THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
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Volume 1

The False Consciousness is Not the Mind

L2 The Tathagata admonishes that the false consciousness is not the mind.
M1 Ananda reproves himself and asks for instruction.

Sutra:

Then Ananda arose from his seat in the midst of the great assembly, uncovered his right shoulder, placed his right knee on the ground, respectfully put his palms together, and said to the Buddha:

Commentary:

During the dialogue with the World Honored One, Ananda had spun in circles and couldn’t escape; he went around and around and still had not found the right road, because he was using his discriminating conscious mind and mistaking it for his true mind. And so from beginning to end he was unable to enter into the realm of the mysterious. He didn’t measure up; he didn’t pass the test.

Then Ananda arose from his seat in the midst of the great assembly; at that time there were great bhikshus, great Arhats, and great Bodhisattvas in the dharma assembly. He uncovered his right shoulder. This means he let the right side of his robe fall, the way the sash I am now wearing over my robe is designed to leave the right shoulder uncovered. In China customs are such that exposing one’s shoulder would not be considered respectful, but by Indian custom, uncovering the right shoulder is a gesture of respect, especially in Buddhism. When he uncovered his right shoulder and placed his right knee on the ground, that represents the purity of body karma. The body cannot create evil karma in that position. He respectfully put his palms together: that represents the purity of mind karma. And said to the Buddha: that represents the purity of mouth karma. Thus the purity of the three karmas of body, mouth, and mind are represented as Ananda requests dharma of the Buddha.

Sutra:

”I am the Tathagata’s youngest cousin. I have received the Buddha’s compassionate love and have left the home-life, but I have been dependent on his affection, and as a consequence have pursued erudition and am not yet without outflows.

Commentary:

Now Ananda thinks over how he has spent his time since he has left the home-life. He says: I am the Tathagata’s youngest cousin. In Shakyamuni Buddha’s family there were four kings and eight sons. His father was one of the four brothers, each of whom had two sons. Ananda was the youngest of them. I have received the Buddha’s compassionate love and have left the home-life. I followed the Buddha and left the home-life. In leaving home, one leaves the home of ignorance which could be said to be everyone’s house; one leaves the home of the three realms, that is, the realm of desire, the realm of form, and the formless realm; one leaves the home of affliction; and one leaves the worldly home, that is the home of one’s family. When you leave home, you leave these and many other kinds of homes. But though Ananda left his worldly home, he had not yet severed his emotional feelings. He still had not left the homes of ignorance and affliction or the home of the three realms.

But I have been dependent on his affection. Ananda confesses that he has relied too much on his family tie with the Tathagata. He allowed himself to be disobedient sometimes in order to get the Buddha’s attention. He would sometimes act like a child and be deliberately rambunctious, or he would purposefully not abide by the rules, and he expected the Buddha to sympathize with him, to take care of him. And as a consequence have pursued erudition and am not yet without outflows. He concentrated on learning at the expense of samadhi. Ananda had reached the first stage of arhatship, but it is not until the fourth stage that one is without outflows. At the fourth stage one puts an end to birth and death does not have to flow back into the three realms. But in the first stage, outflows remain.

Sutra:

”I could not overcome the Kapila mantra. I was spun around by it and sank in the house of prostitution, all because I did not know the location of the realm of reality.

Commentary:

I could not overcome the Kapila mantra.
I was incapable of opposing the mantra that came from the Brahma Heaven which the religion of the yellow-haired used - that deviant dharma of those “side doors and outside ways.” I did not have enough strength to counteract it and was spun around by it and sank in the house of prostitution. The deviant mantra plunged me into confusion and I sank as if drowning in the sea. There is another explanation, since the Chinese character for “stank” is also the word for urine: Ananda is indicating that he came in contact with something unclean. He went into the filthy brothel where women sold themselves. He found himself stuck there as if in a cesspool and could not extricate himself. If the Buddha had not used the Shurangama Mantra to rescue him, Ananda would not have had the opportunity to compile the sutras. If the sutra store had been compiled at all, it would have been done by someone else. Ananda would have had no part in it. Fortunately Shakyamuni Buddha used the Shurangama Mantra to rescue him, so he was able to compile the Shurangama Sutra and give us a record of these causes and conditions.

