THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
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Volume 5

M3 He selects only the ear organ.
N1 He reveals the wonder of this dharma-door.
O1 The ear organ is beneficial for those of this world to cultivate.


Sutra:

I now say this, World Honored One,
Buddha, who has revealed the Saha world:
In this land the true substance of teaching
Resides in hearing the sounds purely.
If one wants to attain samadhi,
hearing is the best way to enter.

Commentary:


At this point Manjushri Bodhisattva has finished speaking about the various dharma-doors by which the sages were certified. He continues: I now say this, World Honored One / Buddha, who has revealed the Saha world / In this land the true substance of teaching / Resides in hearing the sounds purely. In this world which is "able to be borne," where the Buddha has compassionately become manifest, the genuine method for teaching and transforming living beings is in the purity of sound. That refers to the dharma-door of returning the hearing to hear the self-nature. If one wants to attain samadhi / hearing is the best way to enter. The skill of returning the hearing to hear the self nature is actually the most wonderful, the best method.

O2 The dharma is used by a superior person.
P1 General praise of its benefit to self.


Sutra:

Apart from suffering, liberation is found.
How excellent is he who contemplates the world's sounds!

Commentary:


Apart from suffering, liberation is found. One can separate from suffering and attain liberation. Separating from suffering is just liberation; liberation is just leaving suffering behind. How excellent is he who contemplates the world's sounds! Ah, the dharma-door of Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva is so fine!

P2 Broadly reveals its benefits to others.

Sutra:

Throughout kalpas as numerous as Ganges' sands,
He enters Buddhalands as many as fine dust motes.
Obtaining great power of self-mastery,
He bestows fearlessness on living beings.

Commentary:

Why does he praise Guan Shi Yin? Throughout kalpas as numerous as Ganges' sands / He enters Buddhalands as many as fine dust motes. During that many aeons, Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva goes to countless Buddhalands as numerous as fine motes of dust. Obtaining great power of self-mastery / He bestows fearlessness on living beings. With spiritual power and great ease, he causes living beings not to be afraid.

Sutra:

Wonderful is the sound of Guan Shi Yin,
A pure sound, like the ocean's roar.
He saves the world and brings peace to all within it.
He has transcended the world,
and his attainment is eternal.

Commentary:


Wonderful is the sound of Guan Shi Yin. Guan Yin Bodhisattva is extremely miraculous. A pure sound, like the ocean's roar. His pure and clear sound is like the thunder of the sea: a single, all-pervasive sound. He saves the world and brings peace to all within it. He rescues those in the world so that all living beings attain peace and contentment. He has transcended the world, and his attainment is eternal. He transcends the world and attains the everlasting enlightenment. He realizes eternal, indestructible, comfortable spiritual powers.

O3 Reveals that his dharma is true and actual.
P1 True and actual perfection.


Sutra:

I now make this report, 0 Thus Come One,
Regarding what Guan Yin has just explained:
It is like someone in a quiet place
When drums are rolled throughout the ten directions,
Hearing at once the sounds from all ten places.
This, then, is the actual true perfection.

Commentary:


I now make this report, 0 Thus Come One / Regarding what Guan Yin has just explained about his experience with perfect penetration: It is like someone in a quiet place / When drums are rolled throughout the ten directions / Hearing at once the sounds from all ten places. In every one of the ten directions drums are beaten simultaneously. Although the drum-sounds come from ten places, the one person in the quiet room can hear them all at the same time. This, then, is the actual true perfection. This nature is genuinely perfect.

P2 True and actual penetration.

Sutra:

The eyes cannot see through solid forms.
Mouth and nose are much the same.
The body registers awareness only through contact.
Tangled in thoughts, the mind lacks clear connections.

Commentary:


The eyes cannot see through solid forms. "The eyes" here are not the Buddha eye, the wisdom eye, the dharma eye, the heavenly eye, or the flesh eye, not the five eyes. What is referred to here are our ordinary physical eyes. These eyes can only see within boundaries; they cannot see through and beyond them. They cannot see through solid objects. For instance, if we close the windows and pull the blinds, we can't see what is outside. Even in perceiving what is close to use, a single layer of skin prohibits our seeing. For instance, we cannot see what is inside our bodies with the ordinary eyes. The eyes of a sage are a different matter, but here we are discussing the capacity of ordinary eyes. They can't even see through a thin piece of paper! Also, when they look to the right they cannot see to the left, and when they look to the left, they cannot see what's on the right. Mouth and nose are much the same. Between breaths there is a hesitation where no air enters or leaves the nose. And the tongue must have some flavor in order to experience taste.

Without something to taste, it doesn't function. These two, then, are more or less like the eyes. The body registers awareness only through contact. The body must come in contact with objects of touch for sensation to be experienced, and so it is not complete in itself either. Tangled in thoughts, the mind lacks clear connections. The mind's thoughts are random and confused, without any order to them, and so they are not best for perfect penetration either.

Sutra:

Sounds can be heard even through solid walls.
One can listen to things both near and far.
None of the other five organs can match this.
It, then, is penetration true and real.

