Translated by The Buddhist Text Translation Society
The Sino-American Buddhist Association



Includes and surpasses the multitude of wonders...

Although many wonders are included within the "multitude of wonders," the Dharma Realm, in its wonder, surpasses them all. This line of the preface refers to the great appearance of The Avatamsaka Sutra, just as "boundless going and returning" refers to its great function, and "the one source of movement and stillness" refers to its great substance. These initial three clauses explicitly point out the threefold greatness of The Avatamsaka Sutra.

The "multitude of wonders," is a Taoist term, from The Classic on the Way and Virtue (Tao Te Ching), which was cited by National Master Ch'ing Liang to illustrate the principles of the Buddhadharma. The Classic on the Way and Virtue begins:

"The Way that can be uttered is not the abiding Way;

The Name that can be named is not the abiding Name.

What is Nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth;

What is Named is the mother of the myriad things.

Therefore, one who is constantly without desire contemplates its


One who is constantly with desire contemplates its shell.

The two come from sameness but are differently named;

Their sameness is called profound, Profound, and yet more profound.

The term used is the same in both The Classic on the Way and Virtue and The Avatamsaka Sutra, but the meanings vary. The "gate" of the 'multitude of wonders" does not transcend them, whereas The Avatamsaka Sutra includes and surpasses the multitude of wonders. Therefore its meaning differs from that of The Classic on the Way and Virtue.

The great Bodhisattva, National Master Ch'ing Liang, was truly an inconceivable person. Seven emperors bowed to him as their personal Master, and nine emperors bestowed the title of National Master on him. These accomplishments were due to the honesty and genuineness of his cultivation, in which he did not allow the slightest confusion, unlike most people who merely say they cultivate but do not, keeping their minds and mouths embedded in contradiction.

Before he left home, National Master Ch'ing Liang made ten vows of self—discipline. They were:

One. Bodily. I will not renounce the appearance of a Sramana. At all times he wore his robe and precept sash, maintaining the appearance of a Bhiksu.

Two. Mentally. I will not contradict the regulations of the Thus Come One. He unquestionably and respectfully accepted and maintained all of the moral prohibitions spoken by the Buddha.

Three. I will not seat myself with my back to The Sutra of the Dharma Realm. If he sat down in the presence of an Avatamsaka Sutra, he always sat facing it. All of you should pay attention to this. He had such strong resolve that he would not sit with his back to The Sutra of the Dharma Realm, how much the less with his back to the Buddha.

Four. I will not allow my nature to be soiled by emotional and obstructive states. He did not allow himself to become attached to states of emotional love or other obstructive states.

Five. I will not set foot on the grounds of a Bhiksuni's temple. This vow may seem prejudiced, and many Bhiksunis found it disagreeable, but he made it just the same. He would not even set foot on the ground immediately within the gate of a Bhiksuni's temple. All of you should think about this.  Americans will say, "He's insane! What use does this vow have? What's wrong with going to a Bhiksuni's temple? I could go one hundred times in a single day and it would present no problems.” It was just that National Master Ch’ing Liang was extremely pure and cool (ch’ing liang), free of even the slightest emotional desire.

      Six. I will not lie upon the bed of a homedweller. We need not even speak of living at the house of a homedweller, he would not even touch the bed upon which a homedweller slept. Think about it, are you up to that?

Seven. I will not cast my eyes upon unprincipled spectacles. He would not watch plays, dancing, or freaks who sing, dance and leap about in the streets.

Eight. I will not taste the flavor of edibles after noon. After the noon hour he would not even taste food to sample its flavor, how much the less eat it. He would not compromise his vows by saying, "Oh! What does this taste like? I'll eat a bit and see."

Ahhh, you think that leaving home is so simple, but if you can't put it down, then don't leave it. Look at how eminent Sangha members cultivate their practices. National Master Ch'ing Liang would not even sample vegetables, rice, fruit or any other edibles after noon, because cultivation of moral prohibitions requires stern practice. You may say, however, "The Master said that in the evenings we could eat an apple, orange or some other fruit."  That's right, I did allow that; if I had not you wouldn't have made it through the night, so I forced open an expedient dharma and said that it was permissible. If you wish to truly cultivate, you will not even eat fruit or drink liquids after noon, not even milk. However, now we are not so strict, and to be quite frank there are evenings when I myself drink milk. If you are hungry you may drink some milk, but do no sneak about eating things. Do you hear? You must conduct yourself in accord with the teachings. Do not listen without paying attention.

Nine. My hands will not set down my recitation beads. He held his beads and was constantly mindful of the Buddha—"Namo Amitabha Buddha, Namo Amitabha Buddha, Namo Amitabha Buddha."

Ten. I will keep my robes and bowl by my side at night. When he slept he always kept his three robes and his bowl at his side, in order to protect them.

National Master Ch'ing Liang personally established these ten rules for self-discipline, without requiring a master to instruct him, "Don't eat after noon! Don't sit with your back to the Sutra!," and thus it was that he lived through the reigns of nine emperors, seven of whom bowed to him as their personal Master. Who were these nine emperors? They ruled during the T'ang Dynasty: 1) T’ang Hsuan Tsung, 2) T’ang Su Tsung, 3) T’ang T’ai Tsung, 4) T’ang Te Tsung, 5) T’ang Hsun Tsung, 6) T’ang Hsien Tsung, 7) T’ang Mu Tsung, 8) T’ang Ching Tsung, and 9) T’ang Wen Tsung. From T’ang T’ai Tsung Onward, they all bowed to National Master Ch’ing Liang as their Master.

      Why is Great Master Ch'eng Kuan also called National Master Ch'ing Liang? He lived on Wu T'ai Mountain3 which is also called Ch'ing Liang Mountain, and when he spoke Dharma for an emperor on one occasion, the emperor said, "Ahhh, you have genuinely caused me to obtain the independence of purity and coolness (ch'ing liang)." Afterward he was called National Master Ch'ing Liang, and his other name was not used. He was also referred to as the Master Teacher, because he taught emperors, lecturing Sutras and speaking Dharma for them.

      You figure it out. If he had no virtue from cultivation of the Way why would seven of the nine emperors he met bow to him as their Master? He was especially learned, having studied many forms of literature, including the books of home-dwellers, the writings of those who had left home, the Buddhist texts, and the classics of the Taoists and Confucians. He had also put a great deal of study into the I Ching, The Book of Changes.

      National Master Ch'ing Liang maintained his ten conditions to guide himself in his daily practice, and thus he never visited a Bhiksuni's temple in his entire lifetime. Many Bhiksunis did not go to see him either, but said, "He doesn't come to see us! The hell with him! We won't go to see him either!"


  1. The text for this commentary was given in the first lecture. See VBS #15, p. 6.

  2. (Chinese)

  3. (Chinese)