The Perfect Enlightenment Sutra is one of the most popular and influential sutras in Zen. It was held in the highest regards by some of the greatest Zen Master’s like Zongmi and Chinul.

The sutra itself is twelve chapters and the introductory section describes the scene which is a state of deep meditative concentration. The Buddha and one hundred thousand great bodhisattvas are in attendance. Out of those hundred thousand, twelve eminent bodhisattvas act as spokespersons for all those gathered that day and for future generations of sentient beings.

Each one of the twelve gets up one by one and asks the Buddha a set of questions about doctrine, practice and enlightenment. The structure of the sutra is such that the most “essential” and suddenistic discussions occur in the earlier chapters and the more “functional” and gradualistic dialogues occur later.

The terminology that Zongmi and Gihwa use to describe these advanced practitioners is that they possess the capacity for the teaching of “sudden enlightenment”; a direct awakening to the non-duality of reality, which necessarily precludes gradualist, “goal-oriented” practice.

In the first two chapters (the chapters of Mañjuśrī and Samantabhadra), the Buddha holds very strictly to the sudden position, denying the possibility of enlightenment through gradual practice.

In the third chapter he begins to allow for a bit of a gradual view, and the next several chapters become mixtures of the two. The final few chapters offer a fully gradualist perspective.

About this translation

On this page you will discover my interpretation of the Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment. It may even be good to give it a new name like the Book of Awakening to Your Completeness.

The reason being is that most translators stick strictly to the original for their translations. But for this work I used the original as a launching pad to unleash a poetic version that helps the reader to connect to the words and their potential more easily. In areas that may be confusing I’ve expanded them a bit.

As well, I have cut out superfluous sections of the sutra that are redundant. What’s left is the core essence of the Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment distilled down to the most potent of word medicine.

As I finish more and more of the sutra you will find it added here.

May you only go straight, achieve enlightenment and save us all.

Ian

Outline of The Book of Awakening – The Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment

Introduction
Bodhisattva Manjushri
Bodhisattva Samantabhadra
Bodhisattva of Universal Vision
Bodhisattva Vajragarbha
Bodhisattva Maitreya
Bodhisattva of Pure Wisdom
Bodhisattva at Ease in Majestic Virtue
Bodhisattva of Sound Discernment
Bodhisattva Cleansed of All Karmic Obstructions
Bodhisattva of Universal Enlightenment
Bodhisattva of Complete Enlightenment
Bodhisattva Foremost in Virtue and Goodness

Introduction to The Book of Awakening – The Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment by Chuan-deng Jing-di (John Crook)

How do we train to be Bodhisattvas, or at least baby Bodhisattvas?

The story tells us that a group of Bodhisattvas are puzzled by the new Mahayana teachings of the Buddha so they ask him to meet them all in a conference together.

So here they are assembling together to ask questions of the Buddha. These are questions we might be asking him ourselves since all of us are
potential Bodhisattvas.

We will find they are indeed puzzling questions. The Buddha’s replies are by no means completely clear, they need interpretation.

There are all sorts of fascinating Bodhisattvas gathered for the meeting. There are the great ones of course, Manjushri, Samanthabadhra, Maitreya and others more ‘junior’ but with wonderful names such as Bodhisattva-at-Ease-With-Himself and other titles like that. They all have a question to ask.

Manjushri is the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, so we might well expect him to set the ball going and indeed, he asks the first question.

There’s a lot of etiquette at the meeting. The Buddha is on his throne.

Manjushri arises and makes prostrations, then circumambulates the Buddha all the way round three times, makes another bow then asks his question,

“Oh World Honoured one of great compassion, how do we become Buddhas? What was the Dharma practice that you did to awaken to the original purity of Complete Enlightenment?”

 

The Book of Awakening
(The Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment)

 

Manjushri

Manjushri arises and makes prostrations, then circumambulates the Buddha all the way round three times, makes another bow then asks his questions,

“Oh World Honoured one of great compassion, how do we become Buddhas? What was the Dharma practice that you did to awaken to the original purity of Complete Enlightenment?

Please also share how Awakened Warriors (Bodhisattvas) may not only initiate this pure mind that is needed to save all beings (Bodhi Mind) and helps to free us all from suffering.

Please Buddha show us the way, not only for ourselves but also for the sentient beings of the future, when times are tough, when daily concerns are many, when peace of mind seems far away, but there are people who aspire for another way.

Please share your wisdom so that these people who want to discover their own Buddha Nature and help save us all will not fall into erroneous views and lose their way.”

