Determining the Teaching Mark
The Tripitaka is divided into three parts: Sutras, which deal with samadhi, Sastras, which deal with wisdom, and Vinaya, which deal with morality. This text belongs to the Sutra division, and as such it is permanent and unchanging, two characteristics of Sutras. When all other Buddhadharmas have become extinct, this Sutra will remain in the world an additional hundred years and save limitless living beings. For this reason, it differs from other Sutras. Of the three vehicles, Sravakas, Conditionally Enlightened Ones, and Bodhisattvas, this Sutra belongs to the Bodhisattva Vehicle. It takes across Bodhisattvas suited to the Great Vehicle. Knowing the Sutra’s title classification and its Five-fold Profound Meanings, we now have a general understanding of The Buddha Speaks of Amitabha Sutra.
“Young Kumarajiva will certainly live to a great age.” One could also say, “He is young in years, but mature in wisdom, eloquence, and virtue.” He has the wisdom of an old, old man, and so he is called “Youth of Long Life.”17
It was Kumarajiva, the youth with the virtuous conduct of an elder, who translated The Buddha Speaks of Amitabha Sutra from Sanskrit into Chinese.
Translated by Tripitaka Master Kumarajiva of Yao Ch’in.
Yao Ch’in is the name of the reign period of emperor Yao Hsing. It is not the same period as that of Ch’in Shih Huang called the Ying Ch’in, or that of Fu Chien, which is called Fu Ch’in. Before the time of Emperor Yao Hsing, and during the time of Fu Chien, a man named Ch’in T’ien Chien said to Fu Chien, “Now one of great wisdom should come to China to aid our government.” Fu Chien said, “It is probably Kumarajiva, for he is honored and respected in India for his wisdom.”
Kumarajiva’s father, Kumarayana, was the son of a prime minister. He should have succeeded his father, but instead he left his home and went everywhere looking for a teacher. Although he hadn’t left the home-life in the formal sense by taking the complete precepts, he still cultivated the Way, and in his travels went to the country of Kucha in central Asia. The King of Kucha had a little sister, and when she saw Kumarayana she said to the King, “I really love this man.” The King gave his sister in marriage to Kumarayana and she soon became pregnant.
When Kumarajiva was still in his mother’s womb, it was much like the situation with Shariputra and his mother. Kumarajiva’s mother could defeat everyone in debate. At that time an Arhat said, “The child in this woman’s womb is certainly one of great wisdom.”
When Kumarajiva was seven years old, his mother took him to a temple to worship the Buddha. Kumarajiva picked up a large bronze incense urn and effortlessly lifted it over his head. Then he thought, “Hey, I’m just a child. How can I lift this heavy urn?” With this one thought, the urn crashed to the ground. From this he realized the meaning of the doctrine,
“Everything is made from the mind alone,” and he and his mother left the home-life. Kumarajiva’s mother had difficulty leaving the home-life. Although Kumarajiva’s father had previously cultivated the Way, he was now too much in love with his wife to permit her to leave home. Thereupon, she went on a strict fast. “Unless you allow me to leave home,” she said, “I won’t eat or drink. I’ll starve myself.” “Then don’t eat or drink, if that’s what you want,” said her husband, “but I’ll never let you leave home.” For six days she didn’t eat or drink, not even fruit juice, and she became extremely weak. Finally, Kumarayana said, “This is too dangerous. You’re going to starve to death. You may leave home, but please eat something.”
“First call in a Dharma Master to cut off my hair,” she said, “and then I’ll eat.” A Dharma Master came and shaved her head, and then she ate. Shortly after leaving home, she certified to the first fruit of Arhatship.
