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Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra 

A Detailed Exposition by Living Buddha Lian Sheng, Grandmaster Sheng-Yen Lu 

Translated into English by the True Buddha School Vimala Sutra Translation Team 


Discourse 60, 28 January 2023 - Chapter One—Buddhaverse (Continued)    

Chapter One—Buddhaverse 

“There is no subject, no conception, and no object.

Only karma is ever present—good or bad.

At first, you subdued mara at the Buddha’s tree,

Obtained nectar, and attained extinction, awareness, and the way.

Already without mind, intent, perception, or action,

You completely defeated all heretic paths.

You turned the dharma wheel three times for the great thousand worlds,

Yet the wheels are eternally and inherently pure.

This is confirmed through the attainment of heavenly and human beings.

Hence, the Three Jewels appeared in the world

To salvage the multitudes using the marvelous dharma.

Non-regressing upon reception and always serene and natural,”

 

Let’s now talk about the Vimalakirti Sutra—the praise spoken by Accumulated Treasures Bodhisattva. Last time, we talked about:

“There is no subject, no conception, and no object.

Only karma is ever present—good or bad”

The question raised by a Malaysian disciple earlier was about this. There is no subject, no conception, and no object. This is innate awareness (rigpa), and this is also innate clear light radiance.

Let me tell you. Twice Sakyamuni Buddha was about to enter parinirvana. The first time was when he gained enlightenment and attained buddhahood under the bodhi tree. Why did he want to enter parinirvana? Because he knew that there is no subject, no conception, and no object. Then, Lord Indra and Mahabrahma asked him to follow his affinity; therefore, he stayed in the saha world to give dharma teaching.

The second time he wanted to enter Parinirvana was after he had taught dharma for forty-nine years. Manjusri Bodhisattva descended from the sky and pleaded the Buddha to continue turning the dharma wheel. Sakyamuni Buddha responded, “Did I ever turn the dharma wheel?” Upon hearing it, Manjusri Bodhisattva immediately understood that Sakyamuni Buddha was talking about this statement: there is no subject, no conception, and no object, which is about innate awareness and innate light.

No subject means there is no self; the “I” does not exist. No conception means [nothing has ever been done]—that the Buddha never turned the dharma wheel. No object means no one received anything. Thus, there are no speaker of the dharma, no listener of the dharma, and no dharma. This is innate awareness and innate clarity, as conveyed by the words: There is no subject, no conception, and no object. By comprehending this, everything done is pure.

“Only karma is ever present—good or bad”

Buddhism talks about cause and effect, as well as reincarnation. In the scope of the wisdom of discernment, we talk about good and bad. While in the scope of the fundamental wisdom, it is summed up as no subject, no conception, and no object.

We cannot say that karma doesn’t exist, that good or bad doesn’t exist, because you haven’t realized enlightenment, and you are still in this illusory dream. In this dream, the six rebirth realms exist, albeit they are illusory. The beings in the heavenly, human, asura, hell, hungry ghosts, and animal realms are still subjected to reincarnation. Without innate awareness and innate light, you cannot be enlightened. That’s why you are still in the rebirth cycle of the six realms of samsara. Of course then karma is ever present—good or bad. You still have karma, everything has cause and effect. You will still suffer the consequences and retributions of whatever you do—sooner or later you will! We cannot say that karma does not exist.

In the bigger scheme of things, our current extreme climate, COVID-19, as well as the Russo-Ukrainian War are all due to cause and effect. An individual also has their own karma, and they are different from everyone else’s, just like our faces. The face we are born with is the result of cause and effect. Our faces are made up of the same features—eyebrows, eyes, nose, mouth, and ears—yet every face is different, and that is due to the effect of the different karma of the individuals. Many things are still subject to cause and effect.

Karma is ever present, and cause and effect are ever present. Just because there is no subject, no conception, and no object, you cannot say that karma does not exist. After all, you have yet to be enlightened and have not reached the Immovable Ground. Because only then can you be completely unmoved.

Although all phenomena are illusory­­ and false—meaning without any solidity, like a dream, an illusion, a bubble, a shadow, like a dewdrop or a flash of lightning—while amid all these phenomena, karma is ever present. [When one still lives in the illusory world amid all these phenomena, then they are still bound by karma.] Thus, this statement applies: Only karma is ever present—good or bad.

“At first, you subdued mara at the Buddha’s tree

Obtained nectar, and attained extinction, awareness, and the way.”

