THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
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Volume 8

CHAPTER 8

The Arising and Cessation of the Five Skandhas

E2 Request for further explanation of the arising and cessation of the five skandhas.
F1 Ananda repeats the former teaching and makes a request.


Sutra:

Ananda then arose from his seat. Having heard the Buddha's instruction, he bowed and respectfully upheld it, remembering every word and forgetting none. Then once more in the great assembly he spoke to the Buddha, "The Buddha has told us that in the manifestation of the five skandhas, there are five kinds of falseness that come from our own thinking minds. We have never before been blessed with such subtle and wonderful instructions as the Tathagata has now given."

Commentary:

Ananda then arose from his seat. Having heard the Buddha's instruction, he bowed and respectfully upheld it, remembering every word and forgetting none. Hearing Shakyamuni Buddha's teaching, Ananda bows to the Buddha, but this time he does not cry. He cried so many times in the past, but now he does not cry, because he has eaten his fill. He's been like a child drinking milk. Now that he's full, he doesn't cry anymore. Or again, he's like a child that wants candy; once he gets his fill of sweets, he stops crying. Ananda has also obtained some candy to eat, so he does not cry anymore. He prostrated himself and upheld the dharma-door of the great Shurangama Samadhi with extreme reverence. He had memorized the spiritual Shurangama Mantra without getting a single syllable wrong or leaving any out and every word and phrase was very clear. As he recited the mantra with his mouth, he contemplated it in his mind and did not create any evil karma with his body. Thus the three karmas of body, mouth, and mind were all pure as he recited the spiritual Shurangama Mantra.

Then once more in the great assembly he spoke to the Buddha. People should not get the wrong idea here. When Ananda speaks out again in the assembly, it's certainly not the case that he is showing off. It's not that he wants everyone to notice him. What is he doing, then? He is seeking the dharma on behalf of living beings. He is doing it not for his own sake, but for you and me, his fellow cultivators in the present time. He thinks, "Oh, in the future there will be a dharma assembly in America. Someone will lecture on the Shurangama Sutra there, and those people may not have totally understood it to this point, so I will ask for some more dharma on their behalf."

We should really be grateful to Ananda. He said, "The Buddha has told us that in the manifestation of the five skandhas of form, feeling, thinking, formations, and consciousness, there are five kinds of falseness that come from our own thinking minds." Each of these five kinds of falseness further divides into ten kinds of demonic states. "We have never before been blessed with such subtle and wonderful instructions as the Tathagata has now given. Those of us in this great assembly have never before, in our ordinary, daily lives, heard the Buddha speak such wonderful doctrines. We have truly gained what we never had before, and we are peaceful and content in body and mind."

Sutra:

Further, are these five skandhas destroyed all at the same time, or are they extinguished in sequence? What are the boundaries of these five layers?

Commentary:


Further, are these five skandhas of form, feeling, thinking, formations and consciousness destroyed all at the same time, an we get rid of them all at once, or are they extinguished in sequence? Do they go away little by little, in a certain order, one layer after another? What are the boundaries of these five layers? What are their limits?

Sutra:

We only hope the Tathagata, out of great compassion, will explain this in order to purify the eyes and illuminate the minds of those in the great assembly, and in order to serve as eyes for living beings of the future.

Commentary:


We only hope the Tathagata, out of great compassion, will explain this. Our only wish is that the Tathagata will let the great compassion issue forth from his heart and explain this for us, in order to purify the eyes and illuminate the minds of those in the great assembly. Clear up our eyes and minds. If your mind does not understand, you will not cultivate. If your eyes are clouded by defilements, they will not be able to see dearly. So Ananda asks that the eyes and minds of those in the great assembly be purified. Not only does he want their eyes and minds to be purified, he also requests that the Buddha serve as eyes for living beings of the future, that is, for you, me, and all other living beings of the present. We are all included in the definition of living beings. You cannot exclude yourself even if you want to.

If you say, "I don't count. I am not part of the definition of living beings," then let me ask you, what are you? Speak up. Even if you wanted to, you can't run away. Even if you put on wings, you can't fly off. Even if you went to the moon, you would still be a living being. You can't be anything else. So be good and admit that you're part of our group. Don't run away. Being good means you shouldn't lose your temper or act up. Your mind shouldn't feel like a pancake that sizzles and sticks to the pan. That's very hard to bear. Ananda says, "Be eyes for us and for those of the future." The mission does not end here. "Eyes for the future" continues on into the future, and by definition that is a time that hasn't arrived yet. When you hear this, don't you think it's wonderful? Does it make sense? When you laugh, all the people who don't understand Chinese are confused and want to know what you're laughing about, so let's translate this quickly!

F2 The Buddha answers three questions.
G1 He first answers that they arise from falseness.
H1 He shows the reasons for false thinking.
I1 Pursuing the source and finding it empty.

Sutra:

The Buddha told Ananda, "The essential, true, wonderful brightness and perfect purity of basic enlightenment does not admit birth and death, nor any mundane defilements, nor even empty space itself. All these are brought forth because of false thinking."

