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THE DIAMOND CUTTER OF DOUBTS
A Commentary on The Diamond sutra Vajracchedika-prajna-paramita Sutra
By Ch'an Master Han Shan
(from the Chin Kang Chuch I)
Tin; Vajracchedika-prajna-paramita Sutra, widely known as the Diamond Sutra, is of very profound and subtle meaning, and few really understand it. It has been wrongly divided into thirty-two chapters which seem to be unconnected random sayings, and the sub-title of each chapter creates more confusion in the mind of readers who usually rely on it for their interpretation of the text. The chapter divisions and sub-titles have therefore been omitted in this version.
A correct interpretation of the sutra is difficult because as soon as a doubt or question arose in Subhuti's mind, the Buddha, who knew it perfectly, gave an immediate reply without waiting for the mental query to be expressed in words. Therefore, all these mental questions were not recorded by Ananda who only noted down the questions and answers, actually heard by him, to be in accord with the first sentence of the sutra: «Thus have I hear».
In China many commentaries have been written on this sutra but most of them have failed to satisfy readers who have not seen the continuity of the Buddha's teaching which began by wiping out Subhuti`s coarse conceptions and ended with destroying his subtle ideas, until all his wrong views were eliminated one by one, resulting in the exposure of his fundamental nature. It was thus a continuous string of the disciple`s, wrong conceptions, from the coarse to the finest, which the Buddha broke up successively in His teaching of Wisdom (prajna), for prajna had no room for the smallest particle of dust, or impurity caused by ignorants.
Master Han Shan wrote this commentary after he had attained enlightenment, had read the whole Tripitaka and had apprehended the deep meaning of all the sutras. According to his commentary, the Diamond Sutra has only two parts, Part I dealing with the coarse views held by Subhuti and in fact by all students of Mahayana Buddhism, and Part II dealing with the subtle views still held by but imperceptible to them.
A student who succeeds in ridding his mind of coarse concepts, will reach a stage described in master Han Shan's 'The Song of the Board-bearer' which warns against 'sitting on the clean white ground' and of 'hankering after attractive side-lines'. (See Han Shan's autobiography - Han Shan Ta Shih Nien P'u.) Once he has reached this stage, the student should advance a step further to get rid of all subtle and imperceptible views which continue to split his undivided whole into subject and object. Only when these subtle views are completely uprooted, can he perceive the Tathagata of his fundamental nature.
The correct interpretation of this sutra is, therefore, of paramount importance to students of Mahayana for if they fail to grasp its meaning they will have difficulty in studying the Supreme Vehicle. This sutra is of special importance to followers of the Ch'an Sect, and the Fifth and Sixth Patriarchs used it to seal the mind in their 'Transmission of the Dharma'. Students of the doctrine of the Mind who understand the Diamond Sutra, are able to interpret correctly the instructions of the Patriarchs which consisted solely in driving out all wrong feelings and passions for the purpose of quieting the mind and revealing the real fundamental face of each living being.
As the Sixth Patriarch Hui Neng urged his listeners to purify their minds before he expounded the prajna, the adherents of Ch'an should abandon all dual conceptions of the subjective and objective during their spiritual training. In this respect, the Diamond Sutra is a precious guide for cleansing the mind for the purpose of attaining samadhi without which prajna cannot manifest itself.
In this presentation, I have used the Sanskrit word Dharma instead of its equivalent 'Law' and 'thing'. By 'thing', it should be understood as all things or anything small or great, visible or invisible, real or unreal, concrete things or abstract ideas.
All brackets are mine.
The commentator on this sutra and the Heart Sutra was Ch'an master Han Shan of the Ming dynasty. Born in 1546, he left his home at the age of twelve and went to a monastery where he was taught literature and sutras. Urged by an eminent master to practise Ch'an, he read 'The Sayings of Chung Feng' (Chung Feng Kuang Lu) which completely changed the young novice who then joined the Sangha order. After listening to the Avatamsaka Sutra, he obtained a clear understanding of the unobstructed integration of all things into the Dharma-dhatu. His monastery was destroyed by a disastrous fire and he vowed to rebuild it but realized that he could not do so before his own enlightenment without which he would not win support for the purpose. He went North and in the vicinity of the capital, he climbed a mountain and stayed on its peak where he lived with a hermit. There he experienced the samadhi of voidness. This experience is usually the first one every serious Ch'an
meditator has after he has successfully put a stop to his thinking. When he read the work of Seng Chao, he suddenly realized the fundamental immutability of the phenomenal. During his stay on the Five Peaked mountain, he realized Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva's complete enlighten¬ment which is described in the Surangama Sutra. He had many more other experiences among which two were the most important; in each of them, he sat, cross-legged and face to face with another enlightened monk, immobile and speechless, for forty successive days and nights, obviously without sleeping. At seventy-eight, he announced his death to his disciples and passed away peacefully. His body still remains intact at the monastery of the Sixth Patriarch.
UPASAKA LU K'UAN YU.
Hongkong, 21 March, 1959.
PRAJNA is a true cause (hetu) of all Buddha Mothers (Buddha Mothers: begetters of all Buddhas - CL) and Bodhisattvas, the Buddha nature of all living beings and the great fundamental of the mind. The individual attitude towards it, either concurrent or contradictory, will determine the difference between the saintly (arya) and the worldly.
It is, therefore, clear that the daily activities of all living beings, such as their seeing, hearing, knowing and feeling, are really prajna's bright (manifestations), the (essential) point being belief or disbelief in it. For this reason, it is said: 'Belief alone makes possible an entry into the wisdom-ocean of all the Buddhas.'
At the Vulture Peak assembly, the Buddha's disciples who had already been ferried across the (ocean) of life and death, had no share in the attainment of Buddhahood, solely because of their disbelief in this Dharma. The World Honoured One was, therefore, obliged to use many means to weed out (their disbelief) and all kinds of abuse (to awaken them), but those who were dull of apprehension, doubted and doubted again as if their knowledge was not qualified for it. As their doubts were not uprooted, their fundamental wisdom could not manifest itself. Finally, at the prajna assembly, the Tathagata (Tathagata: He who came as did all Buddhas; who took the absolute way of cause and effect, and attained to perfect wisdom, one of the highest titles of a Buddha - CL) used his diamond wisdom to cut off (their doubts) to ensure the complete removal of their concep¬tions of both the holy and worldly and the elimination of their (perverted) views of birth and death, so that the fundamental light of wisdom could be revealed to them. (Only then) did they begin to believe that their minds were pure and clean and did not contain a single thing that could hinder them.
This prajna diamond pulled up the roots of all doubts and this sutra was expounded for the benefit of initiates of the Supreme Way and not for those of shallow knowledge and poor virtue who could not understand it. For this reason, (the Fifth Patriarch at) Huang Mei used it to seal the mind (Mental impression, intuitive certainty; the mind is the Buddha mind in all, which can seal or assure the truth; the term indicates the intuitive method of the Ch'an School which is independent of the spoken or written word - CL), for the Ch'an sect did not establish a single Dharma.
Formerly, Vasubandhu (the Twenty-First Patriarch of the Ch'an Sect) listed twenty-seven doubts to explain this sutra. Since these doubts lay hid in the written words (of the sutra), in this country many missed its real meaning by clinging to its words, and very few indeed gathered the real ideas behind them.
When I was a child, I could already recite this sutra by heart, but when I attained to manhood, I could not understand its meaning. When I thought of the Sixth Patriarch who, upon hearing a sentence of the sutra, achieved the instantaneous realization of his mind, I could not help feeling why no one in this world could apprehend and enter it. This was due to the fact that the right eye was not opened, thence the real hindrance to the (realization of one's own) nature.
During my stay in (the monastery of the Sixth Patriarch at) Ts'ao Ch'i, once by chance, while explaining the sutra to my followers, I obtained a sudden understanding of it, although I was unready for the experience, and all doubts which lay beyond the words of the sutra became evident to my mind's eye. It is true that this Dharma is outside words and letters and cannot be understood by reasoning and discriminating.
I, therefore, took up this sutra to explain it for the almsgiving of Buddha truth. The wood-blocks from which to print it were first cut in Ling Nan, next at Wu Yun, and later at Nan Yo. My disciple Fang Yu who saw the sutra, believed and received it, undertook also the carving of wood-blocks at Wu Men.
It is hoped that the four vargas (the four vargas: monks, nuns, male and female devotees - CL) will all open up their correct Dharma eye and really believe in their own minds. Thus the cause of their attain¬ment of Buddhahood will begin with this sutra.
Written in the month of the summer solstice in the year Ping Ch'en (1616). Sramaiia Te Ch'ing, (alias) Han Shan, of the Ts'ao Ch'i monastery in the Ming dynasty.
THE DIAMOND CUTTER OF DOUBTS
ALL those who explain the word 'Diamond' agree that it means some¬thing hard and sharp that can cut. This is a vague explanation. In fact, there exists in India a precious stone called diamond, which is very hard and cannot be broken but can cut all other objects. If it is compared with prajna which can cut off all troubles (klesa), this comparison, although valid in theory, is not the Buddha's. It is only the usual view originating from inherited habits.
Prajna which means wisdom in our language, is the Buddha Mind, also called Buddha Wisdom.
Paramita means 'reaching the other shore'. It points to the ultimate extremity of this Mind.
The full title Diamond Prajna-paramita indicates the teaching expounded in this sutra which aims at revealing the Buddha's Diamond Mind. Moreover, this Diamond Mind was the fundamental mind of the Buddha in His practice, as a cause, resulting in His enlightenment, as an effect. Now He appeared in this world to teach and convert living beings by using solely this mind. He taught Bodhisattvas to use this Diamond Mind as a cause in their practice so that they could enter the initial door of Mahayana. This is why He purposely taught them to cut off their doubts (about it). As this mind had nothing in common with the realm of feeling of living beings, people in this world did not know the Buddha. More¬over, the Buddha did not, in fact, belong to this world. When He came to the world, those who saw Him harboured doubts about Him. Since His daily activities did not conform with those of others, His talking being different, and all His practice and Dharma being in contrast with the world, these disparities aroused their doubts about Him. No wonder that the demon kings of the heavens wished to harm Him, Devadatta and Ajatasatru wanted to kill Him and all men slandered Him. For this reason He said: 'When I appeared in this world, gods (devas), men, spirits (asuras), heretics and demon kings doubted with apprehension.' Not only did men and devas suspect Him, but even His elder disciples, such as Mahakasyapa, were suspicious of Him, for when He expounded the Dharma, the Buddha used to mention now the non-existent, now the existing; now the right, now the wrong; either He praised or blamed; either He exhorted or scolded; and He never used words on a fixed basis. The disciples who listened to His teaching, harboured doubts and did not believe Him. They said: 'Is He not Mara who feigns to be a Buddha to annoy us and disturb our minds?' With the elder disciples' attitude being such, one can guess that of beginners, for it was difficult to believe and understand the Dharma expounded by the Buddha. Since He had appeared in this world, He had now expounded the Dharma for thirty years. As His disciples were still suspicious and unbelieving, they had done Him an injustice for a long time.
Fortunately, it was a happy day when Subhuti perceived something (extraordinary) in the World Honoured One and suddenly praised Him. The World Honoured One (took advantage of) His disciple's doubts to cut them off, and revealed his real Diamond Mind to him so that he could be thoroughly awakened to it and would not have any more doubt about it, thus enabling all those present to wipe out theirs as well. Therefore, this sutra (tells how) the Buddha clearly revealed His own mind in order to cut off His disciples' doubts in their studies of the truth. It does not expound Prajna which can cut out the troubles (klesa) of living beings. Those who do not agree to this can read the sutra in which (they will find that) Subhuti's doubts about the Buddha Mind were cut off one by one after the Buddha had exposed this mind. Is there (in the sutra) any reference to the wisdom which cuts out the troubles of living beings? For this reason, the title of this sutra points direct to the Dharma and is not used as an allegory. Obviously, when the disciple's doubts were cut off, their troubles would disappear also. The sutra's only aim was the cutting out of doubts and the awakening of faith. For students of the truth, faith is fundamental and doubts are their obstacles. There are three kinds of doubt: about the man (who expounds the Dharma), about the Dharma and about oneself (the student).
