Sutra of Unlocking the Mysteries
7B. The Transcendent Ways of the Stages
Avalokiteshvara asked, "Why do you explain the six ways of transcendence in this order?"
The Buddha replied, "Because each is a basis for subsequent development. That is to say, if enlightening beings are not obsessed with themselves and their goods, then they can keep pure discipline. To keep pure discipline, they practice forbearance. Having cultivated forbearance, they can develop diligence. Having developed diligence, they can master meditation. With meditation, they can attain transmundane wisdom. That is why I explain the ways of transcendence in this order."
The enlightening being Avalokiteshvara also asked the Buddha, "How many different kinds of each of the six transcendent ways are there?"
The Buddha replied, "There are three kinds. The three kinds of giving are giving of teaching, giving of goods, and giving of fearlessness.
"The three kinds of discipline are the discipline of increasingly giving up what is not good, the discipline of increasingly developing what is good, and the discipline of increasingly benefiting sentient beings.
"The three kinds of forbearance are the forbearance of bearing injury, the forbearance of serenity in suffering, and the forbearance of truthful observation of realities.
"The three kinds of diligence are diligence as armor, diligence of concerted effort to increasingly develop good qualities, and diligence of concentrated effort to help sentient beings.
"The three kinds of meditation are meditation in a state of bliss without discriminating thought, still and silent, extremely tranquil and impeccable, thus curing the pains of afflictions; meditation that brings forth virtuous qualities and powers; and meditation that brings forth benefit for sentient beings.
"The three kinds of insight are insight focused on conventional worldly truth, insight focused on ultimate truth, and insight focused on benefiting sentient beings."
Avalokiteshvara also asked, "Why are the transcendent ways named transcendent ways?"
The Buddha replied, "For five reasons: no defiling habits; no attachment; no fault; no discrimination; proper dedication. No defiling habits means not sticking to anything inconsistent with the transcendent ways. No attachment means the mind is not tied to the ripening of the fruits and the rewards of the transcendent ways. No fault means that there are no defiling things mixed up in these transcendent ways and they are carried out skillfully without error. No discrimination means not clinging literally to the individual characteristics of the transcendent ways. Proper dedication means dedicating the transcendent ways one has performed and developed to the quest for supreme perfect enlightenment."
Avalokiteshvara asked, "What do you call things that are inconsistent with the transcendent ways?"
The Buddha replied, "In general, there are six kinds. First, seeing profound worth and advantage in all pleasures such as happiness, sensual enjoyment, wealth, and dominion. Second, seeing profound worth and advantage in the acts, words, and thoughts indulged in the pursuit of enjoyments. Third, seeing profound worth and advantage in not enduring the scorn of others. Fourth, seeing profound worth and advantage in not cultivating religious practices and in clinging to pleasures. Fifth, seeing profound worth and advantage in confused activities in the midst of the hustle and bustle of society. Sixth, seeing profound worth and advantage in what one perceives, feels, and cognizes, in talk and nonsense."
Avalokiteshvara asked the Buddha, "What are different fruits of all these ways of transcendence?"
The Buddha replied, "In brief, there are six: gaining great wealth; being reborn in a good condition; having no enemies, no disruption, and much joy and happiness; being a leader of people; having no physical disturbance or injury; having a great clan."
Avalokiteshvara asked the Buddha, "What are the things that adulterate the ways of transcendence?"
The Buddha replied, "This generally comes from four kinds of religious practice: practice without compassion, incorrect practice, inconsistent practice, or careless practice. Incorrect practice means straying from and losing other ways of transcendence while cultivating one way of transcendence."
Avalokiteshvara asked, "What is meant by inexpedient action?"
The Buddha replied, "When enlightening beings help people by means of the ways of transcendence, if they just give them material aid and consider that enough, failing to get them out of bad conditions and into good states, this is called inexpedient action. Why? Just doing this for people is not to be called truly helping them.
"It is like the case of dung. Be it much or little, nothing can make it fragrant and clean. In the same way, because of the pain that is due to transience, living beings are suffering by nature; there is no expedient but to help them out with the entangling forms of material goods so as to enable them to become comfortable. But only haven in the sublime truth can be called the foremost benefit."
