Sūtra of the Vajra Samādhi
Thus I have heard:
At one time the Buddha was staying on the Gṛdhrakūṭa Mountain, near the city of Rājagṛha. He was accompanied by 10,000 great bhikṣus who all had completed the Arhat path, including Śāriputra, Mahāmaudgalyāyana, and Subhūti. Also present were 2,000 Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas, including Liberation Bodhisattva, Mind King Bodhisattva, and Not Abiding Bodhisattva. In attendance as well were 80,000 elders, including Brahma Way, Great Brahma Way, and Jyotiṣka. Also gathered there were 600,000 koṭi gods, dragons, yakṣas, gandharvas, asuras, garuḍas, kiṁnaras, mahoragas, humans, and nonhumans.
At that time the World-Honored One, surrounded by the multitude, pronounced to all a Mahāyāna sūtra called The Truth in One Flavor, Dharmas Have] No Appearance, Actions Have No Birth, the Absolute True Reality [of Dharmas, and the Benefits of One’s Inherent Awareness. Whoever heard this sūtra, and accepted and upheld even one four-line stanza, would enter a Buddha’s wisdom ground and be able to use skillful means to teach and transform sentient beings, and to serve as their great beneficent learned friend. After the Buddha pronounced this sūtra, He sat cross-legged and entered the Vajra Samādhi, His body and mind motionless.
Then, in the midst of this multitude, a bhikṣu named Agada Panacea rose from his seat, knelt on his right knee, and joined his palms. [Wishing the Buddha to restate the meaning of this sūtra, he spoke in verse:
To deliver sentient beings, Innumerable Bodhisattvas, for the sake of this multitude, Ask profound questions, In order to know that dharmas are in quiet nirvāṇa And to enter their absolute place true reality.
Then the World-Honored One rose from samādhi and said, “Buddhas’ wisdom ground reveals the true reality of dharmas. Their skillful means and spiritual powers have no appearance because dharmas are by nature absolutely empty śūnya. However, the [[definitive
meaning]] of the one realization [of one’s inherent awareness] is hard to understand and fathom, and beyond the knowledge and views of riders of the Two Vehicles. Only Buddhas and Bodhisattvas can know it. To sentient beings ready to be delivered, I expound the Dharma in one flavor.”
Then Liberation Bodhisattva rose from his seat. Kneeling on his right knee, with joined palms, he asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, after the Buddha enters parinirvāṇa, the true Dharma saddharma will be gone, and a likeness of the Dharma will abide in the world. In its final kalpa with the five turbidities, sentient beings will do evil karmas as they endlessly transmigrate in the Three Realms of Existence. I pray that the Buddha, out of lovingkindness and compassion, will expound the Dharma in one flavor and reveal the absolute true reality of dharmas, to enable future sentient beings to achieve equal liberation.”
The Buddha answered, “Good man, you ask why I have appeared in the world. It is because I want to transform sentient beings and enable them to acquire the spiritual fruit, i.e., to transcend the world. This great matter [of a Buddha’s appearance in the world is inconceivable because it arises from great compassion. If I would not give you teachings out of great compassion, stinginess would be a fault of mine. All of you should intently hearken as I explain to you.
“Good man, when transforming sentient beings, if one neither regards oneself as a transformer who transforms them nor regards them as objects to be transformed, and if one does not regard their transformation as no transformation, then this is a great transformation. One should enable every
sentient being to discard the wrong view that one has a mind and an embodied self, because they have always been empty and quiet. If he realizes that his mind is empty, it will not produce illusions perceived or conceived dharmas. Free from illusions, he will realize that dharmas have no birth. His realization that one’s mind has no birth lies in its freedom from producing illusions.”
Liberation Bodhisattva asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, a sentient being’s mind by nature has always been empty and quiet. An empty and quiet mind has no form. Then how should one train in order to realize that it has always been empty? I pray that the Buddha, out of lovingkindness and compassion, will explain to me.”
The Buddha answered, “Bodhisattva, all one’s mental appearances have no root, no place, and no birth, and are empty and quiet. If one’s mind has no birth, it must be empty and quiet. By clearing one’s mind ground, one realizes that one’s mind has always been empty and had no appearance. Good man, as one’s mind with no appearance has no mind and no self, so all dharma appearances [have no mind and no self.”
Liberation Bodhisattva asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, if sentient beings imagine that they have a self and a mind, what teachings should be used to enable them to free themselves from their fixations?”
The Buddha answered, “Good man, if someone holds the view that one has a self, you should have him observe the Twelve Links of Dependent Arising, which are based on cause and effect and arise from one’s mental actions. Even one’s mind does not exist, much less one’s body. If
someone holds the view that one has a self, you should have him discard the view of its existence. If someone holds the view that one has no self, you should have him discard the view of its nonexistence. If someone thinks that one’s mind has a birth, you should have him discard his misconception that it will die. If someone thinks that one’s mind has a death, you should have him discard his
misconception that it was born. Once he discards these views existence versus nonexistence, birth versus death, he will enter the true reality of dharmas. Why? Because whatever has no birth has no death and whatever has no death has no birth. Hence all dharmas have neither birth nor death, neither death nor birth.”
Liberation Bodhisattva asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, when a sentient being perceives the birth of a dharma, what view should he discard? When he perceives the death of a dharma, what view should he discard?”
The Buddha answered, “Bodhisattva, when a sentient being perceives the birth of a dharma, you should have him discard the view of its nonexistence. When he perceives the death of a dharma, you should have him discard the view of its existence. If he discards these views, he will realize that dharmas are by nature absolutely empty and definitely have no birth.”