The (first) doubt about the expounder is because he is not recognized as right. For instance, when the disciples heard the Buddha speaking of the physical body (rupa-kaya) the spiritual body (dharma-kaya), and the great and small bodies, they did not know which body was the true Buddha. This was doubt about the expounder of Dharma.
When the Buddha expounded the Dharma, as soon as He had spoken of the existing, He mentioned the non-existent; as soon as He had spoken .of the void, He mentioned the not-void (amogha). His sermons were not consistent and caused a great deal of doubt. This was doubt about the Dharma.
There might be those who listened to His sermons, could believe Him, and had no doubt about the Dharma, but they found it (too) extensive and doubted whether their inferior roots were quali¬fied for it and whether they could observe it. This was doubt about oneself.
This sutra contained three kinds of doubt. As soon as one of them arose in Subhuti's mind, the Buddha drove it out (until) they were all cut off completely. It was said: 'When all one's doubts and repentance (for them) are wiped out for ever, one will abide in the wisdom of reality.' This was the aim of the sutra.
In our country, there are many commentaries on this sutra, but they are not in accord with the Buddha's idea. Only the commentary by Bodhisattva Vasubhandu who listed the twenty-seven doubts which occur in the sutra, is correct. When his commentary was brought to this country, it was translated into Chinese, but since the work was done by men whose ability (to understand it) differed greatly, in spite of the fact that the commentator was a sage, the translation could not convey the exact meaning and became a hindrance for students who could not comprehend it. Its subtle, profound and hidden meaning cannot be taught by word of mouth, and if expressed in words, it becomes as worthless as leavings. Thus, how could coarse and unstable words and phrases penetrate its abstruseness? In a commentary, it is difficult to describe the Buddha Mind. For example, when writing a biography, facts can be narrated but the painting of its spiritual aspects is impossible.
When interpreting this sutra as a cutter of doubts, the most important and wonderful thing is to discover first those doubts which Subhuti had in his mind. If they are uncovered, the Buddha's sermon on 'the cutting of doubts' automatically becomes clear and does not require any explana¬tion. Therefore, these doubts should be searched out (even) before attempting to interpret the text, and their traces ferreted out in each chapter so as to tackle them one by one, thus forgetting all about the written words in order to comprehend the deep meaning. Only then can the aim of the teaching automatically be found.
“Thus have I heard. Once upon a time, the Buddha sojourned in die Jetavana park (Jetavana, a park near Sravasti, said to have been obtained from Prince Jeta by the elder Anathapindada, in which monastic buildings were erected. It was the favourite resort of the Buddha - CL) near Sravasti with an assembly of twelve hundred and fifty bhiksus.”
This describes the assembly where the Buddha expounded the Dharma. It would be superfluous to deal with it here as other commentaries have already been written about it.
“One day, at mealtime, the World Honoured One put on His robe, took His howl, and entered the great town of Sravasti to beg for His food. After He had begged from door to door, He returned to His place. When He had taken His meal, He put away His robe and bowl, washed His feet, arranged His seat and sat down.”
This shows the Buddha's ordinary life and daily activities which were similar to those of others and had nothing special about them. There is here, however, something which is uncommon, but very few know it.
“At the time, the elder Subhuti who was in the assembly, rose from his seat, uncovered his right shoulder, knelt upon his right knee, respectfully joined the palms of his hands and said to the Buddha: 'It is very rare, O World Honoured One! . . .”
The Tathagata's daily activities were similar to those of other men (but) there was here one thing which was different and those who sat face to face with Him did not see it. That day, suddenly Subhuti uncovered it, praised it and said: 'Very rare. . . .' Alas! the Tathagata had been thirty years with His disciples and they still did not know anything about His common acts of daily life. As they did not know, they thought these acts were ordinary and let them pass (unnoticed). They thought only that He was similar to others and were, therefore, suspicious of and did not believe what He said. Had Subhuti not seen clearly, no one would really know the Buddha.
“. . . how well the Tathagata protects and thinks of all Bodhisattvas; how well He instructs all the Bodhisattvas.”
Subhuti praised the Buddha for this rare quality of His, for he saw His kindly heart (i.e. mind). The Bodhisattvas referred to were disciples who were studying His doctrine. They were precisely those who were previously of the Hinayana (mind) and began to develop the Mahayana mind; they were all Bodhisattvas whose minds were disturbed by the conception of the void. The Buddha always protected and thought of these Bodhisattvas. He had no other idea than that of enjoining upon them (the realization of) the Buddha Mind. The Buddha protected and thought of them, because when He appeared in this world, His funda¬mental vow was to guide all living beings so that they could become similar to Him. This mind (of His) would reach its extremity only when every living being had obtained Buddhahood. However, living beings were of little virtue and saturated with impurity, and since they were of weak purpose, they were incapable of carrying it out. Thus they were like babies and the Buddha was like a kind mother who protects and thinks of her children without a moment's respite. The Buddha knew perfectly all living beings whom He protected and for whom He had only kind thoughts, just as a kind mother cares for her babes. By protection and kind thoughts, it should be understood that His sole aim would be fulfilled only after all living beings had attained Buddhahood. This is why he instructed the Bodhisattvas so well. He did not dare to say it plainly, but used convenient and close methods to teach them. This is why the adjective 'well' was used. The sutra says: 'I use unlimited and numberless (expedient) methods to guide living beings so that every one of them will attain all-knowledge (sarvajna).' (sarvajna: all-knowledge or Buddha-wisdom - CL) This is the meaning of the words 'protected', 'thought of and 'instructed'.
“O World Honoured One, when virtuous men or women develop the supreme-enlightenment mind, (Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi, or Anubodhi: unexcelled complete enlightenment, an attribute of every Buddha. Translated into Chinese: the highest, correct and complete, or universal knowledge or awareness, the perfect wisdom of a Buddha, Omniscience - CL) how should their minds abide and how should they be subdued?”
Subhuti asked for the means to quiet the mind. When the disciples' minds abided in Hinayana, they consented to save only themselves but did not think of saving all living beings. Therefore, their minds were narrow. Now that they had for over twenty years listened to the teaching of the Buddha who had used all means to sweep away (their false ideas) and to urge them to save all beings, they were called living beings of broad mind and were Bodhisattvas. They were enjoined to convert all beings here below, in order to seek the Buddha fruit from above. They now consented to save all beings and were determined to develop the Bodhi mind.
Subhuti had already believed in the Buddha Mind, but he saw new Bodhisattvas who had just begun to develop the broad mind of a Bodhisattva and were not yet awakened to the absolute voidness of reality which they could not distinguish from the relative voidness as previously conceived by them. Formerly the Hinayana's nirvana could be clung to for their minds' tranquil dwelling. Now they had relinquished the former (conception of one-sided) voidness, but had not yet attained the true voidness. Thus, when advancing further, they did not gain any new experience, and when turning back, they lost their old abode. They were called Bodhisattvas whose minds were disturbed by the conception of voidness. As they used to cling to names and words, they were still bound by habit. They still held the false view that there was a real abiding place and that there was really a Buddha fruit to seek. Thus, they thought that they should search for a Buddha fruit in which to abide. As they were required to convert living beings here below in order to obtain the Buddha fruit from above, they had to save all living beings before they could become Buddhas themselves. Now they saw uncountable and limitless numbers of living beings in the universe (Literally 'the great trichiliocosm' = Tri-sahasra-maha-sahasra-loka-dhatu. Mt. Sumeru and its seven .surrounding continents, eight seas and ring of iron mountains form one small world; 1,000 of these form a small chiliocosm; 1,000 of these small chiliocosms form a medium chiliocosm; 1,000 of these form a great chiliocosm, which consists of 1,000,000,000 small worlds. The word 'universe' is used for convenience sake - CL) and wondered when all these beings could be saved and how they could obtain the Buddha fruit since the universe would never be emptied of these beings. As they were impatient in their efforts to seek a tranquil dwelling, their minds were not at rest and they could not subdue them. Therefore, Subhuti purposely solicited for them the (appropriate) means so that their minds could abide in tranquillity and could be subdued. Why, then, did Subhuti, who had seen and praised the so-rare Buddha Mind, ask only about these two things? The whole assembly had agreed that the World Honoured One had already obtained (the fruit of) enlightenment. Subhuti had seen that His mind was quiet and comfortable whereas the minds of those who were now determined to seek the Buddha fruit were (still) disturbed. He wanted to know where these minds should abide and how they should be subdued.
As regards how to quiet the mind, (an example can be found in the dialogue between Bodhidharma and the Second Ch'an Patriarch) who was his attendant and solicited from him the means to quiet his mind. Bodhidharma replied: 'Bring me your mind so that I can quiet it.' The Second Patriarch said: 'I cannot find my mind.' And Bodhidharma replied: 'I have now quieted your mind.' In the Ch'an School, just a word was sufficient and this was the Ch'an doctrine. Now the World Honoured One spoke of so many methods to quiet the mind because of His com¬passionate heart. This was the Teaching School. After all, it was only the quest of the mind which could not be found. This is why before the Fourth Patriarch, the Lankavatara Sutra was used to seal (and prove) the mind, and why, afterwards, (the Fifth Patriarch at) Huang Mei and the Sixth Patriarch used the Diamond Sutra to seal it. The (Diamond) Sutra is, therefore, not a sutra of spoken and written words and should not be regarded as such. Its wonder(ful meaning) is outside of words. In it, the question 'What do you think?' is asked to probe (the disciple's) doubts.
The whole assembly gave rise to (new) doubts upon hearing the Buddha's words, and although these doubts were not disclosed, their minds were already on the move. This was discrimination by mental words and originated in habitual (conceptions) of names and words.
”The Buddha said: 'Excellent, excellent, Subhuti! As you say, the Tathagata protects, cherishes and instructs Bodhisattvas so well. Now listen attentively and I will tell you how the minds of virtuous men and women, who develop the supreme enlightenment mind, should thus abide and be subdued.”
Subhuti's question referred to Bodhisattvas in quest of supreme enlightenment (anubodhi) who could not be like the Buddha whose mind was so quiet and comfortable. He thought that if they wished to become Buddhas, they should perform the same daily activities as the Buddha did, and only then could they become Buddhas. He saw the Buddha's mind which was at ease and the Bodhisattvas' minds which could not abide in stillness. Hence his question: 'How should they be subdued in order to abide in tranquility?'
In His reply, the Buddha's idea was that Bodhisattvas who wished to quiet their minds in order to become Buddhas themselves should not seek anything other than that mind of His which, as understood by Subhuti, protected, cherished and instructed (the Bodhisattvas). Thus, their minds would be quieted, and there would be no need to subdue them. Therefore, He said: 'As you say.' It would suffice to set their minds at rest and (then), what else would they seek to subdue? They ought to do 'thus', hence the word 'thus' in His reply.
“(Subhuti replied:) 'Oh yes, World Honoured One, I shall be glad to hear (your instruction).”
Subhuti said: 'Oh yes,' because he now believed in the Buddha Mind about which he had no more doubt. As he had already seen the Buddha Mind, it seemed that there was no need for further teaching (about it). But since the other Bodhisattvas did not know it, he was glad to hear about it (so that these Bodhisattvas should have a chance to know it also).
“The Buddha said: 'Subhuti, all Bodhisattvas and Mahasattvas should subdue their minds as follows”
Here the Buddha points out the means to quiet the mind which is indicated in the following paragraph of the sutra. Subhuti asked about two things: How the mind should abide and how to subdue it? Now the
Buddha talked only about subduing the mind and did not say anything about how it should abide.
