Samdhinirmocana Sutra Sutra of Unlocking the Mysteries Part 5

 

Samdhinirmocana Sutra 

Sutra of Unlocking the Mysteries

 

5. Essencelessness

 

Then the enlightening being Born of Ultimate Truth said to the Buddha, "Once when I was staying alone in a quiet place, these reflections occurred to me: ‘The Buddha has explained, in innumerable ways, the individual characteristics, characteristics of birth and death, resolution, and total knowledge, of the clusters, sense media, conditional origination, and nourishments.

 

"’In innumerable ways, the Buddha has explained the individual characteristics, total knowledge, resolution, realization, and practice of the truths.

 

"’In innumerable ways, the Buddha has explained the individual characteristics, variety, multiplicity, resolution, and total knowledge of the elements.

 

"’In innumerable ways, the Buddha has explained the individual characteristics of the points of mindfulness, how and what they cure, how they are cultivated, how they are first produced, how they are perpetuated and developed.

 

"’The Buddha has also explained all these aspects of the right efforts, bases of occult powers, religious faculties and powers, the branches of enlightenment, and the eightfold noble path.

 

"’The Buddha also says that all things have no essence, no origin or extinction, that they are fundamentally quiescent and inherently nirvanic.’

 

"I wonder, what is the inner intent based on which you say all things have no essence, no origin or extinction, that they are fundamentally quiescent and inherently nirvanic? Please be so compassionate as to explain the hidden meaning of this."

 

The Buddha said, "Good, good! Your reflections are most reasonable. It is good that you are able to ask about this profound matter. You have asked this question because you want to aid and comfort innumerable beings, because you have compassion for the world and want to foster their welfare and happiness. Listen closely, and I will explain for you the inner intent of the saying that all things have no essence, have no origin or extinction, are fundamentally quiescent and inherently nirvanic.

 

"You should know that when I say all things have no essence, I am alluding to three kinds of essencelessness: essencelessness of characteristics, essencelessness of birth, and ultimate essencelessness.

 

"What is the essencelessness of characteristics of all things? It is their conceptually grasped character. Why? Because the characteristics are defined by artificial names and not by inherent definition. This is called essencelessness of characteristics.

 

"What is the essencelessness of birth of things? It is the dependently originated character of things. Why? Because they exist dependent on the power of other conditions and do not exist of themselves. Therefore this is called essencelessness of birth.

 

"What is the ultimate essencelessness of things? It means that things are said to be essenceless because of the essencelessness of birth; that is to say, the fact of dependent origination is also called ultimate essencelessness. Why? I reveal the pure object of attention in things to be ultimate essencelessness. Dependency is not a pure object of attention, so I also call it ultimately essenceless.

 

"There is also the perfectly real character of things, which is also called ultimate essencelessness. Why? Because the selflessness of all things is called ultimate truth and can also be called essencelessness. This is the ultimate truth of all things and is revealed by essencelessness, so for these reasons it is called ultimate essencelessness.

 

"You should know that essencelessness of characteristics is like flowers in the sky. Essencelessness of birth is like illusory images, and so is ultimate essencelessness in part. Just as space is only revealed by absence of forms and yet is omnipresent, so also is one part of ultimate essencelessness, because it is revealed by the selflessness of things, and because it is omnipresent.

 

"It is in allusion to these three kinds of essencelessness that I say all things are essenceless. You should know that it is in allusion to the essencelessness of characteristics that I say all things have no origin or extinction, are fundamentally quiescent and inherently nirvanic.

 

"Why? If inherent characteristics of things have no existence at all, then they have no origination; if they have no origination, then they have no extinction. If they have no origination and no extinction, they are fundamentally quiescent. If they are fundamentally quiescent, they are inherently nirvanic, and there is nothing at all therein that can further cause their ultimate nirvana. Therefore I say that all things have no origination or extinction, are fundamentally quiescent and inherently nirvanic, in terms of the essencelessness of characteristics.

 

"I also allude to ultimate essencelessness revealed by the selflessness of things when I say that all things have no origination or extinction and are fundamentally quiescent and inherently nirvanic. Why? Because the ultimate essencelessness revealed by the selflessness of things is the eternal and constant real nature of all things, permanent and uncreated, having no relation to any defilements.