The Buddha answered, “Abiding in the view of no birth means birth [of a thought. Why? Because not abiding in the view of no birth means no birth [of a thought. Bodhisattva, if one has the thought that dharmas have no birth, one is using the birth of a thought to end the view of birth. Only when one ends [one’s perception of] birth and death of dharmas will one realize that dharmas have never had any birth, and that one’s mind is constantly empty and quiet, and abides in nothing. When one’s mind abides in nothing, it has no birth.”
The Buddha answered, “Bodhisattva, one’s mind, which has no birth, neither enters something [to learn it] nor exits anything [after learning it], because it is one’s Tathāgata store tathāgata-garbha, which has always been quiet and motionless. It has neither something to learn nor nothing to learn. Freedom from learning and not learning means having nothing to learn. What one has learned is that one’s mind has nothing to learn.”
The Buddha answered, “Bodhisattva, the principle [of one’s true mind is free from duality. If one differentiates between approval and disapproval acceptance and rejection, thousands of thoughts will arise and expire. These are the appearances of birth and death. Bodhisattva, observe that one’s true nature Buddha nature fully accords with the principle, while thousands of thoughts and concerns disaccord with the principle. They are a turmoil that shrouds one’s mind.
“If one has no thoughts or concerns, then their births and deaths will not appear, and one’s [eight] consciousnesses will remain quiet and motionless. Then one’s five dharmas five aggregates will become pure. This is a Mahāyāna teaching.
“Bodhisattva, when one enters the purity of one’s five dharmas, one’s mind will be free from delusion. Without delusion, one enters a Tathāgata’s holy wisdom ground of self-realization. Having entered the wisdom ground, one will know well that no dharma has ever been born. Knowing that dharmas have never been born, one will not have deluded thinking.”
The Buddha said, “Bodhisattva, because one’s delusion has never been born, there is no delusion to end. If one knows that one’s mind is no mind, there is no mind to stop. Free from differentiation, one’s manifesting consciousness ālaya consciousnessdoes not arise. Then it has no birth to stop. However, no stopping is not no stopping. Why? Because there is nothing to stop.”
The Buddha answered, “Bodhisattva, one should stop the birth of a thought. After stopping it, one has nothing else to stop. As one does not abide in one’s no stopping or no abiding, how can there be the birth [of a thought?”
The Buddha answered, “If one’s mind does not arise, one abides in no mind. If a dharma does not arise [from one’s mind, one abides in no dharma. Good man, as dharmas and one’s mind do not arise, one relies on nothing. As one does not abide in actions body, voice,
and mind karmas, one’s mind is constantly empty and quiet, free from various appearances. As an analogy, the open sky neither moves nor abides, neither arises nor does anything, and never differentiates between this and that. When one acquires the eye that sees that one’s mind is empty, and acquires the mind that knows that dharmas are empty, one realizes that one’s five aggregates and six faculties are empty and quiet.
“Good man, to train to realize this emptiness, one does not rely on the Three Realms of Existence or various precepts, because one’s mind has no thoughts, and is pure and free from restraint and unrestraint. Although it is by nature as adamantine as vajra, it never damages [one’s inherent Three Jewels. Empty and motionless, one’s mind encompasses the six pāramitās.”
The Buddha answered, “Good man, the six pāramitās that I expound have no appearances and are asaṁskṛta [free from conditions. Why? Because if one discards desires, one’s mind will always be pure. If one uses truthful words and skillful means to reveal the benefits of one’s inherent awareness, to benefit others, this is dāna-pāramitā [the almsgiving pāramitā. If one’s resolve is firm, and if one’s mind
is pure, abides in nothing, and has no attachment to the Three Realms of Existence, this is śīla-pāramitā [the precept pāramitā. If one delves into the emptiness of dharmas, cuts off one’s fetters, quiets one’s three karmas body, voice, and mind karmas, and does not abide in one’s body or mind, this is kṣānti-pāramitā [the endurance pāramitā. If one stays far way from names
and numbers, discards the opposite view, whether that a dharma is empty or that it is existent, and delves into the emptiness of one’s five aggregates, this is vīrya-pāramitā [the progress pāramitā. If one’s meditation stays away from blankness and does not abide in various emptinesses, and if one’s mind abides in nothing, not even great emptiness, this is dhyāna-pāramitā [the meditation pāramitā. If
one knows that one’s mind has no appearance but is not a blank like the open sky, does not give birth to actions or enter nirvāṇa, does not rely on the Bodhisattva grounds or abide in one’s wisdom, neither enters nor exits anything, but constantly abides in equality [of dharmas and definitely accords with the true reality of dharmas, this is prajñā-pāramitā [the wisdom pāramitā.
“Good man, these six pāramitās are the benefits of one’s inherent awareness and accord with one’s true nature. They enable one to transcend the world and achieve hindrance-free liberation. Good man, this liberation has neither appearance nor action. Freedom from liberation and no liberation is called liberation. Why? Because it has no appearance, no action, no motion, and no disorder. It is quiet nirvāṇa without the appearance of nirvāṇa.”
After Liberation Bodhisattva heard these words, he found great joy in his heart because he acquired an understanding he never before had. To affirm the meaning of the Buddha’s words, he spoke in verse:
If one discards the view that one has a mind and a self, One will realize that all things are manifested by one dharma [one’s true mind. Whether sentient beings in the Three Realms of Existence take the same or different actions, They all receive the benefits of their inherent awareness.
When one discards the view of opposite appearances [of dharmas, such as existence and nonexistence, One realizes quiet nirvāṇa But does not abide in it, Because one enters the absolute place true reality of dharmas, Which is free from appearances and actions.
One’s empty mind on the nirvāṇa ground Is the nirvāṇa mind, which has no birth. It is by nature as adamantine as vajra, And never damages [one’s inherent Three Jewels It has the six pāramitās To deliver all sentient beings.
