THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
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Volume 7

Destiny of Immortals

H5 The destiny of immortals.
I1 Concludes prior passage and begins this.


Sutra:

Furthermore, Ananda, there are people who do not rely on Proper Enlightenment to cultivate samadhi, but cultivate in some special way that is based on their false thinking. Holding to the idea of perpetuating their physical bodies, they roam in the mountains and forests in places people do not go and become ten kinds of immortals.

Commentary:


Furthermore, Ananda, there are people who do not rely on Proper Enlightenment to cultivate samadhi. They do not rely on the great enlightened way of Bodhi. They do not rely on the great Shurangama Samadhi, and they do not cultivate the skill of turning back their hearing to hear the self-nature. What they cultivate is a deviant samadhi of the externalist paths. It is based on false thinking and on the urge to climb on conditions, to take advantage of situations. They think like this: "I'll cultivate now, and when I accomplish some karma in the Way I'll display my spiritual penetrations for everyone to see. I'll get them to believe in me, respect me, make obeisance to me, and make offerings to me." That's what's meant by taking advantage of situations. It's not for the sake of becoming a Buddha or for the sake of practicing and upholding the Buddhadharma and causing it to spread and grow that they cultivate. They develop their skill with the idea of getting offerings for themselves. They display both greed and stupidity in that way. So they cultivate in some special way that is based on their false thinking. What do they have in mind? Holding to the idea of perpetuating their physical bodies, they roam in the mountains and forests in places people do not go and become ten kinds of immortals. They have the false thought that they will make their bodies strong and enduring, that they will become as solid as rock, that their bodies will never go bad. They go deep into the mountains or perhaps find an isolated island.

I2 Lists the immortals.
J1 Earth-traveling immortals.


Sutra:

Ananda, some living beings with unflagging resolution make themselves strong with doses of medicine. When they have perfected this method of ingestion, they are known as earth-traveling immortals.

Commentary:


Ananda, some living beings with unflagging resolution make themselves strong with doses of medicine. They take this medicine with one aim in mind, to become an immortal "Unflagging resolution" means that they are consistent in their practice. All the people to be discussed in this section are extremely faithful when it comes to their practice. It's not that they do it today and neglect it tomorrow. Every day, day after day, they develop their particular kind of skill. In this case it's ingesting drugs. By this they hope to gain immortality so that they don't have to die. When they have perfected this method of ingestion, they are known as earth-traveling immortals. The result of their efforts is that they are very light when they walk. Their bodies are buoyant. They can run very swiftly over the ground. They get to higher speeds than the emu in Australia, which can run as much as forty miles an hour. This immortal travels over the ground as if he were flying; that's how he gets his name.

J2 Flying immortals.

Sutra:

Some of these beings with unflagging resolution make themselves strong through the use of grasses and herbs. When they have perfected this method of taking herbs, they are known as flying immortals.

Commentary:

Some of these beings with unflagging resolution make themselves strong through the use of grasses and herbs. They pursue this practice with firm determination. If someone were to tell them to discontinue it, they could not do it. Their minds are like rock or iron. They are tougher than nails when it comes to perfecting their method of practice. In this case it is the use of grasses and herbs. They concoct a pill out of certain herbs and trees. They eat it every single day without fail. And due to their determination and to their wish to succeed, the method eventually starts to work. When they have perfected this method of taking herbs, they are known as flying immortals. Their bodies are as light as a wisp of smoke, and they can mount the clouds and drive the fog.

J3 Roaming immortals.

Sutra:

Some of these beings with unflagging resolution make themselves strong through the use of metal and stone. When they have perfected this method of transformation, they are known as roaming immortals.

Commentary:


Some of these beings with unflagging resolution make themselves strong through the use of metal and stone. Their minds are determined, extremely strong and steadfast. They make a stove for concocting pills. They mix mercury and lead together, heating and reheating it, smelting and re-smelting it. They may smelt it for forty-nine days or for twenty-one days. It depends on the prescription they are taught. They combine gold and silver and when these too are sufficiently smelted they put all the ingredients together and eat the result. They're called pills of immortality; it's wonderful medicine. If one takes a pill of immortality one can "cast off the womb and transform one's bones." This is just a brief mention of the secret prescriptions for forging immortality. If they are successful, when they have perfected this method of transformation, they are known as roaming immortals. "Method of transformation" refers to the changes that take place as a result of the pills they concoct. The pills have a special ability to create change. As roaming immortals, they can go wherever they want.

