National Master Ch'ing Liang’s
TO THE AVATAMSAKA SUTRA
After the forty—nine day meditation under the Bodhi tree had culminated in his enlightenment, as his first gesture toward unenlightened beings to help them on the Buddha path, Sakyamuni Buddha spoke the Avatamsaka Sutra. The light of its wisdom was so dazzling that all but the highest Bodhisattvas were blinded and unable to see the Buddha; the sound of its wisdom was so penetrating that all but these few Bodhisattvas were deafened and unable to hear his words.
And so it was that this Sutra, available only to the great Bodhisattvas, was not revealed in the world for six hundred years. Finally, Dragon Tree Bodhisattva, (Nagarjuna) went to the Dragon Palace where this Sutra is preserved, and after reading it, brought back only the third volume, for the first two volumes are beyond the capabilities of normal men. The first volume is composed of chapters equal in number to one world system of fine dust particles, and contains gathas (verses) equal in number to the particles of dust in thirteen thousand great thousand worlds. The 1,200 chapters of the second volume contain 498,800 gathas. These two volumes still exist in the Dragon Palace.
The third volume which now exists in the human world contains forty—eight chapters and 100,000 gathas. It was only after Dragon Tree Bodhisattva had exhausted the possibilities of all the writings of the world that he went to the Dragon Palace to seek out the supreme wisdom of the Avatamsaka. With his exacting memory he was able to recollect everything that passed before his eyes, and thus was able to return to the human realm with this great teaching.
The Avatamsaka Sutra has been likened to the bright full moon in a cloudless sky. Reflected in all the lakes, streams, ponds, rivers, and oceans, still it is rare, for although it shines everywhere in all time3on all beings, few actually have the skill to get to the moon.
Do you want to go to the moon? Want to be one of those rare people, one among millions? It is said, “If you haven’t studied the Avatamsaka Sutra, you do not know the Dharmabody of the Buddha.”
Now you too have the opportunity, for the saka is being revealed in all its splendor by Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua who combines a thorough command of scholarly knowledge and undisputed mastery of the Way. The Master Hsuan Hua is currently explaining T’ang Dynasty National Master Ch’ing Liang’s (Avatamsaka Bodhisattva) Preface to the Avatamsaka in preparation for the explanation of the Sutra proper, which will begin within the next year. National Master Ch’ing Liang’s special qualifications are spelled out in detail in the following text.
The Avatamsaka Dharma Assembly meets every evening except Saturday at Gold Mountain Monastery, 1731 15th Street in San Francisco. And for those of you who find San Francisco too far, but still wish to go to the moon, the Master Hsuan Hua’s commentary on both the Preface and the Si~tra will appear in Vajra Bodhi Sea, and begin on the following pages.
Lo Kuo Chan
Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua began lecturing National Master Ch’ing Liang's Preface to the Mahvaipu1ya Buddhavatamsakasutra on June 13th.
When the Preface has been completed, the Master will begin lecturing the Sutra proper. Copies of the Chinese text of the Sutra are available at $25.00 each.
Write: Sutra Printing, S.A.B.A., 1731 15th St., San Francisco, Calif. 94103.
Preface to The Mahavaipulyabuddhavatamsaka-sutra1
Why is today a most important day? It is the beginning of the lectures on The Mahavaipulyabuddhavatamsaka—sutra. Perhaps this Sutra has been lectured in other countries, but I believe that this is the first time in the West. Consequently, this is a noteworthy occasion.
When explaining The Avatalusaka Sutra, the title is explained first. In this case, however, we will begin with the Preface because it embraces the principles taught in the Sutra. Having heard the explanation of the Preface, you will be able to understand the general meaning of The Avatamsaka Sutra.
Before explaining the Preface, I will say a few words about its author, the Bodhisattva Avatamsaka, Dharma Master Ch’eng Kuan. Dharma Master Ch’eng Kuan was nine feet tall and had two pupils in each eye. In the daylight he did not look peculiar, but at night one could see light shining from his eyes. His arms were so long that his hands extended below his knees. Pay attention one moment. A person whose arms are this long has great honor; this is a rare and special characteristic. He also had forty teeth, as did the Buddha, compared to the thirty—two, thirty—four, thirty—six or thirty—eight in the mouths of ordinary men. He was exceptionally intelligent and an extremely fast reader with the ability to read seven lines in the time it takes you to read one.
Why is he said to be the Bodhisattva Avatamsaka? He wrote The Avatamsaka Su Ch’ao which is completely devoted to the explanation of The Avatamsaka Sutra. After he became “complete and still”7 an Arhat on the border of China and India saw two young Bodhisattvas in black robes walking through empty space. The Arhat had spiritual penetrations and used them to arrest the travel of the two black—robed youths. He inquired of them, “Why are you going to China?”
replied, “We are going to Wu T’ai Mountain8 to request the
teeth of the Bodhisattva Avatamsaka so that we might take them to our
country and make offerings to them.”
As soon as the Arhat heard this he said, “Ahh, so it is. Good, you may go,” and then they left. Later this Arhat also went to Wu T’ai Mountain and told the inhabitants there what he had experienced; when they opened the coffin of National Master Ch’ing Liang9 they saw that two of his teeth were missing. The two young Bodhisattvas had carried off the teeth to make offerings to them. Therefore, most Buddhists know that Dharma Master Ch’eng Kuan was a transformation of the Bodhisattva Avatamsaka. Since this Preface was written by the Bodhisattva Avatamsaka, it is, of , exceptional. Therefore, before lecturing The Avatamsaka Sutra, the Preface will be explained. The Preface begins:
With boundless going and returning the one source of movement and stillness includes and surpasses the multitude of wonders and far oversteps words and thought; is this not the Dharma Realm?
