THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
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Volume 4

M5 He concludes his answer by showing the relationship among them.

Sutra:

Therefore, Purna, the three kinds of upside down continuity come from the light which is added to enlightenment. With this false enlightening of the knowing-nature, subjective awareness gives rise to objective appearances. Both are born of false views, and from this falseness the mountains, the rivers, the great earth, and all conditioned appearances unfold themselves in a succession that recurs in endless cycles.

Commentary:

After the Buddha finished explaining the continuity of the world, the continuity of living beings, and the continuity of karmic retribution, he called to Purna again. Therefore, Purna, the three kinds of upside down continuity come from the light which is added to enlightenment. The continuity of the world is the arisal, dwelling, change, and extinction of the world, which goes on perpetually. Living beings go through a similar process of birth, dwelling, change, and extinction, ceaselessly without end. Karmic retribution also occurs with production, dwelling, change, and extinction, forever and ever. These three kinds of continuity arise from ignorance.

The world is established because of ignorance. So there is the ignorance of the world, the ignorance of living beings, and the ignorance of karmic retribution. Every conditioned dharma arises from ignorance. Ignorance is the mother of all conditioned existence. Thus if people can smash ignorance, they can see the dharma-nature. Until you have smashed ignorance, you cannot see your dharma-nature.

Why is this world sustained by the three kinds of up side-down continuity? Adding light to fundamental enlightenment turns it into ignorance. With this false enlightening of the knowing-nature, subjective awareness gives rise to objective appearances. With the birth of ignorance, an empty and false knowing-nature comes into being and because of it, the objective realm is perceived. Both are born of false views, and from this falseness the mountains, the rivers, the great earth, and all conditioned appearances unfold themselves in a succession that recurs in endless cycles. Despite the vastness of the plains, forests, and all the myriad appearances, there is a definite sequence to it all, and never any randomness or disarray. Once this empty falseness arises, it goes on and on. It finishes and then begins again, ends and then starts over. For instance, people die and then are reborn, and once born they die again, and after death they are born again. They keep turning around. Yet people never wake up and wonder, "Why do I get born and then die, die and then get born?" They don't look into this question. They never figure out why they get born and why they die. So when they're born they don't understand what's going on and when they die they're even more confused. So the saying:

When you come you are disoriented.
When you go you are confused.

Since they are so unclear about their coming and going, you can imagine that their lives as people pass in a daze as well. And it's just in this lack of clarity that the process continues. They are born and die, die and are born. Pitiful? What ultimate meaning is there in all of this?

The ultimate meaning of being in this world is making a little money and eating a little food. You don't have any money so you have to go to work. You make money in order to buy food and clothes. Really, if all there is to this life is eating, wearing clothes, and living in a nice house, it's really meaningless! It would be better to die right this minute! Think about it: you have to go to work and when you come home you have to eat. You have to keep trying to fill that bottomless pit. You fill it up today, and by tomorrow it all has flowed out again. You fill it one day and the next day it's empty again, even to the point that you fill it in the morning and it's hungry by noon. Again you fill the hole, and by evening you're hungry yet again. You have to move out the old to make room for the new. Going through such a lot of trouble every day seems totally meaningless. There's a poem that goes:

From of old until today, few people have lived past seventy.
First subtract the early years and then the years of age:
Between the two there is not much time that is left at all.
And of that, remember, sleep takes up the better half!

From ancient times until the present day, the number of people who have lived past seventy are very few. And in the early years, before one is fifteen years old, one can't really do anything. Americans become of age at eighteen, but Chinese children still rely on their parents at twenty-five! So first you must subtract the early years. Someone says, "My kid carries papers and makes money." Sure, but he can't make much. You can't really count that as carrying on a business.