Soon after that, Kumarajiva, her son, also left the home-life. Everyday he read and recited many Sutras, and once he read them, he never forgot them. He was not like some of you who have recited the Shurangama Mantra for several months, but still need the book. Because of his faultless memory he defeated all non-Buddhist philosophers in India and became very well known. His reputation spread to China, and when Fu Chien heard of him he sent the great General Lu Kuang and seventy thousand troops to Kucha to capture Kumarajiva and bring him back to China. Kumarajiva said to the King of Kucha, “China is sending troops, but do not oppose them. They don’t wish to take the country. They have another purpose and you should grant them their request.”
The King’s uncle wouldn’t listen to Kumarajiva and he went to war with the general from China, Lu Kuang. As a result, the King of Kucha was put to death, the country defeated, and Kumarajiva captured.
On the way back to China, General Lu Kuang one day prepared to camp in a low valley. Kumarajiva, who had spiritual powers, knew a rain was coming which would flood the valley. He told the General, “Don’t camp here tonight. This place is dangerous.” But Lu Kuang had no faith in Kumarajiva. “You’re a monk,” he said. “What do you know about military affairs?” That night there was a deluge and many men and horses were drowned. General Lu Kuang then knew that Kumarajiva was truly inconceivable. They proceeded until they heard that there had been a change in the Chinese government. Emperor Fu Chien had been deposed, and Yao Ch’ang had seized the throne. General Lu Kuang maintained his neutrality, and did not return to China.
Yao Ch’ang was Emperor for several years, and when he died, his nephew Yao Hsing took the throne. It was Yao Hsing who dispatched a party to invite Kumarajiva to China to translate Sutras. A gathering of over eight-hundred Bhikshus assembled to assist him in this work. We have proof that Kumarajiva’s translations are extremely accurate. When he was about to complete the stillness, that is, die, he said, “I have translated numerous Sutras during my life-time, and I personally don’t know if my translations are correct. If they are, when I am cremated my tongue will not burn; but if there are mistakes, it will.” When he died, his body was burned, but his tongue remained intact.
The T’ang dynasty Vinaya Master Tao Hsuan once asked the god Lu Hsuan Ch’ang, “Why does everyone prefer to read and study Kumarajiva’s translations?” The god replied, “Kumarajiva has been the Translation Master for the past seven Buddhas and so his translations are accurate.”
The Tripitaka is the collection of Buddhist scriptures. It is divided into three parts: Sutras, which deal with samadhi, Sastras, which deal with wisdom, and the Vinaya, which is the study of moral precepts.
A Dharma Master
1) takes the Dharma as his master and
2) gives the Dharma to others.
Some Dharma Masters chant Sutras, some maintain them in their minds and practice them with their bodies, some write them out, and some explain them to others.
The Dharma Master spoken of here is Kumarajiva. This Sanskrit name means “youth of long life.” One could say, “Young Kumarajiva will certainly live to a great age.” One could also say, “He is young in years, but mature in wisdom, eloquence, and virtue. He has the wisdom of an old, old man, and so he is called “Youth of Long Life.”
It was Kumarajiva, the youth with the virtuous conduct of an elder, who translated The Buddha Speaks of Amitabha Sutra from Sanskrit into Chinese.
All Sutras may be divided into three parts: 1) the Preface,
2) the Principle Proper, and
3) the Transmission.
The Preface discusses the Sutra’s general meaning, the Principle Proper discusses its doctrines, and the Transmission instructs us to transmit the Sutra, to propagate it and make it flow, like water, everywhere. The Preface is like a person’s head, and the Principle Proper is like his body. Just as our organs are very clearly arranged within our bodies, so are the doctrines clearly set forth within the Sutras.
The Preface may also be called the “Afterword.” “Isn’t that a contradiction,” you ask. It is not a contradiction because it wasn’t spoken by Shakyamuni Buddha himself, but was added later when Ananda and Mahakasyapa edited the Sutras. It may also be called the “Arising of Dharma” Preface because it sets forth the reasons the Sutra was spoken. It is also called the “Certification of Faith” Preface because it proves that the Sutra can be believed. In the Preface, Six Requirements are fulfilled. They are 1) faith,
5) place, and
Thus I have heard. At one time the Buddha dwelt at Sravasti, in the Jeta Grove, in the Garden of the Benefactor of Orphans and the Solitary, together with a gathering of great Bhikshus, twelve hundred fifty in all, all great Arhats whom the assembly knew and recognized.
