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The Wondrous Adornments of the Rulers of the Worlds

Chapter One, Part Four and Five



Medicine-ruling Spirit Pure Destroyer of Darkness gained a passage into liberation of curing all blind and dull beings and purifying their wisdom eye.


[To a disciple:] Do you know how to explain this passage? Come and explain! Start from the sixth section in the Prologue, where it says:

Section 6. Confused about principle and confused about retribution. With two kinds of ignorance, blind and dull beings become deluded, create karma, and undergo the myriad sufferings.

Continue explaining from there. I don’t have the text with me, but you do.

[Disciple explains.]

What is meant by the sentence, “It is not existent like empty space. It is not nonexistent like a hare with horns.” Is this referring to the absolute truth, the mundane truth, or the truth of the Middle Way?

Which finger represents the Middle Way? (Answer: The third.) Which one is the mundane truth? (Answer: The first.) Which one is the absolute truth? (Answer: The second.) How do you know? [Answer is inaudible.] Your wisdom is not bad.

In Roll Eight of the Parinirvana Sutra, the Bodhisattva Kashyapa addresses the Buddha, saying, “Why is it said that the Buddha nature is profound and difficult to perceive and enter?”

The Buddha answered, “Suppose there are a hundred blind men who go to a good doctor hoping to regain their sight. The doctor uses a miniature knife and cuts off the film over one man’s eyes. Then he puts up one finger and asks, ‘Do you see anything?’ The man says no.” The first finger represents the mundane truth, and so the man cannot see it. Even Bodhisattvas cannot see the Buddha nature. As for the second and third fingers, the man says he can see them slightly. The eye refers to the wisdom eye. Once your wisdom unfolds, you can understand true principle.

The Prologue text says, “Confused about principle and confused about retribution.” Such people understand neither true principle nor retribution, so they are comparable to blind men. Dull means not understanding anything. Confusion about principle: When one makes discriminations based on confusion about the principle, that is delusion of thoughts. Confusion about retribution could be considered delusion of views, so these are the two delusions of views and thoughts. They could also be called two kinds of ignorance. According to the commentary, the hundred blind men are Bodhisattvas of the Ten Grounds. At each Ground, the Ten Perfections are cultivated, so that makes a hundred blind men. The meaning is that even Bodhisattvas on the Ten Grounds do not see the Buddha nature or understand it. When the Buddha instructs them, they think it very peculiar. They say that all along in their cultivation, they have been confused by the concept of nonself, and thus have not understood the Buddha nature.

The hundred blind people represent people who do not understand and have not seen the Buddha nature, those who have not understood their own minds or seen their own natures. Even Bodhisattvas on the Ten Grounds have such a hard time perceiving the Buddha nature; how much harder it is for Hearers and Condition-Enlightened Ones to see it!

Another interpretation of the three fingers is that they represent the three great asamkhyeyas of eons. National Master Qingliang chooses the interpretation of the three fingers as representing the Three Truths, which is more reasonable.

Medicine-ruling Spirit Pure Destroyer of Darkness gained a passage into liberation of curing all blind and dull beings. “Curing all blind and dull beings” means destroying all their ignorance and purifying their wisdom eye. All sentient beings have the wisdom eye. Why did I tell you to explain this passage of the sutra? I wanted to see whether or not you have opened your wisdom eye. If you have opened your wisdom eye, you can see that the five skandhas are all empty and thoroughly understand the true appearance of all dharmas.

You can also deeply enter the sutra treasury and have wisdom like the sea. People who have wisdom like the sea can explain a text without having studied it before. They are able to lecture on all the sutras without having studied them. Their ability to lecture is different from that of people who have studied it from others. If you have the wisdom eye, then the words just flow forth from your own nature. The wisdom eye destroys ignorance. Ignorant people are as if blind and dull. Dull, obstinate beings don’t listen to others and don’t want anyone telling them what to do. They don’t follow rules.

Han Yu wrote an essay on “Sacrifice to an Alligator,” saying, “If you continue to be stubborn, I will lead an army of mounted soldiers here and have them shoot and kill you with poisoned arrows.” After that burst of temper, the alligator went away. Alligators are not dull and obtuse; they can understand. Here, “dull beings” refers to those who don‘t follow rules or listen to instructions. There is no way to teach them.

