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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 


 

Discourse 1, 21 May 2022 - Chapter One—Buddhaverse 


Chapter One—Buddhaverse[1]

Thus have I heard: At one time, the Buddha was in the Amra Garden near the city of Vaisali, accompanied by eight thousand great bhikkus, thirty-two thousand bodhisattvas, and the assembly of virtuous and knowledgeable spiritual practitioners.


This is the beginning of my exposition on the Vimalakirti Sutra or Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra, also known as The Sutra of Inconceivable Liberation. Today, we will talk about Chapter One—Buddhaverse and focus on the meaning of “buddhaverse.” [Buddhaverse is shortened from buddha universe, translated from the Sanskrit word “buddhaksetra,” which has also been commonly translated as buddhaland or buddhafield.]

I have heard of many people talking about the Vimalakirti Sutra, and in their expositions, they did not explain the term “buddhaverse.” When they expound on Chapter One—Buddhaverse, most of them will instead talk about the causes and conditions of the dharma gathering—the origin of the sutra. They would not explain the meaning of the buddhaverse and instead go directly to explain that the Buddha gathered everyone in the city of Vaisali, in a grove called Amra Garden. He was accompanied by eight thousand great monks, thirty-two thousand bodhisattvas, and a great many participants. Only very few people explain “buddhaverse,” even when Kumarajiva wrote it as the title of the first chapter: Chapter One—Buddhaverse.

What does buddhaverse mean? I’d like to ask all of you here, what is the meaning of buddhaverse? Does it refer to a particular buddhaverse or all the buddhaverses? Can you explain? Please try. Can any of you, the knowledgeable and virtuous ones, buddhas, bodhisattvas, bhikkus, bhikkunis, upasakas, and upasikas in the audience explain “buddhaverse?” Is no one raising their hand? Is everyone dumbstruck? Is there anybody brave enough to stand up and explain the meaning of buddhaverse?

[Someone answers.] The pure buddhaverse? A pure buddhaverse is a buddhaverse—but that does not explain anything. [Someone else answers.] So you said that it’s the place where the buddhas lead the bodhisattvas to cultivate spiritually; that buddhaverse is the name of a place. Well…

In English, I call it “buddha country.” [laughter] My English is quite bad. Someone corrected me to call it buddhaland. I translate Sukhavati as “Western very happy buddha country.” [laughter] That’s how I say it word-for-word in English; this is what’s bad about my English.

Yes, ambassador? [The ambassador speaks.] Do you know that the ambassador has read the entire Vimalakirti Sutra and all its commentaries? What he just said was in the Vimalakirti Sutra: The parasols merging into one gigantic parasol; Vimalakirti manifesting the buddhaverse because ordinary people cannot see the buddhaverse due to their own hindrances. In any case, now, I’m only talking about the meaning of buddhaverse.

Let me tell you the real meaning of the buddhaverse. The saha world is a buddhaland or buddhaverse. [applause] This is written in the Vimalakirti Sutra. Most people would not think of the saha world as a buddha world. Isn’t it mentioned in the Amitabha Sutra that the human world is filled with the five contaminants? How can it be a buddhaverse then? However, Vimalakirti states, “The saha world is a buddhaverse.”

Vimalakirti asked me, “In the West, there is the Western Pureland of Utmost Bliss (Sukhavati), and in the East, there is the Wonderful Joy Pureland (Abhirati). There are also Avalokitesvara’s World of Omnipresence and Ksitigarbha’s Cuiwei Pureland. All these are buddhaverses. So, where is your True Buddha World?”

I understand Vimalakirti’s mind, so I answered, “My True Buddha World is the saha world. The saha world is the True Buddha World.” [applause] Vimalakirti asked me again, “How big is your True Buddha World?” I answered, “The True Buddha World is neither big nor small. Each and every place is a True Buddha World. There is no place that is not a True Buddha World. We can also say that the True Buddha World exists and does not exist. It is called the True Buddha World because it does not exist.” Vimalakirti told me, “That’s the meaning of buddhaverse.” 

