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Sūtra 53 (posted 12/2015, updated 02/2017)  Book information on Home page
fascicle 1  fascicle 2

Sūtra of the Vajra Samādhi

Translated from Sanskrit into Chinese in the Northern Liang Dynasty
An Unknown Person

Fascicle 2 (of 2)

Chapter 6 – Dharma Nature Is Emptiness

Then Śāriputra said to the Buddha, “World-Honored One, trainings on the Bodhisattva Way have neither names nor appearances. Then the three clusters of Bodhisattva precepts have no descriptions. How can one accept them and explain them to sentient beings? I pray that the Buddha, out of lovingkindness and compassion, will explain to me.”
    The Buddha said, “Good man, hearken. I will explain to you. Good man, good and evil dharmas are manifested by one’s mind. All one’s perceptions of objects are differentiations made by one’s consciousnesses and words. If one sets one’s mind in one place, then one’s perceptions of various objects will not arise. Why? Because, good man, as one’s inherent awareness never arises, the three clusters of Bodhisattva precepts have no use. [As one’s mind] abides in true suchness [bhūta-tathātā], the doors of the six life-paths shut, and the four conditions accord with true suchness and encompass the three clusters of Bodhisattva precepts.”
    Śāriputra asked, “What is meant by ‘the four conditions accord with true suchness and encompass the three clusters of Bodhisattva precepts’?”
    The Buddha answered, “The four conditions are as follows: (1) the power of choosing to end one’s evil actions is the condition for observing the restraining precepts; (2) the power of the benefits of one’s inherent awareness gathered by one’s pure faculties is the condition for observing the precepts for doing good dharmas; (3) the power of one’s innate wisdom and great compassion is the condition for observing the precepts for benefiting sentient beings; (4) the power of wisdom arising from one’s inherent awareness is the condition that accords with true suchness. These are the four conditions.[1]
    “Bodhisattva, the power of these four conditions does not abide in anything’s appearances but has its usefulness. However, one cannot acquire it if one fails to set one’s mind in one place. Good man, one’s inherent awareness is the one thing that encompasses the six stages of training and is Buddha bodhi, which is an ocean of wisdom.”
    Śāriputra said, “[This power] does not abide in anything’s appearances but has its usefulness [because one’s inherent awareness is] absolute emptiness and has the four virtues: eternity, bliss, a true self, and purity.[2] It is free from the two wrong views (1) that a person has a self and (2) that a dharma has a self. It is the great nirvāṇa but has no attachment to it. According to one’s direct observation, one’s inherent awareness must encompass the Thirty-seven Elements of Bodhi.”
    The Buddha said, “Indeed. It encompasses the Thirty-seven Elements of Bodhi: (a) Four Abidings of Mindfulness, (b) Four Right Endeavors, (c) Four Ways to Attain Samādhi, (d) Five Roots, (e) Five Powers, (f) Seven Bodhi Factors, and (g) Eightfold Right Path.[3] As these thirty-seven elements with different names have only one meaning, they are neither the same nor different. Their names and numbers are mere words, which cannot capture their true meaning. This one meaning that cannot be captured has no words and no appearances because it is emptiness, which means true suchness. The principle of true suchness encompasses all dharmas. Good man, whoever abides in this principle will cross the ocean of the three kinds of suffering.[4]
    Śāriputra asked, “All dharmas are described by words, whose appearances are not the true meaning. If the true meaning of a dharma is indescribable by words, how does the Tathāgata expound the Dharma?”
    The Buddha answered, “I expound the Dharma because you sentient beings use speech in your lives. I expound the Dharma to express what is ineffable. What I say is the true meaning, not mere words. What sentient beings say is mere words, not the true meaning. Speech that does not reveal the true meaning is void, and void words have no meaning. Speech devoid of meaning is false speech. Speech in accord with the meaning of true suchness is apart from opposite appearances, such as empty and not empty, or real and unreal, and does not abide in the middle. Not abiding in a dharma’s three appearances[5] [arising, continuing, and ending], it abides nowhere. Speech in accord with the meaning of true suchness reveals that true suchness abides in neither existence nor nonexistence. Such is a description of true suchness.”
    Śāriputra asked, “To reach a Tathāgata’s state and attain a Tathāgata’s reality, starting with an icchantika’s mind, through what steps should all sentient beings develop?”