Thus fulfills the requirement of faith. I have heard fulfills the requirement of the hearer. At one time fulfills the requirement of time and the Buddha is the host. Sravasti, in the Garden of the Benefactor of Orphans and the Solitary fulfills the requirement of place, the gathering of great Bhikshus fulfills the audience requirement. Because all six requirements are fulfilled, we know that the Sutra can be believed.
Thus I have heard…
What does Thus mean? Thus fills the requirement of faith. You can have faith in Dharma which is Thus, not in dharma which is not Thus. Thus designates the text as orthodox Buddhadharma. Thus means it is Thus..
Thus is stillness: it is denotes movement. If it is Thus, it is; if it is not Thus, it is not. Whatever is not non-existent, exists; whatever is without error is correct.
Thus means “still and unmoving.”
Thus is true emptiness; ‘it is’ is wonderful existence. Wonderful existence is not apart from true emptiness. True emptiness is not apart from wonderful existence. Emptiness and existence are non-dual:
Both empty and existing, neither empty nor existing. This Dharma can be believed.
The four words ‘Thus I have heard’ begin all Buddhist Sutras. It is Thus; if it were not Thus it would not be correct. This is the doctrine, and Dharma which is Thus can be believed. I have heard…
Ananda says that he himself personally heard this teaching. But, having given proof to the fruit of Arhatship, basically Ananda has no ego. How can he say, “I have heard?” This is the “self of noself.” Ananda says, “I have heard” in order to be comprehensible to ordinary people, who have a “self.”
Heard fills the accomplishment of the hearer. Why does one have faith? Because one has heard. If one hadn’t heard, how could one have faith?
The use of ‘Thus I have heard’ comes from instructions given to Ananda by the Buddha just before the Buddha entered Nirvana: One day Shakyamuni Buddha announced, “Tonight, in the middle of the night, I am going to enter Nirvana!” When Ananda heard this he was so distraught that he cried like a baby for its mother and called, “Buddha, Buddha, please don’t enter Nirvana! Please don’t cast us all aside!” He cried and pleaded until his brain got addled, probably because he thought that this was what he should be doing.
Just then a blind man came by, one unlike other blind men. His ordinary eyes were blind, but his Heavenly Eye was open. Because he was blind, he wasn’t burdened with a lot of false thinking, and his mind was very clear. “Venerable One,” he said, addressing Ananda, “Why are you crying?”
“The Buddha is about to enter Nirvana,” Ananda replied. “How can I hold back my tears?”
The eyeless elder replied, “How can you do your work if you cry? After the Buddha enters Nirvana, we will have to establish many things. There is work to be done and questions to be asked.”
“What questions?” said Ananda. “The Buddha is going to Nirvana. What is there left to do? What could be more important than the Buddha’s Nirvana?”
The blind man, whose name was Aniruddha, and who was foremost in the capacity of the Heavenly Eye, said, “There are four extremely important matters which must be settled.” “What are they?” asked Ananda.
“Compiling the Sutras is one,” he said. “With what words should we begin each Sutra?”
“True!” said Ananda. “That is important. It’s a good thing you brought it up. I never would have thought of it myself. All I can think of is the Buddha going to Nirvana. What is the second question I should ask?”
The Venerable Aniruddha said, “We have taken the Buddha as our teacher, but when he goes to Nirvana, who will be our teacher? Should we look for another teacher?”
“Right, right!” said Ananda. “We should find another good teacher. You’re quite right. What is the third?” Aniruddha said, “Now we live with the Buddha, but when he goes to Nirvana, where will we live?”