 

"Because the eternal and constant nature of things is permanent, it is uncreated. Because it is uncreated, it has no origination or extinction. Because it is unconnected to any defilements, it is fundamentally quiescent and inherently nirvanic. Therefore I say that all things have no origination or extinction, are fundamentally quiescent and inherently nirvanic, in terms of ultimate essencelessness revealed by the selflessness of things.

 

"Moreover, I do not define the three kinds of essencelessness because of taking various types of people’s particular views of conceptualized essence as essence, or because of taking their particular views of dependent or real essences as essence. I define the three kinds of essencelessness because people add a conceptualized nature on top of the dependent nature and the real nature.

 

"People produce explanations of the dependent and real natures based on the characteristics of the conceptualized nature, saying they are such and such, in accord with how people conceptualize them. Because the explanations condition their minds, because their awareness conforms to the explanations, because they are lulled by the explanation, they cling to their conceptualizations of the dependent nature and real nature as such and so.

 

"Because they cling to their conceptualizations of the dependent and real natures, this condition produces the dependent nature of the future, and due to this condition people may be defiled by afflictions, actions, or birth, and forever rush around in repetitious cycles, with no rest, suffering pains and vexations, going through all kinds of psychological states.

 

"Furthermore, if people have never cultivated good, or cleared away mental obstructions, or matured their minds, or practiced much zealous mental application, or been able to accumulate virtue and knowledge, I explain things to them based on the essencelessness of birth.

 

"Once they have heard this, they are able, according to their capacity, to understand that all conditionally produced actions are impermanent, inconstant, unstable, and subject to change and disintegration. Then they become wary of conditioned acts and deeply disillusioned, whereupon they stop evils and are able to avoid doing evil things and to cultivate good practices diligently. Because of practicing what is good, they become able to cultivate good qualities, clear away mental obstructions, and develop consistency, whereby they practice much zealous application and accumulate much virtue and knowledge.

 

"Even though they cultivate good and accumulate virtue and knowledge in this way, however, they are nevertheless as yet unable to truly know the essencelessness of characteristics and the two kinds of ultimate essencelessness in essencelessness of birth. So they cannot yet truly be disaffected with all conditioned actions and are not yet truly detached from desire or yet truly liberated. They are not yet totally liberated from the defilements of afflictions, they are not yet totally liberated from the defilements of actions, and they are not yet totally liberated from the defilements of birth.

 

"The Buddha goes on to explain more essential principles to them, namely the essencelessness of characteristics and ultimate essencelessness, in order to enable them to be truly disaffected with all conditioned acts, so that they can be truly free from desire and truly liberated, so that they can transcend all defilements of afflictions, actions, and birth.

 

"Once they have heard this teaching, they are able to truly believe in essencelessness of characteristics and ultimate essencelessness in the essencelessness of birth, and to investigate and contemplate these and realize them in truth, so as to be able to not cling to conceptualized nature in the dependent nature.

 

"Because of knowledge that is not conditioned by words, not thinking in conformity with words, free from the lull of words, they are able to extinguish dependency. Sustained by the power of knowledge in the present state, they are able to extinguish the causes of the future.

 

"Because of this, they are able to be truly disaffected with all conditioned acts, able to truly detach from desire, able to truly become liberated, able to become totally liberated from the threefold defilement of afflictions, action, and birth.

 

"People with the temperament for the vehicle of sainthood also realize unexcelled peaceful nirvana by way of this path, this course of practice. People with the temperament for the vehicle of self-enlightenment and people with the temperament for the vehicle of universal enlightenment also realize unexcelled peaceful nirvana by way of this path, this course of practice. All saints, self-enlightened ones, and enlightening beings share this one marvelous pure path. All have this one ultimate purity in common; there is no second. It is in this sense that I say there is only one vehicle.

 

"It is not that there are not various types of people. Some people are dull, some are mediocre and some are sharp. If people have the temperament and personality of disciples who only seek tranquil sainthood, then even if they are taught the various methods of vigorous practice set up by the Buddha, that could not, after all, enable them to sit on the site of enlightenment and realize supreme perfect enlightenment. Why? Because they basically only have a lesser nature, their compassion is slight, and they just fear suffering.

 

"Because their compassion is slight, they give up on working for the benefit of the many. Because they fear suffering, they give up on undertaking various activities. I never would say that those who wholly give up working for the benefit of the many and who wholly give up undertaking various activities, will sit on the site of enlightenment and realize supreme perfect enlightenment. That is why I call them disciples who only seek tranquility.

