with commentary of

Translated into English by
Bhikshuni Heng Yin
Reviewed by Bhiksuni Heng Chih

Sutra: T19b26

      What is the reason? 0nly the Thus Come One knows the kinds, the marks, the substances, and the natures of these living beings, what they are recollecting, what they are thinking, and what they are cultivating; how they are recollecting, how they are thinking, and how they are cultivating; by means of what dharma they recollect, by means of what dharma they think, and by means of what dharma they cultivate; and by means of what dharma they obtain what dharma Living beings dwell on a variety of levels. Only the Thus Come One sees them as they really are, clearly and without obstruction.


      WHAT IS THE REASON? ONLY THE THUS COME ONE KNOWS THE KINDS: There are various kinds of living beings. There are Buddhas, Bodhisattvas. Sound Hearers, Conditioned-Enlightened Ones, gods, people, asuras, ghosts, hell-beings, and anima1s--all those in the ten Dharma Realms. Depending on one's karma, one becomes one of them. THE MARKS/ This refers to their external appearances. THE SUBSTANCES/ that is, their basic make-up, AND THE NATURES/ their inner disposition.

      So, there are the Four Dharmas: kind, mark, substance, and nature.

      WHAT THEY ARE RECOLLECTING, WHAT THEY ARE THINKING, AND WHAT THEY ARE CULTIVATING: There are also Three Dharmas: Hearing, thinking, and cultivating. Hearing refers to hearing the Dharma by listening to lectures on the Sutras. Through our hearing we gain the wisdom of hearing. After you have listened to the Dharma for a while, without realizing it yourself you will grow wiser. For example, some of my disciples can explain the Ten Dwellings and the Ten Grounds. If they hadn't listened to the Buddhadharma, they would not be able to do this. When you study the Buddhadharma, you gain wisdom. This is called the wisdom of hearing.

      Thinking refers to meditation, that is, practicing the Four Dhyanas and stilling one's
thought processes. This is wisdom of thinking. One thinks about the principles one has heard and chooses the right path to follow.

      Once you have thought it through carefully, then you start cultivating. You must work hard and never, ever be lazy. You must cultivate in the morning, in the evening and all day long. Then you will gain the wisdom of cultivation. You must approach your cultivation with wisdom. If you lack wisdom and cultivate blindly, you may get off the track and end up cultivating yourself right into hell. HOW THEY ARE RECOLLECTING, HOW THEY ARE THINKING, AND WHAT THEY ARE CULTIVATING/ They recollect the Buddha, they think about the Dharma they cultivate the deeds of the Sangha. They constantly in every thought recollect, think about and cultivate the principles of the Buddhadharma. Clearly, calmly, and without false thinking, they think about the doctrines and then cultivate them. BY MEANS OF WHAT DHARMA THEY RECOLLECT, BY MEANS OF WHAT DHARMA THEY THINK, AND BY MEANS OF WHAT DHARMA THEY CULTIVATE/ They recollect, think, and cultivate in accord with Proper Dharma. They cultivate according to the laws of cause and effect. They know that whatever cause they plant, it will bear a corresponding fruit.

      AND BY MEANS OF WHAT DHARMA THEY OBTAIN WHAT DHARMA/ You use Buddhadharma, you get Buddhahood. You use demonic dharma, you get demonic dharma. There are also Two Dharmas: Cause and effect. "By means of what dharma" is the cause and "they obtain what dharma" is the effect. As is the cause, so is the effect. According to the causes planted by the Five Vehicles, they obtain corresponding effects.

      LIVING BEINGS DWELL ON A VARIETY OF LEVELS/ This is the One Dharma. It refers to the Seven Expedients dwelling in the Seven Positions. The Seven Expedients are: the Vehicle of Gods, the Vehicle of Humans, the Vehicle of Sound Hearers, the Vehicle of Conditioned-Enlightened Ones, the Vehicle of the Storehouse Teaching Bodhisattvas, the Vehicle of the Penetrating Teaching Bodhisattvas, and the Vehicle of the Special Teaching Bodhisattvas.

      ONLY THE THUS COME ONE SEES THEM AS THEY REALLY ARE/ Living beings themselves are not aware of their various states. Only the Thus Come One really sees them. CLEARLY AND WITHOUT OBSTRUCTION/ He knows them from beginning to end, inside and out, thoroughly, completely, to their very depths. Ordinary people might understand the beginning but not understand the end, or else they won't understand the beginning but will understand the end. They can't understand both at once. You might know how beings are born and not know about how they die, or vice-versa.

