AVATAMSAKA SUTRA: THE TEN GROUNDS
Every evening at seven P.M., as well as at twelve-thirty P.M. on Saturdays and Sundays at Gold Mountain Temple, 1731 15th Street, San Francisco, there are lectures on the Buddhist Sutras, which the public is welcome to attend. Shown above is the Venerable Abbot of Gold Mountain, Tripitaka Master Hua, lecturing the Avatamsaka Sutra. The Venerable Master's explanation of the Avatamsaka Preface Prologue, and Sutra began on June 13, 1971, and has now reached Chapter Twenty-six, the Chapter of the Ten Bodhisattva Grounds.
The Venerable Master lectures in Mandarin Chinese, pausing at the end of meaningful units to permit an oral translation into English by members of the Sino-American Buddhist Association's Buddhist Text Translation Society, who rotate throughout the week. Two tape recordings of the Master's explanation are made, and simultaneously, in a soundproof typing-booth, the explanation is immediately typed in English translation. One tape is then turned back, the signal for the Dharma Postman, at the end of each explanation in Chinese, to fetch the typed translation and relay it to a reviewer. The reviewer, wearing head-phones to hear as the Chinese is played back (as do the translator and many other students of the Dharma in the Assembly) checks the typed copy while the translator gives an on-the-spot oral translation from the tape into English. The other tape, the one not being used for translation purposes, continues recording, in order to include the English translation and any additional comments by the Master.
The next day, the editor-typist takes the Chinese-English tape along with the typed translation, makes one final check, and, for the Ten Grounds Chapter, checks the Sanskrit. Then that editor, while finalizing the wording, types the translation of the text arid commentary into photo-ready format. Once it has been certified and proofread, it can be printed immediately, making it accessible fast. The Venerable Master Hua began to lecture the Chapter of the Ten Bodhisattva Grounds on Sunday, February 27, 1977.
THE TEN GROUNDS, CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX, PART ONE.
The Avatamsaka Sutra has over eighty rolls and thirty-nine chapters, of which this chapter is the twenty-sixth, the Chapter of the Ten Grounds. Why are they called the Ten Grounds? The ground can give birth to the ten thousand things, all of which are born from the ground., grow because of the ground, come to maturity because of the ground, and obtain liberation because of the ground. All things that exist, without exception, are born in reliance upon the ground. Within the ground are found a variety of treasuries, all kinds of valuables. Therefore people excavate gold mines, diamond mines, silver mines, copper, iron and various other kinds of mines, all of which are within the ground. These Ten Grounds contain the mines of all Buddhas, the mines of all Bodhisattvas, the mines of all Sound Hearers and those Enlightened to Conditions, the mines of all gods, the mines of all asuras, the mines of all people, the mines of all animals, the mines of all hungry ghosts and the mines of all hell-beings. Within the ground there is a mine for each one of the Ten Dharma Realms; it is just that we do not know how to excavate them. If we knew how to excavate them, then we could obtain a variety of fruits from those various kinds of mines. That is why it is said that the ten thousand things are born from the ground, grow from the ground, come to maturity from the ground and obtain liberation because of the ground. Consequently, the Dharma doors of the Ten Grounds include all Dharma doors, and the Dharma doors of the Ten Grounds are interconnected with all other Dharma doors. If people wish to cultivate the Bodhisattva Way, the Bodhisattva Way is born because of the Grounds. If we wish to make the Bodhisattva Way grow, we must rely upon the Dharma doors of the Ten Grounds to make it grow. If we wish to bring the Bodhisattva Way to maturity, we must also rely upon the Dharma doors of the Ten Grounds to mature it; and if we wish to obtain the liberation of the Bodhisattva Way, we must use the Dharma doors of the Ten Grounds and cultivate to be able to obtain liberation. The Dharma doors of the Ten Grounds, then, make up the twenty-sixth chapter in the Avatamsaka Sutras and this is the first section in chapter twenty-six. Therefore it is called THE TEN GROUNDS, CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX, PART ONE.