After the multitude heard this meaning, all found great joy in their hearts, discarded the wrong view that one has a mind and a self, entered the vastness of emptiness and no appearance, and definitely cut off their fetters and ended their afflictions.
If all sentient beings
Then the Buddha told Mind King Bodhisattva, “Good man, endurance in one’s realization that dharmas have no birth means an enduring understanding that dharmas have never had any birth; for example, all actions have no birth. It is false that one can take action that has birth to acquire endurance in one’s realization that dharmas have no birth.”
Mind Kind Bodhisattva said, “World-Honored One, if perceiving as an attainment one’s endurance in one’s realization that dharmas have no birth is false, then perceiving no attainment and no endurance must not be false.”
The Buddha said, “Not so. Why not? Because perceiving no attainment and no endurance implies attainment [of his negations]. Any attainment and one’s endurance in it mean birth, the birth of an attainment. Whether one perceives attainment or no attainment, one’s perception is false.”
The Buddha answered, “What is meant by one’s mind, which has no birth and no abiding in anything? One’s mind has no shape or sections, just as the nature of fire is hidden in wood but has no place. Fire has a name, which is a word, but its true nature cannot be captured. To describe its principle, one gives it a false name, which also cannot be captured. Likewise one’s mind does not have a place. Such is one’s mind that it has no birth.
“Good man, one’s mind is like an āmra [mango], which is not born from itself, from something else, from both itself and something else, or from no cause. It has no birth. Why? Because conditions arise and expire. When a condition arises, it is no birth; when a condition expires, it is no death. Whether conditions are hidden or visible, they have no appearance because their basic principle is nirvāṇa. The presence of one’s mind cannot be identified with a place because it abides in its true nature.
“This true nature is neither the same nor different, neither perpetual nor ceasing, neither entering nor exiting, and has neither birth nor death. It is free from the four falsities and beyond the way of words. Likewise one’s mind by nature has no birth. How can it be
described as born or not born, or as having or not having endurance? If someone claims that his mind attains, abides in, or sees something, he has not attained anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi. [Without] prajñā wisdom, he remains in the long night [of births and deaths. To understand one’s mind and its nature, one should know that one’s mind is true suchness [bhūta-tathātā] and that its nature is true suchness as well. They have no birth and no action.”
Mind King Bodhisattva said, “World-Honored One, if one’s mind is true suchness, it will not give birth to actions, and actions will not be born from one’s mind. Although actions appear, they have no birth. Whatever has no birth takes no action. Hence actions have no birth.”
Mind King Bodhisattva answered, “Not so. Why not? Because as the appearances of one’s actions, which have no birth, are by nature empty and quiet, there is no seeing or hearing, no gain or loss, no words or speech, no knowing or appearing, and no accepting or rejecting. Then how does one verify anything? Any claim of verifying [the truth would be disputable. Actions, which have no birth, are free from dispute and discussion.”
Mind King Bodhisattva answered, “World-Honored One, I do not attain anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi. Why not? Because bodhi by nature has neither gain nor loss, neither perception nor knowledge, and makes no differentiation. Its freedom from differentiation is purity, and its nature is unadulterated, indescribable by words, and free from existence and nonexistence, and knowing and not knowing. Likewise are Dharma actions. Why? Because all Dharma actions have no place, because of their true nature. They are free from attainment and no attainment. Therefore, how can one attain anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi?”
The Buddha said, “Indeed, indeed. As all one’s mental actions are quiet and have no appearance and no birth, so too all one’s consciousnesses are quiet and have no appearance and no birth. Why? Because as eye and what it touches are empty and quiet, eye consciousness is empty and quiet, free from motion and no motion, and from the three kinds of internal sensations pleasant,
unpleasant, and neither], which are in nirvāṇa. So too are ear consciousness, nose consciousness, tongue consciousness, body consciousness, mental consciousness [the sixth consciousness, manas consciousness [the seventh consciousness, and ālaya consciousness [the eighth consciousness. All one’s consciousnesses are free from the notion that they are in nirvāṇa and the notion that they have no birth. If one entertains these two notions, then one’s actions have birth, not no birth, and one is not free from the three kinds of sensations, the three kinds of actions [good, evil, and neural], and the three kinds of precepts.
“If one has attained nirvāṇa, one’s mind does not arise but is quiet and free from effort and usage. It abides in neither attainment nor no attainment of nirvāṇa. As one’s mind remains in no abiding and no appearance, one is free from the three kinds of sensations, the three kinds of actions, and the three kinds of precepts. One’s mind is quiet and pure, has neither birth nor action, and abides in nothing, whether dhyāna or samādhi.
The Buddha answered, “Bodhisattva, dhyāna is motion. No motion and no dhyāna are dhyāna, which has no birth. Dhyāna by nature has no birth and is apart from its appearances. It by nature does not abide in anything and is apart from the motion of abiding in dhyāna. If one knows that dhyāna by nature has neither motion nor quietness, one will understand that it has no birth. Likewise prajñā, which has no birth, does not abide in anything, and one’s mind does not move. Because of this wisdom-knowledge jñāna, one achieves prajñā-pāramitā, which has no birth.”
Mind King Bodhisattva said, “World-Honored One, prajñā, which has no birth, neither abides nor departs anywhere. One’s mind abides nowhere, and there is nowhere one’s mind can abide. Having nowhere to abide, one’s mind has no birth and no abiding. Abiding in this way, one’s mind abides in no birth and no abiding. World-Honored One, one’s mind, which has no birth and no abiding, is inconceivable. What is inconceivable is describable and indescribable.”
The Buddha said, “Indeed, indeed.”
