THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
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Prologue:

The Nirvana also says, “The Buddhanature is also called Prajna.” From this, one knows that Real Mark Prajna is the proper cause of the Buddhanature, while Contemplative Prajna is the final cause.

Commentary:

Before it was talking about the Real Mark Prajna being the permanently dwelling Buddhanature, and the Nirvana Sutra also says just that, in a phrase that goes, “The Buddhanature is also called Prajna.” From this passage of Sutra text as testimony, one knows that Prajna is the Buddhanature, and the Buddhanature is just Prajna. Prajna translates as “Wisdom,” and it’s the wisdom of Great Enlightenment. It’s when you can become greatly enlightened that you have wisdom. Without it you won’t have wisdom. And great Enlightenment is just the great Buddhanature. Buddha is a Sanskirt word which means “Enlightened,” which refers to:

  1. Enlightenment of Self.
  2. Enlightenment of Others.
  3. Perfection of Enlightened Conduct.

That’s why it identifies the Buddhanature with Prajna. And then there’s more than one kind of Prajna, three types in fact: Literary Prajna, Contemplative Prajna, and Real Mark Prajna.

Literary Prajna doesn’t mean worldly literature; not what you learn from studying in school. This literary Prajna is world-transcending wisdom, which causes you to bring forth the resolve for Bodhi, cultivate the path of Bodhi, and obtain the fruit of Bodhi. Due to literary Prajna, you bring forth a kind of contemplative wisdom. For example, you may read in the Sutras, “Thus I have heard,” and wonder, “What is meant by ‘thus?’ What is meant by ‘I have heard?’ What is ‘thus’ and what has been heard?’” That’s contemplation arising. As soon as you read, “Thus I have heard,” you ponder it and try to figure out its meaning – that’s Contemplation Prajna.

Then, after the arisal of Contemplation Prajna you realize, “Ah, ‘thus’ is describing dharmas. The basic substance of dharmas is just that way – thus and ‘I have heard’ means I’ve heard about the principle of the basic substance of dharmas.” Then you contemplate until you reach Real Mark, when the substance of dharmas is just thus, dharmas being basically empty in substance. And basic emptiness is just Real Mark Prajna, which returns to there being nothing attained. You reach Real Mark Prajna. And when you understand the three types of Prajna, you also understand the Three Causes of the Buddhanature.

The Conditioning cause of the Buddhanature.

  1. The Proper Cause of the Buddhanature.
  2. The Final Cause for Understanding the Buddhanature.

When you understand those three Causes of the Buddhanature, the Buddha­nature is just Prajna, and Prajna is the Buddhanature.

For that reason, one knows that Real Mark Prajna is the proper cause of the Buddhanature. And it is the Buddhanature of emptiness of truth in the primary sense, while Contemplative Prajna is the final cause. Contemplative Prajna is like having a lamp which lets you know what’s in a room. You understand objects because of the lamp, so the lamp is like the Cause for Understanding the Buddhanature. Because of Contemplative Prajna, you understand the Buddhanature, and so it’s called the Final Cause for Understanding the Buddhanature. So, the Final Cause for Understanding the Buddhanature is Contemplative Prajna, and since that is the case, all people should use it to contemplate.

Using Contemplative Prajna, you understand all the events and objects in the room – everything whatsoever. Yet, that’s the external house. You need to understand your own room. Where is it? It’s within your own mind. Inside your mind there is the Buddha, but without the Final Cause for Understanding the Buddhanature, you don’t know that. You have Contemplative Prajna, without realizing it.

There are Bodhisattvas inside your mind, teaching and transforming living beings. But, without the power of Contemplative Prajna, you don’t understand the Final Cause for Understanding the Buddhanature, and you don’t know that either – that there are Bodhisattvas in your mind. But, if you do have Contemplative Prajna, you understand that inside the room of your mind there are also Conditionally Enlightened Ones cultivating the Dharmas of the Twelve Links of Conditioned Co-production. And you can also understand that inside your mind’s room there are Sound Hearers cultivating the Dharmas of the Four Noble Truths – suffering, accumulation, extinction, and the Way.

