THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
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Volume 2

Seeing Does Not Return

N5 He shows that seeing does not return.
O1 Ananda seeks to decisively renounce his attachment.


Sutra:

Having received the Buddha’s compassionate rescue and profound instruction, Ananda’s tears fell, and he folded his hands and said to the Buddha, “I have heard these wonderful sounds of the Buddha and have realized that the wonderful bright mind is fundamentally perfect; it is the eternally dwelling mind-ground.

Commentary:

As the beginning of the sutra relates, Ananda fell into the hands of people of an external path and was in grave danger, since he was on the verge of destroying the precept-substance. The Buddha instructed Manjushri Bodhisattva to use the Shurangama Mantra to rescue Ananda and bring him back, and the Buddha then instructed him repeatedly, one doesn’t know how many times. So the sutra says, having received the Buddha’s compassionate rescue and profound instruction, Ananda’s tears fell, and he folded his hands and said to the Buddha. Ananda was so grateful to the Buddha that he didn’t know what to do, so he wept. His tears kept falling as he spoke.

I have heard these wonderful sounds of the Buddha and have realized that the wonderful bright mind is fundamentally perfect; it is the eternally dwelling mind-ground. Having been instructed in subtle and wonderful doctrines as have just been spoken, such dharma sounds as these, I understand now that the wonderful bright mind, the mind-ground, is fundamentally perfect, perfect from the beginning. I now understand that it is the pure nature and bright substance of the permanently dwelling true mind.

Sutra:

"But now in awakening to the dharma-sounds that the Buddha is speaking, it is my conditioned mind which I use to contemplate them reverently. Having just obtained the mind, I do not acknowledge that it is the fundamental mind-ground.

Commentary:

But now in awakening to the dharma-sounds that the Buddha is speaking, it is my conditioned mind which I use to contemplate them reverently.
Ananda says that in understanding the subtle, wonderful dharma-sounds and in respectfully looking upon the Buddha’s countenance and contemplating the sound of his voice, he is still using his mind which seizes on conditions.

Having just obtained the mind, I do not dare acknowledge that it is the fundamental mind-ground. Ananda says he has obtained it, but he doesn’t dare acknowledge it. He doesn’t dare recognize it and admit completely that it is his true mind. The Buddha explained to him, “The mountains, the rivers, the great earth, everything is your true mind. They are all within your true mind.” The Buddha explained that the seeing nature is just the permanently dwelling true mind of each one of us. Ananda understood the doctrine, but he still doesn’t dare accept it and make it his true mind. He hasn’t turned himself around immediately. So instead here he is asking questions again. Ananda always has something to say.

Sutra:

"I pray that the Buddha will take pity on me and proclaim the perfect sound to pull out my doubts by the roots and enable me to return to the Unsurpassed Way.”

Commentary:

Why doesn’t Ananda dare accept the doctrine?

He says that when he listened to the Buddha speak dharma, he was listening with his mind which seizes upon conditions. He thinks that if there were no mind which seized upon conditions, no dharma would be heard. This is a mistake. Here is Ananda with yet another layer of delusion.

He said, “It’s all right to reject my mind which seizes upon conditions, but if I put aside my mind which seizes upon conditions, what will I use to listen to dharma? I won’t have a mind.” He still thinks that the mind which seizes upon conditions is his true mind. He doesn’t know that your mind which seizes upon conditions, which makes discriminations, is the conscious mind which is subject to production and extinction. If you can put aside and listen to dharma, then you will be genuinely listening to the dharma. If you listen to the dharma with the true mind, all dharmas are true. If you listen to the dharma with your mind which seizes upon conditions, then no matter how much you listen, it always seems to be right and yet somehow not right. There’s a continual doubt. You should receive the dharma with the true mind.

