THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
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Volume 2

Seeing Is Not Obstructed

N7 He shows that the seeing is not obstructed.
O1 Because of the mundane, Ananda wonders about obstruction.


Sutra:

Ananda said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, given that this seeing-nature is certainly mine and does not belong to anything else, when the Thus Come One and I regard the palace of the four heavenly kings with its supreme store of jewels and stay at the palace of the sun and moon, this seeing completely pervades the lands of the Saha world. Upon returning to the sublime abode, I only see the monastic grounds and in the pure central hall I only see the eaves and corridors.

Commentary:

Ananda said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, given that this seeing-nature is certainly mine and does not belong to anything else -
you say for certain that this seeing-nature which can see things is clearly mine and each person’s; it is not any other thing. When the Thus Come One and I regard the palace of the four heavenly kings with its supreme store of jewels - the World Honored One has used the strength of his spiritual penetrations to take me to see the four heavenly kings.” “Supreme” means particularly fine and wonderful, and “store” means that especially valuable gems were used to make the jeweled palace. And stay at the palace of the sun and moon: we also go to the palace of the sun and moon, this seeing completely pervades the lands of the Saha world. Now the seeing can see very far and wide; it can see everywhere and everything. This proves that the seeing is perfectly pervasive.

At this point some say that the phrase “lands of the Saha world” and the earlier mention of “Jambudvipa” should be switched, but actually it is all the same without switching them. It is not important. All that matters is that you understand the principle at this point. Some people say that the “lands of the Saha world” refers merely to our world, whereas “Jambudvipa” includes lots of worlds. But it is possible to regard the “lands of the Saha world” as meaning many worlds as well. According to my present explanation of the sutra, the two phrases are not switched.

But, upon returning to the sublime abode, I only see the monastic grounds and in the pure central hall I only see the eaves and corridors. The “sublime abode” is the Jeta Grove. The “monastic grounds” in Chinese is qie lan, which refers to places where there are dharma-protecting spirits like Guan Di Gong, the one with the long beard and the red face. Ananda is saying, “I see there are dharma protectors, that Qie Lan Bodhisattva is here.”

In the phrase “the pure central hall” the word xin does not carry the usual meaning of “heart” but means the center of the sublime abode. “When I go inside,” Ananda says, “all I see are the eaves and corridors in front of me, and nothing more. When I went to the heavens I saw so much more, and now that I’m in this room I see so little! Ultimately how is it that my seeing shrinks? Why can’t I see outside?” Ananda still has reason to argue. He still wants to debate with the Buddha and have the Buddha consider his reasoning. What he says next is even more wonderful.

Sutra:

"World Honored One, that is how the seeing is. At first its substance pervaded everywhere throughout the one realm, but now in the midst of this room it fills one room only. Does the seeing shrink from great to small, or do the walls and eaves press in and cut it off? Now I do not know where the meaning in this lies and hope the Buddha will let fall his vast compassion and proclaim it for me thoroughly.”

Commentary:

To take on a disciple like this one is a lot of trouble. A big headache. He asks about the long and the short, the great and the small, the square and the round. He asks why the seeing can see so much and then so little. Is it that the walls press in and cut the seeing off? World Honored One, that is how the seeing is. When I was in the heavens I saw a lot and now that I’m in my room I see so little. At first its substance pervaded everywhere throughout the one realm. The substance of this seeing originally pervaded the one realm of empty space. But now in the midst of this room it fills one room only. All my seeing can do now is see all of this room. Does the seeing shrink from great to small? Is it that the seeing is big and then shrinks, so that it becomes small? It was the size of the world and it shrinks down to the size of the inside of a room. Ultimately how does it shrink? I don’t understand this doctrine.