From the end of the lifespan you also have to subtract fifteen years, the years of old age. In the last fifteen years you are physically unable to do very much. Your eyes go bad, your ears get deaf, your teeth fall out, and your hands shake. You can't even get your legs to work right. Your four limbs are of no use any more. So if one lives to be seventy, and we take off fifteen years at the beginning and fifteen years at the end, there isn't much time left in between. There are forty years left. But that is not forty years of productiveness. Half of it is taken up in sleep. And then if you take into account going to the bathroom, putting on and taking off clothes, you'll have to subtract some more time. So at the very most a human lifespan has about twenty productive years to it. So what's so great about it?

That reminds me of three old men who got together to celebrate New Year's. One was sixty years old, one was seventy, and one was eighty. These three old cronies went out dutch to ring out the old and ring in the new, and the sixty-year-old said:

"This year we celebrate with wine and cheer. I wonder next year who won't be here."

The seventy-year-old said, "You're thinking too far in the future."

"Oh?" said the sixty-year-old. "What do you say about it?"

The seventy-year-old said:
"Tonight when I take off my shoes and socks, will I put them on again tomorrow or not?"

The eighty-year-old said, "You're looking too far ahead yourself."

"Well, what do you say about it?" asked the seventy year-old.

The eighty-year-old said:
"I let out this breath of air, and then I'm not sure if I'll ever breath in again."

These three old-timers were looking into the question of birth and death. In the end, could they end birth and death? If they had met a good knowing advisor, a bright-eyed teacher, they'd still have had a chance. If they didn't encounter a bright-eyed teacher, I believe they couldn't have ended birth and death.

There's another incident that had bearing on this topic. Once there was a man who died and went before King Yama. So a soon as he saw King Yama, he started to argue his case. He said, "You are really inhumane. If you wanted me to come see you, you should have written me a letter. If you had informed me clearly in advance, I could have prepared. But you didn't write a letter or make a phone call or send a telegram to let me know.

You just captured me without warning, and I find that totally unreasonable." King Yama said to him, "I sent you a lot of letters." You just didn't realize it.

"I never got any letters from you," the man protested. Yama said, "The first letter I gave you was when your neighbor had a child that died at birth. You were already quite old, and if a newborn child could die, weren't you even more vulnerable? You should have wakened up at that point and started to cultivate. "And then didn't there come the time when your eyes went bad and you could no longer see clearly? That was the second letter. In time your ears went deaf, right? That was the third letter. Wasn't there a point when your teeth fell out? That was the fourth letter."

'"I didn't recognize the words of your letters, Yama. What was the last one you sent?"

"Didn't you notice that your hair was getting white? That was the last letter. Now I see how much pork you have eaten, so you can go to rebirth as a pig."

So the man turned into a pig. When would he get to be a person again? Nobody knows.

Now that the continuity of karmic retribution has been explained, everyone should return the light and look within and figure out what he or she is going to do. Someone says, "I know. I'm going to leave the home-life."

You want to leave the home-life? That's fine if you really do it. Someone else says, "Hearing this, I think human life is really meaningless and I'd like to just lay down and die."

That's all right, too, but it's not for sure that you won't get sent off to be a pig like that old man was. Pigs are really doltish. So people who are dull-witted become pigs in the future. And the whole reason for studying the Shurangama Sutra is to learn how not to be a dolt. It is to help you open your wisdom. If you have wisdom, the three kinds of continuity won't have anything to do with you.

So you wonder, "Wouldn't it be anarchy if the world and living beings and karmic retribution didn't have anything to do with me?" No, because at that point you have a connection with the Buddhas. You are a relative of the Bodhisattvas, and a brother or sister of the arhats. So you certainly won't be an anarchist.

L2 The explanation brings up another question.
M1 Purna attaches to causes and doubts effects.

Sutra:

Purna said, "If this wonderful enlightenment, this basic miraculous enlightened brightness which is neither greater than nor less than the mind of the Thus Come One, abruptly brings forth the mountains, the rivers, and the great earth, and all conditioned appearances, then now that the Thus Come One has attained the wonderful empty bright enlightenment, will the mountains, the rivers, the great earth, and all conditioned habitual outflows arise again?"

