THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
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Prologue:

There is one principle of even balance, and so it says the realm of beings and the realm of Buddhas have no increase or decrease.

Commentary:

There is one principle of even balance, which is still referring to the sameness of a single nature. The Dharma Nature stays the same in even balance, with no increase or decrease. And so it says the realm of beings and the realm of Buddhas have no increase or decrease. When there’s one more Buddha, the realm of Buddhas doesn’t enlarge, and when there’s one more living being, the realm of beings has no increment, either. There’s an even balance in the single nature. The Dharma Nature is one.

You may say, “Well, the Dharma Nature may be one, and there may be one principle of even balance. But what if living beings became Buddhas all at the same time, so there were no living beings. Wouldn’t that entail a decrease of living beings? Or, what if all Buddhas made the same decision to ‘turn the boat of compassion around’ and become living beings: wouldn’t there be an increase in the realm of living beings in that case?”

No. the Dharma Nature is such that all Buddhas are endowed with the Dharma Nature, and all living beings are endowed with it, too. But you can’t say that as you go from Dharma Nature to Dharma Nature, you have more Dharma Nature here and less Dharma Nature there. In the subcommentary to the Prologue, also by National Master Ch’ing Liang, the analogy is set up whereby you might call empty space in the east living beings, and empty space in the west you might call Buddhas. You can’t take the empty space in the east and move it to where the empty space in the west is. Empty space is one, and it doesn’t increase or decrease. You can’t make emptiness be more or less. The one principle of even balance is just the same way.

Prologue:

Emptiness in the primary sense connects truth and falseness. The true is not outside the common, and so the very common is the true.

Commentary:

Emptiness in the primary sense is just True Emptiness. And it is the Absolute Truth of the Two Truths – Absolute and Relative – discussed before. Emptiness in the primary sense is just another name for it, and it connects truth and falseness. True emptiness, the Truth of Emptiness, is not at all outside of common, Relative Truth, and so the very common is the true. Right within Common, Relative Truth is Absolute Truth. Absolute Truth is not something other than or apart from Common, Relative Truth. The reason all living beings are said to be capable of becoming Buddhas is that Buddhas are made from living beings. Buddhas basically are living beings, and living beings basically are Buddhas. Which Buddhas? All are endowed with the Buddha Nature is what this means. It’s referring to Identity with the Buddha in Principle. Speaking in terms of principle, all living beings are Buddhas. Truth is therefore not outside of Falseness, and the relative, the false, is just the true. It all depends upon whether you understand or not. If you do, then the false becomes the true. But before you understand, the true becomes the false.

For example, salt is a flavoring, and it won’t work to try to use it as a vegetable. But if you know how to use salt to flavor vegetables, not putting on too much or adding too little, it makes them more pleasant to eat. The Absolute and the relative – the true and the common – work the same way. If you know how to employ it, the common can become the true. Truth is not outside of falseness. Don’t look outside the untrue to fid truth as if it were something else. The very relative is the absolute. Take for example emptiness and existence. Ordinary common people are sure to say that emptiness is there not being anything. That’s the only principle they know, and say, “Emptiness is nothing at all.” However, there is also emptiness when there is something. That’s called existence itself being emptiness, and the very emptiness being existence. If you understand this principle of non-obstruction of emptiness and existence, then you won’t have attachments. And isnt’t having no attachments just attaining liberation?

Prologue:

There is emptiness yet no cutting off, existence yet not permanence. The four marks are simultaneous, in substance and nature being just extinction.

