THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
One Must Cut Off Stealing
N3 One must cut off stealing.
O1 He distinguishes the characteristic harm and benefit.
P1 First he discusses the benefit or harm of holding or violating.
Q1 Holding it, one then certainly can get out of birth and death.
Further, Ananda, if living beings in the six paths of any mundane world had no thoughts of stealing, they would not have to follow a continuous succession of births and deaths.
The Buddha again calls out to Ananda: Further, Ananda, if living beings in the six paths of any mundane world had no thoughts of stealing, they would not have to follow a continuous succession of births and deaths. The gods, people, animals, hungry ghosts, and hell-dwellers would not steal, even in their minds. They wouldn't steal anything whatsoever, be it visible or invisible, valuable or worthless. Not only not actually taking it, but not even having the thought of taking it arises in one's mind: that is what is meant by not stealing. If they could refrain from stealing as well as from lust and killing, they wouldn't get involved in the continuity of birth and death, and they would also be free of the continuity of karmic retribution and from the continuity of the world.
Q2 Violating it, one certainly will fall into deviant paths.
Your basic purpose in cultivating samadhi is to transcend the wearisome defilements. But if you do not renounce your thoughts of stealing, you will not be able to get out of the dust.
Your basic purpose in cultivating samadhi is to transcend the wearisome defilements. You want to develop proper concentration. Your original reason for this was to get out of the cycle of rebirths in the mundane world. But, if you still have ideas about stealing things, but if you do not renounce your thoughts of stealing, you will not be able to get out of the dust. "Dust" refers to the burning house of the triple realm.
Even though one may have some wisdom and the manifestation of Chan samadhi, one is certain to enter a devious path if one does not cease stealing. At best, one will be an apparition; on the average, one will become a phantom; at the lowest level, one will be a devious person who is possessed by a mei ghost.
Even though one may have some wisdom and the manifestation of Chan samadhi, one is certain to enter a devious path if one does not cease stealing. Basically, this kind of person has no genuine wisdom, for if he did, he would not steal, nor would he lust, nor would he kill. It's just because he lacks genuine wisdom that he does these things. But let us allow that someone like this has a little wisdom and is just a trifle smarter than the average person, and when he sits he slips into an oblivion that's more or less like samadhi. Yet, this person thinks that he has achieved some incredible state which no one else has ever come close to. He feels he has skill which surpasses everyone else's. His views are arrogant, and if he doesn't stop stealing, he will fall into a devious path. Even with a little wisdom and a little samadhi, one will fall into an improper state of being because of stealing. On this devious path, one will teach others ways which are dark and incorrect. One will teach people deviant knowledge and deviant views. At best, one will be an apparition. When you see such a being, he appears to be extremely intelligent; but, in fact, he is false.
In the Chinese text The Nature of Medicine, there is mention of herbs endowed with this essence, but, in fact, the essence is not real. On the average, one will become a phantom, a strange being who possesses spiritual powers and can harm people. At the lowest level, one will be a devious person who is possessed by a mei ghost. You remember that the kumbhanda was a mei ghost who could cause paralysis in a person during sleep. The kind of ghost mentioned here takes over a person who is awake and manipulates his body, mouth, and mind for its own purposes. It speaks through the person and can gain complete control of him.
These people are what are known as mediums, or they can sometimes become sorcerers or exorcists. In America, I encountered a person like this, an American who said he was Jesus. A minute later he would announce that God had come upon him to speak. Then, after a time he would announce that Jesus had come and wanted to talk to him. It was about five years ago when he came to see me. I scolded him. I said, "You don't even recognize yourself. You are a demonic ghost through and through, and you are up to no good." He didn't like the phrase "demonic ghost," so he left. He came to discuss doctrine with me, but he never returned after I scolded him. And I thought to myself, "I don't know how to talk to people. Why did I scare away that 'Jesus-God'?"Anyway, that's an example of this kind of devious person. Why do they have that kind of karmic retribution? It is because in former lives they stole things, and so they are bound to fall into one of these three categories.