Commentary:


The Buddha told Ananda, "The essential, true, wonderful brightness and perfect purity of basic enlightenment does not admit birth and death. What is this state like? It is just the essential true, wonderfully bright and perfectly pure state of basic enlightenment. Birth and death cannot exist in that state, nor any mundane defilements, nor even empty space itself."

What is being described is the treasury of the Tathagata. It is the basic substance of true suchness, the Buddha-nature inherent in us all. It's not that you have it and I don't or that I have it and you don't. We are all endowed with the essential, true, wonderful brightness and perfect purity of basic enlightenment. Within it there is not a single defilement. Within it there is not a single dharma established. There isn't anything at all. If you can return to the origin, then you will be free of ignorance, lust greed, stupidity and false thinking, you will have none of them. It is an absolute and total purity. That is the aim of our cultivation: to return to that place inherent in us all. If this place did not exist there would be no reason for anyone to cultivate.

We can all see empty space, but do you know where it comes from? All these are brought forth because of false thinking. Empty space comes from our false thoughts. False thinking brings into being the five skandhas, the five turbidities, and the six knots. It creates all kinds of troublesome things. This is just a case of looking for something to do when there isn't anything to do. Why do you do it? Because you have no work to do, and you want to look for some. That's okay if you can reap a reward. Unfortunately, though, the more you work, the more you lose. If you work for others, the more work you do, the more money you lose. It's also like running a business, the longer you run it, the more money you lose. You keep taking losses until eventually the treasury of the Tathagata is pressed flat beneath the mountain of the five skandhas. Once that happens, the bandits of the six sense faculties and the six sense objects occupy the mountain of the five skandhas as their hideout. They go all over it robbing and plundering. See how all the time until today you have been attracting thieves and sheltering bandits. At the beginning you were doing business, but then you began to lose capital, and now it's cost you your life. The thieves go about looting and stealing, and they go right ahead and kill people as well. Therefore, your inherent nature is squashed underneath the mountain of the five skandhas, and the six sense faculties and six sense objects are bandits that go around looting everywhere. Do you understand now? If you understand this principle, then I have not lectured on the sutra in vain. If you don't understand, then you will have to study it gradually.

Sutra:

The source of basic enlightenment, which is wonderfully bright, true, and pure, falsely gives rise to the material world, just as Yajnadatta became confused about his head when he saw his own reflection.

Commentary:

The source of basic enlightenment, in which not a single dharma abides, his essential, true, wonderful brightness and perfect purity of basic enlightenment, which is wonderfully bright, true, and pure, falsely gives rise to the material world. When that happens, falseness arises based on truth. In the treasury of the Tathagata, falseness arises. The "sentient world" refers to all living beings while the "material world" refers to the mountains, rivers, buildings, and the earth itself.

It is just as Yajnadatta became confused about his head when he saw his own reflection. One morning he got up, looked in the mirror, and saw that the person in the mirror had eyes, ears, lips, and a nose, and he exclaimed, "Why don't I have a head like that? That person in the mirror has one, why don't I?" He went running all over the place trying to find his head. Do you think his head was actually lost though? Do you remember that I mentioned Yajnadatta earlier? If not, try to think back. What kind of person was Yajnadatta? Was he an intelligent person or a foolish one? Did he have a head, or was he headless? If you reply that he had no head, would you think he was a freak if you saw him? Think about it.

Today is the beginning of a new life for all of us here, so we must wash our bodies and minds clean. Put aside all the unclean things you were involved with in the past, and be sure that from now on the things you pick up are clean. By "clean" we mean being free of the five dull servants: greed, hatred, stupidity, pride, and doubt. Today's precept transmission was the first of its kind in America, and so you are the first initiates into Buddhism in this country. But you should know that there aren't any advantages for the people who come first. You will have to endure bitterness. Why is that? Because there is no model to follow. There are no precedents, and so you don't know how to go about what you have to do. Sometimes you'll get disoriented. You'll make mistakes without even realizing they are mistakes. Why? Because you basically don't understand what you're going about doing, and there is nowhere you can go to learn.

Although Japanese Buddhism has been in America for a long time, it is a very synthetic Buddhadharma. By that I mean it tends to be abstract and lacking in substance. You may call what they practice the Buddhadharma, but it really isn't like the Buddhadharma.

But if you say it's worldly dharma, they will tell you it's the Buddhadharma. It's impossible to tell what it really is. It doesn't fit the mold. Why not? Because it doesn't have a genuine foundation. For instance, there's a Korean monk now who claims to be of the Cao Creek Sect. It's hard to figure out how Cao Creek got to Korea. It is a case of "Hanging out a sheep's head, but selling dog's meat". He hangs out a sign that says "the waters of Cao Creek," but what he sells is the mud and silt of Korea. There'[s no water in it, so how can it be Cao Creek? I really don't like to talk this way, but I see that these kinds of people are simply too pitiful. It's a case of the blind leading the blind. He claims to be of the Cao Creek Sect, and a lot of intelligent Americans follow him and become part of the Cao Creek Sect, too, but just exactly what is the origin of Cao Creek? They don't know. Where is Cao Creek located? What does that place look like? They don't know. This is truly a ridiculous sham.

