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Sūtra 36 (posted 01/2013, updated 03/2013)  Book information on Home page

解深密經卷第四
Sūtra of the Profound Secret Unraveled

Translated from Sanskrit into Chinese in the Tang Dynasty
by
The Tripiṭaka Master Xuanzang from China


Fascicle 4 (of 5)

Chapter 7 – The Grounds and the Pāramitās


Four Purities and Eleven Parts of Training

At that time Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva said to the Buddha, “World-Honored One, You have pronounced these ten Bodhisattva grounds: (1) the Joyful Ground, (2) the Taint-Free Ground, (3) the Radiant Ground, (4) the Flaming Wisdom Ground, (5) the Hard-to-Conquer Ground, (6) the Revealing Ground, (7) the Far-Going Ground, (8) the Motionless Ground, (9) the Good Wisdom Ground, and (10) the Dharma Cloud Ground. You also say that the Buddha Ground is the eleventh ground. How many purities rule these grounds, and how many parts [of training] rule these grounds?”
    Then the Buddha told Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, “Good man, know that these eleven grounds are ruled by four purities and eleven parts [of training]. What are the four purities that rule these grounds? Purity of higher aspiration rules the first ground. Purity of higher precepts rules the second ground. Purity of higher mind rules the third ground. Purity of higher wisdom rules the fourth ground through the Buddha Ground, becoming more wondrous on each higher ground.1 Good man, know that these four purities rule these grounds.
    “How do the eleven parts [of training] rule these grounds? A Bodhisattva on the training ground for excellent understanding2 does the ten Dharma practices3 and well develops endurance in his excellent understanding [of the Dharma]. He transcends that ground and realizes the true nature of a Bodhisattva, without being attached to any attainments. Thus he completes this part of training [on the first ground]. However, he cannot avoid the fault of subtle or inadvertent violations of the precepts. Then he diligently trains and learns to remedy this deficiency. Thus he completes this part of training [on the second ground]. However, he has neither perfected his practice of worldly samādhi or samāpatti [to bring out wisdom], nor has he fully acquired dhāraṇīs [to retain what teachings he has heard]. Then he diligently trains and learns to remedy this deficiency. Thus he completes this part of training [on the third ground]. However, he has neither trained much to complete the elements of bodhi4 nor transcended his love of samādhi and good dharmas. Then he diligently trains and learns to remedy this deficiency. Thus he completes this part of training [on the fourth ground]. However, he has neither fully observed the principle of the truths nor transcended his regarding saṁsāra and nirvāṇa as opposites, nor has he acquired the skillful means to complete the elements of bodhi. Then he diligently trains and learns to remedy this deficiency. Thus he completes this part of training [on the fifth ground]. However, he has not observed the stream of birth and death as they truly are, and loathes them because he is not always aware that dharmas [in true reality] have no appearance. Then he diligently trains and learns to remedy this deficiency. Thus he completes this part of training [on the sixth ground]. However, he cannot flawlessly and continuously abide in awareness that dharmas have no appearance. Then he diligently trains and learns to remedy this deficiency. Thus he completes this part of training [on the seventh ground]. However, he cannot effortlessly abide in awareness that dharmas have no appearance, nor does he have command of their appearances. Then he diligently trains and learns to remedy this deficiency. Thus he completes this part of training [on the eighth ground]. However, he has not achieved command of all forms of expression to expound the Dharma, explaining various names and appearances of dharmas to sentient beings of different capacities. Then he diligently trains and learns to remedy this deficiency. Thus he completes this part of training [on the ninth ground]. However, he has not fully revealed his dharma body. Then he diligently trains and learns to remedy this deficiency. Thus he completes this part of training [on the tenth ground]. However, he has not fully acquired the attachment-free and hindrance-free wondrous wisdom-knowledge of all things. Then he diligently trains and learns to remedy this deficiency. Thus he completes this part of training [on the Buddha Ground5]. Upon completing this part of training, he has completed all eleven parts. Good man, know that these eleven parts rule their respective eleven grounds.

