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A General Explanation of
The Vajra Prajna Paramita Sutra

By Ven. Master Hsuan Hua

(continued from last issue)

9

THE ONE MARK IS NO MARK

SUBHUTI, WHAT DO YOU THINK, CAN A SROTAAPANNA HAVE THE THOUGHT, 'I HAVE OBTAINED THE FRUIT OF SROTAAPANNA.'?"

SUBHUTI SAID, "NO, WORLD HONORED ONE. AND WHY? A SROTAAPANNA MEANS ONE WHO HAS ENTERED THE FLOW, AND YET HE HAS NOT ENTERED ANYTHING. HE HAS NOT ENTERED FORMS, SOUNDS, SMELLS, TASTES, TANGIBLE OJBECTS, OR DHARMAS. FOR THAT REASON HE IS CALLED A SROTAAPANNA."

Knowing that most people would still not have understood the doctrine of real mark prajna, Sakyamuni Buddha presented another example.

A Srotaapanna is a first stage Arhat. Certification to the first fruit of Arhatship, which is within the Small vehicle, comes when the eighty-eight categories of view delusions are smashed. It is called the Position of the Way of Seeing. By means of sixteen hearts one can cut off the eighty-eight categories of view delusion and certify to the truth.

View delusions are the result of the greed and love which arise when viewing situations. Before one sees something, one has no greed or love concerning it, but once the thing is seen, greed and love for it arise. The production of greed and love regarding states is termed view delusion. The eighty-eight categories of view delusions are cut off my means of the sixteen hearts which are aspects of the Four Noble Truths of suffering, accumulation, extinction, and the Way.

Within the desire realm are eight of these hearts:

  1. Patience Regarding the Dharmas Involved in Suffering.

  2. Wisdom Regarding the Dharmas Involved in Suffering,

  3. Patience Regarding the Dharmas Involved in Accumulation,

  4. Wisdom Regarding the Dharmas Involved in Accumulation

  5. Patience Regarding the Dharmas Involved in Extinction,

  6. Wisdom Regarding the Dharmas Involved in Extinction,

  7. Patience Regarding the Dharmas Involved in the Way,

  8. Wisdom Regarding the Dharmas Involved in the Way.

The form realm and formless realm have eight hearts:

  1. Subsequent Patience Regarding Suffering,

  2. Subsequent Wisdom Regarding Suffering.

  3. Subsequent Patience Regarding Accumulation,

  4. Subsequent Wisdom Regarding Accumulation,

  5. Subsequent Patience Regarding Extinction,

  6. Subsequent Wisdom Regarding Extinction,

  7. Subsequent Patience Regarding Way,

  8. Subsequent Wisdom Regarding Way,

The sixteen hearts are all located in realms where there is attachment to marks. At the fifteenth of the sixteen hearts, Subsequent Patience Regarding the Way, view delusions are cut off. That point is classified as Inclination Towards the First Fruit, and is called a Way of Non-Interruption. When one completely attains the sixteenth heart, Subsequent Wisdom Regarding the Way, that is certification to the first fruit of Arhatship. It is called a Way of Liberation, for at that point delusion is completely severed and liberation is obtained.

The first three stages of Arhatship, called fruit positions, are similar to unripened fruit on a tree. The fourth stage, the attainment of Arhatship, is called the Way position, and corresponds to ripe, harvested fruit.

The first fruit is called the position of the Way of Seeing. The second and third fruits are called The Position of the Way of Cultivation, and the fourth fruit is called the Position of the Way of No Study.

The first fruit is that of Srotaapanna, a Sanskrit word which means "One Who Has Entered the Flow. He opposes the flow of common people's six dusts and enters the flow of the sage's Dharma-nature. Entering the flow means entering the state of the accomplished sage of the Small Vehicle.

Sakyamuni Buddha as asked Subhuti if the Srotaapanna, who has certified to the first fruit of the Small Vehicle sagehood, can have the thought that he has obtained the fruit of Srotaapanna.

Subhuti replied that the Srotaapanna could not have such a thought. Although he is called One Who Has Entered the Flow, he has not entered anything. One who has certified to the first fruit is not turned by the six dusts. He can see form and not be confused. He can perceive sounds, smells, tastes, tangible objects, and dharmas and not be attached to any of them. Because he is not attached, he is given the title One of the First Fruit, or One Who has Entered the Flow. Nevertheless, that is merely a name, not an actual substance. Therefore a Srotaapanna cannot think that he has obtained the fruit of Srotaapanna.

"SUBHUTI, WHAT DO YOU THINK? CAN A SAKRDAGAMIN HAVE THE THOUGHT, 'I HAVE OBTAINED THE FRUIT OF SAKRDAGAMIN'?"

