THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
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Volume 3

O7 The element consciousness.
P1 He reveals the organ and object.

Sutra:

“Ananda, the nature of consciousness has no source, but is a false manifestation based on the six organs and objects. Now, take a look at the entire holy assembly gathered here. As you glance at each one in turn, everything you see is like what is seen in a mirror, where nothing has any special distinction.

Commentary:

The earth, water, fire, wind, emptiness, and seeing already discussed are six elements. Now we add consciousness to make seven elements. What is “consciousness?” It is recognition or lack of it. What is recognized and what is not recognized? Nothing at all is recognized.

"Consciousness” is defined as intelligent comprehension. Intelligence is understanding, and comprehension is discerning.

Why did I say the consciousness doesn’t recognize anything at all? What do you think you recognize? You say, “I recognize Mr. Smith, the third. I recognize Mr. Lee, the fourth. I recognize Mr. Wang, the fifth. Mr. Brown, the sixth.” I say, “So what?” You say, “I recognize them, and they are my friends.” It’s just because you recognize them as your friends that they have dragged you away, and you recognize what is false as true. You recognize a false friend as your true friend. And you have forgotten your true friends. Mr. Smith is the third, Mr. Lee is the fourth, Mr. Wang is the fifth, and Mr. Brown is the sixth. There’s nobody “the seventh,” because basically this consciousness is the elder “seventh.” So, the six elements discussed above and this seventh one, consciousness, are like seven siblings. But you’ve gone outside in recognition of your friends and have forgotten your seven siblings. You don’t recognize the earth, you don’t recognize the water, you don’t recognize fire, you don’t recognize wind. That’s four you don’t recognize; and you don’t recognize emptiness. Nor do you recognize seeing. Not only do you not recognize them, even Ananda didn’t recognize them. So the Buddha, not fearing to take trouble, found them for him one by one. He found his seven siblings. These are your genuine flesh and blood relatives, your genuine companions of this dharma-door. But you don’t recognize them. You just keep hanging on to Smith the third, Lee the fourth, Wang the fifth, Brown the sixth, these possessive friends, and leave your real relatives abandoned at home. And, so I ask you what you recognize. You don’t recognize anything. And what you don’t recognize is all yours. You reject the inherent worth, the scenery of your homeland. But when you get outside, you cast off the root and grasp at the branches. You renounce what is close and seek what is distant. You go outside and get involved with people. Wouldn’t you say this is upside-down? Why do you go outside and get involved with people and don’t recognize your own flesh and blood relatives? Because you take what is false as true. You take a thief as your son. You recognize a thief as your friend and go outside to use your conscious mind to do things.

You say, “What I’m using right now is the conscious mind.” Right. You’re really smart. You’re smarter than I am. I am now lecturing the sutra, and I hadn’t recognized this as the conscious mind. But now that you say that, I understand. So I’ll say some more. In the small vehicle, when you take what is false as true and use the conscious mind, it can be harmful. Now you recognize the false and the true. You have found the seven siblings of your household, and so now, although the conscious mind is false, it has turned into the treasury of the Thus Come One. It appears from within the treasury of the Thus Come One. That is called “turning from appearances and returning to the nature.” In the past you were attached entirely to appearances, but now you understand the self nature. Since you understand the self nature, you should no longer renounce what is near to seek what is far, renounce the roots and grasp at the branches, or recognize a thief as your son. Then there is some hope for you. Then you have some wealth.

I have talked to you about reciting the Shurangama Mantra. If you are able to recite the Shurangama Mantra, you will be one of the world’s wealthiest people for the next seven lives. In fact, right now, if you are able to recite the Shurangama Mantra, you are one of the world’s wealthiest people, because you understand this dharma treasure. And, when you put this dharma treasure in your heart, tell me, who can steal it from you? Whatever kind of robber or thief there might be couldn’t rob you of it. That dharma treasure is in your own self nature. It is deposited in the vault of your Thus Come One treasury. And no one can find a way to go in there and steal it. How wonderful would you say that is? If you understand the Buddhadharma, then right now you are one of the world’s wealthiest people. But for the time being you can’t use your wealth. When you become a Buddha, then it will belong to you. Right now it’s just in trust under your name, but you aren’t of age yet, so for the time being you can’t use it.

Ananda, the nature of consciousness has no source - it doesn’t come from anywhere. To put it otherwise, it has no root.

”Well, then, what is it?” you wonder.

It is a false manifestation based on the six organs and objects. In order to appear, it borrows the six organs of eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind, and the six objects of forms, sounds, smells, tastes, objects of touch, and dharmas - the “seeing division” and the “appearance division.”

Now, take a look at the entire holy assembly gathered here. Ananda, look into this thoroughly, now. Contemplate those in this Shurangama dharma assembly who have certified to the fruition of sagehood. As you glance at each one in turn - look from one to the next in orderly sequence - everything you see is like what is seen in a mirror, where nothing has any special distinction. You look all around, and what you see is just like reflections in a mirror. What special distinctions are there? The text here is discussing the function of the consciousness.

Sutra:

“However, your consciousness will identify them one by one: for example, Manjushri, Purna, Maudgalyayana, Subhuti, and Shariputra.

Commentary:

However,
Ananda, your consciousness will identify them one by one. Take a look at the multitude in this dharma assembly, and sequentially identify them. For example, Manjushri, the Bodhisattva Wonderfully Auspicious; Purna - this is Purnamaitreyaniputra, whose name means “son of completeness and compassion.” This is Maudgalyayana, whose name means “descendent of a family of bean gatherers.” This is Subhuti, whose name means “born into emptiness.” Why is Subhuti called “born into emptiness”? Because when he was born, all the treasures in the storehouses disappeared. That doesn’t mean they were stolen by thieves. All the storehouses were very secure and locked tightly; but, the treasures inside were gone. So he was called “born into emptiness.” After seven days had passed, all the treasures reappeared. So he is also called “good appearance.” His father went to a diviner to have his son’s horoscope read, and the reading was “both good and lucky.” So he was also called “auspicious and good.” Those were his three names.

This is Shariputra. Who was Shariputra? He was the one who out debated his uncle while he was still in his mother’s womb. His uncle was frightened by the thought of what his nephew would be like after he was born, and he felt that he would really lose face if he was defeated in debate by his nephew. So he went around India to study all kinds of theories, and he came back to debate with his nephew. But his nephew had already left the home life under the Buddha. The uncle wanted to steal his nephew back, so he challenged the Buddha to a debate. Who would have guessed that he’d be defeated without winning a single round? He was beaten at his own game.

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