THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
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Volume 5

CHAPTER 1

The Six Knots

I3 The Buddha ties a strip of cloth to explain the principle.
J1 Ananda explains his question and asks for instruction.


Sutra:

Ananda put his palms together, bowed, and said to the Buddha, "Having heard the Buddha's unbounded, greatly compassionate, pure, everlasting, true and actual expression of dharma, I still have not understood the sequence for releasing the knots such that when the six are untied, the one is gone also.

"I only hope you will be compassionate, and once again take pity on this assembly and on those of the future, by bestowing the sounds of dharma on us and wash and rinse away our heavy
defilements."

Commentary:


Ananda put his palms together, bowed, and said to the Buddha, "Having heard the Buddha's unbounded, greatly compassionate, pure, everlasting, true and actual expression of dharma, I still have not understood the principle whereby when the six are untied, the one is gone also. I haven't yet figured out the sequence for releasing the knots. I only hope you will be compassionate, and once again take pity on this assembly, all the people gathered here, and on those of the future great assemblies of beings. Take pity by bestowing the sounds of dharma on us. Make a gift to all living beings of the expression of the Buddhadharma, to wash and rinse away our heavy defilements."

Just as with vegetables: first you wash them, and then, fearing they might not be completely clean, you rinse them again. "Defilements" may be "heavy" or "serious" enough to cause us to fall into lower states of being. The defilements refer to our greed, hatred, and stupidity. Ananda seeks further clarification.

J2 The Thus Come One's clever explanation.
K1 He cleverly sets up an analogy.
L1 The original cloth is one strip.


Sutra:

Then, upon the lion's throne, the Thus Come One straightened his "nirvana robes," arranged his samghati, took hold of the table made of the seven gems, reached out onto the table with his hand and picked up a flowered cloth given him by the Suyama God.

Commentary:


Then, upon the lion's throne, the Thus Come One, the dharma seat that Shakyamuni Buddha was sitting on was called a "lion's throne." It was so named to indicate that the Buddha's speaking of dharma was like the roar of a lion; When the lion roars, all other beasts tremble. When the Buddha speaks dharma, the heavenly demons and externalists are frightened. He straightened his "nirvana robes" "nirvana robes" refers to the Buddha's inner clothing, and arranged his samghati. The "samghati" is the outer sash, the "perfect robe" or "great robe." He took hold of the table made of the seven gems. The table placed before the Buddha was made of gold, silver, lapis lazuli, crystal, mother-of-pearl, red pearls, and carnelian. Lapis lazuli is sometimes described as "thick crystal." Crystal may not seem so special in this day and age when glass is so prevalent, but in these early times, crystal was hard to come by, so it was considered a precious gem. Mother-of-pearl sometimes has a pattern like cart-tracks in it. Carnelian is likened to "horse-brains" in its shape; it is red and white in color.

He then reached out onto the table with his hand and picked up a flowered cloth given him by the Suyama God. Suyama Heaven is the heaven of "well-divided time." "Flowered cloth" refers to a long hand-towel made of layered flowers. In India, such towels were valued highly, and this one was especially so, since it was a gift to Shakyamuni Buddha from the ruling god of the Suyama Heaven.

L2 He ties it in six knots.

Sutra:

Then, as the assembly watched, he tied it into a knot and showed it to Ananda, asking, "What is this called?" Ananda and the great assembly answered together, "It's called a knot."

Then the Thus Come One tied another knot in the cloth of layered flowers and asked Ananda again, "What is this called?" Ananda and the great assembly once again answered together, "It, too, is called a knot."

He continued in this pattern until he had tied six knots in the cloth of layered flowers. As he made each knot, he held it up to Ananda and asked, "What is this called?" And each time Ananda and the great assembly answered the Buddha in the same way: "It is called a knot."

Commentary:


Then, as the assembly watched, he tied it into a knot. The Buddha, as if playing a game with children, took up the cloth of layered flowers and tied it in knots, while he was sitting there before the great assembly. He showed it to Ananda, asking, "What is this called?" He let Ananda see the knot and asked him what it was.

Ananda and the great assembly answered together, "It's called a knot."

Then the Thus Come One tied another knot in the cloth of layered flowers and asked Ananda again, "What is this called?" He asked him the same thing over again.

Ananda and the great assembly once again answered together, "It, too, is called a knot." They gave the same answer. He continued in this pattern until he had tied six knots in the cloth of layered flowers. In all, he tied six knots in the towel. As he made each knot, he held it up to Ananda and asked, "What is this called?"

And each time Ananda and the great assembly answered the Buddha in the same way: "It is called a knot." The cloth of layered flowers represents the nature of the treasury of the Thus Come One. The six knots tied in it represent the six sense organs.

Sutra:

The Buddha said to Ananda, "When I first tied the cloth, you called it a knot. Since the cloth of layered flowers is basically a single strip, how can you call the second and third ties knots as well?"

Commentary:

The cloth is just one piece, which you said was a knot, so how can you call the second and third ties in it knots as well? The Buddha deliberately quizzed Ananda in this way.