All that can be understood if you have the Final Cause of Understanding the Buddhanature. Using Contemplative Prajna, you also understand that in your mind there are limitless gods enjoying supreme bliss. Without that Contemplative Prajna you would never know it, nor would you know how in your mind there are all the infinite Buddhalands, along with an infinite number of upside-down living beings.

Lacking Contemplative Prajna, you also would have no way to understand that in your self-nature, the nature of your mind, there are a limitless number of asuras all day long strong in fighting. Without Contemplative Prajna, you won’t know about all the boundlessly many animals being born and dying over and over again in your mind. Deficient in Contemplative Prajna you wouldn’t know about all the incalculable numbers of hungry ghosts in your mind always thinking bout going all over the place stealing things to eat. If you don’t have the power of Contemplative Prajna, the ability of the Final Cause for Understanding the Buddhanature, then you also don’t understand how in your mind there are the Eighteen Major Hells, the Five Hundred Lesser Hells, and 5,000 more hells, none separate from your mind but all connected with your mind.

Any time you want to go to those hells you can go right there without making an application in advance or having to present a passport. If you have Contemplative Prajna, you understand the causes and conditions underlying the Ten Dharma Realms, and having understood, you should, of course, weep with remorse and reform and select the good, discarding all that’s bad. But, the important thing is, you need the power of Contemplative Prajna to understand all those questions. Without it, you can’t resolve any of those problems. You can go ask any Professor you like; he won’t be able to solve your problems. If you have Contemplative Prajna, you don’t have to ask anyone else—just ask yourself, and you can resolve your own insoluble problems.

Today there’s someone else having a false thought. What is it? The person is thinking, “This doesn’t make sense at all. I’ve lived so many years, from my teens, through my twenties, thirties, forties and reached my fifties without ever seeing a Budda in my mind or catching sight of any Bodhisattvas in there, not to mention any Sound-Hearers, Conditionally Enlightened Ones, humans, gods, asuras, hell beings, animals, or hungry ghosts. Not a trace. Today you say this kind of thing, but I don’t believe it at all, especially since I can’t understand this principle.”

This person’s false thought is a very honest and straightforward one. He’s at a point where he can be taught, so I won’t hesitate to repeat for you what you do now know. After you come to have Contemplative Prajna, you will believe this Dharma, but while you still don’t have it, when I tell you about this, you don’t know if it’s right or not. If you use worldly knowledge and argumentative intelligence to try to conceptualize and fathom world-transcending Contemplative Prajna, you won’t have any way to know.

I’ll tell you more about the Buddhanature in your mind. What is Buddha? Buddha is being enlightened. It’s enlightenment. Being enlightened is being a Buddha, while being confused is a living being. For every confused thought, you are a living being, and if all your thoughts are confused, you are in all thoughts – a living being. For each enlightened thought you are a Buddha for the space of a thought, and if your every thought is enlightened, then in every thought you are a Buddha. If you’re enlightened at all times, then at all times you’re a Buddha, and if at no time are your enlightened, then at all times you’re a living being. It’s right there. If you open enlightenment, you wonder, “How could I have done so many upside-down things?” Then you’re a Buddha; you’ve become enlightened to how you were upside-down, and so can stop being upside down. It’s like certain very intelligent person who realized he was confused. To realize you are a confused is to become enlightened. It’s just to be feared while you are confused you don’t even know it and think, “I’m not bad right now. I’m really fine,” not knowing you’re confused; then there’s no hope. But if you realized you’re confused, you have a tiny bit of enlightenment – not a whole lot, just a thought’s worth. But in that split second of enlightenment, you are the same as the Buddha. Now do you understand?

