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The first ground says, “Within a single ground is contained the merit and virtue of all the grounds.” “Faith includes the sea of the fruit.” “When one first brings forth the resolve, one then accomplishes proper enlightenment,” and so forth.


In the Sutra text proper, within the discussion of the first ground it says, “Within a single ground is contained the merit and virtue of all the grounds.” It tells you that if you can cultivate and reach the First Ground, your cultivation upon the First Ground is replete with the merit and virtue of all the other Grounds: the Second Ground, the Third Ground, the Fourth Ground, the Fifth Ground, the Sixth Ground, the Seventh Ground, the Eighth Ground, the Ninth Ground, and the Tenth Ground. You will have all of those kinds of merit and virtue, but they will not yet be perfected. That is why it is said that cultivation of the Way depends upon the circumstances of your application of effort. Those on the position of the First Ground do not know about the state of those upon the Second Ground. Those on the Second Ground do not know the state of those on the Third Ground, although they do know the state of those upon the First Ground. Even though they do not know, they still are replete with that kind of merit and virtue, and so they have hopes of reaching the Third Ground and the Fourth Ground.
“Faith includes the sea of the fruit.”
If you have faith, it can include your future attainment of Buddha, the sea of the fruit of enlightenment. In the Sutra text it also says, “When one first brings forth the resolve, one then accomplishes proper enlightenment,” and so forth. As soon as you bring forth the resolve, you become a Buddha. First bringing forth the resolve is as, for example, when you cultivate the First Ground to perfection and accomplish Buddhahood. The Buddha didn’t become a Buddha just now. He had already become a Buddha limitlessly many kalpas ago, He simply comes into our world and appears to accomplish Buddhahood, letting living beings see what it is like, so they can imitate him and follow that road too, the road to the fruit of Buddhahood.

The Buddha in the past:

For three asamkhyeya kalpas cultivated blessings and wisdom,
For a hundred kalpas perfected the marks and characteristics.

During all three asamkhyeyas of great kalpas in which he cultivated, he never had a single thought of retreating. In every thought he was vigorous and wished to progress along the road to Buddhahood. In his search for Buddhahood he sacrificed his own body and life. For example, during one lifetime he sacrificed his life for a tiger. Tigers are the most savage of beasts, and it never occurs to anyone to protect them; nor would they accept people’s protection. Yet Shakyamuni Buddha in a past life gave up his life for a tigress.

He was on a mountain cultivating the Way when there was a heavy snowfall lasting several days. There being nothing for the tigress to eat, she and her cubs were about to die of starvation. She had reach the point where she was too weak to hunt for food . When Shakyamuni Buddha saw their plight he said, ‘‘ That tigress is about to die. I should give my body to her to eat.” So he offered his body to the tigress and was eaten by it. See what kind of spirit he had in giving up his life for the sake of living beings? When the tigress had eaten his flesh, she brought forth the resolve for Bodhi, and later was taught by the Buddha. We who cultivate the Way should learn to be as magnanimous as the Buddha was. He also did such things as cut off all the flesh on his body for an eagle. And during all three great asamkhyeya kalpas that he was cultivating in that way, he never once thought of retreating, which is why he accomplished Buddhahood.

Now we have completed one summer session, and the second is about to begin. I don’t know how many people will come. In our one month session everyone worked very hard both studying and teaching, and now there is a break before we start all over again. Studying the Buddhadharma is just like eating and wearing clothes. Don’t fear difficulty, and don’t say, “There’s no meaning to studying the Buddhadharma day after day.” You tell me what does have meaning.

Bring out all the things you consider meaningful, which of them truly are? One studies the Buddhadharma in order to end birth and death, and all the rest of what you do is not ending birth and death. To resolve the problem of birth and death, you must have a courageously vigorous resolve for Bodhi.Prologue:

Nevertheless, these two are non-obstructive. Successive gradations are the establishment of instruction through the marks of the teaching. Perfect fusion is the functioning of the virtues of the nature of principle.Commentary: 

This discusses the principle of successive gradations and perfect fusion, and so it says, nevertheless, these two are non-obstructive. The two categories, successive gradations and perfect fusion, do not obstruct one another. Successive gradations do not interfere with perfect fusion, nor does perfect fusion block the successive gradations. They are really not mutually obstructive, and so the text says that they are non-obstructive. Successive gradations are the establishment of instruction through the marks of the teaching, the teaching marks within Buddhism. That is, for example, the Ten Dwellings which have the teaching marks of the Ten Dwellings, and the Ten Conducts, the Ten Transferences, and the Ten Grounds which also have their respective teaching marks. To establish instruction through teaching marks is to arrange them as required and set them forth. Although there is instruction in the successive gradations of positions, nonetheless the successive gradations do not obstruct perfect fusion. Perfect fusion is a unity. Successive gradations are the limitless, while perfect fusion is the one. One becomes the limitless, and the limitless return to the one.

