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The Shurangama Sutra With Commentary by the Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua: Volume 7

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The Shurangama Sutra
With Commentary by the Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua
Volume 7



CHAPTER 1: The Three Gradual Stages

H4 He explains the pure conditions which give rise to the successive accomplishment of this position.
I1 He answers about the cause and effect of this position.
J1 The three gradual stages of this position.
K1 Concludes the former discussion and begins the next.

Sutra:

Ananda, each of these categories of beings is replete with all twelve kinds of upside-down states, just as pressing on one's eye produces a variety of flower-like images.

Commentary:

Ananda, each of these twelve categories of beings which I have just described is replete with all twelve kinds of upsidedown states. Not just the one kind of upside-down state that I mentioned is specific to each kind. Each category is influenced by all twelve kinds of upside down states. The random thoughts and upside-down states arise from falseness, just as pressing on one's eye produces a variety of flower-like images. If you push your finger up against your eye and then look, you will see weird visions. If you release the pressure, the visions disappear. It's because you pursue the false thoughts and upside-down states that you cannot get out of rebirth and you keep revolving in the cycle of the twelve categories of living beings. If you do not follow after the false thoughts or pursue ignorance, but instead can return the light and illumine within, if you can return the hearing to hear the self nature, then you can break through ignorance, and all that exists disappears.

Sutra:

With the inversion of wonderful perfection, the truly pure, bright mind becomes glutted with false and random thoughts.

Commentary:

From the falseness arises the state of being upside down, which in turn creates false thoughts. In the nature of the treasury of the Thus Come One, ignorance arises. From the basis of truth, one gives rise to falseness. The "false and random thoughts" are those just described in detail. The originally pure and bright mind becomes filled with myriad thoughts that are totally false and unreal.

K2 Establishes that the position is the opposite of defilement.

Sutra:

Now, as you cultivate towards certification to the samadhi of the Buddha, you will go through three gradual stages in order to get rid of the basic cause of these random thoughts.

Commentary:

Now, as you cultivate towards certification to the samadhi of the Buddha, you will go through three gradual stages. You must establish three gradual levels and cultivate little by little. Then you can put an end to false thinking and get rid of the basic cause of these random thoughts.

Sutra:

They work in just the way that poisonous honey is removed from a pure vessel that is washed with hot water mixed with the ashes of incense. Afterwards it can be used to store sweet dew.

Commentary:

They work in just the way that poisonous honey is removed from a pure vessel that is washed with hot water mixed with the ashes. "Pure vessel" means that the jar was originally clean. It represents the nature of the treasury of the Thus Come One, inherent in us all, which is neither produced nor extinguished. The "poisonous honey" represents people's ignorance and afflictions. The "hot water" represents the Buddhadharma, which gradually washes us clean. "Washing" means to return the nature of the treasury of the Thus Come One to its original form. Afterwards it can be used to store sweet dew. It can store our genuine wisdom; it can hold the enlightenment to the Way. That's what "sweet dew" represents.

K3 Explains the establishment of the position.
L1 Asks for and lists their names.

Sutra:

What are the three gradual stages? The first is to correct one's habits by getting rid of the aiding causes; the second is to truly cultivate to cut out the very essence of karmic offenses; the third is to increase one's vigor to prevent the manifestation of karma.

Commentary:

What are the three gradual stages? The first is to correct one's habits by getting rid of the aiding causes. That refers to causes which contribute to the creation of karma. The second is to truly cultivate to cut out the very essence of karmic offenses. That means to sweep clean the nature of karmic offenses that result from greed, hatred, stupidity, and so forth. The third is to increase one's vigor to prevent the manifestation of karma. One progresses in one's cultivation to counteract the creation of any new karma in the present. One does not follow along in the present with one's propensity to create karma.

M1 Caution in eating.
N1 Asks about and answers that they rely on eating and should stop eating pungent plants.

Sutra:

What are aiding causes? Ananda, the twelve categories of living beings in this world are not complete in themselves, but depend on four kinds of eating; that is, eating by portions, eating by contact, eating by thought, and eating by consciousness. Therefore, the Buddha said that all living beings must eat to live.

Commentary:

What are aiding causes? Some causes aid in the creation of wholesome karma, and some contribute to the creation of unwholesome karma. Here, the Buddha is referring to causes which bring about bad karma. Ananda, the twelve categories of living beings in this world, just described, are not complete in themselves, but depend on four kinds of eating. They depend on eating to survive. That is, eating by portions: bite by bite, bit by bit, the way beings in the six desire heavens, the asuras, humans, and animals take their food. Eating by contact: the ghosts and spirits eat by contact, and some beings in the heavens also eat this way. Eating by thought: in the dhyana heavens of the form realm, beings don't have to actually ingest the food. They take the bliss of dhyana as food, they can eat by thinking. Eating by consciousness: this includes the beings of the formless realm up through those in the Heaven of Neither Thought Nor Non-Thought. They eat by discriminations of consciousness. Therefore, the Buddha said that all living beings must eat to live. That was at the beginning of his teaching, when the Buddha wanted to break through the doctrines of externalists. When he said to them that all living beings must eat to live, the externalists laughed at him and said, "You call that 'dharma'? Do you think we had to wait for you to tell us that? Who doesn't know that beings have to eat to live? Even children understand that."

In reply the Buddha said, "Well, tell me, then, how many kinds of eating are there?"

At that point the externalists were speechless. They couldn't come up with the answer. Then the Buddha explained the four kinds of eating.

Sutra:

Ananda, all living beings can live if they eat what is sweet, and they will die if they take poison. Beings who seek samadhi should refrain from eating five pungent plants of this world.

Commentary:

This passage discusses the first gradual stage, getting rid of the aiding causes. The five pungent plants aid in the creation of unwholesome karma, and so the first step is to eliminate them from one's diet. Ananda, all living beings can live if they eat what is sweet, and they will die if they take poison. "All living beings" refers to the twelve categories. "Sweet" here really means "edible"; the food is sweet in the sense that it is not poisonous, but is nourishing and palatable. "Poisonous" here does not necessarily mean lethal poison, but refers to such things as the five pungent plants, which in this context are considered poisonous. It refers to any food which has an unwholesome effect on beings, and contributes to an earlier death. It doesn't just mean eating something which is instantaneously fatal. Beings who seek samadhi should refrain from eating five pungent plants of this world. The first step is to get rid of contributing causes. The five pungent plants have been described already. They are onions, garlic, leeks, scallions, and shallots.

N2 Explains in depth the ill-effects of eating pungent plants.

Sutra:

If these five are eaten cooked, they increase one's sexual desire; if they are eaten raw, they increase one's anger.

Commentary:

If these five are eaten cooked, they increase one's sexual desire. Meat has the same effect. That is one reason why people who cultivate the Way do not eat meat. The five pungent plants also increase desire, but not wholesome desire; rather, they are especially potent in increasing sexual desire, to the point that it is unbearable and one goes crazy with lust. If they are eaten raw, they increase one's anger. They make one more stupid. People with wisdom do not lose their tempers. Those who do lose their tempers, for the most part are people who cannot clearly distinguish either the principles or the specifics. Something happens and they can't see beyond it. It becomes an obstruction for them, and they do not know how to resolve it except by getting angry. But losing their temper doesn't actually help the situation one bit. Meat also increases one's afflictions and the propensity to get angry. And the more of these five pungent plants one eats, the bigger one's temper grows.

Sutra:

Therefore, even if people in this world who eat pungent plants can expound the twelve divisions of the sutra canon, the gods and immortals of the ten directions will stay far away from them because they smell so bad. However, after they eat these things the hungry ghosts will hover around and kiss their lips. Being always in the presence of ghosts, their blessings and virtue dissolve as the days go by, and they experience no lasting benefit.

Commentary:

Therefore, even if people in this world who eat pungent plants can expound the twelve divisions of the sutra canon, the gods and immortals of the ten directions will stay far away from them because they smell so bad. This refers to people who eat the five pungent plants or drink wine or eat meat. On the other hand, the gods and immortals will protect someone who does not ingest these things. Body odors come largely from what one eats. People who enjoy eating beef, onions, and garlic have strong body odors. Their armpits often stink so badly that they can be smelled a long way off, and no one wants to get near them.

There are a number of people who are able to expound on the canon with all its twelve divisions:

Repeating verses and predictions,
Interjections and what was spoken without request;
Past events, analogies, causes and conditions,
This life, expansions, and what never before existed;
With discussion, that is twelve all together,
As in Great Wisdom Shastra's thirty-third chapter.
Memorize the verse and you know the twelve divisions of the canon.

But if one's eating is not pure, one's sole listeners will be hungry ghosts. The gods and immortals will not listen. The hungry ghosts are creatures that don't have anything to eat. But after people who don't hold to pure eating eat these things, meaning the five pungent plants and the like, the hungry ghosts will hover around and kiss their lips. After people eat these strong-smelling foods, the odor lingers around them and attracts ghosts. The ghosts boldly go up and kiss those who partake of the five pungent plants, in an attempt to taste what they've eaten. Ghosts eat by contact, as we have learned, so those who eat these impure things are literally in the hands of ghosts who hang around and keep touching them. You may not be one who can see them, but they are really there doing just that. Being always in the presence of ghosts, their blessings and virtue dissolve as the days go by, and they experience no lasting benefit. Plain and simple, this passage says that people who eat the five pungent plants end up in the company of ghosts. Ghosts are their constant companions, even though the people themselves may be oblivious to the fact. Their blessings and virtue thereby decrease, and they end up with no advantages at all.

Sutra:

People who eat pungent plants and also cultivate samadhi will not be protected by the Bodhisattvas, gods, immortals, or good spirits of the ten directions; therefore, the tremendously powerful demon kings, able to do as they please, will appear in the body of a Buddha and speak dharma for them, denouncing the prohibitive precepts and praising lust, rage, and delusion.

Commentary:

People who eat pungent plants and also cultivate samadhi will not be protected by the Bodhisattvas, gods, immortals, or good spirits of the ten directions. Who is referred to here? Whoever eats the five pungent plants. If you eat them, it's referring to you. If I eat them, it's referring to me. The text leaves the matter open. Why don't dharma protectors and good spirits guard such people? Because they smell too bad. Preferring purity, the protectors avoid the stench and do not come around to guard such people. However, protectors are essential in cultivation, for where the proper resides, the deviant does not, but where the proper is lacking, the deviant will win the advantage. The "proper" refers to the dharma protectors and good spirits who guard and aid cultivators of the Way. But in this case, where they do not come around, the tremendously powerful demon kings, able to do as they please, will appear in the body of a Buddha and speak dharma for them. Seeing an unprotected cultivator, the powerful demonic kings come on the scene and gather him into their retinue. They will enter when they catch you off guard. How great is their power? They can turn into Buddhas! I've advised you that if in the future you obtain the Buddha eye, you may see Buddhas come or Bodhisattvas come or gods and immortals come or spirits come. But if they are for real, they will have a light about them that is pure and cool, and when it shines on you, you will experience extreme comfort, such as you have never known. That, then, is a true Sage. If it's a demon, it puts out heat. However, it requires a lot of wisdom to make this distinction. If you lack sufficient wisdom, you will not notice the power of his heat. Of course, the heat is not hot like a fire, but it is the case that the light of a demon carries heat, while the light of a Buddha does not.

Another way you can tell the difference between a demon appearing as a Buddha and an actual Buddha appearing is to look at the dharma they propound. Demon kings will go about denouncing the prohibitive precepts and praising lust, rage, and delusion. They will say, "Don't hold the precepts, that's a small vehicle practice. Those of the great vehicle kill, but it's not killing; steal, but it's not stealing; engage in lust, but it's not lust. So it's no problem. If you kill, you haven't broken any precept. The same goes for stealing and lust. Don't cling to such a small state. Don't hold to such fine distinctions in your conduct. Violations don't matter."

What you do before you receive the precepts does not count as a violation of them. But once you have taken a precept, for example, the precept against killing, it is then a violation of the precept if you commit the act of killing. Why? Because you clearly knew it was wrong but intentionally violated the prohibition. If you receive the precept against stealing and you go out and steal, you have violated that precept. You may have indulged in sexual misconduct before receiving the precept against it, but that doesn't count as an offense, because it's over and done. But if you conduct yourself in this way after taking the precept, then you violate it. Before you take the precept against lying, you are not in violation of the precept no matter what you say, but once you receive the precept you can't be irresponsible in what you say. Whatever it is, if you know, you know, and if you don't know, you don't know. You can't say you don't know when you really do; or say you know when you really don't. You can't beat around the bush when you speak. The straight mind is the Bodhimanda.

Someone may think; well, then, if I don't take them, I won't commit any violations, right? But now you know that it is better to take them, and if you don't you are missing the opportunity. If you do not receive the precepts, you will not be able to make any progress, either in your personal life or with regard to the Buddhadharma.

You certainly should continue to make progress. Since we know it is a good thing to do, we should receive the precepts and then carefully uphold them.

But the demon kings do nothing but slander and tear down the precepts and encourage you not to receive them. They praise sexual desire. "It's great," they say. "The more sexual desire you have, the loftier the level of Bodhisattvahood you will realize. Just take Ucchushma, who had to have two to three hundred women a day, but then later cultivated and became Fire-head Vajra. So what's the problem?" And so they go on. Actually, as soon as he begins praising sexual desire, you should know immediately that he is not a genuine Buddha. As to rage, he says, "Having a temper doesn't matter. The bigger your temper, the bigger your Bodhi. After all, affliction is just Bodhi, so it follows that the more affliction you have, the more Bodhi you'll get. It doesn't matter. Lose your temper whenever you feel like it." The demon king praises rage in this way. "Delusion" just means being stupid and doing things that are upside down. We discussed it earlier:

Through a continual process of dullness and slowness, the upside-down state of stupidity occurs in this world. It unites with obstinacy to become eighty-four thousand kinds of random thoughts that are dry and attenuated.

And the beings without thought turn into earth, wood, metal, or stone. Of course, this doesn't happen to every stupid being. It does happen occasionally, however. But here the demon king praises delusion; he tells you that the stupider you are, the better it is, because if you are stupid it will be easier for him to get you to obey his instructions. You'll fall right in with him. You'll become one of the retinue of the demon kings.

Recently a book came out of India that specializes in praising the tantric practice of men and women cultivating together. This is a book written by demons. Demons praise sexual desire and do not instruct people to put a stop to it. They say that without cutting off sexual desire one can become a Buddha. But Buddhas are pure, whereas the filthiest thing, the most turbid emotion, is sexual desire. In Chinese the word for marriage (hun) contains a character which is a combination of the word for "woman" (nu) and the word for "confusion" (hun), or "dark delusion." So the very word marriage itself says that as soon as one gets married, one loses wisdom. One's life is spent as if in perpetual night, in darkness and impurity. It is as if one were sleeping the days away, and when one is asleep, one is totally oblivious to everything. Just that is stupidity. Chinese characters often shed insight on the meanings they represent.

On the other hand, what I just said about marriage is not always the case. You have to be flexible when you view things. You can't be too rigid in your opinions. Although I said that marriage is confusion, you can try to gain understanding within that confusion. You can enter that confusion but not get muddled. Shakyamuni Buddha married, and yet he was the wisest of people.

When you just heard that people who eat the five pungent plants are kissed by ghosts, did it alarm you? If you weren't frightened, then you must see it as no problem. If it alarmed you, then stop eating the five pungent plants. If you don't eat them, the gods and immortals will protect you and the ghosts will leave you alone. If you can marry and stay alert, stay awake, then you won't sink into that confusion. If you enter into the situation, you must not be turned by it. Don't mistake what I said as meaning that I'm opposed to anyone getting married. I'm just exploring a principle.

Sutra:

When their lives end, these people will join the retinue of demon kings. When they use up their blessings as demons, they will fall into the Relentless Hell.

Commentary:

When their lives end, these people will join the retinue of demon kings. This refers to people who eat the five pungent plants. Because they eat such things, the gods, immortals, Bodhisattvas, and good spirits do not protect them. Therefore, the demon kings who possess great power can have their way with them. The demon king appears as a Buddha and speaks demonic dharma to them, praising sexual desire, anger, and stupidity. Having been confused by the demons, these people lose their proper knowledge and proper views and any real wisdom. Instead, they harbor deviant knowledge and deviant views. The demon king says sexual desire is good, and they believe it. "The Buddha told me so! He said it's no problem." That's called mistaking a thief for one's own son. One mistakes the demon king for the Buddha. Therefore, "When their lives end, these people will join the retinue of demon kings." When their worldly blessings are used up, they die and obediently go over to the retinue of the demon king. When they use up their blessings as demons, they will fall into the Relentless Hell. Demons also have their own kind of blessings.

Once there was a cultivator who recited the name of Amitabha Buddha. However, he was particularly greedy, especially for silver and gold. He did recite the Buddha's name, but that's because he had heard that the Land of Ultimate Bliss had ground made of gold, and he figured he could amass a pile of it when he got there. Then one day he saw Amitabha Buddha come. The Buddha said to him, "Today you should be reborn in the Happy Land, and you can take your gold and silver with you." So he put his four or five hundred ounces of gold on the lotus flower that Amitabha Buddha was holding. But before he had a chance to hop on the flower himself, it disappeared, as did the Buddha holding it. "Oh," thought the man, "Amitabha Buddha likes money, too. He's run off with all my gold!" At just about that time, in the household of the donor where he was living, a new-born donkey died. They noticed that the belly of the young donkey was hard and heavy, and when they cut it open, lo and behold, the old cultivator's gold and silver were tucked away inside! At that point the old cultivator realized how heavy his greed was, and he rejoiced that he had not gone off with "Amitabha Buddha," for had he gone, he would have become that small donkey. And he knew that the "Amitabha Buddha" who had come was not a genuine state.

Someone wonders, is there really an Amitabha Buddha? Of course there is. But because people have deviant knowledge and deviant views, there are also demons who can appear in the likeness of Amitabha Buddha. Clearly, we should aim to be straight and proper. But how do you do that? Be extremely careful not to be greedy. Anybody who has the idea he can go to the Land of Ultimate Bliss and mine for gold had better wake up fast. Although the Pure Land may be paved with gold, you can't harbor thoughts of self-benefit and make plans to use it as you please. In cultivation, being off by just one thought can bring about demonic karma. The text says that because people who eat the pungent plants have deviant knowledge and deviant views, they first become demons themselves, and after that they fall into the hells. When will they get out? Nobody knows.

N3 Concludes by calling this practice the foremost increase in vigor.

Sutra:

Ananda, those who cultivate for Bodhi should never eat the five pungent plants. This is the first of the gradual stages of cultivation.

Commentary:

Ananda, have you been listening? Those who cultivate for Bodhi, anybody on the path to Bodhi, should never eat the five pungent plants. You definitely must stop eating onions, garlic, leeks, scallions, and chives. If you eat these things, you can end up in the company of the demon kings. If you don't eat these things, you can join the Buddha's retinue. This is the first of the gradual stages of cultivation. This is the first step of progress for a cultivator of the Way. In cultivation, one must get rid of the causes which aid in the creation of bad karma. The five pungent plants are one cause which aids the demon kings. You should not regard them as unimportant. The five pungent plants make you turbid and confused. They make you impure, and your impurity puts you together with the retinue of demon kings, for the more impure one is, the better they like it.

N1 Asks about and answers that first one must cut off lust and killing.

Sutra:

What is the essence of karmic offenses? Ananda, beings who want to enter samadhi must first firmly uphold the pure precepts.

Commentary:

The first gradual stage consists of getting rid of the aiding causes, which are eating meat and the like. The second gradual stage concerns the essence of karmic offenses. What is the essence of karmic offenses? Ananda, beings who want to enter samadhi must first firmly uphold the pure precepts. The "essence of karmic offenses" refers to the workings of the karmic consciousness. The karmic consciousness must be transformed, and that is done by holding the precepts. "Firmly uphold" means one is firm with oneself. One is not the least bit casual or sloppy. One relies on the precepts in cultivation.

Anything you did before receiving the precepts does not count as a violation of them, because you were in ignorance. If one doesn't know one is committing an offense, then one hasn't committed one. But once you receive the precepts, you can't perpetuate your offenses. Before you heard about the precepts, you may have enjoyed indulging in things which are not in accord with the rules. But once you learn about the precepts, you should receive them and then not indulge in such activities any more.

Sutra:

They must sever thoughts of lust, not partake of wine or meat, and eat cooked rather than raw foods. Ananda, if cultivators do not sever lust and killing, it will be impossible for them to transcend the triple realm.

Commentary:

They must sever thoughts of lust. "Lust" refers to love and desire, which are born of ignorance. Love which is not founded on ignorance, in the sense that it is loving regard for one's spouse and children, is not what is meant here. Or, if special causes and conditions arise where one wishes to help someone else, and one is not just selfishly seeking some ephemeral bliss, that too would not be considered a violation, because one's wish is to help someone else and one is basically doing something one would prefer not to do in order to help cross someone else over. It is a temporary expedient and is not a violation.

They must not partake of wine or meat. One should eat pure vegetarian food. What disadvantages are there in wine and meat? Wine and alcohol in general derange one's nature. Once you drink alcohol, you lose your concentration. And then you are likely to do just about anything. You'll be like the man in the story I told before who broke the one precept against intoxicants and subsequently violated all five. If one refrains from drinking, one's nature will not get scattered and one's actions will not be upside down. Another reason is that the odor of wine and other alcoholic drinks, which may be considered fragrant by people and ghosts, upsets the Bodhisattvas and good spirits. They do not like the smell. Bodhisattvas and Arhats regard the smell of wine as we regard the smell of urine. To them it is rank and stinking. People don't like to be around toilets, cesspools, and sewers, but there are certain bugs, dung beetles, who spend their whole lives eating excrement in cesspools and sewers. They like it. Further, wine and meat are aphrodisiacs.

So people who cultivate the Way should not consume these things. They should eat cooked rather than raw foods. All foods should be cooked, even vegetables, before they are eaten, because almost all raw foods will increase one's anger. Ananda, if cultivators do not sever lust and killing, it will be impossible for them to transcend the triple realm. "Lust" refers to deviant, improper sexual desire. It is absolutely unprincipled to think that a lustful person could become a Buddha.

N2 And vigorously cultivate the other precepts.

Sutra:

You should look upon lustful desire as upon a poisonous snake or a resentful bandit. First hold to the sound-hearer's four or eight parajikas in order to control your physical activity; then cultivate the Bodhisattva's pure regulations in order to control your mental activity.

Commentary:

You should look upon lustful desire as upon a poisonous snake or a resentful bandit. Make this contemplation: lust is like a poisonous snake. If it bites you once, you may lose your life. If one regarded lust as being as poisonous as that, one would not be able to take delight in it. Even thoughts of lustful desire would not arise. Why? Just imagine that such a thought is as violent as a tiger or wolf. It's fine if you don't encounter such animals, but if you do, you're likely to lose your life. Or look upon such thoughts as upon a rebel or a thief who bears a grudge. His resentment pushes him to the point of murder.

First hold to the sound-hearer's four or eight parajikas. You must keep the shravaka precepts against killing, stealing, lust, and lying, these apply to both bhikshus and bhikshunis; in addition, the precepts against touching, the eight matters, covering, and not following apply to bhikshunis. Keep them in order to control your physical activity. You uphold these precepts to keep from creating these kinds of karma. Then cultivate the Bodhisattva's pure regulations in order to control your mental activity. Then you cultivate the Bodhisattva precepts. You receive the ten major and forty-eight minor precepts and pay special attention to regulations. Then your mind will not give rise to thoughts of lust. You won't have such deviant thoughts. This is the path that people who cultivate must walk.

N3 He explains the benefits in detail and concludes with the name.

Sutra:

When the prohibitive precepts are successfully upheld, one will not create karma that leads to trading places in rebirth and to killing one another in this world. If one does not steal, one will not be indebted, and one will not have to pay back past debts in this world.

Commentary:

When the prohibitive precepts are successfully upheld. "Prohibitive" implies the practice of restraint. "Precepts" are defined as "stopping evil and counteracting wrongdoing." The precepts are divided into four aspects:

1) maintenance,
2) restraint,
3) exceptions,
4) violations.

Sometimes exceptions are made, so that you are not considered to have violated the precept even if you have acted against it. "Restraints," as already mentioned, refer to prohibitions. They are honored because to violate them would contribute to further violations, as in refraining from taking intoxicants one avoids breaking other precepts as well. "Maintenanc" means upholding the precepts and cultivating in accord with them. "Violation" refers to breaking a precept.

The following event will illustrate the aspect of exceptions. Once when the Buddha Shakyamuni was in the world, there were two bhikshus cultivating in the mountains. One day, one of the bhikshus went down the mountain to get food and left the other one sleeping. In India at that time, the bhikshus simply wore their sashes wrapped around them; they did not wear clothing underneath. This bhikshu had shed his robe and was sleeping nude. He probably was a lazy person, and with no one on the mountain to watch after him, he'd decided to take a nap.

At that time a woman happened along, and seeing the bhikshu, she was aroused and took advantage of him. Just as she was running away from the scene, the other bhikshu returned from town and saw her in flight. Upon investigation he found out that the woman had taken advantage of the sleeping bhikshu, and he decided to pursue her, catch her, and take her before the Buddha in protest. He took out after her, and the woman became so reckless that she slipped off the road and tumbled down the mountain to her death. So one bhikshu had violated the precept against sexual activity and the other had broken the precept against killing. Although the bhikshu hadn't actually pushed her down the mountain, she wouldn't have fallen if he hadn't been pursuing her.

"What a mess!" concluded the two bhikshus. Messy as it was, they had to go before the Buddha and describe their offenses. The Buddha referred them to the Venerable Upali. But when Venerable Upali heard the details, his verdict was that, indeed, one had violated the precept against sexual activity and the other against killing, offenses which cannot be absolved. "You're both going to have to endure the hells in the future," he concluded.

Hearing this, the two bhikshus wept, and they went about everywhere trying to find someone who could help them. Eventually, they found the Great Upasaka Vimalakirti, who asked why they were crying. When they had related their tale, he pronounced his judgment that they had not violated the precepts.

"If you can be repentant," he said, "then I can certify that you didn't break the precepts."

"How can that be?" they asked.

"The nature of offenses is basically empty," replied the upasaka. "You did not violate the precepts intentionally, and so it doesn't count. It is an exception"

Hearing this explanation by the Great Teacher Vimalakirti, the two bhikshus were enlightened on the spot and were certified as attaining the fruition. After that, they became arhats. So there are many explanations within the prohibitive precepts. But if people always look to the exceptions, they will simply not hold the precepts. They will beg the question. So the Buddha did not speak much about this aspect.

If one upholds the precepts, one will not create karma that leads to trading places in rebirth and to killing one another in this world. One is born and then kills, and the victim is reborn and kills the one who killed him. But now karmic offenses created in the cycle of mutual rebirth and mutual killing cease. If one does not steal, one will not be indebted, and one will not have to pay back past debts in this world. The offenses of stealing will also cease when one stops stealing. "I won't take your things, and you won't take mine. I won't eat your flesh, and you won't eat mine. I won't become indebted to you, and you won't become indebted to me. In that way we won't have to pay each other back." You won't have to pay back the debts for offenses committed in the past once you sever your relationship with animals by not eating meat. If you don't eat their flesh, then you don't have any connections with them.

Sutra:

If people who are pure in this way cultivate samadhi, they will naturally be able to contemplate the extent of the worlds of the ten directions with the physical body given them by their parents; without need of the heavenly eye, they will see the Buddhas speaking dharma and receive in person the sagely instruction. Obtaining spiritual penetrations, they will roam through the ten directions, gain clarity regarding past lives, and will not encounter difficulties and dangers.

Commentary:

If people who are pure in this way, who do not eat the five pungent plants, do not drink intoxicants, and do not eat meat, and can firmly uphold the four or the eight parajikas, the precepts, if such people cultivate samadhi, they will naturally be able to contemplate the extent of the worlds of the ten directions with the physical body given them by their parents; without need of the heavenly eye. They don't need to have the power of the heavenly eye in order to spontaneously see all around them. They will see the Buddhas speaking dharma and receive in person the sagely instruction. They will be able to encounter the Buddhas and hear the dharma. They will receive in person the Buddhas' compassionate guidance. Obtaining spiritual penetrations, they will roam through the ten directions, gain clarity regarding past lives, and will not encounter difficulties and dangers. Their spiritual powers will enable them to go through the ten directions while in this place. They will obtain the knowledge of past lives. They accomplish these things with their physical bodies. Although they haven't obtained the power of the heavenly eye, it is as if they had. The same is true for the power of the heavenly ear. They'll never get into difficult situations or find themselves in dangerous positions.

Sutra:

This is the second of the gradual stages of cultivation.

Commentary:

What has been discussed is the need to cut out the essence of karmic offenses. One must rectify one's karma. Until now it has not been proper, and so one must work in order to change. One must guard and uphold the precepts and rules. Just that, the maintaining of precepts, is the second of the gradual stages of cultivation.

M3 Tells them they should counter the manifestations of their karma.
N1 He asks about and answers that based on the precepts one should cultivate samadhi.

Sutra:

What is the manifestation of karma? Ananda, such people as these, who are pure and who uphold the prohibitive precepts, do not have thoughts of greed and lust, and so they do not become dissipated in the pursuit of the six external defiling sense-objects.

Commentary:

We first discussed the causes that aid in the creation of karma. Next we talked about rectifying the nature of the karmic consciousness which creates offenses. Now the discussion turns to the manifestation of karma. What is the manifestation of karma? It is the karma created in this very life. We must counteract it; oppose it. We should not allow ourselves to succumb to the creation of new karma. We should return; we should turn back from it. Ananda, such people as these, who are pure and who uphold the prohibitive precepts, do not have thoughts of greed and lust. This refers to the people we have been discussing, who at this stage are pure and keep the precepts. These people are not greedy for the false and illusory bliss of sexual desire, and so they do not become dissipated in the pursuit of the six external defiling senseobjects. They are not turned by the experience of the six senseobjects of forms, sounds, smells, tastes, touchables, and dharmas. They return the light and come back home.