      He understands the inside and the outside, clearly without any obstruction. As long as one clearly understands, then there is no obstacle. If one doesn't clearly understand, then there are obstacles. Therefore, only the Buddha can really understand and be without obstacles.

      There is a verse about obstacles, which runs:

I vow to eradicate the three obstructions
and all afflictions.
I vow to attain wisdom that is truly bright.
I vow that all disasters quickly melt away.
And in every life I vow to practice the Bodhisattva Path.

     There are three obstructions: The obstruction of karma, the obstruction of retribution, and the obstruction of afflictions. One should vow to attain wisdom. With wisdom you can have clear understanding: otherwise, you cannot. One should vow to get rid of all disasters and calamities and always practice the Bodhisattva Path, benefitting oneself and benefitting others.

Sutra: T19c2

  ...Just as those grasses, trees, and forests and all the medicinal herbs do not know
themselves whether their natures are superior middle, or inferior.


      The Buddha knows clearly and without obstruction, but the living beings who are moistened by the Dharma are not aware themselves of their own capacities, and THOSE GRASSES, TREES, AND FORESTS AND ALL THE MEDICINAL HERBS DO NOT KNOW THEMSELVES WHETHER THEIR NATURES ARE SUPERIOR, MIDDLE, OR INFERIOR.

Sutra: T19c3

      The Thus Come One knows the Dharma of one mark, of one flavor, that is to say: the mark of liberation, the mark of separation, the mark of extinction, the mark of ultimate Nirvana which is constantly still and extinct and which in the end returns to emptiness.


      THE THUS COME ONE KNOWS THE DHARMA OF ONE MARK/ the mark of True Suchness of the mind and nature of living beings. OF ONE FLAVOR/ refers to the cultivation of the One Vehicle and certification to the wonderful principle. THAT IS TO SAY: THE MARK OF LIBERATION, THE MARK OF SEPARATION, THE MARK OF EXTINCTION/ Now, originally there is no mark of liberation, no mark of separation, no mark of extinction. These marks are spoken of to counteract the attachments of living beings. Think it over: If it is really liberation, how could it retain a mark? If it is really separation, how could the there still be a mark? If it's really separation, then it should be separate from even the concept of separation. So why do we bring up the "mark of separation?" If we didn't, living beings wouldn't have anything to relate to, and it would be difficult for them to believe. The mark of extinction is also without a mark. In general, all dharmas have been swept away, and all marks have been left behind. Not a single dharma is postulated. THE MARK OF ULTIMATE NIRVANA WHICH IS CONSTANTLY STILL AND EXTINCT/ The Dharma of one mark and one flavor ultimately returns to Nirvana with its four virtues of permanence, bliss, true self, and purity. The mark of ultimate Nirvana, constantly still and extinct, is also not a mark. If it had a mark, it would not be still and extinct.

      WHICH IN THE END RETURNS TO EMPTINESS/wherein there is not even the mark of emptiness.

Sutra: T19c5

      Already understanding this the Buddha contemplates the desires in the minds of living beings and protects them. For this reason he does not immediately speak of the wisdom of all modes.


      UNDERSTANDING THIS, THE BUDDHA/ having, while in the midst of marks, transcended marks, then CONTEMPLATES THE DESIRES IN THE MINDS OF LIVING BEINGS. Basically, there is no dharma to be spoken, and there are no marks to be obtained. However, living beings all have their fondnesses. If you started right out teaching them that there was nothing at all--not a single dharma--and that all dharmas are empty, living beings wouldn't believe it. Not only would they not believe it, they would slander it as well. "If dharmas are basically empty, why are you speaking about them anyway?" they would ask. So the Buddha took a long look at living beings' minds. He knew that they were not ready to accept the true dharma. Living beings have many faults which they must gradually be encouraged to stop. If you try to do it all at once by telling them it's all empty, they won't be able to do it.

      AND PROTECTS THEM/ By refraining from speaking the Real Dharma and speaking the Provisional instead, he protects living beings from slandering the Dharma.  

      FOR THIS REASON HE DOES NOT IMMEDIATELY SPEAK OF THE WISDOM OF ALL MODES/ That is the reason why the Buddha does not immediately speak the Dharma of the Real Mark. He waits a bit. The wisdom of all modes is the real mark Prajna. The Buddha takes a look at the causes,
conditions, and dispositions of living beings. Upon seeing that they haven't ripened yet, he refrains from speaking to them of the wisdom of all modes and the real mark Prajna.

