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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.

Introduction

At that time, the Tathagata was preparing to leave the Dharma-seat. From the lion throne, he extended his hand and placed it on a small table wrought of the seven precious things. But then he turned his body, which was the color of purple-golden mountains, and leaned back, saying to everyone in the assembly and to Ananda: Those of you with More to Learn, those Enlightened by Conditions, and those who are Hearers have now turned you minds to pursue the attainment of supreme BodhiỞthe unsurpassed, wonderful enlightenment. I have already taught you the true method of cultivation.

At that time, the Tathagata was preparing to leave the Dharma-seat, since he had almost finished speaking the Shurangama Sutra. From the lion throne, he reached his hand out and placed it on a small table wrought of the seven precious things. The Buddha was on his Dharma-seat, the lion throne. The Buddha's speaking of the Dharma is like a lionỖs roar. When a lion roars, all the animas are frightened. That's why the BuddhaỖs Dharma-seat is called the lion throne. The small table in front of the Buddha was made of and adorned with the seven precious things.

But then he turned his body, which was the color purple-golden mountains, and leaned back. The Buddha's body is like purple-golden mountain; its brightness shines everywhere. He leaned on the small table again to speak the Dharma, saying to everyone in the assembly and to Ananda: Those of you with More to Learn... Before certifying to the fourth stage of Arhatship, one is in the position of having More to Learn. Those Enlightened by Conditions and those who are Hearers' those who become enlightened through cultivating the Twelve Links of Conditioned Co-production and those Hearer who become enlightened through cultivating the Dharma of the Four Noble TruthsỞhave now turned your minds to pursue the attainment of supreme Bodhi - the unsurpassed, wonderful enlightenment. You have now turned from the small to go towards the great. You of the Two Vehicles have brought forth the Great Vehicle resolve and seek to attain great enlightenment; there is no enlightenment higher than this. I have already taught you the true method of cultivation. I have already explained the real method of cultivation for you.

You are still not aware of the subtle demonic events that can occur when you cultivate Shamatha and vipashyana. If you cannot recognize a demonic state when it appears, it is because the cleansing of your mind has not been proper. You will then be engulfed by deviant views.

You are still not aware... Earlier, Ananda asked the Buddha how to cultivate. He had requested the Dharma on behalf of living beings of the future. But, although he now understands the principle of cultivation, he doesn't have any actual experience. He understands the theory, but since he lacks experience, he doesn't know what can occur in cultivation. So the Buddha said, "You are still not aware of the subtle demonic events that can occur when you cultivate Shamatha and vipashyana." In cultivating shamatha, which refers to the Great Shurangama Samadhi, and in cultivating vipashyana, a method of subtle contemplation, subtle demonic states can arise. In the process of cultivation, many demonic states can arise which are not very obvious, but, rather, extremely obscure.

If you cannot recognize a demonic state when it appears... When you cultivating the Way and practicing the skill of "directing the hearing inward to listen to the inherent nature," a demonic state may appear. If you do not recognize the demon and do not know what demons are, it is because the cleansing of your mind has not been proper. You have been cleansing your mind, but what you have done is slightly incorrect-not in accord with proper knowledge and views. For that reason, you will then be engulfed by deviant views. If your knowledge and views are the slightest bit improper, you will be caught up in deviant views.

You may be troubled by a demon from your skandhas or a demon from he heavens. Or you may be possessed by a ghost or spirit, or you may encounter a li-ghost or a mei-ghost. If your mind is not clear, you will mistake a thief for your own son.

You may be troubled by a demon from your own skandhas; that is a demon produced from your own mind, or one of the ten kinds of demons produced from the form skandha, which is also of your own making. Or it may be a demon from the heavens. Why should a demon from the heavens come to disturb you? It's because you have cultivated to the point that you have some samadhi. Having samadhi is no problem in itself, but what happens is that the demon king's palace starts to shake. It seems just like an earthquake. Since the demon king has spiritual powers, as soon as the shaking starts, he investigates, "Why is my palace shaking for no apparent reason? Why is it breaking apart? Aha!" He discovers that someone in the world is about to accomplish the Way and that the strength of that person's samadhi is shattering his palace. The demon king thinks, "So you want to destroy me? Well, I'm going to destroy your samadhi first!" Then he comes to wipe out your samadhi-power.

Or you may be possessed by a ghost or spirit. When the ghosts and spirits see that you are about to realize the fruition in your cultivation, they become jealous. They think, "Oh, so you are going to realize the fruition? We're going to destroy your cultivation first!" Then they enter your mind or possess your body, making it impossible for you to perfect your samadhi-power. They cause you to "catch on fire" and become possessed. Didn't the preceding passage of text talk about being possessed by a demon? This is very important. Why do you become possessed by a demon? Because "the cleansing of your mind has not been proper," and because your motivation is improper. With even the slightest deviant thought, you get caught by a demon. This is known as "catching on fire and entering a demonic state."