Meanings of the Names of the Grounds

Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva next asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, why is each ground named the way it is, from the Joyful Ground to the Buddha Ground?”
    The Buddha told Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, “Good man, [on the first ground] a Bodhisattva has great joy because of his great attainment and supra-worldly mind that he never had. Hence the first ground is called the Joyful Ground. [On the second ground] he shuns any subtle violations of the precepts. Hence the second ground is called the Taint-Free Ground. [On the third ground] he attains samādhi and acquires dhāraṇīs that enable him to retain the Dharma he has heard, from which his radiant wisdom arises. Hence the third ground is called the Radiant Ground. [On the fourth ground] he uses the elements of bodhi to burn his afflictions because his wisdom is like flames. Hence the fourth ground is called the Flaming Wisdom Ground. [On the fifth ground] he uses skillful means to complete the elements of bodhi and achieves proficiency through extreme difficulties. Hence the fifth ground is called the Hard-to-Conquer Ground. [On the sixth ground] he observes that dharmas are processes, and trains to be aware that dharmas [in true reality] have no appearance, until this reality is revealed to him. Hence the sixth ground is called the Revealing Ground. [On the seventh ground] he can flawlessly and continuously be aware that dharmas have no appearance, as he draws near the next pure ground. Hence the seventh ground is called the Far-Going Ground. [On the eighth ground] because his realization that dharmas have no appearance, he acquires the effortless way and is unmoved by his afflictions. Hence the eighth ground is called the Motionless Ground. [On the ninth ground] he achieves command of expounding the Dharma and acquires faultless, vast wisdom-knowledge. Hence the ninth ground is called the Good Wisdom Ground. [On the tenth ground] his coarse physical body becomes as vast as the open sky, and his dharma body is fully revealed, like an immense cloud that canopies everything. Hence the tenth ground is called the Dharma Cloud Ground. [On the eleventh ground] he ends forever his subtlest afflictions and the final hindrance to wisdom-knowledge [jñeyāvaraṇa], without any attachment or obstacle, and attains anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi, which comes with all wisdom-knowledge. Hence the eleventh ground is called the Buddha Ground.”

Twenty-two Ignorances and Eleven Hindrances

Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva next asked the Buddha, “Training through these grounds, how many ignorances does a Bodhisattva have, and how many hindrances does he remove?”
    The Buddha told Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, “Good man, on these grounds a Bodhisattva removes eleven hindrances comprising twenty-two ignorances. On the first ground, he has two ignorances: (1) fixation that a pudgala [an individual that transmigrates] has self-essence and that a dharma [e.g., any of the five aggregates that make up a person, and any object he perceives or conceives] has self-essence; (2) unawareness of his afflictions that can lead to the evil life-paths. These two are the first hindrance that he removes. On the second ground, he has two ignorances: (1) unawareness of his subtle violations of the precepts; (2) unawareness of various karmic life-journeys. These two are the second hindrance that he removes. On the third ground, he has two ignorances: (1) unawareness of his greed; (2) inability to hear and retain all dhāraṇīs. These two are the third hindrance that he removes. On the fourth ground, he has two ignorances: (1) love of samādhi; (2) love of good dharmas. These two are the fourth hindrance that he removes. On the fifth ground, he has two ignorances: (1) purposely turning away from repeated birth and death; (2) purposely heading for nirvāṇa. These two are the fifth hindrance that he removes. On the sixth ground, he has two ignorances: (1) inability to observe dharmas as causal processes; (2) active perception of the appearances of dharmas. These two are the sixth hindrance that he removes. On the seventh ground, he has two ignorances: (1) unawareness of his subtle mental activities; (2) imperfection in using skillful means to see that dharmas have no appearance. These two are the seventh hindrance that he removes. On the eighth ground, he has two ignorances: (1) making an unneeded effort to see that dharmas have no appearance; (2) being ill at ease with [his perception of] the appearances of dharmas. These two are the eighth hindrance that he removes. On the ninth ground, he has two ignorances: (1) imperfection in his wisdom-knowledge of dharmas, their meanings, and all forms of expression; (2) imperfection in his power of eloquence. These two are the ninth hindrance that he removes. On the tenth ground, he has two ignorances: (1) imperfection in mastering great transcendental powers; (2) imperfection in entering the subtle secrets [of a Buddha]. These two are the tenth hindrance that he removes. On the eleventh ground, he has two ignorances: (1) presence of his subtlest afflictions; (2) presence of the [final] hindrance to wisdom-knowledge. These two are the eleventh hindrance that he removes.6
    “Good man, these grounds are different because of these twenty-two ignorances, which make up eleven hindrances. Attaining anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi frees one from these fetters.”
    Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva said to the Buddha, “World-Honored One, anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi, wondrous and rare, is a great fruit and brings great benefits. It inspires Bodhisattvas to destroy the web of ignorance, cross the forest of hindrances, and attain anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi.”

A Bodhisattva’s Eight Purities

Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva next asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, how many purities, upon which these grounds are established, does a Bodhisattva have?”
    The Buddha told Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, “Good man, in brief, he has eight purities: (1) purity of higher aspiration, (2) purity of mind, (3) purity of compassion, (4) purity of practicing the pāramitās, (5) purity of attending Buddhas and making offerings to Them, (6) purity of bringing sentient beings to [spiritual] maturity, (7) purity of rebirth, and (8) purity of superb virtues.
    “Good man, on the first ground, a Bodhisattva has all these eight purities, from higher aspiration to superb virtues. They become purer on higher grounds, purer on each ground than on its preceding ground. On the Buddha Ground, purity of rebirth no longer applies. Moreover, the virtues of the first ground are present on all higher grounds. Know that although the virtues of each ground are superb, they are surpassed by those of higher grounds. Only the virtues of the Buddha Ground are unsurpassed.”