Sutra:

Because they do not pursue them, they turn around to their own source. Without the conditions of the defiling objects, there is nothing for the sense-organs to match themselves with, and so they reverse their flow, become one unit, and no longer function in six ways.

Commentary:

Because they do not pursue them, they turn around to their own source. They are not turned by the six sense-objects, and so they go back to the origin. They return the light and illumine within, and turn back their hearing to hear their self-nature. They cultivate the perfect penetration of the ear. Without the conditions of the defiling objects, there is nothing for the sense-organs to match themselves with. They no longer have any connection with the six sense-objects. The relationship between them is severed when people stop pursuing them, and so the sense-organs no longer are matched with the sense-objects, and so they reverse their flow. That refers to the cultivation of the perfect penetration of the ear, whereby one enters the flow and forgets the place of entry. They become one unit; the six organs are interpenetrated and function together. They no longer function in six ways. The six sense organs no longer are dissipated in their pursuit of the experiences of the six sense-objects.

N2 In conclusion he explains this is obtaining patience with the non-production of dharmas.

Sutra:

All the lands of the ten directions are as brilliantly clear and pure as moonlight reflected in crystal.

Commentary:

At that time, all the lands of the ten directions are as brilliantly clear and pure as moonlight reflected in crystal. In other words, they are transparently clear and visible to all.

Sutra:

Their bodies and minds are blissful as they experience the equality of wonderful perfection, and they attain great peace.

Commentary:

When the crystal captures the light of the full moon, there is both brilliance and transparency. It can be completely seen through. This analogy represents the state of cultivators who have reached the level where both their bodies and minds are pure. At that point, Their bodies and minds are blissful as they experience the equality of wonderful perfection, and they attain great peace. This sense of peace is something one experiences oneself, not something that is evident to others.

Sutra:

The secret perfection and pure wonder of all the Thus Come Ones appear before them.

Commentary:

The secret perfection and pure wonder of all the Thus Come Ones refers to the Buddha's pure dharma nature. At this point they appear before them. A cultivator such as this can experience this state.

Sutra:

These people then obtain patience with the non-production of dharmas. They thereupon gradually cultivate according to their practices, until they reside securely in the sagely positions.

Commentary:

These people then obtain patience with the non-production of dharmas. What is meant by patience with the non-production of dharmas? One does not see the slightest dharma arise, nor the slightest dharma extinguished. Dharmas are neither produced nor destroyed. But it is not easy to obtain this state. They thereupon gradually cultivate according to their practices, until they reside securely in the sagely positions. From the point of attaining patience with the non-production of dharmas, they gradually progress in their practice as they go through the sagely positions, without being shaken or moved.

N3 He concludes with the name: because of the gradual one can enter into the sudden.

Sutra:

This is the third of the gradual stages of cultivation.

Commentary:

This is the third of the gradual stages of cultivation, that of preventing the manifestation of karma.

CHAPTER 2: The Bodhisattva Stages

J2 The single position of dry-wisdom.

Sutra:

Ananda, these good people's emotional love and desire are withered and dry, the sense-organs and sense objects no longer match, and so the residual habits do not continue to arise.

Commentary:

Shakyamuni Buddha calls out: Ananda, these good people's emotional love and desire are withered and dry. The people referred to are the ones who have passed through the three gradual stages just discussed. "Withered and dry" means that they have no thoughts of emotional desire and love. The sense-organs and sense objects no longer match. The six sense organs no longer seek to match up with the six sense-objects. And so the residual habits do not continue to arise. "Residual habits" refers to the slight bit of ignorance that these people still harbor. Since the ignorance is so slight, it does not continue to increase.

Sutra:

By means of their complete wisdom, they understand that attachments of the mind are false. The bright perfection of their wisdom-nature shines throughout the ten directions, and this initial wisdom is called the 'stage of dry wisdom.'

Commentary:

The slight bit of ignorance that still remains does not grow and increase. The karmic obstacles are also very few, and so by means of their complete wisdom, they understand that attachments of the mind are false. Their minds become as clear as emptiness itself. Their own natures experience the perfection of wisdom. "Complete wisdom" means they don't have any other false thoughts. The thoughts in their mind are brought forth from wisdom. The bright perfection of their wisdom-nature shines throughout the ten directions. The nature of their wisdom is light and full. And this initial wisdom is called the "stage of dry wisdom". Since emotional love and desire are "dried up," all that's left is wisdom. This stage of dry wisdom is also called "the initial thought of vajra." "Vajra" means "indestructible." This stage is the first step towards the point of being like vajra.

What follows is a discussion of the fifty-five stages of a Bodhisattva:

1. the ten faiths,
2. the ten dwellings,
3. the ten conducts,
4. the ten transferences,
5. the four levels of augmenting practice:

a) heat,
b) summit,
c) patience,
d) foremost in the world;
6. the ten grounds,
7. equal enlightenment.

Sutra:

Although the habits of desire are initially dried up, they still have not merged with the Thus Come One's flow of dharma-water.

Commentary:

Although the habits of desire and emotional love are initially dried up, they still have not merged with the Thus Come One's flow of dharma-water. Here the "flow of dharma-water" does not refer to dharma which is spoken. It is the water of dharma that flows forth from the self-nature. But at this point in their development, they have not merged with the water of genuine wisdom.

The Ten Faiths

J3 The ten positions of the ten faiths.
K1 The mind that resides in faith.

Sutra:

Then, with this mind centered on the middle, they enter the flow where wonderful perfection reveals itself. From the truth of that wonderful perfection there repeatedly arise wonders of truth. They always dwell in the wonder of faith, until all false thinking is completely eliminated and the Middle Way is totally true. This is called the Mind that Resides in Faith.

Commentary:

This begins the discussion on the ten faiths:

1. the mind that resides in faith,
2. the mind that resides in mindfulness,
3. the mind that resides in vigor,
4. the mind that resides in wisdom,
5. the mind that resides in samadhi,
6. the mind that resides in irreversibility,
7. the mind that resides in protecting the dharma,
8. the mind that resides in making transferences,
9. the mind that resides in the precepts,
10. the mind that resides in vows.

Then, with this mind centered on the middle, they enter the flow where wonderful perfection reveals itself. "This mind" refers to the mind at the level of dry wisdom, the initial vajra-mind. They use this mind to enter the flow of the Buddhadharma, and they reach the state where "wonderful perfection reveals itself," where it opens out in abundance. One reaches the principle and substance of true suchness. From the truth of that wonderful perfection there repeatedly arise wonders of truth. In the wonderful perfection of the true suchness of the self-nature, truths within truths come forth. They always dwell in the wonder of faith, until all false thinking is completely eliminated and the Middle Way is totally true. Their belief becomes more and more subtle and wonderful.

"Always dwell" means that they will not waver, they will not change their minds. Their faith is constant. At that point, all false thinking goes away, without exception. Even if they wanted to have false thoughts, the false thoughts just wouldn't arise. That is because false thoughts are helped out by ignorance. With false thoughts come love and desire. But now love and desire have been dried up and only a little ignorance remains, so that, quite naturally, they don't have false thoughts.

Why do you have false thinking? It is because you still have love and desire. There are things that you are greedy for. The desires compel you to think about this and that, so that your mind is always climbing on conditions. If people didn't have any greed, they wouldn't have any false thinking.

At this point in their cultivation, these people don't have false thinking. When that happens, one attains the nature of the principle of the Middle Way. It is "totally true," which means that there is no love and desire, no greedy false thoughts. This is called the Mind that Resides in Faith. This is the first of these ten positions. One brings forth genuine faith and dwells in it.

K2 The mind that resides in mindfulness.

Sutra:

When true faith is clearly understood, then perfect penetration is total, and the three aspects of skandhas, places, and realms are no longer obstructions. Then all their habits throughout innumerable kalpas of past and future, during which they abandon bodies and receive bodies, appear to them now in the present moment. These good people can remember everything and forget nothing. This is called the Mind that Resides in Mindfulness.

Commentary:

Prior to this stage, when they were residing in the mind of faith, they cultivated the Middle Way, that wonderful perfection, the principle which one neither enters into nor departs from. Now, since they are replete with faith, true faith is clearly understood. Once one has true faith, one can gain true wisdom. "Clear understanding," then, refers to that true wisdom. Then perfect penetration is total, and the three aspects of skandhas, places, and realms are no longer obstructions. Not only do they accomplish the perfect penetration of the sense organs, but of everything else as well, the five skandhas of form, feeling, thought, activity, and consciousness; the twelve places of the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind, together with forms, sounds, smells, tastes, tangible objects, and dharmas; and the eighteen realms, which include the six sense-organs, the six sense-objects and the consciousnesses which connect them, that is, the eyeconsciousness, the ear-consciousness, the nose-consciousness, the tongue-consciousness, the body-consciousness, and the mindconsciousness.

Once you obtain perfect penetration, these things can no longer hinder you. Then all their habits throughout innumerable kalpas of past and future, during which they abandon bodies and receive bodies, appear to them now in the present moment. For time beyond calculation they have been undergoing rebirth and will continue to undergo rebirth, birth after birth, death upon death. And in each one of those lives, they have different habits. In one life they got into the habit of drinking wine. In another life they were in the habit of smoking. In another life, they were habitual gamblers. Another life found them with habits of lust. In another life they killed. Another life made them into thieves. In one life, they got into the habit of lying. In general, life after life, they developed habits that led them to do all kinds of bad things. That's looking at the bad habits. But there are also good habits. In one life, they got into the habit of bowing to the Buddhas. In another life, they habitually recited the Shurangama Mantra.

In one life, they had the habit of listening to the explanation of the Shurangama Sutra. In another life, they habitually listened to the Lotus Sutra. In general, throughout all those lives in so many kalpas, they walked many paths. As a result, they had accumulated a tremendous number of habits. But now, just like a movie, all those habits appear before them. These good people can remember everything and forget nothing. These good people who are cultivating the Way can bring it all to mind. They can remember it all. When they attain that state, they never forget. That means they always have their mind on what's happening. They are always mindful of those causes and conditions. This is called the Mind that Resides in Mindfulness, the second of the ten faiths.

K3 The mind that resides in vigor.

Sutra:

When the wonderful perfection is completely true, that essential truth brings about a transformation. They go beyond the beginningless habits to reach the one essential brightness. Relying solely on this essential brightness, they progress toward true purity. This is called the Mind of Vigor.

Commentary:

When the wonderful perfection is completely true, that essential truth brings about a transformation. They go beyond the beginningless habits to reach the one essential brightness, which is wisdom. Relying solely on this essential brightness, they progress toward true purity. Their vigor takes them to a place of true purity which is devoid of any defilement. This is called the Mind of Vigor, the mind that resides in vigor.

K4 The mind that resides in wisdom.

Sutra:

The essence of the mind reveals itself as total wisdom; this is called the Mind that Resides in Wisdom.

Commentary:

When one has progressed until the mind is truly pure, then the essence of the mind reveals itself as total wisdom. The mind is clear and understood, which means one has some genuine wisdom. "Total wisdom" means that there is not the least bit of random thinking remaining. The stupidity and false thoughts are all gone. Remember that this was described above, in the passage on the first dwelling of the mind, where it said that "all false thinking is completely eliminated." This is called the Mind that Resides in Wisdom. This is the dwelling of the mind of faith in wisdom.

K5 The mind that resides in samadhi.

Sutra:

As the wisdom and brightness are held steadfast, a profound stillness pervades. The stage at which the majesty of this stillness becomes constant and solid is called the Mind that Resides in Samadhi.

Commentary:

As the wisdom and brightness are held steadfast, a profound stillness pervades. This means that you must hold onto the light of wisdom and not let it go slack. Then there is a profound stillness that extends throughout the dharma-realm. The stage at which the majesty of this stillness becomes constant and solid is called the Mind that Resides in Samadhi. The "profound stillness" represents what is "tranquil and eternally illumining," and the "majesty of this stillness" represents what is "illumining and eternally tranquil." "Solid" here refers to the solidifying of the water of wisdom. It had been shallower before; now it deepens. "Solid" represents samadhi-power. At this point, one will not be moved. One would not say, "That looks good," and run in that direction, and then say, "But that looks even better," and run to the next thing. One would not be always pursuing something better. If one had samadhi-power, one would not run about hither and thither. A wind out of the east would not bend one westward; nor would a west wind blow one eastward. That just means that one would not be moved by the eight winds.

In order to tell about the eight winds, we must talk about the famous Song dynasty scholar and poet Su Dong Po. He was known as layman Dong Po and he carried on a dialogue with Dhyana Master Fo Yin. The former lived on the south bank of the Long River (Yang Tze) at Chen Chiang, and the latter on the north bank of the river.

The poet Su Dong Po meditated and cultivated, and one day in meditation he saw a state that moved him to write a verse. The verse went:

I bow my head to the God among gods.
And a ray of light illumines the great thousand worlds.
The eight winds cannot move me,
As I sit aloft a purple golden lotus.
The "God among gods" refers to the Buddha.

The poet claimed that when he bowed to the Buddha, he emitted a light that went throughout the universe. The eight winds are:

1. praise,
2. ridicule,
3. suffering,
4. bliss,
5. benefit,
6. destruction,
7. gain,
8. loss.

"Praise" is someone's saying things like, "You are an excellent student. You really apply yourself. You have a fine personality and a good moral character." But you shouldn't look upon praise as something good, because if you are moved by it, you just prove that you don't have any samadhi-power. The eight winds are difficult for cultivators to bear.

"Ridicule" means to chide or tease or use sarcasm. It's to use words in such a way as to break a person down. It may sound like praise but it's thick with sarcasm. This wind can cause one to lose one's temper. "How can you treat me like that!" is a typical reaction.

"Suffering" in all its manifold aspects is also one of the winds, as is "bliss." You may feel good, but you should not think that it's a great thing, because as soon as your mind moves to acknowledge the pleasure, a wind has moved you.

"Benefit" refers to something that will help you out. "Destruction" means something unbeneficial which is bad for you. "Gain" refers to getting something, "loss" to losing it. Getting something makes you happy; losing something upsets you. For instance, a person buys the latest model of a very fancy radio. He's so taken with it that he even dreams about it at night. Or maybe it's a camera or a telescope. In general, just imagine the thing that you are most fond of: buying it is what is meant by "gain." But once you have it, of course, other people find it attractive, too, and who would have guessed that someone would wait until you are a bit careless and steal it from you? At that point, your ignorance arises and you are afflicted by your loss. That's to be moved by the eight winds. But Su Dong Po said that the eight winds did not move him as he sat aloft a purple golden lotus. He had his servant take the poem to Chan Master Fo Yin for his critique.

Chan Master Fo Yin scribbled two words across the poem. The two words were very meaningful, but Su Dong Po couldn't handle them. He exploded in a rage as soon as he glanced at them. What were the words? "Fart, fart."

Su Dong Po grabbed the poem, threw on his coat, and stormed across the river to confront Chan Master Fo Yin.

"What kind of bad-mouthed monk are you?" he demanded of the Chan master. "What right do you have to scold people like that?"

"But you said the eight winds would not move you," Chan Master Fo Yin replied calmly. "How is it that my two little farts have blown you all the way across the river?"

Thinking it over, Su Dong Po saw how right the Chan Master was, and so he hung his head and went back home.

K6 The mind that resides in irreversibility.

Sutra:

The light of samadhi emits brightness. When the essence of the brightness enters deeply within, they only advance and never retreat. This is called the Mind of Irreversibility.

Commentary:

Once the mind resides in samadhi, the light of samadhi emits brightness. When the essence of the brightness enters deeply within these good people who are cultivating, they only advance and never retreat. Since they understand, their only intent is to progress, and they never turn around and go back. The reason they are irreversible is that they truly and genuinely understand. They have real wisdom. This is called the Mind of Irreversibility, the mind of faith that never retreats.

K7 The mind that resides in protecting the dharma.

Sutra:

When the progress of their minds is secure, and they hold their minds and protect them without loss, they connect with the life-breath of the Thus Come Ones of the ten directions. This is called the Mind that Protects the Dharma.

Commentary:

When the progress of their minds is secure, they go ever forward; they never fly off the handle. They are firm and at peace, and they hold their minds and protect them without loss, so that their minds never retreat. Then they connect with the life-breath of the Thus Come Ones of the ten directions. When one reaches the point of irreversibility, the energy-force of the Buddhas unites with one's own. This is called the Mind that Protects the Dharma. This means that the Buddhas protect you, and you protect the Buddhadharma. With the Buddha's protection, you can accomplish your karma in the Way. With your protection, the Buddhadharma can spread and grow. So this is the mind of faith that protects the dharma.

K8 The mind that resides in making transferences.

Sutra:

Protecting their light of enlightenment, they can use this wonderful force to return to the Buddha's light of compassion and to come back to stand firm with the Buddha. It is like two mirrors that are set facing one another, so that between them the exquisite images interreflect and enter into one another layer upon layer. This is called the Mind of Transference.

Commentary:

Protecting their light of enlightenment, they can use this wonderful force. To join with the life-breath of the Buddha is a kind of enlightenment. When protected, this enlightenment is replete with wisdom and intelligence which is without loss. These people can return to the Buddha's light of compassion and to come back to stand firm with the Buddha. With this subtle wonderful power, you can unite with the Buddha's bright compassion. Your life-breath and light interact with the Buddha's life-breath and light, like two mirrors that are set facing one another, so that between them the exquisite images interreflect and enter into one another layer upon layer. When two mirrors are placed opposite one another, their images interreflect repeatedly. They display infinite layers of intereflection. This is called the Mind of Transference, the mind of faith that dwells in transference of merit.

K9 The mind that resides in precepts.

Sutra:

With this secret interplay of light, they obtain the Buddha's eternal solidity and unsurpassed wonderful purity. Dwelling in the unconditioned, they know no loss or dissipation. This is called the Mind that Resides in Precepts.

Commentary:

With this secret interplay of light, they obtain the Buddha's eternal solidity and unsurpassed wonderful purity. At this point, there is a hidden connection between the light of your mind and the light of the Buddha's mind; that is what is meant by the "secret interplay of light." The light of your heart reaches to the Buddha's light, and the Buddha's light reaches to your heart. After the light of the Buddha has entered your heart, it returns to the Buddha. After the light of your mind has entered the Buddha's mind, it returns to your own mind. This interplay of light goes full circle. One thus obtains a constant illumination from the Buddha. In fact, one simply becomes one with the Buddha. This purity is incomparable. Nothing surpasses it. Dwelling in the unconditioned, they know no loss or dissipation. One has obtained the unconditioned dharmas, and no loss can occur. This is called the Mind that Resides in Precepts.

K10 The mind that resides in vows.

Sutra:

Abiding in the precepts with self-mastery, they can roam throughout the ten directions, going anywhere they wish. This is called the Mind that Resides in Vows.

Commentary:

Abiding in the precepts, the unsurpassed Vajra Bright Jeweled Precepts, with self-mastery and spiritual penetrations, they can roam throughout the ten directions, going anywhere they wish. Such spiritual penetrations come with freedom and ease. There is no need for mental exertion, no need to set one's mind to it in order to be able to go anywhere in the ten directions. They can go anywhere they wish without any hindrance. This is called the Mind that Resides in Vows. Whatever wish or vow you make can be fulfilled.

The Ten Dwellings

J4 The ten positions of the ten dwellings.
K1 Dwelling of bringing forth the resolve.

Sutra:

Ananda, these good people use honest expedients to bring forth those ten minds. When the essence of these minds becomes dazzling, and the ten functions interconnect, then a single mind is perfectly accomplished. This is called the Dwelling of Bringing Forth the Resolve.

Commentary:

This section of text discusses the ten dwellings, which are part of the Bodhisattva stages. The ten dwellings are:

1) the dwelling of bringing forth the resolve,
2) the dwelling of the ground of regulation,
3) the dwelling of cultivation,
4) the dwelling of noble birth,
5) the dwelling of endowment with skill-in-means,
6) the dwelling of rectification of the mind,
7) the dwelling of irreversibility,
8) the dwelling of a pure youth,
9) the dwelling of a dharma prince,
10) the dwelling of anointing the crown of the head.

At this stage, the Bodhisattva is about to reach the position of a Buddha, but isn't there yet. So the Bodhisattva temporarily abides in these dwellings.

"Ananda," the Buddha calls out, "These good people, these Bodhisattvas who are cultivating the Way, use honest expedients to bring forth those ten minds." The "ten minds" are the ten stages just discussed. When the essence of these minds becomes dazzling, and the ten functions interconnect, then a single mind is perfectly accomplished. The "ten functions" refer to the ways in which the ten minds are used. When they interconnect, they all come back to one single mind. This is called the Dwelling of Bringing Forth the Resolve, the first of the ten dwellings.

K2 Dwelling of the ground of regulation.

Sutra:

From within this mind light comes forth like pure crystal, which reveals pure gold inside. Treading upon the previous wonderful mind as a ground is called the Dwelling of the Ground of Regulation.

Commentary:

From within this mind light comes forth like pure crystal. It is transparent and which reveals pure gold inside. Treading upon the previous wonderful mind as a ground is called the Dwelling of the Ground of Regulation. The "previous wonderful mind" is the "dwelling of bringing forth the resolve", where the functions of the earlier ten minds unite into a single mind. Then one walks upon this wonderful mind and turns it into a ground. This is the second dwelling, that of the "ground of regulation".

K3 Dwelling of cultivation.

Sutra:

When the mind-ground connects with wisdom, both become bright and comprehensive. Traversing the ten directions then without obstruction is called the Dwelling of Cultivation.

Commentary:

This is the third dwelling, that of "cultivation". When the mind-ground connects with wisdom, both become bright and comprehensive. When the mind-ground you tread upon becomes level, it unites with wisdom, and both the mind and the wisdom are extremely clear and lucid. Traversing the ten directions then without obstruction is called the Dwelling of Cultivation. At this point you gain spiritual penetrations. Endowed with both wisdom and spiritual penetrations, you are not hindered from going anywhere at all in the ten directions. You can come and go as you please.

K4 Dwelling of noble birth.

Sutra:

'When their conduct is the same as the Buddhas' and they take on the demeanor of a Buddha, then, like the intermediate skandha body searching for a father and mother, they penetrate the darkness with a hidden trust and enter the lineage of the Thus Come One. This is called the Dwelling of Noble Birth.

Commentary:

This passage discusses the Bodhisattvas of the fourth dwelling, the "dwelling of noble birth". It means being born in the household of the Dharma King, the home of the Buddha. The Buddha's family is the most honorable, and so this dwelling is called "noble birth." When their conduct is the same as the Buddhas' and they take on the demeanor of a Buddha, they are at the stage of the fourth dwelling. Everything the Bodhisattvas of the fourth dwelling do is like what a Buddha would do. Those Bodhisattvas have taken on the demeanor of a Buddha. They have learned to be just like Buddhas. Then they are like the intermediate skandha body searching for a father and mother. We have discussed the meaning of "intermediate skandha body" before. It refers to our "soul," or efficacious nature, which transmigrates. The definition of the intermediate skandha body is that which exists,

Before a new set of five skandhas is taken on,
But after the old set of five skandhas is gone.

An intermediate skandha body, the body between the skandhas, lives in a world as black as ink. There is no light for it at all. Although the sun and moon are still there, the skandha body dares not look at them when they appear. And when they are not in evidence and the skandha body is conscious, there is total darkness wherever it looks. However, when its future parents engage in intercourse, then no matter how far away from them the intermediate skandha body may be, it perceives a bit of yin light, and it reaches the spot immediately in response to its thought. Its compulsion to reach that place is like that of iron filings toward a magnet. But in this case, the force, as it were, of the magnetic field extends for thousands of miles. Attracted in this way, the intermediate skandha body arrives, and rebirth immediately takes place: conception occurs.

Here the birth of the Bodhisattva of the fourth dwelling into the household of the Buddha is likened to this process, but this is only an analogy, of course. It is used to describe the force of attraction that brings these Bodhisattvas to birth in the household of the Dharma King. They penetrate the darkness with a hidden trust. No matter how many thousands of miles away it may be, it is as if there is a mutual connection based on faith. The Bodhisattvas in this way enter the lineage of the Thus Come One. This is called the Dwelling of Noble Birth. They are born into an honorable and wealthy household, the Buddha's home.

"Oh?" you wonder. "The Buddha has a home? I thought the Buddha had left home." The home referred to here is just the home of leaving home. It is the place where the Buddha dwells. This is all just an analogy.

K5 Dwelling of endowment with skill-in-means.

Sutra:

Since they ride in the womb of the Way and will themselves become enlightened heirs, their human features are in no way deficient. This is called the Dwelling of Endowment with Skill-in-Means.

Commentary:

Since they ride in the womb of the Way: they roam in the household of the Buddha; they are carried, as it were, in the womb of the Way. And they will themselves become enlightened heirs. They have received the bequest of enlightenment. Their human features are in no way deficient. Their eyes, ears, nose, and other characteristics are perfect and full. Their appearance as Buddhas, as Bodhisattvas, will also be without deficiency. This is called the Dwelling of Endowment with Skill-in-Means. This is the fifth dwelling.
.
Sutra:

With a physical appearance like that of a Buddha and a mind that is the same as well, they are said to be Dwelling in the Rectification of the Mind.

Commentary:

At this point the Bodhisattvas of the sixth dwelling have a physical appearance like that of a Buddha. Their features are replete with the thirty-two hallmarks and eighty subtle characteristics. They also have a mind that is the same as the Buddhas'. Then they are said to be Dwelling in the Rectification of the Mind, the sixth dwelling.

K7 Dwelling of irreversibility.

Sutra:

United in body and mind, they easily grow and mature day by day. This is called the Dwelling of Irreversibility.

Commentary:

Their body and mind are the same as the Buddhas'. They have united with the Buddhas and easily grow and mature day by day. Although they resemble the Buddhas, they are like children who have not yet grown up. This means that at this level the wisdom of these Bodhisattvas is not yet as great as a Buddha's. They are like newborn children. But every day their wisdom grows, so they are not far from Buddhahood. They are courageous and vigorous, and so this is called the Dwelling of Irreversibility. At this point they do not turn back. They have reached the seventh dwelling and will not retreat hereafter.

K8 Dwelling of a pure youth.

Sutra:

With the efficacious appearance of ten bodies, which are simultaneously perfected, they are said to be at the Dwelling of a Pure Youth.

Commentary:

At this stage, the Bodhisattva can make ten bodies appear all at the same time. Each of these ten bodies can produce ten more bodies in turn, so that a hundred bodies come into being. Each of these hundred bodies brings forth yet another ten bodies, making a thousand bodies in all. This all happens simultaneously due to the magnitude of the Bodhisattva's spiritual penetrations. This is called the "dwelling of a pure youth."

K9 Dwelling of a dharma prince.

Sutra:

Completely developed, they leave the womb and become sons of the Buddha. This is called the Dwelling of a Dharma Prince.

Commentary:

The ninth is the "dwelling of a dharma prince". At the previous level, when the ten bodies efficaciously appeared, they were able to change and transform endlessly. However, the Bodhisattvas have still not become genuine dharma princes. In the analogy, they have not yet left the womb. Now, completely developed, with the appearance of great heroes, they leave the womb and become sons of the Buddha. The accomplishment of the body of a Buddha is likened in the analogy to birth from the womb. This is called the Dwelling of a Dharma Prince. They themselves are now sons of the Buddha. That describes the Bodhisattva at the ninth dwelling.

K10 Dwelling of anointing the crown of the head.

Sutra:

Reaching the fullness of adulthood, they are like the chosen prince to whom the great king of a country turns over the affairs of state. When this Kshatriya king's eldest son is ceremoniously anointed on the crown of the head, he has reached what is called the Dwelling of Anointing the Crown of the Head.

Commentary:

Reaching the fullness of adulthood, they are like the chosen prince to whom the great king of a country turns over the affairs of state. A "great king" refers to a wheel-turning sage king. When such a king is ready to relinquish the duties of the throne to his son, he performs a ritual in which he anoints the crown of the prince's head with the waters of the four seas. When this ceremony is completed, the prince is said to have inherited the throne. Here the passage refers to the Bodhisattva who can become the son of the Buddha, who is the Dharma King. At this point the Buddha anoints the crown of the Bodhisattva's head, making him a full-fledged Bodhisattva. That's what's meant by the passage: When this Kshatriya king's, the Buddha's, eldest son, the Bodhisattva of the tenth dwelling, is ceremoniously anointed on the crown of the head, he has reached what is called the Dwelling of Anointing the Crown of the Head.

The Ten Conducts

J5 The ten positions of the ten conducts.
K1 The conduct of happiness.

Sutra:

Ananda, after these good people have become sons of the Buddha, they are replete with the limitlessly many wonderful virtues of the Thus Come Ones, and they comply and accord with beings throughout the ten directions. This is called the Conduct of Happiness.

Commentary:

These are called the ten conducts. They are the next step in the stages of a Bodhisattva:

1) the conduct of happiness,
2) the conduct of benefiting,
3) the conduct of non-opposition,
4) the conduct of endlessness,
5) the conduct of freedom from deluded confusion,
6) the conduct of wholesome manifestation,
7) the conduct of non-attachment,
8) the conduct of veneration,
9) the conduct of wholesome dharma,
10) the conduct of true actuality.

Now we will discuss the first conduct, that of happiness. These ten conducts correspond to the ten perfections, the ten paramitas, so the first conduct relates to giving.

