THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
P3 He compares the two to clarify the meaning.
Q1 General mention.
"Ananda, I will now go back and forth comparing these two matters for you, to make both of them clear.
Fearing that Ananda might not be attentive, the Buddha called to him once again: Ananda, I will now go back and forth comparing these two matters for you. I will now compare the causes and conditions of these two matters, perhaps going backwards or perhaps forward, describing them to you together. “The two matters” are referring to the man with the diseased eyes seeing a circular reflection around the lamp, and the entire population of one country seeing all kinds of disasters and evil conditions which were not seen by the people in the other country. I will compare these various principles to make both of them clear.
Q2 Specific explanation.
R1 He describes individual karma.
S1 He brings out that what is able to discern objects is the cataract.
"Ananda, in the case of the living being’s false view of individual karma by which he sees the appearance of a circular reflection around the lamp, the appearance seems to be real, but in the end, what is seen comes into being because of the cataracts on the eyes.
The Buddha called again to Ananda: Ananda, in the case of the living being’s false view of individual karma. The living being spoken of before had his own special individual karma which caused him to see states which in fact were not real. As we explained before, he sees the appearance of a circular reflection around the lamp, the appearance seems to be real. He sees a circular reflection around the lamp, as if it were the actual situation, but in the end, what is seen comes into being because of the cataracts on the eyes. But when you investigate this doctrine thoroughly, it turns out that the person who sees the circular reflection has cataracts on his eyes and that is why he sees the reflection.
S2 The dharmas which are discerned are brought up and categorized together.
T1 A general categorization.
"The cataracts are the result of the weariness of the seeing rather than the products of form. However, the essence of seeing which perceives the cataracts is free from all diseases and defects. For example, you now use your eyes to look at the mountains, the rivers, the countries, and all the living beings. They are all brought about by the disease of your seeing contracted since time without beginning.
The cataracts are the result of the weariness of the seeing. The eyes are diseased, and so within the seeing a false seeing arises. The false seeing is the weariness of the seeing. Rather than the products of form. It is not an actual external state. No actual appearance exists which creates the characteristic of the weariness of seeing. However, the essence of seeing which perceives the cataracts is free from all diseases and defects. What is more, seeing circular reflections around the lamp, and the disease of the eyes, have nothing to do with the fundamental seeing of the seeing-nature. It is not that the seeing-nature is diseased. It is the eye which is diseased.
For example, you now use your eyes to look at the mountains, the rivers, the great earth, the houses, the buildings, the structures, the dwellings, the countries, and all the living beings. Ananda, take yourself as an example. All these things you see with your eyes are all brought about by the disease of your seeing contracted since time without beginning.
T2 His explanation accords with former passages.
"Seeing and the conditions of seeing seem to manifest what is before you. Originally my enlightenment is bright. The seeing and conditions arise from the cataracts. Realize that the seeing arises from the cataracts: the enlightened condition of the basically enlightened bright mind has no cataracts.
The first seeing refers to the category of seeing, that which is able to see. The second seeing refers to the category of appearances, that which is seen. The category of seeing, which is able to see, and the category of appearances, which are seen, seem to manifest what is before you. States manifest like the ones described above, in the example of the man with the diseased eyes who saw circular reflections around a lamp, and the example of the people who had karmic obstructions and could see all kinds of inauspicious things in their country. The two examples are parallel. Just as people whose eyes are not diseased do not see the circular reflections around the lamp, so the people in the neighboring country do not see the inauspicious signs. The circular reflections and the inauspicious signs manifest as a result of karma. Karmic obstructions bring about these appearances. Living beings create karma and must undergo a retribution. Originally my enlightenment is bright. These appearances which arise because of karma basically do not have any connection with my originally enlightened nature. The seeing and conditions arise from the cataracts. Because the eyes are diseased, they see these kinds of sick things. Realize that the seeing arises from the cataracts - if you understand that the seeing is a result of the cataracts on the sick eyes, the enlightened condition of the basically enlightened bright mind has no cataracts. Originally one’s own seeing-essence, one’s own basically enlightened bright mind, one’s wonderfully bright true mind, the seeing which can see the seeing, that enlightened nature, has no disease. It is without defects.