And you haven’t met your Bodhisattvas? I’ll introduce them to you so you’ll know who they are. If you are always thinking of benefiting living beings, then you are a Bodhisattva. If you constantly think of benefiting yourself, you are a demonic ghost. Demonic ghosts only know about themselves and don’t know there are other people, while Bodhisattvas only know there are living beings to be saved, but have not yet reached the level of there not being any beings to save. When you reach the Buddha’s state, then basically there are no living beings that can be saved, the reason being they have already been crossed over. When beings have all been saved, there are no beings to save. And they have no thought of living beings, having no attachments to marks. That’s what’s known as having swept away all dharmas and being free of all marks. You, as if were, take a broom and sweep all the dust of dharmas away. And you don’t have any marks: “Shariputra, all dharmas are empty of characteristics.” If you don’t empty all dharmas of characteristics, then you have no “solid seeds,” but if you do have “solid seeds,” then you understand that all dharmas are empty of characteristics. Those are the Bodhisattvas.

Your Ones Enlightened to Conditions? You contemplate the Twelve Links of Conditioned Co-production: “Ignorance conditions activity… Where does ignorance come from? How did it come about? And then once there’s ignorance, then there’s activity… and with activity there comes to be consciousness… Ah! It’s really strange!” You break through the root of ignorance – and it turns into wisdom. Once ignorance is smashed, the Dharma Body appears. Then your Sound-Hearers: they certify to the First Fruit, the Second Fruit, the Third Fruit, and finally the Fourth Fruit of Arhatship. Now do you understand? It’s the same way with your gods. If you are constantly intent upon holding the Five Precepts:

  1. No Killing,
  2. No Stealing,
  3. No Sexual Misconduct,
  4. No False Speech,
  5. No Taking Intoxicants

And practice the Ten Wholesome Acts:

Your body not violating the Three Wholesome Acts of the Body:

  1. Not Killing (1)
  2. Not Stealing (2)
  3. Not Engaging in Sexual Misconduct (3)

Your mind not violating the Three Wholesome Acts of the Mind:

  1. Not Being Greedy (4)
  2. Not Being Hateful (5)
  3. Not Being Stupid (6)

Your mouth not violating the Four Wholesome Acts of the Mouth:

  1. No Loose Speech (7)
  2. No False Speech (8)
  3. No Harsh Speech (9)
  4. No Double-tongue Speech (10)

then your are reborn in the heavens – and so the gods are in your mind. If you, after receiving the Five Precepts, don’t do any evil but offer up all good conduct, then while in the path of human beings you won’t lose your human body. If you can manage not to have a belligerent attitude, you’ll have pacified your asuras. If you’re not stupid, you cut relations with the path of animals. If you’re not hateful, you cut off connections with the path of hungry ghosts. If you’re not greedy, your sever your link with the path of hell-beings. So the Ten Dharma Realms are ten paths – and it’s up to you which one you’ll walk. It all depends on what you do. Whatever cause you plant, you reap the corresponding result. It all hinges on whether or not you have Prajna wisdom. If you have the wisdom of Prajna, you’ll create all kinds of good karma and lessen all your evil karma; but without Prajna wisdom, you’ll create all kinds of bad karma and decrease all your good karma. The important thing is Prajna, so you should find out where your Contemplative Prajna has run off to.

There is someone saying, “Prajna is really wonderful, but why don’t I know about it?” just your not knowing is Prajna. If you know, then is it Prajna? In that case it’s even more so Prajna. Since you still have “not knowing,” you’re not yet confused to such an extent that you can’t be saved. Prajna is just wisdom. Every person has it – no one lacks it. It’s just that you can’t use it. If you could, then the light of your Prajna wisdom would illumine the heavens and light up the earth and shine throughout the Dharma Realm. But since you can’t use it, even though the Ten Dharma Realms are right inside your mind, you don’t know it and don’t understand. You can’t even get any light into your own mind. If you want to understand how to employ Literary Prajna, Contemplative Prajna, and Real Mark Prajna, right now you’re very interested, so come every day to our Prajna Hall – this Buddhahall is called the Prajna Hall – and drink Prajna soup, drink Prajna tea, sit on the Prajna seat, and certify to the fruit of Prajna.

