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The Shurangama Sutra With Commentary by the Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua: Volume 8

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The Shurangama Sutra
With Commentary by the Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua
Volume 8



CHAPTER 1: The Origin of Demonic States

D2 Identifying the five demons so cultivators can recognize them and avoid failing.
E1 The demonic states of the five skandhas are spoken without request.
F1 Everyone should recognize these demonic states.
G1 Final true and unending compassion.

Sutra:

At that time, the Tathagata was preparing to leave the Dharma seat. From the lion throne, he extended his hand and placed it on a small table wrought of the seven precious things. But then he turned his body, which was the color of purple golden mountains, and leaned back, saying to everyone in the assembly and to Ananda: "Those of you with more to learn, those enlightened by conditions, and those who are soundhearers have now turned your minds to pursue the attainment of supreme Bodhi the unsurpassed, wonderful enlightenment. I have already taught you the true method of cultivation."

Commentary:

At that time, the Tathagata was preparing to leave the Dharma seat, since he had almost finished speaking the Shurangama Sutra. From the lion throne, he reached his hand out and placed it on a small table wrought of the seven precious things. The Buddha was on his Dharma seat, the lion throne. The Buddha's speaking of the Dharma is like a lion's roar. When a lion roars, all the animals are frightened. That's why the Buddha's Dharma seat is called the lion throne. The small table in front of the Buddha was made of and adorned with the seven precious things.

But then he turned his body, which was the color of purple golden mountains, and leaned back. The Buddha's body is like a purple golden mountain; its brightness shines everywhere. He leaned on the small table again to speak the dharma, saying to everyone in the assembly and to Ananda: Those of you with more to learn. Before certifying to the fourth stage of Arhatship, one is in the position of having more to learn. Those enlightened by conditions and those who are sound-hearers, those who become enlightened through cultivating the twelve links of conditioned causation and those sound-hearers who become enlightened through cultivating the dharma of the four noble truths have now turned your minds to pursue the attainment of supreme Bodhi, the unsurpassed, wonderful enlightenment.

You have now turned from the small to go towards the great. You of the two vehicles have brought forth the great vehicle resolve and seek to attain great enlightenment; there is no enlightenment higher than this. I have already taught you the true method of cultivation. I have already explained the real method of cultivation for you.

G2 Specific indication of the subtle demonic events.

Sutra:

You are still not aware of the subtle demonic events that can occur when you cultivate shamatha and vipashyana. If you cannot recognize a demonic state when it appears, it is because the cleansing of your mind has not been proper. You will then be engulfed by deviant views.

Commentary:

You are still not aware. Earlier, Ananda asked the Buddha how to cultivate. He had requested the Dharma on behalf of living beings of the future. But, although he now understands the principle of cultivation, he doesn't have any actual experience. He understands the theory, but since he lacks experience, he doesn't know what can occur in cultivation. So the Buddha said, "You are still not aware of the subtle demonic events that can occur when you cultivate shamatha and vipashyana." In cultivating shamatha, which refers to the great Shurangama Samadhi, and in cultivating vipashyana, a method of subtle contemplation, subtle demonic states can arise. In the process of cultivation, many demonic states can arise which are not very obvious, but, rather, extremely obscure.

If you cannot recognize a demonic state when it appears. When you are cultivating the Way and practicing the skill of "directing the hearing inward to listen to the inherent nature," a demonic state may appear. If you do not recognize the demon and do not know what demons are, it is because the cleansing of your mind has not been proper. You have been cleansing your mind, but what you have done is slightly incorrect not in accord with proper knowledge and views. For that reason, you will then be engulfed by deviant views. If your knowledge and views are the slightest bit improper, you will be caught up in deviant views.

Sutra:

You may be troubled by a demon from your own skandhas or a demon from the heavens. Or you may be possessed by a ghost or spirit, or you may encounter a li ghost or a mei ghost. If your mind is not clear, you will mistake a thief for your own son.

Commentary:

You may be troubled by a demon from your own skandhas; that is, a demon produced from your own mind, or one of the ten kinds of demons produced from the form skandha, which is also of your own making. Or it may be a demon from the heavens. Why should a demon from the heavens come to disturb you? It's because you have cultivated to the point that you have some samadhi. Having samadhi is no problem in itself, but what happens is that the demon king's palace starts to shake. It seems just like an earthquake. Since the demon king has spiritual powers, as soon as the shaking starts, he investigates, "Why is my palace shaking for no apparent reason? Why is it breaking apart? Aha!" He discovers that someone in the world is about to accomplish the Way and that the strength of that person's samadhi is shattering his palace. The demon king thinks, "So you want to destroy me? Well, I'm going to destroy your samadhi first!" Then he comes to wipe out your samadhi power.

Or you may be possessed by a ghost or spirit. When the ghosts and spirits see that you are about to realize the fruition in your cultivation, they become jealous. They think, "Oh, so you are going to realize the fruition? We're going to destroy your cultivation first!" Then they enter your mind or possess your body, making it impossible for you to perfect your samadhi power. They cause you to "catch on fire" and become possessed. Didn't the preceding passage of text talk about being possessed by a demon? This is very important. Why do you become possessed by a demon? Because "the cleansing of your mind has not been proper," and because your motivation is improper. With even the slightest deviant thought, you get caught by a demon. This is known as "catching on fire and entering a demonic state."

Or you may encounter a li ghost or a mei ghost or a wang liang. Those are types of ghosts and goblins. If your mind is not clear, you will mistake a thief for your own son. If you encounter such a state and fail to recognize or understand it, you will end up "mistaking a thief for your son." Think about it: How can they not rob or steal your possessions? If you invite a thief into your home, then all the priceless treasures in your house will be stolen. What are your priceless treasures? I will tell you frankly, and be sure to remember this! You should believe what I say. Whatever you do, don't fail to believe what I say. Why? Because it is important to your future and to your life. What are your treasures? They are your very own treasury of the Tathagata. Can your treasury of the Tathagata be stolen? Didn't I mention essence, energy and spirit before? If you want to regain your treasury of the Tathagata, you first have to protect your essence, energy, and spirit. If you fail to guard these three, you are allowing your wealth to be robbed from you. So be careful!

[January 1983]

All people like money. They think, "What Heaven has conferred is called money; accordance with nature is called money. Money may not be left for an instant. If it could be left, it would not be money." Ordinary worldly people have this problem. That is, they cannot see through the matter of money, so they can't put it down. It wouldn't be so bad if you were the only one poisoned by money. But you also want to poison your children and grandchildren, so you leave money for your sons and daughters. Your children then leave money for their children, and they in turn leave money for their children. Passing the money back and forth, people are so poisoned by this toxic substance that they can't even catch their breath. This is really frightening. Therefore, here we tell everyone that money has poison on it. You still don't believe it though, and you always want to be very close to money. You've been poisoned by it, and the harmful effects will poison your children and grandchildren as well in all the generations to come. In the past I've said this many times: people think saving up money is a good thing. But people who cultivate the Way should not take money so seriously; they need not save money. We don't need to think "Money may not be left for an instant." We should change the phrase around to say, "What heaven has conferred is called the dharma; accordance with nature is called the dharma. The dharma may not be left for an instant. If it could be left, it would not be the dharma." What is meant by "the dharma"? You say, "I know. It's the dharma of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha." You don't really understand yet. If you really understood, you wouldn't lose your dharma.

Ultimately, what is the dharma? It is just our energy, our vital energy which penetrates heaven and earth to the point that all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are of the same substance as us because our energy is connected. This energy is like our breath; it can be detected. That which is within the energy and controls it is the dharma. Therefore, it is essential that we nurture our energy; we should not lose our temper. You should cultivate your energy, as in the saying, "Foster the ground of your mind, and nurture the sky of your nature." This is nurturing your energy. If you want to nurture your energy, then don't lose your dharma. I will tell you a most important and essential dharma-door. If you listen, fine. If you don't listen, that's okay, too, but I'll tell you anyway. What is it? If you want to nurture your energy, then don't talk so much.

Don't talk so much in the kitchen. Today it's a little better. But in the last two days, when I went to the kitchen and dining hall, it sounded like a marketplace. Everyone was shouting. One person was selling carrots, another was selling cabbage, another was selling potatoes, and someone else was selling sweet potatoes. What did they think they were doing, shouting and yelling like that? They'd forgotten completely about the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. There's no need to make such a racket in the kitchen. That is not how cultivators should behave. Later I found out that the dormitory was also like a marketplace. People were quarreling, chattering, and making noise everywhere. No one knows what they were talking about.

A person who cannot limit his speech will not be able to cultivate. If you cannot nurture your energy, then you do not have the dharma. Therefore, "The dharma may not be left for an instant." You can very easily and carelessly squander this dharma by talking all the time. I do not like to interfere in other people's business, but this is really too much! If this continues, these people who argue all day long will be the villains of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. No wonder the Buddhas don't want to stay here anymore, and the Bodhisattvas also stay far away; they don't want to listen to these people who do nothing but gossip and chatter. I don't mean to say that people shouldn't talk to each other at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. People should certainly discuss important matters, but they should not be chatting idly all the time.

You say, "Oh, nothing's happening around here. I'm so lonely, I've gotta find someone to talk to."

That might be all right, but after you've had your chat, you will have lost all dharma whatsoever. If you lose the dharma, how can you cultivate the Way?

Sutra:

It is also possible to feel satisfied after a small accomplishment, like the unlearned bhikshu who reached the fourth dhyana and claimed that he had realized sagehood. When his celestial reward ended and the signs of decay appeared, he slandered Arhatship as being subject to birth and death, and thus he fell into the Avichi Hell.

Commentary:

It is also possible to feel satisfied after a small accomplishment. In cultivation, even if you do not become possessed by a demon, you must still have genuine wisdom and dharma-selecting vision. If you recognize the Buddhadharma, you yourself should know what level you have reached. Don't obtain only a little bit and feel satisfied, like the unlearned bhikshu who reached the fourth dhyana and claimed that he had realized sagehood. He was called the unlearned bhikshu because he didn't have much sense. He knew little about the principles of Buddhism. In what way was he unlearned? Basically, the four fruitions of Arhatship are all beyond the four dhyana heavens. The Buddha explained that one who has realized the fourth fruition of Arhatship no longer undergoes birth and death. A sage who has realized the second fruition is called a "once returner". He is born once in the heavens and once in the human realm; he has one more round of birth and death to undergo. A sage of the first fruition has seven more rounds of birth and death to undergo. All of these states surpass the four dhyana heavens. The unlearned bhikshu had only reached the level of the fourth dhyana heaven in his cultivation, but he thought he had already realized the fourth fruition of Arhatship. In fact, at the level of the fourth dhyana heaven, one has not realized any fruition and is still an ordinary person.

But the unlearned bhikshu claimed that he had attained the fourth fruition of Arhatship. Now, however, people think that the level of a fourth stage Arhat is still too low for them, and they brazenly claim that they themselves are Buddhas. But a Buddha has three bodies, four wisdoms, five eyes, and six spiritual powers. You can ask those people who claim to be Buddhas how many spiritual powers they have. Ghosts have five of the six spiritual powers; they lack the spiritual power of freedom from outflows. At the fruition of Buddhahood, one has all six spiritual powers. I believe that anyone who claimed to be a Buddha would not have even one spiritual power, let alone five or six. Only someone lacking spiritual powers would claim to be a Buddha. Anyone with even one spiritual power wouldn't tell such a great lie.

When his celestial reward ended, when his life in the heavens came to an end and the signs of decay appeared. Do you remember the five signs of decay1? When the life of a heavenly being comes to an end and he is about to die, these five signs appear.

He slandered Arhatship as being subject to birth and death, and thus he fell into the Avichi Hell. When his blessings in the heavens ran out, the five signs of decay appeared and his life in the heavens came to an end, the unlearned bhikshu got angry. What was he angry about? He said, "I've been deceived by the Buddha! The Buddha is a charlatan. He said that when you realize the fourth fruition of Arhatship, you don't have to undergo birth and death ever again. Why is my life coming to an end now? Why do I have to be reborn? Why do I have to undergo transmigration again? The five signs of decay are:

i) The flowers on the gods' crowns wilt;
ii) their clothes become dirty;
iii) their armpits sweat;
iv) their bodies become smelly and filthy; and
v) they cannot sit still.

Buddha is a liar!" Guess what happened when he slandered the Buddha like that. He fell into the Avichi Hell.

The Avichi Hell is also called the Relentless Hell. Basically he had not realized the fourth fruition of Arhatship at all, but he claimed that he had. When he used up his celestial blessings and reached the end of his life, he fell into the lower realms. He did not realize his mistake and said that the Buddha had spoken the dharma incorrectly. In fact the Buddha had said, "You have not realized the fourth fruition of Arhatship. If you had, naturally there would be no more birth and death for you. How could the Five Signs of Decay appear?" Upon slandering the Buddha, the unlearned bhikshu immediately fell into the Relentless Hell the Avichi Hell. Where do you suppose those people who claim to be Buddhas go? I don't know where they end up.

G3 Exhortation to pay attention and promise to speak.

Sutra:

You should pay attention. I will now explain this for you in detail.

Commentary:

You should pay attention. Ananda, you should pay special attention. Listen carefully. I will now explain this for you, Ananda, and for everyone else, in great detail, so don't disappoint me.

F2 The members of the assembly bow and listen respectfully.

Sutra:

Ananda stood up and, with the others in the assembly who had more to learn, bowed joyfully. They quieted themselves in order to listen to the compassionate instruction.

Commentary:

Ananda stood up immediately and, with the others in the assembly the great Bodhisattvas, the great Arhats, the great bhikshus, and those who had more to learn, people at the first, second, and third fruitions bowed joyfully. Since the Buddha was about to explain the matter in detail, everyone was happy, and together they joyfully paid homage and bowed to the Buddha. They quieted themselves in order to listen to the compassionate instruction. They subdued their minds and had no more extraneous thoughts, so they could listen with full attention to the dharma the Buddha was about to speak.

F3 Detailed explanation of the demons' deeds.
G1 Telling where they come from.
H1 Samadhi is the reason for the demons' agitation.
I1 Emphasizing the significance of the dual aspects of true and false, production and destruction.
J1 First, explaining that our fundamental enlightenment is the same as the Buddha's.

Sutra:

The Buddha told Ananda and the whole assembly, "You should know that the twelve categories of beings in this world of outflows are endowed with a wonderfully bright, fundamental enlightenment, the enlightened, perfect substance of the mind which is not different from that of the Buddhas of the ten directions."

Commentary:

The Buddha told Ananda and everyone in the whole assembly: All of you people who are now present should know that the twelve categories of beings in this world of outflows are endowed with a wonderfully bright, fundamental enlightenment, an inherent, enlightened nature, the wonderfully bright, true mind, the enlightened, perfect substance of the mind, which is not different from that of the Buddhas of the ten directions. It is the same. There is no difference. The Buddhas of the ten directions are endowed with it, and the twelve categories of beings are also endowed with this enlightened nature, which is also called the treasury of the Tathagata.

J2 Next, explaining how emptiness comes from falseness.

Sutra:

Due to the fault of false thinking and confusion about the truth, infatuation arises and makes your confusion all pervasive. Consequently, an emptiness appears. Worlds come into being as that confusion is ceaselessly transformed. Therefore, the lands that are not without outflows, as numerous as motes of dust throughout the ten directions, are all created as a result of confusion, dullness, and false thinking.

Commentary:

Due to the fault of false thinking and confusion about the truth. Hey, Ananda! Your inherent nature and the inherent nature of the twelve categories of beings are not different from the Buddhas'; they are one and the same. However, because you create falseness out of the truth and then become confused about what is the genuine truth, faults arise and errors are made.

Infatuation arises. What is the biggest fault? Infatuation (literally, "obsessed love"). You could say obsession and love are two things; you can also explain them as one: infatuation. Your ignorance prevents you from understanding, and love is all you know about. You think about love, from morning to night. You can't put down love and lust for a moment. If you investigated the Buddhadharma as attentively as you pursue lust and love, you would become a Buddha very soon. What a pity you cannot transform your fondness for the opposite sex into fondness for the Buddhadharma instead! The more you study the Buddhadharma, the more boring you think it is. You say, "I have many faults, and the Buddhadharma points them all out to me. I don't want to study it anymore. The Buddhadharma wants me to change my habits, and how can I do that?" That's one example of obsession about love. Above, the text said, "Due to the fault of false thinking and confusion about the truth..." Now, I could say that mistakes are made due to obsession about love.

You make mistakes based on infatuation. Infatuation arises and makes your confusion all pervasive. Your infatuation produces an all-pervading confusion. You become confused about everything. It all starts with infatuation. Once you become infatuated, you don't understand anything. Nothing matters to you. You figure, "If I fall into the hells, so be it! Why should I worry?" You no longer care about anything.

Consequently, an emptiness appears. Because you make mistakes based on infatuation because men think about women from morning to night, and women think about men all day long, a false emptiness arises. Worlds come into being as that confusion is ceaselessly transformed. The confusion multiplies so that one confusion becomes two confusions, and two confusions turn into three confusions. The confusion evolves without end. Intelligent people should take note of this! You should pay attention to this passage of sutra text. Its message really penetrates to the bone. It points out all of your faults!

Then the world comes into being. Therefore, the lands that are not without outflows, as numerous as motes of dust throughout the ten directions, are all created as a result of confusion, dullness, and false thinking. The worlds throughout the ten directions are not indestructible; they are not without outflows, because they have no basic substance of their own. They are all mere creations of false thinking. Confusion refers to lack of understanding; dullness refers to being obstinate and unyielding. The world is created by your false thinking. Did you know that?

J3 For the sake of comparison, describing the minuteness of the realm of space.

Sutra:

You should know that the space created in your mind is like a wisp of cloud that dots the vast sky. How much smaller must all the worlds within that space be!

Commentary:

"Ananda, don't sleep! You should know that when I say don't sleep, that means don't be confused. Don't be infatuated anymore. Don't be confused about the truth anymore." The Buddha told Ananda not to sleep, and now I'm telling you all not to sleep! Right now, what's important is that you should know that the space created in your mind is like a wisp of cloud that dots the vast sky. All of space, which is created from your mind, is like a wisp of cloud in the sky when compared to your mind. A wisp of cloud in the sky is tiny, and the sky, representing your mind, is vast. Earlier the sutra said:

The space created within great enlightenment
Is like a single bubble in all the sea.

And now it says, "The space created in your mind is like a wisp of cloud that dots the vast sky." All of space being that small, how vast your mind must be! And how much smaller must all the worlds within that space be! All the worlds within that empty space must be minute. If they were in your mind, they would be even smaller. So this describes how our enlightened nature pervades all places.

J4 Returning to the source obliterates space.

Sutra:

If even one person among you finds the truth and returns to the source, then all of space in the ten directions is obliterated. How could the worlds within that space fail to be destroyed as well?

Commentary:

If even one person among you finds the truth and returns to the source. Finding the truth and returning to the source means becoming a Buddha. Realizing the fourth fruition of Arhatship can also be called finding the truth and returning to the source. Ananda, if one person among you becomes a Buddha, then all of space in the ten directions is obliterated. How could the worlds within that space fail to be destroyed as well? Even space is gone, so how can the worlds still exist? The worlds are all gone, too.

Someone says, "If so many Buddhas have accomplished Buddhahood and becoming a Buddha is supposed to obliterate space, then why hasn't space disappeared yet?"

From the point of view of living beings, space exists; but from the point of view of the Buddhas, there is nothing at all. There are different points of view, and so you can't make generalizations. For instance, people who have opened the five eyes can see what is happening in this country and in other countries that are tens of thousands of miles away. Can you who haven't opened the Buddha eye see such things? No. By the same token, one cannot say, "I can see it, therefore it must exist." You may see it as existing, but from the Buddhas' perspective, there is nothing at all, not even space.

I2 Explaining that great samadhi causes demons to manifest.
J1 One's mind tallies with the minds of the sages.

Sutra:

When you cultivate dhyana and attain samadhi, your mind tallies with the minds of the Bodhisattvas and the great Arhats of the ten directions who are free of outflows, and you abide in a state of profound purity.

Commentary:

When you cultivate dhyana concentration and attain samadhi, the essence of your mind tallies and unites with the minds of all the Bodhisattvas and all the great Arhats of the ten directions who are free of outflows, and you abide in a state of profound purity. You don't have to seek elsewhere for this pure, fundamental tranquillity. It is right where you are. Right here is the pure, inherently tranquil treasury of the Tathagata, which pervades the dharma-realm.

Why do the minds of the Bodhisattvas, the great Arhats, and the cultivators of samadhi tally in this way? Because they cultivate the same samadhi. They direct the hearing inward to listen to the inherent nature, until the inherent nature accomplishes the Unsurpassed Way. They all cultivate the great Shurangama Samadhi, and so they are all the same; they become unified. Their minds are connected as if there were an electric current running between them.

This connection, however, doesn't occur only at the level of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Arhats. It also occurs among ordinary people. For example, when you think about a person, your thought will reach his mind, just like a telegram. "Does the other person know?" you ask. His inherent nature knows, even though his conscious mind may be unaware of it. At the level of that nature, we all know one another.

"Well, if I think about someone from morning to night, then that person will also think about me, right?"

You could think till you die, and it still wouldn't be any use. It is like the infatuation we talked about before. If a person is infatuated, he will think about the object of his affection all day long, unable to put the thought down. He is always thinking and thinking, until he thinks himself to death! How does he die? He thinks about her until they come together and get married. Once married, he becomes muddled. After being muddled for a time, he dies. Being married is equivalent to being muddled not knowing anything at all. In Chinese, you can deduce that meaning from the character for "marriage" hun, which contains the word for "muddled" hun; I don't know if this interpretation exists in English.

J2 The demons come en masse to cause disturbance.

Sutra:

All the kings of demons, the ghosts and spirits, and the ordinary gods see their palaces collapse for no apparent reason. The earth quakes, and all the creatures in the water, on the land, and in the air, without exception, are frightened. Yet ordinary people who are sunk in dim confusion remain unaware of these changes.

Commentary:

When one obtains the great Shurangama Samadhi, the true samadhi, the demon kings shudder. All the kings of demons, the ghosts and spirits, and the ordinary gods of the six desire heavens and four dhyana heavens see their palaces collapse for no apparent reason. The situation is really out of control. For no apparent reason, their palaces start falling apart.

Have I ever told you about a young disciple I had in Manchuria? He was about fourteen years old, and although he was young, his spiritual powers certainly weren't insignificant. He could ascend to the heavens and enter the earth. He had opened the five eyes, but had not obtained the six spiritual powers. He had five of the spiritual powers, but lacked the power of freedom from outflows. When a person attains this power, he becomes an Arhat.

One day he ascended to the heavens to amuse himself. When he got there, the demon king took a liking to him and trapped him in his palace. It was an exquisite palace, made of transparent crystallike material, but he was trapped in it. Since he had opened his five eyes, he could see his dharma body being held captive there by the demon king. So he came and told me, "Teacher, I went to the heavens, and now I can't come back."

"So you're stuck in the heavens, huh?" I said, "Well, who told you to go there in the first place?"

"I thought that it would be lots of fun, so I went there to take a look. But now that person up in the heavens won't let me come back."

I said, "If you want to have fun, don't go there to play. Those demons in the six desire heavens are always looking for an opportunity to destroy the samadhi power of cultivators." Then I said, "Don't be scared; I'll get you back."

I tried to get him back, but the demon king refused to let him go. At that point he became really frightened and said, "He won't let me come back! What should I do?"

I said, "Don't worry. I'll bring you back now." Then I used the Shurangama Mantra, the section which I've told you destroys demons, the "Mantra of the Five Great Hearts." Ah! The demon palace immediately shattered, and he came back that time. This is a true story.

Now the palaces of the demon kings have fallen apart and collapsed, and the earth quakes and cracks open in many places, and all the creatures in the water, on the land, and in the air, without exception, are frightened. All the creatures in the water and on the land go flying through the air, scared out of their wits and frightened beyond control. Yet ordinary people who are sunk in dim confusion remain unaware of these changes. Ordinary people do not have such sharp perception, and they do not realize the earth is undergoing all these changes. They are not sensitive enough to perceive the six kinds of quaking occurring in the earth.

Sutra:

All these beings have five kinds of spiritual powers; they lack only freedom from outflows, because they are still attached to worldly passions. How could they allow you to destroy their palaces? That is why the ghosts, spirits, celestial demons, sprites, and goblins come to disturb you when you are in samadhi.

Commentary:

Now do you understand? Why do the demons come? It is just because all these celestial beings, ghosts, and spirits have five kinds of spiritual powers, which are the celestial eye, the celestial ear, the knowledge of others' thoughts, the knowledge of previous lives, and the complete spirit. But they don't have the power of freedom from outflows. If they obtained that power, they wouldn't trouble you anymore. But since they haven't obtained it, they still want to be evil and come to destroy you.

They lack only freedom from outflows. It is not easy to attain the power of freedom from outflows. What does this mean? I will be very frank about it. What we call "outflows" are the daily, random thoughts that men and women have about one another. If you have not put an end to such thoughts, then you have not rid yourself of outflows.