Sometimes in China these mediums were pretty spectacular. They could stick a knife in the crown of their heads and yet not die. The spirit possessing them would remove the blade by the use of a mantra in such a way that the person didn't even bleed. Some would pound nails into their shoulders, and from the nails they would hang several swords weighing more than ten pounds each. They could hang four of them and then spin them. It was awesome to watch. People were terrified. Sometimes they were really talented. I've seen a lot of these devious demons and adherents of externalist ways. When you look into the Shurangama Sutra, you realize that long ago the Buddha described all the different kinds of beings in the world very clearly. Therefore, having heard the Shurangama Sutra, you should be able to recognize whatever you come up against.
This section is called the "four clear and unalterable instructions on purity," and it is an extremely important passage of this sutra. So pay close attention.
If one can't stop stealing, one will find it impossible to become a Buddha, however much one hopes to become one. Now that we understand this doctrine, people who do steal should change. Those who don't should not let thoughts of stealing arise. That is how to be most in accord with the Way.
These devious hordes have their groups of disciples. Each says of himself that he has accomplished the Unsurpassed Way.
These devious hordes are phantoms, demons, ghosts, and weird beings, and the li, mei, and wang liang ghosts that harm people. They all have their groups of disciples. In this world, every category of being has its followers. As it says,
The good gather together;
The bad form gangs;
People find people who are like themselves.
So, even these devious ghosts and demons mass together and have their devotees. Each says of himself that he has accomplished the Unsurpassed Way. They do not recognize what is truly supreme, but instead contend that their way of doing things is the best. They say they have attained the highest way possible, even to the point that they take the Buddha's name in vain and say that's what they are. "Just take a look at the magnitude of my spiritual powers," they argue. But, in fact, they are phantoms, demons, ghosts, and weird beings. They are thoroughly improper in their conduct.
P2 He discusses the behavior of weird beings within Buddhism.
Q1 Hidden influences are the teachings of weird beings.
After my extinction, in the Dharma-ending Age, these phantoms and apparitions will abound, spreading like wildfire as they surreptitiously cheat others. Calling themselves good knowing advisors, they will each say that they have attained the superhuman dharmas. Enticing and deceiving the ignorant, or frightening them out of their wits, they disrupt and lay waste to households wherever they go.
I've met very many of these demonic ghosts. Westerners may not be too familiar with these strange things, but it's not just that they come to be because Chinese people believe in ghosts and spirits. It's just that, as time goes on, the strange phenomena that appear in the world become more numerous.
After my extinction, in the Dharma-ending Age, these phantoms and apparitions will abound. Shakyamuni Buddha is telling us here that the age we live in will be plagued with such deviant creatures. We people shouldn't have to see things for ourselves to believe they exist. There are simply too many things in the world which one will never see. If we had to wait until we had seen each and every one of them with our own eyes, we wouldn't be done looking in this lifetime. There are some things you just have to take others' word for. They spread like wildfire as they surreptitiously cheat others. They will be like a fire that literally burns people up. People who don't recognize these devious beings will fall in with them and it will be just as if they had stepped into a raging fire. The person will be burned. "Secret and hidden" means they will go about cheating others.
Calling themselves good knowing advisors, they will each say that they have attained the superhuman dharmas. They will speak of themselves as bright-eyed good knowing advisors. "Superhuman" refers to a Bodhisattva. In other words, they will say they are Bodhisattvas. In Buddhism, even though you are a Bodhisattva, or even a Buddha who has come again, you cannot say that you are a Buddha or a Bodhisattva. You must keep silent about it so long as you live, down to your last breath. "I'm a Buddha!" "I'm a Bodhisattva!" "I'm an arhat!" You cannot speak like that. Anyone who speaks like that is a demonic ghost, just like the ones being described here. When can you let it be known? After you die. Then people ought to know. But you cannot let people know who you are before you die. What meaning would there be in your announcing that you are a Buddha? What meaning? You say you are a Bodhisattva?
Why? What is your meaning in saying so? There could be no other reason than to get people to believe in you. And why would you want people to believe in you? So they will give you money. You do it to take advantage of situations and climb on conditions. If that's not your intent, then why would you be telling people you are a living Buddha? If you are a Bodhisattva, fine, you're a Bodhisattva; what would you be doing telling people so? That reminds me of something that happened once in China. An official once went to Guo Qing monastery on Tian Tai mountain to ask questions of the Abbot Feng Kan. The official and the abbot chatted. What was the official's name, you wonder? Don't ask me; I've forgotten. Perhaps it was you, or perhaps it was me; it's not for certain. The official said to the abbot, "In the past, there used to be a lot of Bodhisattvas who came into the world, but there aren't any in this day and age. I'd like to meet a genuine Bodhisattva, but I can't find one."