At that time, Not Abiding Bodhisattva heard the Buddha expound the inconceivable truth in one flavor. Having come from a distant place, he stayed close to the Tathāgata’s seat to listen with intent mindfulness. He entered a pure state, his body and mind motionless.
Not Abiding Bodhisattva answered, “I came from nowhere and came to nowhere.”
Neither coming nor going,
The Buddha said, “Buddha-Tathāgatas always use the one realization [of one’s inherent awareness to turn a sentient being’s consciousnesses into amala. Why? Because all sentient beings have their inherent awareness. So Buddhas use the one realization to awaken all sentient beings, enabling them to realize their inherent awareness and see that their emotion-driven consciousnesses are empty and quiet, and have no birth. Why? Because a sentient being’s true nature has always been motionless.”
The Buddha said, “All perceived or conceived objects and one’s consciousnesses have always been empty. Emptiness is free from dependency. Then how can one’s consciousnesses depend on objects to arise?”
The Buddha said, “One’s perception is false. Why? Because all dharmas in existence have no birth, no appearance, and no names. As all dharma appearances are empty and quiet, so too are all sentient beings’ bodies. Even one’s body does not exist, much less its perception.”
The Buddha said, “Indeed. Because one’s inherent awareness has no place, it is pure. In its purity, it has no perception. Because a perceived thing has no place, it is pure. In its purity, it has no form.”
The Buddha said, “Likewise one’s mind, eye, and consciousness are inconceivable. Why? Because an object has no place, and is pure and without a name, it does not come inside [to enter one’s mind. Because one’s eye has no place, and is pure and without perception, it does not go outside [to touch anything]. Because one’s mind has no place and is pure, it neither arises from nor stops anywhere. Because one’s consciousness has no place, and is pure and motionless, it makes no differentiation. The nature [of one’s mind, eye, and consciousness is emptiness, which has no perception. Realization of its emptiness is enlightenment.
“Good man, when one realizes that one’s inherent awareness is free from perception, one’s consciousnesses enter [one’s true mind. Why? Because when one arrives on the ground of vajra wisdom, one has completed the liberation path and entered the no-abiding ground [the Buddha Ground, free from entering and exiting, and one’s mind abides nowhere on the ground of its true nature. This ground is pure like lucid
aquamarine vaiḍūrya; its nature is equality, like the nature of the great earth; its discerning observations are like the wisdom sunlight; its benefits that enable sentient beings to realize their inherent awareness are like a great Dharma rain. Acquiring these four kinds of wisdom-knowledge is entering the ground of a Buddha’s wisdom-knowledge, where one’s consciousnesses do not arise.”
Not Abiding Bodhisattva said, “The holy power of realizing one’s inherent awareness and the ground of the four kinds of vast wisdom-knowledge revealed by the Tathāgata are the benefits of every sentient being’s inherent awareness. Why? Because every sentient being has always had them in his body.”
The Buddha said, “Indeed. Why? Because all sentient beings have always been free from afflictions and had the benefits of their inherent awareness. However, they have not yet conquered their desires, which are like thorns.”
Not Abiding Bodhisattva asked, “If sentient beings have not yet acquired the benefits of their inherent awareness and are still collecting appearances of objects, how can they conquer what is hard to conquer?”
The Buddha answered, “Whether one is collecting appearances or letting one’s perception be alone, whether one is making differentiations or forming attachments [to appearances, whether one draws one’s mind back to stay in an empty cavern [the emptiness of dharmas, one will be able to conquer what is hard to conquer, and to liberate oneself from the fetters of māras, because when one sits loftily [in meditation on the open ground, one’s consciousness enters nirvāṇa.”
The Buddha said, “Constantly abiding in nirvāṇa is being fettered by nirvāṇa. Why? Because nirvāṇa is a benefit of one’s inherent awareness, and because the benefits of one’s inherent awareness are in nirvāṇa. Attaining nirvāṇa is realizing one’s inherent awareness. As one’s inherent awareness is by nature changeless, so too nirvāṇa is changeless. As one’s inherent awareness has neither birth nor death, so too nirvāṇa has neither birth nor death. Because nirvāṇa and one’s inherent awareness are no different, attaining nirvāṇa is no attainment. As attaining nirvāṇa is no attainment, how can one abide in it?
“Good man, an enlightened person does not abide in nirvāṇa. Why not? Because one’s inherent awareness has no birth and is apart from one’s filthy afflictions. One’s inherent awareness has no death and is apart from the motion of entering nirvāṇa. Abiding on this wisdom ground, one’s mind abides in nothing. Free from entering and exiting, it enters amala consciousness.”
The Buddha said, “Not so. Why not? As an analogy, a confused son possesses gold coins but does not know that he has them. He roams in the ten directions for fifty years, undergoing poverty and hardship. He has to beg for things to live a life of privation. When the father sees his son in such a plight, he says to him, ‘You have gold coins. Why do you not use them? Then you can get whatever you need in full.’ The son is awakened and sees his gold coins. With great joy in his heart, he declares that he has gotten gold coins. His father says, ‘Confused child, do not rejoice. The gold coins have always been yours. You did not get them. There is no reason to rejoice.’
“Good man, likewise is one’s amala consciousness. Because it has never left one, it does not enter one. When one is confused, it is not absent. One’s awakening [to its presence] does not mean that it enters one.”
Not Abiding Bodhisattva asked, “The father knows that his son is confused. Why does he let him wander in the ten directions for fifty years, undergoing poverty and hardship, then tell him [that he has gold coins]?”
The Buddha answered, “Passing fifty years describes how one’s mind moves in one thought. Roaming in the ten directions in pursuit of the appearances of objects describes how one travels far away from one’s true mind.”
Not Abiding Bodhisattva asked, “Roaming in the ten directions in pursuit of the appearances of objects, far away from one’s true mind, describes how a thought in one’s mind brings fifty evils. How can a sentient being be enabled not to have any thoughts?”
