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The Source of the Knot
VOLUME 4, Chapter 6
J2 He certifies to an understanding of the explanation of the doubt that there is another source for the knot.
K1 Ananda specifically asks about the source of the knot.
L1 He uses an analogy to discuss the origin.
Ananda said to the Buddha, "World Honored One, the Thus Come One has explained the two meanings, yet, as I now contemplate people in the world, I believe that if they try to untie a knot and cannot find its center, they will never get the knot undone."
Having listened to all the principles explained above, Ananda has another doubt, so he constructs arguments where there is no room for argument. Ananda said to the Buddha, "World Honored One, the Thus Come One has explained the two meanings." This refers to two kinds of decisive meanings, one which makes use of the mind subject to production and extinction to cultivate and one which does not make use of the mind subject to production and extinction in cultivating. Yet, as I now contemplate people in the world, I believe that if they try to untie a knot and cannot find its center, if they don't know where the center of the knot is, they will never get the knot undone. Since they can't even locate the center of the knot, how can they untie it?
L2 He compares the analogy to the people in the assembly.
World Honored One, I and all the other sound-hearers in the great assembly who are not beyond learning are the same way. From time without beginning we have been accompanied in birth and death by ignorance. We have obtained these good roots of erudition and are said to have left the home life, yet in fact we act like someone with a recurrent fever.
Ananda is very frank. He has the natural happiness and innocence of a child; he's very naive. World Honored One, I and all the other sound-hearers in the great assembly who are not beyond learning are the same way. The first three stages of arhatship are "not beyond learning." When one reaches the fourth fruition, one is beyond learning. We sound-hearers are like the person trying to untie a knot; we don't know where the center of the knot is. At what place do we untie the knot? You have said that we can make use of the six sense-organs, but which sense-organ do we actually start with? Which organ is the very last to be released? Right now we have no idea.
From time without beginning we have been accompanied in birth and death by ignorance. From beginningless kalpas until today we have been born and have died, doing one thing in this life and something else in the next life. In this life you believe in Buddhism, but in the next life you don't. Or in this life you don't believe in Buddhism, and in the next life you do. Or perhaps you believe in Buddhism, but you don't really understand it very well. You vacillate and only dabble in it.
In this way we become inseparable from ignorance. It's said that one is closest to one's parents or one's spouse, but that's not so. What we are closest to is ignorance. Ignorance is to you as a shadow is to your body; it follows you wherever you go. It never leaves you for an instant. That's being even more intimate than newlyweds.
Ignorance accompanies you in birth and death: this is further evidence of how eternally inseparable it is from you. It's not the case that when the husband dies, the wife accompanies him in death. In exceptional cases this may perhaps occur, but not as a rule. Only ignorance will die with you and be reborn with you. This is truly to be together in life and inseparable in death. It takes half of all that is yours, just like a shadow follows a form.
And, of course, you all know what we're referring to as ignorance? If you understand ignorance, then don't be so intimate with it after this. If you don't understand, you'd better figure it out fast. If you understand ignorance, then there's some hope for you. If you don't understand ignorance, then you are forever an ordinary person. If you understand ignorance, then you're halfway to sagehood. But you have to truly understand; you shouldn't seem to understand and yet not understand, so that you both have ignorance and do not have it.
We have obtained these good roots of erudition and are said to have left the home life. Our propensity for learning is a kind of good root; but, yet, even though I'm called a left-home person, in fact we act like someone with a recurrent fever. The nature of this sickness is that it manifests only every other day, at a fixed time. The analogy represents his ignorance. Today he doesn't have any ignorance; his head is clear and he's not crazy. But tomorrow the ignorance crops up again. I believe that it's not only Ananda who has this problem; I suspect everyone present here has the same difficulty.
Today you resolve your mind on Bodhi and decide to cultivate the Way, so you meditate single-mindedly. "I'm not going to pay attention to anything that comes up. I'm going to put everything down." But then tomorrow you can't put it down. Once again you pick up all the things you ordinarily are attached to and you can't let go of them. Even if you want to put them down, you can't loose your grasp on them. Do you see how pitiful it is? That's what's meant by a recurrent fever.
