The Amazing Wonder
The purpose of this article is to introduce and explain a principle taught by the Buddha, which will cause the reader to be truly amazed. The principle is so wondrous that the individual who hears it or takes it to heart for the first time may undergo a transformation which will radically change his or her life, or at the very least change their view of the world. This truth does no less than explain who we really are.
Many if not most people who have studied and practiced the teachings of the Buddha are not familiar with the principles in the Shurangama Sutra. Yet this Sutra explains in detail what other Sutras at best mention only in brief.
"What are the two (fundamental roots)? The first is the root of beginningless birth and death which is the mind that seizes upon conditions and that you and all living beings now make use of, taking it to be your Self- nature.
The second is the primal, pure substance of the beginningless Bodhi Nirvana. It is the primal bright essence of consciousness that can bring forth all conditions. Because of conditions, you consider it to be lost."
This quote from the Shurangama Sutra says that what is subject to birth and death, which we take to be our self, is not what we truly are. What we actually are, our fundamental mind, is everlasting, bright, perfect and pure. What is so amazing is that in addition to this, the realm of birth and death, which is merely our own ignorant mind, is ultimately false and unreal, and without any cause. And because the inherent pure nature of our mind has never been lost, when we awaken to it we do not obtain something which we had not had before. The following passage from the Shurangama Sutra. explains this quite clearly. Read it several times, because this is truly the amazing wonder of the Buddha's teaching.
"I venture to ask the Thus Come One why all living beings exist in falseness and conceal their own wonderful brightness, so that they keep drowning in this deluge?"
"The Buddha said to Purna, 'Although you have cast off doubts, you still have not ended residual delusions. I will now employ a worldly event in questioning you."
"Have you not heard of Yajnadatta in Shravasti who on impulse one morning held a mirror to his face and fell in love with the head in the mirror? He gazed at the eyes and eyebrows but got angry because he could not see his own face, he decided he must be a li mei ghost. Having lost all his bearings, he ran madly out. What do you think? Why did this person set out on a mad chase for no reason?"
Purna said, "That person was insane. There's no other reason."
The Buddha said, "What reason can you give for calling false the wonderful enlightened bright perfection, the fundamentally perfect bright wonder? If there is a reason, then how can you say it is false?"
"All your own false thinking becomes in turn the cause for more. From confusion you accumulate confusion through kalpa after kalpa; although the Buddha is aware of it, he cannot counteract it. From such confused causes, the cause of confusion perpetuates itself. When one realizes that confusion has no cause, the falseness becomes baseless. Since it never arose, why would you hope for its extinction? One who obtains Bodhi is like a person who awakens to realize the events of a dream; even though his mind is awake and clear, he cannot get hold of the things in the dream and physically display them."
"How much the more is
that the case with something which is without a cause and basically
non-existent, such as Yajnadatta's situation that day in the city.
Was there any reason why he became fearful for his head and went
running about? If his madness were suddenly to
cease, it would not be that he had obtained his head from someplace
outside; and so before his madness ceases, how can his head have
"This is to be like the person who has a wish-fulfilling pearl sewn in his clothing without realizing it. Thus he roams abroad in a state of poverty, begging for food and always on the move. Although he is indeed destitute, the pearl is never lost. Suddenly, a wise person shows him the pearl: All his wishes are fulfilled, he obtains great wealth, and he realizes that the pearl did not come from somewhere outside."
What we experience right now is the result of ignorance-the madness of our mind- it is ultimately false and unreal. When we recognize that this is false, our madness ceases. When our madness ceases, we realize our everlasting, pure, and bright mind. Yet, what is false, because it is fundamentally unreal, never actually arose, so how could one say it ceased? And to say that what is true arose would put it in the false realm of birth and death. The false did not cease, and the true did not arise. How can we conceive of this state by means of our false thinking-mind? While still in a dream how can we know what it really means to be awake? Through diligent cultivation we can awaken from the dream.
"Because living beings, from time without beginning, have pursued forms and sounds and have followed their thoughts as they turn and flow, they still are not enlightened to the purity, wonder and permanence of their nature. They do not accord with what is eternal, but chase after things which are subject to production and extinction. Because of this they are born again and again and become mixed with defilement as they flow and turn."
"But if they reject production and extinction and uphold true permanence, an everlasting light will appear, and with that, the sense organs, defiling objects, and consciousnesses will disappear."
(The Buddhist Text Translation Society has to date published four volumes of the SHURANGAMA SUTRA, which is accompanied by a detailed, inter-linear commentary. When completed this translation work is expected to be about seven or eight volumes. For details on ordering these and other works by the B.T.T.S., one may write Gold Mountain Monastery, 1731-15th Street, San Francisco, CA., 94103).