Not Abiding Bodhisattva said, “Inconceivable! When one has no thought, one’s mind remains peaceful and calm. This is a benefit of one’s inherent awareness. Its benefits are motionless, constantly present, and free from existence and nonexistence, and awareness and unawareness. Free from perception, one’s inherent awareness is pure, changeless, taint free, and attachment free, because its pure nature is inconceivable.”
The Buddha said, “Indeed.”
Then the Tathāgata said, “Bodhisattvas who have entered deep into their inherent awareness and acquired its benefits can deliver sentient beings. After the true Dharma age, even when the times are not right, they should explain to them a sentient being’s inherent awareness. They should give them pertinent teachings, whether the same or different, whether in accord with or against their views, to guide their emotion-driven consciousness into the sea of sarvajña overall wisdom-knowledge, and to enable those ready to be delivered not to puff their false wind of ignorance but to drink the wondrous Dharma milk in one flavor.
“Whether one engages in worldly or supra-worldly matters, one should abide nowhere to observe the five emptinesses, and should neither grasp nor discard them when one enters or exits one’s observation. Why? Because dharmas have empty appearances. Their true nature is neither existence nor nonexistence, though they may appear to be existent or nonexistent. Without a fixed
appearance, they abide in neither existence nor nonexistence. Their true nature cannot be fathomed by an ordinary being or a holy voice-hearer, based on his understanding of existence and nonexistence. If a Bodhisattva knows that realizing the emptiness of dharmas is a benefit of one’s inherent awareness, he will attain bodhi.”
Then, in the midst of this multitude, a Bodhisattva called Great Strength rose from his seat and came forward. He asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, as the Buddha says, one should neither grasp nor discard the five emptinesses when one enters or exits [one’s observation of them]. What are these five emptinesses?”
The Buddha answered, “Bodhisattva, the five emptinesses are the emptiness of (1) the Three Realms of Existence, (2) the six life-paths, which are projections of one’s mind, (3) the appearances of dharmas, (4) the names of dharmas, and (5) the meanings of one’s mind and consciousnesses [based on their names]. Bodhisattva, emptinesses such as these do not abide in emptiness and have no appearance of emptiness. How can one grasp or discard a dharma, which has no appearance? When one enters the no-grasping ground, one enters the three emptinesses.”
The Buddha answered, “The three emptinesses are the emptiness of (1) the appearance of emptiness, (2) the wisdom that sees the emptiness of dharmas, and (3) whatever is seen as empty. Not abiding in their appearances, these three emptinesses are true, beyond the way of words, and inconceivable.”
The Buddha said, “Existence does not abide in existence; nonexistence does not abide in nonexistence. An existent dharma does not mean that it abides in its existence; a nonexistent dharma does not mean that it abides in its nonexistence. One cannot use the existence or nonexistence of a dharma to explain its principle [i.e., emptiness. Bodhisattva, it is inconceivable that a dharma with no name and no meaning appears to have a name and a meaning. Why? Because a dharma has no name but is given a name, and because a name has no meaning but is given a meaning.”
Great Strength Bodhisattva said, “Then the name and meaning of a dharma are actually an appearance of true suchness, just as a Tathāgata is an appearance of true suchness. True suchness does not abide in true suchness and has no appearance of true suchness. Although the appearance of a dharma is not true suchness, it is no different from the appearance of a Tathāgata. Likewise a sentient being’s mental appearances are a Tathāgata’s appearance. Then his mind must not have differentiated objects.”
The Buddha said, “Indeed. A sentient being’s mind has no differentiated objects. Why? Because one’s mind has always been pure and should have no taints. However, it is tainted by one’s afflictions and perceives the Three Realms of Existence. The Three Realms of Existence perceived by one’s mind are called its differentiated objects. These objects are false because they are manifested by one’s mind. If one’s mind is not deluded, it will not manifest differentiated objects.”
The Buddha said, “Indeed. Bodhisattva, one’s mind does not give birth to objects, and objects do not give birth to one’s mind. Why? Because when one sees objects, one sees only one’s mind. If one’s mind does not give birth to illusions, then one does not see them. If one sees no sentient being within oneself and sees the emptiness of the three natures [good, evil, and neither] of one’s karma, then one sees neither oneself nor others. Even when one makes the two entrances [into the true reality of dharmas, one’s mind does not arise. After one acquires this benefit [of one’s inherent awareness, the Three Realms of Existence will not arise in one’s mind.”
“The entrance through the principle means having a deep belief that sentient beings are no different from their true nature. They and their true nature are neither the same nor different. Although their true nature is shrouded by their visitor-like afflictions āgantuka kleśa,
it neither comes nor goes. One should focus one’s awareness and intently observe that one’s Buddha nature is neither existent nor nonexistent, does not differentiate between itself and other things, and is the same in an ordinary being and a holy being. When one firmly abides on the ground of one’s vajra mind, remains in quietness, and makes no differentiation, this is called the entrance through the principle.
“The entrance through action means keeping one’s mind quiet, free from forming attachments, producing illusions, and seeking something, and, like the great earth, remaining immovable by winds. One should discard the view that one has a mind and a self, and should rescue and deliver sentient beings. Using one’s mind, which has neither birth nor appearance, one neither grasps nor discards anything.
“Bodhisattva, one’s mind neither enters nor exits. Realizing that it neither enters nor exits is called entering [one’s true mind, though entering is no entering. Bodhisattva, entering [the true reality of dharmas in this way, one does not regard dharma appearances as empty or false. Why not? Because a dharma that is not nonexistent has merits. As dharma nature is neither one’s mind nor its projections, it is naturally pure.”