Sutra:

Ananda said to the Buddha, "World Honored One, this cloth of woven layered flowers is just one piece, but as I consider it, when the Thus Come One makes one tie, it is called a knot. If he were to make a hundred ties, they would be called a hundred knots, how much the more so with this cloth, which has exactly six knots, not seven or five. Why does the Thus Come One allow me to call only the first tie a knot and not the second or third ties?"

Commentary:


Ananda said to the Buddha, Ananda replied to the Buddha's quizzing. World Honored One, this cloth of woven layered flowers is just one piece. The precious cloth of layered flowers is a single strip, but as I consider it, when the Thus Come One makes one tie, it is called a knot. If he were to make a hundred ties, they would be called a hundred knots. Every one of those hundred can be called a knot, how much the more so with this cloth, which has exactly six knots, not seven or five. You have only tied six knots in this strip of cloth. You didn't go on to tie seven knots nor did you stop at five. Why does the Thus Come One allow me to call only the first tie a knot and not the second or third ties? Buddha, why do you only admit that the first tie is called a knot and don't recognize the second and the third as knots? What's the principle behind this?

K2 He answers two questions.
L1 The answer that when the six are untied, the one is gone.
M1 By the analogy he shows that one starts with something that is the same and turns it into something different.


Sutra:

The Buddha told Ananda, "You know that this precious cloth of flowers is basically one strip, but when I made six ties in it, you said it had six knots. As you carefully consider this, you will see that the substance of the cloth is the same; it is the knots that make the difference."

Commentary:


The Buddha listened to Ananda's answer with amusement. Of course, the six were all called knots. It's not that the first is called a knot and the others are not. The Buddha asked him that question to tease him. And Ananda insisted that all six could be called knots. This was all for the sake of debate. It was a point of argument, a principle to discuss.

The Buddha told Ananda, "You know that this precious cloth of flowers is basically one strip. It's a single piece. But when I made six ties in it, you said it had six knots. You then called it six knots. As you carefully consider this, look into this in minute detail, reflect upon it, you will see that the substance of the cloth is the same. It doesn't have so many names. It is the knots that make the difference. As soon as I added a knot, it became different."

This demonstrates that the nature of the treasury of the Thus Come One is basically one; the six sense organs are knots tied in it. But, although there are six knots, the original substance of the Treasury is still one. If you untie the six knots, not even one will remain.

Sutra:

What do you think? The first knot I tied was called number one. Continuing until I come to the sixth knot, and as I now tie it, is it also number one?

Commentary:


What do you think? Ananda, what is your opinion? The first knot I tied was called number one. Continuing until I come to the sixth knot, and as I now tie it, is it also number one? Can the sixth one in turn be called number one?

Sutra:

No, World Honored One. If there are six knots, the sixth knot can never be called number one. In all my lives of learning with all my understanding, how could I now confuse the names of six knots?

Commentary:


Ananda said, "Absolutely not. You can't switch them. Number one is number one. You can't change number one so that it is called number six or change number six so that it is called number one. No, World Honored One. If there are six knots, the sixth knot can never be called number one. If there are six, the sixth is just the sixth, and no matter what, it cannot turn into the first. In all my lives of learning, I, Ananda, the learned one, from limitless kalpas past down to the present, with all my understanding, what I have studied, what I have made my specialty, is to be well-read and good at debate. When I call upon all my accumulated learning and use all my skill in debate, how could I now confuse the names of six knots? How could I mix up the names? How could I fail to keep them in order?"

Sutra:

The Buddha said, "So it is. The six knots are not the same. Consider their origin. They are created from the one cloth. To confuse their order will not do."

Commentary:


The Buddha said, "So it is. What you say is right. You can't change their names. You can't call the sixth one the first. The first one cannot be changed and called the sixth. You are absolutely right. The reason they cannot be interchanged is because the six knots are not the same. Consider their origin. They are created from the one cloth. To confuse their order will not do. If you mix up the numerical order of the knots, it won't work, you say. That's right."

Sutra:

Your six sense organs are also like this. In the midst or ultimate sameness, conclusive differences arise.

Commentary:


Originally they are identical, but the eyes function as eyes, the ears function as ears, the nose functions as a nose, the tongue functions as a tongue, the body functions as a body, and the mind functions as the mind. Originally they were one and the same, but at this point they divide. Even then, it would be fine, if they worked together. They could all return their light and illumine within. The eyes could turn their light inward, the ears could listen within and hear the self-nature, the nose would not be turned by smells, the tongue would not be turned by tastes, the body would not be turned by objects of touch, and the mind would not be influenced by dharmas. If they could all work together and return the light, they would still be one. But they can't work together. The eyes see forms, the nose smells fragrances and is turned by them, the tongue tastes flavors and is turned by them, the body enjoys objects of touch and is turned by them, and the mind is influenced by dharmas and is turned by them. What's important is to not follow after them, but ordinary people are unable to avoid following after them.

M2 By the analogy he shows that if one gets rid of what is different, one can return to what is the same.

Sutra:

The Buddha said to Ananda, "You certainly dislike these six knots and would like there to be just one cloth. But how can that be done?"

