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Praises at the Summit of Mount Sumeru

Chapter Fourteen



III. The Bodhisattvas speak verses in praise.

I. Unsurpassed Wisdom Bodhisattva of the Nadir


Then Unsurpassed Wisdom Bodhisattva,relying on the Buddha’sawesome spiritual power, universally contemplated the ten directions andspoke in verse. 


Then refers to when True Wisdom Bodhisattva of the northwestern direction had contemplated sentient beings’ causes, conditions, and faculties and had finished speaking his verses. At that point, there was Unsurpassed Wisdom Bodhisattva. Why was he called Unsurpassed Wisdom? He was just about to attain the Buddha’s position. There was no Bodhisattva higher than him. Relying on the Buddha Shakyamuni’s awesome spiritualpower, this Bodhisattva universally contemplated sentient beings’ causes, conditions, and faculties in the worlds of the ten directions in order to know how he could enable them to leave suffering, attain bliss, and end birth and death. And then he spoke Dharma in verse.  


Unsurpassed Mahasattva
Is far removed from sentient beings’ thoughts.
There are none who excel him;
Hence, he is titled Unsurpassed.


Unsurpassed Mahasattva refers to Unsurpassed Wisdom Bodhisattva. His wisdom, cultivation, and vows are unsurpassed. Everything about him is unsurpassed. This Bodhisattva is called “Unsurpassed,” and the Dharma he speaks is also unsurpassed. People who haven’t heard the Sutras explained might not know what the word “Bodhisattva” means. “Bodhisattva” is a Sanskrit word meaning “one who enlightens sentient beings” and “enlightened sentient being.”

Since he uses the Dharma by which he became enlightened to bring all sentient beings to enlightenment, he is called “one who enlightens sentient beings.” Bodhisattvas are originally sentient beings, that is, they are endowed with awareness and blood and breath. In the past, they were the same as you and me and all other sentient beings of the present. Not only were the Bodhisattvas the same as us, all the Buddhas of the ten directions were as well. Because they diligently cultivated the six perfections and the myriad practices, they were able to become Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

“Bodhisattva” is also translated as “a sentient being with a great resolve for the spiritual Path.” His resolve for the spiritual Path is especially great. He isn’t afraid of any suffering or difficulty. He cultivates the Buddhadharma and walks the Bodhisattva Path with courageous vigor. Bodhisattva also means “Great Knight.” He’s a great hero. Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, for example, is known as the Great Knight of the South Sea. Another name for the Bodhisattva is an “Open-minded Knight,” one who is open-minded and unselfish, has no view of self, and isn’t jealous of others.

Why haven’t we become Buddhas and Bodhisattvas? We’re lazy. We procrastinate and don’t cultivate. We put practicing off until tomorrow, and tomorrow we put it off until the next day. By the time we are old, we still haven’t achieved success in our cultivation.

Some people might think, “I’m still young. I’ll wait till I grow up and get old to cultivate.” By the time you grow up, you’ll be so caught up in mundane affairs that you won’t be able to cultivate. When you’re old, you’ll have even less energy to cultivate. You keep waiting, and then you die without having cultivated. We’ve been procrastinating like this for limitless eons. We aren’t willing to bring forth the bodhi resolve. We don’t want to cultivate the six perfections and myriad practices of the Bodhisattva Path. That’s why we turn ‘round and round’ on the wheel of birth and death with no chance to escape. If we weren’t so lazy, if we cultivated with as much zeal as the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, we would have become Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, or Arhats long ago. We would have caught up with Unsurpassed Bodhisattva.

Why does he have this name? It’s because he is far removed from sentient beings’ false thoughts. Sentient beings’ thoughts concern their own benefit. Bodhisattvas don’t entertain such false thoughts. Their thoughts are to benefit, teach and rescue all beings, to alleviate the suffering of sentient beings, and to use all kinds of methods to instruct sentient beings. No matter how much suffering they take, they aren’t intimidated. They forget themselves in order to help others achieve merit and virtue. Such are the aspirations of Bodhisattvas.

Bodhisattvas’ wishes are exactly the opposite of sentient beings’ wishes. Sentient beings wish to help themselves; Bodhisattvas want to help others. Sentient beings seek to enlighten themselves; Bodhisattvas want to enlighten others.

“Well, now I’m going to walk the Bodhisattva Path. I’m a Bodhisattva, too!” you say.

