THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
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Volume 5

Sutra:

You concentrate on learning to uphold the Buddha's Dharma. Why don't you listen to your own hearing?

Commentary:

"You concentrate on learning to uphold the Buddha's Dharma. You expend your energy on study of the Buddhadharma," Manjushri Bodhisattva says to Ananda. "With that skill, why don't you listen to your own hearing? Why don't you return the hearing to hear the self-nature? Why don't you cultivate and develop that skill? Why don't you look into yourself?"

O2 He explains how with this dharma one gradually transcends.

Sutra:

Hearing does not spontaneously arise;
Because of sound it gets its name.
But when hearing returns and is free of sound,
What does one call that which is set free?

Commentary:

Ananda, don't continue to take learning so seriously while neglecting your samadhi power. Hearing does not spontaneously arise. It doesn't happen all by itself. Because of sound it gets its name. Because there is sound, there is hearing. We call the perception of a sound "hearing." But when hearing returns and is free of sound / What does one call that which is set free? We say that there is hearing because there is sound, but is the hearing still there when there is no sound? It is, because the nature of hearing is not subject to production or extinction. Therefore, turn the hearing around. From now on, don't follow out after the six sense-objects with your six sense-organs. Bring them back.

Returning the hearing,
listen to your nature,
Till the nature reaches
the Supreme Way.

What is your self-nature? When you hear it, you will recognize it. Now, before you have heard it, you won't understand even if I tell you. For instance, when I drink this cup of tea, I myself know whether it is hot or cool, but you still don't have any idea. If you want to know, you will have to drink some yourself. If you want to recognize your self-nature, you first have to return the hearing. If you haven't done that, how can you expect to know your own nature?

"When you return the hearing, how do you listen?" you ask. Use your ears. But don't listen to the sounds outside. Don't try to figure out what's happening out in the street, or who is saying what. Turn the hearing inward and listen inside yourself. In this way your own nature will be revealed. That's how you do it. Now do you understand?

When the hearing is turned around, one is set free from external sounds. "What does one call that which is set free?" If you can divorce yourself from sounds, and hear and yet not hear, is this really hearing, then? It is and it isn't. It isn't, yet it is. Hear and yet do not hear. That's what's meant by getting free of sounds. One does hear, but it's not the same as the way one heard before. Even though it is said that ordinary hearing can reach far and near, it still has a limit. If you genuinely attain the state of returning the hearing to hear the self-nature, you can hear throughout the dharma-realm. But you can also choose not to listen to any of the sounds throughout the dharma-realm. You have control. It's like a telegram. If I want to send one, I can send one anywhere at any time. But if I don't want to send the telegram, I don't have to do it. If I want to hear some sound in the dharma-realm, I can tune in on it. You try it. What is that which is free of sound called, then? It doesn't have a name. That which is beyond even the name hearing is true hearing.

Sutra:

As soon as one sense-organ returns to the source,
The entire six are liberated.

Commentary:

When even the name is gone, one can say that that sense-organ is untied. As soon as one sense-organ returns to the source / The entire six are liberated. The "source" is the nature of the treasury of the Thus Come One. When one sense-organ reverts to the nature of the treasury of the Thus Come One, all six come back together. The older brother returns and the younger brothers follow along. But if you don't bring one sense-organ back, none of them will return. They are connected, because they were originally one, but then they divided into six.

Sutra:

Sight and hearing are like an illusory covering.
The triple realm, a vision of flowers in space.
When hearing reverts, the cataract is gone.
The 'dust' gives way to pure and perfect insight.

Commentary:

Why don't we become Buddhas? We are tied up by the six sense-organs and six sense-objects. So we must find a method to attain liberation. We are not the only ones bound by the organs and objects; at that time, Ananda also had this problem. We are in the same predicament. Ananda took this path to attain liberation, and we are now very lucky to learn about this method. We, too, can travel this path and get free.