Or you may encounter a li-ghost or a mei-ghost or a wang liang. Those are types of ghost and goblins. If your mind is not clear, you will mistake a thief for your own son. If you encounter such a state and fail to recognize or understand it, you will end up "mistaking a thief for your son." Think about it: How can they not rob or steal your possessions? If you invite a thief into your home, then all the priceless treasures in your house will be stolen. What are your priceless treasures? I will tell you frankly, and be sure to remember this! You should believe what I say. Whatever you do, don't fail to believe what I say. Because it is important to your future and to your life. What are your treasures? They are your very own Treasury of the Tathagata. Can you Treasury of the Tathagaga be stolen? Didn't I mention essence, energy and spirit before? If you want to regain your Treasury of the Tathagata, you first have to protect your essence, energy, and spirit. If you fail to guard these three, you are allowing your wealth to be robbed from you. So be careful!

It is also possible to feel satisfied after a small accomplishment, like the Unlearned Bhikshu who reached the Fourth Dhyana and claimed that he had realize sagehood. When his celestial reward ended and the signs of decay appeared, he slandered Arhatship as being subject t birth and death, and thus he fell into the Avichi Hell.

It is also possible to feel satisfied after a small accomplishment. In cultivation, even if you do not become possessed by a demon, you must still have genuine wisdom and Dharma-selecting vision. If you recognize the Buddhadharma, you yourself should know what level you have reached. Don't obtain only a bit and feel satisfied, like the Unlearned Bhikshu who reached the Fourth Dhyana and claimed that he had realized sagehood. He was called the Unlearned Bhikshu because he didn't have much sense. He knew little about the principles of Buddhism. In what way was he unlearned? Basically, the four fruitions of Arhatship are all beyond the Four Dhyana Heavens. The Buddha explained that one who has realized the fourth fruition of Arhatship no longer undergoes birth and death. A sage who has realized the second fruition is called a Once-Returner. He is born once in the heavens and once in the human realm; he has one more round of birth and death to undergo. A sage of the first fruition has seven more rounds of birth and death to undergo. All of these states surpass the Four Dhyana Heavens. The Unlearned Bhikshu had only reached the level of the Fourth Dhyana Heaven in his cultivation, but he though he had already realized the fourth fruition of Arhhatship. In fact, at the level of the Fourth Dhyana Heaven, one has not realized any fruition and is still an ordinary person.

But the Unlearned Bhikshu claimed that he had attained the fourth fruition of Arhatship. Now, however, people think that the level of a fourth-stage Arhat is still too low for them, and they brazenly claim that they themselves are Buddhas. But a Buddha has Three Bodies, Four Wisdoms, Five eyes, and Six Spiritual Powers. You can ask those people who claim to be Buddhas how many spiritual powers they have. Ghosts have five of the six spiritual powers; they lack the spiritual power of freedom from outflows. At the fruition of Buddhahood, one has all six spiritual powers I believe that anyone who claimed to be a Buddha would not have even one spiritual power, let alone five or six. Only someone lacking spiritual powers would claim to be a Buddha. Anyone with even one spiritual power wouldn't tell such a great lie.

When his celestial reward ended, when his life in the heavens came to an end and the signs of decay appear... Do you remember the Five Signs of Decay? When the life of a heavenly being comes to an end and he is about to die, these five signs appear. [The Five Signs of Decay are: (1) The flowers on the gods' crowns wilt; (2) their clothes become dirty; (3) their armpits sweat; (4) their bodies become smelly and filthy; and (5) they cannot sit still.]

He slandered Arhatship as being subject to birth and death, and thus he fell into the Avichi Hell. When his blessing in the heavens ran out, the Five Signs of Decay appeared and his life in the heavens came to an end, the Unlearned Bhikshu got angry. What was he angry about? He said, "I've been deceived by the Buddha! The Buddha is a charlatan. He said that when you realize the fourth fruition of Arhatship, you don't have to undergo birth and death ever again. Why is my life coming to an end now? Why do I have to be reborn? Why do I have to undergo transmigration again? The Buddha is a liar!" Guess what happened when he slandered the Buddha like that. He fell into the Avichi Hell.