All because I did not know the location of the realm of reality. The realm of reality is another name for the true mind. Why did I sink in the house of prostitution? Because I did not know where the fundamental true mind is. To this very moment, Ananda is still trying to find a location for the mind. He’s being boggled by his own intelligence. He keeps spinning around in it and doesn’t know how to get out.

Sutra:

”I only hope that the World Honored One, out of great kindness and pity, will instruct us in the path of shamata to guide the icchantikas and overthrow the mlecchas.”

Commentary:

I only hope that the World Honored One, out of great kindness and pity
. Now I only have one wish, that the World Honored One will extend his great compassion, to rescue me from my suffering and bring me bliss. I hope the Buddha will instruct us in the path of shamata to guide the icchantikas and overthrow the mlecchas. World Honored One, teach not only myself but all those in the great assembly, who upon hearing the dharma have given rise to doubts. Instruct us in how to develop concentration; show us the path to the cultivation of the dharma door of stillness.

Icchantika is a Sanskrit word which is interpreted to mean “insufficient faith.” Icchantikas are those whose faith is deficient, and a deficiency of faith is the same as no faith at all. Icchantikas are also said to be those who have “burned up their good roots.” What is left once their good roots are burned up? Bad roots.

Dharma Master Dao Sheng once explained the Nirvana Sutra in China before the final volume had arrived from India. In the first half of the sutra, it says that icchantikas have no Buddha-nature. Most dharma masters then explained the line as meaning that icchantikas cannot become Buddhas. Actually, in the final volume of the sutra it says that icchantikas can also become Buddhas, but at that time the final volume of the sutra was not known in China. Nevertheless, when Dharma Master Dao Sheng came to that passage of text in the first part of the sutra, he did not follow its apparent meaning, but explained instead that icchantikas can become Buddhas. As a result, the other dharma masters opposed him, were jealous of him, and said that he had had the nerve to contradict the sutra’s meaning and had done it just to be different. Actually, Dharma Master Dao Sheng wasn’t saying the sutra was wrong or that the Buddha had spoken incorrectly. He understood the principle behind it, and although he had not seen the final volume of the sutra, he already realized that the Buddha could not have spoken the dharma this way. But because jealousies had been aroused, no one came to listen to him explain sutras any longer, so he went to Su Zhou, near Shanghai, to Hu Qiu mountain. There he lectured the Nirvana Sutra to the rocks. When he again reached the passage of text that said icchantikas do not have the Buddhanature, he asked the rocks, “I say icchantikas also have the Buddhanature. What do you say? Am I right, or not?” The rocks on the mountain bowed their heads in silent assent. So it is said:

When Sheng the venerable
spoke the dharma,
Even the rocks
bowed their heads.

Basically, of course, rocks are senseless things which cannot move, but even so they agreed with Dharma Master Dao Sheng’s explanation and so bowed their assent. There are reasons for this. I believe there were ghosts and spirits sitting or sprawled out on the rocks. On second thought, they couldn’t have been sprawled out, because you have to sit up when you listen to sutras. When the dharma master asked his question, the ghosts and spirits were so exuberant in their agreement that they made the rocks shake. Or, perhaps in past lives these rocks had spiritual natures which were now hidden away in a casing of rock, and this is why they could register their agreement. So,

When Sheng the venerable
spoke the dharma,
Even the rocks
bowed their heads.

Still, icchantikas are extremely difficult to save. When you elucidate principle for them, they never quite believe you. “Hey,” they say, “Who ever heard of such a thing?” No matter how well you speak dharma for them, they don’t believe you. They are like Kaushthila who took “non-acceptance” as his doctrine. No matter what you said to him, he wouldn’t listen, he wouldn’t accept it. That’s an icchantika.

Mleccha is a Sanskrit word which is interpreted to mean “a fondness for defilement.” Mlecchas like unclean places. Mleccha also means “evil knowledge and views.” Most people’s knowledge and points of view are good, but these people’s are evil. They are solely intent upon doing wrong. They exude nothing but poisonous fluids, which are not only bad for them but also influence others to imitate them. So we people should clean up a bit and not take special pleasure in filth. Ananda asked the Buddha to overcome the mlecchas and prevent people from falling victim to a fondness for unwholesome places, from having such a problem.