Now I'll discuss this more in depth, and I'll be very frank with you. If I didn't tell you the truth, then you would never know what is really being referred to. Being rid of outflows simply means retaining your essence. If your essence escapes, that's an outflow. Now I have told you the secret of heaven and earth. If you retain your essence, then you won't have outflows. Furthermore, if you cannot only prevent your essence from escaping, but can also be without lustful thoughts, even on the subtlest level, then you have truly rid yourself of outflows. Now do you understand? Why haven't the celestial demons achieved freedom from outflows? Because they still have thoughts of lust, as do ghosts and spirits. Because they are still attached to worldly passions. Worldly passions are simply a form of lust. That's what they indulge in. How could they allow you to destroy their palaces? Since they are attached to lust, they do not want to see you renounce it. They want you to be greedy for it, too. "The two of us are good friends,"they will say. "I haven't put this down, so you can't just run away and renounce it." That's why they come. They cannot bear to see you transcend the world. That is why the ghosts, spirits, celestial demons, sprites, and goblins come to disturb you when you are in samadhi. When I mentioned goblins in the past, you didn't know what they were, so now I will explain. Do you see how the Chinese character for "goblin"
(Shurangama8p2 clip image002.gif yao) is written? It is the character for "woman" (Shurangama8p2 clip image002 0001.gif nu) beside the character for a short life for death before thirty years of age (Shurangama8p2 clip image002 0002.gif hun). You can figure out the meaning from there; I don't have to say too much. In general, people who die young will become goblins.

When you are in samadhi, they all come en masse to bother you. Their aim, as it's said, is "to devour the flesh of the monk from Tang." The monk from Tang was Great Master Xuan Zang. Many goblins would have liked to eat his flesh; that is, they wanted to disturb his samadhi. If you cultivate to the point that you have samadhi, the goblins, ghosts, and monsters will want to devour your flesh as well. Actually, they do not really eat your flesh. I will be more honest with you. I will bring it all out into the open and not hold anything back. What is really happening? When your essence, energy, and spirit are all full, because you have no thoughts of lust, these demons and ghosts want to steal your treasures. That's why they come to disturb you. If you have a girlfriend or boyfriend, she or he is also stealing your treasures. What else did you think was happening?

"The Buddhadharma teaches us to practice giving, so I'm giving away my treasures to others," you say.

Well then, you're going to end up as a poor ghost who falls into the hells. When that happens, the person who stole your treasures isn't going to say, "Here, I'll give you back some of your treasures so that you can get out of there." No one will help you then. You think it over.

H2 The demons can succeed in their destructiveness through the cultivator's confusion.
I1 Explanation by analogy of how "the guests" cannot bring harm.

Sutra:

Although these demons possess tremendous enmity, they are in the grip of their worldly passions, while you are within wonderful enlightenment. They cannot affect you any more than a blowing wind can affect light or a knife can cut through water. You are like boiling water, while the demons are like solid ice which, in the presence of heat, soon melts away. Since they rely exclusively on spiritual powers, they are like mere guests.

Commentary:

When you achieve some samadhi power in your cultivation, the demon kings will be afraid and so they come to destroy it. They do not want you to have samadhi. Although these demons come to give you trouble, and although they possess tremendous enmity, much wrath, they are in the grip of their worldly passions. They are controlled by their deified sense experiences, while you are within wonderful enlightenment. They cannot affect you any more than a blowing wind can affect light or a knife can cut through water. They cannot do anything to you, just as, blowing wind could not make light move; and just as a knife, however many times it is slashed through water, could not harm the water.

You are like boiling water. In this analogy, the samadhi power from your cultivation is compared to hot water, while the demons are like solid ice. The demon kings can be compared to the solid ice of winter, which, in the presence of heat, soon melts away. As hard as the ice is, the heat of boiling water gradually causes it to melt. Since they rely exclusively on spiritual powers, they are like mere guests. All they have going for themselves is their spiritual powers, so they can never be the "host" or "master." They are merely "guests" [they cannot stay long], and they cannot succeed in their efforts to disturb you.

I2 Conclusion that the confusion is on the part of the cultivator.

Sutra:

They can succeed in their destructiveness through your mind, which is the host of the five skandhas. If the host becomes confused, the guests will be able to do as they please.

Commentary:

They can succeed in their destructiveness through your mind, which is the host of the five skandhas. Basically, they cannot succeed in their destructiveness. However, if the host becomes confused, if your mind, which is the master of the five skandhas, is deluded, the guests will be able to do as they please. The guests will be able to take advantage of you. As long as you, the host, are not confused, they cannot do anything to you. Who is the host? It is your inherent nature. If your inherent nature is confused, then the demons can have their way with you. But if your inherent nature is not confused, then they are powerless to do anything.

I3 Once enlightened, one surely will transcend their disturbance.

Sutra:

When you are in dhyana, awakened, aware, and free of delusion, their demonic deeds can do nothing to you. As the skandhas dissolve, you enter the light. All those deviant hordes depend upon dark energy. Since light can destroy darkness, they would be destroyed if they drew near you. How could they dare linger and try to disrupt your dhyana-samadhi?

Commentary:

When you are in dhyana, when you have stilled your thoughts and attained the proper concentration of samadhi, you are awakened, aware, and free of delusion. Their demonic deeds can do nothing to you. The demons won't be able to trouble you with their tactics. As the skandhas dissolve, you enter the light. Demons belong to the darkness (yin), and the darkness can be dispelled. It is as if the demons were ice and you were hot water. The darkness is dispelled like ice dissolving in hot water. The fire of your wisdom is bright, so you enter the light.

All those deviant hordes of demons, externalists, goblins, ghosts, and monsters depend upon dark energy. All their tactics depend on a dark, dismal energy. Since light can destroy darkness, if you have true samadhi and wisdom, your wisdom light will shine forth and dispel the darkness.

They would be destroyed if they drew near you. How could they dare linger and try to disrupt your dhyana-samadhi? If they came near you, they would do themselves in, so they dare not disturb you.

[January 1983]

Skandha-demons are not limited to fifty kinds; there may be five hundred, five thousand, fifty thousand, or even five hundred thousand kinds. Each kind can further be divided into ten kinds. If analyzed in detail, there are thousands upon tens of thousands of kinds. In general, what is a skandha-demon? Basically it's nothing but a mass of yin energy, which comes from our yin thoughts. Yin thoughts include thoughts of greed, anger, and stupidity. They give rise to the skandhas of form, feeling, thought, formations, and consciousness; and in each of these skandhas, all kinds of yin phenomena are produced. These yin phenomena naturally appear when your skill reaches a certain level. If your skill hasn't reached that level, then you won't encounter these skandha-demons, even if you want to. They manifest only when your skill has reached that level. Don't worry when they appear. There's no need to fear being possessed by demons.

When these yin phenomena appear, you should remain calm, as if they didn't exist. See them as if not seeing them; hear them as if not hearing them; and smell them without perceiving their smell. If you don't enter into sights, sounds, smells, tastes, tangible objects, and dharmas, then the skandha-demons will not be able to do anything to you. If you are without greed, anger, and stupidity, then you will subdue these skandha-demons. If you do not have the faults of being selfish, wanting personal profit, seeking, being greedy, or contending, then no demon will be able to do anything to you.

Now as we are investigating the skandha-demons, we should not be afraid of demons. There's no need for fear. What is this mass of energy like? There's a rough analogy: When water boils and gives off steam, the rising of the steam indicates that the water is boiling.

The demons that you encounter in cultivation are illusory transformations produced from the yin thoughts and yin energy in your own nature. If you can remain unmoved by these illusory transformations, then there's no problem. For example, there's nothing strange about boiling water and letting the steam rise. After the steam has risen, you can drink the water.

When a person manifests demonic energy, it's like gold being smelted. All the dross is smelted away, leaving only pure gold. Cultivation is like smelting gold. It is said, "True gold does not fear the fire of the furnace." You must smelt the pure gold and forge your Vajra-indestructible body. To obtain the Vajra-indestructible body, you must apply effort in cultivation at all times, in thought after thought. No matter what level you reach in your cultivation, do not become happy or afraid. This is a most essential and basic way for cultivators to resolve demonic obstacles.

I4 Confusion will certainly bring a fall.

Sutra:

If you were not clear and aware, but were confused by the skandhas, then you, Ananda, would surely become one of the demons; you would turn into a demonic being.

Commentary:

If you were not clear and aware, if you did not understand and wake up, but were confused by the demons of the five skandhas, then you, Ananda, would surely become one of the demons; you would turn into a demonic being. You would join the retinue of demons.

I5 The prior incident in the house of prostitution brought only slight harm.

Sutra:

Your encounter with Matangi's daughter was a minor incident. She cast a spell on you to make you break the Buddha's moral precepts. Still, among the eighty thousand modes of conduct, you violated only one precept. Because your mind was pure, all was not lost.

Commentary:

Your encounter with Matangi's daughter was a minor incident. It was a relatively insignificant, commonplace demonic event. She cast a spell on you to make you break the Buddha's moral precepts. She used a mantra of the ancient Brahma Heaven to confuse you and tried to make you break the Buddha's rules. Still, among the eighty thousand modes of conduct, you violated only one precept. Because your mind was pure, all was not lost. Because you had already attained the first stage of Arhatship, you were not totally confused by her, and you did not fall.

I6 Joining the ranks of demons would bring great harm.

Sutra:

This would be an attempt to completely destroy your precious enlightenment. Were it to succeed, you would become like the family of a senior government official who is suddenly exiled; his family wanders, bereft and alone, with no one to pity or rescue them.

Commentary:

This would be an attempt to completely destroy your precious enlightenment. That kind of behavior was an attempt to make you fall. Were it to succeed, you would become like the family of a senior government official who is suddenly exiled. A high official is banished, and his family's property is abruptly confiscated by the emperor, so his family wanders, bereft and alone, with no one to pity or rescue them. You would be standing all alone, with no place to seek for help, no one to turn to for sympathy or aid.

CHAPTER 2: The Form Skandha

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

Sutra:

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

Commentary:

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

Sutra:

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

Commentary:

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

J2 Ultimately it breaks up and reveals its false source.

Sutra:

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

Commentary:

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

[December 2,1993]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sutra:

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

Commentary:

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

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

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

[December 2, 1993]

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

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

Disciple: What does "the environment" refer to?

Venerable Master: It refers to the state mentioned earlier.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sutra:

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

Commentary:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

J3 His essence and souls alternately separate and unite.

Sutra:

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

Commentary:

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

[December 2, 1993]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disciple: Have they reached that level in their cultivation?

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

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

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

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

"No."

"Well, it's happened to me!"

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

J4 The state changes and Buddhas appear.

Sutra:

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

Commentary:

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

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

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

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

5 Space takes on the color of precious things.

Sutra:

Further, as the person uses his mind to intently investigate that wondrous light, he will contemplate without pause, restraining and subduing his mind so that it does not go to extremes. Suddenly the space in the ten directions may take on the colors of the seven precious things or the colors of a hundred precious things, which simultaneously pervade everywhere without hindering one another. The blues, yellows, reds, and whites will each be clearly apparent. This state is called 'excessively subduing the mind.' It is a temporary state and does not indicate sagehood. If he does not think he has become a sage, then this will be a good state. But if he considers himself a sage, then he will be vulnerable to the demons' influence.

Commentary:

Further, as the person uses his mind to intently investigate that wondrous light he will contemplate without pause, restraining and subduing his mind so that it does not go to extremes. He tries to curb his mind so that it does not become overzealous.

Suddenly the space in the ten directions may take on the colors of the seven precious things, or the colors of a hundred precious things, which will simultaneously pervade everywhere throughout space without hindering one another. They will be mutually unobstructing.

The blues, yellows, reds, and whites, the various colors, will each be clearly apparent. Each will display its own color. This state is called "excessively subduing the mind." You are cultivating to restrain your mind, not letting it engage in false thinking, not allowing it to have random thoughts. After the restraint occurs for a long time, it becomes excessive. You go beyond the proper measure. It is a temporary state and does not indicate sagehood. You will only temporarily be able to see the colors of the seven precious things in space, so this state does not mean you have attained sagehood.

If he does not think he has become a sage, then this will be a good state. It will be all right; it will not be a bad state. But if he considers himself a sage, then he will be vulnerable to the demons' influence. You will be surrounded by deviant influences, and you will fall.

J6 He can see things in the dark.

Sutra:

Further, as the person uses his mind to investigate with clear discernment until the pure light no longer disperses, he will suddenly be able to see various things appear in a dark room at night, just as if it were daytime, while the objects that were already in the room do not disappear. This state is called 'refining the mind and purifying the vision until one is able to see in the dark.' It is a temporary state and does not indicate sagehood. If he does not think he has become a sage, then this will be a good state. But if he considers himself a sage, then he will be vulnerable to the demons' influence.

Commentary:

Further, as the person uses his mind to investigate with clear discernment until the pure light no longer disperses. Again, this person uses his mind in samadhi to observe states, until the pure light of his discerning mind becomes very focused and he is endowed with samadhi power. He will suddenly be able to see various things appear in a dark room in a house which is not lighted at night, just as if it were daytime, while the objects that were already in the room do not disappear. Not only will he be able to see things that are inside the house, he will also be able to see things that are outside the house. Not only will he see what is already in the house, he will also see, with great clarity, the things that come into the house from outside.

This state is called "refining the mind and purifying the vision until one is able to see in the dark." Your mind is refined to the utmost extent and your vision is purified to the extreme point. With such pure vision, you will be able to see even in dark places. But it is a temporary state and does not indicate sagehood. You shouldn't think that this is the fruition of sagehood, because it certainly isn't!

If he does not think he has become a sage, then this will be a good state. But if he considers himself a sage, then he will be vulnerable to the demons' influence. If you become conceited and think that you have achieved great skill in cultivation, you will attract demonic obstructions.

When some cultivators reach the state of ultimate purity and allpervading light, they will suddenly see all kinds of things. That is because they have opened the Buddha eye. However, not every person is able to open his Buddha eye, and even if one does, it may not stay open forever. In the state described here, the Buddha eye opens temporarily, enabling one to see the objects in a dark house as if there were light. I also mentioned that you would be able to see things coming to the house from outside. What sort of things might these be? For example, you might see a spirit, a ghost, a Bodhisattva, or a Buddha coming into the dark house from outside. It's not for certain that you will experience these states.

Not everyone experiences such states, but some people might. These are states that may occur at some point in your cultivation. But don't think that all cultivators go through the same experiences, because that's not the case.

Some people open the Buddha eye permanently. That is known as "a spiritual power that comes as a reward." Such people industriously cultivated the dharma of the thousand hands and thousand eyes in previous lives, and as a result, they can open the Buddha eye in life after life. Other people may only be able to open the Buddha eye temporarily, because their minds are not in a perpetual state of purity. If their minds were constantly pure, and they had cultivated the dharma of great compassion in their previous lives, they would be able to open the Buddha eye permanently. There are a variety of differing circumstances in cultivation.

J7 His body becomes like grass or wood.

Sutra:

Further, when his mind completely merges with emptiness, his four limbs will suddenly become like grass or wood, devoid of sensation even when burned by fire or cut with a knife. The burning of fire will not make his limbs hot and even when his flesh is cut, it will be like wood being whittled. This state is called 'the merging of external states and the blending of the four elements into a uniform substance.' It is a temporary state and does not indicate sagehood. If he does not think he has become a sage, then this will be a good state. But if he considers himself a sage, then he will be vulnerable to the demons' influence.

Commentary:

Further, when his mind completely merges with emptiness, you may say that the mind exists, yet it doesn't you may say it doesn't exist, yet it does. His four limbs will suddenly become like grass or wood, devoid of sensation even when burned by fire or cut with a knife. If you cut his arms or legs with a knife or burn them with fire, he will not feel any pain or discomfort. The burning of fire will not make his limbs hot. When you try to burn them, they won't even become hot. And even when his flesh is cut, it will be like wood being whittled. If you slice off the flesh from his arms and legs, it will be just like shaving wood. He will feel no pain or irritation.

This state is called "the merging of external states and the blending of the four elements into a uniform substance." Defiled external states will come together, and the natures of earth, water, fire, and air will become a single substance. However, it is a temporary state, an occasional experience, and does not indicate sagehood. Do not think you have realized sagehood.

If he does not think he has become a sage, then this will be a good state. But if he considers himself a sage and becomes selfsatisfied and haughty, then he will be vulnerable to the demons' influence. You will be attacked and surrounded by hordes of deviant beings.

J8 He can see everywhere without obstruction.

Sutra:

Further, when his mind accomplishes such purity that his skill in purifying the mind has reached its ultimate, he will suddenly see the earth, the mountains, and the rivers in the ten directions turn into Buddhalands replete with the seven precious things, their light shining everywhere. He will also see Buddhas, Tathagatas, as many as the sands of the Ganges, filling all of space. He will also see pavilions and palaces that are resplendent and beautiful. He will see the hells below and the celestial palaces above, all without obstruction. This state is called 'the gradual transformation of concentrated thoughts of fondness and loathing.' It does not indicate sagehood. If he does not think he has become a sage, then this will be a good state. But if he considers himself a sage, then he will be vulnerable to the demons' influence.

Commentary:

Further, when his mind accomplishes such purity that his skill in purifying the mind has reached its ultimate. Applying his mind to cultivation of the Way and to the practice of samadhi, he achieves a state of extreme purity. At that point, he will suddenly see the earth, the mountains, and the rivers in the ten directions turn into Buddhalands replete with the seven precious things, their light shining everywhere. Every place will be adorned with the seven precious things: gold, silver, lapis lazuli, mother-of-pearl, red pearls, carnelian and coral. These precious things will illumine the ten directions. He will also see Buddhas, Tathagatas, as many as the sands of the Ganges River, filling all of space. He will also see tower-pavilions and jeweled palaces that are resplendent and beautiful. He will see the hells below. Looking downwards, he will see all the hells. And looking upwards, he will see what is happening in the celestial palaces above, all without the least bit of obstruction. He is able to see any place he wishes to see.

This state is called "the gradual transformation of concentrated thoughts of fondness and loathing." Why is he able to see these things? It's because he ordinarily has likes and dislikes. He would like to go to the heavens and the Buddhalands, and he would detest going to the hells. He concentrates on such thoughts, being as attentive as a hen sitting on her eggs, as a cat waiting for a mouse, or as a dragon nurturing its pearl. He does not think about anything else, but only about how fine it is in the Buddha lands, and how much suffering there is in the hells. His mind favors happy places and loathes the places of suffering and misery. Eventually, his concentrated thoughts create these kinds of states. It does not indicate sagehood. He should not think that he has attained sagehood and achieved great spiritual skill. If he does not think he has become a sage, then this will be a good state. It's not a bad one. But if he considers himself a sage and says, "What a terrific state! I'm living with the Buddhas. In fact, I'm a Buddha myself!" then he will be vulnerable to the demons' influence. If he thinks like that, the demons and the externalists will all go to keep him company. "You say you're living with the Buddhas? Well, we'll be your friends and join you," they say.

J9 He sees and hears distant things.

Sutra:

Further, as the person uses his mind to investigate what is profound and far away, he will suddenly be able to see distant places in the middle of the night. He will see city markets and community wells, streets and alleys, and relatives and friends, and he may hear their conversations. This state is called 'having been suppressed to the utmost, the mind flies out and sees much that had been blocked from view.' It does not indicate sagehood. If he does not think he has become a sage, then this will be a good state. But if he considers himself a sage, then he will be vulnerable to the demons' influence.

Commentary:

Further, as the person uses his mind to investigate what is profound and far away, he will suddenly be able to see various situations in distant places in the middle of the night. He will see city markets where things are sold on the street and community wells where people draw water, large streets and small alleys. He may see his relatives and friends, his associates, and he may hear their conversations; he will be able to listen to them talking.

This state is called "having been suppressed to the utmost, the mind flies out and sees much that had been blocked from view." In his cultivation, he restrained the mind from indulging in idle thinking. Having stifled the mind to the extreme, he experiences a sensation of flying out and seeing things no matter how far away they are. Usually he tries not to look at things, but now all of a sudden his mind breaks loose and he can see everything. It does not indicate sagehood. He should not think that this is a good state. If he does not think he has become a sage, then this will be a good, passable state. But if he considers himself a sage, then he will be vulnerable to the demons' influence. If he claims to have realized sagehood when he hasn't, or if he claims to have attained what he hasn't, he will find himself surrounded by demons.

J10 False visions and false words.

Sutra:

Further, as the person uses his mind to investigate to the utmost point, he may see a good and wise advisor whose body undergoes changes. Within a brief interval, various transformations will occur which cannot be explained. This state is called 'having an improper mind which is possessed by a li ghost, a mei-ghost, or a celestial demon, and without reason speaking dharma that fathoms wondrous truths.' It does not indicate sagehood. If he does not think he has become a sage, then the demonic formations will subside. But if he considers himself a sage, then he will be vulnerable to the demons' influence.

Commentary:

This is the tenth demonic state of the form skandha, called "false visions and false words."

Further, as the person uses his mind to investigate to the utmost point, he may see a good and wise advisor with whom he studied the dharma in the past, whose body undergoes changes. Right before his eyes, the good and wise advisor suddenly turns into an old man; in the next moment he becomes a middle-aged person; and, in another instant he turns into a young person. Then, if the good and wise advisor is a man, for example, he suddenly changes into a woman, and the person thinks, "Oh! Probably in his previous life he was a woman." Actually, what he is seeing is not real. These changes are the result of his false thinking.

Within a brief interval, various transformations will occur which cannot be explained. Everything changes and becomes different from normal. This is similar to what people who take LSD experience. To them, everything becomes brightly colored, and they cannot see clearly. They paint some bizarre paintings which no one can figure out, because they just recklessly splash on the colors. After they finish painting, some people say, "Wow! What a masterpiece!" People actually praise them. You see? That's the way it goes. "Is it the case that this cultivator has taken a drug?" you ask. No. This experience is caused by the demon king. When you take LSD, the demons are also at work, making you experience changes.

[January 1983]

Venerable Master: "In our investigation of the fifty skandha demon states, everyone is welcome to bring up an opinion. We want to use everyone's wisdom to investigate the principles. In the Dharma-ending Age, everyone is greedy for quick results and shortcuts. They think they can get a lucky break, just like people who gamble and win at the first try. So some people go running around to a lot of different places. They study esoteric practices and various other dharmas. They hear this place has something to offer, so they go there. Then they hear that place has something, so they run over there. Running here and there, they waste all their time on the road; but in the end, they don't understand anything. We should all recognize this kind of state. If we don't it will be very easy for us to go astray."

Disciple: "It's like taking drugs, which is a serious problem in Western society. You could say that hallucinogenic drugs are transformation bodies of demons. The demons come up with a new form of drug and everyone becomes addicted to it. Even though people don't really need to take the drug, a demonic energy combined with their own habits causes them to get hooked. Nowadays there are many deviant teachers who, without the help of drugs, hypnotize people and cause them to see lights and various things. This happens because the drugs in people's bodies are acting up."

These states in the form skandha may change for the better and for the worse. If the person has enough good roots, the changes will be for the better. But people whose good roots are insufficient will change for the worse. There are all sorts of transformations. This state is called "having an improper and deviant mind which is possessed by a li-ghost, a mei-ghost, or a celestial demon, and without reason speaking dharma that fathoms wondrous truths." When a ghost or a demon from the heavens enters your mind, you may act like those people who claim they know how to lecture the sutras or speak the dharma, or who call themselves enlightened, elder masters. Such people start speaking the dharma for no reason, with no idea what they are talking about. They say they have fathomed wondrous truths, but they have not really done so. They are not really speaking the dharma either. They take what is wrong to be right and claim that their dharma is the most wonderful. Praising themselves and putting others down, they call themselves the foremost elder masters.

It does not indicate sagehood. This state is not a good one. If he does not think he has become a sage, then the demonic formations will subside. They will disappear. But if he considers himself a sage, then he will be vulnerable to the demons influence. If he thinks he has attained the fruition of a sage, he will soon find himself in the hells. He will attain the fruition of the hells.

I3 Conclusion on the harm, and command to offer protection.
J1 Showing how the states come about from interaction.

Sutra:

Ananda, these ten states may occur in dhyana as one's mental effort interacts with the form skandha.

Commentary:

Ananda, these ten states described above may occur in the still contemplation of dhyana as one's mental effort interacts with the form skandha. These states involve the form skandha. When the mind interacts with and investigates the form skandha to the ultimate, one may experience such states.

J2 Confusion will bring harm.

Sutra:

Dull and confused living beings do not evaluate themselves. Encountering such situations, in their confusion they fail to recognize them and say that they have become sages, thereby uttering a great lie. They will fall into the Relentless Hells.

Commentary:

Dull and confused living beings do not evaluate themselves. Living beings are stubborn and intractable, and they do not wake up from their delusion. They do not take stock of themselves to see what level they are at. Encountering such situations, such demonic states, in their muddled confusion they fail to recognize them and say that they have become sages. They claim, "Oh, I am a Buddha! I am enlightened; I've attained sagehood," thereby uttering a great lie. They are really telling the greatest lie. They will surely fall into the Relentless Hells.

[January 1983]

We have to be very cautious in all aspects. As it's said, "If you're off by a hairsbreadth in the beginning, you'll miss by a thousand miles in the end." We keep studying the Buddhadharma, but we end up falling into the hells. Why? Because we haven't really been able to follow the teachings. We haven't really been able to refrain from lying, stealing, sexual misconduct, taking intoxicants, and killing. If you can't even hold the five precepts, how can you think of accomplishing Buddhahood?

First of all, you must not kill. That doesn't simply mean eating vegetarian food.

"I haven't killed any creature with my own hands," you may say.