Commentary:

There is emptiness in the doctrines of this Teaching, yet with no cutting off or ending to create that emptiness. It also speaks of existence, yet that existence is not permanence, not eternal existing. Its emptiness is True Emptiness, and its existence is Wonderful Existence. True Emptiness does not obstruct Wonderful Existence, nor does Wonderful Existence interfere with True Emptiness. Therefore, it’s not at all like the principles of annihilationism or eternalism propounded by those of outside ways. Furthermore, the four marks are simultaneous. The time of the mark of production is jut the time of the mark of extinction. The mark of dwelling, too, is at the same time as the mark of change. Although there are distinctions of the Four Marks of Coming into Being, Dwelling, Change, and Extinction, they form a simultaneous totality, in substance and nature being just extinction. Their substance and nature is just emptiness, and because empty, their Four Marks are all at the same time. On the other hand, there simultaneously are no Four Marks. In substance and nature they are still and extinct, still and unmoving. Their basic substance does not move. Why not? That’s because although it accords with conditions, it does not change. If it moved, it couldn’t be said not to change. If it moved, it couldn’t be said not to change. It would change. But although it accords with conditions, it does not change, and it does not change according to conditions. Even though the basic substance does not move, that does not obstruct the movement represented by the Four Marks. The Four marks are simultaneous, but in substance and nature they are just extinction.

A few days ago I said that those who study the Buddhadharma shouldn’t become dependent and fail to take notes because there is a tape-recorder. If you rely on the tape-recorder, it will rely on you and depend on you to remember. What about relying on oneself and saying, “I have a good memory, and I’m sure to remember for at least ten years, during which time I can write it down. It won’t matter after ten years have passed.” Don’t rely on yourself, don’t rely on others, and don’t rely on the tape-recorder. Be especially careful not to rely on your Teacher and think, whenever Shih Fu says something I don’t understand I can ask about it, so it won’t matter if I don’t remember.” The reason I’m bringing this up is that almost no one remembered the Seven Elements when they were just mentioned and no one remembered them perfectly clearly. That comes from being dependent. You may have studied and mastered them once, but then you became fuzzy over time.

Your recall of the Peaceful Conduct Chapter, for example, may no longer be clear, which is not being peaceful the way clear memory of it would be. Don’t let yourself forget what you once could recite from memory clearly. If after going to the mountain of jewels and bringing treasures home you lose them in your house because of failing to protect them, it won’t have been of any use. So no one should be reliant, but instead should urge oneself on with determination: “I’m absolutely going to remember this Sutra clearly!” “I’m definitely going to cultivate!” “I’m going to be sure to investigate the Buddhadharma to the point that I understand it!” You have to rouse yourself and not let yourself become dependent. Then it will be very easy to understand the Buddhadharma.

I’ll tell you, when I used to recite the Earthstore Bodhisattva Sutra, I used to kneel until my knees bled. The more I knelt, the more they hurt and bled, but I just said, “Go ahead and hurt. I’m not going to pay any attention to you.” Then when I kept on kneeling, even thought they bled, after awhile they didn’t hurt anymore. They couldn’t do anything, because I wasn’t dependent. But if you become reliant and start swabbing them with medicine and decide you won’t kneel the next day, they will just get worse and worse to persuade you to rest. I knelt right on the bricks when I recited, and didn’t use any cushion. Even now I don’t like to sit on cushions when I lecture Sutras, because I know I don’t deserve such blessings and can’t get away with sitting on thick cushions. But all of you have blessings coming to you, so you like to sit on thick cushions. You may have them now, but once you’ve used them up you’ll again be without them. It’s as when you have money: if you keep spending it and spending it, eventually you’ll use it up and be poor even if you started out rich. Blessings work the same, and so:

To enjoy your blessings is to destroy your blessings.
To undergo suffering is to lessen suffering.

I’ve got too much suffering due me, so I like to undergo a little suffering. Do you all understand the principle I go by?

Prologue:

Through climbing onto states there is severance of delusions, so they are not two yet two. There is subject and object to the severance, so they are two and yet not two, which is described as inner certification. Illumination of delusions is without a basis, which is just the substance of wisdom. The substance of illumination is without a self, which is the very certification to suchness. There is no thusness outside wisdom to which wisdom certifies, nor is there a wisdom outside thusness which certifies to wisdom.

