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The Thinking Skandha
VOLUME 8, Chapter 4
K5 Instructions to be aware and not become confused.
You should be aware of this in advance and not get caught up in the cycle of transmigration. If you are confused and do not understand, you will fall into the Relentless Hells.
Ananda, you should be aware of this in advance, understand the principle involved, and not get caught up in the cycle of transmigration. If you are aware of the demonic state, you won't fall into the demon's trap. You won't end up in the retinue of demons. But if you are confused and do not understand, there will be no politeness involved. It's certain you will fall into the Relentless Hells. You will not be shown the slightest favor.
I3 The Buddha exhorts those in the Dharma-ending Age.
J1 False boasting of accomplishment to sagely fruition.
Ananda, you should know that in the Dharma-ending Age, these ten kinds of demons may leave the home-life to cultivate the Way within my dharma. They may possess other people, or they may manifest themselves in various forms. All of them will claim that they have already accomplished proper and pervasive knowledge and awareness.
Ananda, you should know that, especially in the Dharma Ending Age, these ten kinds of demons, the ones that appear in the ten demonic states associated with the thinking skandha, may leave the home-life to cultivate the Way within my Buddhadharma. They may possess other people. The demon kings may possess other people, or they may manifest themselves in various forms. They may display their spiritual powers as demon kings and manifest all kinds of forms. They may appear as Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Arhats, or gods. Demon kings can manifest in any kind of body. All of them will claim that they have already accomplished proper and pervasive knowledge and awareness.
"Proper and pervasive knowledge" refers to the Buddha, who has both proper knowledge and pervasive knowledge. "Proper knowledge" means knowing that "the mind produces the myriad dharmas." "Pervasive knowledge" means knowing that "the myriad dharmas are the mind itself." When someone has genuine proper and pervasive knowledge and views, he becomes a Buddha, one of proper and pervasive knowledge. However, demons pretend to be Buddhas and claim to have attained proper and pervasive knowledge.
When Shakyamuni Buddha was about to enter nirvana, he summoned the demon king and commanded him, "You should abide by the rules. Follow the rules from now on. Don't violate them."
The demon king replied, "So you want me to follow your rules? Fine. During the ending age of your dharma, I will wear your garments, eat your food, and defecate in your alms bowl." His meaning was that he would destroy the dharma from within. When the Buddha heard that he was worried. He wept and said, "There's really nothing I can do about you. Your method is the most poisonous, the most destructive."
There is the saying: "The parasites on the lion's body eat the lion's flesh." This means that in the Dharma-ending Age, the demons are strong and the dharma is weak. There are a lot of demon kings. Therefore, cultivators must be very careful. What are demon kings like? In general, they are different from ordinary people. They have a demonic energy about them. There is something unusual about them, which reveals that they are demon kings.
The Dharma-ending Age is a time when the dharma is weak and demons are strong. The Song of Enlightenment by Great Master Yong Jia says very clearly:
Alas! In the evil time of the Dharma-ending Age,
Living beings have few blessings; it is difficult to train them.
Far indeed from the sages of the past, their deviant views are deep.
Demons are strong, the Dharma is weak; many are the wrongs and injuries.
Hearing of the door of the Tathagata's sudden teaching,
They regret not destroying it as they would smash a tile.
"Alas" expresses a regretful sighing about the Dharma-ending Age. The evil time means this time is very evil and vile. All the monsters are appearing in the world.
The computer is one of the biggest monsters, and television is a small monster. The small monster helps the big one out and the big monster wants to devour all the people. It wants to take people's jobs away. This is a very evil age. Living beings have no blessings. They are tense and nervous from morning to night, and people suffer from diseases of the heart, liver, lungs, spleen, and kidneys. Such diseases strike people because they are infected with deviant energy. They have been poisoned too deeply.