The Buddha answers Manjushri saying,

“The Supreme Dharma King possesses the method which reveals the essence of Perfect Complete Enlightenment, out of which emanates and spontaneously manifests as purity, suchness, bodhi, nirvana and the paramitas which guide bodhisattvas.

The fundamental, original, pure casual ground of Perfect Enlightenment is the illuminating awareness that this original purity, suchness, bodhi, nirvana and even the paramitas are already possessed by you.

This illuminating awareness is pure in essence and free from ignorance.

Once this is realized you immediately sever ignorance and accomplish the path of the Buddha’s.

And what is ignorance?

Since beginningless time, all sentient beings have had all sorts of delusions, like a disoriented person who has lost his sense of direction.

They mistake the four great elements (earth, water, fire and air) as the attributes of their bodies, and the conditioned impressions (sights, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, thoughts) of the six sense objects as the attributes of their minds.

Just like a person who has a speck of dirt in his eye and because of that believes they are seeing illusory flowers in the sky or even a second moon.

Really there are no flowers in the sky, but because you don’t know that there’s something blocking your vision you believe it to be true.

Because you are sick and confused and you don’t know it you become deluded about the intrinsic space like nature of your mind and confused on how the flower in that space has arisen.

Clinging to this illusion, to this ignorance, to this idea of a separate inherently existing self, you continually turn the wheel of birth and death.

Ignorance has no real substance when you look deeply into it. It’s just like a person in a dream – in the dream the person seems real and has the appearance of existing – but – when the dreamer awakens there’s no dream person to be found or that can be grasped.

Just like an illusory flower floating in the sky that vanishes into empty space – you can’t really point to a fixed place from which the flower has vanished. Space is without beginning or end. It’s all encompassing, all embracing and pervasive. 

Ignorance is attached to the arising and ceasing of appearances but does not perceive and know the space in which these appearances take place. Because of this clinging they do not perceive the un-arisen. And because they do not experience the non-arising they then experience birth and death.

Whoever wants to truly practice the way of the Buddha’s knows that these concepts and ideas of arising and ceasing, of coming and going, of birth and death, of samsara and nirvana, all of this dualistic grasping and thinking are like illusions, like flowers in the sky.

Once that is realized and known then you go beyond birth and death and body and mind, existence and non-existent. All of these concepts and ideas are dropped. They all do not posses an inherent nature of truly existing or truly not existing. This is not realized from contrived effort. Just rest in your natural state.

Now look at the awareness that realizes this.

This empty knowing.

It is boundless like space.

Rest in this vast expanse of awareness and spaciousness.

Drop the faint whispers of ideas and concepts.

Existence and non-existence are dispelled.

This is the way of awakening.

This is the way of enlightenment.

This is the causal ground, the birthplace of all Buddha’s.

Empty, changeless, aware – neither arising nor ceasing – the matrix of suchness.

There are no fixed points.

No beginning or end.

Free from conceptual knowledge and views.

Ultimate, complete, perfect, all pervading.

Awakened Warriors (Bodhisattvas), this is the practice of the Bodhi-mind of awakening.

If sentient beings in the dharma ending age practice this they will be free.

At that time, the World Honored One, wishing to clarify his meaning, proclaimed these gathas:

Manjushri, you should know
that all Buddha’s,
from their original-arising causal ground,
penetrate ignorance
with enlightened wisdom.

Realizing that ignorance is like
a flower in the sky,
they are then freed
from dualistic grasping.

Like a person
in a dream who
can’t be found
when the dreamer awakens.

Awareness
is like empty space.
boundless, changeless, unmoving,
pervading the ten directions

The Way of Awakening
is already accomplished.

Illusions cease
nothing to attain
the intrinsic nature
is already wholly complete

In it Bodhicitta naturally arises.

Sentient beings
in the Dharma Ending Age
through this practice
will avoid falling into erroneous views.


Samantabhadra

The second Bodhisattva to step forward and ask the Buddha questions is Samantabhadra. The word Samanta means, “universally extending” and Bhadra means “great virtue.”

Samantabhadra is the Bodhisattva of meditation and practice. Practice here not only includes meditation but also encompasses the six paramitas (charity, moral conduct, patience, devotion, meditation and wisdom) and vows.

Samantabhadra Bodhisattva, was so moved the first time he heard the Buddha preach the Dharma that he made Ten Great Vows.

Samantabhadra is often depicted on an elephant (traditionally a white elephant with six tusks). The six tusks represent overcoming attachment to the six senses, while the elephant symbolizes the power of Buddhism to overcome all obstacles. [3] 

I find it interesting that the second Bodhisattva to step forward is the Bodhisattva of Meditation and Practice as the Buddha just finished saying that the practice that leads to Perfect Enlightenment is to drop ignorance and see the illusory nature of things.