That doesn't necessarily mean you haven't violated the precept of not killing. Holding this precept means you must not even harbor anger toward people in your heart. That is not easy to do. As I said earlier, "I also have a strong urge to kill. But I want to stop killing; I want to liberate creatures instead of killing them. If I wanted to kill creatures, all the fine hairs on my body could turn into flying swords, sharp knives, lances, and spears to stab people to death. That's how fierce my fine hairs could be. That's how powerful the urge to kill is, but I'm not going to kill. Why not? Because I realize that killing living beings is equivalent to killing Bodhisattvas, killing Arhats, breaking up the harmonious Sangha, and shedding the Buddha's blood. That's why I don't kill.

Not stealing. Gaining something by improper means or taking something that does not belong to you without informing the owner is considered stealing. If you take something from its place without anyone knowing about it, you are stealing. The causes, conditions, methods, and karma of stealing are explained very clearly in the Brahma Net Sutra. The causes, conditions, methods and karma of killing are also explained dearly in that text.

Not engaging in sexual misconduct is also like that. It only counts if you don't have thoughts of lust in your mind and your own nature. To hold the precept against lying, you shouldn't lie under any circumstances. Nor should you take intoxicants. The stimulating effect of alcohol causes you to be unable to function normally. It also makes you lose your wisdom, and once that happens, you do stupid things.

These are the precepts of not killing, not stealing, not engaging in sexual misconduct, not lying, and not taking intoxicants. Buddhists should pay dose attention to these five precepts and avoid committing the slightest transgression; only then are they qualified to be called Buddhists. Some of you casually entertain thoughts of killing, stealing, engaging in sexual misconduct, and deceiving people with lies, and you casually take intoxicants. You are greedy for everything. Being greedy for food is equivalent to taking intoxicants. If you are so greedy for food that you eat until you're fat as can be, you are also taking intoxicants. We who study Buddhism should constantly examine ourselves on this point. We must be very attentive, without making the slightest mistake or being sloppy at any moment.

On the other hand, we should not be too rigid; we should apply the precepts in a flexible way.

"Then I can be a little more expedient; I can still kill, steal, engage in sexual misconduct, lie, and take intoxicants," you say. That's not what flexibility means. It means we should not bind ourselves up with the five precepts so tightly that we have no room to turn around. When we receive the five precepts, we are not being bound up by the five precepts. We should look into this well. A certain person in Canada used my name to cheat his disciples, alleging that I certified him. People who tell great lies like that are bound to fall into the Hell of Ripping Out Tongues.

J3 Command to offer protection.

Sutra:

In the Dharma-ending Age, after the Tathagata enters nirvana, all of you should rely on and proclaim this teaching. Do not let the demons of the heavens have their way. Offer protection so all can realize the Unsurpassed Way.

Commentary:

In the Dharma-ending Age, after the Tathagata enters nirvana, all of you should rely on and proclaim this teaching. Ananda, you all should follow and practice the dharma that I have explained for you. In the future Dharma-ending Age, after I have entered nirvana, you must propagate these teachings. Do not let the demons of the heavens have their way. Offer protection so all can realize the Unsurpassed Way. Maintain and support the true and orthodox Buddhadharma so that you will be able to attain the supreme fruition of the Way.

CHAPTER 3: The Feeling Skandha

H2 The characteristics of demons of the feeling.
I1 Overview of the beginning and the end.
J1 In the beginning, cultivation has not yet broken out of this region.
K1 Review of the ending of the previous form skandha.

Sutra:

Ananda, when the good person who is cultivating samadhi and shamatha has put an end to the form skandha, he can see the mind of all Buddhas as if seeing an image reflected in a clear mirror.

Commentary:

Ananda, when the good person who is cultivating samadhi, who cultivates the skill of directing the hearing inward to hear his own nature, who cultivates perfect understanding through the faculty of hearing, and shamatha, the quieting of thoughts, the practice of "stopping" so that contemplation is possible, has put an end to the form skandha, he can see the mind of all Buddhas as if Seeing an image reflected in a clear mirror. What happens when he puts an end to the form skandha? He can see the dharmadoor of the mind seal of all Buddhas, just as if he were seeing his own reflection in a mirror.

K2 Introduction to the region of the feeling skandha.

Sutra:

He seems to have obtained something, but he cannot use it. In this he resembles a paralyzed person. His hands and feet are intact, his seeing and hearing are not distorted, and yet his mind has come under a deviant influence, so that he is unable to move. This is the region of the feeling skandha.

Commentary:

He seems to have obtained something, but he cannot use it. In this he resembles a paralyzed person. I talked before about the kumbhanda ghost (paralysis ghost). When a person falls under the influence of such a ghost, his hands and feet are intact, not missing, his seeing and hearing are not distorted or confused, and yet his mind has come under a deviant influence, so that he is unable to move. This is the region of the feeling skandha. This state falls within the realm of the feeling skandha.

J2 Ultimately it breaks up and reveals its false source.

Sutra:

Once the problem of paralysis subsides, his mind can then leave his body and look back upon his face. It can go or stay as it pleases without further hindrance. This is the end of the feeling skandha. This person can then transcend the turbidity of views. Contemplating the cause of the feeling skandha, one sees that false thoughts of illusory clarity are its source.

Commentary:

Once the problem of being immobilized by the paralysis ghost subsides, his mind can then leave his body and look back upon his face. When you are within the feeling skandha, it is like being paralyzed by a kumbhanda ghost, so you cannot get free. If this situation disappears and the feeling skandha is broken through, your mind can leave your body and you can see your own face. It can go or stay as it pleases. You may go or not go as you wish. You are completely unfettered and without further hindrance. This is the end of the feeling skandha. The feeling skandha is gone. This person can then transcend the turbidity of views, which is one of the turbidities of "the evil world of the five turbidities." Contemplating the cause of the feeling skandha, one sees that false thoughts of illusory clarity are its source. Once the feeling skandha is broken through, its source is also done away with.

I2 The ten states within this region.
J1 Suppression of the self leads to sadness.
K1 The characteristics of its beginning.

Sutra:

Ananda, in this situation the good person experiences a brilliant light. As a result of the excessive internal pressure in his mind, he is suddenly overwhelmed with such boundless sadness that he looks upon even mosquitoes and gadflies as newborn children. He is filled with pity and unconsciously bursts into tears.

Commentary:

Ananda, in this situation the good person experiences a dazzling, brilliant light. As a result of the excessive internal pressure in his mind, a kind of feeling arises spontaneously. He has continually been controlling his own thoughts and has overdone it. When the inner suppression becomes excessive, he is suddenly overwhelmed with such boundless sadness and compassion for living beings that he looks upon and cherishes tiny creatures, even mosquitoes and gadflies, as if they were his own newborn children. The Chinese word for newborn means "red," referring to the red color of infant children's skin. He is filled with pity and unconsciously bursts into tears. Without knowing it, he starts to cry.

K2 Giving its name and instructions to awaken.

Sutra:

This is called 'overexertion in suppressing the mind in the course of cultivation.' If he understands, then there is no error. This experience does not indicate sage-hood. If he realizes that and remains unconfused, then after a time it will disappear.

K3 Showing how confusion will certainly bring a fall.

But if he considers himself a sage, then a demon of sadness will enter his mind. Then, as soon as he sees someone, he will feel sad and cry uncontrollably. Lacking proper samadhi, he will certainly fall.

Commentary:

This is called "overexertion in suppressing the mind in the course of cultivation." This situation may arise in the course of cultivation. It happens because you have been suppressing your thoughts too hard. If he understands, then there is no error. If you understand and say to yourself, "why have I started crying for no reason? I should change this state," then there will not be any problem. This experience does not indicate sagehood. It does not mean you have attained the "great compassion of oneness with all." Don't think that caring for mosquitoes and other small creatures as if they were your own children is genuine "great compassion of oneness with all." If he realizes that and remains unconfused, then after a time it will disappear. The state will go away. But if he considers himself a sage, if he says, "Oh! Now I have the 'great compassion of oneness with all! My cultivation has really succeeded!" then a demon of sadness that is an expert at crying will come. It cries no matter whom it meets. This demon will enter his mind and take possession of him. Then as soon as he sees someone, he will feel sad and cry uncontrollably, without knowing why he is so sad.

When I was in Manchuria I knew a woman named Liu Jintong who was like that whenever she met someone, she would start crying and say, "In the past, you were my son, and now you've come back. You've found your mother!" With her tears, she managed to confuse the other person into believing that he had actually met his mother. In fact, he'd encountered a demon. Lacking proper samadhi, proper concentration, he will certainly fall. If you follow a demon, you will fall into the hells.

[December 2,1993]

In the past Liu Jintong was possessed by the demons described in the fifty skandha-demon states, and now there are two others, one of whom is especially powerful because she knows a dharma for summoning spirits. A woman from San Jose who took refuge with me later went to study under her and contracted cancer upon her return. It was that person's doing. The San Jose woman came back to see me, but I paid no attention to her. Even if I were to do something to help her, I wouldn't let other people know.

J2 He praises himself as being equal to the Buddhas.
K1 The characteristics of its beginning.

Sutra:

Further, Ananda, in this state of samadhi, the good person sees the disintegration of the form skandha and understands the feeling skandha. At that time he has a sublime vision and is overwhelmed with gratitude. In this situation, he suddenly evinces tremendous courage. His mind is bold and keen. He resolves to equal all Buddhas and says he can transcend three asamkhyeyas of eons in a single thought.

Commentary:

Further, Ananda, in this state of samadhi, the good person, which includes all good people who are cultivating the Way, sees the disintegration of the form skandha and understands the feeling skandha. Among the five skandhas, he knows that the form skandha is gone, and he is quite clear about the feeling skandha. At that time he has a sublime vision and is overwhelmed with gratitude. A very special and rare vision appears in his mind, and he feels excessively grateful for it. However, excess is as bad as insufficiency. There is little difference between going too far and not going far enough. Neither is in accord with the Middle Way. For example, while traveling, if you go beyond your destination, it is the same as if you had not arrived at all.

In this situation, in this state of samadhi, he suddenly evinces tremendous courage. His mind is bold and keen, fearlessly vigorous. He resolves to equal all Buddhas, saying, "The Buddha and I are the same." And he says he can transcend three asamkhyeyas (limitless numbers) of eons in a single thought. He says that he can transcend the first, second, and third asamkhyeyas of eons in the space of a single thought. Therefore, he says he is a Buddha. Not only does he say he is a Buddha, he says everyone is a Buddha. Such a person has fallen prey to wrong knowledge and views. It's true that everyone is potentially a Buddha, but one has to cultivate in order to realize Buddhahood. Even when one cultivates, it is not possible to become a Buddha in a single thought. It takes a long time. Although the time can be shortened if one understands the Buddhadharma and practices according to it, one still cannot attain Buddha-hood in a single thought. This person cultivates, but he lacks wisdom and does not have a good and wise advisor to instruct him. Although he works hard at cultivation, he develops wrong views along the way. Seeing that such a long time has passed without his becoming a Buddha, he simply states that he is a Buddha. This is the experience of "praising oneself as the equal of the Buddhas" that occurs during the breakdown of the feeling skandha. He says he is the same as all Buddhas. Actually, with that one mistaken thought, he is already possessed by a demon.

K2 Giving the name and instructions to awaken.

Sutra:

This is called 'being too anxious to excel in cultivation.' If he understands, then there is no error. This experience does not indicate sagehood.

K3 Showing how confusion will certainly bring a fall.

If he realizes that and remains unconfused, then after a time it will disappear. But if he considers himself a sage, then a demon of insanity will enter his mind. As soon as he sees someone, he will boast about himself. He will become extraordinarily haughty, to the point that he recognizes no Buddha above him and no people below him. Lacking proper samadhi, he will certainly fall.

Commentary:

In the lecture on the Shurangama Sutra, we have now reached the very important section on the fifty kinds of deviant states caused by the five skandhas. If people who cultivate do not understand these fifty skandha demons, they will easily go astray in their cultivation. If you can recognize the states of these skandha demons, then you will not get carried away with reckless boasting and assume that you are an extraordinary individual. Therefore, I invite you to encourage your relatives and friends to come listen to this section on the fifty skandha demons, so they will know about the states which occur in cultivation.

This is called "being too anxious to excel in cultivation." This state occurs as a result of your efforts in cultivation. Because of this overexertion resulting from transformations within your own nature, you become courageous. There is nothing wrong with courage and vigor if you use them to advance in your cultivation of the Buddhadharma. But you must not become conceited and say, "Oh! I'm a Buddha myself" So you're a Buddha? The Buddha spoke the three treasuries and the twelve divisions of the canon. How many treasuries and divisions have you spoken? You don't even understand them, yet you say you are a Buddha. Isn't that absurd? The Buddha spoke the entire canon, and you haven't spoken even a single treasury or division of the canon, so how can you claim that you have become a Buddha? Even if you could explain the treasuries and divisions and understand their principles, at best you could call yourself a disciple of the Buddha, not a Buddha. But this person, feeling that everyone in the world reveres the Buddha, wants to be a Buddha, too, so that after he dies, people will make offerings to him. Actually, after death he will be buried in the ground. He will turn to dust and nothing will be left of him. If he understands, then there is no error. It is all right to have such courage, as long as you understand that it is merely a state and does not mean you have become a sage. This experience does not indicate sagehood. If he realizes that and remains unconfused then after a time it will disappear.

But if he considers himself a sage, saying, "Oh, this means I've become a Buddha!" then a demon of insanity will enter his mind. So you see, if you do not even recognize the fifty skandha demons, how can you become a Buddha? This demon is one of arrogance, pride, and conceit. It bores into his mind and takes possession of him, driving out his soul. The demon king takes over and acts as his soul. As soon as he sees someone, no matter who the person is, he will boast about himself and how he is right and everyone else is wrong. He denigrates others to exalt himself. They are all in the wrong, and he alone is honored; he thinks he has become a Buddha!

He will become extraordinarily haughty toward everyone, to the point that he recognizes no Buddha above him. There are no Buddhas above. Why? Because he's a Buddha himself. And he sees no people below him. Then what does he see? He says that everyone is a Buddha, that he himself is a Buddha, and that there is no Buddha above him. He himself is Buddha, and in the future everyone will become a Buddha along with him. That is why he sees no people below. Lacking the proper state of samadhi, he will certainly fall.

J3 Samadhi out of balance brings much reverie.
K1 The characteristics of its beginning.

Sutra:

Further, in this state of samadhi the good person sees the disintegration of the form skandha and understands the feeling skandha. With no new realization immediately ahead of him, and having lost his former status as well, his power of wisdom weakens, and he enters an impasse in which he sees nothing to anticipate. Suddenly a feeling of tremendous monotony and thirst arises in his mind. At all times he is fixated in memories that do not disperse. He mistakes this for a sign of diligence and vigor.

Commentary:

Further, in this state of samadhi the good person who cultivates the Way sees the disintegration of the form skandha and understands the feeling skandha. With no new realization immediately ahead of him, and having lost his former status as well, his power of wisdom weakens. Going forward, there is nothing new to attain; and behind him, the state where he dwelled before is also gone. His wisdom is inadequate now, and he isn't as bold and keen as before. This is a case of suddenly advancing and then suddenly retreating in one's skill. And he enters an impasse, a place where he is about to fall, in which he sees nothing to anticipate. He does not feel or see anything.

Suddenly a feeling of tremendous monotony and thirst arises in his mind. His feeling is one of enormous monotony, dryness, and thirst. He feels everything is meaningless and boring, and he is thirsty because he needs to be moistened by the water of the Buddhadharma. He feels he is drying up and withering away because, for him, there is nothing at all. This is similar to the way ordinary people who do not cultivate start to feel lonely and bored. This loneliness and boredom are sure to lead to trouble, the same old trouble. I did not intend to bring this up, but because I'm afraid people might not understand, I will still talk about it. It is as when a woman thinks about a man. She keeps thinking about him until she feels incredibly anxious and restless. When men think about women, they also have this feeling of restlessness. They are lonely and bored, as if they have lost something which they cannot find. At all times he is fixated in memories that do not disperse. It is the way a man and a woman who are lovesick for each other keep thinking and thinking about each other and never forget. He mistakes this for a sign of diligence and vigor. This state of fixation on thoughts that don't disperse appears to him to indicate vigor.

K2 Giving the name and instructions to awaken.

Sutra:

This is called 'cultivating the mind but losing oneself due to a lack of wisdom.' If he understands, then there is no error. This experience does not indicate sagehood.

K3 Showing how confusion will certainly bring a fall.

But if he considers himself a sage, then a demon of memory will enter his mind. Day and night it will hold his mind suspended in one place. Lacking proper samadhi, he will certainly fall.

Commentary:

Within the states of the feeling skandha, this is called "cultivating the mind but losing oneself due to a lack of wisdom." You don't have any wisdom. But don't worry about having no wisdom, for if he understands, then there is no error. If you realize that it's only a state, then there is no problem. But if you don't understand, and you are always getting attached to emptiness and caught up in stillness, if you are always lost in reverie, then you will wither away without any accomplishment. This experience does not indicate sagehood. This does not mean you have attained something or have realized sagehood. Do not "mistake a thief for your son."

But if he considers himself a sage, then a demon of memory will enter his mind. Did you hear that! This is truly dangerous! If you consider it a fine state, a demon of memory will come and help you remember things. So you can;t remember something? It will help you to think. It sees how much you would like to remember, so it comes to help you and enters into your mind. Day and night it will hold his mind suspended in one place. Your mind will be preoccupied and kept in one spot. Lacking proper samadhi, unable to attain samadhi, he will certainly fall into the hells in the future.

J4 Wisdom out of balance brings much arrogance.
K1 The characteristics of its beginning.

Sutra:

Further, in this state of samadhi, the good person sees the disintegration of the form skandha and understands the feeling skandha. His wisdom becomes stronger than his samadhi, and he mistakenly becomes impetuous. Cherishing the supremacy of his nature, he imagines that he is a Nishyanda (Buddha) and rests content with his minor achievement.

Commentary:

Further, in this state of samadhi, the good person sees the disintegration of the form skandha and understands the feeling skandha. His wisdom becomes stronger than his samadhi. His wisdom power exceeds his samadhi power.

And he mistakenly becomes impetuous. He experiences a feeling of rash vigor. Cherishing the supremacy of his nature, he imagines that he is a Nishyanda (Buddha). In this state, he considers his nature to be supreme and extraordinary, and he is always thinking about it. Cherishing this thought of supremacy, he suspects himself to be a Nishyanda Buddha. "Nishyanda" is Sanskrit and means "light shining everywhere." He thinks he is already a Nishyanda Buddha and rests content with his minor achievement. He has made a little progress, and he becomes satisfied. His samadhi-power falls way short of the Buddha's, and yet he claims he has become a Nishyanda Buddha.

K2 Giving the name and instructions to awaken.

Sutra:

This is called 'applying the mind, but straying away from constant examination and becoming preoccupied with ideas and opinions.' If he understands, then there is no error. This experience does not indicate sagehood.

K3 Showing how confusion will certainly bring a fall.

But if he considers himself a sage, then a lowly demon that is easily satisfied will enter his mind. As soon as he sees someone, he will announce, "I have realized the unsurpassed absolute truth." Lacking proper samadhi, he will certainly fall.

Commentary:

This is called "applying the mind, but straying away from constant examination, he is not skilled at constantly examining himself, and becoming preoccupied with ideas and opinions." Unable to clearly distinguish what he knows and thinks, he gets caught up and stuck in his own ideas and opinions. If he understands, then there is no error. There will not be any problem. This experience does not indicate sagehood.

But if he considers himself a sage and thinks that he has realized some supreme state, then a lowly demon, a most vile and worthless sort of demon that is easily satisfied with any situation, will enter his mind. It will bore into his mind and take possession of him, driving out his soul. All that will be left is a false shell of a person, but he will not realize that. As soon as he sees someone, he will announce, "Hey! Do you know? I have realized the unsurpassed, the highest, absolute truth."

Now there is a character who stands on Grant Avenue in Chinatown, in the heart of the San Francisco business district, dressed in a flashy and colorful costume. He tells people, "I lived in the mountains for five years and became enlightened. Now I have such-and-such spiritual powers." Earlier he took me as his teacher and became my disciple. But he did not follow what I taught him. Before I came to America, guess what he did? He carried a big gourd on his back with a sign painted on it that proclaimed he was my disciple and that he had learned many skills from me. Further, he claimed he could solve any problem people might bring him. He used my name to swindle others before I arrived in this country. Now that I am here in America, he is still cheating people, but he no longer uses my name. This is the very kind of demon the sutra is talking about here. He claimed to have attained the absolute truth. Lacking proper samadhi, he will certainly fall. He has lost the proper state of concentration, and he doesn't follow what I taught him, either. Since I arrived here, he has never come to listen to the sutra lectures or dharma talks, but just says he has attained the Way, is enlightened, and has spiritual powers. Ultimately what are his spiritual powers? You would never guess. They are money, money, money! He swindles people. I don't know why he wants so much money! Therefore, he will certainly fall.

J5 Passing through danger leads to anxiety.
K1 The characteristics of its beginning.

Sutra:

Further, in this state of samadhi the good person sees the disintegration of the form skandha and understands the feeling skandha. He has not yet obtained any results, and his prior state of mind has already disappeared. Surveying the two extremes, he feels that he is in great danger. Suddenly he becomes greatly distraught, as if he were seated on the Iron Bed, or as if he has taken poison. He has no wish to go on living, and he is always asking people to take his life so he can be released sooner.

Commentary:

Further, in this state of samadhi, the good person, the cultivator, now with somewhat deeper power in samadhi, sees the disintegration of the form skandha and understands the feeling skandha. He has not yet obtained any of the results that he should obtain from his cultivation of the Way, and so his prior state of mind has already disappeared. Surveying the two extremes, past and future, he finds both are gone, and he feels he is in great danger. He thinks, "Oh no, this is really dangerous! It's too terrible!" Suddenly he becomes greatly distraught. He feels worried and afflicted about everything. The worries lead to afflictions, and what is it like to have afflictions? It's as if he were seated on the Iron Bed. From morning to night he thinks to himself, "Oh, I'm in the hells sitting on the Iron Bed! What can I do? To have this body is to suffer." Or he feels as if he has taken poison and is about to die. He has wish to go on living. All day long he thinks, "I'd be better off dead. I'd be better off dead." In China, there is a saying "I'd be better off dead. I'd be better offdead. It would save on pants and coats." This person probably thinks that way, so he says, I'd be better off dead. I'd be better off dead."

Ghosts are involved in most suicide cases. The ghost bows to the person and then recites a mantra, but the person does not hear the ghost reciting. The meaning of the mantra is, "You'd be better off dead! You'd be better off dead! Hurry up and die. The sooner you die the better." Even though the person contemplating suicide cannot hear it with his ears, subconsciously it penetrates his mind. Since ghosts have the spiritual power of knowing others' thoughts, they can use their demonic energy to get into your mind and persuade you to want to die. Your mind hears the ghost and believes what it says. Then you may take poison, hang yourself, cast yourself into the ocean, or jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. That's how you die! There are lots of ghosts around the Golden Gate Bridge. They dare not bother you if you are full of yang energy. But if someone comes along whose yang energy is weak, who is lacking in essence, energy, and spirit, the ghosts say, "You'd be better off dead. You'd be better off dead," and get the person to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. Most suicides are caused by demonic ghosts that provoke people into taking their own lives. And he, the person who experiences tremendous anxiety, is always asking people to take his life so he can be released sooner. He is always saying to people, "Kill me! If you have a way to do me in, that would be great! I'll be free!"

K2 Giving the name and instructions to awaken.

Sutra:

This is called 'cultivating, but not understanding expedients.' If he understands, then there is no error. This experience does not indicate sagehood.

K3 Showing how confusion will certainly bring a fall.

But if he considers himself a sage, then a demon of chronic depression will enter his mind. He may take up knives and swords and cut his own flesh, happily giving up his life. Or else, driven by constant anxiety, he may flee into the wilderness and be unwilling to see people. Lacking proper samadhi, he will certainly fall.

Commentary:

This is called "cultivating, but not understanding expedients." Since the person does not understand the dharma doors of expedient means, he develops this attachment. After developing it if he understands, then there is no error, no problem. This experience does not indicate sagehood. This does not mean he has become a sage.

Having heard these principles in the sutra, you should be extremely careful not to casually indulge in random thoughts. Do not start thinking that you want to die, or that you cannot get what you want. If you keep thinking like that, you will attract this kind of demon. There are a great many of them in the world, so you should not indulge in random thoughts or speak carelessly. If you do, this demon may possess you. When that happens, you will not be able to endure it. You will not be free, and even if you do not want to die, there will be no way to avoid it.

But if he considers himself a sage, then there will be a demon of chronic depression. So you think you're depressed? Depression also involves demons. Why are you depressed or angry? If you have opened the Buddha eye, you see that when a person is not angry, there is no ghost but as soon as he gets angry, a ghost comes to goad him on, saying, "Get angrier, get madder! Make more trouble!" Behind the scenes, it urges you to lose your temper. Even if you don't believe me, what I am saying is true. If you do not believe it, just take your time and try it out.