 

"As for persons with the temperament for sainthood who are dedicated to enlightenment, I also call them enlightening beings in another respect. Why? Having become liberated from the barriers caused by afflictions, when they are inspired by Buddhas, their minds can also attain liberation from the barriers of knowledge. Because they first cultivate practices for their own benefit, in order to become liberated from the barriers caused by afflictions, the Buddha defines them as being of the temperament of disciples seeking sainthood.

 

"In this way, furthermore, various differences can be found in people’s understandings of my well-explained, well-ordered teaching, good doctrines explained with the purest intent. Based on these three kinds of essencelessness, by deeply hidden allusion, in the scriptures of incomplete doctrine the Buddha explains the essential principles – that all things are essenceless, have no origination or extinction, and are fundamentally quiescent and nirvanic – in hidden, secret forms.

 

"As regards this scripture, if people have cultivated superior good, have cleared away obstructions, have developed consistency, and have practiced much zealous application, but have not yet been able to accumulate stores of superior virtue and knowledge, and yet are simple and direct, even though they do not have power to think discerningly and to discard and affirm still they do not dwell fixed in attachment to their own views.

 

"If they hear such a teaching as this, even though they do not have the power to truly understand my profound esoteric speech, nevertheless they are able to develop interest in this teaching and develop pure faith, believing that this scripture is the word of Buddha, that its profound revelation is connected with profound emptiness, hard to see, hard to understand, impossible to pursue in thought, not in the realm of thought and deliberation, subtle and refined, to be understood by those with brilliant knowledge.

 

"In reference to the doctrines expounded in this scripture, they slight themselves and persist in talk like this: ‘The enlightenment of the Buddhas is most profound. The true nature of all things is also most profound. Only Buddhas can properly understand; it is incomprehensible to people like us. The Buddhas turn the wheel of right teaching for people of various interests; the Buddhas have measureless knowledge and vision, whereas our knowledge and vision is like the hoof track of an ox.’

 

"Although they are able to respect this scripture, relate it to others, copy it, keep it, read it, disseminate it, honor it, receive it, recite it, and memorize it, nevertheless they are as yet unable to apply its mode of practice, and therefore cannot comprehend the words I speak with a most profound hidden meaning. Under these conditions, the people still can increase their stores of virtue and knowledge, and after that, those who have not developed consistency can do so.

 

"If people have not yet been able to accumulate stores of superior virtue and knowledge, and are not simple and direct by nature, and still persist in clinging to their own views even though they have the power to think discerningly and to discard and affirm, when they hear such a teaching, they are unable to truly understand what I say with hidden intent. Even if they believe in such a teaching, they make a rigid literal interpretation of the meaning, saying that all things definitely have no essence, definitely are not originated or extinguished, definitely are fundamentally quiescent, and definitely are inherently nirvanic. Because of this, they acquire a view of nothingness, or a view of nonexistence of characteristics, in regard to all things.

 

"Because they get the idea of nothingness, or the idea of nonexistence of characteristics, they deny all characteristics saying they are nonexistent; they deny the characteristic of mere conceptualization, the characteristic of dependence, and the real characteristic of all things.

 

"Why? Since the conceptualized characteristic can only be set up if the dependent and real characteristics exist, as long as one sees the dependent and real as nonexistent, one also denies conceptualized characteristics. Therefore I say they deny all three characteristics.

 

"Although they think my teaching is right, still the meaning is not what they think it is. Because they think my teaching is right and yet impute wrong meaning to it, they hold on to the teaching as right and hold on to the wrong meaning. Although their virtue may increase because of belief in the teaching, nevertheless they lose wisdom because they cling to the wrong meaning. Because of the loss of wisdom, they lose innumerable good qualities.

 

"Also, other people hear from them that the teaching is right and that it has this meaning, which is in fact not the meaning. If they follow their views, they will think of this teaching as right, but will impute the wrong meaning to it. They will hold to the teaching as right but will hold to the wrong meaning, and will therefore also lose good qualities.

 

"If people do not follow their views, and upon suddenly hearing from them that all things are essenceless, unoriginated and imperishable, fundamentally quiescent and inherently nirvanic, become frightened and claim that these are not the words of the Buddha but of the devil, they will repudiate and vilify this scripture, and as a result will suffer great loss and run into great behavioral obstruction. For this reason, I say that to see all characteristics as absent and proclaim a false doctrine is the way to create a massive behavioral obstruction, because those who do so bring about the downfall of innumerable good people and cause them to have great behavioral obstruction.