Sight and hearing are like an illusory covering. Seeing and hearing are not something real. They are like an illusion, like a film over the eyes, like clouds in the sky. The triple realm, a vision of flowers in space. The desire realm, the form realm, and the formless realm make up the triple realm. We are within it, gazing into emptiness until our staring makes us tired. Then it looks as if there are flowers dancing in space. At the beginning of his verse, Manjushri said,

The emptiness created within enlightenment,
Is like a single bubble in all the sea.

Emptiness arises out of the vastness of enlightenment and is as insignificant as one bubble in the great ocean. And the triple realm is like a bubble in the sea of emptiness. When hearing reverts, the cataract is gone. When one returns the hearing and hears theselfnature, the film disappears. The 'dust' gives way to pure and perfect insight. When the experiencing of the six sense-objects dissolves, there are no external defiling objects to disturb your self nature. Then your enlightened nature is pure and perfect.

Sutra:

When purity is ultimate, the light is penetrating.
A stillness shines and includes within it all of emptiness.
Looking at the world from this point of view,
Everything that happens is just like a dream.
Matangi's daughter, too, is part of the dream.
Who was able, then, to physically detain you?

Commentary:


Ah, Manjushri Bodhisattva talks tough. He's not the least bit polite. He's downright rude to Ananda here: "When purity is ultimate, the light is penetrating. Once your insight is pure and perfect, then, at the ultimate point, a light pervades. You become enlightened. A stillness shines and includes within it all of emptiness. When you attain this skill, emptiness is found within you. Your own nature is the great enlightened nature. When you return to that nature which was always yours, you include all of space. Looking at the world from this point of view / Everything that happens is just like a dream. As you continue to use this skill, you contemplate the world and find that it is all nothing but a dream. Matangi's daughter, too, is part of the dream / Who was able, then, to physically detain you? She is part of the illusion. Who was able to capture you? You lost face. You wanted to be there. You liked it. If you could reach the level just described, who could restrain you?" Not very polite, wouldn't you say?

O3 He brings up an analogy to relate to the dharma just explained.

Sutra:

It is like a puppeteer who plays with shadows
And works the dolls to seem as real as people.
Although one sees them move about freely,
They are really governed by a set of strings.
Cease operating the controls and they return to stillness.
The entire illusion is without a nature.

Commentary:


It is like a puppeteer who plays with shadows. This refers to the puppet shows of old when the puppets danced and acted behind a screen of framed oil-paper. Behind it puppets made of donkey skin attached to strings are manipulated by the puppeteer, and the audience sees their shadows against the screen. Nowadays we have movies. The puppets look life-like, but actually they are controlled by the puppet-master. They used to fight noisy battles on stage with swords and guns. I remember watching them as a child. He works the dolls to seem as real as people. Dressed as men and women, they cavort on stage. Although one sees them move about freely / They are really governed by a set of strings. It seems like they can move their arms and legs and even their eyes and lips, but it's all mechanical. They are strung up to an apparatus. Nonetheless, people watch transfixed. Cease operating the controls and they return to stillness / The entire illusion is without a nature. There was nothing to it after all. In this section, Manjushri Bodhisattva explains how everything is like an illusion. The previous section made clear how we are in a dream.

Sutra:

The six sense-organs are also thus.
At first there was one essential brightness.
Which split into a six-fold combination.
If but one part ceases and returns,
All six functions will stop as well.
In response to a thought, defiling objects vanish,
Becoming pure and wonderful perfect brightness.

Commentary:


Why does he speak about dreams and illusions? It is because the six sense-organs are like an imaginary play. The six sense-organs are also thus. The six organs are like the play put on by the puppeteer. It's as if a mechanism is controlling them. But if one organ can become pure, the others will be freed as well. At first there was one essential brightness. Originally there was the single brightness of the nature of the treasury of the Thus Come One. It split into a six-fold combination. It divided into eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind. If but one part ceases and returns, if the knot is untied, all six functions will stop as well. If one function stops, the others will also cease; they will no longer function. In response to a thought, defiling objects vanish. All the involvement between the six sense-organs and six sense-objects comes to an end, becoming pure and wonderful perfect brightness. They become the everlasting pure nature and bright substance of the treasury of the Thus Come One.

