THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
N2 He shows that the seeing does not move.
O1 Discussion of the assembly’s hope for instruction.
Although Ananda and everyone in the great assembly had heard what was said, their minds had not yet understood, and so they remained silent. Hoping to hear more of the gentle sounds of the Tathagata’s teaching, they put their palms together, purified their minds, and stood waiting for the Tathagata’s compassionate instruction.
Although Ananda and everyone in the great assembly had heard what was said, their minds had not yet understood, and so they remained silent. Ananda and everyone else there closed their mouths and didn’t say anything. Why weren’t they talking? They were thinking, “Oh? My eyes can’t see things? Oh? My mind sees? You may say that isn’t true, but the Buddha has explained it this way. If you say it is true, why haven’t I ever understood it to be this way before?” That’s what they were thinking, because they hadn’t yet understood. Their minds had not yet opened and become enlightened. Hoping to hear more of the gentle sounds of the Tathagata’s teaching - they were thinking, “I hope the Buddha will have a compassionate heart and talk to me.” They put their palms together. Why did they put their palms together? It represents their single-mindedness. They were of one mind, not two. When your hands are apart, it is said you have ten minds, and when your palms are together, it is said you have one mind, because when your palms go together, your mind comes together and becomes one. Purified their minds. Clear out your mind. Clear your heart. Don’t put too much garbage in your head. Take the garbage that is in there and get rid of it. And stood waiting for the Tathagata’s compassionate instruction. They stood waiting for the Buddha’s compassionate words to help them understand better, so they could become enlightened and not be so confused.
O2 He determines the guest and dust.
P1 The Thus Come One asks about the ultimate source of enlightenment.
Then the World Honored One extended his tula-cotton webbed bright hand, opened his five-wheeled fingers, and told Ananda and the great assembly, “When I first accomplished the Way I went to the Deer Park, and for the sake of Ajnatakaundinya and all five of the bhikshus, as well as for you of the fourfold assembly, I said, ‘It is because living beings are impeded by guest-dust and affliction that they do not realize Bodhi or become Arhats.’ At that time, what caused you who have now realized the holy fruit to become enlightened?”
Then, while those in the assembly stood waiting to receive the Buddha’s compassionate teaching and transforming, the World Honored One, Shakyamuni Buddha, extended his tula-cotton webbed bright hand, opened his five-wheeled fingers. On the Buddha’s hand is the hallmark of the thousand-spoked wheel. His hand is extremely soft, like the finest cotton, and it is webbed and luminous. He told Ananda and the great assembly: When I first accomplished the Way. One evening, on the eighth day of the twelfth month, while sitting under the Bodhi tree, he saw a star and awakened to perfect the Way. I went to the Deer Park. This is a vast park devoted exclusively to raising deer. How did that come about? It all began limitless kalpas ago when Shakyamuni Buddha was a deer, the leader of a herd of 500. And guess who else was there? Devadatta, who was also a deer king with a following of 500 deer. In the later life when the Buddha realized Buddhahood, Devadatta became the Buddha’s jealous cousin and tried to kill him. But in that earlier life when both were deer kings, there was a king among the people who used a lot of manpower and machinery to corral vast numbers of wild animals into a certain area. He planned to hunt them all down and kill them on the grounds that there were too many wild animals. So then Shakyamuni Buddha, in the form he had taken of a deer king had a meeting with the deer king Devadatta. They said to each other, “We should save the lives of our retinue. We shouldn’t let the king kill us all. How can we save ourselves? Let’s go talk it over with the king and petition him not to kill us off.” Although they were deer, they could speak the language of people. So the two deer went to see the king, and when they encountered the armed guard at the gates they said in a commanding tone, “We would like an appointment with the king. Can you deliver our message?” When the guard heard that the deer could speak the human language, he went to repeat their message to the king.
The king also found it strange to hear that deer could talk, and he agreed to an audience with them so they could state their petition. The two deer kings went before the king and said, “We are deer. Every day you kill seven or eight of us - more than you can possibly eat in a single day. What cannot be eaten is left to spoil. Wouldn’t it be better if we did it this way: every day we will take turns supplying you with one deer, and in that way you can have fresh venison every day without killing us all off at once. If you use this method, your supply of venison will never run out. Several hundred years from now there will still be venison to eat.”
