Commentary Master Hua
Translation Bh. Heng Yin


      As the packs of Yeh Kan were dead already,

      Monstrous evil beasts raced to devour them,

      While billions of stinking smoke permeated all four sides.


This is part three, explaining the appearance of what is being burned.


As the packs of Yeh Kan/as was mentioned previously, the Yeh Kan are like foxes but they live way out in the wilds, in the highest, most inaccessible cliffs, or atop tall trees. They roam at night in packs, and wail with a strange, terrifying sound, which frightens all the other animals. They are kind of like foxes, but they are trickier than foxes. Here the Yeh Kan represent greed in the desire realm.

Were already dead/This means that greed in the realm of desire was already dead. But monstrous evil beasts/representing the greed in the form realm. Raced to devour them/This means that the greed in the form realm can eat up the greed in the desire realm. So the raging conflagration has been subdued to a small "burn." But this is a subtle form of suffering. They haven't as much suffering as the desire realm. The suffering is still there, albeit in a more subtle form. It's a subtle attachment. They still have love. If people can be without love, they go to the formless realm. In the form realm one still has thoughts of love, and the flavor of Dhyana states, i.e. the "love" to investigate Dhyana. The Four Inversions and the Eight Sufferings in the desire realm are like a blazing fire. In the form realm, the Four Inversions are like billows of stinking smoke. This emotional love attachment to the Dhyana-states is like "white billows of stinking smoke."

Permeated all four sides/Again, the four sides represent the Four Applications of Mindfulness and the Four Elements. This ends the verses on the affairs in the holes and crevices representing the form realm.


      Centipedes and Millipedes, and various kinds of poisonous snakes

      Being burned by the fire, fought to get out of their holes,

      The Kumbhanda Ghosts, then grabbed and ate them.


This is C. The verses about outside the cave which represents the Formless Realm. It divides into two parts of which this is the first: 1. Narrating the kinds of beings being burned.


Bodhisattvas stand their ground.

Nothing in the three worlds can bring them down.

Except their vows to manifest

In whatever form suits living beings best.

      Centipedes and Millipedes/Poisonous bugs and various kinds of poisonous snakes/Being burned by the fire/Being burned by the Four Inversions, Five Skandhas, and the Eight Sufferings, oppressing them just like a fire. They fought to get out of their holes/They fought, and none wanted to fall behind. They all tried to get in front of each other. The holes represent the form realm heavens. They are trying to get out any get into the formless realm. The samadhi in the formless realm is one level higher than that in the form realm. Having attained the formless samadhis, they have extinguished the causes and conditions in the form realm. Having seized the samadhis in the upper realms and extinguished conditions in the lower realm, the text says The Kumbhanda Ghosts. The conditions in the lower realm have been extinguished just like being eaten by Kumbhanda Ghosts. The Kumbhanda Ghosts also represent the Five Dull Servants and the Five Quick Servants. Basically, if one were to explain in detail, the Five Dull Servants and the Five Quick Servants all can attain the formless samadhis, but this passage is referring only to the Five Dull Servants which detest the lower realms and want to attain to the formless realm. The Five Quick Servants have already attained to the formless realm, and they have extinguished the lower, form, realm. So the text says "the Kumbhanda ghosts" then grabbed and ate them.


      Further, all the Hungry Ghosts,

      The tops of their heads aflame,

      Tormented by hunger, thirst, and heat

      Ran about in terror and distress.


This is part two, narrating the appearance of what is being burned.


Further, all the Hungry Ghosts/Hungry ghosts have nothing to eat. Their throats are as thin as needles and their stomachs are as large as base drums. They eat all day long but never get full. The tops of their heads aflame/ tormented by hunger, thirst, and heat/ran about in terror and distress/. In this passage of text, the "hungry ghosts" represent the living beings in the heavens of the Four Stations of Emptiness: 1) the station of emptiness without limit. 2) The station of consciousness without limit. 3) The station of nothing whatsoever, 4) the station of neither perception nor non-perception. Although beings in these heavens have reached emptiness, they still have consciousness and they have not ended birth and death. They have not obtained the food and drink of non-outflows, and so they are said to be like hungry ghosts. They haven't eaten of the food and drink of no-out­flows.

      Although they are at the top of the Triple Realm, in the formless realm, in the highest of the heavens, they haven't ended birth and death. They still can't avoid impermanence, and eventually they are "burned" by it. Thus, the text says The tops of their heads aflame. When they have used up all their heavenly blessings, they will fall again into other destinies. In the heaven of neither perception nor non-perception, beings live for eighty-thousand great aeons, enjoying their heavenly blessings, but then they fall-burned by impermanence's fire.

Tormented by hunger, thirst and heat/"Hunger" represents their inability to acquire the food of the Proper Path. The Proper Path means cultivating the genuine Way. Because they don't find the path of cultivation which lead's to the end of birth and death, they are hungry. They are said to be "thirsty" because they have not gained the drink of the Aids of the Path. They haven't obtained the cause and conditions, which aid one in cultivation of the Path, and so they are thirsty.

