THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
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Volume 8

K2 Detailed explanation of their appearance.
L1 He sees no cause for the origin of life.
M1 He describes the measure of his vision.


Sutra:

First perhaps this person sees no cause for the origin of life. Why? Since he has completely destroyed the mechanism of production, he can, by means of the eight hundred merits of the eye organ, see all beings in the swirling flow of karma during eighty thousand eons, dying in one place and being reborn in another as they undergo transmigration. But he cannot see beyond eighty thousand eons.

Commentary:


The first of the two theories of the nonexistence of cause is that this person sees no cause for the origin of life. He sees that, at the source of it all, there is no cause which makes a person a person. Why? He has completely destroyed the mechanism of production. That is, he has cut off the thinking skandha. The formations skandha is like ripples on the water. After he has broken through the thinking skandha, he has "destroyed the mechanism of production." The mechanism that produces false thoughts has been destroyed, and he does no more false thinking. Why did the text say earlier that a person has no more dreams after he breaks through the thinking skandha? It's because he has destroyed the mechanism that creates false thinking.

He can, by means of the eight hundred merits of the eye organ, see all beings in the swirling flow of karma during eighty thousand eons. Although each sense organ has a potential of twelve hundred merits, the eye organ does not function in total capacity and has only eight hundred merits. Once he breaks through the thinking skandha, he can see the events that occur within eighty thousand eons. He sees beings dying in one place and being reborn in another as they undergo transmigration. The flow of karma created by living beings in this world can be likened to a current or to the sea. He can see beings swirling in that flow over a period of eighty thousand great eons, dying in one place and being reborn in another, lime after lime. But he cannot see any of the events that occur beyond eighty thousand eons.

M2 He comes up with a wrong speculation.

Sutra:

Therefore, he concludes that for the last eighty thousand eons living beings in the ten directions of this and other worlds have come into being without any cause.

Commentary:


Therefore, since he cannot see the events that occurred more than eighty thousand great eons ago, he concludes that for the last eighty thousand eons living beings in the ten directions of this and other worlds have come into being without any cause. They just come into being by themselves, without any cause or conditions. They are born spontaneously.

M3 He mistakes the principle and falls for an externalist teaching.

Sutra:

Because of this speculation, he will lose proper and pervasive knowledge, fall into externalism, and become confused about the Bodhi nature.

Commentary:


Because of this speculation, this conjecture that goes off-track, he will lose proper and pervasive knowledge, fall into externalism, join an external sect, and become confused about the Bodhi nature, the nature of the Bodhi mind.

L2 He sees no cause for the end of life.
M1 He describes the measure of his vision.


Sutra:

Second, perhaps this person sees no cause for the end of life. And why? Since he perceives the origin of life, he believes that people are always born as people and birds are always born as birds; that crows have always been black and swans have always been white; that humans and gods have always stood upright and animals have always walked on four legs; that whiteness does not come from being washed and blackness does not come from being dyed; and that there have never been nor will there be any changes for eighty thousand eons.

Commentary:


What is the second view? Perhaps this person sees no cause for the end of life. The first is that he sees no cause for the beginning of things, and here he sees no cause for the end. And why? Since he perceives the origin of life, the beginning of all living beings, he believes that people are always born as people and birds are always born as birds. Believing that he has been enlightened and has attained great wisdom, he thinks he knows. What does he think he knows? He says, "People are people in life after life, and birds are birds in life after life."

Crows have always been black. They are black to begin with; they don't have to be dyed that color. And swans have always been white. They are white from birth. Humans and gods have always stood upright. Humans and celestial beings all walk erect. And animals have always walked on four legs. Animals walk horizontally, with their four legs on the ground. This is all fixed. Their whiteness does not come from being washed, and their blackness does not come from being dyed. For example, crows are black, but they weren't dyed black. Also, swans did not have to be washed to become white. And there have never been nor will there be any changes for eighty thousand eons.

[January 1983]

Disciple: Since the person is able to see events that happened within twenty thousand, forty thousand, and even eighty thousand great eons, why is he unable to see people being reborn in other paths as they undergo transmigration?

Venerable Master: That's an interesting question. You must realize that although the text says he can see for twenty thousand great eons, he is actually under the influence of a false state. One thought is equivalent to limitless eons, and limitless eons are just one thought. He feels it is twenty thousand eons, but it may not really be that long; he is still caught up in a false state. Controlled by false thinking, he experiences a totally unreal state in which he sees pigs being pigs and cows being cows for twenty thousand eons. Although he feels that it's that way, his perception is not correct. If it were really twenty thousand eons, then of course pigs would undergo transmigration and would not remain as pigs during all that time! The fact that he claims that they do shows that he is totally fake. Although he says that he can see for twenty thousand great eons, it's not necessarily such a long time. That's only his own feeling.