The demon will enter his mind and possess his body. He may take up knives and swords and cut his own flesh. Did I not tell you about Filial Son Wang (Great Master Chang Ren), who practiced filiality beside his parents' graves? Once, while in samadhi, Filial Son Wang saw that bandits had captured his nephew and were about to shoot him. Filial Son Wang was about five miles away. But just as the bandit was about to pull the trigger, from within samadhi he used his hand to ward off the gun so that the shot missed his nephew, who was able to escape. Behind this incident there was a ghost that wanted the nephew's life, and it had caused the bandits to tie the boy up and try to kill him. Those were the causes and effects involved. When Filial Son Wang thwarted the ghost in its efforts to kill his nephew, the ghost went after Filial Son Wang, but could not do anything to him. Then it went to find his younger brother, Wang Erye, and possessed him instead. Taking a knife, the brother went to find Filial Son Wang at the graveside, intending to commit suicide in front of him.

The ghost wanted to kill the younger brother, but strangely, as it held the knife poised, ready to behead the younger brother, it could not bring the hand down. Meanwhile, Filial Son Wang was reciting the Vajra Sutra and holding a vow of silence. As he recited it silently, my teacher (Great Master Chang Ti), who had not yet left the home-life, felt very agitated, as if there were some crisis. He felt trepidation and could not put his mind at ease. He wondered, "Is there something going on with the Filial Son by the grave?" He rushed over there immediately to take a look, and sure enough, Wang Erye was holding a knife about to behead himself. Filial Son Wang wrote a few words telling my teacher, "Buy some paper for burning. (There is a Chinese custom of burning paper money for the dead.) I will recite sutras for the ghost and liberate it. There is a ghost involved here, and it wants to do such-and-such." After Filial Son Wang recited sutras and liberated the ghost, there were no more problems.

On the one hand this is an example of the demon under discussion. But in this case the ghost came because it wanted someone's life, not because of cultivation. But you could also say it is from cultivation. Because Filial Son Wang cultivated and got too involved in someone else's business, he ended up with this kind of demon trying to kill his younger brother. The ghost couldn't kill Filial Son Wang because he had samadhi power and did not have any false thinking. The ghost couldn't do anything to him, so it went after his younger brother.

Happily giving up his life, he may wish to die. Or else, he may be driven by constant incredible anxiety. Now that you've heard this passage, take care not to be unhappy all the time. Do not always cry and feel melancholy. If you keep feeling worried and depressed, this demon will take possession of you. That is based half on the demon's power and half on your own. The demon avails itself of your energy. If your thoughts are proper, there will be no problems. But if your thinking is improper, you will be influenced by the demon. If it tells you, "Worry," you worry, and you become more and more worried, until you flee into the mountains, refusing to see people. And, unable to tolerate people, he may flee into the mountain forests. Lacking proper samadhi, he will certainly fall. Such a person will fall into the hells in the future.

J6 Experiencing ease leads to joy.
K1 The characteristics of its beginning.

Sutra:

Further, in this state of samadhi, the good person sees the disintegration of the form skandha and understands the feeling skandha. As he dwells in this purity, his mind is tranquil and at ease. Suddenly a feeling of boundless joy wells up in him. There is such bliss in his mind that he cannot contain it.

Commentary:

Further, in this state of samadhi, the good person sees the disintegration of the form skandha and understands the feeling skandha. As he dwells in this purity of samadhi, his mind is tranquil and at ease. His mind is exceptionally calm and settled, without any scattered thoughts. Right at that point, the feeling skandha produces another effect in him. Suddenly a feeling of boundless joy wells up in him. He feels a happiness that knows no bounds. There is such extreme bliss in his mind that its extent cannot be known, and he cannot contain it. Even if he wants to stop the joy, he cannot.

K2 Giving the name, and instructions to awaken.

Sutra:

This is called, 'experiencing lightness and ease, but lacking the wisdom to control it.' If he understands, then there is no error. This experience does not indicate sagehood.

Commentary:

This is called, "experiencing lightness and ease, but lacking the wisdom to control it." He does not have the wisdom to control his own happiness. If he understands, then there is no error. If you realize what it is, then there is no problem. This experience does not indicate sagehood. This does not mean that you have become a sage.

K3 Showing how confusion will certainly bring a fall.

Sutra:

But if he considers himself a sage, then a demon that likes happiness will enter his mind. As soon as he sees someone, he will laugh. He will sing and dance in the streets. He will say that he has already attained unobstructed liberation. Lacking proper samadhi, he will certainly fall.

Commentary:

But if he considers himself a sage, if you say, "Oh, now I've entered the ground of happiness! I'm a Bodhisattva of the ground of happiness!" then a demon that likes happiness will enter his mind. As soon as he sees someone, he will laugh uproariously. He will sing and dance in the streets. Like a hippie, he gets totally carried away, waving his arms and stamping his feet singing and dancing, making all kinds of music. He will say that he has already attained unobstructed liberation. Lacking proper samadhi he will certainly fall. He loses his proper concentration, his proper knowledge and views, and his powers of reasoning; and eventually, he will fall into the hells.

J7 Seeing the sublime and becoming proud.
K1 The characteristics of its beginning.

Sutra:

Further, in this state of samadhi, the good person sees the disintegration of the form skandha and understands the feeling skandha. He says he is already satisfied. Suddenly, a feeling of unreasonable, intense self-satisfaction may arise in him. It may include pride, outrageous pride, haughty pride, overweening pride, and pride based on inferiority, all of which occur at once. In his mind, he even looks down on the Tathagatas of the ten directions, how much the more so on the lesser positions of sound-hearers and those enlightened by conditions.

Commentary:

Further, in this state of samadhi, the good person sees the disintegration of the form skandha and understands the feeling skandha. He says he is already satisfied. He feels he already has enough of everything; he's already realized the fruition, become enlightened, and become a Buddha. Suddenly, a feeling of unreasonable, intense self-satisfaction may arise in him. Self satisfaction is a form of haughtiness. He respects no one. He looks down on everyone and thinks no one is as good as he is. It may include pride, arrogance; outrageous pride, which is extreme arrogance; haughty pride, there is no greater arrogance than this; overweening pride, pride added to pride; and pride based on inferiority, feeling that everyone is inferior to him and looking down on everyone. These are different kinds of pride, all of which occur at once.

In his mind, he even looks down on the Tathagatas of the ten directions. To what extent does his pride go? Not only is he arrogant toward people, he is arrogant toward the Buddhas, so he regards even the Tathagatas of the ten directions with contempt, feeling they are not as good as he is. How serious would you say this pride is? It's really difficult to deal with! How much the more so on the lesser positions of sound-hearers and those enlightened by conditions. He looks down on them even more. His attitude is, "You're nothing but an arhat of the small vehicle! What's so special about you?" He thinks he's higher than the Buddha, but he hasn't come up with another name yet.

K2 Giving the name and instructions to awaken.

Sutra:

This is called 'viewing oneself as supreme, but lacking the wisdom to save oneself.' If he understands, then there is no error. This experience does not indicate sagehood.

Commentary:

This is called "viewing oneself as supreme." It is an occasional state that occurs in the feeling skandha. But it involves lacking the wisdom to save oneself. The person doesn't have the wisdom to save himself. If he understands, then there is no error. If he understands that this is an error, then the demon will not have its way with him. As it is said, "If you understand, then you won't be confused; but when you are confused, you lack understanding." If you understand, it is like taking a sword of wisdom and hacking through the confusion. This experience does not indicate sagehood. It does not mean you have realized sagehood.

K3 Showing how confusion will certainly bring a fall.

Sutra:

?But if he considers himself a sage, then a demon of intense arrogance will enter his mind. He will not bow to stupas or in temples. He will destroy sutras and images. He will say to the Danapatis, 'These are gold, bronze, clay, or wood. The sutras are just leaves or cloth. The flesh body is what is real and eternal, but you don't revere it; instead you venerate clay and wood. That is totally absurd.' Those who have deep faith in him will follow him to destroy the images or bury them. He will mislead living beings so that they fall into the Relentless Hells. Lacking proper samadhi, he will certainly fall.

Commentary:

But if he considers himself a sage, if you say that this is a good state, then a demon of intense arrogance, an extremely haughty demon, will enter his mind and possess him. He will not bow to stupas or in temples. He will not bow to Buddhas or stupas when he sees them. Nor will he make obeisance when he goes into temples. He will destroy sutras and images. He will burn sutras and break images of the Buddhas. Destroying sutras and images are offenses that lead to the hells. But he will say, "These things are all false."

He will say to the Danapatis. He has his own disciples, and he tells his disciples these things. Dana means giving and pati means to transcend, so in Buddhism, one who makes offerings to the Triple Jewel is called a danapati. He says to his own danapatis and followers, "These are gold, bronze, clay, or wood. The sutras are just leaves or cloth." Buddha images are made of gold, or of bronze; or they may be constructed of clay or wood. Sutras are written out on leaves, or on silk or cotton cloth. "What's the use of worshipping them? They have no consciousness. The flesh body is what is real and eternal. This flesh body of mine is real, but you don't revere it, you don't revere me; instead you venerate clay and wood. You'd rather bow to idols of clay and wood, what's the use of that? It would be better for you to bow to me than to them. That is totally absurd. What awareness do those pieces of wood have? It's ridiculous for you to bow to them!"

Those followers who have deep faith in him, who deeply believe in him, will follow him to destroy the Buddha images and burn the sutras, or to bury them in the ground. Through such behavior, he will mislead living beings so that they will not believe in Buddhism, but will have doubts instead. He will hinder them like that, and they will definitely fall into the Relentless Hells. Lacking proper samadhi, he will certainly fall.

J8 With wisdom comes lightness and ease, which leads to complacency.
K1 The characteristics of its beginning.

Sutra:

Further, in this state of samadhi, the good person sees the disintegration of the form skandha and understands the feeling skandha. In his refined understanding, he awakens completely to subtle principles. Everything is in accord with his wishes. He may suddenly experience limitless lightness and ease in his mind. He may say that he has become a sage and attained great self-mastery.

K2 Giving the name and instructions to awaken.

This is called 'attaining lightness and clarity due to wisdom.' If he understands, then there is no error. This experience does not indicate sagehood.

Commentary:

Further, in this state of samadhi, the good person sees the disintegration of the form skandha and understands the feeling skandha. In his refined understanding, his understanding becomes even more refined than before, he awakens completely to subtle principles. At this time, he gains a thorough understanding of very fine and subtle principles. Everything is in accord with his wishes. He may suddenly experience a state of limitless lightness and ease in his mind. He may say that he has become a sage, a Buddha, and obtained great self-mastery, the greatest happiness and ease.

This is called "attaining lightness and clarity due to wisdom." Having uncovered a little wisdom, you obtain a state of lightness and purity, and that's all, it certainly does not count as an extraordinary state. If he understands, then there is no error, no problem. This experience does not indicate sagehood. You should not think this state is the realization of sagehood, for it is not.

K3 Showing how confusion will certainly bring a fall.

Sutra:

But if he considers himself a sage, then a demon that likes lightness and clarity will enter his mind. Claiming that he is already satisfied, he will not strive to make further progress. For the most part, such cultivators will become like the unlearned bhikshu. He will mislead living beings so that they will fall into the Avichi Hell. Lacking proper samadhi, he will certainly fall.

Commentary:

But if he considers himself a sage, if, upon having this state of light ease, he thinks he has already been certified to the fruition of sagehood, then a demon that likes lightness and clarity will enter his mind. This demon, who also experiences the state of light ease and sublime clarity, will possess the person. Claiming that he is already satisfied, that he has perfected everything, he will not strive to make further progress. Above there is no Buddhahood to accomplish, and below there are no living beings to save. He does not need to become a Buddha, for he has already become one. Nor does he need to save living beings, for he has already finished saving them. He has already accomplished the Buddhahood he was supposed to accomplish, and he has saved the living beings he was meant to save. Therefore, he does not seek further progress.

For the most part, such cultivators will become like the unlearned bhikshu mentioned earlier. Lacking wisdom, he thought the fourth dhyana was the fourth fruition of Arhatship. He will mislead living beings, so they do not know the proper path and do not recognize the Buddhadharma. He confuses and hinders living beings, so that they will fall into the Avichi Hell. In the future, this sort of person will fall into the Relentless Hells. Why? Lacking proper samadhi, he will certainly fall. Since he has lost his proper samadhi, he is bound to fall into the Relentless Hells.

J9 Becoming attached to emptiness and slandering precepts.
K1 The characteristics of its beginning.

Sutra:

?Further in this state of samadhi, the good person sees the disintegration of the form skandha and understands the feeling skandha. In that clear awakening, he experiences an illusory clarity. Within that, suddenly he may veer towards the view of eternal extinction, deny cause and effect, and take everything as empty. The thought of emptiness so predominates that he comes to believe that there is eternal extinction after death.

K2 Giving its name and instructions to awaken.

[This is called 'the mental state of samadhi dissolving so that one loses sight of what is right.'] If he understands, then there is no error. This experience does not indicate sagehood.

Commentary:

Further in this state of samadhi, the good person sees the disintegration of the form skandha and understands the feeling skandha. At that time, in that clear awakening, when he seems to understand but does not truly understand, he experiences an illusory clarity, which is not real. Within that illusory clarity, suddenly a change occurs. What is it? He may veer towards the view of eternal extinction, deny cause and effect, and take everything as empty. He says, "When a person dies, he is gone and dead forever. Therefore, to talk in terms of cause and effect is incorrect. There is no cause and effect. When people die, they no longer exist, so how could there be cause and effect? Everything is empty. Committing offenses is empty and so is creating blessings. It is all empty!" The thought of emptiness so predominates that he comes to believe that there is eternal extinction after death.

The more he thinks, the more he feels he's right. "Oh! It is empty. Once you die, it is all over. Everything is empty." At that point, he becomes convinced that people are gone forever after they die. The text reads: "If he understands, then there is no error. It is not an indication of sagehood." One sentence must have been left out of the text when it was originally copied. We can insert it here: This is called "the mental state of samadhi dissolving so that one loses sight of what is right." At this point, his samadhi is gone, so he develops the thought of emptiness and loses his sense of what is right. If he understands, then there is no error. This experience does not indicate sagehood. This is not the state of realizing sagehood.

K3 Showing how confusion will certainly bring a fall.

Sutra:

But if he considers himself a sage, then a demon of emptiness will enter his mind. He will slander the holding of precepts, calling it a 'small vehicle dharma.' He will say, "Since Bodhisattvas have awakened to emptiness, what is there to hold or violate?" This person, in the presence of his faithful danapatis, will often drink wine, eat meat, and engage in wanton lust. The power of the demon will keep his followers from doubting or denouncing him. After the ghost has possessed him for a long time, he may consume excrement and urine, or meat and wine, claiming that all such things are empty. He will break the Buddha's moral precepts and mislead people into committing offenses. Lacking proper samadhi, he will certainly fall.

Commentary:

But if he considers himself a sage, if he views this as certifying to the fruition of sagehood, then a demon of emptiness will enter his mind. It will enter and possess his body. He will slander the holding of precepts, calling it a "small vehicle dharma." He will say, "Don't observe the precepts. That's a dharma for the small vehicle. Great vehicle Bodhisattvas do not have so many bothersome restrictions. You don't have to pay attention to them. As it is said, "The great elephant does not travel along the rabbit's path. The great awakening is not confined by petty details." Once you are greatly enlightened, nothing matters anymore. Everything is empty. "Wine and meat pass through the intestines; the Buddha dwells in the mind." To the Buddha, everything is made from the mind alone. The mind is just the Buddha, and the Buddha is just the mind!" That's what he says. He even slanders the holding of precepts, saying, "Only adherents of the small vehicle observe precepts. Followers of the great vehicle do not need this."

Actually, the precepts for the great vehicle are even more explicit and even less should one violate them. He just fools these uninformed people, who have never studied the Buddhadharma and do not understand any of the principles explained by the Buddha. That's why, no matter what he says, they take it as an order to be followed, believing that what he says is right. Why do they believe him? Just because they have never heard the Buddhadharma and don't even know what the Buddhadharma is.

He will say, "Since great vehicle Bodhisattvas have already awakened to the emptiness of all dharmas, what is there to hold or violate? How can there still be a holding of precepts or a violating of precepts? There's no such thing." This person who is possessed by the demon, in the presence of his faithful danapatis, in the homes of dharma protectors who believe in him, will often drink wine, eat meat and engage in wanton lust. The phrase "engage in wanton lust" is very important. Buddhism teaches people not to have lust and desire, yet his desire is excessive. He engages in defiled practices of lust, yet people still believe in him because he has a demonic power. The power of the demon will keep his followers from doubting or denouncing him. They have tremendous faith in him.

After the ghost has possessed him for a long time, he may consume excrement and urine or meat and wine, claiming that all such things are empty. Because he is possessed by a ghost, he will not think of excrement as something unclean, and he will also casually drink urine. He will say that eating excrement and drinking urine are "neither defiled nor pure," using the phrase from the Heart Sutra. That's how he will distort the sutra's meaning. This demon will behave in a way which shows that he doesn't care whether something is clean or dirty. He will say that eating meat and drinking wine are empty, and that eating excrement and drinking urine are empty. In general, everything is empty. He will break the Buddha's moral precepts and mislead people intocommitting offenses. Then, lacking proper samadhi, he will certainly fall. He deserves to fall into the hells.

J10 Becoming attached to existence and indulging in lust.
K1 The characteristics of its beginning.

Sutra:

Further, in this state of samadhi, the good person sees the disintegration of the form skandha and understands the feeling skandha. He savors the state of illusory clarity, and it deeply enters his mind and bones. Boundless love may suddenly well forth from his mind. When that love becomes extreme, he goes insane with greed and lust.

K2 Giving its name and instructions to awaken.

This is called 'when an agreeable state of samadhi enters one's mind, lacking the wisdom to control oneself and mistakenly engaging in lustful behavior.' If he understands, then there is no error. This experience does not indicate sagehood.

Commentary:

Further, in this state of samadhi, when the cultivator has attained the samadhi of the feeling skandha, the good person sees the disintegration of the form skandha, the form skandha is gone, and he understands the feeling skandha, being clear about it. He savors the state of illusory clarity which he has already attained, and now it deeply enters his mind and bones. A mental transformation may suddenly occur. What transformation? A boundless, immeasurable love may suddenly well forth from his mind. This is like a certain person who says he loves everyone. He has the kind of temperament being discussed. When that love and desire in his mind build up and become extreme, he goes insane with greed and lust. He cannot control his emotions. When he goes crazy, he is just like the woman Liu Jintong I mentioned earlier. Seeing a man, she would hug him, and cry, and make all sorts of seductive gestures. She was an example of this type of demon. How could the average man remain unmoved by such tricks? After she had confused him, she would tell him, "Take this amount of money and buy me that piece of jewelry," and he would say, "Okay, okay." Then she would say, "Take that amount of money and buy me that other thing," and he would agree to do it. Why? Simply because she engaged in lust with the man, and he was taken in by her demonic power. Here, when the love becomes extreme, the person goes insane with greed and lust. Lust arises from greed.

This is called "when an agreeable state of samadhi enters one's mind, lacking the wisdom to control oneself and mistakenly engaging in lustful behavior." A state of samadhi, with light ease and compliance, comes into his mind, but he lacks the wisdom to control his emotions and desire, and ends up indulging in all manner of lust. If he understands, then there is no error. This is only a temporary and occasional state. He should understand that this experience is a demonic state and does not indicate sagehood. If you understand, then it's all right. It is just to be feared that you do not recognize the state when you are in it, and you fall into an inescapable maze of confusion.

K3 Showing how confusion will certainly bring a fall.

Sutra:

But if he considers himself a sage, then a demon of desire will enter his mind. He will become an outspoken advocate of lust, calling it the Way to Bodhi. He will teach his lay followers to indiscriminately engage in acts of lust, calling those who commit acts of lust his dharma heirs. The power of spirits and ghosts in the Ending Age will enable him to attract a following of ordinary, naive people numbering one hundred, two hundred, five or six hundred, or as many as one thousand or ten thousand. When the demon becomes bored, it will leave the person's body. Once the person's charisma is gone, he will run afoul of the law. He will mislead living beings, so that they fall into the Relentless Hells. Lacking proper samadhi, he will certainly fall.

Commentary:

But if he considers himself a sage, if he views this as the realization of sagehood, then because his views are mistaken, a demon of lust and desire will enter his mind and possess him. He will become an outspoken advocate of lust, calling it the Way to Bodhi. He will talk of nothing but lust. It is like a certain religion in America that promotes polygamy. They say, "The more wives you have, the better." They are just like this demon, who promotes lust and appeals to people's desires by saying, "It's all right to have more wives; it doesn't matter. That's the way of Bodhi, so the more wives you have the better!"

He will teach his lay followers to indiscriminately engage in acts of lust. He says, "Don't discriminate between one another. Let's all get together and have an orgy!" Not caring whether it is their own wife or someone else's, they just do as they please. In America, there's a wife-swapping fad where everybody exchanges wives. This is similar to the kind of activity that this type of demon engages in, calling those who commit acts of lust his dharma heirs. These people who engage in lustful conduct with him will be his "dharma heirs" who carry on his dharma; they will receive his dharma transmission. The power of demonic ghosts, deviant spirits and deviant ghosts in the time of the Dharma-ending Age, will enable him to attract and confuse a following of ordinary, naive, ignorant people, numbering one hundred, two hundred, five or six hundred, or as many as one thousand or ten thousand. Eventually, when the demon king becomes bore, what happens? It will leave the person's body. What do you suppose happens when it leaves his body? He will no longer have spiritual powers.

Once the person's charisma is gone, he will run afoul of the law. His charisma came from his spiritual powers. The demon king had spiritual powers, but now the demon king has left, so he no longer has spiritual powers. What do you suppose happens? He will violate the laws of the country. Before, when he had spiritual powers, the demon could help him escape the authorities. But when the demon leaves, and this ordinary person carries on as before, he will immediately break the law. People will find out that he is a crooked teacher who has been duping his followers and deluding them with strange incantations. Since he has broken the law, he will be arrested and executed. He will mislead living beings, so that they will not find the proper path and will fall into the Relentless Hells. Lacking proper samadhi, he will certainly fall in the Avichi Hell as well.

I3 Conclusion on the harm, and command to offer protection.
J1 Showing how this happens due to interaction.

Sutra:

Ananda, all ten of these states may occur in dhyana as one's mental effort interacts with the feeling skandha.

J2 Confusion will bring harm.

Dull and confused living beings do not evaluate themselves. Encountering such situations, in their confusion they fail to recognize them and say that they have become sages, thereby uttering a great lie. They will fall into the Relentless Hells.

Commentary:

Ananda, all ten of these states may occur in dhyana as one's mental effort interacts with the feeling skandha. Ananda! States like these which manifest in dhyana, "the stilling of thought," are all within the feeling skandha, interacting with one's mental effort. These events are a result of the various interactions that happen as one works hard at his cultivation.

Dull and confused living beings do not evaluate themselves. They do not reflect within and take stock of themselves. Encountering such situations, in their confusion they fail to recognize them. They do not recognize who they are, and they say that they have already become sages. They say that they have attained what they have not attained and have been certified to what they have not been certified to. They claim they have already attained the Way and become certified as sages when they have not, thereby uttering a great lie. They will certainly fall into the Relentless Hells.

J3 Command to offer protection.

Sutra:

In the Dharma-ending Age, after my nirvana, all of you should pass on the Tathagata's teachings, so that all living beings can awaken to their meaning. Do not let the demons of the heavens have their way. Offer protection so that all can realize the Unsurpassed Way.

Commentary:

Ananda, in the Dharma-ending Age, after my nirvana, all of you should pass on the Tathagata's teachings. Take these words which the Buddha has spoken, and pass them on, so that all living beings can awaken to their meaning. Let them all hear these principles, understand them, and awaken to them. Do not let the demons of the heavens have their way. Do not give them an opportunity to disturb those people. Offer protection so that all these living beings can realize the Unsurpassed Way.

CHAPTER 4: The Thinking Skandha

H3 The characteristics of the demons of the thinking skandha.
I1 Overview of the beginning and end.
J1 In the beginning, cultivation has not yet broken out of this region.
K1 Review of the ending of the previous feeling skandha.

Sutra:

Ananda, when the good person who is cultivating samadhi has put an end to the feeling skandha, although he has not achieved freedom from outflows, his mind can leave his body the way a bird escapes from a cage. From within his ordinary body, he already has the potential for ascending through the Bodhisattvas' sixty levels of sagehood. He attains the 'body produced by intent' and can roam freely without obstruction.

Commentary:

Ananda, when the good person who is cultivating the power of samadhi has put an end to the feeling skandha, when the feeling skandha is already gone, although he has not achieved the spiritual power of freedom from outflows, he already has other spiritual powers and his true mind can leave his body the way a bird escapes from a cage. Before one puts an end to the feeling skandha, one is trapped in one's body, just like a bird trapped in its cage. Just as the bird can now escape from the cage, from within his ordinary body, he already, by means of spiritual powers, has the potential for ascending through the Bodhisattvas' sixty levels of sagehood. Right in this ordinary body, he can become a Bodhisattva and attain the sixty levels of Bodhisattvahood. He attains the "body produced by intent" and can roam freely without obstruction. He has to formulate the intent before he can have the spiritual power of the "body produced by intent." With such a body, he can go wherever he wants. What are the sixty levels of Bodhisattvahood? They are the fifty-five stages of a Bodhisattva discussed before; the three gradual stages and the stage of dry wisdom, making four kinds; and wonderful enlightenment, which makes sixty levels altogether.