Abbot Feng Kan said, "Oh, you want to see a Bodhisattva? We have two here. I'll introduce you to them, and you can go see them."
The official was duly surprised, "Two Bodhisattvas, right here? You mean ones made of clay, or carved wooden ones?"
"No," replied the abbot. "These two are flesh-body Bodhisattvas. They are living Bodhisattvas."
"No kidding?" asked the official.
"I'm the abbot here. Would I joke with you about a thing like that?"
"Who are they?"
"One is the cook and the other boils the water. One is named Han Shan and the other is named Shi De. One is a transformation of Manjushri Bodhisattva, and the other is a transformation of Universal Worthy (Samantabhadra) Bodhisattva. They practice ascetic practices in this temple, doing menial tasks. They do the things that no one else likes to do. If you want to see them, it's quite simple. Just go to the kitchen and you'll find them there." The official asked the guest prefect to take him to the kitchen. There they found two grimy, tattered monks with long hair and beards, dirty faces, and a generally disreputable appearance. But the Abbot had said these two were Bodhisattvas, and so he dared not look down on them. Instead, he bowed to them. "What are you doing?" the two demanded. "Why are you bowing to us?"
"Abbot Feng Kan said you were transformations of Manjushri and Universal Worthy Bodhisattvas, so of course I'm bowing to you."
"Feng Kan's flapped his tongue" by which they meant he was a busybody. "He's said too much this time." So, as the official bowed, they backed up and backed up and backed up, one knows not how great a distance, probably several hundred steps from the kitchen to the rock cliff at the base of the mountain. Then they said, "Feng Kan has flapped his tongue. You didn't even bow to Amitabha. What are you doing bowing to us?"
"Who's Amitabha?" asked the official.
"The abbot is. He's Amitabha Buddha come again. Go bow to him. Leave us alone."
As the official stood there in amazement, the two grimy monks took one last step backwards and disappeared into the rock cliff. That place is now known as Moonlight Cliff on Tian Tai mountain, the spot where Han Shan and Shi De disappeared.
The official hurried back into Guo Qing monastery to bow to the Abbot Feng Kan, Amitabha Buddha. But when he arrived inside, he found that the abbot had sat down and entered the stillness. He'd entered nirvana. The official now knew that the abbot had been Amitabha Buddha come again, but it was too late. He'd failed to see what was right before his eyes. Amitabha Buddha was already gone.
Why don't Buddhas and Bodhisattvas let people know who they are when they come? If everyone knew, everyone would be bowing all day long one after another to the point that it would be pretty annoying. There would be no time left to cultivate. So they don't want to let on who they are.
That's the way it is in Buddhism. One would never say, "Look! I'm enlightened!" "I'm a Buddha!" People like that are no different from the ones being discussed in this section of the sutra. I've never met anyone who admitted he was enlightened. Neither Elder Master Hsü Yün, nor any of the other enlightened monks in China ever said a word about being enlightened, even if asked directly. There's no such thing in Buddhism, except perhaps in "New Buddhism."
The beings discussed here claim to be superior people. "Do you know who I am? I'm Maitreya Bodhisattva." "Do you know who I am? I'm Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva. Now that you know, you should not miss out on this opportunity. Bow to me as your teacher. If you don't want to bow to me, you can bow to my teacher. I'll give you a certificate and for sixty-five dollars I'll transmit a dharma to you." They go about enticing and deceiving the ignorant. They confuse unsuspecting people. I've met so many people like this. Their line is, "I have dharma treasures. I'll sell you one for only three hundred dollars. It's only because I like you so much that I've saved it for you. If I were not fond of you, I wouldn't offer it to you."