AT THAT TIME, THE WORLD-HONORED ONE WAS IN THE PALACE OF THE KING OF THE HEAVEN OF COMFORT FROM OTHERS' TRANSFORMATIONS, IN THE HALL OF TREASURIES OF MANI JEWELS TOGETHER WITH A GATHERING OF GREAT BODHISATTVAS, ALL OF WHOM WERE IRREVERSIBLE FROM ANUTTARASAMYAKSAMBODHI. THEY HAD ALL ASSEMBLED FROM THE WORLDS OF THE OTHER DIRECTIONS. THEY DWELT IN THE STATES OF WISDOM IN WHICH ALL BODHISATTVAS DWELL. THEY HAD ENTERED THE PLACE OF WISDOM WHICH ALL THUS COME ONES ENTER, DILIGENTLY PRACTICED AND DID NOT REST. THEY WERE WELL ABLE TO MANIFEST ALL KINDS OF SPIRITUAL PENETRATIONS, AND ALL THAT THEY DID TO TEACH, TRANSFORM, TAME AND SUBDUE LIVING BEINGS WAS DONE AT THE RIGHT TIME. IN ORDER TO ACCOMPLISH ALL BODHISATTVAS' GREAT VOWS, IN ALL WORLDS, IN ALL KALPAS, IN ALL LANDS, THEY DILIGENTLY CULTIVATED ALL PRACTICES, WITHOUT SLACKING OFF EVEN MOMENTARILY. THEY WERE REPLETE WITH A BODHISATTVA'S BLESSINGS AND WISDOM, THE AIDS TO THE WAY. THEY UNIVERSALLY BENEFITED LIVING BEINGS AND NEVER SHIRKED. THEY HAD ARRIVED AT THE ULTIMATE SHORE OF A BODHISATTVA'S WISDOM AND EXPEDIENTS.
After Vajra Banner Bodhisattva had finished speaking the Ten Transferences Chapter, and before the speaking of the Ten Grounds Chapter, AT THAT TIME, it was then that THE WORLD-HONORED ONE, Shakyamuni Buddha, WAS IN THE PALACE OF THE KING OF THE HEAVEN OF COMFORT FROM OTHERS’ TRANSFORMATIONS, in the heaven known as that in which others' bliss is transformed into one's own bliss, very free and easy, IN THE HALL OF TREASURIES OF MANI JEWELS, those heavenly halls made of many jewels, TOGETHER WITH A GATHERING, accompanied by very many, not just one or two, but limitless assembled numbers OF GREAT BODHISATTVAS, that is to say, Bodhisattvas of long-standing, all of whom had the requisite Way virtue, the requisite wisdom and the requisite cultivation, ALL OF WHOM WERE IRREVERSIBLE FROM ANUTTARASAMYAKSAMBODHI. With regard to the Unsurpassed, Right and Equal, Proper Enlightenment, all those Bodhisattvas did not retreat in either thought, conduct or position. These are the Three Irreversibilities:
1. Irreversibility in Thought.
2. Irreversibility in Conduct.
3. Irreversibility in Position.
In "Unsurpassed, Right and Equal, Proper Enlightenment," "Right Enlightenment" refers to the Two Vehicles. The Two Vehicles, those of Sound Hearers and those Enlightened to Conditions, obtain Right Enlightenment, but they do not obtain Right and Equal Enlightenment; and so they cannot enlighten others. While the Two Vehicles can only obtain Right Enlightenment, the Bodhisattvas enlighten themselves and enlighten others, and not only obtain Right Enlightenment, but also cultivate Dharma doors equal to the Buddha's Dharma doors. Therefore they are described as Right and Equal, but not as Unsurpassed. "Surpassed Lords" is a title given Bodhisattvas, because they are further surpassed by the Buddha, who is above them. All of you think it over: people cannot just claim to be something and be that way. They must be recognized as such by others for it to count. People of the Two Vehicles, then, can only enlighten themselves and cannot enlighten others. Bodhisattvas enlighten themselves and others and also have Enlightenment more or less equal to that of the Buddha, but they are still not unsurpassed. The Buddha can enlighten himself and others and be unsurpassed, and has attained Unsurpassed, Right and Equal, Proper Enlightenment, that is, Anuttarasamyaksambodhi. The great Bodhisattvas spoken of here, although they are not yet totally unsurpassed, still are irreversible, and in the future they are certain to become Buddhas. There is no doubt about it, and so they are irreversible and do not retreat to the Two Vehicles.