Sutra: T19c6

      Kashyapa, you are all very rare in your ability to know that the Thus Come One speaks the Dharma as it is appropriate, and in your ability to believe and accent it. Why is this? All the Buddhas, the World Honored Ones speak an appropriate Dharma which is difficult to understand, difficult to know.


      KASHYAPA, YOU ARE ALL/ all of you Sound Hearers, VERY RARE/ rare indeed, IN YOUR 
ABILITY TO KNOW THAT THE THUS COME ONE SPEAKS THE DHARMA AS IT IS APPROPRIATE/ You are rare because you understand that the Buddha speaks
the Dharma in accord with the inclinations of the beings he teaches, in accord with their dispositions, and in accord with their causes and conditions. AND IN YOUR ABILITY TO BELIEVE AND ACCEPT IT. WHY IS THIS? ALL THE BUDDHAS, THE WORLD HONORED ONES, SPEAK AN APPROPRIATE DHARMA WHICH IS DIFFICULT TO UNDERSTAND, DIFFICULT TO KNOW./ The dharma spoken by the Buddhas is supreme, profound, and wonderful. So it is not easy to understand.


      At that time the World Honored One, wishing to restate this meaning spoke verses, saying:

      Destroyer of existence, the Dharma King
      Manifests within the world;
      According to living beings' desires,
      He teaches the Dharma in various ways.
      The Thus Come One, out of veneration
      For this wisdom, deep and far-reaching,
      Has long remained silent on this important matter.
      Being in no hurry to set it forth.
      Those with wisdom, if they heard it,
      Would be able to believe and understand it,
      But those lacking wisdom would doubt it
      And thereby lose it for a long time
      For this reason, Kashyapa,
      It is spoken in accord with their powers
      Employing various conditions
      To lead them to the right view.


      AT THAT TIME, THE WORLD HONORED ONE, Shakyamuni Buddha, compassionately wishing to teach living beings, and WISHING TO RESTATE HIS MEANING SPOKE VERSES, SAYING:

"Existence" refers to the presence of cause and effect. How does the Buddha break through cause and effect? On the part of living beings, the laws of cause and effect always apply. If you plant a good cause, you reap a good fruit; if you plant an evil cause, you reap an evil fruit. But, the Buddha, having reached enlightenment through his cultivation, is no longer bound by cause and effect. He has broken through existence, through the "unstoppable" process of cause and effect. The Dharma King is the Buddha, the King who speaks the Dharma. Those who leave home should learn to speak the Dharma like the Buddha, with his Four Kinds of Unobstructed Eloquence and his Eight Sounds. In speaking the Dharma, we represent the Buddha, the Dharma King.

      MANIFESTS WITHIN THE WORLD/ The Buddha manifests within the world to smash through a11 existence. He can't do it all at once, however. ACCORDING TO LIVING BEINGS' DESIRES/ HE TEACHES THE DHARMA IN VARIOUS WAYS/ He figures out what living beings like and, going along with them, teaches them bit by bit. He doesn't speak the Dharma in just one way. There are many ways to speak it. There are Five Periods and Eight Teachings.

      THE THUS COME ONE, OUT OF VENERATION/ FOR THIS WISDOM, DEEP AND FAR-REACHING/ because the real mark Prajna wisdom is to be revered greatly, being profound and far-reaching. HAS LONG REMAINED SILENT ON THIS IMPORTANT MATTER/ Because it is so deep and so lofty, those of ordinary, shallow understanding cannot penetrate it. Because it is so vast in scope, it isn't appropriate for those of the Small Vehicle. Therefore, the Buddha has sized them up as Small Vehicle types, and he cannot speak the Great Vehicle Dharma to them. He has kept silent on the matter for a long time. "Long" refers to the time from the end of the Avatamsaka Period up to the beginning of the Lotus Flower-Nirvana Period--over thirty years. During those thirty years, he did not set forth the real teaching; he spoke the provisional teaching instead. He did not speak the real mark Prajna, that is, the doctrine of the One Buddha Vehicle. It's been a long, long time since he spoke the important matter. He kept it to himself. Why? If he had spoken of the real wisdom, the real teaching, living beings would not only not believe, they would even slander it. BEING IN NO HURRY TO SET IT FORTH/The Buddha certainly has a lot of patience.

