THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
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The Wondrous Adornments of the Rulers of the Worlds

Chapter One, Part Two
A Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua_

Translated in the Tang Dynasty by the Tripitaka Master Srãmana Siksananda of Khotan

VII. Acclamation of virtues
A. General description of their awesome deportment

Sutra:

At that time, the oceanic multitudes at the Bodhimanda of the Thus Come One had all gathered like clouds.

Commentary:

At that time, when all the gods from the Heavens of the Thirty-three; the heavens of the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Dhyanas; and so forth had been discussed, the oceanic multitudes at the bodhimanda of the Thus Come One… “Thus Come One” is one of the Buddha’s ten titles. Bodhimanda refers to the site beneath the bodhi tree where the Buddha first realized the Way, spoke the Dharma, and taught and transformed sentient beings. It is a place for the cultivation of the Way. The “oceanic multitudes” refers to all the gods, dragons, ghosts, and spirits of the eightfold division, as well as Bodhisattvas and worthy sages. The congregation of those great multitudes is likened to an ocean. They had all completely gathered like clouds. They came together, just like clouds gathering.

Sutra:

Beings of boundless types and species surrounded and filled the bodhimanda, each unique in form and retinue. From every direction, they followed and drew near the World Honored One to admire him with one heart.

Commentary:

Beings of boundless types and species surrounded and filled the bodhimanda. In the oceanic multitudes that gathered like clouds, there was an infinite array of types and categories of beings. From the Buddhas down to sentient beings, their kinds were boundless. This includes all sentient beings of the ten dharma realms. The area surrounding the Buddha’s Way-place was packed with layers upon layers of many species of beings who came from everywhere throughout space and the Dharma Realm. There was not a single speck of dust that was not filled with these cloud-like multitudes.

Each was unique in form and retinue. Each group had its individual physical characteristics, and each had its own set of retinues and companions. Every leading Bodhisattva had with him a boundless retinue, as did every asura leader, garuda leader, kinnara leader, and mahoraga leader. These divisions each had their own appearance and their own following. Although there were so many groups, they were all distinct and different from one another. The retinue of each specific division followed its own division in a very orderly fashion. Although there were so many different divisions, they did not intermingle or break formation.

From every direction, wherever they happened to come from, they followed and drew near the World Honored One to listen to the Buddha speak Dharma and to admire him with one heart. They were single-minded, not of two minds. They looked up longingly at the golden visage of the ten-thousand-foot Nisyanda Buddha.

B. General revelation of virtuous deeds and causal conditions

Sutra:

Already, this congregation had abandoned the various afflictions, mental impurities, and their residual habits. Having smashed a mountain of heavy obstacles, they saw the Buddha freely.

Commentary:

Already, this congregation refers to all those various categories of beings and their retinues, with their different forms and shapes, who were in the Dharma assembly. They had abandoned the various afflictions. They had cast out afflictions and had been far removed from them for a long time. What are afflictions? They are the attachments to self and to dharmas. From attachment to self, there arise the afflictions of greed, anger, and delusion; the afflictions of ignorance; and afflictions like dust and sand. In general, there are many, many afflictions. From attachment to dharmas comes the affliction of being obstructed by what one knows. Whatever dharma you know becomes an obstruction for you. The dharma itself does not obstruct you; your attachment to that dharma does. You say, “Ah, I know this dharma, and I know that dharma…” Basically, you should have known those dharmas all along. It shouldn’t be that you don’t know them. But you didn’t know them, and now you do. This is like having a pearl hidden in the seams of your clothing. Previously when you didn’t know of the pearl, it was there, nonetheless. Now that you know of the pearl, it is still there. All along you should have known that the bright pearl lay hidden inside your clothing, but you didn’t. Now that you have discovered this bright pearl which was yours to begin with, what is there to become arrogant or conceited about? Don’t be arrogant. If you are, you are obstructed by what you know.

Mental impurities refers to defiled dharmas within the mind—impure thoughts. If you entertain defiled thoughts, you have filth in your mind. Now, these beings have left behind that filth and their residual habits. Residual habits are habits developed over many lifetimes, especially impure habits. They can be likened to the soot that gathers inside a chimney. Basically, the smoke goes out the chimney, but black soot gathers inside the chimney. You aren’t aware of how much soot gathers, but as time goes on, a lot of it piles up. That’s like our residual habits. The chimney was clean to begin with. But as smoked passed through it, deposits of black soot were left behind.

Where do residual habits come from? They come from greed, anger, and delusion; they come from afflictions. If you are greedy, you have the residual habit of greed. If you like to get angry, you have the residual habit of anger. If you are deluded, you have the residual habit of delusion. Impure thoughts concerning defiled dharmas are all residual habits.

