THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
The Three Non-Outflow Studies
G2 Aiding practices of the bodhimanda.
H1 At first request he speaks in general.
Ananda straightened his robes and then bowed in the midst of the assembly and placed his palms together. The tracks of his mind were perfectly clear, and he felt a mixture of joy and sorrow. His intent was to benefit beings in the future as he made obeisance and said to the Buddha, "Greatly compassionate World Honored One, I have already awakened and attained this dharma-door for becoming a Buddha, and I can cultivate it without the slightest doubt. I have often heard the Thus Come One say, 'Save others first then save yourself. That is the aspiration of a Bodhisattva. Once your own enlightenment is perfected, then you can enlighten others. That is the way the Thus Come One responds to the world.' Although I am not yet saved, I vow to save all living beings in the Dharma-ending Age."
After Ananda had listened to Manjushri Bodhisattva's verse, he stood up and straightened his robes. He fixed his collar and arranged his robes. He was never sloppy or careless, never let his clothes get messed up. And then he bowed in the midst of the assembly and placed his palms together. The tracks of his mind were perfectly clear. Ananda was not as confused as he was previously, and he felt a mixture of joy and sorrow. His intent was to benefit beings in the future as he made obeisance and said to the Buddha. Ananda didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Do you remember how easily Ananda cries? He's already cried several times since the start of the sutra, and now he wants to cry again. But he also feels like laughing. What was his sorrow? As it is said:
Joy in extreme gives rise to sorrow.
He was totally happy, thinking, "Now I have the Buddhadharma! I understand the genuine dharma!" He'd never felt such joy. But it wasn't enough to understand for himself; he wanted to benefit beings of the future. So he made obeisance to the Buddha and said: Greatly compassionate World Honored One, I have already awakened and attained this dharma-door for becoming a Buddha, and I can cultivate it without the slightest doubt. I will cultivate by means of the dharma and will never have any more doubts.
I have often heard the Thus Come One say. Ananda always has to substantiate what he says by making reference to the Buddha's own teaching. He says here, "I've heard the Buddha say, 'Save others first, then save yourself. That is the aspiration of a Bodhisattva.' " Before one has attained the Way, one can go ahead and teach others. That's the way a Bodhisattva does it. Once your own enlightenment is perfected, then you can enlighten others. That is the way the Thus Come One responds to the world. You help others wake up by means of the principles that you have awakened to. This is what the Buddha does. Although I am not yet saved, I vow to save all living beings in the Dharma-ending Age. I haven't attained the Way yet, but I want to enable all beings in the final age to be taken across. I want them to attain the benefits of the Buddhadharma.
H2 On second request he speaks in detail.
I1 Ananda asks.
World Honored One, those living beings will gradually drift away from the Buddha, and there will be as many deviant teachers propounding their methods as there are sands in the Ganges. I want to enable those beings to collect their thoughts and enter samadhi. How can I cause them to reside peacefully in a bodhimanda, far from the exploits of demons, and be irreversible in their resolve for Bodhi?
World Honored One, those living beings will gradually drift away from the Buddha. Beings in the Dharma-ending Age will gradually end up being very far away from the Buddha and even the Buddhadharma. There will be as many deviant teachers propounding their methods as there are sands in the Ganges. That's the way it is now. Deviant teachers claim to understand things that they actually do not understand. Not enlightened, they say that they are. Not certified as sages, they say that they are. I ask them, "Have you been certified to the first stage, the second stage, the third, the fourth? Which one? You're enlightened? What are you enlightened to?" It leaves them speechless. I pursue it: "You are a Buddha, and yet you can't even say what stage of fruition you have been certified to? How can you have jumped to Buddhahood?"
And yet they persist, claiming that not only are they themselves Buddhas, "Everybody is a Buddha." That is their theme. This is a great lie. When you haven't reached that state, you can't go shooting off your mouth. There's no one worse than a deviant teacher. Be careful not to become one, whether you understand the Buddhadharma or not. Don't be like one of them who was asked a point of dharma and replied, "I'm getting old; I've forgotten." What did he mean, he'd forgotten? He never knew to begin with! That kind of talk is designed to cheat people. If you know, you say that you know. If you don't know, you should say you don't know. You can't say you've forgotten when you basically don't even understand what's being asked.
When deviant teachers propound their methods, they are intent upon taking advantage of situations, and the doctrines they explain are wrong. For instance, sexual desire is wrong, but they say it is fine. "It's the most wonderful dharma-door." They praise it, causing people to become confused and to be unable to distinguish true principle. What is wrong, they say is right; what is right, they say is wrong. They have deviant knowledge and deviant views. Their outlook is improper. "During the Dharma-ending Age," Ananda says, "such teachers will abound."
I want to enable those beings to collect their thoughts and enter samadhi. Even though there will be as many deviant teachers in that age as there are sand grains in the Ganges, I still hope living beings will be able to give rise to proper knowledge and proper views. How can I cause them to reside peacefully in a Bodhimanda far from the exploits of demons, and be irreversible in their resolve for Bodhi? For example, there are some deviant demons and externalist religions that do nothing but cheat people with their teachings. They talk a lot about the affairs of men and women and say that the heavier one's sexual desire, the faster one can become a Buddha. This is totally wrong, entirely deviant! You should be attentive to this point. Don't be cheated by such people. In the orthodox dharma, any mention of sexual desire as favorable is wrong. Such methods of teaching are the exploits of demons.
