By Bhiksuni Heng Ch'ih

      It was a matter of life-and-death, which moved Sakyamuni Buddha to proclaim The Surangama Sutra. To be sure that he was understood, the Buddha spoke directly and simply, broadly and expansively. He talked about men's bodies and minds and the world around them. He told why for most people the body is like a prison while for a sage it is a priceless precision instrument with interpenetrating functions. He then carefully taught the method to bridge the gap from the common realm of birth and-death to the transcendental realm without outflows how to become free from the prison and find the sage inherent in all of us immortal, pure, and wise.

In the Sutra, twenty-five sages are asked to explain the means by which they reached enlightenment in order to give each practitioner a choice of methods. Regardless of the method chosen, the goal is identical—the perfection of the Surangama King Samadhi, the all-encompassing samadhi of the mind and nature.

The Surangama Sutra, however, must bear the brunt of vicious demonic attacks because it contains the Surangama Mantra, the most powerful mantra spoken by Sakyamuni Buddha, which, when perfected, is capable of defeating any demonic force. In addition, the Sutra describes fifty skandhas states, which are temporary experiences one may pass through in the course of meditation as the five skandhas disintegrate. The explanation of these fifty states thoroughly exposes demonic manifestations so that practitioners can recognize them and avoid their snares.

In 1968 during a 96-day summer study and practice session, the Venerable Master Hua gave a clear and thorough explanation of The Surangama Sutra. Now the Sutra text and that commentary have been translated into English by the Buddhist Text Translation Society, and are being prepared for publication in installments. For information contact Gold Mountain Monastery, 1731 15th Street, San Francisco, 94118.