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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 15, 9 July 2022 - Chapter One—Buddhaverse (Continued)   

  

Chapter One—Buddhaverse

They had perfected their generosity, moral ethics, endurance, diligence, meditative stability, and wisdom, as well as expedient means. They comprehended unattainability and reached the state of unborn endurance. They could smoothly turn the non-regressing wheel following the course of nature.[1]  

 

 

We will now talk about the Vimalakirti Sutra: They comprehended unattainability and reached the state of unborn endurance. Let me explain unborn endurance [which was literally translated as not giving rise to endurance].

 

We often talk about the Buddhist terms endurance and unborn endurance. One is in the state of unborn endurance when they have the wisdom to understand that all dharma—meaning everything—is non-arising and non-ceasing; there is no birth and death. Once you completely comprehend that everything is non-arising and non-ceasing, you will attain a fruition called unborn endurance and reach the eighth ground of bodhisattvahood—the Immovable Ground.

 

This is easier said than done. Once you comprehend that everything is non-arising and non-ceasing, you must apply this wisdom. It is very difficult to do. However, once you understand this concept, you can train yourself by gradually applying your wisdom. Eventually, you can apply it to everything. Then you will reach the state of unborn endurance at the Immovable Ground.

 

What is unborn endurance? One example is something I saw on Taiwanese television. Someone got enraged because another car sped by, cutting them off. In turn, they cut them off to get back at them, so this dangerous driving went back and forth. Road rage ensued, and they blew their tops off. They eventually stopped each other and stepped out to fight. Not only that, but they also called their allies to help out. Then it became a gang fight, and people got badly injured. This sort of incident happens because they don’t have endurance—not to mention unborn endurance.

 

Another example is when someone scolds you. Immediately, you feel hurt. Then you find yourself unable to eat, drink, or sleep for days. You start to look sickly or feel ill. You cannot get over how hurtful it was. This is because you don’t understand unborn endurance!

 

Besides road rage, this also happens when someone sees another person gazing at them. Someone sitting at a restaurant noticed another person at the next table looking at him. He ignored it at first, but then, once, twice, three times, he saw that person still looking at him. “What are you glaring at?” he blurted, “What is there to look at?!” The response was not friendly either, “So what?! Can’t I look at you?!” They jumped out of their seats, and the next thing you know, punches, tables, and chairs were flying in the air. They didn’t even know each other, and everyone joined in the commotion. These things happen.

 

There is another incident that often happens in Taiwan. Finding a girlfriend or boyfriend is much easier than breaking up—which requires tactful handling. A girl wanted to break up, so the boyfriend asked to see her. But then, he killed her. What’s more horrific was that with every hack, he kept yelling, “I love you.” It was so absurd, but it happened! Many people are so irrational! Is it that difficult to break up [that you must kill]? Why be so irrational?!

 

When I was in the military, people wrote graffiti on the bathroom walls. Someone wrote, “While I am here in the military, my heart is at home, longing for my flower back home.” Someone else wrote a line underneath it, “Why are you clutching on one flower when there are so many flowers out there?” That is true! Flowers abound, so why must you have only this flower?

 

You need to have common sense and be sensible and rational. Because people don’t have common sense, incidents such as road rage and fights occur, causing a lot of trouble. That is because they do not have unborn endurance.

 

If you can understand the concept of unborn endurance, then you are at the Immovable Ground.

 

When someone overtakes your car, you should think they urgently need to use the bathroom. Or he’s rushing perhaps because he has a stomach-ache. You keep driving as is, following the rules. You stay unaffected no matter what others do. No matter what happens, you always remain at the Immovable Ground.

 

These are a few examples to help explain unborn endurance. The heart-mind of those with unborn endurance is unmoved—or doesn’t move much at all. They understand that everything is fundamentally non-arising and non-ceasing, so they are always rational and have common sense. This is unborn endurance.

 

Next is unattainability—which is very profound! What does this statement mean: They comprehended unattainability and reached the state of unborn endurance? It means that unborn endurance is attained because of unattainability—there is nothing that can be gained.

 

Ponder on this. The same phrase is in the Heart Sutra: A bodhisattva comprehends unattainability. Because you comprehend the notion of unattainability, you become a bodhisattva. Unattainability means that nothing can be attained or gained in this world, including your own body.