So the disciple gives the teacher three hundred dollars in exchange for a treasure. Some hit you up for a thousand dollars. Soon the old teacher's wallet is fat. When he moves his stash from safe to safe, he has to use a train! Most people fall for this kind of thing. If you speak true dharma for them, such as "Don't kill," they don't believe it. "Don't steal." They don't believe that, either. "Don't be lustful." They don't believe that, either. But if you tell them you've got something that will be to their advantage, they'll pay you for it. Or frightening them out of their wits. They make you lose whatever wisdom you had. They make you confused. They disrupt and lay waste to households wherever they go. They are really filthy rich, but everywhere they go they keep amassing more wealth, stripping householders of their goods, lock, stock, and barrel.
I teach the bhikshus to beg for their food in an assigned place, in order to help them renounce greed and accomplish the Bodhi Way. The bhikshus do not prepare their own food, so that, at the end of this life of transitory existence in the triple realm, they can show themselves to be once-returners who go and do not come back.
I teach the bhikshus to beg for their food in an assigned place, in order to help them renounce greed. When it was time to beg for food, each bhikshu headed in a certain direction and made his rounds in a certain locale. Carrying their bowls, the bhikshus went out to receive alms. Why did the Buddha teach them to beg for food? First, when laypeople give food to people who have left the home-life, they can ensure the reward of blessings and put an end to their suffering and distress. Second, when bhikshus go out for alms, they eat whatever they are given. If it's good, they eat it; if it's bad, they eat it just the same. In this way, they get rid of their greed. If you cook for yourself, you'll think, "What I made today wasn't so good; tomorrow, though, I'll make something delicious. The day after that I'll make something even better, and the day after that I'll make something simply spectacular." There's no end to it. When one goes out begging, there is no chance for selection. One does not make distinctions about which food and drink is good and which is not. One cannot say, "The food I've gotten today is really tasty," and then eat with great gusto. And then the next day, if the food one gets is not good, one does not even eat it. That kind of conduct is impermissible. One eats the good and the bad; general idea is to eat one's fill and forget about it. That gets rid of greed. In this way they can accomplish the Bodhi Way. That is because, as it's said:
The superior person is concerned about the Way, not about food. People who come to investigate the Buddhadharma should not get hung up on food.
The bhikshus do not prepare their own food, so that, at the end of this life of transitory existence in the triple realm, they can show themselves to be once-returners who go and do not come back. They only want to eat enough to sustain their bodies. Our life in this world, whether we dwell on land or in water, is like a stay in a hotel, transitory and soon over. Don't be attached to it. The bhikshus put an end to greed, so that when this life in the triple realm is over, they won't have to come back. "This place is filthy. I'm not going to return here," is their thought. Even America, with its beautiful toilets and magnificent houses, it's enough to have been here once. Don't come back! Don't be greedy for toilets. To begin with, they smell bad; why would you be greedy for them? In fact, this whole world stinks. You should not think it is a clean
place. This world is a toilet in itself.
How can thieves put on my robes and sell the Thus Come One, saying that all manner of karma one creates is just the Buddhadharma? They slander those who have left the homelife and regard bhikshus who have taken complete precepts as belonging to the path of the small vehicle. Because of such doubts and misjudgments, limitless living beings fall into the Relentless Hell.
How can thieves put on my robes? They don the clothes of a left-home person and tell people, "I am a dharma master who can lecture on the sutras. You should all believe in me." And they sell the Thus Come One. They barter with the Buddhadharma. They do business with it. All they do is think of ways to get people to give them money. They say that all manner of karma one creates is just the Buddhadharma. They say, "Everything is the Buddhadharma. Dancing is Buddhadharma; drinking wine is Buddhadharma; making music is Buddhadharma. These are all part of the Buddha's eighty-four thousand dharma-doors."
They are really smooth talkers. "Smoking cigarettes is Buddhadharma, gambling is Buddhadharma; you can do anything you want." They are lax, even to the point that no matter what one might do, they say it's all right. They slander those who have left the home-life and regard bhikshus who have taken complete precepts as belonging to the path of the small vehicle. If anyone calls them on it and asks, "Have you taken the complete precepts?" they don't even know what you are talking about. They don't even understand the five precepts, how much the less the eight, or the ten, or the ten major and forty-eight minor precepts. They themselves are not authentic left-home people. Their scope is very small and self-centered. Because of such doubts and misjudgments limitless living beings fall into the Relentless Hell. They cause others to be confused, and they themselves basically do not understand. To begin with, the people who follow them had good intentions, but having become involved with such a messed-up teacher, they end up in the same situation as was mentioned earlier:
If one who is dazed transmits the delusion to another,
When all is said and done, neither one understands.