    The Buddha answered, “For an icchantika’s mind to reach a Tathāgata’s state and attain a Tathāgata’s reality, he should develop through five steps. The first step is belief. Belief means that one should believe that the seed of true suchness in one’s body is shrouded by one’s false mind. By discarding one’s false mind, one’s pure mind reveals its purity, and one knows that one’s perceptions of objects are differentiations made by one’s consciousnesses and words. The second step is pondering. Pondering means that one should observe that one’s perceptions of objects are displays of differentiations made by one’s consciousnesses and words, and that one’s perceptions are not one’s root consciousness [ālaya consciousness], which is neither a mental object nor its meaning, neither a grasper nor an object grasped. The third step is training. Training means that one can activate the bodhi mind and let it constantly arise. As the arising of the bodhi mind and one’s training are concurrent, one should be guided by wisdom to eliminate hindrances and difficulties and free oneself from the fetters of one’s mental coverings.[6] The fourth step is completion of training. Completion of training means that one leaves all training grounds because one’s mind is free from accepting and rejecting, one’s faculties are extremely pure and keen, and one’s mind in its true nature, in great nirvāṇa, and in absolute emptiness, is motionless. The fifth step is relinquishment. Relinquishment means that one does not abide in emptiness because one’s true wisdom is revealed. One’s great compassion is an appearance of true suchness but does not abide in true suchness. Although one does not attain anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi, one’s mind is boundless, has no place, and has reached a Tathāgata’s state. Good man, these five steps are the benefits of one’s inherent awareness. When one transforms sentient beings, one should start from their own place [inherent awareness].”
    Śāriputra asked, “What is meant by starting from their own place?”
    The Buddha answered, “[One’s inherent awareness] has no origin and no place. Realizing that it is emptiness, one enters the true reality of dharmas, activates the bodhi mind, and completes the holy path. Why? Because, good man, holding empty space in one’s fist is neither attainment nor no attainment.”
    Śāriputra said, “As the World-Honored One says, before one does anything, one should use the benefits of one’s inherent awareness to see that one’s thoughts are in nirvāṇa, which is true suchness. It encompasses all virtues and all dharmas in a perfect fusion. It is inconceivable. Know that one’s inherent awareness is mahā-prajñā-pāramitā [the great wisdom pāramitā], which is the great spiritual mantra, the great illumination mantra, the unsurpassed mantra, and the unequaled mantra.[7]
    The Buddha said, “Indeed, indeed. True suchness is the emptiness of dharma nature [dharmatā]. One’s realization of this emptiness is the wisdom fire that burns away one’s afflictions. Then one will realize that all dharmas are equal [in their emptiness]. And one will complete the three grounds of virtually perfect enlightenment[8] and acquire the three bodies of perfect enlightenment [three bodies of a Buddha], because one has entered one’s ninth consciousness [amala consciousness], which is bright and pure, free from one’s making mental projections.
    “Good man, this dharma [one’s inherent awareness] is neither a cause nor a condition because its wisdom naturally arises. It is neither moving nor motionless because its nature is emptiness. It is neither existent nor nonexistent because the appearance of emptiness is empty. Good man, when you transform sentient beings, have them study this meaning. Whoever fathoms this meaning sees a Tathāgata.”
    Śāriputra said, “To study this meaning revealed by the Tathāgata, one should not abide in the flows [of afflictions, wrong views, and ignorance],[9] but should leave the four dhyānas and transcend Akaniṣṭha Heaven, the top heaven in the form realm.”
    The Buddha said, “Indeed. Why? Because all dharmas, including the four dhyānas, are described by names and numbers. To see a Tathāgata is to realize that one’s Tathāgata mind is hindrance free and constantly in nirvāṇa, neither entering nor exiting anything, because [one’s mind] inside and [objects perceived as] outside are equal [in their emptiness].
    “Good man, the four dhyānas are meditations on the appearance of emptiness, but observing true suchness is not like them. Why? Because if one uses true suchness to observe true suchness, one can find neither an observer nor an object observed, for the appearance of true suchness is in nirvāṇa. Nirvāṇa means true suchness.
    “Meditations on the appearance of emptiness imply motion, which is not dhyāna. Why? Because the nature of dhyāna is no motion. It neither taints nor is tainted, is neither a mental object nor a mental projection, and is apart from making differentiations, because it is a benefit of one’s inherent awareness. Good man, doing meditation according to this observation is called dhyāna.”
    Śāriputra asked, “Inconceivable! The Tathāgata always uses the meaning of true suchness to transform sentient beings, which contains many words and broad meanings. While those with a keen capacity can train accordingly, those with a dull capacity find it hard to comprehend. What skillful means can be used to enable them to enter this truth?”
    The Buddha answered, “Have those with a dull capacity accept and uphold a four-line stanza, and they will enter the truth. The entire Buddha Dharma is encompassed in this stanza.”
    Śāriputra asked, “What is this four-line stanza? I pray that you will speak it.”
    Then the World-Honored One spoke in verse:

The statement that dharmas are born through causes and conditions
Means that they are in nirvāṇa and have no birth.
Ending [one’s perception of] a dharma’s birth and death
Means [that one’s realization of its true reality] arises and never ends.

    When the multitude heard this stanza, all greatly rejoiced, ended [their perception of] a dharma’s birth and death, and entered the ocean of wisdom, realizing that dharma nature is emptiness.

Chapter 7 – The Tathāgata Store

Then Brahma Way the Elder rose from [his meditation on] the true reality of dharmas and asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, a dharma’s birth [through conditions] is no birth; a dharma’s death [through conditions] is no death. Mastering the meaning of true suchness is attaining Buddha bodhi, and bodhi is by nature free from differentiation. One’s differentiation-free wisdom-knowledge[10] can differentiate countless appearances and end one’s making differentiations. Dharma appearances and the meaning of true suchness are inconceivable, and whatever is inconceivable is free from differentiation. World-Honored One, the entire Dharma encompasses countless names and appearances. However, they have only one true meaning and abide in only one nature. What does this mean?”
    The Buddha answered, “Inconceivable! Elder, I expound the Dharma to the confused and use skillful means to guide them. All dharma appearances have only one true meaning. Why? Because it is like a city with four gates, each providing an entrance to the city. Multitudes can enter the city through any gate at will. Likewise various Dharma flavors come down to only one flavor.”
    Brahma Way said, “If the Dharma is like this, I can abide in one Dharma flavor to taste all flavors.”
    The Buddha said, “Indeed, indeed. Why? Because the true meaning in one flavor is like a vast ocean, into which all streams flow. Elder, all Dharma flavors are like streams. Although all streams have different names, their waters are no different. If one abides in the vast ocean, one accesses all streams. Likewise if one abides in one Dharma flavor, one tastes all flavors.”
    Brahma Way asked, “If all Dharmas have one flavor, why do riders of the Three Vehicles have different wisdoms?”
    The Buddha answered, “Elder, as an analogy, a creek, a stream, a river, and an ocean[11] have different sizes, depths, and names. Water in a creek is called creek water; water in a stream is called stream water; water in a river is called river water. When these waters are in the ocean, they all are called ocean water. Likewise all teachings arise from true suchness and are called the path to Buddhahood. Elder, whoever walks this path should understand three actions.”
    Brahma Way asked, “What are the three actions?”
    The Buddha answered, “The three actions are actions that (1) follow things, (2) follow one’s consciousnesses, and (3) accord with true suchness. These three actions encompass all Dharma Doors [dharma-paryāya] without exception. Whoever takes these actions does not fabricate the appearance of emptiness but enters his Tathāgata store, though entering is no entering.”
    Brahma Way asked, “Inconceivable! Entering one’s Tathāgata store is like a seedling coming to bear fruit without entering any place. When one uses the power of the benefits of one’s inherent awareness to realize one’s inherent awareness, how much wisdom does one acquire?”
    The Buddha answered, “One acquires limitless wisdom. In brief, one acquires four wisdoms: (1) absolute wisdom, which accords with true suchness; (2) applied wisdom, which provides skillful means to eliminate faults; (3) nirvāṇa wisdom, which halts one’s lightning-speed consciousnesses; (4) ultimate wisdom, which reveals the true reality of dharmas when one completes the path to Buddhahood. Elder, past Buddhas have already expounded the use of these wisdoms. They are a great bridge and a great ferry. Whoever transforms sentient beings should use these wisdoms.
    “Elder, to put these four great wisdoms to great use, one must do three great things: (1) attain the three samādhis and abide in neither [one’s mind] inside nor [objects perceived as] outside; (2) use one’s body-mind structure to choose to follow the principle and end one’s afflictions; (3) use one’s wisdom and samādhi that accord with true suchness, to benefit oneself and others with great compassion. One must do these three things to attain bodhi. Without doing them, one’s mind cannot flow into the ocean of those four wisdoms, but will allow māras to gain the upper hand. Elder, until each of you in this multitude attains Buddhahood, each of you should train to do these three things without lapsing even temporarily.”
    Brahma Way asked, “What are the three samādhis?”
    The Buddha answered, “The three samādhis are (1) emptiness samādhi, (2) no-appearance samādhi, and (3) no-action samādhi. These are the three samādhis.[12]
    Brahma Way asked, “[In one’s body-mind structure], what are the great domains, the three sets of components, and the foundation?”
    The Buddha answered, “The great domains [which make up one’s body] are earth, water, fire, and wind. The three sets of components are one’s five aggregates, twelve fields, and eighteen spheres. The foundation is one’s root consciousness [ālaya consciousness]. These are a sentient being’s body-mind structure.”
    Brahma Way said, “Inconceivable! As one does these three things to put the four wisdoms to great use, one benefits oneself and others, enters the Bodhisattva Way, transcends the Three Realms of Existence, and does not abide in nirvāṇa. However, one may perceive the births and deaths of dharma appearances because of one’s differentiation. If one stays away from making differentiation, [one will realize that] dharmas have neither birth nor death.”
    Then, to restate this meaning, the Buddha spoke in verse:

Dharmas are born from differentiation
And die from differentiation.
If one ends making differentiations,
[One will realize that] dharmas have neither birth nor death.

    When Brahma Way heard this stanza, he found great joy in his heart and affirmed its meaning in verse:

Dharmas have always been in nirvāṇa,
Which has no birth.
Dharmas perceived as undergoing birth and death
Do not reveal the meaning of no birth.

Birth and death are not the same as nirvāṇa
If one holds the view of a dharma’s perpetuity or cessation.
Nirvāṇa is apart from these two opposites
And does not abide in the middle.

