THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
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Prologue:

Or perhaps they make a division into five, which, moreover, has two representatives: One, Hui Kuan and the others of Tao Ch’ang, who after the markless and before the Identical Return placed the Vimalakirti, the Visheshacinta, and so forth, as the Teaching of Reproach and Acclaim. Two, the previous Venerable Liu, who did not open a Reproach and Acclaim, but at the start of the Teaching of Existence, singled out the Trapusha Sutra as the Teaching of Humans and Gods.

Commentary:

Previously it talked about opening Four Teachings, and now it says or perhaps they make a division into give. There were even people who divided it up into Five Teachings, which, moreover, has two representatives, two Dharma Masters who did just that. One, Hui Kuan and the others of Tao Ch’ang Monastery. Dharma Master Hui Kuan’s teacher was the Indian Dharma Master Buddhabhadra (Chiao Hsien) who, when in China, said there were several boats coming from India and was severely criticized at the time by the Chinese Dharma Masters for talking of eerie events and expelled. He then went to live at Tao Ch’ang Monastery, and Dharma Master Hui Kuan was his disciple. There were other Dharma Masters too who as did he, after the markless, after the Teachings of Existence of Marks and Marklessness, and before the Identical Return, ahead of the Teaching of Permanently Dwelling, place the Vimalakirti, the Visheshacinta, and so forth, as the Teaching of Reproach and Acclaim. He based this fifth kind of teaching on such Sutras as the VimalakirtinirdeshaSutra and the Visheshacinta-brahma-paripriccha Sutra. He called it the Teaching of Reproach in that is chides the Sound Hearers, the Arhats, for being withered sprouts and sterile seeds for not bringing forth the least bit of great-heartedness, but just being out for themselves and, therefore, useless.

He also called it the Teaching of Acclaim, in that it extolled the Bodhisattvas for truly bringing forth the great resolved for Bodhi, cultivating the Six Paramitas and the Ten Thousand Practices, along with all sorts of Dharma doors for benefiting humans and gods. It says things like, “The Bodhisattvas’ resolve for Bodhi is truly the most great.” What held the Bodhisattvas up for praise while putting down the Sound Hearers was called the Teaching of Reproach and Acclaim by Dharma Master Hui Kuan and his followers. They added it to the previous Four, making Five Teachings.

Two, the second representative, is the previous Venerable Liu, the Hermit-Scholar Liu Ch’iu talked about before, who did not open a reproach and acclaim. He didn’t add a Teaching of Reproach and Acclaim after the Teaching of Marklessness and before the Teaching of Identical Return the way Dharma Master Hui Kuan and the others did. But what did he add instead? At the start of the Teaching of Existence, at the beginning of the Teaching of the Existence of Marks, the Venerable Liu Ch’iu singled out the Trapusha Sutra is the teaching of humans and gods. He said that the Trapusha Sutra, in discussing the Five Precepts and the Ten Wholesome Acts, and the like, was presenting Dharma-doors for people and gods, and so was called the Teaching of Humans and Gods. That made the following Five Teachings:

  1. The Teaching of Humans and Gods.
  2. The Teaching of Existence of Marks.
  3. The Teaching of Marklessness.
  4. The Teaching of Identical Return.
  5. The Teaching of the Permanently Dwelling.

So, you see how there’s nothing fixed about the teachings. If you are sufficiently learned and have read the entire Tripitaka, you can set up as many teachings as you like, even a thousand doors and a myriad teachings. But just don’t confuse people when you do it. How could that happen? If you divide the Buddha’s teaching up into ten thousand teachings with ten thousand names, they won’t be able even to remember them. So I’d like to suggest we just leave it at the Five Teachings they came up with, and not go on to set up six, seven, eight, nine, or ten teachings.

Prologue:

All the preceding Masters within the gradual opened up differences in terms of periods of time. If they had not added an unfixed teaching, they would have provoked even more difficulties, because at the start, there is also the great. Although they did add an unfixed, still there were objections. The difficulties with the Five periods will be shown in general, from which the rest may be deduced.

Commentary:

This section of text talks about how when you set up teachings people come and raise objections, bringing up difficulties for you to reply to. This is not like holding oral examinations and afterwards awarding you a Ph.D. here it’s deliberately making up incredibly difficult questions that you’re supposed to answer. All the preceding Masters, the various Dharma Masters we discussed before, within the gradual Teaching opened up differences in terms of periods of time, on the basis of time intervals. If they had not added an unfixed teaching, they would have provoked even more difficulties. It would have incited people to disrespect them and confront them with problem questions.