Commentary:

Through climbing onto states there is severance of delusions, so basically they are not two yet two. Basically the Treasury of the Thus Come One accords with states; yet as it accords with states there is cutting off of delusions. That is True Suchness according with conditions yet not changing, not changing yet according to conditions. It accords with the causes and conditions. It accords with the causes and conditions to cut off delusions, yet that involves no duality while remaining dual.

There is subject and object to the severance, so they are two and yet not two. Although there is said to be no duality, there nonetheless is what can sever and what is severed, what cuts off and what is cut off. The subject of the severance is the nature of the Treasury of the Thus Come One, which does not change according to conditions. The object of the severance is the states of delusions. They are spoken of as if hey were two, yet they are dual while not being dual, which is described as inner certification. What it’s describing is external cutting off of delusions and internal certification to wisdom. It takes that inner certification to wisdom to enable you to cut off delusions, for there’s no way to sever delusions without wisdom. However, illumination of delusions is without a basis, which is just the substance of wisdom. The wisdom that does the illumining – the cutting off – of delusions has no basic substance. The substance of illumination is without a self. The basic substance of wisdom has no self to it, which is the very certification to suchness. It’s the internal certification to the principle of thusness.

Wisdom of thusness certifies to the principle of thusness. Nothing at all is done. That is True Suchness.

There is no thusness outside wisdom to which wisdom certifies. Thusness does not exist outside of wisdom as some principle of Thusness external to wisdom to which wisdom can certify. It’s not that way. Nor is there a wisdom outside thusness which certifies to wisdom. It isn’t the case that outside of suchness there is something else, a wisdom which can certify to the attainment of certification to suchness. Rather, thusness itself is wisdom, and the very wisdom is thusness. That’s why wisdom which is thus certifies to the principle of thusness, and they are said to be two and yet not two, not two yet two.

Prologue:

Because worldly and world-transcending wisdom are both based on the Treasury of the Thus Come One, the initial and the fundamental are not two, and so the conditioned and the unconditioned are neither one nor different.

Commentary:

This is Because there is both worldly wisdom and world-transcending wisdom. Mundane, worldly wisdom depends on words and language, and is Literary Prajna, along with science and philosophy. Starting with Literary Prajna, there arises Contemplative Prajna, which reaches Wisdom of Real Mark – and Real Mark Wisdom is world-transcending wisdom. World-transcending wisdom has no substance, for if it did, it could not certify to thusness. But since it has no substance, it is thus – thus in characteristics and thus in nature. Worldly and world-transcending wisdom are both based on the Treasury of the Thus Come One. The attainment of wisdom is based on the nature of the Tathagatagarbha.

The initial enlightenment, the nature which has just started to be enlightened, and the fundamental wisdom of the fundamentally enlightened nature from which initial enlightenment springs are not two. You can talk about there being initial enlightenment and fundamental enlightenment as if they were two different things, but basically they are one, without any such distinction of initial and fundamental. And so the conditioned dharmas of worldly wisdom and the unconditioned dharmas of world-transcending wisdom are neither one nor different. Unconditioned dharmas have to be entered by way of conditioned dharmas, and if you separate from conditioned dharmas, there won’t be unconditioned dharmas either. Unconditioned dharmas are established right within conditioned dharmas. The conditioned and the unconditioned are not at all two separate things, and so you can neither say that conditioned and unconditioned dharmas are one and the same, nor can you make them two. They are neither one nor different.

Prologue:

Therefore, the Buddha’s transformation body is both permanent and dharma, and does not fall into numbers. That is even more the case with the substance of the reward. They are identical with the wisdom of the substance, and are not shifts of marks.