If someone holds that dharmas are existent,
[He does not know that] their appearances are false,
Like a wheel of swirling hair
Or water in a mirage.

If someone holds that dharmas are nonexistent
Like the open sky,
He is like a blind man who claims that there is no sun,
A claim that is like the hair of a turtle.

I now have heard the Buddha’s words
And learned that dharmas are apart from opposite views,
Do not abide in the middle,
But abide nowhere.

As the Tathāgata’s teachings
Abide nowhere,
So I abide nowhere
To make obeisance to the Tathāgata.

I make obeisance to the appearance of the Tathāgata,
Whose immovable wisdom equals the sky.
With no attachment and no place,
I make obeisance to His [dharma] body, which abides nowhere.

Wherever I am,
I constantly see Tathāgatas.
I pray that Tathāgatas
Will expound to me what is eternal.

    Then the Tathāgata said, “Good men, all of you hearken. I will expound to you what is eternal. Good men, what is eternal cannot be described by words. It is not perpetuity [as the opposite of cessation] because it is apart from the view of perpetuity or cessation. It has no time frames [past, present, and future], and is not a truth, not a liberation, not a mental object, not nonexistence, and not impermanence. One clearly sees that one’s root consciousness [ālaya consciousness] is eternal because it is constantly in nirvāṇa, which is beyond description.
    “Good men, one’s mind that knows that dharmas are in nirvāṇa is not the mind in nirvāṇa, because the mind constantly in nirvāṇa is one’s true awareness [which is free from knowing and not knowing an object]. The mind in one’s name and form [mind and body][13] is one’s deluded mind, which differentiates dharmas by means of words. Nothing else is done by one’s name and form. Knowing that they are like this, one should not follow words. If one’s mind accords with the true reality of dharmas and does not differentiate between self and no self because one knows that “self” is but a false name, one attains nirvāṇa. Attaining nirvāṇa is attaining anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi.”
    When Brahma Way heard these words, he spoke in verse:

Name, appearance, and differentiation
Are the three dharmas [embraced by ordinary beings].
True wisdom-knowledge [samyag-jñāna] and true suchness,
Together with the preceding three, constitute the five dharmas.[14]

I now know that these dharmas
Are connected with [the opposite views:] perpetuity and cessation.
Entering the path of birth and death
Is entering [the cycle of] impermanence.
The emptiness of dharmas expounded by the Tathāgata
Is far apart from perpetuity and cessation.

Causes and conditions have no birth,
And whatever has no birth has no death.
Taking causes and condition as truly existent
Is like trying to pluck a flower in the sky
Or looking for a barren woman’s child,
Because neither object can be grasped.

One should not take a dharma’s birth and death as real,
Because they arise from causes and conditions.
One should stay away from the four domains and one’s three sets of components,
Because one relies on true suchness to enter the true reality of dharmas.

While true suchness
Is always changeless and hindrance free,
All myriad dharmas
Are manifested by one’s consciousness.

Without one’s consciousness, dharmas are nonexistent.
Therefore, emptiness is their true reality.
By discarding the view that dharmas have birth and death,
One can abide in nirvāṇa.

However, driven by great compassion,
One does not abide in the quietness of nirvāṇa.
Turning away from perceiving a grasper and an object grasped,
One enters one’s Tathāgata store.

    When the multitude heard this meaning, all began to live a righteous life and acquired a Tathāgata’s wisdom in the ocean of the Tathāgata store.

Chapter 8 – Total Retention of Teachings

Then, in the midst of the multitude, Earth Store [Kṣitigarbha] Bodhisattva rose from his seat and came before the Buddha. Kneeling with joined palms, he said to the Buddha, “World-Honored One, I observe that all in this multitude have unresolved doubts and that the Tathāgata wants to resolve their doubts. I would like to ask questions according to their doubts and pray that the Buddha, out of lovingkindness and compassion, will give me permission.”
    The Buddha said, “Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva, you can rescue and deliver sentient beings in this way because your great compassion is inconceivable. You should ask questions widely. I will explain to you.”
    Earth Store Bodhisattva asked, “Why are dharmas not born from conditions?”
    Then the Tathāgata answered in verse:

If dharmas were born from conditions,
Without conditions, there would be no dharmas.
As dharma nature is emptiness,
How can any condition give birth to a dharma?[15]

    Earth Store Bodhisattva asked, “If dharmas have no birth, why is it said that they are born from one’s mind?”
    Then the World-Honored One answered in verse:

To say that dharmas are born from one’s mind
Is to imply subject [one’s mind] and object [dharmas],
Like a drunkard’s eye seeing a flower in the sky,
Though dharmas [in true reality] have no birth.

    Earth Store Bodhisattva said, “If a dharma is like this, it is not relative [to other dharmas]. A dharma that is not relative must be formed by itself.”
    The World-Honored One spoke in verse:

A dharma is neither existent nor nonexistent,
Nor does it have a self versus others.
It has neither a beginning nor an end,
Neither formation nor destruction.