Commentary:


Having heard Shakyamuni Buddha's explanation of the three kinds of upside-down continuities, Purna had something else to say. If this wonderful enlightenment, this basic miraculous enlightened brightness which is neither greater than nor less than the mind of the Thus Come One: this refers to the nature of the treasury of the Thus Come One. On the part of a Buddha, the treasury of the Thus Come One does not increase, and on the part of living beings it does not decrease. Living beings are replete with the basic miraculous enlightened brightness, just as the Buddha is. Yet it abruptly brings forth the mountains, the rivers, and the great earth, and all conditioned appearances. Since that's the way it is, why for no reason do the mountains, the rivers, the great earth, and all the other conditioned appearances suddenly arise?

You say that they arise from the treasury of the Thus Come One. Why does that happen? There doesn't seem to be any reason for it. This section of text voices the doubt that Purna has now. He wonders if living beings' "causal mind' that is, their Buddhanature, has a beginning, and he wonders if the fruition of Buddhahood has an end. He's asking if there will be a time when the Buddha will no longer be a Buddha and will become a living being again. He says, 'Then now that the Thus Come One has attained the wonderful empty bright enlightenment, will the mountains, the rivers, the great earth, and all conditioned habitual outflows arise again? Buddha, you don't have any leftover habits, and you have extinguished your outflows. Would it be possible for you to give rise to conditioned outflows and habits in the future? You have already become a Buddha; can you give rise to ignorance again? Living beings arise from ignorance, you're a Buddha now, but in the future could you become a living being again?' This is what Purna was asking.

His reasoning was this: the mountains, the rivers, the great earth, and everything else arise from ignorance. Before they came into being there was fundamental enlightenment, the wonderful brightness of the enlightened nature, the fundamental enlightenment's bright wonder. Ignorance arose from true enlightenment. Therefore, now that the Buddha has become a Buddha when will he again give rise to ignorance?

After one accomplishes Buddhahood there is no more ignorance. A Bodhisattva at the level of equal enlightenment still has ignorance, but it is slight. In fact, it would be hard to compare it to anything in order to show how little there is of it. Living beings have 84,000 afflictions, which arise from ignorance. But a Bodhisattva of equal enlightenment is comparable to a Buddha, except that he has not actually reached wonderful enlightenment, that is, Buddhahood. Bodhisattvas of equal enlightenment still have one particle of ignorance which produces appearances that they have not destroyed. And this one particle is comparable to a mote of dust bordering on emptiness.

M2 The Thus Come One explains by analogy which distinguishes true and false.

N1 The false does not reoccur.
O1 Ignorance is basically empty.


Sutra:

The Buddha said to Purna, "Consider for example a person who has become confused in a village, mistaking south for north. Is this confusion the result of confusion or of awareness?

Purna said, "This person's confusion is the result neither of confusion nor of awareness. Why? Confusion is fundamentally baseless, so how could it arise because of confusion? Awareness does not produce confusion, so how could it arise because of awareness?"

Commentary:

The Buddha said to Purna, responding to his question, "Consider for example a person who has become confused in a village, mistaking south for north." What was this person's situation? He got turned around. He'd lost his direction. Now in his confusion, when he mistakes south for north, does he in actuality lose south or north? No. South is still south, and north is still north. It's just that the man has lost his sense of direction. "Is this confusion the result of confusion or of awareness?" the Buddha asks.

Purna said, "This person's confusion is the result neither of confusion nor of awareness. It's not because of confusion that he gets confused, nor is it because of awareness that he gets confused. Why? Confusion is fundamentally baseless, so how could it arise because of confusion?" Confusion doesn't even exist. How could confusion arise from confusion, when there basically isn't any confusion to begin with? In the same way, basically people have no ignorance, so ignorance is not produced from ignorance.