Because he saw the sense in their petition, and because the deer could speak, the king was moved to grant their request. So each of the deer kings, on alternate days, sent the king a deer. Now one day it happened that it was the turn of a pregnant doe in Devadatta’s herd to go sacrifice herself to the king. Her fawn was heavy in her belly and would probably be born in a day or so. So she pleaded with the deer king Devadatta, “Can you send someone in my place today, and then after the fawn is born I will go to the king and sacrifice myself?”
Devadatta replied, “Impossible. It is your turn, and you must go. There is no politeness in this matter. You don’t want to die. Who does? Not one of the deer want to go to their death. You want to live a few more days now that it has come around to your turn, but that is impossible.”
The pregnant doe’s eyes brimmed with tears and she went to talk to the deer king who was to become Shakyamuni Buddha. Although she didn’t belong to his herd, she went to plead with him and ask if he could work out a temporary exchange so she could live a few more days until her fawn was born. As he considered her request, Shakyamuni Buddha realized that not one of his 500 deer would want to go in her place. However, the Buddha said to her, “Fine. You stay in my herd; you don’t need to go.” Then the deer king Shakyamuni Buddha went himself to be sacrificed in her place.
The king asked him, “What are you doing here? Have all your deer been eaten? Is your herd all gone? Why have you come?. And since he could talk, the deer king Shakyamuni Buddha said, “King, you haven’t eaten all our deer; on the contrary, we are prospering. Day by day our herds are increasing. You only eat one deer a day, and in one day our does give birth to many fawns.”
The king said, “Then why have you come yourself?”
Shakyamuni Buddha explained, “There is a pregnant doe whose fawn will be born in a day or so. It was her turn to come today, but since she wanted to wait until she had given birth to her fawn before she came to let the king eat her, she came to me and pleaded to have someone sent in her place. I thought over her request and realized that none of the deer in the herd would want to die before they had to, so I came myself to substitute for her.”
When the king heard that, he was profoundly moved, and he said, “From now on, don’t send any more deer to the palace.” Then he spoke a verse:
You are a deer with a human head.
I am a person with a deer’s head.
From this day forward,
I will not eat the flesh of living beings.
He said, “Although you have the head of a deer, you are a human being and although I have the head of a human being, I am a deer.” And then he vowed never to eat the flesh of living beings again. Because of that, the deer population in the park increased significantly; and the park was called the Deer Wilds Park. It was also named the Park of the Immortals because the “wind and water,” the geomantic lay of the land and its location, were particularly fine, and many immortals came there to cultivate the Way. So when Shakyamuni Buddha became a Buddha, he went first to the Deer Wilds Park to convert the five bhikshus.
And for the sake of Ajnatakaundinya and all five of the bhikshus. Three of the five bhikshus were relatives of the Buddha’s father and two were relatives of the Buddha’s mother. When the Buddha first left the palace to leave the home-life and cultivate the Way in the Himalayas, his parents had sent these relatives along after him to try to convince him to return. At that time the five bhikshus were not bhikshus, but high officials, and although they exhorted the Buddha to return, he would not. The five of them couldn’t go back and face the king, the Buddha’s father, without having accomplished their mission, so they stayed with the Buddha instead and accompanied him in cultivating the Way.
Of the three who were his father’s relatives, one was called Ashvajit - the name means “horse victory”; one was called Bhadrika - the name means “little worthy”; and the other was called Mahanama Kulika. The two on the mother’s side were Ajnatakaundinya and Dashabala Kashyapa, “drinker of light”, so named because he was a fire worshipper. The five stayed with the Buddha and cultivated ascetic practices, but eventually it became so bitter that three of them couldn’t take it and left. They backed out. The other two continued to cultivate with the Buddha. At that time the Buddha was eating only one grain of rice and one sesame seed a day, and he became so emaciated that he was nothing but skin and bones. Then one day a goddess brought him some milk gruel as an offering. He drank the gruel, and his body began to fill out again. The two who were cultivating with him got upset when they saw this, and they said, “How can someone who cultivates the Way drink milk gruel?” and so they left too. There was Shakyamuni Buddha in the midst of bitter cultivation and the five people his father and mother had sent to be with him all left him, three because they couldn’t take the suffering, and two because they saw the Buddha enjoying his blessings. The Buddha remained alone to cultivate. After he had cultivated there for six years, he went to sit under the Bodhi tree, and on the eighth day of the twelfth month he saw a star appear and became enlightened. “At night he saw a bright star and awakened to the Way.” After his enlightenment, he looked into the matter of who he should convert first, and saw that it was Ajnatakaundinya, one of the five bhikshus, who in a past life had been the king of Kalinga and had cut the Buddha’s body limb from limb. In that life the Buddha had vowed that when he became a Buddha the first one he would save would be the king of Kalinga. That is why when Shakyamuni Buddha became enlightened he went first to the Deer Park and converted the five bhikshus.