S3 Concludes that the seeing that perceives seeing is what is apart from confusion.
T1 He explains what is most superior.
"That which is aware of the faulty awareness is not diseased. It is the true perception of seeing. How can you continue to speak of feeling, hearing, knowing, and seeing?
That which is aware of the faulty awareness is not diseased. It is the true perception of seeing. This is the same as the doctrine that “when your seeing sees your seeing, the seeing is not the seeing.” Your awareness that the eyes are sick is not itself a defective awareness. It is your genuine awareness, the genuine seeing of your seeing-essence. Having a defective awareness is like being in water and not seeing the water. A creature submerged in water does not notice the water. It is only when it is no longer in the water that it sees it as water. What is apart from the water and able to see it as water is the genuine basic enlightenment. The enlightened seeing, which is aware of the disease, is not the seeing that functions with a defect. Only when you are separate from the defect can you know of it. This is the real seeing. How can you continue to speak of feeling, hearing, knowing, and seeing? Why do you still want to remain within those faculties and make distinctions and seek? This is the seeing. What other seeing are you looking for?
T2 He describes what is before one’s eyes.
"Therefore, you now see me and yourself and the world and all the ten kinds of living beings because of a disease in the seeing. What is aware of the disease is not diseased.
The false view of the people of one country - the false view of the collective share - and the individual person’s false view of individual karma are equally empty and false. “Therefore - because of this doctrine - you now see me, Ananda,” says the World Honored One. “You see me,” referring to himself, “and yourself, your own body, and the world, all the forms and appearances in the world, and all the ten kinds of living beings because of a disease in the seeing.” There are actually twelve classes of living beings, but those lacking thought and lacking form are left out because they cannot be seen. “All these things are the empty and false defect of your seeing, the false views of individual karma and the collective share. It is our false views, our discriminating views, a problem which develops in the seeing. What is aware of the disease is not diseased. It is not that your true seeing, your originally enlightened bright mind, has a problem. The problem is with the false seeing, which arises in the false views of your collective karma and which makes you see false characteristics.”
"The true essential seeing by nature has no disease. Therefore it is not what we normally call seeing.
The true essential seeing by nature has no disease. Its seeing-essence has no problem. Its basic substance is without defects, so the eyes which see the circular reflection are not the seeing-essence. Since the seeing-essence doesn’t have any problem, therefore it is not what we normally call seeing. It not only has no problem it does not have anything at all.
What’s it called, then? “Not seeing?”
No. There isn’t any seeing and there isn’t any not seeing. What’s being discussed here? It is your inherent genuine-seeing essence, which comes from our inherent enlightened nature. It comes from the place of basic enlightenment. But “basic enlightenment” is also a name, and basically there isn’t even a name. If you give it a name, you are adding a head on top of a head again. If you call it basic enlightenment, you’ve already said too much.
R2 He explains in detail the similar share.
S1 He brings up the subjective similarity.
"Ananda, let us compare the false views of those living beings’ collective share with the false views of the individual karma of one person.
Ananda, why do I say that it is all simply the manifestations of the false views of living beings? I will tell you. Let us compare the false views of those living beings’ collective share with the false views of the individual karma of one person. They’re the same. The seeing that sees the circular reflection composed of multiple layers of the five colors surrounding the lamp is the false view of individual karma. The false view of collective seeing is all the citizens of a country seeing the inauspicious signs. They see two suns, two moons, comets, shooting stars, rainbows and secondary rainbows, and all kinds of inauspicious astrological signs.
In China, in the past, every time there was a shift in dynastic rule, every time the dynasty or the emperor changed, these kinds of inauspicious things always appeared. Long ago in China an emperor who saw some inauspicious signs asked Qin Tien Jian, an astrologer, what their meaning was. Qin Tien Jian answered that they pointed to the death of the king. “But I have a way for you to pass off the calamity on the prime minister.”
”That would not be permissible,” said the emperor. “If I am meant to die, how can I put it off on the prime minister? The prime minister looks after important matters in the country. It would never do for him to die.”