Sutra:

After he had finished speaking, he placed his five limbs on the ground along with the entire great assembly. Then they stood on tiptoe waiting attentively and thirstily to respectfully hear the instructions.

Commentary:

After he had finished speaking, he placed his five limbs on the ground
. “Five limbs” refer to his two hands, his two feet, and his head. In Buddhism this is the most respectful gesture of all. He bowed along with the entire great assembly. Not only did Ananda bow to the Buddha after he finished making his request, everyone in the great assembly followed suit. Then they stood on tiptoe waiting attentively and thirstily to respectfully hear the instructions. “Attentively” indicates that they listened carefully, intent upon what instructions the Buddha would give them, upon the doctrine of samadhi which Ananda had requested. They were inexpressibly thirsty for the dharma as if their mouths were parched and they were waiting for a drink of water. The wisdom-life of the dharma-bodies of these people had dried up and withered, and they were waiting for the Buddha to pour the water of dharma over them and nourish their dharma bodies’ wisdom-life.

The phrase “on tip-toe” refers to how people stretch up in readiness to listen when they are in the back of the room and wish to hear better. Those who compiled the sutras used these descriptive terms to indicate how happy these people were to hear the dharma. They “stood waiting”: this also indicates that those far from the Buddha stood on tip-toe in order to get a better view of him as they waited for him to speak. Why did they want to see the Buddha? Because everyone is fond of the Buddha’s thirty-two adorning hallmarks and eighty subtle characteristics, and everyone likes to gaze at them, including the great Bodhisattvas, great Arhats, great bhikshus, and laypeople in the Shurangama dharma assembly. I believe they were of more or less the same mind as Ananda. It was because of the Buddha’s thirty-two hallmarks that Ananda had left the home-life, and it was probably because of the Buddha’s hallmarks that the others in the assembly had come to hear the dharma.

The word “respectfully” is used to indicate again how the kings, the great ministers, the elders, and laypeople all stood waiting with great reverence to hear the Buddha explain the doctrine of samadhi.

M2 The Tathagata reveals it is not the mind.
N1 The display of light destroys the manifestation of all appearances.

Sutra:

Then the World Honored One radiated forth from his face various kinds of light, dazzling light as brilliant as hundreds of thousands of suns.


Commentary:

Then
was when Ananda placed his five limbs on the ground and the great assembly attentively, thirstily stood on tip-toe waiting respectfully to hear the instruction. The World Honored One radiated forth from his face: the Chinese is mian men, literally “face-door,” but this just refers to the face. You should not go looking for a door on the Buddha’s face. He hasn’t any doors on his face, just windows. His eyes are windows and his nostrils are caves in which people can sit in meditation and cultivate. Not only is that possible in the Buddha’s nostrils, it can be done in any one of ours as well. If you want to say there is a door, the mouth could be called a door, but there is no reason to stick to every word so closely.

The Buddha emitted from his face various kinds of light, dazzling light as brilliant as hundreds of thousands of suns. The Buddha emitted not just one kind, but many kinds of light from his face. In general there are five colors of light, but in the five colors many, many color-combinations can be distinguished. The Buddha’s light was more powerful than a lightning flash, brighter than an electric light, as it radiated back and forth. The sunlight in the world we live in is very powerful, but the Buddha emitted light whose intensity was a thousand times greater than the light of hundreds of thousands of suns. How much light would you say that was? When Ananda compiled the sutras he described the Buddha’s light this way because this was the way he himself had personally witnessed it.

Sutra:

The six kinds of quaking pervaded the Buddharealms, and thus lands as many as fine motes of dust throughout the ten directions appeared simultaneously.

Commentary:

The six kinds of quaking pervaded the Buddharealms
. All the billions of worlds where there was a Buddha - not only our Saha world but all the others - experienced the six kinds of earthquakes. Three kinds involve movement: quaking, erupting, and heaving up. Quaking is the motion of the earth in an earthquake. Erupting refers to intermittent agitations which cause the earth to little by little gush forth like water from a fountain. Heaving up refers to continual, violent upward movements of the earth. Sometimes the earth can be heaped up to form high places and sometimes it can sink to form depressions. At present our planet earth is in the midst of changes brought about by the six kinds of earthquakes.