    Earth Store Bodhisattva said, “As all dharma appearances are in nirvāṇa, so too are nirvāṇa and the appearance of emptiness. As nirvāṇa and emptiness cannot be grasped, they accord with true suchness.”
    The Buddha agreed, “As nirvāṇa and emptiness cannot be grasped, they are true suchness.”
    Earth Store Bodhisattva said, “Inconceivable! The appearance of true suchness is neither together with nor apart from [dharmas perceived as undergoing birth and death]. It cannot be grasped by means of one’s mind or actions. Likewise one’s mind cannot be grasped, because it is empty, quiet, and in nirvāṇa.”
    Then the World-Honored One spoke in verse:

Although all dharmas are empty and quiet,
They are quiet but not empty [because they vividly appear in one’s perception].
While one’s mind is not empty,
It is not existent.[16]

    Earth Store Bodhisattva said, “One’s mind is not encompassed in the three truths [emptiness, form, and one’s mind].[17] When one realizes that form is emptiness, one’s mind is in nirvāṇa. As dharmas have always been in nirvāṇa, so too one’s mind has always been in nirvāṇa.”
    Then the World-Honored One spoke in verse:

Dharmas have no self-essence
And are born from one’s differentiation.
One cannot use differentiation
To realize their true nature.

    Earth Store Bodhisattva asked, “If dharmas have neither birth nor death, why are they not the same?”
    Then the World-Honored One answered in verse:

As dharmas abide nowhere,
They are nonexistent because their appearances and numbers are empty.
Their names and descriptions
Are established by using subject and object.

    Earth Store Bodhisattva asked, “All dharma appearances abide on neither of the two opposite shores [such as subject and object, existence and nonexistence, saṁsāra and nirvāṇa], nor in the stream between them. Likewise one’s consciousness does not abide in any of these three places. Then why are objects of perception born from one’s consciousness? If they are born from one’s consciousness, one’s consciousness is also born from its perceived objects. Why can one’s consciousness, which has no birth, have subject and object?”
    Then the World-Honored One answered in verse:

Birth and what is born
Are one’s perception and perceived objects,
And neither has self-essence.
However, one takes an illusory flower in the sky as real.

Before one’s consciousness arises
There is no object of perception.
Before an object is perceived,
One’s consciousness is nonexistent.

One’s consciousness and its objects of perception are nonexistent,
And nonexistence is not a state that can be grasped.
As one’s consciousness, which has no birth, is nonexistent,
How can it give birth to objects of perception?

