THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
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Volume 8

CHAPTER 2

The Form Skandha

G2 Detailed analysis of the characteristics of the demons of the five skandhas.
H1 The characteristics of the demons of the form skandha.
I1 Overview from beginning to end.
J1 Initial cultivation does not break though the skandhas' boundaries.


Sutra:

Ananda, you should know that as a cultivator sits in the Bodhimanda, he is doing away with all thoughts. When his thoughts come to an end, there will be nothing on his mind. This state of pure clarity will stay the same whether in movement or stillness, in remembrance or forgetfulness.

Commentary:


Ananda, you should know that as a cultivator sits in the Bodhimanda, he is doing away with all thoughts. Ananda, you should know that you are simply cultivating the skill of turning back your hearing to listen to your inherent nature. In that way you obliterate all thoughts. When his thoughts come to an end, there will be nothing on his mind. This state of pure clarity, this wisdom and samadhi-power, will stay the same whether in movement or stillness, in remembrance or forgetfulness. Your mind does not change whether you are moving or still. Whether you are mindful or absent-minded, your state is the same. It is non-dual.

Sutra:

When he dwells in this place and enters samadhi, he is like a person with clear vision who finds himself in total darkness. Although his nature is wonderfully pure, his mind is not yet illuminated. This is the region of the form skandha.

Commentary:


When he dwells in this place and enters samadhi. Ananda! when he cultivates samadhi power and resides in a state of purity that remains the same whether he is moving or still, mindful or forgetful, he is like a person with clear vision who finds himself in total darkness. He is like a person with good eyes who is living in a dark house. Although his nature is wonderfully pure, his mind is not yet illuminated. Although his nature is pure, bright, and wondrous, his mind has not yet attained the light of genuine wisdom. This is the region of the form skandha.

J2 Ultimately it breaks up and reveals its false source.

Sutra:

If his eyes become clear, he will then experience the ten directions as an open expanse, and the darkness will be gone. This is the end of the form skandha. He will then be able to transcend the turbidity of kalpas. Contemplating the cause of the form skandha, one sees that false thoughts of solidity are its source.

Commentary:


If his eyes become clear, he will then experience the ten directions as an open expanse, and the darkness will be gone. What is this state called? This is the end of the form skandha. Of the five skandhas: form, feeling, thinking, formations, and consciousness, the form skandha is gone. He will then be able to transcend the turbidity of kalpas. Contemplating the cause of the form skandha, one sees that false thoughts of solidity are its source. When the person goes beyond the turbidity of kalpas, his actions will be based on false thoughts of solidity.

[December 2,1993]

Disciple: When the form skandha comes to an end, this person can then transcend the turbidity of kalpas. Contemplating the cause of the form skandha, he sees that false thoughts of solidity are its source.

Venerable Master: He still has false thoughts. They are "solid" because he is too deeply attached to that state.

Disciple: Are false thoughts of solidity the source of the form skandha?

Venerable Master: That's how it is when he reaches that state. It is not a matter of whether or not something is the source. There's no way to get to the root of it. This is all false. Form, feeling, thinking, formations, and consciousness are all like this. "The five skandhas, like floating clouds, emptily come and go. The three poisons, like air bubbles in water, rise and disappear." They are unreal. Every state is false.

Disciple: It's just like a dream; you can't make any sense out of dreams.

Venerable Master: Yes, "In a dream, the six destinies clearly exist. After awakening, everything is empty and the universe is gone."

I2 The ten states within this region.
J1 His body can transcend obstructions.

Sutra:

Ananda, at this point, as the person intently investigates that wondrous brightness, the four elements will no longer function together, and soon the body will be able to transcend obstructions. This state is called 'the pure brightness merging into the environment.' It is a temporary state in the course of cultivation and does not indicate sagehood. If he does not think he has become a sage, then this will be a good state. But if he considers himself a sage, then he will be vulnerable to the demons' influence.

Commentary:


We are now discussing the demons associated with the five skandhas: form, feeling, thinking, formations, and consciousness. There are ten kinds of demons for each of the skandhas, making a total of fifty. Cultivators should have a clear understanding of these fifty types of demons. If you are not dear about these states, you could easily end up in the demon king's retinue, and you won't even know how you got there. That's why you have to be especially careful.

