THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
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Volume 3

Q2 Explains the analogy in detail.

Sutra:

"Ananda, all this illusory contact does not come from emptiness, nor does it come from the hands.

Commentary:

The form skandha was discussed before; now the feeling skandha is being discussed. Ananda, all this illusory contact - this empty, false, unreal, contact - does not come from emptiness, nor does it come from the hands.

Sutra:

“The reason for this, Ananda, is that if it came from emptiness, then since it could make contact with the palms, why wouldn’t it make contact with the body? It should not be that emptiness chooses what it comes in contact with.

Commentary:

The reason for this, Ananda, is that if it came from emptiness -
if the awareness of contact, his feeling, came from emptiness, then since it could make contact with the palms, why wouldn’t it make contact with the body? Why wouldn’t it come into contact with the entire body? It should not be that emptiness chooses what it comes in contact with. Basically, emptiness has no knowing awareness. It would not have a sense of awareness which would make it choose the hand and not choose the body. It would not have that kind of thought. So the feeling does not come from emptiness. It does not come from the hand, either.

Sutra:

“If it came from the palms, it could be readily felt without waiting for the two palms to be joined.

Commentary:

If it came from the palms
- if the feelings of smoothness, roughness, cold, and warmth came from the palms, it could be readily felt without waiting for the two palms to be joined. If the feelings came from the palm, there would be no need to wait until the palms come together before the feelings could exist.

Sutra:

“What is more, if it were to come from the palms, then the palms would know when they were joined. When they separated, the contact would return into the arms, the wrists, the bones, and the marrow, and you also should be aware of the course of its entry.


Commentary:

What is more, if it were to come from the palms -
here is another doctrine. If the feeling came out of the palm, then the palms would know when they were joined. When you placed your palms together, the palms would know it. When they separated, the contact would return into the arms, the wrists, the bones, and the marrow. When you separated your palms, the awareness of contact should return through the hands to the arms by way of the wrists, and perhaps into the bones and marrow. And you also should be aware of the course of its entry. How could it get inside without your knowing if it’s smooth or rough or cold or warm? Why wouldn’t you know what its course was, what path it took, when it went into the arm?

Sutra:

“It should also be perceived by the mind because it would behave like something coming in and going out of the body. In that case, what need would there be to put the two palms together to experience what is called ‘contact’?

Commentary:

It should also be perceived by the mind because it would behave like something coming in and going out of the body.
It is certain that one would know in one’s mind when the awareness of contact went out and when it returned, because naturally, there would be something which would perhaps go out of or perhaps come into the body. In that case, what need would there be to put the two palms together - why would you have to wait for the palms to be together before you know there is contact - to experience what is called “contact”?

Q3 Concludes by returning false to true.

Sutra:

“Therefore, you should know that the skandha of feeling is empty and false, because it neither depends on causes and conditions for existence nor is spontaneous in nature.


Commentary:

Therefore, you should know that the skandha of feeling is empty and false.
The feeling skandha is an empty falseness. Because it neither depends on causes and conditions for existence nor is spontaneous in nature.

P3 The thinking skandha.
Q1 Teaches with an analogy.


Sutra:

“Ananda, consider the example of a person whose mouth waters at the mention of sour plums, or the soles of whose feet tingle when he thinks about walking along a precipice.

Commentary:

Ananda
, now I will go on to explain the skandha of thinking for you. The skandha of thinking also is the nature of the Thus Come One’s treasury; it also is the nature of wonderful true suchness. Consider, for example, a person whose mouth waters at the mention of sour plums. Ananda, the skandha of thinking is like a person whose mouth begins to pucker as soon as sour plums are as much as mentioned, or the soles of whose feet tingle when he thinks about walking along a precipice. Say that on a very high mountain a very, very deep ten thousand foot gorge yawns below the rocks; if you stand at the edge of that precipice, the soles of your feet will ache. In fact, one need not even speak of actually going to the edge of the precipice; just thinking about it - once the thought enters your mind - you will be aware of an aching in your soles. How does it arise? It arises from the skandha of thinking. Without having eaten any sour plums, but simply from the mere mention of them – “Ah, sour plums are really sour!” - your mouth puckers, and the saliva begins to flow. So there’s a Chinese proverb:

Sour plums can cure thirst,
But painted cakes cannot satisfy hunger.

Why is it that sour plums can cure thirst? It is because the skandha of thinking produces this kind of awareness. During the Three Kingdoms period in China, Cao Cao, a contemporary of Guan Gong, went to Chu Zheng, accompanied by his massive army of more than a million. Ten miles from Chu Zheng they lost the way. They didn’t know where they were and the troops didn’t have any water to drink or any food to eat. They became obsessed by thirst, felt sick, and were unable to walk. They were all about to die of thirst. Cao Cao, who was clever as a fox, issued an order. “Don’t stop to rest. Ahead is a grove of plum trees. When we get there, everyone can eat some plums.” As soon as he mentioned the plums the soldiers’ mouths began to water and their thirst was abated. They marched on in search of the plum grove. As it turned out, there wasn’t any plum grove, but his mention of plums had satisfied their thirst.