J4 Space-traveling immortals.

Sutra:

Some of these beings with unflagging resolution make themselves strong through movement and cessation. When they have perfected their breath and essence, they are known as space-traveling immortals.

Commentary:


Some of these beings with unflagging resolution make themselves strong through movement and cessation. These beings work with determination on movement and cessation. "Movement" can refer to the time that they work on developing their skill. "Cessation," then, is when they stop working. "Movement" can also refer to exercise such as tai ji chuan.

"Cessation," then, is when they cultivate stillness. That is, they sit there and smelt the essence until it transforms into energy, they smelt the energy until it transforms into spirit, and they smelt the spirit until it returns to emptiness. How do they smelt the essence into energy? They sit in meditation and do not allow their essence to escape. They don't go near women. When their essence doesn't escape, it reverts inward. In that way it turns into energy, into prana. This energy becomes fused throughout the body. They manage to do it by concentrating their thoughts on it, just the way a chicken hatches an egg. They think about how their essence is being transformed into energy, how the energy is pervading their body, and then how it is being transformed into spirit. Then they smelt the spirit until it returns to emptiness, until it becomes like emptiness itself. They then smelt the emptiness until it returns to nothing. They go to the point that there's nothing at all. At that point they feel very free and at ease. They can "go out esoterically and enter the female." That's the way the Taoists phrase it. That means they can go out from the top of their heads.

The Taoists in China practiced exactly the methods that Shakyamuni Buddha describes here. They have a book called Wu Shang You Huang Xin Yin Miao Jing. They consider this book a real treasure. It tells how to smelt the essence to transform it into energy, smelt the energy to transform it into spirit, smelt the spirit to transform it into emptiness, and smelt the emptiness to transform it into nothing. These immortals can walk around in space. They can go out from the top of their heads. There are a lot of strange and esoteric things in this world. There's another Taoist book for sale called Wa Lia Xian Zong. In it there are pictures of a man sending a small person out the top of his head, and that small person sending out another small person, and so forth until there are lots of small people. That's supposed to be "millions of transformation bodies." But I'll tell you, making millions of transformation bodies is not as much trouble as all that. These Taoist books are just totally involved in attachment to appearances. Making transformation bodies can be done at will. There's no fixed formula for creating them. When they have perfected their breath and essence, they are known as space-traveling immortals.

J5 Heaven-traveling immortals.

Sutra:

Some beings with unflagging resolution make themselves strong by using the flow of saliva. When they have perfected the
virtues of this moisture, they are known as heaven-traveling immortals.

Commentary:


The previous immortal could roam in space. This one can go up to the heavens. Some beings with unflagging resolution make themselves strong by using the flow of saliva. When the tongue is placed on the roof of the mouth, the saliva flows down from above. Adherents of externalist paths call this "sweet dew," "heavenly drinking water," and a lot of other names. The process is complete when the saliva flows down and is swallowed into the stomach. Taoists call this the elixir of immortality. They have a saying;

If you want to live forever and not grow old,
You must return the essence to nurture the brain.

They contemplate having their essence form a cluster on top of their heads; in this way they strengthen their brains. These particular immortals continually swallow the saliva and internalize the breath in a regularly scheduled practice. When they have perfected the virtues of this moisture, they are known as heaven-traveling immortals. Eventually their faces take on a glow. Although they are very old, their faces are like children's. They are red cheeked and fresh like a young boy's. These are the heaven-traveling immortals.

J6 Immortals of penetrating conduct.

Sutra:

Some beings with unflagging resolution make themselves strong with the essence of sun and moon. When they have perfected the inhalation of this purity, they are known as immortals of penetrating conduct.