Samantabhadra, knowing well that this type of teaching will confuse almost everyone, steps forward and asks,

“Buddha, if everything is illusory including body and mind then who is it that practices?

“How can illusion remedy illusion?

“If all illusory characteristics were exhausted and extinguished, then there would be no mind. Who is it that practices?

“Why do you say that practice is illusory?

“If there’s no need for practice then sentient beings will remain trapped in their illusory projections and dualistic graspings. They will never discover the state in which everything is seen to be like an illusion. How can they be liberated from illusory conceptualization?”

Samantabhadra goes even further and asks the Buddha,

“I implore you on behalf of all the Bodhisattvas at this assembly, as well as for all sentient beings of the degenerate age, to teach the gradual practice of expedient means.

“What kind of expedient means of gradual practice should we introduce to cause sentient beings to be eternally free from all illusions?” [4] 

It’s one thing to say that the fundamental nature of who we are is pure suchness beyond birth and death and another thing to experience that directly for yourself.

If you haven’t tasted suchness then what the Buddha replied to Manjushri sounds like pure craziness.

Samantabhadra knows this well and begs the Buddha to share the practices that will help wipe the mirror of mind clean to reveal it’s clear radiance.

The Buddha then replies to Samantabhadra saying,

“Excellent, excellent! Virtuous being, for the benefit of all the Awakened Warriors (Bodhisattvas) and sentient beings in the Dharma Ending Age, you have asked about the expedient, gradual stages of the Awakened Warrior’s practice of the Samadhi in which all is seen to be like an illusion, and which frees sentient beings from illusion. Listen deeply now. I shall explain it to you.” [5] 

So things are are looking up for those beings that don’t really understand what the Buddha was talking about in his reply to Manjushri earlier. And right there, in his reply to Samantabhadra he says that he’s going to share a practice that will help them.

But Samantabhadra and the rest of the assembly get an answer that doesn’t quite hit the mark for them.

What the Buddha share’s isn’t necessarily a practice that they can really sink their teeth into so to speak. Here is the gist of the Buddha’s reply to Samantabhadra’s request for some fundamental practices,

“Samantabhadra, you should know that the beginningless illusory ignorance
of all sentient beings is grounded on the mind of Complete Enlightenment.
Like a flower in empty space, its appearance relies on the sky.
When the illusory flower vanishes, the empty space remains in its original unmoving state.
Illusion depends on enlightenment for its arising. 
With the extinction of illusion, enlightenment is wholly perfect, for the enlightened mind is ever unmoving.
All bodhisattvas and sentient beings in the Dharma Ending Age should forever leave illusions far behind until all illusions are extinguished.
It is like producing fire with wood, when the wood is burned out,the fire is also extinguished.
Enlightenment has no gradual steps; the same applies to expedient means.” [6] 

That last sentence must have reverberated throughout all the Dharma realms as the Bodhisattva’s sat there, mouth’s open in stunned silence. “Enlightenment has no gradual steps; the same applies to expedient means.”

You can’t really get any more direct of a direct statement than that.

If the Buddha ever had one of those mic drop moments it has to be this one here.

In response to the Bodhisattva of practice he flat out says that there is no practice that can be done to achieve enlightenment.

But what the Buddha offers IS a practice though a very subtle one – a mind practice “As-Illusion-Samādhi.”

This practice is more of a new perspective, a state of mind, a way of looking and being in the world that is really an extension of what he said to Manjushri earlier.

Pointing Out Instructions – Revealing the Nature: The Practice of As-Illusion-Samadhi

All appearances, including ignorance
Are dreamlike and illusory
Arising within the Buddha Mind
Of Complete Enlightenment

See all that arises as dreamlike and illusory
Like flowers in the sky
And with the power of that awareness
Illusions vanish
But the sky-like nature of mind remains, unaffected

Mind is vast and expansive
Like a clear blue sky
And like the sky,
It’s never-ending
And indestructible

Illusory, dreamlike appearances
Constantly arise and fall
But the Buddha Mind
Is unchanging

The Buddha Mind or Mind of Enlightenment
Is beyond duality
Even to call it enlightened is to miss the mark
Or when you call it unenlightened,
This too means you have lost it

Be free from thought
When you are free from thought
When you are free from duality
You will find the ultimate freedom
Freedom from illusion

Resting naturally in Perfect Complete Enlightenment
Without the need for various expedient means. 

All Awakened Warriors (Bodhisattvas) and sentient beings
Of the degenerate age
Who practice like this
Will be permanently free from all illusion. [7] 

This practice is right in the middle of the Samantabhadra chapter. It’s not a chunky and earthy practice like mindfulness of breathing that we can really grab a hold of and “do” (which is what is taught in the next chapter for those of us who don’t really understand this chapter).