Commentary:

Therefore, the Buddha’s transformation body is both permanent and dharma. The Buddha has Three Bodies: the Dharma Body, the Reward Body, and the Transformation Body. As was just discussed, you can’t say the conditioned and the unconditiond are either one or two different things, and that can also be applied to the Buddha’s Transformation Body. Basically, it is a body produced by change and transformation. Nonetheless, it is also a permanent body, and it is the Buddha’s Dharma Body which permanently dwells and does not change. That means the Transformation Body, too, is permanently dwelling and unchanging, and does not fall into numbers. You can’t use your own outlook and knowledge to estimate it. The Buddha’s body is inconceivable, and the ordinary, common person can’s say whether the Buddha’s body is permanent or impermanent, or that the Buddha’s Transformation Body is produced through change and so is neither a permanent body nor the Dharma Body. That can’t be done, because the Buddha’s Body does not fall within numbers, and you can’t use the knowledge and views of an ordinary person to fathom whether the Buddha’s body is unconditioned or conditioned, because it is not within what is conditioned or unconditioned. There’s no way to use numbers to explain the Buddha’s body.

That is even more the case with the substance of the reward. Since even the Transformation Body is permanent as is the Dharma Body, even more is it the case that the Reward Body is permanent as is the Dharma Body of the Buddha. Therefore, the Transformation Body, too, is just the Transformation Body and the Dharma Body. Also, the Dharma Body is just the Transformation Body and the Reward Body. They are said to be three bodies, but they basically are one substance, which is just being neither one nor different. The Buddha’s three bodies illustrate by analogy the principle of being two and yet not two, neither one nor different. That’s way the text says, they are identical with the wisdom of the substance. They are precisely the wisdom of the basic substance of the Dharma Body, the basic substance of the Reward Body, and the basic substance of the Transformation Body that has been accomplished. It’s just as was said before: wisdom of thusness certifies to the principle of thusness. Therefore, they are not shifts of marks. The Four Marks of Coming into Being, Dwelling, Change, and Extinction cannot mark the Buddha’s three bodies – the Dharma Body, the Reward Body, and the Transformation Body – as having changes or shifts. Rather, they are manifestations of wisdom of thusness.

Previously in India there was a woman who loved her son very much and feared he would not live very long. So she made the vow to die before her son, with the hope that he would have a longer life. She went to the Ganges River, jumped in and died, expecting to bring that about. Because she had been sincere enough o try to help her son at the cost of her life, she was reborn in the heavens – the Great Brahma heaven, where one’s lifespan is very long. Basically, it had not been her intention to become a long-lived god in the heaven of Lord Brahma, but she obtained that reward because of her one thought of kindness and compassion.

Bodhisattvas who guard and protect the Buddhadharma should not make definite statements about the Buddha’s Body being conditioned or unconditioned. They should say instead that the Buddha’s state is inconceivable, that the inconceivable is the unconditioned, and that the conditioned is just the unconditioned. The Buddha said that those who speak that way are certain to attain Anuttarasamyaksambodhi. That’s because they are sincere in protecting the Dharma and don’t want to say anything bad about it, nor do they want to raise any doubts or use the knowledge and views of an ordinary common person to fathom the state of the Buddha. That one thought of faith can lead them to attain liberation, even if they are not seeking liberation – the same way the woman had no thought of seeking the reward of rebirth in the Brahma Heaven, but just was concerned about her son. The Bodhisattvas also have no thoughts of greed and aren’t out to attain Unsurpassed Right and Equal Proper Enlightenment a little faster. They just want to protect the Dharma, and so the Buddha said they would certainly attain liberation even if that wasn’t their intent, the same way the woman obtained the reward of the Brahma Heaven.

Prologue:

Of types of doctrines such as those, there are multitudes more. They are set beside each other in order in such sutras as The Lankavatara and such shastras as The Awakening of Faith. If one combines the two previous schools, they are extensively as individually stated.

Commentary:

Of similar types and categories of doctrines such as those discussed before, there are multitudes more. They, the many similar principles of the Dharma Marks School and the Dharma Nature School, are carefully matched and set beside each other in order in such sutras as The Lankavatara Sutra and the Shrimaladevi Sutra, and in such shastras as The Shastra on Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana and the Madhyamaka Shastra. Places where the doctrines of the Two Schools coincide are very numerous in those works. If, I order to understand their differences, one combines the two, the previous Dharma Marks and Dharma Nature schools, they, their doctrinal categories, are extensively differentiated as individually stated in the treatises of each of those Schools.

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