These Masters would have had a lot more problems than they did, but fortunately there was the Unfixed Teaching to resolve difficulties. No one could say, “You’re wrong here,” for it’s unfixed. “You say that? Well, it’s that way… or some other way. It’s not fixed.” Then they can’t get you. If it’s not fixed, then you don’t know whether it’s yes or no, for there’s nothing absolute about it. Why would they have had a lot more objections hurled at them without it? It’s because at the start, there is also the great. There was also Great Vehicle Dharma from the start. Although they did add an unfixed, still there were objections. There were still hindrances, difficult questions. The difficulties with the Five Periods will be shown in general right now, from which the rest may be deduced. The rest of the objections can be known by comparison with these.

Prologue:

At the start, describing the twelve years prior as the existence of marks contradicts the Satyasiddhi Shastra which says, “I now properly explain the actual meaning within the Three Stores. The actual meaning is just emptiness.”

Commentary:

In the first Period, at the start describing the twelve years prior as being the period of the teaching of the existence of marks, not of emptiness but of there being characteristics – that contradicts the Satyasiddhi Shastra. If you say there was no teaching of emptiness position to a certain Satyasiddhi Shastrawhich says, “I now properly explain the actual meaning within the Three Stores.” A line in that Shastra claims it is correctly clarifying the real meaning in the Tripitaka Teaching – the Three Stores Teaching – for the Small Vehicle. “The actual meaning is just emptiness.” The true and actual principle is just that of emptiness, real mark. So, if you accept that it teaches real mark, which is emptiness, then how can you say it’s the teaching of existence of marks? Basically, that won’t stand up.

Prologue:

Moreover, in the Agamas it says, “there is no old age and death,” which is just the emptiness of Dharmas, “and there is no one who ages and dies,” which is just the emptiness of beings.

Commentary:

Moreover, in the Agamas, the “incomparable Dharma” Sutra, it says, “there is no old age and death.” Old age and death form one of the Twelve Links of Conditioned Co-production, so why should those dharmas be said to exist and then be called non-existent? It’s because after having enlightened to the Twelve Causal Conditions, you are supposed to discard those dharmas and not become attached to them. Otherwise, you will have an attachment to dharmas and not be able to achieve liberation.

That’s why you need to “empty” the dharma of old age and death so it doesn’t exist, which is just the emptiness of Dharmas. It’s when you reach the state where dharmas are empty that you say there is no aging and death. If, without having reached that state, you say, “For me there is no getting old and dying, no such dharma,” will you yourself get old and die or not? If you age and die all the same, then that dharma is not empty. You have to have ended birth and death, and when you’ve done that, then how could there be any old age or death? Short of that, dharmas can’t be said to be emptied.

But, since here dharmas are empty, it does on to say, “and there is no one who ages and dies,” which is just the emptiness of beings. Since you’ve enlightened to the emptiness of dharmas and have no attachment to them, then you also should sever attachment to self. For attachment to self to be cut off, you must ask, “Who?”

It’s like investigating, “Who’s reciting the Buddha’s name?” only here it’s “Who gets old and dies?” There being no one who ages and dies is just “Who gets old and dies?” Since dharmas are emptied, people should be emptied, too, and when people are emptied, there is no “Who.” There’s no one who ages and dies. That being the case, it’s called the emptiness of beings. When you reach that state – that position – you awaken to the emptiness of people and dharmas, and everything is empty. So, the Agamas were categorized as the teaching of the existence of marks, but there they are talking about emptiness… of both people and dharmas.

People empty = no attachment to self
dharmas empty = no attachment to dharmas.

When both attachments to self and to dharmas are empty, well, if it’s the teaching of the existence of marks, then how can it have emptiness to it? If people and dharmas are both empty, it can hardly be said to have marks, right? So, if you insist that it absolutely postulates the existence of marks, I feel that’s incorrect. That’s a difficulty, which could be raised in objection to the classification “teaching of the existence of marks.”

Prologue:

Moreover, the Wisdom Shastra says, “Within the Three Stores it explains the explains the emptiness of Dharmas as great emptiness, while in the Mahayana it explains the emptiness of the ten directions as great emptiness.”

