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The Seven Elements are All-Pervasive
VOLUME 3, Chapter 6
L3 Finally he shows that the nature of the seven elements is all pervasive.
M1 Ananda, in turn, has doubts about the non existence of the other two teachings.
Ananda said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, the Thus Come One has often spoken of the mixture and union of causes and conditions, saying that the transformations of everything in the world are created from the mixing and uniting of the four elements.
Ananda again said to the Buddha: World Honored One, the Thus Come One has often spoken - Thus Come One, you’re always talking about the dharma of the mixture and union and the dharma of causes and conditions. You say that the transformations of everything in the world – “the world” again refers to the sentient world and the material world - all kinds of different circumstances and change are created from the mixing and uniting of the four elements.
What are the four elements? They are earth, water, fire, and wind. People’s bodies are a combination of the four elements. How is it that the body is composed of the four elements? The places in our bodies which are hard and solid belong to the element earth. The warmth in our bodies belongs to the element fire. Saliva, tears, and mucus belong to the element water. Our breath belongs to the element wind. While we are alive, our body is under our control, but after we die the four elements disperse. The warmth in our bodies returns to the element fire. The moisture returns to the element water. The solids return to the element earth. Our breath returns to the element wind.
People who do not understand about the body want to help it in all that it does. What they don’t know is that in this way the true nature becomes a slave to a false form. Every day one is upside- down, toiling and desperately rushing back and forth. Ultimately, what’s it all for? Ultimately, what meaning is there in it? You ask people this and they are like Ananda - mouth agape and speechless. They can’t come up with a reason.
Because people do not understand about the body, they spend all their energy on a dead thing. They don’t apply their effort to a living thing. What “dead thing” is being referred to? Although we are still alive, our bodies may be considered already dead. What living thing is being referred to? Although we are not aware that it is alive, our spirit is young and full of life - it is our originally existent Buddha nature.
But people don’t know that they should investigate their own Buddha nature, and they apply effort to their bodies instead. From morning till night they help the body get good things to eat. They are controlled by their body. They help the body get fine clothes to wear. Just what is this body, anyway? I will tell all of you, and whether you admit it or not is your business. If someone likes to drink wine, then the body becomes a wine sack. If someone likes to eat fine food, then the body becomes a bread basket. If someone likes to wear fine clothing, the body becomes a clothes horse. It isn’t anything to grasp onto. Don’t look upon it as so important.
But, you can’t put it down; you can’t see through it. Though you can’t see through it, and though you can’t put it down, when you die and the four elements disperse, you will have to see through what you couldn’t see through. Time waits for no one. You can never say to time, “Wait a minute for me. Wait a bit.” It will not wait.
“Why does the Thus Come One reject causes and conditions and spontaneity as well? I do not know how to understand your meaning now.
“Buddha, you’ve said that everything in the world comes forth from and is created from the causes and conditions of the mixing and uniting of the four elements. Why is it now that you say that causes and conditions and spontaneity are all incorrect?” Ananda’s attachments are quite strong. In the past he has heard the Buddha explain the principle of causes and conditions. Basically that was a provisional teaching, a provisional, clever expedient; it was not true and actual.
Now the Buddha explains the true and actual dharma door, and Ananda does not believe it. He firmly believes in the expedient dharma door that the Buddha explained in the past, and in turn he doubts the true and actual dharma door. So he asks, “Why does the Thus Come One reject causes and conditions and spontaneity as well? Buddha, you have criticized causes and conditions and spontaneity and pronounced them incorrect. Isn’t that contradicting yourself? You are destroying the very principles which you yourself established. You are refuting your own thesis. I do not know how to understand your meaning now. I don’t see what principle this is now. What dharma door does it belong to? I don’t understand.”
“Please be so compassionate as to instruct us living beings in the final meaning of the Middle Way: in the dharmas which are not idle theories.”
Please be so compassionate - I now only hope that the Buddha will sympathize with us, bring forth compassion towards us living beings - as to instruct us living beings in the final meaning of the Middle Way, in the dharma door which does not joke around. We want an explanation of the truth, of the dharmas which are not idle theories.
What is meant by “idle theories?” All the dharma doors of the provisional vehicle and of the teachings of the externalist sects are called “idle theories.” The present explanation of the real vehicle, the explanation of the true and actual dharma door, is called the final meaning of the Middle Way. The Middle Way does not fall into emptiness, nor does it fall into existence. The spontaneity taught by externalist sects falls into emptiness. Causes and conditions belong to existence. Now it is neither emptiness nor existence that is being explained; it is the final meaning of the Middle Way, a dharma door which is not an idle theory.
