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The Ear Organ
VOLUME 5, Chapter 2
Gwan Shi Yin Bodhisattva
L2 Guan Yin speaks in detail.
M1 He explains how he received a prediction from a former Buddha.
Then Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva arose from his seat, bowed at the Buddha's feet and said to the Buddha:
Above, Great Strength Bodhisattva told how he cultivated the dharma door of mindfulness of the Buddha, which is a very appropriate method for people in this day and age. It's quite effective. Why? The sutras tell us that in the Dharma-ending Age, not even one in a million people who cultivate will attain the Way. That many people cultivate and not even one person among them attains to the Way! Then what shall we do? Don't worry. It goes on to say, "Only by mindfulness of the Buddha are they taken across." The dharma door of reciting the Buddha's name is very easy. With the dharma door of mindfulness of the Buddha,
One transcends the three realms
through the side door (horizontally),
And carries one's karma into that rebirth.
What does it mean to transcend the three realms through the side door? It's like an insect in a piece of bamboo. If the insect were to gnaw its way out through the length of the bamboo, it would have to go through all the sections; it would take a long time. If the insect were to gnaw a hole in the side of the bamboo instead, it would get out very easily. People who are mindful of the Buddha are like the insect who goes out the side of the bamboo; they escape the three realms on a horizontal plane, right at the level they are. "One carries one's karma into that rebirth." The karma one carries is former karma, not current karma, it is old karma, not new karma.
This means that before you understood the method of being mindful of the Buddha, you created offenses. You can take that karma with you when you go to rebirth in the Pure Land. But you shouldn't continue to create bad karma once you know about reciting the Buddha's name, because you can't take that karma along. Once you know about mindfulness of the Buddha, you should change your ways. Don't keep creating bad karma. If you do, you will be piling karma on top of karma, adding offenses to offenses. That's called "knowing clearly and transgressing intentionally," in which case, the offenses are tripled.
You can take your old karma with you, but now that you understand the Buddhadharma, you can't say, "Oh, I can recite the Buddha's name on the one hand and create bad karma on the other hand, because in the future I can take my karma with me to the Land of Ultimate Bliss." That's a mistake. Not only will you be unable to take that karma with you, you won't be able to be reborn there at all, because you will be hindered by your karma. We people who believe in the Buddha should take care not to create any further offenses once we know about mindfulness of the Buddha. This section of text concerning Great Strength Bodhisattva's perfect penetration through mindfulness of the Buddha is extremely important.
Everyone should know what the dharma door of mindfulness of the Buddha is all about.
Why should we be mindful of the Buddha? Because we have great causes and conditions with Amitabha Buddha. Amitabha Buddha became a Buddha ten kalpas ago. Before that, he was called Bhikshu Dharma Treasury. At that time he made forty-eight great vows. In making his thirteenth and fourteenth vows he said, "If the living beings throughout the ten directions say my name and do not become Buddhas, I will not attain the right enlightenment." In other words, if people who recite his name do not become Buddhas, he will not become a Buddha. And because of the power of Amitabha Buddha's vows, everyone who recites his name can get reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.
The Pure Land dharma door comprises one of the five schools of Chinese Buddhism:
1. the Chan school (dhyana),
2. the Teaching school,
3. the Vinaya school,
4. the Secret school,
5. the Pure Land school.
The Pure Land sect will be the last of the five to endure. In this world, during the Dharma-ending Age, the Shurangama Sutra will be the first sutra to disappear. After that, the other sutras will disappear also, until only the Amitabha Sutra is left. While the Amitabha Sutra remains in the world, it will take many people across. After another hundred years, it will also be gone. Dharmaending simply means that the dharma will entirely disappear. Once the Amitabha Sutra has vanished, all that will be left will be the phrase, "Namo Amitabha Buddha."