A Bodhisattva’s Excellent Rebirths and Excellent Vows

Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva next asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, why do You say that the rebirths of a Bodhisattva in the Three Realms of Existence are excellent?”
    The Buddha told Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, “Good man, there are four reasons: (1) he is reborn from his pure roots of goodness; (2) his is reborn through the power of his purposeful choice; (3) out of his compassion, he is reborn to deliver sentient beings; (4) he is reborn without taints, to remove others’ taints.”
    Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva next asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, why do You say that a Bodhisattva makes great vows, wonderful vows, and excellent vows?7
    The Buddha told Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, “Good man, there are four reasons: (1) he knows well the bliss of nirvāṇa and can quickly enter nirvāṇa; (2) he chooses not to enter the bliss of nirvāṇa; (3) he makes great vows [to deliver sentient beings] without conditions or expectations of returns; (4) he undergoes all kinds of tremendous suffering for a long time in order to benefit sentient beings. Therefore, I say that a Bodhisattva makes and honors great vows, wondrous vows, and excellent vows.”

The Six Pāramitās Encompassed in the Three Learnings

Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva next asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, what things should a Bodhisattva practice?”
    The Buddha told Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, “Good man, to cross over to the opposite shore, a Bodhisattva should practice six things [the six pāramitās]: (1) almsgiving, (2) observance of precepts, (3) endurance of adversity, (4) energetic progress, (5) meditation, and (4) development of wisdom.”
    Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva next asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, of these six pāramitās a Bodhisattva should practice, which are encompassed in the learning in higher precepts [adhiśīla-śikṣā]? Which are encompassed in the learning in higher mind [adhiprajñā-śikṣā]? Which are encompassed in the learning in higher wisdom [adhiprajñā-śikṣā]?”
    The Buddha told Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, “Good man, know that the first three pāramitās are encompassed in the learning in higher precepts. The fifth pāramitā, meditation, is encompassed in the learning in higher mind. The sixth pāramitā, development of wisdom, is encompassed in the learning in higher wisdom. The fourth pāramitā, energetic progress, is encompassed in all the Three Learnings.”
    Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva next asked the Buddha, “Of these six pāramitās, which are encompassed in accumulating merit as provisions [for his spiritual journey to Buddhahood]? Which are encompassed in developing wisdom as provisions?”
    The Buddha told Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, “Good man, the first three pāramitās, which are encompassed in the learning in higher precepts, are encompassed in accumulating merit as provisions. The sixth pāramitā, which is encompassed in the learning in higher wisdom, is encompassed in developing wisdom as provisions. The fourth pāramitā and the fifth pāramitā are encompassed in both accumulating merit and developing wisdom as provisions.”

How and Why to Practice the Six Pāramitās

Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva next asked the Buddha, “How should a Bodhisattva practice these six things?”
    The Buddha told Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, “Good man, he should practice them in five ways in accord with them. First, he should begin with strong faith in and understanding of the true teachings on the pāramitās, contained in the Bodhisattva-piṭaka.8 Second, he should do the ten Dharma practices energetically, using wisdom acquired from hearing and pondering the Dharma. Third, he should follow and protect the bodhi mind. Fourth, he should stay close to beneficent learned friends. Fifth, he should diligently do good dharmas without interruption.”
    Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva next asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, why are these things to be practiced six in number?”
    The Buddha told Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, “Good man, there are two reasons: (1) to benefit sentient beings and (2) to remedy his afflictions. Know that the first three pāramitās benefit sentient beings, and the last three remedy his afflictions. Why do the first three pāramitās benefit sentient beings? A Bodhisattva benefits sentient beings (1) because he gives away life-supporting things as alms, as he practices almsgiving; (2) because he does not harm, persecute, or distress sentient beings, as he observes the precepts; (3) because he endures harm, persecution, and distress, as he cultivates endurance of adversity.
    “Why do the last three pāramitās remedy his afflictions? Because a Bodhisattva makes energetic progress, though he has neither forever subdued all his afflictions nor forever ended all his dormant afflictions, he boldly does good dharmas, and his afflictions cannot undermine his practice. Because he practices meditation, he forever subdues his afflictions. Because he develops wisdom [prajñā], he forever ends his dormant afflictions.”

The Four Additional Pāramitās

Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva next asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, why are there four additional pāramitās?”
    The Buddha told Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, “The four additional pāramitās support the six pāramitās. As the first three of the six pāramitās draw in sentient beings, the skillful-means pāramitā supports such good work. Hence I say that the skillful-means pāramitā [upāya-pāramitā] supports the first three pāramitās.
    “If a Bodhisattva has many afflictions, he cannot train continuously. If he has low aspiration and appreciates an existence in the low realm [the desire realm], he cannot meditate. If he cannot hear and ponder the teachings contained in the Bodhisattva-piṭaka, and cannot train accordingly, his meditation cannot activate supra-worldly wisdom. Nevertheless, as he accumulates limited merit as provisions, he earnestly wishes to have lighter afflictions in future lives. Hence I say that the earnest-wish pāramitā [praṇidhāna-pāramitā] supports the progress pāramitā.
    “If a Bodhisattva stays close to beneficent friends, and hears and ponders the true Dharma, he thus turns his low aspiration into high aspiration and aspires to an existence in the high realm [the form realm or the formless realm]. This is called the power pāramitā, which empowers him to meditate. Hence I say that the power pāramitā [bala-pāramitā] supports the meditation pāramitā.
    “If a Bodhisattva can do good training based on the teachings he has heard, which are contained in the Bodhisattva-piṭaka, he can meditate. This is called the wisdom-knowledge pāramitā, which can bring out supra-worldly wisdom.9 Hence I say that the wisdom-knowledge pāramitā [jñāna-pāramitā] supports the wisdom pāramitā.”