At this moment, Grandmaster Lu is seated here, giving dharma teachings. Behind me is Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, while above is Golden Mother. Further above are the Five Dhyani Buddhas, Sakyamuni Buddha, and Medicine Buddha. There are the Seven Buddhas, Golden Mother, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, and many great bodhisattvas. Further are the Five Great Herukas, the Eight Wisdom Kings, the Eight Divisions of Protectors: dragons, devas, gandarvas, asuras, yaksas, mahoragas, kalavinkas, and garudas, with the dragons and devas as their leaders. Including the bhikkus, bhikkunis, upasakas, and upasikas, this current location of the dharma teaching is a buddhaverse! 


The Vimalakirti Sutra talks about purity. The buddhaverse is pure, and it is where the pure heart-mind is; wherever you go is a buddhaverse when your heart-mind is pure. 

 

The buddhaverse is not at a faraway place like how it is portrayed in the Amitabha SutraFrom here, passing through hundreds of thousands of millions of buddhalands to the West, there is a world called Utmost Happiness.[2]The Vimalakirti Sutra states that everywhere is a buddhaverse, including the saha world. You should not say that you are in the saha world, [instead of buddhaverse]. Therefore, it was also a buddhaverse when the Buddha gathered so many virtuous and knowledgeable spiritual practitioners at the Amra Garden near the city of Vaisali.

 

Today, our gathering at the Seattle Lei Tsang Temple in Redmond, Seattle, Washington, USA, is a buddhaverse. If you have pure eyes, divine eyes, dharma eyes, wisdom eyes, and buddha eyes, you will see that all the buddhas, bodhisattvas, arhats, and dharma protectors are here. This current place where the dharma teaching is taking place is a buddhaverse. 

 

Let me tell everyone: Vimalakirti did drink alcohol. [In his case,] drinking alcohol is a buddhaverse. However, let me remind you not to take this statement wrongly! Do not think that drinking is a buddhaverse if you drink and get drunk, as you will go to hell because of it. You need to know what this drinking is all about. If you drink to the point of intoxication, you are out of control, talk nonsense, drink and drive, cause accidents, or end up in a mess, then you will go to hell as a result.

 

For Vimalakirti, alcohol is the nectar of the buddhaverse. But alcohol can also consume you! If any monk, nun, or lay practitioner drinks unwisely and creates problems, they will be severely admonished. Abstaining from alcohol is one of the precepts! If you are consumed by alcohol instead of you consuming the alcohol, then alcohol is prohibited. However, if one has [reached a certain spiritual realm and] mastered the right way to drink, then alcohol becomes nectar. This is my explanation of buddhaverse.

 

Along with drinking alcohol, Vimalakirti also went to the brothels. Did he go there? Yes, he did. In the precepts, that is to be avoided. But let me tell you, that place is also a buddhaverse since everywhere and anywhere is a buddhaverse [for someone like Vimalakirti]! The saha world is a buddhaverse. Is there any place that isn’t a buddhaverse?! What are you nervous about? Even the brothel is a buddhaverse.

 

Vimalakirti had transcended it all, and his heart-mind could control his desire even during such times—that’s to say that he had no desire. If you go to a brothel with a pure heart-mind, and you have transcended it, the brothel is a buddhaverse. If you think that women are dirty due to their five leakages, you have a mind of discrimination. Due to your tainted or adulterated heart-mind, then those places are no longer buddhaverses. But let me tell you, if your heart-mind has been purified and you have transcended it all, then such places are truly pure buddhaverses. 

 

Vimalakirti states that everywhere is a buddhaverse and the saha world is a buddhaverse. The saha world includes wine, liquor, and women. This is very transcendental. Hence, in my exposition of this sutra, I—unlike others—first explained the buddhaverse. If you can maintain a state of unborn endurance[3] and immovability at such times, then you will always be in a state of unborn endurance at the immovable ground. 

 

When monks and nuns return to household lives and get married, they are in buddhaverses—if their heart-minds are unmoved. Vimalakirti, too, had a wife—the Goddess Who Scatters Flowers and she was a high-leveled bodhisattva. If you have mastered it, then that’s a buddhaverse. If you have not, then it still is a contaminated world with five turbidities. 

 

As for Grandmaster, I have attained the non-leakage of the body and the non-leakage of the mind, also known as the Transcendent Power of Exhaustive Outflow.[4] I have stated it before, “The one who has attained the Transcendent Power of Exhaustive Outflow is allowed to do anything with no restrictions.” If you are endowed with the Transcendent Power of Exhaustive Outflow, and maintain the state of immovability and unborn endurance; you will not be bound by the precepts in whatever you do.