Shakyamuni Buddha said, “For the sake of the five bhikshus as well as for you of the four-fold assembly” - the four-fold assembly consists of the bhikshus (monks), bhikshunis (nuns), upasakas (laymen), and upasikas (laywomen). “I said, ‘It is because living beings are impeded by guest-dust and affliction that they do not realize Bodhi or become Arhats.’” Why don’t living beings accomplish Buddhahood or become enlightened? Why don’t they accomplish the first fruit of arhatship?
The phrase “guest-dust” also refers to your false thoughts. False thoughts are “guest-dust” and affliction. You can also say that “guest-dust” refers to the two kinds of delusion: view-delusion and thought-delusion. “Afflictions” can also be said to be delusions of ignorance and delusions as numerous as motes of dust and sand.
Why are people impeded by “guest-dust” and affliction? Because people are really strange. They like to eat afflictions all day long. Fix them good food, give them some good bread and butter, and they won’t eat it. All they want to eat is afflictions, which they find more delicious than vegetable dumplings. Even if someone tells them not to eat affliction, they find it impossible to refrain from it. From morning to night, they eat nothing but “guest-dust” and afflictions and fill their bellies full of anger instead of food. People like that are truly pathetic. Shakyamuni Buddha said, “The reason all you living beings do not become Buddhas or Arhats is because you are impeded by ‘guest-dust’ and affliction.”
At that time, what caused you who have now realized the holy fruit to become enlightened? “That time” refers to the time when Shakyamuni Buddha went to the Deer Park and spoke dharma. “You” the Buddha means the five bhikshus and the fourfold assembly of bhikshus, bhikshunis, upasakas, and upasikas. The Buddha asks them how and why they became enlightened when he talked about “guest-dust” and affliction. What meaning did they see that caused them to obtain the fruition of arhatship?
P2 Purna answers that the Buddha sealed and certified him.
Then Ajnatakaundinya arose and said to the Buddha, “Of the elders now present in the great assembly, only I received the name ‘understanding’ because I was enlightened to the meaning of the word ‘guest-dust’ and realized the fruition.
Ajnatakaundinya was one of the five bhikshus. His name is interpreted to mean “understanding the fundamental limit” and also “the very first to understand” because he was the first to understand and to be certified as having attained arhatship. Then Ajnatakaundinya arose and said to the Buddha. Ajnatakaundinya stood up and spoke to the Buddha. Of the elders now present in the great assembly, only I received the name ‘understanding’ because I was enlightened to the meaning of the word ‘guest-dust’ and realized the fruition. He said, “Now in this great assembly, I am an elder, I am older and much more experienced. Why did I receive the name ‘understanding’? Upon hearing the Buddha speak the word ‘guest-dust’ I understood the meaning and attained enlightenment.” Ajnatakaundinya will explain the meaning of “guest-dust” in the following passages.
"World Honored One, it is like a traveler who stops as a guest at a roadside inn, perhaps for the night or perhaps for a meal. When he has finished lodging there or when the meal is finished, he packs his baggage and sets out again. He does not remain there at leisure. The host himself, however, does not go far away.
World Honored One. Ajnatakaundinya said, “Buddha, why was it that the two words ‘guest-dust’ brought about my enlightenment? It is like a traveler who stops as a guest at a roadside inn, perhaps for the night or perhaps for a meal. A guest who is on a journey, on a holiday, looks for an inn where he can stay for a while. Perhaps he stays overnight there, or perhaps he goes there to eat. When he has finished lodging there or when the meal is finished, he packs his baggage and sets out again. When he has finished eating and sleeping, he readies his suitcases and goes on. He does not remain there at leisure. He’s a guest; he can’t live there all the time. The host himself, however, does not go far away.” The “host” refers to the pure nature and bright substance of the permanently dwelling true mind. The “guest” refers to false thinking, the wearisome dust.