Prologue:

Moreover, Prajna is apart from the Four Predications, so how could emptiness possibly remain? And Prajna does not violate the Four Predications, so how could it not have wonderful existence?

Commentary:

Moreover, Prajna is apart from the Four Predications, so how could emptiness possibly remain? Since Prajna is free of any statements made in terms of the predications, when not even those four predication apply, how could there still remain some kind of emptiness? Emptiness itself is not retained. The Four Predications as they don’t apply to Prajna are first that Prajna has no marks. Then, if it doesn’t have marks, is it unmarked? No. Prajna doesn’t have marks, but it also is not without marks.

Then you wonder, if you can’t predicate either the existence of marks or the lack of marks of Prajna, then could you say it was both marked and unmarked, both with and without marks? No, it’s not both of the above either. Then, you ask, since it’s not both marked and unmarked, then is Prajna neither marked nor unmarked? Doesn’t it both not have marks and not not have marks? That it’s neither is not right either. That’s how it’s free from the four predications. And being free from them, there isn’t even an emptiness – not even an emptiness of emptiness remains. That’s in terms of its being apart from the Four Predications. But then it goes on to say and Prajna does not violate the Four Predications, so how could it not have wonderful existence? It’s saying that Prajna could not be apart from the Four Predications – that it doesn’t violate them means it’s not apart from them. Those self-same four predictions are just Prajna. But then, if it’s not apart from them, isn’t that existence? It is: wonderful existence. That’s why it asks how there could not be wonderful existence within Prajna. The emptiness of before is true emptiness:

True emptiness is not empty.
Wonderful existence is not existent.

And so Prajna:

Is free from the four predications and severed from the hundred negations.

Prologue:

From this, one knows that the small and the great each have four doors, while if one merely says there first was existence and then emptiness, with each, one only grasps the meaning of one door.

Commentary:

From this, one knows that the small and the great each have four doors. The principles gone through before make it clear that both the Great Vehicle and the Small Vehicle each have four doors, the Four Predications. While if one merely says there first was existence and then emptiness, if the first period was just the teaching of existence and the second period was just the teaching of emptiness, with each, one only grasps the meanings of one door. You just get one door of each, and there wouldn’t be room for the principle of blending fusion and interpenetration.

Prologue:

If one says that what falls within the third period can only be called “reproach and acclaim,” then it cannot also be the permanent.

Commentary:

If one says that what falls within the third period can only be called “reproach and acclaim.” Then it cannot also be the permanent. To insist upon there only having been reproach of the Sound-Hearers and extollation of the Bodhisattvas during the third period would be not to include the Teaching of the Permanently Dwelling.

Prologue:

Yet the Vimalakirti says, “TheBuddha’s body does not act, and does not fall under any numeration. Contemplate the body as real mark: contemplation of the Buddha is also Thus,” And how can that not be the permanent?

Commentary:

Yet in the Vimalakirti Sutra it says, “The Buddha’s body does not act, and does not fall under any numeration.” You can’t fathom the Buddha’s body in terms of numbers. There’s no way you can express it in words or conceptualize it in thought, for it won’t fit into that kind of reckoning. “Contemplate the body as real mark.” For example, you contemplate the Buddha’s body as characterized by real mark which is no mark – “Contemplation of the Buddha is also Thus.” The way you contemplate the Buddha’s body is the same as the way you contemplate the Buddha, and how can that not be the permanent? How could you say that was not the permanent? It’s got to be permanent.

Prologue:

The Prajna also says, “The wisdom of the two Vehicles is like a firefly’s light. The Bodhisattvas’ wisdom is like the light of the sun,” and how is that not reproach and acclaim?