The other kinds of earthquakes - cracking, roaring, and striking - involve sound. Cracking is not the same as quaking, which is a simple movement of the earth. When there is cracking, whole sections of the earth are torn asunder. The earth splits apart and often rends whole buildings in the process. Roaring occurs when the earth emits sound unheard in the world. Striking occurs when the earth splits apart and the two faces of the crevasse strike against one another.

The six kinds of earthquakes occur for various reasons: when someone in the world become a Buddha; when someone becomes enlightened, but has not yet realized Buddhahood, that is, when he accomplished the result of arhatship; and when a demon king wishes to disturb the minds of people in the world. So there are good earthquakes and bad earthquakes. When they are good, that is, when a Buddha accomplishes the Way or someone achieves enlightenment, no matter how great a disturbance the six kinds of earthquakes cause, no one will be injured. When a demon king comes to display his demonic power and disturb the minds of people in the world, he can kill people and wreak destruction. When there is an earthquake in one country and many people perish, and then the same thing happens in another country, that is a demon king who has decided to flex his muscles, awe the people of the world, and extend the scope of his power. It is just like a political demonstration: the demon kings stage demonstrations for us people, in order to say: “Take a look at how great my demonic powers are. I can overturn heaven and upset earth.” Therefore we should be careful to determine whether each experience we encounter is a good or bad situation, since there are many distinctions.

Speaking of earthquakes, I remember experiencing an earthquake one night after my mother died, when I was practicing filial piety beside her grave. I was sitting in dhyana, and everything was empty - there was no self and no others - when suddenly I felt a movement, an agitation. I thought to myself, “Ah, what is this demon that can shake my body this way? Its strength is certainly formidable.” I didn’t realize it was an earthquake. The next day someone came to tell me there had been an earthquake - a very strange earthquake. During it, the well near where I sat had spouted fire. This was a water-well, not a volcano, and yet fire had come forth from it. There are many strange things in this world.

I believe someone is thinking, “I’m sure that beneath the well there was a vein of sulfur which fed a volcano, and that is why the well spouted fire.” Maybe that’s the way it was.

And thus: Once the six kinds of earthquakes occurred, lands as many as fine motes of dust throughout the ten directions appeared simultaneously. How many fine motes of dust are there? They are uncountable. Yet the lands which appeared were as incalculably numerous as dust-motes. The great Arhats, great Bodhisattvas, great bhikshus, elders, laypeople, and the king and his ministers all saw these lands appear simultaneously. What kind of experience would you say that was?

Sutra:

The Buddha’s awesome spirit caused all the realms to unite into a single realm.

Commentary:

The Buddha’s awesome spirit
: Shakyamuni Buddha used his awesome spiritual strength, the power of his spiritual penetrations, to cause all the realms, all the lands as many as the fine motes of dust, to unite into a single realm. Although the lands were innumerable, they all came together into one. For example, nowadays we can enlarge a very small photograph into a very large one and reduce a very large photograph into a very small one; wouldn’t you say that is a spiritual penetration? In the same way, Shakyamuni Buddha, by means of his spiritual power, made distant places close, by reducing all the myriad lands throughout the great trichiliocosm into a single one, as if he were reducing a photograph. And yet, though the lands were united into one, each remained perfectly intact in their original order, each still located in its respective position without being mixed up. The reason the Buddha brought all the worlds together was so that everyone in all the worlds could see and listen to him as he explained the inexpressibly wonderful dharma.

Sutra:

And in these realms all the great Bodhisattvas, each remaining in his own country, put their palms together and listened.

Commentary:

Shakyamuni Buddha brought all the lands and realms together into one because he wanted everyone to be able to listen to the explanation of the great Shurangama Samadhi, so that the Bodhisattvas in every land could come to understand this doctrine. So he emitted a great light from his face, a blazing light as brilliant as hundreds of thousands of suns, until every land was illumined. And in these realms all the great Bodhisattvas, each remaining in his own country, put their palms together and listened to Shakyamuni Buddha speak dharma and explain the Shurangama Sutra.

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