According to Confucian philosophy, such people cannot lead others; they don‘t have leadership ability. However, they won’t take orders either. They won‘t be bossed around by others. People who can’t lead others, and who won‘t be led by others, are useless, dead things.

If people are blind in the eyes, that’s not a big deal; it just means they cannot see things. If their hearts are blind, that’s serious, because then they don’t understand true principle. They are confused about principle. The text says, “purifying their wisdom eye.” When the wisdom eye is opened, you can understand any principle whatsoever. Some people are able to see ghosts and spirits, but they don’t see them with their physical eyes. Some people do have the ability to see these beings with their physical eyes; they have that kind of spiritual penetration as a reward for past cultivation.

Cultivators also have five other eyes, which are the Buddha eye, the Dharma eye, the wisdom eye, the heavenly eye, and the flesh eye. The flesh eye which is among the Five Eyes is not the same as the two physical eyes that we ordinary people have. There is another eye called the flesh eye, which can see things with shape and form and material substance. This flesh eye is different from the two physical eyes. There is only one flesh eye, one heavenly eye, one Dharma eye, one wisdom eye, and one Buddha eye. They come singly, not in pairs. Those who have attained the Five Eyes will understand this kind of state.

Those who haven’t attained them only know what the sutras say, but can‘t make heads or tails of it. As it’s said, “The twelve-foot Vajra spirit can’t touch his own head.” Where exactly is your flesh eye? Your heavenly eye? Your wisdom eye? Your Dharma eye, and your Buddha eye? They are not apart from your mind. They are inherent in your own mind. However, because you are enveloped in ignorance, it’s as if you’ve lost the Five Eyes, although you haven’t really. Although you haven’t lost them, you still don’t know how to use them. And since you can’t use them, it’s just as if you’d lost them.

Suppose you cultivate the Way. Say you cultivate the contemplation of Sanskrit syllables. I‘ve explained how you can contemplate the Sanskrit syllables of the Six-Syllable Bright Mantra: om ma ni ba mi hong. [Actually the last syllable is hong, but a person once mistook it for niu, which means “ox”.] When your contemplation is perfected, then you can attain the Five Eyes and Six Spiritual Penetrations. Also, if you contemplate the Sanskrit syllables of the Mantra Heart at the end of the Shurangama Mantra “Da Zhi Tuo Nan E Na Li...” you can also attain the Five Eyes and Six Penetrations. There is also the Avatamsaka Syllabary. A praise says, “Forty-two syllables of the wondrous dharani, each syllable has many meanings...” That can also help you open your Five Eyes and gain the Six Penetrations. If you successfully contemplate every syllable, you will know the realm of the Five Eyes and Six Penetrations.

“Dharma Master, what about you?” someone asks.

I’m just the same as you. I’m not any different. I’ve been talking so much that I forgot about the time. I won’t ramble on any longer. Once you open the Five Eyes, there are a lot of hassles. When it happens, you‘ll know what I’m talking about. You‘ll be able see into the heavens and the hells; you’ll see people, and you‘ll also see ghosts. I will tell you this: Seeing so many things, if you can’t concentrate and don’t have enough samadhi, it’s easy to get possessed by a demon. Whether or not you open your Eyes is not important. You shouldn’t think there are great advantages to opening the Eyes. With your Eyes open, you get to spend more time watching movies, watching the radar screen, watching television. If you haven‘t opened your Eyes, you can be a country bumpkin, which is not bad! If you open your Eyes, it’s like going to the big city and seeing all the shows, movies, and casinos--seeing too many things. City dwellers and country dwellers lead different lifestyles, but some of them still manage to keep their minds free from affliction. Once you open the Five Eyes, it’s like you have five more radars that you have to monitor o see if a jet is flying by or an atomic bomb is coming your way. Wouldn’t you say it’s a lot of trouble? Without those radars, you wouldn’t know what was coming, and nothing would come anyway, so it’s pretty relaxing.


Medicine-ruling Spirit Universally Roaring gained a passage into liberation of proclaiming the Buddha’s sound and expounding the different meanings of all dharmas.