For instance, Mr. Wu from Taiwan said, "Oh, I feel that I was together with so-and-so in the Sixth Patriarch's dharma assembly during the Tang dynasty."

That's just the kind of state we are discussing. The very fact that he feels this to be the case indicates that it is not true; if it were true, there would have to be some evidence. And he shouldn't go around advertising himself. If what he said were true, how could he bear to leave so soon after being reunited with that person? Has he really put everything down? Why is he going back to Taiwan to attend to other business? He made that claim just to confuse people. Those people, unable to distinguish right from wrong, exclaim, "Incredible! He must be psychic, he knows that he was with this person back in the Tang dynasty." So what? if you know that but you don't cultivate, you'll still fall and become a ghost.

Therefore, you have to perceive things clearly; it takes genuine wisdom to know why a person speaks a certain way. Mr. Wu saw that so-and-so was quite influential at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas and at Gold Mountain Monastery, and he thought it would be advantageous to claim that he was associated with that person. That person silently acknowledged the claim, which was equivalent to saying, "Right, he and I really did study the dharma together in the assembly of the Great Master, the Sixth Patriarch." Notice how that elevates his own status. It is just like when another person came to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas and talked about how we all supported him. These cases are very similar, but they used different methods to deceive people.

Pay close attention to this. As I said before, the false paves the way for the true. First there is the false, which makes people all muddled and confused. Later, some people who seek the truth set off in quest of the proper dharma. When people reach a dead-end, they begin to pursue the proper dharma. Therefore,

That which is contrary is the movement of the Way.
That which is weak is the function of the Way.
Purity is the source of the turbidity.
Movement is the foundation of stillness.

The Way contains opposites; when we study the Buddhadharma, we must have genuine dharma-selecting vision so that we can distinguish true dharmas, false dharmas, black dharmas, white dharmas, proper dharmas, and deviant dharmas. If you can recognize them, you'll be all right. If you're so muddled that you don't recognize what's true and what's false, if you jump to conclusions without analyzing things carefully, then you're in for trouble.

For that reason, we should constantly investigate the Shurangama Sutra. The couplet on the main entrance to our Wayplace says, "The Avatamsaka dharma assembly and the Shurangama Platform." Since we are in the Shurangama Platform, we are now investigating the fifty skandha demons and afterwards we will study the perfect penetrations of the twenty-five sages. Then we can investigate the four clear, unalterable instructions on purity. In this way, we will investigate the Shurangama Sutra, passage by passage, section by section, until we understand it clearly. Nowadays the followers of demons, goblins, ghosts, and freaks claim that the Shurangama Sutra is false. Hearing them, people lose their faith and say, "Oh, the Shurangama Sutra is false; no matter what you say, it's false."

We should believe in reason. If a person's words make sense, we should believe them. If they don't make sense, if they do not accord with the proper dharma and the precepts, then even if what they say is true, we should regard it as false. How can we distinguish the true from the false, the black from the white? Don't be so muddled that you take wrong knowledge and views as correct, and proper knowledge and views as incorrect. To do that would be to seriously invert right and wrong. You would lose your vision and become blind, because you wouldn't be able to tell black from white. People who hold to wrong knowledge and views undergo the retribution of having no eyes, because they have blinded others and led others astray. Pay close attention to this. The law of cause and effect is very serious; it is not off by a bit. From my experience, I know that we cannot do even the slightest wrong deed, for if we do, we will soon have to undergo the retribution.

M2 He comes up with a wrong speculation.

Sutra:

He says, "As I now examine to the end of this life, I find the same holds true. In fact, I have never seen Bodhi, so how can there be such a thing as the attainment of Bodhi? You should now realize that there is no cause for the existence of any phenomena."

Commentary:


This person is able to see the events that occur within eighty thousand great eons, so he says, "As I now examine to the end of this life, the life of this physical body, I find the same holds true." Just like the living beings that he perceives within eighty thousand great eons, his body also has no source from which it comes. He says, "In fact, I have never seen Bodhi. I have yet to see what Bodhi looks like, so how can there be such a thing as the attainment of Bodhi? I've looked throughout the eighty thousand great eons and haven't even caught a glimpse of Bodhi, so why should I believe that it is possible to attain Bodhi? You should now realize that there is no cause for the existence of any phenomena; for no reason whatsoever, they come into being."