The Order of the Six Pāramitās and Their Contents

Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva next asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, why are the six pāramitās given in this order?”
    The Buddha told Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, “Good man, because each pāramitā leads to the next. If a Bodhisattva is not attached to his body and wealth, he can accept the precepts and observe them with purity. To protect [the purity of] the precepts, he can endure adversity. Enduring adversity, he can make energetic progress. Making energetic progress, he can meditate. Through meditation, he acquires supra-worldly wisdom. Hence I present the six pāramitās in this order.”
    Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva next asked the Buddha, “world-Honored One, what is the content of each of the six pāramitās?”
    The Buddha told Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, “Good man, there are three kinds of almsgiving: (1) giving the Dharma as alms; (2) giving material things as alms; (3) giving fearlessness as alms. There are three kinds of precepts: (1) precepts against evildoing; (2) precepts for doing good dharmas; (3) precepts for benefiting sentient beings. There are three kinds of endurance: (1) endurance of harm; (2) endurance of suffering; (3) endurance in observing dharmas. There are three kinds of energetic progress: (1) energetic progress in training like that made by an armored warrior; (2) energetic progress in doing good dharmas; (3) energetic progress in benefiting sentient beings. There are three kinds of meditation: (1) quiet and faultless meditation that, without differentiation, remedies one’s afflictions and perceptions of pleasure or pain; (2) meditation that activates one’s virtues; (3) meditation that inspires one to benefit sentient beings. There are three kinds of wisdom: (1) wisdom arising from the worldly truths; (3) wisdom arising from the highest truth; (3) wisdom developed from benefiting sentient beings.”

The Five Conditions for Purity in Practicing the Pāramitās

Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva next asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, why are the pāramitās called pāramitās?”
    The Buddha told Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, “Good man, [for any pāramitā he practices to be called a pāramitā] a Bodhisattva must satisfy five conditions: (1) no taint, (2) no expectation,10 (3) no fault, (4) no differentiation, and (5) proper transference of merit. He has no taint because he shuns things that go against the pāramitās. He has no expectation because he expects neither good requitals for his practice nor return of his kindness. He has no fault because he shuns adulteration of any pāramitā and avoids unskillful practices. He makes no differentiation [between the pāramitās] because he does not take their names as their distinctions. He properly transfers his merit of practicing any pāramitā because he transfers it to his achieving the unsurpassed great bodhi fruit.”
    “World-Honored One, what are the things that go against a Bodhisattva’s practice of the pāramitās?”
    “Good man, in brief, there are six things: (1) seeing virtue and success in his command of wealth and desire objects; (2) seeing virtue and success in his seeking pleasure for his body, voice, and mind; (3) seeing virtue and success in his intolerance of others’ contempt for him; (4) seeing virtue and success in his indolence in training and his captivation by pleasures; (5) seeing virtue and success in his involvement in worldly chaotic activities; (6) seeing virtue and success in his command of words and his perceptions through seeing, hearing, touching, and knowing.”
    “World-Honored One, what are a Bodhisattva’s karmic requitals for practicing the pāramitās?”
    “Good man, in brief, he will receive six requitals: (1) amassing wealth, (2) being reborn to make a good life-journey, (3) having no enemies but many joys, (4) becoming a leader of sentient beings, (5) having no harm come to him, and (6) belonging to a great clan.”
    “World-Honored One, what is meant by adulteration of a pāramitā?”
    “Good man, it is caused by [any of these] four practices: (1) practice without compassion, (2) biased practice, (3) infrequent practice, and (4) unserious practice. Biased practice of a pāramitā means neglecting other pāramitās.”
    “World-Honored One, what is meant by unskillful practices?”
    “Good man, when a Bodhisattva practices a pāramitā to benefit sentient beings, if he is satisfied with only giving them material things but fails to move them from an evil place to a good place, it is called an unskillful practice. Why? Because doing only that one thing for sentient beings is not of true benefit to them. As an analogy, filthy feces, much or little, can never become pure and fragrant. Sentient beings experience change in every process, which by nature is suffering. Giving them material things provides only a temporary benefit. Only settling them in the wondrous Dharma can bring them happiness. This is called the foremost benefit.”