Commentary:

Some beings with unflagging resolution make themselves strong with the essence of sun and moon. Their minds are firm and resolved. These immortals make a practice of breathing in the essence of the sun and the secretions of the moon. They convert the sunlight and moonlight. When they have perfected the inhalation of this purity, they are known as immortals of penetrating conduct. They can travel to the heavens or anywhere else they want to go. How do they go about this practice? For example, in the morning they face the sun and make three hundred and sixty inhalations. In the evening they face the moon and make three hundred and sixty inhalations. They put all their time into smelting their stinking skin bags. That's what our bodies are, stinking skin bags.

The Venerable Master Hsu Yun wrote the Song of a Skin Bag in expression of this fact. But this type of immortal puts all his energy into developing this kind of skill. They don't know that they should put that effort into developing the self-nature. So the difference between Taoism and Buddhism is that the former uses effort on what is apparent and the latter uses effort on what is not apparent. So one has an attachment and the other doesn't. That's the difference. Actually, the way of the immortals and the Buddhist Way are similar. The point is that one is involved in attachments and the other is not. The kind of skill these immortals develop is basically all right, but they get attached to it. They become totally engrossed in appearances. Because of that they have a hindrance. They feel they have to do things in a certain way. Because they have this hang-up, they cannot get completely out of the cycle of rebirth. They don't gain ultimate understanding and release. These are called immortals with penetrating conduct.

The first five immortals described previously were said to have one sort of "travel" or another because they are basically bound to the earth and cannot roam in the higher realms. The latter five, now being described, are said to have one kind of "conduct" or another, because they are more advanced and can roam in the higher regions.

J7 Immortals with way-conduct.

Sutra:

Some beings with unflagging resolution make themselves strong through mantras and prohibitions. When they have perfected these spells and dharmas, they are known as immortals with Way-conduct.

Commentary:


These beings have a firm determination to recite mantras. The Tibetan Lamas are an example of this category, provided that they perfect their skills. Some beings with unflagging resolution make themselves strong through mantras and prohibitions. They recite mantras and always hold prohibitive precepts. When they have perfected these spells and dharmas, they are known as immortals with Way-conduct.

J8 Immortals with illumining conduct.

Sutra:

Some beings with unflagging resolution make themselves strong through the use of thought-processes. When they have perfected thought and memory, they are known as immortals with illumining conduct.

Commentary:

Some beings with unflagging resolution make themselves strong through the use of thought-processes. They turn their determination to their thoughts, without resting, they develop total thought. When they have perfected thought and memory, they are known as immortals with illumining conduct. When they perfect this practice, they have a bit of light. In their thoughts they imagine that they are transformed into golden light. When they cherish this thought for a long time, eventually it's just like the old mother hen on her eggs, or the cat stalking the mouse: there's some success. That's why they are called immortals with illumining conduct. They have some light.

J9 Immortals with essential conduct.


Sutra:

Some beings with unflagging resolution make themselves strong through intercourse. When they have perfected the response, they are known as immortals with essential conduct.

Commentary:

Usually "intercourse" refers to the sexual act between men and women. But that is definitely not the meaning here. Rather, the intercourse takes place within oneself. The Taoists call this the "young boy and girl." Each individual is capable of it. It?s not a matter of seeking outside oneself. Everyone has a young boy and girl in his or her own body. The young boy refers to the trigram li ) and the young girl refers to the trigram kan. This is an allusion to the trigrams. The trigram li is "empty in the middle."

The trigram kan is "full in the middle." The eight trigrams are:

8trigrams

They begin with the trigram qian q, which consists of three unbroken lines. Qian represents the male element. Kun k is three broken lines and represents the female element. At age thirtysix a man's qian trigram is at its peak. Thereafter it will decline, and it turns into the trigram li. The li trigram has two outer yang lines and an inner yin line. Where did the yang line from the middle of the li go? It went over to the kun trigram, which subsequently turns into kan, which consists of two yin outer lines with a middle yang line.

The li trigram belongs to the mind and the kan trigram belongs to the body. So the "intercourse" referred to in this passage is the intercourse of "body" and "mind" as described here. The "intercourse" is simply an analogy for a union of body and mind. The entire process takes place in one individual's body. The li trigram belongs to yang, but within the yang is yin. The kan trigram belongs to yin, but within the yin is yang.

