THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
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Volume 8

Sutra:

Ananda, if you perceive the arising of falseness, you can speak of the causes and conditions of that falseness. But if the falseness has no source, you will have to say that the causes and conditions of that falseness basically have no source. How much the more is this the case for those who fail to understand this and advocate spontaneity.

Commentary:


Ananda, if you perceive the arising of falseness, you can speak of the causes and conditions of that falseness. Do you know how false thinking comes into being? If you know where false thinking comes from, then you can talk about its causes and conditions. But if the falseness has no source, you will have to say that the causes and conditions of that falseness basically have no source. Since there is no falseness to begin with, what basis do you have for a discussion of the causes and conditions of false thinking? Since the falseness has no substance, it has no source. There is nothing at all. All dharmas are empty of characteristics.

There is no source or foundation for the falseness. How much the more is this the case for those who fail to Understand this and advocate spontaneity. If you don't even understand causes and conditions and you further advocate the principle of spontaneity, you will fail among the externalists. That won't do at all.

I3 Concluding with reiteration that the cause is false thinking.

Sutra:

Therefore, the Tathagata has explained to you that the fundamental cause of all five skandhas is false thinking.

Commentary:


Therefore, because of the principles explained above, the Tathagata has explained to you very clearly that the fundamental cause of all five skandhas, form, feeling, thinking, formations, and consciousness, is false thinking. What is the basic cause of the five skandhas? False thinking. If you investigate false thinking, you will find that it has no substance of its own. In fact its mother is the five skandhas, and that is where it comes from. The five skandhas come from false thinking, and false thinking comes from the five skandhas. Based on the truth, falseness arises. Didn't I tell you this earlier? The mountain of the five skandhas is squashing you. And there are also six thieves on the mountain gathering their troops, horses, and supplies and going on looting raids. They will stop at nothing. The mountain of the five skandhas covers over the treasury of the Tathagata, so that it cannot reveal itself. If there were only the mountain of the five skandhas, that wouldn't be so bad, but then six thieves come along and indulge in wanton robbery and theft. Buried under it all is the treasury of the Tathagata. If you can subdue the six thieves and the five skandhas, then your treasury of the Tathagata will reveal itself.

[January 1983]

We are now here investigating the Buddhadharma every day, and we should apply ourselves to it in the morning and in the evening; that's how it should be, day after day. If we fail to do this one day, then we'll have missed an opportunity. In the very second that you think of not continuing to do this, you lose the benefit you have gained. It's like a cat waiting to catch a mouse. It stays there waiting for a few days, and then goes off, because it's not patient enough. As soon as it leaves, the mouse comes out and doesn't get caught. That's how strange it is. It is also like when someone has been fishing for a few days, but no fish have snapped the bait because all the small fish have been devoured by a big fish. The big fish, having eaten its fill of little fish, doesn't want to eat anything else, so it's just there sleeping. It doesn't eat for several days, but when it finally starts getting hungry, the fisherman runs out of patience and leaves, without having caught a single fish.

Basically, fishing and catching mice are both acts of killing. We cultivators are also engaged in killing. Our targets are the six thieves, our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind. We've been keeping watch over these six thieves for a few days, and so they haven't been able to have their way. But as soon as we become lax, the six thieves act up and rebel. That's how fierce they are. That's why we must be devoted in thought after thought. We must not slack off for even one second, or else the demons come. The demons bothered cultivators even when the Buddha was in the world, so they also had to be very cautious and to constantly work hard at cultivation.

What proof is there that demons were around when the Buddha was in the world? When the sutras were being compiled after the Buddha had entered nirvana, Ananda took the seat of the dharma host in the dharma assembly. At that time, his appearance became inconceivably adorned and perfect. The Arhats in the assembly wondered what was going on:

"What? Has Ananda become a Buddha?"

"Has a Buddha come from another world?"

"Is this a demon?"

Now, if there were no demons during the Buddha's time, why did those great Arhats entertain such doubts right after the Buddha had entered nirvana? Demons must have frequently showed themselves even in the Buddha's day. All of you should reflect on this. When we apply ourselves to cultivation, we must not be careless even for an instant. At all times, we must plant our feet on solid ground and seriously cultivate. We are pursuing the truth, and if we slack off even the slightest bit our karmic obstacles will appear.