Features of Purity in Practicing the Pāramitās

Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva next asked the Buddha. “What are the features of purity in one’s practice of the pāramitās?”
    The Buddha told Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, “I never say that practicing the pāramitās without meeting the five conditions mentioned earlier can be pure. Now, I will reveal some general and particular features of purity in one’s practice of the pāramitās.
    “There are seven general features of purity in a Bodhisattva’s practice of the pāramitās. What are these seven? First, he never seeks to let others know his practice [in order to win their worship or offerings]. Second, he is never fixated upon his practice [as something extraordinary]. Third, he never doubts that his practice will lead to his attaining the great bodhi. Fourth, he neither praises himself nor criticizes others out of contempt. Fifth, he is neither proud nor arrogant, nor does he abandon self-restraint. Sixth, he is never complacent about a little achievement. Seventh, he is never jealous of others, or stingy.
    “In addition, there are seven features of purity in a Bodhisattva’s practice of each pāramitā. In his practice of the almsgiving pāramitā [dāna-pāramitā], a Bodhisattva should train to have these seven features of purity. First, he gives pure alms. Second, he observes the precepts with purity. Third, he holds the pure views. Fourth, he purifies his mind. Fifth, he purifies his voice. Sixth, he purifies his knowledge. Seventh, he purifies his afflictions. These are the seven pure features of almsgiving.
    “In his practice of the precept pāramitā [śīla-pāramitā], a Bodhisattva should train to have these seven features of purity. First, he knows what he should learn about the instituted regulations. Second, he knows how to be absolved of the sin of violating a precept. Third, he observes the precepts faithfully. Fourth, he observes the precepts resolutely. Fifth, he observes the precepts flawlessly. Sixth, he observes the precepts endlessly. Seventh, he learns all aspects of the precepts. These are the seven pure features of observance of precepts.
    “In his practice of the endurance pāramitā [kṣānti-pāramitā], a Bodhisattva should train to have these seven features of purity. First, having deep belief that the requital for one’s karma is like a ripened fruit, he is not angered by unpleasant things happening to him. Second, he does not, out of anger, scold, beat, terrify, or manipulate others, harming instead of benefiting them. Third, he does not hold any grudge. Fourth, he accepts admonition and does not distress its giver. Fifth, he apologizes even before he is reproached. Sixth, he endures adversity, not out of fear or impure love [of another]. Seventh, he gives alms without any ulterior motive. These are the seven pure features of endurance of adversity.
    “In his practice of the progress pāramitā [vīrya-pāramitā], a Bodhisattva should train to have these seven features of purity. First, he has full understanding of the equality of progresses. Second, he never exalts himself or degrades others because of his energetic progress. Third, he makes powerful progress. Fourth, he makes persistent progress. Fifth, he makes unwavering progress. Sixth, he makes solid and bold progress. Seventh, he never abandons his commitment to doing good dharmas. These are the seven pure features of energetic progress.
    “In his practice of the meditation pāramitā [dhyāna-pāramitā], a Bodhisattva should train to have these seven features of purity. He practices meditation (1) to attain samādhi through penetrating the appearances of dharmas, (2) to attain samādhi through abiding in true suchness, (3) to attain samādhi through understanding both the relative truths and the absolute truth, (4) to attain samādhi through aspiration, (5) to attain samādhi without relying on anything, (6) to attain samādhi through remediation, and (7) to attain innumerable samādhis through hearing and pondering the teachings contained in the Bodhisattva-piṭaka. These are the seven pure appearances of meditation.
    “In his practice of the wisdom pāramitā [prajñā-pāramitā], a Bodhisattva should train to have these seven features of purity. First, if he transcends [his perception of] increase and decrease as opposites, and walks the Middle Way, it is called wisdom. Second, with this wisdom, he truly understands the meanings of the Three Liberation Doors: emptiness, no appearance, and no wish. Third, he truly understands the three natures of dharmas: the imagined [parikalpita], the other-dependent [paratantra], and the perfectly completed [pariniṣpanna].11 Fourth, he truly understands that all dharmas have no self-essence, i.e., for every dharma, there is no self-essence in its appearance, its birth, and its nature. Fifth, he truly knows the meanings of the worldly truths revealed through the five studies. Sixth, he truly knows the meaning of the absolute truth as revealed by the seven kinds of true suchness.12 Free from differentiation and wrong theories, he abides in true suchness, knows that all wisdom-knowledge arises from true suchness, and practices vipaśyanā [correct observation] to develop wisdom. Seventh, he excels in training in accord with the Dharma. These are the seven pure features of development of wisdom.”