Since worldly men, Sravakas (Sravaka: a hearer, disciple of Buddha who understands the Four Noble Truths, rids himself of the unreality of the phenomenal, and enters the incomplete nirvana - CL) and Pratyekas (Pratyeka: one who lives apart from others and attains enlightenment alone, or for him¬self, in contrast with the altruism of the Bodhisattva principle - CL) clung to an abiding place because of their (false) habits (through the use) of names and terms, and as they were now resolved upon entering Mahayana, it was important first to eliminate these (false) habits, for neither living beings nor nirvana are real, both being non-existent, with only names and terms as their substances. Once names and terms were wiped out, their (false) habits would disappear completely, and the mind would become automatically calm and comfortable and would thus not require to be subdued. There¬fore, the Buddha taught them only how to subdue their minds and did not say anything about their abiding in stillness in order not to bring these (false) habits to life again. It is said: 'The mad mind never stops; if it does, it will become enlightened (bodhi). It will suffice to empty the mind of all worldly feelings; there should be no interpretation of the holy.' As the Buddha did not bind others with a firm Dharma, (The Buddha did not teach any fixed Dharma, but only stripped His disciples of their erroneous tenets so that their self-possessed prajna could manifest itself - CL). He did not talk about abiding (in stillness).
“… All living beings born from eggs, wombs, humidity or by transformation, with or without form, either thoughtful or thoughtless, and neither thoughtful nor thoughtless (Naivasamjnanasamjnayatana: the heaven or place where there is neither thinking nor not thinking; the fourth of the four immaterial heavens, known as Akanistha, the highest heaven of form - CL) are all led by me to the final nirvana for the extinction of reincarnation. Although immeasurable, uncountable and unlimitable numbers of living beings are thus led to (the final nirvana for) the extinction of reincarnation, it is true that not a living being is led there. Why so, Subhuti? (Because) if a Bodhisattva (still) clings to the false notion (laksana) (Laksana: form, appearance, indication, sign, aspect and characteristic - CL) of an ego, a personality, a being and a life, (« The four laksanas of an ego, a personality, a being and a life are explained by Han Shan в конце 1 главы. The Hinayana definition of these four false notions is: (a) the illusion that there is a real ego or self in the five skandhas; (b) that this ego is a man or personality and different from the beings on other paths; (c) that all beings have an ego born of the five skandhas; (d) that the ego has a determined or fated period of life.
In Mahayana and Ch'an Buddhism this is taught by means of a meditation in four stages: (1) Meditate on the ego or self as owner of the physical body and as the subject who is meditating, another man or personality being the counterpart of that ego as object. The mind which seeks wisdom is the ego or subject and the wisdom sought is the object. When it realizes that the ego is non-existent and rejects it, it is called personality. (2) Meditate on this personality which from being object becomes subject and understand that this too is an illusion. When the mind realizes that personality is also an empty name without real nature, it is called being. (3) Meditate on being, which is a state of relative voidness, until that too disappears, but something hangs on. (4) Meditate on that which remains, a determined or fated period of life. This is incomplete awareness as the element of time is still present. Eliminate that clement.
An analysis of these four stages in the meditation reveals: (1) Subject and its elimination. Disentanglement from sense organs (or sense data). (2) Object and its elimination. Disentangle¬ment from sense data (or sense organs). (3) Relative voidncss (of subject and object) and its elimination. Disentanglement from the relative voidness of (1) and (2). (4) Incomplete awareness (of relative voidness).
The fourth stage is called 'sitting on the top of a pole one hundred feet high' from which one should take a step forward over the sea of suffering and then reach the other shore. This stage can only be reached when one's potentiality has been aroused to the full and so is ready for awakening.
Thus the meditator passes through all four laksanas from the coarse to the subtle, before wiping out all of them for his attainment of prajna, which, is free from all dual concepts of object and subject including the subtle view of ego and dharma which is the hardest nut to crack - CL) he is not (a true) Bodhisattva.”
Here the World Honoured One indicated a method of meditation for quieting the mind. Since a Bodhisattva is resolved on only two things, namely the quest of Buddha fruit and the conversion of all living beings, his mind is not quiet because he sees that living beings are always unchanged and exist everywhere, and wonders when all of them can be delivered. If all living beings cannot be saved, it will be difficult indeed to obtain the Buddha fruit which will not be within reach. Therefore, his mind is not quiet and he is constantly anxious about this and seeks to subdue this mind. Now the Buddha taught the method of saving living beings, which consisted of looking into the non-existence of an ego as the main point. However, a Bodhisattva sees such a great number of living beings whom he cannot save solely because he clings to the false notion of an ego which leads to that of a personality, and if everybody had a counterpart in this manner, the number of living beings in the universe would have no limit. Furthermore, the circle of rebirths being endless, he is scared when thinking of the difficulty in delivering all of them. He does not realize that (all) living beings are fundamentally in the Bhutatathata condition.
(Bhutatathata: the real, suchnеss or reality, the ultimate or all - CL)
In spite of the uncountable number of living beings, there were only twelve categories of them. A (close) examination of these twelve leads to their classification in four groups, namely beings born of eggs, wombs, humidity and by transformation. These four groups of births comprise only two dharmas, namely Form (or the material) and Mind (or the immaterial). The form dharma comprises the realms of Form and No-Form, the mind dharma of the thoughtful and the thoughtless. If extended further, these dharmas also comprise the realms of neither Form nor No-Form and of neither the thoughtful nor the thoughtless. Thus, these twelve categories contain the whole realm of all living beings and their number is not great. Moreover, they are called living beings whose forms and minds move in the world of phenomena. (They are empirical combinations without permanent reality - CL) Since they are phenomena, these living beings fundamentally are non-existent. As such they are falsely viewed as existing. (Taking the seeming as real - CL) If they are regarded as non-existent, they are fundamentally in the condition of suchness (Bhutatathata). As they are in the state of Bhutatathata, they are all in the condition of nirvana. Thus they were all led (by the Buddha) to the Final Nirvana. Was this a difficult thing?
Vimalakirti said: 'All living beings are fundamentally (in the state of) calmness and extinction (of reincarnation, that is in nirvana) and cannot be calmned or become further extinct.' Thus when immeasurable, uncountable and unlimitable numbers of living beings were delivered, not one was really delivered. Why is this? Because fundamentally there is no ego. The idea of an ego leads to that of a personality and the idea of a personality to that of a being and a life. One who holds these four false notions cannot be called a Bodhisattva, and how can he talk about saving living beings? Therefore, a Bodhisattva should look into the non-existence of an ego, and the non-existence of an ego will lead to the non-existence of a personality. When ego and personality have no existence, the realm of living beings is bound automatically to be calm and extinct. When living beings are calm and extinct, the Buddha fruit is within the reach of all. Then why be scared about it being far distant? Therefore, a Bodhisattva should look into the non-existence of an ego.
In one of the following paragraphs of the sutra (see page 200), the Buddha said that if a man realized that all dharmas were egoless and achieved the (perfection) of patience (ksanti), he would be a true Bodhisattva.
Doubt.—The Buddha taught Bodhisattvas to save living beings, mainly by charity or the giving of alms (dana). (dana. Charity: almsgiving (of goods or the doctrine - CL). Those who received the alms were all living beings. Now (according to His teaching), all living beings are non-existent; then, if alms are given, who will receive them? In the following paragraph of the sutra, the Buddha says that a Bodhi¬sattva giving alms, should not cling to the false notion of living beings.
“Furthermore, Subhuti, a Bodhisattva's mind should not abide anywhere when giving alms; that is to say, he should give without a mind abiding in form, or he should give without a mind abiding in sound, or in smell, or in taste, or in touch or in things. (Though this reads somewhat clumsily, it is correct, for it is impossible and would be unnecessary deliberately to give up all six objects of sense at the same time. But if any one of them is wiped out the other five simultaneously disappear. Avolakitesvara wiped out sound only and attained enlightenment - CL) Subhuti, thus a Bodhisattva should give alms without a mind abiding in false notions of form (laksana).”
The Buddha wiped out a doubt originating from the disciple's grasp of appearances (laksana). Subhuti doubted when he heard that living beings were non-existent and thought that if they were, no one would receive alms when a Bodhisattva practised giving them. As the six objects of sense (gunas) (The six gunas are: sight, sound, smell, taste, touch and dharma - CL) are unreal (being caused by illusion) and since living beings are fundamentally non-existent, the Buddha said: 'The mind should not abide anywhere.' This was to teach (a Bodhisattva) not to cling to the appearances of living beings and the objects of sense (gunas).
Doubt.—Again another hidden doubt: 'If the mind does not abide in forms (laksanas), how can there be merits?' In the next paragraph of the sutra, the reply is given that merits are the greater when attachment to forms is eliminated.
“Why? (Because) if a Bodhisattva's mind does not abide in forms (laksanas) when practising charity (dana), his merit will be inconceivable and immeasurable. Subhuti, what do you think? Can you think of and measure the extent of space in the East?'
'I cannot, World Honoured One!'
'Subhuti, can you think of and measure (all) the extent of space in the South, West and North, as well as in the intermediate directions, including the zenith and nadir?'
'I cannot, World Honoured One!'
'Subhuti, (when) a Bodhisattva practises charity without a mind abiding in forms, his merit is equally inconceivable and immeasurable.”
The Buddha wiped out a doubt about attachment to forms (laksanas) and pointed out the 'profound' act of rejecting them. A Bodhisattva seeks merit when practising charity (dana). If his mind then clings to forms, his merit will not be great. Therefore, the World Honoured One expediently pointed out the greater merit derived from the practice of charity without attachment to forms in order to quiet Subhuti's mind. If charity is practised while the mind clings to forms, this (act) will be conditioned by them and since the forms of living beings are just as insignificant as a particle of dust, even if some merit is reaped, how great will it be? Now when charity is practised for the welfare of living beings, neither the giver, the receiver nor the gift are seen, thus the three-fold condition does not obtain (Literally the three wheel condition: giver, receiver and gift - CL) and there are no forms for the mind to grasp. The merit thus obtained without attachment to forms, is inestimable and is likened to the immense space.
“Subhuti, a Bodhisattva's mind should THUS abide as taught.”
In conclusion, the Buddha taught the mind quieting Dharma. The previous question asked for (means) to subdue the mind which does not abide in stillness. The World Honoured One taught the method, which Consists in looking into the non-existence of an ego as the main point. If ego does not exist, personality also disappears. When the conception of .an ego and a personality is eliminated, the self-mind is in the state of nirvana. Thus all living beings become calm and free (from reincarnation, or are in nirvana). As soon as all living beings are still, there is no necessity to seek Buddhahood. Thus the mind which used to seek (something) is set at rest; all wish to grasp and to reject will disappear; the Internal (organs) and external (objects) being void, the One Mind remains immutable. This is the method to quiet the mind. Therefore, the Buddha used the word 'THUS' as above.
Doubt.—The giving of alms, the performance of virtuous actions and the conversion of living beings here below have only one aim, that is the quest for the Buddha fruit from above. Now if living beings are nonexistent and the three-fold condition is extinct, the cause will be fictitious. Therefore, how can a formless cause lead to a fruit which has form? Moreover, the Tathagata's body was distinctly visible and was (certainly) not obtained from a formless cause. This being tantamount to perceiving the Tathagata by means of forms, the Buddha wiped out this (new) doubt (in the following paragraph).
«Subhuti, what do you think? Can the Tathagata be seen by means of His bodily form?'
'No, World Honoured One, the Tathagata cannot be seen by means of His bodily form. Why? Because when the Tathagata speaks of bodily form, it is not (real) form. (The laksana of the physical body is not real but is so called for convenience sake. - CL)
The Buddha said to Subhuti: 'Everything with form is unreal; if all forms are seen as unreal, the Tathagata will be perceived. »
The Buddha pointed out directly the profound act of perceiving the nothingness (of phenomena). As Subhuti heard of a cause which had no form (laksana), he harboured a doubt about a formless cause by means of which one could not obtain the Buddha fruit which had form. He was thus seeing the Tathagata by means of form and clinging to the form of the Buddha's Transformation Body (Nirmana-kaya). (The Buddha possessed three bodies (trikaya) which are essentially one, each in the other;
(1) Dharma-kaya, the embodiment of the Law, shining everywhere and enlightening all;
(2) Sambhoga-kaya, the embodiment of purity and bliss; and (3) Nirmana-kaya, the body of transformation, by which He appeared in any form. – CL). This was the cause of his inability to perceive the Dharma-kaya's real substance. The Buddha broke up Subhuti's notion of form and the disciple understood His idea. This is why the Buddha pointed out the necessity of not perceiving the Tathagata by means of form, since the body the Buddha spoke of was actually His Dharma-kaya. Therefore, Subhuti said: 'It is not a (real) bodily form. Moreover, the Dharma-kaya has no form. If, in the midst of the forms of all things, one can see that they are unreal, one perceives the Tathagata. This does not mean that the Tathagata's Dharma-kaya has a special form outside that of all things. It is thus clear that a formless cause tallies exactly with a formless fruit.'
