THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
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Volume 2

Q2 A detailed examination of the change and extinction.
R1 He compares old age and youth.

Sutra:

"Great king, at your present age you are already old and declining. How do your appearance and complexion compare to when you were a youth?”

Commentary:

Although the Buddha agreed with King Prasenajit’s explanation, he still had questions to ask. Great king, at your present age you are already old and declining. You’re already old, and your face is now wrinkled, your beard white, your hair snowy. The marks of decay are appearing. How do your appearance and complexion compare to when you were a youth? “Complexion” refers to the color of his face, “appearance” refers to the features. “Is there any difference between your features as they are now and as they were when you were young? Has there been any change?” the Buddha asks King Prasenajit.

Sutra:

"World Honored One, in the past when I was young my skin was moist and shining. When I reached the prime of life, my blood and breath were full. But now in my declining years, as I race into old age, my form is withered and wizened and my spirit dull. My hair is white and my face is in wrinkles and I haven’t much time remaining. How can I be compared to how I was when I was full of life?”

Commentary:

The king answered: World Honored One, in the past when I was young my skin was moist and shining. This refers to when he was a child. Sometimes children are spoiled, act up, and are not very obedient to their parents, and the parents indulge them. “Skin” here refers to the surface of the skin as well as to the subcutaneous region between the skin and the flesh. Children’s cheeks are rosy, and that’s how the king was - very vibrant. When I reached the prime of life, my blood and breath were full. He felt that his body was very strong. But now in my declining years, as I race into old age, he has reached the point where his body no longer helps him out. The body is oppressive and nags at him to move somewhere else. It will soon be unlivable.

It is said that there are three restrictions on the superior person. “When one is young and the blood and breath are restless, the restriction is on sex.” Young people should restrict sex, restrict sexual desire. If you do not, you will cause your body to lose its health and strength. “When one is in one’s prime and the blood and breath are strong, the restriction is on fighting.” You should not spend all your time picking quarrels. If someone hits you, move back a step. Don’t fight with people. “When one is old and the blood and breath are on the decline, the restriction is on acquiring things.” “Acquiring things” means being insatiably greedy. Old people should not be greedy about acquiring things.

The old age that King Prasenajit is racing towards refers to the age of seventy or more. Wasn’t it Emperor Yao who said, “At seventy I turn to rest?” Because he was over seventy, he got lazy and didn’t want to keep looking after the governmental affairs of the country. My form is withered and wizened and my spirit dull. He was dried up and sagging and he couldn’t remember anything. It was not as it was in his youth, when he could remember everything very clearly. “Dull” means that he wasn’t clear about things; he was a bit eccentric, a bit senile. But I don’t believe the meaning is that he was insane. My hair is white and my face is in wrinkles and I haven’t much time remaining. Very few Indians are fair-haired when they are young, but when they get old their hair turns white. When he was young he was dark-haired and handsome, but now his face has become a mass of wrinkles, more wrinkled than the skin of a chicken. So he was really ugly.

”And I haven’t much time remaining.” When he said those words he had endless regrets and certainly heaved a sigh. “I haven’t long to wait. I’m about to die.” As they say in Canton, “Your day is close at hand.”

How can I be compared to how I was when I was full of life? How can I be compared to when I was in my prime? It’s not the same.

R2 He examines in detail his change in appearance.

Sutra:

The Buddha said, “Great king, your appearance should not decline so suddenly.”

The king said, “World Honored One, the change has been a hidden transformation of which I honestly have not been aware. I have come to this gradually through the passing of winters and summers.

Commentary:

The Buddha heard King Prasenajit express inexhaustible regret and sigh sorrowfully. He was on the verge of dying. His youth was gone and he had probably lost the vitality he had as a young man. When he was young he liked to exercise, play ball, and perhaps dance. And he was always on the go. Now in his old age he could not do these sorts of things. So he felt very put out. So he said, .I’m old now. I cannot be compared to when I was in my youth. That time was truly blissful. The way I am now is really meaningless and boring.”

The Buddha said, “Great king, your appearance should not decline so suddenly.. Your body can’t have gone completely bad. You still have something about you which is not old. You say that you are changing and going bad, but there is still something within you which does not change or go bad. Look within yourself and find it.

The king said, “World Honored One, the change has been a hidden transformation of which I honestly have not been aware.” This matter of people getting old consists of a hidden transformation. You don’t notice it. Youth becomes middle-aged and then old, and you don’t know it has happened. Silently, imperceptibly, a change takes place. And so King Prasenajit replies, “I will say quite frankly that I haven’t been aware of aging and I don’t know how it is that I am old, and yet now the mark of old age is upon me. But I don’t know what day I got old. I have come to this gradually through the passing of winters and summers. Summer and then winter, winter and then summer; one harvests in the autumn and stores for the winter: changing, shifting, and flowing, year by year.” Thus he gradually got old, with white hair and a face full of uncountable wrinkles. His eyebrows were so long that sometimes, when he wanted to look at something, he’d have to part his eyebrows. Imagine what a bother that was.