The Five Conditions for Purity Lead to Five Good Karmas

Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva next asked the Buddha, “What karmas are led to by each of the five conditions13 for purity in one’s practice?”
    The Buddha told Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, “Good man, know that these five conditions lead to five corresponding karmas. First, because a Bodhisattva has no taint, he can practice the pāramitās with persistence, diligence, and reverence, never abandoning self-restraint. Second, because he has no expectation [for good requitals or return of his kindness], he can exercise self-restraint in the future. Third, because he has no fault, he can correctly practice the exceedingly perfect, pure, and beneficial pāramitās. Fourth, because he makes no differentiation [between the pāramitās], he can quickly complete his practice of the pāramitās. Fifth, because he properly transfers his merit, he can continue to practice the pāramitās in all future lives and acquire endless enjoyable karmic requitals until he attains the unsurpassed bodhi.”
    Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva next asked the Buddha, “Of the five conditions for purity in one’s practice of the pāramitās, which are the greatest, and which are taint free? What [practice] is the most radiant, what [attainment] is unshakable, and what [cause] is the purest?”
    The Buddha told Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, “No taint, no expectation, and proper transference of merit are the greatest. No fault and no differentiation are taint free. A Bodhisattva’s well-considered practice of the pāramitās is the most radiant. Entering the ground of no regress is unshakable. The Ten Grounds, which lead to the Buddha Ground, are the purest.”

The Pāramitās and Their Good Requitals Have No End

Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva next asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, why do the pāramitās have no end, and why do the enjoyable fruits received by a Bodhisattva as requital for his practice of the pāramitās have no end as well?”
    The Buddha told Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, “Good man, it is because the practice of one pāramitā leads to another, which in turn leads to another, in an uninterrupted process. As the causes continue successively, so too do the wonderful effects.”
    Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva next asked the Buddha, “Why do Bodhisattvas have deep faith in the pāramitās and delight in practicing them, but do not value the enjoyable requitals for their practice?”
    The Buddha told Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, “Good man, there are five reasons: (1) the pāramitās are the cause of higher joy; (2) the pāramitās are the cause of the ultimate way to benefit self and others; (3) the pāramitās are the cause of enjoyable karmic requitals in one’s future lives; (4) the pāramitās are not the base of one’s afflictions; (5) the pāramitās will never end.

The Superb Virtues of the Pāramitās

Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva next asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, what superb virtues do the pāramitās have?”
    The Buddha told Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, “Each pāramitā has four superb virtues. A Bodhisattva’s practice of any pāramitā enables him (1) to abandon his stinginess, anger, indolence, the precept-violating mind, the chaotic mind, and the wrong views; (2) to acquire the true provisions for attaining anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi; (3) to benefit sentient beings in his present life; (4) to receive in his future lives endless enjoyable fruits as requital [for his practice].”
    Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva next asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, what are the cause and effect of practicing the pāramitās, and what is its significance?”
    The Buddha told Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, “Good man, great compassion is the cause of practicing the pāramitās, receiving enjoyable karmic fruit and benefiting all sentient beings are its effect, and attaining the unsurpassed bodhi is its great significance.”
    Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva next asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, if Bodhisattvas own inexhaustible wealth and treasures, and have great compassion, why are there sentient beings in poverty and suffering?”
    The Buddha told Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, “Good man, it is caused by sentient beings’ karmas. Given that Bodhisattvas own inexhaustible wealth and treasures, and always intend to benefit others, if sentient beings had no karma hindrances,14 how could there be poverty and suffering in the world? For example, hungry ghosts are distressed by heat and thirst. However, when they see the water in the immense sea, the water dries up. It is not the fault of the sea, but the fault of their karmas. Similarly, Bodhisattvas who have wealth and treasures to give to sentient beings have no fault because they are like the immense sea.15 The fault lies in sentient beings’ karmas, like the hungry ghosts’ evil karmas bringing themselves evil requitals.”

Practicing the Wisdom Pāramitā

Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva next asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, which pāramitā should a Bodhisattva practice in order to grasp that all dharmas have no self-essence?”
    The Buddha told Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, “Good man, he should practice prajñā-pāramitā, the wisdom pāramitā, to grasp that all dharmas have no self-essence.”
    “World-Honored One, if practicing prajñā-pāramitā enables him to grasp that dharmas have no self-essence, why does it not enable him to grasp that they do have self-essence?”
    “Good man, I never say that [dharmas having] no self-essence is revealed by the words “no self-essence” because the wisdom-knowledge that dharmas have no self-essence is beyond words, but acquired through one’s self-realization. However, I use words to impart it. Hence I say that practicing prajñā-pāramitā enables one to grasp that dharmas have no self-essence.”

The Three Levels of the Pāramitās

Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva next asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, You say that there are pāramitās, nearing-bodhi pāramitās, and great pāramitās. What are their meanings?”
    The Buddha told Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, “Good man, a Bodhisattva practices the pāramitās, such as the almsgiving pāramitā, for an immeasurable duration [the first asaṁkhyeya kalpa]. He accomplishes good dharmas, but his afflictions are still active. He cannot overcome them, but is overcome by them. Abiding on the training ground for excellent understanding, he trains with his weak or middling understanding. The pāramitās he practices are called pāramitās.
    “Then he enhances his practice of the pāramitās, such as the almsgiving pāramitā, for an immeasurable duration [the second asaṁkhyeya kalpa]. Abiding on the first through seventh grounds, he accomplishes good dharmas, but his afflictions are still active. However, he can overcome them, and is not overcome by them. The pāramitās he practices are called nearing-bodhi pāramitās.
    “Then he further enhances his practice of the pāramitās, such as the almsgiving pāramitā, for an immeasurable duration [the third asaṁkhyeya kalpa]. Abiding on the eighth and higher grounds, he accomplishes good dharmas, and his afflictions are no longer active. The pāramitās he practices are called great pāramitās.”