But Ananda doesn’t know that, and so he doesn’t dare accept what Shakyamuni Buddha said about the true mind. He was afraid that if he accepted the true mind, he wouldn’t be able to listen to the dharma, and listening to the dharma was what was most important to him. He thought, “It doesn’t matter to me if it is the mind subject to production and extinction or what kind of mind it is, what counts is whether I get to listen to the dharma.” It is this point that he has not understood and that causes him to have doubts.

Since he didn’t accept the doctrine, he said: I pray that the Buddha will take pity on me and proclaim the perfect sound. The “perfect sound” is the perfect unobstructed sound. The perfect sound is the one perfect sound. It is said, “The Buddha speaks the dharma with one sound; living beings understand it, each according to his kind.” When people hear the one perfect sound, they understand it; when gods hear it, gods understand it; when ghosts hear it, ghosts understand it; even when animals hear it, they understand it. Every category of living beings - people, gods, Bodhisattvas, arhats, great bhikshus, animals, beings in the hells, hungry ghosts - each understands the doctrines which the Buddhas speak with a single voice. When the Buddha speaks the dharma, living beings only need have conditions with the Buddha, and no matter how far away they are from him, they can hear it just the same as if they were right at the Buddha’s side. They don’t notice the distance. Would you say that is wonderful or not?

So Ananda asks the Buddha to instruct him with the perfect sound, and “to pull out my doubts by the roots and enable me to return to the Unsurpassed Way. I have not gotten rid of my doubts yet. The roots of doubt are still in my mind. If the Buddha will help me pull them out, I will be able to understand the unsurpassed doctrine.”

O2 The power of the Thus Come One provides refutation and revelation.
P1 He refutes that the conditioned mind has a place it returns to.
Q1 He refutes the place of conditioned objective dharmas.

Sutra:

The Buddha told Ananda, “You still listen to the dharma with the conditioned mind, and so the dharma becomes conditioned as well, and you do not obtain the dharma-nature. It is like when someone points his finger at the moon to show it to someone else. Guided by the finger, that person should see the moon. If he looks at the finger instead and mistakes it for the moon, he loses not only the moon but the finger also. Why? He mistakes the pointing finger for the bright moon.


Commentary:

Granting Ananda’s request that his doubts be removed, the Buddha said, “You still listen to the dharma with the conditioned mind, and so the dharma becomes conditioned as well. You are still using your mind that seizes upon conditions, and so as you listen to the dharma it also becomes conditioned. It turns into a dharma subject to production and extinction, and you do not obtain the dharma-nature. You do not obtain the basic substance and nature of the dharma. It is like when someone points his finger at the moon to show it to someone else. Guided by the finger, that person should see the moon. I’ll give you an example. I point to the moon and say to you, ‘See? That’s the moon.’ The appropriate things for you to do is look at the moon. If he looks at the finger instead and mistakes it for the moon, he loses not only the moon but the finger also. But you don’t look at the moon I’m pointing at; you look at my finger and say, ‘Ah, that’s the moon. That’s what the moon is like.’ You take the finger for the moon, and so you lose the moon. You miss out.” The sutra speaks earlier of “losing your true nature.” Here someone looks at a finger and takes it for the moon, and so he not only loses the moon, he doesn’t even recognize the other persons’ finger. It is lost too. Why? He mistakes the pointing finger for the bright moon. He recognizes neither the finger nor the moon. Who is he? It is Ananda who is like that. The moon is the true mind. The dharma which is spoken is the finger, since the Buddha speaks the dharma to point to the true mind. And so the light of the true mind is lost, and even the dharma is not understood. Thus the Buddha said, “You listen to the dharma with your conditioned mind, and the dharma becomes conditioned also.” Would you say a person like that is pitiable? I think that kind of person is pitiable.

Sutra:

"Not only does he lose the finger, but he also fails to recognize light and darkness. Why? He mistakes the substance of the finger for the bright nature of the moon, and so he does not understand the two natures of light and darkness. The same is true of you.

