THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
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Volume 2

P3 He reiterates that what is lost is not the seeing.
Q1 The Thus Come One asks a question.


Sutra:

The Buddha said further to Ananda, “It is as you have said. There is no seeing-essence to be found existing separately among all the things. Therefore, all the things you point to are things, and none is the seeing.

Commentary:

The Buddha will ask another question in order to reveal the seeing-essence. The Buddha said further to Ananda, “It is as you have said. There is no seeing-essence to be found existing separately among all the things. There is no special thing that is the seeing. Therefore, all the things you point to are things, and none is the seeing. Among all the things, everything you point to is a thing. None of these things is the seeing-essence.”

Sutra:

"Now I will tell you: you and the Thus Come One sit in the Jeta Grove and look again at the groves and gardens, as far as the sun and moon, and at all the various different appearances, and it is certain that the seeing-essence is not among whatever you point to. You can go ahead and reveal what, among these things, is not your seeing.”

Commentary:

Now I will speak another doctrine for you. Now I will tell you: you and the Thus Come One sit in the Jeta Grove - Ananda and the Buddha and everyone else are sitting in the Jeta Grove - and look again at the groves and gardens, as far as the sun and moon - the flower gardens, everything that can be seen from here to the sun and moon in the sky above - at all the various different appearances, and it is certain that the seeing-essence is not among whatever you point to. You can go ahead and reveal what, among these things, is not your seeing. Which among all these things is not your seeing?

"The Buddha’s joking,” you say. “He said before that things were not the seeing, and now he asks Ananda to tell him which things are not the seeing.” That’s how the Shurangama Sutra is: if you don’t understand this place in the text clearly, you will become confused. “It said before that the things were not the seeing, and now it says they are the seeing.” You’ll say. “Now it asks which aren’t the seeing, but before it said none of them was the seeing.”

Q2 Ananda answers.

Sutra:

Ananda said, ”I see clearly all over this Jeta Grove, and I do not know what in the midst of it is not my seeing.

Commentary:

Ananda knew earlier that they were not his seeing, but now that the Buddha has asked him which are not his seeing, he’s confused again. He doesn’t understand the question again. Ananda said, “I see clearly all over this Jeta Grove. I can see everywhere all around this grove of trees of Prince War-Victor, and I do not know what in the midst of it is not my seeing. Which isn’t my seeing? Now I don’t know.” As soon as the Buddha asked that last question, Ananda got confused again. Thus the Shurangama Sutra is just confusion upon confusion until the very end, when it is all made clear. So don’t be afraid of confusion and say, “I don’t understand, I don’t know what is going on now.” The Buddha is just turning the principle back and forth, explaining it over and over. It is a thorough investigation of the principle. He brings up one doctrine and says, “Do you think that’s right?” He explains that it isn’t right, and he brings up another doctrine and says, “Do you think thats wrong?” And he shows how that, too, is not correct. It is simply to reveal the principle.

"What is not the seeing?” the Buddha asks. “Speak up and tell me.”

Ananda says, “I don’t know which isn’t the seeing. Now I’m confused again.”

Sutra:

"Why? If trees are not the seeing, why do I see trees? If trees are the seeing, then what becomes of trees? The same is true of everything up to and including emptiness: if emptiness is not the seeing, why do I see emptiness? If emptiness is the seeing, then what becomes of emptiness?

Commentary:

Why? If trees are not the seeing, why do I see trees?
Ananda says that if the trees are not the seeing, then he wouldn’t see the trees. So he can’t say that the trees are not the seeing. If trees are the seeing, then what becomes of trees? If I were to say the trees are the seeing, then where would the trees have gone off to? Originally the trees were simply trees, but now he is saying that they are the seeing, and so now he can’t find a name for them. As for myself, I would just say they were wood. The same is true of everything up to and including emptiness. Trees are by nature things with form. But it is not only true of things which have an appearance, it is the same with emptiness, and of all the things in between, which he doesn’t mention by name because there would be no time to explain them all. It is the same with my explanation of the sutra. To lecture the entire sutra in three months means that many doctrines within it must go unspoken.

If emptiness is not the seeing, why do I see emptiness? My seeing of emptiness is the seeing. If I say that emptiness is not the seeing, then why do I see emptiness? If emptiness is the seeing, then what becomes of emptiness? If it is the seeing, how can it also be called emptiness? So I don’t know how this doctrine is to be explained.

Now Ananda has a mouth but finds it difficult to speak.

Sutra:

"As I consider it again and reveal the subtlest aspects of the myriad appearances, none is not my seeing.”

Commentary:

As I consider it again.
Ananda has once again taken hold of his conscious mind that makes distinctions. Earlier, he constantly trotted out the sixth mind-consciousness to debate with the Buddha and now he has brought it out again. So he says, “I am thinking again, and I reveal the subtlest aspects of the myriad appearances. I think about them in minute detail. I think it over and over, backwards and forwards, up and down, and I think I have reached it. In the subtlest aspects of the myriad appearances, none is not my seeing. All alike are the seeing. None is not the seeing. Every single thing is the seeing. Which is to say, I see them after all.”

Q3 The Buddha seals and certifies him.

Sutra:

The Buddha said, “So it is, so it is.”

Commentary:

The Buddha certified him again. “Ah, what you say is correct. That is the way it is. You understand what I mean.” The Buddha was happy and said, “So it is, so it is.”

What do all of you say? Ultimately, what is the seeing and what are the things? Are the things the seeing or not?

P4 The members of the great assembly are startled, prostrate themselves seeking consolation.

