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A General Explanation of
The Vajra Prajna Paramita Sutra

By Ven. Master Hsuan Hua

(continued from last issue)

8

RELYING ON DHARMA
THEY COME FORTH

SUBHUTI, WHAT DO YOU THINK, IF SOMEONE FILLED THREE THOUSAND GREAT THOUSAND WORLD SYSTEM WITH THE SEVEN PRECIOUS GEMS AND GAVE THEM AS A GIFT, WOULD BE OBTAIN MANY BLESSING AND VIRTUE?

SUBHUTI SAID, "VERY MANY, WORLD HONORED ONE. AND WHY? SUCH BLESSINGS AND VIRTUE AR NOT OF THE NATURE OF BLESSING AND VIRTUE. THEREFORE THE TATHAGATA SPEAKS OF MANY BLESSING AND VIRTUE."

"IF, ON THE OTHER HAND, A PERSON WERE TO RECEIVE AND HOLD FROM THIS SUTRA EVEN SO FEW AS FOUR LINES OF VERSE AND SPEAK THEM FOR OTHERS, HIS BLESSING WOULD SURPASS THE PREVIOUS ONE. AND WHY? SUBHUTI, ALL BUDDHA AND ALL BUDDHAS DHARMA OF ANUTTARASAMYAKSAMBODHI COME FORTH FROM THIS SUTRA. SUBHUTI, THE BUDDHADHARMAS SPOKEN ARE NO BUDDHADHARMAS."

In this section it is stated that all Buddhas and all Bodhisattvas are brought forth from this Sutra.

Every WORLD SYSTEM contains:

1 Mount Sumeru;
1 set of the Four Great Continents, namely:

Jambudvipa to the south,
Purva-videha to the east,
Apara-godania to the west, and
Uttarakuru to the north;

1 sun, and 1 moon.

One thousand of such world systems is called one small thousand world system. A thousand small-thousand world system is called one middle-thousand world system. A thousand middle-thousand world system is called one great-thousand world system. Because the world "thousand" occurs three times, the great-thousand world system is referred to as the three thousand great-thousand world system. This gigantic world system contains limitless Buddhalands, and in spite of its name, the number of worlds is contains may vary, because the Dharma is not fixed. One should not become too attached to an exact number.

The person who gives the seven precious gems of gold, silver, lapis lazuli, crystal, mother-of-pearl, red pearls, and carnelian does not just give a few of them. He relinquishes enough to fill an entire three thousand great thousand world systems. How many that would be!

Subhuti said, "Such a person would acquire much in the way of blessing and virtue. However, his blessings and virtues, being tangible, would not be the essential blessings and virtue which are markless. Therefore, although the blessings and virtue of which the Buddha speaks would be vast, they would be superficial and without the real nature of blessings and virtue. So when the Buddha spoke of the blessings and virtue as many, he was referring to their marks, and not to their nature.

The section of the text which begins, "If on the other hand a person were to receive and hold from this Sutra," was spoke by Sakyamuni Buddha. RECEIVE means that the heart receives it. HOLD means that the body puts the teaching into practice.

A person need not receive and hold the entire Vajra Sutra, but may learn to recite no more than a four-line gatha, such as those which occur later in the text:

If one sees me in forms,
If one seeks me in sound,
He practices a deviant way
And cannot see the Tathagata.

The gatha says that if a person recognizes the Buddha through tangible marks, or seeks for the Buddha in the sound of his voice, that person practices deviant, demonic externalist dharmas rather than true, actual Buddhadharma. Why? True Buddhadharma is de void of form or appearance. It is true emptiness and wonderful existence. Effort is not to be spent on false marks.

Another four-line says:

All with marks is false and empty.
If you see all marks
As no marks
Then you see the Tathagata

Another:

There is no mark of self,
And no mark of others,
No mark of living beings
And no mark of a life.

Another:

All conditioned dharmas
Are like dreams. Illusions, bubbles, shadows,
Like dew drops and a lightning flash.
Contemplate them thus.

In general, one may memorize any four-line which suit him and explain them to others. One should not interpret the passage of Sutra text in this section as referring only to the verses in this particular Sutra, because there are no fixed dharmas. If one insists on a given four lines, the Dharma become static. The Vajra Sutra subdue the rigid attaching heart and enables it to separate from all marks. It sweeps away all dharmas and separates from all marks. Separation from all marks is Buddhahood. Do not be attached to a particular four lines. Keep the Dharma alive! Let it be like a vital dragon, like a coursing tiger. Speak the Sutra until it leaps and bounds. Talk until it soars. Do not be so stuffy that you put everyone to sleep, and then be so stupid as to think your lecturing has caused them to enter samadhi.

Receiving and holding the Sutra is self-benefiting cultivation which leads to self-enlightenment. Explaining it to others benefits and enlightens them.

If you can receive and hold a four-line gatha yourself, and speak it for others, the blessings and virtue of that act are far greater than the blessings and virtue derived by the person who gives three thousand great thousand world systemsful of the seven precious gems as a gift. Why? Because the giving of Dharma is the most supreme kind of giving, and as such far surpasses the giving of wealth.

The ten directions are east, south, west, north, the intermediate points, above, and below. The three periods of time are the past, the present, and the future. All the Buddhas of the ten directions and the three periods of time, and the Dharma of Unsurpassed Proper and Equal, Right Enlightenment to which they have certified flow from markless real mark prajna.

If you are attached to the Buddha, then you are attached to the mark of people. If you are attached to the Dharma then you are attached to the mark of dharmas. If you are attached to emptiness, you are attached to the mark of emptiness. That is not what is called sweeping away all dharmas and leaving all marks. If you leave all marks, that is Dharma. If you cannot leave all marks, you have attachments and your originally existent face, your native intelligence, the treasure of your household, your self-nature's prajna cannot appear. If it cannot appear, is it lost? No, it is not lost. It is simply that you cannot use it. For example, if in a dream you forget you are wealthy, your riches are useless. If you awaken from the dream, then even the great thousand world is empty. To what can you attach?

Some may say, "Since the Buddhadharma is not fixed, why speak of the six perfection's and the ten thousand practices? Why say that people should maintain the precepts and cultivate blessing? Why is any of that necessary?"

That viewpoint is based on deviant knowledge and deviant views. Why? Because people with such attitudes harbor attachments in their hearts. Rather than attaching to marks, one should relay on the Dharma in order to cultivate; for example, although the precepts are held, there should be no attachment to the mark of holding them. Although one has blessings and virtue, one should not be attached to their mark. If one has no attachments, one's merit and virtue exhaust empty space and pervade the Dharmarealm.

But some people say that there is no need to hold precepts, and will not even hold the five precepts in order to refrain from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and the use of intoxicants. "The Buddhadharma has no fixed dharmas," they contend, "so my killing isn't killing, my stealing isn't stealing, my lying isn't lying." One who has such great deviant knowledge and views certainly will fall into the hells in the future. Be very careful not to fall into the kind of total emptiness which denies cause and effect by professing "Offenses are empty, blessings are empty, everything is empty." If you do not perform acts of merit and virtue you create offenses and bad karma. Right practice is to do good deeds and not to be attached to them. It is essential to perform acts of merit and virtue and maintain the precepts. If you do not maintain the precepts you can fall into the hells. Everyone should be very clear about that.

***

(to be continued)

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