Commentary:

Not only does he lose the finger, but he also fails to recognize light and darkness.
He doesn’t recognize either the finger or the moon for what they are, and so they are lost. And yet, neither is really lost. They are still there. It is just that he doesn’t understand. He also doesn’t understand or recognize light and darkness. In other words, this person basically doesn’t know what is meant by enlightenment or what is meant by the lack of enlightenment, what is meant by ignorance and what is meant by true understanding.

Why? He mistakes the substance of the finger for the bright nature of the moon. He confuses the nature of the substance of the finger which is dark, and the bright nature of the moon. Isn’t that upside-down? Everyone knows it is. But he wants to do it anyway. And so he does not understand the two natures of light and darkness. He doesn’t even know what is meant by the concept of light and darkness. This is utter stupidity, wouldn’t you say?

The same is true of you. Ananda, you are just like the person who mistakes the finger for the moon and completely fails to understand light and darkness. You listen to the dharma with the mind which seizes upon conditions and you’re afraid that if you accept the doctrine of the true mind, you won’t be able to hear the dharma. You think the true mind is just in the dharma, and so you mistake the finger for the moon. You can’t tell light from darkness, which means you don’t have any genuine wisdom. Go ahead and listen to the dharma with the conditioned mind as much as you want, but the more you listen the stupider you’ll become. The more you run, the farther away you’ll get.

One doesn’t know how Ananda felt then. Earlier, when he lost track of his mind, he was upset and startled and didn’t know what to do. He leapt from his seat. Now that the Buddha has told him he has lost both the finger and the moon, one doesn’t know what he thought.

The Buddha speaks dharma to point to the true mind. But Ananda mistakenly heard that the true mind was just in the dharma. So the Buddha used the analogy of the finger and the moon to point this out to Ananda.

Q2 He refutes the place of conditioned subjective dharmas.

Sutra:

"If you take what distinguishes the sound of my speaking dharma to be your mind, then that mind itself, apart from the sound which is distinguished, should have a nature which makes distinctions. It is like the guest who lodges overnight at an inn; he stops temporarily and then goes on. He does not dwell there permanently, whereas the innkeeper does not go anywhere: he is the host of the inn.

Commentary:

If you take what distinguishes the sound of my speaking dharma to be your mind, then that mind itself, apart from the sound which is distinguished, should have a nature which makes distinctions.
If the mind you are using, the mind which seizes upon conditions and makes distinctions, is indeed your true mind, then it should have a distinction - making a nature separate from the distinctions that it makes. When you are not listening to dharma, you would still have a nature which is making distinctions; that’s how it would have to be. Why?

It is like the guest who lodges overnight at an inn; he stops temporarily and then goes on. He does not dwell there permanently. He stays for two or three days; he can’t live in the hotel forever. Whereas the innkeeper does not go anywhere: he is the host of the inn. The person who looks after the hotel can’t go away. The distinction-making mind is like someone who stays temporarily in a hotel, while the genuine true mind, which cannot go, is like the inn-keeper.

Sutra:

"Likewise, if it is truly your mind, it does not go anywhere. However, in the absence of sound it has no discriminating nature of its own. Can you tell the reason why?

Commentary:

Likewise, if it is truly your mind, it does not go anywhere.
When the sound ceases, the mind which distinguishes it is not there. But if it were indeed the true mind that distinguishes it, that would mean that the true mind would depart when the sound ceases. However, in the absence of sound it has no discriminating nature of its own. Can you tell the reason why? Yet the true mind is the host, not the guest; it does not leave. Therefore it can’t be the true mind which makes the distinctions. You have made a mistake.

Sutra:

"This, then, applies not only to the distinguishing of sound; in distinguishing my appearance, there is no distinction-making nature apart from the mark of form.

Commentary:

This, then, applies not only to the distinguishing of sound.
When there is sound there is the making of distinctions, and when there is no sound, no distinctions are made. This doctrine does not apply only to sounds. In distinguishing my appearance, there is no distinction-making nature apart from the mark of form. When you look at my thirty-two hallmarks and eighty subtle characteristics, you make distinctions among them; when you are separated from them, you do not, and the discriminating nature is not present.