Shakyamuni Buddha called out: Ananda, after these good people have become sons of the Buddha, they are replete with the limitlessly many wonderful virtues of the Thus Come Ones. The crown of their heads are anointed, and they become sons of the Buddha. They are well on their way to possessing the virtuous conducts of a Buddha. They comply and accord with beings throughout the ten directions. This is called the Conduct of Happiness. To "comply and accord" means to practice giving. We have discussed giving many times and have mentioned that there are three kinds of giving:

1) the giving of wealth,
2) the giving of dharma,
3) the giving of fearlessness.

However, there are also two aspects to giving, which are not the same as the three kinds. The two aspects comprise another explanation entirely. Since it is called the "conduct of happiness", the first aspect is that one should practice giving with a happy heart. One should enjoy giving. It's not that one decides to give only under duress; it's not forced, such that on the one hand one wants to give, but on the other hand one doesn't want to. It's not that one is indecisive, thinking, "I'd like to make a gift, but it's my money." It's said that giving up some money is like cutting off a piece of one's flesh. On the other hand, one knows that if one does not practice giving, one will not generate any merit. So it's a real dilemma: if one gives, one fears one will have no money left; if one doesn't give, one fears one will have no merit. So there one stands, not knowing whether to take a step forward or backward. That's certainly not called the "conduct of happiness". That's more like the "conduct of forcing it". Now you can't say that there wouldn't be any merit in this kind of giving, but the merit certainly would be depleted by the internal struggle. One is not doing it with a true mind.

Rather, one should he happy about the giving one does. Even if it means one must do without money oneself, one should be happy to give away to others whatever one has.

The second aspect of giving is that one should make living beings happy. When you practice giving, you should not act like someone tossing crumbs to a beggar. It shouldn't be that they have to come crawling to your door crying, "Old uncle, old auntie, can't you spare a little?" only to have you open the door a crack, throw out a dime or a quarter, and shout, "Take it and get out!" That can't even be called giving. There's no merit in that kind of act, and certainly the person on the receiving end will not be happy. In China there's the phrase: "One doesn't eat what is rudely offered." That's just what's been described above. People with any selfpossession will not accept food or money that is offered in that way, even if they have to go hungry.

One should give sincerely and in good faith. But be careful not to give in such a way that one expects gratitude in response. If you avoid doing it in a way that makes people feel they must thank you, then you are giving in a way that causes people to be happy, which is the second aspect of giving. In the "conduct of happiness", both parties, oneself and the person one is giving to, are happy.

K2 Conduct of benefiting.

Sutra:

Being well able to accommodate all living beings is called the Conduct of Benefiting.

Commentary:

Being well able to accommodate all living beings means to use precepts. It means getting beings to follow the precepts and in that way rescuing them. If everyone holds the precepts, the entire world is benefited. This is called the Conduct of Benefiting living beings. It is the second of these ten Bodhisattva practices.

K3 Conduct of non-opposition.

Sutra:

Enlightening oneself and enlightening others without putting forth any resistance is called the Conduct of Non- Opposition.

Commentary:

Enlightening oneself and enlightening others is something we all should do. Thus, it is not enough to study the Buddhadharma and come to understand it oneself. We must also enable all beings to come to understand it, to the extent that we should help bring all beings to the accomplishment of Buddhahood. We must benefit ourselves and benefit others. Don't be selfish and concerned about your own gains. Nor should you be jealous or obstructive of others. If someone understands the Buddhadharma better than you do, under no circumstances should you be jealous. If you are jealous of others, you will undergo the retribution of being stupid in the future. Do your utmost with regard to the dharma, but never, never become jealous of others. Don't have ideas of obstructing other people. It shouldn't be that if someone gets enlightened and you haven't, you have a fit, saying, "Really, the Buddhas are simply too unfair. How could they let him get enlightened instead of me?" With that, your ignorance arises. Or perhaps someone hears the dharma and grasps it immediately. He learns fast and masters the Shurangama Mantra within a couple of month's time. But someone else who hasn't mastered it by then goes into a jealous rage. "How did you get ahead of me? How did you learn it so fast?" Whatever you do, no matter what, under no circumstances should you be jealous of others. You should be happy at heart. "His mastering the mantra is just like my mastering it." "His enlightenment is like my own." You should give rise to thoughts of accordance with other beings, praising them and congratulating them. The most undesirable thing to have when you study the dharma is a jealous attitude.

I repeat, if you are jealous of others, you will be stupid in the future. So stupid will you be that you won't know how to do anything at all, even eat. What a mess you'll be in then! It happens, you know. There are living beings who are so dumb they don't even know how to feed themselves, and they end up starving to death. If someone is more accomplished than you, you should be happy for them.

The Bodhisattvas reach the point of not putting forth any resistance. This method of non-resistance refers to patience, the third paramita. When something pleasant happens, one is happy; when something unpleasant happens, one is still happy. One doesn't put up any resistance; one doesn't oppose the opinions of others. That's patience. In all circumstances, one forebears. I've recited the poem by Maitreya Bodhisattva for you before:

The Old Fool wears tattered clothes
And fills his belly with bland food;
Mends his clothes against the cold,
And just puts up with whatever comes along.
If someone scolds the Old Fool,
He just says, "Fine."
If someone strikes the Old Fool,
He lays down to sleep.
"Spit on my face? I'll just let it dry.
I save the energy and you don't get upset."
This kind of paramita
Is the jewel within the wonderful.
If you get this good news,
What worry can there be
about not perfecting the Way?
The third conduct is the practice of patience; it is called the
Conduct of Non-Opposition. No matter how you are treated, you
don't get angry.

K4 Conduct of endlessness.

Sutra:

To undergo birth in various forms continuously to the bounds of the future, equally throughout the three periods of time and pervading the ten directions, is called the Conduct of Endlessness.

Commentary:

To undergo birth in various forms means to be able to appear by transformation within any of the twelve classes of living beings. One can send transformation bodies among all those kinds of beings, appearing in forms like theirs, continuously to the bounds of the future, equally throughout the three periods of time, past, present, and future. One can "pervade the ten directions" without end and has what is called the Conduct of Endlessness, the fourth conduct. It corresponds to the perfection of vigor.

K5 Conduct of freedom from deluded confusion.

Sutra:

When everything is equally in accord, one never makes mistakes among the various dharma doors. This is called the Conduct of Freedom from Deluded Confusion.

Commentary:

This conduct corresponds with the perfection of dhyana samadhi, which aids those who are scattered and easily confused. When everything is equally in accord, one never makes mistakes among the various dharma doors. Within any dharma door spoken by the Buddha one naturally gains understanding and knows the function of any given dharma. This is called the Conduct of Freedom from Deluded Confusion.

K6 Conduct of wholesome manifestation.

Sutra:

Then within what is identical, myriad differences appear; the characteristics of every difference are seen, one and all, in identity. This is called the Conduct of Wholesome Manifestation.

Commentary:

Then within what is identical, myriad differences appear. What is identical is the principle. What are different are the specifics. At the noumenal level there is identity; at the phenomenal level there are differences. The characteristics of every difference are seen, one and all, in identity. That is, the phenomena all tally with principle. There is:

1) the unobstructedness of principles in specifics;
2) the unobstructedness of specifics in principles;
3) the unobstructedness of specifics with specifics;
4) the unobstructedness of both principles and specifics.
Therefore, in identity appear differences; within differences identity is found. This is called the Conduct of Wholesome Manifestation.

Identity and differences do not obstruct one another, and each appears within the other. This is the perfection of wisdom.

K7 Conduct of non-attachment.

Sutra:

This continues until it includes all the dust motes that fill up empty space throughout the ten directions. In each and every mote of dust there appear the worlds of the ten directions. And yet the appearance of dust motes and the appearance of worlds do not interfere with one another. This is called the Conduct of Non-Attachment.

Commentary:

This continues until it includes all the dust motes that fill up empty space throughout the ten directions. Not only is it the case that within identity, differences can appear, and within differences, identity is evident, but within the few the many can appear, and within the many the few are evident. Within the small the great can appear; within the great the small are evident. "Empty space" is the manifestation of the great. "Dust motes" are the manifestation of the small. Within every dust mote, worlds appear, so that every world can fit within a mote of dust. But when a world appears in a dust mote, it's not the case that the world shrinks. Nor is it the case that the dust mote has to expand to contain the world. This is the great appearing in the small and the small manifesting the great without any hindrance.

In each and every mote of dust there appear the worlds of the ten directions. The worlds of the ten directions are tremendously large, while a fine mote of dust is minute; yet none of the worlds get smaller, nor does the mote of dust expand. And yet the appearance of dust motes and the appearance of worlds do not interfere with one another. They include one another without any obstruction. This is called the Conduct of Non-Attachment. Worlds are motes of dust; motes of dust are worlds. Little is big; big is little. To experience this is the "conduct of non-attachment." This is the seventh perfection, that of expedience.

K8 Conduct of veneration.

Sutra:

Everything that appears before one is the foremost paramita. This is called the Conduct of Veneration.

Commentary:

The "conduct of veneration" is also the perfection of vows. It is brought to accomplishment through the power of vows. Everything that appears before one is the foremost paramita. All the states that manifest are the number one paramita, the dharma for reaching the other shore. This is called the Conduct of Veneration. This is the eighth conduct.

K9 Conduct of wholesome dharma.

Sutra:

With such perfect fusion, one can model oneself after all the Buddhas of the ten directions. This is called the Conduct of Wholesome Dharma.

Commentary:

With such perfect fusion, when everything becomes the foremost paramita, one can model oneself after all the Buddhas of the ten directions. In one's cultivation one can be in accord with all the rules and regulations established by all the Buddhas of the ten directions. This is called the Conduct of Wholesome Dharma. It is the perfection of strength. One's own practice is strong. This is the ninth conduct.

K10 Conduct of true actuality.

Sutra:

To then be pure and without outflows in each and every way is the primary truth, which is unconditioned, the essence of the nature. This is called the Conduct of True Actuality.

Commentary:

The tenth is called the "conduct of true actuality". To then be pure and without outflows in each and every way is the primary truth, which is unconditioned, the essence of the nature. "In each and every way" means that all the previous nine entries into conduct are conducted purely and without outflows. Then there is only one truth, that of the unconditioned. And that's the way the nature originally is. This is called the Conduct of True Actuality. This corresponds with the perfection of knowledge. These are the ten conducts of a Bodhisattva.

The Ten Transferences

J6 The ten positions of the ten transferences.
K1 Transference apart from appearances.

Sutra:

Ananda, when these good people replete with spiritual penetrations, have done the Buddhas' work, are totally pure and absolutely true, and remain distant from obstacles and calamities, then they take living beings across while casting aside the appearance of taking them across. They transform the unconditioned mind and go toward the path of nirvana. This is called the Transference of Saving and Protecting Living Beings, While Apart from the Appearance of Living Beings.

Commentary:

Ananda, when these good people, these people who have cultivated the ten conducts, develop genuine wisdom to the point that their practice is said to be true and real, then they are replete with spiritual penetrations, and have done the Buddhas' work. Throughout the ten directions they perform a tremendous number of deeds on behalf of the Buddhas. And yet:

The myriad practices they cultivate are but flowers in space.
The Bodhimandas they sit in are like the moon in water,
And subduing the demonic armies mere reflections in a mirror.
They do great deeds of the Buddhas while in the midst of a dream.

That represents their non-attachment. Everything is like an illusion, a transformation; nothing really exists. So don't be attached to anything. See through it all, put it down, and you can obtain selfmastery.

They are totally pure and absolutely true; they have accomplished that state, and they remain distant from obstacles and calamities. They are not hindered in any way. Then they take living beings across while casting aside the appearance of taking them across. They rescue those whom they should rescue without having any thought of having rescued them. The Vajra Sutra explains this as well; Shakyamuni Buddha says there: "I should take all beings across to extinction, and yet when all beings are thus taken across, there should not be any beings taken across to extinction."

Again, this means one must not be attached and think, "I did this, I did that." One builds a temple and then cannot get the thought out of one's mind that one was the builder and has accrued so much merit. That is to still have an appearance left.

They take living beings across while casting aside the appearance of taking them across. You don't look upon the deed as something you did, but rather as something you should have done. It was your responsibility in the first place; why would you need to let anyone know it had been done? If you brag about what you've done, it implies that it was something you didn't have to do. Conversely, some people say, "I didn't steal anything or kill anyone in this life. I've never done anything bad, so why aren't things better for me?" This implies that they were originally destined to steal and kill, but that they refrained from doing so and should be rewarded for that. This is a mistaken point of view.

They transform the unconditioned mind and go toward the path of nirvana. They turn the unconditioned mind of the small vehicle toward nirvana. This is called the Transference of Saving and Protecting Living Beings, While Apart from the Appearance of Living Beings. They see it as their responsibility to rescue living beings, and so they are apart from the appearance of having rescued them. They do not ponder the amount of merit and virtue involved in rescuing living beings. "It's my job. That's what I should be doing," should be how you think of it.

"But," you ask, "Isn't there merit and virtue involved in rescuing living beings?" Yes, there is. But don't dwell on it. What's past is past. What you've done, you've done. Don't hold on to the idea of having rescued living beings. This is not to say that you should not rescue beings; it's to say that you shouldn't harbor the appearance of having taken them across.

K2 Transference of indestructibility.

Sutra:

To destroy what should be destroyed and to remain far removed from what should be left behind is called the Transference of Indestructibility.

Commentary:

To destroy what should be destroyed means to get rid of the things that one should not keep. What are they? No matter how much we talk it always comes back to the same things: karmic obstacles, ignorance, and afflictions. Get rid of these. Destroy them.

To remain far removed from what should be left behind means to get rid of your faults. For instance, people who cultivate the Way should not have any greed, anger, or stupidity. You should destroy them. All good dharmas should be embraced. All bad dharmas should be rejected. Get them far behind you. This is called the Transference of Indestructibility. What is indestructible? Your inherent good roots are indestructible. Your originally existent enlightened nature is indestructible. With the transference of indestructibility you have to destroy what should be destroyed and keep what is indestructible.

K3 Transference of sameness with all Buddhas.

Sutra:

Fundamental enlightenment is profound indeed, an enlightenment equal to the Buddhas' enlightenment. This is called the Transference of Sameness with All Buddhas.

Commentary:

Fundamental enlightenment refers to the nature of the treasury of the Thus Come One inherent in us all. It is profound indeed, and pure. It is an enlightenment equal to the Buddhas' enlightenment. The enlightenment of our minds is the same as the enlightenment of the Buddhas. This is called the Transference of Sameness with All Buddhas.

K4 Transference of reaching all places.

Sutra:

When absolute truth is discovered, one's level is the same as the level of all Buddhas. This is called the Transference of Reaching All Places.

Commentary:

When the absolute truth of the previous transference is discovered, one's level is the same as the level of all Buddhas. This is a level which is a prelude to the Buddha's position. This is called the Transference of Reaching All Places.

K5 Transference of the treasury of inexhaustible merit and virtue.

Sutra:

Worlds and Thus Come Ones include one another without any obstruction. This is called the Transference of a Treasury of Inexhaustible Merit and Virtue.

Commentary:

Worlds and Thus Come Ones include one another without any obstruction. Worlds are the very body of the Thus Come One; the very body of the Thus Come One is itself the worlds. The wonderful function of spiritual penetrations enables them to contain one another. Nor is there any hindrance for either, nor anything contrived about it. This is called the Transference of a Treasury of Inexhaustible Merit and Virtue.

The Emperor Wu of Liang is a case in point of someone who was attached to the idea of creating merit. When he encountered the Patriarch Bodhidharma, he asked him, "I have built many grand temples. I have commissioned a tremendous number of people to enter the Sangha. I have made extensive vegetarian offerings. I've built bridges, improved highways, and much more. Tell me, how much merit have I accrued?"

Who would have guessed that the patriarch would scowl and retort, "None whatsoever."

The emperor was duly affronted and refused to have anything more to do with the patriarch. Actually, Patriarch Bodhidharma was intent upon saving the emperor. But because the emperor's karmic obstructions were so heavy he missed his chance, even though he was face to face with the first patriarch of China. It was like the saying, "Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva was right before him and he didn't even recognize him." The "Mind from the West" was right before the Emperor Wu of Liang and he failed to see him.

Why did he need rescuing by Patriarch Bodhidharma? It's because the patriarch knew that the emperor had a disaster in store for him. He was hoping to wake him up so he would either leave the home life and cultivate or at least yield the throne to someone else, thereby avoiding having to starve to death. Basically the emperor was a devout believer in Buddhism, and during his reign Buddhism flourished because he used his imperial position to spread the Buddhadharma, building temples all about the land. The majority of the population was Buddhist during that reign period. But he had created some heavy karma in past lives. In a former life the emperor was a bhikshu who cultivated in the mountains. At one point he began to be visited every day by a monkey who stole the fruits and vegetables he had planted. Pretty soon there wasn't much left for him to eat. Because of that, he trapped the monkey in a cave and sealed the opening with a boulder. He had originally intended to leave it there for a few days to teach it a lesson and then let it go. The trouble was that he forgot about it, and the monkey starved to death in the cave.

In his life as an emperor, then, the monkey was reborn as a monkey-spirit who led an army and attacked Nan Jing. After conquering Nan Jing, the monkey-spirit locked the emperor in a tower, removed all food, and left him to starve. The bhikshu's retribution for having starved a monkey to death was that the monkey returned in a later life when the bhikshu was an emperor and starved him to death.

Patriarch Bodhidharma saw that the emperor had amassed a lot of merit and virtue, and he thought that the emperor might make use of the merit to lessen the offense. But in order for that to happen, the causes and conditions had to be right as well. That's why Patriarch Bodhidharma was so severe with him. But the emperor thought himself a mighty monarch to whom a penniless monk had no right to talk in such a way, so he shunned the patriarch. Although Patriarch Bodhidharma wanted to save him, there was nothing he could do but leave, since the emperor would have nothing to do with him and did not seek to be saved. In the end, the emperor starved to death at the hands of the monkey-spirit.

K6 Transference of the identity of all good roots.

Sutra:

Since they are identical with the Buddha-ground, they create causes which are pure at each and every level. Brilliance emanates from them as they rely on these causes, and they go straight down the path to nirvana. This is called the Transference of Following in Accord with the Identity of All Good Roots.

Commentary:

After the Bodhisattvas have reached the accomplishment of the previous transference of a treasury of inexhaustible merit and virtue, then, since they are identical with the Buddha-ground, they create causes which are pure at each and every level. At each level along the way they give rise to causes which are clear and pure and undefiled. Brilliance emanates from them as they rely on these causes, and they go straight down the path to nirvana. They hold to the Way which is neither produced nor destroyed. This is called the Transference of Following in Accord with the Identity of All Good Roots.

K7 Transference of contemplating all living beings equally.

Sutra:

When the true roots are set down, then all living beings in the ten directions are my own nature. Not a single being is lost as this nature is successfully perfected. This is called the Transference of Contemplating All Living Beings Equally.

Commentary:

When the true roots are set down, then all living beings in the ten directions are my own nature. They are one and the same as the Bodhisattvas. That is why Bodhisattvas want to rescue living beings without there being an appearance of living beings. Buddhas and Bodhisattvas see all living beings as their own substance. They are one with them. Therefore, for them to save living beings is not really to save other living beings; it's just to save themselves. Not a single being is lost, as this nature is successfully perfected. Since they are one with all beings, no being is neglected. This is called the Transference of Contemplating All Living Beings Equally.

To say that all beings are their own nature is to speak of living beings who exist outside themselves. But we can also speak of internal beings, because there are boundlessly many beings within the body of each of us. Science describes the white corpuscles and the red corpuscles and verifies that our bodies contain innumerable microscopic organisms. If you were to open your Buddha eye and look into people's bodies, you would see an unknown number of beings there, uncountably many tiny forms of life, even to the point that when you exhale, you send a lot of beings out in your breath. At that point they are incarnated again as beings. By the same token, you ingest innumerable beings when you inhale. So it's pretty hard to draw a clear line between being a carnivore and not being one, if you get down to the subtler aspects of it. Here you are taking life with every breath, and that, too, is a form of killing if you do it with a murderous intent. Of course, we're getting down to details here.

The beings in your body are just ordinary creatures if you don't cultivate. If you do cultivate, they become the Buddha-nature. They can all return to the source. You return to the origin and they go right along with you, all those tiny forms of life that you harbor. If you cultivate to the point where you have some skill, then the beings external to you and the beings within you all become one with you. But as of right now, there are basically too many living beings.

K8 Transference of the appearance of true suchness.

Sutra:

All dharmas are themselves apart from all appearances, and yet there is no attachment either to their existence or to separation from them. This is called the Transference of the Appearance of True Suchness.

Commentary:

All dharmas are themselves apart from all appearances. Right within dharmas one must be apart from all appearances. In the appearance of dharmas one must separate from the appearance of dharmas. And yet there is no attachment either to their existence or to separation from them. This is called the Transference of the Appearance of True Suchness.

K9 Transference of liberation.

Sutra:

That which is thus is truly obtained, and there is no obstruction throughout the ten directions. This is called the Transference of Unfettered Liberation.

Commentary:

One definition of true suchness is that which is thus being truly obtained. It is also described as "wisdom which is thus giving rise to principle which is thus." When that is obtained, there is no obstruction throughout the ten directions. You can roam throughout the Buddha realms of the ten directions without any hindrances. This is called the Transference of Unfettered Liberation. Nothing is tying you up. You are free.

K10 Transference of the limitlessness of the dharma realm.

Sutra:

When the virtue of the nature is perfectly accomplished, the boundaries of the dharma-realm are destroyed. This is called the Transference of the Limitlessness of the dharmarealm.

Commentary:

Before the virtue of the nature is perfectly accomplished, before you have become one with the dharma-realm, you do not even know the boundaries of the dharma-realm. When the virtue of the nature has been perfectly accomplished and you become one with the dharma-realm, then you know the boundaries of the dharmarealm.

But since it still has a boundary, you have not yet reached the ultimate accomplishment. Now, when the virtue of the nature is perfectly accomplished, the boundaries of the dharma-realm are destroyed. Even the dharma-realm is empty. This is called the Transference of the Limitlessness of the dharma-realm.

The Four Positions of Additional Practices

J7 Four positions of additional practices.
K1 Concludes the former discussion and begins the next.

Sutra:

Ananda, when these good people have completely purified these forty-one minds, they further accomplish four kinds of wonderfully perfect additional practices.

Commentary:

The Bodhisattva, the person practicing, reaches a state of purity with regard to these forty-one minds. The "forty-one minds" are:

1) the level of dry wisdom;
2-11) the ten faiths;
12-21) the ten dwellings;
22-31) the ten conducts;
32-41) the ten transferences.

The level of dry wisdom, you'll remember, is also called "initial dry wisdom" and "the initial vajra mind." Following these forty-one positions are four further levels. They are known as the wonderfully perfect additional practices; they are:

1) heat;
2) summit;
3) patience;
4) first in the world.

K2 Specific explanation of the four positions.
L1 The level of heat.

Sutra:

When the enlightenment of a Buddha is just about to become a function of his own mind, it is on the verge of emerging but has not yet emerged, and so it can be compared to the point just before wood ignites when it is drilled to produce fire. Therefore it is called the Level of Heat.

Commentary:

This is the first of the four additional practices, the level of heat. The analogy is given of wood which is drilled to get fire; this level is compared to the point just before the wood ignites. When the enlightenment of a Buddha is just about to become a function of his own mind means that what the Buddhas are enlightened to and what he himself is enlightened to are the same thing. When it is on the verge of emerging but has not yet emerged, and so it can be compared to the point just before wood ignites when it is drilled to produce fire. The igniting of the wood being drilled is like enlightenment. The wood is right on the point of bursting into flame. With the enlightenment there is also heat, therefore it is called the Level of Heat. This is the forty-second position in the Bodhisattva's progression.

L2 Level of the summit.

Sutra:

He continues on with his mind, treading where the Buddhas tread, as if relying and yet not. It is as if he were climbing a lofty mountain, to the point where his body is in space but there remains a slight obstruction beneath him. Therefore it is called the Level of the Summit.

Commentary:

He continues on with his mind, treading where the Buddhas tread, as if relying and yet not. His own mind goes down the path the Buddhas take. He seems to be dependent and yet he is also independent. A different analogy is used here. It is as if he were climbing a lofty mountain, to the point where his body is in space but there remains a slight obstruction beneath him. He is like someone climbing a mountain, and when he gets to the top, it is as if he physically enters into empty space because he is so high up. But under his feet, as he stands on the mountain, there is still a slight hindrance. He still has not yet ascended into empty space. Therefore it is called the Level of the Summit.

L3 Level of patience.

Sutra:

When the mind and the Buddha are two and yet the same, he has well obtained the Middle Way. He is like someone who endures something when it seems impossible to either hold it in
or let it out. Therefore it is called the Level of Patience.

Commentary:

When the mind and the Buddha are two and yet the same, he has well obtained the Middle Way. The mind is the Buddha; the Buddha is the mind. Although they are said to be two, they come together as one. What is the mind is the Buddha. There is no Buddha outside the mind; there is no mind outside the Buddha. The mind and the Buddha are in a state of suchness. He has the genuinely obtained the principle and substance of the Middle Way. He is like someone who endures something when it seems impossible to either hold it in or let it out. It is as if a situation arises which a person must bear: he'd like to keep it contained, but that is impossible; at the same time, it's impossible for him to let it out. So at that point he bears with it. He'd like to keep it in his mind and he'd like to release it. He can't decide which would be the better thing to do. So he bears with it. He'd like to let it go, but he can't give it up. And yet he'd still like to let it go. At this time he must be patient. Therefore it is called the level of Patience. It is the third of the additional practices.

L4 Level of being first in the world.

Sutra:

When numbers are destroyed, there are no such designations as the Middle Way or as confusion and enlightenment; this is called the Level of Being First in the World.

Commentary:

When numbers are destroyed. At the tenth transference, the boundaries of the dharma-realm are destroyed. Now all numbers and boundaries are destroyed. What is meant? It's the same as a zero. I've talked about zero before. It is the absence of numbers. At that point there are no such designations as the Middle Way or as confusion and enlightenment. Perfection is total and the light brilliant. There are no designations because it's a situation that's like zero. There's nothing that can be said about zero. Zero means the absence of everything. And yet everything outside the zero is contained within it. The zero is the mother of all things. But it is not designated as a mother, because there isn't anything there. To understand what I'm saying right now is enlightenment.

There isn't any confusion; there isn't any enlightenment. Why isn't there any confusion? Because he is not confused. Why isn't there any enlightenment? He's already enlightened; what further enlightenment could there be? For there to be no confusion and no enlightenment is zero. All the mountains, the rivers, the great earth, the plants, and all the myriad appearances come forth from it. There is no designation for enlightenment and confusion, or for the Middle Way. Even though there's no name for this state, we still have to call it something, so we force the issue and call it the Level of Being First in the World. It's first in the world because there is no second. This is the last of the additional practices.

The Ten Positions of the Ten Grounds

J8 The ten positions of the ten grounds.
K1 Ground of happiness.

Sutra:

Ananda, these good men have successfully penetrated through to great Bodhi. Their enlightenment is entirely like the Thus Come One's. They have fathomed the state of Buddhahood. This is called the Ground of Happiness.

Commentary:

Ananda, these good men have successfully penetrated through to great Bodhi. The "good men" are the Bodhisattvas who have obtained the "level of being first in the world". Although the text says he has successfully penetrated through to great Bodhi, there really isn't anything that's been penetrated through to. Their enlightenment is entirely like the Thus Come One's. Their enlightenment is the Thus Come One; the Thus Come One is enlightenment. They have become enlightened to that which the Thus Come One has become enlightened to. They can be called a Thus Come One when they have enlightened to that zero. And yet the zero isn't anything at all, so don't get attached to it! They have fathomed the state of Buddhahood. True emptiness is the state of being nothing at all. But when they fathom the state of a Buddha, then within true emptiness arises wonderful existence. That wonderful existence is happiness. "Oh, so originally it's just that way!" That's the arising of happiness. "I didn't understand before, but now I do." They are inexpressibly happy. This is called the Ground of Happiness. It's the first ground.

K2 Ground of leaving filth.

Sutra:

The differences enter into identity; the identity is destroyed. This is called the Ground of Leaving Filth.

Commentary:

On the previous ground there was still happiness, and so an identity still existed, too. Although there were no designations, there was still an identity. That was when the differences enter into identity and become one. That is, although the phenomena and the noumenon are united, the noumenon still remains. Now when they reach the second ground, the identity is destroyed. The second ground is called the "ground of leaving filth," which means that they separate from ignorance. Basically there isn't much ignorance left by this time, for their enlightened natures are already like that of a Buddha. A slight bit of attachment, a little defilement remains for them. Now "identity is destroyed"; their likeness to the Buddha ceases to be. That's to return to the source, to go back to the nature of the treasury of the Thus Come One, which is a great storehouse of light. It has no name or appearance. This is called the Ground of Leaving Filth. Happiness is still a kind of defilement. If there is something you like, then you still have emotional reactions. At the second ground, all the defilements are left behind. Subtle ignorance is also lessened. But at this level the ignorance is still not completely cut off.

K3 Ground of emitting light.

Sutra:

At the point of ultimate purity, brightness comes forth. This is called the Ground of Emitting Light.

Commentary:

A Bodhisattva on the first ground does not know the state of a Bodhisattva on the second ground. A Bodhisattva on the second ground doesn't know the state of a Bodhisattva on the third ground. At the point of ultimate purity, brightness comes forth. The previous ground was that of leaving filth. But as long as there is a necessity to "leave" it, there must still be defilement. Only when one has completely left the filth is one clean. Let's take sweeping as an example. We sweep in order to clean up the floor. We put the broom aside when the floor is clean. As long as we are still sweeping, it isn't clean yet.