“That is very important,” said Ananda. “Without a place to live, how can we cultivate the Way? Should we find someplace else to live? These three matters are extremely important. What is the fourth?”
Aniruddha said, “The Buddha can discipline evil-natured Bhikshus, but after he goes to Nirvana, how shall we take care of them?”
“Now, an evil-natured Bhikshu does nothing but disturb other people. If you meditate, he walks around, ‘Clomp! Clomp!’ making a lot of noise so that no one can enter samadhi. When people are walking, he sits to meditate. ‘Look at me!’ he says. ‘I sit much better than all of you,’ and pretends to have entered samadhi.
When people are bowing to the Buddha, the evil-natured Bhikshu likes to recite Sutras, and when people are reciting Sutras, he likes to bow to the Buddha. In general, he’s got to have a special style—‘the evil-natured-Bhikshu style’—and he does not follow the rules. If everyone goes one way, he goes the opposite way. He has no consideration for anyone else, but expects everyone to notice him. ‘He’s terrific,’ everyone says. ‘He really cultivates.’ He insists on being special so that others will notice him and say that he is the best. Fiercely competitive, he must be the strongest, outstanding among the best. He stands like an asura with his hands on his hips as if to say, ‘See what a great hero I am?’ He has to be different and outdo everyone else.”
“When the Buddha was in the world, he could control such evil natured Bhikshus, and they obeyed his instructions. But after he entered Nirvana who would supervise them? And who could control the evil-natured laymen who say, “Look at me. I’m more dedicated than all you other laymen. Actually, it’s just because of him and his special style that no one else is dedicated. Aniruddha said. “When the Buddha goes to Nirvana, what are we going to do with the evil-natured Bhikshus and evil-natured laymen?” “These are important questions,” said Ananda. “I’ll go ask right away.” He wiped his eyes, blew his nose, and ran off to the Buddha. “Buddha, Great Master,” he said, “I have four questions which I would like to ask you before you go to Nirvana. World Honored One, won’t you be compassionate and answer them?” “All right,” said the Buddha.
“Buddha,” said Ananda, “you have spoken many Sutras. When we compile and edit them, with what words should they begin?” The Buddha said, “All Sutras spoken by the Buddhas of the past, present, and future begin with the words, ‘Thus I have heard,’ which means, ‘The Dharma which is Thus can be believed. I personally heard it.’”
Ananda said, “Secondly, you are our Master, but when you enter Nirvana, who will be our teacher? Please instruct us. Should it be Mahakasyapa?”
The Buddha said, “No. When I go to Nirvana, take the Pratimoksa, the precepts, as your teacher. To accord with the Buddha’s instructions, those who leave home must first receive the precepts.”
Then Ananda said, “We have always lived with you, Buddha, but when you enter Nirvana, where are we going to live?” Shakyamuni Buddha said, “When I go to Nirvana, all Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Upasakas, and Upasikas should dwell in the Four Applications of Mindfulness: Mindfulness with regard to the body, feelings, thoughts, and dharmas.
1) Contemplate the body as impure. If you know that the body is impure, you won’t love it, and without love there will be no attachment. Being without attachment is freedom. So first of all, regard the body as impure.
2) Contemplate feelings as suffering. Feelings are all a kind of suffering, whether they are pleasant or unpleasant, for pleasant feelings are the cause of unpleasant feelings. 3) Contemplate thought as impermanent. Thoughts shift and flow and are not permanent.
4) Contemplate dharmas as devoid of self.” Ananda further asked, “How should we treat evil-natured Bhikshus?”