Ignorance is like a shadow. Light represents wisdom, darkness represents stupidity. The ignorance is like a shadow. Our shadow is certainly not our body, but because there is a body, a shadow exists. When people turn their back on enlightenment and unite with defilement, there is ignorance. When they turn their back on defilement and unite with enlightenment, there isn't any more ignorance.

Ignorance is also like a reflection in a mirror. There aren't any reflections in the mirror to begin with, so when a reflection appears, it is obviously not there just because the mirror exists. It appears when there is an appearance external to it. So ignorance does not arise in true enlightenment. The falseness arises relying on the true. Confusion is fundamentally baseless; it has no root. How, then, can it produce confusion? A plant must have a seed in order to reproduce itself, but confusion has no seed and no root, so confusion can't be born from confusion.

Nor does it arise from awareness. Why? Awareness does not produce confusion, so how could it arise because of awareness? "Awareness" here refers to enlightenment, and since enlightenment is the opposite of confusion, how could awareness give rise to confusion?

Sutra:

The Buddha said, "If a person who is aware points out the way to the person who is in the midst of confusion, and makes him aware, then do you suppose, Purna, that once the person is over his confusion he could lose his sense of direction again in that village?"

"No, World Honored One."

Commentary:


The village in this analogy represents the nature of the treasury of the Thus Come One. The confused person represents living beings who have given rise to mistaken perception to false thinking. South and north represent the false and the true, confusion and enlightenment. The confusion of the person in the village represents the arisal of ignorance on the part of living beings. Now the Buddha says to Purna: If a person who is aware points out the way to the person who is in the midst of confusion, and makes him aware. The confused person can't tell south from north; he thinks confusion is enlightenment. He's just like people who always think they are right. They see someone and decide he's against them, so they get angry at him. If they think someone else is good to them, they welcome him with open arms. And they think they are right in their opinions. Actually they are upside down. But they don't know that they are upside-down; they don't know that they have mistaken south for north. In that state of confusion, suppose they encounter someone who makes them aware. The person who is aware represents the Buddha or a good and wise advisor, who says to him, "You're confused and should turn from confusion and return to enlightenment. You think that way is south, but you are mistaken; it is north." He straightens him out about confusion and enlightenment. Then do you suppose, Purna, that once the person is over his confusion he could lose his sense of direction again in that village? After someone has told him the right directions, would he get even more confused? "No, World Honored One. That is not possible," Purna says. "Once he has been clearly told, he wouldn't get confused again." When we are confused, we are just dreaming. But we won't admit we are dreaming. I tell you that you are dreaming right now, but you say, "I'm not asleep and I'm not dreaming. Why do you say I am?" Suppose a person is having a dream that he is emperor or president or that he's as wealthy as a Rockefeller or a Kennedy. And there he is in the dream with everything he ever wanted wealth, riches, status, pleasures, luxuries. He's rich and he's a high official as well and all his relatives are either Ph.D.'s or full professors or members of the upper class. Then someone comes along and say: "You're dreaming." Do you think he'll believe that? Will he admit he's dreaming? No. The person who is dreaming of such wealth and status won't believe he's dreaming. When he wakes up from the dream, though, then he'll know he was just having a good dream, and will regret having awakened so soon. He'll long for the dream to continue.

This is just like people in the world who are busy all day long, running here today and there tomorrow, wondering what the future holds in store for them.

What you haven't got yet,
you want to get.
What you've already got,
you are afraid of losing.

So you get all attached and bound up. When you get enlightened, you wonder how you could have ever been so upside down. However, a person who has become enlightened won't long for his former state of being. That's the difference.

Sutra:

"Purna, the Thus Come Ones of the ten directions are the same way. Confusion is groundless and ultimately empty in nature. There had basically been no confusion: it merely seemed as if there were confusion and enlightenment. When the delusion about confusion and enlightenment is ended, enlightenment does not give rise to confusion.