Medicine-ruling Spirit Universally Roaring makes a sound that pervades the Dharma Realm, waking beings throughout the Dharma Realm up from their muddled dreams. She shouts, “Wake up now! Don’t sleep anymore! Those who work should go to work. Those who cultivate should cultivate. Those who eat should eat. Those who sleep should wait until nighttime to sleep.” Hearing her shout, people rub their eyes, chasing away the sleeping bugs, and go to Morning Recitation. Ding-ding-dong! The wooden fish goes Bo-bo-bo! After that, they sit in meditation, then recite the Buddha’s name. Why can they do this? It’s because the Medicine-ruling Spirit Universally Roaring woke us all up. When we hit the boards in the morning, they are speaking on behalf of that Medicine-ruling Spirit. I’m not joking with you. That’s just how insentient things speak the Dharma.

She gained a passage into liberation of proclaiming the Buddha’s sound. The true teaching substance in this region lies in the purity of sound. What is the Buddha‘s sound? What would you say is not the Buddha’s sound? Every sound in the world is the Buddha’s sound, is the appearance of the Buddha’s vast and long tongue. If you say a sound is not the Buddha’s sound, what sound would you call it?

“Well, people have the sound of people; horses have the sound of horses; oxen have the sound of oxen.”

True, each being has its own sound. But these are all transformations created through the wondrous functioning of the Thus Come Ones’ spiritual penetrations.

In the Land of Ultimate Bliss, there are:

...white cranes, peacocks, parrots and egrets, kalavinkas, and two-headed birds. In the six periods of the day and night, the flocks of birds sing forth harmonious and elegant sounds. Their clear and joyful sounds proclaim the Five Roots, the Five Powers, the Seven Bodhi Shares, the Eight Sagely Way Shares...  

The Land of Ultimate Bliss is like that, and so is our Saha World, if you know how to listen. If you know how to listen, then all sounds are Buddha sounds. If you don‘t know how, then all sounds are ghost sounds. If you understand, it’s the Buddha mind. If you don’t, it‘s still the Buddha mind.

This spirit went about expounding the different meanings of all dharmas. What is meant by “all dharmas”?

“I know,” you say, “there are eleven form dharmas, eight mind dharmas, fifty-one dharmas interactive with the mind, twenty-four dharmas not interactive with the mind, and six unconditioned dharmas, making a total of hundred dharmas in all.”

Yes, the hundred dharmas are among “all dharmas.” “All dharmas” actually refers to just one dharma, not many dharmas. But the one dharma has a different meaning here.

A single source divides into a myriad things.
The myriad things all return to the single source.

One can become limitless; limitless can become one. The characters for “different” should be pronounced chi bie. Some people say that my pronunciation is wrong, that chi should be cha. [When pronounced cha, the word means “to err, to mistake.”] It’s not known who is mistaken here. Am I mistaken? Or are you? Since I don’t want to be mistaken, I read it as chi. Chi bie means distinction or difference. When one becomes limitless, all dharmas refer to many dharmas. When the limitless become one, it refers to one dharma.

The one does not obstruct the many; the many do not obstruct the one. A single dharma is simply all dharmas. All dharmas are but a single dharma. Speaking from the point of view of the Buddhadharma, there are 84,000 Dharma doors, which is also “all dharmas.” Eighty-four thousand Dharma doors do not go beyond a single thought. Being inseparable from a single thought, they are a single dharma. The 84,000 Dharma doors represent “all dharmas.” If we were to differentiate all those dharmas, we could take eons of time and still not finish. At present, we don’t want to tax our brains and engage in so much idle thinking. As Great Master Yongjia says in the Song of Enlightenment:

Distinguishing among names and terms,
not knowing how to stop,
Is like counting the grains of sand in the ocean,
exhausting oneself in vain.

Don’t bind yourself up. Instead, set yourself free. It’s better to cultivate the Dharma door of stilling thoughts. Once you succeed in stilling your thoughts, you will understand all dharmas. As another line of the Song of Enlightenment says:

Only get the root;
Have no concern for the branchtips.

Once you attain the root, you won’t worry about the branchtips. What is the root? It is the one dharma.

When the one is attained, all things are done.

If you attain the one, then you have completed everything. What does it mean to attain the one? Actually, attaining the one is not sufficient. “How is it insufficient?” you ask. “It is said, ‘When Heaven attains the one, it is clear. When Earth attains the one, it is peaceful. When people attain the one, they are Sages.’ If you attain the one, you are a Sage. How is that insufficient?”