The infant boy and girl meet
at the yellow courtyard.

What is the yellow courtyard? It's the mind, the sixth consciousness. And the mind belongs to the hexagram pi. It would get tremendously involved if we were to go into this doctrine in detail. Time simply does not permit me to explain it further. In any event, the Taoists cultivate the dharma-door of this kind of intercourse. When people with deviant knowledge and deviant views see this passage of the Shurangama Sutra, they surmise that it says it's all right for men and women to mess around together, that cultivators of the Way can get away with that. So they get all mixed up together and don't hold the precepts at all.

J10 Immortals of absolute conduct.

Sutra:

Some beings with unflagging resolution make themselves strong through transformations and changes. When they have perfected their awakening, they are known as immortals of absolute conduct.

Commentary:


Some beings with unflagging resolution make themselves strong through transformations and changes. Here it says that with firm resolve a cultivator investigates various kinds of dharma Destiny tricks. When he's succeeded in developing them, he has some ability to function by means of them. Then his skill of cultivation is perfected. When they have perfected their awakening, they are known as immortals of absolute conduct. They understand the doctrine of creation. This kind of immortal can move mountains and turn over seas. It's possible for them to exchange the mountains in the north for the mountains in the south. They can move seas around in the same way, replacing the ocean in the west with the ocean in the east and vice versa. They have the power to change the seasons. For example, when it's cold in the winter so that things won't grow, they can make it so that the things they have planted will grow and won't freeze. They can make the hottest places cool and the coldest places warm. They can turn spring into winter and summer into winter at will: they can turn spring, when things should be blossoming, into autumn, when things are dying. How can they do it? They have fathomed the doctrine of creation of heaven and earth and they can function by means of that understanding.

They become capable of creation itself. They're called immortals of absolute conduct.

I3 Determines this is the same as the turning wheel.

Sutra:

Ananda, these are all people who smelt their minds but do not cultivate proper enlightenment. They obtain some special principle of life and can live for thousands or tens of thousands of years. They retire deep into the mountains or onto islands in the sea and cut themselves off from the human realm. However, they are still part of the turning wheel, because they flow and turn according to their false thinking and do not cultivate samadhi. When their reward is finished, they must still return and enter the various destinies.

Commentary:


Ananda, these are all people who smelt their minds but do not cultivate proper enlightenment. When they were people, they smelted their bodies and minds. They did not cultivate the Shurangama Samadhi of the treasury of the Thus Come One, which is neither produced nor extinguished. They didn't cultivate proper enlightenment. They obtain some special principle of life and can live for thousands or tens of thousands of years. The various dharma doors described above are all ways they found which could extend the measure of their lifespans. Their gods of the externalist paths transmitted to them these externalist dharmas which preserve life. So they have very long lifespans. They retire deep into the mountains or onto islands in the sea and cut themselves off from the human realm. They go to places where people cannot go. There is a Mount Sumeru in this world system, and surrounding it are seven golden mountains and seven seas of fragrant waters. Out beyond those mountains and seas there is a vast expanse of soft water. This water is such that if a bird's feather lands on the surface, it will sink to the bottom. The feather would float on ordinary water, but this water is so soft that it does not have the power to support anything on its surface. Obviously, if a bird's feather sinks, any other thing like a boat or raft would certainly sink, too. Only flying immortals can cross it. So these people who cultivate and become immortals fly over this water to isolated islands where people can never go. However, they are still part of the turning wheel, because they flow and turn according to their false thinking and do not cultivate samadhi. Although they may live for thousands of years, they are still within the cycle of rebirth. They have not been able to end birth and death entirely. The reason they still must transmigrate is because they still have things they are attached to. Specifically, they want immortality, they want to live long and not grow old. That's their false thinking, and so they don't cultivate proper concentration power. When their reward is finished, they must still return and enter the various destinies. When their lifespan finally ends, they will go to rebirth, and they might become people or asuras or gods, or they might end up in the hells or as hungry ghosts or animals. It's not for sure where they'll end up.

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