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Introduction:  Importance of the Sutra   *   Ultimate Extinction of the Dharma

Chapter 2

"Ananda, you have told me that you saw my fist of bright light. How did it take the form of a fist? How did the fist become bright? By what means could you see it?” 2:1

Ananda replied, “The body of the Buddha is born of purity and cleanness, and, therefore, it assumes the color of Jambu River gold with deep red hues. Hence, it shone as brilliant and dazzling as a precious mountain. It was actually my eyes that saw the Buddha bend his five-wheeled fingers to form a fist which was shown to all of us.” 2:1

The Buddha told Ananda, “Today the Tathagata will tell you truly that all those with wisdom are able to achieve enlightenment through the use of examples. 2:2

”Ananda, take, for example, my fist: if I didn’t have a hand, I couldn’t make a fist. If you didn’t have eyes, you couldn’t see. If you apply the example of my fist to the case of your eyes, is the idea the same?” 2:4

Ananda said, “Yes, World Honored One. Since I can’t see without my eyes, if one applies the example of the Buddha’s fist to the case of your eyes, the idea is the same.” 2:4

The Buddha said to Ananda, “You say it is the same, but that is not right. Why? If a person has no hand, his fist is gone forever. But one who is without eyes is not entirely devoid of sight. 2:5

”For what reason? Try consulting a blind man on the street: ‘What do you see?’ 2:5

”Any blind man will certainly answer, ‘Now I see only black in front of my eyes. Nothing else meets my gaze.’ 2:5

”The meaning is apparent: if he sees blackness in front of him, how could his seeing be considered ‘lost’?” 2:5

Ananda said, “The only thing blind people see in front of their eyes is blackness. How can that be seeing?” 2:6

The Buddha said to Ananda, “Is there any difference between the blackness seen by blind people, who do not have the use of their eyes, and the blackness seen by someone who has the use of his eyes when he is in a dark room?” 2:6

”So it is, World Honored One. Between the two kinds of blackness, that seen by the person in a dark room and that seen by the blind, there is no difference.” 2:6

”Ananda, if the person without the use of his eyes who sees only blackness were suddenly to regain his sight and see all kinds of forms, and you say it is his eyes which see, then when the person in a dark room who sees only blackness suddenly sees all kinds of forms because a lamp is lit, you should say it is the lamp which sees. 2:7

”If it is a case of the lamp seeing, it would be a lamp endowed with sight - which couldn’t be called a lamp. And if the lamp were to do the seeing, how would you be involved? 2:8

”Therefore you should know that while the lamp can reveal the forms, it is the eyes, not the lamp, that do the seeing. And while the eyes can reveal the forms, the seeing-nature comes from the mind, not the eyes.” 2:8

Although Ananda and everyone in the great assembly had heard what was said, their minds had not yet understood, and so they remained silent. Hoping to hear more of the gentle sounds of the Tathagata’s teaching, they put their palms together, purified their minds, and stood waiting for the Tathagata’s compassionate instruction. 2:9

Then the World Honored One extended his tula-cotton webbed bright hand, opened his five-wheeled fingers, and told Ananda and the great assembly, “When I first accomplished the Way I went to the Deer Park, and for the sake of Ajnatakaundinya and all five of the bhikshus, as well as for you of the four-fold assembly, I said, ‘It is because living beings are impeded by guest-dust and affliction that they do not realize Bodhi or become arhats.’ At that time, what caused you who have now realized the holy fruit to become enlightened?” 2:10

Then Ajnatakaundinya arose and said to the Buddha, “Of the elders now present in the great assembly, only I received the name ‘understanding’ because I was enlightened to the meaning of the word ‘guest-dust’ and realized the fruition. 2:15

”World Honored One, it is like a traveler who stops as a guest at a roadside inn, perhaps for the night or perhaps for a meal. When he has finished lodging there or when the meal is finished, he packs his baggage and sets out again. He does not remain there at leisure. The host himself, however, does not go far away. 2:16

”Considering it this way, the one who does not remain is called the guest, and the one who does remain is called the host. The word ‘guest,’ then, means ‘one who does not remain.’ 2:17

”Again, when the sky clears up, the morning sun rises with all resplendence, and its golden rays stream into a house through a crevice to reveal particles of dust in the air. The dust dances in the rays of light, but the empty space is motionless. 2:17

”Considering it this way, what is clear and still is called space, and what moves is called dust. The word ‘dust,’ then, means ‘that which moves.’” 2:18