Commentary:

The Buddha now says: Purna, the Thus Come Ones of the ten directions are the same way. They are like the man in the village who, in the Buddha's analogy, will not become confused again once he is made aware of the right road. Confusion is groundless and ultimately empty in nature. He won't get confused again, because confusion has no root, so it can't produce new confusion. Basically there is no confusion, so it doesn't have a nature; and without a nature it is ultimately empty. There had basically been no confusion: it merely seemed as if there were confusion and enlightenment. To seem to be is to not really exist; it is to be empty and false, just as in the case of the person who gets confused about directions: the directions themselves aren't lost; it's just that he doesn't recognize them. When the delusion about confusion and enlightenment is ended, enlightenment does not give rise to confusion. You had a mistaken impression, but once you awaken and recognize the confusion, it ceases to be. As I often say to you:

Don't fear the arisal of your thoughts;
Just fear your enlightenment will be slow in coming.

Everyone has false thoughts, a profusion of them. When this one goes, that one comes. But don't be scared of the arisal of these false thoughts. Just fear that you will be slow in becoming enlightened. Get enlightened quickly: don't be slow about it. When a false thought comes up, you want to pursue it to its origin. Ask who the mother of that false thought is. Where did this false thought arise from? If you find the mother of that false thought, you can tell her to look after her child. Actually, though, that false thought doesn't have a mother, and so there's no one looking after it. When you find out it doesn't have a mother, it won't be naughty any more because it won't even exist. Without a mother, how could it be? When the confusion about enlightenment and confusion is ended, there will be no more confusion. After you become enlightened you won't be able to get confused again. Once you're enlightened, the confusion disappears, and so there can't be any more confusion to arise. Therefore, the Buddha, having already accomplished Buddhahood and cut off ignorance, won't give rise to confusion again.

O2 The manifestation of the myriad dharmas is not real.
P1 He brings up an analogy.


Sutra:

"It is also like a person with an eye-ailment who sees flowers in space. If he gets rid of his eye-ailment, the flowers in space will disappear. If he were so stupid as to quickly return to the spot where the flowers disappeared and wait for them to reappear, would you consider that person to be stupid or smart?

Commentary:

The confused person is also like a person with an eye-ailment who sees flowers in space. The flowers were beautiful, but they were only there because of the eye-ailment. If he gets rid of his eye-ailment, the flowers in space will disappear. Let me ask you now: do you think there were any flowers in space after all? If you say there weren't any, why did he see flowers? Oh; it was because he had an eye ailment. When his eyes got better, the flowers disappeared. But did they really disappear? If he were so stupid as to quickly return to the spot where the flowers disappeared and wait for them to reappear, would you consider that person to be stupid or smart? If that confused person were to find the place in space where the flowers were last seen and wait there for them to reappear, would you call him stupid or smart, Purna?

P2 The discussion.

Sutra:

Purna said, "Originally there weren't any flowers in space. It was through a falseness in the seeing that they were produced and extinguished. To see the disappearance of the flowers in space is already upside down. To wait for them to reappear is sheer madness. Why bother to determine further if such a person is stupid or smart?"

Commentary:


The Buddha said, "You are like the person waiting for the flowers to reappear in space. Would you consider that person to be stupid or smart?"

Purna said, "Originally there weren't any flowers in space. It was through a falseness in the seeing that they were produced and extinguished." Since no flowers arose, there were no flowers extinguished. For him to wait for the flowers to arise again is a mistake. They were only there in the first place because the eyes were sick. To see the disappearance of the flowers in space is already upside down. To wait for them to reappear is sheer madness. Why bother to determine further if such a person is stupid or smart? You say he waits for them to come out again? That is just as if I were to plant a flower and then wait for it to come up, just wait there without sleeping or eating. If we were as sincere in our study of the Buddhadharma as he was about waiting for those flowers, we'd probably be successful. But the person waiting for the flowers was sincere about the wrong thing. He was in fact incomparably stupid.