 

In the buddhaverse, how can there be any precepts? If you’re already in the buddhaverse, the precepts are non-existent. The precepts apply only to mundane beings. It is extremely crucial to remember that. That’s what I know about the title of Chapter One—Buddhaverse. [applause] 

 

Money, sex, and fame are the three most beguiling things for mundane beings in this world. You are a mundane being if you do things for the sake of money, sex, and fame. On the contrary, if these things never cross your mind, then whatever you do is [in] a buddhaverse. 

 

Now, do you understand the meaning of the buddhaverse? Only Grandmaster expounds the Vimalakirti Sutra this way; no one else does. Many elder monks who expounded the Vimalakirti Sutra did not explain the word “buddhaverse” and only talked about how the dharma gathering came about.

 

The most important point of the Vimalakirti Sutra is that the saha world is a buddhaverse.

 

Today, I just explained the word “buddhaverse.” Vimalakirti told me, “Since you told me that the True Buddha World is the saha world and the saha world is the True Buddha World, then you are qualified to expound the Vimalakirti Sutra. Only Grandmaster Lu can expound the Vimalakirti Sutra.”

 

Other people explained only the words or the meaning of the words in the sutra text without understanding the real meaning of buddhaverse. In the eyes of the Great Master Vimalakirti, is there any place that is not a buddhaverse? The place where you drink, as well as the brothels, are all buddhaverses. Everyone from the highest dignitaries to the common people are all buddhaverses. If you abide in the immovable ground, everything and everywhere becomes a buddhaverse.

 

Aksobhya Buddha, otherwise known as the Immovable Buddha, is from the Eastern Buddhaverse of Wonderful Joy, Abhirati. Vimalakirti’s origin is Jinli Tathagata from Abhirati Buddhaverse. His wife, the Goddess Who Scatters Flowers, is a high-leveled bodhisattva. Don’t think she is just an ordinary goddess who scatters flowers in the heavenly realms. She is a bodhisattva of the supreme ground. Her level of wisdom is on par with Vimalakirti and the buddhas.

 

The concepts in the Vimalakirti Sutra transcend the dimensions of time and space. People don’t understand what it means to transcend time and space. It means time and space do not matter. That’s why I can have direct dialogues with Vimalakirti, an elder who lived more than two thousand and six hundred years ago in the city of Vaisali. He and I can have a dialogue at any time and any place. He is omnipresent, as he breaks through the dimensions of time and space. He is Jinli Tathagata of Abhirati, the buddhaverse of Aksobhya Buddha or the Immovable Buddha.

 

You are now listening to my exposition on this sutra, and you want to know what the buddhaverse is; this is it! The saha world is a buddhaverse. Our saha world today is a buddhaverse. When you go to the pub, that is a buddhaverse. When you go to the brothel, that too is a buddhaverse. This is only because you are unperturbed, you are at the immovable ground, and you have attained the non-leakage of the body and mind.

 

Om mani padme hum.




[1] Buddhaverse or buddha universe, is a novel and very appropriate term coined by Dr. Robert Thurman for 佛國, which has normally been translated as buddhaland, buddha-field, buddha realm, or buddha world from the Sanskrit word “buddhaksetra.”

[3] anutpattika-dharma-ksanti

[4] Asravaksayajnana 漏盡通 is the most important, highest, and fundamental of the six transcendent powers. One attains this power naturally upon seeing the buddhanature and liberation from samsara, through ardent practices in the Three Yanas. The Transcendent Power of Exhaustive Outflow refers to the complete outflow of all afflictions, which is the result of the ultimate attainment.  





Next discourse on the Vimalakirti Sutra: Discourse 2, 22 May 2022 - Chapter One—Buddhaverse (continued)

Previous discourse on the Vimalakirti Sutra: 
Dharma Invitation Ritual, 14 May 2022


Index of links to all discourse on the Vimalakirti Sutra: https://en.tbsn.org/guidem/detail/2975/ 


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Full webcast of 2022.05.21 Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva Group Practice (Ling Shen Ching Tze Temple, Redmond, USA) and dharma discourse with English interpretation: https://youtu.be/zTSaxWtKgMI 


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