THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS

Shariputra

Sutra:

Shariputra.

Verse:

Shariputra is the solid and durable proof;
The name means “pelican” –
the demeanor of his mother.
With precepts and samadhi complete and bright,
the pearl-light appears;
Practice and understanding interact,
and his body is transparent.
How does there come to be great wisdom?
Because the stupid make their mark.
Already in his mother’s womb
a fine eloquence had been born;
This real wisdom is complete within all people;
Grasp it at Jewelled Wood Peak at Cao Creek.

Commentary:

In speaking the Heart of Prajna Paramita Sutra, the Buddha addressed his disciple, Shariputra, foremost in wisdom among the Buddha’s disciples. Shariputra is the solid and durable proof. The name Shariputra means solid and durable; that is, the wisdom of Shariputra is solid and durable.

The name means “pelican” – the demeanor of his mother. The shari is a large sea bird of the pelican genus. It flies high and has telescopic vision. When the fish swim near the surface of the sea, the bird shoots down from high in the sky as fast as a rocket, scoops up the fish, and eats them. It is able to do it because it can see very clearly.

In India children were named according to the father’s name, the mother’s name, or both the father’s and mother’s names. Shariputra received his name from his mother’s line. His mother was called Shari because of the nature of her demeanor. Putra means son, so the son of Shari was called Shariputra.

With precepts and samadhi complete and bright, the pearl light appears. In previous lives, life after life, Shariputra had cultivated precepts, samadhi, and wisdom to full brightness and perfection, and at that point the pearl-light appears. [1]

Practice and understanding interact, and his body is transparent. He both studied the teachings and cultivated them, so his wisdom was especially great, and his body was transparent like glass.

How does there come to be great wisdom? Because the stupid make their mark. What is great wisdom? Most stupid people have their own special style of behavior, but Shariputra was not like them. Stupid people do things in an upside-down way: they speak clearly about what they will do, but when they do it, they do it poorly. That’s stupidity. The great wisdom of Shariputra was beyond confusion. Because he knew clearly, he never purposely allowed wrong to be done, and he was never upside down.

Already in his mother’s womb a fine eloquence had been born. You all remember that Shariputra’s mother and her brother often debated and that his mother could never outwit her brother. But when she was pregnant with Shariputra, she was always able to defeat her brother in debate. Since he couldn’t out-talk his sister, he realized that she was about to give birth to an outstanding child, and he went off to study the doctrines of external paths so that he would not lose face before his nephew. But when he returned, Shariputra had already left home to follow Shakyamuni Buddha. 2]

This real wisdom is complete within all people. It is not only the venerable Shariputra who has great wisdom; everyone has this genuine wisdom. But not everyone uses it; most people forget about it. But everyone has it and has the capability of using it.

Grasp it at Jewelled Wood Peak at Cao Creek. Where is this real wisdom? It’s at Cao Creek, and Cao Creek is at Nan-hua Monastery in Ma-pa Township in Kuangtong Province, China. The Nan-hua Monastery of Jewelled Wood Mountain is Cao Creek, the Bodhimanda of the Sixth Patriarch. “Oh,” you think, “that’s so far! How could I possibly go there to grasp it? Not only have the Communists sealed the borders, but even if they would let me in, it is too far and I do not have the means to get there.”

That’s good, for it isn’t necessary to go. Each one of you has the Jewelled Wood Peak at Cao Creek, and it is unnecessary to travel far to seek it. The wisdom is within you. How do you meet it? Put down your upside-down mind; let go of your false-thinking mind. Earnestly work hard at your meditation. When you sit in meditation and look into Chan, just that is Jewelled Wood Peak at Cao Creek.

[1] The pearl refers to the sharira (or relic) said to be a physical manifestation of the above-mentioned perfections. The relics of enlightened beings resemble effulgent pearls.

[2] The uncle, realizing that the child would be of uncommon intelligence and not wanting to lose face, went away from home. He travelled all over India and diligently studied all the extant works on logic, philosophy, and religion. Seventeen years later he returned home, only to find that his nephew had left the home-life to follow the Buddha. Angered that he had lost the brilliant child, he went to retrieve him. When he arrived at the place where the Buddha was dwelling, he challenged the Buddha to a debate on the following terms: if he were to win, then the Buddha would allow Shariputra to leave and become the uncle’s disciple. If he were to lose, the Buddha could have his head.

The Buddha agreed and asked him to state his basic premise. The uncle replied that it was the non-acceptance of all dharmas, thinking that by the use of such a premise no matter what the Buddha said in debate he would not have to accept it. However, the Buddha then asked, “Do you accept that view or not?” The uncle then realized that if he did, it would be in violation of his own premise, and that if he didn’t, the premise would no longer hold either.

Then, fearing the loss of his head, the uncle impulsively ran away. Yet after running a considerable distance, he stopped to consider his action and returned to offer his head to the Buddha. The Buddha refused his head but accepted him as a disciple. He became one of the ten great disciples of the Buddha and was known by the name Mahakausthila.

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