When he reaches the ultimate purity, light comes forth. There is brightness. So the third ground is called the Ground of Emitting Light.

K4 Ground of blazing wisdom.

Sutra:

When the brightness becomes ultimate, enlightenment is full. This is called the Ground of Blazing Wisdom.

Commentary:

When the brightness becomes ultimate, enlightenment is full. The light reaches its maximum and the enlightened nature is perfected. This is called the Ground of Blazing Wisdom. "Blazing" is descriptive of the wisdom that is bright like a torch.

K5 Ground of invincibility.

Sutra:

No identity or difference can be attained. This is called the Ground of Invincibility.

Commentary:

No identity or difference can be attained. Not only are things that are the same identical at this stage; all things are identical. The Bodhisattva cannot come to any distinction between sameness and difference. There is no way to represent them because basically there is no identity or difference. This is called the Ground of Invincibility. There isn't anything that can overcome this level of understanding. It transcends all the other previous grounds. This is the name given to the fifth level of these stages of the Bodhisattvas' development.

Is it the case that one Bodhisattva reaches the Ground of Invincibility? Yes, it is the case that one Bodhisattva does. And yet this one Bodhisattva is not just a single Bodhisattva. There is only one, and yet there is not. Here is where the Buddhadharma is to be found. One Bodhisattva comes up to this level. But millions of billions of other Bodhisattvas also come up to this level. For instance, when someone earns a Ph.D. degree, is that one person alone in earning it? Certainly that one person has earned it, but someone else can also earn one. Everyone who has one has earned it. And so how many earn one? Millions. Not just one. The same principle applies here. Probably more Bodhisattvas than there are sand grains in the Ganges River are certified as having attained each of these grounds.

K6 Ground of manifestation.

Sutra:

With unconditioned true suchness, the nature is spotless, and brightness is revealed. This is called the Ground of Manifestation.

Commentary:

With unconditioned true suchness, the nature is spotless, and brightness is revealed. It is unconditioned, and yet there is nothing which is not conditioned. True suchness refers to the nature of the treasury of the Thus Come One. It is the one true dharmarealm. With unconditioned true suchness everything is in a state of suchness, everything is true. There is nothing which is not true, nothing which is not in a state of suchness. The nature is extremely pure, and light shines forth. This is the sixth ground, called the Ground of Manifestation. That's because the Bodhisattva's nature reveals itself.

K7 Ground of traveling far.

Sutra:

Coming to the farthest limits of true suchness is called the Ground of Traveling Far.

Commentary:

True suchness has no limits and no farthest point, so how can this be? Again, it is descriptive. There really isn't any end to true suchness, because it really doesn't have any limits, so that's why the sutra says it this way: Coming to the farthest limits of true suchness. It's just like when we say that empty space is obliterated. But since empty space isn?t even a substance to begin with, how can it be obliterated? This is the same kind of attempt to describe what is basically beyond comprehension.

True suchness doesn't have any limits. It includes the ten dharma-realms with all their beings. How could it have a boundary? What's beyond the ten dharma-realms? Nothing. And so it says "Coming to the farthest limits of true suchness." That is to travel far indeed! How far? Who knows? All we can say is that it's called the Ground of Traveling Far. Ordinary people could never get there. Only a Bodhisattva at the seventh ground can go that far.

K8 Ground of immovability.

Sutra:

The single mind of true suchness is called the Ground of Immovability.

Commentary:

The single mind of true suchness is the one true dharmarealm. It was said above that the mind is the Buddha and the Buddha is the mind. Now true suchness is the mind and the mind is the Buddha. There is no distinction between true suchness and the mind. Since true suchness has no limits, the Bodhisattva's mind has no limits. When his mind has no limits, where does he go? He doesn't go anywhere. Therefore, it is called the Ground of Immovability. Unmoving in the Bodhimanda, he pervades the dharma-realm. This is the eighth ground.

K9 Ground of good wisdom.

Sutra:

Bringing forth the function of true suchness is called the Ground of Good Wisdom.

Commentary:

At the eighth ground, true suchness and the mind become one, and this was called the ground of not moving. But to simply be unmoving and to never make a move would be useless. However, within true suchness, the function now comes forth. What is the function of true suchness? The function of true suchness is gigantic. If it were small, it would have only a single function. But this gigantic function can be used however one wishes. According with conditions, one is unmoving; unmoving, one accords with conditions. One constantly accords with conditions and yet is constantly unmoving; one is constantly unmoving and yet constantly accords with conditions. Such a functioning must be connected with wisdom. Therefore, bringing forth the function of true suchness is called the Ground of Good Wisdom. This is the ninth ground. This wisdom is totally true and real.

Sutra:

Ananda, all Bodhisattvas at this point and beyond have reached the effortless way in their cultivation. Their merit and virtue are perfected, and so all the previous positions are also called the Level of Cultivation.

Commentary:

Ananda, you should understand that all Bodhisattvas at this point and beyond have reached the effortless way in their cultivation. From the beginning, the level of dry wisdom, also known as the initial vajra mind, to the culmination of the ninth ground, there are a total of fifty-four positions. When the Bodhisattvas have passed through to this point, they've reached the effortless way. They have graduated. Their merit and virtue are perfected. In their study leading toward Buddhahood, they are just about to earn this degree; they're about to become Buddhas. And so all the previous positions are also called the Level of Cultivation.

K10 Ground of the dharma cloud.

Sutra:

Then with a wonderful cloud of compassionate protection one covers the sea of nirvana. This is called the Ground of the Dharma Cloud.

Commentary:

"Wonder" and "compassion" are dharmas. "Protection" and "covering" belong to the analogy of the cloud and represent asheltering influence. Then with a wonderful cloud of compassionate protection one covers the sea of nirvana. One shelters all living beings. All Buddhas and Bodhisattvas emerge from the sea of nirvana, and so the tenth ground is called the Ground of the Dharma Cloud. At this level one shelters and protects all living beings.

The Position of Equal and Wonderful Enlightenment

J9 The position of equal enlightenment.
K1 Describing the position.

Sutra:

The Thus Come Ones counter the flow as the Bodhisattvas thus reach this point through compliance with practice. Their enlightenments intermingle; it is therefore called Equal Enlightenment.

Commentary:

The Thus Come Ones counter the flow. This means that the Thus Come Ones have already become Buddhas. But they counter the flow and appear in the world to rescue living beings. Thus from the Buddha-position, they come back along the Bodhisattva path in order to greet the Bodhisattva. That's what's meant by countering the flow. The Bodhisattvas thus reach this point through compliance with practice. The Bodhisattvas comply with the flow. This "flow" refers to going from an ordinary person to Arhatship, through Bodhisattvahood, and on to Buddhahood, which the Bodhisattvas have not yet experienced at this point. So they are going along with the flow that leads to the Buddha's enlightened position. Now, they actually encounter the Buddhas. Their enlightenments intermingle. The enlightenment of the Buddhas and the enlightenment of the Bodhisattvas merge at this point. It is therefore called Equal Enlightenment. These Bodhisattvas are equal to the Buddha. But theirs is still not wonderful enlightenment. It is still only similar to the Buddha's enlightenment, because at this level they still have left one bit of ignorance that seems to be that of production. They still must destroy that. So ignorance is difficult to leave behind. Once they smash it, however, they will be Buddhas.

When people claim to be Buddhas, I ask them, "From where did you come? What path did you take?" If they don't even know the name of the first position, have never seen the path that leads to the second position, and don't know how to get to the third position, then how can they have arrived at Buddhahood? They took a plane, perhaps? In that case a rocket would have been even faster. I suspect that such people will never reach the Buddha position. Why not? It is because they say they are there when in fact they are not. Do they speak the truth, or do they lie? They have not cultivated or done anything within the Buddhadharma, and yet they profess to be Buddhas. It just doesn't add up. How about those people who have practiced within the Buddhadharma for decades and still are not Buddhas? Maybe those people who say they are Buddhas have effected some scientific means to get themselves there so fast.

K2 Bringing out the wisdom obtained.

Sutra:

Ananda, the enlightenment which encompasses the mind of dry wisdom through to the culmination of equal enlightenment is the initial attainment of the vajra mind. This constitutes the level of Initial Dry Wisdom.

Commentary:

Ananda, the enlightenment which encompasses the mind of dry wisdom, also called the initial vajra mind and the level of dry wisdom, through to the culmination of equal enlightenment is the initial attainment of the vajra mind. This refers to the latter vajra mind. This constitutes the level of Initial Dry Wisdom of the latter vajra mind. The previous level of dry wisdom referred to the drying up of emotional love and desire. At that point, he had not yet joined with the Thus Come One's dharma-water. Now, even though this latter level of dry wisdom is more encompassing, he still has not yet joined the sea of wonderful adornments of a Thus Come One, so it's also referred to as dry wisdom. However, it pertains to the latter vajra mind and is the final step.

J10 The position of wonderful enlightenment.

Sutra:

Thus there are totals of twelve single and grouped levels. At last they reach wonderful enlightenment and accomplish the Unsurpassed Way.

Commentary:

Thus there are totals of twelve single and grouped levels. There are seven single levels:

1) initial dry wisdom;
2) heat;
3) summit;
4) patience;
5) first in the world;
6) equal enlightenment;
7) wonderful enlightenment.

There are five grouped levels:

1) the ten faiths;
2) the ten dwellings;
3) the ten conducts;
4) the ten transferences;
5) the ten grounds.

Because each of these levels includes ten positions, they are classed as groups. Together the seven single levels and the five groups make twelve. There are fifty-four positions from the initial dry wisdom to equal enlightenment. Some count the initial dry wisdom of the latter vajra mind as the fifty-fifth, but actually that level of dry wisdom is the same as equal enlightenment.

At last they reach Wonderful Enlightenment and accomplish the Unsurpassed Way. They come to the end of the path to wonderful enlightenment and accomplish the reward and the substance of wonderful enlightenment. They have accomplished Buddhahood.

I2 Conclusion: manifestation of pure dharmas.

Sutra:

At all these levels they use vajra contemplation of the ten profound analogies for the ways in which things are like an illusion. In shamatha they use the Thus Come Ones' vipashyana to cultivate them purely, to be certified to them, and to gradually enter them more and more deeply.

Commentary:

At all these levels they use vajra contemplation of the ten profound analogies for the ways in which things are like an illusion. These levels are the ones just described, from the level of dry wisdom of the initial vajra mind through the ten faiths, the ten dwellings, the ten conducts, the ten transferences, the ten grounds, and the four additional practices. They use the vajra mind to cultivate with, to contemplate by. They contemplate how things are like an illusion. "Illusion" means that you say it is real, but it isn't; you say it's false, but it isn't. It's as I mentioned before:

The myriad practices he cultivates are but flowers in space.
The Bodhimanda he sits in is like the moon in water.
And subduing the demonic armies, mere reflections in a mirror.
He does great deeds of the Buddhas while in a dream.

The "ten profound analogies" are as follows:

1. All karma is like an illusion. You should look upon karmic obstacles as illusory, not real.

2. All dharmas are like a mirage. Sometimes in the spring you'll see what seems to be smoke rising, but when you approach the spot, you find there's really nothing there at all. It's just a mirage. You should look upon all dharmas in the same way.

3. All physical bodies are like the moon in water.

4. All wonderful forms are like flowers in space.

5. All wonderful sounds are like echoes in a valley.

6. All Buddhalands are like gandharva cities.

Basically the Buddhalands are real, but you should look upon them as if they were but the cities of gandharvas.

7. All deeds of the Buddha are like dreams.

8. The Buddha's body is like a reflection.

9. The reward body is like an image.

10. The dharma body is like a transformation.

You should not look upon any of these things as real. You should neither grasp nor reject these illusory states. That is because everything is empty; you should not regard anything as actually existent. What is the meaning behind these ten profound analogies? They tell you not to be attached to anything at all. You have to put everything down. If you see through it and put it all down, then you will obtain self-mastery.

In shamatha they use the Thus Come Ones' vipashyana to cultivate them purely, to be certified to them, and to gradually enter them more and more deeply. "Shamatha" means stopping and "vipashyana" means contemplating. We are to cultivate the dharma door of stopping and contemplating. "Vipashyana" also means "subtle, secret contemplation and illumination." Gradually, bit by bit, one progresses and enters into this purification and certification.

I3 He stresses the importance of vigor in the initial resolve.

Sutra:

Ananda, because they put to use the three means of advancement throughout all of them, they are well able to accomplish the fifty-five stages of the true Bodhi Path.

Commentary:

The three means of advancement have already been explained. They are:

1) getting rid of aiding causes;
2) cleaning up the proper nature;
3) guarding against the manifestation of karma.

The fifty-five stages are:

1) the ten faiths;
2) the ten dwellings;
3) the ten conducts;
4) the ten transferences;
5) the four additional practices;
6) the ten grounds;
7) equal enlightenment.

I4 He decides the division of proper and deviant.

Sutra:

This manner of contemplation is called 'proper contemplation.' Contemplation other than this is called 'deviant contemplation.'

Commentary:

This manner of contemplation is called "proper contemplation." If you can look upon the triple world as upon flowers in space; if you can regard all deeds of the Buddha as if done in a dream; and if you rely on the three means of advancement in your cultivation, your contemplation is proper. If you can use the vajra mind in your contemplation to make a subtle, secret contemplation and illumination as you pass through the fifty-five stages, then you are practicing proper contemplation. This is proper cultivation of the dharma of neither production nor extinction. Contemplation other than this is called "deviant contemplation." If you don't cultivate this dharma-door; if you do not contemplate in this way; if you cultivate dharmas subject to production and extinction, your contemplation is deviant.

CHAPTER 3: The Names of the Sutra

E2 He explains the name of the entire sutra.
F1 Manjushri asks the sutra's name.

Sutra:

Then Dharma prince Manjushri arose from his seat, and in the midst of the assembly he bowed at the Buddha's feet and said to the Buddha, "What is the name of this sutra and how should we and all living beings uphold it?"

Commentary:

At this point in the discussion, dharma prince Manjushri arose from his seat, and in the midst of the assembly he bowed at the Buddha's feet and said to the Buddha, Bodhisattva Manjushri now has a question to ask: "What is the name of this sutra and how should we and all living beings uphold it? World Honored One, what name do you give to this sutra? How should we in this assembly and living beings of the future uphold it? How should we cultivate it? How should we offer up our conduct with regard to this sutra?"

F2 The Thus Come One answers with five names.
G1 Wisdom of the realm.

Sutra:

The Buddha told Manjushri, "This sutra is called 'The Summit, Syi Dan Dwo Bwo Da La, and Unsurpassed Precious Seal of the Seal of the Great Buddha, and the Pure, Clear, Ocean-Like Eye of the Thus Comes Ones of the Ten Directions.' "

Commentary:

The Buddha told Manjushri, "This sutra is called 'The Summit, Syi Dan Dwo Bwo Da La, and Unsurpassed Precious Seal of the Seal of the Great Buddha.' " This refers to the invisible summit, the crown of the Buddha's head, which poured forth splendorous light. Syi Dan Dwo Bwo Da La is the great white canopy. There is nothing more revered or honored than the Unsurpassed Precious Seal. The "precious seal" is that of the Dharma King, the Buddha. This first name indicates how supreme the Shurangama Mantra is. If people recite the Shurangama Mantra, they are worthy of receiving the precious seal of the Dharma King. This sutra is also the Pure, Clear, Ocean-Like Eye of the Thus Comes Ones of the Ten Directions. This refers to pure wisdom. The "eye" represents wisdom.

G2 Benefit to the opportune.

Sutra:

It is also called 'The Cause for Saving a Relative': to rescue Ananda and the bhikshuni Nature, who is now in this assembly, so that they obtain the Bodhi mind and enter the sea of pervasive knowledge.

Commentary:

It is also called "The Cause for Saving a Relative": to rescue Ananda. The Buddha was related to Ananda; they were cousins. He wanted to save Ananda from the difficulty he got into with Matangi's daughter. He also rescued the bhikshuni Nature, who is now in this assembly. The bhikshuni Nature was Matangi's daughter. She was, by now, a fourth-stage Arhat in the assembly. They obtain the Bodhi mind and enter the sea of pervasive knowledge. These two people have attained levels of enlightenment. "Pervasive knowledge" is as in "One of Proper and Pervasive Knowledge," one of the titles of the Buddhas. "Proper knowledge" is knowing that the mind gives rise to the myriad dharmas. "Pervasive knowledge" is knowing that the myriad dharmas are only from the mind.

G3 Cultivation of the nature.

Sutra:

It is also called 'The Tathagata's Secret Cause of Cultivation, His Certification to the Complete Meaning.'

Commentary:

It is also called "The Tathagata's Secret Cause." It has another name, which indicates that it is the most secret dharma door of the Thus Come One. It is the cause of his Cultivation, His Certification to the Complete Meaning. Through cultivation of it, one certifies to the fruition and fathoms the most fundamental principle. This is another name for this sutra.

G4 Wonderfully important.

Sutra:

It is also called 'The Great Pervasive Method, the Wonderful Lotus Flower King, the Dharani Mantra which is the Mother of all Buddhas of the Ten Directions.'

Commentary:

It is also called "The Great Pervasive Method." This is a dharma. It is the greatest dharma; it pervades the ten directions and is boundlessly vast. The Wonderful Lotus Flower King is an analogy for the Shurangama Sutra. The Dharani Mantra which is the Mother of all Buddhas of the Ten Directions refers to the Shurangama Mantra. All the Buddhas of the ten directions are born from the Shurangama Mantra. "Dharani" is a Sanskrit word which means to "encompass and hold." It encompasses all dharmas; it holds limitless meanings. Another meaning is that it encompasses the three karmas of body, mouth, and mind so that no violations are made by them. With your body you do not kill, steal, or lust. With your mind you are not greedy, angry, or stupid. With your mouth you do not indulge in loose speech, harsh speech, lying, or gossip. You do not commit any of these ten evil deeds. And it holds the limitless dharma doors of all the Buddhas. That's another way to explain "dharani."

G5 Cause and effect.

Sutra:

It is also called 'The Foremost Shurangama, Sections and Phrases for Anointing the Crown of the Head, and All Bodhisattvas' Myriad Practices.'

Commentary:

The Foremost Shurangama. This is the first and foremost of durable dharmas. It is a strong and firm dharma. Sections and Phrases for Anointing the Crown of the Head refers to the Shurangama Mantra. If you recite it, your karmic obstacles will very quickly be eradicated. Very soon you will obtain wisdom. Earlier, in his verse, Ananda said of it:

The wonderfully deep dharani, the unmoving honored one,
The foremost Shurangama King is seldom found in the world.
It melts away my upside-down thoughts gathered in a million kalpas.
So I needn't endure asamkhyeya aeons to obtain the dharma body.

The Shurangama Mantra can invisibly anoint you on the crown of the head and thereby eradicate your upside-down thoughts that have gone on for limitless aeons. There is no need to have to pass through three great asamkhyeya aeons before you obtain the dharma body.

And All Bodhisattvas' Myriad Practices are contained within this sutra.

G6 General answer.

Sutra:

Thus should you respectfully uphold it.

Commentary:

Ananda, you should rely on this dharma in your cultivation. Thus should you respectfully uphold it.

D3 Those whose conditions are opportune obtain benefit.
E1 A description of those who hear.

Sutra:

After this was said, Ananda and all in the great assembly immediately received the Thus Come One's instruction in the secret seal, the meaning of Bwo Da La, and heard these names for the complete meaning of this sutra.

Commentary:

After this was said, after the Buddha finished explaining the names of this sutra, Ananda and all in the great assembly immediately received the Thus Come One's instruction in the secret seal. Everyone simultaneously took in the Thus Come One's teaching about the secret seal, the meaning of Bwo Da La. "Bwo Da La," again, is the great white canopy. They fathomed its wonderful meaning. And they heard these names for the complete meaning of this sutra. These names were the most comprehensive, the most ultimate, the most thoroughly meaningful titles.

E2 Their sudden enlightenment to dhyana.

Sutra:

They were suddenly enlightened to dhyana, advanced in their cultivation to the sagely position, and increased their understanding of the wonderful principle. Their minds were focused and serene.

Commentary:

They were suddenly enlightened to dhyana. "Dhyana" is a Sanskrit word which means "cultivation of thought." "Suddenly enlightened" means that their awakening was immediate and swift. They advanced in their cultivation to the sagely position. The "sagely position" refers to the ultimate one, Buddhahood. They increased their understanding of the wonderful principle. This means that their wisdom increased. Each person's wisdom became further developed. Their minds were focused and serene. There was nothing cluttering their minds. They were clear and open. They were about to reach the fundamental substance of the nature of the treasury of the Thus Come One.

E3 Gradual certification to the second fruition.

Sutra:

Ananda cut off and cast aside six sections of subtle afflictions in his cultivation of the mind in the triple realm.

Commentary:

At this point, Ananda is certified to the second fruition of arhatship. Ananda cut off and cast aside six sections of subtle afflictions in his cultivation of the mind in the triple realm. He has already cut off the view-delusions, and now he severs the first six sections of the desire realm's thought-delusions. There are eightyone thought-delusions in all, nine divisions with nine sections each. These afflictions are called "subtle" because it is not at all easy to detect them. It's hard to perceive them within one's self-nature, but now Ananda has been able to cut away some of this affliction.

CHAPTER 4: The Seven Destinies

C2 Aiding the path: specific explanation of the important dharma of protecting the samadhi.
Dl Discusses the seven destinies and urges separation from them in order to caution those of the future.
El Ananda requests.
Fl Expresses gratitude for prior teaching and traces benefit gained.

Sutra:

He arose from his seat, bowed at the Buddha's feet, placed his palms together respectfully, and said to the Buddha, "The great, awesome and virtuous World Honored One, whose compassionate sound knows no limit, has well instructed living beings as to their extremely subtle submersion in delusion and has caused me on this day to become blissful in body and mind and to obtain enormous benefit."

Commentary:

Then, Ananda arose from his seat. Because he had cut through some of his subtle afflictions upon hearing what the Buddha had to say, he got up at this point, bowed at the Buddha's feet, placed his palms together respectfully, and said to the Buddha, "The great, awesome and virtuous World Honored One, whose compassionate sound knows no limit, has well instructed living beings." "Great awesomeness" subdues living beings. Many living beings are stubborn and obstinate. They don't believe anything you tell them. They don't believe in cause and effect, they don't believe in the cycle of rebirth, they don't believe in retributions. So the Buddha, devising good and clever expedients, uses awesome virtue. With his awesomeness, which can be overwhelming, he subdues living beings. Virtue, on the other hand, gathers in living beings. So this phrase represents the two aspects of subduing and gathering in. He gathers in living beings who have faith and are receptive. His virtue is like a magnet that attracts iron filings, which represent the living beings he gathers in. The Buddha's compassionate voice has no limits. It is unhindered, reaching everywhere to rescue all. He has well instructed living beings as to their extremely subtle submersion in delusion. Originally living beings didn't even realize they were hindered by subtle delusions, so the Buddha pointed it out to them. And he has caused me, Ananda, on this day to become blissful in body and mind. I am experiencing physical and mental joy. I am unspeakably happy. And he has caused me to obtain enormous benefit. I've never known such tremendous benefit.

F2 He asks about the destinies.

Sutra:

World Honored One, if the wonderful brightness of this truly pure and wonderful mind is basically all-pervading, then everything on the great earth, including the grasses and trees, the wriggling worms and tiny forms of life are originally true suchness and are themselves the Thus Come One, the Buddha's true body.

Commentary:

World Honored One, if the wonderful brightness, of this truly pure and wonderful mind is basically all-pervading, if, in fact, it pervades the dharma-realm, then it is perfect without any excess or deficiency. Then everything on the great earth, including the grasses and trees, the wriggling worms and tiny forms of life are part of that. "Grasses and trees" are considered insentient beings. "Wriggling worms and tiny forms of life" are the smallest of the sentient realm. They don't have much awareness. They can move, but not far, and their perception is quite limited. Nonetheless, they are originally true suchness and are themselves the Thus Come One, the Buddha's true body. They are all replete with the true substance of a Buddha, the capacity to become a Buddha.

Sutra:

Since the Buddha's body is true and real, how can there also be hells, hungry ghosts, animals, asuras, humans, gods, and other paths of rebirth? World Honored One, do these paths exist naturally of themselves, or are they created by living beings' falseness and habits?

Commentary:

Since the Buddha's body is true and real, how can there also be hells, hungry ghosts, animals, asuras, humans, gods, and other paths of rebirth? How do you explain the existence of these paths? World Honored One, do these paths exist naturally of themselves, or are they created by living beings' falseness and habits? Have the six paths of rebirth always been in existence or do living beings create them? I don't understand the principle here.

F3 Specifically asks about the hells.

Sutra:

World Honored One, the bhikshuni Precious Lotus Fragrance, for example, received the Bodhisattva precepts and then indulged in lustful desire, saying that sexual acts did not involve killing or stealing and that they carried no karmic retribution. But after saying this, her female organs caught fire, and then the raging blaze spread throughout all her joints as she fell into the Relentless Hell alive.

Commentary:

"Why do I say I don't understand the principle behind the six paths?" Ananda continues. World Honored One, the bhikshuni Precious Lotus Fragrance, for example, received the Bodhisattva precepts and then indulged in lustful desire, saying that sexual acts did not involve killing or stealing. This bhikshuni received the Bodhisattva precepts, but she did not uphold them. She had sex on the sly. Having done this, what do you suppose she said? She had a pretty speech ready. She lied. She said that sex didn't involve killing or stealing. "It's not murder. It's not theft. You're not stealing anyone's things. It's just an enjoyment between men and women, a bliss that they share. What crime is there in that? Although the Buddha told us to refrain from it, I don't think that restraint is necessary in this case. It doesn't matter. It's no big sin. What could be wrong with men and women experiencing such a blissful encounter?"

That was her general line of reasoning. She was really emphatic about it, too. She said of such sexual experiences that they carried no karmic retribution. "As to sex," she said, "have it as much as you want. The more the better. It doesn't matter." Thus it was that she actually advocated sexual desire. She was a bhikshuni and yet she was promoting sex. But after saying this, her female organs caught fire, and then the raging blaze spread throughout all her joints. It doesn't matter, huh? In her female organs a fire sprang up. Terrible, wouldn't you say? I believe by then she was being burned so fiercely that she screamed and cried. She was no longer rationalizing that her conduct incurred no offense. Once her female organs were ablaze, the fire spread to all her limbs and joints. That's because during the sexual act men and women feel a sense of pleasure and contentment throughout their entire body. They take this as pleasure, not realizing that such abandonment is just the next thing to death. What's really happening is that they are going to die a little sooner, just die a little sooner. Plunging into such situations, they totally abandon themselves, to the point that they just want to die, both men and women. To die a little sooner is just fine, they feel. But actually they are drilling their way into the hells; they are burrowing into the hells. The bhikshuni's joints caught fire because sexual desire belongs to the element fire. At its peak there is a kind of fire involved. So we speak of the "fire of desire." The blaze was raging so that fire extinguishers and even the entire three-alarm crew would have been useless. Why is that? It's because the fire came from her own heavy sexual desire. No amount of water could quench it.

What happened to her then? There wasn't any other road to take at that point. She fell into the Relentless Hell alive. In the Relentless Hell, there are no lapses in time at all. There are no breaks. Also, its space is uninterrupted, in that one person fills it, and many people fill it. It's not roomy there, whether you're alone or in a crowd. Further, one knows not how many great aeons pass by while one continuously experiences bitter suffering there. There are no interruptions in time or in space. The extreme suffering is unintermittent. Birth and death are uninterrupted.

When this bhikshuni got to that hell, what do you suppose she found? There were iron-beaked birds and iron-mouthed worms that burrowed in and out of her limbs and joints. The place that received special attention was, of course, her female organs. These creatures would drill their way in and then drill their way back out. Each time they did this, their attack would kill her. But then a clever wind would blow, that wind is a special feature of the hells, and revive her. So in a single day and night she would experience tens of thousands of births and deaths. She would die and be revived, die and be revived, again and again, uncountably many times. In addition, the hells are specially equipped for people who are fond of sexual desire. One of the implements is a copper pillar. It is red-hot because a fire blazes within it. However, when one who is fond of sexual desire looks at that hot pillar, one does not see it as such. When a man looks at the pillar, he sees a woman. When a woman looks at the pillar, it is a man. In fact, they see that pillar as their former boyfriend or girlfriend. So they race towards it and, unaware it is a copper pillar, they madly embrace it. The red-hot copper pillar then fries them to a crisp. As if that weren't enough, out of the corner of their eye they see a bed. Actually, it's an iron bed which is also red hot. But what the person sees is a former boyfriend or girlfriend on the bed. They run to the bed and get burned again. Why? Because their sexual karma is so heavy that every way they turn they must undergo this retribution.

This is the kind of retribution the bhikshuni Precious Lotus Fragrance had to undergo. She experienced the hells while still alive. Could she have continued to state that the sexual act did not involve killing or stealing and that it incurred no retribution? Once she began experiencing the retribution, it was too late. She wasn't sorry soon enough. This happened at the time when the Buddha was in the world. There was a bhikshuni who was this lax. It's not just nowadays that bhikshunis are sometimes lax; it happened even during the Buddha's time.

Sutra:

And there were the Mighty King Crystal and the bhikshu Good Stars. Crystal exterminated the Gautama clan and Good Stars lied and said he'd realized that all dharmas are empty. They both sank into the Relentless Hell alive.

