the Dharma-ending Age after my Nirvana, all of you should pass on the
Tathagata’s teachings so that all living beings can awaken to their
meaning. Do not let the demons of the heavens have their way. Offer
protection so that all can realize the unsurpassed Way.
In the Dharma-ending Age after my Nirvana, all of
you should pass on the Tathagata’s teachings. “All of you” refers to
Ananda and all the great Bodhisattvas, great Arhats, and great Bhikshus
in the assembly, as well as to the great Elders. Here the Buddha is
exhorting them, “You must continue the transmission of the Tathagata’s
teachings down to the Dharma-ending Age, so that all living beings can
awaken to their meaning, and so they can understand the principles of
the Shurangama Sutra. Tell them about the fifty kinds of skandha
demons, about the demons of the form, feeling, and thinking skandhas
which I have explained for you. Be sure to propagate this teaching so
everyone can hear it. Do not let the demons of the heavens have their
way. If you let the demons do as they please, then you are in for
trouble. Offer protection—maintain and support the Buddhadharma—so that
all can realize the fruition of the unsurpassed Way.
when the good person who is cultivating samadhi has put an end to the
thinking skandha, he is ordinarily free of dreaming and idle thinking,
so he stays the same whether in wakefulness or in sleep. His mind is
aware, clear, empty, and still, like a cloudless sky, devoid of any
coarse sense-impressions. He contemplates everything in the world—the
mountains, the rivers, and the earth—as reflections in a mirror,
appearing without attachment and vanishing without any trace; they are
simply received and reflected. He does away with all his old habits,
and only the essential truth remains.
Ananda, when the good person... Which good person
is being referred to here? The good person is the one who is developing
the skill of directing the hearing inward to hear the inherent nature.
He is cultivating the Great Shurangama Samadhi. And who exactly is that
person? He is simply whoever cultivates. “The good person” does not
refer to any particular individual; it’s not an exclusive title. If you
cultivate, then it refers to you. If I cultivate, it refers to me. If
he or she cultivates, it refers to him or her. Everyone has a share in
it. That is, you have a share if you cultivate, but not if you don’t.
It’s completely fair.
That good person is the one who is cultivating
samadhi. Cultivation refers to diligently sitting in meditation, not to
eating all day long. You should sit in meditation, listen to the
Sutras, and study the Buddhadharma. What should you cultivate? Samadhi
power. How do you cultivate samadhi power? Sit in meditation. Samadhi
arises from precepts, so the first step is to hold the precepts. Once
you take the precepts, you must hold the precepts and never indulge in
sexual misconduct. Men and women should observe propriety, as Lord Guan
Yu [a famous general in the Three Kingdoms Period of China] did. He was
faithful to his wife all his life. He never drew near another woman. Do
you see his ruddy face? It testifies to his magnanimous, proper energy.
Now that you have taken the precepts, I want to tell you that you must
remain faithful to your spouse. You may not get involved in
extramarital affairs and go looking for partners everywhere. Don’t
break the rules. You should accord with propriety and be open and
upright in your conduct; only then will you attain samadhi. After
taking the precepts, you will develop samadhi. From samadhi, wisdom
How do people get possessed by demons? If you have
a little samadhi and your wisdom is insufficient, you may encounter
demonic obstacles. If your skill in samadhi is deep enough, you will be
able to conquer the demons.
He has put an end to the thinking skandha. Among
the five skandhas of form, feeling, thinking, formations, and
consciousness, the thinking skandha is destroyed. In his mind’s
interaction with the thinking skandha, he has conquered it. Having
broken through the thinking skandha, he is ordinarily free of dreaming
and idle thinking.
The state he has reached is not a state of not
eating or not sleeping. In this state, one still sleeps and eats, but
no longer dreams. Confucius once said, “Alas, I’m getting decrepit.
It’s been so long since I saw the Duke of Zhou in a dream!” This was
the Duke who protected King Wu in the Zhou Dynasty. Why didn’t
Confucius have any dreams? Probably it was because by that time in his
life, Confucius had partially broken through the thinking skandha.
However, since he was not aware of it, he wondered, “Hey! How come I
don’t dream anymore? Oh, I must be getting old.” Confucius had some
skill in cultivation, and it’s likely that he had destroyed the
thinking skandha without knowing it. He didn’t understand, so he
decided that he no longer had dreams because he was old. Once the
thinking skandha is destroyed, dreams are gone.
So he stays the same whether in wakefulness or in
sleep. If you have read classical Chinese literature, you may know a
story called The Warlord Defeats Duan at Yan which relates how a
warlord named Zheng married a girl named Jiang. She gave birth to Lord
Zhuang and Gong Shuduan. Lord Zhuang was called “Born Upon Waking”
because his mother was asleep when she started to give birth to him,
and when she woke up, he was born.
To that cultivator, the state of wakefulness is
the same as the state of sleep. In other words, when he’s asleep, it’s
as if he were awake. He can be like that because he is not upside-down
and thus has no dream-thinking. When you have broken through the
thinking skandha, you can leave upside-down dream-thinking far behind
and ultimately attain the state of Nirvana. If you haven’t broken
through the thinking skandha, this upside-downness, or confusion, will
not go away. You should pay attention to this point.
In our study of the Buddhadharma, the five
skandhas discussed in the Shurangama Sutra are extremely important.
Furthermore, you should know how to untie the six knots. If you do not
understand these knots, then you will never be able to untie them and
become free. If you can untie them, you will obtain freedom.
To be continued