THEY HAD ALL ASSEMBLED FROM THE WORLDS OF THE OTHER DIRECTIONS. Not all of those great Bodhisattvas came from the Saha World. They had assembled in that place from limitless worlds of the ten directions, as many as fine motes of dust. THEY DWELT IN THE STATES OF WISDOM IN WHICH ALL BODHISATTVAS DWELL. They had all obtained the Bodhisattvas' wisdom, and they all had obtained the states in which all Bodhisattvas dwell. THEY HAD ENTERED THE PLACE OF WISDOM WHICH ALL THUS COME ONES ENTER. Not only did they dwell in the ground of the states of Bodhisattvas, they also had the wisdom of a Buddha, and knew what a Buddha knows--but not so deeply, and so they were still a little bit off. They had all obtained the state of wisdom certified to and obtained by Buddhas, DILIGENTLY PRACTICED AND DID NOT REST. They were courageously vigorous and diligently cultivated the Bodhisattva Path without resting. THEY WERE WELL ABLE TO MANIFEST ALL KINDS OF SPIRITUAL PENETRATIONS. They all had various kinds of wisdom and manifested all kinds of spiritual penetrations, AND ALL THAT THEY DID TO TEACH, TRANSFORM, TAME AND SUBDUE LIVING BEINGS WAS DONE AT THE RIGHT TIME. The vocation of a Bodhisattva is to teach and transform living beings, tame and subdue living beings, and cause all living beings quickly to accomplish Buddhahood, all at the right time. Sometimes if one speaks inappropriately, and teaches living beings before their roots have ripened or the time is right, blasting Dharma at them, they cannot receive it and it even makes them scared, have fox-like doubts and not believe; and they never want to listen to the Buddhadharma again. That is not at the right time. That is to miss the right occasion. Bodhisattvas teach and transform living beings right at the proper time, at the most appropriate moment. It is just like planting seeds: they should be planted at just the right time for planting. Otherwise, if planted at the wrong time, they will not come up, and the planting will have been useless, a waste of time and effort. However, if one plants the seeds at the exact time they should be planted, they will grow. Bodhisattvas teach and transform living beings that way. Right at the time the seeds of Bodhi should be planted, they break the mine ground, teach them to bring forth the thought for Bodhi, and plant the seeds, which gradually grow, ripen and yield a harvest of liberation. That is the meaning of "at the right time." In teaching and transforming living beings, it is essential not to miss the right time, for if the right time is missed, the teaching will not coincide with the potentials.
IN ORDER TO ACCOMPLISH ALL BODHISATTVAS' GREAT VOWS, in order to accomplish all the vows a Bodhisattva should have, IN ALL WORLDS, within all worlds whatsoever, IN ALL KALPAS, during time as long as limitlessly many kalpas, IN ALL LANDS, within the kshetra lands of all Buddhas, in all those areas, THEY DILIGENTLY CULTIVATED ALL PRACTICES, they were heroically vigorous and diligently cultivated all the doors of conduct that all Bodhisattvas cultivate, WITHOUT SLACKING OFF EVEN MOMENTARILY. Not even for an instant were they lazy OK did they rest, but they were at all times vigorous. THEY WERE REPLETE WITH A BODHISATTVA'S BLESSINGS AND WISDOM, THE AIDS TO THE WAY. They were endowed with the blessings and wisdom of a Bodhisattva, which aid one to cultivate the Way. THEY UNIVERSALLY BENEFITED LIVING BEINGS AND NEVER SHIRKED. They not only cultivated themselves, but also always wished to bring universal benefit to living beings, and never shirked. They never stopped, never got tired, and were never lazy. They would never say, "I've had it: I'm going to quit cultivating the Bodhisattva Way and stop benefiting living beings." They weren't like that. They always wanted to benefit living beings. THEY HAD ARRIVED AT THE ULTIMATE SHORE OF A BODHISATTVA'S WISDOM AND EXPEDIENTS. They had reached the ultimate shore of wisdom and skill-in-means of all Bodhisattvas. They had reached the ultimate and highest position, and had obtained the happiness of Nirvana that consists in permanence, peace, true self and purity.