The Buddha said, “So it is.” 2:19

Then in the midst of the great assembly the Thus Come One bent his five-wheeled fingers. After bending them, he opened them again. After he opened them, he bent them again, and he asked Ananda, “What do you see now?” 2:20

Ananda said, “I see the Thus Come One’s hundred-jeweled wheeled palms opening and closing in the midst of the assembly.” 2:20

The Buddha said to Ananda, “You see my hand open and close in the assembly. Is it my hand that opens and closes, or is it your seeing that opens and closes?” 2:20

Ananda said, “The World Honored One’s jeweled hand opened and closed in the assembly. I saw the Thus Come One’s hand itself open and close; it was not my seeing-nature that opened and closed.” 2:20

The Buddha said, “What moves and what is still?” 2:21

Ananda said, “The Buddha’s hand does not remain at rest. And since my seeing-nature is beyond even stillness, how could it not be at rest?” 2:21

The Buddha said, “So it is.” 2:22

Then from his wheeled palm the Thus Come One sent a precious ray of light flying to Ananda’s right. Ananda immediately turned his head and glanced to the right. He then sent another ray of light to Ananda’s left. Ananda again turned his head and glanced to the left. The Buddha said to Ananda, “Why did your head move just now?” 2:22

Ananda said, “I saw the Thus Come One emit a wonderful precious light which came by my left and right, and so I looked to the left and right. My head moved of itself.” 2:22

”Ananda, when you glanced at the Buddha’s light and moved your head to the left and right, was it your head that moved or your seeing that moved?” 2:23

”World Honored One, my head moved of itself. Since my seeing-nature is beyond even cessation, how could it move?” 2:23

The Buddha said, “So it is.” 2:24

Then the Thus Come One told everyone in the great assembly, “Suppose other living beings called what moves ‘the dust’ and what does not dwell ‘the guest’? 2:24

”You noticed that it was Ananda’s head that moved; the seeing did not move. You also noticed that it was my hand which opened and closed; the seeing did not stretch or bend. 2:25

”Why do you continue to take something moving like your body and its environment to be in substantial existence, so that from the beginning to the end, your every thought is subject to production and extinction? 2:25

”You have lost your true nature and conduct yourselves in upside-down ways. Having lost your true nature and mind, you recognize objects as yourself, and it is you who cling to the flowing and turning of the revolving wheel.” 2:26

When Ananda and the great assembly heard the Buddha’s instructions, they became peaceful and composed both in body and mind. They recollected that since time without beginning, they had strayed from their fundamental true mind by mistaking the shadows of their causally conditioned differentiating minds as something real and substantial. Now on this day they had awakened to such illusions and misconceptions. Like a lost infant who rejoins its beloved mother after a long separation, they put their palms together to make obeisance to the Buddha. 2:28

They wished to hear such words from the Thus Come One as to enlighten them to the dual nature of body and mind - what is false and what is real, what is empty and what is substantial, what is subject to production and extinction and what transcends production and extinction. 2:29

Then King Prasenajit rose and said to the Buddha, “In the past, when I had not yet received the teachings of the Buddha, I met Katyayana and Vairatiputra, both of whom said that this body is annihilated after death, and that this is Nirvana. Now, although I have met the Buddha, I still have doubts about their words. How much I wish to be enlightened to the ways and means to perceive and realize the true mind, thereby proving that it transcends production and extinction! All those who have outflows also wish to be instructed on this subject.” 2:30

The Buddha said to the great king, “Now I ask you, as it is now is your physical body like vajra, indestructible and living forever? Or does it change and go bad?” 2:33

”World Honored One, this body of mine will keep changing until it eventually becomes extinct.” 2:33

The Buddha said, “Great King, you have not yet become extinct. How do you know you will become extinct?” 2:34

”World Honored One, although my impermanent, changing, and decaying body has not yet become extinct, I observe it now, and every passing thought fades away. Each new one fails to remain, but gradually perishes like fire turning to ashes. This perishing without cease convinces me that this body will eventually become completely extinct.” 2:34

The Buddha said, “So it is. 2:35

”Great King, at your present age you are already old and declining. How do your appearance and complexion compare to when you were a youth?” 2:35

”World Honored One, in the past when I was young my skin was moist and shining. When I reached the prime of life, my blood and breath were full. But now in my declining years, as I race into old age, my form is withered and wizened and my spirit dull. My hair is white and my face is in wrinkles and I haven’t much time remaining. How can I be compared to how I was when I was full of life?” 2:36

