THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
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Volume 4

Sutra:

The womb-born, egg-born, moisture-born, and transformation- born come about in response: the egg-born come from thought, the womb-born are due to emotion, the moisture-born arise from union, and transformations occur through separation.

Commentary:

The womb-born, egg-born, moisture-born, and transformation- born: these are four kinds of birth. The "womb-born" are mammals. The 'egg-born' are feathered vertebrates' birds and the like. The "moisture-born" are creatures born out of water. The 'transformation-born" are beings that change form, they seem to be there and then disappear. They seem not to be there and then appear.

They come about in response. In every kind of birth there is a stimulus and a response. For instance, the egg-born come from thought. There must be four conditions present for birth from eggs to occur:

1. the condition of a father,
2. the condition of a mother,
3. the condition of individual karma, and
4. the condition of warmth.

With them, the egg-born come from thought. For example, a mother hen sits on her eggs all day long; she gets unbearably hot, but she won't get up. Once a day she leaves long enough to defecate and eat a little, and then she goes right back to sitting and thinking, 'Come out, little chicks. Hatch, little ones." That's why it says that the eggborn come from thought.

The womb-born are due to emotion, the moisture-born arise from union. Moisture-born beings can come about from two conditions:

1. the condition of sunlight, and
2. the condition of moisture.

Transformations occur through separation. These beings are created from karma alone and are changeable. They appear and disappear; disappear and appear. Transformation is attributable to a strong desire for the new and a dislike for the old, hence it occurs through separation.

P3 The results become continuation.

Sutra:

Emotion, thought, union, and separation go through further changes, and from all the karma received one either rises or sinks. From these causes and conditions comes the continuity of living beings.

Commentary:

Emotion, thought, union, and separation go through further changes. There is a combined interaction involving change, over and over again. And from all the karma received one either rises or sinks. From the retribution undergone, beings vary from birds in the air to fish in the sea. From these causes and conditions comes the continuity of living beings. Living beings are those receiving twelve kinds of rebirth:

1. those born from wombs,
2. those born from eggs,
3. those born from moisture,
4. those born by transformation,
5. those born with form,
6. those born without form,
7. those born with thought,
8. those born without thought,
9. those born not totally with form,
10. those born not totally without form,
11. those born not totally with thought, and
12. those born not totally without thought.

This is the ceaseless continuation of living beings. First we discussed the continuity of the world. Next we have discussed the continuity of living beings.

O3 The continuation of karmic retribution.
P1 The source of karmic retribution is pointed out.


Sutra:

Purna, thought and love become bound together so that people love each other and cannot bear to be apart. As a result, the world has seen an endless succession of births of parents, children, and grandchildren. And the basis for all of this is desire and greed.

Commentary:


Purna, all the living beings in the world have thought and love that become bound together. False thinking and desirous love link up so that people love each other and cannot bear to be apart. They get attached to their feelings of love and cannot renounce them. This karmic response is such that they become stuck together like glue. As a result, the world has seen an endless succession of births of parents, children, and grandchildren. And the basis for all of this is desire and greed. These kinds of living beings base themselves in emotional desire.

Sutra:

Greed and love feed on one another until greed becomes insatiable. As a result, in the world all the sentient beings born of eggs, wombs, moisture, and by transformation tend to devour one another for the nourishment of their bodies to the extent that their strength permits. And the basis for all of this is killing and greed.

Commentary:

Greed and love feed on one another until greed becomes insatiable. Every creature wants to nourish its own body. The greed cannot be stopped. As a result, in the world all the sentient beings born of eggs, wombs, moisture, and by transformation tend to devour one another for the nourishment of their bodies to the extent that their strength permits. Depending on how strong they are, they eat one another. You eat me and I eat you. Big worms eat little worms. Big fish eat little fish. Big beasts eat smaller creatures. For instance, if a tiger finds a being smaller than itself it will eat it. The weak become the food for the strong. Snakes feed on mice. But that's in the summer. In the winter, snakes are incapacitated by the cold. So then, the mice eat the snakes. You eat me; I eat you.