The enlightening being Avalokiteshvara also asked the Buddha, "How many purities do all the transcendent ways have?"
"The Buddha replied, "I have never said that the transcendent ways have any other purities besides the aforementioned five aspects. I will speak of the aspects of purity of the transcendent ways, however, based on these matters, in general and in particular.
"In general, the aspects of purity of all the transcendent ways are seven in number. First, enlightening beings do not seek to be known to others for these practices. Second, once they have seen these practices, they do not become partisans or fanatics. Third, they do not entertain doubts about these practices, such as whether or not one can actually attain great enlightenment thereby. Fourth, they never praise themselves, slander others, or slight anyone. Fifth, they are never proud and indulgent. Sixth, they never consider a little attainment to be enough. Seventh, they do not become jealous of others on account of these practices.
"As for the aspects of purity of all the transcendent ways individually, these are also seven in number; that is, enlightening beings practice in accord with the seven characteristics of purity of giving as I teach. First, they practice pure giving through purity of gift. Second, they practice pure giving through purity of conduct. Third, they practice pure giving through purity of vision. Fourth, they practice pure giving through purity of mind. Fifth, they practice pure giving through purity of speech. Sixth, they practice pure giving through purity of knowledge. Seventh, they practice pure giving through purification of defilements. These are called the seven kinds of purity of giving.
"Enlightening beings can also understand all the points to be learned in the established rules of conduct. They can understand how to avoid transgression and how to be complete with constant discipline, stable discipline, consciously performed discipline, subconsciously operative discipline. They can understand how to take in and study all points to be learned. These are called the seven purities of discipline.
"Suppose enlightening beings have deep faith when the results of their actions variously develop, and do not get upset when anything unfavorable occurs, and do not holler back or get angry or violent, do not have recourse to fear or humiliation, do not retaliate in any way, do not hold grudges, are not angered by admonition, and do not wait for others to admonish them. They do not practice forbearance with a mind emotionally affected by fear, and they do not give it up because of favor. These are called the seven kinds of purity of forbearance.
"Suppose enlightening beings realize the equal nature of diligence, and neither elevate themselves nor look down on others because of their own great diligence, are imbued with great strength and great energy, are capable, steadfast and vigorous, and do not abandon good ways. These are called the seven kinds of purity of diligence.
"Suppose enlightening beings have attained concentration and meditation with perfect comprehension of forms, full concentration and meditation, complete concentration and meditation, progressive concentration and meditation, independent concentration and meditation, well-cultivated concentration and meditation, and infinite concentration and meditation, through learning from the canon of enlightening beings; these are called the seven kinds of purity of meditation.
"If enlightening beings avoid the two extremes of affirmation and denial, and travel the middle path, that is called insight. By this insight, they truly know the meaning of the doors of liberation, the doors of liberation that are emptiness, wishlessness, and signlessness. They truly know the meaning of having inherent nature, referring to conceptualized nature, dependent nature, or true nature. They truly know the meaning of having no inherent nature, referring to the essencelessness of appearances, origination, and ultimate truth. They truly know conventional truth, referring to the five fields of knowledge. They truly know the ultimate truth, referring to seven suchnesses, or seven kinds of thusness. They also dwell much on one pure principle beyond all descriptions without discrimination; the immeasurable totality of truths is the focus, and by observation they can accomplish the practice of the teachings and their auxiliaries. These are called the seven kinds of purity of insight."
Avalokiteshvara then asked, "What functions does each of the five aspects you mentioned have?"
The Buddha replied, "Those aspects have five functions. Because of having no defiling habits, there being no polluting influence or clinging, enlightening beings in the present state are always seriously and diligently engaged in the transcendent ways they are practicing, without any negligence. Because of having no attachment, they internalize the cause of future alertness. Because of having no fault, they can correctly practice the transcendent ways to supremely good fulfillment, supremely good clarity, and supremely good purity. Because of having no discrimination, by skill in means the transcendent ways are soon fulfilled. Because of proper dedication, wherever one may be, the transcendent ways and their pleasant fruits will all be boundless, up to supreme perfect enlightenment."