Sutra:

"How did it happen? In my twenties, I was still young, but my features had aged since the time I was ten. My thirties were a further decline from my twenties, and now at sixty-two I look back on my fifties as hale and hearty.


Commentary:

How did it happen?
How did I gradually get to be so decrepit and old? I’m so old that my legs don’t cooperate when I try to walk, and my hands shake when I try to eat. In my twenties, I was still young, but my features had aged since the time I was ten. At twenty I was no longer the child I was at ten; I was already an adult. My thirties were a further decline from my twenties, and now at sixty-two I look back on my fifties as hale and hearty. At thirty I was already older than at twenty, and at fifty I was a lot stronger than I am now. At fifty I could still lift well over a hundred pounds with my bare hands, but now it would be hard for me to manage thirty or forty pounds.

Here King Prasenajit realizes that his old age has rendered him useless.

Sutra:

"World Honored One, I am contemplating these hidden transformations. Although the changes wrought by this process of dying are evident through the decades, I might consider them further in finer detail: these changes do not occur just in periods of twelve years; there are actually changes year by year. Not only are there yearly changes, there are also monthly transformations. Nor does it stop at monthly transformations; there are also differences day by day. Examining them closely, I find that kshana by kshana, thought after thought, they never stop.

Commentary:

King Prasenajit again called out to the Buddha: World Honored One, I am contemplating these hidden transformations. I perceive that the doctrine of these hidden changes and silent transformations is in fact not easily known. Although the changes wrought by this process of dying are evident through the decades, I might consider them further in finer detail: these changes do not occur just in periods of twelve years; there are actually changes year by year. Day by day I am perishing in a process that flows like water in its continual change. It is said, “As the light of time lessens, the light of life fades.” Time has made me old. Just now I made a comparison decade by decade, but if you ask me to think about it in detail, I see that in fact there are changes not just every twelve or twenty-four years, but every year. Not only are there yearly changes, there are also monthly transformations. How could it stop with just month-by-month changes? There are also differences day by day. Every day I am older than on the day before. Examining them closely, I find that kshana by kshana, thought after thought, they never stop. I quiet my mind and ponder it deeply. I ask myself, how did I get old? What day did I get old? What year, what month, what time?

What is a “kshana”? The Prajna Sutra of the Humane King Who Protects His Country explains that in every thought, brief as a thought is, there are ninety kshanas. In every kshana there are nine hundred productions and extinctions. It is not easy to understand, not easy to detect. To explain it to this point is to get into fine detail. Even in the extremely brief space of a kshana, the process of aging never ceases. And so by now I am so old I’m useless. The food I eat hasn’t any flavor; when I sleep I feel my skin separating from my flesh and it is very painful; the manifestations of old age are suffering indeed!

R3 General conclusion that it must become extinct.

Sutra:

"And so I know my body will keep changing until it is extinct.”

Commentary:

And so I know.
King Prasenajit, having finished explaining the principle of extinction - how at all times everything is in a state of flux, that the appearance of birth and death is always inherent in things - said he knew his body will keep changing until it is extinct.

P2 He points out that the seeing is not produced or extinguished.
Q1 The question is fixed and he promises to explain.


Sutra:

The Buddha told the great king, “By watching the ceaseless changes of these transformations, you awaken and know of your extinction, but do you also know that at the time of extinction there is something in your body which does not become extinct?”

King Prasenajit put his palms together and exclaimed, “I really do not know.”

The Buddha said, “I will now show you the nature which is not produced and not extinguished.

Commentary:

After King Prasenajit finished saying how his body would certainly change and become extinct, the Buddha told the great king, “By watching the ceaseless changes of these transformations you notice that from when you were little you became middle-aged. From middle-age you got old. Once old, you eventually will die. So you awaken and know of your extinction. You know that in the future you will certainly come to the end of it all. But do you also know that at the time of extinction there is something in your body which does not become extinct?”

King Prasenajit put his palms together,
bowed to the Buddha, and exclaimed. When the king heard the Buddha say that, he respectfully said, “I really do not know. I truly do not know this principle.”

The Buddha said, “I will now show you the nature which is not produced and not extinguished. Your inherent nature doesn’t change, but you have not yet realized this to be so. Now I will explain to help make you clear.”

Q2 What he sees does not change.

Sutra:

"Great king, how old were you when you saw the waters of the Ganges?”

The king said, “When I was three years old my compassionate mother led me to visit the Goddess Jiva. We passed a river, and at the time I knew it was the waters of the Ganges.”