Having smashed a mountain of heavy obstacles, they saw the Buddha freely. The heavy obstacles refer to ignorance. Our ignorance is a heavy obstruction, like a mountain. Since these beings had separated from afflictions and defilements of the mind, had put an end to their residual habits, and had destroyed the mountain of heavy obstacles, they had an unimpeded view of the Buddha. Since they had no obstructions, they could see the Buddha. And, having seen the Buddha, there was even less of a possibility for them to become obstructed.

Sutra:

These beings were those whom the Thus Come One Vairochana, as he cultivated the Bodhisattva conduct throughout oceans of eons, had gathered in using the Four Methods of Gathering Beings In. Various expedient means had been used to skillfully gather in, teach, and maturate these beings as they planted good roots in the presence of each Buddha, so that they became securely established on the Path to All-Wisdom.

Commentary:

These beings where those whom the Thus Come One Vairochana, the pure Dharma body Buddha, as he cultivated the Bodhisattva conduct throughout oceans of eons, infinite, inexpressibly many great eons in the past, had gathered in. This refers to those in the ocean-wide assembly of beings who had come together like clouds. Vairochana Buddha had practiced the Bodhisattva Path and had gathered in the beings of this Dharma assembly using the Four Methods of Gathering Beings In, which are giving, kind words, beneficial conduct, and similar work.

Various expedient means had been used to skillfully gather in, teach, and maturate these beings as they planted good roots in the presence of each Buddha. Vairochana Buddha used different expedients to teach and transform these beings and bring them to maturity, so that they became securely established on the Path to All-Wisdom. They attained the Wisdom of the Modes of the Way.

Sutra:

They had cultivated limitless goodness and reaped multitudes of copious blessings. They had all entered a sea of expedients and vows.

Commentary:

The multitudes of gods, dragons, ghosts, and spirits mentioned above had, throughout infinite oceans of eons in the past, drawn near to the Buddha Vairochana. Within that Buddha’s Dharma assembly, they had planted many good roots and had become securely established on the Path to All-Wisdom. The path of wisdom consists of planting all the causes of Buddhas, and reaping all the fruits of Buddhahood. They had cultivated limitless goodness by cultivating blessings and wisdom throughout limitless eons. And now they reaped multitudes of copious—infinite and boundless—blessings. They had all entered a sea of expedients and vows. In cultivation one must make vows. There are three requisites. First, you must have faith, and firmly believe that in the future you will become a Buddha. Second, you must have vows. You should vow that in the future you will most certainly become a Buddha and that, after realizing Buddhahood, you will extensively save beings. Third, you must have practice. To have faith and vows alone is not enough; you must actually do the work of cultivation. “Expedients” are provisional dharmas, of which there are many kinds, not just one. With expedients, one guides beings. Here, they had expedients and vows that were vast like a sea.

Sutra:

Their practices were pure and complete. They skillfully gained transcendence by means of the path of escape. Always, they beheld the Buddhas with distinct clarity. With the power of supreme understanding, they thus entered the great ocean of meritorious virtues of the Thus Come Ones. They gained the passages into liberation of all Buddhas, and roamed playfully, using their spiritual powers.

Commentary:

Having entered a sea of boundless expedients and vows, they actually cultivated various practices, and their practices were pure and clean and entirely complete. They skillfully gained transcendence by means of the path of escape. What were they transcending? The Three Realms.

The Three Realms are without peace, like a burning house.

They escaped from the burning house of the Three Realms. Basically, it’s not easy to transcend the Three Realms, but since these beings were able to escape, they are said to have “skillfully transcended.” Since they did something that was difficult to do, they were “skillful.”

Always, they beheld the Buddhas. These multitudes of sages were able to see the Buddhas all the time, because they had skillfully gained transcendence. There is nowhere the Buddha isn’t found. That being the case, why is it that some people can see the Buddha, while others cannot? Those with pure thoughts can see the Buddha. Those whose thoughts aren’t pure aren’t able to see the Buddha. These beings saw with distinct clarity. Some people can see the Buddhas, but not clearly; other people may see the Buddha very clearly, but not all the time. These beings, however, can always see the Buddha, and very clearly.

With the power of supreme understanding, that is, with great wisdom, they thus entered the great ocean of meritorious virtues of the Thus Come Ones. Although it was difficult to enter the Thus Come Ones’ great ocean of meritorious virtues, they had done so, and so their merit and virtue was equal to that of the Buddhas. Having entered the Thus Come Ones’ great ocean of meritorious virtues, they obtained, they gained the passages into liberation of all Buddhas. That is, they were unobstructed. They had attained true freedom and liberation, and were without worry and constraints. True liberation is free from afflictions.

And they roamed playfully, using their spiritual powers. Playful roaming means manifesting the false within the true, and the true within the false. True and false are nondual and fundamentally empty. With spiritual powers one can bring about unfathomable changes and transformations–suddenly appearing or disappearing; suddenly becoming big or small; suddenly ascending or descending. The multitudes of sages all attained the ability to freely use their spiritual powers

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