Commentary:

In the six hundred rolls that comprise the Great Prajna Sutra, there is a phrase that also says, “The wisdom of the two Vehicles is like a firefly’s light,” meaning it is as faint as the light given off by a firefly. Although it has a bit of light at night, during the daytime it has none. That’s another way of saying the wisdom of the Sound-Hearers and Those Enlightened to Conditions is very, very slight, that they lack great knowledge and great wisdom, great vows and great powers – that their states are very tiny and their wisdom just that small. In that same comparisonthe Bodhisattvas’ wisdom is like the light of the sun.” In other words, they have great wisdom. It talks that way in the Great Prajna Sutra, and how is that not reproach and acclaim? Isn’t that a case of there also being teaching by reproach and acclaim, which is supposed to fall only in the fourth period, the Prajna Period? For it, in the same way, finds fault with the Sound-Hearers and Those Enlightened to Conditions while extolling the Bodhisattvas for their great knowledge and wisdom. So isn’t that a Teaching of Reproach and Acclaim? Then how can you say that only the third period was the Teaching of Reproach and Acclaim?

It can be seen from this section of the Prologue that no matter how right you are, if someone wants to say you’re wrong, they can uncover some fault in you. By the same token, if they want to say you’re right, they can see you are having no faults even if you are wrong. The principle of the Buddha’s teaching is the same.

Prologue:

If one says the Fourth Period only revealed identical return, and did not yet explain the permanent, the life-span chapter says, “Permanently dwelling and not extinguished.” Also, the expedients chapter says, “worldly marks are permanently dwelling,” and so forth – and how is that not the permanent?

Commentary:

If one says, supposes National Master Ch’ing Liang, of the Fourth Period – which is not the T’ien T’ai Fourth Period here, which is Prajna, but the fourth period which they say only revealed identical return – that it’s the Teaching of Identical Return. If you insist that it only set forth the teaching principle of returning the three to take refuge with the one, and did not yet explain the permanent, still not making clear the principle of the permanently dwelling – well right now I’ll tell you a thing or two! In the Life-Span Chapter of the Dharma Flower Sutra, there is a phrase which says, “Permanent dwelling and not extinguished.” You were the Teaching of Identical Return didn’t yet reveal the permanently dwelling Buddha nature? Well, here’s that very same Dharma Flower Sutra talking about him being permanently dwelling and not extinguished, his lifespan being infinite and unending, never destroyed. How can that not be the permanent? Can you claim that’s not talking about the permanent? Also, the expedients chapter says, “Worldly marks are permanently dwelling.” It says not only is the Buddha’s life everlasting, but the worldly marks also are permanently dwelling, and so forth, and how is that not the permanent? So how can you say there has to be a Teaching of the Permanently Dwelling fabricated after the Teaching of Identical Return? Identical return is to the permanently dwelling, and it’s to the permanently dwelling that there is identical return – if it wasn’t returning to the permanently dwelling, then where would it return to?”

Prologue:

As to the fifth, taking the Nirvana as the Permanently Dwelling, for the teaching within it, it can be that way. But the time of the Nirvana also can be seen in the Small Vehicle. For instance within the Agamas it talks about the characteristics of the Thus Come One’s Nirvana.

Commentary:

As to the fifth, taking the Nirvana as the Permanently Dwelling, for the teaching within it, it can be that way. It was said that the Nirvana, within the fifth period, constituted the Teaching of the Permanently Dwelling. To call it the Teaching of the Permanently Dwelling will work if you just mean the principles given in the Nirvana Sutra, but the time of the Nirvana also can be seen in the Small Vehicle. The Small Vehicle Period also talks about Nirvana with its characteristics. For instance within the Agamas – the “Incomparable Dharma” Sutras, the Tripitaka Teachings for the Small Vehicle – it talks about the characteristics of the Thus Come One’s Nirvana. In the Agama Sutras, it also talks about the Buddha eating broth from fungus on Chandana wood, having a backache afterwards, and between the twin Sala trees in Magadha, entering the Transcendence Samadhi, then in the fourth Dhyana, entering the Fire Light Samadhi and through its power burning his body and ending his awareness, only leaving sharira behind in the world for people to make offerings to. And so in the Agama Sutra it already talked about this, and so in the teaching of the Small Vehicle there are also the marks of the Nirvana. So if you try to say there is no Teaching of the Permanently Dwelling in the Small Vehicle Teaching, and that it’s only in the NirvanaSutra, that is not quite right.