Now you have received the precepts of orthodox Buddhism. This is the proper Buddhadharma, and it's different from those heretical sects that cheat people of their money in the name of the Way. For example, they say, "Give me sixty-five dollars, and I will transmit the dharma to you." This isn't that. Now you have been given a precept sash. The money you paid does not come to me. It is used to purchase your sash. Whenever you attend a dharma assembly, you should wear the sash. It shows reverence for the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. This dharma assembly will conclude tomorrow. From now on, whenever there is a dharma assembly, the people wearing sashes should stand in the front and those wearing only the robe, but not the sash, should stand in the back. Also, those who have held the precepts for a longer time should stand in front, and those who have newly received the precepts should stand in the back. This is the order we follow in Buddhism.

Today I congratulate you all for completing your three-month course of study. Although your study has concluded, your work is just starting. What is your work? You must help all human beings in the world to end their suffering. Their suffering can be ended only if someone lends a helping hand. The suffering of humanity is not limited to a single country. Throughout the whole world, humanity is suffering. Therefore, people of great wisdom are needed to remind humanity of its suffering. Only then will human beings know to seek for true happiness. What is the greatest suffering? The greatest source of suffering is our greed. Greed is one of the greatest afflictions. Anger is also one of the biggest afflictions. And stupidity is also one of the greatest afflictions. Greed, anger, and stupidity are the three poison. Yet people feel that these three are their best friends, and so they are reluctant to part with them. Due to their lack of understanding, people don't renounce these poisons. If they understood, the suffering of humanity would come to an end.

In this Shurangama dharma assembly, which began on July 16, we cultivated and studied non-stop from six o'clock in the morning until nine o'clock in the evening every day. This period of a little over three months has been tremendously valuable. Now, this valuable time has already passed, and you have learned this precious knowledge and made it a part of yourselves. You must tell the whole world about the Buddhadharma that you have learned, so the whole world will know how to leave suffering, attain bliss, and realize great wisdom. Don't do any more foolish things or things that don't benefit people.

This dharma assembly could be considered the first of its kind in Buddhism throughout the entire world. It's absolutely unprecedented.

Although there are many sutra lectures in other places, they don't study from morning till night without rest like we've done. Now you should take the principles of Buddhism you've learned and use them to help all the world's people who are adrift in the sea of suffering. Help them to depart from suffering, find happiness, and quickly attain the Buddha Way. This is my hope.

I2 Judges the upside-down speculations to be wrong.

Sutra:

The falseness basically has no cause, but in your false thinking, you set up causes and conditions. But those who are confused about the principle of causes and conditions call it spontaneity. Even empty space is an illusory creation; how much the more so are causes and conditions and spontaneity, which are mere speculations made by the false minds of living beings.

Commentary:


This passage discusses the causes and conditions of our false thoughts. What is meant by "causes and conditions"? When a person does not understand the principle of causes and conditions, in his confusion he will regard it as spontaneity and thus fall among the externalists. Therefore the text says: The falseness basically has no cause. There is no basis for a source of false thinking. Without any basis, there is no substance to it.

Someone asked me, "What is false thinking?"

My reply was, "What you're asking right now about false thinking is just false thinking. Your question itself is false thinking." Where do you go to find false thoughts? They don't have any root. Once they pass, they are gone. Being false, they are without substance. To speak of false thinking as a "thing" is already inappropriate, because fundamentally, there isn't any "thing." But in your false thinking, you set up causes and conditions. In your false thinking, without any basis, you say that there are causes and conditions.

But those who are confused about the principle of causes and conditions call it spontaneity. If you understand causes and conditions, there's no problem. But those who are confused about the principle of causes and conditions do not have any understanding of it.

"Dharma master, ultimately, what are these causes and conditions you?ve been talking about?" you may ask. Causes and conditions were discussed at length earlier in the sutra. It is a dharma used for refuting the dharmas of external teachings. It is a dharma of the small vehicle, and thus is basically not a particularly deep doctrine. It basically says that whatever the cause, so will be the conditions. People who do not understand the doctrine of causes and conditions will call it spontaneity instead.

That's a case of "swallowing the date whole". What is meant by swallowing the date whole? Maybe you aren't familiar with dates. You could say it's "swallowing an apple whole," without biting or chewing it first. What does it taste like? You don't know. Those who are confused about the principle of causes and conditions, those who misunderstand it, call it spontaneity, which is a doctrine of external sects.

Even empty space is an illusory creation. Now this does not refer to causes and conditions or spontaneity. This refers to empty space. What is empty space? It comes from your false thinking. As the verse spoken earlier by Manjushri Bodhisattva says: "The space created within great enlightenment / Is like a single bubble in all the sea." The empty space in the nature of great enlightenment is just like a bubble in the ocean; it comes from false thinking.

How much the more so are causes and conditions and spontaneity, which are mere speculations made by the false minds of living beings. What are causes and conditions? What is spontaneity? Causes and conditions and spontaneity, these two theories, are just speculations dreamed up by the false-thinking minds ofliving beings. I don't know if my explanation is correct, but you can all think about it.

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