Doubt.—Another doubt surged in Subhuti's mind: As the meaning of (the doctrine of) a formless cause tallying with a formless fruit is most profound, it is very difficult to believe it and expound it.
«Subhuti said to die Buddha: 'World Honoured One, will there be living beings who can develop a true belief in these words, sentences and chapters when they are expounded to them?»
The Buddha said: 'Subhuti, do not speak like that. In the last 500 years, after the final passing of the Tathagata, there will be those who will observe the rules of morality and perform good actions which will result in blessing. These people will be able to develop a faith in these sentences (winch they will consider as) embodying the Truth. You should know that they will not have planted good roots in just one, two, three, four, or five Buddha lands. They will have planted them in countless thousands and tens of thousands of Buddha lands. Upon hearing these sentences, there will arise in them a single thought of pure faith. Subhuti, the Tathagata knows and sees all; these living beings will thus acquire immeasurable merits. Why? (Because) they will have wiped out false notions of an ego, a personality, a being and a life, of Dharma and Not-Dharma. Why? (Because) if their minds grasp form (laksana), they will (still) cling to the notion of an ego, a personality, a being and a life. If their minds grasp the Dharma, they will (still) cling to the notion of an ego, a personality, a being and a life. Why? (Because) if their minds grasp the Not-Dharma, they will (still) cling to the notion of an ego, a personality, a being and a life. Therefore, one should not grasp and hold on to
the notion of Dharma as well as that of Not-Dharma. (Dharma and Not-Dharma, are a pair of positive and negative, i.e. a pair of opposites which has no room in the absolute prajna. Moreover, one who clings to Dharma, or Not-Dharma, still holds the view of an ego (the subject) and a thing held (the object). Subject and object are also a pair of extremes which should be wiped out so that prajna can manifest itself. - CL) This is why, the Tathagata always said: "Ye Bhiksus, should know that the Dharma I expound is likened to a raft.”(The Dharma or method expounded by the Buddha was likened to a raft which His disciples should leave behind after reaching 'the other shore'. - CL) Even the Dharma should be cast aside; how much more so the Not-Dharma?”
The World Honoured One gave a direct indication of the penetrating power of Buddha wisdom (or vision). First, Subhuti clung to things having form as the cause and the Buddha broke up his (false) view with (the doctrine of) giving alms without attachment to forms. Next Subhuti doubted about a formless cause which could not tally with a fruit which had forms, thus grasping the notion that the Buddha had form. The Buddha broke up this (wrong) view by pointing out that the Dharmakaya has no form. It was, therefore, clear that a formless cause tallied exactly with a formless fruit. Thus cause and fruit were all void and both ego and Dharma (Ego and Dharma. The Buddha here is expounding the Dharma. Elsewhere it means 'ego and things' – CL) were eliminated. As this meaning was too profound to be believed and explained, Subhuti, still doubtful, asked the Buddha if there would be people who could believe this doctrine. The 'words', “sentences' and 'chapters' referred to what had just been said about formless is cause and formless fruit. The Buddha replied: 'Why will there be no such people? Those who believe in this doctrine, will not be vulgar men, as (only) those who will observe commandments and perform good actions (resulting in blessings) will be able to believe it. These people will not have planted good roots just in one, two, three, four, or five Buddha lands, but they will have planted them in countless thousands and tens of thousands of Buddha lands.' This means that those who long ago planted deep roots, will be able to have such a faith. These living beings with deep roots will, in a single thought, have faith (in this doctrine) and 'I know and see that the merits they will gain will be immeasurable.'
It was thus clear that this formless merit would far exceed that sought while (the mind) clung to the forms of things. Why does the non-attachment to forms reap more merits? Because these living beings will have no more attachment to the form of an ego, a personality, a being and a life. Not only will there be no attachment to these four forms, but also all notions of things having form and things having no form will be completely eliminated. Therefore, the Buddha said that there would be no more notions of Dharma and Not-Dharma. As these living beings would not cling to forms, they would relinquish everything. If in a single thought, the mind still grasped the Dharma and Not-Dharma, it would cling to the four forms (of an ego, a personality, a being and a life). As they had no attachment to forms, their minds and objects would be void and the merits (thus reaped) would be unsurpassable. This was the Tathagata's power of true knowing and true seeing. (He said:) 'This is why I teach Bodhisattvas not to grasp Dharma and Not-Dharma. Why? Because when one "enters" this doctrine, (for him) the notion of ego and Dharma will be void, and instantaneously all attachments will be thrown away, thus rising above all that exists. Is it a small matter? Therefore, I teach my disciples to relinquish the Dharma. Moreover, the relinquishment of Dharma is relinquishment of all feelings. When all feelings are relinquished, wisdom will be complete.' For this reason, He said: 'Even the Dharma must be cast aside, how much more so (that which is) not Dharma!'
Doubt.—As Subhuti heard that the Buddha had no physical form (i.e. was not visible) and that the Dharma should be relinquished, another doubt surged in his mind: If both Buddha and Dharma had no form, there would exist no Buddha and no Dharma, but why was the Buddha actually seen to have attained enlightenment and to be expounding the Dharma? How could it be said that there was neither Buddha nor Dharma? Thus he thought that there was contradiction in His sayings. In the next paragraph, the Buddha wipes out this doubt.
«Subhuti, what do you think? Has the Tathagata (in fact) obtained Supreme Enlightenment (Anubodhi)? Does the Tathagata (in fact) expound the Dharma?'
Subhuti replied: 'As I understand the meaning of the Buddha's teaching, there is no fixed Dharma called Supreme Enlightenment and there is also no fixed Dharma the Tathagata can expound. Why? (Because) the Dharma the Tathagata expounds cannot be clung to and cannot be expressed (in words); it is neither Dharma nor Not-Dharma. Why is this? (Why should the two extremes 'Dharma' and 'Not-Dharma' not be retained? - CL) All Bhadras and Aryas (Bhadras are those who are noted for goodness but are still of ordinary human standard and Aryas are those who are noted for wisdom or insight and transcend the Bhadra; in wisdom and character - CL) differ on account of the Eternal (Asamskrta) Dharma. » (Asamskrta: anything not subject to cause, condition, or dependence; out of time, eternal, inactive, supra-mundane. Wu wei in Chinese. - CL)”
The above wiped out the knowing and seeing of both Buddha and Dharma. As there arose in Subhuti's mind the unspoken conception of Buddha and Dharma, the Buddha, in order to break up this false conception, called and asked him: 'What do you think?' This meant: 'What is your mind discriminating about? Now, can the Buddha-bodhi actually be obtained? Does the Tathagata actually expound the Dharma?' These Questions were posed to test Subhuti who understood the Buddha's teaching and confirmed his awakening by stating that he understood His statement that there was fundamentally no fixed Dharma called enlightenment (bodhi) or for the Tathagata to expound. This was Subhuti's deep comprehension of the Buddha's doctrine of non-attachment (to things). All Bhadras and Aryas, including the Tathagata Himself, differed on account of the Eternal (Asamskrta) Dharma. Therefore, there should be no grasping. The expounding of the temporal (The temporal: referring to the conditional, functional, differential or temporary; the expedient teaching, preparatory to the perfect teaching -CL) to reveal the absolute (The absolute: the fundamental, or real; the perfect teaching -CL) had already begun (in the above paragraph of the sutra).
Doubt.—Subhuti had understood the doctrine of the non-existence of Buddha and Dharma but did not understand why unsurpassed merits could be reaped (when the mind was in unison with) the Eternal Dharma. In the following paragraph of the sutra, the Tathagata wipes out this doubt by teaching the (doctrine of) forsaking all forms. (This doctrine consisted in abandoning all attachment to form, appearance, aspects and characteristics of all things either visible or invisible - CL)
'Subhuti, what do you think? If someone filled the Universe (Tri-sahasra-maha-sahasra-loka-dhatu = a great trichiliocosm. Mt. Sumeru and its seven surrounding continents, eight seas and ring of iron mountains form one small world; 1,000 of these form a small chiliocosm; 1,000 of these small chiliocosms form a medium chiliocosm; 1,000 of these form a great chiliocosm, which consists of 1,000,000,000 small worlds. The word 'universe' is used for convenience sake. - CL) with the seven treasures (The seven treasures or precious things (sapta ratna): they are gold, silver, lapis lazuli, crystal, agate, rubies or red pearls and cornelian. - CL) and gave them all as alms, would his merit be great?'
Subhuti replied: 'Very great, World Honoured One. Why? Because this merit is not the nature of merit, the Tathagata says it is great.' (The merit was great, because it was 'conditioned' and could be estimated. However, in the case of the nature of merit, i.e. the fundamental nature, it was as immense as space and was, therefore, inexpressible and inestimable. - CL)
'Subhuti, if on the other hand, someone received and kept even a four line stanza of this sutra and expounded it to others, his merit would surpass that (of the giver of treasures). Why? (Because), Subhuti, all Buddhas and their Supreme-Enlightenment-Dharma originate from this sutra. Subhuti, the so-called Buddhas and Dharmas are not real Buddhas and Dharmas. (Buddhas and Dharmas are only empty names, have no nature, and are, therefore, not the real. - CL)
The above by expounding the formless merit revealed the formless Dharma which was unsurpassable. Subhuti had already understood the doctrine of formlessness (The doctrine of formlessness consisted in the abandonment of all form (laksana). - CL) but did not know how to enter into union with it. (He was puzzled as to) how formless merits could surpass merits reaped while one still grasped and held on to forms. Therefore, the Buddha pointed out first that charity (dana) practised with attachment to forms, reaped a (limited) merit which cannot be compared with the unsurpassed merit resulting from the keeping of even a four line stanza for the reason that all Buddhas originated from this prajna. For this reason, He said: 'Prajna is the mother of all Buddhas.' Therefore, the (corresponding) merit is the greater. It is just like the common saying: 'The mother is held in honour because of her (distinguished) sons.' Prajna can produce Buddhas and Dharmas, but is (actually) neither Buddha nor Dharma. For this reason, He said: 'The so-called Buddhas and Dharmas are not real Buddhas and Dharmas.'
Doubt.—As there was no Dharma to expound and no Buddha to become, both were thus unobtainable. However, in former days, when His disciples were Sravakas, the Buddha expounded the Four Noble Truths which were Dharma. They followed His teaching and obtained the fruit. They dwelled in the Nirvana which was their abode. But why did the World Honoured One contradict all (His previous) teaching by saying that nothing existed?
These were discriminating thoughts of those in the assembly and the World Honoured One poses (in the next paragraph) questions about the small fruits (of Hinayana) for the purpose of cutting their doubts.
“Subhuti, what do you think? Can one who has entered the stream (srota-apanna) have this thought (in his mind): I have obtained the fruit of entering the stream? (Srota-apanna: one who has entered the stream of holy living, the first stage of the path. - CL)
Subhuti replied: 'No, World Honoured One. Why? Because srota-apanna means 'entering the stream', but actually there is no entry into either form, sound, smell, taste, touch or dharma. Therefore, he is called srota-apanna.'
'Subhuti, what do you think? Can a Sakrdagamin have this thought (in his mind): I have obtained the fruit of a Sakrdagamin?' (Sakrdagamin: once more to come, or be born, the second stage of the path involving only one rebirth. -CL)
Subhuti replied: 'No, World Honoured One. Why? Because sakrdagamin means "once more to come", but actually there is neither corning nor going. Therefore, he is called a Sakrdagamin.'
'Subhuti, what do you think? Can an Anagamin have this thought (in his mind): I have obtained the fruit of an Anagamin?' (Anagamin: a no-coming or non-returning Arhat who will not be reborn, the third stage of the path. -CL)
Subhuti replied: 'No, World Honoured One. Why? Because anagamin means "no-coming" but actually there is no such a thing as no-coming. Therefore, he is called an Anagamin.'