The teacher falls into the hells,
And the disciples burrow in after him.
In the Relentless Hell there is no break in the suffering. One person fills the hell in the same way that many people fill it. With just one person in that hell, there would still be no space left over. And no matter how many people are in it, it's always just as full. One can never get out of this hell. So it's very dangerous to set up conditions for it.
Q2 Teaching people to cut off stealing is the Buddhas instruction.
R1 First he offers his own instructions.
I say that bhikshus who after my extinction have decisive resolve to cultivate samadhi, and who before the images of Thus Come Ones can burn a candle on their bodies, or burn off a finger, or burn even one incense stick on their bodies, will, in that moment, repay their debts from beginningless time past. They can depart from the world and forever be free of outflows. Though they may not have instantly understood the Unsurpassed Enlightenment, they will already have firmly set their mind on it.
I say that bhikshus who after my extinction have decisive resolve to cultivate samadhi, and who before the images of Thus Come Ones can burn a candle on their bodies, or burn off a finger, or burn even one incense stick on their bodies, will, in that moment, repay their debts from beginningless time past. These bhikshus, under proper guidance, at the appropriate time, and in the prescribed manner, cut out a piece of their flesh with a knife and place some oil in the hole. Then they light the oil and are a living lamp for the Buddha. Or perhaps they burn off a finger in the correct manner; or they let one or two or three pieces of incense burn on their bodies, such as on their arm. Shakyamuni Buddha says that all the debts such people have accumulated throughout time without beginning can be wiped away in that single act. They can depart from the world and forever be free of outflows. Though they may not have instantly understood the unsurpassed enlightenment, they will already have firmly set their mind on it. They will have a decisive resolve and will not retreat from it.
If one does not practice any of these token renunciations of the body on the causal level, then even if one realizes the unconditioned, one will still have to come back as a person to repay one's past debts exactly as I had to undergo the retribution of having to eat the grain meant for horses.
"If one does not practice any of these token renunciations of the body on the causal level, then even if one realizes the unconditioned, one will still have to come back as a person to repay one's past debts. If one doesn't do any of these acts of physical renunciation, such as making a lamp on one's body or burning off a finger or making incense burns on the body, thus planting a few good causes, then even if one accomplishes the Way, even if one becomes enlightened, even if one becomes a Buddha, one will still have debts to pay back. One will have to come back as a person again and repay one's debts from past lives, exactly as I had to undergo the retribution of having to eat the grain meant for horses. I had to eat grain meant for horse-feed for ninety days this life," Shakyamuni Buddha says.
Why did Shakyamuni Buddha have to undergo that retribution? It had to do with a past life, when he was a brahman engaged in teaching five hundred pure youths how to cultivate the Way. At that time, there was another Buddha in the world. One day, when that Buddha went on the begging rounds with the bhikshus, he instructed them to have the donors put a little extra in their bowls to accommodate a bhikshu who was sick and could not go on the alms-rounds. As they returned from their rounds, they passed by the mountain where the brahman who was Shakyamuni Buddha on the cause-ground dwelt. When the brahman got a whiff of the food from their especially full bowls, he became jealous. "Why do those bald monks get to eat so well? They should only be allowed horsefeed." His five-hundred disciples all agreed with him, of course, chiming in, "Right! They are only fit to eat horse-feed." After he became a Buddha, Shakyamuni took five hundred disciples to a certain country to spend the summer retreat. On the surface, the king of the country gave them a cordial welcome, but after he allowed them into the country, the king would not make offerings to these monks. Eventually a horse-trainer in the country became aware that the Buddha and bhikshus were not being given any offerings of food, so he shared with the monks the grain that he fed his horses. Even though the brahman had eventually become Shakyamuni Buddha, and his five hundred pure youths were now five hundred arhats and had been certified to the fruition, they still had to repay the debt from that past life: for ninety days they had to eat horse-feed.
So, the Buddha says that if one does not perform these acts of bodily renunciation, one will still in the future have to repay the debts one has incurred in past lives, just as he did.