The Buddha answered, “Dharma nature is] emptiness, or true suchness, which cannot be identified by one’s mind, consciousnesses, or mental functions. It is free from the appearance of emptiness and the appearance of form, and is neither coherent [sambaddha] nor incoherent asambaddha with one’s mind through or not through conditions. It is not one’s mental projections or
indications. It has no self-essence, makes no differentiation, and has no appearance, no name, and no meaning. Why? Because the meaning of a name is words, not true suchness. There is no dharma whose nature is not true suchness, because true suchness pervades all dharmas. Why? Because true suchness is the root principle of all dharmas, but is neither a root nor a principle, is apart from dispute, and has no appearance. Bodhisattva, this pure dharma is beyond birth and death.”
Great Strength Bodhisattva said, “Inconceivable! A dharma appearance is not formed compositely or singly, and is not constrained by existence or nonexistence, neither gathers nor disperses, has neither birth nor death, and neither comes nor goes, nor abides. It is inconceivable.”
The Buddha said, “Indeed. As a dharma appearance is inconceivable, so too is one’s mind. Why? Because one’s mind is no different from true suchness, and because it has always been true suchness. A sentient being and his Buddha nature are neither the same nor different. His nature has neither birth nor death because the nature of birth and death is nirvāṇa.
“Dharma nature and appearance are true suchness, which never moves. Although all dharmas appear to arise through conditions, they have no birth because the nature of their arising is true suchness, which never moves. Moreover, the appearances of conditions are by nature empty. As each condition also arises through conditions, in true reality there is no dependent arising of dharmas. However,
one’s deluded mind sees dharmas arise through conditions, not knowing that their appearances have no birth because the conditions they depend upon are nonexistent. One’s mind accords with the principle of dharmas because its essence is emptiness. Like the open sky, it abides nowhere. However, an ordinary being’s mind takes dharma appearances as real and differentiates them. Because the appearance of true suchness is beyond existence and nonexistence, whoever perceives the existence or nonexistence of a dharma sees only his mind and consciousnesses.
Bodhisattva, one’s mind has no self-essence, and is neither existent nor nonexistent. It has neither appearance nor no appearance, and is beyond the description of words. Why? Because true suchness, like the open sky, has no appearance, and is beyond riders of the Two Vehicles. Like the open sky, it has no inside or outside that one can measure. Only those who train through the six stages can know it.”
The Buddha answered, “They are (1) the ten levels of faith, (2) the ten levels of abiding, (3) the ten levels of action, (4) the ten levels of transference of merit, (5) the Ten Grounds, and (6) the ground of virtually perfect enlightenment. Those who train in this way can know true suchness.”
Great Strength Bodhisattva asked, “One’s boundless mind has limitless wisdom. It is hindrance free, and with hindrance-free wisdom enters the true reality of dharmas. However, an ordinary being has a weak mind that jitters. What dharma should be used to enable him to develop a firm mind in order to enter the true reality of dharmas?”
The Buddha answered, “Bodhisattva, his mind jitters because it is driven by internal faculties and external objects to accumulate his afflictions, which form a sea with waves agitated by strong winds. Like a terrified great dragon, his terrified mind jitters. Bodhisattva, have him retain three things, abide in one thing, and enter a Tathāgata’s dhyāna. Through dhyāna, his mind will not jitter.”
The Buddha answered, “Retaining three things means retaining the three liberations. Abiding in one thing means abiding in the true suchness of one’s mind. Entering a Tathāgata’s dhyāna means using the principle to observe that one’s mind is true suchness. When one enters one’s mind ground in this way, one enters the true reality of dharmas.”
The Buddha answered, “The three liberations are (1) sky liberation, (2) vajra liberation, and (3) prajñā liberation. When one uses the principle to observe, one sees that one’s mind is as pure as the principle and never differentiates between approval and disapproval acceptance and rejection.”
The Buddha answered, “Making use [of the three liberations means seeing that one’s mind is no different whether one is in meditation or is doing things. One’s mind is no different whether one is observing one’s internal actions or is taking external actions, whether one is entering or exiting meditation. Not abiding in any appearance, free from any sense of gain or loss, one’s pure mind flows with the same or different appearances. This is called using the principle to observe.”
“Bodhisattva, whoever observes his mind in this way does not abide in opposite appearances. Although he does not renounce family life, he does not abide in family life. Although he does not don a Dharma robe, does not observe the prātimokṣa precepts, and does not participate in the poṣadha practice, he does self-purification by letting his mind be, and acquires the holy fruit. He does not ride either of the Two Vehicles, but enters the Bodhisattva Way. Then he completes his training on all Bodhisattva grounds and attains Buddha bodhi.”
Great Strength Bodhisattva said, “Inconceivable! Such a person neither renounces nor does not renounce family life. Why? Because he enters the house of nirvāṇa, dons a Tathāgata’s robe, and sits on a bodhi seat. Even śramaṇas should respect him and make offerings to him.”
The Buddha said, “Indeed. Why? Because entering the house of nirvāṇa means that his mind transcends the Three Realms of Existence; donning a Tathāgata’s robe means that he realizes the emptiness of dharmas; sitting on a bodhi seat means that he ascends to the ground of true enlightenment. The mind of such a person is beyond riders of the Two Vehicles, not to mention śramaṇas. How can they not make offerings to him?”
The Buddha said, “Indeed. Riders of the Two Vehicles are attached to the flavor [their experience of samādhi and acquire a samādhi body. As if in a coma caused by drinking alcohol, even after several kalpas, they still cannot awaken to their inherent awareness. Only after the alcohol has worn off can they begin to train and then to acquire a Buddha’s body.