A Bodhisattva’s Dormant Afflictions

Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva next asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, for a Bodhisattva progressing through the Ten Grounds, how many kinds of dormant afflictions does he have?”
    The Buddha told Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, “Good man, in brief, he has three kinds of dormant afflictions: (1) eliminated companion dormant afflictions, (2) weak dormant afflictions, and (3) subtle dormant afflictions. Good man, afflictions that are not inborn are companions of inborn afflictions. On the first five grounds, such dormant afflictions are no more, so they are called eliminated companion afflictions. On the sixth and seventh grounds, he has weak dormant afflictions, which may be active in a subtle way but can be overcome. On the eighth and higher grounds, he has subtle dormant afflictions, as all other dormant afflictions are no longer active. However, [jñeyāvaraṇa] the hindrances to wisdom-knowledge still remain.”
    Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva next asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, these dormant afflictions are revealed by ending how many kinds of coarse afflictions?”
    The Buddha told Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, “Good man, there are two kinds. First, ending coarse afflictions, like removing the top layer of skin, exposes the eliminated companion dormant afflictions and the weak dormant afflictions. Second, ending coarse afflictions, like removing the under layer of skin, exposes the subtle dormant afflictions. I say that ending coarse afflictions, like removing the bone, means forever leaving behind all dormant afflictions. This state is the Buddha Ground.”
    Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva next asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, after how many kalpas can one end such coarse afflictions?”
    The Buddha told Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, “Good man, after three asaṁkhyeya kalpas, or after uncountable kalpas comprising uncountable years, months, half-months, days and nights, four-hour periods, half-periods, moments, instants, or kṣaṇas [nanoseconds].”
    Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva next asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, what are the appearances, faults, and merits of the afflictions of a Bodhisattva training through the Ten Grounds?”
    The Buddha told Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, “Good man, his afflictions have no appearance of taints. Why? Because even on the first ground, a Bodhisattva definitely knows all dharmas in the dharma realm. Therefore, he is aware of the arising of his afflictions, not unaware. Then his afflictions have no appearance of taints. Untainted by afflictions, he has no pain. Then his afflictions have no fault. The [purposeful] arising of his afflictions is the cause of ending sentient beings’ suffering.16 Therefore, his afflictions have immeasurable merit.”
    Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva said to the Buddha, “World-Honored One, it is amazing that the unsurpassed bodhi has such great virtues and benefits. Even the afflictions of a Bodhisattva [on any of the Ten Grounds] surpass the roots of goodness of all sentient beings, voice-hearers, and Pratyekabuddas, much more do his immeasurable merits.”

The Voice-Hearer Vehicle and the Great Vehicle Are One Vehicle

Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva next asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, You say that the Voice-Hearer Vehicle and the Great Vehicle [Mahāyāna] are but one vehicle. What is the secret meaning of Your words?”
    The Buddha told Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, “Good man, I teach to riders of the Voice-Hearer Vehicle various dharmas with distinctive natures, such as the five aggregates, the six internal fields [six faculties], and the six external fields [six corresponding sense objects].17 To riders of the Mahāyāna, I say that these dharmas are in the same dharma realm and are based on the same principle [true suchness]. I do not discuss the differences between vehicles, lest the foolish should misinterpret my words, upgrade one vehicle and downgrade another, or argue that the principles of different vehicles contradict each other,18 causing dispute as they relay [their argument] from one person to a second, from a second to a third, etc. This is the secret meaning of my words.”
    Then, to restate His meaning, the World-Honored One spoke in verse:

Training through the Ten Grounds, a Bodhisattva remedies his deficiencies.
His rebirths and vows are excellent, and he practices the essential things [the pāramitās].
Riding the Mahāyāna according to the Buddha’s words,
He excels in training and attains great enlightenment.

I pronounce that dharmas have different natures,
Then I say that they are based on the same principle.
Whether a low-grade vehicle or a high-grade vehicle,
I say that they are no different in principle.

If one misinterprets my words,
Upgrading one vehicle and downgrading another,
Or argues that their principles contradict each other,
Such deluded understanding leads to dispute.

Then Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, what is the name of this teaching that opens the Dharma Door of the unraveled profound secret? How should I uphold it?”
    The Buddha told Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, “Good man, this teaching is called the definitive teaching on the grounds and the pāramitās. You should uphold it as such.”
    When the Buddha gave this definitive teaching on the grounds and the pāramitās, 75,000 Bodhisattvas in this huge assembly attained the Samādhi of Mahāyāna Radiance.