With boundless going and returning....
refers not only to leaving, but also to arising, moving, and changing. So
it is said:
brings change, change brings transformation.
In the world only ultimate sincerity can transform.”
You must be extremely sincere, then you are able to transform. If you are not extremely sincere, you cannot transform.
“Returning” refers to coming, as well as to becoming extinct and becoming still. This is to say:
Therefore the text reads “boundless.” “Boundless” means without traces, without a path. That is to say:
“The mouth wishes to speak, but words are lost. The heart wishes to make connections, but considerations perish.”
Although you wish to speak, words disappear, for all means of expression are lost. In your heart you wish to grasp at conditions, but there is no way to do so, for such thoughts are completely gone. Therefore it is said
This shows that the beneficial function of The Mahavaipulyabuddhavatamsa- ka-sutra is great. Therefore the text states: “With boundless going and returning,...” Going and never gone, returning and never returned. Going and returning are not dual, since going comes from returning and returning comes from going. Therefore going and returning are boundless; they have no fixed path.
is like birds which can fly back and forth through the air without paths,
and without leaving traces. Although you may search for a bird’s flight
pattern, you can’t locate it. This is also like cutting water with a
knife; a moment later the wound is gone.
Although it is said that a bird’s flight has no path, there actually is a path which disappears twenty—four hours after the bird’s flight. Our flesh eyes, however, are incapable of seeing it. Although we now have x—ray machines and microscopes we are still unable to see it. Only if we obtain the five eyes10 are we able to see a bird’s path in the air. “Oh, a bird has flown through there. That place is entirely empty of fine dust particles. Ahh, it is truly empty.”
Although it is said that a knife leaves no wound when passed through water, if you look with the heavenly eye you can see a wound which remains for twenty—four hours, after which it is healed. You may say, “Are you telling me that water is wounded when cut by a knife?” What makes you think water isn’t wounded when cut with a knife? If you cut a man’s body it bleeds; when you cut water it is aerated. But modern science has failed to discover this. Perhaps after a thousand or two thousand years scientists will have proof. So now, as I speak, I think that only a small number of you believe. However, there are many who will believe. Why? If in the future they understand this principle, they will believe it. This is “With boundless going and returning,” the great function.
“The one source of movement and stillness” refers to the great substance of The Avatamsaka Sutra. Basically, the original substance has neither movement nor stillness, for movement and stillness are that which changes. “Movement brings change.” As soon as there is a movement there can be a change. Consider, for example, The Book of Changes11 with its sixty-four hexagrams. If there is no movement indicated when you make your divination, the original hexagram remains. If there is movement, the original hexagrm changes into other hexagrams. Movement and stillness have one original substance. The origin of movement is stillness, and the origin of stillness is movement. These two are “two, yet not two.” Although it is said that they are two, originally they have a common origin.
I will use a simple example so that you can understand movement and stillness. The original substance of movement and stillness is like a mother who has given birth to two sons, one called “Movement” and the other “Stillness.” “Movement” and “Stillness” both call their mother “Mama”; both emerged from one body and are of the same substance.
Lao Tzu said:12
Lao Tzu did not say that purity and filth have one source but rather that purity is the source of filth. He said that if men are constantly able to be pure and still, then heaven and earth will completely return. Heaven and earth return and are both here with me. He further stated:
Now, however, scientists have discovered that the earth moves and heaven is still. But this movement and stillness that we are speaking of is not the same; we are discussing their original substance. Science has proven that the earth moves, but actually heaven also moves. Although heaven appears to be motionless, actually it does move; although the earth appears to move, actually it doesn’t move. Therefore this principle is not one which can be spoken of and understood by common people using words and language.
Lao Tzu said:
Some will say, “I don’t believe this principle. Men are filthy and women are pure. Every day women wash their faces, put on powder, and decorate themselves so that they are extremely pure~.” Why do they do this? If they weren’t filthy, why would they want to decorate themselves. It is similar to the floor; if it were not dirty why would you sweep it? You sweep the floor because it is dirty. Why do women wish to make false faces? Because they know they are filthy.
Now there are movie stars who really make false faces. They change noses, and alter their entire appearance with plastic surgery. Originally they were old, with skin like a chicken and hair like a white crane, but they dye their hair black and have their faces lifted, taking out or adding a little so that their skin is smooth. Although it looks nice on the outside, inside it hurts. Lao Tzu knew about this principle several thousand years ago and straightforwardly said, “Men move, women are still: men are pure, women filthy.”
we won’t pay any attention to whether they move or are still, are pure
or filthy, for now “The one source of movement and stillness” is being
Extreme purity is filth; extreme filth is purity. Therefore there is no difference, they are all from one basic source. Extreme movement is stillness; extreme stillness is movement. You may say, “I really don’t understand this principle.” It will be easy for me to remedy your inability to understand this principle, for I have many expedient dharmas and few actual ones.
In the daytime you work and don’t sleep; this is just movement. In the evening you wish to sleep and not work; this is just stillness. Extreme stillness: you can’t say that you will sleep every day and not work. It can’t be done. You also can’t say that you will work every day and not sleep. This can’t be done either. Therefore movement is not separate from stillness, and stillness is not separate from movement. “The one source of movement and stillness” is the substance of The Mahavaipulyabuddhavatamsaka-sutra. Its substance is great, therefore it includes both movement and stillness.
(In Part Three of THE
PRAJNA PARAMITA HEART SUTRA with the Standless Gathas and Explanation of
Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua, VBS #11, pp. 15-16, the Chinese text was left
out and is now presented below. Please
excuse out error. Ed.)