But it is a type of “mind-practice” that can help shift your perspective.

It’s subtle and ripples out affecting all of our life.

I believe as well, that this subtle practice is really brought to light as it contrasts well with what normally would come to mind for most people when they thought of Samantabhadra – ardent meditator, keeper of vows, practicer of the paramitas and proponent of enlightened action.

You have to see that you, me, this world and everything in it is like a fleeting dream. It arises, stays awhile then disappears into the space like nature of mind – illuminating suchness.

Suchness arises in suchness.

These dreamlike energetic displays are none other than Illuminating suchness. Even though they are fleeting, dreamlike and illusory.

We have this precious human life, so hard to come by, and we never know when it’ll be taken from us.

When you’re young you feel like you have all the time in the world. But as you get older you see how time flies, how things change so quickly, how nothing is permanent.

Then you start to really know that it’s like the Buddha said that all that arises is illusory, like a bubble on the water. Fragile and delicate conditions have come together to give rise to “you” and at any moment that bubble can and will pop. And because it can “pop” at any time you’ve got to pour yourself into realizing the Awakened state now in this very lifetime.

The Buddha isn’t saying that things/people aren’t real – he’s saying that all of this life isn’t exactly as it appears.

All of it arises within the Buddha Mind – the free play of it – and compared to the expansive timeless nature of the Buddha Mind these appearances are illusory. Don’t cling to them. Don’t grasp at them. Don’t think that they will give you true and lasting happiness. Go beyond real and unreal. Rest in your natural state which is free from clinging, grasping and reifying life.

Look into the mind – what is it that is noticing people, cars, buildings?

What is it that realizes the illusory nature of all that arises?

Look into the mind – where is reading taking place?

Turn and look…

Look!

The Bodhisattva of Universal Vision

Then the Bodhisattva of Universal Vision rose from his seat in the midst of the assembly and asked,

“O World Honored One of great compassion! For the sake of the all the bodhisattvas here and all the sentient beings in the Dharma Ending Age, please explain the gradual stages of the bodhisattva’s practice. 

How should one contemplate? 

What should one abide in and uphold? 

What expedient methods should one devise to guide unenlightened sentient beings, to universally enable them to reach enlightenment?

World Honoured One, if people don’t have the correct skillful means, expedient methods and contemplation, then they will be completely confused when they hear you talk about this As-Illusion-Samādhi and they won’t be able to awaken to Complete Perfect Enlightenment.

Please compassionate one, explain the skillful means, expedient methods and meditations of the provisional teachings, not only for our benefit here but all the sentient beings in the Dharma Ending Age.”

The Buddha agreed and answered the Bodhisattva of Universal Vision saying,

“Newly initiated Bodhisattvas and sentient beings, now and in the future, who seek the Buddha’s pure mind of Perfect Enlightenment should embody right thought letting go of illusion.

To do this they can use the Buddha’s practice of śamatha – that is the Buddha’s methods of calming and stabilizing the mind so that you can see and experience it’s fundamental Buddha Nature.

To do this a Bodhisattva must be firmly established in skillful behaviour, living nobly within the world, letting go of those thoughts, words and deeds that may cause harm to you and others and are not of the nature of spontaneous compassion and wisdom, to carry out those activities that are beneficial to yourself and others, and to carry out activities that are beneficial for others even if you gain nothing in return.

They should seek out and rely on like-minded practitioners to help them on their path.

And they should firmly establish a meditative practice in a quiet room.

After their minds have been stabilized in these ways they can practice the following meditation:    

The Four Elements Meditation

Be mindful of the body as the union of the four elements.

Earth: Stability. Solidity. Matter. This very body is of the earth element. Hair nails, teeth, skin, muscles and tendons, bones, marrow and brain all belong to the element of earth.

Water: Moisture. Softness. This very body is of the water element. Tears, sweat, saliva, blood, semen, and female ejaculate fluid all belong to the element of water.

Fire: Warmth. Coolness. Temperature. All these belong to the element of fire.

Air: Movement. Motion. Change. All these belong to the element of wind.

When the four elements are separated from one another, where is this illusory body?

Where is this self that we cling to?

Thus one knows that the physical body ultimately has no substance and owes its appearance to the union, the coming together, the temporary arising of these four elements.

In reality it is not different from an illusory projection conjured by a magician.

It is fleeting so do not cling to it.

The Six Faculties

When the four elements come together, this gives rise to the Six Faculties:

* The eye and the appearance of visible objects.
* The ear and the hearing of sound.
* The nose and the smelling of scents.
* The tongue and the ability to taste.
* The body and the arising of touch and sensations.
*The mind and the appearance of mental objects.