Why is it compared to “guest dust”? Because it is not something fundamental to us. Our bodies are basically clean, but if we go out on a windy day the dust may blow up and cover us, soiling our bodies. When we take our hands and brush away the dust, it disappears. What does this represent? It represents our afflictions and ignorance which are like “guest-dust”; they do not really exist. The guest is affliction and ignorance, the obstruction of affliction, the obstruction of what is known, the delusion of views and the delusion of thought. So Ajnatakaundinya understood that the guest at an inn stays only temporarily, whereas the host of the inn always lives there.
"Considering it this way, the one who does not remain is called the guest, and the one who does remain is called the host. The word ‘guest’, then, means ‘one who does not remain.’
Ajnatakaundinya concludes: Considering it this way, the one who does not remain is called the guest, and the one who does remain is called the host. We can also say that we reside in our bodies temporarily as a guest does in an inn. We should understand that our bodies are merely an inn, not an actual home. They are not our own home, and so we shouldn’t be too attached to them. But our host, the permanently dwelling true mind, never goes away, never ceases to exist. The word “guest,” then, means “one who does not remain.”
"Again, when the sky clears up, the morning sun rises with all resplendence, and its golden rays stream into a house through a crevice to reveal particles of dust in the air. The dust dances in the rays of light, but the empty space is motionless.
Again, when the sky clears up, the morning sun rises with all resplendence, and its golden rays stream into a house through a crevice to reveal particles of dust in the air. When the sun has just come up, early on a clear fresh morning, a morning after a rain, the sun shines through a crack in the door or perhaps a crack in the wall, and it displays the fine bits of dust bobbing up and down in empty space, moving all around in the sunshine. The dust dances in the rays of light, but the empty space is motionless. If the sun doesn’t shine in the crack, you can’t see the dust, although there is actually a lot of dust everywhere. But while the dust moves and bobs up and down, empty space is still. It doesn’t move. The ability to see the dust in the light that pours through the crack represents the attainment of the light of wisdom. When you certify to the fruit and reach the first stage of arhatship and overcome the 88 categories of view-delusion, you have the light of wisdom. Then you can see your ignorance, which causes afflictions as numerous as motes of dust or grains of sand in the Ganges River. The sun of wisdom shines on the dust-particles of affliction, as in Ajnatakaundinya’s analogy of the sun shining through the crack. The dark caverns of ignorance are illumined, and you see the dust of affliction, and you understand.
"Considering it this way, what is clear and still is called space, and what moves is called dust. The word ‘dust’, then, means 'that which moves.’ ”
Ignorance and afflictions as numerous as motes of dust move, but empty space does not move. Empty space represents our seeing-nature, which is also unmoving. It is the genuine host, our permanently dwelling true mind which does not come and does not go.
Considering it this way, what is clear and still is called space. Clear and still, it does not move, and that is called space. And what moves is called dust. The word “dust”, then, means “that which moves.” You see the bits of dust in the patch of sunshine dancing and flying about ceaselessly. What is this dust? It represents affliction, ignorance, the obstacle of affliction, and the obstacle of what is known. Attachment to those things is called “dust”.
Every day you listen to the sutra and I tell you not to have afflictions, and all you’ve got is afflictions. I tell you not to have ignorance and all you do is display your ignorance. Would you call this being obedient? The more it is said that ignorance is not a good thing, the greater the ignorance becomes. When it is said that afflictions aren’t good, the afflictions grow. Before it was discussed, there were no afflictions, but once it was brought up, the afflictions came forth. So it must be that my explanation of the sutra isn’t a good explanation, because I haven’t been able to explain away your afflictions. I hope you will all toss your afflictions into the Pacific Ocean. Don’t look upon your afflictions as precious treasures. Don’t treat afflictions as if they were your own kin. Don’t let affliction be your playmate with birth and death. Don’t be so affectionate towards them. You should toss your afflictions into the ocean, even though there are so many of them that they might well fill up the entire ocean.
Afflictions are demons. Where do you find demons and demonic ghosts? To have demonic ghosts is simply to have afflictions. You and the demons have gotten together. Afflictions are absolutely terrible, and the sutra is being explained just to teach people to get rid of their afflictions, so don’t let it be that the more we speak of afflictions the more they multiply.
The Buddha said, “So it is.”
After Ajnatakaundinya finished speaking, the Buddha gave him positive certification. He said, “What you have said is correct.” The Buddha said, “So it is.” What moves is dust, what does not move is space. Your theory is not mistaken.