 

I have spoken about this before. You don’t gain [or own] your own body. You may consider yourself a great beauty and think you have attained it—you were first in the beauty pageant. Do you know that in twenty years you will become an aunty, and in forty years, you’ll look as scary as a ghost in the middle of the night? Very simple. [It should be easy to understand unattainability.] People age and die. 

 

Likewise, there is no need to be envious of famous people. What use is fame? One day, these people will be gone, as with everything else. That is unattainability. If you apply unattainability to everything, your heart-mind will be unaffected and unperturbed.

 

I have also talked about wealth and money. Some people say, “I love money.” That’s right! Everybody loves money without exception. But there should be a limit to it. No need to be jealous of a rich man and despise him. You may loathe a rich or famous person and target them. On the other hand, because people target them, the rich and famous must be very careful. Likewise for a great beauty. Beauty is a double-edged sword. On one hand, people adore you, but on the other hand, they can harm you as well.

 

It is the same with people in power. We saw the incident that happened to Japan’s ex-Prime Minister, Abe. A prominent position is dangerous because there is bound to be someone who scorns you. This happens naturally when you are in a high position and hold power. You might not know who they are, but they already hate you. They are often in danger, like people with considerable wealth, fame, or beauty.

 

Position and power are not everlasting. If you visit a nursing home, you will find specialists, scientists, inventors, famous doctors, etc. There may be an elderly who was a de facto cardiologist, another who was once a talented and famous inventor, an ex-minister, and so forth. Yet, in the very end, they have not attained anything. Therefore, we need to truly grasp this understanding of unattainability.

 

Everything (all dharma) is non-arising and non-ceasing. Understand this! There is not one thing that you can gain. Even your body is not yours. Whatever future wealth, fame, or looks you may have are not yours either. If you comprehend unattainability—the key concept of the Heart Sutra—and you are always mindful that nothing can be attained, then you will never be ravenous in seizing what you want.

 

What’s the use of having lots of money? Enough is enough; as long as you have enough when you need it, that’s good enough. Everybody loves money, but you should be content. One does not have to be super gorgeous, as that does not last either. I once saw someone who lived to be 140, sitting in a wheelchair. I was shocked when I saw her face, although she was beautiful when she was young—which could be seen from her pictures. Thus, looks, money, fame, power, status, none of these last, and they are not yours.

 

What are you angry about? There is nothing to be angry about to begin with. Because nobody attains anything anyway. It is possible to possess something but only temporarily. Fundamentally, there is nothing to possess. Everything is non-arising and non-ceasing; there is no birth and no death.

 

If you can comprehend this, you will have grasped the essence of unattainability. If you view yourself, others, and the world this way, you are in a state of unborn endurance. There is no anger or animosity no matter what you encounter—you apply unattainability and stay unperturbed. You will be in a state of unborn endurance. Only in such a case will your heart-mind reach the Immovable Ground—the eighth ground of bodhisattvahood. Then, all that you do is to enhance your good and to stop any bad from arising—which is complete upholding.

 

Now you understand the meaning of this phrase: They comprehended unattainability and reached the state of unborn endurance. It means that once you understand the concept of unattainability, you will reach the state of unborn endurance.

 

What use is having money? Perhaps all you end up with is a fancier tomb in a nice and big cemetery. That’s all. What use is that to you? What use is being an emperor? Let’s take China as an example. The dynasties went from Tang, Yu, Xia, Shang, Zhou, Qin, Han, The Three Kingdoms, Wei, Jin, the Northern and Southern Dynasties, Sui, Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming, to Qing, and now the People’s Republic of China. How many emperors were there? An emperor is the first and foremost person in his kingdom. But how many of them do you remember? Can you list them all? If I mention a certain emperor, you won’t even know which dynasty he ruled and will have to check on the internet.

 

Of course, there are a few famous ones like Emperor Yang of the Sui Dynasty, who built the Grand Canal; The First Emperor of China—Qin Shi Huang—who unified China after conquering the other six states; The Great Emperor Wu, Emperor Wen, and Emperor Jing of the Han Dynasty; Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty—born as Li Shimin—and his Reign of Zhenguan.[2] During the Tang Dynasty, there were a few good emperors but also many warring emperors.