M2 The Buddha proceeds to explain thoroughly.
N1 He scolds him for his confusion and promises to explain.
The World Honored One then told Ananda, “You have renounced the small vehicle dharmas of the sound-hearers and those enlightened to conditions and have resolved to diligently seek unsurpassed Bodhi. Because of that, I will now explain the foremost truth to you.
The World Honored One, the Buddha, then told Ananda, “You have renounced the small vehicle dharmas of the sound-hearers and those enlightened to conditions. You have already decided to renounce the dharma doors of the two vehicles of the sound-hearer and those enlightened to conditions, the dharmas of the agamas, and have resolved to diligently seek unsurpassed Bodhi. You now diligently seek the Unsurpassed Way to enlightenment, the dharma of the Bodhisattva. Because of that, I will now explain the foremost truth to you. I will explain the dharma door of the real appearance to you.” The foremost truth is the real appearance.
There are three kinds of real appearances:
- the real appearance which is without an appearance;
- the real appearance which is not without an appearance;
- the real appearance which is without an appearance and yet not without an appearance.
Although they are said to be three kinds, they are one kind: the real appearance. The real appearance has no appearance, and yet there is nothing which does not appear. Within this is the principle of true emptiness and wonderful existence.
If one explains it to the ultimate point, there basically isn’t anything at all. Yet, within that nothing at all there is everything. So, nothing at all is true emptiness, and the existence of everything is wonderful existence.
The principle now being explained will lead to an explanation of the seven elements - earth, water, fire, wind, emptiness, perception, and consciousness - as pervading the dharma-realm. The five skandhas, the six entrances, the twelve places, the eighteen realms discussed before explained the wonderful true suchness nature of the treasury of the Thus Come One, but it was not said that they pervaded the dharma-realm.
“Why do you still bind yourself up in the idle theories and false thoughts current among people of the world?
The Buddha said to Ananda, “You have just decided to renounce the dharma doors of the small vehicle, to bring forth the resolve for the great vehicle - the Bodhisattva vehicle - and to seek unsurpassed Bodhi. Therefore, I will instruct you in the principle of the real appearance.” Why - the tone here is one of accusation - do you still bind yourself up in the idle theories, the worldly explanation of doctrines which are not true, and false thoughts current among people of the world? It’s just as if you took a rope and tied yourself up with it. You cannot get free. You cannot be liberated. Why do you want to be like that? What I am explaining to you is the foremost truth. Why is it you still don’t understand?
“Although you are very learned, you are like someone who can discuss medicines but cannot distinguish a real medicine when it is placed before you. The Thus Come One says that you are truly pitiful.
Although you are very learned - Ananda, although you have a strong memory and have memorized many sutras - you are like someone who can discuss medicines. You are learned, but what is it like? You are like someone who can recite the medicine texts and can say which medicines cure which illnesses and which medicines have what effect - like someone who can recite the Yao Xing Fu.
You, too, have memorized well, but you’re like someone who cannot distinguish a real medicine when it is placed before you. When you see the true medicine you don’t recognize it. You cannot tell if it’s the true one. Why can’t you make these distinctions? Because all you do is advocate intellectual talk Chan. You can talk about it very well, but when you investigate the truth, you don’t understand. The Thus Come One says that you are truly pitiful.
“Listen attentively now as I explain this point in detail for you and also for those of the future who cultivate the great vehicle, so that you all can penetrate to the real appearance.”
Ananda was silent and awaited the Buddha’s holy instruction.
Listen attentively now. Don’t be confused any longer. You should pay attention, be alert, and listen as I explain this point in detail for you. For your sake, Ananda, I will now distinguish and explain it. I will divide and categorize and explain it for you in great detail, and also for those of the future.
You and I here are included among “those of the future.” It is now the future that the Buddha then referred to. We now form the assemblies of what was the future then.
Who cultivate the great vehicle - we are now cultivating the great vehicle, not the small vehicle, in order to penetrate to the real appearance, to understand the principle of the real appearance. As was explained before, real appearance is no appearance. With no appearance, what still exists? Everything exists. “No appearance” means that it cannot have any empty, false appearance. The real appearance is totally real.
Ananda was silent. Ananda heard that the Buddha was going to explain the principle of the real appearance, but he didn’t know what was meant. The real appearance was a new term when the Buddha brought it up at that point, and Ananda didn’t understand what it meant. So, he awaited the Buddha’s holy instruction. On tip toe, with his eyes glued on the Buddha, he waited for him to speak the Dharma.