Commentary:

The Buddha said, “Great king, how old were you when you saw the waters of the Ganges?”

The king said, “When I was three years old my compassionate mother led me to visit the Goddess Jiva,
‘Eternal Life.’ We went to seek for long life at the temple of the Goddess Jiva. We passed a river, and at the time I knew it was the waters of the Ganges. When I saw it, I knew at the time it was the Ganges River.”

Sutra:

The Buddha said, “Great king, you have said that when you were twenty you had deteriorated from when you were ten. Day by day, month by month, year by year until you have reached sixty, in thought after thought there has been change. Yet when you saw the Ganges
River at the age of three, how was it different from when you were thirteen?”

The king said, “It was no different from when I was three, and even now when I am sixty-two it is still no different.”

Commentary:

The Buddha said
to King Prasenajit, “Great king, you have said, let’s just look at what you’ve said, that when you were twenty you had deteriorated from when you were ten. You were more out of shape than when you were ten, you were getting older. Day by day, month by month, year by year until you have reached sixty, in thought after thought there has been change. Every thought brings change. Yet when you saw the Ganges River at the age of three, how was it different from when you were thirteen? But when you were three, when you saw the Ganges River, how was the water different from when you saw it at thirteen?”

The king said, “It was no different from when I was three.” King Prasenajit said, “It was the same as when I saw the water at three years old. It is not any different. And even now when I am sixty-two it is still no different. There are no two ways about it, it is still the same.”

There are scholars who spend their efforts on superficialities and say that there are some questions linked with the age of King Prasenajit given here in the text. This is really just looking for something to do when there’s nothing to do; eating one’s fill and then wanting to haul garbage as if that were cleaning things up. They’re got nothing better to do so they gather excrement from the toilets. So be it; it serves them right!

Q3 His ability to see is not extinguished.

Sutra:

The Buddha said, “Now you are mournful that your hair is white and your face is wrinkled. In the same way that your face is definitely more wrinkled than it was in your youth, has the seeing with which you look at the Ganges aged, so that it is old now but was young when you looked at the river as a child in the past?”

The king said, “No, World Honored One.”

Commentary:

The Buddha said
again to King Prasenajit: Now you are mournful that your hair is white and your face is wrinkled. In the same way that your face is definitely more wrinkled than it was in your youth, has the seeing with which you look at the Ganges aged, so that it seems, as you look, that the Ganges River, is old now but was young when you looked at the river as a child in the past? Is there a distinction from what you saw as a youth and Volume Two . The Seeing Nature 44 what you see now in your old age? Is there any difference in your seeing? The seeing with which you saw the Ganges at three years old and the seeing with which you see it now doesn’t have any variation of young and old, does it?

The king said, “No, World Honored One.” Although the king was as stupid as a scholar, he knew it was not that way; he knew that there hadn’t been any change. So he said decisively, “No, World Honored One.” His seeing hadn’t changed.

Sutra:

The Buddha said, “Great king, your face is in wrinkles, but the essential nature of your seeing has not yet wrinkled. What wrinkles is subject to change. What does not wrinkle does not change.

Commentary:

The Buddha said, “Great king, your face is in wrinkles, but the essential nature of your seeing has not yet wrinkled.
Your seeing which views the Ganges has not wrinkled. The nature of seeing is not wrinkled; it is still the same. What wrinkles is subject to change. The wrinkles on your face display the change. What does not wrinkle does not change. Since the seeing doesn’t have wrinkles, how can you say it changes? It doesn’t change.”

Sutra:

"What changes will become extinct, but what does not change is fundamentally free of production and extinction. How can it be subject to your birth and death? Furthermore, why bring up what Maskari Goshaliputra and the others say: that after the death of this body there is total extinction?”

Commentary:

What changes will become extinct, but what does not change is fundamentally free of production and extinction. How can it be subject to your birth and death?
Since it has no production and extinction how can you say that your seeing nature will undergo birth and death the same as your body? Furthermore, why bring up what Maskari Goshaliputra, “Not Seeing the Way,” and the others say: that after the death of this body there is total extinction. They all say that after the body dies everything perishes. It’s all over. All they know about is permanence and annihilationism.

Q4 The king and the others are extremely happy.

Sutra:

The king heard these words, believed them, and realized that when the life of this body is finished, there will be rebirth. He and the entire great assembly were greatly delighted at having obtained what they had never had before.

Commentary:

The king
, Prasenajit, heard these words, he believed them, and realized that when the life of this body is finished, after the death of the body, when it has been cast aside, there will be rebirth. One will go to the place of one’s next rebirth. He and the entire great assembly were greatly delighted - they were so happy they jumped for joy - at having obtained what they had never had before. They said, “We never knew about this principle before. We were completely confused about the theory of birth and death, permanence and annihilationism.”

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