So we should quickly find a way to cure this disease in ourselves. What's the cure? Drink more of the water of wisdom. Once you have wisdom, you will naturally see through things and be able to put them down. When you put them down, you obtain comfort. Why do you have this disease? It's because you consider your body to be very fine, with a pleasing appearance and physically fit, and you always have a scheme going on its behalf. You can't see through it or put it down. But no matter how beautiful a physical form you may have, it will stink just the same when it's time to die. No one will get near you.
I only hope that you, the Greatly Compassionate One, will take pity on us. We are sinking and drowning so that to this very day we do not know how our bodies and minds are in knots or how to go about untying them. Your explanation will also enable future living beings who are in suffering and difficulty to avoid the turning wheel and not fall into the three realms of existence.
Ananda is really pitiful. I only hope that you, the Greatly Compassionate One, the World Honored One, will give rise to great compassion and take pity on us. We are sinking and drowning so that to this very day we do not know how our bodies and minds are in knots. We are so deeply sunk in delusion that we don't know about our present bodies and minds. Which of the six sense-organs does the knot start with, and which senseorgan does it end with? If I am to untie these knots, I have to start at the beginning. I can't pick it up halfway along and expect to unravel it, I don't know how to go about untying them. Where do we untie them? Your explanation will also enable future living beings, I'm not just asking for myself.
I have also brought forth the mind of a Bodhisattva and want to help those who are in suffering and difficulty, so that they may avoid the turning wheel and not fall into the three realms of existence. If they know the method for untying the knots, they won't fall into the three realms of existence. They will avoid the suffering of the desire realm, the form realm, and the formless realm.
L3 He begs for instruction.
After saying this, he and the entire great assembly made full prostrations. He wept profusely, and with sincere anticipation awaited the unsurpassed instruction of the Buddha, the Thus Come One.
After saying this, after Ananda finished making his request, he and the entire great assembly made full prostrations. Literally, they "placed their five limbs on the ground." The five limbs are the legs, the arms, and the head. He wept profusely, and with sincere anticipation, do you see how indecisive Ananda is? From the beginning of the sutra to this point he's cried six times, including this time. No one who is listening to the sutra now has cried. Doesn't that mean that you are all much stronger than Ananda? Ananda listens to Shakyamuni Buddha's discussions and explanations as they investigate the Dharma, and he cries. This time he cries very hard, profusely, like rain. His tears were probably enough to wash his face clean.
"Anticipation" literally means to "stand on tiptoe;" this represents the depth of Ananda's sincerity. Perhaps this word is the origin of women's high heeled shoe. They read that Ananda was sincere to the point of being on tiptoe and they decided to walk around with the same attitude. He awaited the unsurpassed instruction of the Buddha, the Thus Come One. I just said that everyone now listening to the sutra is better than Ananda, but you shouldn't, therefore, conclude that you are in fact better than Ananda. To tell the truth, I was poking fun at you.
"Oh?" you say, "the teacher has to poke fun at the disciples?" If I didn't poke fun, you wouldn't bring forth the resolve to study. Ananda cried because he was so intent upon seeking the Dharma, so profoundly sincere. He realized that although he had been certified to the first fruit of Arhatship, he still was not clear about the Buddhadharma, so he felt very repentant. That is why he wept remorsefully. And why haven't you cried? I'll tell: basically you are unconcerned about the Buddhadharma. You don't place any importance on it.
"That's not so," you say. "Every day I study really hard." That doesn't count, because you haven't yet taken the Buddhadharma to heart, to your true heart. If you had, you might cry every day. Now my disciples who like to cry figure they're off the hook. "I can continue to cry every day because I don't understand the Buddhadharma." But those of you who like to cry should not cry. You should try to get yourselves under control and calm down. And those who don't cry should feel ashamed and ask yourselves, "Why don't I understand the Buddhadharma?" If you can weep because of that, as remorsefully as Ananda does here, then there's some hope for you.