“By contrast, as soon as a person sheds the status of an icchantika [a nonbeliever or one who has cut off his roots of goodness, he trains through the six stages. On his training ground, in one thought from his pure mind, he absolutely understands the truth, acquires the power of vajra wisdom, reaches the spiritual level of avinivartanīya [no regress], and, with endless lovingkindness and compassion, begins to deliver sentient beings.”
The Buddha said, “Buddhas pronounce the precepts to transform those whose evil ways and arrogance are like ocean waves. However, on that person’s mind ground, the ocean of his eighth consciousness is clear, and the flow of his ninth consciousness amala consciousness is pure, immovable by winds that agitate ocean waves. The precepts are by nature empty, but those who observe them are attached to
their appearances. However, that person’s seventh and sixth consciousnesses do not arise, and his accumulation of afflictions has ended in his samādhi. He is never apart from the three Buddhas, under whom he activates the bodhi mind. He penetrates a dharma’s three appearances arising, continuing, and ending] to see that they have no appearance, and reveres the Three Jewels. Displaying his majestic deportments, he never fails to show respect for śramaṇas. Bodhisattva, that kindly one abides in neither action nor no action in the world. He enters the three emptinesses and ends his attachment to the Three Realms of Existence.”
Great Strength Bodhisattva said, “That kindly one activates the bodhi mind under the three Buddhas: the Tathāgata-store Buddha [the dharma body of a Buddha, the Buddha fulfilled in all required merits [the reward body of a Buddha, and the Buddha in physical form [the response body of a Buddha. He enters the three clusters of Bodhisattva precepts but does not abide in their appearances. He ends his attachment to the Three Realms of Existence but does not abide on the nirvāṇa ground. He enters the place where the untamed reside and never abandons those ready to be delivered. He is inconceivable.”
Then Śāriputra rose from his seat, came forward, and spoke in verse:
I now abide in not abiding in nirvāṇa In accordance with the Buddha’s teachings, And I will come to this world again and again [to deliver sentient beings. After completing all Bodhisattva actions, I will transcend the world.
—Sūtra of the Vajra Samādhi, fascicle
Translated from the digital Chinese Canon
2. As vajra is an adamantine substance that can destroy all things, the Vajra Samādhi can penetrate the truth of all things. In fascicle 24 of text 374, the 40-fascicle Chinese version of the Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra, the Buddha uses fourteen analogies to describe the supremacy of this samādhi (T12n0374, 0509b11–c29). According to fascicle 27, Vajra Samādhi is one of the five names of the Śūraṅgama Samādhi, which are
(1) Śūraṅgama Samādhi,
(3) Vajra Samādhi,
(5) Buddha Nature (Ibid., 0524c18–25).
5. See “emptiness” in the glossary.
In text 1666 (T32n1666), the earlier of the two Chinese versions of A Treatise on Eliciting Faith in the Mahāyāna (Mahāyāna-śraddhotpāda-śāstra), attributed to Aśvaghoṣa (馬鳴, circa 100–60) from central India, translated from Sanskrit in the Southern Liang Dynasty (502–57) by Paramārtha (真諦, 499–569) from northwestern India, Aśvaghoṣa explains one’s inherent awareness (benjue 本覺), unawareness (bujue 不覺), and developed awareness (shijue 始覺). As one follows one’s consciousnesses, and differentiates and pursues the appearances of dharmas, one’s ignorance of one’s true mind is called one’s unawareness. Using the internal power of one’s inherent awareness and the external power of hearing the Dharma, one’s awareness developed through training taps into the purity and radiant wisdom of one’s true mind. When one eventually realizes that one’s fully developed awareness is the same as one’s inherent awareness, one acquires great awareness (dajue 大覺), or great enlightenment. Without using the term “developed awareness,” this sūtra states that one’s enlightenment is but realizing one’s inherent awareness.
7. The true Dharma will not be gone right after the Buddha’s passing. It will gradually perish through the true Dharma age, the Dharma-likeness age, and the Dharma-ending age. See “three ages of the Dharma” and “five turbidities” in the glossary. (Return to text)
8. According to text 842, the Chinese version of the Mahāvaipulya Sūtra of perfect Enlightenment, “without a beginning, all sentient beings . . . mistake the four domains earth, water, fire, and wind for appearances of their bodies, and mistake the images of the six sense objects for appearances of their minds” (T17n0842, b24–25). The English translation of this sūtra appears in Transcending the World (Rulu 2015, 233–66).
9. According to text 1730, a commentary on this sūtra, written by the Korean scholar Yuanxiao (元曉, 617–86), or Wŏnhyo, the wrong view that one has a self is a fixation on the existence of an imaginary self, and the wrong view that one has a mind is a fixation on the existence of a dharma [e.g., one’s mind (T34n1730, 0966b14–15).
11. The birth or death of one’s mind can be understood as the perceptible arising and expiring of thoughts. Although a thought appears to arise and expire through causes and conditions, it has neither birth nor death. So too does one’s mind.
12. See “those who are still learning (śaikṣa)” and “those who have nothing more to learn (aśaikṣa)” defined in the glossary’s “voice-hearer fruits.” Here, the answer given by the Buddha is a Mahāyāna teaching on one’s mind, unrelated to the ranks of voice-hearers.
14. According to text 251, one of the seven Chinese versions of the Heart Sūtra, “as Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva went deep into prajñā-pāramitā, he saw in his illumination the emptiness of the five aggregates, the realization of which delivers one from all suffering and tribulations” (T08n0251, 0848c7–8). Therefore, the purity of one’s five aggregates means their emptiness. An English translation of text 251 appears in Teachings of the Buddha (Rulu 2012a, 121).
