(Continued from issue 269)
"Why make divisions of North and South?" How much the less are there distinctions like location. What is south? You may call a certain location south, but if you go south of it, it becomes north. In the
Shurangama Sutra there is a discussion of the middle, "When looked at from the east, it is west, and when seen from the south it is north." South and North are also like that. You say this is north, but if you go north of it, it becomes south. There actually is no north or south, so "Why make divisions of North and South?" Why make so many distinctions in your mind?
The next line says, "Sages and commoners differ temporarily." Sages refers to the Buddhas; commoners refers to living beings. For the time being, the world is divided into these two types, "but the basic nature is the same." Their basic nature is the Buddha-nature. The Buddhas have realized their Buddha-nature, and living beings can also realize their Buddha-nature.
"Do not discuss east and west." Do not say that in the west, Amitabha is a Buddha, and in the east all creatures are just living beings. Do not make such distinctions in your heart. Great Master Yung Jya's
Song of Certification to the Way says, "There are no people and no Buddhas. The realms like grains of sand in a thousand worlds are like a bubble on the ocean." If you understand the Dharma, there is nothing to which you can become attached. If you still have an attachment, you still have not understood the Buddhadharma. Therefore, "Do not discuss east and west." Why devise so many questions? Where did all the questions come from anyway? This is like Yajnadatta, who thought he had lost his head and ran around madly looking for it. Actually his head was not lost. He himself had jumped to that conclusion.
When we search for the Buddhadharma, where do we look? Turn yourself around; that is the Buddhadharma. To turn yourself around means to wake up. If you wake up, that is the Buddhadharma. If you have not awakened, you are still within the Buddhadharma, but you do not understand that you are. You cannot say that not being awake is not the Buddhadharma. Whether or not you are awake, it is the Buddhadharma.
Just now we discussed the equality of living beings and Buddhas. Where do living beings come from? Living beings are Buddhas who have manifested as living beings. How do they become Buddhas again? They need only return to the origin and realize Buddhahood. This is called the non-duality of Sages and commoners. The first one, equality of living beings and Buddhas, means discriminating.
2. The equality of emptiness and existence. The
Sixth Patriarch Sutra says, "When asked about emptiness, answer with existence." What is emptiness? Emptiness is existence. What is existence? Existence is emptiness. "How can you say emptiness is existence and existence is emptiness? That is too confused," you may say. Are you confused, or am I confused, or is he confused? Confused, you think emptiness is emptiness and existence is existence. When the confusion is cleared, you know that emptiness and existence are equal. Originally, emptiness is existence, and existence is emptiness. You should understand that emptiness and existence are nondual and equal. Do not attach to either nihilism or eternalism. Attachment to nihilism is attachment to emptiness. Attachment to eternalism is attachment to existence. The equality and non-duality of emptiness and existence is called the Middle Way. True emptiness does not obstruct wonderful existence and wonderful existence does not obstruct true emptiness. True emptiness is wonderful existence; wonderful existence is true emptiness. When there is existence, emptiness manifests; when there is emptiness, existence is apparent. Without emptiness, there is no existence. Without existence, how can there be emptiness? They are not two. The non-duality of emptiness and existence is the equality of emptiness and existence.
3. The equality of all dharmas. The Vajra Sutra says, "this Dharma is level and equal without high or low, therefore it is called Anuttarasamyaksambodi." All dharmas are equal, and so the Tathagata neither comes nor goes. There is no place he comes from, and no place he goes. All dharmas are originally equal.
4. The equality of one and many. One is just many, and many are just one. One dustmote is just the three-thousand great-thousand world system, and the three-thousand great-thousand world system is just one dustmote. There is no real distinction. Only foolish living beings discriminate, "This is many. That is few." What is many and what is few? Many comes from the few, and the few comes from many. That's known as the equality of one and many. Therefore, a dustmote is a world, and the world is just a dustmote.
5. The equality of all views. What is the view of self, the view of others, the view of living beings, and the view of a life? There is none. That is the equality of all views. Medicine is prescribed according to the sickness, but once cured, you no longer take the medicine. You take the medicine because you are sick. After you are well, why would you keep taking the medicine? The medicine is for curing the illness. If you remain on medication after the illness has been cured, further illness will result.
Those five aspects express the essence of the entire
Vajra Sutra, but to understand the Vajra Sutra, you must also have faith. You must have faith in prajna, the principle of emptiness. If you do not believe the principle of emptiness then no matter how often it is explained, it will do you no good. The Buddhadharma is like a great sea. Only by faith can one enter. If you have faith, you can enter the sea of the Buddhadharma.