Qin Tien Jian said, “Well if you don’t want the prime minister to die in your place, you can have the people die in his place. It can be turned on the populace at large.”
”The people are the foundation of the state,” said the emperor. “If the people were to die, what meaning would my imperial reign have? That’s also impermissible.” He didn’t want to do that, either.
Qin Tien Jian said, “Then you can transfer the calamity to the year. This year the people will starve to death. That would also be possible.”
”But that won’t do, either.” said the emperor. “I don’t want to starve the people! It’s meaningless to be that kind of an emperor.”
So then Qin Tien Jian bowed to the emperor. “You are truly a just emperor. With so much good in your heart, I am certain that you will not die. There has been an evil omen, but it can change and become auspicious.” And the next day the evil omen disappeared. It is clear from this incident that although evil omens manifest, the evil can be transformed into something lucky. It all lies in a single thought of people’s minds. If in a single thought you change, then what might have been evil can turn into something auspicious. The practice of lighting incense and reciting the Buddha’s name before something is about to happen is another method for bringing about a change. Calamities and blessings lie in a single thought to change. Lao Zi said:
If the mind brings forth good,
that good affects what has not yet happened
and turns it into something auspicious.
If the mind brings forth evil,
that evil affects what has not yet happened
and turns it into something horrendous.
In this connection, there are auspicious spirits and evil spirits. You should not think that all spirits are good. The business of evil spirits is repayment in kind. They punish whoever does something wrong. Good spirits protect people who do good. Each spirit has its responsibilities. So the changing of a single thought is extremely important. The fact that that emperor could take responsibility for his own death, and not have the prime minister or the people stand in for him or cause the year to be a bad one, allowed him to encounter the evil and turn it into good. So these matters are all subject to change. They are certainly not fixed.
I am reminded of Yuan Liao Fan, originally called Yuan Xiao Hai, who was an official of the Ming dynasty. After he finished school, his father told him to study to be a doctor, because doctors can save people’s lives as well as make a good living. After he began studying medicine, he met an old man named Kong, who had a long beard, and who was skilled in physiognomy and divination. When he saw Yuan Xiao Hai, he said, “You should go to school! You are an official.”
Yuan Xiao Hai said, “But my father, mother, and family all want me to be a doctor.”
”Don’t study medicine,” was the reply. “You can go to school, and in such and such a year you will achieve such and such a rank in the imperial examination, and in such and such a year you will become a high-ranking official. Then in such and such a year, on such and such a day, you will become a magistrate, and you will become well known. Then, when you are fifty-four, on the fourteenth day of the eighth month, at midnight, your life will come to an end. You will have no sons.” Not only did the old man date the important events of Yuan Xiao Hai’s life, he even calculated the day of his death.
After the divination, Yuan Xiao Hai did go to school, and it turned out that the divination was unbelievably accurate. The rank he achieved in the imperial examination was exactly what old Kong had predicted. The divination didn’t miss by the breadth of a hair. In fact, it was so accurate that Yuan Xiao Hai didn’t even read any longer. What did he do? He waited. He sat there and waited for the bread to come to him. There’s a well-known saying in China: “You just sit on the bed and wait for the salt cakes to fall,” which means one doesn’t do anything at all. One just waits for nature to take its course, waits for one’s destiny to unfold. That’s also a mistake. That’s the way Yuan Xiao Hai was then. He didn’t do anything at all. He didn’t even read. He thought, whatever my fate is to be, I will certainly not fail to receive it. I don’t have to study anything. I don’t have to seek anything. It will certainly come on its own.
So he roamed in the mountains and played in the water and traveled all over on a grand holiday. He took a long-term vacation and didn’t do a thing. Eventually his travels led him to Nan Jing to Qi Sha mountain, where he heard that Dhyana Master Yuan Gu resided. So he went there to see him. Dhyana Master Yuan Gu handed him a round cushion, and the two of them sat in meditation. They sat facing each other for three days and neither of them moved. Dhyana Master Yuan Gu was very surprised.
”Oh,” he said. “Where do you come from? You are a vessel especially endowed with the Way. You’ve sat for three days without having to shift your legs or move at all.”
