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THE SHURANGAMA SUTRA

The Fifty Skandha-Demon States

Explained by the Venerable Master Hua in 1968
at the Buddhist Lecture Hall; San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

(Continue...)

Sutra:  

Further, when his mind completely merges with emptiness, his four limbs will suddenly become like grass or wood, devoid of sensation even when burned by fire or cut with a knife. The burning of fire will not make his limbs hot, and even when his flesh is cut, it will be like wood being whittled. This state is called "the merging of external states and the blending of the four elements into a uniform substance." It is a temporary state and does not indicate sagehood. If he does not think he has become a sage, then this will be a good state. But if he considers himself a sage, then he will be vulnerable to the demons' influence.

Further, when his mind completely merges with emptiness, you may say that the mind exists, yet it doesn't; you may say it doesn't exist, yet it does. His four limbs will suddenly become like grass or wood, devoid of sensation even when burned by fire or cut with a knife. If you cut his arms or legs with a knife or burn them with fire, he will not feel any pain or discomfort. The burning of fire will not make his limbs hot.When you try to burn them, they won't even become hot. And even when his flesh is cut, it will be like wood being whittled. If you slice off the flesh from his arms and legs, it will bejust like shaving wood. He will feel no pain or irritation.

This state is called "the merging of external states and the blending of the four elements into a uniform substance." Defiled external states will come together, and the natures of earth, water, fire, and air will become a single substance. However, it is a temporary state, an occasional experience, and does not indicate sagehood. Do not think you have realized sagehood.

If he does not think he has become a sage, then this will be a good state. But if he considers himself a sage and becomes self-satisfied and haughty, then he will be vulnerable to the demons' influence. You will be attacked and surrounded by hordes ofdeviant beings.

Further, when his mind accomplishes such purity that his skill in purifying the mind has reached its ultimate, he will suddenly see the earth, the mountains, and the rivers in the ten directions turn into Buddhalands replete with the seven precious things, their light shining everywhere. He will also see Buddhas, Tathagatas, as many as the sands of the Ganges, filling all of space. He will also see pavilions and palaces that are resplendent and beautiful. He will see the hells below and the celestial palaces above, all without obstruction. This state is called "the gradual transformation of concentrated thoughts of fondness and loathing." It does not indicate sagehood. If he does not think he has become a sage, then this will be a good state. But if he considers himself a sage, then he will be vulnerable to the demons' influence.

Further, when his mind accomplishes such purity that his skill in purifying the mind has reached its ultimate... Applying his mind to cultivation of the Way and to the practice ofsamadhi, he achieves a state of extreme purity. At that point, he will suddenly see the earth, the mountains, and the rivers in the ten directions turn into Buddhalands replete with the seven precious things, their light shining everywhere. Every place will be adorned with the seven precious things: gold, silver, lapis lazuli, mother-of-pearl, red pearls, carnelian and coral. These precious things will illumine the ten directions. He will also see Buddhas, Tathagatas, as many as the sands of the Ganges River, filling all of space. He will also see tower-pavilions and jeweled palaces that are resplendent and beautiful. He will see the hells below. Looking downwards, he will see all the hells. And looking upwards, he will see what is happening in the celestial palaces above, all without the least bit of obstruction. He is able to see any place he wishes to see.

This state is called "the gradual transformation of concentrated thoughts of fondness and loathing." Why is he able to see these things? It's because he ordinarily has likes and dislikes. He would like to go to the heavens and the Buddhalands, and he would detest going to the hells. He concentrates on such thoughts, being as attentive as a hen sitting on her eggs, as a cat waiting for a mouse, or as a dragon nurturing its pearl. He does not think about anything else, but only about how fine it is in the Buddhalands, and how much suffering there is in the hells. His mind favors happy places and loathes the places of suffering and misery. Eventually, his concentrated thoughts create these kinds of states.

It does not indicate sagehood. He should not think that he has attained sagehood and achieved great spiritual skill. If he does not think he has become a sage, then this will be a good state. It's not a bad one. But if he considers himself a sage and says, "What a terrific state! I'm living with the Buddhas. In fact. I'm a Buddha myself!" then he will be vulnerable to the demons' influence. If he thinks like that, the demons and the extemalists will all go to keep him company. "You say you're living with the Buddhas? Well, we'll be your friends and join you," they say.

Further, as the person uses his mind to investigate what is profound and far away, he will suddenly be able to see distant places in the middle of the night. He will see city markets and community wells, streets and alleys, and relatives and friends, and he may hear their conversations. This state is called "having been suppressed to the utmost, the mind flies out and sees much that had been blocked from view." It does not indicate sagehood. If he does not think he has become a sage, then this will be a good state. But if he considers himself a sage, then he will be vulnerable to the demons' influence.

Further, as the person uses his mind to investigate what is profound and far away, he will suddenly be able to see various situations in distant places in the middle of the night. He will see city markets where things are sold on the street, and community wells where people draw water, large streets and small alleys. He may see his relatives and friends, his associates, and he may hear their conversations; he will be able to listen to them talking.