The Buddha said, “That is no problem at all. Simply be silent and they will go away. Fight evil people with concentration power. Don’t be moved by them. If they are evil, don’t be evil in return. If a mad dog bites you and you bite him back, you’re just a dog Ananda’s Four Questions
yourself. Evil-natured people are born with a bad temper. All you can do is ignore them and they will soon lose interest and leave.” “Oh,” said Ananda, “it’s really very simple.” Why did the Buddha tell Ananda to use the four words “Thus I have heard?” These four words have three meanings: 1) To distinguish Buddhist Sutras from the writings of other religions. Non-Buddhist religions in India began their texts with the words “A” or “O” which means “non-existence” or “existence.” As these opposing religions see it, all dharmas in heaven and earth either exist or do not exist. “If it is not non-existent,” they say, “then it exists, and if it doesn’t exist, then it’s non-existent.”
In general, as far as they can see, nothing goes beyond existence and non-existence. “In the beginning there wasn’t anything,” they write, “but now there is.” None of these religions speaks of true emptiness and wonderful existence. Their doctrines may resemble them somewhat, but they don’t explain them in detail. Buddhist Sutras are “Thus.” They are just that way. The Dharma is just that way. You ask, “What is not that way?” Everything is that way. If you question it and say, ‘What is that way?’ then nothing is that way. “Thus” is extremely wonderful. The words “Thus I have heard” distinguish Buddhist Sutras from the writings of other religions.
2) To resolve the doubts of the assembly. The Buddha knew that everyone would have doubts. After the Buddha’s Nirvana, while Ananda and Mahakasyapa were editing the Sutras, Ananda sat on the Dharma-seat to speak the Dharma. Seeing him sitting on the Buddha’s seat, the members of the assembly suddenly gave rise to three doubts:
a) Some thought, “Shakyamuni Buddha hasn’t completed the stillness! He hasn’t gone to Nirvana. Our Master lives!” They thought Ananda was Shakyamuni Buddha come back to life.
b) Others thought, “Shakyamuni Buddha has already entered Nirvana. This must be a Buddha from another direction: north, east, south, or west.”
c) “No,” said others, “the Great Master has gone to Nirvana. He hasn’t come back to life, and the Buddhas of the other directions teach people in other directions. They would never come all the way to the Saha world. Why, Ananda himself must have realized Buddhahood!”
The assembly held these three doubts until Ananda said, “Thus I have heard.” As soon as he said them, everyone knew that Shakyamuni Buddha hadn’t come back. They knew it was not a Buddha from another direction, and that Ananda had not become a Buddha. The Dharma which is ‘Thus” is that which Ananda personally heard from Shakyamuni Buddha. Three doubts suddenly arose and four words resolved them.
3) To end the assembly’s debates. Of all the great Bhikshus, Ananda was the youngest. He was born on the day Shakyamuni Buddha realized Buddhahood, and when the Buddha went to Nirvana, Ananda was only forty-nine years old. Why was Ananda selected to explain and edit the Sutras? Old Kasyapa was the eldest, and Maudgalyayana and Shariputra were both of higher status than Ananda. There were many others in the assembly with more Wayvirtue and learning than him.
He was the youngest and it was likely that no one would believe in him and that many would try to be first. One might say, “I’ve heard more Sutras than you so I should explain them.” But when Ananda said, “Thus I have heard,” everyone knew that these were not Ananda’s principles, or the principles of the Great Assembly. “This is the Dharma which I, Ananda, personally heard the Buddha speak. It is not your teaching and not my teaching; it is our Master’s teaching. You are not first and I am not first.” This silenced the assembly’s debates.
1) Contemplation of the body as impure. Everyone sees his body as extremely precious. Because you think it is real, you are selfish and profit-seeking. Without a body, there would be no selfishness.
We think our bodies are real and actual. Being selfish, we create offenses and commit evil deeds. We cannot let go of the affairs of the world and calculate on behalf of our bodies all day long, looking for good food, beautiful clothes, and a nice place to live— a little happiness for the body. On the day we die, we are still unclear. “My body is dying,” we moan. “How can it do this to me?” At that time we know that our bodies are unreal, but it’s too late, too late for our regrets.