'Subhuti, what do you think? Can an Arhat have this thought (in his mind): I have obtained the enlightenment of an Arhat?' (Arhat: a saintly man, the highest type or ideal saint in Hinayana in contrast with a Bodhisattva as the saint in Mahayana. -CL)
Subhuti replied: 'No, World Honoured One. Why? Because there is no Dharma which is called Arhatship. World Honoured One, if an Arhat thinks "I have obtained the enlightenment of an Arhat", he will still grasp and hold on to the notion of an ego, a personality, a being and a life. World Honoured One, the Buddha has declared that I have obtained the Passionless Samadhi (Passionless Samadhi: in which there is absence of debate, disputation, or distinction of self and other. – CL) and that I surpass all men. I am, therefore, the highest passionless Arhat. World Honoured One, I do not think "I am a passionless Arhat" for, World Honoured One, if I had thought "I have attained Arhatship", the World Honoured One would not have said: "Subhuti takes delight in the calm and quiet, free from temptation and distress." (An equivalent of Passionless Samadhi. - CL) The fact that Subhuti does not act (mentally) is called the calm and quiet in which Subhuti takes delight.”
The above pointed out the true doctrine of non-abiding (or non-attachment). Now the assembly had heard that Buddhahood could not be sought and that Dharma could not be grasped and held on to, which meant that when advancing further, there would be no abiding anywhere. Why then in former days, had the World Honoured One taught his disciples who were then sravakas to get out of birth and death and to abide in Nirvana, thus proving that there was an abiding place in the Dharma and in the fruit? Why had the World Honoured One said that neither Buddha nor Dharma were the real? This suspicion was due to the fact that those of the Hinayana did not forget their old habits in respect of names and terms and still clung to the existence of a true Dharma. Thus, they encountered difficulty in entering the Prajna and had many doubts arising in their minds. The World Honoured One took advantage of Subhuti's understanding to awaken the whole assembly. Therefore, He listed the four fruits obtained in former days and asked him: 'What do you think?' This meant: 'What is your opinion (about these four fruits)?'
Srota-apanna means 'entering the stream'. To enter (the stream of holy living) is to go against the current of life and death. But 'to go against the current', really means not to enter (or abide) in the six sense data (gunas), as there is actually nothing to go against and nothing in which to abide.
Sakrdagamin means 'once more to come (or be reborn)'. It means that just one remnant of thought remains linked with the world of desires, necessitating one more rebirth to cut it off so that there will be no more return afterwards. It does not mean that there is coming and going or a place of abode.
Anagamin means simply 'no-coming'; there will be no more rebirth in the world of desires. It does not mean that there will be a place of abode from which 'no-coming' will take place.
Arhat means 'not to be born'. For an arhat, all dharmas are (already) non-existent. In reality, there are no dharmas, and there should be only the non-arising of a single thought in the mind. He does not think that he is an arhat and that there is an arhat-land where he can abide. If an arhat thinks like that, he will not differ from (other) living beings holding wrong views, as he is clinging to the four forms (of an ego, a personality, a being and a life). Subhuti told of his own experience, saying: 'The World Honoured One has always declared that I have obtained the Passionless Samadhi. He has also praised me and said that I was the foremost among men. He has again said that I was the highest passionless arhat. Although I have received so much praise, I have examined my mind and have found in it not a single thought that I am a passionless arhat. Had I so thought, the World Honoured One would not have said that I took delight in calm and quiet, free from temptations and distress. As I see it now, the Nirvana referred to in former days, is not a place of abode. (From the foregoing), the Tathagata's enlightenment (Bodhi) is also not a place in which the mind can abide. For this reason, there should be no doubt about all this.' This cut off a doubt about the Buddha fruit as a place of abode (for the mind). In the next paragraph, another doubt about the actual attainment of Buddhahood is wiped out.
Doubt.—According to the Buddha's teaching, it was clear that there was no place of abode called Buddha fruit. If a fruit could not be acquired, why was the Tathagata seen to have received (from Diparhkara Buddha) the prophecy of His future Buddhahood? Since there was a Buddha to become, why should there be no fruit which provided a place for dwelling? In the next paragraph (of the sutra Subhuti) replied that there was no acquisition at all.
“The Buddha said to Subhuti: 'What do you think? Did the Tathagata obtain anything from the Dharma, when in the past He was with Diparhkara Buddha?'
'No, World Honoured One. When the Tathagata was with Diparhkara, He did not obtain anything from the Dharma.”
In the above text, the Buddha taught the doctrine of non-attainment. After hearing the teaching about (the mind which did) not abide anywhere, Subhuti had understood the non-abiding enlightenment (Bodhi), but he doubted and thought that although Bodhi did not abide anywhere, there should be an acquisition of the Buddha fruit. If there was no Buddhahood to attain, how could the (teaching) be transmitted and handed down. For this reason, the World Honoured One asked (the above question) to cut off his doubt. Although Diparhkara Buddha gave the prophecy, it was only to seal the realization of this mind, but nothing was acquired. If there was something obtainable, Diparhkara would not have prophesied (to the Tathagata).
Doubt.—As Bodhi did not abide anywhere and since Buddha fruit was unobtainable, there would be no need to adorn Buddha lands (with morality and wisdom). But why did the World Honoured One teach us to perform Bodhisattvas' (moral) actions to adorn Buddha lands?
”Subhuti, what do you think? Do Bodhisattvas adorn Buddha lands (by their moral actions)?'
'No. World Honoured One. Why? Because this is not real adornment; it is (merely) called the adornment of Buddha lands.' (It is expediently called adornment for convenience's sake only. - CL)
'Subhuti, this is why all Bodhisattvas and Mahasattvas (A Bodhisattva is a Mahaytnist seeking Buddhahood, but seeking it altruistically; whether monk or layman, he seeks enlightenment to enlighten others, and he will sacrifice himself to save others; he is devoid of egoism and devoted to helping others. A Mahasattva
is the perfect Bodhisattva, greater than any other being except a Buddha. - CL) should thus develop a pure and clean mind which should not abide in form, sound, smell, taste, touch and dharma. They should develop a mind which does not abide in anything.' (Hui Neng obtained complete enlightenment upon hearing this sentence read by the Fifth Patriarch - CL)”
The above is the method to quiet the mind. Subhuti doubted and thought that since there was no Buddha to become and no Nirvana in which to abide, what then was the use of adorning Buddha lands? As he had this doubt, he thought that in the work of salvation of living beings, it was necessary to adorn Buddha lands, by repairing temples, and so on. This was stupid g
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The Diamond Cutter of Doubts
AT the time, Subhuti asked the Buddha: 'World Honoured One, if a virtuous man or woman is determined to develop the Supreme Enlightened Mind, how should his or her mind abide and how should it be subdued?'
The Buddha said to Subhuti: 'A virtuous man or woman who is determined to develop the Supreme Enlightened Mind, should thus develop it: I have to lead all living beings to put a stop to (reincarnation) and escape (suffering), and when they have been so led, not one of them in fact stops (reincarnating) or escapes suffering. Why? Because, Subhuti, if a Bodhisattva clings to the notion of an ego, a personality, a being and a life, he is not a (true) Bodhisattva. Why? Because, Subhuti, there is not really a Dharma which can develop the Supreme-Enlightenment-Mind.
From now on, the two subtle views of the reality of ego and of dharma are broken up. In the sutra, at the beginning, the question: 'How should the mind abide? How should it be subdued?' was asked because newly initiated Bodhisattvas were ordinary broad-minded men, who were determined to develop a mind for the liberation of all living beings. Therefore, they had every kind of attachment to the forms (of things). In their self-cultivation, they relied on their physical bodies of the five aggregates (skandhas) and in their practice of almsgiving (dana) in quest of merits, they clung to the six coarse objects of sense (gunas). In their quest of enlightenment, they grasped the external appearance of the Buddha's Nirmana-kaya. For them, the Buddha land was adorned with treasures. Therefore, they still had attachment to forms in their deeds and were too far away from prajna.
The Buddha successively cut off all doubts which arose in Subhuti's mind until all his concepts of material appearance were eliminated and the true wisdom of the real suchness of wisdom (Bhutatathata-prajna) could be realized, resulting in Subhuti's awakening and in the dissipation of the whole assembly's doubts. The first part of the sutra covers these points, which cannot be understood at first sight, (dealing with) the elimination of ego caused by the ordinary man's conception of it in the visible form of the five aggregates (skandhas). The four forms thus perceived were all coarse.
From now on, the (second half of the sutra) deals with the elimination of doubts harboured by Bodhisattvas who are already awakened to the prajna but who do not as yet relinquish the idea of the wisdom which could realize (prajna). They grasp this wisdom as an ego. This is the self-preservation and self-awareness of ego. These are the two subtle tenets (of the reality of ego and dharma) and the four forms are now fine. For this reason, the word 'I' (now) occurs often in the sutra which says: 'I have to lead all living beings to destroy reincarnation' and does not mention the practice of dana. This shows that although the meritorious performance is complete, the conception of Buddha and living beings is still not relinquished. Their conceptions were coarse before, but are subtle now.
Question.—(About this erroneous fine view that) this subtle wisdom is an ego, why does the question 'How should the mind abide and how should it be subdued?' not have the same meaning as when it was asked previously (at the beginning of the sutra?)
Answer.—-In this second question 'How should the mind abide?' the Bodhisattva has already relinquished (the conception of) the five aggregates (skandhas), but since he has not abandoned his old habits, he still seeks a place of quiet abode in the Bhutatathata Wisdom. Moreover, he is also impatient in his quest of enlightenment (Bodhi) and clings to the idea that Bodhi should have a place of abode. Since he cannot seek it, his mind is ill at ease and he asks: 'How should the mind be subdued?' It was the mind which sought Buddhahood which was not at ease, because he still clung to his views of Buddha and living beings and because he failed to perceive the sameness of the two. The question is the same but its meaning is now different. For this reason, the World Honoured One wipes out (this doubt) by saying that those who develop the Bodhi Mind, should look into the fact that not a single living being is actually liberated, after they have delivered all living beings, for the latter are fundamentally Bhutatathata and should not be subjected to further extinction (of reincarnation). If these Bodhisattvas still hold the view of the end (of reincarnation) and an escape (from suffering), they cannot rid themselves of the (false idea of the) four forms and cannot be true Bodhisattvas. This was the (doctrine of) the non-seeing of living beings who could be delivered. However, Buddhas and living beings were fundamentally one, and if there be no end to (reincarnation for) living beings, there would be no Dharma enabling Bodhisattvas to develop a mind in quest of Bodhi. Why? Because living beings are fundamentally calm, do not reincarnate and are identical with Bodhi itself. What more then should be sought? This is the (doctrine of) not-seeing the Buddha fruit.
Doubt.—If there is no Dharma which can enable one to attain enlightenment (Bodhi), is the Bodhi which we now apprehend, not a Dharma? Did not the World Honoured One who became Buddha because he had obtained this Dharma with Dipamkara Buddha, really obtain the Bodhi? How can it be said that no Dharma is obtained? This doubt is dealt with in the following paragraph.
“Subhuti, what do you think? When the Tathagata was with Dipamkara Buddha, did He have any Dharma by means of which He attained Supreme Enlightenment (Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi)?'
'No, World Honoured One. As I understand the meaning of the Buddha's teaching, when He was with Dipamkara Buddha, He had no Dharma by means of which He attained "Supreme Enlightenment".'
The Buddha said: 'Just so! Subhuti, just so! There was really no Dharma by means of which the Tathagata attained Supreme Enlightenment. Subhuti, if there had been, Dipamkara Buddha would not have predicted: "In your next life, you will be a Buddha named Sakyamuni".
The Buddha pointed out that Bodhi cannot be obtained to destroy a doubt caused by attachment to (the idea of) Buddha. Subhuti was suspicious and thought that the Buddha had obtained a Dharma when He was with Dipamkara Buddha. The World Honoured One successively broke up Subhuti's wrong conjectures again and again to reveal the non-acquisition of a single Dharma.
Doubt.—The Prajna-dharma was the real cause of the attainment of Buddhahood. If, as now said, there is no Dharma, there will be no cause. If there is no cause, how can one obtain the Bodhi fruit? In the following text, this doubt is wiped out by the teaching that Dharma-kaya does not belong to either cause or fruit (or effect).
