THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
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Volume 6

One Must Cut Off Killing

N2 One must cut off killing.
O1 He distinguishes the characteristic harm and benefit.
P1 First he explains the benefit or harm of holding or violating.
Q1 Holding it, then one certainly can get out of birth and death.


Sutra:

Further, Ananda, if living beings in the six paths of any mundane world had no thoughts of killing, they would not have to follow a continual succession of births and deaths.

Commentary:


If gods, humans, asuras, animals, hungry ghosts, and helldwellers did not harbor thoughts of killing, but instead ceased killing and liberated the living, they could get out of birth and death. Here the reference is to mere thoughts of killing, not to mention acts of killing. If one ceases killing, one does not have to undergo rebirth in the six paths and be subject to the karma that accompanies the process of birth and death.

Q2 Violating it, one certainly will fall into the path of spirits.

Sutra:

Your basic purpose in cultivating samadhi is to transcend the wearisome defilements. But if you do not renounce your thoughts of killing, you will not be able to get out of the dust.

Commentary:


Ananda, you want to cultivate samadhi power. Your basic purpose in cultivating samadhi is to transcend the wearisome defilements. Your hope from the beginning has been to get out of the mundane dust. But if you do not renounce your thoughts of killing, you will not be able to get out of the dust. How can one get rid of thoughts of killing? Cease killing and liberate the living. Above, the text says, "If you do not renounce your lustful thoughts, you cannot get out of the dust." You must sever thoughts of sexual desire in order to be free of defilements. That's the only way you can transcend the cycle of rebirth in the six paths. But if you dispense with your thoughts of lust and still harbor thoughts of killing, you still cannot get out of the mundane world. You cannot transcend rebirth.

Sutra:

Even though one may have some wisdom and the manifestation of Chan samadhi, one is certain to enter the path of spirits if one does not cease killing. At best, a person will become a mighty ghost; on the average, one will become a flying yaksha, a ghost leader, or the like; at the lowest level, one will become an earth-bound rakshasa.

Commentary:


Even though one may have some wisdom and the manifestation of Chan samadhi, one is certain to enter the path of spirits if one does not cease killing. "Wisdom" here refers to worldly intelligence and skill in debate, not to transcendental wisdom. It is an ordinary kind of wisdom that enables one to have a certain amount of eloquence. And even if you have cultivated to the point that you have gong fu in Chan, you've had some responses, still, if you don't get rid of thoughts of killing, you'll fall into the realm of spirits. This means you might become a ruling god in the heavens. At best, a person will become a mighty ghost, that is, a powerful heavenly general. On the average, one will become a flying yaksha. The mighty ghosts are heaven-traveling yakshas; the flying yakshas travel in space. Or one will become a ghost leader, or the like. One will be a ghost who commands other ghosts. At the lowest level, one will be an earth-bound rakshasa.

Sutra:

These ghosts and spirits have their groups of disciples. Each says of himself that he has accomplished the Unsurpassed Way.

Commentary:

The ruling gods, the mighty ghosts in the heavens, the yakshas and rakshasas in the human realm, and the ghosts in the hells also have a lot of followers. There are rich ghosts, ghosts with a little wealth, and poor ghosts. There are tens of thousands of varieties of ghosts. Guan Di Gong in China is an example of a wealthy ghost. But after he took refuge with the Buddha, he came to be known as Qie Lan Bodhisattva, a dharma-protecting spirit. In the Buddha's assembly he must stand; he has no seat assignment. However, the ghosts referred to here claim to have attained the Supreme Way.

P2 He discusses the behavior of demons within Buddhism.
Q1 Eating flesh turns the world into a teaching by ghosts.


Sutra:

After my extinction, in the Dharma-ending Age, these hordes of ghosts and spirits will abound, spreading like wildfire as they argue that eating meat will bring one to the Bodhi Way.