Commentary:


With the organ of the ear, sounds can be heard even through solid walls. You can hear what is going on beyond a wall. One can listen to things both near and far / None of the other five organs can match this. The eyes, nose, tongue, body, and mind are not as effective as the ear, it is more perfect than any of them. Its function is perfectly fused and unobstructed. The others cannot compare to it. It, then, is penetration true and real. The other five sense organs do not have this kind of genuine penetration.

P3 True and actual constancy.

Sutra:

The nature of sounds is based in movement and stillness.
One hears according to whether there is sound.
With no sound, there is said to be no hearing.
But this does not mean that the hearing has no nature.

Commentary:


The nature of sounds is based in movement and stillness. Sometimes there are sounds; sometimes there is no sound. When there is no sound, there is stillness. One hears according to whether there is sound. Hearing perceives the movement of sound and the stillness of no sound. With no sound, there is said to be no hearing. That's what we say, but this does not mean that the hearing has no nature. The nature of hearing is definitely not extinguished. When we say there's no hearing, the nature of hearing is in fact not absent.

Sutra:

In the absence of sound, the nature is not gone.
Nor does it arise in the presence of sound.
Entirely beyond production and extinction.
It is, then, truly everlasting.

Commentary:


In the absence of sound, the nature is not gone. The absence of sound does not mean the nature of hearing has ceased to be. Nor does it arise in the presence of sound. When a sound is heard, there is no change in the nature of hearing. Entirely beyond production and extinction / It is, then, truly everlasting. It is complete in itself and divorced from production and extinction. Birth and death become perfectly fused. The nature of hearing is an everlasting, unchanging nature not subject to production and extinction.

Sutra:

Ever-present, even in dream-thinking, It does not disappear
when conditions and thought are gone.
Enlightened, this contemplation transcends cognition,
Reaching beyond both the body and the mind.

Commentary:


In the presence of sound, in the absence of sound, at the arising of sound, and at the cessation of sound, the nature of hearing never ceases to be. People may realize this in an ordinary waking state. But is also ever-present, even in dream-thinking. Someone sleeping soundly may hear the sounds of beating clothes and pounding rice as a drum and bell being struck. This proves that hearing is present even in dreams. It does not disappear when conditions and thought are gone. It is not like the mind, which doesn't exist without thoughts. Enlightened, this contemplation transcends cognition. The enlightened contemplation of the hearing-nature goes beyond thought. Reaching beyond both the body and the mind. The body and mind cannot compare to the hearing-nature of the organ of the ear.

O4 He shows that this is the appropriate organ to cultivate.
P1 Brings up the substance of the teaching in this land.


Sutra:

Now, in the Saha world, the theory of sounds Has been proclaimed and understood.


P2 Makes clear that the sickness lies in following the sounds.


Sutra:

Living beings are confused about the source of hearing.
They follow sounds and so they turn and flow.
Ananda's power to remember was exceptional;
Nonetheless, he fell prey to a deviant plot.
Was it not from heeding sounds that he was nearly lost?
By turning back the flow,
one will make no such mistake.

Commentary:


Now, in the Saha world, the theory of sounds / Has been proclaimed and understood / Living beings are confused about the source of hearing. They don't understand the inherent hearing nature.

They follow sounds and so they turn and flow. They cannot turn the hearing back to hear the self-nature. They seek outside; they listen outside. They pursue the sounds and run outside. If one allows the ear to race out after sounds, instead of returning the hearing, one gets caught up in the flow of birth and death. It is also a knot. There is birth and death, and so there is a knot. And it all starts because you pursue the defiling objects of sound. You can't bring it all back.

Ananda's power to remember was exceptional. Ananda was always erudite and had a brilliant memory. He could recite by heart all the sutras in the Tripitaka. Nonetheless, he fell prey to a deviant plot. He was smart, but he couldn't avoid the difficulty brought about by Matangi's daughter and the former Brahma Heaven mantra. He was captured by a deviant dharma of an externalist religion. Was it not from heeding sounds that he was nearly lost? / By turning back the flow, one will make no such mistake. If you can turn the hearing back and hear your self-nature, then naturally you will not succumb to any falseness. You won't err like that. The reason Ananda was susceptible to the deception was that he was always seeking outside. He studied this and studied that and was proficient with one sutra and another, but he never returned the light and illumined within. He never stopped to think about how he should act or what he was doing. All he did was study. He studied so much that he forgot what he was all about. That reminds me of the answer Confucius gave when someone came to ask him: "Is there anyone in the world like...?" the questioner began. "Like what?" asked Confucius.


"Someone who moves, taking everyone with him, all the relatives in the household, except his wife. He forgets to take along his wife. Could there be such a person?" What do you suppose Confucius answered? Did Confucius say it was impossible for a person to forget his wife? Or that it was not impossible? Confucius said, "Nowadays, people even forget themselves!"

Not only could they forget their wives, they could even forget their own bodies. The meaning was that they don't remember that in the future their bodies will die. They forget they will have to go through old age, sickness, and death.