O4 He concludes by telling that the cause and effect are ultimate.

Sutra:

If there is residual defilement, one must still study.
When the brightness is ultimate, that is the Tathagata.

Commentary:


If there is residual defilement, one must still study. When ignorance is cut off initially, there remains a subtle ignorance called "appearance of production ignorance." That is what is meant here by "residual defilement." Bodhisattvas must still cut that off. When the brightness is ultimate, that is the Tathagata. That is the basic substance of the Thus Come One.

M4 He urges everyone to diligently cultivate and certify.

Sutra:

Ananda, and everyone in the great assembly,
Turn yourselves around and revert the hearing.
Return the hearing and listen to the self nature
Till the nature reaches the Supreme Way.
That is what perfect penetration really means.

Commentary:


Ananda, and everyone in the great assembly / Turn yourselves around and revert the hearing. You should cultivate according to this method. Don't let yourselves run outside. Come back. Look within and find yourself. Return the hearing and listen to the self nature / Till the nature reaches the Supreme Way. Your nature can accomplish the unsurpassed path. That is what perfect penetration really means. Why does he select the organ of the ear? It is the easiest to cultivate successfully. I believe that some of you already know how to develop this skill, while others do not. What does it mean to return the hearing to hear the self-nature? It is the skill used in investigating Chan. When you investigate Chan, you don't want to expend all your energy on seeking outside. You want to turn the light around and shine it within. Then you ask yourself, "Who is mindful of the Buddha?" "Who?" You want to put the "Who?" in your heart and then listen with your ears. Pursue "Who?" Do this nonstop. Don't let your skill become dispersed. You investigate this topic in everything you do.

Walking, standing, sitting, reclining,
don't be apart from this.
If you depart from this,
you've made a mistake.

What is "this?" It is the question, "Who is mindful of the Buddha?" You don't have to ask out loud; ask in your heart and listen with your ears. Listen within, not outside. After you have listened within, your heart and your hearing-nature will eventually merge into one. And then in some unexpected way, at some unexpected moment, you will suddenly open enlightenment. But you definitely must bring your mind and nature together. Don't let them scatter in all directions. Don't let them get dissipated outside. Collect them within. Return the hearing and listen to your own nature.

Eventually and naturally your skill will develop. Investigating a Chan topic and returning the hearing to listen to the self-nature are the same. And now everyone knows that using the organ of the ear in cultivation is the easiest method. So put your energy there and cultivate this dharma-door.

Sutra:

It is the gateway entered by Buddhas as many as dust motes.
It is the one path to nirvana.
Thus Come Ones of the past perfected this method.
Bodhisattvas now merge with this total brightness.
People of the future who study and practice
Will also rely on this dharma.
Through this method I, too, have been certified.
Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva was not alone in using it.

Commentary:


Now Manjushri Bodhisattva certifies as authentic this dharma he has selected. It is the gateway entered by Buddhas as many as dust motes / It is the one path to nirvana. He says, "Not only was Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva certified through his use of this dharma door, this method of perfect penetration that I am explaining, I, too, Manjushri, gave proof to this doctrine of perfect penetration of the organ of the ear. Not only myself, but in the past countless Buddhas also found this the one path to nirvana. It was by this Way that they reached the fruition of nirvana. Thus Come Ones of the past perfected this method. They became accomplished by means of the perfect penetration derived from returning the hearing to hear the self-nature. Bodhisattvas now merge with this total brightness. Bodhisattvas cultivating right now are on the same road. People of the future who study and practice / Will also rely on this dharma. People of the future who as yet haven't even encountered the Buddhadharma will come to select this method for cultivation. Through this method I, too, have been certified. A long time ago I gave proof to this dharma-door of perfect penetration. Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva was not alone in using it."

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