    Earth Store Bodhisattva said, “Such are dharma appearances. [One’s consciousness] inside and [objects perceived as] outside are both empty because they have always been in nirvāṇa. The true reality of dharmas revealed by the Tathāgata is absolute emptiness, which never collects [things].[18]
    The Buddha said, “Indeed. The true reality of dharmas has no form, abides nowhere, is neither a collector nor things collected, and is neither the four domains nor one’s five aggregates, twelve fields, or eighteen spheres. It is encompassed in one’s inherent awareness, which has a mass of profound virtues.”
    Earth Store Bodhisattva said, “Inconceivable! One acquires its mass of inconceivable virtues when one’s seventh and sixth consciousnesses halt and one’s eighth and first five consciousnesses become quiet,[19] because one’s ninth consciousness [amala consciousness] is revealed, which is neither empty nor not empty. As the World-Honored One says, dharmas and their meanings are empty. As one enters the liberation door of emptiness without taking action, one never stops doing karmas [to deliver sentient beings]. Then one realizes that one has no self and its belongings, and discards one’s perception of subject and object, and the view that one has an embodied self. When one’s faculties inside and objects perceived as outside become quiet, one is freed from their fetters and achieves the no-wish liberation.[20] As one makes observations in accordance with the principle, one’s wisdom and samādhi accord with true suchness. As the World-Honored One often says, realizing that dharmas are empty is good medicine [for eliminating one’s afflictions].”
    The Buddha said, “Indeed. Why? Because dharma nature is emptiness. As emptiness has no birth, so too one’s mind has no birth. As emptiness has no death, so too one’s mind has no death. As emptiness abides nowhere, so too one’s mind abides nowhere. As emptiness is free from causes and conditions, so too one’s mind is free from causes and conditions. As emptiness neither enters nor exits, is apart from gain and loss, and has no five aggregates, twelve fields, or eighteen spheres, so too one’s mind has no attachment to anything. Bodhisattva, I expound the emptiness [of dharmas] to shatter [one’s perception of their] existence.”
    Earth Store Bodhisattva said, “World-Honored One, one should know that existence is unreal, like water in a mirage, and that true reality is existent, like the nature of fire hidden in wood. Whoever can make this observation is a wise person.”
    The Buddha said, “Indeed. Why? Because he makes observations in accord with true suchness. As he observes his mind in nirvāṇa, he sees that appearance and no appearance are equally empty. Because he cultivates [his understanding of] emptiness, he never fails to see a Buddha. Because he sees a Buddha, he rides the Mahāyāna to go against the flow of afflictions in the Three Realms of Existence. Walking the path of the three liberations, he realizes that dharmas are in unity because they have no self-essence. Because they have no self-essence, they are empty. Because they are empty, they have no appearance. Because they have no appearance, one takes no action [to grasp them]. Because one takes no action, one has no wish [to be reborn in the Three Realms of existence]. Because one has no wish, one knows one’s karmas and purifies one’s mind. Because one’s mind is pure, one sees a Buddha. Because one sees a Buddha, one will be reborn in a Pure Land. Bodhisattva, one should diligently train through the Three Liberation Doors to master the profound Dharma. When one’s wisdom and samādhi are perfected, one transcends the Three Realms of Existence.”
    Earth Store Bodhisattva asked, “As the Tathāgata says, birth and death mean impermanence. When one ends [one’s perception of a dharma’s] birth and death, one realizes the eternality of nirvāṇa, which never ends and is apart from motion and no motion in the Three Realms of Existence. Therefore, one should avoid dharmas subject to causes and conditions, like avoiding a fire pit. World-Honored One, because of what things should one reprove oneself in order to enter the one door [to Buddhahood]?”
    The Buddha answered, “Bodhisattva, one should reprove one’s mind because of three grave things and should follow three great truths to train to attain bodhi.”
    Earth Store Bodhisattva asked, “Because of what three things should one reprove one’s mind? What three truths should one follow in order to train to attain bodhi?”
    The Buddha answered, “The three grave things are (1) cause [such as one’s ignorance of the truth and one’s karmas], (2) effect [such as one’s karmic requitals], and (3) one’s consciousness [which perceives subject and object]. These three things have always been empty and are not one’s true self. Why should one be attached to them? One should observe these three things and know that they are one’s fetters as one drifts in the ocean of suffering. Because of these things, one should constantly reprove one’s mind.
    “The three great truths are as follows: (1) the bodhi path leads to the truth of the equality, not inequality, of dharmas; (2) great enlightenment is attained through true wisdom-knowledge, not false wisdom-knowledge; (3) equal training in wisdom and sam&$257;dhi, not other trainings, brings one bodhi. If one follows these three truths to train to attain Buddha bodhi, one will never fail to attain true enlightenment. One will acquire a Buddha’s wisdom-knowledge, exude great compassion, benefit oneself and others, and attain Buddha bodhi.”
    Earth Store Bodhisattva said, “World-Honored One, the truth that dharmas are equal means that they are free from causes and conditions. Without conditions, causes will not arise. How can one use motionless dharmas to enter a Tathāgata’s state?”
    Then, to explain this meaning, the Tathāgata spoke in verse:

As dharmas appear,
Their nature is emptiness, free from motion [and no motion].
Then a dharma at any given time
Does not arise.

A dharma has no time frames [past, present, and future]
And does not arise at such various times.
It neither moves nor does not move,
And is in nirvāṇa, because its nature is emptiness.

However, because dharma nature is emptiness,
A dharma appears at any given time.
Apart from its appearance, it abides in nirvāṇa.
Abiding in nirvāṇa, it does not follow conditions.

Although dharmas depend on conditions to appear,
They are empty and not born from conditions.
Causes and conditions have neither birth nor death
Because the nature of birth and death is emptiness.

A condition perceived as a subject or an object
Also arises from conditions.[21]
[In true reality] a dharma does not arise from conditions,
Because conditions do not arise.

Dharmas born from causes and conditions
Are causes and conditions [for other dharmas].
They have the appearances of birth and death,
But their nature has neither birth nor death.

In true reality
Dharmas neither appear nor disappear,
Although they appear and disappear
At any given time.

Their extremely pure root [true suchness]
Never depends on the power of conditions.
When one eventually attains bodhi,
One’s enlightenment is but realizing one’s inherent awareness.

    When Earth Store Bodhisattva heard the Buddha’s words, he found great joy in his heart and knew that all in the multitude no longer had any doubts in their minds. Then he spoke in verse:

Knowing that all in this multitude had doubts in their minds,
I eagerly asked questions.
With great lovingkindness,
The Tathāgata explained in detail without reservation.

The two groups [monastics and laity][22]
Have understood His teachings.
I will use my understanding
To transform all sentient beings.

As the Tathāgata, out of great compassion,
Never abandons his original vows,
I should regard sentient beings as an only son
And deliver them as I abide in my afflictions.

    Then the Tathāgata told the multitude, “This Bodhisattva is inconceivable. He constantly uses great lovingkindness to remove sentient beings’ suffering. Whoever upholds this sūtra and this Bodhisattva’s name will never go down any evil life-paths, and his hindrances and difficulties will be eliminated. If someone intently thinks of this sūtra without distracting thoughts, and trains accordingly, this Bodhisattva will manifest a body to expound the Dharma to him. He will support and protect him, never abandon him even temporarily, and enable him to quickly attain anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi. To transform sentient beings, you Bodhisattvas should have them study this Mahāyāna sūtra of absolutely definitive meaning.”