This state is called "having been suppressed to the utmost, the mind flies out and sees much that had been blocked from view." In his cultivation, he restrained the mind from indulging in idle thinking. Having stifled the mind to the extreme, he experiences a sensation of flying out and seeing things no matter how far away they are. Usually he tries not to look at things, but now all of a sudden his mind breaks loose and he can see everything.

It does not indicate sagehood. He should not think that this is a good state. If he does not think he has become a sage, then this will be a good, passable state. But if he considers himself a sage, then he will be vulnerable to the demons' influence. If he claims to have realized sagehood when he hasn't, or if he claims to have attained what he hasn't, he will find himself surrounded by demons.

Further, as the person uses his mind to investigate to the utmost point, he may see a Good and Wise Advisor whose body undergoes changes. Within a brief interval, various transformations will occur which cannot be explained. This state is called "having an improper mind which is possessed by a li-ghost, a mei-ghost, or a celestial demon, and without reason speaking Dharma that fathoms wondrous truths." It does not indicate sagehood. If he does not think he has become a sage, then the demonic formations will subside. But if he considers himself a sage, then he will be vulnerable to the demons' influence.

This is the tenth demonic state of the form skandha, called "false visions and false words."

Further, as the person uses his mind to investigate to the utmost point, he may see a Good and Wise Advisor with whom he studied the Dharma in the past, whose body undergoes changes. Right before his eyes, the Good and Wise Advisor suddenly turns into an old man; in the next moment he becomes a middle-aged person; and, in another instant he turns into a young person. Then, if the Good and Wise Advisor is a man, for example, he suddenly changes into a woman, and the person thinks, "Oh! Probably in his previous life he was a woman." Actually, what he is seeing is not real. These changes are the result of his false thinking.

Within a brief interval, various transformations will occur which cannot be explained. Everything changes and becomes different from normal. This is similar to what people who take LSD experience. To them, everything becomes brightly colored, and they cannot see clearly. They paint some bizarre paintings which no one can figure out, because they just recklessly splash on the colors. After they finish painting, some people say, "Wow! What a masterpiece!" People actually praise them.

You see? That's the way it goes.

"Is it the case that this cultivator has taken a drug?" you ask.

No. This experience is caused by the demon king. When you take LSD, the demons are also at work, making you experience changes.

These states in the form skandha may change for the better and for the worse. If the person has enough good roots, the changes will be for the better. But people whose good roots are insufficient will change for the worse. There are all sorts of transformations.

This state is called "having an improper and deviant mind which is possessed by a ft-ghost, a mei'-ghost, or a celestial demon, and without reason speaking Dharma that fathoms wondrous truths." When a ghost or a demon from the heavens enters your mind, you may act like those people who claim they know how to lecture the Sutras or speak the Dharma, or who call themselves enlightened, elder masters. Such people start speaking the Dharma for no reason, with no idea what they are talking about. They say they have fathomed wondrous truths, but they have not really done so. They are not really speaking the Dharma either. They take what is wrong to be right and claim that their Dharma is the most wonderful. Praising themselves and putting others down, they call themselves the foremost elder masters.

It does not indicate sagehood. This state is not a good one. If he does not think he has become a sage, then the demonic formations will subside. They will disappear. But if he considers himself a sage, then he will be vulnerable to the demons' influence. If he thinks he has attained the fruition of a sage, he will soon find himself in the hells. He will attain the fruition of the hells.

Ananda, these ten states may occur in dhyana as one's mental effort interacts with the form skandha.

Ananda, these ten states described above may occur in the still contemplation of dhyana as one's mental effort interacts with the form skandha. These states involve the form skandha. When the mind interacts with and investigates the form skandha to the ultimate, one may experience such states.

Dull and confused living beings do not evaluate themselves. Encountering such situations, in their confusion they fail to recognize them and say that they have become sages, thereby uttering a great lie. They will fall into the Relentless Hells.

Dull and confused living beings do not evaluate themselves. Living beings are stubborn and intractable, and they do not wake up from their delusion. They do not take stock of themselves to see what level they are at. Encountering such situations, such demonic states, in their muddled confusion they fail to recognize them and say that they have become sages. They claim, "Oh, I am a Buddha! I am enlightened; I've attained sagehood," thereby uttering a great lie. They are really telling the greatest lie.They will surely fall into the Relentless Hells'

In the Dharma-ending Age, after the Tathagata enters Nirvana, all of you should rely on and proclaim this teaching. Do not let the demons of the heavens have their way. Offer protection so all can realize the unsurpassed Way. In the Dharma-ending Age, after the Tathagata enters Nirvana, all of you should rely on and proclaim this teaching. Ananda, you all should follow and practice the Dharma that I have explained for you. In the future Dharma-ending Age, after I have entered Nirvana, you must propagate these teachings. Do not let the demons of the heavens have their way. Offer protection so all can realize the unsurpassed Way. Maintain and support the true and orthodox Buddhadharma so that you will be able to attain the supreme fruition of the Way.

(to be continue)

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