 

What use is being an emperor? People don’t even remember them. Someone once asked me,“Which emperor were you in the Zhou Dynasty?” Even if I tell you, you still must check on your cell phone to find out. The Zhou Dynasty lasted for 800 years.

 

There is the following anecdote of King Wen Drawing a Chariot—King Wen of the Zhou Dynasty drew a chariot ridden by Jiang Ziya. The emperor asked Jiang Ziya to become the national teacher, and in return, Jiang Ziya asked the King to draw a chariot that he sat on. As a king, his energy was depleted from spending nights [with his queens]. All that he could manage was 800 steps. So, while still sitting on the chariot, Jiang Ziya told the King, “The Zhou Dynasty will last for only 800 years.” The King immediately reacted, “Oh! Let me continue to pull then!” But he only had one chance.

 

Jiang Ziya was a legendary figure! He was a disciple of the First Pure One, one of the highest deities in Taoism—The Three Pure Ones: The Heavenly Lord of Primordial Beginning (Yuanshi Tianzun), The Heavenly Lord of Spiritual Treasures (Lingbao Tianzun), and The Heavenly Lord of the Way and Virtues (Taishang Laojun). Jiang Ziya was the disciple of The Heavenly Lord of Primordial Beginning. Therefore, he predicted that the Zhou Dynasty would only last for 800 years. He knew from the 800 steps that the king took. Everything is predestined!

 

I was an emperor during the Zhou Dynasty, but he was not famous at all. [Someone said the Duke of Zhou.] The Duke of Zhou was very famous. He is always invoked before Eight Trigram Divination as part of the Trigram Patriarchs: Fuxi, King Wen of Zhou, the Duke of Zhou, Confucius, and Guiguzi of the Yunmeng Mountain. The Duke of Zhou is famous, but I wasn’t. Even when you were an emperor, what use is that? It is unattainable. Nothing is!

 

Therefore, I see that people in high positions, such as presidents or prime ministers, only hold their position temporarily. Such is the case for wealth, too. The wealthiest Taiwanese man was Wang Yung Ching back then. At that time, Terry Gou was not born yet. Afterward, Terry Gou became the richest, but it won’t last much longer because he is already old. Nothing lasts. In the future, it may be Morris Chang, but perhaps not since he’s also old. There might be some young high-tech guy who would replace them. Being the richest does not last long.

 

Not to mention looks and beauty. You were beautiful when you were young. But when you’re old… Also, Master Lian Wang threatened us earlier that with three infections of COVID-19, that thing is gone. [laughter] What else is there to talk about being a real man? With such a small thing, from a great man, you’d become a small man. And no one would want it. That’s how it is.

 

Is there anything that belongs to you? Cars, houses, real estate properties, land, money, and everything are not yours. They will all break down eventually. Things that you wear are only for temporary use. One day when you’re old and become skinny, you cannot wear them anymore. Even if you wear them, they don’t look good on you. From this, you can comprehend unattainability.

 

Now, you can understand the phrase: They comprehended unattainability and reached the state of unborn endurance. Unattainability means that everything and everyone is momentary. They are inherently non-arising and non-ceasing. Nothing has ever arisen, and nothing has ever ceased. There is no birth and no death.

 

In that state, your heart-mind is unmoved, and there is nothing to endure. This is the state of unborn endurance that allows you to reach the Immovable Ground, the eighth ground of bodhisattvahood. From then on, it is non-regressing. That is why the Vimalakirti Sutra states that the great buddhas and bodhisattvas comprehend unattainability; thus, they all attain the state of unborn endurance

 

That’s all for today. Om mani padme hum. 




[1] anulomiki, anuvartayante, anuloma

[2] Emperor Taizong was one of the greatest emperors in China's history and his reign, known as the "Reign of Zhenguan” is considered a golden age in ancient Chinese history. 


Next discourse on the Vimalakirti Sutra: Discourse 16, 10 July 2022 - Chapter One—Buddhaverse (Continued)


Previous discourse on the Vimalakirti Sutra: 
Discourse 14, 3 July 2022 - Chapter One—Buddhaverse (Continued)


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