Ananda, at this point, as the person intently investigates that wondrous brightness. When the form skandha is about to end, he experiences the ten directions opening up and perceives a kind of brightness. As he investigates that state of subtle wonder and brightness, the four elements will no longer function together, and soon the body will be able to transcend obstructions. The four elements will cease to function (normally), and very soon after that the body will become free of obstructions, just like empty space. This is known as the "body produced by intent." It is another body that can leave the physical body. Earlier I mentioned my disciple who went to the heavens in his dharma body, which is also the "body produced by intent." The intent refers to the mind, one of the six sense faculties. Such a body, being a creation of the mind, is able to transcend obstructions.

This state is called "the pure brightness merging into the environment." The pure light flows into the surrounding environment.

[December 2, 1993]

Disciple: "This state is called the pure brightness merging into the environment." How is this sentence explained?

Venerable Master: This means that the person is too smart. He has false intelligence and worldly wisdom. He's simply too clever!

Disciple: What does "the environment" refer to?

Venerable Master: It refers to the state mentioned earlier.

Disciple: Is it the state that occurs when he is working at cultivation? Venerable Master: It's simply the state he attained previously. It is a temporary state in the course of cultivation. This kind of skill is temporary; it will not last. It is different from being able to come and go wherever you please. With that kind of complete freedom, one can:

Let it go, and it fills the six directions;
Roll it up, and it secretly hides away.

If one lets it go, it fills the universe. And yet one can gather it back in at any time. If you cannot do this whenever you want, then yours is only a temporary skill. It's a state that you may encounter when you reach a certain level in your cultivation. However, this state is temporary. You won't always have a body that transcends obstructions.

And so it does not indicate sagehood. You have not reached the fruition of a sage. This isn't what it's like when a sage realizes the fruition.

If he does not think he has become a sage, then this will be a good state. That is, you don't say, "Oh, I truly have some skill in my cultivation! I can actually send a body out through the top of my head!" If you become arrogant like that, what happens? It's all over for you. However, if you don't interpret this state as proof that you have attained to sagehood, then this state is no great hindrance; there is nothing particularly wrong with it. But if he considers himself a sage, then he will be vulnerable to the demons' influence. You might say, "Oh! My skill is extraordinary. I'm fantastic! I am a sage who has transcended the world! I'm an Arhat!" If you think that way, the demons will descend upon you. Once the demons come, you are headed for a fall into the hells.

J2 Internally the light pervades and he can extract intestinal worms.

Sutra:

Further, Ananda, as the person uses his mind to intently investigate that wondrous light, the light will pervade his body. Suddenly he will be able extract intestinal worms from his own body, yet his body will remain intact and unharmed. This state is called "the pure light surging through one's physical body." It is a temporary state in the course of intense practice, and does not indicate sagehood. If he does not think he has become a sage, then this will be a good state. But if he considers himself a sage, then he will be vulnerable to the demons' influence.

Commentary:


This is the second demonic state of the form skandha. These demonic states are brought about by your vigorous effort in cultivation. If you were not working hard, you could not attract such demonic states even if you wanted to. The demons would pay no attention to you. In their eyes, you would be just another poor person, and they would obtain no advantage in coming after you. But now since you've been cultivating, you've amassed some treasures, and that's what the demons are after.

What should you do when they come? You have to remain in a state of unmoving suchness and clear understanding. Do not become attached to appearances. Have no attachments at all. Do not think, "What a fine state! I'd like to experience it again!" Don't welcome it, and don't reject it. Just act as if nothing were happening. If you do not consider yourself a sage, then it is a good state. But if you think you are a sage, and you say, "Wow! I'm incredible! I can pull parasites out of my body," if you decide you've obtained spiritual powers and self-mastery, then you've made a mistake. With that one thought of arrogance, the demons come. Riding on that thought of arrogance, they bore into your mind and take over. They manipulate you until you have no samadhi power left.

Therefore, you have to truly understand the principles of cultivation! Only then can you keep from falling into a trap or going down the wrong road. If you don't understand the Buddhadharma, it is very easy to go astray. There is no problem if you do not have any real skill. But when you gain some skill, the demon kings will have their eyes on you every moment, and the first opportunity they see, they will come to disturb you.

Further, Ananda, as the person uses his mind to intently investigate that wondrous brightness, the light will pervade his body. If you persist in your cultivation, you will eventually be able to see everything inside your own body. It's one thing if you are always able to see like that; but if you only have this ability once in a while, then it is merely a state of the form skandha.