The Buddha said, “Great King, your appearance should not decline so suddenly.” 2:37

The king said, .World Honored One, the change has been a hidden transformation of which I honestly have not been aware. I have come to this gradually through the passing of winters and summers. 2:37

”How did it happen? In my twenties, I was still young, but my features had aged since the time I was ten. My thirties were a further decline from my twenties, and now at sixty-two I look back on my fifties as hale and hearty. 2:38

”World Honored One, I am contemplating these hidden transformations. Although the changes wrought by this process of dying are evident through the decades, I might consider them further in finer detail: these changes do not occur just in periods of twelve years; there are actually changes year by year. Not only are there yearly changes, there are also monthly transformations. Nor does it stop at monthly transformations; there are also differences day by day. Examining them closely, I find that kshana by kshana, thought after thought, they never stop. 2:39

”And so I know my body will keep changing until it is extinct.” 2:40

The Buddha told the great king, “By watching the ceaseless changes of these transformations, you awaken and know of your extinction, but do you also know that at the time of extinction there is something in your body which does not become extinct?” 2:41

King Prasenajit put his palms together and exclaimed, “I really do not know.” 2:41

The Buddha said, “I will now show you the nature which is not produced and not extinguished. 2:41

”Great King, how old were you when you saw the waters of the Ganges?” 2:42

The king said, “When I was three years old my compassionate mother led me to visit the Goddess Jiva. We passed a river, and at the time I knew it was the waters of the Ganges.” 2:42

The Buddha said, “Great King, you have said that when you were twenty you had deteriorated from when you were ten. Day by day, month by month, year by year until you have reached sixty, in thought after thought there has been change. Yet when you saw the Ganges River at the age of three, how was it different from when you were thirteen?” 2:42

The king said, “It was no different from when I was three, and even now when I am sixty-two it is still no different.” 2:42

The Buddha said, “Now you are mournful that your hair is white and your face is wrinkled. In the same way that your face is definitely more wrinkled than it was in your youth, has the seeing with which you look at the Ganges aged, so that it is old now but was young when you looked at the river as a child in the past?” 2:43

The king said, “No, World Honored One.” 2:43

The Buddha said, “Great King, your face is in wrinkles, but the essential nature of your seeing has not yet wrinkled. What wrinkles is subject to change. What does not wrinkle does not change. 2:44

”What changes will become extinct, but what does not change is fundamentally free of production and extinction. How can it be subject to your birth and death? Furthermore, why bring up what Maskari Goshaliputra and the others say: that after the death of this body there is total extinction?” 2:44

The King heard these words, believed them, and realized that when the life of this body is finished, there will be rebirth. He and the entire great assembly were greatly delighted at having obtained what they had never had before. 2:45

Ananda then arose from his seat, made obeisance to the Buddha, put his palms together, knelt on both knees, and said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, if seeing and hearing are indeed neither produced nor extinguished, why did the World Honored One refer to us as people who have lost their true natures and who go about things in an upside-down way? I hope the World Honored One will give rise to great compassion and wash my dust and defilement away.” 2:46

Then the Thus Come One let his golden arm fall so that his wheeled fingers pointed downward, and, showing Ananda, he said, .”You see my mudra-hand: is it right-side up or upside down?” 2:47

Ananda said, “Living beings in the world take it to be upside down. I do not know what is right-side up and what is upside down.” 2:47

The Buddha said to Ananda, “If people of the world take this as upside down, what do people of the world take to be right-side up?” 2:47

Ananda said, “They call it right-side up when the Thus Come One raises his arm, with the fingers of his tula-cotton hand pointing upward in the air.” 2:48

The Buddha then held up his hand and said: “Worldly people are doubly deluded when they discriminate between an upright and inverted hand. 2:48

”In the same way they will differentiate between your body and the Thus Come One’s pure Dharmabody and will say that the Thus Come One’s body is one of right and universal knowledge, while your body is upside down. 2:48

”But examine your bodies and the Buddha’s closely for this upside-downess: what exactly does the term ‘upside down’ refer to?” 2:49

Thereupon Ananda and the entire great assembly were dazed, and they stared unblinking at the Buddha. They did not know in what way their bodies and minds were upside down. 2:49

The Buddha’s compassion arose and he took pity on Ananda and on all in the great assembly and he spoke to the great assembly in a voice that swept over them like the ocean-tide. 2:50

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