Perfect fusion is the functioning of the virtues of the nature of principle. Perfect fusion is a kind of teaching principle, which in its nature has functioning of virtues. These two are therefore said to be  mutually non-obstructive, in the same way as a lamp and its light.Prologue:

Marks are the very nature’s marks, and so successive gradations do not obstruct perfect fusion. The nature is the very marks’ nature, and so perfect fusion does not obstruct successive gradations. Because perfect fusion does not obstruct successive gradations, the one is the limitless. Because successive gradations do not obstruct perfect fusion, the limitless are the one. Since the limitless are the one, they interpenetrate in hidden ways. Since the is the limitless, they enter into each other layer upon layer.Commentary:

Marks refer to the teaching marks, by which is meant the successive gradations. Those successive gradations are the very nature’s marks, the characteristics within the nature, and so successive gradations do not obstruct perfect fusion. There is no interference with perfect fusion on the part of successive gradations. The nature is the very marks’ nature. The nature is that of the characteristics themselves, and so perfect fusion does not obstruct successive gradations. You shouldn’t deliberately explain this as esoteric and incomprehensible. Just put it as an ordinary statement, people will understand it at sight: perfect fusion does not obstruct successive gradations.

Because perfect fusion does not obstruct successive gradations, the one is the limitless. Due to the non-interference of perfect fusion with successive gradations, the one is able to give rise to the limitless. Because successive gradations do not obstruct perfect fusion, the limitless are the one. The one is the limitless and the limitless are the one.

A single root divides into ten
thousand ramifications;
Ten thousand ramifications all
return to a single root.

Ten thousand branchings-out spring from a single root, and having sprung from it must return to it as well:

Because there is nothing which does
not flow forth from this Dharma Realm,
And nothing which does not return
to this Dharma Realm.

Since the limitless are the one, they interpenetrate in hidden ways. The limitless are still the one, and so successive gradations and perfect fusion interpenetrate. This fusion, however, happens in a hidden fashion. It’s as if it were happening, and yet as if not. It rather seems that way, but it’s not completely evident. Although one is not quite sure, it still appears to be going on. It’s indistinct, obscure. Since the one is the limitless, they enter each other layer upon layer. When the many become few, that is entry of the limitless into the one. When the few become many, that is entry of the one into the limitless. This multi-layered repetition cannot be completely described. As soon as you have finished discussing one level, there is the next. You may think the next level is all there is, but after describing it, a further level appears, in infinite replication, of multi-leveled entries which are like motes of dust in number. When you finish counting one mote of dust, the next mote of dust arrives. Count that one, and there turns out to be another. Ultimately how many dust-motes are there? They are infinitely repeated layer upon layer. They go on without end.

Right now someone is saying, ”Now I understand. These repeated entries are like my false thoughts.” Right, they are just like that. Among your false thoughts there are true thoughts as well as the false. The false thoughts can become true thoughts, and the true thoughts can become false ones too. Who makes them change? You don’t know. When confronted with this question you can only answer, ”I don’t know.”

Now I see someone’s false thinking is burning up the divine palace of the Heaven of the Thirty-three. That fire of desire is consuming the jeweled hall of the Jade Emperor, who is flying into a fit of rage and saying, “You’re really rotten. I’d just sat in the position of Lord God long enough to have a little warmth arise, when your fire of desire destroyed my palace, and I have no idea when the jeweled hall can be repaired.”

Someone else is producing the water of afflictions saying, “There’s too much of this multi-layered, repeated inexhaustibility. It’s too much trouble. I can’t reckon this amount. I keep listening, and it looks like it never comes to an end, just like motes of dust. How can that be counted? Well, all the various discussions of Buddhadharma are just castles in the air. You say, “This castle has such and such fine points,” but then it’s constructed in thin air. It turns out not to exist at all. You tell me: is there anything that really exists? You say, “I exist. My body is five, six, or seven feet tall and about three or four feet wide. It’s possible for people to get five to six feet wide as well, it’s not fixed.” Okay, that’s you. But when you die, who is it? At that time who are those five, six, or seven feet?