H2 Detailed examination of the fivefold false thinking.
I1 The false thinking of the form skandha.
J1 Explains that one?s body is because of thinking.


Sutra:

Your body's initial cause was a thought on the part of your parents. But if you had not entertained any thought in your own mind, you would not have been born. Life is perpetuated by means of thought.

Commentary:

Shakyamuni Buddha says, "Ananda, your body's initial cause was a thought on the part of your parents." How did you get your present body? Where did it come from? It was due to this kind of thought on the part of your parents. Although the text says "thought" here, it is actually an emotion. To put it more clearly, the "thought" is a kind of emotion. Why is it said to be an emotion? Because egg-born beings come from thought, and womb-born beings come from emotion. Ananda is womb-born, not egg-born, so in his case the "thought" that caused his birth was emotion. Generally speaking, it's false thinking. At a deeper level, it's thought. And to go even deeper, it's emotion. The initial cause is the emotion of the parents. Because parents have the thought of emotional desire, they engage in sexual activity. As a result, a child is born. So isn't the child born from emotion?

But if you had not entertained any thought in your own mind, you would not have been born. Because your parents had emotional thoughts, sexual activity took place. However, when you were in the "body while in between skandhas," if you didn't have the emotion of either loving your father and hating your mother, or loving your mother and hating your father then your body would not have come into existence. You, too, in that period between skandhas, had thoughts of emotion. Because of that thought of emotion, your "body while in between skandhas" entered the womb. If you hadn't had that emotional thought, you wouldn't have entered the womb and you wouldn't have this body. That is a definite fact. There's no way you can disagree with it. The text very decisively states that if you didn't have that thought of emotion, your body would absolutely not have come into being. How did it come into being?

Life is perpetuated by means of thought. The thought of emotion transmitted your life to you. The reason you have life is because of your emotional involvement with others. "Life is perpetuated by means of thought" means that your thoughts cause your lives to continue. If you didn't have any thought, your births and deaths would be ended. When the thinking skandha comes to an end, you leave distorted dream-thinking far behind. All dream-thinking will be gone. If your false thoughts are gone, your births and deaths will come to an end. Why do you undergo births and deaths? Simply because you have too many false thoughts. When one thought ceases, the next one arises. When that thought ceases, another one arises. Like waves on water, thoughts arise in endless succession and cause life to continue.

J2 Provides an analogy to explain in detail.

Sutra:

As I have said before, when you call to mind the taste of vinegar, your mouth waters. When you think of walking along a precipice, the soles of your feet tingle. Since the precipice doesn't exist and there isn't any vinegar, how could your mouth water at the mere mention of vinegar, if it were not the case that your body originated from falseness?

Commentary:


The philosophical doctrines discussed in the Shurangama Sutra are ultimate. This is the summit of philosophy, the ultimate truth. But of course, the ultimate truth is also just the ultimate false thought. The sutra is "true" in that it describes real situations. But where do these situations originate? In false thinking. The principle is ultimate, but its source is in false thinking. If false thoughts arise, the principle comes into existence. Without false thinking, the principle doesn't exist, either.

Ananda, as I have said before. Do you remember what I told you before, about what happens when you call to mind the taste of vinegar? You think, "Ooh, that vinegar is really sour. Ugh! Those sour plums are really tart. One bite makes my teeth go weak." As soon as you think about this, your mouth waters. Your mouth secretes saliva, not because you're hungry, but because you're thinking of something sour. In Chinese, the expression "drinking vinegar" is used to describe jealousy. Don't be jealous of others; jealousy leaves a sour taste in your mouth. When you think of walking along a precipice, the soles of your feet tingle and become weak. You might lose your footing and plummet over the edge into the gorge thousands of feet below. Pretty dangerous, huh? Since the precipice doesn't exist and there isn't any vinegar, how could your mouth water at the mere mention of vinegar? The precipice isn't really there; you are just thinking about it. But at the mere thought, your feet tingle, literally "go sour," in Chinese. Above, your mouth goes sour at the thought of sour plums or vinegar, and here, your legs and feet "go sour" at the thought of a precipice. How can your feet "go sour"? You tell me.