Ananda wants to know how to help people of the final age not to retreat from Bodhi. Some people study the Buddhadharma for a while and then go back on their resolve. "I don't want to study the Buddhadharma. It's too difficult. I have to get rid of all my faults. But what if I can't? It's better if I just don't study." They lose their vigor. They admit defeat. They are overcome by demonic ghosts. Ananda wants to know how to keep this from happening.
I2 The Thus Come One answers.
J1 He promises to speak; they wish to listen.
At that time, the World Honored One praised Ananda in front of the whole assembly, saying, "Good indeed! How good it is that you have asked how to establish a Bodhimanda and to rescue and protect living beings who are sunk in the morass of the final age. Listen well, now, and I will tell you." Ananda and the great assembly agreed to uphold the teaching.
Ananda said he wanted beings of the final age not to retreat from the resolve for Bodhi. He wanted them to have decisive faith, to vow to protect and uphold the Buddhadharma, to study and practice the Buddhadharma, and never to go back on their resolve. But how could he get them to be that way? When Shakyamuni Buddha heard Ananda ask that question, he was delighted. The Buddha is in a state of unmoving suchness, but when someone wants to protect the Buddhadharma and help people become Buddhas, it nonetheless makes him happy. At that time, the World Honored One praised Ananda in front of the whole assembly, saying, "Good indeed!" The Buddha was pleased. "You're really fine, Ananda. How good it is", he praises him twice, that you have asked how to establish a Bodhimanda and to rescue and protect living beings who are sunk in the morass of the final age. You want to help beings in the Dharma-ending Age who are being drowned in the water and consumed by the fire. Listen well, now, and I will tell you."
Ananda and the great assembly agreed to uphold the teaching. When they heard the Buddha agree to speak the dharma, their joy was even greater. The Buddha probably said, "Do you want to listen to this?"
Everyone undoubtedly answered, "We want to. We want to." When deviant teachers explain their methods, their sole topic is sexual desire. The things they say are unprincipled. This should be distinguished clearly. Sometimes Bodhisattvas also use compassion, kind words, and a protective heart to teach living beings, because they know that all living beings are steeped in desire. Every living being has thoughts of sexual desire. So he does not expect them to cut off their love and desire immediately, but he uses all kinds of expedient means to get them to see through and renounce sexual desire. Then they can put a stop to it themselves. This is the state of a Bodhisattva, totally different from that of the deviant teachers of externalist ways.
Once, Guan Yin Bodhisattva transformed into a fishmonger. She was an exquisite woman who went about the village with her fish-basket. No one in the village believed in the Buddha. But when the young men of the village caught sight of this maiden, they desired her. The village wasn't large, but there were at least a hundred young men there, and every one of them wanted to marry her. Guan Yin with the fish-basket said, "There are so many of you! I can't marry a hundred men, but I've thought of a method to choose a husband. I will marry whichever of the hundred of you is the first to be able to learn to recite by heart the 'Universal Door Chapter' of the Lotus Sutra. Go back home and I'll give you three days."
But, at the end of three days, there were forty or fifty who could recite it from memory. The woman with the fish basket said, "But there are still too many of you. Even though you have met the requirements, I can't have fifty husbands. This time go back and within five days memorize the Vajra Sutra. I'll marry whoever does that."
So the fifty who'd made it to the first level went back and began to practice the Vajra Sutra. At the end of five days there were some twenty who could recite it by heart. The fish monger said, "There are still too many of you. It's impossible for me to marry you all. I have one more task. Anyone who can memorize the Lotus Sutra in seven days will be my husband. I believe whoever can do that will be worthy."
The twenty began to recite the Lotus Sutra, and at the end of seven days there was one man who could recite it from memory. He was named Ma, and came from a wealthy family. So there was a large wedding and everyone was invited. That evening, after the festivities, they retired, but who would have guessed that the bride would have a heart attack and die instantly? And the bridegroom had gone to so much effort! He'd memorized the "Universal Door Chapter," the Vajra Sutra, and the Lotus Sutra, and still he had no bride. Shortly thereafter, the funeral took place, and a monk in purple robes appeared on the scene. "What's going on?" he asked. "Our new daughter-in-law passed away suddenly, and we are burying her."
"No," said the monk. "There's nothing in that coffin at all! Who are you mourning for? Open it and take a look."
Indeed, the coffin was empty. They were all amazed. "Where's she gone? After her! Bring her back!"
The monk told them, "That was Guan Yin Bodhisattva. You people in this village didn't believe in the Buddha, so she manifested the appearance of a beautiful woman in order to get you young men who are so fond of forms to study the Buddhadharma. Then she left."
When the bridegroom, Ma, heard that, he renounced all worldly things and left the home-life. After that, he was certified to the fruition of a sage. That really happened in China.