Commentary:

And there were the Mighty King Crystal and the bhikshu Good Stars. Crystal exterminated the Gautama clan. King Crystal and the Buddha were supposedly relatives, though in fact they were not. King Crystal's father, also a king, wanted to marry into the Gautama clan. Since the Gautama clan was a more honorable one than the King's, the Gautama people did not like the idea. No one wanted to give a daughter to the King in marriage, but they didn't dare refuse outright, because the King was powerful. A refusal might have resulted in big trouble. Finally they decided among themselves to send one of their servant girls, a particularly beautiful one, and pretend she was of the Gautama clan. King Crystal was an offspring of that marriage.

Once, while that king was still a child, someone built a temple for the Buddha, complete with an elaborate dharma seat. When the seat was finished, but before the Buddha himself had ascended the platform to sit on it and speak dharma, the child who was to be King Crystal climbed up and sat on it. The Buddha's disciples and the donors who saw him all scolded him, saying, "You're the son of a slave, how dare you sit in the Buddha's seat?" Hearing them call him that, he was outraged, and he said to his attendant, "Wait until I'm the King and then remind me of what was said here today, lest I forget it. People from the Gautama clan say I'm the son of a slave. Remind me of that. I intend to get even."

Later, when he was King, his attendant did remind him, and the King issued an edict that the entire Gautama clan was to be exterminated, including the Buddha himself. When Mahamaudgalyayana got wind of this, he went to the Buddha to report. "We have to think of a way to save them," he said. But the Buddha didn't say anything. So Maudgalyayana loosed his spiritual powers, put five hundred members of the Gautama clan into his precious bowl, and sent them to the heavens. He thought they'd be safe there. When the King had completed the extermination, Maudgalyayana told Shakyamuni Buddha, "I've got five hundred Gautamans in my bowl stashed away in the heavens, so the clan isn't totally gone after all. I'll bring them down now and let them go." But when he'd recalled them and took a look in his bowl, he found nothing there but blood. "Why was I unable to save them?" asked the puzzled Maudgalyayana. He wanted the Buddha to explain the causes and conditions.

"Ah, you don't know," said the Buddha. "On the causal ground, a long time ago, at a place where the weather was hot, there was a pool with schools of fish in it. The two leaders of the schools were named 'Bran' and 'Many Tongues.' The water in the pool evaporated in the intense heat, and since the people in the area didn't have anything else to eat, they ate the fish. In the end there was just a mud-hole, but even then they noticed a movement in the mud. Digging in, they found the two big fish-kings, Bran and Many Tongues.

"At that time, I, Shakyamuni Buddha, was a child among these people, who were later to become the Gautama clan. Seeing that the two fish were about to be devoured alive, I beat them over the head three times with a club to knock them out first. That's why in his life as a Buddha, he had to endure a three-day headache as retribution."

Further, the fish, Bran, was the present King Crystal, and the fish, Many Tongues, was his attendant who reminded him of the words spoken by the Gautama clan to the King as a child. So it was fated that he would exterminate the Gautama clan. Even though Shakyamuni had become a Buddha, he could not rescue his people from the fixed karma they were destined to repay.

The bhikshu Good Stars was forever voicing his deviant knowledge and deviant views. When he spoke dharma, he did not speak in accord with what the Buddha taught. He made up his own. For instance, the Buddha instructed us to refrain from killing, but this bhikshu's instruction was, "It's not necessary. Why should we refrain from killing? Birth and death goes on and on for living beings, and some of them are especially intended for people to eat. If you don't eat them, what use will they be left alive? They don't have any sense." In this way he countered the Buddha's admonishment not to take life.

This bhikshu had originally left home under the Buddha, but later he disagreed with the dharma the Buddha spoke. Whatever the Buddha said he found questionable, and he was able to influence a lot of the less intelligent bhikshus to go along with him. They began believing him. "Right!" they said. "What he says makes sense. What's the crime in killing?" It was much the same situation as with the bhikshuni Precious Lotus Fragrance. "We just take what we need; it's not that we steal. If we have something, then we don't need to take it. But if you don't take what you need, how can you get by in this life?" That's what he said about stealing. He thought of ways to counter the five most basic precepts established by the Buddha. Good Stars lied and said he'd realized that all dharmas are empty. His best line was,

"Everything is empty. Killing is empty, and stealing is empty, since there isn't anything at all to begin with: There's no substance to karma. You talk about creating karma? Then bring out your 'karma' and show it to me. It doesn't exist!"

They both sank into the Relentless Hell alive. They didn't even wait until they died to fall into the hells. King Crystal, bhikshu Good Stars, and bhikshuni Precious Lotus Fragrance experienced hell in their physical bodies while still alive. So Ananda asks the Buddha about these causes and conditions.

Sutra:

Are these hells fixed places, or do they arise spontaneously? Is it that each individual undergoes whatever kind of karma he or she creates? I only hope the Buddha will be compassionate and instruct those of us who do not understand this. May he cause all beings who uphold the precepts to positively and respectfully receive this determination upon hearing it and be careful and clear, free from any violations.

Commentary:

Are these hells fixed places, or do they arise spontaneously? Since bhikshuni Precious Lotus Fragrance, bhikshu Good Stars, and King Crystal all fell into the hells alive, Ananda brings them up as examples and then asks if the hells are in a fixed and certain place. Is it that each individual undergoes whatever kind of karma he or she creates? Each of these three people had to undergo retribution in accord with the kind of karma they created.

What is the principle involved here? Are the hells prepared in advance for them, or do they make their own? Where do hells come from? How do they relate to the creation of karma and the undergoing of retribution? Are the hells public facilities like prisons, or are they private cells? "I only hope the Buddha will be compassionate and instruct those of us who do not understand this. I'm totally uninformed on this matter," says Ananda. "I'm as innocent as a child when it comes to this. May he cause all beings who uphold the precepts to positively and respectfully receive this determination upon hearing it. I hope they will all listen and obey the decisive instructions offered by the Buddha. I hope they will be careful and clear, free from any violations. May they cultivate with the utmost purity and be very cautious and clean, so that in no way do they transgress the pure precepts. Please, Buddha, explain this for us."

E2 The Thus Come One answers in detail.
Fl Praises him and promises to speak.

Sutra:

The Buddha said to Ananda, "What a good question! You want to keep all living beings from entering into deviant views. You should listen attentively now and I will explain this matter for you."

Commentary:

When the Buddha heard Ananda ask how to help living beings of the future guard the precepts carefully, he was extremely happy. The Buddha said to Ananda, "What a good question! This is a most appropriate question. It's exactly the doctrine you should be asking about. You want to keep all living beings from entering into deviant views. This can keep them from falling into deviant knowledge and views and help them to obtain proper knowledge and views instead. You should listen attentively now and I will explain this matter for you."

F2 Clarifies the destinies.
G1 A general explanation of the basic principle of rising and falling according to emotion and reason.
H1 He enumerates the accumulated habits that divide emotion and thought.

Sutra:

Actually, Ananda, all living beings are fundamentally true and pure, but because of their false views they give rise to the falseness of habits, which are divided into an internal aspect and an external aspect.

Commentary:

Actually, Ananda, all living beings are fundamentally true and pure, but based on the truth they give rise to falseness: they produce ignorance. From ignorance they give rise to false views. Because of their false views they give rise to the falseness of habits. These false habits pertain to their internal physical being and to their external environment. They are divided into an internal aspect and an external aspect. There are false habits that occur outside the physical body and false habits that occur within it also.

H2 He specifically describes the rising or sinking at death.
I1 The internal aspect belongs to emotion and so causes one to fall.

Sutra:

Ananda, the internal aspect refers to what occurs inside living beings. Because of love and defilement, they produce the falseness of emotions. When these emotions accumulate without
cease, they can create the fluids of love.

Commentary:

Ananda, the internal aspect refers to what occurs inside living beings. This means within the physical body. What is within the physical body? Because of love and defilement, they produce the falseness of emotions. There is love and desire and defiled dharmas. From the love and defilement, false emotions come up. These emotions accumulate without cease. The emotions pile up day by day, month after month. They become abundant and do not stop. The emotions of love are ever-present. They can create the fluids of love.

Sutra:

That is why living beings' mouths water when they think about delicious food. When they think about a deceased person, either with fondness or with anger, tears will flow from their eyes. When they are greedy for wealth and jewels, a current of lust will course through their hearts. When confronted with a smooth and supple body, their minds become attached to lustful conduct and from both male and female organs will come spontaneous secretions.

Commentary:

That is why living beings' mouths water when they think about delicious food. Why is it said that once living beings have love and defilement they develop emotions which eventually, if not stopped, will produce fluids of love? Some examples will substantiate this. Just thinking about eating some delicacy makes people salivate. It happens because of their gluttonous thought. When they think about a deceased person, a friend or close relative, someone with whom they had the most affinities, either with fondness or with anger, tears will flow from their eyes. The person who has died was so close to them that they give rise to anger, resentment or even rage, and think, "He was so fine. Why did he have to die so soon? Things were so good between us. Why him?" Excessively fond regard or tremendous resentment both cause a person to cry. When they are greedy for wealth and jewels, a current of lust will course through their hearts. They dream about getting rich, and in their hearts a flow of lust is stirred.When confronted with a smooth and supple body, their minds become attached to lustful conduct and from both male and female organs will come spontaneous secretions. When they see a particularly attractive person they have thoughts of sexual desire. With that, their essence flows of itself. Strange, isn't it?

Sutra:

Ananda, although the kinds of love differ, their flow and oppression is the same. With this moisture, one cannot ascend, but will naturally fall. This is called the 'internal aspect.'

Commentary:

Ananda, although the kinds of love differ, although there are various kinds of love, their flow and oppression is the same. Their currents and enticements are the same. With this moisture, one cannot ascend, but will naturally fall. Emotion sends one down. This is called the "internal aspect."

I2 The external aspect belongs to thought and so one is able to ascend.

Sutra:

Ananda, the external aspect refers to what happens outside living beings. Because of longing and yearning, they invent the fallacy of discursive thought. When this reasoning accumulates without cease, it can create ascending vapors.

Commentary:

Ananda, the external aspect refers to what happens outside living beings. Because of longing and yearning, they invent the fallacy of discursive thought. The "longing and yearning" also refer to love. The "discursive thought" is in fact false thought, which accumulates. When this reasoning accumulates without cease, it can create ascending vapors. You think of it from all angles. You think about it today and you continue thinking about it tomorrow. You thought about it during your last life; you're thinking about it in this life. You thought about it in former kalpas and you think about it now in this kalpa. No one knows how long you've been thinking. And you never rest. However, from this continual thinking, a special response can occur, which is an "uplifting (ascending) motion of spirit."

Sutra:

That is why when living beings uphold the prohibitive precepts in their minds, their bodies will be buoyant and feel light and clear. When they uphold mantra seals in their minds, they will command a heroic and resolute perspective. When they have the desire in their minds to be born in the heavens, in their dreams they will have thoughts of flying and ascending. When they cherish the Buddhalands in their minds, then the sagely realms will appear in a shimmering vision, and they will serve the good and wise advisors with little thought for their own lives.

Commentary:

That is why when living beings uphold the prohibitive precepts in their minds, their bodies will be buoyant and feel light and clear. This can happen to any living being. "Prohibitive" refers to things which one cannot do. These precepts keep people from doing bad things, from creating evil. Don't do the things you should not do, and then you are upholding the precepts in your mind. If your mind holds the precepts, then your body will experience a sensation of lightness. You feel almost like you're floating when you walk. And your mind will be extremely pure and clean. When they uphold mantra seals in their minds, they will command a heroic and resolute perspective. If you specialize in holding the mantras in your mind, there are many mantras and this refers to any one of them, you will have a response. The "seal" refers to the mind-to-mind seal as it pertains to mantras. When you recite the mantra, a certain response occurs. If you are a specialist in mantras, you will have a heroic air about you when you gaze around. Your glance will be powerful and determined. You will know no fear. When they have the desire in their minds to be born in the heavens, in their dreams they will have thoughts of flying and ascending. In your dreams you'll be able to fly and to soar into empty space. That's all because you want to go to the heavens.

When they cherish the Buddhalands in their minds, then the sagely realms will appear in a shimmering vision, and they will serve the good and wise advisors with little thought for their own lives. If you'd like to get born in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, or some other Buddhaland, then the Western Pure Land will secretly appear with its pools of seven jewels and waters of the eight meritorious virtues, with its white cranes, egrets, parrots, and kalavinka birds, and with a myriad other states. It won't be something others can see, but you will see it. Others will be unaware of it, but you will know. You will be able to see the Eastern Crystal World of Medicine Master Buddha as well. You will get to serve these good and wise advisors. You can draw near to them, respect them, and make offerings to them. And you will have total disregard for your former lifestyle. Your very life itself will seem unimportant when faced with this opportunity to serve and draw near those good and wise advisors. Nothing you might do will seem as important to you as serving these sages.

Sutra:

Ananda, although the thought varies, the lightness and uplifting is the same. With flight and ascension, one will not sink, but will naturally become transcendent. This is called the 'external aspect.'

Commentary:

Ananda, although the thought varies, the lightness and uplifting is the same. Although the things one thinks about are different, the comfort and light ease that one attains, the feeling of floating, is the same. With flight and ascension, one will not sink, but will naturally become transcendent. With this upward movement one will not fall downward. "Transcendent" means rising above everything, surpassing all. This is called the "external aspect."

H3 He specifically describes the rising or sinking at death.
I1 The appearances that manifest at the time of death.

Sutra:

Ananda, all beings in the world are caught up in the continuity of birth and death. Birth happens because of their habitual tendencies; death comes through flow and change. When they are on the verge of dying, but when the final warmth has not left their bodies, all the good and evil they have done in that life suddenly and simultaneously manifests. They experience the intermingling of two habits: an abhorrence of death and an attraction to life.

Commentary:

The Buddha calls again: Ananda, do you know that all beings in the world are caught up in the continuity of birth and death? They get born and die, die and get reborn, again and again in a never-ending cycle. They spin on the wheel of the six paths of rebirth. Birth happens because of their habitual tendencies.

Birth is something living beings want. They tend toward it. Death comes through flow and change. When they die, they follow their karmic retribution to turn again in rebirth. According to the kind of karma they have created, they will revolve on the wheel. When they are on the verge of dying, but when the final warmth has not left their bodies, all the good and evil they have done in that life suddenly and simultaneously manifests. "The final warmth has not left their bodies" means that the six consciousnesses and the seventh consciousness have passed out of the body, but the eighth consciousness still remains. Its passage will be marked by warmth, that is, the place on the body where the eighth consciousness leaves will be warm to the touch. For instance, if the eighth consciousness leaves through the soles of the feet, that spot will be warm. If it leaves from the legs, the legs will be warm. If it departs from the waist, the waist will be warm. If it goes out the top of the head, the top of the head will be warm. That's the "final warmth" that's mentioned here in the text. Before the eighth consciousness goes, it is referred to as the "present skandha body." Once it leaves the body it is the body between the skandhas, or "intermediate skandha body." So the text here refers to the present skandha body, before it has left the physical body. If one cultivates well, the skandha body is a Buddha. If one does not cultivate, it is a ghost. So when people ask, "Are there really ghosts?" they must first ask themselves if there are Buddhas. If they know there are Buddhas, then of course there are ghosts as well. If you are not sure that there are Buddhas or ghosts, ask yourself if there are people. If you acknowledge the fact that there are people, then you will know that there are also Buddhas and ghosts, because they are all different aspects of the same thing.

After one dies then, the eighth consciousness is called the intermediate skandha body. Before one dies it is called the present skandha body. It is also known as the "soul" and as the "Buddha nature." When a person is on the verge of death, the good and evil he or she has done is revealed and a reckoning is at hand. Depending on what one did, one will have to undergo retribution or reward. If one did good, one can get rebirth in the heavens; if one did evil, one falls into the hells. If you did more in the way of good deeds and meritorious acts, then you can leave from your head. If you did more in the way of committing crimes and creating offenses, then you'll leave from your feet. Obviously then, to leave from the upper part of one's body means one will gain a higher rebirth, whereas to leave from the lower part means one is going to fall. One's kind of rebirth is evident at death. They experience the intermingling of two habits: an abhorrence of death and an attraction to life. They are repelled and attracted when confronted with death and birth.

I2 The scale of ascending and falling.
J1 Ascent with no fall.

Sutra:

Endowed solely with thought, they will fly and can certainly be reborn in the heavens above. If they fly from the heart, and if they have blessings and wisdom, as well as pure vows, then their hearts will spontaneously open and they will see the Buddhas of the ten directions and all their pure lands and they will be reborn in whichever one they wish.

Commentary:

Endowed solely with thought, means that the person has no emotion, no yin, but has only reason, which belongs to yang. "Solely" means it is present to the exclusion of any other mental process. There is only thought, nothing else. It is a kind of true sincerity.

People's thoughts are such that they govern what happens. For instance, eating, drinking, and smoking all come about based on thought. First one thinks about it and then one does it. Conversely, if one decides not to do something, that thing won't be done. "If I want to eat something good, I go buy some good things to eat. If I want something nice to wear, I go buy it." The same is true for drinking. If one is thirsty, one goes out and gets some brandy, whiskey, rum, or beer. Just mentioning it is enough to make some people's mouths water. People who like to smoke are always mulling over the best brands of cigarettes. They've always got their mind on these things. Then they meet a good and wise advisor who tells them to stop smoking, stop eating meat, and stop drinking. Obediently they stop, but since heir minds habitually run to these things, they start having dreams about smoking cigarettes, drinking liquor, and eating meat. They don't actually do these things in their waking hours, but because the thought remains, they dream of indulging in them at night. When they awaken they regret their conduct in the dream. "I've already stopped doing that. Why would I resort to it in a dream?" they admonish themselves. As I've told you before, it's difficult to remain in control of yourself when you're sick and even more difficult to do so in a dream.

Endowed solely with thought, they will fly and can certainly be reborn in the heavens above. If they fly from the heart, and if they have blessings and wisdom, as well as pure vows, then their hearts will spontaneously open. However, if one's thought is of the heart and one does not wish to be reborn in the heavens, but instead keeps blessings and wisdom in mind at all times, then, even better than to be born in the heavens, one may have made pure vows to be reborn in a Buddhaland. The Buddha is known as the Doubly Complete One; that is, he is complete in both blessings and wisdom. Aware of this, one wants to cultivate blessings and wisdom oneself.

But to cultivate blessings and not wisdom
is to be like an elephant wearing a necklace.
And to cultivate wisdom and not blessings
is to be an arhat with an empty begging bowl.

The necklace is handsome and valuable, but it's all the elephant has; it doesn't have any thought-power, any wisdom. If you seek wisdom in your cultivation by studying the sutras and sitting in meditation, but fail to plant any blessings and are unable to practice giving, then you'll end up smart but hungry. To plant blessings means one should do meritorious and virtuous deeds, especially on the Buddhist holidays, the birthdays and anniversaries of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, or on your own birthday, or on the first and the fifteenth of the lunar month. If you practice giving and create merit before the Triple Jewel, then you will amass blessings. If you do not do meritorious and virtuous deeds, then you won't have any blessings. If you concentrate on wisdom and don't develop blessings, then no one will make offerings to you when you become an arhat. That's because on the cause ground you did not make offerings in your turn. So if you want people to make offerings to you when the time comes, you should make offerings to them now. It's as simple as the principle of

Planting melons, you get melons.
Planting beans, you get beans.

"Pure vows" means that before the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas you say:

I vow to be born in the Western Pure Land
With the nine grades of lotuses as my parents.
When the flower opens I will see the Buddha
and awaken to non-production.

Non-retreating Bodhisattvas will be my companions. Or you may wish to be reborn in the Eastern Land. Any such vow is a pure one. "Their hearts will spontaneously open" means they will awaken and they will see the Buddhas of the ten directions and all their pure lands and they will be reborn in whichever one they wish. If a person has blessings, wisdom, and vows, then at the end of his or her life he or she will see the Buddhas of the ten directions and be able to be reborn in whichever pure land he or she wants.

The Seven Destinies 109

Sutra:

When they have more thought than emotion, they are not quite as ethereal and so they become flying immortals, great mighty ghost kings, space traveling-yakshas, or earth-traveling rakshasas who roam the form heavens, going where they please without obstruction.

Commentary:

When they have more thought than emotion, they are not quite as ethereal. "Emotion" can be defined as sentience. It is said that,

Those with sentience and those lacking sentience
Have the sane potential for knowledge of all modes.
"Sentience," in turn, is defined as having thought and feeling.
Insentient objects include grasses, trees, and so forth. It is said,

People are not grass and trees,
Who among them doesn't have emotion?

That's just a way of rationalizing. "Everybody's got emotion." True, everyone does. And when is it evident? In youth. That's why the character "emotion" ( qing) is made up of the word for mind ( xin) and the character for youth ( qing). When we get right down to it, we're talking here about emotional love. Basically, the word for emotion is not limited to that meaning, but that's the use of it here.

Young men and women talk all the time about love and emotion. Why? Because they don't really know about it. They never finish talking about love and emotion. Day in and day out, month after month, year after year that's the entire topic of conversation.

Young people become totally engrossed in emotion. It confuses them. It's said,

Weighed down by karma and confused by emotion
One is a common person.

Confusion is a kind of attachment, the inability to let go. Where does emotion come from? From your mind. Where does he mind come from? From your nature. That's why it's said,

The nature flows out and becomes emotion.
The emotion flows out into desire.
The "out" means "down." As when,
The superior person's aims are lofty.
The petty person's aims are base.

When a person goes down, down, down and reaches the level of desire, then the fire of desire consumes the body. One totally loses control. It happens to both men and women. They lose self-control. "Thought" is persistent thought. This character also contains the character for "mind." It, too, comes from the mind. At first the mind has not moved, but with thought, something appears in the mind. So the character for thought (xiang) is the character for "appearance" (xiang) over the character for "mind" (xin).

Whatever you think about appears. This character is quite descriptive. For instance, you think about drinking, and an image of wine appears in your mind. If you're thinking about eating meat, a piece of meat appears in your mind. It's the same for anything you think about from the affairs of state to your own private matters. The sutras talk about there being no appearance of self, no appearance of others, no appearance of people, and no appearance of a lifespan. But with thought, there are appearances. Is thought right then or wrong? Basically, it, too, is not right. But since people are attached to appearances, they end up with thought.

When the thought is more than the emotion, "they are not quite as ethereal." This can be explained in two ways. It can mean that they don't get far. Their flight is limited. But to hold strictly to that interpretation doesn't exactly fit the context here. A better way to explain it is that their flight is not very much less extensive than the kind of flight described in the previous section. "Not quite as ethereal" then, would mean that they can go quite far. How far? They become flying immortals. They are such that,

In the morning they can roam a hundred thousand miles,
And in the evening go to nine thousand altars.

Or they become great mighty ghost kings, or space traveling yakshas, or earth-traveling rakshasas. These kinds of beings have already been described. They can roam the form heavens, going where they please without obstruction. Nothing hinders their travel. Nothing stops them.

Sutra:

Among them may be some with good vows and good hearts who protect and uphold my dharma. Perhaps they protect the pure precepts by following and supporting those who hold precepts. Perhaps they protect spiritual mantras by following and supporting those who hold mantras. Perhaps they protect Chan samadhi by guarding and comforting those who are patient with dharmas. These beings are close at hand beneath the Thus Come One's seat.

Commentary:

Among them, among the great mighty ghost kings, spacetravelling yakshas, and other such beings, may be some with good vows and good hearts who protect and uphold my dharma. By "my dharma" Shakyamuni Buddha is referring to the Buddhadharma.

Perhaps they protect the pure precepts by following and supporting those who hold precepts. Maybe they make the wholesome vow to guard and uphold the precepts spoken by the Buddhas. Then they will also follow and guard people who hold the precepts. They make sure that everything for these people who uphold the precepts is auspicious and in accord with their wishes. No difficulties or troubles will arise for them. Perhaps they protect spiritual mantras by following and supporting those who hold mantras. Maybe they protect the Shurangama Mantra, the Great Compassion Mantra, or any of the other various mantras. This is the kind of resolve they have. They follow along after the people who uphold mantras and protect them day and night. Perhaps they protect Chan samadhi by guarding and comforting those who are patient with dharmas. Maybe some of these beings make the good vow that in the future they will protect people who investigate Chan and sit in meditation, so that they obtain Chan samadhi. They help them obtain patience with dharmas so that they can endure any dharma whatever. These beings are close at hand beneath the Thus Come One's seat. These beings who have made good vows and are dharma protectors are always able to be beneath the Thus Come One's seat and to hear the dharma spoken.

J2 No ascent and no fall.

Sutra:

When their thought and emotion are of equal proportions, they cannot fly and they do not fall, but are born in the human realm. If their thought is bright, their wits are keen. If their emotion is dark, their wits are dull.

Commentary:

With ninety-percent thought and ten percent emotion, one gains a higher rebirth. With ninety percent emotion and ten percent thought, it is certain that one will fall into the hells. Now when their thought and emotion are of equal proportions, they cannot fly and they do not fall, but are born in the human realm. With fifty percent thought and fifty percent emotion, there is a balance. They can't fly to the heavens to be a god or an immortal, and they can't fall into the hells to become a hungry ghost. Where do they end up? Right where you and I are now. To be born into the human realm does not mean one will remain forever in the human realm. The human realm is nothing more than a transit stop, a place to transfer to the next place. "From the human realm what will one transfer to?" you wonder. Well, in order to get to the human realm you had to have fifty percent thought and fifty percent emotion. All you have to do is take a look and see if you've got more emotion now or more thought. If you've got more emotion, your next transfer will be to the hells. If you've got more thought, your next transfer will be to the heavens. If you are devoid of emotion, you can transfer to the Buddhas' fruition, for then you are pure yang, without any yin. If you have ten percent emotion, you have yin. If you don't have any emotion, you are pure yang and can become a Buddha.

If their thought is bright, their wits are keen. If their emotion is dark, their wits are dull. This is the point of transfer. The more you think, the smarter you get and the more you understand. You attain wisdom if you cultivate and make progress day-by-day. In this way your light grows a little more day-by-day. It keeps increasing until it is the same as the light of the Buddhas. That's what's meant by "if their thoughts are bright, their wits are keen."

Emotion is said to be yin, because it is a private matter. Thought is very open and out front, very public and bright. To cultivate, investigate Chan, sit in meditation, study the Buddhadharma, and listen to the sutras are proper activities. From them you will gain keen intelligence. But love and emotion can't be discussed in a crowd. Rather, a man and woman must go to the park or the seashore or beneath a tree alone to speak in whispers. They must slowly talk things over in secret. This is what is meant by emotion being "dark." Things which others cannot see are dark. The darker they get, the less light there is for them to see by, and "their wits are dull." They go into the forest where they can't see the sky. Or they get into cars or on boats. They go to places where there are few people; is to be "dark." This belongs to yin and causes people be stupid and dull-witted. They chat and chat and become stupider and stupider until eventually they fall into a bottomless pit. That's why emotion makes you fall. You talk together until you both slip and fall into the sea of suffering. Then it won't be easy to get out; you'll have make a tremendous effort. Unless you're lucky enough to have a good and wise advisor who grabs you by the hand and shouts, "Get out!" getting out will be very difficult.

J3 Fall with no ascent.

Sutra:

When they have more emotion than thought, they enter the animal realm. With heavier emotion, they become fur-bearing beasts; with lighter emotion, they become winged creatures.

Commentary:

When they have more emotion than thought, they enter the animal realm. With heavier emotion, they become fur-bearing beasts. People with heavy emotion end up getting born as cows, horses, sheep and the like. Do you see how dangerous it is? You'd better be careful: That's why I say the Shurangama Sutra is so important. This section shows exactly the point at which people and animals cross paths. One wrong step and you end up an animal. If you're off by just a little, then it gets you. With lighter emotion, they become winged creatures. This refers to a slight variation in the degree of emotion on the part of these animals. The creatures that fly still have a bit of thought about them. Did you ever wonder why birds are so colorful? It's because when they were human beings, they liked to wear colorful clothes. They would get all dressed up and then constantly admire themselves. The combination of excessive attention to clothing and a lot of emotion with a little thought caused them to fall into the realm of birds. Some birds are really exquisite. They must have been people who dressed especially well. Because of their emotion, they end up as animals, but the degree of their emotion is slightly less than that of beasts, and so they become birds.

Sutra:

When they have seventy percent emotion and thirty percent thought, they fall beneath the wheel of water into the regions of fire, where they come into contact with steam which is itself like a terrible blaze. In the bodies of hungry ghosts, they are constantly burned by that fire. Even water harms them, and they have nothing to eat or drink for hundreds of thousands of kalpas.

Commentary:

With sixty percent emotion and forty percent thought, one falls into the animal realm. With sixty percent thought and forty percent emotion, one can gain a higher rebirth. Now, when they have seventy percent emotion and thirty percent thought, they fall beneath the wheel of water into the regions of fire, where they come into contact with steam which is itself like a terrible blaze. Beneath the water cycle is fire. Volcanoes are a common example which proves that fire resides beneath the water level. In the bodies of hungry ghosts, they are constantly burned by that fire. At that time, they take on the bodies of hungry ghosts, and it would be too late for them if they decided they'd rather be birds or beasts. There are a myriad kinds of hungry ghosts. The worst kind there is to be is the one whose throat is as thin as a needle and whose stomach is as big as a drum.

Even water harms them, and they have nothing to eat or drink for hundreds of thousands of kalpas. They don't even have a drop of water to drink. Why not? Because their karma is such that when they see water, it turns to a raging fire. Gods see water as crystal. Fish, shrimp, oysters, and things of the sea look upon water as their palace, their home. They live in it and therefore don't see it, in the same way that people live in air but aren't aware of it. If we people didn't have air, we would die. It's said that people must eat to live, but they also must have air to breathe. But do we see air? No. Fish see water as their home, and people see water as water, but ghosts see water as fire. Why don't we see it as fire? If you want to know the difference, you can try being a ghost and find out. But you protest that you'd like to know without having to be a ghost. All right, I can tell you. It's because of karmic obstacles. It's a result of the karma that they themselves created.