Commentary:


After my extinction, in the Dharma-ending Age, these hordes of ghosts and spirits will abound. That's the present time he's talking about, the age that you and I live in. There are innumerable ghosts and spirits in this Dharma-ending Age, all because in former lives they could not stop killing. They practiced cultivation, but could not cease killing, and so they fell into the path of the spirits. In the Dharma-ending Age, these beings will be spreading like wildfire as they argue that eating meat will bring one to the Bodhi Way. They say, "I eat meat and I've become a Buddha just the same. I didn't have to stop killing or eat vegetarian food, but I'm enlightened and have attained the Bodhi Way, that is, I am a Buddha." This is like a certain person who claims to be enlightened but who eats meat, drinks alcohol, smokes cigarettes, and has a group of young followers that he teaches to smoke marijuana and take LSD. Who ever heard of someone enlightened behaving like that? When the Buddha himself became enlightened, he did not use such dope. Now you take pills that poison your system, upset your energy balance, and bring you to the brink of death, and you still insist you are enlightened. Is that upside down or not? I ask you.

Sutra:

Ananda, I permit the bhikshus to eat five kinds of pure meat. This meat is actually a transformation brought into being by my spiritual powers. It basically has no life-force. You brahmans live in a climate so hot and humid, and on such sandy and rocky land, that vegetables will not grow; therefore, I have had to assist you with spiritual powers and compassion. Because of the magnitude of this kindness and compassion, what you eat that tastes like meat is merely said to be meat; in fact, however, it is not. After my extinction, how can those who eat the flesh of living beings be called the disciples of Shakya?

Commentary:


Ananda, I permit the bhikshus to eat five kinds of pure meat. The Buddha's teaching allows these five kinds:

1) Flesh of an animal that I did not see killed.
2) Flesh of an animal that I did not hear killed.
3) Flesh of an animal that I am sure was not killed for my sake.
4) Flesh of an animal that died by itself.
5) Flesh that is the leavings of an animal after birds have scavenged.

This meat is actually a transformation brought into being by my spiritual powers. It basically has no life-force. The Buddha created these kinds of flesh; they are not from living creatures. They have no life-force; that is, no consciousness, no temperature, and no breath. You brahmans live in a climate so hot and humid, and on such sandy and rocky land, that vegetables will not grow. You who practice pure conduct live in a land full of sand and dampness. Therefore, I have had to assist you with spiritual powers and compassion. Because of the magnitude of this kindness and compassion, what you eat that tastes like meat is merely said to be meat; in fact, however, it is not. That's what you are really eating. I allow you to eat this kind of meat at present. But, after my extinction, how can those who eat the flesh of living beings be called the disciples of Shakya? They are not eating the five kinds of pure meat; they are just eating the flesh of living beings outright. Are they to be known as disciples of the Buddha? They cannot be referred to as disciples of Shakya, that is, people who left the home life.

Sutra:

You should know that these people who eat meat may gain some awareness and may seem to be in samadhi, but they are all great rakshasas. When their retribution ends, they are bound to sink into the bitter sea of birth and death. They are not disciples of the Buddha. Such people as these kill and eat one another in a never-ending cycle. How can such people transcend the triple realm?

Commentary:


You should know that these people who eat meat may gain some awareness and may seem to be in samadhi, but they are all great rakshasas. They pay no attention to what kind of flesh they are eating. They don't care whether it is one of the three kinds of pure meat or the five kinds of pure meat; if it's meat, they'll eat it. Ananda, you should realize that after my extinction such beings will pretend to be disciples of the Buddha and will consume both alcohol and meat. They'll be completely uninhibited, saying that everyone is free to do as he or she pleases. Although they may attain a small state of awakening or gain a little wisdom, they will only appear to be in samadhi. Actually they are not. They are like the person who came here and claimed he was the same as the Sixth Patriarch.

"What evidence do you have that you are the same?" I asked him.

He replied, "I don't have any evidence that I'm not the same." He thought that was a wise answer. Actually, he was in a class with the beings described in this passage. Such people may seem to have a little samadhi power, but in fact they are great rakshasas, big demons, big ghosts.

