The Shurangama Sutra

(Continued from issue #264)

This is a very, very important point I am making. Don't ignore it and think I am just joking. If you hadn't lost sight of these things, you would have realized Buddhahood long ago. Look into it, think it over. You feel you haven't forgotten anything? Well, I know that the things you have lost are priceless treasures no money could buy. You've lost them and you still think everything is just fine. "Whoa! Look at how good I am. My vision is better than anyone else's. I can see everything clearly even from a long distance!" you say, thinking that this is good. Unbeknownst to you, the more clearly you see, the more essential energy you lost. At this point you say, "Dharma Master, one lecture from you is more than enough. Everything you've said doesn't have enough principle to it." Since you haven't fully understood what I said, of course you are going to think it lacks principle. Wait until you understand and then you will know that what I say is genuine principle. Therefore, Great Arhats slay the six thieves of affliction: eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind.

3. Not born.
Not born, Arhats are also not extinguished; they are not subject to production and extinction. They have attained the patience of the non-production of dharmas. They do not have to undergo birth and death again. That is, they have "done what had to be done and do not undergo any further existence." They will not fall into the three realms.

In the Sutra in Forty-two Sections the Buddha said,

Be careful not to believe your own mind: your mind cannot be trusted. Once you have attained Arhatship, then you can believe your own mind.

Why can't you believe your own mind? Because your mind is susceptive to delusions. If you believe in delusions, you will do delusory things; if you do delusory things, you must continue to experience delusory birth-and-death. If you don't believe in delusions, if you don't trust your own delusory mind, then you can avoid the delusory cycle of birth-and-death. When can you believe your own mind? When you have attained the fourth stage of Arhatship, you can believe your own mind. Before then, you should not listen only to yourself and not to the advice of Good and Wise Advisors. You ought to listen to the teachings and instructions of Good and Wise Ones.

Pratyekas, Pratyekabuddhas íV those Enlightened to Conditions and Solitarily Enlightened Ones íV and others were also present. All wished to gladly listen, withdrew silently to their seats to receive the sagely instructions. There were many, many more beings as well, not just one or two, who all wanted to hear the sound of the Dharma the Buddha was speaking, the wonderful sagely instructions, the doctrines of the Holy Ones. They really liked to listen, and they sat silently to one side to hear the Buddha speak.

In the midst of the great assembly, the World Honored One then extended his golden arm, rubbed Ananda's crown, and said to Ananda and the great assembly, "There is a samadhi called the King of the Foremost Shurangama at the Great Buddha's Summit Replete with the Myriad Practices; it is a path wonderfully adorned and the single door through which the Tathagatas of the ten directions gained transcendence. You should now listen attentively." Ananda bowed down to receive the compassionate instruction humbly.

Originally this section appeared later in the text, but the Elder Dharma Master Yuan Ying saw that it did not fit well there and so he moved it to this place. I have also looked into this many times and I agree that this section of text should appear here. It does not seem appropriate in the other place; it does not tie with what precedes and follows it there. Here it fits in sequence.

'Then' refers to the time when the great Arhats and the Great Bodhisattvas, as many as the sands in the Ganges River, had all assembled from the ten directions, wishing to receive the sagely instruction, and when Ananda had implored the Buddha to explain the initial expedients of cultivation by which the Tathagatas of the ten directions had attained wonderful shamatha, wonderful samapatti, and wonderful dhyana. It was then that the World Honored One extended his golden arm and rubbed Ananda's crown. The Buddha's arm was naturally golden; it isn't that he had gilded it. In Buddhism, rubbing the crown of the head represents compassionate loving protection for living beings.

The Buddha, too, speaks of loving protection and love, but this is not the ordinary love; rather it is a compassionate, universally pervasive love, which protects all beings and causes all their demon-obstacles to disappear. It is not the selfish and emotional love ordinary people speak of. Take careful note of this point. You shouldn't say: "The Buddha also speaks of love!" The Buddha's love is not our selfish love; it's not our emotional love. Rather, it's universal love that treats all living beings equally as if they are his own sons and daughters.

Of all the types of love in the world, the strongest is parents' love for their children. No matter how badly a child may act toward his parents, they'll still forgive him. "He's just a child," they'll say. "He doesn't understand things." Even when a small child strikes his father or scolds his mother, the parents simply regard it with amusement, and don't feel that he has done anything wrong."Why are parents like that?" you ask. Because they love their children so much. The love of parents for their children is deeper and fiercer than the love between husband and wife!

I admire Americans in this respect: When children reached eighteen years old they are allowed to stand on their own. Sometimes parents don't pay any attention to them after that age. That is fine; it is very good to raise sons and daughters not to be dependent on their parents. It's like Wen Tien Bai who travelled to Taiwan at the age of fifteen in search of his own world. This is an example of an independent spirit. The only problem is that young children do not have sufficient experience at that age to exercise mature judgment and so they can easily get off to a wrong start. They may have friends who do not help them make good decisions and can easily pull them into hot water, and once they have landed in the water it is not easy for them to get out by themselves. Fortunately, this Tien Wen Bai has good roots, and now he is studying Buddhism.

I originally agreed to the common practice in American families of letting children who have reached the age of eighteen to stand on their own. Nonetheless, their insufficient experience sometimes gets them easily caught by the winds of current societal trends. Nowadays, many young people in America do not have a concept of what a country is or what a family is. Some are so lost to the point that they don't even know who they are all about. From morning to night, they take LSD, marijuana and other drugs until they lose all clarity and are totally confused, living their life one day at a time. If you ask them what they think of their country they say, "What do I care?" If you inquire about their family they say, "I don't have any." They may seem like they have left home, yet of course they have not, even though they claim to have no home. They are like 'hanging up in the sky' unable to go up or come down. I see that as pathetic.

The Buddha's loving protection for all living beings is like that of parents for their children but much stronger. Rubbing the crown is an expression of that loving protection. Just like giving you an injection of blood-cleansing medication, when the Buddha rubs your crown, his hand emits light which dispels all the darkness within you. In this way, he relieves you of all evil and increases your good roots.

"Ah! I've missed the opportunity!" you lament. "If only I had been born when the Buddha was in the world, I could have asked the Buddha to rub my crown so my evil would be eradicated and my good roots increased."Who told you not to be born at the time when the Buddha was in the world? Who told you to be born now? You can't blame anyone. Moreover, regret is of no use. Do not regret. Do not blame other people. Do not blame heaven. Do not blame the Buddha. We have been born in this period, so now we should study the Buddhadharma. If we are sincere enough the Buddha will be moved and will come and rub our crowns and shower us his loving protection nonetheless. Although the Buddha has entered Nirvana, he is omnipresent, his pure Dharma body pervades all places.

Do not think that the Buddha has left us. The Buddha is always with us; it's just that we cannot see him. All our daily activities ~ walking, standing, sitting, lying down, eating, getting dressed ~ take place within the Buddha's Dharma-body! So we are always with the Buddha. It is just that the eyes of ordinary people haven't the spiritual penetration to see the Buddha and that's out of our control!

(To be continued ..)