This combination of the Four Elements and the Six Faculties, this play of inner and outer, gives rise to the grasping at conditioned energy.

In this coming together there “seems to be” something that cognizes, recognizes and labels these appearances that we call ‘mind’.

But this ‘mind” is dependently arisen based on conditions. This appearance of mind cannot exist without the six sense objects [of sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, thought].

When the four elements disperse then there is nothing to be experienced. Once the elements and the sense objects disperse and vanish, ultimately there is no cognizant dependently arisen mind to be seen.

When the illusory bodies of sentient beings vanish, the illusory minds also vanishes.

When the illusory mind vanishes, the illusory sense objects also vanish.

When the illusory sense objects vanish, the illusory vanishing also vanishes.

When the illusory vanishing vanishes, that which is non-illusory remains.

It is like polishing a mirror.

When all these conditioned appearances disappear its brightness and clarity appears.

Both body and mind are illusory appearances.

When these appearances are permanently let go of, when we cease clinging to them, grasping at them, being attached to them, purity will pervade all ten directions.

The entire universe becomes pure.

Perfect Enlightenment is Like a Mani Jewel

Think of a pure, clear mani jewel – it will reflect and appear as any of the five colours that appear before it .

Those caught up in the display of the vibrant colours will believe that the crystal clear jewel has actually become one of the colours.

Likewise…

Although the perfectly pure nature of complete enlightenment, that radiantly clear awareness, manifests or arises as body and mind in accordance with your karma, people cling to it, and say that Perfect Enlightenment has body and mind.

It’s the same sort of error of perception as believing the mani jewel is coloured when it really only appears as these colours temporarily.

Once the colour is let go of the radiantly clear and transparent nature is seen and known as the true nature of the jewel.

This is why I say that body and mind are illusory obstacles to seeing and knowing Perfect Enlightenment which is your true nature.

When you let go of your clinging and grasping to these then you can call yourselves Bodhsattvas.

Illusions (body and mind) disappear.

This clinging at, grasping at an idea of a self disappears.

Designation and labelling have ceased because there is no “one” there to designate and label.

There is nothing left to be named or tamed.

The Permeation of Purity

Once all of the Bodhisattvas here and all the sentient beings of the Dharma-ending age let go of these illusory images they will know the perfectly pure, expansive, all encompassing, boundless, open space-like nature of enlightenment.

Because enlightenment is pure, perfect and radiant it dawns in that moment, the perfect purity of one’s own mind.

Then a cascade of radiant purity ensues.

As this mind is pure, so then are sights and sounds, what we taste and touch, thoughts and thinking. This very body is pure. The elements of earth, water, fire and air – all pure. 

All things become pure.

People, places, this very world – all worlds. 

All Things Are Equal and Changeless

Just as the vast, expansiveness of space is the same at any spot – clear, all pervasive and motionless, unmoving – so too is the fundamental nature of your very own awareness – perfect enlightenment. 

The nature of enlightenment is all pervasive and full, pure, clear, illuminating, unmoving, perfect and boundless.

All is it and it is all. 

It is like hundreds of thousands of lamps illuminating a room: their light pervades fully and is indestructible and clear. 

The fundamental purity and nature of enlightenment completely pervades everything –  including everything without restriction.

Even those things you consider un-pure or other than it like the elements, the six sense doors, the six sense fields – enlightenment flows through and pervades them as well

Detachment in Non-Duality

Once a Bodhisattva tastes this for themselves they become free.

They are neither bothered or hindered by mundane everyday things nor do they seek to be free of them.

They neither detest samsara nor love nirvana.

They neither esteem those who follow the way nor do they snub those that don’t.

Why?

Because everything is a manifestation of pure illuminating suchness.

Everything is pure awareness.

All of this is merely the free play of perfect enlightenment.

It is like an eye with perfectly clear vision: It has no likes and dislikes – it just clearly sees what’s in front of it. Why? Because the essence of this clarity is nondual, free from like or dislike, attachment and aversion.

Sentient Beings are Originally Perfect Buddhas

Once realization dawns you will truly know that there is no causal connection between training and Perfect Enlightenment.

There’s nothing to attain because perfect awareness illuminates everywhere, arises as everything, is perfectly still, empty and beyond duality.

Even a billion Buddha Lands are merely like illusory flowers in the sky – arising and falling.

Worlds are neither the same nor apart from perfect awareness.

Sentient beings have neither bondage or liberation.

They are Buddhas.

Samsara and Nirvana fade like last night’s dream.

