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Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita Sutra 

Vajra Sutra (Diamond Sutra) 


Detailed Exposition by Living Buddha Lian-Sheng, Grandmaster Sheng-yen Lu

Translated into English by True Buddha School Vajra Sutra Translation Team



Discourse 15, 12 September 2021

Chapter Five—Real Seeing According to the Truth
“Subhuti, what do you think? Can one see the tathagata through his physical appearance?”
“No, World-honored One. One cannot see a tathagata through physical appearance. Why? Because physical appearance as spoken by the tathagata is not physical appearance.”
The Buddha told Subhuti: “All appearances are illusory. Only when one perceives all appearances as non-appearances does one see the tathagata.”

I answered a question from South Africa last night, but I personally felt that my answer was not complete. It may confuse people, saying that spiritual cultivation will not let one attain the intrinsic suchness of all dharma. He asked, “If so, why do we need to practice?” That was the question from South Africa. I was in a rush last night, so I did not explain it clearly.

Today I want to continue explaining it. The intrinsic suchness of all dharma inherently exists, that’s to say it is not a result of practicing. Since you cannot attain it by practicing, why would you want to practice? Because by cultivating spiritually, you can eliminate your habitual tendencies, eradicate your karma, eliminate your afflictions, train to detach yourself from your attachments to self, to everything and to dharma. If you practice to eliminate those things, [you can see] the presence of the intrinsic suchness of all dharma. It doesn’t exist as a result of your cultivation; it has been there all along.

Therefore, we’d say that spiritual cultivation will not let you attain the intrinsic suchness of all dharma. But you’d still want to cultivate spiritually. Why? Because you want to eliminate your habitual tendencies, your karma, your afflictions, your hindrances! Once you eliminate all these obscurations, then the intrinsic suchness of all dharma is clear for you to see.

That’s why I stated that the intrinsic suchness of all dharma cannot be attained through spiritual cultivation. Spiritual cultivation is done to eliminate all these obscurations, after which [you can see] the intrinsic suchness of all dharma. Once you see the intrinsic suchness of all dharma, then you no longer have to practice. That stage is the realm of no practice or no learning. That’s what I talked about last night. It wasn’t very clear, so today I wanted to clarify it.

Chapter Five—Real Seeing According to the Truth
“Subhuti, what do you think? Can one see the tathagata through his physical appearance?”
“No, World-honored One. One cannot see a tathagata through physical appearance. Why? Because physical appearance as spoken by the tathagata is not physical appearance.”
The Buddha told Subhuti: “All appearances are illusory. Only when one perceives all appearances as non-appearances does one see the tathagata.”
“Only when one perceives all appearances as non-appearances does one see the tathagata.” This refers to non-appearance, which is very profound.
“Can one see the tathagata through his physical appearance?” the Buddha asked Subhuti. Subhuti replied, ”No, World-honored One. One cannot see a tathagata through physical appearance. Why? Because physical appearance as spoken by the tathagata is not physical appearance.”

As I recalled, it was mentioned in the sutra that Viswakarma, the Craftsman Deva, wanted to sculp life-size statues of the eight-year-old and the twelve-year-old Tathagata [Buddha]. The statue of the eight-year-old was in Nepal and the statue of the twelve-year-old was in the Tang Dynasty of China, and both were brought to Tibet. One is now enshrined at the Jokhang Temple, and the other one is at the Ramoche Temple. Viswakarma needed to measure Sakyamuni Buddha, so the Buddha sat down to let him measure, but Viswakarma could not figure out the size, no matter what. This is because buddhas have invisible usnisa [topknot], one phenomenon of the thirty-two marks of perfection. It is impossible to see and measure the Buddha’s crown. Why is that? Because all appearance is non-appearance. That’s why!

In reality it is the case in the saha world too. Look at the appearance of Sheng-yen Lu. Many people take pictures of Grandmaster Lu. I don’t want you to take my pictures, as I am already 77 years old! I am old now, and you want to take a picture of me? You want a picture when I was still young, like this one that I favor most. [laughing] I still carry it with me. [Grandmaster takes out a photograph of himself when he was young from his left pocket and is showing the audience.] That’s right! This young man. [The audience is clapping.] Someone compared this photograph to a Korean movie star and said “Grandmaster, you looked like him!” Can you see it on the screen? [Grandmaster and the audience are laughing.] Have you seen this photograph? Very handsome. When I showed this photograph to girls, they frantically kissed it. How come they kissed the photograph but not me? [laughter] This is also Sheng-yen Lu.