K2 Introduction to the region of the thinking skandha.

Sutra:

This is like someone talking in his sleep. Although he does not know he is doing it, his words are clear, and his voice and inflection are all in order, so those who are awake can understand what he is saying. This is the region of the thinking skandha.

Commentary:

This is like someone talking in his sleep. This is an analogy comparing the region of the thinking skandha to someone talking in his dream. While asleep, he starts saying what he wants to say. Although he does not know he is doing it, his words are clear, and his voice and inflection are all in order. Although he doesn't know he is talking in his dream, what he says is intelligible. Everything he says follows in logical order and makes sense, but he himself is not aware of it. So those who are awake can understand what he is saying.

For instance, he says, "I wanted to eat tofu (soybean cake) today, so I went to the store and bought ten pieces of tofu. When I got back, I cooked them and ate them."

He is not aware of what he is saying, but other people who are awake know, "Oh! He ate tofu today." Why did he say what he said? Because he has not forgotten what he ate. He keeps thinking about it and he will talk about it even in his dream. This is the region of the thinking skandha. That is what the region of the thinking skandha is like. But don't take this too literally and think, "The thinking skandha is just talking in a dream." That would be wrong. It is just an analogy.

J2 Ultimately it breaks up and reveals its false source.

Sutra:

If he puts an end to his stirring thoughts and rids himself of superfluous thinking, it is as if he has purged defilement from the enlightened, understanding mind. Then he is perfectly clear about the births and deaths of all categories of beings from beginning to end. This is the end of the thinking skandha. He can then transcend the turbidity of afflictions. Contemplating the cause of the thinking skandha, one sees that interconnected false thoughts are its source.

Commentary:

If he puts an end to his stirring thoughts, the extremely subtle thoughts in the sixth consciousness, and rids himself of superfluous thinking. Since those very fine thoughts in the sixth consciousness have stopped, superfluous thinking is also eliminated. It is as if he has purged defilement from the enlightened, understanding mind. This enlightened, clear mind is the eighth consciousness. Now, it appears that the eighth consciousness has been purged of defilement. Then he is perfectly clear about the births and deaths of all categories of beings from beginning to end. There are twelve categories of beings, from those born from wombs and those born from eggs up to and including those not entirely lacking thought. He knows the preceding causes and subsequent effects of every kind of being. This is the end of the thinking skandha. At that time the person obtains the spiritual power of knowing past lives. He can then transcend the turbidity of afflictions. Contemplating the cause of the thinking skandha, contemplating the reasons behind his actions and deeds, one sees that interconnected false thoughts are its source. At that point, the false thoughts become interpenetrating, and such thoughts become its source.

I2 The ten states within this.
J1 Greed for clever skill.
K1 Samadhi leads to craving and seeking.

Sutra:

Ananda, in the unhindered clarity and wonder that ensues after the feeling skandha is gone, this good person is untroubled by any deviant mental state and experiences perfect, bright concentration. Within samadhi, his mind craves its perfect brightness, so he sharpens his concentrated thought as he greedily seeks for cleverness and skill.

Commentary:

Ananda, in the unhindered clarity and wonder that ensues after the feeling skandha is gone, this good person is untroubled by any deviant mental state. No deviant thoughts can disturb him.

[January 1983]

"In the unhindered clarity and wonder that ensues after the feeling skandha is gone, this good person is untroubled by any deviant mental state." At this point, the feeling skandha is over, and he is in the thinking skandha, which is subtle and wondrous. What is wonderful is that when you have no faults, you will not be troubled by deviant mental states, that is, by feelings of worry and fear. What is meant by worry and fear? It's like the man of Qi, who worried that the sky would fall down. He had a deviant mental state. Now the cultivator is no longer troubled by deviant mental states. He doesn't have them in himself. However, he is not strong enough to resist troubles that come from outside, because love, greed, and seeking are still present in his mind. Since selfish and self-benefiting thoughts are still concealed inside, he is vulnerable to states from the external environment. "Deviant mental states" refer not only to thoughts, but also to feelings of worry and fear. When you are afraid of something, then you have a deviant mental state. When others oppress you and you're afraid to speak out about it, that's also a deviant mental state.

[January 1983, another day]

While we are investigating the fifty skandha-demon states, five hundred kinds of skandha demons may come, so you should open your doors to them and invite them to come make trouble. Although they are demons, they help your cultivation from the reverse; they test you to see how firmly resolved you are. If you have true determination, then a thousand demons will not make you waver, ten thousand demons will not make you retreat and you will not be afraid of anything, because you are not seeking anything. As it is said,

When you reach the place of seeking nothing,
You will have no more worries.

Since you seek nothing, you will not fear anything. What is there to be afraid of? Some people are afraid of ghosts because of their grotesque appearance. They know that some people turn into ghosts after they die. No one is afraid of spirits, despite the fierce appearance of those spirits clad in golden armor. Confucius said, "One should respect ghosts and spirits, but keep them at a distance." You should be very respectful toward ghosts and spirits, but don't draw near to them. You should fear neither ghosts nor spirits.

You need not fear demons; they are just testing you out, trying out your skill in cultivation. If you're afraid, then they will come even if you don't want them to. If you are not afraid, then they will not be able to come even if they want to. The secret is to not be afraid. If you're not afraid, then you are "proper" and you can subdue anything, because the deviant cannot overcome the proper. Demons fear those who are proper, great and bright. If you can be that way, then the demons will behave themselves and will even bow to you.

And he experiences perfect, bright concentration. Within samadhi, his mind craves its perfect brightness, so he sharpens his concentrated thought as he greedily seeks for cleverness and skill. "To sharpen" means to refine his intense reflection, which is that perfect brightness. He greedily seeks to have skill-in-means to teach and transform living beings. That is what he is greedy for.

[May 21, 1989]

Venerable Master: Here, being "clever and skillful" doesn't refer to ordinary expedient means. Expedient means are very casual. These "clever and skillful" methods which he uses are very ingenious and subtle, and you can't detect any flaws in them, because he applies them very well. You cannot tell that they are expedients.

Disciple: Is he seeking cleverness and skill so he can teach and transform people?

Venerable Master: Not only in teaching, but in all aspects, he has this kind of clever and skillful wisdom. Regular expedient methods can be recognized as such by people. But the kind of cleverness and skill spoken of here cannot immediately be detected by others, because the person speaks very reasonably and ingeniously. You can't find any faults with what he says.

K2 A demon dispatches a deviant force to possess a person.

Sutra:

At that time a demon from the heavens seizes the opportunity it has been waiting for. Its spirit possesses another person and uses him as a mouthpiece to expound the sutras and the dharma.

Commentary:

At that time a demon from the sixth desire heavens seizes the opportunity it has been waiting for. Seeing that the cultivator's samadhi power is about to be perfected, it waits for a chance to get at him. It watches for some flaw in his character which will provide an opening. The existence of an opening indicates that his samadhi power is not yet solid. Occasionally he will have an extraneous false thought. Once he has that false thought his samadhi power is no longer firm, and the demon will take advantage of him. Thus it says the demon "seizes the opportunity it has been waiting for."

[January 1983]

The demon "seizes the opportunity it has been waiting for." That is, he seizes the opportunity provided by the cultivator's greed and opens up the door. It's not easy to understand what the sutra means; you may be off by just that little bit in your interpretation. Its spirit possesses another person and uses him as a mouthpiece to expound the sutras and the dharma. The demon from the heavens commands one of its followers, "Go to that place and destroy that person's samadhi power." Before the form skandha and the feeling skandha were ended, the demon could possess the cultivator himself and confuse him. But after the form skandha and feeling skandha are gone and the cultivator reaches the thinking skandha, the demon cannot possess him. It has to take possession of another person and then speak the dharma for the cultivator through that person. That person lectures on the sutras, but the dharma he speaks is deviant and you should recognize it for what it is.

[May 21, 1989]

"Its spirit possesses another person, and uses him as a mouthpiece to expound the sutras and the dharma." There are two ways to explain this. You could say the demon possesses another person, who then comes to speak dharma for the first person. You could also say that the demon possesses the cultivator of samadhi himself. Either of these interpretations can apply; there is more than one meaning.

When a cultivator is at the level of the thinking skandha, the demon's spirit cannot possess him and confuse his mind directly. For example, right now there is a cultivator who involuntarily does tai ji quan and shouts, but he realizes what is going on and knows that it is wrong. The demon is unable to confuse his mind. On the other hand, if a person has not cultivated at all, then once the demon confuses him, he will not understand anything at all; he will not realize that a demon has come or the things it has done. Most people who don't cultivate are this way. The demon possesses the person and speaks through him. Then after the demon has left, you ask the person what happened and he has no idea. That's because his mind was thoroughly confused. Someone who is not confused by the demon will be able to keep a clear mind during the experience. There are various interpretations, not just one. If you interpret the text as saying only that the demon possesses another person, your interpretation is incomplete. There are many possibilities, and the situation could develop in one of several directions, so it is not fixed.

While the text may be explained in any way that makes sense, the translation of the sutra should not be limited to a particular explanation. The sutra is like an ocean, while explanations of it are like rivers. Rivers can flow into the ocean in many different ways, and so you cannot use a particular river to represent the entire ocean.

[December 2, 1993]

Do not become too attached to what the sutra says. The sutra gives a general idea of what might happen, but each particular situation may be different. There are not only fifty, but perhaps five hundred, five thousand, or even fifty thousand kinds of states. There are so many states that we could never finish speaking of them. These [fifty states] are just a general summary, and you shouldn't think of them as profound and esoteric. Regard them as if they were spoken by an ordinary person, and don't always be splitting hairs.

My explanations of sutras are called "simple explanations"; I don't give profound explanations. When I explain a sutra, my only aim is for everyone to understand what I mean and for me to understand what everyone else means. Don't think too deeply. Anyone who thinks too deeply will never be able to finish explaining it. Don't beat your head against the wall trying to figure out exactly what it means. After all, this sutra is a translation; it is not so rigidly fixed that you cannot add or omit a word. It does not correspond exactly to the original Sanskrit. Just try to convey the general meaning; don't spend too much time pursuing the fine details of literary interpretation.

Disciple: At the level of the thinking skandha, the demons from the heavens can no longer disturb the cultivator's mind directly. A demon has to possess another person in order to disturb the cultivator's samadhi.

Venerable Master: For example, a cultivator may frequently encounter people who are possessed by ghosts, who come to speak the dharma for him, or who come to challenge him to see who is on top.

At the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, there's a student from the University of California at Berkeley who has many snakes following him. You may not have seen them, but Guo Zhen saw those snakes get into a dharma-contest with me at Gold Mountain Monastery. They are really ferocious! His presence there gave the snakes a chance to fight with me. They have been fighting me for over ten years now. When he went to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, he would gradually get better, but as soon as he went back to school in Berkeley, he would get sick again. He realizes that there are many snakes on him. He killed these snakes in the past, and now they've come to get revenge. I've been using wholesome dharmas to try to make peace with them. That's how I treat them, regardless of whether or not they pay any heed. It's a slow process. Over the last ten years or so, many of the snakes have left him, but there are still a few left. There used to be a whole bunch of them.

This case is similar to the state described in the sutra.

Disciple: When a person comes to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, are those beings afraid to come and seek him out?

Venerable Master: No, they still come. When it [the snake] came to challenge my dharma, it was terribly fierce. At first he [the student possessed by the snake] knelt down, but then he stood up and waved his hands and glared at me. His heavy breathing sounded worse than a screeching and hissing cat.

Disciple: Master, what did you do? Did you give it a good scolding?

Venerable Master: No, I just pretended nothing was happening. People saw me acting as if nothing were going on, but actually, I had converted it. It was hostile to me, but I wasn't hostile to it. I used to use the dharma of subduing, but not anymore. Now I use the dharma of averting disasters.

Disciple: When the form skandha has come to an end, deviant demons can no longer possess a cultivator. They have to possess another person. But is there another interpretation in which the demon can directly possess the cultivator?

Venerable Master: There are endless possibilities. The demon can even possess a cat. It all depends on whether or not you recognize it. It can also possess other animals. There's no fixed rule.

Disciple: Can it possess the cultivator himself?

Venerable Master: No, it can't get to him.

Disciple: But when the Venerable Master explained the fifty skandha demons in the past, you said it could possess the cultivator himself.

Venerable Master: As I said, none of this is fixed. The text gives one example, but that's not the only way it can be. There are many variations. Each case encompasses many possibilities.

Disciple: But didn't the Venerable Master just say that the demons can't get to the cultivator himself? Venerable Master: If he truly cultivates, then the demons can't get to him, because there are dharma-protecting spirits protecting him.

Disciple: If the cultivator starts entertaining false thoughts, then,

Venerable Master: Then they'll get to him.

Disciple: It's just like living at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. If we follow the rules set down by the Master, then those beings cannot bother us. If we don't follow the rules, then they can come.

Venerable Master: Many people who come here have a lot of deviant demons of external ways, goblins, ghosts, and strange spirits attached to them. Yet the Bodhisattvas who guard the dharma don't try to keep them out. We practice kindness and compassion here. Thus we haven't fortified our place or set up any defense against them.

Disciple: If someone truly cultivates, then the demons can't get to him. But if he's not cultivating and he starts indulging in false thoughts, then they can come.

Venerable Master: Right, it's a case of the deviant attracting the deviant.

Disciple: If the demons can't get to him now, it doesn't necessarily mean that they can't get to him ever. For instance, when National Master Wuda entertained a thought of arrogance,

Venerable Master: Right! That's a very clear illustration!

Disciple: The ghost hadn't been able to get to him for ten lives, but with that one improper thought, it was able to get in.

Venerable Master: It came to demand his life!

Disciple: So would you say that the demons can get to the cultivator or not? It's not fixed. If he truly cultivates, then they can't get to him, but if he doesn't, then they can.

Venerable Master: Right, it's not fixed. Whatever can be put into words loses its real meaning. Once you understand this principle, you shouldn't pursue the details too intently. As I just said, there are infinite variations and possibilities. These fifty states can be transformed into five hundred, five thousand, or fifty thousand states. Don't spend too much time on these examples. You should understand that there are other cases that are variations of these. In general, whatever can be said has no real meaning. You could say all the sutras are false, but you must find the true principles within this falseness. Any sutra that makes sense can be believed. If it doesn't make sense, if it's incorrect, then don't believe it.

K3 The person who is possessed causes trouble.

Sutra:

This person, unaware that he is possessed by a demon, claims he has reached unsurpassed nirvana. When he comes to see that good person who seeks cleverness and skill, he arranges a seat and speaks the dharma. In an instant, he may appear to be a bhikshu, enabling that person to see him as such, or he may appear as Shakra, as a woman, or as a bhikshuni; or his body may emit light as he sleeps in a dark room.

Commentary:

You can see how formidable these demonic states are. This person, unaware that he is possessed by a demon, has no idea a demon is helping him. He claims that he has reached unsurpassed nirvana. He claims to have obtained the truth of nirvana, the wonderful fruition of nirvana.

[January 1983]

Yesterday someone mentioned a certain person who recited the Buddha's name and then suddenly started jumping around, as if dancing. He was possessed by a demonic spirit. He didn't know what was happening, and he thought, "Wow! I've entered samadhi." He was like a rambunctious kid; he hopped about like a bunny.

When he comes to see that good person, the cultivator who seeks cleverness and skill, he arranges a seat and speaks the dharma for that good person who seeks to be clever and skillful. In an instant, very briefly, he may appear to be a bhikshu, enabling that person who seeks clever skill to see him as such. Or he may appear as Shakra, Lord God, as a woman, or as a bhikshuni. When the person seeking cleverness and skill sees him going through such transformations, he thinks, "He must be Guan Yin Bodhisattva!" He has no idea that it is a demon. That's why you shouldn't get carried away by any state you see, no matter what it is. Or his body may emit light as he sleeps in a dark room.

When people who do not understand the Buddhadharma see that, they marvel "Wow! His body emits light! If he isn't a Buddha, he must be at least a Bodhisattva or an Arhat!" They do not realize that the person is possessed by a demon king that is manifesting spiritual powers in order to delude the cultivator.

Therefore, as ordinary people who do not truly understand the Buddhadharma, we should not be turned by the things we see, no matter what they are. Don't become moved and run off after those states. How should you treat them? Look upon them as if they didn't exist. Seeing those things should be the same as not seeing them. Be neither elated nor disgusted. If you become elated when you see a demon, then you have been turned by the demon's state. If you get disgusted, then you have also been turned by the demon's state. How should you act? Just maintain the Middle Way, neither liking nor disliking it. See as if you haven't seen, and hear as if you haven't heard. You shouldn't say, "That was a fine state! I'd like to see that again!" If you have that thought, you have made a mistake.

[January 1983]

Demons are very smart. They see what you're greedy for and use that to tempt you. Therefore, cultivators don't need to recite any particular mantra or practice any particular dharma. Just be honest and true; don't contend, don't be greedy, don't seek, don't be selfish, and don't pursue personal gain. If you put your shoulder to the grindstone and cultivate diligently, no demon can bother you. But as soon as you become greedy or you start scheming for advantages and shortcuts, it's easy for demons to possess you. Demons are very wise; they can see what level of cultivation you've reached and know what methods should be used to lure you. As for choosing a person to possess, that's not a problem, because the person is only a false front for them. They use the person, and they use various methods to entice and delude you. If a cultivator is unselfish and doesn't think about benefiting himself, he will not be afraid of any demon

K4 The cultivator becomes deluded and confused.

Sutra:

The good person is beguiled and fooled into thinking that the other is a Bodhisattva. He believes the other's teachings and his mind is swayed. He breaks the Buddha's moral precepts and covertly indulges his greedy desires.

Commentary:

The good person who cultivates samadhi is beguiled and fooled at this point into thinking that the other is a Bodhisattva. When he sees how the person can appear as a bhikshu, as Shakra, as a lay woman, and as a bhikshuni, suddenly changing from one appearance to another, he thinks the person must be a Bodhisattva. He then deeply believes the other's teachings and his mind is swayed. He breaks the Buddha's moral precepts. What should you examine in a cultivator? See whether or not he keeps the Buddha's precepts. If he doesn't, then he is certainly a demon. If he strictly adheres to the precepts without violating them, then he is a genuine Buddhist. However, someone may claim to be a Buddhist call himself a venerable elder, and assume other tides as well, and yet he covertly indulges his greedy desires. He engages in a clandestine affair and tries to keep people from knowing about it.

K5 The types of things he says.

Sutra:

The other person is fond of speaking about calamities, auspicious events, and unusual changes. He may say that a Tathagata has appeared in the world at a certain place. He may speak of catastrophic fires or wars, thus frightening people into squandering their family wealth without reason.

Commentary:

The other person is fond of speaking about calamities, auspicious events, and unusual changes. What does the person who is possessed by the demon like to speak about? He likes to talk about calamities, which are unlucky events. He may say a calamity is going to occur in a certain place, or that something auspicious is going to happen somewhere, or that an unusual event is going to take place. He may say that a Tathagata has appeared in the world at a certain place. He may say, "You know what? Such-andsuch a Buddha has now appeared in the world at such-and-such a place."

He may speak of catastrophic fires or wars. He may say, "The three disasters, flood, fire, and wind, and the eight difficulties are upon us." Or, "The kalpa is coming to an end!" Or he might warn people, "Be careful, war is about to break out there." Or, "The Soviet Union is about to go to war with a certain country!" He speaks in this way, thus frightening people into squandering their family wealth without reason. He always says things that capture people's attention and cause them to be alarmed. When people hear what he says, they panic, "Oh no! There's going to be war. Will my life be in danger?" He might say, "The war is starting. If you give me some money immediately, I'll guarantee your safety. If you don't pay me, you will lose your life!" He is always saying such things to cheat people.

If you want to determine whether a person is genuine or phony, whether he is a Bodhisattva or a demon, you can look for the following things: First, see whether he has any desire for sex; and second, see whether he is greedy for money. If he cheats people to satisfy his lust and greed for wealth, then he is not genuine. How might he be greedy for wealth? For example, he may say, "A great calamity is nearly upon us! The world is coming to an end. An atomic bomb is going to explode at such-and-such a place. A hydrogen bomb will be set off at another place." He says such things to frighten people into giving him their money. If you wake up to his tricks, then even if he emits light, makes the earth quake, or does something else spectacular, you shouldn't believe in him, because he is greedy. A person without greed is true; a greedy person is a phony. My method is a practical and effective truth-detector.

[January 1983]

If we had no greed or desires, then we would have no trouble. If you have greed and desire, then all sorts of things will happen. All the myriad things, beings, and species in the world are born from greed and desire. Thus it is said, "When not a single thought is produced, the entire substance manifests." If you don't have thoughts of greed and desire, then the Buddha-nature will appear. "When the six sense faculties suddenly move, one is covered by clouds." Once the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind become attached to a state, it's like the sky clouding over so that the sun cannot shine. Fundamentally, what causes the six sense faculties to move? Greed and desire. Because you are unable to give up greed and desire, the six sense faculties turn into the six thieves and the six consciousnesses come into being. If you had no greed and desire, then the thieves of the six sense faculties would no longer be thieves, and the six consciousnesses would no longer be consciousnesses.

Everything would return to the source, and all troubles would disappear. Everyone should pay attention to this. It all depends on whether or not you have greed and desire. If you do, then you have not separated yourself from the demons yet. If you do not, then you have joined with the Buddhas.

K6 Giving the name and pointing out the harm.

Sutra:

This is a strange ghost that in its old age has become a demon. It disturbs and confuses the good person. But when it tires of doing so, it will leave the other person's body. Then both the disciples and the teacher will get in trouble with the law.

Commentary:

This is a strange, weird ghost that, after a long time, in its old age has become a demon. It disturbs and confuses the good person. But when it tires of doing so, it will leave the other person's body. Eventually, it gets bored of playing this game. It has had enough, and so it stops possessing the person. When that happens, then both the disciples and the teacher will get in trouble with the law. The authorities arrest them, accuse them of rabble-rousing, and either execute them or punish them in some other way.

[January 1983]

This is the time to study, and we must keep studying the states, one by one, until we finish. Then everyone will have a better understanding.

Right now we've just started studying, and some will understand, while others won't. When each of you comes to the front, you are not here to interrogate anyone, but just to investigate what you have seen and understood with everyone else. The person who just came up here had a correct understanding. When the form skandha is obliterated, the view of self is emptied, so that one no longer has a sense of self, and all physical objects, all things with form and appearance, are also emptied. If you don't understand this, you can read over the sutra text a few more times, and then you'll naturally understand.

All religions operate in the realm of the five skandhas. Later on the text talks about how both the teacher and the disciples get in trouble with the law. The words "teacher and disciples" indicate that this is talking about religion. Being satisfied with their small achievements, they set up their own religion and claim that it is the real one. Without my having to mention any religions by name, everyone should know what I'm talking about. If you want to know which skandhas those religions fall under, what level they have reached, then you have to gain a thorough understanding of the fifty skandha-demon states.

Instead of just asking questions, you should look into them yourselves. We are all studying together, and it shouldn't be that one person answers everyone else's questions, because our wisdom is equal. In our investigation, if everyone agrees to a principle, then we will consider it correct. We are gathering everyone's opinions, and when we publish the fifty skandha-demon states in the future, each person's opinion should be included. This is a joint investigation, not one person answering others' questions. Anyone can speak out and express an opinion.

Why do we have only two people reading aloud? Because these two people have passable Chinese and English. They are giving a general explanation of the meaning, and if what they say is incomplete, people can speak up. People should not be simply asking questions. This is not like when we lectured on the Brahma Net Sutra. This meeting is investigatory in nature, and everyone is equal. There's no need to request the dharma or do anything. Everyone should just investigate and study together. No one is debating with anyone else, and anyone can express an opinion. Do you all think this is a good method?

[January 1983, another day]

Disciple: The sutra text says that the teacher and disciples will both fall into the hells?

Venerable Master: Right, that's referring to the cultivator! Disciple: Is the cultivator one of the disciples?

Venerable Master: Not necessarily. The teacher is also that way; he's also a cultivator. An example of this was the People's Church. You can tell by whether or not a person has lust. If he has lust, then he is a demon. If he doesn't, then he's proper and he's a Buddha. That's where the difference lies. If he hasn't cut off lust then he can't subdue his mind. He may be able to sit there and enter samadhi, but while in samadhi, he is still greedy and seeking. "He correctly indulges his greedy desires." That's how you can recognize him.

K7 Instructions to be aware and not become confused.

Sutra:

You should be aware of this in advance and not get caught up in the cycle of transmigration. If you are confused and do not understand, you will fall into the Relentless Hells.

Commentary:

You should be aware of this in advance and not get caught up in the cycle of transmigration. You should awaken to this early on and not enter the demon king's cycle of birth and death. If you are confused and do not understand, in the future you will fall into the Relentless Hells.

J2 Greedy for adventure.
K1 Samadhi leads to craving and seeking.

Sutra:

Further, Ananda, in the unhindered clarity and wonder that ensues after the feeling skandha is gone, this good person is untroubled by any deviant mental state and experiences perfect, bright concentration. Within samadhi, his mind craves to roam about, so he lets his subtle thoughts fly out as he greedily seeks for adventure.