Someone says, "Dharma master, you don't have to explain it. I already understand. I'm already enlightened, in fact. What did I enlighten to? Well, you were explaining earlier how each of the six sense faculties has the functions of all six. It must be that the feet go sour because they can eat."

Is that really how it is? I don't believe in your enlightenment. How come I haven't been enlightened to this yet, and you have already done so? There is no such principle. I cannot accept such a principle, because it is nothing but false thinking. The feet cannot eat, hear, or see things. The six faculties that function interchangeably are the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind. The feet are not included. That's why I absolutely refuse to acknowledge your so-called enlightenment.

There really isn't any precipice and there isn't any vinegar. Your false thoughts are all it takes to make your mouth water and your feet tingle and go weak. If it were not the case that your body originate from falseness, if your body did not come from illusory false thought, if it did not befriend false thinking, if it did not join false thinking, then why would your mouth water at the mention of vinegar? If your body did not come about because of false thought, emotional thought, why would saliva form in your mouth when I talk about vinegar? The vinegar is only being talked about; it is not really there. Since it is hypothetical, why is there a sour taste in your mouth? Can you still argue that the sourness in your mouth and the tingling in your feet do not come from false thinking? No, because they do come from false thinking.

J3 Concludes by naming it false thinking.

Sutra:

Therefore, you should know that your present physical body is brought about by the first kind of false thinking, which is characterized by solidity.

Commentary:


Therefore, because of the principles explained above, you should know that your present physical body is brought about by the first kind of false thinking, which is characterized by solidity. You call it "solid," but this is just a name. In fact, your body is created by the first kind of false thought, by the skandha of form.

I2 The false thinking of the feeling skandha.
J1 Thinking results in feeling.


Sutra:

As described earlier, merely thinking about a high place can cause your body to tingle and ache.

Commentary:


Then, as was described earlier in the section above, merely thinking about a high place can cause your body to tingle and ache. Imagine yourself standing at the edge of a high precipice. Just talking and thinking about it makes your feet start to tingle and ache. You feel very uncomfortable, as if your legs won't support you and you are going to fall. If you actually do walk to the edge of a deep abyss and look down into that bottomless void, the soles of your feet will turn to jelly. Even though you are not in danger of falling, you feel as if you are about to fall. This feeling is brought about by your false thinking.

For example, you can walk for miles on level ground without your feet ever turning to jelly or tingling from false thinking. But if you have to walk across a single plank bridge above a gorge with a mighty river racing below, you start thinking things like, "Wow, if I fell from here, it'd be all over. I'd drown and lose my life for sure." Everything was fine until you had that false thought but now all of a sudden your feet turn to jelly and you cannot take another step. As a result you do fall. It all happened because you had such a thought. If you had not had that false thought but, say, had just walked with your eyes closed, without knowing when you were crossing a single plank bridge, nothing would have happened. So you decide you'll try to cross the bridge with your eyes closed next time. But then you'll fall just the same, because you cannot see where you are going. If you cross the bridge with your eyes open, you have false thoughts about the churning water below, and you get scared. If you cross the bridge with your eyes shut, you'll walk off the bridge and fall as well.

Therefore, don't have false thoughts with your eyes open, and don't close your eyes and try to kill off your false thoughts that way. It won't work. This is the crux of the dilemma: If you have false thinking, your feet will turn to jelly; if you close your eyes, you will also fall into the gorge. Closing your eyes will not solve the problem. The greatest difficulty is right here. It would be best not to have any false thoughts; then nothing at all would happen.

J2 Discussing its extent and concluding with the name.

Sutra:

Due to that cause, feelings arise and affect your body, so that at present you pursue pleasant feelings and are repelled by unpleasant feelings. These two kinds of feelings that compel you are brought about by the second kind of false thinking, which is characterized by illusory clarity.

Commentary:


Due to that cause, feelings arise and affect your body. When you were born, you received your physical body, which has shape and form, so that at present you pursue pleasant feelings and are repelled by unpleasant feelings. You like what is favorable and beneficial to you, but you dislike what is harmful to you. These two kinds of feelings, these two false thoughts that compel you, are brought about by the second kind of false thinking, which is characterized by illusory clarity. "Illusory" means unreal, so this clarity is not real. This is the second kind of false thinking that you have.

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