If you make the karma that sends you into the body of a hungry ghost, then you will perceive water as fire. If you still don't believe it, you can try it out. But if you do, and really turn into a hungry ghost, it will be very difficult to get to be a person again. It won't be easy to return. So now I'm telling you, and the best would be to believe me, because I'm really not cheating you. Then you don't have to go try it out for yourself.

As a hungry ghost one is burned to death, but after a while one revives and then has to go through being burned to death again. In that way, one undergoes birth after birth and death after death as a ghost. Because they see water as fire, the ghosts have nothing to drink, and they can't eat, either. How long does this go on? It goes on for hundreds of thousands of kalpas.

Sutra:

When they have ninety percent emotion and ten percent thought, they fall through the wheel of fire until their bodies enter wind and fire, in a region where the two interact. With lighter emotion they are born in the intermittent hell; with heavier emotion they are born in the Relentless Hell.

Commentary:

When they have ninety percent emotion and ten percent thought, they fall through the wheel of fire until their bodies enter wind and fire, in a region where the two interact. In this place there's not only fire but a wind that whips up the fire so that it burns even more fiercely. With lighter emotion they are born in the intermittent hell; with heavier emotion they are born in the Relentless Hell.

Sutra:

When they are possessed entirely of emotion, they sink into the Avichi Hell. If the emotion has gone into their hearts so that they slander the great vehicle, defame the Buddha's pure precepts, speak crazy and false dharma, are greedy for offerings from the faithful, recklessly accept the respect of others, commit the five rebellious acts and the ten major offenses, then they are further reborn in Avichi Hells throughout the ten directions.

Commentary:

When they are possessed entirely of emotion, when they have no thought, only emotion, they sink into the Avichi Hell. If the emotion has gone into their hearts, if their minds are totally governed by emotion, so that they slander the great vehicle. They make judgments about things with their emotions and as a result they take right to be wrong and wrong to be right. They take black to be white and white to be black. They are totally unreasonable. They always oppose what others say. If you say, "Don't do things that are not good," they come back with, "What's there to be afraid of?" Their motto is "Eat meat, drink wine, and pass the time. The Buddha is only a figment of the imagination." They argue that "Your mind is the Buddha and the Buddha is your mind." That's the kind of deviant knowledge and deviant views they have.

Their views become so deviant that they defame the Buddha's pure precepts. "Don't take the precepts," they say. "What do you want to do that for? You end up with a bunch of precepts controlling you. If you don't take the precepts, see how free you'll be." In fact, if one does not take the precepts, it is very, very easy to end up in the hells. Do you call that freedom? But if you receive the precepts and then use them as a guide to govern yourself, if you receive the precepts and then govern yourself by the appearance, the dharma, and the substance of the precepts, it's not so likely that you'll fall into the hells. Even if you do fall into the hells, you'll get out much more quickly. But if you advocate not taking the precepts in order to be free, then when you fall into the hells there's no guarantee when you'll get out again. If you take the precepts, then a long term in the hells gets cut to a short term. It's as if you were a president's aide and broke some major law and were caught. Just a note from the president would suffice to effect your release. Without that help, it might be a long time before you were released. If you have the precepts for protection, then the suffering you have to endure for having committed major offenses will be lessened significantly. So don't outsmart yourself by deciding not to take the precepts. It's better to take the precepts. A living being who receives the Buddha's precepts enters into the position of a Buddha.

Don't slander the Buddha's precepts, and don't speak crazy and false dharma. Don't deny cause and effect. Don't say things like "There's no cause and no effect; people are just Buddhas, after all. There's no need to cultivate. Eat meat, drink, and be merry, because no matter what you do, you still can become a Buddha. It's really easy to become a Buddha."

Right, it is easy to become a Buddha, but the way to do it is to get rid of your faults. There aren't any Buddhas who have faults. They are all pure and undefiled. They didn't become Buddhas by being filthy and full of karmic offenses. They didn't become Buddhas by drinking wine and eating meat. If that's the way it was, then the Buddha would not have had to speak the precepts. Don't be greedy for offerings from the faithful. Don't scheme to get people to believe in you, to give you gifts, to make offerings to you. Don't think about how you'd have more money if you took more disciples. I never discuss money with my disciples. Usually when people take disciples it's made clear from the start that they should give at least fifty or sixty dollars just to take refuge. But I don't pay attention to that kind of thing.

These kinds of beings also recklessly accept the respect of others. Or they commit the five rebellious acts, which are killing one's father, killing one's mother, killing an Arhat, shedding the Buddha's blood, and breaking up the harmony of the Sangha. Or they commit the ten major offenses, that is, they violate the ten major Bodhisattva precepts. Having committed these grave offenses, then they are further reborn in Avichi Hells throughout the ten directions. After they have undergone suffering in the Avichi Hell of this world they go to Avichi Hells in every world in the ten directions. Can you imagine how long a time that would take? When this hell is finished, they are transported to another Avichi Hell. When that Avichi Hell is destroyed, they move on to the next Avichi Hell. It's endless. And so Devadatta, the one who tried to compete with the Buddha, fell into the hells alive. He's still suffering in the hells. From the time of Shakyamuni Buddha until now he's been undergoing hellish suffering, but in fact that's just the blink of an eye.

H4 He concludes that there are places where both individual and collective punishment are undergone.

Sutra:

Although one receives one's due according to the evil karma one has created, a group can undergo an identical lot, and there are definite places where it occurs.

Commentary:

Although one receives one?s due according to the evil karma one has created, by slandering the great vehicle dharma masters, by defaming the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, by committing the five rebellious acts and the ten major offenses, a group can undergo an identical lot, and there are definite places where it occurs. Although they fall into the hells because of what they themselves have done, they create the karma and undergo the retribution, still, a group can undergo similar retribution, and it can happen in a fixed and certain place. There are definite places where they create the karma, and there are definite places where they undergo the retribution.

Destiny of Hells

G2 He specifically describes the various causes and results of falling and rising.
H1 Destiny of hells.
I1 Traces prior instruction and introduces this.

Sutra:

Ananda, it all comes from the karmic responses which living beings themselves invoke. They create ten habitual causes and undergo six interacting retributions.

Commentary:

Ananda, it all comes from the karmic responses which living beings themselves invoke. They give rise to delusion, create karma, and undergo retribution. They create ten habitual causes and undergo six interacting retributions. The retributions are interconnected.

I2 Explains ten causes.
J1 Habits of lust.

Sutra:

What are the ten causes? Ananda, the first consists of habits of lust and reciprocal interactions which give rise to mutual rubbing. When this rubbing continues without cease, it produces a tremendous raging fire within which movement occurs, just as warmth arises between a person's hands when he rubs them together.

Commentary:

What are the ten causes? Ananda, I will now tell you in detail. The first consists of habits of lust and reciprocal interactions. The habits of lust bring men and women together, and their interactions give rise to mutual rubbing. When this rubbing continues without cease, it produces a tremendous raging fire within which movement occurs. The light of fire arises between them and has a movement of its own, just as warmth arises between a person's hands when he rubs them together.

Sutra:

Because these two habits set each other ablaze, there come into being the iron bed, the copper pillar, and other such experiences.

Commentary:

Because these two habits. The "two habits" refer to one's past habits of lust which combine with one's present habits of lust. These two habits set each other ablaze, there come into being the iron bed, the copper pillar, and other such experiences. These are the names of specific hells. They are brought into being because people have sexual desire which is too heavy. They have created too much karma involving lust and so they must undergo this retribution.

Sutra:

Therefore the Thus Come Ones of the ten directions look upon the practice of lust and name it the 'fire of desire.' Bodhisattvas avoid desire as they would a fiery pit.

Commentary:

Therefore the Thus Come Ones of the ten directions look upon the practice of lust and name it the "fire of desire." They tell you that the fire of desire burns up the body. Bodhisattvas avoid desire as they would a fiery pit. They see that staying away from lustful activity is as important as avoiding a fiery pit. You don't want to see the fiery pit and deliberately jump into it. If you do, it's for sure you'll burn to death. So Bodhisattvas stay far away from lust and sexual desire. They do not give rise to thoughts of sexual desire.

J2 Habits of greed.

Sutra:

The second consists of habits of greed and intermingled scheming which give rise to a suction. When this suction becomes dominant and incessant, it produces intense cold and solid ice where freezing occurs, just as a sensation of cold is experienced when a person draws in a blast of wind through his
mouth.

Commentary:

The second consists of habits of greed and intermingled scheming which give rise to a suction. Greed is like a magnet which attracts things to it. When this suction becomes dominant and incessant, people who experience insatiable greed are always trying to figure out how to get things and make them their own. When greed reaches this extreme, it produces intense cold and solid ice where freezing occurs. These habits produce a sensation of freezing cold, just as a sensation of cold is experienced when a person draws in a blast of wind through his mouth.

Sutra:

Because these two habits clash together, there come into being chattering, whimpering and shuddering; blue, red, and white lotuses; cold and ice; and other such experiences. Therefore the Thus Come Ones of the ten directions look upon excessive seeking and name it "the water of greed". Bodhisattvas avoid greed as they would a sea of pestilence.

Commentary:

Because these two habits, one's past greed and one's present greed, clash together, the habits of grabbing and seizing feed on one another until there come into being chattering, whimpering and shuddering. "Chattering, whimpering, and suffering" is "cha cha, bwo bwo, lwo lwo" in Chinese, which indicate the sounds made by beings suffering in these freezing hells when undergoing the tortures of extreme cold. Blue, red, and white lotuses indicate the shapes the ice freezes into in these hells. The beings undergo cold and ice; and other such experiences.

J3 Habits of arrogance.

Sutra:

The third consists of habits of arrogance and resulting friction which give rise to mutual intimidation. When it accelerates without cease, it produces torrents and rapids which create restless waves of water, just as water is produced when a person continuously works his tongue in an effort to taste flavors.

Commentary:

The third consists of habits of arrogance and resulting friction. "Arrogance" refers to self-satisfaction. One is arrogant when one thinks one is better than others. Such thoughts give rise to mutual intimidation. One looks down on others. When it accelerates without cease, it produces torrents and rapids which create restless waves of water. This refers to the hell of boiling oil, the hell of rapids, the hell of scalding soup, and so forth. It is just as water is produced when a person continuously works his tongue in an effort to taste flavors. Someone keeps trying to taste the flavor of his own mouth. The effort will produce saliva.

Sutra:

Because these two habits incite one another, there come into being the river of blood, the river of ashes, the burning sand, the poisonous sea, the molten copper which is poured over one or which must be swallowed, and other such experiences.

Commentary:

Because these two habits incite one another, arrogant attitudes from the past combine with one's self-satisfaction in the present, there come into being many kinds of hells: The hell of the river of blood, the hell of the river of ashes, the hell of the burning sand, the hell of the poisonous sea, the hell of the molten copper which is poured over one, the hell where molten copper must be swallowed, and other such experiences.

Sutra:

Therefore, the Thus Come Ones of the ten directions look upon self-satisfaction and name it 'drinking the water of stupidity.' Bodhisattvas avoid arrogance as they would a huge deluge.

Commentary:

It's as stinking as a place where a lot of people go to relieve themselves.

J4 Habits of hatred.

Sutra:

The fourth consists of habits of hatred which give rise to mutual defiance. When this defiance binds one without cease, one's heart becomes so hot that it catches fire, and the molten vapor turns into metal.

From it is produced the mountain of knives, the iron cudgel, the tree of swords, the wheel of swords, axes and halberds, and spears and saws. It is like the intent to kill surging forth when a person meets a mortal enemy, so that he is roused to action.

Commentary:

The fourth consists of habits of hatred which give rise to mutual defiance. "Defiance" means that you have wronged me and I have wronged you. When this defiance binds one without cease, one's heart becomes so hot that it catches fire, and the molten vapor turns into metal. Your heart feels hot and you give rise to the fire of ignorance. That kind of energy is so violent that it turns into metal. From it is produced the mountain of knives. Because the molten energy from one's anger forms into metal, the hell of the mountain of knives, the hell of the iron cudgel, the hell of the tree of swords, the hell of the wheel of swords, the hell of axes and halberds, the hell of spears and saws, and the like all come into being. It is like the intent to kill surging forth when a person meets a mortal enemy, someone he bears a heavy grudge against, so that he is roused to action. His obsession to kill takes over.

Sutra:

Because these two habits clash with one another, there come into being castration and hacking, beheading and mutilation, filing and sticking, flogging and beating, and other such experiences.

Commentary:

Because these two habits, past hatred and present hatred, clash with one another, there come into being castration and hacking. This is one kind of hell. Beheading, being killed; mutilation, having one's arms or legs chopped off or one's bones ground to powder: filing and sticking, being filed or being stuck with thorns; flogging and beating; and other such experiences are all further kinds of hells.

Sutra:

Therefore, the Thus Come Ones of the ten directions look upon hatred and name it 'sharp knives and swords.' Bodhisattvas avoid hatred as they would their own execution.

Commentary:

Therefore, the Thus Come Ones of the ten directions look upon hatred and name it "sharp knives and swords." Anger is just like a keen knife or a sharp sword. Bodhisattvas avoid hatred as they would their own execution. Bodhisattvas regard anger and hatred as they would being killed by someone.

J5 Habits of deception.

Sutra:

The fifth consists of habits of deception and misleading involvements which give rise to mutual guile. When such maneuvering continues without cease, it produces the ropes and
wood of a gallows for hanging, like the grass and trees that grow when water saturates a field.

Commentary:

The fifth consists of habits of deception and misleading involvements which give rise to mutual guile. "Deception" is a lack of honesty. "Misleading" means people getting involved in cheating and deceiving one another. You cheat me with some scheme and then I think up some trick to cheat you. When such maneuvering continues without cease, it produces the ropes and wood of a gallows for hanging. "Maneuvering" refers to the deceptive devices. The ropes and wood are used to construct a gallows to hang the person. This is a certain hell. It is like the grass and trees that grow when water saturates a field. Deception nourishes the hell of ropes and wood in the same way.

Sutra:

Because the two habits perpetuate one another, there come into being handcuffs and fetters, cangues and locks, whips and clubs, sticks and cudgels, and other such experiences.

Commentary:

Because the two habits perpetuate one another, there come into being handcuffs and fetters. The habits of deception from the past combine with the habits of deception in the present to make a protracted pattern of deception. These "handcuffs and fetters" are implements of punishment, as are cangues and locks. When one is bound by this kind of thing, one cannot move about freely, much less escape. Or perhaps one is beaten with whips and clubs, sticks and cudgels, and other such experiences. What is the origin of these experiences? How do they come into being? They come from deception.

Sutra:

Therefore, the Thus Come Ones of the ten directions look upon deception and name it a 'treacherous crook.' Bodhisattvas fear deception as they would a savage wolf.

Commentary:

Being "treacherous" means that when one speaks, one doesn't tell the truth.

J6 Habits of lying.

Sutra:

The sixth consists of habits of lying and combined fraudulence which give rise to mutual cheating. When false accusations continue without cease, one becomes adept at corruption.

From this there come into being dust and dirt, excrement and urine, filth, stench, and impurities. It is like the obscuring of everyone's vision when the dust is stirred up by the wind.

Commentary:

The sixth consists of habits of lying and combined fraudulence which give rise to mutual cheating. "Lying" means not telling the truth, saying things that are false. "Combined fraudulence' means that people lie in order to cheat one another. "Mutual cheating" means that people are not straight with one another. What they say is not true. When false accusations continue without cease, one becomes adept at corruption. People end up accusing each other in ways which are not justified. If they continue in this vein, they end up being masters of deception. Everything they do is against the law. From this there come into being the hell of dust and dirt, and the hell of excrement and urine. These hells are full of filth, stench, and impurities. It is like the obscuring of everyone's vision when the dust is stirred up by the wind. That's what this particular karmic obstacle is like. The dust is so thick you can't even see it clearly, let alone anything else.

Sutra:

Because these two habits augment one another, there come into being sinking and drowning, tossing and pitching, flying and falling, floating and submerging, and other such experiences.

Commentary:

Because these two habits augment one another, there come into being sinking and drowning. The habits of lying from the past combine with the habits of lying in the present to bring about these various hells. Tossing and pitching means that one is tossed up high and then allowed to plummet down. Flying and falling is also a case of being rocketed off into space and then left to fall back down. Floating and submerging means one is left afloat at sea. These hells and other such experiences must be undergone.

Sutra:

Therefore, the Thus Come Ones of the ten directions look upon lying and name it 'robbery and murder.' Bodhisattvas regard lying as they would treading on a venomous snake.

Commentary:

Therefore, the Thus Come Ones of the ten directions look upon lying and name it "robbery and murder." When they see people doing things to cheat others, they call it robbery and murder. Bodhisattvas regard lying as they would treading on a venomous snake. Lying, too, is undesirable.

J7 Habits of animosity.

Sutra:

The seventh consists of habits of animosity and interconnected enmity which give rise to grievances. From this there come into being flying rocks, thrown stones, caskets and closets, cages on wheels, jars and containers, and bags and rods. It is like someone harming others secretly, he harbors, cherishes, and nurtures evil.

Commentary:

The seventh consists of habits of animosity and interconnected enmity which give rise to grievances. "Animosity" refers to resentment and can also mean the making of false accusations. False accusations cause suspicions to arise. In Chinese the word "grievances" (xian) has a character which literally means to hold in the beak as a bird holds food. Here, someone harbors grievances and ill-will in his mouth and refuses to let it go. From this there come into being flying rocks, and the hell of thrown stones, in which one is struck with pieces of rubble. Or one is closed up in a casket or in a closet, or put in a cage on wheels. Or the person is put into a jar and a fire is lit under it, so that the ghost gets cooked, bags and rods: the ghost is put in a big bag and then beaten down. Inside he both suffocates and suffers the pain of beating. This kind of karma is like someone harming others secretly, he harbors, cherishes, and nurtures evil. He's always brewing evil thoughts in his mind.

Sutra:

Because these two habits swallow one another up, there come into being tossing and pitching, seizing and apprehending, striking and shooting, casting away and pinching, and other such experiences.

Commentary:

Because these two habits swallow one another up, there come into being tossing and pitching. The habit of animosity from the past combines with the habit of animosity in the present in such a way that they devour one another. That is, if the karmic power of one's habits from the past is stronger, one will undergo retribution for the past deeds. If the power of the karma in the present life is the stronger, one will undergo retribution for it in this very life. That's what's meant by swallowing each other up. The ghost is tossed about or thrown for a distance, so that when he lands he will undergo pain and suffering. Seizing and apprehending: after he's tossed away, he is seized and brought back. Striking and shooting, casting away and pinching, and other such experiences are all undergone as retribution.

Sutra:

Therefore, the Thus Come Ones of the ten directions look upon animosity and name it a 'disobedient and harmful ghost.'

Bodhisattvas regard animosity as they would drinking poisonous wine.

Commentary:

Therefore, the Thus Come Ones of the ten directions look upon animosity and name it a "disobedient and harmful ghost." They regard conduct governed by animosity, resentment, and revenge as a disobedient and harmful ghost. Such conduct goes against the wishes of the person who is the object of the resentment and ends up by killing the person. Bodhisattvas regard animosity as they would drinking poisonous wine. The Chinese language uses an adjective which is the name of a bird, chen, a deadly species of falcon. If a feather from this particular variety of falcon is soaked in wine, the wine will be poisoned so thoroughly that a sip of it would be lethal, for there is no antidote for it.

J8 Habits of views.

Sutra:

The eighth consists of habits of views and the admixture of understandings, such as satkayadrishti, views, moral prohibitions, grasping, and deviant insight into various kinds of karma, which bring about opposition and produce mutual antagonism. From them there come into being court officials, deputies, certifiers, and registrars. They are like people traveling on a road, who meet each other coming and going.

Commentary:

The eighth consists of habits of views and the admixture of understandings, such as satkayadrishti. These are habits which we all have. If you make proper use of views, they are an aid to your mind and nature. But if you use them incorrectly, if you have biases, then you can create bad karma. Satkayadrishti is a Sanskrit word which means "view of having a body." There are five kinds of views:

1. the view of having a body,
2. one-sided views,
3. the view of prohibitive morality,
4. views that grasp at views,
5. deviant views.

These have been explained in detail before. With the first view, people become attached to the view that their bodies are themselves and attached to the things around them as being their own. Onesided views are not in accord with the Middle Way. They fall into either the view of annihilationism or the view of externalism. With the former, one believes that death is like the extinguishment of a lamp, there is nothing that follows it. One doesn't believe in a soul or in rebirth. With the latter, one believes that if one is a person this life, one will be a person in every life. They think it is impossible for a person to undergo rebirth as an animal.

The third is an attachment to extremes of morality, like that found in some sects in India such as those that would follow the behavior of cows or dogs. The fourth, to have the view that grasps views, means being fraught with attachments. People with this view have very decided opinions and an overbearing view of self. There are also deviant views. Satkayadrishti, views, moral prohibitions, grasping, and deviant insight into various kinds of karma refer to these five views. One may have a bit of intelligence, but the principles one grasps at are deviant. Because they are not proper views, one creates karma, which bring about opposition and produce mutual antagonism. With this kind of karma, one is always opposing other people and disagreeing with them. From them there come into being court officials, deputies, certifiers, and registrars. They ask for certification and proof in writing; they insist upon records and the like. These views are like people traveling on a road, who meet each other coming and going.

Sutra:

Because these two habits influence one another, there come into being official inquiries, baited questions, examinations, interrogations, public investigations, exposure, the youths who record good and evil, carrying the record books of the offenders' arguments and rationalizations, and other such experiences.

Commentary:

Because these two habits influence one another, there come into being official inquiries. The two habits again refer to the habits involving the five views that one built up in former lives, coupled with the habits involving the five views which one continues to grasp hold of in this life. Official inquiries means one is thoroughly questioned. Baited questions are raised when an examiner uses expedients to get you to admit your wrongdoings. This kind of thing happens in courts and also happens in the hells. Examinations means that after you've stated your case, the officials set about to examine its accuracy, step-by-step. They send people out to verify everything you've said. Interrogations bring everything out in the open, just as if it were to appear in a mirror. Public investigations and exposure do the same. The youths who record good and evil, carrying the record books of the offenders' arguments and rationalizations. These youths are young employees of the hells who keep records on good and evil done in the world. When your turn comes, they read out your record. If you try to argue or rationalize, they just find the page and place and read it out just as it actually happened. They have unquestionable proof, and your protestations are useless. These and other such experiences are the lot of those with deep-seated views.

Sutra:

Therefore, the Thus Come Ones of the ten directions look upon evil views and name them the 'pit of views.' Bodhisattvas regard having false and one-sided views as they would standing on the edge of a steep ravine full of poison.

Commentary:

Therefore, the Thus Come Ones of the ten directions look upon evil views and name them the "pit of views." To them, the habits of evil views are like a deep abyss. It's fine if you don't fall in it, but if you do, it's not at all easy to climb back out. Bodhisattvas regard having false and one-sided views as they would standing on the edge of a steep ravine full of poison. They are extremely dangerous, and it is very easy to slip and fall into them, so Bodhisattvas stay far away from them.

J9 Habits of injustice.

Sutra:

The ninth consists of the habits of injustice and their interconnected support of one another; they result in instigating false charges and libeling. From them are produced crushing between mountains, crushing between rocks, stone rollers, stone grinders, plowing, and pulverizing. It is like a slanderous villain who engages in persecuting good people unjustly.

Commentary:

The ninth consists of the habits of injustice and their interconnected support of one another; they result in instigating false charges and libeling. "Injustice" means to accuse someone without cause, to frame him. The person in question is in fact innocent, but the government brings a case against him, or else some private individual sues him. It is biased and unfair. Included here are both the habits of being unjustly accused and of having done injustice to others. If you have unjustly accused others in the past, then those karmic obstacles will bind together with what goes on in this life. If you've never been unjustly accused, then perhaps the karma of it is being newly created in this lifetime. If you know that the person you are accusing did not actually commit the crime, and you are fully aware that you are bearing false witness, then you are being unjust. From them are produced crushing between mountains, crushing between rocks. This is the Hell of Squeezing Mountains, in which mountains on all four sides close in and crush the offender. The same kind of experience is undergone in the hell of crushing rocks. You are squeezed into a meat patty. Stone rollers is another hell, as are stone grinders, plowing, and pulverizing. If a person is a constant liar and bears false witness, if his speech is totally unreliable, then in this hell his tongue is cut out. Or it is grappled with an iron hook and pulled out, and then oxen drag plows back and forth across it. With "pulverizing" the offender is put into a grinder and ground to bits. It is like a slanderous villain who engages in persecuting good people unjustly. "Slanderous" refers to any kind of unreliable speech or accusation.

Sutra:

Because these two habits join ranks, there come into being pressing and pushing, bludgeons and compulsion, squeezing and straining, weighing and measuring, and other such experiences.

Commentary:

The karmic obstacles from former lives combine with the karma from one's conduct in the last life to cause one to be pressed or pushed down or to be beaten with bludgeons or to be forcefully controlled. Sometimes the ghost is put into a bag and then the blood is squeezed out of it, just the way apple sauce is made. Or one's injustices are weighed and measured with precise accuracy. These are the kinds of experiences one has to undergo.

Sutra:

Therefore, the Thus Come Ones of the ten directions look upon harmful accusations and name them 'a treacherous tiger.' Bodhisattvas regard injustice as they would a bolt of lightning.

Commentary:

Therefore, the Thus Come Ones of the ten directions look upon harmful accusations and name them "a treacherous tiger," even more vicious than an ordinary tiger. Bodhisattvas regard injustice as they would a bolt of lightning. Bodhisattvas who cultivate the Way don't want to make any mistakes in cause and effect, and so they see that the habit of acting in unjust ways is as dangerous as encountering a bolt from the blue. It's just as frightening a situation and in the same way can strike people down dead on the spot.

J10 The habits of litigation.

Sutra:

The tenth consists of the habits of litigation and the mutual disputations which give rise to covering. From them there are produced a look in the mirror and illumination by the lamp. It is like being in direct sunlight: there is no way one can hide one's shadow.

Commentary:

The tenth consists of the habits of litigation and the mutual disputations which give rise to covering. "Litigation" means taking someone to court. It involves attorneys for the plaintiff and the defense. The offense involved is one of covering. That means that the evidence brought out in court by either side is not the whole truth. Each person claims to be right. In divorce cases, for example, the husband says he is in the right and the wife claims she is in the right. Actually, neither one is in the right, for if even one of them were right, they would not be getting a divorce. The one in the right would simply forgive and forget if the other were being unreasonable, and no problems would arise. It's only when both parties refuse to yield that they have to get lawyers and go to court.

Probably they feel sorry for the lawyers and are afraid they will starve to death if they don't give them some business. And of course the lawyer advises them to go to court because it's his livelihood. His fee can range from hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars; it depends on the kind of case involved. He names his own price. "Disputations" refers to the arguments that ensue. Each side claims to be sane and reasonable. Why do they go to court? Because they are not open and frank with one another. They put on masks and cover up the truth, They are actually wrong, but they cover up their mistakes and bring up the points where they appear to be in accord with principle. They talk about all the things they did that were legal and avoid mentioning the things they did which were not. That's covering.

From them there are produced a look in the mirror and illumination by the lamp. If you liked to get involved in litigations and to commit crimes when you were alive, then when you get to the hells, your crimes will be revealed in a mirror on a stand there. As you look into the mirror, every mistake you ever made in your entire life will appear in it. It's just like a movie: every frame shows up your actions quite vividly. With the "illumination by the lamp" you are left with no place to hide. Everything is clearly revealed. It is like being in direct sunlight: there is no way one can hide one's shadow.

Sutra:

Because these two habits bicker back and forth, there come into being evil companions, the mirror of karma, the fiery pearl, exposure of past karma, inquests, and other such experiences.

Commentary:

Because these two habits bicker back and forth, there come into being evil companions. Not only companions, but relatives are included here. One's whole family may be bad. The mirror of karma is like the crime-revealing mirror mentioned above. The fiery pearl illuminates past offenses. Exposure of past karma reveals all the crimes you ever committed in whatever former life. Inquests happen when you don't admit what you've done. Then the evidence is brought out against you. It's proved for you to see.

Sutra:

Therefore, all the Thus Come Ones of the ten directions look upon covering and name it a 'hidden villain.' Bodhisattvas regard covering as they would having to carry a mountain atop their heads while walking upon the sea.

Commentary:

Therefore, all the Thus Come Ones of the ten directions look upon covering and name it a "hidden villain." Because of what's just been described, Thus Come Ones look upon the practice of covering and call it a "hidden" thief. Bodhisattvas regard covering as they would having to carry a mountain atop their heads while walking upon the sea. How could they ever stay up? It wouldn't be possible. So Bodhisattvas don't go to court.

I3 Explains the six retributions.
J1 A general introduction.

Sutra:

What are the six retributions? Ananda, living beings create karma with their six consciousnesses. The evil retributions they call down upon themselves come from the six sense organs.

Commentary:

What are the six retributions? Ananda, living beings create karma with their six consciousnesses of the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind. The evil retributions they call down upon themselves when they create the evil karma come from the six sense organs. They arise out of the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind.

J2 Detailed explanation.
K1 Retribution of seeing.
L1 At the end of one's life, one sees one's own fall.

Sutra:

What are the evil retributions that arise from the six sense organs? The first is the retribution of seeing, which beckons one and leads one to evil ends. The karma of seeing intermingles, so that at the time of death one first sees a raging conflagration which fills the ten directions. The deceased one's spiritual consciousness takes flight, but then falls. Riding on a wisp of smoke, it enters the Relentless Hell.