Yes, you are a Bodhisattva who has made the initial resolve. You are not yet a mature Bodhisattva, one who has cultivated the six perfections and myriad practices to benefit self and others since eons in the remote past. We, however, are just setting out on the Bodhisattva Path, so we are Bodhisattvas of initial resolve.

There are none who excel him. There are no Bodhisattvas who are better than Unsurpassed Bodhisattva in terms of wisdom, cultivation, or virtue. Hence, he is called Unsurpassed Wisdom Bodhisattva.

Fish eggs, amala fruit,
And Bodhisattvas of initial resolve—
These three are many in the beginning,
But few of them make it to maturity.

There are untold numbers of Bodhisattvas who make the initial resolve. It’s easy to make the resolve, but it’s hard to fulfill it. It’s not easy to genuinely practice the Bodhisattva Path. Fish lay a large number of eggs, but not all of them develop into fish. Some eggs dry up, and sometimes the fish die as soon as they are born. In India there is the amala fruit tree, which blossoms profusely but bears very few fruits. Likewise, there are many people who make the initial Bodhisattva resolve, but very few of them actually realize Bodhisattvahood. These three—fish eggs, amala fruit, and Bodhisattvas of initial resolve—are many in the beginning, but few reach fruition. Since we are Bodhisattvas of initial resolve, we should make our Bodhisattva resolves long-lasting. Don’t bring forth a resolve that lasts for only five minutes. This is important.


The state attained by all Buddhas
Is gained without effort or discrimination.
The coarse aspects do not exist,
And neither do the subtle.


The state attained by all Buddhas. “All Buddhas” could be explained as including all Buddhas of the ten directions and the three periods of time. If the Chinese word zhu ( 諸) is interpreted as a particle, then the phrase could refer to a single Buddha, Shakyamuni Buddha. If the word zhu is interpreted to mean “all,” then the phrase would refer to limitlessly many Buddhas, in number like the sands of the Ganges River. The state attained by all Buddhas is nirvana, yet their nirvana is without attainment. Why? Because it is the natural state of their original enlightenment. They did not have to apply any artificial effort to attain nirvana. It is originally theirs, inherent in their enlightened nature. Therefore, this state is gained without effort or discrimination. It cannot be discriminated by consciousness, because consciousness is gone, and only nondiscriminating wisdom remains. They have realized their original wisdom.  

The coarse aspects do not exist / And neither do the subtle. This refers to the Six Coarse Appearances and the Three Subtle Appearances.

One unenlightened thought creates
The Three Subtle Appearances,
And what is experienced from them becomes the conditions
For the growth of the Six Coarse Appearances.

An alternate verse says:

Ignorance is the cause that creates
The Three Subtle Appearances,
And what is experienced from them becomes the conditions
For the growth of the Six Coarse Appearances.

The Three Subtle Appearances

1. appearance of karma

2. appearance of seeing (manifestation)

3. appearance of states (turning)

The Three Subtle Appearances are very fine. They are difficult to perceive and understand.

The first is the appearance of karma. How is karma created? It begins with the nonenlightenment, or ignorance. If I ask you, “How did you come to be a human being?” you will surely say, “I don’t know.” Let me tell you why. It’s because you created the karma for being human. You did the things the people do, so you have become a person. Cats created the karma of cats, so they became cats. Dogs created the karma of dogs, so they became dogs. Pigs created the karma for being pigs, so they turned into pigs. People create the karma for being people, so they come to be people.

Some people say, “In the beginning, God created people.” Well, who created God? They say, “God is all-powerful.” If you say God is all-powerful, I can also say I am all-powerful. If you say God created me, I could say I created God. We should understand that what brought us into being as people was a single thought of ignorance. Originally we were the same as the Buddhas. But when that thought of ignorance arose and moved our minds, that movement was the creation of karma. Having created karma, we have to suffer the retribution. Good karma brings a good retribution; bad karma incurs a bad retribution. The appearance of karma is brought about by a single thought of ignorance.

Let me explain it more clearly, or else you won’t understand. Ignorance is the root of love and birth and death. In the Twelve Links of Conditioned Causation, ignorance brings on activity. What kind of activity? The activity that a man and a woman who are in love engage in. Why do men and women experience love and affection, or jealousy and hatred for one another? This is simply ignorance. It is the root of birth and death. Once there is ignorance, karma is created.

With the appearance of karma, one sees things. The appearance of seeing comes into being, and then there is the appearance of states. With no seeing, there would be no states.

With ignorance, the mind moves.
With movement, there is suffering.