Commentary:

More, in the Great Perfection of Wisdom Shastra (the Mahaprajnaparamita-shastra), there are some lines in which it says, “within the Three Stores, the Tripitaka Teaching, it explains the emptiness of Dharmas as great emptiness.” When people and dharmas are both empty that is called great emptiness, “while in the Mahayana – the Sanskrit for “Great Vehicle – it explains the emptiness of the ten directions, empty space of the ten directions in which even emptiness is emptied, as great emptiness.” There are those two kinds of emptiness, and a great emptiness in both the Small Vehicle and the Great Vehicle. Therefore, if you say the Tripitaka – ‘Three Stores’ – teaching is the teaching of the existence of marks, it’s not too reasonable.

Prologue:

All of this shows that the Small Vehicle already has the two kinds of emptiness.

Commentary:

All of this, the principles just gone through, shows that it’s very evident and clear that the Small Vehicle already has the two kinds of emptiness talked about before; that of people and of dharmas.

Prologue:

And, if one says that the second period speaks of emptiness, after the twelve years are then laid down the vast precepts, so how can it merely talk of emptiness?

Commentary:

And, if one says that the second period speaks of emptiness, that it is the teaching of marklessness in which there are no characteristics or appearances, nevertheless, after the twelve years are then laid down the vast precepts. The Buddha established a great many precepts after those twelve years, and precepts are concerned with the existence of marks, so how can it merely talk of emptiness? It would be wrong to say he only spoke of emptiness during that time. After all, he spoke the precepts then, didn’t he? And that is to discuss the precept mark, the precept dharma, and the precept substance, all of which have marks. So, if you try to say the second period teaching was only talk of emptiness and marklessness, it wasn’t necessarily that way.

Prologue:

Furthermore, the Wisdom Shastra says, “from the night he attained the Way, up until Nirvana, he constantly spoke Prajna, so how could he not have discussed emptiness at first?”

Commentary:

Furthermore, sometimes else is said in the Great Perfection of Wisdom Shastra. What it says is “from the night he, the Buddha, attained the Way, up until the day on which he entered Nirvana, during that whole time, he constantly spoke Prajna.” Now Prajna is emptiness, and so how could he not have discussed emptiness at firs?” Even in the beginning there was the principle of marklessness. That is the objection the Mahaprajnaparamita-shastra raises to the First Period being called the teaching of the existence of marks.

Prologue:

And, if one says that in the Second Period the permanently dwelling had not yet been revealed, how could real mark Prajna not be the permanent?

Commentary:

And, if one says that in the Second Period there was not yet any mention of the permanently dwelling Buddhanature, that the Nirvana Period was the teaching of the permanently dwelling, while the Prajna Period was the teaching of marklessness and a time when the teaching of the permanently dwelling had not yet been revealed, well what about the fact that there are three types of Prajna:

  1. Literary Prajna.
  2. Contemplative Prajna.
  3. Real Mark Prajna.

And how could real Mark Prajna, the wisdom of actual characteristics, not be the permanent? Are you trying to say that marklessness is not the teaching of the permanently dwelling? That’s not right.

In general, if there’s a “right,” there will be a “wrong.” If there’s a “correct,” there will also be an “incorrect.” If there is a person, but there can also be a ghost… not only that, but there can also be a Buddha. If you make a mess of being a person, you’re a ghost. But if you do a good job of being a person, you’re a Buddha. Yet, your ghost is of the future, as is your Buddha, not of the present. So, National Master Ch’ing Liang went back and forth with the previous four and five teachings, pointing out that if you insist it’s not that way, then it is that way after all. The Buddhadharma, is just like that. If you feel it’s not right, it’s right. If you feel it’s right, it’s not right. That is because what you feel is your own view of self, “My own opinion,” not the knowledge and vision of a Buddha. If you had the knowledge and vision of a Buddha, there wouldn’t be any rights and wrongs. So, when you set up teachings, you feel they are right, but when other people take a look at the, they find problems.

Cancer, incidentally, is a really rotten illness. When I was in Hong Kong, there was a man named Chang Yu Kai, whose family even now is very rich and at that time he was a multi-millionaire. But he came down with cancer, which six doctors diagnosed as hopelessly terminal, saying he would die within 100 days. He very openly advertised in the papers for some way to save his life, without success. Then some people came and told me about it saying, “Such and such a person is very rich and dying of cancer. Can’t you do something for him?”