Yuan Xiao Hai replied, “I know that everything is predetermined, so I hope for nothing. That’s why I don’t have any false thoughts when I sit here, and so I don’t feel any pain in my legs..
Where does the pain in your legs come from? It comes from your false thoughts, that is, the false views which this sutra discusses. Because of false views, your legs ache. If you haven’t any false views, if you have true views, your legs will not hurt. Yuan Xiao Hai said that since he didn’t have any greed and didn’t seek for anything, he didn’t have any false thinking, and so when he sat it was not necessary to move.
Dhyana Master Yuan Gu said, “I’d thought you were an extraordinary person. But as it turns out, you’re just an ordinary person.”
That upset Yuan Xiao Hai. “Why do you say I am an ordinary person?” Everyone wants to come out on top, and Yuan Xiao Hai didn’t want to finish second, either. As soon as he was called an ordinary person, he was unhappy.
Dhyana Master Yuan Gu said to him, “If you weren’t an ordinary person, you wouldn’t have been tied down by your fate for the last several decades. You are bound up by your destiny and haven’t transcended it in the least.”
Yuan Xiao Hai said, “Can one transcend fate? Is it possible not to be bound by one’s destiny?”
Dhyana Master Yuan Gu said, “You’re a scholar. Doesn’t the I Ching say, ‘Bring out the auspicious and avoid the evil’?” That’s what the emperor I just told you about did. He brought out the auspicious and avoided the evil.
After that Yuan Xiao Hai changed his name to Yuan Liao Fan, “putting an end to the ordinary.” “I’m not an ordinary person,” he said. “I have finished with being an ordinary person.” And after that the earlier divination no longer came true. It was said that he would die at fifty-four, on the fourteenth day of the eighth month, but he didn’t die then. His horoscope said he would have no sons, but he had two. He lived to be over eighty. So one’s fate is not fixed. And the auspicious and inauspicious are not fixed, either. All you have to do is do good, for as soon as you change your mind everything changes. Why are things inauspicious? Because your mind has inauspiciousness in it. That is why you encounter inauspicious circumstances. This proves that false views give rise to false causes and conditions. If your views are true, the false causes and conditions disappear.
"The individual person with the diseased eyes is the same as the people of that one country. He sees circular reflections erroneously brought about by a disease of the seeing. The beings with a collective share see inauspicious things. In the midst of their karma of identical views arise pestilence and evils.
The individual person with the diseased eyes is the same as the people of that one country. The one sick man and the population of that one country all have an empty false seeing. He sees circular reflections erroneously brought about by a disease of the seeing. The one man sees circular reflections, and all living beings of that country see all kinds of disasters and difficulties. It is all because of a defect that the empty falseness arises. The beings with a collective share see inauspicious things. The multitude of people in that one country, with their collective share of karma see evil omens which are not seen at all in the neighboring country. In the midst of their karma of identical views arise pestilence and evils. The karmic obstacles, the evil conditions bring about the pestilence and evils, because a lot of false views can accumulate and become plagues and misfortunes.
S2 He compares their objective similarities.
"Both are produced from a beginningless falsity in the seeing. It is the same in the three thousand continents of Jambudvipa, throughout the four great seas and in the Saha world and throughout the ten directions. All countries that have outflows and all living beings are the enlightened bright wonderful mind without outflows. Because of the false, diseased conditions that are seen, heard, felt, and known, they mix and unite in false birth, mix and unite in false death.
The false view of individual karma and the false view of the collective share, these two different kinds of karmic responses spoken of above, are both are produced from a beginningless falsity in the seeing. They all arise from ignorance, which from beginning-less time onward has given rise to an empty false seeing. That is how these states come into being. “Falsity in the seeing” is just the production of false views. Not to have any false views and to turn one’s back on the dust and unite with enlightenment, and get rid of false thinking, is just the true mind. Why is it that you have a true mind but cannot make use of it? Why can’t you be in control of things? It is because of false views.