SUBHUTI SAID, "NO. WORLD HONORED ONE, AND WHY? A SAKRDAGAMIN MEANS ONE WHO RERURNS ONCE MORE, BUT HE ACTUALLY DOES NOT HAVE A RETURNING, FOR THAT REASON, HE IS CALLED A SAKRDAGAMIN."

After Sakyamuni Buddha spoke about the first fruit, he knew that many people would wonder if the first fruit and the second fruit were different, whether the first fruit sage had no thought of certifying to the fruit, but the sage of the second fruit did have such a thought.

One who has certified to the first sage Arhatship has seven more births and deaths to undergo. He is born seven time in the heavens and seven time among men. One of the second fruit, the Sakrdagamin, returns but once, being born once in the heavens and once among men. Can he think "I have obtained the fruit of the Sakradagamin?"

Subhuti said, "No, because although he is said to return once--once to heaven and once among men- - he actually does not have to return. He can end birth and death very suddenly. He has a choice: either to have one more birth and death, or to progress further, certify to the third fruit, and not return. The second fruit, that of Sakrdagamin, is just a name and has no actual substance. Therefore he cannot be said to have attained anything. What could he obtain? Sakradagamin is just a name.

"SUBHUTI, WHAT DO YOU THINK? CAN AN ANAGAMIN HAVE THE THOUGHT, 'I HAVE OBTAINED THE FRUIT OF ANAGAMIN'?"

SUBHUTI SAID, "NO, WORLD HONORED ONE, AND WHY? ANAGAMIN MEANS ONE WHO DOES NOT RETURN, BUT HE ACTUALLY DOES NOT HAVE NO RETURNING. FOR THAT REASON, HE IS CALLED ANAGAMIN."

Again Sakyamuni Buddha thought that perhaps people would consider the sage of the third fruit different from one of the first or second fruit, so he continued the discussion with Subhuti.

An Anagamin is called One Who Does Not Return because he has cut off all thought delusion within the desire realm and no longer is compelled to be reborn in that realm.

The second fruit Sakradagamin must return once to the heavens and once among men before he cuts off the last three categories of his thought delusions in the desire realm. Having done that, he certifies to the third fruit, and never returns. Actually, he also does not have no returning. Do not become attached to the mark of not returning.

"SUBHUTI, WHAT DO YOU THINK? CAN AN ARHAT HAVE THE THOUGHT, ‘I HAVE OBTAINED ARHATSHIP.’?"

SUBHUTI SAID, "NO WORLD HONORED ONE. AND WHY? ACTUALLY THERE IS NO DHARMA CALLED AN ARHAT, WORLD HONORED ONE, IF AN ARHAT HAD THE THOUGHT, I HAVE ATTAINED ARHATSHIP WHAT WOULD BE ATTACHMENT TO SELF, TO OTHERS, TO LIVING BEINGS, AND TO A LIFE, WORLD ONE, THE BUDDHA SAYS THAT IN MY ATTAINMENT OF THE NO STRIFE SAMADHI I AM THE FOREMOST AMONG MEN, THAT I AM THE FOREMOST ARHAT FREE FROM DESIRE, WORLD HONORED ONE, I DO NOT HAVE THE THOUGHT, ‘I HAVE ATTAINED ARHATSHIP’ THEN THE WORLD HONORED ONE COULD NOT SAY, ‘SUBHUTI IS THE FOREMOST OF THOSE WHO DELIGHT IN PRACTICING ARANA.’ SINCE SUBHUTI I ACTUALLY HAS NO PRACTICE, HE IS CALLED ‘SUBHUTI, WHO DELIGHTS IN PRACTICING ARANA.’"

Arhat, a Sankrit word, has three meanings:

Worthy of offerings, killer of thieves, without birth. Being a bhiksu is the cause for becoming an Arhat; becoming an Arhat is the result of having been a bhiksu. In the cause he is a mendicant. In the result he is one worthy of the offerings of gods and men. In the cause he is one who frightens Mara. In the result he is one who kills the thieves, the thieves of affliction. In the cause he is one who destroys evil. In the result he is one who is without birth.

The Arhat of the Small Vehicle kills the thieves of affliction. The Bodhisattva should not only kill the thieves, but should also kill that which is not the thief, that is to say, ignorance. At the realization of Arhatship, ignorance is not considered a thief, but at the culmination of Bodhisattvahood it is, because of the realization that all affliction comes from ignorance.

Although the Arhat has realized the Position of No Study, he still has ignorance. Even equal enlightenment Bodhisattvas still have one last particle of ignorance which acts as a thief and which Bodhisattvas recognize to be the greatest thief. Therefore it is said that they must kill that which for the Arhat is not a thief.