Attaining the one is not enough. You must turn the one into zero. If you can understand the zero, you will have attained the root.


Medicine-ruling Spirit Banner of Light Eclipsing the Sun gained a passage into liberation of acting as a good advisor for all sentient beings, causing all beholders to develop good roots.


The next Medicine-ruling Spirit isnamed Banner of Light Eclipsing the Sun. To “eclipse” can also mean to “cover” or “block.” There are two interpretations to this spirit’s name. First, it can mean that she can cover up the sun, the way clouds do, so that its light cannot be seen. Secondly, it can mean that her banner outshines the sun, thus causing the sun and moon to appear dim. Hence, her name is “Medicine-ruling Spirit Banner of Light Eclipsing the Sun.” The principles of this sutra are profuse, and each individual has his or her own understanding. Wise people perceive wisdom; humane people see humaneness. Those of profound understanding see what is profound; those of shallow understanding grasp only what is superficial. Now, since my understanding is shallow, I cannot see the profundities of the sutra. I am just an ordinary person, not necessarily humane, and so my views are like those of average people. Even less could I make a claim to wisdom. I am not just being modest or polite; people should know themselves, and I am no exception.

This Medicine-ruling Spirit is able to understand a part of the Buddha’s state. That is, she has gained a passage into liberation of acting as a good advisor for all sentient beings. This is the state of a great Bodhisattva. If one is not a great Bodhisattva, one would not be a good advisor for all sentient beings. “All sentient beings” includes beings that fly, those that swim, those that move on land, plants, and beings born from wombs, eggs, moisture, and transformation. She is able to assume different forms in accord with different kinds of sentient beings and serve as their good advisor. There are great good advisors, average good advisors, and petty good advisors. Great good advisors adjust their teaching according to the situation and speak Dharma that is geared to each person’s needs. Average good advisors speak Dharma according to sentient beings’ desires, enabling them to change their defiled thoughts. Petty good advisors are only capable of getting sentient beings to get rid of their minor bad habits and faults. The good advisor being referred to in the text is a great good advisor. She is capable of causing all beholders to develop good roots. Sentient beings who see this Medicine-ruling Spirit or encounter the Buddha speaking Dharma are led to produce thoughts of kindness, compassion, joy, and giving, and these qualities in turn lead to the planting of good roots.

Just as there are good advisors for sentient beings, there are also people who act as evil advisors for sentient beings. What are evil advisors? They encourage sentient beings to have wrong views and ideas. They lead sentient beings astray, taking them into heterodox sects and cults. Such people are evil advisors. They incite jealousy in sentient beings who were not jealous to start with. They encourage sentient beings who were not greedy to become greedy. They make sentient beings who were not angry give rise to anger. And they arouse deluded thoughts in sentient beings who originally had no delusions.

For example, I encountered a heterodox sect when I was in Manchuria. This heterodox sect claimed that it could make people into emperors. The leader said, “If you join my sect, you can become a king in the future. However, if you don’t join, you may not even get to be an ordinary citizen.” Such talk provokes greed in people. Such a person was an evil advisor. Therefore, in cultivation, we must have Dharma-selecting vision and be able to distinguish between proper and deviant, right and wrong. When it is the Way, we should advance upon it. When it is not the Way, we should retreat from it.

Medicine-ruling Spirit Banner of Light Eclipsing the Sun serves as a good advisor who inspires people to make the resolve for bodhi so that in the future they can become Buddhas. That is her passage into liberation.


Medicine-ruling Spirit Clear Vision of the Ten Directions gained a passage into liberation of using a treasury of pure, great compassion to expediently inspire faith and understanding in sentient beings. Medicine-ruling Spirit Universally Shining Majestic Radiance gained a passage into liberation of expediently causing sentient beings to recollect the Buddhas, thereby eradicating all their sicknesses.

At that time, Medicine-ruling Spirit Auspicious received the Buddha’s awesome spiritual power, universally contemplated the multitudes of Medicine-ruling Spirits, and spoke the following verse.  


The next Medicine-ruling Spirit is named Clear Vision of the Ten Directions. There must be clarity in order for vision to be possible. At the same time, vision must take place before there can be clarity. Clear Vision refers to possessing the light of great wisdom, which enables this Medicine-ruling Spirit to understand the dispositions of sentient beings throughout the ten directions, hence her name. If we were to discuss the name of the Medicine-ruling Spirit in detail, we would find that it contains infinite meanings and principles. We can only give a simple explanation right now. This Medicine-ruling Spirit gained a passage into liberation of using a treasury of pure, great compassion.