Suddenly he will be able to extract intestinal worms from his own body, yet his body will remain intact and unharmed. In this state, suddenly you can pull worms out of your own abdomen. There are long worms and short ones, big ones and small ones. You can just reach your hand in and pluck them out. The extracted worms are real, and yet there is no injury to the abdomen. How do you suppose they came out? If you reach your hand into the abdomen to pull out the worms, the abdomen should be injured, but there is no rupture at all. "His body will remain intact" could be explained in two ways. One way would be to change the translation to read "their bodies will remain intact" and say that the worms' bodies are still intact, not in the least damaged; they are whole and complete, alive and healthy. You could also say that your own abdomen is intact and uninjured.

This state is called "the pure light surging through one's physical body." An extremely pure and brilliant light penetrates your body. You do not actually put your hand in the abdomen and pluck the worms out they issue forth of themselves. It is a temporary state in the course of intense practice and does not indicate sagehood. This state is not something that happens all the time. If this were a perpetual state, the situation would be different. This is not the state of a sage.

If he does not think he has become a sage, then this will be a good state. It is fine; it won't cause any great trouble. But if he considers himself a sage, then he will be vulnerable to the demons' influence. If you say, "I've attained sagehood. I can take things out of my stomach. Isn't it wonderful? You don't have such a state." If you become arrogant and attached to your state, you are in for trouble. You will be dragged off by the demon king to become part of his retinue.

J3 His essence and souls alternately separate and unite.

Sutra:

Further, as the person uses his mind to intently investigate inside and outside, his physical and spiritual souls, intellect, will, essence, and spirit will be able to interact with one another without affecting his body. They will take turns as host and guests. Then he may suddenly hear the dharma being spoken in space, or perhaps he will hear esoteric truths being pronounced simultaneously throughout the ten directions. This state is called 'the essence and souls alternately separating and uniting, and the planting of good seeds.' It is a temporary state and does not indicate sagehood. If he does not think he has become a sage, then this will be a good state. But if he considers himself a sage, then he will be vulnerable to the demons' influence.

Commentary:


Further, as the person uses his mind to intently investigate the wondrous brightness inside and outside, striving to exceed excellence, incessantly trying to refine that process, his spiritual and physical souls undergo a change. There are three spiritual and seven physical souls residing in the human body. I have mentioned these ten "brothers" before. Some of them have only ears or only eyes. Some have merely a nose, but no lips, eyes, or ears. Each of them possesses only one sense organ and lacks the other five, so they cannot function on their own. They must work cooperatively as a team. Those with ears help out those lacking ears; those with eyes help out those lacking eyes. They depend on and help one another.

[December 2, 1993]

Venerable Master: Our three souls and seven spirits are like children. But they each have only one sense faculty, not many. Because they control our bodies, we are able to speak and perform actions. They are gathered together, and when your cultivation is accomplished, they become what is known as a Buddha in Buddhism or an immortal in Taoism. Some have only eyes and some have only ears, so they help each other. The child who has ears and can hear will help the one who can see. They are interconnected.

So when you achieve the interchangeable functioning of the six sense faculties, your ears will be able to eat and talk. There are many states such as these that you cannot even conceive of.

Disciple: Venerable Master, you mentioned that you had a young disciple who went to the heavens to play and was captured by a demon king. He cried, "What can I do? I can't come back!" Did some of his souls and spirits go there?

Venerable Master: Among his three souls and seven spirits, maybe only one went, or maybe two went, or maybe three or four went. It's not for sure. Once they got there, they aggregated together. They were not seven or three separate entities. Once they go out, they unite into one. That's how wonderful and mysterious it is. It's a mass of efficacious energy!

Disciple: Is it because of different levels of cultivation that some people can send out more spirits than others?

Venerable Master: It's better not to send spirits out. If they always go out to play, they risk being caught by the demons. When the souls and spirits are captured, one becomes dumb. Retarded people and people who are that way because their souls and spirits have been seized by demons. Souls are ghosts, but with some cultivation, they can become spirits, which are yang in nature. With more cultivation, they can become immortals. Cultivated to the ultimate, they become Buddhas. All these states of cultivation are achieved by the same individual soul.

Disciple: If a person is in a "vegetable," or comatose, state or has lost some of his three souls and seven spirits, although his physical body is still intact, will the spirits and souls which have left him become another person?

Venerable Master: They don't become another person; they simply go with the demons. That's why the person is sometimes lucid, but sometimes very muddled.

Disciple: What if a cultivator who has sent out some of his three souls and seven spirits encounters Buddhas or Bodhisattvas?

Venerable Master: If a person is truly cultivating, there will be dharma protectors invisibly surrounding him. I have met a lot of strange people who can send spirits out of their bodies. Since you haven't encountered such states, you wouldn't recognize or understand them. For instance, the experience of those who act as mediums in Taiwan is described in the fifty skandha-demon states.