This tremendous phrase will also take many people across; then, after another hundred years, it, too, will disappear. All that will be left then will be the name "Amitabha Buddha," which will remain in the world yet another hundred years and then vanish as well. At that point there will be no Buddhadharma remaining in the world. While we are still at the advent of the Dharma-ending Age, we should practice and uphold the events of the Proper Dharma Age. That's called "Requesting that the Buddhas dwell in the world to turn the dharma wheel." In the Dharma-ending Age, we should not fear any suffering or difficulty. I don't fear the trouble of lecturing the sutra for you, and you should not fear the trouble of coming to listen. Strike up your spirits! Don't say you're tired and have to go rest. Forget yourself for the sake of the dharma.
Take a look at how Shakyamuni Buddha dwelt in the Snowy Mountains for six years for the sake of seeking the dharma. We haven't gone to the mountains for six years, but the least we can do is investigate Buddhism. Take the Buddhadharma as you would food to eat. "If I don't get to hear this sutra lecture, it'll be like not getting to eat for several days" that should be your attitude. "I must hear the dharma. I will certainly work to understand it truly." Where do you go to gain genuine understanding of the Buddhadharma?
You listen to a lot of sutras. Without hearing the sutras, you will be unable to open your wisdom. This is especially true of the Shurangama Sutra, for it is the sutra that opens one's wisdom. Just take as an example this section of the method for obtaining perfect penetration, which the twenty-five sages are explaining. Some accomplished their cultivation by means of the fire-light samadhi. Some reached success by cultivating the water-contemplation samadhi. Some reached perfection by means of the wind, some from emptiness. Some cultivated their eyes and won success, and some used their ears. Each of the six sense-organs was cultivated by one or another of them. Every one of the eighteen realms was cultivated by someone. Hearing these principles, you should apply them to yourself.
"Through which sense organ should I cultivate?" you ask. Don't be nervous. It is the very organ of the ear which Guan Yin Bodhisattva used that is best for you. Guan Yin Bodhisattva perfected his cultivation through the organ of the ear, and Ananda will follow him in cultivating the same method. The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of former times have left us such a wonderful dharma door that we should also follow the method of cultivating the organ of the ear to perfect penetration. This is the easiest method. Then Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva arose from his seat, bowed at the Buddha's feet and said to the Buddha. "Gwan" means to contemplate.
Using the wisdom capable of contemplation,
One contemplates the objective realm.
With the capability of wisdom, one regards the state that is being contemplated. The wisdom capable of contemplation is inherent in the self-nature of Guan Yin Bodhisattva. The objective realm which is contemplated is that of the sounds made by all living beings. You should look into the sounds of suffering, the sounds of happiness, the sounds of what is neither suffering nor happiness, the sounds of goodness, the sounds of evil, the sounds of truth, the sounds of falseness, contemplate all kinds of sounds.
"Shr" is the world, in the sense of time, the past, present, and future. Contemplate living beings' past causes and effects. Contemplate the karma that living beings are now creating. Contemplate the rewards and retributions that living beings will have to undergo in the future. "Why is that person suffering so much?" you reflect, and then you realize: "Oh, in his last life he was not filial to his parents and he wasn't kind to people in general. That's why this time his retribution is unfortunate." Contemplate all kinds of sounds, "Yin."
"Bodhisattva" means "one who enlightens living creatures." It also means "a living being with a great mind for the Way." A Bodhisattva is also known as "an enlightened living being": that refers to his self-enlightenment. When we say he is "one who enlightens living beings," we are referring to his enlightenment of others. Together these mean he is an enlightened living being who wants to cause all living beings to become enlightened. What Bodhisattvas do is enlighten themselves and enlighten others, benefit themselves and benefit others. You who study the Buddhadharma should remember the definition of Bodhisattva. Don't let it be like the people who held a meeting of the "United Sangha," but when someone asked them what "Sangha" meant they were left speechless. Inconceivable!
World Honored One, I remember when, as many kalpas ago as there are sands in the Ganges, there was a Buddha in the world named Contemplating the World's Sounds. It was under that Buddha that I brought forth the Bodhi-resolve. That Buddha taught me to enter samadhi through a process of hearing and reflecting.
Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva said to Shakyamuni Buddha: World Honored One, I remember when, as many kalpas ago as there are sands in the Ganges, passing back through an incredibly long time, unreckonable aeons as numerous as the Ganges' sands, there was a Buddha in the world named Contemplating the World's Sounds. "Contemplating the World's Sounds" is the English translation of the name Guan Shi Yin. This is the Guan Yin of old.
That Thus Come One, Guan Shi Yin, also cultivated perfect penetration by means of the organ of the ear. It was under that Buddha that I brought forth the Bodhi-resolve. I resolved to attain the Way of enlightenment. That Buddha taught me to enter samadhi through a process of hearing and reflecting. The Guan Yin Buddha of old taught him the process of hearing and reflecting. It is from the wisdom of hearing, the wisdom of reflecting, and the wisdom of cultivating that he entered samadhi. Here "reflection" does not refer to the thinking of the sixth mind-consciousness. Rather, it has the meaning of quiet consideration, the skill of Chan.
M2 He gradually unties the knot, cultivates, and is certified.
Initially, I entered the flow through hearing and forgot objective states. Since the sense-objects and sense-organs were quiet, the two characteristics of movement and stillness crystallized and did not arise. After that, gradually advancing, the hearing and what was heard both disappeared.
Once the hearing was ended, there was nothing to rely on, and awareness and the objects of awareness became empty. When the emptiness of awareness reached an ultimate perfection, emptiness and what was being emptied then also ceased to be. Since production and extinction were gone, still extinction was revealed.
Initially, I entered the flow through hearing and forgot objective states. With the wisdom of hearing, one listens inside, not outside. Not chasing after the objects of sound means not following them out. Earlier, the text spoke of not following the six sense-organs and not being turned by them. This is known as, Returning the hearing to hear the self-nature.
Returning the hearing means not listening to external sounds but turning back instead to hear your own self-nature. It means,
Gathering in your body and mind.
It means not seeking outside.
Turn the light around and shine it within.
Here the text says that Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva "entered the flow," which means he returned and listened to the self-nature. Enter the flow of the dharma-nature of a sage. He "forgot the objective states." All the "dust", the defiling objects of the six-sense objects as perceived by the six sense-organs, was forgotten.
Since the sense-objects and sense-organs were quiet, the two characteristics of movement and stillness crystallized and did not arise. The source of the six sense-organs and six sense-objects ceased to be. It was severed. Here he entered the flow of his own self-nature. When that happens, your self-nature is still and quiet. When this quietude reaches an ultimate point, the appearance of movement and stillness ceases as well.
Basically, movement appears as movement and stillness as stillness, but now, although these two characteristics are as clear as crystal, they do not arise. After that, gradually advancing, the hearing and what was heard both disappeared. As this pure and clear state of quiet increased, as day by day it became more full and complete, the hearing that was capable of hearing the self-nature eventually disappeared. It, too, was gone.
The ability to hear and the objects of hearing both vanished. The organ of the ear was capable of hearing, and the self-nature was what was being heard, but now they, too, were gone. Once the hearing was ended, there was nothing to rely on. Since the hearing-nature was gone, there was no attachment. At that time it was "producing the mind that does not dwell anywhere."
Awareness and the objects of awareness became empty. Even the perception of awareness vanished, was emptied out. When the emptiness of awareness reached an ultimate perfection, emptiness and what was being emptied then also ceased to be. The emptiness of the nature of awareness reached an ultimate state of perfection. Then the mind capable of creating vanished, as did the states that were made empty, so that then there wasn't even any emptiness! As long as emptiness remains, you're still attached to emptiness. But now, for Guan Yin Bodhisattva there wasn't even any emptiness.
Since production and extinction were gone, still extinction was revealed. Since the mind subject to production and extinction vanished, the genuine bliss of still extinction manifested. That state is inexpressibly blissful.