The result is never apart from the cause. If you create karma, you have to suffer the retribution. With movement, there is the appearance of seeing. If you didn’t move, there wouldn’t be any appearance of seeing (or manifestation).

When thought moves, the myriad matters come into being.
When thought stops, there’s not a single thing.

Once the appearance of seeing exists, states exist. Without seeing, there are no states. States arise from what is seen and manifested. Those are the Three Subtle Appearances.

Conditioned by states, the Six Coarse Appearances manifest.

1. The appearance of knowing. When a state arises, one becomes aware of it and feels either fondness or dislike for it. The feelings of fondness and dislike are ceaselessly produced, so then there is

2. The appearance of continuation. There in uninterrupted continuation, and within it the thoughts of suffering and happiness are produced.

3. The appearance of grasping. One is attached to the states of continual suffering and happiness.

4. The appearance of reckoning names. Being attached to states, one discriminates the names of things and becomes attached to false names.

5. The appearance of the arising of karma. Being attached to false states, one creates the karma of suffering, the karma of happiness, wholesome karma, and unwholesome karma. Following that there is

6. The appearance of the suffering of being bound by karma. One is inextricably bound by karma so that if someone tells one to cultivate, one says, “I can’t, because I have my parents, brothers and sisters, spouse, and children to take care of.” All these fetters tie one up so one cannot escape.

The Buddha is completely free of the Six Coarse and the Three Subtle Appearances. Originally, there was not a single thing.

The above verses describe the Buddhas’ virtue of inner realization. The next two verses discuss the Buddhas’ virtue of outer transformation--that is, of teaching and transforming all sentient beings. These two kinds of virtue are unique to the Buddhas.  


The states of the Buddhas’ practice
Transcend the realm of fate.
Proper Enlightenment is apart from fate:
This is the Buddhas’ genuine Dharma.  


The states of the Buddhas’ practice / Transcend the realm of fate. The Buddhas’ various states of teaching and transforming sentient beings and speaking of Dharma to save beings, go beyond the realm of fate. Such states cannot be found within the realm of fate. While sentient beings are still under the control of fate, the Buddhas have gone beyond fate, so the verse says: Proper Enlightenment is apart from fate. The scope of fate and destiny cannot encompass the Buddha’s state. This is the Buddhas’ genuine Dharma. For something to be in the realm of fate means it can be expressed and conceived of. The Buddha has already transcended the realm of thought and language. If you can understand this kind of state, then you know the Buddha’s genuine true Dharma—the Buddha’s state.

* * * *

Students of the Buddhadharma should get rid of the mark of self, the view of self, and all attachments. If you have the mark of self or the view of self, you still have attachments. If you have attachments, then you cannot understand the doctrine of emptiness. If you wish to understand the doctrine of emptiness, you have to break all attachments. Don’t calculate on your own behalf. Always benefit others. Don’t worry so much about yourself. Put it all down. Put down the body and mind, and you’ll naturally become a Buddha. Why aren’t you at ease? Because you can’t let go of the body and mind. Therefore, when we eat, we don’t necessarily want to eat good food. On the other hand, we don’t necessarily insist on eating poor food either. We just shouldn’t be greedy. We shouldn’t want to wear the most gorgeous garments. All we ask is that our clothes protect us from cold. And we don’t desire to live in a beautiful house. We worry about our bodies until our hair turns white, but in the end our body still doesn’t help us out. When the time comes, it’s going to retire. So why should you be so concerned about this false body?


The Thus Come One’s light illumines all,
Dispelling gloom and darkness.
Yet, this light neither shines
Nor does not shine.


The Thus Come One’s light illumines all. “Thus Come One” is one of the ten titles common to all Buddhas. The Buddha’s wisdom light shines upon the minds of all sentient beings, dispelling their greed, anger, and delusion and producing morality, samadhi, and wisdom. The Dharma spoken by the Buddha is itself light. All dharmas are also the Buddha’s light. When sentient beings study the Dharma spoken by the Buddha and become wise, that is also known as the universal shining of the Buddha’s light. The Buddha spoke 84,000 dharma doors to counteract sentient beings’ 84,000 kinds of faults and problems. Every kind of sentient being has its own kind of faults and problems.

It’s similar to people liking different flavors. Some like sour things, some like sweet things, some like bitter things, some like hot and spicy things, and some like salty things. Each has his or her own preferences. The Dharma spoken by the Buddha is the same way. For people who like the Lesser Vehicle, the Buddha speaks for them the Tripitaka Teachings. For those who like the Great Vehicle, the Buddha speaks the teachings from the Prajna, Lotus-Nirvana, and Flower Adornment Periods. The teachings of the Buddha can be classified into the Storehouse, Penetrating, Special, and Perfect Teachings. These are the four teachings in the Tiantai School’s classification.