THEY MANIFESTED ENTRY INTO BIRTH AND DEATH AS IDENTICAL WITH NIRVANA, YET THEY DID NOT RENOUNCE THE CULTIVATION OF BODHISATTVA PRACTICES. THEY WERE SKILLED AT ENTERING ALL BODHISATTVAS' DHYANAS, LIBERATIONS, SAMADHIS, SAMAPATTIS, SPIRITUAL PENETRATIONS AND CLEAR KNOWLEDGES. IN ALL THEY DID THEY OBTAINED COMFORT. THEY ACQUIRED ALL BODHISATTVAS' COMFORTABLE SPIRITUAL POWERS, AND IN AN INSTANT, WITHOUT MOVING OR EXERTION, THEY COULD GO TO THE ASSEMBLIES OF ALL THUS COME ONES' BODHIMANDAS, ACT AS LEADERS OF THE ASSEMBLY, AND REQUEST THE BUDDHA TO SPEAK DHARMA. THEY PROTECTED AND UPHELD THE BUDDHAS' PROPER DHARMA WHEEL. THEY USED A VAST, GREAT MIND TO MAKE OFFERINGS TO AND SERVE ALL BUDDHAS. THEY ALWAYS DILIGENTLY PRACTICED THE DEEDS, WHICH ALL BODHISATTVAS PRACTICE. THEIR BODIES UNIVERSALLY APPEARED IN ALL WORLDS.
THEY MANIFESTED ENTRY INTO BIRTH AND DEATH AS IDENTICAL WITH NIRVANA. Bodhisattvas who cultivate the Bodhisattva Way have freedom over birth and death and, for them, samsara is just Nirvana, and afflictions are just Bodhi. Everything about them is a manifestation. They manifest all sorts of births, and manifest various kinds of deaths. They appear as various kinds of living beings, manifesting a variety of bodies of sentient beings. Above reaching to the gods, humans and asuras, and below reaching to the animals, hungry ghosts and hell-beings, within every destiny, Bodhisattvas appear and manifest birth and death. They manifest various kinds of births to cross living beings over into bringing forth the thought for Bodhi, and they manifest various kinds of deaths in order to cause living beings to understand the pain of samsara. Therefore they manifest entry into birth and death as identical with Nirvana; how one is born, how one dies, and how birth and death become Nirvana, YET THEY DID NOT RENOUNCE THE CULTIVATION OF BODHISATTVA PRACTICES. Although Bodhisattvas manifest all those births and deaths and sufferings in order to teach and transform living beings, afterwards cultivating ascetic practices and entering Nirvana, still, among all living beings, they continue to cultivate the Bodhisattva Way, without renouncing that cultivation. Wherever they are, they cultivate the Bodhisattva path to help living beings and cause them to resolve themselves upon Bodhi.
THEY WERE SKILLED AT ENTERING ALL BODHISATTVAS' DHYANAS, LIBERATIONS, SAMADHIS. They were good at realizing the dhyana-samadhis realized by Bodhisattvas, and the liberations that Bodhisattvas cultivate, as well as the proper concentrations and proper receptions that Bodhisattvas cultivate, and SAMAPATTIS, SPIRITUAL PENETRATIONS AND CLEAR KNOWLEDGES. "Samapatti" is a Sanskrit word, which translates as "Arrival at Equanimity, which refers to freedom from torpor and agitation and arrival at a single state. This happens on the ground of samadhi. They also had attained the wonderful functioning of various kinds of spiritual penetrations, the Three Clarities and the Six Penetrations. The Three Clarities are:
1. The Clarity of the Heavenly Eye.
2. The Clarity of the Heavenly Ear.
3. The Clarity concerning Former Lives.
Some give the third as the Clarity of the Extinction of Outflows. The Six Penetrations are:
1. The Penetration of the Heavenly Ear.
2. The Penetration of the Heavenly Eye.
3. The Penetration of Others' Thoughts.
4. The Penetration of Former Lives.
5. The Penetration of the Extinction of Outflows.
6. The Penetration of Spiritual Fulfillments.
IN ALL THEY DID THEY OBTAINED COMFORT. In all of their activities, they were independent and sovereign.