Birth, death, nirvana, samsara – all of these are like yesterday’s dream – they neither arise or perish, they neither come or go. There is neither gain or loss, neither grasping or letting go of.

Once actualized, realized, awakened, there is nothing to be done, nothing to allow, nothing to let be as it is, no thoughts to stop and no afflictions to end.

There is no longer subject and object.

There isn’t even awakening and one who awakens.

Everything has the same indestructible nature.

Bodhisattvas should train in this way, progress step by step in this way, ponder in this way, abide in this way, use skillful means in this way, and awaken in this way.

When they seek this type of teaching, they will no longer be confused.

Then the Buddha, in order to help clarify what he shared with the assembly said,

Universal Vision
Know that,
The body and mind are like illusions
The body is the coming together and union of the four elements
The mind arises from the six sense doors
When the four elements disperse,
Who is left?

If one practices gradual cultivation like this, all will be pure.

Illuminating Suchness, perfect enlightenment, is unmoving yet pervades everything
There is nothing to be done,
Nothing to allow,
Nothing to let be as it is,
No thoughts to stop
And no afflictions to end.
There is no longer subject and object.
There isn’t even awakening and one who awakens.

All Buddha worlds are like
flowers in the sky.
Past, present and future are
all impartially equal.
Ultimately there is no coming or going.

If newly resolved Bodhisattvas,
And sentient beings in the Dharma-ending age,
Seek to attain Buddha bodhi,
They should train in this way.

Bodhisattva Vajragarbha

Then Bodhisattva Vajragarbha rose from his seat and asked the Buddha,

“O World Honored One of great compassion! You have wonderfully shared to all the Bodhisattvas the great dharani of the Buddha’s pure Complete Enlightenment (chapter 1), the Dharma practice of the causal ground (chapter 2), and the expedient methods of gradual cultivation (chapter 3), so that sentient beings may finally clear away the illusory veils and all that clouds their vision and knowing of the truth. All those here have now begun to see clearly through the eye of wisdom.

World Honoured One, if sentient beings are Buddha’s why don’t they know it?

If they’re Buddha’s why is there so much ignorance?

And if they are ignorant of these things that the Buddha has shared how can you say that they too are Buddhas’?

And if this ignorance arises later then does that mean that you too will become ignorant and forget your own Buddha nature?

Please let your great compassion flow and share your secret treasury of wisdom for the benefit of all Bodhisattvas, so that all sentient beings in the Dharma Ending Age who hear the dharma door of ultimate meaning of this sutra will forever be free of doubts and regrets.

The Buddha answered, “Excellent virtuous Vajragarbha, you have asked the Buddha about the very secret and profound ultimate expedient methods, which are the highest teaching for bodhisattvas and the ultimate truth in the Mahayana.

These methods are capable of causing practicing and beginning bodhisattvas in all ten directions and all sentient beings in the Dharma Ending Age to obtain the stage of grounded, resolute unshakeable faith so they can permanently sever doubts and regrets.

Listen attentively now. I shall explain it to you.

All worlds begin and end, are born and die, have before and after, exist and do not exist, gather and scatter, arise and cease.

Thoughts follow one another in succession, coming and going in a ceaseless circle. With all sorts of grasping and rejecting, these [changing processes] are all cyclic existences.

To describe Perfect Enlightenment, to try and understand Perfect Enlightenment with the small, grasping, samsaric mind – before you’ve transcended samsara – before you’ve let go of coming and going, birth and death, arising and ceasing – of course will give rise to doubts – because the doubting, questioning, seeking mind’s nature is samsara.

It’s like looking at still water while shaking your eyes, it’s like staring at a whirling flame and seeing a circle, it’s like believing the moon is moving because the cloud is moving, or staring at the shore believing that the shore is moving but forgetting that you’re sitting in a boat.

In samsara everything is moving, everything is constantly changing, everything is spinning round and round. The samsaric mind, that small petty, grasping, me-me-me mind is the same.

If you think you can discover or even glimpse Perfect Enlightenment with this mind you will continually miss the mark.

And it is this mind that has compelled you to ask these questions.

Even ideas of samsara and nirvana are this clinging and grasping mind.

In the perfect illumination of one’s own wondrous awareness, there is neither samsara or nirvana.

It is free, open and endless like space or a clear blue sky.

The clear blue sky is beyond grasping and clinging, beginning or end, coming and going.

How much more so is the Buddha’s Complete and Perfect Enlightenment.

Vast, expansive, evenness like space.

Attaining Perfect Enlightenment is like smelting ores to extract gold. The existence of gold is not caused by the smelting of ores. The extracted gold will never become ore again. Because gold is indestructible for an immeasurable timespan, one can’t say that it wasn’t gold before its extraction.