So Purna says, "The man is totally insane. He's out of his mind. That person isn't even up to being called stupid.

P3 Correlates analogy with dharma.

Sutra:

The Buddha said, "Since you explain it that way, why do you ask if the wonderful enlightened bright emptiness can once again give rise to the mountains, the rivers, and the great earth?"

Commentary:

So Purna determines that the person waiting for the flowers is insane. The word kuang (insanity) is composed of two characters in Chinese, kuang and dian). Kuang results from excessive yang, and dian from excessive yin. These are the definitions assigned in Chinese medicine. Yang, the fire or temper of a person, results in madness when extreme. Yin, the lack of fire, results in another kind of insanity when extreme. To be obsessed with fame is a case of excessive yang, and to be obsessed with profit is a case of excessive yin. In the whole world there are only two people: one intent upon fame and one intent upon profit. If someone praises the first person and says something like,"'You're so good: intelligent and wise. Everything about you is wonderful," to him those words of praise are as sweet as candy. The other one, the one seeking profit, thinks of ways to cheat people out of their money. He thinks of every way possible. He's totally dishonest. For instance, when he sells rice, he adds a little water to it to make it heavier. And if he adds a little water to the beans, they swell, and he has to put fewer in the bag to fill it. So in China there was a rice seller who was struck down by lightning. And on his back they found four characters which no one could decipher until someone added one long stroke down the middle completing the four characters, which read:

When the world gets filled with too many evil people, one gets struck down by lightning to serve as an example for the others. The Buddha said, 'Since you explain it that way, why do you ask if the wonderful enlightened bright emptiness can once again give rise to the mountains, the rivers, and the great earth?" Once the Thus Come One has obtained the fruition of the wonderful enlightened bright emptiness, can he again have the mountains, the rivers, and the great earth arise? Why would you ask that?

The Buddhas, the Thus Come Ones, are like the confused person whom someone has set straight so that he is no longer confused. So to wonder whether one can again become ignorant once one has been certified as having attained the fruition of Buddhahood, is to be like the person who stands waiting for the flowers to reappear in space. Once one has reached the fruition of Buddhahood, one could not turn around in the treasury of the Thus Come One, one could not turn around and give rise to ignorance again.

N2 The truth does not change.
O1 He mentions two other analogies.

Sutra:

It is like a piece of ore containing gold and a mixture of other metals. Once the pure gold is extracted, it will not become an ore again. It is like wood that has been burned to ashes; it will not become wood again.

Commentary:

Another analogy is given to show that after one becomes a Buddha one does not turn into an ordinary living being again. It is like a piece of ore containing gold and a mixture of other metals. The streaks of pure gold are mixed with other substances. With some amount of labor, you can extricate the gold from the ore. Once the pure gold is extracted, it will not become an ore again. The pure gold won't become mixed with sand, silt, or earth again. Also, it is like wood that has been burned to ashes; it will not become wood again. Once the wood is burned, it can't turn back into wood again. The wood can become ashes, but the ashes can't turn directly back into wood.

Sutra:

The Bodhi and Nirvana of all Buddhas, the Thus Come Ones, are the same way.

Commentary:


All Buddhas, the Thus Come Ones of the ten directions; here two titles of the Buddha have been used together for the sake of literary style. The Bodhi and Nirvana are the same way. "Bodhi" is the fruition of enlightenment, and "Nirvana" has four wonderful virtues. They are just like the pure gold in the mine. When one is still a living being, one is like the unrefined gold in the mine. When one has already become a Buddha, one has turned into pure gold. And pure gold won't get mixed with impurities any more. One who has become a Buddha is also like the ashes, while living beings are like the wood. Wood can turn into ashes, but ashes can't turn back into wood. The Bodhi and Nirvana of the Buddhas of the ten directions, the fruition of Buddhahood, is like these examples. It cannot change back to what it was before.

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