Commentary:

Further, Ananda, in the unhindered clarity and wonder that ensues after the feeling skandha is gone, this good person who cultivates samadhi is untroubled by any deviant mental state and experiences perfect bright concentration. Within samadhi, his mind has another false thought and craves to roam about, that is, "to go out the top of his head and roam around in his spiritual body." That means his spirit goes out and runs around to various places. So he lets his subtle thoughts fly out as he greedily seeks for adventure. His spirit flies out and wants to go everywhere, to see the sights and have some fun.

K2 A demon dispatches a deviant force to possess a person.

Sutra:

At that time a demon from the heavens seizes the opportunity it has been waiting for. Its spirit possesses another person and uses him as a mouthpiece to expound the sutras and the dharma.

Commentary:

At that time a demon from the heavens seizes the opportunity it has been waiting for. The demon king in the heavens again becomes jealous and waits for an opening to get in. Its spirit possesses another person. It again sends a member of its retinue to possess another person and uses him as a mouthpiece to expound the sutras and the dharma. It comes to disturb the cultivator. Why does the cultivator get possessed by a demon? Simply because he is greedy for adventure; he longs to travel, to roam far and wide. As soon as he entertains the thought of roaming, that gives the demon king the chance to disturb him. The demon would not come if the cultivator did not have that thought.

K3 The person who is possessed causes trouble.

Sutra:

This person, unaware that he is possessed by a demon, claims he has reached unsurpassed nirvana. When he comes to see that good person who seeks to roam, he arranges a seat and speaks the dharma. His own body does not change its appearance, but those listening to the dharma suddenly see themselves sitting on jeweled lotuses and their entire bodies transformed into clusters of purple-golden light. Each person in the audience experiences that state and feels he has obtained something unprecedented.

Commentary:

This person, unaware that he is possessed by a demon, claims he has reached the wondrous fruition of unsurpassed nirvana. When he comes to see that good person who seeks to roam, that is, the cultivator who had a false thought about his spiritual body going out the top of his head and roaming everywhere, he arranges a seat and speaks the dharma. His own body does not change its appearance. In the previous passage, the person's own body took on the appearance of a bhikshu, of Shakra, of a lay woman, of a bhikshuni, and various other forms. But in this case his body does not change. There are different kinds of demons, and you should not consider experiencing an unusual state to be something good. If one occurs and you don't recognize it, a demon can possess you. Here, the body of the person who is speaking the dharma doesn't change, but those listening to the dharma suddenly see themselves sitting on jeweled lotuses and their entire bodies transformed into clusters of purple-golden light. Suddenly, everyone feels as if he is sitting on a jeweled lotus and his whole body has turned into a cluster of purple-golden light. Each person in the audience experiences that state and feels he has obtained something unprecedented. They think this is rare and unusual something they have never seen before. They believe it to be a good state, but actually it is a demonic state.

K4 The cultivator becomes deluded and confused.

Sutra:

The good person is beguiled and fooled into thinking the other is a Bodhisattva. Lust and laxity corrupt his mind. He breaks the Buddha's moral precepts and covertly indulges his greedy desires.

Commentary:

The good person is beguiled and fooled into thinking the other is a Bodhisattva. Not only this person, but all those listening to the dharma are very stupid. Their minds are confused, and they think, "He's really a Bodhisattva! He can make me sit on a jeweled lotus and turn the color of purple-golden light." You should ask yourself if you are really seated on a lotus blossom and radiant with purple-golden light. Actually it is all false. How can you, an ordinary person, have such a state? Isn't this a demon king that has come to fool you? Why would a Bodhisattva make such a state appear? What is the Bodhisattva trying to get from you? Lust and laxity corrupt his mind. The minds of those listening to dharma are moved as well, and they start having thoughts of lust. He breaks the Buddha's moral precepts. They don't keep the Buddha's precepts anymore.

You should all remember: After you take the precepts, never be deceived by such states of confused belief. Even if a dharma-speaker displays mighty spiritual powers, you should look him over carefully and see if he is greedy. If he is out for money or if he has lust, then he's not genuine. He's a phony. If a person does not have any lust, greed, or ulterior motives, then he is genuine. If he violates the Buddha's moral precepts, then he's a fraud. And he covertly indulges his greedy desires. He engages in licentious conduct on the sly.

K5 The types of things he says.

Sutra:

The other person is fond of saying that Buddhas are appearing in the world. He claims that in a certain place a certain person is actually a transformation body of a certain Buddha. Or he says that a certain person is such and such a Bodhisattva who has come to teach humankind. People who witness this are filled with admiration. Their wrong views multiply, and their wisdom of modes is destroyed.

Commentary:

The other person is fond of saying that Buddhas are appearing in the world. The person possessed by the demon likes to roam about, and then based on his adventures, he talks about strange and mysterious things. The things he says are so mysterious that no one can conceive of them. He says, "All the Buddhas have now come into the world to save people." He claims that in a certain place a certain person is actually a transformation body of a certain Buddha. "He's really Buddha so-and-so, whose transformation body has come here to save living beings." Or he says that a certain person is such and such a Bodhisattva who has come to teach humankind.

For example, one of my disciples says that the disciples of a certain teacher say that their teacher is a Bodhisattva. That's ridiculous. What kind of Bodhisattva? A ghost Bodhisattva. They're just cheating people. I'll tell you something: A real Buddha or Bodhisattva would never admit that he was a Buddha or a Bodhisattva.

Nor would he let his disciples advertise for him, saying, "Our teacher is a Bodhisattva." I never told you to talk like that. Why do some of you say that your teacher is a Buddha? You must never speak that way about me. Haven't I told you I'm a ghost? Just tell them your teacher is a ghost. I don't want to be called a Bodhisattva or a Buddha. How pathetic those people are! Here the person says, "This is a Bodhisattva who has come to teach the world! He has come to save us in this Dharma-ending Age." People who witness this are filled with admiration. Since they have childish views and don't really understand the Buddhadharma, they think, "Wow! He's a Bodhisattva! Fantastic! Let's hurry and go hear him speak the dharma and ask him to be our teacher!" For example, yesterday someone came to steal the dharma. I asked him who his teacher was, and he said it was so-andso. That's the kind of situation this is referring to. They are filled with awe and admiration. "We'll take this Bodhisattva as our teacher, and study Bodhisattva dharmas with him. Since he's a Bodhisattva, of course all the people he teaches can become Bodhisattvas, too." As a result, their wrong views multiply, gradually growing thicker and thicker, and their wisdom of modes is destroyed. Their wisdom of all modes and all their various kinds of wisdom are eradicated. The seeds of their wisdom are destroyed. It's that dangerous!

[January 1983]

There's not a very great difference between what is true principle and what is not true principle. It's a very subtle difference, and so it's not easy for us to have dharma-selecting vision and to distinguish between proper dharma and deviant dharmas, or good and evil. If a person is proper, then everything he does will be open and upright. If he is deviant, then he will always be taking risks hoping to gain advantages; he will do disgraceful things. Good people try to help others, while evil people harm others. Once we recognize these points, we will have a clear understanding.

K6 Giving the name and pointing out the harm.

Sutra:

This is a drought ghost that in its old age has become a demon. It disturbs and confuses the good person. But when it tires of doing so, it will leave the other person's body. Then both the disciples and the teacher will get in trouble with the law.

Commentary:

This is a drought ghost that in its old age has become a demon. Wherever a drought ghost goes, there will be no rainfall. The drought will last at least six months, and it may go on for one, two, three, or five years. As long as the ghost is in the area, there will be no rain. While young, it is a ghost. But as it ages, it becomes more crafty and villainous and turns into a demon. A derogatory proverb about old people says: "To be old and not to have died is to be a rascal." That is even more the case with ghosts. If a ghost grows old and doesn't die, it becomes a demon. It disturbs and confuses the good person. But when it tires of doing so, after it has played its tricks for a long time, the demon becomes bored with the whole affair. Having lost interest, it will leave the other person's body. Then both the disciples and the teacher will get in trouble with the law. They are arrested and put in prison. They may be executed or face life imprisonment. It is just as if they were in the hells.

K7 Instructions to be aware and not become confused.

Sutra:

You should be aware of this in advance and not get caught up in the cycle of transmigration. If you are confused and do not understand, you will fall into the Relentless Hells.

Commentary:

You should be aware of this in advance and not get caught up in the demon king's cycle of transmigration. Don't join the demon's retinue. If you are confused and do not understand, if you don't recognize the workings of the demon king, then you will follow the demon king and fall into the Relentless Hells.

J3 Greed for union.
K1 Samadhi leads to craving and seeking.

Sutra:

Further, in the unhindered clarity and wonder that ensues after the feeling skandha is gone, this good person is untroubled by any deviant mental state and experiences perfect, bright concentration. Within samadhi, his mind craves spiritual oneness, so he clarifies his concentrated thought as he greedily seeks for union.

Commentary:

Further, in the unhindered clarity and wonder that ensues after the feeling skandha is gone, this good person is untroubled by any deviant mental state and experiences perfect, bright concentration. Within samadhi, his mind craves spiritual oneness. He wants to join in close connection with all sages. So he clarifies his concentrated thought as he greedily seeks for union. He forcefully uses subtle thoughts that have been settled and made clear. Because of his one secret thought of craving for union, he gives the demon king a chance to come and disturb him.

K2 A demon dispatches a deviant force to possess a person.

Sutra:

At that time a demon from the heavens seizes the opportunity it has been waiting for. Its spirit possesses another person and uses him as a mouthpiece to expound the sutras and the dharma.

Commentary:

The demon sees its chance, so it dispatches a spirit that quickly possesses a person and speaks the dharma through him.

K3 The person who is possessed causes trouble.

Sutra:

This person, unaware that he is actually possessed by a demon, claims he has reached unsurpassed nirvana. When he comes to see that good person who seeks union, he arranges a seat and speaks the dharma. Neither his own body nor the bodies of those listening to the dharma go through any external transformations. But he makes the minds of the listeners become 'enlightened' before they listen to the dharma, so they experience changes in every thought. They may have the knowledge of past lives or the knowledge of others' thoughts. They may see the hells or know all the good and evil events in the human realm. They may speak verses or spontaneously recite sutras. Each person is elated and feels he has obtained something unprecedented.

Commentary:

This possessed person is unaware that he is actually possessed by a demon. He claims he has reached the wondrous fruition of unsurpassed nirvana. When he comes to see that good person, the cultivator who seeks union, he arranges a dharma seat, ascends it, and speaks the dharma. Neither his own body nor the bodies of those listening to the dharma go through any external transformations. His own appearance does not change, nor do the appearances of his listeners change. Nothing happens on the outside. It is not as in a previous passage, where the listeners saw themselves sitting on precious lotus flowers or saw their own bodies radiating purple-golden light. Nor is it as when they saw the person speaking dharma change into a bhikshu, a bhikshuni, Shakra, a woman, and so forth. There are no such transformations.

But instead he makes the minds of the listeners become "enlightened" before they listen to the dharma. After their "enlightenment," they feel as if they are drunk or having a dream in which they strike it rich. This "enlightenment" is not true enlightenment.

It is an illusory state, like watching a movie or taking an hallucinogenic drug. They see everything in an altered state so that in their minds they experience changes in every thought. They may have the knowledge of past lives, but again the knowledge of past lives they attain is not real. What they see is totally illusory. Or they may have the knowledge of others' thoughts. They may see all of the states in the hells. Or they may know all the good and evil events in the human realm. They may casually be able to speak verses on their own, or they may spontaneously recite sutras. Each person is elated and feels he has obtained something unprecedented. They all say, "He truly is a Bodhisattva! He's really a Buddha! He has made me enlightened! He has given me the power of knowing past lives." However, the experience lasts only while they are listening to the dharma. That is why it is not genuine.

[May 1989]

Layperson: Venerable Master, dharma masters, and good advisors. I'd like to share something which is closely related to everyone's cultivation.

When the feeling skandha comes to an end, the cultivator tends to be in a state of anxiety in which he craves clever and skillful expedients. He wants to merge with the cosmic principle, unite with potentials, and convert living beings. When he has this kind of anxiety, several things may happen. For example, some people who have never read sutras before will become possessed by demons, and then they will be able to explain many sutras. There are many "cultivators" in Taiwan who have read very little of the sutras and who may have violated the substance of the precepts they received. Yet they want to obtain clever and skillful expedients; when they see other people explaining sutras and gaining a large following, they hope to quickly attain wisdom themselves so that they can also explain sutras to many people. Having such a thought they become possessed by demons as they sit in meditation.

Many people who seem to be very good at explaining sutras are actually possessed by demons. Of course, if a person strictly follows the precepts, diligently recites mantras and sutras, and cultivates very hard, then he may not be possessed. However, there are some people who are very casual about holding precepts and who do not recite sutras or bow to the Buddhas; yet when they go onstage and close their eyes, after two or three days not only they themselves, but also those in the audience who gave rise to false thinking will be able to lecture very well on the sutras without having studied them before.

I don't think this will happen at the Venerable Master's Wayplaces. If you go to other Way-places where the dharma-protecting spirits don't do a good job and you give rise to false thinking and greedy attachments, then you may have these states, especially if you like to meditate. People who don't meditate usually don't have these states. There is an elderly woman in Taiwan who was basically illiterate, but after three or five days, she could write beautiful Chinese calligraphy. I've seen many cases like this, where people suddenly "become Buddhas" in a few days' time. That woman had not been able to explain sutras before, but after three days, she was very good at explaining them. Such strange things really happen.

That is why everyone wants to learn deviant dharmas and no one wants to learn the proper dharma. If you explain the Buddhadharma to them, they won't listen. Those of us here are probably more aware of such phenomena. These states probably won't happen to people at this Way-place, but you have to be careful when you go out.

Venerable Master: These are all cases of people being possessed by fox spirits. This is what is meant by "its spirit possesses a person."

K4 The cultivator becomes deluded and confused.

Sutra:

The good person is beguiled and fooled into thinking the other is a Bodhisattva. His thoughts become entangled in love. He breaks the Buddha's moral precepts and covertly indulges his greedy desires.

Commentary:

The good person is beguiled and fooled into thinking the other is a Bodhisattva. The cultivator is extremely stupid and thinks the possessed person is a Bodhisattva. His thoughts become entangled in love. He falls in love with the demon. He breaks the Buddha's moral precepts, not abiding by them, and covertly indulges his greedy desires. He has licentious relations on the sly.

K5 The types of things he says.

Sutra:

He is fond of saying that there are greater Buddhas and lesser Buddhas, earlier Buddhas and later Buddhas; that among them are true Buddhas and false Buddhas, male Buddhas and female Buddhas; and that the same is true of Bodhisattvas. When people witness this, their initial resolve is washed away, and they easily get carried away with their wrong understanding.

Commentary:

He is fond of saying that there are greater Buddhas and lesser Buddhas. What does this demon like to say? It says, "You people study the Buddhadharma, but do you know what Buddhas are all about? There are great Buddhas and small Buddhas, old Buddhas and young Buddhas." He further elaborates that there are earlier Buddhas and later Buddhas; that among them are true Buddhas and false Buddhas. The demon king claims that he is a true Buddha, while other Buddhas are false Buddhas. He also says that there are male Buddhas and female Buddhas. He insists, "Intercourse between men and women creates Buddhas. It is the origin of Buddhas; it is the Bodhi mind." Of course this confuses people. They think, "Oh, so that's how one becomes a Buddha!" and then they indulge in wild debauchery. They would rather die than not engage in lust.

And he says that the same is true of Bodhisattvas, maintaining that there are great and small Bodhisattvas, and male and female ones, too. Actually, anyone who becomes a Buddha or a Bodhisattva is male. There are no female Buddhas or Bodhisattvas. Guanyin Bodhisattva may manifest in the form of a woman in order to teach and rescue women. When people witness this and hear him saying such things, they think, "He's right. I always see Guanyin Bodhisattva depicted as a female. That's proof right there." Such people do not understand the Buddhadharma. Guanyin Bodhisattva is neither male nor female. The Bodhisattva responds to each living being and appears in an appropriate form to teach and transform that being. It is very difficult to distinguish manifestations of Bodhisattvas from manifestations of demons, because demons also have spiritual powers and the ability to transform themselves. How can you tell if someone is a demon? Observe to see whether he has lust or greed. Their initial resolve is washed away. They change their minds and forsake their original resolve to cultivate, and they easily get carried away with their wrong
understanding.

K6 Giving the name and pointing out the harm.

Sutra:

This is a mei-ghost that in its old age has become a demon. It disturbs and confuses the good person. But when it tires of doing so, it will leave the other person's body. Then both the disciples and the teacher will get in trouble with the law.

Commentary:

This is a mei-ghost, a ghost that falls into the category of li mei, and wang liang ghosts, that in its old age has become a demon. It disturbs and confuses the good person who is cultivating samadhi. But when it tires of doing so eventually, it will leave the other person's body. Then both the disciples and the teacher will get in trouble with the law. They will be arrested and imprisoned.

K7 Instructions to be aware and not become confused.

Sutra:

You should be aware of this in advance and not get caught up in the cycle of transmigration. If you are confused and do not understand, you will fall into the Relentless Hells.

Commentary:

You should be aware of this in advance and not get caught up in the cycle of transmigration. You should wake up at the very start and avoid entering the demon king's cycle of rebirth. If you lack wisdom and are confused, and you do not understand what is going on, you will fall into the Relentless Hells.

J4 Greed to analyze things.
K1 Samadhi leads to craving and seeking.

Sutra:

Further, in the unhindered clarity and wonder that ensues after the feeling skandha is gone, this good person is untroubled by any deviant mental state and experiences perfect, bright concentration. Within samadhi, his mind craves to know the origins of things, so he exhaustively investigates the nature of physical things and their changes from beginning to end. He intensifies the keenness of his thoughts as he greedily seeks to analyze things.

Commentary:

Further, in the unhindered clarity and wonder that ensues after the feeling skandha is gone, this good person who is cultivating samadhi is untroubled by any deviant mental state and experiences perfect bright concentration. Within samadhi, his mind craves to know the origins of things. He decides that he wants to study the principles of the physical world. So he exhaustively investigates the nature of physical things and their changes and transformations from beginning to end, to find out what they are all about. He intensifies the keenness of his thoughts, honing his mental concentration as he greedily seeks to analyze, differentiate, and understand things in the physical world.

K2 A demon dispatches a deviant force to possess a person.

Sutra:

At that time a demon from the heavens seizes the opportunity it has been waiting for. Its spirit possesses another person and uses him as a mouthpiece to expound the sutras and the dharma.

Commentary:

At that time a demon from the heavens sees him and says, "Aha! You've had a greedy thought. Great! Now I can send one of my retinue to snare you." And so it seizes the opportunity it has been waiting for. Once again, the demon king sends one of its followers and its spirit possesses another person and uses him as a mouthpiece to expound the sutras and speak the dharma of the demon king.

[January 1983]

Disciple: I've noticed that every state of the thinking skandha begins with the phrase "in the unhindered clarity and wonder that ensues after the feeling skandha is gone, [he is] untroubled by any deviant mental state." What does the phrase "untroubled by any deviant mental state" mean? Does it mean the person is without deviant knowledge and views? Or does it mean that he does not have improper thoughts? When the cultivator reaches this level, what is his state like?

Venerable Master: "In the unhindered clarity and wonder that ensues after the feeling skandha is gone." There has to be unhindered clarity for it to be wonderful, and it must be wonderful for there to be unhindered clarity. When he attains this state in the feeling skandha, he feels very much at ease. "[He is] untroubled by any deviant mental state." That means he doesn't encounter any such state. If he has some skill in the feeling skandha, he basically shouldn't encounter any deviant mental state. And yet, for no apparent reason, he does encounter one. This deviant mental state is a thief from outside, a deviant demon, ghost, or freak that comes from outside. Originally, he shouldn't have encountered such beings, but in the end he had thoughts of love, seeking, greed, selfishness, or self-benefit. Having reverted to these old faults, he encountered those beings. If he didn't have these old faults, he would be able to continue making progress.

If you understand all the states that come up without being swayed by them, then you won't be troubled by deviant mental states. As soon as you're turned by a state, however, it will be able to trouble you. Basically, he isn't supposed to be troubled by deviant mental states, and yet he gets turned, is this a contradiction? No, it's becase his thought of desire has opened the door to thieves. He covertly indulges his greedy desires. He sneaks around engaging in immoral conduct and does not abide by the rules and precepts. He says, "What do precepts matter?" and claims to be enlightened. I don't dare to transgress the rules, because I'm not enlightened.

K3 The person who is possessed causes trouble.

Sutra:

This person, unaware that he is possessed by a demon, claims he has reached unsurpassed nirvana. When he comes to see that good person who seeks to know the origins of things, he arranges a seat and speaks the dharma. His body has an awesome spiritual quality which subdues the seeker. He makes the minds of those gathered beside his seat spontaneously compliant, even before they have heard the dharma. He says to all those people that the Buddha's nirvana, Bodhi, and dharma body are there before them in the form of his own physical body. He says, "The successive begetting of fathers and sons from generation to generation is itself the dharma body, which is permanent and never-ending. What you see right now are those very Buddhalands. There are no other pure dwellings or golden features."

Commentary:

This is really a case of "everyone being a Buddha!" That's just the approach this demon uses. This person is unaware that he is possessed by a demon. He doesn't have any idea that he has been caught by a demon, because he gets muddled and loses awareness when he becomes possessed. The demon takes total control and becomes his spokesman. He claims he has reached the unsurpassed wondrous fruition of nirvana. When he comes to see that good person who seeks to know the origins of things, who seeks thorough understanding of the physical world, he arranges a seat and speaks the dharma. His, the demon king's, body has an awesome spiritual quality which subdues the seeker, the good person who seeks the source. He makes the minds of this person and of those gathered beside his seat spontaneously compliant, even before they have heard the dharma. Their minds are already subdued and respectful.

He says to all those people that the Buddha's nirvana, Bodhi, and dharma body are there before them in the form of his own physical body. He says, "What are Bodhi and nirvana? They are right here in my flesh body. The successive begetting of fathers and sons from generation to generation is itself the dharma body, which is permanent and never-ending. Fathers beget sons, and the sons grow up to become fathers who in turn beget sons. This succession of generations is the permanent, indestructible dharma body. What you see right now are those very Buddhalands. These now are the Buddhas' lands. There are no other pure dwellings or golden features. There aren't any other pure lands to dwell in or any other golden appearances. Those are all phony." That's how he talks He has a ghostly quality and a demonic quality. Don't I often use the expression "demonic energy"? This is what demonic energy is. Because he has a demonic energy from the demon possessing him, people are taken in by what he says.

K4 The people become deluded and confused.

Sutra:

Those people believe and accept his words, forgetting their initial resolve. They offer up their lives, feeling they have obtained something unprecedented. They are all beguiled and confused into thinking he is a Bodhisattva. As they pursue his ideas, they break the Buddha's moral precepts and covertly indulge their greedy desires.

Commentary:

Those people believe and accept his words. When they hear him speaking such principles, they say, "That makes sense: Fathers beget sons, and the sons in turn beget their sons, generation after generation. That's the permanent and indestructible dharma body. That's actually the way it is." They all believe it forgetting their initial resolve. They lose their former proper outlook and proper thought. Their faith in the demon king is far stronger than their faith in the proper dharma. When demon kings and heterodox sects tell them what to do, they don't dare disobey. When a true teacher tells them to do something, they waver between doubt and belief The demon king confuses them with its demonic power so that they believe whatever it says.

If you told a demon king to lecture on this sutra, he would not do it. Why not? As soon as he did, his true identity would be exposed. That's why I said that if you asked certain people in America who falsely claim to be experts in the Buddhadharma to explain this sutra, they wouldn't dare do it. They are afraid of being exposed.

They offer up their bodies and lives to the demon king, feeling they have obtained something unprecedented. They are all beguiled and confused into thinking he is a Bodhisattva. They are truly pitiable. They think the demon is a Bodhisattva. As they pursue his ideas, studying with the demon and learning his magic, they no longer maintain, but instead break, the Buddha's moral precepts and covertly indulge their greedy desires. They secretly indulge in lust.

K5 The types of things he says.

Sutra:

He is fond of saying that the eyes, ears, nose, and tongue are the Pure Land, and that the male and female organs are the true place of Bodhi and nirvana. Ignorant people believe these filthy words.

Commentary:

How terrible this demon king is! He is fond of saying that the eyes, ears, nose, and tongue, body, and mind are the Pure Land. "You don't have to look anywhere else for the dharma door of the Pure Land," he tells them. "It's just the six sense faculties." And he also says that the male and female organs are the seeds of Bodhi, the true place of Bodhi and nirvana. Can you imagine speaking like that? Ignorant people believe these filthy words. People without any knowledge or wisdom say, "Oh? I've never seen or heard anything like this before. So that's what Bodhi and nirvana are!" With total disregard for their own lives, they race along the road to death for all they are worth. They believe in such impure talk.

K6 Giving the name, and pointing out the harm.

Sutra:

This is a poisonous ghost or an evil paralysis ghost that in its old age has become a demon. It disturbs and confuses the good person. But when it tires of doing so, it will leave the other person's body. Then both the disciples and the teacher will get in trouble with the law.

Commentary:

This is a poisonous ghost or an evil paralysis ghost, also known as a kumbhanda ghost, that in its old age has become a demon. It disturbs and confuses the good person who cultivates samadhi. But when it tires of doing so, it will leave the other person's body. Then both the disciples and the teacher will get in trouble with the law. The authorities intervene and impose restrictions upon the disciples and the teacher. They are arrested and imprisoned.

K7 Instructions to be aware and not become confused.