Chapter 9 – Entrusting This Sūtra

Then Ānanda rose from his seat, came forward, and asked the Buddha, “This sūtra pronounced by the Buddha is a mass of Mahāyāna virtues. It definitely enables one to end one’s afflictions and acquire the benefits of one’s inherent awareness. Its teachings are inconceivable. What is the name of this sūtra? How much merit will one acquire by upholding his sūtra? I pray that the Buddha, out of lovingkindness and compassion, will tell me.”
    The Buddha answered, “Good man, the name of this sūtra is inconceivable. It is protected and remembered by all Buddhas and can enable one to enter the ocean of a Tathāgata’s wisdom-knowledge. Whoever upholds this sūtra will not seek other sūtras. This sūtra retains all teachings of Buddhas and encompasses the essentials of all sūtras. It is the hub of the teachings in all sūtras. This sūtra is called Adopting the Mahāyāna, also called Vajra Samādhi, also called Tenet of Immeasurable Meaning. Accepting and upholding this sūtra is accepting and upholding [the teachings of] 100,000 Buddhas. The merit acquired in this way is inconceivable and boundless, like the open sky. I entrust to you this sūtra.”
    Ānanda asked, “What mental actions should be taken by whoever can accept and uphold this sūtra?”
    The Buddha answered, “Good man, whoever accepts and upholds this sūtra should take five mental actions: (1) have no concern for gain or loss; (2) always practice the Brahma way of life; (3) always delight in quietness even when hearing ludicrous statements; (4) always abide in samādhi even when in the midst of a crowd; (5) have no attachment to the Three Realms of existence while living a family life.
    “Because he accepts and upholds this sūtra, in his present life he enjoys five benefits: (1) he is respected by multitudes; (2) he will not die an untimely death; (3) he can refute wrong theories; (4) he delights in delivering sentient beings; (5) he can enter the holy path. Such benefits are enjoyed by a person who accepts and upholds this sūtra.”
    Ānanda asked, “If that person delivers sentient beings, can he accept their offerings?”
    The Buddha answered, “That person can serve as a great fortune field to sentient beings. He uses great wisdom to give provisional and definitive teachings because he relies upon four dharmas.[23] He can accept even such offerings as head, eyes, brain, and bone marrow, not to mention food and clothing. Good man, that person is your beneficent learned friend and your bridge [to cross over to the opposite shore[24]]. How can ordinary beings not make offerings to him?”
    Ānanda asked, “If one accepts and upholds this sūtra under that person and makes offerings to him, how much merit will one acquire?”
    The Buddha answered, “Suppose that one takes gold and silver that fill a city and gives them away as alms. This act is not as meritorious as accepting and upholding under that person one four-line stanza from this sūtra. The merit acquired by making offerings to that person is inconceivable.
    “Good man, one who has sentient beings uphold this sūtra should constantly be in samādhi and never forget one’s true mind [Buddha mind]. If one forgets it, one should immediately repent because repentance brings tranquility.”
    Ānanda said, “Repenting of past sins does not mean entering the past.”
    The Buddha said, “Indeed. As an analogy, if a bright lamp is placed in a dark room, darkness is expelled. Good man, do not say that repenting of past sins is entering the past.”
    Ānanda asked, “What is meant by repentance?”
    The Buddha answered, “Repentance means following the teachings in this sūtra to observe the true reality of dharmas. As soon as one makes this observation, one’s sins are expunged, and one leaves all evil life-paths, and will be reborn in a Pure Land and quickly attain anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi.”
    After the Buddha pronounced this sūtra, Ānanda, the Bodhisattvas, and the Buddha’s four groups of disciples acquired a resolute mind and greatly rejoiced. They prostrated themselves at the Buddha’s feet and joyfully carried out His teachings.

Sūtra of the Vajra Samādhi, fascicle 2
Translated from the digital Chinese Canon (T09n0273)


