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Praises at the Summit of Mount Sumeru

Chapter Fourteen




A person who pursues false names
And clings to these two dharmas
Does not understand absolute reality
Nor know the wondrous path of sages.


[The Master asks a disciple to explain these four lines.]

Disciple: A person who pursues false names—“birth and death” and “nirvana”—and clings to these two dharmas, being attached to them, does not understand absolute reality. He is deluded, and nor does he know the wondrous path of sages. He does not know the position of sagehood, nor does he understand the most wondrous and highest Buddha path.

Ven. Master: Pretty good. “Absolute reality” refers to the reality of True Suchness. This person doesn’t understand that. What is the wondrous path of sages? What is meant by false names? It means there is just a name, but there is no substance to it. Things are called by whatever names you give them. That’s why names are all false. If you chase after false names, if you apply effort on what is false rather than on what is true, you will never attain the wondrous path of sages. “Clinging” means not being able to renounce one’s attachment to the false names of “birth and death” and “nirvana.” If you don’t apply effort on what is true, you won’t obtain the true. If you work on what’s false, you’ll only get false results. Such a person does not understand the reality of True Suchness. He doesn’t apprehend the principle of true emptiness and wonderful existence. He doesn’t comprehend the meaning of zero.

The zero is itself the wondrous path of sages. I spoke about the zero previously. The zero is inexpressibly wonderful. All of you should study it. The zero is itself true emptiness and wonderful existence. It is our great perfect mirror wisdom; it is also our wonderful contemplative wisdom, our wisdom of accomplishment, and our equal wisdom. All of these are included within the zero. But if you only work on what’s false, you cannot understand the true principle. You won’t be able to comprehend the inconceivably wondrous path that the Buddhas, the Bodhisattvas, and all sages have attained.

The sages don’t attain this path outside of themselves. Rather they return to the source. They return to their original state. There is no knowledge and no attainment involved. Have ordinary people lost the wondrous path of sages? No, it is replete within them. It’s just that they don’t know how to utilize or cultivate it. The wondrous path of sages is like a computer. If you have studied computers, then you know how to use one. Otherwise, the computer is useless to you. The wondrous path of sages is the same way. If you understand how computers work, you can use them. We cultivate in order to understand our inherent wisdom—the great perfect mirror wisdom—which is like a computer that everyone has. When you bring forth this wisdom in your cultivation, you will experience an inconceivable state.

“Birth and death” and “nirvana” are false names. If you think about it, what is there in the world that isn’t a false name? Everything has a name. The name represents its form. But is that really its name? Not necessarily. When a baby is born, what is its name? It doesn’t have one. It’s just a baby. The parents name it, and then it has a name. Would you say that name is true or false? It didn’t have that name originally, but they insisted on giving it a name, like “Steve” or “Bill” or even “Flower” or “Turnip” or “Cabbage”—a whole bunch of false names! Once there’s a name, people become attached to it. If someone scolds Steve, the person named “Steve” gets upset and can’t forget about it. If someone scolds Turnip, the person named “Turnip” thinks, “Why is he scolding me?” A person doesn’t have any name at birth, but once he gets named, he hangs onto that name and doesn’t let go.

I often tell people that before I left the home-life, I had the false name “Bai Zhongyi” (“Bai, the First in China”) and I thought I was number one in China. It was a great name. But then I thought, “Where is this name? It doesn’t exist.” So then I called myself, “Living Dead Person.” I was alive, yet it was as if I’d already died. That was still a false name. When I was observing filial piety by my mother’s grave, people referred to me as “Filial Son Bai.” That was a false name, too. After I entered monastic life, I was given the name “An Ci” (Peaceful and Kind), then “To Lun” (Wheel of Deliverance), and now “Hsuan Hua” (Proclaim and Transform). All of these are false. You can scold any of them. If you want to scold To Lun or Hsuan Hua, go right ahead. If you are my disciple and you aren’t afraid of committing offenses and falling into the hells, you can go right ahead and scold me. I definitely would never get mad at you.

No matter who is good or bad to me, I won’t be angry with them. Why? You breathe your air and I breathe mine; why should I waste my breath getting mad at you? It’s all false and empty. However, I sometimes use expedient means to teach people. If you deserve to be blasted and I don’t show you my temper, you’ll never become vigorous. You’ll continue procrastinating, putting off cultivation till the next day. You keep putting it off day after day, until you get old and die. That’s why I find it necessary to lose my temper at you and even give you a beating. I used to beat people in Hong Kong, but I haven’t done so since I came to America.

All of you think about it. What is there that is real? What’s the use of chasing after false names? If you see this clearly, then even if people scold you, beat you, or kill you, you will not mind. I will tell you now, if you beat me or kill me, I’ll be glad. If you don’t believe it, you can try it out. I certainly won’t fight back or try to kill you.


A person who harbors the notion:
“This Buddha is most excellent,”
Is deluded, knows not the truth,
And cannot see the One of Proper Enlightenment.


A person who harbors the notion, / “This Buddha is most excellent,” / Is deluded, knows not the truth. This is a kind of attachment. You haven’t understood that the Buddhas of the three periods of time and in the ten directions all share the same Dharma body. All Buddhas are equal. No Buddha is the most supreme or the most lowly. The Buddhas are all alike. However, they make different vows. Amitabha Buddha, for example, made 48 vows to draw in sentient beings. Other Buddhas did not make these vows. Does this mean Amitabha Buddha is the most supreme? No, the Buddhas are all the same. It’s just that their vows are different. They made different vows, and consequently they have varying affinities with sentient beings. It’s not that some Buddhas are better than others. The Buddhas are equal, the Dharma is equal, and the sagely Sanghans of the ten directions are also equal.