Sutra:

“You should know that it is the same with the skandha of thinking.

Commentary:

You should know that it is the same with the skandha of thinking,
the skandha of thought.

Speaking of painted cakes reminds me of a story. Once there was a stingy man who decided to make a gift. “When is your birthday?” he asked his friend. “On your birthday I will give you a present. I’ll give you a present worth a dollar.” The other fellow, who was also stingy, said, “Thanks a lot. On your birthday I’ll give you a present, too.” “What are you going to give me?” the first one asked. “I’ll give you a cake.” And the second one took a piece of paper and drew a picture of a cake on it. “There,” he said, “I’ll give you that.”

At that point, a third stingy fellow who was standing by taking all this in said, “That’s still a lot of trouble. When your birthday comes, I’ll give you a birthday cake this big. In fact, now I’ve shown you how big it will be, and that counts as having given it to you. No need for me to draw a picture of it.”

The third one not only couldn’t give up a dollar to buy a present, when the second one drew a picture, he still felt that was too extravagant, so he just made a gesture and counted it as having given a birthday cake.

Q2 Explains the analogy in detail.

Sutra:

“Ananda, you should know that the watering of the mouth caused by the mention of the plums does not come from the plums, nor does it come from the mouth.

Commentary:

This situation of the mouth puckering at the mention of sour plums does not arise from the plums. It is because of the functioning of the skandha of thinking.

Sutra:

“The reason for this, Ananda, is that if it were produced from the plums, the plums should speak for themselves, why wait for someone to mention them? If it came from the mouth, the mouth itself should hear, and what need would there be to wait for the ear? If the ear alone heard, then why doesn.t the water come out of the ear?

Commentary:

The reason for this, Ananda -
as to the circumstance I have described above, is that if it were produced from the plums - if the watering of the mouth was produced from the plums - the plums should speak for themselves. The plums themselves should speak, it should not be necessary for a person to speak of them. But the plums do not speak for themselves, and one must still wait for a person to speak of the plums for someone’s mouth to water. If it came from the mouth - if it were because of the mouth that saliva flows - the mouth itself should hear. The mouth should be what hears someone speak of plums. It should not be the ear that hears. And what need would there be to wait for the ear? Why wait for the ear to hear it? It should be sufficient for the mouth to hear it. If the ear alone heard - if the hearing nature functioned only when something enters the ear, then why doesn’t the water come out of the ear? If the ear and the mouth haven’t any connection with each other, then when the ear hears someone speak of sour plums, the saliva should come out of the ear. After all, it was the ear that heard it. Is there any such principle as that?

Sutra:

“Thinking about walking along a precipice is explained in the same way.

Commentary:

Thinking.
You think about a precipice - there you are standing on the rim of ten thousand foot gorge: your legs get weak and the soles of your feet ache. There is a doctor here: doctor, would you agree that such a thing happens? You should know why it is that the soles of one’s feet ache in such a situation. It is not even necessary to go and actually stand on the edge of the precipice; all you have to do is think about it. “Now I’m standing on the rim of a ten thousand foot precipice, and if I’m the least bit careless I will plummet over the side.” Right then the soles of your feet begin to ache and your legs grow weak. People speak of the power of suggestion. Where does the power of suggestion come from? You should find its source. So, thinking about walking along a precipice is explained in the same way. It is the same principle of the mouth watering when one speaks of sour plums. They are both a result of the skandha of thinking.

Q3 Concludes by returning false to true.

Sutra:

“Therefore, you should know that the skandha of thinking is empty and false, since it neither depends upon causes and conditions for existence, nor is spontaneous in nature.


Commentary:

If it is not from causes and conditions and is not spontaneous in nature, then ultimately what is its nature?

It is the nature of the Thus Come One’s treasury, the wonderful nature of true suchness of the treasury of the Thus Come One. Therefore, you should know - you ought to know, Ananda - that the skandha of thinking is empty and false. The skandha of thinking, one of the five skandhas, is empty and false. It is empty and false in its arising, and empty and false in its extinction.

What is the origin of this empty and false arising? It arises from within the wonderful nature of true suchness of the Thus Come One’s treasury. From the truth, falseness arises, and so these empty and false things occur. Where do these doctrines of the mouth puckering and the feet aching come from? They come from empty falseness. And where does empty falseness come from? It comes from the wonderful nature of true suchness of the Thus Come One’s treasury. Since it neither depends upon causes and conditions for existence, nor is spontaneous in nature.

P4 The skandha of activity.
Q1 Teaches with an analogy.


Sutra:

“Ananda, consider, for example, a swift rapids whose waves follow upon one another in orderly succession, the ones behind never overtaking the ones in front.