Actually, he can only see within the range of eighty thousand great eons, and he has no idea of what occurs beyond that period of time. When the Buddha was in the world, an old man came to the monastery wishing to leave the home-life. The Buddha was away on the road and not at the monastery. The Arhats there all took a look at the old man, who was probably over eighty years old, with wrinkled skin, white hair, and an unsteady gait. Whenever a person requested to leave the home-life, the Arhats would look into his past causes and future effects. Now they contemplated the old man's causes and found that in the past eighty thousand eons he had not planted a single good root; he had not done any good deeds. The great Arhats said, "Since you didn't plant good roots, you cannot leave the home-life."

You shouldn't think leaving home is so easy. To leave home, you have to plant good roots for Bodhi in life after life. So the Arhats told the old man, "Although you wish to leave the home-life now, since you don't have any good roots, we can't allow you to leave home. You'd better go."

When the old man heard that he began to cry. He began to weep as he thought about his unlucky fate. At such an advanced age, he had wished to leave the homelife and had been rejected by the Buddha's disciples. As he walked along crying, he thought, "I might as well commit suicide. I could hang myself or throw myself into the river. I don't want to live anymore." However, his one thought of sincerity evoked a response. The Buddha came back and asked him, "What are you crying for?"

He said, "I wanted to leave the home-life, but the Buddha wasn't at the monastery and the Buddha's disciples wouldn't allow me to leave home. They said that I hadn't planted any good roots or done any good deeds in the last eighty thousand great eons. That's why I think I'd be better off dead. There's no point in living." The Buddha said, "Don't cry anymore. I will help you. I will let you leave the home-life. Come with me to the monastery." Thus the old man returned to the monastery and left the home-life under the Buddha. All of the Buddha's disciples were perplexed.

"Strange! The Buddha accepts only those who have good roots. Why did the Buddha accept that old man, who didn't have any good roots?" the disciples wondered The Buddha told them, "You Arhats can only see the events that occur within eighty thousand great eons. You don't know what goes on beyond this period. More than eighty thousand great eons ago, this old man was a woodcutter in the mountains. One day he saw a tiger and climbed up a tree to save himself. The tiger started gnawing at the tree, intending to devour the man. When it had just about chewed through the tree, the man got so nervous that he cried out, "Namo Buddha!" The tiger immediately left. When it had gone far away, the man climbed down from the tree and went home, saved from being eaten by the tiger. His one recitation of "Namo Buddha" planted the seed for a good root more than eighty thousand years ago. It is now time for that seed to sprout and bear fruit. That's why he is now able to leave the home-life. The Buddha's explanation resolved his disciples' doubts.

The cultivator of samadhi says there is no cause for the existence of anything because he is unaware of the events occurring beyond the period of eighty thousand great eons.

M3 He mistakes the principle and falls for an externalist teaching.

Sutra:

Because of this speculation, he will lose proper and pervasive knowledge, fall into externalism, and become confused about the Bodhi nature.

Commentary:

Because of this speculation, he will lose proper and pervasive knowledge and views, fall into externalism, and become confused about the Bodhi nature. He will not understand the Bodhi nature.

K3 Concludes that it is an externalist teaching.

Sutra:

This is the first external teaching, which postulates the absence of cause.

Commentary:

It maintains that there is no origin or cause for anything.

J2 Four theories regarding pervasive permanence.
K1 Describes their source and shows the error.


Sutra:

Ananda, in his practice of samadhi, the good person's mind is unmoving, clear, and proper and can no longer be disturbed by demons. He can thoroughly investigate the origin of all categories of beings and contemplate the source of the subtle, fleeting, and constant fluctuation. But if he begins to speculate on its pervasive constancy, he could fall into error with four theories of pervasive permanence.

Commentary:


Ananda, in his practice of samadhi, the good person's mind is unmoving, clear, and proper. His proper mind has the wisdom that develops from samadhi, and it can no longer be disturbed by demons. By now, the demon kings can no longer use their tricks to disturb his samadhi. But sometimes transformations happen in his own formations skandha, causing him to have wrong ideas. These are known as "demons of one's own mind."

He can thoroughly investigate the origin of all categories of beings and contemplate the source of the subtle, fleeting, and constant fluctuation. He examines the ephemeral and elusive origin of all beings and finds a subtle movement a constant vibration. But if he begins to speculate on its pervasive constancy, that subtle fluctuation, he could fall into error with four theories of pervasive permanence. This person could give rise to wrong speculations and be ensnared in the views of pervasive permanence. What are the four theories?