You think it's nice to watch television, to talk on the phone, to listen to the radio, and to play with the computer, but you don't realize the harm that these things do to your heart, liver, spleen, lungs, and kidneys. They cause people to act inhuman and ghosts to act unlike ghosts. That's a sign that the world is starting to go bad. We have been born in a time when living beings have no blessings and are difficult to teach. You may advise them not to watch television or listen to the radio, but they insist on doing those things. Tell them not to listen to music, but they listen on the sly. It's not easy to teach the upside down living beings in this terrible age.
"Far indeed from the sages of the past." They are very far from the Buddhas. "Their deviant views are deep." Everyone has deviant knowledge and deviant views; no one has proper knowledge and proper views. Their deviant views are too deep. "Demons are strong, the dharma is weak." In this age the demons prosper and the dharma is very feeble. "Many are the wrongs and injuries." You hurt me, and I hurt you. We hurt each other out of resentment. "Hearing of the door of the Tathagata's sudden teaching." If they hear of the Buddha's proper dharma-eye treasury, the dharma-door of the sudden teaching, "they regret not destroying it as they would smash a tile." They regret not being able to wreck it immediately, as they would smash a tile to bits. That's how much they hate the Buddhadharma. This is the way we are now.
Therefore, we Buddhists who live at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas should not keep radios, televisions, or musical records in our homes; we should get rid of these. No matter how busy we are, we should attend the morning and evening ceremonies and the sutra recitations. We should not be absent from these activities. If you are a layperson and you cannot make it to the temple, you may do the morning and evening ceremonies, recite sutras, and investigate the Buddhadharma at home. Don't spend your spare time watching television or listening to the radio, being no different from people of the outside world.
The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is different from the outside world, and we should not let ourselves be influenced by the common crowd. All of you at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas should devote your attention to the Buddhadharma and to studying and practicing the principles in the Buddhist sutras. If you memorize the Shurangama Sutra, that will make me extremely happy.
Even at home, you should read and recite the Shurangama Sutra, the Dharma Flower Sutra, and the Avatamsaka Sutra. What's the point of coming to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas if you don't understand the Buddhadharma at all? It's meaningless. If you don't understand anything and you have no idea what people are talking about during discussions, then your being here is too pitiful.
J2 They use lust in their teaching.
They praise lust and break the Buddha's moral precepts. The evil demonic teachers and their demonic disciples that I just discussed transmit their teaching through licentious activity. Such deviant spirits take over cultivators' minds, and after as few as nine lives or as many as a hundred generations, they turn true practitioners entirely into followers of demons.
They praise lust. How can one tell if someone is a demon? Demons do not praise proper methods of practice. They praise lust and openly advocate sex. And they break the Buddha's moral precepts.
They say, "The Buddha's precepts are useless. Don't keep them. The Buddha's precepts were for adherents of the small vehicle to practice. We are great vehicle Bodhisattvas, great vehicle Buddhas. Since we have already become Buddhas, we don't need to hold the precepts." The evil demonic teachers of dharma and their demonic disciples, the disciples of the demon kings, that I just discussed transmit their teaching through licentious activity. They practice lust with each other and praise it, saying, "It is the finest and most wonderful dharma door. The principle of true emptiness and wonderful existence lies right within this." Such deviant spirits, that is, those who extol lust, take over cultivators' minds. Because the cultivators' minds are confused by the deviant demons who have possessed them, they crave sex and openly advocate lust. It's all because the demons have taken over their minds.
And after as few as nine lives or as many as a hundred generations, they turn true practitioners entirely into followers of demons. At the minimum, it takes nine lives. What does one "life" mean? Is it the period from a person's birth until his death? No. Rather, it refers to a period of a hundred years. Therefore nine lives is nine hundred years. At the most, it takes over a hundred generations. One generation represents thirty years, and so a hundred generations is three thousand years. It takes a minimum of nine lives to turn a true cultivator completely into a member of the demon's retinue.
At the other extreme, it might take as long as a hundred generations from the time the demon confuses him until he becomes part of the demon's retinue. Although he has been confused, he still has to pass through several more lives. Only after a long time does he officially join the demon's retinue. Before that time, his nature is not totally demonic. Do you know what demons are transformed from? Demons were originally people. A person who is not upright may become a demon, but it doesn't happen that fast. The demon king hounds him, follows him, and keeps confusing him. The process takes from as short a time as nine lives to as long as a hundred generations.