So which Sheng-yen Lu is Sheng-yen Lu? The new-born Sheng-yen Lu? The child Sheng-yen Lu? The youth Sheng-yen Lu? The middle-aged Sheng-yen Lu? The primed-aged Sheng-yen Lu? The now old-aged Sheng-yen Lu? They are all different. This is non-appearance.

Is there any kind of appearance that can truly be maintained and stay unchanged? We will talk about it later in the Vajra Sutra. Any appearance is an aggregate.[1] What is an aggregate? It is a composite, an amalgam, a union. What types of aggregates? It is an aggregate of the earth, water, fire and wind elements. Houses are aggregates, cars are aggregates, everything and all things are aggregates. Everything.

Can you truly point which one is the true Sheng-yen Lu? Which one would you say? I will die in the future. If I live to be 80, 90, 100, 110 or to 120? Someone even asked me to live to be 150! “Grandmaster, I want to go with you to Maha Twin Lotus Ponds in Sukhavati. However, I am still young. If you don’t live to 150, how can I go together with you?” [laughter] Me living to 150 years old? Stop dreaming! 120? Don’t daydream! How about 100? I don’t even dare to dream of that. To live to be 90? Maybe, by luck. When I see someone in the nineties, I think, “Oh my gosh! So ugly!” One looks horrible at the age of 90. I am not sure if I want to live until I am 80.

Do you want to go together with Grandmaster? Sure, but not with the physical body. We can go to the pureland together. I will go first, and you’ll go later. [laughter] We are still together; in the future we will be together in the Maha Twin Lotus Ponds. Only then, would it be called eternal life.

You’ll want to cultivate spiritually until you see the intrinsic nature of all dharma. You let go of all attachments to self and attachments to everything. You eliminate all afflictions and habitual tendencies. You eradicate all sorts of karmic obscuration. Then you can rise to the purelands. You’ll want to cultivate spiritually to eliminate all of the above, then the intrinsic nature of all dharma is right there. That would be called going together, but that’s not the simultaneous disappearance of physical bodies. Because if so, then True Buddha School will all be gone too. If everyone goes together physically, then there would be nothing left in True Buddha School. Thus, what’s spoken here is that we are all non-appearances.

This is just superficial [Grandmaster points to his body], our body is superficial. It’s merely an aggregate of the earth, water, fire and wind elements. The flesh and bones are earth; blood is water; temperature is fire; and breath is the wind. All the things inside our body, all the internal organs are the earth. They are all amalgam of the earth, water, fire and wind elements. You see yourself as the combination of these four elements. If you understand this, then you would be able to see the true reality and understand the [concept of] non-appearance.

Only when one perceives all appearances as non-appearances does one see the tathagata. When one disintegrates the earth, water, fire and wind elements, what is left is the buddhanature, the tathagata. Now you understand this excerpt. [The audience is clapping.]

Certainly, you can’t perceive the tathagata through physical appearances. The tathagata has appearances when he was eight and twelve and at any other age. He also lived to be eighty years old. You cannot perceive the tathagata through physical appearances. Do you think Grandmaster always looks this way? How about the handsome one of the past? Right? That’s why I brought the photograph with me to demonstrate. At that time, I would swing my hair and girls would be hysterical; I had lots of girlfriends then, really. [Grandmaster and audience are laughing.]

Because physical appearance as spoken by the tathagata is not physical appearance.

It’s just a temporary aggregate of the earth, water, fire and wind elements.

All appearances are illusory, the Buddha told Subhuti.

Don’t think that the earth is real, that it has a real appearance. No! One day the earth too will crack and split. It’s very simple, the earth too is a combination of the earth, water, fire and wind elements. Perhaps one day there will be a massive natural disaster. If there is a flood entirely covering the earth, is there still an appearance [of the earth]? If fire burns the earth entirely, does the [earth’s] appearance stay the same? If a meteor hits the earth and the earth cracks, is there still an appearance [of the earth]? It’s all just an aggregate, a composite, a collective form. Therefore, the Buddha said all appearances are illusory. They are all false. This is The Real Seeing According to the Truth. It is the concept to see through non-appearance according to the truth.

Om mani padme hum.
Version 2021.09.25

 



Next discourse on the Vajra Sutra: Discourse 16, 18 September 2021 


Previous discourse on the Vajra Sutra: Discourse 14, 11 September 2021


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