Some people argue, “I listen to the sounds of the dharma being spoken and when I go home I can still hear it in my mind. I look at things, and when I close my eyes I still have an impression of them. It is as if I were still looking at them.”

Would you say that is true or false? Are you really hearing? It is just an impression in your eighth consciousness, a memory, which is meant by the “shadows of discriminations of objects of mind;” it is not real. It is an illusory awareness. It is not an actual distinction being made, because apart from objects which are distinguished, there is no distinction-making nature.

Sutra:

"Thus even when the making of distinctions is totally absent, when there is no form and no emptiness - the obscurity which Goshali and the others take to be the ‘profound truth’ - in the absence of causal conditions, the distinction-making nature ceases to exist.

Commentary:

The Buddha has just explained the doctrine that in the absence of sound there is no distinction-making nature, and that apart from the dust of form there is no distinction-making nature. Thus - the same is true - even when the making of distinctions is totally absent, when there is no form and no emptiness. When you reach a state in which all making of distinctions is gone, you can’t say it is either form or emptiness; it is neither. It is also the state of maintaining an “inner composure.” Followers of external paths cultivate that kind of profound truth which is total oblivion. They think it is the highest and most wonderful experience. This is the obscurity which Goshali and the others take to be the “profound truth.” The Sanskrit name “Goshali” is interpreted to mean “cowshed.” Maybe Goshali lived next to a cowshed, or perhaps he lived in a cowshed, and so he was called “cowshed.” Some say “cowshed” was his mother’s name. But I don’t believe his mother was a cow. Goshali was one of the six masters of external paths, and he and the others fell into a state of obscurity, that is, of confusion and lack of understanding. They reached the state where the making of distinctions is totally absent, and because they basically did not understand, they became obscured. The Chinese word mei ( ) obscure, is one of the two characters used to transliterate the Sanskrit word samadhi. But the character mei alone does not refer to samadhi. Instead it is rather like sleep, and yet one is not asleep. You say you are awake, and yet you are muddled. The Buddha is talking about this state in this passage, not about samadhi. When one enters the samadhi Buddhism speaks of, one remains absolutely clear and aware, but these external-path practitioners the Buddha is referring to are muddled. When they are in that state, they feel they are one with the life-force of heaven and earth; their bodies are identical with it. Heaven and earth are indestructible, and they are also indestructible. But they don’t understand. They do have a little bit of spiritual penetration of a certain kind, like that of a first-stage arhat, but they do not have the penetrations of one who has accomplished the fruition. There are many distinctions which must be made when one starts talking about spiritual penetrations. There are not just one but many kinds.

These masters of external paths call their lack of understanding the “profound truth.” “Profound” means the absence of everything. Everything is empty. But it is still not genuine emptiness; it is only dull emptiness, a state like waking and yet like sleep, in which you “do not perceive your own perception, and are not aware of your own awareness.” They call this “profound truth” the highest state one can attain. That is their theory.

In the absence of causal conditions, the distinction-making nature ceases to exist. Their profound truth is separate from the conditions of all dharmas, and it has no distinction-making nature when the conditions of all dharmas are absent. As soon as conditions of dharmas arise, these people still have a distinction-making nature. So this is the profound truth of the external paths.

Q3 Points out that everything returns to something.

Sutra:

"How can we say that the nature of your mind plays the part of host since everything perceived by it returns to something else?”

Commentary:

Shakyamuni Buddha said to Ananda, “You think it is your conditioned mind which listens to dharma. If you listen to the dharma with a mind that seizes upon conditions, then the nature of the dharma is also conditioned. That mind of yours doesn’t make distinctions when apart from the dust. It hasn’t any distinction-making nature of its own. How can we say that the nature of your mind plays the part of host since everything perceived by it returns to something else? Everything about the nature of your mind should return somewhere else, as when you borrow something from someone and then return it. If the mind exists because of the dust, then it should return to the dust. If everything returns to something else, then who is your host?”

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