Those who don't mind crying, they can try it out. Those who don't like to cry won't be forced to do so. And those who enjoy crying can't cry. That's the way the Buddhadharma goes. Those who go too far should be reined in a bit. Those who don't go far enough should exert themselves a bit. That's the ultimate meaning of the Middle Way.
K2 The Thus Come One certifies that there is no other source.
L1 The prose.
M1 All Buddhas have identical accomplishment.
N1 He pities the assembly, rubs Ananda?s crown, and influences the Buddhas.
Then the World Honored One took pity on Ananda and on those in the assembly with something left to study, as well as on living beings of the future, in order to help them transcend the world and become eyes for the future.
Then is when Ananda asked the Buddha for his unsurpassed instruction. The World Honored One took pity on Ananda and on those in the assembly with something left to study. "Those with something left to study" refers to the first three fruitions of sagehood: the positions of Shrotaapanna, Sakridagamin, and Anagamin. As well as on living beings of the future. "The future" refers to our present time; we are the living beings of the future. In order to help them transcend the world, this is a proper cause. "The world" refers to ordinary beings. Those who transcend the world are the sound-hearers, the arhats, those enlightened to conditions, the Bodhisattvas, and the Buddhas. For the sake of helping them transcend the world and become eyes for the future, that they might be the eyes for all living beings in the future, the Buddha does something extraordinary.
He rubbed the crown of Ananda's head with his Jambunada purple-golden bright hand. Instantaneously all the Buddhalands in the ten directions quaked in six ways.
He rubbed the crown of Ananda's head with his Jambunada purple-golden bright hand. His hand was the color of the gold of the Jambu tree in southern Jambudvipa. In Buddhism, the gesture of rubbing the crown of the head represents compassionate care and protection. Instantaneously all the Buddhalands in the ten directions quaked in six ways. The six kinds of earthquakes have been discussed before. When a person who is cultivating the Way opens enlightenment and accomplishes Buddhahood, the six earthquakes occur.
When the Buddha is about to speak the unsurpassed wonderful dharma, the six also occur. In the Dharma Ending Age, when someone is certified to the fruition of sagehood, the six kinds of earthquakes occur. There are various reasons for them. When the heavenly demons and adherents of external paths want to harm someone, they can also make the earth quake, but not necessarily in these six ways.
There is no fixed number to the kinds of earthquakes demons cause. For instance, recently there was an earthquake in the Philippines which was reported to have killed four hundred people, though I imagine that was a modest estimate. I believe it was at least five or six hundred, as I see it.
That kind of incident is a response to living being's karma, in which the heavenly demons and adherents of external paths come to destroy our world. That's what happens whenever there's a natural disaster or a man-made calamity. But if there is a high Sanghan with great virtue at the place where a calamity is to occur, for instance in the Philippines, or if there is a Bodhisattva or an Arhat who has been certified to the fruition living at that place, then the disaster can be averted.
When a person of greatly virtuous practice goes even into the most dangerous situations, he can turn the inauspicious into the auspicious; he can make difficulties become fortunate circumstances. He can cause the most dangerous moments to pass uneventfully.
The six kinds of quaking are: cracking, roaring, and striking, quaking, erupting, and heaving up. The first three belong to sound; the second three belong to motion. Quaking is a movement back and forth. Erupting is a sharp upward thrust, looking like a breaker on the ocean. Heaving up is a gradual rising, like the movement of an elevator.
When the earth quakes, a sound occurs. One day here in San Francisco the earth quaked and the windows all began to rattle. "Danger, danger," they were saying. I noticed one person got scared at that point and put her palms together. Others noticed her and followed suit.
Cracking brings sound, but when there is roaring, the very earth itself cries out like the roar of a lion. Striking occurs when the earth splits and the two parts scrape against one another. What do the six kinds of earthquakes represent? Why does the great earth tremble and move in six ways at this point in the Shurangama Sutra, when the Buddha is rubbing the crown of Ananda's head? It's because the Buddha is about to proclaim very important dharma.