“ . . Why is it? Because "Tathagata" means the suchness of all Dharmas. (The undifferentiated whole of all dharmas, or things. - CL) If someone still says: "The Tathagata obtained Supreme Enlightenment," (I tell you), Subhuti, there is no Dharma by means of which the Buddha did so, (because), Subhuti, that Enlightenment was by itself neither real nor unreal. This is why the Tathagata says that all Dharmas are Buddha's Dharmas. Subhuti, these so-called Dharmas are not but are (expediently) called all Dharmas. (The words 'all Dharmas' are two meaningless terms having no real nature, but are
expediently so-called for convenience sake. - CL) Subhuti, supposing there is a man whose body is great. . . .”( Here Subhuti who already understood what the Buddha wanted to say, replies without waiting for Him to finish His question. The great body is the Sambhoga-kaya which cannot be compared to the essential one, the Dharma-kaya.)
Subhuti said: 'World Honoured One, the great body of which the Tathagata speaks is not great, but is (expediently) called a great body.'
The above shows that Dharma-kaya does not belong to either cause or fruit. Subhuti, who did not realize that Dharma-kaya was beyond both, clung to the idea that the Tathagata had practised and had gained. The Buddha wiped out this concept by saying that He had not obtained anything. (The self-natured prajna is immanent in every living being who, because of ignorance, thinks that he can acquire it by means of self-cultivation. The Buddha taught that prajna is self-possessed by man and can manifest itself only after he has been stripped of all feelings and passions. Therefore, there is no gain whatsoever when one attains enlightenment. A Ch'an master said: 'Just strip yourselves of worldly feelings but don't interpret anything as saintly.' - CL) As He was apprehensive that Subhuti was not sufficiently awakened to this, He said to him: 'Why do I say that Bodhi does not gain anything? Because the word Tathagata cannot be applied to material things. It is the absolute in the very substance of all things (dharmas). Moreover, all dharmas are fundamentally absolute. How then can this be realized by practice? Therefore, I say there is no Dharma which enables the Buddha to obtain Bodhi.'
In the Ch'an Sect, this is the Transcendental Path which all Buddhas of the past, present and future forbid one to look at. If you do you go blind, (The word 'blind' should not be interpreted literally. It means that he who uses his discriminating mind to look at the Transcendental Path will never perceive it, for it only appears after one has put an end to all worldly feelings and discerning and can be equated with a pure and clean mind. - CL) because in it there is no room for searching and grasping. The Tathagata-bodhi has no positive (characteristic to grasp). It is enough not to hold inverted views of annihilation or of permanence in relation to all things (dharmas). (Bodhi is free from all dual concepts of permanence and of annihilation or impermanence which are a pair of opposites produced by the deluded mind. - CL) Therefore, the Buddha said: It is neither real nor unreal,' because all dharmas were not dharmas. If one realizes that the great body has no body, one will readily understand that all dharmas are not in fact dharmas.
Doubt.—As Subhuti heard that there is no Dharma which enables one to develop his mind, he doubted: 'A Bodhisattva is so-called because he has a Dharma to save living beings. Now if there is no Dharma, where did the name of Bodhisattva come from?' In the following text, this doubt is cut off by the (teaching on the) unreality of things (dharmas) and of ego.
“Subhuti, in like manner, if a Bodhisattva says: "I should lead uncountable living beings to put a stop to (reincarnation) and escape (from suffering)", he cannot be called a Bodhisattva. Why? Because there is really no dharma called the Bodhisattva (stage). Therefore, the Buddha says: "Of all dharmas, there is not a single one which possesses an ego, a personality, a being and a life." Subhuti, if a Bodhisattva says: "I should adorn Buddha lands", he cannot be called a Bodhisattva. Why? Because when the Tathagata speaks of such adornment it is not, but is (expediently), called adornment. Subhuti, if a Bodhisattva is thoroughly versed in (the doctrine of) the unreality of ego and of things (dharma), the Tathagata will call him a true Bodhisattva.”
The above shows that Dharma-kaya has no ego with which to break up the Bodhisattva's two fine (erroneous) views of the reality of ego and of things (dharmas). Subhuti grasped the idea that a Bodhisattva was so called because of the existence of a Dharma which enabled the latter to liberate all living beings. The World Honoured One told him that there was no real Dharma to kill the idea of the reality of things (dharmas). He was apprehensive that Subhuti might have a doubt about the unreality of Dharma, without which Dharma a Buddha land could not be adorned. Therefore, the World Honoured One pointed out that the land (or realm) of permanent peace and enlightenment did not need adornment, in order to kill the idea of a mind abiding there and of the reality of an ego. If one is not thoroughly versed in this doctrine, one will not be a true Bodhisattva. Therefore, He declared." 'If one is thoroughly versed in the unreality of ego and things (dharmas), the Tathagata will call him a true Bodhisattva.'
Doubt.—If a Bodhisattva cannot see any living beings to liberate or realms to purify, how is it that the Tathagata has five kinds of vision? To kill this doubt, the sutra points out that he uses the minds of living beings for eyes and has not Himself five kinds of vision.
“Subhuti, what do you think? Does the Tathagata possess human eyes? 'Yes, World Honoured One, the Tathagata possesses human eyes.' 'Subhati, what do you think? Does the Tathagata possess deva eyes?’ (Deva eye: divine sight, unlimited vision. - CL) 'Yes, World Honoured One, the Tathagata possesses deva-eyes.'. 'Subhuti, what do you think? Does the Tathagata possess wisdom eyes?’(Wisdom eye: eye of wisdom that sees all things as unreal. - CL) 'Yes, World Honoured One, the Tathagata possesses wisdom eyes.' 'Subhuti, what do you think? Does the Tathagata possess Dharma eyes? (Dharma eye: because it is able to penetrate all things, to see the truth that releases us from reincarnation. - CL) 'Yes, World Honoured One. The Tathagata possesses Dharma eyes?' 'Subhuti, What do you think? Does the Tathagata possess Buddha eyes?’ (Buddha eye, the eye of the Buddha, the enlightened one who sees all and is omniscient. - CL) 'Yes, World Honoured One, the Tathagata possesses Buddha eyes.' 'Subhuti, what do you think? Does the Tathagata say that the sand-grains in the Ganges are sand-grains?'
'Yes, World Honoured One, the Tathagata says they are sand-grains.'
'Subhuti, what do you think? If there were as many Ganges rivers as sand-grains in the Ganges, and if there were as many Buddha realms as sand-grains of all these Ganges rivers, would there be many world systems?'
'Many, World Honoured One!'
The Buddha said: 'The living beings in all these world systems have many different minds which are all known to the Tathagata. Why? Because the minds the Tathagata speaks of are not minds but are (expediently) called minds. And why? Because, Subhuti, neither the past, the present nor the future mind can be found.” (This is elimination of the conception of time. - CL)
This shows that mind, Buddha and living beings do not differ from one another.(Mind, Buddha and being are intrinsically the same. - CL) Subhuti doubted and thought that since the Buddha possesses the five kinds of eye, there should be things (dharmas) which He can see, and worlds and living beings to match (these eyes). The World Honoured One said that His five kinds of eye are not really eyes and that He sees by using the minds of living beings. Moreover, there are uncountable living beings in the worlds which are as many as the sand-grains of the Ganges rivers, and the Tathagata knows them all and sees all their different minds because these beings are (inside) His own mind. Therefore, when the mind of a being is stirred by a thought, it is the Tathagata's own mind which is moved. How then can this be unknown to and unseen by Him?
Subhuti doubted again and thought that since the mind of a being is born and dies, did the Tathagata's mind also have birth and death? For this reason, the World Honoured One said that in all this, the mind of a being is fundamentally the absolute and has neither birth nor death, the same as the Tathagata's mind which is in the universal condition of Nirvana. The Tathagata and living beings are clearly immutable and free from birth and death as well as from coming and going. This is called the sameness of Mind, Buddha and living being. For this reason, the mind cannot be found in the past, present or future.
Doubt.—Hitherto the Tathagata had wiped out all attachments by saying that there are no (Buddha) lands to adorn and no beings to liberate. He was apprehensive that Subhuti might turn his thoughts to the nonexistence of lands and living beings, and might think that since almsgiving (dana) did not reap any merit, it would be useless to practise it. Therefore, the World Honoured One wiped out this doubt by declaring that the merit of no-merit is the greatest merit. (A merit not conditioned by the deluded mind is the greatest merit. – CL)
“Subhuti, what do you think? If someone filled the universe with the seven treasures and gave all away in his practice of dana, would this (good) cause enable the giver to gain a great merit?'
'Yes, World Honoured One, because of this (good) cause the giver would gain a great merit.'
'Subhuti, if the merit was real, the Tathagata would not say it was great. (If a merit can be estimated and expressed in words, it will not be great. On the other hand, if a merit is not conditioned by the conception of existence and non-existence, it will be really very great. - CL) He says so because there is no merit.”
The above shows the formless merit. Subhuti clung to form in the practice of dana which, he thought, would reap merits. He did not realize that the giver and the six objects of sense (gunas) are fundamentally nonexistent, so that any merit gained is (equally) non-existent. Therefore, the World Honoured One wiped out this (wrong) view by declaring that the merit is great because of the non-existence of merit. When He said: 'There is no merit', He did not mean that there was no merit at all. As the capacity of the mind (when freed from delusion) is as great as space, the merit will be very great.
Doubt.—As Subhuti heard that the mind should not be attached to form when liberating living beings and adorning Buddha lands, he doubted and thought: Liberation of living beings and adornment of (Buddha) lands are the causes of attaining Buddhahood, with the resultant fruit adorned with myriads of good virtues. Now, if there are no living beings to liberate and no (Buddha) lands to adorn, this means that there is no cause whatsoever. He also thought that, if there is no enlightenment (Bodhi) to attain, there will be no fruit. If cause and effect are wiped out, there will be no Buddha. However, he saw the perfect material appearance of the Tathagata; where did this come from? This doubt was cut off by the Buddha who pointed out that the Tathagata should not be perceived by means of His perfect material appearance.
“Subhuti, what do you think? Can the Buddha be perceived by His completely perfect physical body (rupa-kaya)?'
'No, World Honoured One, the Tathagata should not be so perceived. Why? Because the Buddha says the completely perfect rupa-kaya is not, but is called the completely perfect rupa-kaya.'
'Subhuti, what do you think? Can the Tathagata be perceived by His completely perfect forms?'
'No, World Honoured One, the Tathagata should not be so perceived, because the Tathagata says the completely perfect forms are not but are called completely perfect forms.'
The above prevents the forms of Sambhoga-kaya being used to reveal the oneness of Dharma-kaya and Sambhoga-kaya. The completely perfect Rupa-kaya was the Sambhoga-kaya adorned with myriads of perfect virtues. As many aeons have been spent to liberate living beings for the adornment of Buddha lands, this resultant fruit is a reward of the (perfect) cause and is called by the Tathagata, the completely perfect Rupa-kaya. Moreover, this Sambhoga-kaya was fundamentally Dharma-kaya and for this reason, He said: 'It is not the completely perfect Rupa-kaya.' Dharma-kaya and Sambhoga-kaya being one, He said: 'It is called the completely perfect Rupa-kaya.' This was to break up the (view of the reahty of) forms which are seen (i.e. the objective). In the next sentence, He wiped out the seeing which was able to see (the subjective). As Sambhoga-kaya was identical with Dharma-kaya, there existed no forms which could be seen. Both wisdom and body (or substance) being absolute, the sickness of seeing (or illusory view) was eliminated. The objective seen and the subjective wisdom melting into one, the Dharma-kaya was exposed. (The elimination of the subjective 'seeing' and objective 'forms' was for the purpose of ensuring the melting of these two extremes into one undivided whole, i.e. the Dharma-kaya or self-natured Buddha. - CL)
The use of the positive term 'is' or the negative term 'is not' was to protect the disciples against their fall into old ruts by driving away their (false) views. This is why the Tathagata who taught the Dharma, did not in fact teach anything at all. What He did was to protect living beings against mental sickness by enjoining upon them not to hold (false) views, by eliminating their passionate clinging to the unreal and by urging them to relinquish all attachments. Students should understand that this is (the sole content of His teaching). (The Buddha's teaching consisted only of curing His disciples' mental illness by stripping them of feelings and passions so that they could perceive their fundamental nature which was pure and clean. He had no firm Dharma to expound to them. - CL)
Doubt.—Subhuti, who had heard that the Buddha had no forms which could be seen, doubted and thought: 'Who is teaching the Dharma if there are no physical forms?' The Buddha wiped out this (false) view by saying that there is really no Dharma to expound.