Sūtra of the Profound Secret Unraveled, fascicle 4
Translated from the digital Chinese Canon (T16n0676)


Notes

    1. Precepts, meditation, and wisdom are the subjects of the Three Learnings on one’s Way to Buddhahood. They are also called (1) the learning in higher precepts [adhiśīla-śikṣa], (2) the learning in higher mind [adhicitta-śikṣa], and (3) the learning in higher wisdom [adhiprajñā-śikṣa] (Rulu 2012c, 5). (Return to text)
    2. A Bodhisattva at any of the ten levels of abiding, the ten levels of action, or the ten levels of transference of merit is abiding on the training ground for excellent understanding (勝解行地). (Return to text)
    3. According to text 1600, the ten Dharma practices are (1) copying texts on the Dharma, (2) making offerings to them, (3) giving them to others, (4) listening to recitations of such texts, (5) studying them, (6) accepting and upholding them, (7) expounding their meanings, (8) reciting them, (9) pondering their meanings, and (10) training accordingly (T31n1600, 0474b24–27). Text 1600 is the Chinese version of the Commentary on the Treatise on the Middle versus the Opposites (Madhyānta-vibhāga-tīkā), written by Vasubandhu (世親, circa 320–80) and translated from Sanskrit in the Tang Dynasty (618–907) by Xuanzang (玄奘, 600– or 602–64) from China. (Return to text)
    4. See Thirty-seven Elements of Bodhi in the glossary. (Return to text)
    5. According to text 1485, the Chinese version of the Sūtra of the Garland of a Bodhisattva’s Primary Karmas, there are twelve holy grounds. A holy Bodhisattva completes his final training on the eleventh ground, the Stainless Ground, and his enlightenment virtually equals a Buddha’s. He becomes a Buddha on the twelfth ground, the Buddha Ground, and does Buddha work, benefiting all sentient beings (T24n1485, 1018a29–b13). (Return to text)
    6. In text 676, fascicle 3, chapter 6, the Buddha teaches that the practice of śamatha (meditative concentration) and vipaśyanā (correct observation) removes all these hindrances on the eleven grounds (T16n0676, 0702a1–13). (Return to text)
    7. A Bodhisattva makes great vows to deliver all sentient beings, wondrous vows to attain Buddhahood, and excellent vows, which are superior to those made by riders of the Two Vehicles. (Return to text)
    8. The Bodhisattva-piṭaka means a collection of texts of Mahāyāna teachings. In the Chinese Buddhist Canon, both Hīnayāna teachings and Mahāyāna teachings are contained in the three collections of texts: (1) the Sūtra-piṭaka, discourses of the Buddha; (2) the Vinaya-piṭaka, rules of conduct; (3) the Abhidharma-piṭaka, treatises on the Dharma. (Return to text)
    9. One’s supra-worldly wisdom, or the root wisdom, also brings out wisdom-knowledge. (Return to text)
    10. Text 676 states “no attachment.” Here, the English translation “no expectation” is based on text 675 (T16n0675, 0682b11–12). Text 675 is the earlier Chinese version of this sūtra, translated from Sanskrit in the Northern Wei Dynasty (386–534) by Bodhiruci (菩提留支, 5th–6th centuries) from India. (Return to text)
    11. In text 676, fascicle 2, chapter 4, the Buddha explains that the imagined nature of a dharma is established on its name, the other-dependent nature of a dharma pertains to its dependent arising, and the perfectly completed nature of a dharma is true suchness (T16n0676, 0693a15–25). (Return to text)
    12. Seven kinds of true suchness are given in text 676, fascicle 3, chapter 6. They are (1) true suchness of change [pravṛtti-tathātā], which means the true nature of all processes; (2) true suchness of appearances [lakṣaṇa-tathātā], which means that the true nature of sentient beings and dharmas is no self; (3) true suchness of perception [vijñapti-tathātā], which means that the true nature of all [perceived] processes is the mind; (4) true suchness of the base [saṁniveśa-tathātā], which refers to the true nature of suffering, the first noble truth; (5) true suchness of the wrong action [mithyā-pratipatti-tathātā], which refers to the true nature of accumulation of afflictions, the second noble truth; (6) true suchness of purification [śuddhi-tathātā], which refers the true nature of cessation of suffering, the third noble truth; (7) true suchness of the right action [samyak-pratipatti-tathātā], which refers to the true nature of the path, the fourth noble truth (T16n0676, 0699c17–25). (Return to text)
    13. Text 676 states “five features” in this passage, but “five conditions” in an earlier passage. Here, “five conditions” is used for consistency. (Return to text)
    14. See “three kinds of hindrances” in the glossary. (Return to text)
    15. According to text 676, the wealth and treasures given to sentient beings are like the immense sea (T17n0676, 0707b14–15). Here, the English translation is based on text 675 (T16n0675, 0685a14–17). (Return to text)
    16. Out of compassion, a holy Bodhisattva uses his love of being, which is an affliction, as a skillful means to be reborn in the Three Realms of Existence, to deliver sentient beings. (Return to text)
    17. See “twelve fields” in the glossary. (Return to text)
    18. Although only the Voice-Hearer Vehicle and the Great Vehicle are mentioned in this passage, there is a third vehicle, the Pratyekabuddha Vehicle. (Return to text)


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