    1. Here, the four conditions that encompass the three clusters of Bodhisattva precepts are a special case, unrelated to the “four conditions” in the glossary. (Return to text)
    2. In different fascicles of text 374 (T12n0374), the 40-fascicle Chinese version of the Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra, these four virtues variously belong to nirvāṇa, Buddha nature, a Tathāgata, or His dharma body. (Return to text)
    3. See Thirty-seven Elements of Bodhi in the glossary. (Return to text)
    4. The “three kinds of suffering” are (1) pain brought by a cause, (2) deterioration of pleasure, and (3) continuous change in every process. For a comparison, see “eight kinds of suffering” listed in the glossary’s “suffering.” (Return to text)
    5. It is also possible to interpret the three appearances as opposite edges and the middle, or as emptiness, existence, and the middle. (Return to text)
    6. For “mental coverings,” see “five coverings” in the glossary. (Return to text)
    7. These four mantra names also appear in the text 251 (T08n0251, 0848c18–20), a Chinese version of the Heart Sūtra, translated from Sanskrit in the Tang Dynasty (618–907) by Xuanzang (玄奘, 600– or 602–64) from China. An English translation of text 251 appears in Teachings of the Buddha (Rulu 2012a, 121). The last three of these four mantra names also appear in fascicle 2 of text 227 (T08n0227, 0543b28–29), the Chinese version of the Small Prajñā-Pāramitā Sūtra, translated from Sanskrit in the Later Qin Dynasty (384–417) by Kumārajīva (鳩摩羅什, 344–413) from Kucha. (Return to text)
    8. These three grounds might be the three timelines mentioned in text 1485, the Chinese version of the Sūtra of the Garland of a Bodhisattva’s Primary Karmas, for the development of a holy Bodhisattva on the eleventh Bodhisattva ground, whose enlightenment is virtually perfect. According to text 1485, fascicle 1, chapter 3, he lives for a hundred kalpas to attain a thousand samādhis and enter the Vajra Samādhi, lives for a thousand kalpas to learn the deportment of a Buddha, and lives for ten thousand kalpas to acquire inconceivable spiritual powers and sit in the bodhimaṇḍa of a Buddha. Then he manifests as a Buddha and enters the Great Silent Samādhi. The English translation of text 1485 in 2 fascicles appears in The Bodhisattva Way (Rulu 2013, 33–88). (Return to text)
    9. For details of the flows, see “four torrential flows” in the glossary. (Return to text)
    10. Differentiation-free wisdom-knowledge is root wisdom-knowledge of the true reality of dharmas, which is emptiness. See “two kinds of wisdom-knowledge” in the glossary. (Return to text)
    11. In text 273, the Chinese word hai 海 means ocean, and the three Chinese words huai 淮, he 河, and jiang 江 are used to suggest that three rivers are of small, medium, and large sizes. These three words also appear in other sūtras, such as text 985 (T19n0985, 0473b2–3), text 1045b (T20n1045b, 0042a7–8), and text 1332 (T21n01332, 0548a24–25). Here they are translated as a creek, a stream, and a river, which may be likened to the Voice-Hearer Vehicle, the Pratyekabuddha Vehicle, and the Mahāyāna, respectively. An ocean may be likened to the One Vehicle, the Buddha Vehicle. (Return to text)
    12. The “three samādhis” are defined in the glossary’s Three Liberation Doors. (Return to text)
    13. See “name and form” defined in the glossary’s “five aggregates.” (Return to text)
    14. The five dharmas also appear in fascicle 7 of text 671, the 10-fascicle Chinese version of the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra (T16n0671, 0557b6–12). (Return to text)
    15. In chapter 5, the Buddha explains that “the appearances of conditions are by nature empty. As each condition also arises through conditions, in true reality there is no dependent arising of dharmas.” (Return to text)
    16. One’s mind is not empty because it gives birth to dharmas. It is not existent because it cannot be grasped. (Return to text)
    17. In text 245, the Chinese version of Buddha Pronounces to the Benevolent King the Sūtra of Prajñā-Pāramitā, the Buddha says, “Great King, existence or nonexistence is a worldly truth. All dharmas are encompassed in three truths: emptiness, form, and one’s mind” (T08n0245, 0829b27–29). Here, one’s mind is not encompassed in these three truths because it is both empty and not empty. (Return to text)
    18. In fascicle 3 of text 670, the 4-fascicle Chinese version of the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra (T16n0670), the Buddha says, “While one’s [ālaya] consciousness collects [seeds], one’s wisdom does not” (T16n0670, 0501a6). (Return to text)
    19. Text 273 states, “. . . when one’s seventh and first five consciousnesses halt and one’s eighth and sixth consciousnesses become quiet, . . . .” Here, the English translation pairs one’s consciousnesses in a different way. One reason is that, in chapter 5, one’s seventh and sixth consciousnesses are paired. Another reason is that, according to the Consciousness-Only School, on the Bodhisattva grounds one’s seventh and sixth consciousnesses are gradually purified to possess the equality wisdom-knowledge and the discernment wisdom-knowledge, respectively; on the Buddha Ground, one’s eighth and first five consciousnesses come to possess the great mirror-like wisdom-knowledge and the accomplishment wisdom-knowledge, respectively. (Return to text)
    20. See “no wish” in the glossary’s Three Liberation Doors. (Return to text)
    21. Each of the Twelve Links of Dependent Arising is the main condition for the next one to arise. For example, as ignorance is the condition for karmic actions, ignorance is the subject and karmic actions are the object. As karmic actions are the condition for consciousness to arise, karmic actions are the subject and consciousness is the object. See Twelve Links of Dependent Arising in the glossary. (Return to text)
    22. The two groups can also refer to riders of the Two Vehicles and riders of the Mahāyāna. (Return to text)
    23. See Four Dharmas to Rely Upon in the glossary. (Return to text)
    24. The opposite shore is that shore of nirvāṇa, opposite this shore of saṁsāra. (Return to text)

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