“Subhuti, do not say that the Tathagata thinks: "I must expound the Dharma". Do not have such a thought. Why? Because if someone says so, he will really slander the Buddha and be unable to understand my teaching. Subhuti, when (the Tathagata) expounds the Dharma, there is really no Dharma to teach: but this is (expediently) called teaching the Dharma.”
This killed the doubt about the Tathagata's Sambhoga-kaya expounding the Dharma. Since the time of His appearance in this world, the Tathagata had no (real) Dharma to expound. He only expediently broke up living beings' feelings (and discernings). He used single - words and His 'No' or 'Not' called for a stop to halt (His disciples') wrong thoughts. This was precisely His idea of protecting, and cherishing living beings. Therefore, He said: 'This is called the expounding of Dharma.'
Doubt.—Subhuti had already understood the doctrine of the Dharma-kaya which does not speak of and proclaim anything, and is a very profound Dharma, but he did not know whether living beings in future ages would believe and receive it. This doubt arose in his mind and was cut off by (the doctrine of) the non-existence of living beings expounded in the next paragraphs.
Then the wise Subhuti said to the Buddha: 'World Honoured One, will there be in future ages living beings who will believe this Dharma when they hear it?'
The Buddha said: 'Subhuti, the living beings (you just mentioned) are neither living nor not-living beings. (Elimination of both 'living beings' and 'not-living beings' which axe a pair of opposices. - CL) Why? Because, Subhuti, the Tathagata says these living beings are not (really), but they are (expediently), called living beings.'
The above shows the absolute oneness of living beings and Dharma to wipe out the (false) view of the reality of living beings. Subhuti had obtained the wonderful comprehension of the (doctrine of the) Dharma-kaya and could believe and receive it. However, this Dharma was very profound and he did not know if there would be in future ages living beings able to believe it. This was due to his view of the reality of birth and death which was still not relinquished, so that he thought of future living beings. The World Honoured One replied that living beings were fundamentally the absolute and are the same as the Dharma. How could there be a future time? The suchness of living beings and the sameness of the three times are the supreme pattern of the ultimate prajna. When the Buddha said: 'They are neither living beings nor not living beings. Why? Because these living beings are not really, but are expediently called living beings', he meant that they were fundamentally the absolute. For this reason He said: 'They are neither living beings . . .' As the absolute follows circumstantial causes to accomplish actions, He said:'. . . nor not-living beings.' He again explained that the so-called living beings are the absolute that follows circumstantial causes and owe their forms to the combination of various dharmas. Therefore, He said that living beings are falsely called and are not really living beings. They are non-existent but are called living beings (for convenience sake only).
Doubt.—If the Dharma-kaya had no forms and if no Dharma could be acquired, why was it said that the practice of all good virtues (enables) one to attain enlightenment (Bodhi)? This doubt is cut off by the following doctrine of gainlessness in the universal nature.
“Subhuti said to the Buddha: 'World Honoured One, does your (own) attainment of Supreme Enlightenment (Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi) mean that you have not gained anything whatsoever?'
The Buddha replied: 'Just so, Subhuti, just so, I have not gained even the least Dharma from Supreme Enlightenment, and this is called Supreme Enlightenment. Furthermore, Subhuti, this Dharma is universal and impartial; wherefore it is called Supreme Enlightenment. The practice of all good virtues (Dharmas), free from attachment to an ego, a personality, a being and a life, will result in the attainment of Supreme Enlightenment. Subhuti, the so-called good virtues (Dharmas), the Tathagata says, are not good but are (expediently) called good virtues.”(After speaking of good virtues, the Buddha immediately eradicated all traces there of, lest Subhuti might grasp the dual concept of the good and evil which are non-existent in the universal and impartial reality of prajna. - CL)
This destroys the (false) view of Buddha and Dharma. Subhuti had already understood that the Dharma-kaya was pure and clean, and that there was no Dharma which could be acquired. However, he still doubted and thought there was (an actual) gain when the Buddha said that the practice of all good virtues (Dharmas) would enable one to obtain enlightenment. (He thought:) Was the Tathagata's Bodhi fruit not acquired? The Buddha replied that nothing was obtained, because the Buddha and living beings are the same and are neither two nor different (entities). Bodhi means this and nothing else. Therefore, there is nothing that can be realized and obtained. When it was said that the practice of good virtues (Dharmas) led to the attainment of Bodhi, this meant that the four forms should be relinquished when practising these good virtues. As practice was tantamount to no-practice, so was attainment to non-attainment. Since there was no acquisition, the Dharma was really a perfect one.
Douht.—Which Dharma is best if the (concept of) good Dharma is wrong? The next paragraph explains that the Dharma which reaches prajna is the unsurpassed one.
“Subhuti, if (on the one hand) a man, in his practice of charity (dana) gives away the seven treasures piled up in a heap as great as all the Mounts Sumeru in the Universe put together, and (on the other hand) another man receives, holds (in mind), reads and recites even a four-line stanza of this Prajna-paramita Sutra, and expounds it to others, the merit resulting from the former's dana will not be worth one-hundredth, one-thousandth, one-ten-thousandth and one-hundred-thousandth part of that obtained by the latter, as no conceivable comparison can be made between the two.”
This praises the unsurpassed merit of the form-relinquishing prajna. Subhuti thought that if the practice of a good Dharma did not ensure the acquisition of Bodhi, the Dharma in question would not be the unsurpassed one. Then, which Dharma was unsurpassable? The Buddha said the one which reached prajna. In the universe there are 100,000,000 mount Sumerus and if the seven treasures were piled up in a huge heap as great as all the mount Sumerus put together, there would indeed be many treasures to be given away in the practice of dana. The merit resulting therefrom would (however) not be comparable to the merit derived from a four-line stanza which reached prajna. The reason is that the former still clings to forms with a desire for his own gain. As prajna relinquishes all forms, it is incomparable and unsurpassable.
Doubt.—Subhuti had heard that living beings and Buddhas are the same (or one undivided whole). If so, there would be no living beings at all. Then, why is it said that the Tathagata should liberate living beings? (Thus) Subhuti still clung to the concept of an ego and a personality. In the following text, this doubt was cut off by wiping out both ego and personality.
“Subhuti, what do you think? You should not say the Tathagata has this thought (in His mind): "I should liberate living beings." Subhuti, you should not think so. Why? Because there are really no living beings whom the Tathagata can liberate. If there were, the Tathagata would hold (the concept of) an ego, a personality, a being and a life. Subhuti, (when) the Tathagata speaks of an ego, there is in reality no ego, although common men think so. Subhuti, the Tathagata says common men are not, but are (expediently) called, common men.”
This removes the doubt about the Buddha holding the concept of an ego and a personality in order to reveal the Dharma-kaya's real self. It was said: 'The Buddha and living beings are the same' and if this doctrine of sameness holds good, there would be no Buddha and no living beings. Then why was it said: 'I should liberate living beings?' As a living being is a personality, if I liberate him, the I or ego would exist. If ego and personality really exist, the four forms will not be eliminated. This is referred to in Ch'an teaching as attainment of the borderline of Dharma-kaya but not the actual penetration into the 'Transcendental Sentence’ (In Ch'an terminology, the 'transcendental sentence' or 'first sentence' is the symbol of the real, or Dharma-kaya. As soon as a thought arises, it will be the second or third sentence, for a discriminating mind always strays from the absolute prajna. CL) of Dharma-kaya. For this reason, the Tathagata spoke words to destroy this idea when He said: 'Do not say that I, the Tathagata, have this thought of liberating living beings. If "I" had, "I" would be a common man.' Even the common men, mentioned by the Tathagata, are not really common men. How then could He still hold the view of an 'I' ? This wiped out the concept of both the saintly and worldly, resulting in the impartial One Way. (One Way, the way of deliverance from mortality, the Supreme Yana. - CL) This completes the doctrine of prajfia.
Doubt.—If Dharma-kaya is egoless and if the form of Sambhoga-kaya cannot be perceived by form, is the World Honoured One who was endowed with thirty-two physical characteristics not a (real) Buddha?
“Subhuti, what do you think? Can the Tathagata be recognised by His thirty-two physical characteristics?'
Subhuti reply: 'Yes, yes, He can.'
The Buddha said: 'Subhuti, if the Tathagata can be recognised by His thirty-two physical characteristics, a world ruler (cakravarti) would be the Tathagata.'
Subhuti said to the Buddha: 'World Honoured One, as I understand your teaching, the Tathagata cannot be recognised by His thirty-two phsyical characteristics.'
Thereupon, the World Honoured One recited the following gatha:
'He who sees me by outward appearance
(And) seeks me in sound,
Treads the heterodox path
(And) cannot perceive the Tathagata.”
The Buddha pointed out that Nirmana-kaya could not reveal the Dharma-kaya which was beyond all forms. Subhuti had already understood that a Buddha was a true one when His Dharma-kaya was egoless and His Sambhoga-kaya had no characteristics. (But) he still doubted and asked himself who was the Buddha, visible here, with His thirty-two physical characteristics? This was his view of the Buddha. (By holding the view of the existence of the Buddha, Subhuti still grasped the dual conception of a 'subject', the holder of such a view, and an 'object', the Buddha viewed as existing. This dual view obstructed the attainment of Bodhi. - CL) The World Honoured One asked him: 'Is it true that the Tathagata can be recognized by His thirty-two physical characteristics?' As Subhuti clung to these signs which (seemed to) show the (true) Buddha, the World Honoured One broke up his (false) view by saying that a world ruler also has thirty-two physical characteristics. Now Subhuti understood that the Tathagata could not be recognized by His thirty-two characteristics, and the World Honoured One read the gatha on relinquishment of forms, which ran: 'He who sees me by outward appearance—and seeks me in sound— treads the heterodox path—and cannot perceive the Tathagata.'
Doubt.—Subhuti had heard that both Dharma-kaya and Sambhoga-kaya had no forms and that Nirmana-kaya was not real. Now there arose in his mind, in respect of Dharma-kaya, the view of annihilation, because of his inability to reach the real self of Dharma-kaya. The Buddha broke up this view by His doctrine of non-annihilation.
“Subhuti, if you have (in your mind) this thought: "The Tathagata does not rely on His possession of characteristics to obtain supreme Enlightenment," Subhuti, banish that thought. Subhuti, if you think it while developing the Perfect Enlightenment Mind, you will advocate the annihilation of all Dharmas. Do not have such a thought. Why? Because one who develops the Supreme Enlightenment Mind, does not advocate the annihilation (of things). (Since all forms originally were not created, they should not be annihilated. Creation and annihilation are two opposites and should not be clung to when developing the Bodhi Mind which is free from the duality of things. - CL)
'Subhuti, if (on the one hand) a Bodhisattva gave in his practice of dana, all the seven treasures in quantities sufficient to fill worlds as many as sand-grains in the Ganges, and (on the other hand) another man comprehended that all dharmas were egoless and thereby achieved perfection of patience (ksanti), the latter's merit would surpass that of the former. Why? Because, Subhuti, all Bodhisattvas do not receive reward for their merits.'
Subhuti asked the Buddha: 'World Honoured One, why do Bodhisattvas not receive reward for their merits?'
'Subhuti, Bodhisattvas should have no longing and no attachment when they practise meritorious virtues; therefore, they do not receive a reward.”