Sutra:

Then all in the great assembly who had not reached the stage beyond learning were stunned upon hearing these words of the Buddha, and could not perceive where the meaning began or ended. They were agitated and taken aback at the same time, having lost what they had adhered to.

Commentary:

Everyone heard this dialogue, and heard that the seeing both is a thing and is not a thing. Then which is it? All the opinions which everyone had held before no longer held up.

Then all in the great assembly who had not reached the stage beyond learning. Bodhisattvahood is called the “stage beyond learning.” The fourth fruition of arhatship is also called the stage beyond learning. There were many in the Shurangama assembly who had not yet been certified as having attained the fourth fruition of arhatship. They were at the first fruition, the second fruition, or the third fruition - the positions with something left to study. They were stunned upon hearing these words of the Buddha. When the Buddha said it was the seeing and then said it was not the seeing, saying it was a thing and then saying it was not a thing, investigating back and forth like that, they didn’t understand; they were stunned. They had eyes and yet could not see. They had ears and yet could not hear. They couldn’t perceive anything at all. I’ll give you an example. When people are confused by a ghost, they don’t know anything at all. They forget everything that went on before. However, this is only an example; don’t think that the people in the Shurangama assembly were actually confused by a ghost. They weren’t. I just said they were like people who had been confused by a ghost, and now I say they were not like people who have been confused by a ghost. That’s like saying seeing and things are one and then saying that they are not one. It’s the same principle.

They were stunned and could not perceive where the meaning began or ended. They did not know where this doctrine began or what it would be like in the end result. “What is being talked about?” they wondered. They didn’t understand. They were agitated and taken aback at the same time, having lost what they had adhered to. Everyone was afraid. Their hearts pounded as if a rabbit was jumping around inside. They couldn’t believe what they’d heard. All the opinions they had held before had been rendered invalid and destroyed. It was as if they had lost all the treasures which they previously possessed, and so they were trying to figure out where to go to find them. Should they notify the authorities? Should they call the police? But in those days there probably weren’t any policemen. The things they had lost, moreover, were invisible. So even if they called the police, the police would be helpless. They wouldn’t be able to find them.

Sutra:

The Thus Come One, knowing they were anxious and uneasy in spirit, let pity rise in his heart as he consoled Ananda and everyone in the great assembly. “Good people, what the unsurpassed Dharma King says is true and real. He speaks things as they are. He does not deceive. He does not lie. He is not Maskari Goshaliputra with his four kinds of non-dying theories that are deceptive and confusing. You should consider this attentively. It is no disgrace to pity or to implore.”

Commentary:

When the Buddha saw that the great assembly was agitated, he gave rise to compassion in his heart and took pity on everyone. “Ah, you people are truly pitiable.” The Thus Come One, knowing they were anxious and uneasy in spirit, let pity rise in his heart as he consoled Ananda and everyone in the great assembly. He knew that their spirits were not at peace so he compassionately gave a little of the gift of fearlessness. He said, “None of you should be frightened. I will now speak to you. Good people.” The Buddha addressed everyone in the great assembly as “good children.” “Good children, listen carefully. Don’t be rambunctious. Now I will tell you what the unsurpassed Dharma King says - what the Buddha says - is true and real. What he says is really so. You should have no doubts about that. There is a decided principle in what I said earlier, that the seeing is a thing and is not a thing. I am truly and really telling you something reliable. I am not cheating you. He speaks things as they are. What I say is in accord with principle. I rely on the principle in expressing my doctrines. It is impossible for it not to be in accord with principle. He does not deceive. He does not lie. He does not say deceptive or untrue things. He is not Maskari Goshaliputra.

"Maskari” is a Sanskrit name which is interpreted to mean “not seeing the way.” His mother’s name was Goshali; “putra” means “son of.” Maskari Goshaliputra is one of the six masters of external paths. He was called “not seeing the way” because he did not understand the Way. He could not see it and could not walk it. All he did was traverse a confused way. He ran around with his eyes closed and eventually he walked right into the sea, where he drowned. It was because he did not see the Way. That is what I think, several thousand years later. It is for certain the salt water was very uncomfortable. It was not as comfortable as drinking wine or drinking pure water. Once he had drunk the salt water of the sea, it is likely that no doctor could cure him.

With his four kinds of non-dying theories that are deceptive and confusing. What did he say? “It is both changeable and constant.” Things both change and are permanent. “It is both defiled and pure.” It is both clean and unclean. “It is both produced and extinguished.” It gets born and dies. “It both increases and decreases.” These are his four theories. Originally the Buddha said, “It is neither produced nor extinguished,” but Maskari said, “It is both produced and extinguished.” His theory is off by just that much.

The Buddha said, “Everything is unmoving. Unmoving, it accords with conditions; it accords with conditions, but does not move.” But Maskari said, “It neither changes nor is constant.”

Maskari’s theories are just talking out of both sides of his mouth. He says one thing has principle and also says its opposite has principle. And right down the line he is in direct opposition to the doctrine the Buddha explained. So the Buddha refers to his four kinds of non-dying as “deceptive and confusing theories.” “Deceptive” means that they go to the other extreme and in so doing confuse people. But his theories are not correct. They are wrong. To reassure the assembly, the Buddha says that his doctrines are not like the confused and deceptive theories propounded by Maskari.

You should consider this attentively. You should think about this in detail. It is no disgrace to pity or to implore. Don’t worry. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be sad. “Pity” refers to what the Buddha expressed. “I am very sympathetic toward you.” “Implore” refers to what those in the great assembly were doing when they looked up to the Buddha’s compassionate countenance as he consoled them.

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