I said, “I would have to see him to be able to tell.”

So one time he came to see me and I told him, “You don’t want to die? That’s very easy. It’s not all difficult. All you have to do is
1) take refuge with the Triple Jewel, and
2) make a universal offering to the Sangha. There are many left-home people who have come to Hong Kong from the Mainland. As to the specifics of your universal offering, you should give each Sangha member twenty dollars Hong Kong currency, and a full bolt of sturdy cloth. If you can do that, not only will you not die of your illness, it will be cured.”

He agreed to both conditions. I said, “When you take refuge you should do so with someone of Way Virtue. Don’t take refuge with someone like me who has no Way Virtue and just struggles along.” But he insisted on taking refuge with me, and did so on the 18 th days of the 5 th month by the Chung Kuo (Chinese) calendar. On the day he took refuge, with his own eyes he saw Kuan Yin Bodhisattva come and rub him on the crown, and he felt a special, comfortable feeling. Afterwards, however, the Elder Dharma Master of Tung Lin Buddha Recitation Hall named Ting Hsi, who was a ghost who climbed on conditions, became interested in Upasaka Chang because he had money. Anyway, he got a hold of his refuge disciple named Li Lung Shen, whose wife was a relative of Chang Yu Kai, and persuaded his wife act as a spokesman saying things like, “That monk from the Buddhist Lecture Hall doesn’t have anything going for him. The Elder Master Ting Hsi is his teacher. What are you doing taking refuge with the disciple and not the teacher?”

Chang Yu Kai took the bait and ran with it to Tung Lin where the old Dharma Master Ting Hsi bowed the Medicine Master Buddha Repentance to eradicate his calamities and lengthen his life.

Basically, Ting Hsi didn’t bow repentances for people, but since Chang was so rich and gave him $5,000, he personally owed the repentance ceremony for him seven times.

After bowing for seven weeks and pocketing $5,000 dollars, lo and behold, 100 days later, the man had not died. He really hadn’t, and so Ting Hsi started saying, “Our bowing has really done it. We’ve had a terrific response. You ought to help us build a temple.” Now Chang Yu Kai had knelt before me and in front of the Buddhas, and vowed that if he didn’t die within the next 100 days, he would give me $200,000 U.S. dollars to build a temple in Hong Kong. He had also said that if he was still alive after 100 days, he would fulfill the second condition of making a universal offering to the Sangha. Basically, I had specified $20.00 Hong Kong dollars, but he reduced it to $5.00 each. And the certain size and type of bold of cloth he replaced with a smaller and much cheaper kind of cloth for each. There was nothing I could do, so I myself added $10 to the amount each person got, and $5.50 contributed by laypeople, and the amount of cloth the offering was short. Everyone thought the $10 had been contributed by laypeople, but it was actually my contribution, just the $5.50 coming from the laypeople.

Then it was over. I had borrowed from people to do it, and paid them back gradually, because I never force people to do things. If I tell you to do something and you don’t do it, then that’s it. I won’t say anything more about it. After that he contributed a lot of money to the building of a temple of Tung Lin. Chang’s mother was also influenced and went to Tung Lin every day. I waited eight years for his $200,000 U.S., but it never appeared. Then on Chung Kuo (Chinese) New Year’s Day, of the eighth year, I said to everyone, “I’ve waited eight years for the $200,000 Chang Yu Kai promised me to build a temple. I won’t wait anymore. As of today, I’m not going to pay attention to anything that happens to Chang Yu Kai.” Not three months after I said that, Chang Yu Kai died. After his death, another person named Lin Hsia An, a big business tycoon who was fat and very rich, came down with cancer too, and died. He had cheated left-home people out of over a million dollars. A lot of left-home people had left money in trust at this place, and after he died, it wasn’t there. After he died Ting Lin himself got cancer too. People bowed repentances for him, but no amount of bowing made him well. Within a year after I had gone to America, he had died. Then after that, the wife of Li Lung Shen, who had introduce Chang Yu Kai to him, also got cancer – strangely enough of the tongue, for she had done the talking in introducing him. So it was really a weird affair, and I think now, that circuit has come to an end.

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