It is the same in the three thousand continents of Jambudvipa, throughout the four great seas. The one country and one person spoken of above are compared to Jambudvipa with its three thousand continents, and to the Saha world - the world known as “Able to Bear” - throughout the ten directions. All countries that have outflows - that is, all the countries in which the living beings have not ended birth and death - and all living beings are the enlightened bright wonderful mind without outflows. They are all the seeing, hearing, awareness, and knowing found within the enlightened bright wonderful mind without outflows. Because of the false, diseased conditions that are seen, heard, felt, and known, they mix and unite in false birth, mix and unite in false death. All countries and living beings are the seeing, hearing, awareness, and knowing of empty false conditions. When the multitude of conditions mix and unite, they are falsely born. When the multitude of conditions mix and unite, they falsely die.
S3 He concludes that ‘apart from seeing is just enlightenment’ is certification to the teaching.
"If you can leave far behind all conditions which mix and unite and those which do not mix and unite, then you can also extinguish and cast out the causes of birth and death, and obtain perfect Bodhi, the nature which is neither produced nor extinguished. It is the pure clear basic mind, the everlasting fundamental enlightenment.
Dependent retribution and proper retribution were discussed above. “Dependent retribution” refers to the mountains, the rivers, the great earth, to the houses, buildings, structures, and dwellings. “Proper retribution” refers to the human body. Dependent retribution undergoes production, dwelling, decay, and emptiness. Proper retribution undergoes birth, old age, sickness, and death.
What is meant by production, dwelling, decay, and emptiness?
In this world, one development and one decline are called one kalpa. When the human lifespan reaches its peak of 84,000 years, then every hundred years the average height decreases by one inch and the lifespan decreases by one year. This continues until the human lifespan reaches ten years; then it begins to increase again. Once again, every hundred years the lifespan increases by one year and the average height increases by one inch. When the lifespan has increased to 84,000 years, that is called one kalpa. A thousand kalpas make one small kalpa. Twenty small kalpas make a middle kalpa. Four middle kalpas make a great kalpa. It takes twenty small kalpas for this world to come into being. It dwells for twenty small kalpas. It decays for twenty small kalpas and it is empty for twenty small kalpas. That is what is meant by production, dwelling, decay, and emptiness. The twenty small kalpas of production make one middle kalpa. The twenty small kalpas of dwelling make a middle kalpa. The twenty small kalpas of decay and the twenty small kalpas of emptiness each make one middle kalpa. So production, dwelling, decay, and emptiness take four middle kalpas, which together make one great kalpa.
In the proper retribution there is birth, old age, sickness, and death. People take twenty years to grow up. They dwell for twenty years, they are sick for twenty years, and during the last twenty years they are preparing to die.
There are two kinds of birth and death: share-section birth and death - the birth and death of the body - and change birth and death. The term “share-section” derives from the fact that each person has a certain share of years to live, and each person has a certain appearance. For example your height may be five feet six inches and mine may be five foot nine, while another person’s height may be three feet. Every person has his own appearance. Ordinary people are subject to share-section birth and death.
Those of the two vehicles, the shravakas and condition-enlightened ones, have ended share-section birth and death, but they are still subject to change birth and death.
What is meant by “change birth and death”? Their thoughts flow on in continual succession. Thought after thought is born, thought after thought dies.
The cause of birth and death is ignorance, and its conditions are karmic activity. This cause, ignorance, and this condition, karmic activity, mix and unite, and there is birth and death. Thus the Buddha said: If you can leave far behind all conditions which mix and unite - the mixing and uniting of the conditions of ignorance and the karmic activity - and those which do not mix and unite - and any connection with those which do not mix and unite - then you can also extinguish and cast out the causes of birth and death. In that way you can extinguish and cast out share-section birth and death and continual change birth and death, and obtain perfect Bodhi, the nature which is neither produced nor extinguished. When the cause of birth and death is extinguished and cast out, you obtain the wonderful fruition of nirvana, the perfection of Bodhi, whose nature is neither produced nor extinguished. It is the pure clear basic mind, the everlasting fundamental enlightenment. It is also the basic mind, and it is the fundamental enlightenment which dwells permanently and does not change: that is, the self-nature.