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Bodhisattvas Asks for Clarification

Chapter Ten




The bliss of still quiescence,
The state of One of Much Learning,
I, for the Humane One, will now expound.
Would that the Humane One be attentively receptive.  


Having finished asking Enlightenment Leader Bodhisattva some questions, he then turned to Wealthy Leader Bodhisattva and continued his query. Then Wealthy Leader Bodhisattva responded with verses in answer to Manjushri Bodhisattva’s questions.

The bliss of still quiescence refers to the fundamental essence of dharmas: the still and quiescent Dharma nature. This essence of all dharmas is what is most supreme, most profound, and unsurpassed. “Still quiescence” is that dharma which people most delight in. That is why Shakyamuni Buddha, while still cultivating on the level of planting causes, during one of his former lives, renounced his body and his very life in seeking one half a line of verse which described still quiescence. In seeking the Dharma, he completely forgot about himself, unsparingly offering up his body, his mind, his nature, and his life without the least bit of reluctance. His pure intent was to seek the Dharma and to fulfill his vows. And so, in that lifetime, in the course of his cultivating the Way, he happened upon a raksasa ghost, whom he overheard saying, All activities are impermanent; They are dharmas subject to production and extinction.

Having uttered those two lines of verse, the raksasa ghost fell silent, whereupon the old cultivator (the future Shakyamuni Buddha), became agitated. He said, “The verse you just spoke, ‘All activities are impermanent; they are dharmas subject to production and extinction....’ is only one set of lines. You only recited half the verse; what about the other half? Why did you stop?”

The raksasa ghost replied, “Right now I am famished. I am too hungry to speak. I am looking for something to eat.”

The old cultivator said, “If you finish speaking this dharma, I am willing to give you my body to eat.”

The raksasa ghost said, “Do you really mean it?”

The old cultivator said, “Of course I do. I have one stipulation, though: before you eat me, first give me a chance to carve the verse into the trunk of a tree. Then, even though I myself will have died, still those people who come after me, upon seeing the verse, will be able to cultivate by means of its teaching. So, after you finish speaking the verse, please just wait until I have finished carving the verse before you eat me.”

The raksasa ghost said, “Fine. I agree,” and he continued to recite: 

When production and extinction are themselves cease to be,
That still quiescence is bliss.

Having finished speaking, he waited while the old cultivator carved the verse into a nearby tree. After he finished, the raksasa ghost was ready to eat him, when the old regretting his promise “Oh, no,” he said, “That is not it at all. It is just that though I have carved this verse into a tree, blown by the wind and beaten by the rain, the words will gradually be worn away and disappear. So, just wait a little while longer while I carve the words in stone. That way the verse will remain in the world for a very long time to come. It will just take a little while to carve the verse…” The raksasa ghost said, “Well, since you are willing to undergo suffering for the sake of the Dharma, I must be willing to be patient with hunger a little while longer.”

Then the old cultivator hammered and chiseled the characters into a rock. When he finished carving the entire verse, he said, “Ready. You can eat me now; I have completed my mission.”

But, when the time had come to take his meal, the raksasa ghost ascended into space instead, where he revealed his original form: that of a god. He had come to test the old cultivator on whether he really could forget himself for the sake of the Dharma, and give up his body and life in cultivating the Way. Then, from empty space he said, “Good indeed, good indeed. Your quest for the Dharma is truly sincere.”

From this we can see how Shakyamuni Buddha, in a former life, was prepared to relinquish his body and life for the sake of half a verse of Dharma. Could we, for the sake of even half a sutra, be willing to surrender our bodies and lives? I think not. Could we, for the sake of even an entire sutra, give up our bodies and lives? I believe not. We are just too stingy and greedy to give up anything.

But from this incident with Shakyamuni Buddha, you cannot think it impossible to be able to give up both inner wealth--your body, nature, mind, life, head, eyes, brains, and blood; and, outer wealth--your country, city, spouse, and children. Those external possessions can be relinquished. You are perfectly capable of giving them up. Any of us can practice that kind of giving at any time. This is one way to cultivate and obtain blessings and wisdom.

The state of One of Much Learning is that of delighting in still quiescence. Much learning is an especially vast and extensive functional aspect of the Dharma. In much learning, one develops and utilizes one’s wisdom of hearing. Then one can skillfully meditate on the ultimate reality of all dharmas, which is the wisdom of contemplating. Having contemplated, one then practices, and that is the wisdom of cultivating. Making use of these Three Wisdoms—hearing, contemplating, and cultivating—is the state of One of Much Learning. Such a person functions on an especially vast scale.

Ananda is an example of someone with Much Learning. He was foremost in learning among the Buddha’s Hearer disciples; his level of erudition was the highest. Endowed with a powerful memory, he was able to clearly and perfectly recall all the sutras the Buddha spoke throughout his teaching career. Following the Buddha’s Nirvana, Ananda compiled the Sutra Treasury and ascended the Dharma Seat to speak the Dharma. As he sat down, three doubts spontaneously occurred to the members of the Great Assembly:

1) They wondered whether Shakyamuni Buddha had not died but was still alive. As Ananda ascended the platform and sat down on the Dharma Seat to speak the Dharma, he was relying on the aid of the Buddhas of the ten directions. 

Because of this, he manifested the thirty-two marks of a great personage along with the eighty subsidiary characteristics of a Buddha. Therefore, all the Buddha’s disciples in that assembly thought Ananda might actually be Shakyamuni Buddha come alive. That was their first doubt.