Avalokiteshvara then asked, "Of the transcendent ways thus explained, what aspect is greatest, what is undefiled, what is most brilliant, what is immovable, what is most pure?"
The Buddha replied, "The natures of having no defiling habits, no attachment, and proper dedication are greatest. The natures of impeccability and nondiscrimination, and absence of action with tainted judgment, are most brilliant. Having entered the stage of nonaggression is called immovable. If the ten stages take in Buddha hood, this inclusion is most pure."
Avalokiteshvara also asked, "Why are the pleasant fruits and developments of the transcendent ways that enlightening beings attain perpetual and inexhaustible? And why are the transcendent ways inexhaustible too?"
The Buddha replied, "Because they progressively develop cooperatively as the enlightening beings practice them uninterruptedly."
Avalokiteshvara asked, "Why do the enlightening beings deeply believe in the transcendent ways and have enthusiasm for them, rather than the pleasant fruits of the transcendent ways?"
The Buddha replied, "There are five reasons. First, the transcendent ways are the cause of supreme joy and bliss. Second, the transcendent ways are the cause of ultimate benefit for everyone, oneself and others included. Third, the transcendent ways are the cause of pleasant rewards in the future. Fourth, the transcendent ways are not a basis for defilements. Fifth, the transcendent ways are not things that ultimately change and perish."
Avalokiteshvara asked, "How many kinds of supreme power does each of the transcendent ways have?"
The Buddha replied, "Each one has four. First, when correctly practicing these transcendent ways, one is able to abandon envy, bad conduct, anger, laziness, distraction, and opinionated tendencies. Second, when correctly practicing these transcendent ways, one can make them true sustenance for supreme perfect enlightenment. Third, when correctly practicing these transcendent ways, one can absorb them into oneself and benefit others thereby. When correctly practicing these transcendent ways, one will be able to attain great endless pleasant rewards in the future."
Avalokiteshvara asked, "What is the cause of these transcendent ways? What is the effect? What is the benefit?"
The Buddha replied, "All these transcendent ways have great compassion as their cause. Subtle, pleasant fruits benefiting all sentient beings are the effect. Complete unexcelled great enlightenment is the great benefit."
Avalokiteshvara asked, "If enlightening beings have endless wealth and have developed great compassion, why is there still poverty to be found among people?"
The Buddha replied, "This is due to people’s own errors in action. Enlightening beings are always altruistic and always have endless wealth and treasure; if there were no evildoing on the part of people themselves to form a barrier, how could poverty be found in the world? Such people are like hungry ghosts oppressed by great heat and thirst who see the ocean as all dried up; it is not the fault of the ocean, but of their own deeds. In the same way, the wealth given away by enlightening beings is like the ocean, without any flaw, but there is error on the part of people’s own actions, like the power of the evil deeds of hungry ghosts, which causes there to be no water."
Avalokiteshvara asked, "By what transcendent way is the essencelessness of all things apprehended?"
The Buddha replied, "You can apprehend the essencelessness of things by transcendent insight."
Avalokiteshvara asked, "If transcendent insight can apprehend the essencelessness of things, why does it not apprehend having an essence?"
The Buddha replied, "I have never said that essencelessness is apprehended by essencelessness. Essencelessness is beyond words, inwardly realized, but cannot be explained without words. Therefore I say that transcendent insight can apprehend the essencelessness of things."
Avalokiteshvara asked, "What are the ways of transcendence, the near-transcendent ways, and the great transcendent ways of which you speak?"
The Buddha replied, "If enlightening beings spend measureless time practicing giving and so on, and they develop good qualities, but yet their afflictions are still active and they are as yet unable to master them but are mastered by them, this is referred to as the operation of devotion in the warming-up phase of the stage of devoted practice. At this time, they are called ways of transcendence.
"If enlightening beings practice giving and the rest of the ways for measureless time and gradually develop more perfectly accomplished good qualities, yet their afflictions are still active, but they can master them and are not mastered by them, this refers to the first stage up, and these are called near-transcendent ways.
"If enlightening beings practice giving and the rest of the ways for measureless time further and perfect good qualities even more, so that no afflictions are active, which occurs from the eighth stage up, these are called great transcendent ways."