M3 He explains how in accord with the substance he gives rise to the function.
N1 He lists the two sources.
Suddenly I transcended the mundane and transcendental worlds, and throughout the ten directions a perfect brightness prevailed. I obtained two supreme states.
When still extinction manifested, suddenly I transcended both the mundane and transcendental worlds. This refers to the world of sentience and the world of material objects. And throughout the ten directions a perfect brightness prevailed. He was united as one with the worlds of the ten directions without any difficulty. I obtained two supreme states.
First, I was united above with the fundamental, wonderfully enlightened mind of all the Buddhas of the ten directions, and I gained a strength of compassion equal to that of all the Buddhas, the Thus Come Ones.
His compassionate mind was exactly like the compassionate mind of all Buddhas.
Second, I was united below with all living beings in the six paths, and I gained a kind regard for all living beings equally.
Second, I was united below with all living beings in the six paths. What are the living beings in the six paths? Looked at in terms of a single person, the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind are living beings in the six paths. They are the cycle of the six paths, as are forms, sounds, smells, tastes, objects of touch, and dharmas; these are also the revolutions of the six paths. They are the six paths of living beings in our own self-natures. There is a connection between these six paths within and the six paths outside. The external six paths are the path of heavenly beings, asuras, people, animals, hungry ghosts, and dwellers in the hells.
The category of asuras includes all beings who like to fight. Asuras who use their pugnacious natures beneficially join the armed services and protect the country. Asuras who use their propensity to fight in a bad way end up as thieves, robbers, and gunmen. Asuras may live in the heavens, among people, in the animal realm, or as ghosts. Sometimes asuras are counted as part of the three good paths, that is, the gods, asuras, and humans. Sometimes they are placed with the four evil destinies, that is, the hells, hungry ghosts, animals, and asuras. When you put them together: gods, humans, asuras, animals, hungry ghosts, and hell-dwellers, you have the cycle of the six paths.
The Buddhas are above Guan Yin Bodhisattva, so the Bodhisattva says, "I was united above with the compassion of all Buddhas." Beings in the six paths are at a lesser level than Guan Yin Bodhisattva, so the Bodhisattva says, "I was united below with beings in the six paths." Living beings ( zhong sheng) are defined as those born ( sheng) from a multitude ( zhong) of conditions. There are many factors involved in the birth of beings. The Bodhisattva goes on, "I was united with living beings, and I gained a kind regard for all living beings equally." Beings contemplate and seek the kindness of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
N2 He explains in three parts.
O1 Thirty-two response bodies.
P1 He relies on the compassionate power.
World Honored One, because I served and made offerings to the Thus Come One, Guan Yin, I received from that Thus Come One a transmission of the vajra samadhi of all being like an illusion, as one becomes permeated with hearing and cultivates hearing. Because I gained a power of compassion identical with that of all Buddhas, the Thus Come Ones, I became accomplished in thirty-two response-bodies and entered all lands.
World Honored One, because I served and made offerings to the Thus Come One, Guan Yin, I received from that Thus Come One a transmission of the vajra samadhi of all being like an illusion, as one becomes permeated with hearing and cultivates hearing. It is said to be like an illusion because one cultivates without cultivating; without cultivating, one cultivates. It means that one is always aware of what is going on at any given moment and never forgets about it. And yet, though one does not forget, one does not really think about it, either. Without thinking about it, one has nonetheless not forgotten it.
"Permeated with hearing" means that every day he cultivated the method of returning the hearing to hear the self-nature, until he was infused with skill. This is the method of the vajra samadhi. When one succeeds in this concentration, one has attained the vajra samadhi.
Because I gained a power of compassion identical with that of all Buddhas, the Thus Come Ones, I became accomplished in thirty-two response-bodies and entered all lands. I gained a compassionate power identical to the Buddhas, and it enabled me to make thirty-two transformation-bodies out of my own body. Then I went to all countries to teach and transform living beings.