16. See “five desires” in the glossary.
17. See “eighteen emptinesses” in the glossary.
18. See “ten Bodhisattva grounds” in the glossary’s “stages of the Bodhisattva Way.” Details of the ten Bodhisattva grounds are given in chapter 26 of text 279 (T10n0279), the 80-fascicle Chinese version of the Mahāvaipulya Sūtra of Buddha Adornment (Buddhāvataṁsaka-mahāvaipulya-sūtra). An English translation of this chapter appears in The Bodhisattva Way
19. That dharmas have no birth is explained in text 1564 (in 4 fascicles), the Chinese version of Ācārya Nāgārjuna’s Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way (Mūla-madhyamaka-kārikā), annotated by Piṅgalanetra (青目, 4th century) and translated from Sanskrit by Kumārajīva (鳩摩羅什, 344–413). In fascicle 1, the four negations of the birth of dharmas are stated in this way: “Dharmas are not born from themselves, from other things, from themselves and other things, or from no cause. So we know that they have no birth” .
20. In text 1564, fascicle 1, Nāgārjuna establishes the emptiness of dharmas on the Middle Way, which negates four pairs of opposite perceptions of dharmas. The eight negations are “neither birth nor death, neither perpetual nor ceasing, neither the same nor different, and neither coming nor going” . The emptiness of dharmas lies in the first pair of negations, neither birth nor death, with the other three pairs of negations as its corollaries. Further simplified, the principal thesis of the Middle Way is that dharmas have no birth because without birth there cannot be death. In fascicle 4, Nāgārjuna concludes, “I say that dharmas born through causes and conditions are emptiness, which is a false name and is the meaning of the Middle Way” (Ibid., 0033b11–13).
23. According to A Treatise on Eliciting Faith in the Mahāyāna, true suchness has two meanings, empty and not empty. It is empty because it never responds to the thoughts and differentiations of one’s false mind, and has neither appearance nor no appearance, neither [[one
appearance]] nor various appearances. It is not empty because one’s true mind is eternal and changeless, and encompasses pure dharmas (T32n1666, 0576a24–b7). The pure dharmas encompassed in one’s true mind correspond to the benefits of one’s inherent awareness addressed in this sūtra, because in chapter 8 the Buddha says that one’s inherent awareness has a mass of profound virtues.
24. The three kinds of precepts are (1) precepts for laity, such as the eight precepts; (2) precepts for monastics, such as the ten precepts and the complete monastic precepts; (3) precepts common to both laity and monastics, such as the five precepts. See “eight precepts,” “ten precepts,” and “five precepts” in the glossary.
26. To describe the inconceivable, all descriptions are no description, and no description is a description.
27. See “three fortune fields” in the glossary.
28. Ālaya consciousness (ālaya-vijñāna), one’s eighth consciousness, stores the pure, impure, and neutral seeds of one’s experience without a beginning. When one attains Buddhahood, only pure seeds remain, which will neither change nor manifest karmic rebirth. Hence the name ālaya (storehouse) is changed to amala (stainless). In chapter 4, the Buddha says that amala consciousness (amala-vijñāna) has never left one. Because it is revealed when one attains perfect enlightenment, in this sūtra amala consciousness is called the ninth consciousness.
29. The mirror-like wisdom-knowledge is likened to the lucid aquamarine ground. The equality wisdom-knowledge is likened to the great earth. The discernment wisdom-knowledge is likened to the wisdom sunlight. The accomplishment wisdom-knowledge is likened to a great Dharma rain. See “four kinds of wisdom-knowledge” defined in the glossary’s “five kinds of wisdom-knowledge.” For details, see text 680 (T16n0680), the Chinese version of the Sūtra of the Buddha Ground, whose English translation appears in Transcending the World (Rulu 2015, 153–64).
30. See “five desires” in the glossary.
31. A similar story of a wandering confused son is told in fasicle 4 of text 262 (T09n0262), a Chinese version of the Lotus Sūtra, and in fasicle 2 of text 270 (T09n0270), the Chinese version of the Sūtra of the Great Dharma Drum (Mahābheri-haraka-parivarta). An English translation of text 270 in 2 fascicles appears in Teachings of the Buddha (Rulu 2012a, 154–83).
35. See good and evil life-paths defined in the glossary’s “life-journey.”
36. In text 353, the earlier of the two Chinese versions of the Vaipulya Sūtra of Śrīmālā’s Lion’s Roar, the Buddha says, “There are two things that are hard to know: (1) one’s inherent pure mind and (2) its being tainted by afflictions” (T12n0353, 0222c4–5).
37. Bodhidharma (菩提達摩, ?–535) is the first patriarch of the Chán School of China. Text 1217 (X63n1217) in the Extension of the Chinese Canon (Shinsan Zokuzōkyō) is his teaching on attaining bodhi through two entrances and four actions, as presented by his student Tanlin (曇林, ?–585). The description of the first entrance, the entrance through the principle, is similar to that in this sūtra, but the description of the second entrance, the entrance through action, specifies four actions, which are not in this sūtra. Most followers of the Chán School of China believe that the two entrances presented in this sūtra are the source of Bodhidharma’s “two entrances and four actions.”
39. See these trainings defined in the glossary’s “stages of the Bodhisattva Way.” For details, see text 1485 (T24n1485), the Chinese version of the Sūtra of the Garland of a Bodhisattva’s Primary Karmas, whose English translation appears in The Bodhisattva Way (Rulu 2013, 33–88).
40. Sky liberation means one’s realization of the dharma body, which is like the open sky. Vajra liberation means one’s realization that the dharma body is adamantine like vajra and penetrates dharma appearances. Prajñā liberation means one’s realization of the wisdom that all dharmas are empty and have no appearance and no action. These three liberations are one liberation. For comparison, see Three Liberation Doors in the glossary.
(3) self-view, and
(1) restraining precepts,
See “Bodhisattva precepts” in the glossary.