The Avichi Hell is also called the Relentless Hell. Basically he had not realized the fourth fruition of Arhatship at all, but he claimed that he had. When he used up his celestial blessings and reached the end of his life, he fell into the lower realms. He did not realize his mistake and said that the Buddha had spoken the Dharma incorrectly. In fact the Buddha had said, "You have not realized the fourth fruition of Arhatship. If you had, naturally there would be no more birth and death for you. How could the Five Signs of Decay appear?" Upon slandering the Buddha, the Unlearned Bhikshu immediately fell into the Relentless Hell - the Avichi Hell. Where do you suppose those people who claim to be Buddhas go? I don't know where they end up.

You should pay attention. I will now explain this for you in detail.

You should pay attention. Ananda, you should pay special attention. Listen carefully. I will now explain this for you, Ananda, and for everyone else, in great detail, so don't disappoint me.

Ananda stood up and, with the others in the assembly who had More to Learn, bowed joyfully. They quieted themselves in order to listen to the compassionate instruction

Ananda stood up immediately and, with the others in the assembly - the great Bodhisattvas, the great Arhats, the great Bhikshus, and those who had More to Learn, people at the first, second, and third fruitions - bowed joyfully. Since the Buddha was about to explain the matter in detail, everyone has happy, and together they joyfully paid homage and bowed to the Buddha. They quieted themselves in order to listen to the compassionate instruction. They subdued their minds and had no more extraneous thoughts, so they could listen with full attention to the Dharma the Buddha was about to speak.

The Buddha told Ananda and the whole assembly: You should know that the twelve categories of beings in this world of outflows are endowed with a wonderfully bright, fundamental enlightenment - the enlightened, perfect substance of the mind which is not different from that of the Buddhas of the ten direction.

The Buddha told Ananda and everyone in the whole assembly: All of you people who are now present should know that the twelve categories of beings in this world of outflows are endowed with a wonderfully bright, fundamental enlightenment - an inherent, enlightened nature, the wonderfully bright, true mind - the enlightened, perfect substance of the mind, which is not different from that of the Buddhas of the ten directions. It is the same. There is no difference. The Buddhas of the ten directions are endowed with it, and the twelve categories of beings are also endowed with this enlightened nature, which is also called the Treasury of the Tathagata.

Due to the fault of false thinking and confusion about the truth, infatuation arises and makes your confusion all-pervasive. Consequently, emptiness appears. Worlds come into being as that confusion is ceaselessly transformed. Therefore, the lands that are not without outflows, as numerous as motes of dust throughout the ten directions, are all created as a result of confusion, dullness, and false thinking.

Due to the fault of false thinking and confusion about the truth...Hey, Ananda! Your inherent nature and the inherent nature of the twelve categories of beings are not different from the Buddhas'; they are one and the same. However, because you create falseness out of the truth and then become confused about what is the genuine truth, faults arise and errors are made.

Infatuation arises... What is the biggest fault? Infatuation (literally, "obsessed love"). You could say obsession and love are two things; you can also explain them as one: infatuation. Your ignorance prevents you from understanding, and love is all you know about. You think about love, from morning to night. You can't put down love and lust for a moment. If you investigated the Buddhadharma as attentively as you pursue lust and love, you would become a Buddha very soon. What a pity you cannot transform your fondness for the opposite sex into fondness for the Buddhadharma instead! The more you study the Buddhadharma, the more boring you think it is. You say, "I have many faults, and the Buddhadharma points them all out to me. I don't want to study it anymore. The Buddhadharma wants me to change my habits, and how can I do that?" That's one example of obsession about love. Above, the text said, "Due to the fault of false thinking and confusion about the truth..." Now I could say that mistakes are made due to obsession about love.

You make mistakes based on infatuation. Infatuation arises and makes your confusion all-pervasive. Your infatuation produces an all-pervading confusion. Once you become infatuated, you don't understand anything. Nothing matters to you. You figure, "If I fall into the hells, so be it! Why should I worry?" You no longer care about anything.

Consequently, an emptiness appears. Because you make mistakes based on infatuationỞbecause men think about women from morning to night, and women think about men all day longỞa false emptiness arises. Worlds come into being as that confusion is ceaselessly transformed. The confusion multiplies so that one confusion becomes two confusions, and two confusions turn into three confusions. The confusion evolves without end. Intelligent people should take note of this! You should pay attention to this passage of Sutra text. Its message really penetrates to the bone. It points out all of your faults!

Then the world comes into being. Therefore, the lands that are not without outflows, as numerous as motes of dust throughout the ten directions, are all created as a result of confusion, dullness, and false thinking. The worlds throughout the ten directions are not indestructible; they are not without outflows, because they have no basic substance of their own. They are all mere creations of false thinking. Confusion refers to lack of understanding; dullness refers to being obstinate and unyielding. The world is created by your false thinking. Did you know that?

(to be continue)

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