When their retribution ends, they are bound to sink into the bitter sea of birth and death. They are not disciples of the Buddha. Although such people wear the Buddha's clothes and eat the Buddha's food, they are not disciples of the Buddha. Such people as these kill and eat one another in a never-ending cycle. They take life and eat meat and do not prohibit either one. They keep eating one another; you eat me, and I eat you; kill and eat, be killed and eaten. How can such people transcend the triple realm? Behavior like this sets up an endless cycle. In this life, you eat my flesh; and in the next life, I eat yours. In the life after that, it's your turn to eat me again, and it goes on and on. How can such beings get out of the desire realm, the form realm, and the formless realm?

Q2 Teaching people to cut off killing is the Buddha’s instruction.

Sutra:

When you teach people in the world to cultivate samadhi, they must also cut off killing. This is the second clear and unalterable instruction on purity given by the Thus Come Ones and the Buddhas of the past, World Honored Ones.

Commentary:


When you teach people in the world to cultivate samadhi, they must also cut off killing. First, they must cut off sexual desire; they must also sever their thoughts of killing. This is the second clear and unalterable instruction on purity given by the Thus Come One and the Buddhas of the past, World Honored Ones. This is the teaching advocated by the Buddha. Both the Buddhas of the past and the Buddhas of the present teach this second clear and fixed instruction on purity. You must certainly revere it. If you don't, you won't be able to get out of the triple realm.

P3 He decides if liberation can be obtained.
Q1 An analogy makes clear, if one doesn't cut off killing it is difficult to get free.


Sutra:

Therefore, Ananda, if cultivators of Chan samadhi do not cut off killing, they are like one who stops up his ears and calls out in a loud voice, expecting no one to hear him. It is to wish to hide what is completely evident.

Commentary:


Therefore, Ananda, if cultivators of Chan samadhi do not cut off killing, they sever their compassionate seeds. Once they have lost their sense of compassion, they are like one who stops up his ears and calls out in a loud voice, expecting no one to hear him. This is known as plugging up one's ears while one steals a bell; one supposes that if one can't hear oneself, no one else can either. It is to wish to hide what is completely evident. The more one wishes to cover up one's conduct, the more it is revealed. In the same way, someone who practices samadhi but does not stop killing will find it impossible to realize his expectations.

Sutra:

Bodhisattvas and bhikshus who practice purity will not even step on grass in the pathway; even less will they pull it up with their hand. How can one with great compassion pick up the flesh and blood of living beings and proceed to eat his fill?

Commentary:


Bodhisattvas and bhikshus who practice purity until their conduct is extremely pure and lofty, will not even step on grass in the pathway. At a place where several paths come together there is usually grass growing in the walkway. A pure bhikshu or Bodhisattva will not walk on growing grass. It could kill the grass. Even less will they pull it up with their hand. They don't do any weeding. How can one with great compassion pick up the flesh and blood of living beings and proceed to eat his fill? That is not permissible.

Q2 If one diligently and profoundly cuts off killing, one can get free.

Sutra:

Bhikshus who do not wear silk, leather boots, furs, or down from this country, or consume milk, cream, or butter can truly transcend this world. When they have paid back their past debts, they will not have to re-enter the triple realm.

Commentary:


Bhikshus who do not wear silk, leather boots, furs, or down from this country, or consume milk, cream, or butter can truly transcend the world. Silk, leather, furs, and down come from living creatures. The life of the creature must be taken in order to make these things. Ordinary cotton is not included here. Therefore, they don't wear leather shoes or carry leather bags. Nor do they use milk products. When they have paid back their past debts, they will not have to re-enter the triple realm. It says here that milk and milk products should not be ingested, but in the precepts of the greater and lesser vehicles it does not state that one must certainly refrain from these things. This passage of sutra text is describing those who hold precepts with a maximum of purity. They thoroughly uphold the precept against killing. They do not use anything that has any connection with living creatures. They don't wear silk because a lot of silkworms' lives must be spent in the process of obtaining the silk. They don't eat honey, because it is made from bees. But in the vinaya proper this is an open question. There is room for flexibility. The precepts do not specifically forbid these things. For you to avoid using them is to be extremely pure. It is very good.