Sutra:

You should be aware of this in advance and not get caught up in the cycle of transmigration. If you are confused and do not understand, you will fall into the Relentless Hells.

Commentary:

You should be aware of this well in advance and not get caught up in the cycle of transmigration. Don't fall into the demon king's snare. If you are confused and do not understand, you certainly will fall into the Relentless Hells.

J5 Greed for spiritual responses.
K1 Samadhi leads to craving and seeking.

Sutra:

Further, in the unhindered clarity and wonder that ensues after the feeling skandha is gone, this good person is untroubled by any deviant mental state and experiences perfect, bright concentration. Within samadhi, his mind craves revelations from afar, so he pours all his energy into this intense investigation as he greedily seeks for imperceptible spiritual responses.

Commentary:

Further, in the unhindered clarity and wonder that ensues after the feeling skandha is gone, this good person who cultivates samadhi is untroubled by any deviant mental state and experiences perfect bright concentration. At that time he is no longr vulnerable to possession by demons or externalists. Within samadhi, his mind suddenly craves revelations from afar.

"Revelations from afar" refers to knowledge of what is happening, no matter how far away. For instance, he might be in San Francisco and want to know what is happening in New York. If he can know about it, he has experienced what is called a revelation from afar. So he pours all his energy into this intense investigation as he greedily seeks for imperceptible spiritual responses. He intensifies his investigation of this matter of faraway revelations, seeking for psychic responses. For example, as soon as he sits in meditation in San Francisco, he may be able to see clearly what his relatives and friends are doing in New York, and hear clearly what they are saying. Later, he finds out that what he saw and heard is exactly what was really happening at the time. That's the kind of spiritual response he would like to attain.

K2 A demon dispatches a deviant force to possess a person.

Sutra:

At that time a demon from the heavens seizes the opportunity it has been waiting for. Its spirit possesses another person and uses him as a mouthpiece to expound the sutras and the dharma.

Commentary:

At that time a demon from the heavens notices that your samadhi is about to be perfected, and it becomes jealous. It seizes the opportunity it has been waiting for and sends its demon descendant there to wait for an opening. As soon as it sees a chance, its spirit possesses another person and uses him as a mouthpiece to expound the sutras and the dharma.

K3 The person who is possessed causes trouble.

Sutra:

This person, completely unaware that he is possessed by a demon, claims he has reached unsurpassed nirvana. When he comes to see that good person who seeks revelations, he arranges a seat and speaks the dharma. He briefly appears to his listeners in a body that looks a hundred or a thousand years old. They experience a defiling love for him and cannot bear to part with him. They personally act as his servants, tirelessly making the four kinds of offerings to him. Each member of the assembly believes that this person is his former teacher, his original good and wise advisor. They give rise to love for his dharma and stick to him as if glued, feeling they have obtained something unprecedented.

Commentary:

This is really dangerous. This person, completely unaware that he is possessed by a demon, claims he has reached unsurpassed nirvana. He claims he has been certified when he has not and that he has attained what he has not. He hasn't attained unsurpassed nirvana, but claims he has. When he comes to see that good person who greedily seeks revelations from afar and imperceptible spiritual responses, he arranges a seat and speaks the dharma.

He, the person possessed by the demon, briefly appears to his listeners in a body that looks a hundred or a thousand years old. You should know that this vision is temporary. When the people in the assembly see him with the white hair of an old man and the skin of a child, they think he must be an old cultivator, an old bhikshu. They experience a defiling love and cannot bear to part with him. This defiling love refers to a devotion that stains and pollutes them. Once there is love, there is defilement. With defilement, you lose purity.

All the listeners want to follow this demon day and night. Why? They are deluded by its charisma. They personally act as his slaves and servants, tirelessly making the four kinds of offerings to him. The four kinds of offerings are:

1. food and drink,
2. clothing,
3. bedding and sitting mats, and
4. medicine.

They never grow weary of making such offerings to him. Again, one wonders why. A genuine cultivator, a true disciple of the Buddha, will not have people draw near him and serve him in this way. It is only because the demon has a kind of charisma that everyone draws near him and likes to stay with him.

Each member of the assembly believes that this person is his former teacher. They get so confused that each believes the possessed person was his original good and wise advisor. They think, "Oh! He was my teacher in the past!" They give rise to love for his dharma and stick to him as if glued, feeling they have obtained something unprecedented. "It's never been like this before," they think.

[January 1983]

She does whatever he tells her to do. It's not as simple as making the four kinds of offerings of food, clothing, bedding, and medicines. She has to offer her body, mind, and life to him and engage in lust with him. The difference lies in the practice of lust. If a person has lust, then what he does is deviant. If he has no lust then he is proper.

You should never listen to a person who says, "When you are enlightened, you can do whatever you want including indulge in lust." Those are the words of a big demon king. Before you are enlightened, you may transgress the rules because you do not know any better. But if you say that you are enlightened, that you understand, and yet you deliberately transgress the rules and precepts, then what enlightenment have you obtained? It's as if you are driving in reverse.

People nowadays don't investigate true principles. All they know about is getting enlightened. They hear someone say that after he is enlightened, he doesn't have to follow the rules, so they repeat his words and say: "Oh! He doesn't have to follow any rules. Since he's enlightened, he can smoke, drink, play around with women, and do anything at all."

The most important thing is lust: if he has lust and he indulges, in impure conduct all the time, then he's a demon. If he is not greedy for money and he is free of lust, then he is genuine. In this case, he announces to those he meets, 'In a former life you were my wife," or "You were the empress," or "You were my such and such when I was the emperor," and so forth; he makes these statements in order to arouse lust in people. By doing this in public, he hopes to cheat people and exploit the situation. Again, one wonders why. A genuine cultivator, a true disciple of the Buddha, will not have people draw near him and serve him in this way. It is only because the demon has a kind of charisma that everyone draws near him and likes to stay with him.

K4 The cultivator becomes deluded and confused.

Sutra:

The good person is beguiled and fooled into thinking the other is a Bodhisattva. Attracted to the other's thinking, he breaks the Buddha's moral precepts and covertly indulges his greedy desires.

Commentary:

The good person is beguiled and fooled to the utmost into thinking that because the other person can transform himself, he is a Buddha or a Bodhisattva. Fox spirits can display transformations and so can goblins, demons, ghosts, and weird creatures. But it never occurs to him that the ability to transform does not necessarily mean someone is a Bodhisattva or a Buddha. What good roots does he have to enable him to encounter real Bodhisattvas or Buddhas? Attracted to the other's thinking, he draws near the person who is possessed by the demon. He breaks the Buddha's moral precepts. This is the important point. How do we know he is a demon? We can tell from the fact that he breaks the precepts and covertly indulges his greedy desires by engaging in lust.

K5 The types of things he says.

Sutra:

He is fond of saying, "In a past life, in a certain incarnation, I rescued a certain person who was then my wife (or my mistress, or my brother). Now I have come to rescue you again. We will stay together and go to another world to make offerings to a certain Buddha." Or he may say, "There is a Heaven of Great Brilliance where a Buddha now dwells. It is the resting place of all Tathagatas." Ignorant people believe his ravings and lose their original resolve.

Commentary:

Whenever he sees someone, he is fond of saying the same things that Liu Jintong, whom I mentioned before, used to say. She would tell her victim that he had been her son in one past life and her husband in another past life. Now this person says, "In a past life, in a certain incarnation," perhaps in his hundred-and-first life or his hundred-and-second life, "I rescued a certain person who was then my wife,' or he says, "who was then my mistress," or, "who was then my brother," and so forth. "Now I have come to rescue you again. We will always stay together and never part. We will go to another world to make offerings to a certain Buddha."

Or he may say, "There is a Heaven of Great Brilliance that we are going to." Actually the heaven he refers to is the place where the demon king resides. He says, "It is the place where a true Buddha now dwells, and all the Buddhas you presently believe in are phony. It is the resting place of all Tathagatas. When they are tired from teaching and rescuing beings in the world, they go to the Heaven of Great Brilliance to rest." When those ignorant people hear him they believe his ravings, and as a result they lose their original resolve, which had been based on proper faith.

K6 Giving the name and pointing out the harm.

Sutra:

This is a pestilence ghost that in its old age has become a demon. It disturbs and confuses the good person. But when it tires of doing so, it will leave the other person's body. Then both the disciples and the teacher will get in trouble with the law.

Commentary:

This is a pestilence ghost that, after some three thousand or five thousand years, in its old age has become a demon. It disturbs and confuses the good person, attempting to destroy his samadhi power. But after a while, when it has played all its tricks and the game isn't new anymore, it tires of doing so. It becomes bored and will leave the other person's body. Then both the disciples and the teacher will get in trouble with the law. Once the demon goes, the person will lose all his awesomeness and charisma. Then people will start to doubt him. Eventually he will be taken to court and put in jail.

K7 Instructions to be aware and not become confused.

Sutra:

You should be aware of this in advance and not get caught up in the cycle of transmigration. If you are confused and do not understand, you will fall into the Relentless Hells.

Commentary:

You should be aware of this in advance. You should awaken to this principle beforehand and not get caught up in the cycle of transmigration. Don't fall into the demons' snare. Don't enter the demonic cycle of birth and death. If you are confused and do not understand this principle, you will fall into the Relentless Hells for sure.

J6 Greed for peace and quiet.
K1 Samadhi leads to craving and seeking.

Sutra:

Further, in the unhindered clarity and wonder that ensues after the feeling skandha is gone, this good person is untroubled by any deviant mental state and experiences perfect, bright concentration. Within samadhi, his mind craves deep absorption, so he restrains himself with energetic diligence and likes to dwell in secluded places as he greedily seeks for peace and quiet.

Commentary:

Further, in the unhindered clarity and wonder that ensues after the feeling skandha is gone, this good person who is cultivating samadhi is untroubled by any deviant mental state and experiences perfect, bright concentration. Within samadhi, his mind develops a craving. He craves deep absorption in that principle. So he restrains himself with energetic diligence and likes to dwell in secluded places as he greedily seeks for peace and quiet. He maintains firm self-control and is very strict with himself. He puts great effort into cultivation. He likes to reside in places that are yin, lacking in sunlight. He prefers places where there aren't any people, perhaps a cave somewhere deep in the mountains or in some isolated valley. He picks a secluded spot, for he likes still and quiet places. Because he is too greedy for peace and quiet, demons will come. In cultivation, people should not be greedy. Don't be greedy for good things, and don't be greedy for bad things. The ordinary mind is the Way. Just act ordinary, and don't be greedy. No matter what you may be greedy for, it's not right.

K2 A demon dispatches a deviant force to possess a person.

Sutra:

At that time a demon from the heavens seizes the opportunity it has been waiting for. Its spirit possesses another person and uses him as a mouthpiece to expound the sutras and the dharma.

Commentary:

This is the same situation as before. At that time a demon king from the heavens seizes the opportunity it has been waiting for. When the chance comes, its spirit possesses another person and uses him as a mouthpiece to expound the sutras and the dharma. It sends a member of its demonic retinue to possess another person who then comes and speaks the sutras and the dharma for him.

K3 The demon?s words and deeds that mislead others.

Sutra:

This person, unaware that he is possessed by a demon, claims he has reached unsurpassed nirvana. When he comes to see that good person who seeks seclusion, he arranges a seat and speaks the dharma. He causes all of his listeners to think they know their karma from the past. Or he may say to someone there, "You haven't died yet, but you have already become an animal." Then he instructs another person to step on the first person's 'tail' and suddenly the first person cannot stand up. At that point, all in the assembly pour out their hearts in respect and admiration for him. If someone has a thought, the demon detects it immediately. He establishes intense ascetic practices that exceed the Buddha's moral precepts. He slanders bhikshus, scolds his assembly of disciples, and exposes people's private affairs without fear of ridicule or rejection. He is fond of foretelling calamities and auspicious events, and when they come to pass, he is not wrong in the slightest.

Commentary:

This person is unaware that he is possessed by a demon. He claims, as demon kings do, that he has reached unsurpassed nirvana. What proof is there that someone is a demon? For the most part, demons praise themselves.

They say, "Do you know me? I've already obtained nirvana." Or it may be, "I've realized the first fruition of Arhatship," or, "I've reached the fourth fruition of Arhatship;" or, 'I'm a Bodhisattva now. Do you recognize me?"

As soon as someone talks like that you don't have to ask to know he is a demon. A Buddha would never say, "I'm a Buddha. Hurry up and bow to me. If you don't bow now, you'll miss your chance. Since I'm a Buddha, you're really stupid if you don't bow to me." Anyone who claims to be a Buddha, a Bodhisattva, or an Arhat is nothing but a demon. You can know immediately, without question, that it is a demon talking. A Buddha would never say he was a Buddha. A Bodhisattva who has come into the world would never say he was a Bodhisattva. Even if other people said he was a Bodhisattva, he would not admit it. Even if he were a Buddha, and someone said, "Yes, I know you are a Buddha," he would not acknowledge it. One who is truly enlightened would not admit to that either. If someone says, "I'm enlightened," don't be taken in by him, he doesn't even measure up to a dog. Don't listen to his bluster and self-aggrandizing.

Listen to sutras so that you can have a demon-spotting mirror. Then when demons, ghosts, and weird beings show themselves, you will recognize them. But if you don't understand the Buddhadharma. you will not know what they are saying, and you will be cheated by them. When he, the person who has been possessed by the demon, comes to see that good person who seeks seclusion, he arranges a seat and speaks the dharma.

[January 1983]

This "person" is referring to the cultivator, not to another person. He has been possessed by a demon, but he doesn't realize it. He thinks that he has really become enlightened and realized the fruition. He thinks, "What great spiritual skill I have now!" He is not aware of his own mistake. "When people come to see that good person." This phrase is referring to good men and women from outside, who come in quest of the dharma. They want to hear him speak the dharma because they know that he has spiritual powers. When they come, he arranges a seat and speaks the dharma to teach and transform them.

Now we are bringing up each person's opinion for everyone to look into, and we don't have to say which opinion is right and which one is wrong. We are studying true principles; true principles are real gold. Whatever does not agree with true principle is wrong. Why do I say that the Shurangama Sutra is real? Because it explains the principles so clearly and honestly that it exposes the demons from the heavens and those of external ways for what they are. It exposes those who pretend to be good and wise advisors, so they have no recourse but to claim that the Shurangama Sutra is false. They try to pass off fish eyes as pearls; they stir up confusion and then exploit the situation.

[January 1983, another day]

In this case, people from outside come and invite him. He doesn't go to them first. "When people come to see that good person" means people from outside approach the cultivator who seeks seclusion. They invite him to go explain the sutras and speak dharma, and then he goes. Do you understand? It is absolutely impermissible to alter the sutra text. This is the only meaning and there is no other explanation. Any other explanation would not make sense; it would be a forced and artificial interpretation. He causes all of his listeners to think they know their karma from the past. Each person feels he knows, as if in a dream, what he was in his previous lives. One says, "Oh, in my last life I was a watchdog." Another person says, "In my previous life I was a cat." Someone else says, "In my past life I was a chicken." Another person says, "In my past life I was a cow." None of them were human beings.

Or he, the demon, may say to someone there, "You haven't died yet but you have already become an animal." What does he say? He says, "You were a dog in your past life, and even though you haven't died yet, you've become a dog again. Don't you believe me?" Then he instructs another person to step on the first person's 'tail.' He says to someone else, "He doesn't believe what I'm telling him. Go behind him and stand on his tail and then see if he can get up." Then that person stamps his foot on the ground and says he is standing the first person's tail, and suddenly the first person cannot stand up. Wouldn't you say those were great spiritual powers? After the demon said the person had a tail and told someone to step on it, the person could not get up. The person has no choice but to believe. "He says I'm an animal, and now I really do have a tail. Otherwise, how could he step on it and prevent me from standing up?"

At that, all in the assembly pour out their hearts in respect and admiration for him. "It's magic," they say. "He knows the person is going to be an animal even before the person has died. He must be a Buddha or a living Bodhisattva." Actually, they've been duped by a ghost and don't even realize it. They see a ghost or a demon king, and mistake it for a Bodhisattva. Living beings are really upside down.

If someone has a doubt, the demon detects it immediately. Someone in the assembly may be skeptical and think, "How can that be? It isn't reasonable." As soon as he starts to doubt, the demon knows it and says, "So you don't believe me?" These people take one look, "Oh! He's really a Bodhisattva! I didn't say what was on my mind, and he knew about it He exposed my doubt. That's incredible." After that he doesn't dare to disbelieve.

He establishes intense ascetic practices that exceed the Buddha's moral precepts. He says, "The Buddha's vinaya is not enough. I'm establishing a new vinaya for you. I want you to be new Buddhas, and I am creating a new Buddhism. The previous one is obsolete and inapplicable. This is the scientific era, the nuclear age, and everything must be modernized and improved. The old way of thinking is no longer useful. The old Buddhism cannot be applied either." That is how he changes Buddhism, He says that people can be elders or bhikshus or anything they want.

[January 1983]

There are old-fashioned religions and trendy religions. No one believes in religions they consider old-fashioned, but everyone chases madly after trendy things. Of all the dharma spoken by the Buddha, the most important part is precepts. Nowadays, people consider the Buddha really old fashioned, and they want to find something more up-to-date. Their search takes them fight into the demon king's lair. None of the external sects are free from greed and desire. They are insatiable, and they desire to benefit themselves at the expense of others.

I cannot say that we at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas are definitely in accord with the proper dharma. Nevertheless, I ask each of you who has followed me for so many years: Have I ever asked you to hand your wealth and property over to the temple?

Why have I never done this? Because I'm very old-fashioned. I want to uphold and honor the precepts. The precepts tell us to give to others, not to demand that others give to us while we don't give anything to them.

At the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, our revenue comes very naturally. We don't scheme for contributions. We receive enough income as it is. If we were to try to cheat people of their money, how would we be any different from demons? People who tell others to donate their personal and family wealth and their own lives and their families' lives to the Way-place are totally misguided. I'm not like them. I do not want anyone's wealth, nor do I desire any beautiful women. I want neither fame nor a good reputation. In fact, I have quite a notorious reputation, not a good one. The very mention of my name gives some people a headache, especially those goblins, demons, ghosts, and freaks.

He slanders bhikshus, saying, "Bhikshu? What's a bhikshu?" He makes fun of the name. He says, "You say he's a bhikshu? I say he's a bach!"

He also scolds his assembly of disciples. He scolds his disciples however he pleases. He may tell them, "You're a dog," or "You are a cat," or "You're a rat," or "You're a pig." The disciples hear his scolding and accept whatever he says, thinking he is a Bodhisattva. "You say I'm a pig, so I'm a pig." "You say I'm a dog, so I'm a dog." "You say I'm a cat, so I'm a cat." They don' dare talk back. This demon king has such tremendous power that he manages to delude people into believing everything he says.

And he exposes people's private affairs. For instance, a man and a woman may have done something indecent, and he will say to the woman, "You did such and such with a certain man in a certain place."

The woman thinks to herself, "How did he know?"

Or he may expose them in public, saying, "These two are despicable. They did something improper, something unspeakable, in such-and-such a place. Ask her about it, she wouldn't dare deny it." It turns out that they have in fact done it, and they don't dare to deny it. He does this to show people that he has spiritual powers and that he knows everything that is going on. He exposes their private matters without fear of ridicule or rejection. He divulges people's secrets and is not afraid that they will scorn him.

He is always fond of foretelling calamities and auspicious events. He likes to say things such as, "You'd better be careful. Tomorrow is going to be an unlucky day for you. Someone might try to poison you, so watch what you eat or you may die of poisoning." He foretells both unlucky and lucky events, and when they come to pass, he is not wrong in the slightest. When the events happen, they turn out to be exactly as he predicted. So how could people not believe in him? Such demon kings are far more efficacious than Bodhisattvas.

K4 Giving the name and pointing out the harm.
K5 Instructions to be aware and not become confused.

Sutra:

This is a ghost with great powers that in its old age has become a demon. It disturbs and confuses the good person. But when it tires of doing so, it will leave the other person's body. Then both the disciples and the teacher will get in trouble with the law. You should be aware of this in advance and not get caught up in the cycle of transmigration. If you are confused and do not understand, you will fall into the Relentless Hells.

Commentary:

This is a ghost with great powers that in its old age has become a demon. Ghosts become demons when they get old, just as people who don't practice virtuous deeds become rascals in their old age. As I have told you, the Chinese have a saying, "To be old and not to have died is to be a rascal." When people are old and experienced, they can make trouble. In the same way, old ghosts become demons. It disturbs and confuses the good person. Jealous of the cultivation of other people, the ghost destroys their samadhi power. But when it eventually tires of doing so, it will leave the other person's body and no longer possess him. Then both the disciples and the teacher will get in trouble with the law. That's equivalent to their falling into the hells.

There's a saying:

Someone deluded transmits his delusion,
So after the transmission, neither one understands.
The teacher falls into the hells,
And the disciple burrows in after him.

The same principle applies here. Because he hasn't met a teacher who truly understands, the disciple is also muddled. When he sees his teacher going to the hells, he follows his teacher there. The teacher turns around and says, "What did you come here for?" The disciple replies, "I saw you coming here, so of course I came along."

The teacher says, "Oh no! This isn't a good place. You shouldn't have come."

"But you came first. How could I not have followed you? I study with you, after all. I should go wherever you go," says the disciple.

The teacher thinks, "Ah, I've landed in the hells myself, and brought my disciple with me as well. I've really done wrong by you. I'm very sorry!" You should be aware of this in advance and not get caught up in the cycle of transmigration. If you are confused and do not understand, you will fall into the Relentless Hells.

J7 Greed to know past lives.
K1 Samadhi leads to craving and seeking.

Sutra:

Further, in the unhindered clarity and wonder that ensues after the feeling skandha is gone, this good person is untroubled by any deviant mental state and experiences perfect, bright concentration. Within samadhi, his mind craves more knowledge and understanding, so he diligently toils at examining and probing as he greedily seeks to know past lives.

Commentary:

Further, in the unhindered clarity and wonder that ensues after the feeling skandha is gone, this good person is untroubled by any deviant mental state and experiences perfect, bright concentration. Within samadhi, his mind craves more knowledge and understanding. While in samadhi, he wants to know more things, to have the knowledge of past lives. He works with intense vigor and does not fear suffering. So he diligently toils at examining and probing as he greedily seeks to know past lives.

K2 A demon dispatches a deviant force to possess a person.

Sutra:

At that time a demon from the heavens seizes the opportunity it has been waiting for. Its spirit possesses another person and uses him as a mouthpiece to expound the sutras and the dharma. This person, unaware that he is possessed by a demon, claims he has reached unsurpassed nirvana. When he comes to see that good person who seeks knowledge, he arranges a seat and speaks the dharma.

Commentary:

At that time a demon from the heavens seizes the opportunity it has been waiting for. Its spirit possesses another person and uses him as a mouthpiece to expound the sutras and the dharma. This person, unaware that he is possessed by a demon, not realizing that he's been taken over by a demon, claims he has reached unsurpassed nirvana. When he comes to see that good person who seeks knowledge, he arranges a seat and speaks the dharma.

K3 The demon?s words and deeds that mislead others.

Sutra:

There in the dharma assembly, inexplicably, that person may obtain an enormous precious pearl. The demon may sometimes change into an animal that holds the pearl or other jewels, bamboo tablets, tallies, talismans, letters, and other unusual things in its mouth. The demon first gives the objects to the person and afterwards possesses him. Or he may fool his audience by burying the objects underground and then saying that a 'moonlight pearl' is illuminating the place. Thereupon the audience feels they have obtained something unique. He may eat only medicinal herbs and not partake of prepared food. Or he may eat only one sesame seed and one grain of wheat a day and still look robust. That is because he is sustained by the power of the demon. He slanders bhikshus and scolds his assembly of disciples without fear of ridicule or rejection.

Commentary:

There in the dharma assembly, inexplicably, for no reason whatsoever, in the place where dharma is being spoken, that person may obtain an enormous precious pearl. It may be a diamond or something like a "wish-fulfilling pearl." The demon may sometimes change into an animal. The person who is speaking the dharma changes into an animal himself, explaining that Bodhisattvas can transform into anything. The animal that he changes into holds the pearl or other jewels, bamboo tablets, or tallies. Tallies were used for official purposes in ancient times. Words were written on a piece of bamboo, which was then split so that part of the words appeared on each piece. When it was time to use the tallies, they would be put together. If the tallies matched, it would be a certified match. If the two parts did not match, that would mean it was inauthentic. Talismans are used to subdue and catch demons, ghosts, goblins, and weird creatures. And the animal might carry letters and other unusual things in its mouth. All of these are strange, rare, and valuable objects. The demon first gives the objects to the person and afterwards possesses him.

Or he may fool his audience by burying the objects underground and then saying that a "moonlight pearl" is illuminating the place. He buries the pearl in the ground and then tricks his listeners, telling them, "There is a pearl which resembles the bright moon, emitting light there." Thereupon the audience feels they have obtained something unique. "Wow! This has to be for real. This can't be a demon," they say. He is clearly a demon, yet they insist that he isn't. Alas for those who listen to his dharma! He may eat only medicinal herbs and not partake of prepared food. The demon often eats only herbs, not regular food. He doesn't eat good food. He may eat ginseng or other tonics and nourishing supplements. When I was in Hong Kong I met a person who said he didn't eat ordinary food. He acted as a medium for people who sought long life, sons, blessings, or other things.