Ultimately, is the body real? Stupid people think so, but wise people see it merely as a combination of the four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. It is not ultimate. “Then,” you ask, “what is ultimate?”
Our own self-nature is
bright and all-illumining;
Our own-self-nature is
perfect and unimpeded.
It is nowhere and nowhere is it not;
to the end of empty space,
it exhausts the Dharma Realm.
Our bodies are temporary dwellings where our self-nature comes to live for a time. But the person dwelling in the hotel is not the hotel, and in the same way, his body is not him. The traveller who thinks that he is the hotel is mistaken. If you know that the body is just like a hotel, you should seek that which dwells within it, for once you have found it, you will recognize your true self. From the time of birth, the body is impure—a combination of its father’s semen and its mother’s blood. The child grows up with greed, hate, stupidity, pride, and doubt.
He commits offenses, creating the karma of killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying and taking intoxicants and drugs. Offense-karma is created because of the body. But is the body such a precious thing after all? No. A precious jewel is pure and undefiled, without stain or the slightest trace of filth. Our bodies, on the other hand, have nine apertures which constantly secrete impure substances: tears from the eyes, wax from the ears, mucus from the nose… There are religions whose members eat mucus. They say that they are “smelting the cinnabar.” They also eat tears and ear wax thinking that these filthy substances are precious jewels. Isn’t that pitiful?
Two ears, two eyes, and two nostrils make six holes. The mouth is full of phlegm and saliva. That’s seven holes. Add the anus and urinary tract and you have nine. Would you call this pure? Everyone knows that excrement and urine are unclean and, if you don’t believe it, just try seasoning some fine food with a tiny pinch of excrement. No one will eat it. People will want to vomit instead because it is unclean. Would you call this body, dribbling filth from nine holes, a jewel? If it’s a jewel, why do such vile things flow from it?
If you don’t bathe for a week, you itch and squirm and a thick crust forms on your body. Where did it come from? Soon you stink with an odor even a dog finds repulsive. What is the advantage of having a body? Contemplate the body as impure. If you see how filthy it is, do you still love it? Are you still attached? What’s the use of loving such a dirty thing?
“Then can I stab myself? Can I kill myself?” you ask. No. That’s not necessary. You must borrow this false body and use it to cultivate the Truth. The self-nature dwells within the body. You entered the body of five skandhas and the yin and yang merged in a combination of purity and filth which is your body. If you cultivate, you can go up, and attain purity. If you do not cultivate you will go down, create offense karma, unite with the filth, and turn into a ghost.
Go up. Become a Buddha. Whether or not you cultivate is up to you, however. Nobody can force you to cultivate. The Venerable Ananda thought that because he was the Buddha’s cousin, he didn’t need to cultivate. He thought that the Buddha would just give him samadhi. But the Buddha couldn’t do that, and so it was not until after the Buddha’s Nirvana, when Ananda was about to edit the Sutras, that he finally certified to the fourth Stage of Arhatship and realized that he could not neglect cultivation.
Be mindful that the body is impure, don’t be so fond of it, and don’t take it as a treasure.
You say, “I can’t stand criticism. I can’t stand it.” Who are you?
“If they hit me, I can’t bear it. It hurts!” Really? If you put your attachments down and see through them, there is neither pain nor not pain. Who is in pain? What, exactly, hurts? If someone hits you, pretend that you bumped into a
wall. If someone scolds you, pretend that they are singing a song or speaking Japanese. How can they scold you if you don’t understand them?
“Are they speaking Spanish or Portugese? French? German? I’ve never studied languages so I don’t understand…” They can scold you, but it’s nothing. In general, once you see through, break, and put down the attachment to your body, you win your independence. Contemplate your body as impure. Don’t regard it with so much importance. It’s not important.