A balloon is big when it is filled with air, but when the air is released it becomes small. It is gone, all gone. Is the seeing like a balloon? Ananda is still making seeing into a thing. He still thinks, “Ah, seeing is a thing. I’ve got to think of a way to use an analogy in order to debate with the Buddha and win. I’m going to think of a way to invalidate your principle. I’m going to find a way to make the doctrine I speak be the right one, and have you certify me.” That is what is going on in Ananda’s mind. “You say that everything I say is wrong. I’m definitely going to find something to say that’s right and let you have a look at it.” One suspects that Ananda’s view of self is particularly tenacious just now. “Why do you say that everything I say is wrong?” So then he talks about the seeing shrinking, “or do the walls and eaves press in and cut it off? When I come into the room from outside, the walls and eaves press in and cut off my seeing. How else could it become small after being so wide-reaching before?”

At this point I will tell you a joke. Once in China there was a student who was about to begin his first day of school. His father and mother who were extremely wealthy, invited a distinguished professor to tutor their student. The wealthy man said to the professor, “Don’t be too stern. If you can just teach my child one character a day, I’ll give you any amount of money you say. In fact, it will be sufficient if you can just teach him to recognize one character.”

"That will be easy,” said the professor, and he began to teach the student. The student was exceptionally dull, so the professor concentrated on teaching him the character yi, “one,” which in Chinese is a single horizontal line. He wrote it again and again and said, “Look, now, this is the character ‘one.’ It’s called yi. Remember it clearly.” He instructed him for several days, and eventually the student did not forget. He remembered the character “one.” Then one day the master of the house invited the professor for cocktails and dinner. After they finished eating he took his child for a walk in the garden to look at the flowers. The professor felt very self-satisfied and said, “Your child is very intelligent. You said he was extremely dull, but I’ve taught him to read. He is able to recognize characters.”

The master of the house was pleased and asked, “What can he read? Give him a text and let’s see.” The professor used his foot and drew a huge character “one” in the ground. Then he asked the child, his student, “What is that?”

The student cocked his head this way and that and peered at it and finally said, “I don’t know.”

The professor said, “I’ve been teaching you that every day! It’s the character ‘one,’ isn’t it?”

What do you suppose the child said? ”The ‘one’ you taught me wasn’t that big.”

Ananda is the same as that child. He says, “When I’m outside I see so much, why is it when I come in a room I see so little? It’s strange! Do the walls press in and cut off my seeing? Now I do not know where the meaning in this lies. Now I don’t understand. The more it is explained the more confused I become. What is going on here? Ultimately, how is it that the seeing can be big and little? I haven’t shrunk it; how can it get little? If it can shrink, at least there has to be someone shrink it. Perhaps the walls have cut it off. I don’t understand this doctrine. Just what is it about? I hope the Buddha will let fall his vast compassion and proclaim it for me thoroughly. World Honored One, put forth great compassion and resolve my doubts, and explain the doctrine thoroughly, bit by bit, to make it clear. Instruct me.” Ananda is more confused than I am. Now I understand this doctrine, but at the time, Ananda did not understand it.

O2 The Thus Come One shows that the nature is not obstructed.
P1 He makes clear the mundane is not fixed.


Sutra:

The Buddha told Ananda, “All the aspects of everything in the world, such as big and small, inside and outside, are classed as the dust before you. You should not say the seeing stretches and shrinks.

Commentary:

Ananda just said that his seeing was suddenly big and then suddenly little. Did it shrink and stretch? Is that possible? The Buddha told Ananda: All the aspects of everything in the world, including the sentient world and the material world, such as big and small, inside and outside, are classed as the dust before you. Perhaps they are big, perhaps they are small, perhaps they are inside, perhaps they are outside. “All aspects” refers to these characteristics and other such forms and appearances. They are all the marks of dust before your eyes. You should not say the seeing stretches and shrinks.

Sutra:

"Consider the example of a square container in which a square of emptiness is seen. I ask you further: is the square emptiness that is seen in the square container a fixed square shape, or is it not fixed as a square shape?