Likewise is a Buddha’s Perfect Enlightenment.

In the wondrously completely enlightened Buddha Mind there is neither bodhi or nirvana, neither a state of Buddhahood to be attained nor not attaining a state of Buddhahood, there is neither samsara nor non-samsara,

Even by cutting off all karmic activities of body, speech and mind, which is highly praised will still not help you realize the nirvana you seek, to experience the liberation that was experienced and manifested by the Buddha.

You will never realize Perfect Complete Enlightenment with the small, petty, me-me-me, thinking mind.

It would be like a firefly trying to set ablaze and burn down Mount Sumeru.

Now matter how hard it tries it will never set the mountain on fire.

One can never succeed in entering a Buddha’s ocean of great nirvāṇa by using the saṁsāric mind with its saṁsāric views.

That is why I say that all Bodhisattvas, and all sentient beings in the Dharma-ending age, should first cut off the root of beginningless cyclic existence – the saṁsāric mind.

All thinking, all conceptual thought, all contrivances about doing something arises from the small mind which is conditioned by the six sense objects and dependent on one’s energy flow. It is not the true mind, but an aspect of it that is like a flower in the sky.

Trying to use this small, limited mind to discover and know the Buddha’s state is like a flower in the sky bearing fruit. It will never happen. You’ll just be running around in circles entangled in deluded thoughts never to result in realization. 

The small, petty, cunning mind with it’s multitude of clever views and opinions cannot actualize the expedient means of Perfect Enlightenment.

This mind and it’s questions are bound in a world of dualistic discrimination and doubt. The thoughts and questions raised by it will never help you and are not the correct way of awakening.

Then the Buddha, in order to help clarify what he shared with the assembly said,

Vajragarbha, you should know
The Buddha’s perfectly tranquil nature
Has never had a beginning or an end.

If you use the cyclic small mind
Discursive thought just spins in circles,
And at most, you can reach the limits and edge of cyclic existence,
But you will be unable to enter the Buddha-sea.

It is like smelting gold ore:
The gold does not exist because of smelting,
Yet crude gold, from smelting
Once subsequently perfected,
Never returns to the state of ore.

Saṃsāra and nirvana,
Worldlings and Buddhas
Like sky-flowers, are appearances.

Discursive thought is just an illusory phenomenon:
How can it breakthrough illusion?

Only after you fully know this mind
Can you discover Perfect Enlightenment.

 


Maitreya

Then the Bodhisattva Maitreya rose from his seat and asked the Buddha,

“Great compassionate World-Honored One, You have opened wide the secret treasure chest to Bodhisattvas and enabled this multitude to acquire a profound understanding of the cycle of birth and death and to differentiate between correct and mistaken views. You have given all sentient beings in the Dharma-ending age the fearless bodhi eye and enabled them to have unwavering faith in the great nirvāṇa so that they no longer follow, chase after or cling to saṁsāric states and hold cyclical views.

“World-Honored One, if Bodhisattvas, and sentient beings in the Dharma-ending age, want to sail on the Buddha’s ocean of great nirvāṇa, how do they cut off the roots of saṁsāra?

Of those lost in the various states of cyclic existence how many different types of sentient beings and capacities are there?

What are the different kinds of cultivation and trainings that can be used to reveal the Buddha’s awakened mind that is inherent within everyone?

When a Bodhisattva enters back into the world that’s filled with forgetfulness and ruled by afflictions what types of teachings and skillful means should they use to free sentient beings?

I pray that you will not abandon your great compassionate vow of saving the world and you will enable all Bodhisattvas in training and all sentient beings in the Dharma-ending age to purify and clear their wisdom eye, to illuminate their mirror-like minds and to awaken to a perfect understanding of a Buddha’s unsurpassed wisdom and views.”

Then the Buddha said to Maitreya Bodhisattva,

“Very good, very good! For the sake of the Bodhisattvas in this assembly and all sentient beings in the Dharma-ending age, you ask the Buddha about the abstruse, secret, and subtle meaning that can enable Bodhisattvas to purify their wisdom eye, and can help all sentient beings in the Dharma-ending age to end forever their transmigrations through their cycles of birth and death.

All will realize the true reality of the way things are and will remain at ease in their realization of the unborn wisdom. Now listen well and I will explain these things to you.”

Maitreya Bodhisattva was delighted to receive this instruction. He and the multitude listened in silence.

“Since beginningless time cyclic existence is experienced due to selfish craving, self-centred love, wanting, yearning and desire.