Sutra:

Why? It is because when one wears something taken from a living creature, one creates conditions with it, just as when people eat the hundred grains, their feet cannot leave the earth. Both physically and mentally one must avoid the bodies and the by-products of living beings, by neither wearing them nor eating them. I say that such people have true liberation.

Commentary:


Why? It is because when one wears something taken from a living creature, one creates conditions with it. For example, when you wear silk, you have a connection with the worms that made it. If you don't want to be that kind of creature, you should sever connections with it. It is just as when people eat the hundred grains, their feet cannot leave the earth. The first people on earth were actually heavenly beings that came down from the Great Brahma Heaven. This happened in the past when the fire of the kalpa raged over the earth until it had destroyed all signs of people. Afterward there began a barren period which extended for one knows not how long. And then, one day some heavenly beings flew down from the Brahma Heaven and alighted on earth. By this time, the earth was covered with a special something that looked quite good. They picked some and found it to be fragrant as well. So they ate it. Once they ate this "fat of the land," they could no longer fly. They couldn't mount the clouds and drive the fog. No longer mobile, they stood on earth and called out to their brothers and sisters who happened by in space. These heavenly beings landed and also partook of the "fat of the land," and so they too became earth-bound. They couldn't go back to the heavens; and that's how the human race came to be on earth. Some people hold that we came from monkeys. But if that's the case, what keeps us from turning back into monkeys? In fact, it all started when the heavenly beings came down to earth. As the number of people increased, the fat of the land was entirely consumed, and that whole species of plant died out. Then they had to eat "the hundred grains."

They are:

1. twenty varieties of rice,
2. twenty varieties of millet,
3. twenty varieties of beans,
4. twenty varieties of vegetables,
5. twenty varieties of melons.

There were more or less twenty kinds of each, making a hundred varieties in all. Once they ate them, "their feet couldn't leave the earth." We ascribe it to gravity, but the reason behind it is that people consume this kind of food.

Both physically and mentally one must avoid the bodies and by-products of living beings, by neither wearing them nor eating them. We people want to keep our bodies and minds free from karma created in connection with the bodies of other living creatures or with anything that comes from them. One cannot physically take life, nor can one do so mentally. One should not wear anything connected with the life of another being or eat the flesh of their bodies. I say that such people have true liberation. They have really become free.

O2 He speaks of the division into deviant and proper.

Sutra:

What I have said here is the Buddha's teaching. Any explanation counter to it is the teaching of Papiyan.

Commentary:


What I have said here is the Buddha's teaching. My explanation is the dharma spoken by the Buddhas of the ten directions and the three periods of time. Any explanation counter to it is the teaching of Papiyan. Any doctrine that agrees with my principle is dharma that the Buddhas speak. Any theory that disagrees with the principles I have explained here is the talk of a demon king.

Now that you are hearing the Shurangama Sutra, you can use it as a freak-spotting mirror. If someone is pretending to be a person and you shine the mirror on him, he will be revealed in his true form, a weirdo. Perhaps he's a pig-spirit or a cow-spirit or a horse-spirit or a mountain essence or water-monster. Maybe it's a ghost king. Whatever it might be, the mirror will show it up. Now that you've heard the Shurangama Sutra, you will be able to know whether someone is speaking the dharma correctly by comparing it to what is told in this sutra. So it is like a freak-spotting mirror. That's why I said earlier that the blind, deaf, and dumb have no chance to hear my explanation of the sutra. The deaf basically can't hear it, but here I'm not referring to people who are physically deaf, but to people who hear the dharma and yet are deaf to it. Mutes also miss the point when I lecture. I hope that all of you who are able to hear the Shurangama Sutra will become good knowing advisors in the future; that you will come to genuinely understand the Buddhadharma.

Then you can teach the blind, deaf, and mute. When you lecture, you can use an amplifying system, and then even though they are outside, they will be able to hear and will no longer be deaf or mute. People who don't understand the Buddhadharma are most pitiful. So, when you have mastered the Buddhadharma, you should go teach it to others. That means that at this stage you should pay special attention as you study.

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