      THOSE WITH WISDOM, IF THEY HEARD IT/ WOULD BE ABLE TO BELIEVE AND UNDERSTAND IT/ They would believe and accept the doctrine of the Great Vehicle Buddhadharma. But, THOSE LACKING WISDOM WOULD DOUBT IT/ THEREBY LOSING IT FOR A LONG TIME/ If you spoke to them in terms of the Great Vehicle saying--"originally, there was no bondage, and now there is no need to seek liberation. Originally, there was no uniting with marks, and so now there is no need to separate from marks. Originally, there was no mark of production and now there is no need to speak of a mark of extinction"--if you tried to teach them something that truthful and out-in-front, then they would not believe it. They would have many doubts. That's why you have to apply clever expedient devices and use all kinds of analogies to bring them to understanding.

      Stupid people would not believe. They would think, "Hmmm...this all sounds too nihilistic to me. What does he mean, 'There's nothing at all?' If there's nothing at all, we are finished! We've had it! If it all reverts to emptiness, what are we doing studying this? There's nothing to study!" Having given rise to
doubt, they cut off the seeds of the Great Vehicle, which is equivalent to cutting off the seeds of Buddhahood, and cutting off the seeds of being living beings, and they thereby lose it for a long time.

      FOR THIS REASON, KASHYAPA/ IT IS SPOKEN IN ACCORD WITH THEIR POWERS/ EMPLOYING VARIOUS CONDITIONS/ Expedient, clever provisional dharmas and analogies TO LEAD THEM TO THE RIGHT VIEW/ To bring them to right knowledge and the right views.

Sutra: T19c15

      Kashyapa, you should know
      It is like a great cloud
      Rising above the world
      And covering all
      A wisdom cloud filled with moisture
      Illuminated with lightening flashes
      And vibrating with thunderous roars
      It brings delight to all,
      obscuring the light of the sun,
      Refreshing the earth
      The cloud lowers and expands
      As if one could reach out and touch it.
      It rains equally everywhere
      Falling alike in the four directions
      Touring without measure
      Saturating all the land.


      KASHYAPA, YOU SHOULD KNOW; the Thus Come One speaks the Dharma. IT IS LIKE A GREAT CLOUD/ RISING ABOVE THE WORLD/ and covering the three thousand, great thousand worlds, A WISDOM CLOUD FILLED WITH MOISTURE/ The cloud represents the Buddha's real wisdom, whose rain moistens the hearts of all living beings. ILLUMINATED WITH LIGHTNING FLASHES/ The Buddha emits limitless light, like the flashes of lightning. AND VIBRATING WITH THUNDEROUS ROARS/ The thunder represents the sound of the Buddha's voice speaking the Dharma. IT BRINGS DELIGHT TO ALL/Causing all living beings to feel happiness in their hearts. OBSCURING THE LIGHT OF THE SUN/ The light of the Buddha's wisdom outshines the light of all outside ways; it outshines the light of the ninety-five deviant lights. Without the light of the Buddha's wisdom, non-Buddhists would appear to have principle. But, once their teachings are compared to the Buddhadharma, their deviant wisdom is revealed for what it is and is outshone by the Buddha's wisdom. REFRESHING THE EARTH/ This is also an analogy. It represents the Buddha using the clear, pure refreshing wisdom to cool off the earth's ninety-eight kinds of affliction. THE CLOUD LOWERS AND EXPANDS/ AS IF ONE COULD REACH OUT AND TOUCH IT/ IT RAINS EQUALLY EVERYWHERE/ The wisdom of the Buddha's words of Dharma universally moisten all living beings. FALLING ALIKE IN THE FOUR DIRECTIONS/ This represents the Eight Sounds and Four Types of Eloquence of the Buddha. POURING WITHOUT MEASURE/ SATURATING ALL THE LAND/ In the Four Books, there is the saying:

      Everything under heaven
      is the land of the King:

Everywhere all the land receives moisture, just as all living beings receive the moisture of the Buddhadharma.

      In these verses Shakyamuni Buddha praises Mahakashyapa and all the Sound Hearer disciples as being extremely rare, because they like to hear the Dharma the Buddha speaks. Because they like to study the Buddhadharma, the Buddha says that they are "rare." What is meant by "rare?" It means that there are few such people. In this world, there are many people, but very few of them get to listen to the Dharma; this makes them very rare. If you put on a play or show a film, a lot of people will come to watch. If you have a gambling house, a lot of people will come. But here we lecture on the Sutras all the time, and still only these few people come to listen. Sometimes they come and sometimes they don't! Such people are rare indeed. So, take a look at yourselves, and you will know that you are rare people. There are few like you. Some of you go to school, and some of you have jobs and go to work--you do various things. Some of you take care of your homes, and some of you work outside, and yet in the evenings you all find time to come and listen to lectures on the Sutras. Very rare!

-continued next issue