 

"If people have not cultivated good, have not cleared away obstructions, have not developed consistency, have not much zeal, have not accumulated stores of virtue and knowledge, are not straightforward, and persist in clinging to their own views even if they have the power of discernment and choice, when they hear such a teaching as this, they cannot truly understand what I say with a deep secret meaning, and they do not believe in this teaching. They think this teaching is wrong, they think the meaning is not the meaning, and they cling to these views.

 

"They claim this is not the word of the Buddha but of the devil, and with this idea they repudiate and vilify this scripture, discard it as false, and destroy and refute it in innumerable ways, considering those who believe in it to be their enemies. They are already obstructed by their behavior, and because of that are now further obstructed by this behavior. This behavioral obstruction is easily set up at first, but eventually there is no prospect of getting out of it for millions of eons.

 

"Thus, such differences can be found in people’s interpretations of my well-explained, well-ordered teaching, good doctrines explained with the purest intent."

 

Then the Buddha spoke these verses to recapitulate:

 

All things are essenceless,

Birthless, deathless, fundamentally still;

All things are inherently nirvana.

Who with wisdom would say there is no hidden meaning?

 

The characteristics, birth, and ultimate truth of things are essenceless;

This I have now revealed.

Those who do not know this hidden meaning of the Buddha

Lose the right path and cannot go on it.

 

The pure who rely on the pure paths

Rely only on this – there is no second.

While I therefore define it as one vehicle,

It is not that people are not different.

 

Countless people in the world of the living

Only save themselves by heading for tranquility;

Rare are the valiant who realize nirvana

Yet do not abandon other beings.

 

In the subtle, inconceivable realm of noncontamination

Liberation is equal, without distinctions;

All meaning is realized, confusion and suffering are shed.

In other words, it is called permanence and bliss.

 

Then the enlightening being Born of Ultimate Truth said to the Buddha, "What the Buddhas say with hidden meaning is most wonderful, subtle, profound, hard to comprehend. As I understand what the Buddha has said, in the midst of transient appearances on which are based the conceptualized characteristics that are the sphere of discrimination, if one artificially labels a definition as, for example, the cluster of matter, whether in terms of inherent characteristics or distinguishing characteristics, and artificially labels definitions as the birth of the cluster of matter, the extinction of the cluster of matter, the eternal overcoming of the total knowledge of the cluster of matter, whether in terms of inherent characteristics or distinguishing characteristics, this is called conceptualized characterization. The Buddha defines the essencelessness of characteristics on this basis.

 

"As for the transient appearances themselves, on which are based the conceptualized characteristics that are the sphere of discrimination, they are called dependent characteristics. The Buddha defines the essencelessness of birth of things, and one part of ultimate essencelessness, on this basis.

 

"This is the way I now understand the meaning of what the Buddha says. Inasmuch as the conceptualized characteristics in the transient appearances on which are based the conceptualizations that are the sphere of discrimination are not actually true, therefore this inherent essencelessness, true thusness in which phenomena have no identity, the pure focus of attention, is called ultimate reality. The Buddha defines part of ultimate essencelessness on this basis.

 

"As the foregoing applies to the cluster of matter, so also does it apply to the other clusters, the twelve sense media, the twelve elements of becoming, the four kinds of nourishment, and the eighteen elements.

 

"As I understand the Buddha’s meaning, in the transient appearances on which are based the conceptual characteristics that are the sphere of discrimination, if one artificially labels definitions ‘the truth of suffering,’ or ‘complete knowledge of the truth of suffering,’ whether in terms of inherent characteristics or distinguishing characteristics, these are called conceptualized characteristics. The Buddha defines the essencelessness of characteristics on this basis.

 

"The transient appearances themselves on which are based the conceptualized characteristics that are the sphere of discrimination are called dependent characteristics. The Buddha defines the essencelessness of birth of things, and part of ultimate essencelessness, on this basis.

 

"As I understand the Buddha’s meaning, inasmuch as the conceptualized characteristics in the transient appearances on which are based the conceptualizations that are the sphere of discrimination are not actually true, this inherent essencelessness, true thusness in which things have no identity, the pure focus of attention, is called ultimate reality. The Buddha defines part of ultimate essencelessness on this basis.