“Pure” means without defilement, that is, devoid of the defilement of love and views. “Treasury” has the connotation of containing and encompassing. It contains great compassion. Compassion is used to eradicate suffering. Why is this said to be a “treasury of pure, great compassion”? Because it is devoid of a defiled kind of love. The love that most sentient beings understand is a defiled love which is not pure. Pure loving-kindness is not tainted by defiled thoughts. The difference between this loving-kindness and worldly defiled love is very slight. Since the difference is so slight, one thought may be pure, and the very next thought may be defiled. The pure thought and the defiled thought are not really two different thoughts. They are actually a single thought. If this thought is not defiled, then it is pure. If it is not pure, then it is defiled. Compassionate love has the power to rescue all sentient beings. It is a kind of virtue. She has the virtue of compassionately loving sentient beings, enabling her to expediently inspire faith and understanding in sentient beings. She employs various kinds of expedient methods to help sentient beings develop faith and understanding. She inspires faith in the faithless, while helping faithful beings to deepen their understanding. That is her passage into liberation. 

Medicine-ruling Spirit Universally Shining Majestic Radiance has an awesome presence, and sentient beings who see her magnificent light are cured of their illnesses. She has gained a passage into liberation of expediently causing sentient beings to recollect the Buddhas, thereby eradicating all their sicknesses. Through expedient Dharma doors, she leads sentient beings to have faith in reciting the Buddha’s name, make vows to recite the Buddha’s name, and cultivate by reciting the Buddha’s name. She employs various kinds of expedient methods, not only one. In general, she gives sentient beings whatever they like and then instructs them to recite the Buddha’s name.

For example, right now we are holding a session for reciting the Buddha’s name. This is an expedient Dharma door. “Reciting the Buddha’s name is not an expedient Dharma door,” you say. Actually, any Dharma door within the Buddhadharma can be considered an expedient Dharma door, or it can be considered not to be an expedient. That’s because the Buddhadharma is flexible and dynamic, not rigid and static. If you insist that it is a certain way, that becomes an attachment. You ought to not have any attachments. Be totally unattached.

Right now we are doing a Buddha recitation session. In China in the past, once a Buddha recitation session began, many people would attain the single-minded concentration of the Buddha recitation samadhi. Now we are promoting the Pure Land Dharma door in the West, and people are interested in reciting the Buddha’s name. However, it is not enough to simply recite. One must maintain continuous mindfulness in thought after thought, without letting the mind get distracted and wander off. One must recite to the point that the wind cannot blow in and the rain cannot seep in to disturb one’s mindfulness. One should be able to turn all the states one encounters into the state of Buddha recitation. For example, a child is making noise right now. If you have truly attained the Buddha recitation samadhi, his noise will sound like “Namo Amitabha Buddha” to you. Or perhaps it will sound like music to you--music to help you recite the Buddha’s name. Then you will not be annoyed by his noise.

In the Dharma door of Buddha recitation, it is said that one recitation of the Buddha’s name can eradicate the heavy offenses accumulated during eighty million eons of births and deaths. Thus, the merit and virtue of reciting the Buddha’s name is inconceivable, provided that you recite with a true and sincere heart.

Buddhism is just beginning in the West. We must produce some great Bodhisattvas, great Patriarchs, and great Sages. Where are these great Bodhisattvas, great Patriarchs, and great Sages to be found? I can tell you: They are right here at Gold Mountain Monastery. Anyone who is able to apply his or her effort to the utmost point, cultivating with a sincere heart, undaunted by suffering or difficulty, without being the least bit casual or letting a single second pass in vain, and without slacking off, will certainly come to achievement. You may sit in Chan meditation, recite the Buddha’s name, recite sutras, or bow repentances. No matter which Dharma door you cultivate, if you cultivate with concentration and utmost sincerity, you will be successful. Why are you unsuccessful? It’s because you have not worked as hard as the great Bodhisattvas, great Patriarchs, great wise teachers, and great cultivators.

