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Praises at the Summit of Mount Sumeru

Chapter Fourteen



III. The Bodhisattvas speak verses in praise.

G. Knowledgeable Wisdom Bodhisattva of the Southwest


Then Knowledgeable Wisdom Bodhisattva, relying on the Buddha’s awesome spiritual power, universally contemplated the ten directions and spoke in verse.


Then after Good Wisdom Bodhisattva of the southeast had praised Vigorous Wisdom Bodhisattva of the northeast and had used verses to describe his own state and the expedient dharma door he had attained, Knowledgeable Wisdom Bodhisattva of the southwest rose from his seat and, relying on the Buddha’s awesome spiritual power, universally contemplated the causes, conditions, and dispositions of sentient beings in the ten directions and spoke in verse. 


Having heard the excellent teaching,
I thus gave rise to wisdom’s light.
It shines throughout the ten directions’ realms,
Making visible each and every Buddha.  


Wisdom is prajna in Sanskrit. There are literary prajna, contemplative prajna, and the prajna of reality. From literary prajna one gives rise to contemplative prajna, and from contemplative prajna one enlightens to actual prajna. This Bodhisattva will speak verses about this principle. 

Having heard the excellent teaching of the Buddha, which is based on language, I thus gave rise to wisdom’s light. He gave rise to contemplative prajna. Manifesting the light of wisdom, he tallied with actual prajna. Actual prajna pervades space throughout the Dharma Realm. It shines upon the ten directions’ Dharma realms, illuminating the myriad things in heaven and on earth. He has this kind of wisdom light, making visible each and every Buddha. He becomes one with all Buddhas and tallies with the principle of the absolute realized by all Buddhas. 


Not the slightest thing exists;
There are only false names.
To postulate a self and others
Is to enter a dangerous path.


Not the slightest thing exists. The world is basically empty. Because of sentient beings’ attachments, there are conditioned dharmas. This principle was expressed by the Great Master, the Sixth Patriarch, when he said:

Originally bodhi has no tree;
The bright mirror has no stand.
Originally there is not a single thing:
Where can dust alight?

There is nothing at all; there are only false names. / To postulate a self and others means there will also be sentient beings and those with life spans. To think like this is to enter a dangerous path. Day by day it becomes more perilous; day by day one becomes more confused. In the six paths of rebirth, one is suddenly in the heavens, suddenly in the hells. Suddenly one becomes a hungry ghost or an animal. Suddenly one turns into an asura, or enters the human path. This is very dangerous, because one is attached to the views of self, others, sentient beings, and those with life spans. Sentient beings are deluded because they postulate reality where there is no reality. In their delusion, they enter a dangerous path, and it is difficult for them to escape from the Three Realms. 


Ordinary people with their clinging attachments
Assume that the body is real.
The Thus Come One does not cling to anything;
Hence they never get to see him.


Ordinary people with their clinging attachments. Ordinary people are those who have not realized sagehood. Why are they unable to do so? Because they have attachments and greed. Their attachments are too strong and their greed is insatiable. They assume that the body is real. They are attached to the notion of a body. The body is merely a temporary combination of the four elements: earth, water, fire, and wind. When the four elements split up, the body disappears. Ordinary people fail to understand this and become attached to their bodies. They identify themselves with their bodies. Actually, the body is not the self. If it were, how could it die?

No one wants to die, yet the body certainly has to die. You can’t control it and tell it what to do. You might not realize it when you’re young, but when you get old and are about to die, the four elements want to split up and return to their places. Fire wants to return to fire, earth to earth, water to water, and wind to wind. When your eyesight starts to blur, there’s nothing you can do to stop it. Your ears grow deaf, your teeth fall out, your skin gets as wrinkled as a chicken’s, and your hair turns as white as a crane’s. Where is the self among all of these? You can’t find it.

You can say that the body, a false combination of the four elements, is yours, but you can’t say it is you. Why? Because the real host and master is the true, inherent nature, which dwells inside the body. By analogy, when you live in a house, you can say the house is yours, but you can’t say that it is you. Likewise, your body is something that you live in; it houses the true, inherent nature. At death, the true, inherent nature leaves your body and moves to a new one. Therefore you shouldn’t become attached to your body as something real and permanent. 

The Thus Come One does not cling to anything; The Buddha has no attachments. If you have attachments, you can’t see the Buddha. Hence they never get to see him. Ordinary beings with their clinging attachments never get to see the Thus Come One’s true face.


