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A Detailed Exposition of the Vimalakirti Sutra 

by Grandmaster Lu, Living Buddha Lian Sheng of the True Buddha School 

Translated into English by the True Buddha School Vimalakirti Translation Team 


 

Dharma Invitation Ritual, 14 May 2022 

 

Just now, we had the dharma invitation ritual to request Grandmaster to expound on the Vimalakirti Sutra formally. There was also a dance offering of goddesses scattering flowers at the end. This is how it all came about. Many disciples asked me to continue expounding on sutras after completing my exposition on the Vajra Sutra. But there are numerous sutras spoken by the Buddha.

 

What is Tripitaka? Tripitaka, [a Sanskrit word] refers to The Three Baskets of the Buddhist Canon, or the Three Treasuries and Twelve Divisions.[1]

 

The Tripitaka consists of the Sutra-pitaka: the basket of Sakyamuni Buddha’s discourses—the scriptures or sutras; the Vinaya-pitaka: the basket of precepts or moral ethics; and the Abhidharma-pitaka: the basket of compendiums and treatises by later siddhas or noble ones. 

 

The discourses or the sutras were spoken by Sakyamuni Buddha. The precepts or the vinaya were also taught by Sakyamuni Buddha. However, the treatises or the abhidharma were commentaries on the sutras given by later sages.

 

We have a title called Master of Tripitakain Buddhism. Back then, “Master” was a very honorable title, reserved only for those who have mastered the buddhadharma. A Master of Tripitaka comprehends and masters all of Tripitaka.

 

There is also a Master of the Sutras, Master of the Precepts, and Master of the Abhidharma. A Master of the Sutras thoroughly comprehends and is well-versed in the sutras. A Master of the Precepts knows the precepts very well and abides by them. And a Master of the Abhidharma is knowledgeable and understands all the commentaries, compendiums, and treatises of the high adepts. Only when one has mastered all three is one called a Master of the Tripitaka. 

 

To be called a master, one must be very proficient in the buddhadharma; similarly, one must be well-versed in dharma to be called a dharma teacher (or reverend or venerable or fashi. Alas, nowadays, as soon as someone shaves their head and vows to become a monk or a nun, they are called a dharma teacher, where in fact, they may not know much about the dharma. 

 

Are you well-versed in the sutras, the precepts, and/or the treatises? If you are not, you cannot be called a dharma teacher. “Dharma teacher” is an honorary title and is not something one gains from monastic ordination. But nowadays, it is customary to address monks and nuns as dharma teachers or reverends. I would still like to remark that it is only appropriate to call someone a dharma teacher or fashi when they know the dharma. The title “dharma teacher” has been downgraded now. 

 

A week later, as I was thinking about which sutra I should expound next, the Great Master Vimalakirti entered my dream. He said, “Please expound on the Vimalakirti Sutra.” It was he who told me to expound on the Vimalakirti Sutra. I asked him, “Where did you come from?” He answered, “Grandmaster Lu, are you still that dumb?” I replied, “But I don’t know where you came from.” He then told me, “As long as your heart-mind is pure, I will be there.”

 

He indicated that he doesn’t come or go; he is where your pure heart-mind is. In other words, when your heart-mind is pure, he will be right there. This is a very important statement, so please remember!

 

Where are the buddhas and bodhisattvas? They are where you are when you are pure. The buddhas and bodhisattvas will be there when your heart-mind has been purified. This is a very crucial statement.

 

The Great Master Vimalakirti also told me, “There are many different translations of the sutra name.” Some people call it The Vimalakirti Sutra, while others call it The Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra. Other names include The Vimalakirti Sutra as Spoken by the Buddha, The Inconceivable Sutra, The Sutra of Inconceivable Dharma-Gate, The Sutra Spoken by the Taintless One, The Sutra of Universal Entrance to the Path, The Inconceivable Sutra of Liberation, et cetera. This sutra has many names in Chinese.

 

Vimalakirti then said to me, “Grandmaster Lu, you should help me name this sutra.” I have read this sutra before, so I thought about it and said, “The Sutra of Vimalakirti Playing in the World.” Upon hearing it, he said, “That’s quite appropriate!” While living in this world, it was as if Vimalakirti was only acting in a play—like it was a game.

 

Calling it playing or games—which many people play nowadays—seems rather mundane. So, I suggested, “How about The Sutra of the Dharma King Vimalakirti’s Supernormal Transformation Power? What do you think?” He exclaimed, “Excellent!”

