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
Nine—Phenomena is No Phenomena
The Buddha asked, “Subhuti, what do you think? Can a stream-enterer think this way: ‘I have attained the fruition of a stream-enterer?’”
Subhuti replied, “No, World-honored One! Why? Sotapanna is called the stream-enterer, yet he does not enter anything. He does not enter sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, nor anything at all. Sotapanna or stream-enterer is [merely] a name.”
“Subhuti, what does it mean? Can a once-returner think this way: ‘I have attained the fruition of a once-returner?’”
Subhuti replied, “No, World-honored One. Why? Sakadagami is called the once-returner—to come and go once more—yet he does not come nor go. Sakadagami or once-returner is [merely] a name.”
“Subhuti, what does it mean? Can a non-returner think this way: ‘I have attained the fruition of a non-returner?’”
Subhuti replied, “No, World-honored One. Why? Anagami is called the non-returner, yet he is not [always] non-returning. Anagami or non-returner is [merely] a name.”
“Subhuti, what does it mean? Can an arhat think this way: ‘I have attained the fruition of an arhat?’”
Subhuti replied, “No, World-honored One. Why? Because there really is nothing called arhat. World-honored One, if an arhat thinks that he has attained arhatship, then he is attached to self, others, sentient beings, and lifespan.
“World-honored One, the Buddha said that I have attained the samadhi of non-contention, that I am the first and foremost among all human beings and that I am the leading arhat who has abandoned desire. [But] I do not think this way: ‘I am an arhat who has abandoned desire.’
“World-honored One, if I think that ‘I have attained arhatship,’ the World-honored One will not say that Subhuti is the bliss aranya! Because Subhuti has not done anything, therefore Subhuti is referred to as a bliss aranya.” 
Today, we are talking about the Vajra Sutra’s Chapter Nine—Phenomena is No Phenomena. Today, we will talk about anagami.
“Subhuti, what does it mean? Can a non-returner think this way: ‘I have attained the fruition of a non-returner?’” Subhuti replied, “No, World-honored One. Why? Anagami is called the non-returner, yet he is not [always] non-returning. Anagami or non-returner is [merely] a name.”
It is the same concept. If you attained the fruition of anagami or non-returner, you would not say that you have attained the fruition of non-returner. I gave an analogy last week about fish in water and human and air. Fish will not be thinking of water all the times and human will not be incessantly thinking of the air either. It is only natural.
If you have become a non-returner, you will not constantly think that you are a non-returner. In that realm, you already “are.” Hence Subhuti said that a non-returner will not keep saying that he is a non-returner.
It’s stated here that … Anagami is called the non-returner, yet he is not [always] non-returning. Anagami or non-returner is [merely] a name.
What is a non-returner? We know the first level of arhatship is sotapanna, a stream-enterer who enters the stream of desire of the evil world of five turbidities. They live in samsara. The second level is sakadagami, a once-returner. He must return to samsara just once more, then he does not have to return any more.
Now we’re talking about anagami, a non-returner who does not enter samsara anymore. Non-returner is the third level of arhatship, and a non-returner is a sage. Where does the anagami reside? Why doesn’t he return [to samsara]? Why is he called a non-returner? The non-returner has reached the five heavens of no return. He is in the heavenly realms [of form], not in the realms of desire. Anagami symbolizes the abandonment of all desires.
Human beings have desires. For example, just now Grandmaster was falling asleep; that’s one of the desires. Sleep is one of the desires. Love for money is a desire. Love for beauties is also a desire. Fame and name are also desires. For example, in our True Buddha School, the monks and nuns love titles and want to become masters; the masters love titles and want to become the directors of True Buddha Foundation; the directors love titles and want to become the elders; the elders love titles and want to become the successor, the future patriarch. At all levels they all have the same thought; they all love name and fame.
All politicians also love name and fame. They want to become legislators, then they want to become county mayors where they have more power and privileges; then to become ministers, premiers, vice presidents, all the way to becoming the president. This is love for names.
Wealth, looks, name and next is food. Do you like good food? Yes, that is your desire. Wealth, looks, name, food and sleep [are the five key desires of human beings]. Sleep is also one of your desires. Also, you want to buy brand names, things to use, cars to drive, luxurious homes to live in; all your living necessities are about desires. You want to wear branded, nice clothes and carry branded bags to show off. You like recognition and name. When someone speaks to them, they take the opportunity to show off their belongings, opening their mouths to show their gold teeth or waving the 10-carat diamond ring on their finger. [joking] They want everything nice; that is desire—desires in cars, in clothes, in everything.
Even the six Heavenly Realms of Desire are all about desires; from the Heavenly Realms of the Four Heavenly Kings to its highest level of Trayastrimsa Heaven, which is the Heavenly Realms of the Thirty-Three Gods. Of the Twenty-Eight Heavens, there are six realms who are all about desire.
Anagamis do not dwell in the realm of desire. Instead, where do they stay? They stay in the Five Pure Heavenly Abodes. Which ones are they? They are the Heaven of No Afflictions [Aviha], the Heaven of No Heat [Atapa], the Heaven of Good View [Sudarsana], the Heaven of Good Manifestation [Sudarsa] and the Heaven of Ultimate Form [Akanista]. These five heavens are the abodes of the sages.
