He is called the Unsurpassed One (anuttara) and the Human-Taming Charioteer (purusadamyasarathi). His is said to be the supreme, the genuine and equal, and the genuine enlightenment. The sutra says, through reliance on prajna paramita. All the Buddhas of the three periods of time reach the other shore through the use of profound and wonderful prajna wisdom; through reliance on this paramita. This verse says, Reach the genuine and equal enlightenment of the Supreme Immortal. The Supreme Immortal is the Buddha, who is also referred to as the Greatly Enlightened Golden Immortal.

If those who practice are capable only of diligence and vigor. You people who cultivate need be capable only of going forward and diligently cultivating without retreating. “Don’t expose it to the sun for one day and freeze it for ten.” Cultivation of the Way is the same: you must cultivate every day. Cultivate every year, cultivate every month, cultivate every day. Cultivate at all times; at all times be vigorous. Every day be vigorous, every month be vigorous, every year be vigorous, in all places and at all times. It is not that I am vigorous today and tomorrow I retreat. It is not to go one step forward and then backward four steps. You shouldn’t be like that. That is not vigor.

What worry can there be about not attaining the field of Dharma-nature? If you can be vigorous, you can attain the Dharma-nature, which is represented by a field. Only after you plant things in the field can you have a harvest. You need only be vigorous in plowing and weeding, and then you can harvest. This is the field of the Dharma-nature: you cultivate the Dharma-body yourself, and your own nature will be perfected, and you will realize Buddhahood, which is like harvesting the field of the Dharma-nature. You obtain the fruit.

For instance, there is someone who is so vigorous that he does not even sleep at night but cultivates the Way instead. He cultivates for one night, and then what? He sleeps every day during the day. That too is the same as not cultivating and cannot be said to be vigor. Vigor is not to say, “All of you sleep; I won’t sleep. I’ll cultivate the Way.” Then you sleep in the daytime when everyone else is awake. That isn’t vigor. Not sleeping at night and sleeping during the day amounts to just the same thing.

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