There is an idiom, “To do less work and use inferior materials.” If you don’t understand what that means, it’s like the dharma of waiting around for nails. Probably most of you have attained this samadhi. Hearing about this dharma, everyone smiles, just as Venerable Mahakashyapa did when he saw the Buddha twirl a flower. But this is merely the dharma of waiting for nails. If you attain the dharma of hitting nails, then you’ll be set. If you hit nails instead of waiting for them, then you are not “doing less work.” Doing less work means that when you are supposed to do a day’s work, you do only half a day’s work but take the pay for a full day. An example of using inferior materials is, if you are supposed to use an ounce of gold, you use only eight-tenths of an ounce. You are basically stealing the gold. Our work in cultivation is worth more than diamonds. If you try to get by doing less work and using shoddy materials, you are only cheating yourself. This is the principle that, “If the husband cultivates, the husband gets enlightened. If the wife cultivates, the wife gets enlightened. If you don’t cultivate, you don’t attain anything.”

Reciting the Buddha’s name can eradicate any illnesses that sentient beings might have. “No way, Dharma Master, you’re cheating people! Before I recited the Buddha’s name, I was fine. Now that I’m reciting the Buddha’s name, I’ve also gotten sick. How can you say that reciting the Buddha’s name cures all illnesses? That’s an outright lie!” Actually, getting sick is also eradicating sickness. If you didn’t get sick, how could your sickness be eradicated? Think it over. If you get sick and then your sickness disappears, that’s the eradication of sickness. This should wake you up like a bop on the head, making you realize that not only will you get sick, you will also die. Did you know that? If you don’t hurry up and cultivate, then when impermanence arrives, you won’t be able to do anything about it, and what happens then will be miserable. Sickness is an omen warning you that you should quickly work hard on your cultivation and quickly wake up from your deluded dream. Don’t be unable to relinquish this and let go of that. When you die, you’ll have to let go of everything, whether you want to or not. I often recite this verse for you, and I’ll recite it again in case you have forgotten:

When I exhort you to do good,
you say you have no money, even if you do.
When disaster strikes,
you spend hundreds of thousands, even when you don’t have it.

When you are involved in some sort of accident, you manage to come up with millions of dollars, even if that money isn’t yours. If I invite you to a discussion on wholesome matters, you say you’d like to go, but you’re too busy.

You say, “It’s not that I don’t want to go, but unfortunately, I’m too busy to attend the sutra lecture.”

But the day your life ends and you go to the Yellow Spring*, you may be busy, but you still have to go! (*a reference to the underworld).

No matter how busy you are, King Yama is there waiting for you, saying, “I’m inviting you for a drink. Come right away! I won’t take no for an answer.” You go and drink his intoxicating liquor, and then forget about everything you did before. You don’t have any idea of what will happen in the future either. This is very dangerous.

Medicine-ruling Spirit Universally Shining Majestic Radiance has entered this passage into liberation of being able to eradicate all illnesses.

At that time, during the Dharma Assembly, Medicine-ruling Spirit Auspicious received the Buddha’s awesome spiritual power, universally contemplated the multitudes of Medicine-ruling Spirits, and spoke the following verse.


The Thus Come One’s wisdom is inconceivable.
He completely understands the minds of all sentient beings.
He can employ all sorts of expedient powers,
Extinguishing the measureless woes of the confused multitudes.  


This is a verse in praise of the Buddha spoken by Medicine-ruling Spirit Auspicious. She says: The Thus Come One’s full, perfect wisdom is inconceivable. We sentient beings also have something which is inconceivable—our ignorance. What is ignorance? It is the inability to distinguish between right and wrong, proper and deviant. We do not know what is proper and what is deviant. We do not differentiate between black and white. We say that what is black is white, and what is white is black. Basically, the terms “black” and “white” are not absolute. If we had named the black color “white” in the beginning, it would be known as “white.” And the term “white” might be used to refer to black things. If we decide to call white things “black,” then white becomes black.

Although these terms are not absolute, most sentient beings identify black as black and white as white, because these names have been fixed by convention. In the beginning, if the names “black” and “white” had been used to name the opposite color, that would be one thing. But since sentient beings are already used to the conventional way of defining these terms, the terms are in effect fixed. Nevertheless, that still doesn’t distinguish the difference between black and white. Wouldn’t you say that’s inconceivable? Thus, the ignorance of sentient beings is inconceivable. Alas! They take what is bad to be good, and what is good to be bad. Transcendental dharmas ought to be cultivated, but they consider them to be completely wrong. Worldly dharmas ought to be renounced, but they insist on clinging to them. Since they cannot renounce worldly dharmas, it is difficult for them to successfully cultivate transcendental dharmas. Wouldn’t you say sentient beings are inconceivable?