Subhuti was asked if an Arhat can have the thought that he has obtained Arhatship, and he replied, "No, because although he has certified to the fruit of Arhatship, it is just a name and nothing more." Not only upon certification, but even upon attainment of Buddhadood there is none. There is no tangible dharma which can be called Arhat. It is an empty name. If one thinks it exists, one has an attachment to dharma and has not realized the emptiness of dharmas.

If an Arhat did have the thought that he has obtained Arhatship, he would be attached to self, others, living beings, and a life. He would not have realized the emptiness of self or of dharmas, nor would he have obtained Arhatship. The thought of obtaining Arhatship carries with it the mark of self, which in turn produces its partner, the mark of others. Having the paired dharmas of self and others creates the mark of living beings, which in turn leads to the mark of a life. He would therefore be attached to the four marks.

Subhuti again spoke to the Buddha saying, "World Honored One, the Buddha says I have obtained the No Strife Samadhi." Strife refers to debating and fighting. The Sixth patriarch spoke of this:

Debating--thoughts of victory and defeat--
Stands in contradiction to the Way.
Giving rise to the four-mark mind,
How can samadhi be obtained?

In cultivating the Way one should not involve oneself in competition, fighting to be first or second. People who cultivate the Way should be like water. Lao Tzu said:

Superior goodness is like water:

Water benefits the myriad things
and does not contend with them.
It flows to places which repel mankind and thus it approximates the Way.

"Water benefits the myriad things and does not contend with them." Trees, flowers, and grasses need water to grow. People need water to live. Flying creatures drink water, and fish, turtles, shrimp, crabs, and the like also need water to survive. Those born from wombs, eggs, moisture, and by transformation all must have water. Water does not refuse to moisten any of the myriad things, nor does it bicker or bargain. "It flows to places which repel mankind and thus it approximates the Way." Water does not linger in the high mountains, but flows to the lowest places, unlike people who enjoy high places and avoid low ones. Because it tends to flow towards the low places, water is in accord with the Way.

Lao Tzu was a transformation body of the Venerable Mahakasyapa. When the Buddha entered the world, he saw that living beings in China committed many offenses and did not relay on the Dharma to cultivate, so he sent Lao Tzu, Confucius, and Yen Hui to China to teach and transform living beings. All three were transformation-bodies of Bodhisattvas.

Lao Tzu introduced the concept of the unconditioned to the Chinese people. If one can understand unconditioned dharma, one can then come to understand that which is not unconditioned. The Buddhadharma speaks of that which is unconditioned and yet not unconditioned.

The Sixth Patriarch said "Debating--thoughts of victory and defeat--stands in contradiction to the Way." Suppose in cultivating the Way you should go south, but because you like to argue you go north instead. Perhaps you should go east but you rebel and go west. When you argue, you are in opposition to the Way. "Giving rise to the four-mark mind" means producing the marks of self, of others, of living beings, and of a life. "How can samadhi be obtained?" The No Strife Samadhi is having no thoughts of victory or defeat.

The Buddha says that Subhuti is the foremost Arhat apart from desire. Living beings are plagued with all kinds of greed and desire, summed up in a list of Five Desires: desire for wealth; for form; for fame; for food; and for sleep. Whatever one likes amounts to an object of greed and desire. Upon certifying to the No Strife Samadhi, there is no greed or desire of any kind. One is not greedy for good, clothes, or a good place to live. All longings cease. That is what is meant by FOREMOST FREE FROM DESIRE. Separating from desire one obtains the No Strife Samadhi and becomes pure. If one has not left desire he cannot obtain the No Strife Samadhi--the bliss of purity.

Subhuti said to the Buddha, "World Honored One, I do not have the thought that I am one who has obtained the No Strife Samadhi, or that I have certified to Arhatship, or that I am number one among men--the foremost Arhat free from desire. Why? If I had that thought, I could not be called pure, I could not be said to have left desire, and could not be called one who does not fight.

"World Honored One, you could not then say that Subhuti is one who practices Arana, that is, one who practices pure conduct. Why? Because if I had such a thought, just that would be contention and impurity and would not be freedom from desire. that too would be a false thought.

"But because I am actually without practice--I do not actually ‘do’ anything--I am not attached to anything. I am not attached to self or to dharmas; since I do not arrogantly say ‘I have obtained Arhatship, I am pure and do not fight. I am free from desire’; for that reason, the Buddha says that I am the foremost Arhat free from desire. But if I had such thought, the Buddha could not speak in that way."

"Subhuti, who practices Arana" is nothing but a false name. As an Arana practicioner Subhuti liked to cultivate pure conduct. However, there was no fixed or actual substance, no "thing" which he had obtained.

Although he had certified to the fourth fruit of Arhatship, he had actually obtained nothing.

Those who look cannot see it,
Those who listen cannot hear;
There isn’t anything at all.

***

(to be continued)

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