Contemplate feelings, thoughts, and dharmas as impure also. 2) Contemplate feelings as suffering. Feelings may be pleasant, unpleasant or neutral; from the point of view of the three sufferings, unpleasant feelings are the suffering within suffering, pleasant feelings are caught up in the suffering of decay, and neutral feelings are the suffering of process. Wake up! Everything you enjoy is a form of suffering. If you know that pleasure is suffering, you will not be attached to it. I often say:
Enduring suffering puts an end to suffering; Enjoying blessings destroys blessings.
If you endure your suffering, it will pass. If you enjoy your blessings, they, too, will pass. Contemplate feelings as suffering. The body, thought, and dharmas are also suffering. Although there are Four Applications of Mindfulness, you can divide them up; each of the four characteristic qualities, impurity, suffering, impermanence, and the absence of self, can be applied to the body, to feelings, to thoughts, and to dharmas, making sixteen applications in all.
3) Contemplate thoughts as impermanent. The Vajra Sutra says, “Past thought cannot be obtained, present thought cannot be obtained, and future thought cannot be obtained.” The Four Applications Of Mindfulness
All your thoughts are unobtainable. They flow without stopping and so they are impermanent. The body, feelings and dharmas are also impermanent.
4) Contemplate dharmas as without self. Basically, since there are no dharmas, from whence cometh the self? The self is a combination of four elements and the five skandhas—a creation of form dharmas. Outside of the four elements and the five skandhas there is no self. So contemplate dharmas as being without a self. The Four Applications of Mindfulness are very wonderful. If you investigate them thoroughly, understand and dwell on them, you will be unattached and will attain true freedom. If you’re attached, you can’t be free. Why? Because you’re attached! So dwell in the Four Applications of Mindfulness. Dwell and yet do not dwell.
The Six Requirements
Ananda’s fourth question concerned evil-natured Bhikshus. The Buddha said, “Be silent and they will leave.” Even while the Buddha was in the world, there were evil-natured Bhikshus, laymen, and ordinary people. “If you ignore them.” The Buddha said, “they will get bored and leave.”
Thus I have heard. Thus fills the requirement of 1) faith. The Dharma which is Thus can be believed. Dharma, which is not Thus, cannot be believed. I have heard fills the requirement of 2) hearing. “Since the ears do the hearing, “you may ask, “why does it say I have heard?” This is because whereas the ears are just a small part of the body, I refers to the whole person. At one time fills the requirement of 3) time.
“Why,” you may ask, “doesn’t the Sutra give the month, day, and year?”
Calendars differ from nation to nation. Some countries begin the year in the first month, some in the second or third month of another country’s calendar. There is no one way to indicate the date, and, what is more, if the date were given, people would start doing research to determine if it was correct. Because the Sutra only states, At one time, there is no demand for historical verification. The Six Requirements
In order to speak the Dharma, there must be an 4) audience; in this case it was the gathering of great Bhikshus. The audience must also have the time to come and listen, for if they don’t stay, of what use is their faith? They must have the time to listen, they must want to hear the Dharma, and they must believe in it. Then there must also be a Dharma-speaking host. In this case, the Buddha is the 5) host, and the 6) place is Sravasti, in the Garden of the Benefactor of Orphans and the Solitary. Therefore, in the opening sentences of the Sutra, all six requirements are fulfilled. Sravasti is the name of a city in India. Translated, it means “abundance and virtue,”18 because the seven jewels, gold, silver, lapiz lazuli, crystal, mother-of- pearl, red pearls, and carnelian, and the objects of the five desires, beauty, wealth, fame, food, and sleep, were in abundance there.
The people of Sravasti were very intelligent and had the virtue of great learning and liberation. You could also say that the objects of the five desires are forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and tangibles. The states connected with the objects of the five desires turn people’s wisdom upside-down. The eyes run off after forms, the ears after sounds, the nose after smell, the tongue after tastes, and the body after tangibles. Deluded people spin around and around in pursuit of the objects of the five desires. The people of Sravasti had great learning and refinement. They were also liberated free, and unfettered, and were only slightly attached.