The great golden-winged Peng bird used to eat dragons from the ocean the way people eat noodles. The wingspan of the Peng bird is 330 yojanas. One small yojana is 40 li. (A li is about 1/3 of a mile.) A middle-sized yojana is 60 li. And a large yojana is 80 li. One flap of the Peng bird's wings would wash away all the water of the ocean and reveal the dry bed at the bottom. His method for eating dragons was to flap his wings over the ocean, which would part the waters and reveal the dragons on the bottom; then he would help himself to a meal. So the dragons kept getting taken by surprise. With nowhere to hide and no time to disappear and no way to escape, their numbers were dwindling rapidly. Finally some dragons went to the Buddha to protest.

Buddha, you are one of great compassion, the greatly enlightened World Honored One. The great Peng bird is eating our children and grandchildren and soon our whole species will become extinct. What can be done?

The Buddha replied, "Don't worry. I'll think of a way to help you." Next time the Peng bird came to see the Buddha, the World Honored One told him, "Don't eat dragons anymore. The dragons are becoming extinct because you eat so many of them." The Peng bird argued, "But if I don't eat dragons, I'll starve. I won't have anything to eat!"

"Don't worry," said the Buddha. "From now on every time my disciples eat, they will serve you a little food." So in Buddhism, at the noon meal, a little food is taken outside during the high meal offering. It is given to the great golden-winged Peng bird to eat. This story is another example of the competition for survival. And the basis for all of this is killing and greed. These kinds of living beings kill one another off. The fundamental characteristics of their karmic offenses come from greedy desire and a fondness for killing.

Sutra:

A person eats a sheep. The sheep dies and becomes a person. The person dies and becomes a sheep, and it goes on that way through ten births and more. Through death after death and birth after birth, they come back to eat one another. The evil karma becomes innate and exhausts the bounds of the future. And the basis for all of this is stealing and greed.

Commentary:


A person eats a sheep. People like to eat lamb and mutton. Although only the sheep is mentioned in the text, all the other animals are implied. Pigs, cows, chickens, and the like are all included. So the person eats the flesh of the sheep. The sheep dies and becomes a person. I just recited Chan Master Zhi Gong's poem for you, and now the text verifies it. The person dies and becomes a sheep. "I don't believe it," you say. 'There's no such principle. How can a person become a sheep and a sheep become a person?" If you don't believe it, there's nothing left but for you to try it out. Go ahead and give it a try! When you die and go off to rebirth and wind up on the womb of a sheep, you'll think, "The dharma that dharma master was explaining was true after all." But then it will be too late. If you want to cultivate the Way then, it won't be easy to do so in the belly of a sheep.

And it goes on that way through ten births and more. "Ten births" can be explained as ten of the list of the twelve kinds of rebirth mentioned. It can also mean one life, two lives, three lives, four, five, six, and so forth. So it is said:

Once you lose a human body,
You may not get it back in ten thousand rebirths.

If you lose the body of a human being and turn into an animal, it's not at all easy to get back into the human realm. It might take one life, two lives, three lives, up to ten lives, and even then it's not certain you will be able to get back to the human realm. And so it's also said:

A human life is hard to get.
The Buddhadharma is difficult to encounter.

At present, all of us have human bodies. Regardless of what nationality or race we are, we are all human. So now that we have the good fortune of a human life, we should quickly cultivate. Let us just look at America, with its millions of people. The number who are truly studying the Buddhadharma and hearing it explained every day amount to us dozen or so here in San Francisco. There may be other places, but none of them study and practice as intensely as we do. And how many people in the United States can explain the entire Shurangama Sutra? Not more than two or three, and it might be pushing it to say two. So wouldn't you say the Buddhadharma is difficult to get to hear?

Through death after death and birth after birth, they come back to eat one another. The sheep dies and becomes a person. The person dies and becomes a sheep. You eat me and I eat you. You fill my belly and I fill your belly. We keep changing places; you eat my flesh, I eat your flesh. So the sheep gets plump and the person gets paunchy, until it becomes a contest to see who can outeat the other. Not only do they eat like this for one life, it goes on for ten lives and more. So, people, don't get too obese. Don't compete with the sheep to see who can get fatter. That's no way to even the score.