Making discriminations of inferior and superior is “deluded and not the real meaning.” Not being the real meaning means it is false. And cannot see the One of Proper Enlightenment. If you apply effort on what is false, you will never develop proper knowledge and views and attain the wisdom of Proper Enlightenment. We should not work on what is false. We should apply effort at the level of absolute reality. We should not apply effort on dead things, but on living matter. If we can devote our effort to living things, we can attain the position of Proper and Equal Enlightenment. And we can see the Thus Come One of Unsurpassed, Proper and Equal, Right Enlightenment.


One who understands the essence of reality,
The still quiescence of True Suchness,
Thus sees the Honored One of Proper Enlightenment
And transcends the realm of language.


One who understand the essence of reality, the principle of reality being devoid of characteristics and yet characterizing everything, and also the principle of true emptiness and wonderful existence, the still quiescence of True Suchness. Although there is unmoving stillness, responses can occur. If you awaken to the absolute reality, then “Originally there is not a single thing: Where can dust alight?” Originally there are no afflictions, so where can bodhi be found? One thus sees the Honored One of Proper Enlightenment. If one understands this state, which is the Buddha’s state, one then sees the Buddhas of the ten directions. And this transcends the realm of language. This wondrous state cannot be expressed in words. It is beyond the characteristics of words, names, and thoughts. Apart from all characteristics, it is the same as all dharmas. When you understand this kind of principle, you will always see the Buddhas of the ten directions.


All the Dharma that is verbally expressed
Cannot reveal the true reality.
Only with equanimity can one see it.
The Dharma is thus, and likewise the Buddhas.


All the Dharma that is verbally expressed. All the myriad things in the world express the wonderful Dharma. Every kind of sentient being expresses its own kind of Dharma. People express human Dharma, gods express heavenly Dharma, and asuras express the Dharma of asuras. Hearers express the Dharma of Hearers, Those Enlightened to Conditions express their Dharma, Bodhisattvas express the Bodhisattva Dharma, and Buddhas express the Dharma of Buddhas. Animals express the Dharma of animals, hungry ghosts express the Dharma of hungry ghosts, and hell-beings express the Dharma of the hells. The Ten Dharma Realms each expresses Dharma. Those in each Dharma Realm express themselves in the language of that realm. There are a total of 84,000 dharma doors which counteract sentient beings 84,000 habits and faults. Since sentient beings have these habits and faults, the Buddhas expediently speak these Dharmas. When sentient beings get rid of their habits and faults, the Dharmas should also be relinquished. As the Vajra Sutra says,

Even the Dharma should be renounced,
How much the more what is not the Dharma.

Language can be used to speak expedient Dharmas to teach sentient beings, but it cannot reveal the true reality. The wonderful principle of reality, the true inherent nature, cannot be expressed in words. What can be done? Only with equanimity can one see it. One should learn to have the equanimity of all Buddhas. When one attains equal wisdom, one can then understand the principle of reality. The Dharma is thus, and likewise the Buddhas. This applies to the principle of reality, to the Dharma, and to the Buddhas. With equanimity, one can return to one’s source. Otherwise, one cannot grasp the wonderful principle of absolute reality.


The Ones of Proper Enlightenment
Of the past, present and future
Eternally sever discrimination’s root.
Thus they are known as Buddhas.  


The Ones of Proper Enlightenment / Of the past, present, and future. One of the Buddhas’ titles is “One of Unsurpassed, Proper and Equal, Right Enlightenment.” The Two Vehicles—the Hearers and Those Enlightened to Conditions—have obtained Right Enlightenment, but they have not obtained Proper and Equal Enlightenment. Bodhisattvas have attained “Right Enlightenment” and “Proper and Equal Enlightenment,” but their enlightenment is not unsurpassed. The Buddhas have obtained Proper and Equal, Right Enlightenment, and their level is unsurpassed.

Eternally sever discrimination’s root. The “root of discrimination” refers to consciousness. The Buddhas have transformed consciousness into wisdom. They have changed the eight consciousnesses into the Four Wisdoms. They have cut off the discriminating, conscious mind, so all that remains is wisdom which can illumine the reality of all dharmas. Thus they are known as Buddhas. A Buddha is a greatly enlightened being with great wisdom. He is complete in both blessings and wisdom. His titles include Thus Come One, One Worthy of Offerings, One of Proper and Pervasive Knowledge, Complete in Understanding and Practice, One Who Understands the World, Unsurpassed Knight, Taming and Regulating Hero, Teacher of Gods and People, Buddha, and World Honored One.

* * * *

When all the myriad things speak Dharma, it is just the Buddha speaking Dharma. When the Buddha speaks Dharma, it is all things speaking Dharma. The Buddha is not apart from all the myriad things. When the myriad things express the Dharma, most sentient beings don’t understand it, so the Buddha compassionately speaks the Dharma again for them. When the Buddha speaks Dharma, he speaks without speaking; he speaks and yet has not spoken. If sentient beings realized that all things are speaking Dharma, the Buddha wouldn’t need to speak Dharma. Since we don’t realize this, it’s as if we are watching a movie without understanding what we see. That’s why the Buddha speaks the Dharma again.

Americans cannot understand Chinese until after they have studied it. Chinese people cannot understand English unless they study it. Because we have discriminating minds, we can only know a little bit; we can’t know everything. If we could know everything, then we’d know that the Buddha hasn’t spoken any Dharma.

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