Chapter 32. The Response And Transformation Bodies Are Unreal
"Subhuti, someone might fill measureless asamkhyeyas of world systems with the seven precious gems and give them as a gift. But if a good man, or good woman, who has resolved his heart on Bodhi were to take from this Sutra even as few as four lines of verse and receive, hold, read, recite, and extensively explain them for others, his blessings would surpass the other's."
Shakyamuni Buddha again calls out to Subhuti, saying,
"Someone might fill measureless asamkhyeyas of worldsystems with the seven precious gems - gold, silver, lapis lazuli, crystal, mother-of-pearl, red pearls, and carnelian — and give them as a gift." Not just one kind, but all seven kinds of precious gems are given. Keeping that in mind, all of you laypeople should now ask yourselves, "Can I give away all my wealth? Can I bear to part with it all?" If you cannot, your merit and virtue are not as great as that of the person mentioned here. However if you cannot give up your wealth, it does not matter. Keep it and come to study the Buddhadharma. Then you can give away Dharma.
But if a good man, or good woman, who has resolved his heart on Bodhi - on Anuttarasamyaksambodhi - were to recite the
Vajra Sutra, or take from this Sutra even as few as four lines of verse and receive them with his mind,
hold them with his body, read them from a book,
recite them from memory, and extensively explain them for others, his blessings would surpass the other's. Not to mention the whole Sutra, if you can explain even just four lines of verse, your blessings and virtues would be greater than those of someone who gives away gems which would fill limitless, numberless worlds. Isn't that easy? That is why I say you can obtain great merit and virtue without necessarily giving up your wealth.
How should it be explained to others? With no grasping at marks: Thus, thus, unmoving. And why?
All conditioned dharmas
Are like dreams, illusions, bubbles, shadows,
like dew drops and a lightning flash;
Contemplate them thus.
How should it be explained to others? Explaining it to others refers to Literary Prajna.
With no grasping at marks. When you explain a Sutra for others, you should not become attached to marks. You should not think, "I am gaining a lot of merit and virtue by explaining this four-line gatha for them." Although you are correct that your merit and virtue are great, you should not harbor a mark of their size. If you do, you grasp at marks and become attached to them. If you are able to refrain from grasping at marks, then the existent is as if non-existent, and the actual is as if empty. Basically someone with way virtue is as if devoid of way virtue. A man who is truly educated is as if devoid of education. That means that at all times in all places you should be free of the mark of a self. Not grasping at marks refers to Contemplative Prajna.
Thus, thus, unmoving refers to Real Mark Prajna. Prajna was discussed at the beginning of the Sutra, and at the end the text again makes reference to Prajna. Of the three types of Prajna, "Thus, thus, unmoving" is real mark prajna. It is true, actual wisdom. By means of the principle of suchness one can understand the wisdom of suchness, and with the wisdom of suchness, one can understand the principle of suchness. There is no dharma which is not thus; that is Real Mark Prajna.
And why? Why does one need Literary, Contemplative, and Real Mark Prajna? I'll tell you now. Shakyamuni Buddha spoke four lines of verse which those who study the
Vajra Sutra should regularly recite:
All conditioned dharmas
Are like dreams, illusions, bubbles, shadows,
Like dew drops and a lightning flash:
Contemplate them thus.
All conditioned dharmas. What are conditioned dharmas? Everything is a conditioned dharma. What can you say is not a conditioned dharma? Eating, wearing clothes, walking, standing, sitting, lying down, running a business--all activities are conditioned dharmas. Those are examples of external conditioned dharmas. There are also the Five Skandhas of form feeling, thought, activity, and consciousness which are conditioned dharmas. The four elements of earth, water, fire, and wind are conditioned dharmas. The six roots, the six dusts, the twelve places, and the eighteen realms are all conditioned dharmas. All these conditioned dharmas includes all dharmas in general. What are all conditioned dharmas like? To put it very clearly, they are
like dreams, illusions, bubbles, shadows. They are like these four things, and also
like dew drops and a lightning flash. They are compared to six things.
Contemplate them thus. You should make these six contemplations in regarding each and every conditioned dharma. Now you all ask me, "What is a dream?"
I don't understand dreams very well myself. How about if the people who have had dreams and those who haven't tell me what dreams are? I believe there isn't a single person who knows what dreams are. If we knew then we would not dream. Human life is a dream; it's not only when we have dreams. Yesterday evening, someone asked about his former lives, saying he could not remember them. When we have a dream and then awaken from it, we usually cannot remember the events of the dream. It is even more difficult to remember the events of our former lives. Why is that? We carry the events of our former lives into this present life's dream. Now that we have entered the dream of our present life, how can we remember the events and dreams that occurred in the last life? Let's continue our discussion of dreams.