Commentary:

Why do I say that you shouldn’t say the seeing stretches and shrinks? Consider the example of a square container. I’ll give you an analogy. There is a square container, a box, in which a square of emptiness is seen. Since the box is square, the space inside it is square. I ask you further: Now I have another question for you. Is the square emptiness that is seen in the square container, is the square space inside the box, a fixed square shape, or is it not fixed as a square shape? Does the shape of the emptiness become square in the container? If so, then when the container is removed, the square-shaped emptiness wouldn’t be able to be united with the rest of emptiness. Is the emptiness definitely square, or not? If it is not square, then it is all-pervasive, and it is just like your seeing. Why do you doubt and think that it becomes big or little, that is stretches and shrinks?

Sutra:

"If it is a fixed square shape, when it is switched to a round container the emptiness would not be round. If it is not a fixed shape, then when it is in the square container it should not be a square-shaped emptiness.

Commentary:

"If it is a fixed square shape, when it is switched to a round container the emptiness would not be round.
If you say the emptiness is fixed in a square shape, then when it is placed in a round container, the emptiness would not become round. It would still be square-shaped. If it is not a fixed shape, if you say that the space which the emptiness occupies is not fixed, then when it is in the square container it should not be a square-shaped emptiness. If you say it does not have a definite square shape, then how could it be that the emptiness becomes square in a square container? What is the principle here?” he asks Ananda. “In the end, would you say the emptiness is square or round? The emptiness is analogous to the seeing. You say the seeing can stretch and shrink, that it can become big or little. Therefore, would you say that the emptiness becomes square or round?” Do you see how the Buddha’s questions become more and more impossible to resolve? The more questions Ananda asks, the more confused he becomes.

Sutra:

"You say you do not know where the meaning lies. The nature of the meaning is thus; how can you speak of its location?

Commentary:

You say you do not know where the meaning lies.
Ananda, you say you don’t understand this doctrine and don’t know where, in the end, the seeing is. The nature of the meaning is thus. If you say that seeing and emptiness are the same, would you then say that the emptiness is square or round? It was explained above that if you say emptiness is square, then when it is placed in a round container it would not become round. If you say it is round, when it is placed in a square container it could not be square. In the last analysis, would you say the empty space is round or square? The nature of the meaning of emptiness is like this. The nature of the meaning of the seeing you speak of is the same as in the doctrine of the emptiness. Would you say, then, that it shrinks from large to small or that it is pressed in upon and cut off by the walls? The doctrine has already been explained very clearly. How can you speak of its location? Now you understand the doctrine of emptiness; so how can you ask where the seeing is? The seeing pervades everywhere. How can you propose theories about where the seeing is located and ask me where the seeing is?

P2 He tells him to forget the mundane and experience pervasiveness.

Sutra:

"Ananda, if you now wished there to be neither squareness nor roundness, you would only need to take the container away. The substance of emptiness has no shape, and so you should not say that you would also have to take the shape away from the emptiness.

Commentary:

Why? Ananda, if you now wished there to be neither squareness nor roundness
- you want the empty space in the container to be neither square nor round and not to conform to the square or round shape of the container. You would only need to take the container away, because the substance of emptiness has no shape. The nature of the substance of emptiness is neither square nor not square, nor round. It may be either round or square. And so you should not say - Ananda, you should not speak without any basis. Don’t make casual statements - you should not say that you would also have to take the shape away from the emptiness. To release the emptiness from the temporary squareness it has assumed in conformity to the square container, simply remove the container. You don’t need to do anything to the emptiness itself; you don’t need to try to change its shape, because basically it has no shape. It conforms to the container, but the emptiness inside is not cut off from the emptiness outside. They are still connected. Ananda, you think the container is an impediment and an obstruction in the same way you think the walls and eaves cut off your seeing. But in fact emptiness is not made square or round by a container, and your seeing is not made big or small by walls and eaves. There could be no such principle. How can you bring it up? You shouldn’t speak like that!

Here the Buddha scolds Ananda.

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