Well, is it the case that sentient beings lack the wisdom of the Buddhas, the Thus Come Ones? No. The sunlight is there for everyone, but sometimes it gets blocked by clouds. Dark clouds represent ignorance, while sunlight represents wisdom. When your dark clouds block out the sunlight, the day is dark and gloomy. Where do these clouds come from? They are produced from greed, anger, and delusion. Where does wisdom (sunlight) come from? It is produced from precepts, samadhi, and wisdom. If we sentient beings wish to recover our original wisdom, it is essential that we cultivate precepts, samadhi, and wisdom.

Precepts stop evil and prevent wrongdoing. They can be summed up as follows: Do no evil, and practice all good. If you can do that, then from observing precepts, you will acquire samadhi (concentration). If you practice good deeds, you will have merit and virtue, which in turn produces samadhi. Samadhi is a result of external merit and inner fruition. You must externally cultivate the Six Paramitas. Once you have a foundation in the Six Paramitas, you will have samadhi. Therefore, the first four paramitas--giving, holding precepts, patience, vigor—are aids to Chan samadhi.

You can establish merit by giving. There is also merit in holding precepts, being patient, and being vigorous. The merit of the four paramitas helps you to attain samadhi, and when that samadhi is full and complete, wisdom arises. If you lack merit and virtue, however, it is very easy to go astray. Merit and virtue help you to achieve samadhi more quickly. Therefore, in cultivation, take care not to be stingy and unable to give things away. You have to give, before you can get. Thus, it is essential to first practice giving, holding precepts, patience, and vigor, to help you gain samadhi. Once you have samadhi, wisdom can develop. When your skill in samadhi is deep, you will have wisdom. This is similar to studying. When you have studied a great deal, your character will become refined. There is a saying:

When one’s erudition is profound, one’s manner is calm.

People who are educated are naturally refined. Refinement refers to a lack of greed, anger, delusion, and ignorance. It is not easy to get rid of ignorance. However, you can gradually reduce it day by day. What do you use to lessen ignorance? Prajna wisdom. With prajna wisdom, you can destroy the darkness of ignorance.

An inconceivable state basically cannot be described in words. It is beyond conception and impossible to talk about. Nevertheless, I have “added a head on top of a head” in trying to say a few things about it. You should not follow my example and add yet another head on top of that, for then there would be three heads! Two heads is already a lot. If another head is added, then you would have three heads and six arms. You see that Guanyin Bodhisattva has more than three heads and six arms, and Junti Bodhisattva also has many hands and eyes. Guanyin Bodhisattva has a thousand hands and a thousand eyes, and he really has three heads. But the heads that you add on are dead.

The Buddha’s wisdom is such that he completely understands the minds of all sentient beings. How numerous are the thoughts of all sentient beings? We don’t know. The Buddha knows, though. As the Vajra Sutra says, “The Thus Come One completely sees and knows the various thoughts of all sentient beings.” However many sentient beings there are, there are equally many thoughts. How does the Thus Come One know about sentient beings’ thoughts? Strange! Doesn’t that mean that the Buddha knows everything that sentient beings are up to? That’s right. The Buddha knows everything that sentient beings do, and even knows the things they have not yet done. Just as the Thus Come One completely sees and knows the various thoughts of all sentient beings, he also completely sees and knows the various affairs of all sentient beings. The Thus Come One also completely sees and knows the various actions of all sentient beings. “How can the Thus Come One know about sentient beings’ thoughts?” I cannot explain the principle, but I can offer an example from science. This analogy is not quite apt, but I cannot find a better one. This faulty analogy is the only one I can give. What is it? It is that of a radar screen. No matter how many radio waves there are, the radar will detect them. It is also like a wireless set. As long as the correct number is dialed, the wireless set can receive news from all the various countries.

he Buddha is a great scientist. Not only does he have radar, his radar is invisible. It has no physical form, and comes into being spontaneously. Every sentient being’s nature has the Buddha nature, and the Buddha’s radar detects the Buddha nature. You shouldn’t be under the impression that this is a physical radar, because it is without shape or form. Nevertheless, the Buddha can read this radar. That’s why he is said to be a great scientist. The Buddha’s radar is just his wisdom eye. You may be thinking, “This analogy is completely off the mark. It is not at all apt.” Well, give me an analogy that is apt, and in the future I can use it when I explain sutras. Since I haven’t found any correct way of describing this state, I can only resort to this erroneous explanation.