You say, “Of course I don’t know about then.” Then why do you think you know now? If you could not know now, that would most wonderful. People are bundles of attachments that start with attachments to the body belonging to oneself, and grow into, “Everything is mine; everything belongs to me. This is mine. That is mine.” But once your eyes are shut, nothing is yours. When the four elements disperse, earth returns to the element earth, water to the element water, and the wind to that of wind. That is why it said:

The four elements are all empty.
The five skandhas have no self.

Form, feeling, thinking, activities and consciousness have no self to them. At that time what happens to “you”? Think it over. If while you are still alive you can consider yourself dead and say, “Oh, I’ve already died, and so everything I’m doing here now is like putting on a play,” then you won’t have any attachments.

What happens with people is:
When disaster arises, giving does not arise.
When death arises, cultivation does not arise.

If there are disasters and calamities and one loses all one’s valuables, then one consoles oneself saying, “None of those valuables was mine, and so now they are gone.” When someone steals them one says, “Let him have them. They are his.” Before they were stolen, if you had told the person to give them away, he would not have been able to give them up. Suggest to him that he give away a lot of them, and he can’t. He is also unable to part with just a few, for he reasons, “If I give them away I won’t have any.” But after someone steals them, he says, “I consider that I’ve given them away.” But even though he considers it giving, it doesn’t count as giving, and he has no merit or virtue from it.

If you give on your own without things being stolen from you, then you have merit and virtue. “How much merit and virtue?” you ask. A limitless and boundless amount. But if you wait until things are stolen from you and try to reckon that as giving, saying, “I’ll just consider that I’ve given them to him,” the not only do you not have a limitless and boundless amount, but not even the tiniest bit of merit and virtue. That is really inconceivable: since there is none, how could you conceive of it?

When death arises, cultivation does not arise. You encourage someone to leave home and cultivate the Way, and they protest, “But I can’t. My father expects me to take care of him , and my mother expects me to be filial.” That’s putting it in a good light. In not so good a light it’s, “I’ve got children who haven’t grown up yet. Basically it’s a really good thing to cultivate the Way, but unfortunately I have these two kinds. When they grow up I’ll be able to cultivate, but right now I can’t.” Having said that, not five minutes later he gets sick and dies, and the ghost of impermanence spirits him away. He may not want to go but he has no control over himself, and runs along without protest. So, if you tell him to cultivate, he doesn’t have time; but when he dies he has the time all right. Now do you see?

That is why I say of people:

When death arises, life does not arise.
When suffering arises, cultivation does not arise.

There are people who want to die and all day long think, “I wish I were dead. I wish I were dead. I’d rather be dead than alive: no need to wear trousers or coats, how free and easy!”

But I say to them, “If you’re so anxious to die and give it all up, why not even more o while still alive? If you consider being alive the same as being dead, what difference is there between them? None. That way there is no birth and there is no death. See the wonder in that single instant of thought. It’s just like turning over your palm. But you can’t do it.

When suffering arises, cultivation does not arise. When someone undergoes suffering, he says, “It doesn’t matter. I was destined to suffer in this lifetime. It’s what I have coming to me. Today I don’t have any food to eat, but tomorrow I may. So I’ll just wait it out. It’s not important. Everyone has to suffer. I’m not the only one who suffers, it happens to everyone.” He sees it very clearly, and pin-points it accurately in his thoughts. He has a thorough command of the logic and philosophy behind it. But tell him to cultivate and he says, “No deal. Cultivation involves too much suffering. I couldn’t stand it. There’s no way I could cultivate.” Would you say that was strange or not? So I say, “When death arises, life does not arise, and when suffering arises, cultivation does not arises.” That’s that.

Each person should keep careful watch over his or her own house and carefully guard the doors. If you don’t, you will lose things, as when disaster arises and giving does not arise. If you don’t carefully guard the doors, weird demons and freakish ghosts can get in. Once in, they will steal all your gold, silver, and other limitless valuables whether it’s your elixir of immortality or the wisdom life of your Dharma Body, and then what will you do? There is that danger.


Therefore, heavenly relative used the Six Marks or perfect fusion. Of period and subsequent texts there are more than one.