Since Ananda concentrated on studying things external to himself and on developing his scholastic abilities, he neglected his samadhi-power. Since he neglected samadhi, he didn't know how to develop the skill of turning the hearing back to hear the selfnature, and so he pursued sounds. He did not make the sounds follow his self-nature and so he got caught up in the difficulty with Matangi's daughter.

N2 He explains in detail how to cultivate this skill.
O1 He introduces the teaching of turning back the hearing.


Sutra:

Ananda, you should listen attentively:
I rely upon the Buddha's awesome power,
In describing to you the Vajra King,
A samadhi inconceivable of likeness to illusions.
It is the true mother of all Buddhas.

Commentary:


When Manjushri Bodhisattva had spoken thus far, he called out to Ananda. He was a Dharma prince with longstanding status, while Ananda was comparatively young. Here, Manjushri Bodhisattva is representing Shakyamuni Buddha in speaking the dharma, and so he gets Ananda's attention. You should listen attentively. Pay attention! Listen to every word; don't be the least bit casual. Don't sit there half asleep while I am speaking this verse! You should understand that this verse I'm speaking is not my own ideas. It is spoken by the power that the Buddha has vested in me. The Buddha indicated that I should speak and express this intent. He told me to select the dharma for your sake. You shouldn't think that it is I, Manjushri Bodhisattva, who is telling you this; it is the Buddha speaking for you. Now do you understand? In describing to you the Vajra King. On the Buddha's behalf I will explain the dharma-door of the Vajra King, A samadhi inconceivable of likeness to illusions / It is the true mother of all Buddhas. This dharma is cultivated without cultivating. One cultivates, and yet one is not cultivating. Not cultivating, one still cultivates. It is rather like putting on a play, and yet at the same time it's real. That's the wonder of it. You can't imagine how subtle and wonderful this dharma-door is. You cannot conceive of it nor express it in words. It is the mother of all Buddhas. Every Buddha is born from this samadhi. So pay attention. Do you want to become a Buddha? If so, you have to keep your mind on what I'm saying. And then you have to develop the skill through actual practice. Don't just spend your efforts on superficial skills. You have to attain some internal gong fu.

Sutra:

You may hear the secret dharma-doors
Of Buddhas as numerous as motes of dust,
But without first renouncing desire and outflows,
You may amass learning,
but you will still make mistakes.

Commentary:


Manjushri Bodhisattva continues: You may hear the secret dharma-doors / Of Buddhas as numerous as motes of dust. Ananda, you have listened to limitless Buddhas explain their secret dharmas. "Secret" means that you say something for one person and a second person doesn't realize it. Or you speak for the second person and the first one doesn't realize it. Or you speak for the second person and the first one doesn't know. Each is unaware of what is said to the other. Why does the Buddha have secret dharmadoors?

It is because the capacities of living beings are different. Each person is fond of different things. What is more, each person has cultivated a particular path in past lives. Therefore, the Buddha contemplates the opportunities. He looks to see what dharma-door you cultivated before, and based on that he teaches you how to cultivate now.

Contemplating the opportunities,
he bestows the teaching;
Speaking dharma
for the sake of each person.

He does not teach you dharma-doors which are not appropriate for you.

But without first renouncing desire and outflows / You may amass learning, but you will still make mistakes. Although the Buddha has many secret dharmas, you still have to get rid of your desire and outflows. "Desire" is really hard to overcome. As soon as you have desire, you have outflows. The most serious desire, the one people find hardest to cut off, is the desire for forms. If you can cut it off, you are an outstanding person, extraordinary. When you study the Buddhadharma, you must cut off desire, in order to be able to be rid of outflows.

At the fourth fruition of arhatship one has no outflows. A firststage arhat is at the position of seeing the Way, as a result of having extinguished eighty-eight kinds of delusion of views. The second and third fruition are called the position of cultivating the Way. A fourth-stage arhat is at the position of having been certified to the Way. At the first, second, and third fruitions, one has not attained the state of having no outflows. Only at fourth stage is that achieved. Having no outflows is extremely important. Why hadn't Ananda reached that level? He had not gotten rid of desire. There were still some things he wanted. He was not yet pure, and so dharma prince Manjushri tells him, "If you don't cultivate and get rid of greed and desire for forms, then you won't have a response with the Buddhadharma. If you merely concentrate on erudition, then you will still err. That's why you encountered the difficulty with Matangi's daughter. If you renounce desire and outflows, you won't have any more difficulties." When we see that such an intelligent person as Ananda still had this fault, we should notice that not only have we not severed desire, we are intent upon pursuing it. It has never occurred to us to get rid of it. Wouldn't you say that is an even greater mistake? At this point, everyone should return the light and examine within. Is it the case that we have desires? Have we gotten rid of them? If not, would we like to get rid of them? If not, then there's nothing else to say. But if you want to get rid of them, then quickly start cultivating the skill of returning the hearing to hear the self-nature. Study Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva's perfect penetration of the organ of the ear.

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