R2 Then he explains it is the teaching of all former Buddhas.
When you teach people in the world to cultivate samadhi, they must also cease stealing. This is the third clear and unalterable instruction on purity given by the Thus Come One and the Buddhas of the past, World Honored Ones.
When you teach people in the world to cultivate samadhi, they must also cease stealing. Since they want to cultivate, they must get rid of their thoughts of stealing. This is the third clear and unalterable instruction on purity given by the Thus Come One and the Buddhas of the past, World Honored Ones. This is an unchanging instruction given by Shakyamuni Buddha and by all Buddhas of the past.
P3 He decides if samadhi can be obtained.
Q1 An analogy makes clear that if stealing is not cut off, samadhi is hard to obtain.
Therefore, Ananda, if cultivators of Chan samadhi do not cease stealing, they are like someone who pours water into a leaking cup and hopes to fill it. He may continue for as many aeons as there are fine motes of dust, but it still will not be full in the end.
Therefore, Ananda, if cultivators of Chan samadhi do not cease stealing, they are like someone who pours water into a leaking cup and hopes to fill it. If you are trying to fill a cup with a hole in it, you may continue for as many aeons as there are fine motes of dust, but it still will not be full in the end.
Q2 Diligent and profound cutting off of stealing can bring samadhi.
If bhikshus do not store away anything but their robes and bowls; if they give what is left over from their food-offerings to hungry living beings; if they put their palms together and make obeisance to the entire great assembly; if when people scold them they can treat it as praise; if they can sacrifice their very bodies and minds, giving their flesh, bones, and blood to living creatures; and if they do not repeat the non-ultimate teachings of the Thus Come One as though they were their own explanations, misrepresenting them to those who have just begun to study, then the Buddha gives them his seal as having attained true samadhi.
If bhikshus do not store away anything but their robes and bowls. Bhikshus should have three robes, a bowl, and sitting cloth. They don't need anything else. They do not accumulate possessions. If they give what is left over from their foodofferings to hungry living beings. They give alms that they cannot eat to living beings who have nothing to eat. If they put their palms together and make obeisance to the entire great assembly. They place their palms together and are respectful to any gathering of people. If when people scold them they can treat it as praise. Regard scolding as being the same as praise, they do not react to the scolding. If they can sacrifice their very bodies and minds, giving their flesh, bones, and blood to living creatures. Their minds harbor no arrogant thoughts and their bodies do not act in ways that display pride and self-satisfaction.
When someone scolds you, you should act as if he is singing a song for you. If you yourself do not scold people and yet someone scolds you, you shouldn't even understand what he is saying. It shouldn't even make sense to you. It should be as if he is speaking some language you don't understand, such as Japanese, English, or Chinese, depending on which one you don't know. When someone is clearly scolding you, you just think, "Oh, he is saying such nice things about me." Look at it in the reverse. If someone hits you, just pretend you bumped into a wall. Suppose you were careless and ran smack into a wall and were left with a big lump on your head. If you then turned around and socked the wall with your fist, saying, "Why did bump into me?" you'd only end up with a hurt hand to boot. When someone strikes you, if you view it as if you'd bumped into a wall, the whole affair will end right there.
True bhikshus who have brought forth the resolve for Bodhi should even give up their flesh and blood to other beings if there are some who want to partake of it. Once when Shakyamuni Buddha was on the cause-ground, he saw a starving tiger, and he gave up his body for the tiger to eat. The tiger is one of the world's most ferocious beasts, and yet the Buddha on the cause-ground could give up his own body to the tiger.
If they do not repeat the non-ultimate teachings of the Thus Come One as though they were their own explanations, misrepresenting them to those who have just begun to study. They will not discuss the teachings of the small vehicle in such a way that they appear to be their own explanations. In other words, they won't plagiarize the Buddha, thereby misrepresenting themselves and confusing people who have first begun to study. If they do not do any of these things, then the Buddha gives them his seal as having attained true samadhi. The Buddha will give the seal of certification to people like this. They have genuine samadhi power.
What I have said here is the Buddhas, teaching. Any explanation counter to it is the teaching of Papiyan.
This explanation is the way the Buddhas speak dharma. Any other explanation is the dharma spoken by the kings of demons.