Prologue:

If the initial one is that of Humans and Gods, although the Trapusha speaks of the precepts and wholesome acts, when he attained the way, that was all connected with the three Vehicles. And because that sutra says, “Trapusha obtained patience with the non-arisal of dharmas,” that further contradicts the Secret Traces Sutra in which the three Vehicles are spoken of in the second week.

Commentary:

If the initial one is that of humans and gods – National Master Ch’ing Liang is saying that if one starts with a Teaching of Humans and Gods at the very beginning. Although the Trapusha speaks of the precepts and the wholesome acts when he attached the way, that was all connected with the three Vehicles. Trapusha and Bhallika were two laypeople who were the first to know the Buddha had accomplished the Way. When the Buddha first sat under the Bodhi Tree at midnight, he saw a bright star and enlightened to the Way. He then continued sitting there not rising from his seat, while seven days passed. Those two laymen were very skilled at divination and could know anything that was going on from it. They realized from the signs that the Buddha had become a Buddha, that a great Sage among humans and gods was appearing in the world, and so they went to where the Buddha was and requested that the Buddha speak Dharma for them. In the Trapusha Sutra it says that give hundred merchants went there with them, all of whom became enlightened at that time. The layman Trapusha acquired the patience with the non-arisal – the non-production – of Dharmas. Many of the merchants obtained the First or Second Fruit of Arhatship, and many of the gods, dragons, and others of the eightfold division became enlightened.

When the Buddha spoke the Trapusha Sutra, its principles of the precepts and the wholesome acts caused many to attain the fundamental purity of the four elements, the five skandhas, and the six organs, and other kinds of experiences of purity, and it caused Trapusha to attain the Way. Even so, it was connected with Sound-Hearers, Those Enlightened to Conditions, and with the Bodhisattvas.

And because that sutra says, “Trapusha obtained patience with the non-arisal of Dharmas,” that which the Three Vehicles are spoken of in the second week. He obtained the kind of patience in which not a single dharma is produced, and not a single dharma is destroyed: entry into the samadhi of the non-arisal of dharmas in which one hasn’t the slightest false thought. One doesn’t think about how one would like to eat certain thing, or go to see a certain friend, either find a boyfriend or a girlfriendnon of those false thoughts. If you theorize there is such a Teaching of Humans and Gods, there is however the Great Collection of Jewels Sutra, in which the third section entitled the Secret Traces Power Knights says that there was discussion of Three Vehicles during the second week. The Teaching for Humans and Gods has no Sound-Hearers, Ones Enlightened to Conditions, or Bodhisattvas – supposedly; yet in the Trapush Sutra there are connections made with the Three Vehicles. They’re in there too, so if you try to say it’s the Teaching of Humans and Gods, it won’t stand up. For right in the Sutra text itself it says he achieved patience with the non-arisal of dharmas, and many of the merchants certified to the Fruit of Shrotaapana or Sakridagamin.

Prologue:

Moreover, those five periods and so forth, are faulty in that they were all fixed in terms of time. Aside from the fact that they are not fixed, speaking for the most part, they are reasonable.

Commentary:

Moreover, those five periods and so forth, which correspond to:

Are faulty in that they were all fixed in terms of time. Since they are rigidly fixed as cut-and-dried equivalents of time-slots, their principles do not hold up too well. Aside from the fact that they are not fixed, speaking for the most part they are reasonable. One just has to realize that, although it could be said that way, it could also not be said that way.

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