Whenever he stayed in people's homes, he would announce he didn't eat ordinary food. What did he eat then? Walnuts. Walnuts are very nourishing, full of oil. If you eat them, your brain will be very good. You only have to eat a little to be full; if you usually eat one bowl of rice you only have to eat half a bowl of walnuts to be full. He also ate pine nuts. At any rate, he ate the most nutritious items. Or he may eat only one sesame seed and one grain of wheat a day and still look robust. Even so, he stays really fat, fatter than a pig. That is because he is sustained by the power of the demon.

He slanders bhikshus and scolds his assembly of disciples without fear of ridicule or rejection. He does nothing but slander those who have left the home-life. "Left-home people? what home did they leave? They don't cultivate at all. Left-home people aren't greedy for money? The more the better is their attitude." Or he says, "Why do you believe in him? He's just a person, after all. You're really an idiot." when people have faith in the bhikshus, he calls them idiots. He scolds his own disciples, calling them animals and all sorts of things. He's totally unafraid of any rebuttals.

[May 1989]

Disciple: "When he comes to see that good person who seeks knowledge, he arranges a seat and speaks the dharma."

Venerable Master: This means the demon. It goes to see the person who seeks knowledge of past lives.

Disciple: "There in the dharma assembly, inexplicably, that person may obtain an enormous precious pearl. The demon may sometimes change into an animal." Is this another demon? Venerable Master: No, it's the same one.

Disciple: Does the person possessed by the demon transform into an animal?

Venerable Master: Yes. To everyone, he appears to be an animal. He takes on a bizarre appearance. "First, the demon gives them to the person, and afterwards possesses him." "The person" is the one who seeks knowledge of past lives.

Disciple: The person who seeks knowledge of past lives is already possessed by a demon and has changed into an animal. And he's also holding the pearl and other gems in his mouth.

Venerable Master: He gives them to the people who are listening to the dharma. It isn't just one person. Perhaps he selects one among them. This is all hypothetical. It doesn't necessarily have to happen that way. Don't think that it has to be that way just because the Buddha said it. This is an example, and you should be able to understand other situations by inference. Don't be so rigid. Be flexible in your understanding, so that the next time such a situation occurs, you'll know, "Oh, this is the same as that example." Here he turns into an animal, but in another case he might turn into a Buddha.

Disciple: What about when it "Afterwards possesses him"? Whom does the demon possess?

Venerable Master: The demon possesses everyone.

Disciple: Are there other demons that come to possess everyone?

Venerable Master: No, the same demon can have innumerable transformation bodies. It can possess that person as well as other people.

Disciple: So it jumps around from one to the other? Venerable Master: It doesn't jump. It isn't just one; it can transform into many.

Disciple: Oh, so it can possess you, and it can also possess someone else. I never knew demons were so powerful!

Venerable Master: Demons are about as powerful as Buddhas. It's just that the one is deviant and the other is proper. What demons do is deviant, and what Buddhas do is proper. That's the difference. There's a person from Taiwan who has had such experiences. We can ask him to speak now. [To the layman) Tell everyone the whole story about how the demon transmitted the mind-dharma to you.

Layman: Venerable Master, dharma masters, and good advisors. I will talk about my experiences in non-Buddhist religions, what I saw and understood. Perhaps my experiences are not quite the same as the states caused by the demons from the heavens described by the Buddha. These demons can transform in endless ways, and what I saw is only one of their states. As I share my experience, keep in mind that it is not the whole picture. The demons from the heavens manifest in many ways. They may or may not go through a medium. If you practice with an improper mind in an external sect, the demon can appear to you in the form of a person when you are meditating; it doesn't need a medium.

This sutra text says, "There in the dharma assembly, inexplicably, that person may obtain an enormous precious pearl." Because it says "There in the dharma assembly," I think that there are three parties: the medium, the speaker of dharma, and the listeners. The Venerable Master interprets "the person" as referring to the possessed person. That is one interpretation. However, from what I understand and from the other explanations that I've read, I think "the person" refers to someone who hasn't been possessed yet. Why? Because the Buddha spoke the Shurangama Sutra in order to warn those who are not yet possessed, but whose minds have already gone astray. If they are not alert they will be possessed by demons. The Buddha wants to warn them. When the skandhas of form, feeling, and thinking come to an end, you should be especially cautious, for you may experience many of these states, and you need to know how to deal with them.

Two years ago, I went to the home of a layman who shaved his head like a monk's. He said that while meditating, a demon from the heavens possessed him and said, "Let me give you a 'wordless book from heaven,' or such and such a sutra." People went there because they were looking for a quick way to get enlightened. At that Way-place they used all kinds of methods, and I either saw or heard them talk about every one of the first thirty skandha-demon states. For example, I saw the tallies, gems, and treasure troves. I also witnessed them eating meals of one sesame seed and one grain of wheat, or eating gluttonously. For example, in the case of "obtaining an enormous pearl" when you are meditating, someone will say, "May I give you this pearl?" If your mind is moved and you wish to have it, then through the medium, you stretch your hands out to take it. Once you accept it, you're in for trouble. I'll talk about my personal experience. When I went to a certain place two years ago, the layman told me, "I can give you a wordless book from heaven. If you practice according to it for three years, you can obtain great spiritual powers." That day my mind was rather swayed, and I thought, "If you want to give me a 'wordless book from heaven', fine."

He said, "To accept it, raise both hands, and I'll give it to you."

After I received it, I went home, and the next day I kept reciting things that I did not understand. It sounded like Japanese, and then Thai, and then I was singing army songs dating from the Japanese Meiji reign, songs which I had never sung before. Although my voice is usually pretty bad, when I was singing those army songs, I could sing very high and very low, and it sounded better than the singers on television. I think the 'wordless book from heaven' is something like the tallies mentioned in the sutra.

There are two possibilities in the place where the dharma is spoken. The first is that you have not been possessed by the demon, and you cannot see what is happening. If you have not ended the form skandha, then you cannot see, either. In the other case, when you are meditating, the possessed person can see, and so can you. In one case, you and the possessed person are both in samadhi, and you can see whatever he gives you. You can also see the external state, but it's just an illusion that he conjures up. In the other case, you cannot see, but your mind moves. The person says, "Can I give you this thing?" If you say, "Yes," then things change. However, if you say, "I don't want it," then the demon from the heaven cannot possess you, because it has to follow its own rules, too. As far as I know, all the external sects in Taiwan fall under the first thirty skandha-demon states, before the thinking and consciousness skandhas have been ended.

Our present interpretation may differ somewhat from the real incidents I just spoke of. In such situations, the demons from the heavens may appear in these ways to harm you and prevent you from attaining the Way. Since everyone is at a different level of cultivation, they appear in different ways each time. I just wanted to offer this for everyone to consider.

Sutra:

He is fond of talking about treasure troves in other locations, or of remote and hidden places where sages and worthies of the ten directions dwell. Those who follow him often see strange and unusual people.

Commentary:

He is fond of talking about treasure troves in other locations. What does he like to say? He says, "Hey, in a certain place there are gold, silver, and all kinds of jewels. Do you want some?" He spreads such rumors to delude the assembly. Or he is fond of talking of remote and hidden places where sages and worthies of the ten directions dwell. He tells people, "There are Buddhas and Bodhisattvas cultivating there without your knowing it." Those who follow him often see strange and unusual people. They may give off light or have other strange characteristics.

K4 Giving the name and pointing out the harm.

Sutra:

This is a ghost or spirit of the mountain forests, earth, cities, rivers, and mountains that in its old age has become a demon. The person it possesses may advocate promiscuity and violate the Buddha's precepts. He may covertly indulge in the five desires with his followers. Or he may appear to be vigorous, eating only wild plants. His behavior is erratic, and he disturbs and confuses the good person. But when the demon tires, it will leave the other person's body. Then both the disciples and the teacher will get in trouble with the law.

Commentary:

What kind of creature is this? This is a ghost or spirit of the mountain forests, earth, cities, rivers, and mountains that in its old age, after a long time, has become a demon. The person it possesses may advocate promiscuity and violate the Buddha's precepts. His lust-filled thoughts cause him to break the precepts. He may covertly indulge in the five desires with his followers, the people who are with him. The five desires are wealth, sex, fame, food, and sleep. Or he may appear to be vigorous, eating only wild plants. His behavior is erratic. He does not sit in meditation or cultivate. He only engages in unbeneficial ascetic practices, and he disturbs and confuses the good person, causing him to stop cultivating. But after a while, when the demon tires and grows bored, it will leave the other person's body. Then both the disciples and the teacher will get in trouble with the law.

K5 Instructions to be aware and not become confused.

Sutra:

You should be aware of this in advance and not get caught up in the cycle of transmigration. If you are confused and do not understand, you will fall into the Relentless Hells.

Commentary:

You should be aware of this in advance and not get caught up in the cycle of transmigration. Awaken to this early on, and don't fall into the demon's trap. Don't enter the demonic cycle of birth and death. If you are confused and do not understand, you will fall into the Relentless Hells.

J8 Greed for spiritual powers.
K1 Samadhi leads to craving and seeking.

Sutra:

Further, in the unhindered clarity and wonder that ensues after the feeling skandha is gone, this good person is untroubled by any deviant mental state and experiences perfect, bright concentration. Within samadhi, his mind craves spiritual powers and all manner of transformations, so he investigates the source of transformations as he greedily seeks for spiritual powers.

Commentary:

Further, in the unhindered clarity and wonder that ensues after the feeling skandha is gone, this good person who is cultivating the Way and practicing samadhi is untroubled by any deviant mental state and experiences perfect, bright concentration. Within samadhi, his mind craves spiritual powers. He has another false thought. He decides he wants to have great spiritual powers and all manner of transformations, so that he can display the eighteen transformations in midair. He wants to be able to emit water from the upper part of his body and fire from the lower part he wants to emit fire from the upper part of his body and water from the lower part. He longs to be like the Arhats who can manifest these eighteen transformations while floating in the air, so he investigates the fundamental source, the principle of these transformations, as he greedily seeks for spiritual powers.

[January 1983]

A person is still vulnerable to possession by demons even after he has broken through the form and feeling skandhas. Breaking through the skandhas of form, feeling, thinking, formations, and consciousness is a very ordinary matter. It doesn't mean he truly has samadhi power and won't get possessed anymore. He is at a very high level; but even at that high level, he can still be possessed. Why? Because he still harbors love and greed in his mind. He may be greedy for knowledge, for spiritual powers, or for responses. His greed opens the door. He cannot become free from demonic possession just by thinking about it. In fact, he will only be more liable to become possessed.

K2 A demon dispatches a deviant force to possess a person.

Sutra:

At that time a demon from the heavens seizes the opportunity it has been waiting for. Its spirit possesses another person and uses him as a mouthpiece to expound the sutras and the dharma.

Commentary:

The demon that has been lying in wait sees its chance and sends a spirit to possess a person, through whom it speaks the sutras and the dharma.

K3 The demon's words and deeds that mislead others.

Sutra:

This person, truly unaware that he is possessed by a demon, also claims he has reached unsurpassed nirvana. When he comes to see that good person who seeks spiritual powers, he arranges a seat and speaks the dharma. The possessed person may hold fire in his hands and, grasping a portion of it, put a flame on the head of each listener in the fourfold assembly. The flames on top of their heads are several feet high, yet they are not hot and no one is burned. Or he may walk on water as if on dry land; or he may sit motionless in the air; or he may enter into a bottle or stay in a bag; or he may pass through window panes and walls without obstruction. Only when attacked by weapons does he feel ill at ease. He declares himself to be a Buddha and, wearing the clothing of a lay person, receives bows from bhikshus. He slanders dhyana meditation and the moral regulations. He scolds his disciples and exposes people's private affairs without fear of ridicule or rejection.

Commentary:

This person is truly unaware that he is possessed by a demon. He also claims that he himself has reached the wondrous fruition of unsurpassed nirvana. When he comes to see that good person who seeks spiritual powers, he arranges a seat and speaks the dharma.

The possessed person may hold fire in one of his hands and, grasping a portion of it with his other hand, put a flame on the head of each listener in the fourfold assembly. One by one he puts a flame atop the heads of each of the people in the audience. The flames on top of their heads are several feet high. When he puts the flames there, they are small, and they grow bit by bit until they are several feet high. Yet they are not hot and no one is burned. They do not spread or set anything else on fire. Or he, the possessed person, may walk on water as if on dry, flat land; or he may walk or sit motionless in the air. There is nothing holding him up in the air, but he can sit in it.

Or he may enter into a bottle or stay in a bag; or he may pass through window panes and walls without obstruction. The doors and windows may be closed, but he can easily pass through them without opening them. He's not hindered in the least. Only when attacked by weapons does he feel ill at ease. He is afraid of being cut by knives and pierced by spears. That is because he still has a physical form which obstructs him. Although he has five of the spiritual powers, he still fears being wounded by weapons. He declares himself to be a Buddha and, wearing the clothing of a lay person, not the attire of left-home people, receives bows from bhikshus. Dressed as a layperson, he receives bows from left-home people. He slanders dhyana meditation and the moral regulations as being useless and incorrect. And he scolds his own disciples and exposes people's private affairs. He discloses people's secrets without fear of ridicule or rejection by others.

Sutra:

He often talks about spiritual powers and self-mastery. He may cause people to see visions of Buddhalands, but they are unreal and arise merely from the ghost's power to delude people. He praises the indulgence of lust and does not condemn lewd conduct. He uses indecent means to transmit his dharma.

Commentary:

He often talks about various sorts of spiritual powers and self-mastery. He may cause people to see visions of Buddhalands throughout the ten directions, but they are unreal and arise merely from the ghost's power to delude people. He himself does not have any real skill in cultivation. What he praises most is the indulgence of lust. He says, "It's truly the most wonderful thing there is. It's the source of Bodhi and nirvana." And he does not condemn lewd conduct. He says, "There's nothing wrong with it. Don't bother holding precepts." He uses indecent means to transmit his dharma. He uses all this impure behavior as a means to transmit the dharma.

K4 Giving the name and pointing out the harm.

Sutra:

This is a powerful nature spirit: a mountain sprite, a sea sprite, a wind sprite, a river sprite, an earth sprite, or a grass and-tree sprite that has evolved over long ages. It may be a dragon-goblin; or a rishi who has been reborn as a goblin; or again a rishi who, having reached the end of his appointed time, should have died, but whose body does not decay and is possessed by a goblin. In its old age it has become a demon. It disturbs and confuses the good person. But when it tires of doing so, it will leave the other person's body. Then both the disciples and the teacher will get in trouble with the law.

Commentary:

This is a powerful nature spirit: a mountain sprite, a sea sprite, a wind sprite, a river sprite, an earth sprite; or a grassand- tree sprite that has evolved over long ages. It may be a dragon-goblin; or it may be a rishi who, having cultivated for perhaps a thousand, two thousand, three thousand, or five thousand years, has been reborn as a demon-goblin at the end of his life. Or again, it may be a rishi who, having reached the end of his appointed time, should have died, but whose body after his death does not decay or change, and is possessed by a goblin. In its old age it has become a demon. It disturbs and confuses the good person's power of samadhi. But eventually, when it tires of doing so, it will leave the other person's body. So long as the demon is there, the person possesses awesome spiritual power. But once the demon leaves, then both the disciples and the teacher will get in trouble with the law and their activities will be curtailed.

K5 Instructions to be aware and not become confused.

Sutra:

You should be aware of this in advance and not get caught up in the cycle of transmigration. If you are confused and do not understand, you will fall into the Relentless Hells.

Commentary:

Ananda, you should be aware of this in advance and not get caught up in the demonic cycle of transmigration. Don't fall into the demons' snare. If you are confused and do not understand, you will fall into the Relentless Hells.

J9 Greed for profound emptiness.
K1 Samadhi leads to craving and seeking.

Sutra:

Further, in the unhindered clarity and wonder that ensues after the feeling skandha is gone, this good person is untroubled by any deviant mental state and experiences perfect, bright concentration. Within samadhi, his mind craves to enter cessation, so he investigates the nature of transformations as he greedily seeks for profound emptiness.

Commentary:

He looks into how things in a state of existence can transform into nothingness, and how nothingness can transform into things which exist. He studies the way these transformations take place, hoping to experience a profound state of emptiness.

K2 A demon dispatches a deviant force to possess a person.

Sutra:

At that time a demon from the heavens seizes the opportunity it has been waiting for. Its spirit possesses another person and uses him as a mouthpiece to expound the sutras and the dharma.

Commentary:

At that time a demon from the heavens seizes the opportunity it has been waiting for. The demon watches and waits, and when it sees a chance, its spirit possesses another person and uses him as a mouthpiece to expound the sutras and the dharma. The demon speaks through that person's mouth.

K3 The demon's words and deeds that mislead others.

Sutra:

This person, unaware that he is possessed by a demon, claims he has reached unsurpassed nirvana. When he comes to see that good person who seeks emptiness, he arranges a seat and speaks the dharma. In the midst of the great assembly, his physical form suddenly disappears, and no one in the assembly can see him. Then out of nowhere, he abruptly reappears. He can appear and disappear at will, or he can make his body transparent like crystal. From his hands and feet he releases the fragrance of sandalwood, or his excrement and urine may be sweet as thick rock candy. He slanders the precepts and is contemptuous of those who have left the home life.

Commentary:

This person is unaware and does not realize that he is possessed by a demon from the heavens. He claims he has already reached the wonderful fruition of unsurpassed nirvana. When he comes to see that good person who seeks the deep emptiness of cessation, he arranges a seat and speaks the dharma. In the midst of the great assembly, his physical form suddenly disappears, and no one in the assembly can see him. The demon's spiritual powers cause the possessed person's body to suddenly vanish. He was there speaking the dharma, but suddenly no one can see him. This is the "emptiness of people and dharmas." People and dharmas are both gone. Then, after a few minutes, from out of nowhere, he abruptly reappears. He can appear and disappear at will. If he wants to appear, he appears. If he wants to disappear, he disappears. He is in control and can do either with ease.

Or he can make his body appear transparent like crystal, so you can see right through it. From his hands and feet, at the flick of a wrist, he releases the fragrance of sandalwood, or his excrement and urine may be sweet as thick rock candy. He slanders the precepts. He says, "Don't bother about holding precepts. That is a small vehicle matter. Why should you hold them? There is no great meaning in it." And he is contemptuous of those who have left the home-life. He says, "Don't leave the home-life. If you want to cultivate, go ahead and cultivate. You don't have to leave home to do it. What difference is there between being a layperson and a left-home person anyway?" That's how he slanders left-home people.

Sutra:

He often says that there is no cause and no effect, that once we die, we are gone forever, that there is no afterlife, and that there are no ordinary people and no sages. Although he has obtained a state of empty stillness, he covertly indulges his greedy desires. Those who give in to his lust also adopt his views of emptiness and deny cause and effect.

Commentary:

He often says that there is no cause and effect. "Don't believe in the law of cause and effect," he says. "It's totally wrong. There is no such thing." He says that once we die we are gone forever. "Once you die, you are gone forever, just like a light that gets snuffed out." He says that there is no afterlife, and that there are no ordinary people and no sages. "There's no such thing as rebirth, nor are there common people or sages. Those are just figures of speech."

Although he has obtained a state of empty stillness, he covertly indulges his greedy desires. Although he's arrived at some sort of theory of emptiness, he indulges in lust on the sly. Those who give in to his lust adopt his views of emptiness. As victims of the demon's energy, the people who engage in lust with him also come to believe that everything is empty and deny cause and effect. They feel there is no need to believe in cause and effect.

K4 Giving the name and pointing out the harm.

Sutra:

This is an essence that was created during an eclipse of the sun or moon. Having fallen on gold, jade, a rare fungus, a unicorn, a phoenix, a tortoise, or a crane, the essence endowed it with life, so that it did not die for thousands or tens of thousands of years and eventually became a spirit. It was then born into this land and in its old age has become a demon. It disturbs and confuses the good person. But when it tires of doing so, it will leave the other person's body. Then both the disciples and the teacher will get in trouble with the law.

Commentary:

What is this? This is an essence that was created during an eclipse of the sun or moon. When there is an interaction between the sun and moon, an eclipse of the sun and moon, an essence falls to the ground. Having fallen on gold, jade, a certain kind of rare fungus, a unicorn, a phoenix, a tortoise, or a crane, the essence endowed it with life, so that it did not die for thousands or tens of thousands of years and eventually became a spirit. It was then born into this land and in its old age has become a demon. It disturbs and confuses the good person who is cultivating samadhi.

But eventually, when it tires of doing so, it will leave the other person's body. It will cease to possess him. Then both the teacher and his disciples will get in trouble with the law. They will be restrained by the law.

[January 1983]

Venerable Master: You must use dharma-selecting vision and wonderful-contemplative wisdom to regard this kind of state. When you contemplate, don't get attached and think, "I'm contemplating." Wonderful-contemplative wisdom functions like a mirror; it's similar to the great perfect mirror wisdom. However, while the great perfect mirror wisdom reveals the actual appearance of all dharmas effortlessly, wonderful-contemplative wisdom requires the power of contemplation in order to be clearly aware. If you can maintain an objective point of view, then you won't be ensnared by such improper views. If you recognize the state, then you won't be turned by it.

Disciple: I have a question. Monkey (in the book Journey to the West) was born from a rock. How did that rock give birth to a monkey? Can such phenomena occur after a rock has been exposed to the essence of the sun and moon over several tens of thousands of years? Is Monkey's case the same as that described in the sutra? That is, there is an essential energy created during an eclipse of the sun and the moon, and it is absorbed by such things as gold, jade, a rare fungus, a unicorn, a phoenix, a tortoise, or a crane, transforming them into demons. From reading the book, it seems to me that Monkey had a few good roots. He knew that transmigration entailed a lot of suffering, and so after eight hundred years, he started on a quest for the Way. He mastered various spiritual arts and later became a dharma protector in Buddhism.

Monkey was an example of a good being, but here the text is talking about spirits, sprites, ghosts, and monsters who turn into demons in their old age. Under what conditions do they turn into demons when they get old? It seems that these demons are like bandits because they do evil. Is it the case that some turn into demons while others don't, because some are good and others aren't?

Venerable Master: Monkey was only a demon, and there are many other cases which are similar. Monkey probably ran into trouble as he was cultivating at the level of the thinking skandha, and so as a result, he turned into a monkey that could ascend to the heavens and burrow into the earth. He is exactly what the Shurangama Sutra calls "a representative of the demons." As for other demons, when they are tired of being demons, of course they will also take refuge in the Triple Jewel. With a single thought of reflecting within and awakening, they can become disciples of the Buddha. Before they awaken, they are still demons. The older demons get, the greater their spiritual powers become. The young ones aren't that strong and their spiritual powers aren't that great. The older ones have inconceivable strength and spiritual powers, which is why they are called demons. Demons are even more powerful than ghosts. The Chinese have the term "demonic ghost" because ghosts can turn into demons.

Have you heard about the "as-you-wish demon woman"? She had been a ghost in the Zhou dynasty, but because she didn't follow the rules, she was struck by lightning. However, the lightning didn't destroy her completely, and she pulled herself back together with a concentrated effort. Then she cultivated and became a demon who went around taking people's lives, because she wanted to increase her own power and the power of her retinue. Each time she caused a person's death, the other demons would congratulate her: "You'rereally powerful!" It's similar to how other officials act toward an official who has just been promoted. A demon's power increases with the number of people it kills, until even ghosts have to follow its orders.

Later, when the as-you-wish demon woman met me, she took refuge with the Triple Jewel. Thus she was a demon who took refuge with the Buddha. Everything in this world is wondrous and inconceivable. This sutra describes only a small portion. If we were to go into detail, each skandha has myriads of different kinds of demons. The sutra mentions one kind to give people a general idea, so that they know to avoid thoughts of greed and craving. If you have no desire, you need not fear any demon whatsoever. If you are devoid of greed or desire, no demon can trouble you. Demons will come in only when they see that you've opened yourself up to them. If you always keep the doors closed, they won't come in.

Demons get born in the heavens because they have cultivated many blessings. The sutras talk about demons from the heavens, but you shouldn't think they are only in the heavens. They can go to the heavens, but they are not always there. Demons in the human realm that are endowed with spiritual powers can also be considered demons from the heavens. If the demons in the heavens need them to go there to cheer them on in battle and to increase their power, they can go at any time. Although they are born in the heavens, they still have desires and huge tempers and are incredibly stubborn. It's just because of their belligerent character that they become demons. If they weren't so aggressive and hot-tempered, then they would join the Buddhas' retinue. Those with bad tempers and heavy ignorance join the demons' retinue.

As for what kind of retribution they will receive in the future, that's a very distant question that cannot be answered. If they encounter someone with great spiritual powers but are rather resistant to being taught and transformed, they may be pulverized into nothingness. Even if they aren't pulverized, if they do a lot of evil and fail to reform, if they still turn away from enlightenment to unite with the worldly dust and continue to be confused, then they will have to undergo retribution and great suffering. They may fall among the animals and become foxes or weasels. It is the spirits of demons that cause them to turn into such creatures. They may become snakes or rats, or various other strange animals. These are all transformations of beings endowed with malicious demonic energy. Fierce beasts such as tigers are so powerful because they are aided by a bit of demonic power.

K5 Instructions to be aware and not become confused.

Sutra:

You should be aware of this in advance and not get caught up in the cycle of transmigration. If you are confused and do not understand, you will fall into the Relentles