When one has no more desires, one is called a sage. The non-returners in the third level of arhatship are sages, and they live in the Five Pure Abodes of the Heavenly Realms of Form. There are no afflictions in the Heaven of No Afflictions, and there are no problems with heat in the Heaven of No Heat. Then there are the Heaven of Good View, the Heaven of Good Manifestation and the Heaven of Ultimate Form. They will not enter the realms of desire anymore because they have abandoned all sorts of desires. When one has abandoned all sorts of desire, one is called a sage.
Why is it called the Heaven of No Afflictions? No afflictions because there is no desire. Afflictions exist only because one has desires. In the Heaven of No Heat, you are not bothered by heat. If you still want aircon, you have a desire for aircon. Once you are in the Heaven of No Heat, there will be no issues about heat. What is the Heaven of Good View? Whatever one sees is perfect and everything is the best scene. What is the Heaven of Good Manifestation? The third level arhats in the Heaven of Good Manifestation can manifest in any place to help those in need.
Anagami is called non-returner, which means that he does not need to return to the turbid realms of desire. However, it is also stated that he is not [always] non-returning. What does that mean? It means that although he can choose not to return, he may return to the realm of desire to help sentient beings in need. The desireless anagamis from the Heaven of Good Manifestation can teach samsaric and heavenly beings who still struggle with their desires. Good Manifestation means he would manifest upon seeing goodness. Hence, the non-returner is not always non-returning. And when he returns to samsara, he still has no desire whatsoever.
Do you know that I see anagamis at Seattle Ling Shen Ching Tze Temple and above the Twin Lotus Columbarium? As I walk up the steps to the Seattle temple, I often see a non-returner seated above the incense burner. And there is another one sitting above the dharma wheel in between the two deer on top of the columbarium. I see him when I look out my window [from the Rainbow Temple main hall]. What are they doing here? They are here to help people who have kind thoughts. They teach buddhadharma to the spirits inside the columbarium. They still come here, but without any desire.
When the non-returners of the Heaven of Good Manifestation see benevolence, they would appear. He does not have to come but he still comes because he is a dweller of the Heaven of Good Manifestation. Now you understand this excerpt. [applause]
Attaining the third level arhatship is quite remarkable already, as it means you have reached sagehood. Anagami is a sage who has abandoned all desires. As I mentioned earlier, there are all kinds of desire—wealth, looks, fame, food, sleep, cars, clothes, homes, … they are all desires. Some people frequently move residences because they want to live in a better home. Why do they move so often? Because they want to live in a better place. That is the desire for homes. Why do you want to drive good cars? Because of your desire. Why do you want to wear good clothes? That’s desire too. What you want for food, clothes, cars, homes are all desires.
Why do you want to go to a good school? Wanting to graduate from a good school is also a kind of desire. Why don’t you just go to any school? When you go to law school, why do you want to go to the best law school? Why do you have to go to MIT or Caltech if you want to study science and engineering? Why do you want to go to Harvard? Why can’t you just settle on any university? Why do you have to go to Harvard? It’s just for the name, “I graduated from Harvard University.” It’s no joke, right? “I graduated from Harvard.” Look at how many presidents graduated from Harvard. It’s not the same graduating from Harvard University, because you walk with the wind. [However] a good school is just a name, and for this name, you are bound by it. Everything is desire! Study is also a desire. That’s how human beings are.
Do you know? There was someone who was always number one, and when he became number two he killed himself. He had to be number one! So when suddenly he got number two, he became depressed and killed himself. What a pity! He was bound by name and reputation. Money, looks, name, food, sleep, and many other desires, should be abandoned by Buddhist practitioners. We must free ourselves from these. In the future, once you attain sagehood, you will be completely free from desire.
The first pure abode is the Heaven of No Afflictions. The highest level of the Five Pure Abodes of the Realms of Form is the Heaven of Ultimate Form, Akanista. Where is Sakyamuni Buddha now? He is giving dharma teaching in the Akanista Heaven. The Buddha still comes, and he is giving dharma teachings in Akanista heaven.
It is all good today. Is this explanation clear now? Let me tell you something. Speaking or talking is also a kind of desire. If you meet someone who does not [like to] speak at all, you should marry that person right away [chuckles]. I am not picking on women, but women are amazing in exercising their mouths. When Grandmaster talks on the phone, it is never more than a few sentences. I’d say only the key points and I don’t chat on the phone. But you know women.... Talking is also a kind of desire.
That’s all for today. Om mani padme hum.
 Aranya is a hermit practitioner who abides in serenity.
 The realm of desire [kamaloka] includes the samsara [samsaric realm of desire] and also the heavenly realm of desire. There are three categories of heavenly realms [devaloka]: the heavenly realm of desire, the heavenly realm of form [rupaloka], and the heavenly realm of no form [arupaloka].
 Five Heavens of No-Return or Five Suddhavasa Worlds
Next discourse on the Vajra Sutra: Discourse 27, 24 October 2021 - Chapter Nine—Phenomena is Non-Phenomena (continued)
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