Commentary:

Above were discussed the ten habitual causes which lead to six interconnected retributions. They are called "interconnected" because although one of the six may have been the predominant factor in an offense, the others are all involved to some extent. They act as accomplices. For instance, the eyes commit some offense with regard to objects they see. So the eyes are the major offender; however, the ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind also play their parts in the crime. The major offender is the first to commit the offense, while the others help it along in their turn.

But you will remember that earlier the Buddhas of the ten directions spoke directly and simultaneously to Ananda, saying that it is from the six sense organs that Buddhas are accomplished and it is from the six sense organs that one falls into the hells. So now that we have come to the six interconnected retributions, you should remember that originally these six are capable of accomplishing Buddhahood. It's just that people don't know how to use them properly, and so within the nature of the treasury of the Thus Come One they give rise to the false from within the true. The falseness that arises goes from the three subtle appearances to the six coarse appearances to limitless boundless appearances. That's why it is said that there are eighty-four thousand kinds of karmic obstacles.

Why do we create so many karmic offenses? It's because we are not able to gain control. We can't keep ourselves from being turned by the experiences of the six sense objects. We are unable to return the hearing and listen to the self nature so that the nature can accomplish the Unsurpassed Way. Just because we don't return the hearing, we race out through the six sense organs to get at the six sense objects.

What are the evil retributions that arise from the six sense organs? The first is the retribution of seeing, which beckons one and leads one to evil ends. Because the perceiving nature of the eye sees a form, one is influenced by that object of form. But in this process there are a lot of involvements and ramifications. From these appearances a lot of karmic offenses are created. A lot of karmic offenses result in a lot of evil retributions. The karma of seeing intermingles, so that at the time of death one first sees a raging conflagration which fills the ten directions. The "karma" referred to here is offense-karma. With what does it "intermingle?" With the other five sense organs. They exchange opinions, and their karma gets mixed up together. Being influenced by the objects of sight in this way, one chases after sounds and pursues forms.

For example, a man sees a beautiful woman and gives rise to greed and desire. Then he listens for her gentle voice. Once the eyes have seen the beautiful form, the ears want to follow and hear a beautiful sound. The nose wants a whiff of her powder and perfumes. If the eyes hadn't seen her, the ears wouldn't have been eager to hear her voice and the nose wouldn't have been enticed to smell the feminine fragrances. After that the tongue starts having ruinous false thoughts, maybe something like, "She's such a fine woman that I bet it wouldn't be bad to kiss her." In his heart this kind of ignorance arises. Then the body wants to come in contact with her and the mind relents. The mind is agreeable and goes along with the rest. At that point he goes ahead and creates the karma of lust. The result in the future will be an evil retribution such as hugging the copper pillar or sleeping on the iron bed. Or the male and female organs are infested with iron-beaked creatures. How did it come about? It all started with the first offender, the seeing. Seeing by itself is just seeing; what he should not have done was to pursue what he saw. Rather:

When the eyes see forms,
inside there is nothing.

Do you have that kind of skill? If so, then it doesn't matter if you look every day. The more you see, the less you will be moved. But if you don't have that skill, then you had better be a little bit more careful. With a little more care, you won t have to hug the copper pillar or fall into some other hell.

The text says, "at the time of death." Everyone will die. There isn't anyone who can say he or she will live forever, unless one cultivates and becomes a sage or an immortal, in which case one can live if one wants and die if one wants. Or, if you are a Bodhisattva or an Arhat, you have freedom over birth and death. If you're not at that level, then you too will have a "time of death." When death comes for this offender, he will first see a "raging conflagration." That's because of his "fire of desire", his sexual desire. And the conflagration is not limited to one place. To the ends of empty space and throughout the dharma-realm, everywhere is ablaze. At that time the deceased one's spiritual consciousness takes flight, but then falls. The "spiritual consciousness" refers to the eighth consciousness. It is also the soul, which has the potential to become a Buddha or a ghost. It is called the "intermediate skandha body," because at this stage the five skandhas have been severed from the former body and have not yet entered a new body. What happens to this offender's intermediate skandha body? It first flies up, but then falls. The spiritual consciousness has the power to fly through space, but in this case its spiritual penetrations are not very great, and so once it gets a little way into space, it falls. Riding on a wisp of smoke, it enters the Relentless Hell, a place which is no playground. I think that even jet-setters would not want to take in those sights. So everybody should avoid planting the causes which lead to the hells. It would be infinitely better to go to the Buddha-fruition than to go to the hells. Don't follow this poor soul.

L2 Two fundamental appearances.

Sutra:

There, it is aware of two appearances. One is a perception of brightness in which can be seen all sorts of evil things, and it gives rise to boundless fear. The other is a perception of darkness in which there is total stillness and no sight, and it experiences boundless terror.

Commentary:

The person who has committed karmic offenses by pursuing defiling objects of form falls into the Relentless Hell. There, his intermediate skandha body, is aware of two appearances. One is a perception of brightness in which can be seen all sorts of evil things. With this perception of brightness, it can see absolutely everything. What is there to be seen? Evil things; every kind of terrible thing that you can possibly imagine. There are things like wolves and tigers and creatures with human bodies and ox heads or horse faces. The ghost of impermanence in his tall hat is also very much in evidence. There are also cruel and horrifying beasts. All he sees are these evil creatures, and so his skandha body gives rise to boundless fear. One experiences tremendous terror.

The other is a perception of darkness in which there is total stillness and no sight. It can't see anything at all, because there is not the least bit of light from the sun or moon or from stars or lamps. "Total stillness and no sight" means there is not a creature, not a thing, not a sound, and no visual perception. But it is not a quieting experience; rather, it experiences boundless terror. He experiences nothing but fear and terror. If he saw a beautiful woman then, I wonder if he'd be able to muster up any sexual desire. The only way to know for sure would be to ask him. He has to undergo fear and terror in this hell because he created the karma of lust.

L3 A detailed explanation of the intermingled retributions.

Sutra:

When the fire that comes from seeing burns the sense of hearing, it becomes cauldrons of boiling water and molten copper. When it burns the breath, it becomes black smoke and purple fumes. When it burns the sense of taste, it becomes scorching hot pellets and molten iron gruel. When it burns the sense of touch, it becomes white-hot embers and glowing coals. When it burns the mind, it becomes stars of fire that shower everywhere and whip up and inflame the entire realm of space.

Commentary:

Now the six interconnecting aspects are described. When the fire that comes from seeing burns the sense of hearing, it becomes cauldrons of boiling water and molten copper. When the fire reaches the ears and the hearing, it turns into the hell of cauldrons of boiling water and the hell of molten copper. The water is brought to a boil and the ghost is plunged into the pot. The "ghost" is just the spiritual consciousness of the deceased one. Do you remember what he did so that he now ends up in a pot of boiling water? His ears aided and abetted his seeing. When his eyes saw the beautiful form, his ears should have had sense enough to warn him not to listen to her voice. But instead his ears got right in there and enticed him to listen. He was all ears. And what he heard pleased him to no end. So now he's in the cauldron of boiling water and molten copper. When it burns the breath, it becomes black smoke and purple fumes. When the fire reaches the nose, he has to breathe black smoke and purple soot. This happens because he got caught up in smelling nice fragrances. But I believe that the black smoke is not as much fun to inhale. In fact, the stench of it is appalling. But that is the retribution he must undergo.

When it burns the sense of taste, it becomes scorching hot pellets and molten iron gruel. The "pellets" are little iron tablets, but when you put them in your mouth they burn your tongue to a crisp. He liked the "taste of women", he liked to kiss them, and so now he gets hot iron gruel for breakfast every day. When it burns the sense of touch, it becomes white-hot embers and glowing coals. When the fire from seeing burns through to the sense of touch, it becomes ashes, but the ashes aren't dead and cold; they still have fire in them.

When it burns the mind, that is, it becomes stars of fire that shower everywhere and whip up and inflame the entire realm of space. The fire that scatters to burn you is as plentiful as the stars in the sky. It creates a wall of heat that builds up and fills all of empty space.

K2 Retribution of hearing.
L1 At the end of one?s life one sees one?s own fall.

Sutra:

The second is the retribution of hearing, which beckons one and leads one to evil ends. The karma of hearing intermingles, and thus at the time of death one first sees gigantic waves that drown heaven and earth. The deceased one's spiritual consciousness falls into the water and rides the current into the Relentless Hell.

Commentary:

The second of the six interconnected retributions is the retribution of hearing. Originally, if one had returned the hearing to hear the self-nature, the hearing-nature could have accomplished the Unsurpassed Way. Instead, the person in question turned all his attention outside and listened to defiling sounds. He listened to sounds that gave him enjoyment. Perhaps he liked to listen to women sing. Perhaps he enjoyed listening to women talk. The same applies for men as for women. Women like to listen to men. It's not a one-way street. The sutra is talking about both sexes. You shouldn't think that if the sutra uses the masculine form, it just means that men are bad, while women are not included. The offenses the two sexes commit are the same. They are those which beckons one and leads one to evil ends.

This person's retribution beckons him just as if it were calling to him, "Come here! Come here!" in very persuasive tones. It entices him. The karma of hearing intermingles, and thus at the time of death one first sees gigantic waves that drown heaven and earth. The "intermingling" refers to the way in which the six organs are interconnected in their retribution. The ear gets involved with all the other five sense organs. The ghost, the inter-mediate skandha body, sees the entire universe filled up with billowing waves; but is it really that way? No. It is a manifestation which appears because of his karmic retribution. The same is true when we people see mountains, rivers, the earth, vegetation, buildings, San Francisco, New York, Japan, China, and everything else, it's all a manifestation due to the power of our karma. Without that power of karma, it is all empty space. If your karma is ended and your emotion is empty, then everything throughout the dharmarealm is void. It is all emptiness. There isn't anything at all. But because of attachment to appearances, you see all kinds of colors, shapes, and forms.

This ghost sees the entirety of heaven and earth as submerged in a vast expanse of billowing waves. The deceased one's spiritual consciousness falls into the water and rides the current into the Relentless Hell. He flows along with the stream and ends up at his brother's house. Where's that? The Relentless Hell. Who's his brother? His seeing. The six brothers race right after one another.

L2 Two fundamental appearances.

Sutra:

There, it is aware of two sensations. One is open hearing, in which it hears all sorts of noise and its essential spirit becomes confused. The other is closed hearing, in which there is total stillness and no hearing, and its soul sinks into oblivion.

Commentary:

Such a graphic and sobering explanation, and yet people still willingly go ahead and create offenses. You talk about how fine it is to become a Buddha, but people aren't interested in becoming Buddhas. You tell about the horrors of the hells, and they decide to try them out. Becoming a Buddha is so fine, but they don't even give it a try. "We'll talk about it later," they procrastinate. They've been told that listening to defiling sounds creates karmic offenses, but as soon as they find themselves in such a situation they are compelled to listen. They think, "I hear about that in the sutra, but I'm not convinced it's right." So they try it out.

There, when the intermediate skandha body gets to the Relentless Hell, it is aware of two sensations. One is open hearing, in which it hears all sorts of noise and its essential spirit becomes confused. All pandemonium breaks loose.

"Confused" means that it cannot remember anything any more. The other is closed hearing, in which there is total stillness and no hearing, and its soul sinks into oblivion. It experiences total deafness. Then its soul goes one knows not where. It sinks into oblivion.

L3 A detailed explanation of the intermingled retributions.

Sutra:

When the waves from hearing flow into the hearing, they become scolding and interrogation. When they flow into the seeing, they become thunder and roaring and evil poisonous vapors. When they flow into the breath, they become rain and fog that is permeated with poisonous organisms that entirely fill up the body. When they flow into the sense of taste, they become pus and blood and every kind of filth. When they flow into the sense of touch, they become animals and ghosts, and excrement and urine. When they flow into the mind, they become lightning and hail which ravage the heart and soul.

Commentary:

When the waves from hearing flow into the hearing, the organ of the ear, they become scolding and interrogation. When they flow into the seeing, they become thunder and roaring and evil poisonous vapors. There is a hell of thunder and roaring. One is saturated in poisonous vapors. When they flow into the breath, they become rain and fog that is permeated with poisonous organisms that entirely fill up the body. There's a hell where there's eternal rain and fog. The rain is polluted with poisonous organisms, and when they strike the skin, they bite into every pore and work their way in. Pretty soon one's whole body is covered with poisonous organisms. When they flow into the sense of taste, they become pus and blood and every kind of filth. It is utter muck and scum. When they flow into the sense of touch, they become animals and ghosts, and excrement and urine. He undergoes his punishment in the hell of excrement and urine. When they flow into the mind, they become lightning and hail which ravage the heart and soul. In the Hell of Lightning and Hail, there is an eternal storm, and one is struck by lightning and hailstones. It's a painful retribution. The ghost's very heart and soul are ripped to smithereens.

L1 At the end of one's life one sees one's own fall.

Sutra:

The third is the retribution of smelling, which beckons one and leads one to evil ends. The karma of smelling intermingles, and thus at the time of death one first sees a poisonous smoke that permeates the atmosphere near and far. The deceased one's spiritual consciousness wells up out of the earth and enters the Relentless Hell.

Commentary:

"The nose doesn't do anything but smell," you protest. "What karma can it create?" However, smelling can also create karma. That's because there is greed involved in the smelling. Because of its greed for fragrances, the nose sometimes ends up doing improper things, like pursuing the fragrances of women. With this kind of deviant view, all kinds of evil karma can be created. Then there are various kinds of interconnected evil retributions which must be borne. Therefore, the third is the retribution of smelling, which beckons one and leads one to evil ends. The karma of smelling intermingles, and thus at the time of death one first sees a poisonous smoke that permeates the atmosphere near and far. When the person was alive he liked to smell fragrances, but now everything has turned into a poisonous vapor. You should realize that the fragrant things of this world, when inhaled to the ultimate, become poisonous vapors. The deceased one's spiritual consciousness wells up out of the earth and enters the Relentless Hell. When it sees that everything is permeated with poison, it tries to leap out of it, to bound up above the earth and escape it. Little does it realize that with that single bound it will end up in the Relentless Hell.

L2 The fundamental appearances.

Sutra:

There, it is aware of two sensations. One is unobstructed smelling, in which it is thoroughly infused with the evil vapors and its mind becomes distressed. The other is obstructed smelling, in which its breath is cut off and there is no passage, and it lies stifled and suffocating on the ground.

Commentary:

There, the intermediate skandha body, is aware of two sensations. One is unobstructed smelling, in which it is thoroughly infused with the evil vapors and its mind becomes distressed. His mind is in total chaos and turmoil. The other is obstructed smelling, in which its breath is cut off and there is no passage. He can't breathe. It lies stifled and suffocating on the ground. He's in total despair and on the verge of death.

L3 A detailed explanation of the intermingled retributions.

Sutra:

When the vapor of smelling invades the breath, it becomes cross-examination and bearing witness. When it invades the seeing, it becomes fire and torches. When it invades the hearing, it becomes sinking and drowning, oceans, and bubbling cauldrons. When it invades the sense of taste, it becomes putrid or rancid foods. When it invades the sense of touch, it becomes ripping apart and beating to a pulp. It also becomes a huge mountain of flesh which has a hundred thousand eyes and which is sucked and fed upon by numberless worms. When it invades the mind, it becomes ashes, pestilent airs, and flying sand and gravel which cut the body to ribbons.

Commentary:

When the vapor of smelling invades the breath, it becomes cross-examination and bearing witness. One undergoes constant questioning. Or one is obligated to do certain things. When it invades the seeing, it becomes fire and torches. This is the Hell of Fire and Torches. When it invades the hearing, it becomes sinking and drowning. There is a hell of sinking and drowning which contains blood and urine. Or it becomes oceans, and bubbling cauldrons. These are other hells. When it invades the sense of taste, it becomes putrid or rancid foods. "Putrid" describes rotten fish-flesh. "Rancid" describes spoiled candy. In general it means having to eat food that's gone bad. When it invades the sense of touch, it becomes ripping apart and beating to a pulp. It also becomes a huge mountain of flesh which has a hundred thousand eyes and which is sucked and fed upon by numberless worms. They devour one's flesh and blood. When it invades the mind, it becomes ashes, pestilent airs, and flying sand and gravel which cut the body to ribbons. When the vapors of the smelling invade the mind, one is saturated with foul air, with ashes and vapors carrying disease-ridden organisms. Or stones and clods of earth come hurtling at one unexpectedly and totally riddle one's body.

K4 Retribution of tasting.
L1 At the end of one's life one sees one's own fall.

Sutra:

The fourth is the retribution of tasting, which beckons one and leads one to evil ends. This karma of tasting intermingles, and thus at the time of death one first sees an iron net ablaze with a raging fire that covers over the entire world. The deceased one's spiritual consciousness passes down through this hanging net, and suspended upside down it enters the Relentless Hell.

Commentary:

When people nourish their own bodies with animal flesh, they become greedy for meat and investigate flavors. They are always investigating ways to come up with new and different combinations to make superb delicacies. Because of this, they end up creating a lot of bad karma. How do they make bad karma? In the study of flavors, Chinese people have decided that the most nourishment lies in living flesh. They have taken to eating live creatures, the "freshest" meat. Westerners put their meat in refrigerators for a while before they eat it. But Chinese people feel that cooling the meat robs it of its nutrients. They prefer to cut the flesh off living animals and eat that. For instance, there's one technique in which the cook sets a hog to running and forces it to run for a couple of hours by beating it. Eventually its heart is racing, and its circulation increases to the point that its flesh swells. At the strategic moment the cook slices off a big piece of flesh from the pig's hindquarters and roasts it. This is considered to be the tastiest meat.

The Chinese have another ingenious method: first they cut a hole in the center of the table and stick the monkey's head up through the hole, the monkey is still alive at this point. Then they smash the skull with a club and the people sit around and eat the monkey's brains. They say this is a most nutritious food. These are examples of creating karmic offenses because of the sense of taste. Because of a greed for fine flavors, people will go to all kinds of extremes and invent various strange methods of creating karmic offenses.

The fourth is the retribution of tasting, which beckons one and leads one to evil ends. This karma of tasting intermingles, and thus at the time of death one first sees an iron net ablaze with a raging fire that covers over the entire world. The karma of tasting intermingles with the experiences of the other five sense organs. When the person is about to die, he sees a conflagration in an iron net that extends over the whole world. The deceased one's spiritual consciousness passes down through this hanging net, and suspended upside down it enters the Relentless Hell. His soul falls and gets hung up in the net. Head-first, upside down, he enters the Unspaced Hell.

L2 Two fundamental appearances.

Sutra:

There, it is aware of two sensations. One is a sucking air which congeals into ice so that it freezes the flesh of his body. The other is a spitting blast of air which spews out a raging fire that roasts his bones and marrow to a pulp.

Commentary:

There, it is aware of two sensations. One is a sucking air which congeals into ice so that it freezes the flesh of his body. The sucking is an intake of breath, and it is cold. It becomes ice, bitter cold. It freezes the flesh of the body. The other is a spitting blast of air which spews out a raging fire that roasts his bones and marrow to a pulp. This is the exhalation. It's a spitting fire which burns up his bones and marrow.

L3 A detailed explanation of the intermingled retributions.

Sutra:

When the tasting of flavors passes through the sense of taste, it becomes what must be acknowledged and what must be endured. When it passes through the seeing, it becomes burning
metal and stones. When it passes through the hearing, it becomes sharp weapons and knives. When it passes through the sense of smell, it becomes a vast iron cage that encloses the entire land. When it passes through the sense of touch, it becomes bows and arrows, crossbows, and darts. When it passes through the mind, it becomes flying pieces of molten iron that rain down from out of space.

Commentary:

When the tasting of flavors and the evil karma it creates passes through the sense of taste, it becomes what must be acknowledged and what must be endured. "What must be acknowledged" means that, however unwilling, you are forced to admit to the evil karma you have created. "What must be endured" means that you must undergo what is basically unendurable. You can't evade your responsibility. When it passes through the seeing, it becomes burning metal and stones. There's a hell where the fire gets so hot that it melts the metal and rocks. When it passes through the hearing, it becomes sharp weapons and knives. In this hell a lot of keen weapons pierce your body. When it passes through the sense of smell, it becomes a vast iron cage that encloses the entire land. It extends over an area as large as an entire country. When it passes through the sense of touch, it becomes bows and arrows, crossbows, and darts. Arrows and darts pierce the offender's body. When it passes through the mind, it becomes flying pieces of molten iron that rain down from out of space. These red-hot bits of metal fall out of the sky and burn the body.

K5 Retribution of touching.
L1 At the end of one's life one sees one's own fall.

Sutra:

The fifth is the retribution of touching, which beckons one and leads one to evil ends. The karma of touching intermingles, and thus at the time of death one first sees huge mountains closing in on one from four sides, leaving no path of escape. The deceased one's spiritual consciousness then sees a vast iron city. Fiery snakes and fiery dogs, wolves, lions, ox-headed jail keepers, and horse-headed rakshasas brandishing spears and lances drive it into the iron city toward the Relentless Hell.

Commentary:

The fifth is the retribution of touching, which beckons one and leads one to evil ends. If one is greedy for objects of touch, one gets drawn into an evil retribution. The karma of touching intermingles, and thus at the time of death one first sees huge mountains closing in on one from four sides, leaving no path of escape. The karma created from the sensation of touch combines with the karma of the other five sense organs. A person with this kind of karma will experience the karmic response of seeing gigantic mountains surrounding him and pushing in on him to crush him. There is no way for him to escape the position he's in. No road is open to him. The deceased one's spiritual consciousness then sees a vast iron city. At that point, when he's caught in the midst of these mountains that are moving in on him, he spies a big iron city.

Fiery snakes and fiery dogs, wolves, lions, ox-headed jail keepers, and horse-headed rakshasas brandishing spears and lances drive it into the iron city toward the Relentless Hell. These beasts are alive, but they are composed of fire. The oxheaded jail keepers are responsible for looking after the iron city. The horse-headed rakshasa ghosts and the jailers are heavily armed with various sorts of spears and other terrifying weapons. This vicious entourage compels the offender to enter the vast iron city. As soon as he gets inside the city, he falls into the Relentless Hells.

L2 Two fundamental appearances.

Sutra:

There, it is aware of two sensations. One is touch that involves coming together, in which mountains come together to squeeze its body until its flesh, bones, and blood are totally dispersed. The other is touch that involves separation, in which knives and swords attack the body, ripping the heart and liver to shreds.

Commentary:

There, it is aware of two sensations. One is touch that involves coming together, in which mountains come together to squeeze its body until its flesh, bones, and blood are totally dispersed. From four sides, huge mountains close in to press one's body. Every part of the body is smashed to smithereens. The mountains squeeze one into a meat patty. At that point one dies, of course, but then the "clever wind" revives one. Replete with a new body, one has to go through the same experience again. In this way one gets squeezed to death and revived, again and again, birth after birth and death after death. This is touch that involves contact. The other is touch that involves separation, in which knives and swords attack the body, ripping the heart and liver to shreds. Knives, swords, lances and the like assault the body, and the internal organs are completely destroyed.

L3 A detailed explanation of the intermingled retributions.

Sutra:

When this touching passes through the sensation of touch, it becomes striking, binding, stabbing, and piercing. When it passes through the seeing, it becomes burning and scorching. When it passes through the hearing, it becomes questioning, investigating, court examinations, and interrogation. When it passes through the sense of smell, it becomes enclosures, bags, beating, and binding up. When it passes through the sense of taste, it becomes plowing, pinching, chopping, and severing. When it passes through the mind, it becomes falling, flying, frying, and broiling.

Commentary:

When this touching passes through the sensation of touch, it becomes striking, binding, stabbing, and piercing. The text actually reads "questioning, investigating, court examinations, and interrogation" but these are more appropriate to the retribution for hearing, whereas "striking, binding, stabbing, and piercing," which appear in the text under hearing, are more appropriate to the sense of touch. "Striking" occurs when two things are hit together, "binding" is being tied up. "Stabbing" is being cut by knives, and "piercing" is what happens when arrows are shot at one. When it passes through the seeing, it becomes burning and scorching. When the sense of touch is influenced by seeing, then the retribution is burning and intense heat, like the hell of fiery soup and charcoals and the like. When it passes through the hearing, it becomes questioning, investigating, court examinations, and interrogation. "Questioning" means being brought before the courts of hell. "Investigating" means being examined by officials before passing through the gates. "Court examinations" are designed to cross-examine you about the offenses you have created.

When it passes through the sense of smell, it becomes enclosures, bags, beating, and binding up. "Enclosures" means one is put inside something and contained. "Bags" refers to being tied in a bag. "Beating" means that besides being contained, you are beaten up. "Binding" up means that you are tied down and restricted. When it passes through the sense of taste, it becomes plowing, pinching, chopping, and severing. "Plowing" refers to having one's tongue plowed through. First it is hooked and pulled out, and then it is plowed through. "Pinching" means that the tongue is seized with pincers and pulled out. "Cutting" refers to having the tongue cut through. "Severing" means chopping the tongue clear off. When it passes through the mind, it becomes falling, flying, frying, and broiling. "Falling" is when one is tossed into space and left to drop as one will. "Flying" also refers to being hurtled into space and then allowed to crash down to earth. "Frying" means the application of intense heat to burn one to a crisp, as if one were an oil cake. "Broiling" is another way one's body is burned.

K6 Retribution of thinking.
L1 At the end of one's life one sees one's own fall.

Sutra:

The sixth is the retribution of thinking, which beckons one and leads one to evil ends. The karma of thinking intermingles, and thus at the time of death one first sees a foul wind which devastates the land. The deceased one's spiritual consciousness is blown up into space, and then, spiraling downward, it rides that wind straight into the Relentless Hell.

Commentary:

The sixth is the retribution of thinking, which beckons one and leads one to evil ends. The bad retribution which thinking can create is extremely severe, and the evil karma it calls up is enormous. The karma of thinking intermingles, and thus at the time of death one first sees a foul wind which devastates the land. The karma of thinking intermingles with the karma of the other sense organs. It accumulates so that at the time of death all one sees is a horrendous wind which is blowing everything in the world to bits. The deceased one's spiritual consciousness is blown up into space, and then, spiraling downward, it rides that wind straight into the Relentless Hell. The dead person's soul is blown up into empty space, but then it takes a dive and spins into the unspaced hell.

L2 Two fundamental appearances.

Sutra:

There, it is aware of two sensations. One is extreme confusion, which causes it to be frantic and to race about ceaselessly. The other is not confusion, but rather an acute awareness which causes it to suffer from endless roasting and burning, the extreme pain of which is difficult to bear.

Commentary:

There, it is aware of two sensations. One is extreme confusion, which causes it to be frantic and to race about ceaselessly. The first is a lack of awareness. One doesn't understand anything at all at that time. One is sunk into a stupor, like an idiot. In that deep confusion, one becomes incoherent and races about senselessly. One never stops to rest. Wouldn't you say that is a lot of suffering? The other is not confusion, but rather an acute awareness which causes it to suffer from endless roasting and burning, the extreme pain of which is difficult to bear. The other alternative is not to be confused, but to be clearly aware of what is going on. But this awareness allows one to experience intense suffering. Although one is not confused, everything one experiences is suffering. The suffering comes from the raging blaze that burns one. The pain is the worst one could know. It's like when our bodies itch; pretty soon we can't bear the itch, so we have to scratch. It's that way here, but what is felt is pain, ultimately intense and ceaseless pain.

L3 A detailed explanation of the intermingled retributions.

Sutra:

When this deviant thought combines with thinking, it becomes locations and places. When it combines with seeing, it becomes inspection and testimonies. When it combines with hearing, it becomes huge crushing rocks, ice and frost, dirt and fog. When it combines with smelling, it becomes a great fiery car, a fiery boat, and a fiery jail. When it combines with tasting, it becomes loud calling, wailing, and regretful crying. When it combines with touch, it becomes sensations of large and small, where ten thousand births and ten thousands deaths are endured every day, and of lying with one's face to the ground.

Commentary:

When this deviant thought combines with thinking, it becomes locations and places. "Deviant thought" means that the things one thinks about are improper, and one indulges in fantasies, that is, one's thoughts dwell on strange and weird things. When the deviant thought receives a retribution directed at itself, it turns into evil places of inquisition and interrogation. When it combines with seeing, it becomes inspection and testimonies. "Inspection" refers to the offense-spotting mirror in the hells. When you arrive, you have to go before the mirror and watch all the offenses you created in your life appear there, just as if they were frames of a movie. They are all in vivid detail, and there's no way you can back out of them. You can't avoid owning up to them. If you refuse to admit them, you have to endure "testimonies," in which people prove what you did. When it combines with hearing, it becomes huge crushing rocks. They close in on the four sides surrounding you and crush you between them. And it's cold with ice and frost, and there is dirt and fog. This hell is polluted, a yellow haze defiles the atmosphere so that you can't see anything and you get dizzy and disoriented.

When it combines with smelling, it becomes a great fiery car. This does not refer to trains that take us on vacations here in the world, but rather to a car red-hot with fire that one is forced to sit in. A fiery boat means that the entire boat is ablaze and you must climb aboard. A fiery jail is a prison full of fire that you must enter. When it combines with tasting, it becomes loud calling, wailing, and regretful crying. The noise in this hell is tremendous. One experiences regret in this hell and one moans and weeps.

When it combines with touch, it becomes sensations of large and small, big hells and little hells, where ten thousand births and ten thousands deaths are endured every day. In the course of one single day, one dies a myriad times and is born a myriad times. And it becomes lying with one's face to the ground. Whether lying down, crawling, or standing up, one undergoes punishment. In general, this is not a pleasant place to be. It's not a likely spot to want to go, for the pain and suffering is tremendous.