According to the Xianshou School’s classification, there are the Small, Initial, Final, Sudden, and Perfect Teachings. Tiantai speaks of four teachings; Xianshou speaks of five. All these many teachings were spoken because people like different doctrines. One sutra is spoken, and then another, and another. Each sutra is spoken to cure the habits and problems of a particular kind of sentient being. If sentient beings need a certain kind of sutra, then that kind of sutra is true for them. If no sentient being needs that kind of sutra then it is false. If it’s useful, then it’s true. If it’s of no use, then it’s false. If it meets sentient beings’ needs and gets rid of their faults and habits, then it’s true. If it doesn’t help them eliminate their faults and habits, then it’s false.

Before the Buddha entered nirvana, someone said to him, “You have spoken all these sutras. How should we propagate them?”

The Buddha answered, “I didn’t say a single word. What sutras are you talking about?” Was the Buddha lying? Why did he say he didn’t speak a word when he spoke all those sutras? The reason is that if the sutras are useful, then they are true. If sentient beings can’t use the sutras to guide their practice, then not a single word of them exists.

The Buddha said that when his Dharma became extinct, the first sutra to disappear would be the Shurangama Sutra. Now this is really happening. There are many people all over the world who claim the Shurangama Sutra is false. Actually, there’s no real evidence for its authenticity or lack of authenticity. The signs of the Shurangama Sutra’s disappearance have already appeared. Scholars claim the Shurangama Sutra is not authentic, but that’s not the worst. Even monastics publically claim that the sutra is false. They have been influenced by the scholars. Not only is the Shurangama Sutra regarded as false, but one after another, all the Buddhist Sutras are being considered false. Not a single one of them is considered true. This is the perishing of the Dharma, the end of the Dharma.

Little by little, people make up theories that the Shurangama Sutra is inauthentic. Consequently, no one studies it anymore. They also say the Shurangama Mantra is false, and as a result no one recites it. Over the course of time, the rumor spreads from one person to tens, hundreds, thousands, and tens of thousands of people, so that Buddhism itself gets swayed. People don’t have the wisdom to distinguish the true Dharma from false teachings. Actually, no matter which sutra it is, if you gain benefit from it and you think it’s good, then it’s true. Any sutra that doesn’t do you any benefit is false. Even if the Buddha spoke it, it’s still false. What use is it if it doesn’t meet your needs?

When we say the Buddha’s light illumines all, it means the Buddha’s wisdom tallies with sentient beings’ minds. Their minds are darkened by greed, anger, and delusion, but then the light shines in, dispelling the gloom and darkness of their 84,000 kinds of bad habits and faults. In general, we speak of the three poisons of greed, anger, and delusion. These three produce countless, measureless, and boundless bad habits and faults, all of which are darkness. When you study the Buddhadharma and get rid of your bad habits and faults, you are “dispelling gloom and darkness.” 

Yet, this light neither shines…Don’t be attached and think, “Why haven’t I seen the Buddha’s light?” When you study the sutras and become wise, isn’t that the Buddha’s light shining upon you? If you only become more and more confused as you study and you can’t understand the principles of Buddhism, it’s because you haven’t destroyed your habits and faults yet. You can’t say that the Buddha’s light doesn’t shine on you. 

Nor does not shine. If you don’t become wise and you’re as greedy, angry, and deluded as always, then it’s not that the Buddha’s light doesn’t shine. It neither shines nor does not shine. It illumines without illumining; it doesn’t shine, yet shines. When your own wisdom light appears, then the Buddha’s light shines everywhere. If your own wisdom light hasn’t appeared, then the Buddha’s light does not shine everywhere.

Let me give another simple example to illustrate the Buddha’s universally shining light. The Buddha’s light is like an electric power plant. If you hook up electrical wiring in your house, then the electrical current can flow. However, if you don’t turn on the switch, there’s no electricity. Once you flip the switch, there is illumination. That is to say, if you turn on the switch in your mind, the Buddha’s light will shine upon you. If your mental switch is off, then even though the Buddha’s light is there, it can’t shine on you. Although it’s a very simple analogy, the connection can be made. Therefore, you should turn on the switch in your mind. Open up your mind and receive the universal illumination of the Buddha’s light. Let the Buddha’s wisdom light enter your mind and make an impression.

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