Sakyamuni Buddha gained enlightenment under the bodhi tree and subdued the maras. What is the most important mara to tame? Oneself. Under the bodhi tree, Sakyamuni Buddha was able to extinguish all the external and internal demonic karma. In other words, the Buddha used his mind to subdue all the maras, including the celestial mara, mara of afflictions, mara of death, and mara of the five aggregates. During such a moment, the clear cool purity he attained was likened to nectar. Attaining extinction, awareness, and the way means having innate awareness and attaining the way. This is to praise Sakyamuni Buddha, who cultivated under the bodhi tree, subdued all four maras, obtained the nectar, and attained the way.

“Already without mind, intent, perception, or action” 

This is consciousness, of which alaya is the [eighth] consciousness—eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, mind, the root of the mind, and alaya. Even alaya no longer exists. The Buddha is already without mind or consciousness. He was also without perception or action, which is the state of innate awareness and innate light. 

“You completely defeated all heretic paths”

In fact, there is no need to defeat anything. When there are no more mind, intent, perception, or actions, then the heretic paths also do not exist. Hence, it was said that all the heretic paths, maras, and everything have been subdued. 

“You turned the dharma wheel three times for the great thousand worlds,”

Here, it mentioned the three turnings of the dharma wheel. However, didn’t the Buddha say that there was no turning of the dharma wheel? In the scope of the innate awareness and innate light, the turnings of the dharma wheel never occurred. However, in the scope of the wisdom of discernment [existence], the three turnings of the dharma wheel did happen.

The first turning of the dharma wheel was at the Deer Park, when the Buddha spoke on the Four Noble Truths. There are different interpretations of the three turnings of the dharma wheel. Some people say that the three turnings of dharma wheel refer to the transmission of the Small Vehicle, the Middle Vehicle, and the Great Vehicle—which are analogous to the canoe, boat, and ship. On a canoe, one only carries oneself, and on a boat or ship one can carry more people, while on a large ship one can carry a huge number of beings. Some others say that the three turnings include the Small Vehicle (Hinayana), the Great Vehicle (Mahayana or Mahaprajnaparamitayana), and the Secret Vehicle (Tantrayana). Yana means vehicle.

And the wheel symbolizes the destruction—it can destroy the illusory realm of the human world as it turns. Once the illusion is destroyed, what’s left are the innate awareness and innate light. This is what it means.

“Yet the wheels are eternally and inherently pure.”

However, in the realm of innate awareness and innate light, the wheels are nonexistent and thus, they are eternally and inherently pure.

This is confirmed through the attainment of heavenly and human beings.”

The heavenly and human beings who have attained the way confirmed that empty-nature—the innate awareness and innate light—have always been there.

In this praise, they talked about two sides [of the Truth]. One side talks about the Fundamental Wisdom, and the other talks about the Wisdom of Discernment. 

“Hence, the Three Jewels appeared in the world”

The Three Jewels are the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. The buddhas are the sages who have attained the way and proven [the Ultimate Truth]. The dharma consists of the methods to attain the way. The sangha is the renunciates who are cultivating the buddhadharma. In other words, the Three Jewels refer to the buddhanature, buddhadharma, and the renunciates to confirm the buddhadharma.

The appearance of the Three Jewels in the saha world is in the scope of the wisdom of discernment. We often call the masters as jewels, addressing them as “master jewels,” “reverend jewels,” etc. Anyone who has buddhas and buddhadharma on them and can see through themselves lucidly can be called a “jewel”—not just monastics but also laities. Lay practitioners, in my opinion, should have more confidence in themselves. They are no less than the monastics and they can be jewels too.

When there are the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, then there are the Three Jewels. Sangha refers not only to ordained monastics, but also to the stay-at-home practitioners as long as they have buddhas and dharma. In such a case, we can say that the laity is essentially the same as the ordained sangha. They both can be called “jewels” as long as they have buddhadharma—methods to prove the buddhas— and have confirmed their buddha[nature]. That’s what is meant by the Three Jewels appeared in the world.

To salvage the multitudes using the marvelous dharma.

Non-regressing upon reception and always serene and natural,”

Using this buddhadharma to salvage, deliver, and give to sentient beings. Once you accept the buddhadharma, you will never regress from the path (way). In such a state, you will always be naturally serene—and this is the state of innate awareness and innate light. This is the original clear light radiance and sublime perfect awakening that has been within you all along.

From now on, I have to speed up my explanation, otherwise, I will not be able to finish my exposition on the Vimalakirti Sutra.

Om mani padme hum. 



Next discourse on the Vimalakirti Sutra: Discourse 61, 11 February 2023 - Chapter One—Buddhaverse (Continued)

Previous discourse on the Vimalakirti Sutra: Discourse 59, 22 January 2023 - Chapter One—Buddhaverse (Continued)


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Full webcast of 2023.1.28 Red Manohara Vasudhara Homa Ceremony (Taiwan Lei Tsang Temple) and dharma discourse with English interpretation: https://youtu.be/wyzuKPvVgdQ 


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