Although they are at the top of the Triple Realm, they are still vexed by subtle forms of the Eight Sufferings--not a lot, just a little. These sufferings remain in their eighth consciousness and that is what is meant by "heat."

Also, are still "tormented" by subtle forms of delusions, which manifest. The delusions are very few and very fine, but they are still present because they have not severed the root of the delusions. In the future, when they fall, they will/have more delusions. There are various categories of delusions:

1. View delusions. This refers to giving rise to greed and love for externals

2. "Thought delusions. This refers to being confused about principle and giving rise to discrimination.

3. Delusions of ignorance. This refers to being stupid about things.

For example, one may dearly know that a given action is wrong, but do it anyway. One may know very well that something is bad, but do it anyway. Why? Because one doesn't really know that it's bad. One has no true understanding of things.

These delusions tormented them and they ran about in terror and distress/The beings in the formless heavens are still on the wheel of birth and death, but they give no thought to escaping it. They don't look for a method to escape the Triple Realm, to transcend 'the turning wheel of rebirth. Thus, they "ran about in terror and distress," running confusedly all over the place.

This has been a discussion of the affairs in the formless realm.


      So it was in that house: terrifying to the extreme,

      With dangers and conflagrations--Ghost of troubles, not just one.


This is part four, which 1s a summation of the hosts of difficulties in the house.


So it was in that house/The burning house, as stated above, was a dangerous place. This means that in the Triple Realm there is no place of peace; it is all dangerous and terrifying to the extreme. Scary. Dangerous. With dangers and conflagrations/So many poisonous dangers, and the fire raging through the house, A host of troubles not just one/ Not just one kind of trouble. This represents that, when you are in the burning house of the Triple Realm, if you don't cultivate the Path, and think of a way to get out of that burning house, you remain in great danger, terrifying trouble it is filled with danger and harm. If you don't run into one kind of disaster, you'll encounter another. There's not one single happy day. Now, we in this world should think it over. Where is there peace in the world? No place. Everywhere you go, you see a lot of problems. You might say that several thousand years ago, the Buddha was addressing us here in the world today where THERE ARE HOSTS OF TROUBLES, NOT JUST ONE.


      At that time, the owner of the house

      Was standing outside the door when he heard someone say

      "All of your children a while ago, in their play

      Went into this house.

      Being young and without knowledge they delight in play and cling to amusements."

      Having heard this, the elder

      Entered the burning house, in alarm.


This is b. The specific analysis of the parable. Part one: The verse about the parable of the elder seeing the fire.


At that time/when the house was on fire and filled with terrors. The owner of the house/the Buddha was standing outside the door/of the burning house. When he heard someone say/ "All of your children/a while ago, in play/Went into this house/Being young and without knowledge/having no common sense, they delight in play and cling to amusements/They think it's a lot of fun. Having heard this, the elder/Entered the burning house, in alarm/He was very frightened and ran into the burning house.

The Buddha was standing outside the door. What does this mean? "Outside the door" refers to the Buddha's having already certified to the ground of the Dharma body. "Standing," means that the Buddha is always keeping a heart of great compassion. In his great compassion and kindness he always wishes to rescue living beings. He never forgets living beings; he always works to save them. He does not dwell in the emptiness of the primary meaning because he wants to come and teach and transform living beings.

"When he heard someone say" In the previous prose section, the text said, "When he sees..." and this points to the non-duality of hearing and seeing. "Someone say" refers to samadhi. The Buddha takes the Dharma as his teacher. The Dharma referred to is the Dharma of samadhi. When you obtain the Dharma of samadhi, you can observe the potentials of the beings, and dispense the proper 'teaching to them. Thus, the Buddha's entering samadhi enables him to view the potential of beings; his samadhi enables him to see those potentialities. There­fore the text says, "When he heard someone say." representing this samadhi.

All of your children/That is, all the living beings in the five destinies. A while ago in their play/Went into this house/This refers to living beings who have first brought forth the resolve for Bodhi. At this time it is as if they had already gotten out. But before they have ascended to the level of no-retreat, they can still give rise to the view delusions and thought delusions and thus "in play" run back into the burning house. You can also interpret this line thus: All living beings, speaking in terms of principle, are basically pure. The basic nature of living beings is pure of itself, but because of ignorance, they falsely give rise to attachments leading to a continuous round of birth and death. This is like entering the house in play. In this sense, then, there is no "Triple Realm" and no "burning house."

Being young and without knowledge/. "Young" means immature. This refers to that time in cultivation, when one's merit and virtue are not yet perfected, when one's good merit has not yet manifested. One is then "young"--not having enough virtue, as the text said above, "Of scanty merit and virtue." "Without knowledge" means stupid. Being stupid, they are bound up by delusions: view delusions, thought delusions, and delusions of ignorance bind them up. So they are "without knowledge."

They delight in play and cling to amusements/There they are; Imagining that they are having a real good time, really at ease. Who would have guessed that it was really so terrifying?

Having heard this, the Elder/Entered the burning house in alarm/The Buddha, seeing living beings undergoing just too much suffering, gives rise to great compassion and comes to teach and transform living beings, rescue them, and get them all safely out of the burning house.