 

"As this applies to the ‘truth of suffering,’ so also does it apply to the other truths. And as it applies to the noble truths, so also does it apply to each of the points of mindfulness, the right efforts, the bases of occult powers, the religious faculties and powers, the elements of enlightenment, and the elements of the path to enlightenment.

 

"Just as an efficacious ingredient must be put into all medicines, in the same way this definitive teaching of essencelessness – that all things have no inherent identity, have no origin or destruction, and are fundamentally quiescent and inherently nirvanic permeates all of the scriptures of incomplete doctrines; it must be in all of them.

 

"Just as the background of a painting is the same throughout the work of painting, whatever colors are used, and it furthermore makes the paintwork clear, in the same way this definitive teaching of essencelessness permeates all the scriptures of incomplete doctrine, the same in every case, and can also make the incomplete doctrines in those scriptures clear.

 

"Just as sweet filling put inside cakes produces an even finer flavor, in the same way this definitive teaching of essencelessness, put into all the scriptures of incomplete doctrines, produces greater joy.

 

"Just as space is all-pervasive, the same everywhere, and does not obstruct any activities, in the same way this definitive teaching of essencelessness pervades all the scriptures of incomplete doctrine and is the same everywhere, and yet does not obstruct the practices cultivated by all disciples, the self-illuminated, and enlightening beings."

 

Then, praising the enlightening being Born of Ultimate Truth, the Buddha said, "Very good. You have ably explained the meaning of the words of profound intent spoken by the Buddha, and you have ably constructed similes, saying it is like an effective ingredient in medicine, like the background wash of a painting, like the sweet filling in a cake, like space pervading everywhere. Yes indeed, this is how it is. This is how you should understand and remember it."

 

Then, Born of Ultimate Truth went on to say to the Buddha, "In the beginning the Buddha just taught the four noble truths, for those inclined to the vehicle of disciples. Although this was very rare and marvelous and no one had been able to teach this before, there was still something beyond that teaching, some room; it was incomplete, and it was a ground of controversies.

 

"In the second phase, for those inclined to practice the great vehicle, the Buddha taught that all things are essenceless, without origin or destruction, fundamentally quiescent, and inherently nirvanic; but the Buddha taught this in a covert, implicit manner. Although this was even more marvelous, yet there was still something beyond the teaching of that period, still some room; it was still incomplete, still a ground of controversies.

 

"Now in this third period, for all those aiming for the great vehicle, the Buddha openly and explicitly teaches the essencelessness of all things, that all things have no inherent identity, no beginning or end, are fundamentally quiescent and inherently nirvanic. This is most marvelous; there is nothing beyond it, no more room for doubt. This is the true complete teaching, in which controversy has no foothold.

 

"If good men and women, having heard the Buddha’s profound complete teaching that all things are void of intrinsic essence, have no origin or destruction, are fundamentally quiescent and inherently nirvanic, believe in it with understanding, write and copy it, preserve it, honor it, circulate it, learn it and reiterate it, become thoroughly familiar with it, reflect on it reasonably, and put it into practice, how much merit will they produce?"

 

The Buddha said, "The merit produced by these good men and women would be immeasurable, hard to know, but I will briefly tell you a little. Just as the amount of earth one could place on one’s nail scarcely amounts to the smallest imaginable fraction of the whole earth, and the amount of water in the hoof print of an ox scarcely amounts to the smallest imaginable fraction of the amount of water in the oceans, in the same way the merit gained by believing and practicing the scriptures of incomplete doctrines scarcely amounts to the smallest imaginable fraction of the merit developed by believing and practicing the teaching of this scripture of complete doctrine."

 

Then, Born of Ultimate Truth said to the Buddha, "What should this teaching of unlocking the mysteries be called, and how should it be upheld?"

 

The Buddha said, "This is called the complete teaching of ultimate truth. You should uphold this complete teaching of ultimate truth."

 When this complete teaching of ultimate truth was spoken, six hundred thousand people in the audience became determined to realize supreme perfect enlightenment. Three hundred thousand listeners became detached from the data of sense, were freed from defilement, and attained clarity of objective vision of all things. One hundred and fifty thousand listeners put a final end to all contaminations, and their minds were liberated. Seventy-five thousand enlightening beings attained acceptance of non-origination.

 
 
Advertisements
This entry was posted in Mahayana Treasures. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s