In any case, that is how the Thus Come One knows the thoughts of sentient beings. What’s the use of knowing their thoughts? Is it so the Thus Come One can watch over sentient beings? For example, he might see them stealing things and think, “Oh, so this sentient being is stealing crackers to eat. That one is stealing peanuts.” Actually, the Buddha doesn’t watch over such trivial matters. “Probably the Buddha makes a note of it when a sentient being commits murder.” The Buddha doesn’t use his knowledge of sentient beings’ thoughts expressly for the purpose of recording their offenses and their merit. Offenses and merit do not exist in the Buddha’s record-book. Those are items that ordinary sentient beings make a record of. They keep daily journals of the events that happen. “Then why does the Buddha want to know sentient beings’ thoughts?”

Doesn’t the text say it clearly? He can employ all sorts of expedient powers. The Buddha wants to know sentient beings’ thoughts so he can teach and transform them. He wants to help sentient beings leave suffering and attain bliss, end birth and death, and attain Buddhahood soon. That’s his purpose. It is like opening a lock. Sentient beings’ minds are locked, and the door into wisdom cannot be opened. The Buddha uses the key of wisdom to open sentient beings’ door into wisdom and close the door to ignorance. Thus, he employs all sorts of expedient powers, extinguishing the measureless woes of the confused multitudes. Who are the confused multitudes? “They are,” you say. Are you part of them? Am I? The “confused multitudes” refers to you, me, and all sentient beings. Anyone who has not attained sagehood and transcended the Triple Realm is confused. Don’t think you’re so extraordinary, so great and lofty, an exceptional individual among humankind. Don’t think you’re that capable. What special ability do you have? Before you have destroyed your confusion, what ability do you have?

The Buddha is aware of the immense suffering of confused sentient beings, and he wishes to extinguish it. What is suffering? It is a lack of understanding of true principle. If you understand the truth, your suffering comes to an end. How can you come to understand truth? By studying the Buddhadharma. How can you study the Buddhadharma? By making a steadfast resolve. Vow to study the Buddhadharma to the ends of time. “In life after life, I will leave home to become a Bhikshu or Bhikshuni. Or, if I don’t leave home, then I will become a Upasaka or Upasika. In any case, I will study the Buddhadharma. In every life, I will immerse myself in the Buddhadharma and never be apart from it. Once I understand the Buddhadharma, I will explain it to others and propagate it.”

If you don’t have vows, it’s like not having a boat when you want to cross the river. Without a boat, you will certainly be drowned. Since I don’t wish my disciples to drown, I’m telling you to make vows. It doesn’t matter how great or small your vows are. If your vow is as small as a particle of dust, you still have a dust-particle-sized boat and you won’t fall into the sea of suffering, especially the sea of measureless woes being discussed in the sutra. If you make vows, you can “extinguish the measureless woes of the confused multitudes.” Your vows should be made in stone, not in a pile of ashes or sand. They shouldn’t be soft and weak, with no foundation. Your vows should be based on solid ground and reach up to the sky, as firm and hard as rock. Only then do they count. “If you want me to die, fine; but if you want me to give up studying the Buddhadharma, I won’t.” Your vows should be that strong. “If you want me to die, fine; but if you want me to eat meat, I won’t. I’ll die before I eat a bite of meat.”

Every year, on the eighth day of the twelfth lunar month, the day of the Buddha’s Enlightenment, we should all make vows. We should bring forth the bodhi resolve to catch up to Shakyamuni Buddha and quickly realize Buddhahood ourselves. Before we catch up, we cannot stop. We must keep on chasing after him until we reach the fruition of Buddhahood. We can’t yield to our teacher. Our Original Teacher, Shakyamuni Buddha, has already become a Buddha. What are we waiting for, lingering in the back? We ought to get ahead of our teacher. At the very least, we should catch up to him.

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