The Buddha broke up the view of annihilation. As Subhuti heard that form should be relinquished in order to perceive the Buddha, the view of annihilation arose in his mind, and he thought that the Tathagata did not rely on His possession of characteristics to obtain enlightenment. The Buddha taught him this: 'Do not have such a thought, because if you have it (in your mind), you will advocate annihilation (of all dharmas). Those who develop the Bodhi Mind, do not advocate the annihilation of things, but only the non-existence of the ego in all things. If a Bodhisattva knew that all dharmas were egoless and succeeded in his practice of the patience-perfection (paramita), his merit would surpass that of a giver of sufficient of the seven treasures to fill worlds as many as sand-grains in the Ganges, because the former did not receive reward for his merit. When it was said that he did not receive any reward, this did not mean that there was no reward at all. It is enough to have no longing for and no attachment to, any merit. It was said: 'No doer, no doing and no receiver, (but) good and evil karma cannot be wiped out.'
After His appearance in this world, and for forty-nine years, the World Honoured One only said the word NO. All living beings in the nine worlds (The nine worlds are those of: (1) Bodhisattvas, (2) Pratyekas, (3) Sravakas, (4) devas, (5) men, (6) asuras, (7) animals, (8) hungry ghosts and (9) the denizens of hell. - CL) clung to the concept of an ego in all things but the Tathagata used (only) the word no to destroy it. This was the right Dharma eye which looked straight into the Transcendental Way. For this reason, the Ch’an sect transmits only the direct pointing through which alone one enters (the real).
Doubt.—It had been said that there is no ego and no receiver of merit, but when the Tathagata was seen walking, standing, sitting or lying, was not this His ego? This was due to attachment to the false conception of unity-with-differentiation (Unity-with-differentiation: monism and pluralism, Oneness and otherness.) of the Three Bodies (Trikaya) and to thenon-comprehension of the universalized Dharma-kaya.
“Subhuti, if someone says the Tathagata comes or goes, sits or lies, he does not understand what I mean. Why? Because the Tathagata has neither whence (to come) nor whither (to go); therefore, He is called the Tathagata.”
The above shows the ultimate return to the reality of the Dharma-kaya. Hitherto, Subhuti because of his (false) view of coming and going had thought that the Tathagata was One whose deportment inspired respect. (Respect-inspiring deportment: dignity in walking, standing, sitting and lying. - CL) Did the Tathagata in fact really come and go? The moment had now come when all clingings disappeared and all feelings ceased, and when the disciple comprehended the sameness of the mutable and immutable. He thus reached the most wonderful reality of the absolute. However, he still held the (false) view of unity-with-diffcrentiation and 11is mind could not yet grasp the profound meaning of the Trikaya in One body. This (wrong) view is wiped out in the following paragraph about the world and dust.
“Subhuti, what do you think? If a virtuous man or woman reduced to dust all the worlds in the Universe, would those particles of dust be many?'
Subhuti replied: 'Many, World Honoured One. Why? Because if they really existed, the Buddha would not say they were particles of dust. And why? Because when the Buddha speaks of particles of dust, they are not, but are (expediently) called, particles of dust. World Honoured One, when the Tathagata speaks of worlds, they are not, but are (expediently) called, worlds. Why? Because if they really exist, they are just agglomerations. (Particles of dust united together to form a world. - CL) The Tathagata speaks of agglomerations which are not, but are (expediently) called, agglomerations.
'Subhuti, that which is called an agglomeration cannot be spoken of, but the vulgar man has longing for and attachment to this thing.”(The unreal phenomenal. - CL)
This broke up the (false) view of Unity-with-differentiation. As Subhuti's mind had not yet grasped the reality of the Trikaya in One Body, the World Honoured One used the dust and world, as examples, to point out that the one was not monistic nor the other pluralistic. Particles of dust, united together to form a world, seem pluralistic but are not really so. When the world is broken up and reduced to dust, it seems monistic but is not really so. Thus (the so-called) unity-with-differentiation does not obtain anywhere, and therefore is not real. If unity-with-differentiation exists, it would only be an agglomeration (without permanent reality). An agglomeration owes (its seeming existence) to a dual view because monism cannot be pluralistic nor pluralism monistic. If the dust really exists, it cannot agglomerate to make a world, and if a world really exists, it cannot be reduced to dust. The common man takes it for unity but the unity of which the Tathagata spoke was different. If the two extremes are wiped out, this can be called unity, but when the two extremes have been eliminated, (even) this unity cannot be spoken of. (Because it is the reality and is inexpressible. - CL) The ordinary man cannot give up the two extremes, such as existence and non-existence, or monism and pluralism, and clings to them. This explains his inability to understand the doctrine of the Trikaya in one body of the universalized Dharma-kaya.
Doubt.—If Dharma-kaya is universal and if all things are unreal and cannot be conceived, why did the Buddha speak of the view of four forms? This doubt is removed in the following paragraph.
“Subhuti, what do you think? If someone says: "The Buddha speaks of the view of an ego, a personality, a being and a life," Subhuti, does that person understand what I mean?'
'No, World Honoured One, that person does not understand. Why? Because (when) the Tathagata speaks of the view of an ego, a personality, a being and a life, it is not really, (but) is (expediently) called the view of an ego, a personality a being and a life.’ (The Buddha spoke of these views held by worldly men but He did not hold these views. - CL)
'Subhuti, he who develops the Supreme Enlightenment Mind, should thus know, see, believe and comprehend (all things); he should not set up the perception of things (dharma-laksana) (Dharma-laksana: form, appearance, aspects and characteristics of dharmas, or things. - CL) in his mind. Subhuti, the so-called form of things (dharma-laksana), the Tathagata says is not but is (expediently) called the form of things.”
This wiped out the (subtle) view of relinquishment of form. Subhuti had already understood the doctrine of the absolute universalized Dharma-kaya, but still doubted and thought: If the body or substance of Dharma-kaya could not be seen by means of form, why did the Tathagata speak of the relinquishment of the view of four forms? The Buddha was apprehensive that Subhuti might still have this doubt hidden in his mind and asked him this question: 'Supposing that someone says: "The World Honoured One says there is the view of the four forms," do you think this person understands what I mean?' Thereupon, Subhuti understood and replied: 'No, this person does not understand what the Tathagata means. Why? Because (when) the World Honoured One speaks of the view of four forms, there is actually no such view that can be pointed out and spoken of.' This was to wipe out attachment to the view about forms. Therefore, He said: Not, which differed in meaning from the previous occasions when he used the word. It was used frequently before in a negative sense whereas here it banishes completely the view concerning forms held in the minds of living beings. They, not the Buddha, held this view. Therefore, He said: '(It) is called the view about forms.' (Here) die two words 'is called' also differ in meaning from when they were used before. Students should examine carefully this difference in meaning.
As all living things are deluded and upset by their views of forms and since their grasp is very hard to break, the Buddha used the Diamond-mind wisdom to demolish these views one by one, in order to enable them to perceive the fundamental wisdom of the Dharma-kaya's body.
At first they clung to the forms of the five aggregates (skandhas) of body and mind and to the six sense data. They were attached to these forms while giving alms (dana) to seek merits in their quest of Buddha-hood. The World Honoured One broke up this by the doctrine of non-attachment.
Next, they clung to the form of Bodhi and the Buddha broke it up by the doctrine of gainlessness.
Next, they clung to the form of Buddha lands adorned by almsgiving (dana) and the Buddha broke it up by declaring that there are no lands which can be adorned.
Next, they clung to merits which would result in the appearance of the Reward body (or Sambhoga-kaya) and the Buddha broke it up by stating that it is not in fact the completely perfect form body (Rupa-kaya).
Next, they clung to the appearance of the Trikaya which the Tathagata possessed and the Buddha broke it up by declaring that the Nirmana-kaya is not real and that Sambhoga-kaya is beyond forms.
Next, they clung to the view that the Dharma-kaya must have forms, and the Buddha broke this up by declaring that the Dharma-kaya has none.
Next, they clung to the existence of a true ego in the Dharma-kaya and the Buddha broke it up by declaring that all things are egoless.
Next, they clung to the view that the Tathagata possessed the forms of the Trikaya and the Buddha broke up this by declaring that the real is neither monistic nor pluralistic.
Thus all their false views were broken up successively one after the other, and with the elimination of all idea of form and appearance, the mind had nowhere to alight. (The moment had come when) the fundamental Law was in its absoluteness after the relinquishment of all feelings, pointing straight to the reality of Dharma-kaya. As all false forms which were seen were non-existent, the seeing which could see them also vanished. This was the ultimate pattern of true Prajna which penetrated right into the Transcendental Path of the Dharma-kaya. Therefore, the Buddha gave them this commandment: 'He who develops the Bodhi-mind should, in respect of all things, thus know, see, believe and interpret; he should not give rise (in his mind) to things with form (dharma-laksana).' Only then could there be true knowing, seeing, belief and interpretation, and no more (false) knowing and seeing of the forms of things would ever rise again. Thus the two views of the reality of ego and of things (dharmas) would disappear; the conception of the saintly and worldly would be buried in oblivion; and there would be no room for words and speeches as well as for all mental activities. Since it would be wrong to stir the mind and to arouse a thought, He again told them: 'The so-called dharma-laksana is not dharma-laksana.' This was the true and real dharma laksana which was not the same as the falsely viewed one. Tins is the profound doctrine of Prajna in its ultimate subtleness.
Doubt.—Subhuti who had been awakened to the whole substance of the Dharma-kaya doubted and thought that if Dharma-kaya could not expound the Dharma, the speaker would be Nirmana-kaya and the Dharma expounded by Nirmana-kaya would not reach the region of Dharma-kaya. How then could those who observed the said Dharma gain merits? The next paragraph explains that the Dharma expounded by Nirmana-kaya was the true Dharma because of the Trikaya in one body.
“Subhuti, if on the one hand, someone gave away in alms (dana) the seven treasures in quantities sufficient to fill all the worlds in uncountable aeons, and if on the other hand, a virtuous man or woman developed the Bodhi-mind, and received, held (in mind), read and recited even a four-line stanza of this sutra and expounded it to others, the latter's merit would surpass that of the former. In what manner should it be taught to others? By teaching it without attachment to form with the immutability of the absolute.”(Literally the immobility of Bhutatathata. - CL)
The above points out that the Nirmana-kaya Buddha teaches the absolute Dharma. Subhuti doubted and thought that if the Dharma taught by the Nirmana-kaya Buddha would not reach the region of Dharma-kaya, merits could not be gained. The Buddha said the Dharma taught by the Nirmana-kaya was exactly the same as if taught by the Dharma-kaya because of the oneness of the Trikaya, and if even a four-line stanza of this Dharma could be held (in mind) and taught to others, the resultant merits would be unsurpassable, owing to the detachment from form while abiding in the immutability of the absolute. This was called the widespread explaining of the Dharma by dust and regions. (A Buddhist term: Samantabhadra Bodhisattva's ears could hear a straw, a plant and a particle of dust expounding the unsurpassed wonderful Dharma. This meant that in the ten directions of space, each particle of dust had a region and each region had a Buddha who expounded the Avatamsaka Sutra. In other words, this Bodhisattva perceived the all pervading reality in each particle of dust, plant and region. - CL)
Doubt.—Since the Dharma-kaya is calm and not liable (to reincarnation), how can one who is calm, expound the Dharma? The following text points out the correct meditation. As Prajna is immaterial, the phenomenal should be looked into first for the (subsequent) entry into the void which is called absolute voidness, because of the identity of the seeming with the real.
“Why is it? Because:
'All phenomena are like
A dream, an illusion, a bubble and a shadow,
Like dew and lightning.
Thus should you meditate upon them”
The above wonderful meditation leads to the entry into the true voidness of Prajna. As the true voidness is still and unfathomable, the meditation should be made by means of the seeming, and if the meditation on the above six things, namely dream, illusion, bubble, shadow, dew and lightning, is successful, the true void appears. Up to this point the Ruling Principle (or Fundamental Law) has been expounded but here is given the method of meditation which students should follow for their entry (into Prajna). Here the true realm of Dharma-kaya is finally dealt with.
When the Buddha had finished expounding this sutra, the elder Subhuti, together with bhiksus, bhiksunis, upasakas, upasikas, and all the worlds of devas, men and asuras who had listened to His teaching, were filled with joy and believed, received and observed it.
The listeners were filled with joy and their minds were wonderfully at one with the doctrine. As a result their beliefs were true, they received the sutra in earnest, and their observance of it had purpose.
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