 

In return, I asked Vimalakirti, “If you were to name your own sutra, what would you call it?” He replied, “The Zero, Zero, Zero, Zero, Zero Sutra.” So I asked, “Wouldn’t that be the same as not having a name?” And he explained, “All sutra names are false names, without any reality to it. Therefore, the real name of the sutra is The Zero, Zero, Zero, Zero, Zero Sutra.” Upon hearing it, I found that to be the most incredible because zero encompasses everything. 

 

In the Taiwan military, the number “zero” was nicknamed “dong”, [In English, it is like saying the letter “o” instead of “zero.”] Back then, our survey team was numbered 5802, so instead of saying “five eight zero two,” we called it “five eight o two.” So, The Sutra of Zero, Zero, Zero, Zero, Zero can also be called The Sutra of Dong, Dong, Dong, Dong, Dong [in Chinese, and in its English equivalent, it would be called something like The Sutra of o, o, o, o, o.]

 

In the future, of so many different names, we shall call the Vimalakirti Sutra The Zero, Zero, Zero, Zero, Zero Sutra. This sutra was originally written in Sanskrit and was translated into Chinese by Kumarajiva.

 

Kumarajiva was a truly remarkable person. He translated many sutras, including Amitabha Sutra, Lotus Sutra, Vajra Sutra, Heart Sutra…

 

Kumarajiva’s father was Kumarayana, a learned man from central India. He loved to travel and visited many countries. When he got to the Kingdom of Kucha, he met its king, who thought of him as a good spiritual companion with vast knowledge. Subsequently, the king asked him to marry his sister (Jivaka), and they had a son—Kumarajiva.

 

Kumarajiva was born with high intelligence and was ordained when he was seven years old. He was very talented and to express it in a Chinese idiom: “He could read ten lines at a glance and imprint them in his memory.” He had such a natural talent. After he became a monk, he lived like a sage.

 

At that time, it was during the reign of Emperor Fujian of the Former Qin Dynasty. According to China history, he mobilized eight hundred thousand troops to the south of the river to unify the entire central plains. One night, Fujian noticed a ray of light appearing in the West. So, Fujian asked a renowned astrologist, who did a divination and predicted that a very talented sage was rising in the West—referring to the Kingdom of Kucha. Thereafter, Fujian sent Lvguang to attack the Kingdom of Kucha. Kumarajiva was captured and brought to Changan. Later, he specialized in the translation of the sutras of Mahayana Buddhism. This is a little bit of history about the translator.

 

During the Tang Dynasty of China, the monk Xuan Zang went to Nalanda University in India to study buddhadharma; he studied Yogacara or Consciousness-Only, currently the doctrine of the Dharmalaksana School or the East Asian Yogacara School. Upon returning to China, he became well-known as the Master of Tripitaka Xuan Zang, belonging to the Yogacara Sect. 

 

Xuan Zang also did translations. The name “Vimalakirti” was originally in Sanskrit, translated into Chinese by Kumarajiva as “Pure Name,” whereas Xuan Zang translated it as “The One Named as Taintless.” So, Xuan Zang translated the sutra’s name as The Sutra Spoken by the Taintless One.

 

They utilized two different translation methods: meaning versus literal. Kumarajiva translated by focusing on the overall meanings while Xuan Zang translated by focusing on the words, literally word-for-word from Sanskrit. One translated the overall meanings while the other translated the words.

 

Kumarajiva first derived the meanings from the Sanskrit and expressed the meanings of the original text in Chinese. That’s why his translation is more readable and fluent. Alternatively, Xuan Zang translated word-for-word; this kind of literal translation does not necessarily translate the meanings. The results of the translations vary greatly. Before my exposition, I would like to mention the translators of the sutra so that you have some background.

 

Buddhadharma is truly unexcelled and unsurpassed. There is nothing more profound and higher than the buddhadharma. It really is the utmost! 

 

I am now writing my 291st book; its title is The Supernormal Transformation of a Dharma King. In the prologue, I wrote about the Great Master Vimalakirti entering my dreams and our dialogues. This book contains anecdotes about the many insights and inspirations that Vimalakirti gives me every day. They are very meaningful, and I will scrupulously write them all in this book. This book is not about the content of this sutra. Instead, it is about the guidance and the insights that Vimalakirti has given me. The book is called The Supernormal Transformation of a Dharma King.

 

Om mani padme hum. 



[1] Literal translation from the Chinese 三藏十二部.  


 



Next discourse on the Vimalakirti Sutra: Discourse 1, 21 May 2022 - Chapter One—Buddhaverse

Previous discourse on the Vimalakirti Sutra: Introduction, 8 May 2022


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Full webcast of 2022.05.14 Avalokitesvara Group Practice (Ling Shen Ching Tze Temple, Redmond, USA) and dharma discourse with English interpretation: https://youtu.be/ZQ7G_1RN594

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