All the Buddhas of the ten directions have come to praise him in a single voice. That's the situation. It also represents the liberation of the six sense-organs, the release of the six knots. Ananda has just asked about the source of the six knots and how to end them. He asked where their beginning and end are. And the Buddha is about to explain this doctrine, so he rubbed the crown of Ananda's head and the great earth trembled and moved in six ways.
N2 All Buddhas emit light and anoint their crowns.
Thus Come Ones as numerous as fine motes of dust, each dwelling in his respective world, emitted a precious light from the crown of his head.
Thus Come Ones as numerous as fine motes of dust, that many Buddhas, each dwelling in his respective world. Each Buddha was dwelling in his own Buddhaland. Each emitted a precious light from the crown of his head. Each of these many Buddhas emitted a rare light from the top of his head. Some lights were red, some were white, some were yellow, some were blue, all kinds of lights were emitted from the crown of their heads. Thus Come Ones as numerous as fine motes of dust emitted these various lights in order to represent the supremacy of the dharma that the Buddha was about to speak and to demonstrate that it was an ultimately high, wonderful dharma, the dharma of the great Buddha's summit.
At one and the same time their light went from their own countries to the Jeta Grove and anointed the crown of the Thus Come One's head. All in that great assembly obtained what they had never had before.
At one and the same time their light, the light that the Thus Come Ones as numerous as fine motes of dust emitted from the crowns of their heads, went from their own countries, from the land in which each Buddha was dwelling, to the Jeta Grove. Note that it was the light that came to the Jeta Grove, not the Buddhas themselves. The light from each of the Thus Come Ones as many as the sands of the Ganges River and as numerous as fine motes of dust, came to anoint the crown of the Thus Come One's head, of Shakyamuni Buddha.
This demonstrates that the Way of all Buddhas is the same. The dharma you speak is the dharma I also speak. It is one and the same. The light is interpenetrating and people's minds are also interpenetrating. The Buddhas' lights are interpenetrating and so are the Buddhas' minds.
The same is true of people's minds. If you are upset in your mind with someone, that person will realize it, even if you haven't said a word. It's not that the person knows it consciously, on the level of his sixth mindconsciousness which makes discriminations, but there is a response that occurs in his eighth consciousness. He has an awareness on the level of the eighth consciousness because people's minds are interpenetrating.
Science has now discovered this, that there is an invisible connection, like a telegram, that can arrive very quickly even from afar. And people's minds have a mutual telegraphic system. It cannot be seen with the ordinary eye, but if you genuinely obtain the perfectly fused and unobstructed Buddha eye, you will see why you are aware of the arising of another's thoughts. It's because he has sent out a telegram. If you open the Buddha eye or the wisdom eye, you will know naturally and will be able to see it.
Because of these telegrams, people realize it as soon as you have the thought that you disagree with them. Your telegram arrives, and they become upset with you in turn. Some people have good feelings about others, and that, too, is known by the other person, but the response is slower. If you want to influence someone to change by means of positive reinforcement, then you can use all kinds of good thoughts to influence them, but the process will be gradual. Bit by bit you can cause them to awaken. As they awaken, their response will be positive in turn.
Now that I've explained this telegraphic system that operates between people, some may not believe what I've said; nevertheless, it's true. In the future, when you actually open your Buddha eye, you won't have any doubts about this doctrine. Then you will realize, "Oh, I didn't believe it at the time, but it's actually true." The anointing of the crown of the Thus Come One represents the identity of the Way of all Buddhas and the shining of their light upon one another. The summit-dharma they speak is one and the same.
All in that great assembly obtained what they had never had before. No one understood what they saw going on. "Ah? Why are the Buddhas of the ten directions emitting light that is shining upon our Buddha? What's the principle behind this?" Can you imagine how many rays of light were being sent there by Thus Come Ones as numerous as fine motes of dust? The light was immeasurable. But it was not the least bit mixed up. Each one very clearly illumined the crown of the Thus Come One's head.
Those who had opened their Buddha eyes, those who had attained the first three fruitions of Arhatship, did not understand what they saw. Even those who had attained the fourth fruition of Arhatship did not understand it clearly. The reason they didn't understand is that they had never seen such a thing before. "Obtained what they had never had before" means they had never experienced anything like this.