Such people lack the wisdom eye;
They cannot behold the Buddha.
Throughout the course of countless eons,
They drift upon the sea of birth and death.


Such ordinary, attached people lack the wisdom eye. If they had the wisdom eye, they wouldn’t cling to phenomenal characteristics. They are attached because they are confused by birth and death. Andsince they lack wisdom and are confused by birth and death, they cannot behold the true body of the Buddha. / Throughout the course of countless eons from time without beginning, they drift upon the sea of birth and death. For an unreckonable amount of time, they have been drifting about in the sea of suffering, undergoing endless rounds of rebirth.

We should all pay attention. Pay attention to what? To the zero. If you can return to the source—to the zero—you will be able to see the Buddhas of the ten directions. The “0” represents that there is nothing whatsoever. It has no beginning and no end, no inside and no outside. It is neither great nor small. If you break open the “0,” it becomes the number “1,” which is the beginning of numbers. After the “1,” you can add as many zeros as you want to produce infinite numbers. The zero represents the beginningless and the endless. It has no inside or outside, no great or small, no right or wrong, no you or me, no characteristics of self, others, sentient beings, or those with life spans.

When we say “equal to zero,” that means there is nothing at all. Yet although there is nothing, everything is included within this. All numbers are found within this. When the zero opens, it becomes one. The one is also very important. Why is heaven clear? Because of the one. Why is earth peaceful? Because of the one. Why does a person become a sage? Because he has attained the one. Turning the one back into zero is called “returning to the source.” The zero is the basic substance of the Dharma Realm. It is the source of the Buddha nature. Don’t look lightly upon the zero. When heaven attains the one, it becomes clear.

When earth attains the one, it is at peace.
When people attain the one, they become sages.

The one is the mother of all things. So it’s said, “When the one is attained, all things are completed.” Before you have attained the one, you go looking for this and that, being upside down. When you attain the one, you have finished everything. All things are done. To attain the one means to be without attachments. It means to put everything down and not cling to anything. That is also to return to the source and to end birth and death. You will no longer toss and turn in the ocean of birth and death.  


Contention is said to be birth and death,
While noncontention is nirvana.
Neither birth and death, nor nirvana
Can actually be apprehended.  


Contention is said to be birth and death. Contention refers to afflictions. If you have afflictions, then you have contention. Without afflictions, you are without contention.

Contention involves the thought of victory and defeat.

You always want to be better than others. That thought of wanting to be good is actually itself bad. It is a kind of greed. Being greedy, one gets afflicted. To advance along the spiritual Path, you first have to retreat. In cultivating the spiritual Path, you shouldn’t contend for victory. Your attitude should be if someone is good, let him be good. If someone is number one, let him be number one. Let others be good. Give the good things to others. Take bad things upon yourself. That is, give what is beneficial to others, and accept what is unfavorable or harmful for yourself. Don’t have a competitive spirit and always wish to win.

“Then I shouldn’t even cultivate, because that’s also a kind of greed to be good,” you say. Cultivating the spiritual Path is different. You should advance vigorously along the Buddha Path and not turn back. That’s not greed. You’re just returning to your original dwelling place. Wishing to achieve Buddhahood is not greed; it’s simply a wish to go home. We’ve been away from home too long, and now we want to return. If you say, “I’ll give good things to others and tell others to cultivate, but I won’t cultivate,” that’s wrong. Don’t twist things around and think you don’t have to do the things you’re supposed to do, or think you should do things that you shouldn’t do. For instance, you shouldn’t be jealous, selfish, or self-benefiting. You should be without a self; don’t calculate for your own benefit. If you contend, then you’ll have the thought of the four characteristics. Then you won’t be able to attain the samadhi of noncontention. The samadhi of noncontention is devoid of afflictions and contention. If you contend and get afflicted, that is birth and death.

While noncontention is nirvana. If you don’t contend about anything, then that is pure Nirvana, the absolute principle. Neither birth and death, nor nirvana / Can actually be apprehended. Why is there birth and death? Because there is nirvana. Why is there nirvana? Because there is birth and death. If there is no birth and death, there is no need to speak of nirvana. If there is no nirvana, there’s no need to speak of birth and death. So, right within birth and death, there is no birth and death. And the absence of birth and death is nirvana. When you reach the absolute truth of the inherent nature, neither nirvana nor birth and death are obtainable. They are nonexistent. Birth and death only exist by virtue of nirvana. When birth and death and nirvana are both gone, one has entered the great light treasury of the inherent nature.

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