I4 General conclusion: they are empty and false.
J1 Concludes that they are falsely created.

Sutra:

Ananda, these are called the ten causes and six retributions of the hells, which are all created by the confusion and falseness of living beings.

Commentary:

Ananda, these are called the ten causes and six retributions of the hells. Many different hells have just been named, and all come from the ten habitual causes, which are these:

1. lust
2. greed
3. arrogance
4. hatred
5. deception
6. lying
7. animosity
8. views
9. injustice
10. litigation

They result in the six intermingling retributions that involve the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind as they react to forms, sounds, smells, tastes, objects of touch, and dharmas. These hells are all created by the confusion and falseness of living beings. They come from giving rise to falseness within the one truth, Once ignorance arises, various karmic manifestations result from it. From the karma, various offenses are created. But if one returns the hearing to hear the self-nature and cultivates this path to enlightenment, then all this karma becomes empty. It disappears.

J2 Distinguishes the comparative weight of the offenses.

Sutra:

If living beings create this evil karma simultaneously, they enter the Avichi Hell and endure limitless suffering, passing through limitless kalpas.

Commentary:

If living beings create this evil karma simultaneously, they enter the Avichi Hell. If they indulge in behavior that includes all ten causes and all six intermingling retributions, they go to the Avichi Hell. It is an Relentless Hell, but it is the most severe one, so here it is named specifically. Basically all the Relentless Hells can be called Avichi, but here the most severe one is specifically given that name. In that hell, they endure limitless suffering, passing through limitless kalpas.

Sutra:

If each of the six sense organs creates them and if what is done includes each state and each sense organ, then the person will enter the Eight Relentless Hells.

Commentary:

If each of the six sense organs creates them: if the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind each create these offenses, the ten habitual causes, but not all at the same time as in the previous passage, and if what is done includes each state and each sense organ, then the person will enter the Eight Relentless Hells.

What's done means what the sense organs do in reaction to the states of the sense objects, the kind of karma they create. "Each state" refers to the sense objects and "each sense organ" to the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind individually. "What is done" is the offenses which are created from the habitual causes. Here, all the sense organs create all the habitual causes, but they do not do it simultaneously. A person who follows his six sense organs and six sense objects to create such offenses will undergo the retributions of the eight Relentless Hells. There are eight hot and eight cold hells, and this refers to the eight cold hells.

Sutra:

If the three karmas of body, mouth, and mind commit acts of killing, stealing, and lust, the person will enter the eighteen hells.

Commentary:

If the three karmas of body, mouth, and mind commit acts of killing, stealing, and lust, there are three evils of the body.

1. killing
2. stealing
3. lust

There are four evils of the mouth.

1. loose speech
2. false speech
3. harsh speech
4. backbiting

There are three evils of the mind.

1. greed
2. hatred
3. stupidity

If the karmas of the body, mouth, and mind are not pure, then one creates these ten evils. The person will enter the eighteen hells. There are terrible punishments in these eighteen consecutive hells.

Sutra:

If the three karmas are not all involved, and there is perhaps just one act of killing and/or of stealing, then the person must enter the thirty-six hells.

Commentary:

In the situation described above, the karma created was heavy. Now, the three karmas are not all involved in making offenses. If the three karmas are not all involved, and there is perhaps just one act of killing and/or of stealing: maybe the person commits one murder or one theft, or he commits murder and a theft, or he commits a murder and an act of lust or a theft. In short, he doesn't do them all, but some partial combination of them. The offense karma of a person in that situation is a bit lighter. Then the person must enter the thirty-six hells. Although he has to undergo more hells, the offenses are lighter and the suffering in these hells is not as severe.

Sutra:

If the sense organ of sight alone commits just one karmic offense, then the person must enter the one hundred and eight hells.

Commentary:

If the sense organ of sight is the source of all offenses. It is said:

If the eyes didn't see it, the mouth would not be gluttonous for it.
If the ears didn't hear it, the mind would not make transgressions concerning it.

If you didn't see something good to eat, your mouth would not commit the offense of gluttony. If the ears did not hear lovely sounds, the mind would not give rise to thoughts of desire. Seeing them is the beginning of evil and the source of offenses. Therefore, the text says: If the sense organ of sight alone commits just one karmic offense, perhaps it commits only one of the three karmas of the body: killing, or stealing, or lust. Then the person must enter the one hundred and eight hells.

J3 Even the heavy offenses are clearly an arisal of falseness.

Sutra:

Because of this, living beings who do certain things create certain karma, and so in the world they enter collective hells, which arise from false thinking and which originally are not there at all.

Commentary:

Because of this, because of the various circumstances described above, living beings who do certain things create certain karma. They do individual things, they create their own special offenses, and then they have to undergo a retribution. And so in the world they enter collective hells. All the people who create a particular kind of karma enter that collective hell. Each category of offense has its retribution, and all who create that offense collectively undergo the retribution in the hells, which arise from false thinking and which originally are not there at all. These hells arise from offenses. Offenses are created because of ignorance. They arise from false thinking. Originally, though, they don't exist at all. Originally there is purity and no defilemen, there isn't anything at all. But,

Just because you make one false move,
You blow the whole chess game.

As it is said:

If one is off by a hair in the beginning,
One will miss it by a thousand miles.

Destiny of Ghosts

H2 Destiny of ghosts.
I1 Concludes prior discussion and begins this.

Sutra:

And then, Ananda, after the living beings who have slandered and destroyed rules and deportment, violated the Bodhisattva precepts, slandered the Buddha's nirvana, and created various other kinds of karma, pass through many kalpas of being burned in the inferno, they finally finish paying for their offenses and are reborn as ghosts.

Commentary:

Since the explanation of the ten habitual causes and the six intermingling retributions is not yet finished, Shakyamuni Buddha says: And then, Ananda, let me tell you some more about this principle. After the living beings who have created karmic offenses, who have slandered and destroyed rules and deportment, they said things like, "Those precepts and rules in your Buddhism are not necessary. People should be free to do as they please, especially in America. This is a democratic country, and everyone is free and independent. So there shouldn't be prohibitions in Buddhism, either." They denounce the idea of the Buddha's precepts. They say that one can be a left-home person, a member of the Sangha, whether one has taken precepts or not. They claim that the precepts and rules are unnecessary and that there is no need to abide by the three thousand modes of deportment and the eighty thousand subtle aspects of conduct. They violated the Bodhisattva precepts. They don't uphold the ten major and fortyeight minor Bodhisattva precepts. They violate them. They slandered the Buddha's nirvana. They say that the principle of nirvana is also incorrect. These kinds of people are steeped in offenses. They have and created various other kinds of karma as well, a lot of bad karma. After creating offenses such as these, they pass through many kalpas, a tremendously long time, of being burned in the inferno before they finally finish paying for their offenses. Eventually their offenses are gone and they no longer have to dwell in the hells undergoing bitter retributions. When their offenses are paid back, they are reborn as ghosts. True enough, they've finished being punished for their offenses, but then they get reborn as ghosts.

People who call themselves disciples of the Buddha and yet don't believe in ghosts should pay attention to the mention of ghosts in the Shurangama Sutra. There are many kinds of ghosts, not just one kind. In fact, I'll tell you something: the Shurangama Mantra for the most part consists of the names of ghosts. La She Pwo Ye, Ju La Bwo Ye are names of ghosts. The reason we recite the mantra is to call out the names of the ghost kings. When we recite names of the big ghosts, all the lesser ones don't dare make trouble, either. Mantras are the names of ghosts and spirits. The beings discussed here are reborn as ghosts. What kind ofghosts? Ten kinds of ghosts are now discussed in connection with the karma created from the ten habitual causes. But, in fact, there are many kinds of ghosts, not just ten. These are just representative.

J1 Strange ghosts result from the habit of greed and take form when they encounter material objects.

Sutra:

If greed for material objects was the original cause that made the person commit offenses, then, after he has finished paying for his crimes, he takes shape when he encounters material objects, and he is called a strange ghost.

Commentary:

If greed for material objects was the original cause on his causal ground that made the person commit offenses, then, after he has finished paying for his crimes, he takes shape when he encounters material objects. What kind of objects was he greedy for? The greatest desire is the desire for sex. If he sought such things when he was on the causal ground, and if he committed crimes while doing so, then he has to fall into the hells. After his term in hell is finished, he takes shape when he encounters material objects. What kind of objects? Any kind; whatever kind it is, he can attach himself to it and take his form from it. He's called a strange ghost.

J2 Drought ghosts result from the habit of lust and take form when they encounter wind.

Sutra:

If it was greed for lust that made the person commit offenses, then, after he has finished paying for his crimes, he takes shape when he encounters the wind, and he is called a drought-ghost.

Commentary:

If it was greed for lust that made the person commit offenses, then, after he has finished paying for his crimes, he takes shape when he encounters the wind. In China, someone who is lustful is said to be greedy for "the wind and the current." People who are like this end up as drought-ghosts. What are drought-ghosts like? Wherever they go, it doesn't rain, and this is due to the "tricks of desert and of drought-ghosts." If you encounter a place where the rain does not fall, where the sprouts in the fields dry up and die, you know now that such a place is inhabited by a drought-ghost. This is true: By listening to the Shurangama Sutra, you can unravel all the mysteries of the world. All the questions of physical science are clarified in this sutra. If you hadn't heard this sutra, you wouldn't understand the reason behind droughts and deserts. Basically, these are due to the tricks of the drought-ghost. This kind of person was greedy for "the wind and the current," and so now when his ghost encounters the wind it takes its shape and is called a drought-ghost. He causes drought wherever he goes. Pretty talented, huh?

J3 Mei ghosts result from the habit of lying and take form when they encounter animals.

Sutra:

If it was greed to lie that made the person commit offenses, then, after he has finished paying for his crimes, he takes shape when he encounters an animal, and he is called a mei ghost.

Commentary:

This kind of ghost takes its shape when it encounters an animal, perhaps a fox spirit or a yellow wolf, or even a cat or a dog. It's possible for animals to have these weird essences attached to them. I've seen a cat that was possessed by a ghost. It could perform some great stunts. It could jump more than ten feet in the air and land on the top of the house. Then it would leap off the house and land on the ground; it would go through this routine over and over. It also howled and wailed. A fox that is possessed in this way can in turn possess a person. Although it's an animal, it can send out its soul and enter a person, and talk through him or her. A yellow wolf can also do this. It sends out its efficacious spirit and possesses someone. Then it can speak through the person it has possessed. There are a lot of these strange manifestations. This is called the mei ghost. When it possesses a person, the person's mind becomes totally confused by it, and he loses his sense of awareness. It's as if he were asleep.

J4 Poisonous ghosts result from the habit of hatred and take form when they encounter worms.

Sutra:

If it was greed for hatred that made the person commit offenses, then, after he has finished paying for his crimes, he takes shape when he encounters worms, and he is called a ku poison ghost.

Commentary:

If it was greed for hatred that made the person commit offenses, then, after he has finished paying for his crimes, he takes shape when he encounters worms. All ten of these ghosts are described by means of their greed. Ultimately, it is greed that creates their forms as ghosts. This one was greedy for hatred. Full of hatred, he would attack people without reason, and so he committed offense-karma involving hatred. That caused him to fall into the Relentless Hell. When he finishes working out his punishments in the hells, he becomes a ghost, and he takes shape when he encounters worms. He is called a ku poison ghost. This ku poison is found in Canton province in China. People use it to put hexes on other people. They take the ku poison from these worms and make it into a medicine. If they slip a pill of this medicine into your tea, then ever after that you must obey their every instruction. If you don't, you'll die. That's to contract ku poisoning.

In the Southeast Asian countries like Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and so forth, ku poisoning is common. There is a ghost behind this kind of poisoning, it is his specialty. His potions are extremely potent. The only way to undo such a hex is for the person who put it on you to recite a mantra designed to release you from it. But if he won't do that, then you're in real trouble. You are forever in his control. One amusing use of it is by the southern women who hex the northern men from Canton province whom they take a fancy to. After they marry, the wife puts a hex on her northern husband so that if he ever gets the idea in his head to leave her, he will die. So those northern men are very faithful to their southern wives. A lot of people have this trick played on them. But you should be clear that this is a deviant trick.

J5 Pestilence ghosts result from the habit of resentment and take form when they encounter degeneration.

Sutra:

If it was greed for animosity that made the person commit offenses, then, after he has finished paying for his crimes, he takes shape when he encounters degeneration, and he is called a pestilence ghost.

Commentary:

If it was greed for animosity that made the person commit offenses, then, after he has finished paying for his crimes, he takes shape when he encounters degeneration. "Animosity" means that he's always thinking about things that happened in the past and remembering them with resentment. Because he's always wanting to get even, he commits offenses. From these crimes, he is forced to fall into the Relentless Hells. After the offenses are paid for and disappear, the criminal is free. But his freedom is such that when he encounters degeneration he takes shape. It may be a debilitated person or any kind of animal that is feeble and old. He borrows the physical forms of such beings and becomes a pestilence ghost. Sometimes, rather than taking over a person who is debilitated, he possesses a person who then becomes debilitated. This kind of ghost is terrible and fierce. It can wipe out a human life as easily as it can pull something out of its pocket.

J6 Hungry ghosts result from the habit of arrogance and take form when they encounter gases.

Sutra:

If it was greed to be arrogant that made the person commit offenses, then after he has finished paying for his crimes, he takes shape when he encounters gases, and he is called a hungry ghost.

Commentary:

If it was greed to be arrogant that made the person commit offenses, then after he has finished paying for his crimes, he takes shape when he encounters gases. He was a really haughty individual. Therefore, people should not look down on others. People should not be haughty and self-satisfied, or be totally lacking in courtesy toward others. A person like this doesn't even acknowledge others when he encounters them, he's downright rude.

During the Three Kingdoms period in China, there was a pedant named Ze Ce who went to see General Cao Cao. Cao Cao prepared everyone in advance of the visit, saying that when the pedant walked in, no one should look at him. When the pedant arrived for his appointment with Cao Cao, none of the several dozen attendants who surrounded the General stood up. It was just as if they hadn't even noticed that he had come in. So what do you suppose Ze Ce did? He started to cry. Cao Cao asked, "What are you crying about?"

He replied, "How could you expect me not to weep when I encounter a whole group of dead people? They are all dead, aren't they? That's why they can't speak or move, isn't it?" After that scolding, Cao Cao was at a loss. This happened at the time when Cao Cao was in his greatest days of power. That's why he was rude to Ze Ce. And what he displayed was the kind of arrogance being discussed here.

A person who is arrogant will commit offenses, and after his term in the unspaced hells, he will take shape when he encounters gases. The kind of gas doesn't matter, any kind will do for him to use to make his appearance. This kind of ghost is called a hungry ghost. "Hungry ghosts" are just what their name implies, ghosts that don't have anything to eat. Their necks are as skinny as needles, and their bellies are as big as barrels. Since their throats are so thin, they can't swallow any food. If you were to see such a ghost, wouldn't you consider it to be ugly?

J7 Paralysis ghosts result from the habit of injustice and form when they encounter darkness.

Sutra:

If it was greed to be unjust to others that made the person commit offenses, then after he has finished paying for his crimes, he takes shape when he encounters darkness, and he is called a paralysis ghost.

Commentary:

If it was greed to be unjust to others, to hurt other people, that made the person commit offenses, then after he has finished paying for his crimes, he takes shape when he encounters darkness. Being greedy to oppress and prone to being unfair, one creates offenses. These offenses will cause one to fall into the unspaced hells. After hundreds of thousands of millions of kalpas, one's karmic offenses are wiped away and one is free to go, but one's left-over habits still remain and have not been changed, and so one is still unjust and greedy to oppress others. The habits persist. So he takes his form when he encounters darkness. He appears in dingy, shadowy places, and he is called a paralysis ghost. Do you remember the kumbhanda ghost that was discussed before? This is he. One of my disciples tells me that he has met this type of ghost dozens of times. He fought them off each time and didn't lose his life, however.

It's dangerous business to get mixed up with them, though, because it's possible for a paralysis ghost to kill you with his techniques. But now that this disciple believes in the Buddha, I believe that this type of ghost won't have the audacity to bother him anymore.

J8 Wang-liang ghosts result from the habit of views and take form when they encounter essential energy.

Sutra:

If it was greed for views that made the person commit offenses, then, after he has finished paying for his crimes, he takes shape when he encounters essential energy, and he is called a wang-liang ghost.

Commentary:

"Views" refers to opinions, to one's own viewpoint. With the habit of views, one considers oneself to be extremely intelligent. In actual fact, such a person as this is thoroughly confused in what he does. He may be smart, but he ends up outsmarting himself. He clearly knows that murder is not a good thing to do, but he goes out and kills people. He knows that one should not steal but he commits robbery. Sure, he's smart, all right, and he's an effective speaker, but his own actions are a total mess. Someone like this has greed for views, he's intelligent, but his conduct is disreputable, and he commit offenses. Because of the offenses, he falls into the Relentless Hells and there passes through hundreds of thousands of millions of aeons. After his term is served, he's free, but when he gets out of the hells, what do you suppose happens to him? Well, he doesn't change his old habits. He's still endowed with worldly intelligence that goes awry and so he takes shape when he encounters essential energy, and he is called a wang-liang ghost.

If he encounters a person who is robust and full of energy, or if he encounters some weird essence, he will make his appearance. What do wang liang ghosts look like? Sometimes they will turn into a child. But whereas most children have two legs, this ghost will have one. Sometimes it will appear as an adult, but whereas people's heads are between their shoulders, its head will grow out from between its legs. Have you ever seen anything like that? If you do, you'll know that it's what's called a wang liang ghost. It's always just a little off in its appearance, weird looking.

It also acts as an "accomplice for tigers." How does it do that? Say, for example, that a certain mountain region is infested with tigers, so that no one dares to traverse that area for fear of being attacked and eaten. What this ghost does in such a place is to transform himself into the appearance of a person and go walking along the road there. When an actual person sees that there appears to be a person on the road ahead of him, he is not afraid, and he follows along into the dangerous area. Who would have guessed that the wang liang would lead the person right to the tiger's den? That's his game, to help tigers get their meals. He cheats animals this way just as he does people; he turns into one of their kind and leads them to their doom. Those who profess not to believe that there are ghosts should pay attention to these descriptions.

J9 Servant ghosts result from the habit of deceit and take form when they encounter brightness.

Sutra:

If it was greed for deception that made the person commit offenses, then, after he has finished paying for his crimes, he takes shape when he encounters brightness, and he is called a servant ghost.

Commentary:

If it was greed for deception that made the person commit offenses, then, after he has finished paying for his crimes, he takes shape when he encounters brightness. This refers to the habit of deception. Since he wants accomplishments, he gets them by deceiving other people, acting in underhanded ways. By doing this, he commits many offenses and falls into the Relentless Hells. After passing through hundreds of thousands of aeons, he finally gets free, but he still hasn't gotten rid of his left-over habits, and so he still wants to cheat people. Therefore, he takes his shape when he meets brightness. "Brightness" refers to people with wisdom who know how to recite mantras. Or you could say it refers to a "bright teacher."

When this ghost meets with that kind of a wise person, it makes its appearance. What does it do? It attends upon such people so is called a servant ghost. It helps such people do the things they want to do. In China there was a man named Ji Xiao Tang who had five servant ghosts that helped him out. One went about gathering news, keeping up on the latest goings-on. Another ghost helped Ji Xiao Tang listen to things. Since ghosts have five penetrations, they could see things that the ordinary eyes cannot see. Ghosts lack the penetration of the extinction of outflows, but they can possess the other five.

1. the penetration of the heavenly eye
2. the penetration of the heavenly ear
3. the penetration of others' thought
4. the penetration of past lives
5. the penetration of the complete spirit

These kinds of ghosts have a little cultivation, some practice the Way, and so they are endowed with these spiritual penetrations. The ghosts that attended on Ji Xiao Tang could know what people were talking about and could see what was happening at great distances to find out what was happening round and about, and then he would use that information to go and rescue people from difficulty. For example, he would find out that at such and such a place there were some weird creatures out to harm people, and he would immediately go to that place and subdue the weird beings and exorcise the strange creatures. These five servant ghosts helped him in that way. They got to be servant ghosts because in the past they were greedy to deceive others.

J10 Messenger ghosts result from the habit of litigiousness and take form when they encounter people.

Sutra:

If it was greed to be litigious that made the person commit offenses, then, after he has finished paying for his crimes, he takes shape when he encounters people, and he is called a messenger ghost.

Commentary:

If it was greed to be litigious that made the person commit offenses, then, after he has finished paying for his crimes, he takes shape when he encounters people. "Litigious" refers to getting involved in court cases. Sometimes when people go to court, they get together a party or faction to support their case. These people offer testimony on the instigator's behalf, but they tell stories and invent evidence. What really isn't true, they say is true; what is actually not so, they say is so. They argue their case when there is really no principle behind it. Often they are lawyers and the like. They challenge the people who are not of their faction, and they win their cases.

A person who does this kind of thing commits offenses. When he has finished paying for his wrongdoing, he takes his shape when he encounters a person, and he is called a messenger ghost. This kind of ghost possesses a person and speaks through him, saying such things as, "I am such and such a Buddha," or "I am such and such a Bodhisattva" or "I am God. I am also Jesus." A person who is so possessed will be restless and have a lot of nervous mannerisms. He's called a "messenger" because he can predict lucky and unlucky events. He may say, "There's going to be an earthquake at such and such a place, and it will kill more than ten thousand people." When the time comes, his prediction is completely accurate. He can foretell the future.

Someone doubts that such predictions are really accurate. But in fact they are often extremely accurate. It's right at this place that you need to know how to distinguish between the proper and the deviant. The proper is recognized as having come from cultivation of the Way. It's not that you rely on a ghost or spirit or a Bodhisattva or a Buddha to tell you such things. Be sure to recognize this clearly. In China, such people who are possessed by a ghost are called mediums or shamans. They are able to heal people. But it is not the person who does the healing. What does it is the ghost or the spirit which is possessing the person. It's like those people I described earlier who can stick knives into their skulls and swords into their shoulders. They are examples of possession by messenger ghosts.

I3 Probes the source and shows it to be non-existent.

Sutra:

Ananda, such a person's fall is due to his totally emotional level of functioning. When his karmic fire has burned out, he will rise up to be reborn as a ghost. This is occasioned by his own karma of false thinking. If he awakens to Bodhi, then in the wonderful perfect brightness there isn't anything at all.

Commentary:

The Buddha calls out again: Ananda, do you understand? Such a person's fall is due to his totally emotional level of functioning. It's because this person is totally immersed in emotion. Whatever he does is based on emotional desire. Because he's totally emotional, without any power of reason, without any discursive thought, he acts out of emotion, he functions out of desire, and that causes him to fall. Emotion belongs to yin, and discursive thought belongs to yang. After he falls and his karmic fire has burned out, after he goes to the hells and burns until there is nothing left to burn, he can come out, but he will then rise up to be reborn as a ghost. He's released, but he still cannot become a person. Where does he "rise up" from? The evil hells. He gets out and comes to the world. But although he's out of the hells, his residual habits are still not cut off. Although the offenses from his karma have been eradicated, he still has the same old habits of thinking. He's not completely pure. So he has to become a ghost.

His predicament is occasioned by his own karma of false thinking. In the one truth, he himself gave rise to falseness and produced ignorance. This ignorance arises in the nature of the treasury of the Thus Come One, and with it comes false thinking. It is false thinking that creates these kinds of karma. Because of it, the person in question must undergo this bitter retribution. He gave rise to delusion, created karma, and underwent retribution. If he awakens to Bodhi, then in the wonderful perfect brightness there isn't anything at all. If he could fathom the wonderful path to enlightenment, then there would be nothing at all in the mind, which is perfect and bright in the nature of the treasury of the Thus Come One. There's none of this trouble. There are no such problems; there isn't any of this pain and suffering. There is no distress.

Destiny of Animals

H3 Destiny of animals.
I1 Concludes prior discussion and begins this.

Sutra:

Moreover, Ananda, when his karma as a ghost is ended, the problem of emotion as opposed to discursive thought is resolved. At that point he must pay back in kind what he borrowed from others to resolve those grievances. He is born into the body of an animal to repay his debts from past lives.

Commentary:

Moreover, Ananda, let me continue to explain this principle lest you fail to understand it completely. When his karma as a ghost is ended, the problem of emotion as opposed to discursive thought is resolved. He's wiped the slate clean of emotion and thought. At that point he must pay back in kind what he borrowed from others to resolve those grievances. He has to pay back what he owes others. If he ate the flesh of other animals in the past, he will now be eaten by others. If he took others' lives in the past, then in this life he will be killed. He is born into the body of an animal to repay his debts from past lives. He will pay back the debts amassed for limitless kalpas in the past. They have to be paid back in kind. If you killed and harmed others, then the same thing will happen to you as repayment. If you owe someone a pig, then you become his pig to repay him. If you owe someone a dog, then you become his dog to repay him. If you owe someone a cow, you repay by being his cow. If you owe someone a horse, you become his horse to repay him. If you owe someone a chicken, then you go lay eggs for him. You lay a few eggs every day and in that way you gradually repay your debt. So it's not easy to act in this world's play. If you make a mistake, a lot of trouble results. If you do it correctly, then everything is clear and pure.

I2 Specifically lists ten categories.
J1 Owl category.

Sutra:

The retribution of the strange ghost of material objects is finished when the object is destroyed and it is reborn in the world, usually as a species of owl.

Commentary:

Because strange ghosts were greedy for material objects, they took their shape when they encountered material objects. "When the object is destroyed" means that the particular material object they were possessing wears out, and their karmic retribution has come to an end. The majority of the strange ghosts are then reborn as owls. That's what usually happens, but it's not a totally fixed principle. There's a line in the Book of Poetry: "The owl, the owl, the unfilial bird." Some owls can incubate a clod of dirt and hatch it. How do you explain this? Well, it's just the strange way that they are. When the owlets hatch, they eat the parent bird. A child that eats its parents is a manifestation of a weird being. This kind of bird is considered to be inauspicious. Species means that they are born as one kind of owl or another.

J2 Inauspicious category.

Sutra:

The retribution of the drought ghost of the wind is finished when the wind subsides, and it is reborn in the world, usually as a species of weird creature which gives inauspicious prognostications.

Commentary:

Wherever drought ghosts happen to be, there will be no rain. Wherever they go, the land is arid. They were greedy for lustful experiences. Through lust they created karma, and eventually they became drought ghosts when they met with the wind. When they are finished with that retribution, they are reborn in the world, but they cannot become people. Instead they become weird beings that foretell evil. Why do they have to go through this? After creating the karma of lust, enduring the hells, and being reborn as drought ghosts, their residual habits are still not completely severed, and so they become such strange creatures as these. They may be reborn as birds that are extremely colorful, but have the habit of excessive lust, or they may be reborn as beasts that are fond of lust.

J3 Fox category.

Sutra:

The retribution of the mei ghost of an animal is finished when the animal dies, and it is reborn in the world, usually as a species of fox.

Commentary:

For the most part, these mei ghosts are reborn as foxes after they have finished their karma as ghosts.

J4 Poisonous category.

Sutra:

The retribution of the ku ghost in the form of worms is finished when the ku is exhausted, and it is reborn in the world, usually as a species of venomous creature.

Commentary:

A ku poison ghost takes its shape when it encounters worms. When the ku poison finally wears out and the ghost's retribution is ended, it is reborn in the world as a venomous creature, as a scorpion, cobra, or the like.

J5 Tapeworm category.

Sutra:

The retribution of a pestilence ghost found in degeneration is finished when the degeneration is complete, and it is reborn in the world, usually as a species of tapeworm.

Commentary:

The retribution of a pestilence ghost found in degeneration is finished when the degeneration is complete. Whoever encounters this kind of ghost will waste away. These ghosts are really terrible; their demonic power is tremendous. When its retribution is ended, and it is reborn in the world, usually as a species of tapeworm. These are the bugs in your intestines. I don't know if this kind of sickness exists in the West, but in China, these tapeworms can communicate; they can talk. They can talk to the person whose stomach they are occupying. There's no way to cure this kind of sickness with medicine, unless the person who has the sickness does not know that he is being given medicine. If the sick person knows it is medicine designed to eliminate the tapeworm, the tapeworm also knows. From this comes the expression, "You're not a tapeworm in my stomach, so how do you know what I'm thinking?"

Not only can tapeworms do this, but other kinds of weird beings can get into one's stomach and then carry on conversations. I've told you about the elder disciple I had in Hong Kong; she's probably more than eighty years old by now. She was about sixty when she took refuge with me. At that time she was deaf. Regardless of the fact that she couldn't hear, she came faithfully every time I gave a sutra lecture. She only understood Cantonese to begin with, and I was lecturing in Mandarin, and though there was a translator, she couldn't hear the translation. But she came anyway. It was more than three hundred steps up to the temple. I lectured from seven to nine at night, and she would come up and go down all those stairs. There was no light on the path. Despite her age, she was not afraid of falling. She was very sincere. One day she heard the recitation of "Homage to the Lotus Pool Assembly of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas," and thereafter her deafness was cured. She could hear again. That made her even more sincere, of course.

Whenever I lectured and whatever sutra it was on, she would come to hear. Wind and rain did not keep her away. But when you cultivate, if you are sincere, there will be demonic obstacles. As I've said before, if you want to cultivate well, your sins will catch up with you. Ties of resentment from your past lives will come to get you. If you want to become a Buddha, you have to endure the demons that come to test you. One night, then, this woman had a dream, or what seemed to be a dream and yet not to be one. In it she saw three plump children between the ages of two and three. After the dream she got sick. What was the nature of her illness? She had t