J3 They are beguiled by demons and fall into the hells.
When their lives are over, they are bound to end up as one of the demonic hordes. They will lose their proper and pervasive knowledge and fall into the Relentless Hells.
When their lives are over, when the allotted time has passed, anywhere from nine lives to a hundred generations, and the practitioners die, they are bound to end up as one of the demonic hordes. They cannot become demon kings, since there is only one king. There are not that many demon kings. They can only become run-of-the-mill demons, common citizens of the demon populace. They will lose their proper and pervasive knowledge. They will lose proper knowledge and views and will have only wrong knowledge and views; and they will follow along in the deeds done by the demon king. And eventually they will fall into the Relentless Hells. After they use up their blessings as demons, their lives will end and they will fall into the hells.
J4 Exhortation to compassionately rescue them to repay kindness.
You need not enter nirvana yet. Although you are completing your attainment to the level beyond learning, hold nonetheless to your vows to enter the Dharma-ending Age. Bring forth great compassion to rescue and take across living beings who have proper minds and deep faith. Do not let them become possessed by demons. Help them instead to attain proper knowledge and views. I have already rescued you from birth and death. By venerating the Buddha's words, you will be repaying the Buddha's kindness.
Ananda, you need not enter nirvana yet. Don't enter nirvana yet. Stay here in the world and teach and transform living beings on my behalf. Although you are completing your attainment to the level beyond learning, hold nonetheless to your vows to enter the Dharma-ending Age. For all practical purposes, you have already attained the state beyond learning. The Buddha says, "You should keep your compassionate vows. When the proper dharma is gone and the Dharma Image Age has passed, the
1. At this point Ananda has realized the second fruition of Arhatship, but has not yet actually attained the level beyond learning. However, the path of cultivation to reach that accomplishment is clear to him, so he can be considered as having attained that level.
Dharma-ending Age will come. At that time bring forth great compassion to rescue and take across living beings who have proper minds and deep faith. Ananda, you should bring forth a mind of great kindness and compassion and save living beings whose minds are proper in the Dharma-ending Age."
Do not let them become possessed by demons. Rescue living beings and cause them to have deep faith in you, so that they will not be confused by the demon kings. Do not allow the demon kings to have their way with people. Help them, the living beings in the Dharma-ending Age, instead to be on guard and to attain proper knowledge and views. That means you and me, living beings right now, not anyone else. You should urge yourself on. Keep a proper attitude and outlook.
Shakyamuni Buddha says, "Ananda, I have already rescued you from birth and death. You have already ended birth and death. You are already a second-stage Arhat, and you understand the way to reach the fourth stage of Arhatship, so for all practical purposes we can say that your birth and death are now ended. By venerating the Buddha's words, you will be repaying the Buddha's kindness. Now listen to the Buddha's instruction; do what the Buddha tells you and don't forget it. By honoring and obeying the Buddha, you are repaying the Buddha's deep kindness."
What does it mean to repay the Buddha's kindness? If we listen to the Buddha's instructions, we are repaying the Buddha's kindness. If we want to repay the Buddha's kindness, we must obey the Buddha. If Ananda wants to repay the Buddha's kindness, Ananda should listen to the Buddha. If we want to repay the Buddha's kindness, we should also listen to the Buddha. We should listen to Shakyamuni Buddha and to the dharma masters when they explain the sutras and the principles. That's why at the very start I said you all should listen to the Buddha. I'm not a Buddha; I should also listen to the Buddha. No matter what, we shouldn't ignore the Buddha's advice.
I4 Conclusion on the harm, and command to offer protection.
J1 Showing how the states come about from interaction.
Ananda, all ten of these states may occur in dhyana as one's mental effort interacts with the thinking skandha.