Disciple: Have they reached that level in their cultivation?

Venerable Master: They are advancing in their cultivation and creating merit. Like all people, some learn to be good and others learn to be bad. Those who learn to be bad join the retinue of the demon kings.

These ten souls, together with the intellect, will, essence, and spirit will be able to interact with one another without affecting his body. They will take turns as host and guests. They trade off roles and assist each other. They take turns playing the roles of the host and the guests.

Then he may suddenly hear the dharma being spoken in space. Someone is lecturing on the sutras in space! Who is it? He can hear a voice, but he can't see the person. In fact it is just his own spiritual and physical souls, his intellect will, essence and spirit taking turns as host and guests to lecture. Or perhaps he will hear esoteric truths being pronounced simultaneously throughout the ten directions. Maybe you hear the sutras and the dharma being spoken in space! Why? Because in your cultivation in previous lives, you heard the sutras and the dharma being spoken, and your spiritual and physical souls, intellect will, essence and spirit have not forgotten that. Thus, in this life, when the pressure in your cultivation reaches a peak, these past experiences come forth. This state is called "the essence and souls alternately separating and uniting and the planting of good seeds." They cooperate with one another, coming together as one party or forming groups. They may speak the dharma to enable you to understand what you didn't understand before, so that you can plant the seeds for future good roots.

It is a temporary, not a permanent, state and does not indicate sagehood. Don't get the idea that this state is extraordinary and say, "Look at me. I don't need to go to the sutra lectures. I can hear the dharma being spoken in space anytime I want." You may hear dharma being spoken, but that doesn't mean you have realized sagehood. If he does not think he has become a sage, if you don't become arrogant and think yourself extraordinary, if you don't try to deceive others, then this will be a good state. Suppose you say, "Wow! I can hear the dharma even when no one is lecturing the sutras. Has that ever happened to you?"

"No."

"Well, it's happened to me!"

But if you advertise your state to get people to believe in you, what will happen? If he considers himself a sage, then he will be vulnerable to the demons' influence. As soon as you become selfsatisfied and attached, thinking you're really great, the demons will possess you and make you fall.

J4 The state changes and Buddhas appear.

Sutra:

Further, when the person's mind becomes clear, unveiled, bright, and penetrating, an internal light will shine forth and turn everything in the ten directions into the color of Jambu River gold. All the various species of beings will be transformed into Tathagatas. Suddenly he will see Vairochana Buddha seated upon a platform of celestial light, surrounded by a thousand Buddhas, who simultaneously appear upon lotus blossoms in a hundred million lands. This state is called 'the mind and soul being instilled with spiritual awareness.' When he has investigated to the point of clarity, the light of his mind will shine upon all worlds. This is a temporary state and does not indicate sagehood. If he does not think he has become a sage, then this will be a good state. But if he considers himself a sage, then he will be vulnerable to the demons' influence.

Commentary:


Further, when the person's mind becomes clear and pure, unveiled and manifest, bright, and penetrating, an internal light will shine forth, and turn everything in the ten directions into the color of Jambu River gold. A bright light will emanate from within, and then the worlds of the ten directions will all take on the hue of Jambu River gold. All the various species of beings, beings born from wombs, from eggs, from moisture, or by transformation, or any other kinds of beings, will be transformed into Tathagatas.

Suddenly, at this point, he will see Vairochana Buddha. Vairochana means "pervading everywhere" and is the name of the Buddha. He is not located anywhere, and yet there is no place where he is not present; his body is everywhere. This person suddenly sees Vairochana, the All-Pervasive Buddha, seated on a platform of celestial light, manifesting his ten-thousand-foot-tall body. Vairochana Buddha will be surrounded by a thousand Buddhas, who simultaneously appear seated upon blue, yellow, red, and white lotus blossoms in a hundred million lands.

This state is called "the mind and soul being instilled with spiritual awareness." You should not think that this is real. Your mind and your physical soul are being influenced by a state of spiritual response and awakening. However, it is not real. When he has investigated to the point of clarity, the light of his mind will shine upon all worlds. When your mind comes to the point of understanding, it will illuminate all worlds.

This is a temporary state and does not indicate sagehood. What is happening will not last a long time. You have not become a sage. If he does not think he has become a sage, then this will be a good state. But if he considers himself a sage, then he will be vulnerable to the demons' influence. If you say, "Incredible! I've seen Vairochana Buddha. Have you seen him? Your skill is not as profound as mine. I've made it!" Once you have such a thought the demon kings will come and drag you off to the hells.

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