Ananda said, "As long as these knots remain, there will be grounds for argument about what is and what is not. Their very existence will lead to such distinctions as this knot not being that knot and that knot not being this one. But if on this day, the Thus Come One unties them all, so that no knots remain, then there will be no 'this' and no 'that.' There will not even be something called 'one.' How much the less can there be six?" The Buddha said, "When the six are untied, the one is gone" is the same meaning.

Commentary:


The Buddha said to Ananda, "You certainly dislike these six knots. It's for sure you don't like the six knots," says Shakyamuni Buddha to his disciple, "You would like to untie the six knots so they cease to be, and would like there to be just one cloth. You want to make one out of them. But how can that be done? How can you get back to the one, to that basic substance?"

Ananda heard the Buddha's question and said, "As long as these knots remain, there will be grounds for argument about what is and what is not. Right?" Ananda admits, "I would like to get rid of the six knots and have only one thing remaining, because as long as the six are around, there will be disputes about them." The reason for contention is that there is distinction between this and that. Their very existence will lead to such distinctions as this knot not being that knot and that knot not being this one. In the midst of these various knots will arise arguments about what is right and what is wrong. "This knot," the first one, is not the sixth, and "that knot," the sixth one, is not the first. Distinctions arise regarding this and that.

But if on this day, the Thus Come One unties them all, so that no knots remain, then there will be no "this" and no "that." There won't be a first, second, third, fourth, fifth, or sixth knot. There will not even be something called "one." If the six knots are destroyed there won't even be one knot. How much the less can there be six?

The Buddha said, "When the six are untied, the one is gone, is the same meaning. Not bad," the Buddha told Ananda, "You spoke that principle correctly. If you understand that principle, you can understand 'when the six are untied, the one is gone'; for that is the same meaning. Are you clear about it now?"

L2 The answer that untying the knots is done in sequence.
M1 He explains the sequence of the knots.
N1 He accords with sequence in tying the knots.

Sutra:

Because from beginningless time your mind and nature have been made wild and rebellious, you have produced false knowledge and views. This falseness continues to arise without respite, and the wearisomeness of these views brings about objective "dust."

Commentary:


Because from beginningless time your mind and nature have been made wild and rebellious. From beginningless kalpas on down to the present, your pure mind and your basic nature of true suchness, your self-nature, have been made wild. "Wild" refers to your "appearance-of-production" ignorance, which is innate. From the "appearance-of-production" ignorance comes the discriminatory knowledge of dharmas which is also innate. "Wild" refers to ignorance.

"Rebellious" refers to the three subtle appearances discussed before. They are:

1. the appearance of karma.
2. the appearance of turning.
3. the appearance of manifestation.

The appearance of karma brings about the appearance of turning, which leads to the appearance of manifestation. This is very subtle, however, not something which ordinary people can discern. One unenlightened thought produces three subtle appearances. With the existence of these three appearances, the first knot is tied. The point at which you have produced false knowledge and views is when,

The experience of states becomes the condition from which six coarse appearances arise.

These have already been discussed. They are:

1. The appearance of knowing. This knowing refers to worldly knowledge and skill in debate. It includes science, technology, and all kinds of professions. Because you have "produced false knowledge and views," you give rise to the appearance of knowing. This falseness continues to arise without respite, and brings about the second of the six coarse appearances.

2. The appearance of continuity. It never stops. The appearance of knowing is the second knot, and the appearance of continuity is the third knot.

3. The appearance of grasping. You give rise to attachments.

4. The appearance of assigning names.

5. The appearance of the production of karma.

6. The appearance of karmic-bound suffering. These four represent the last three knots.

N2 He uses an analogy to explain further.

Sutra:

It is just like strange flowers appearing when your eyes grow weary of staring. They arise at random without any cause within the tranquil, essential brightness.

Commentary:


It is just like strange flowers appearing when your eyes grow weary of staring. This is like the passage earlier in the sutra: "He stares into emptiness and after a long time gets weary." When he gets weary, he sees strange flowers in emptiness. So, too, here: They arise at random without any cause within the tranquil, essential brightness. For no reason at all, they appear haphazardly in the nature of the treasury of the Thus Come One.

N3 To oppose the sequence is connected with the analogy.

Sutra:

Everything in the world, the mountains, the rivers, and the great earth, as well as birth, death, and nirvana, is all just a strange weariness: the upside-down appearance of flowers.

Commentary:

It is not only the three subtle and six coarse appearances that arise because the eyes grow weary from long staring, so that they begin to see the appearance of flowers in emptiness. Everything in the world, the entire universe, that is, not just our world, but all worlds throughout empty space and the dharma realm, the mountains, the rivers, and the great earth, as well as birth, death, and nirvana, is all just a strange weariness. They all exist because the eyes, as it were, have stared for a long time and become weary. They all come about through the same kind of circumstances as the eyes, staring. They are the upside-down appearance of flowers. Originally there were no flowers in space. All these things are like the upside-down appearance of flowers. So the Buddha's principle here is: "Do you know where everything in the world came from? Everything arises from living beings' ignorance. That one unenlightened thought produces the three subtle appearances. Experiencing states becomes the conditions from which six coarse appearances arise."

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