Commentary:

What was discussed above was the skandha of thinking. This section of text discusses the skandha of activity. The character xing, “activity”, is also read heng. The skandha of activity is like a rapids, a place where the water current flows fastest. Ananda, consider, for example, a swift rapids whose waves follow upon one another in orderly succession, the ones behind never overtaking the ones in front. The waves in front race on ahead, and more waves follow behind them. As you look at it there are waves to the left, and waves to the right, and yet though no one is watching over it, it is very orderly. For the most part, the waves are of one size, and the big ones are conspicuous for being too much wave all at once. Those waves are like the activity in people’s minds. In the mind, in the eighth consciousness, one thought arises and disappears and is followed by the next thought. The arisal and disappearance of thoughts is like the waves on water. They move in orderly succession, each connected to the next, and that next connected to the one that follows, like the thoughts in people’s minds: one thought ceases and the next arises. One thought is extinguished, and the next thought arises; that thought ceases, and still another thought arises, thought after thought without cease. They continue in orderly succession like the waves, never overtaking one another. The waves that come behind can’t run ahead and overtake the ones in front. In the same way, your later thought cannot race ahead of your earlier thought. So between them there is very orderly activity, without the least bit of mistake or confusion. At first glance waves don’t seem to have distinct boundaries, but actually waves move along one by one in very orderly succession without cease.

Sutra:

“You should know that it is the same with the skandha of activity.

Commentary:

The skandha of activity, the fourth of the five skandhas, is just like that swift rapids. The waves of thought in people’s minds continue ceaselessly in orderly succession and that causes people to move from youth to middle age, and from middle age to old age. Once old, they die. And this is the same principle as the waves following on one another.

Q2 Explains the analogy in detail.

Sutra:

“Ananda, thus the nature of the flow does not arise because of emptiness, nor does it come into existence because of the water. It is not the nature of water, and yet it is not separate from either emptiness or water.

Commentary:

Ananda
, you should know this doctrine for what it is. The nature of the flow, that swift rapids which rushes along so quickly, does not arise because of emptiness. It is not because of emptiness that there are swift rapids. Nor does it come into existence because of the water. Although the waves are in the water, it is not because of the water that the waves exist. It is not the nature of water - the waves are not the water itself - and yet it is not separate from either emptiness or water. Where, then, does it come from?

Sutra:

“The reason for this, Ananda, is that if it arose because of emptiness, then the inexhaustible emptiness throughout the ten directions would become an inexhaustible flow, and all the worlds would inevitably be drowned.

Commentary:

Ananda, I will explain it for you further. Why do I say it is not from emptiness that the waves of the swift rapids arise? I will tell you. The reason for this, Ananda, is that if it arose because of emptiness, then the inexhaustible emptiness throughout the ten directions would become an inexhaustible flow. There is emptiness not only in this world, but in all the worlds throughout the ten directions. If the swift rapids were produced from emptiness, then the inexhaustible emptiness in the ten directions - emptiness which is completely without bounds or limit - would become an indescribably massive swift torrent. And, since the swift torrent would be so massive, all the worlds would inevitably be drowned. All of them would certainly be overwhelmed by the deluge, and all the people living in them and all the things contained in them would drown.

Sutra:

“If the swift rapids existed because of water, then their nature would differ from that of water and the location and characteristics of its existence would be apparent.

"If their nature were simply that of water, then when they became still and clear they would no longer be made up of water.

Commentary:

If the swift rapids existed because of water
- if you were to say it is because of the water that there are swift rapids which rush along so quickly, then their nature would differ from that of water. The basic nature of its substance would not be water. It should have a location and characteristics which would be apparent. But the swift rapids have no actual form or appearance.

If their nature were simply that of water - if you were to say that the swift rapids were just water, then when they became still and clear - when there were no waves - they would no longer be made up of water. Without any waves there wouldn’t be any water. If you were to say that waves of the swift current are the water, then when the waves disappeared, the water would also disappear. A change in nature would inevitably result in a change in substance.

Sutra:

“Suppose it were to separate from emptiness and water: there isn’t anything outside of emptiness, and outside of water there isn’t any flow.

Commentary:

Suppose it were to separate from emptiness and water -
you want to say that the swift rapids are apart from emptiness and water. But, there isn’t anything outside of emptiness, and outside of water there isn’t any flow. Outside of water there are no rapids. To say it is separate from water is also incorrect. You say it is not separate; but that is also incorrect. In the last analysis, Ananda, what would you say this is all about?

It is not something that exists because of water or because of emptiness. Its source is the wonderful nature of true suchness of the Thus Come One’s treasury.

Q3 Concludes by returning false to true.

Sutra:

“Therefore, you should know that the skandha of activity is empty and false, since it neither depends upon causes and conditions for existence nor is spontaneous in nature.

Commentary:

Therefore
- earlier you said that causes and conditions and spontaneity are concerned here. Now you should know that the skandha of activity is empty and false - the skandha of activity, the swift rapids, is an empty falseness; it is not real - since it neither depends upon causes and conditions for existence nor is spontaneous in nature. This has been a discussion of the skandha of activity. Its source is also the treasury of the Thus Come One. But with the arisal of one ignorant thought, one becomes confused about the true and goes toward the false. You forget about the truth and go running after false things, and in this way the various empty and false appearances in the world are created.

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