The Shurangama Sutra

(Continued from issue #265)

The Buddha 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, it is the one door through which the Tathagatas of the ten directions gained transcendence." Not only Ananda but everyone in the great assembly as well: the great bhikshus, great Bodhisattvas, the king, elders, and laypeople were instructed by the Buddha in the "ultimately durable" king of samadhis, which includes all the samadhis of all the myriad methods of cultivation. All Buddhas of all places have reached Buddhahood along this wonderful, splendid path and through this one door.

You should now listen attentively. "Listen carefully. Pay attention," the Buddha told Ananda. "Don't be nonchalant when you listen to me speak Sutras. Direct all of your essential energy to your ears. Don't strike up false thoughts. Don't be physically present here in the Sutra lecture but mentally gallivanting to see what is happening outside in the streets."

Ananda bowed down to receive the compassionate instruction humbly. When Ananda heard the Buddha say that, he stood up, bowed, and humbly awaited the holy teaching. He remained kneeling ready to listen to what the Buddha was about to say about the Shurangama, the King of Samadhis.

Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from the 'Driving Force of Subjective Wisdom' seminar fromspring,1988

Venerable Ananda was held spellbound by the Yellow Hair heretic's Former Brahma Heaven mantra. On one hand, this mantra had a demonic power that could mesmerize Ananda's proper mindfulness and turn it upside-down. On the other hand, it was because Ananda did not cultivate well. He only craved for erudition and forgot about samadhi power. Being without samadhi power, he could not withstand the demonic curse of the Former Brahma Heaven mantra. Because his skill was insufficient, he got confused by this deviant mantra. On his return, Venerable Ananda felt great shame and remorse so he beseeched the Buddha on how to cultivate samadhi power. The Buddha then transmitted and spoke the Shurangama king of samadhis power to Ananda.

Shurangama is 'ultimately durable'. Being ultimately durable, one will not be swayed by external influences. This kind of samadhi is utmost durable. However, one must first possess a durable mind to cultivate this durable samadhi. If you don't have a durable mind, you will not obtain the durable samadhi. Likewise, if your mind is not durable, your samadhi is also not durable. How can we gain a durable mind? First, you must "refrain from all evils and do the myriad wholesome deeds". When you refrain from all evils, this is goodness. When you do the myriad wholesome deeds, you are without evil. When we people do things, it is feared that it is a mixture of good and evil. That is to say, within the good lies a bit of bad cause; and within the evil lies a bit of good cause. The good and the evil is mixed and cannot be clearly separated. Hence, there is no durable mind and no durable samadhi.

The Buddha now instructed Ananda to cultivate the durable samadhi power based on "The Four Clear and Unalterable Instructions on Purity". If you do not follow "The Four Clear and Unalterable Instructions on Purity" to cultivate, then you will not gain the ultimate durable samadhi power. The Buddha first rubbed Ananda's crown. With a compassionate heart, he comforted Ananda not to be anxious, overexcited, or have regrets, it's still not too late to cultivate now. For these reasons, He rubbed Ananda's crown and told him about this samadhi power. After Ananda heard the instructions, he bowed and earnestly received the Buddha's teachings.

You must 'practice in accordance to the teaching', then you will be able to obtain the intertwined power of response and the Way. Whether we are lecturing on the sutras, reading the sutras, or investigating the sutras, we must actually apply it in practice. Even if you speak to the point that 'heavenly flowers rained down and golden lotus welled up from the ground', it does not count if you don't apply the principles in practice. If a lotus flower emerges from your mouth but all you do is empty talk, it is still difficult to reach the Buddhaland. You must honestly apply the teachings in down-to-earth practice. Every day, get rid of your habitual faults. You must purify and expunge all the dark elements. In this way, no matter what sutra you investigate, you will have a quick understanding of its principles and meanings.

-End of the 'Driving Force of Subjective Wisdom' seminar

The Buddha said to Ananda, "You and I share the same breath of a natural (familial) relationship. At the time of your initial resolve, what outstanding characteristics did you see in my Dharma that made you abruptly cast aside the deep affection and love found in the secular world?"

Ananda waited humbly to receive the Buddha's sagely instruction. The Buddha first asked him the reason he left the home-life.

The Buddha said to Ananda, "You and I share the same breath of a natural (familial) relationship." Ananda and the Buddha were paternal first cousins. They were blood relatives. The Buddha was saying, "You and I are like brothers."
What is a "natural () relationship ()"? It refers to a natural order of the relationship. Chinese people speak of bliss that comes from a natural relationship. This is in accordance to worldly ways. The Chinese character means heaven. Heaven is spontaneous by nature. Following the course of nature, it spontaneously gives rise to relationships. The Chinese character can also refer to a wheel, analogous to the revolving wheel of transmigration. After being a son or daughter, you become a father or mother, and then you become a grandfather or grand mother. It continues on a cycle of successive repayment. Hence, Chinese emphasizes on filial piety. Now, if you are filial to your parents, in the future, your children will be filial to you. If you are not filial to your parents, your children won't be filial to you.

In China, filial piety in particular is greatly valued. There is a saying:

Of all the good deeds ,
filial piety is foremost.
Of all the myriad evils,
licentiousness is the worst.

Being filial to one's parents is the root of goodness and the most basic principle.

In China, there is an anecdote "Tang Xiang Cried for Melons."Tang Xiang's father and mother were sick and longing for some sweet melon, the variety grown in Northern China. However, it was winter and heavy snow covered the ground. How could there be any melons? Nevertheless, Tang Xiang planted a melon seed in the frozen earth, laid down on top of it to warm the ground, and cried out, "Please grow into a melon so I can harvest the fruit for my parents to eat!"He cried and cried until suddenly something very strange happened. It is not certain whether it was a response from a Bodhisattva, from a Buddha, or from a ghost or spirit, but the melon seed sprouted flowers and bore fruit. Tang Xiang harvested the melon and offered it to his parents. This demonstrates a miraculous response from his sincere filial piety.

In China's "Twenty-four Paragons of Filial Piety", there was an anecdote "Meng Zong Cried for Bamboo Shoots". Meng Zong's parents wanted to eat bamboo shoots. Unable to find any, he began to weep. He wept until he suddenly saw tender bamboo shoots sprouting out from where his tears had fallen. Such strange events are incomprehensible. Do not try to use your rational mind to figure them out.

Here is another anecdote "To Catch a Carp, Wang Xiang laid down on ice."In the dead of winter, Wang Xiang's parents fell ill and wanted to eat some carp. Wang Xiang did not have any money to buy carp, and all the waters were frozen. What did he do? He took off clothes and laid down on top of the ice-covered water. In Northern China, the ice gets very thick in the winter. Why did he do that? He was hoping to catch a carp. Eventually, his body warmth melted the ice and created a hole. Suddenly, a carp jumped out of the hole by itself. Wang Xiang hurried home with it and told his parents what had happened. "We won't eat this carp," his parents decided, "because it is probably the son or grandson of the Dragon King who sent it to us." Therefore, they did not eat the carp, and Wang Xiang's parents recovered from their illness. This is to say filial piety evokes responses. True filial conduct can move the heavens.

The great Emperor Shun of China was so filial that elephants were moved to plow for him and birds cleared the weeds. Sons and daughters should pay particular attention to the practice of filial piety. Filial piety is most emphasized in a familial relationship.

(To be continued ..)