2) They wondered if Ananda had already realized Buddhahood and had turned into a Buddha. That was their second doubt.

3) They wondered if a Buddha from another direction had come there to speak the Dharma for them.

As soon as Ananda uttered the four words, “Thus I have heard,” those three doubts of the Assembly were quickly dispelled. Because with those four words, Ananda was saying, “This Dharma that I, Ananda, am speaking is what I personally heard firsthand from the Buddha.”

I, for the sake of the Humane One, will now expound. Wealthy Leader Bodhisattva said, “I will now for you, Humane One, extensively speak about this Dharma. I will explain in detail the Dharma of why the Buddha crosses over sentient beings. Would that the Humane One be attentively receptive. Humane One, when representing sentient beings in asking about this kind of Dharma, you should be especially attentive. So listen closely and be receptive to this Dharma.”


Observe the body in detail throughout.
What of it is actually “me”?
One who understands in this way
Comprehends there is no self to be found. 


Observe the body in detail throughout: People have an excessive attachment. To what? To a “self”. This “self” is as tall as Mount Sumeru, and vaster than the four seas. This “self” contends and argues for supremacy, competes for fame, and grabs for profit. This pompous and boastful self is the cause of all this seeking and strife. We treat this “self” to the pleasures of food, drink, and entertainment. Day after day we slave for the sake of the body, for the sake of this “self,” unaware that we need to “see through it and put it down.” Because of this, day after day we are ill at ease.

That is why Wealthy Leader Bodhisattva says here, “Observe the body in detail throughout. You certainly should scrutinize each part, down to the finest detail. Make a contemplative search of your body, inside and out. Investigate carefully to find: What of it is actually “me”? Take a look, from the crown of your head to the soles of your feet, searching through each part. Each part of the body is designated a name. The top is called “head”; the hair is called “hair”; the eyes are called “eyes”; the ears are called “ears”; the nose is called a “nose”; the tongue is called a “tongue”; the body is called “the body”; the mind is called “mind”. Each part has its own name. The eyebrows are called “eyebrows”. The hands are called “hands”. The arms are called “arms”. The shoulders are called “shoulders”. Search throughout your body, from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet. Each part has its own name, but where in it can you find a self? Therefore, the text says, “What of it is actually ‘me’?” Each external part of the body has its own name.

Inside the body are the heart, the spleen, the stomach, the lungs, and the kidneys, each of which is also designated its name. Then there are the small and large intestines, the triple heater, and the bladder, which are also called by their certain names. No self can be found inside the body, either. Thus the text says, “What of it is ‘me’?”

Speak up. Inside that body of yours, what part of it is the self? Have you found it? You, sir, have you found it? You, miss, have you found it? Madam, can you find it? Bhikshu of the monastic Sangha, have you found it? Bhikshuni, shramanera, can you find it or not? And so what is it about that self you cannot let go of? Were someone to utter a single sentence to you, you would claim he was meddling in your life. Is that not the case? Consider this question: if you cannot even find the self, then how can you claim you are you? If you do not even recognize who you are--if you do not even know whether your nostrils are pointing up or down, admitting this to be the case--then how can you go on being attached to a self?

One who understands in this way, who muses in the manner demonstrated above, searching for the self until reaching the point of realizing it cannot be located, is someone who knows that inside there is no self, inside, and there is no self, outside.

Inside there is no body or mind;
Outside there is no world.

If you can:

Internally contemplate the mind:
That mind is no mind.
Externally contemplate appearances:
Appearances have no appearance.
Impartially observe substantial objects:
Objects are without any substance.
Once those three are found to be nonexistent,
One sees only emptiness.

The body is basically empty. If you can understand in this way, then knowing your body is empty, why would you remain so attached to it? 

Why do you for its sake want to engage in so much random thinking? Why for its sake do you indulge in selfish desires? Why are you for its sake so upside down? Would you not say all this is just self-torment?

Be one who comprehends there is no self to be found. If you engage in detailed observation, then you will come to know whether or not this self actually exists. If there is a self, then who am I? And I am who?” We must carefully analyze this question. Deeply investigate this principle. Since this self cannot be found, then why would you be so concerned with helping it out? Why would you have the attitude, “This is mine, and you may not have it!” Or if someone scolds this self, why would you find it so difficult to be patient? Would you not call that being inverted within inversion, truly, truly upside down? You have been oppressed by this false self to the point of being turned totally upside down; what a sad situation! That is why the Buddha said, “People like this are really to be pitied.”


This body is falsely established,
Without a place to which it belongs.
By closely examining the body, one fathoms,
That nothing about it can be held on to. 


All sentient beings’ bodies are formed by a false combination of the four elements. Therefore the text says: This body is falsely established. The four elements unite, and then a body comes about from that union. As was explained before, the four elements are earth, water, fire, and wind/air. If you look for the actual place from which they came to unite and form a body, you will find that there is no such place. They have no place of origin, no existent location. The body is without a place to which it belongs.

By closely examining the body, one fathoms through a detailed analysis of the body that it is simply a false combination of the four elements, and that there is nothing in it that can be held on to. You need to be free of attachments, including the attachment to your body. If you can break through and be free of that attachment to a body and a self, then it will be easy to also break through the attachment to dharmas. But until the attachment to a self is broken through, the attachment to dharmas will remain. This point is one that all those people who investigate Buddhism should know about: first you must see that the body is empty and unreal and that nothing of it can be grasped on to. Once you realize that, then you will be liberated and you will obtain self-mastery.

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