Ananda, all ten of these states which have just been explained may occur in the still contemplation of dhyana when you have applied enough effort to reach that level. Where do those states come from? They can happen as one's mental effort interacts with the thinking skandha. They are changes that occur in the thinking skandha as a result of pressure applied in cultivation. When you are cultivating with maximum effort, such states will manifest. But when they manifest, don't "mistake a thief for your own son"; don't be confused by those states. When you meditate, your mental effort interacts with the thinking skandha. They engage in battle. It's like a war. If your samadhi power is victorious, then the thinking skandha will be conquered. But if the thinking skandha wins out and your skill in samadhi fizzles, you will be caught in a demonic state, and then these kinds of things will happen.
J2 Confusion will bring harm.
Dull and confused living beings do not evaluate themselves. Encountering such situations, in their confusion they fail to recognize them and say that they have become sages, thereby uttering a great lie. They will fall into the Relentless Hells.
Dull and confused living beings do not evaluate themselves. Living beings are always getting attached to things. They are obstinate and inflexible, stupid and without wisdom. They do not take proper stock of themselves. Encountering such situations, such demonic states, in their confusion they fail to recognize them. The most important thing is that if you can recognize states, then you won't be turned by them. If you are clear about them, you will not be confused. If you don't understand, then you will be confused. Confusion is basically a lack of recognition. And what happens when people fail to recognize states?
They say that they have become sages. They say things like, "Do you know about me? I've become a Buddha already. And I'll tell you, it was really easy for me. It was cheaper than buying a couple pieces of tofu." That's really too easy, isn't it? Such people say that they are Buddhas, that they have realized the Way, that they are enlightened, that they have penetrated their meditation topic, and that they've got it all figured out.
For example, someone who came here today was of the same type as the "American Sixth Patriarch" who came a few days ago. He didn't bow to the Buddhas or stupas. The sutra describes the possessed person as not bowing in temples or to shrines. He didn't bow to the Buddha or listen to the dharma. He just ate lunch and left. The reason he left was that his demon dragged him away. He was so filled with demonic energy that he felt too uncomfortable to stay for even one minute more after eating his lunch. You should recognize what he was all about. His manner indicated that he thought he was already a Buddha, so he didn't need to bow to the Buddha.
Thereby uttering a great lie. They will fall into the Relentless Hells. He is bound to fall into the Relentless Hells in the future. Don't look only at the short term. It may take as little as nine lives, or it may take up to a hundred generations. He didn't listen to the Buddhadharma because of the demonic energy that had taken over him. Even if he wanted to listen, his entire body felt too uneasy, so he couldn't sit or stand still. I've told you about this before, and you should all pay attention. After this, whenever you go to a temple or Buddha hall, you must respect the temple rules. Do what the other people are doing. Don't stand when everyone else is bowing to the Buddha. That looks very bad. Anyone who acts like that won't be able to study the Buddhadharma no matter where he goes. When you study the Buddhadharma, you must be receptive, humble, and sincere.
J3 Command to offer protection.
In the Dharma-ending Age, after my nirvana, all of you should pass on the Tathagata's teachings, so that all living beings can awaken to their meaning. Do not let the demons of the heavens have their way. Offer protection so that all can realize the Unsurpassed Way.
In the Dharma-ending Age, after my nirvana, all of you should pass on the Tathagata's teachings. "All of you" refers to Ananda and all the great Bodhisattvas, great Arhats, and great bhikshus in the assembly, as well as to the great elders. Here the Buddha is exhorting them, "You must continue the transmission of the Tathagata's teachings down to the Dharma-ending Age, so that all living beings can awaken to their meaning, and so they can understand the principles of the Shurangama Sutra.
Tell them about the fifty kinds of skandha demons, about the demons of the form, feeling, and thinking skandhas which I have explained for you. Be sure to propagate this teaching so everyone can hear it. Do not let the demons of the heavens have their way. If you let the demons do as they please, then you are in for trouble. Offer protection, maintain and support the Buddhadharma, so that all can realize the fruition of the Unsurpassed Way."