Therefore, as a result, Heavenly Relative used the Six Marks of perfect fusion. “Heavenly Relative” was the Bodhisattva Vasubandhu, the younger brother of the Bodhisattva Asangha, “Un-attached.” He wrote the Treatise on the Ten Grounds, after which he had the response of the earth emitting six kinds of light. Unattached Bodhisattva cultivated Great Vehicle Buddhadharma, whereas Heavenly Relative Bodhisattva, to begin with, cultivated Small Vehicle Buddhadharma. Heavenly Relative Bodhisattva was extremely intelligent and had impressive eloquence which was unobstructed. But since his potentials were not yet ripe, he was cultivating the Buddhism of the Lesser Vehicle.

Unattached Bodhisattva, whose cultivation was that of the Great Vehicle, realized that the Buddhism of the Lesser Vehicle was non-ultimate Dharma. He knew that it was Dharma fabricated to instruct people of initial potential for the Small Vehicle and those who had grown weary of the Buddhadharma, that it was dharma for dung-sweeping “poor sons.” Unattached Bodhisattva thereupon established a huge expedient which was that of announcing, “My life is about to come to an end. I’m going to die. Heavenly Relative, you are my younger brother, so you really ought to come see me.”

Heavenly Relative Bodhisattva, who was then cultivating Small Vehicle Buddhadharma, felt it was incompatible with Great Vehicle Buddhadharma, so in ordinary times he had nothing to do with his elder brother who was cultivating on the other path. But when he learned his elder brother was about to die, he dared not fail to go. He went to see his other brother Unattached Bodhisattva who told him that he was on the verge of death and that he had but one final request to make before he died. He wanted his younger brother Heavenly Relative to read the Flower Adornment Sutra through for him one time.

The Flower Adornment Sutra or course, was Great Vehicle Buddhadharma. His younger brother really didn’t want to, but he felt it would be terribly insulting not to fulfill his elder brother’s last request, and so he agreed to read the Flower Adornment Sutra through for him. As he was reading it, when he came to the passage where the sea of conduct of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva of Vairochana Buddha’ Dharma Realm is described, it was as if the sun had come out and shone for him and he saw the interlacing of the pearls of Indra’s Net, and he believed.

As soon as he believed, he was very sorry and ashamed, and got incredibly nervous saying, “What can I do? In the past I slandered the Great Vehicle and created all kinds of offense karma. Let me have a knife!”

His elder brother said, “What do you want with a knife?

“I’m going to cut out my tongue,” he replied.

“Why do you want to cut out your tongue?” his brother asked.

He said, “It’s because in the past I slandered Great Vehicle Sutras. I know I have committed very great offenses and so I want to cut out my tongue to repent of my offenses.”

His brother said, “You don’t have to do that. If you fell down on the ground, would you use the ground for leverage to pick yourself up again, or would you just keep on lying there?”

Heavenly Relative said, “If I fell down I would pick myself up again.”

His brother said, “Well, in the past you used your tongue to slander Great Vehicle Buddhadharma. Now, since you understand, you can use your tongue to praise Great Vehicle Buddhadharma, can’t you?”

He thought it over and said, “That’s right. I was able to slander before, and now I can praise.” And so he read and recited Great Vehicle Sutras, and composed The Treatise on the Ten Grounds, a Shastra on the Flower Adornment Sutra praising the Great Vehicle. When it was completed, the earth quaked without causing any damage.

The king of the country came and bowed to him and asked, “Have you certified to the fruit of Arhatship?”

He said, “No.”

“Then why did the earth quake?” the king asked.

He said, “It’s because in the past I slandered the Great Vehicle, and now I’ve written a Flower Adornment Sutra praising the Great Vehicle. Upon its completion, an earthquake occurred, and six kinds of light came forth, which indicated my Shastra was written accurately. I give it to you, your Highness, to print and distribute throughout the world, to establish Dharma affinities with its inhabitants.” After that the Flower Adornment Sutra Shastra did in fact circulate throughout the world.

Heavenly Relative Bodhisattva used the six marks of perfect fusion to explain the positions. They are:

1.   The Mark of Generality.                                        
2.   The Mark of Particularity.
3.   The Mark of Identity.
4.   The Mark of Difference.
5.   The Mark of Coming into Being.
6.   The Mark of Destruction.

These will be discussed in detail later.

Of prior and subsequent texts there are more than one. “Prior and subsequent” refers to the two classes of text, “prior” referring to the Prologue, and “subsequent” referring to the entire Sutra which follows. In those texts there are a great many statements of this principle.

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