THEY ACQUIRED ALL BODHISATTVAS' COMFORTABLE SPIRITUAL POWERS. They had come to be able to manifest birth and death, to manifest Nirvana, and everywhere manifest the cultivation of the Bodhisattva Way. At all times they obtained the power of wonderful functioning of spiritual penetrations, very free and easy, which all Bodhisattvas have, AND IN AN INSTANT, WITHOUT MOVING OR EXERTION, THEY COULD GO TO THE ASSEMBLIES OF ALL THUS COME ONES, within the space of a single instant, with no need to move or act. You see the Bodhisattva as just walking along, but he can go anywhere in the ten directions. You see him eating, but his spiritual powers have already taken him to the assemblies of the Bodhimandas of all Thus Come Ones. You see the Bodhisattva as asleep, but he has already transformed bodies and gone to other Buddhalands. You see the Bodhisattva as doing something, or as doing nothing, but he can be transforming bodies and going to limitless and boundlessly many other worlds to teach and transform living beings. He has that kind of wonderful functioning ability. Therefore, being a Bodhisattva doesn't come about from saying, "I'm a Bodhisattva." What kind of Bodhisattva are you? An eating, sleeping, clothes wearing Bodhisattva? You even mistake a hungry ghost like me for a Bodhisattva. However, you shouldn't get your Bodhisattvas wrong. Mistaking the identity of people is not important, but if you get your Bodhisattvas wrong, you could get burned. So the Bodhisattvas, at all times and in all places, go to see all Buddhas of the ten directions, and pay their respects to them, and make offerings to them. Don't think they're just asleep. If it's a person who's asleep, of course it's not very interesting. They may be having nightmares about wanting to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge or the Empire State Building. In the dream they may even fall from the sky-scraper and die, but when they wake up they are still in their beds; or be the 555th person to jump from the Golden Gate Bridge, only to find themselves on the couch upon awakening. That is the state of an ordinary person. The state of a Bodhisattva also resembles dreaming, but the Bodhisattva goes off to rescue living beings. Wherever he sees there is a living being experiencing a disaster, he manifests a body and goes to save the living being from the calamity. Bodhisattvas also ACT AS LEADERS OF THE ASSEMBLY, for all Dharma assemblies they are the leaders, AND REQUEST THE BUDDHA TO SPEAK DHARMA. For the Buddha to speak Dharma, someone must request the Dharma or the Buddha does not speak it. There must be someone who circumambulates three times and then bows and requests that the Buddha speak the Dharma and turn the Dharma wheel.
THEY PROTECTED AND UPHELD THE BUDDHAS' PROPER DHARMA WHEEL. Bodhisattvas go everywhere to protect and support the assemblies of the Bodhimanda of all Buddhas, just as here where we daily turn the proper Dharma wheel, yet no one realizes it; and this country's Buddhist disciples treat it as a very ordinary event, when in fact it is an earth-shaking, heaven-startling matter. THEY USED A VAST, GREAT MIND TO MAKE OFFERINGS TO AND SERVE ALL BUDDHAS. Bodhisattvas use a vast, great mind to make offerings to and serve all Buddhas. THEY ALWAYS DILIGENTLY PRACTICED THE DEEDS, WHICH ALL BODHISATTVAS PRACTICE. Those Bodhisattvas constantly practiced all the deeds that Bodhisattvas cultivate. THEIR BODIES UNIVERSALLY APPEARED IN ALL WORLDS. Bodies of theirs went everywhere in all worlds of the ten directions.
THEIR VOICES UNIVERSALLY REACHED THROUGHOUT THE DHARMA REALMS OF THE TEN DIRECTIONS. THEIR MIND'S WISDOM WAS UNOBSTRUCTED. THEY UNIVERSALLY SAW ALL THE MERIT AND VIRTUE OF ALL BODHISATTVAS OF THE THREE PERIODS OF TIME. THEY HAD ALREADY CULTIVATED AND OBTAINED PERFECTION. IN INEFFABLY MANY KALPAS THEY COULD NOT COMPLETELY BE DESCRIBED. THEIR NAMES WERE: STORE OF VAJRA BODHISATTVA, STORE OF JEWELS BODHISATTVA, STORE OF LOTUSES BODHISATTVA, STORE OF VIRTUES BODHISATTVA, STORE OF LOTUS VIRTUES BODHISATTVA, STORE OF SUNS BODHISATTVA, STORE OF SURYA BODHISATTVA, STORE OF UNDEFILED MOONS BODHISATTVA,