K2 Detailed explanation of their appearance.
L1 He speculates that the mind and states are permanent.


Sutra:

First, as this person thoroughly investigates the mind and its states, he may conclude that both are causeless. Through his cultivation, he knows that in twenty thousand eons, as beings in the ten directions undergo endless rounds of birth and death, they are never annihilated. Therefore, he speculates that the mind and its states are permanent.

Commentary:


First as this person thoroughly investigates the nature of the mind and its states, he may come up with a wrong view and conclude that both are causeless. There is no source from which they spring.

Through his cultivation, he knows that in twenty thousand eons, as beings in the ten directions undergo endless rounds of birth and death, they are never annihilated. Through the cultivation of samadhi, he becomes aware of the production and destruction of all living beings within twenty thousand eons. He sees them going through the endless cycle, being born and dying, over and over. Yet they are never annihilated. Therefore, he speculates that the mind and its states are permanent and will never change.

L2 He speculates that the four elements are permanent.

Sutra:

Second, as this person thoroughly investigates the source of the four elements, he may conclude that they are permanent in nature. Through his cultivation, he knows that in forty thousand eons, as living beings in the ten directions undergo births and deaths, their substances exist permanently and are never annihilated. Therefore, he speculates that this situationi is permanent.

Commentary:


What is the second theory? As this person thoroughly investigates the source of the four elements, earth, water, fire, and air, he may conclude that they are permanent in nature. He claims the natures of earth, water, fire, and air are permanent and indestructible. Actually earth, water, fire, and air are created from the false thoughts of living beings and have no substance at all. Without any substance, how can they be permanent? That is a misconception. Through his cultivation, he knows that in forty thousand eons, as living beings in the ten directions undergo births and deaths, their substances exist permanently and are never annihilated. Therefore, he speculates that this situation is permanent. He says that the nature of their births and deaths is permanent and unchanging. It has never been interrupted. That is the second theory.

L3 He speculates that the eight consciousnesses are permanent.

Sutra:

Third, as this person thoroughly investigates the sixth sense faculty, the manas, and the consciousness that grasps and receives, he concludes that the origin of mind, intellect, and consciousness is permanent. Through his cultivation, he kows that in eighty thousand eons, as all living beings in the ten directions revolve in transmigration, this origin is never destroyed and exists permanently. Investigating this undestroyed origin, he speculates that it is permanent.

Commentary:


Third, as this person thoroughly investigates the sixth sense faculty, the sixth (mind) consciousness, the manas consciousness, which was previously called the defiled consciousness, and the consciousness that grasps and receives, he concludes that the origin of mind, intellect and consciousness, of the sixth and seventh consciousnesses, is fundamentally permanent.

Through his cultivation of the skill of directing the hearing inward to listen to the inherent nature, he knows that in eighty thousand eons, as all living beings in the ten directions revolve in transmigration, undergoing repeated births and deaths, this origin is never destroyed and exists permanently and without change. Investigating this undestroyed origin, he speculates that it is permanent and not subject to change.

L4 He speculates that the cessation of thoughts is permanent.

Sutra:

Fourth, since this person has ended the source of thoughts, there is no more reason for them to arise. In the state of flowing, halting, and turning, the thinking mind, which was the cause of production and destruction, has now ceased forever, and so he naturally thinks that this is a state of non-production and non-destruction. As a result of such reasoning, he speculates that this state is permanent.

Commentary:


Fourth, since this person has ended the source of thoughts, there is no more reason for them to arise. Once he breaks through the thinking skandha, the cause for false thoughts to arise is gone. He has samadhi power over the thoughts in his mind. With an unmoving, dear, and proper mind, he has no opportunity to entertain false thoughts. In the state of flowing, halting, and turning of the formations skandha, the thinking mind, which was the cause of production and destruction, has now ceased forever. He no longer has false thoughts, and so he naturally thinks that this is a state of non-production and nondestruction. As a result of such reasoning, he speculates that this state is permanent and unchanging.

K3 Concludes that it is an externalist teaching.

Sutra:

Because of these speculations of permanence, he will lose proper and pervasive knowledge, fall into externalism, and become confused about the Bodhi nature. This is the second external teaching, which postulates pervasive permanence.

Commentary:


Because of these speculations, these four theories of pervasive permanence, he will lose the wisdom of proper and pervasive knowledge, fall into externalism, and become confused about the Bodhi nature. Once he starts following external teachings, he will not be able to understand the Bodhi nature. This is the second external teaching, which postulates pervasive permanence.

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