The evil karma becomes innate and exhausts the bounds of the future. The battle goes on: you take a bite of me in this life, next life I'll take two bites of you. You eat two bites of me, I'll help myself to four bites of you. The interest rate keeps multiplying. And this process never stops; it reaches to the bounds of the future. What are the "bounds of the future"? That means tomorrow. And tomorrow. Tomorrow and tomorrow. How many tomorrows are there? They exhaust the bounds of the future. They never cease. Now what about that? Dangerous or not? If you want to try it out, take my advice and don't. It's too dangerous to play around with. And the basis for all of this is stealing and greed. Stealing is taking what is not given. For instance, when you eat the flesh of a sheep, the sheep certainly did not give it to you. It's not like the case of the deer of the Deer Wilds Park who offered one deer to the king every day. They chose to do that, and perhaps there wouldn't even be a retribution to repay in that case. But if you capture and kill a sheep for no reason but to eat its flesh, you have stolen. You eat his flesh and thereby take what is not given, and so he gains rebirth as a person and you become a sheep in your next life and in this way you keep stealing from each other. You stole his flesh so now he steals your flesh. A sheep dies and becomes a person and his rebirth is a case of causal reward, though you may not realize it.

So the whole situation is extremely dangerous. I hope my disciples won't flirt with danger and try things out, only to end up as sheep or pigs, because I don't want my disciples to fall. I want them all to become Buddhas a little sooner. So today I urge you, don't try out that dangerous path!

P2 Karmic debts must be repaid.


Sutra:

"You owe me a life; I have to repay my debt to you." From these causes and conditions we pass through hundreds of thousands of aeons, in a sustained cycle of birth and death.

Commentary:


You owe me a life; I have to repay my debt to you. If you take my life, you must repay me for it; if I take your life I also have to return it to you in kind. If you borrow from me you must repay the debt; if I borrow from you I must also pay you back. From these causes and conditions we pass through hundreds of thousands of aeons, in a sustained cycle of birth and death. Even after millions of aeons we are still caught in the perpetual cycle of birth and death.

Sutra:

"You love my mind; I adore your form." From these causes and conditions we pass through hundreds of thousands of aeons, in a sustained mutual entanglement.

Commentary:

As soon as this passage of text is read you should feel total fear. Look at what it says: You love my mind; I adore your form. The arisal of love is the birth of ignorance. "Adore your form" means there is activity. "From ignorance arises activity." This is again the topic of men and women. In fact, in this world, apart from the question of men and women, there's really nothing to say. Thus if the Buddha's sutras don't talk about it from one angle, they refer to it from another angle. But it's not the case that the Buddha advocated love when he said, "You love me and I love you.' He wasn't promoting free love which ignores all the rules. From these causes and conditions we pass through hundreds of thousands of aeons, in a sustained mutual entanglement. It is just as if you were glued together and can't get apart despite yourselves. You get really sticky. And you think the whole thing is just what you always wanted. But actually since you're stuck there, you can't get to the position of Buddhahood. And you still think it's not bad? Love, love, love, what?

P3 The result becomes continuation.

Sutra:

Killing, stealing, and lust are themselves the basic roots. From these causes and conditions comes the continuity of karmic retribution.

Commentary:

Where does karmic retribution come from? It is produced from killing, stealing, and lust. If you kill, you create the karma of killing. If you steal, you create the karma of stealing. If you lust, you create the karma of deviant sex. These three kinds of karma are also called the three evils of the body. They are themselves the basic roots. From these causes and conditions comes the continuity of karmic retribution.

The continuity of karmic retribution supports the continuity of living beings and the continuity of living beings supports the continuity of the world. The continuity of the world in turn supports the continuity of karmic retribution, and so the cycle completes itself and is endless. It ends and begins again, ends and begins again. That's the way this world is. If you think this world is really fine, exciting and beautiful, then go ahead and enjoy yourself. If you think it is not so good, you can come back home. Where's home? It's at the position of Buddhahood.

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