All sentient beings, whether born through an egg, a womb, moisture, or miraculous formation, acquire their lives through sexual desire, so you can see that that this self-centred craving/wanting/yearning/loving is the root of saṁsāra. 

Desire arises from this yearning and attachment – this energy then depends on that desire.

The root of a sentient being’s love of the mundane life is desire.

Self-centred love and desire are the cause, and craving to acquire that selfish-love is the effect.

We then chase after these objects of desire creating a world of duality – like and dislike, love and hate, wanting and wanted, greed and aversion, which then gives birth to agreeable and disagreeable situations that are tied to that dualistic grasping state of mind.

Then if anything or anyone gets in the way of that wanting it creates hatred, jealousy and pain of all kinds.

This then compels us to do all sorts of crazy things that then creates negative karma all because of this self-craving.This negative karma this has us be reborn as hell beings or hungry ghosts.

Sometimes, upon seeing and discovering that this selfish-craving is the root of becoming we withdraw from it – create aversion to it, reject it – creating another form of duality. Like a pendulum swinging in the other direction – this too is a form of attachment. We start to only prefer and delight in goodness – which then has us reborn in the god or human realm but we must see and know that this too is a form of selfish craving.

So to end the vicious cycle of birth and death we must go beyond all forms of dualistic craving. We must put an end to selfish, self-centred desire and self-centred craving.

When a Bodhisattva manifests in the world their birth does not come from selfish-grasping or craving. They are born out of loving-kindness and compassion to help sentient beings be free of this selfish-yearning. They use the power and energy of desire as a skillful means.

If sentient beings in the Dharma-ending age can get rid of their selfish desires they will put an end to love and hate.

Once you awaken to perfect enlightenment – to the fundamental awakened and pure mind of your inherent Buddha nature the cycle of birth and death will end forever.

Sentient beings enmeshed in selfish desire continue to generate ignorance and then express the inequalities of the Five Natures (The Five Natures: (1) those on the wrong paths, (2) ordinary beings, (3) shrāvaka meaning those who seek to attain emancipation by eradicating earthly desires. While they seek personal emancipation, they do not share it with others., (4) Pratyekabuddhas – solitary realizers who build up merit away from the spotlight of the world (5) Bodhisattvas – those who vow to awaken and help free all sentient beings as well.

According to the two obstructions, their hindrances may appear to be deep or shallow.

What are the two obstructions?

The first is the obstruction of principle which is like a veil clouding ones ability to see the way things are, hindering right views and not enabling them to accept the ultimate truth.

The second is the obstruction of phenomena, which perpetuates birth and death because one is perpetually in a state of vexation, frustration and desire which then binds one to samsara.

If all the sentient beings of the degenerate age want to float on the great ocean of the Buddha’s Perfect Enlightenment, they should first arouse the determination to do away with the Two Hindrances. 

Once the Two Hindrances are subdued, one can awaken and enter the state of the bodhisattva

After permanently destroying the principle and phenomenal hindrances, one is able to enter the sublime Perfect Enlightenment of the Buddha and fully accomplish awakening and great nirvana.

All sentient beings intrinsically actualize Complete Enlightenment.

When you meet a good teacher, a helpful friend of the way, follow and rely upon the practice of the causal ground that they give to you.

They will know your karmic propensities and whether your realization will be gradual or sudden. 

If you come across the correct path of practice – the unsurpassed practice of awakening of the Buddha – it doesn’t matter what your background is because all will accomplish Buddhahood.

If while seeking a genuine teacher sentient beings meet one with mistaken views they will not discover true awakening. 

That is why there are so many people are the wrong path. It’s not their fault. It is the reason for the five natures of the five different character types. Knowing this – once you find a teacher that has realized the way of awakening serve and cherish them. You have truly found the rarest of jewels.

A Bodhisattva uses great compassion and skillful means to enter the world to develop the unenlightened. The manifest various shapes and forms, favourable and unfavourable situations and uses the Four Drawing in Dharmas of (1) giving, (2) loving words, (3) beneficial actions, and (4) collaborative work to enable ordinary beings to attain Buddhahood.

They rely on the power of the vows that they have made since beginningless time. If sentient beings in the dharma ending age generate Bodhicitta – the mind of awakening for the benefit of all – they should make the vow,

As long as space remains
As long as sentient beings remain
So too shall I remain
To free us all

Then make the personal vow 

May I 
From now on, 
Abide in Buddha’s Complete Enlightenment, 
and may I, 
Quickly and easily find
A teacher that will show me
My own inherent Buddha Nature.
and may I
Stay clear of distractions
That will hinder this vow.

If your practice is based upon this vow then you will sever the hindrances easily. When your hindrances are gone your personal vow is fulfilled.

You will ascend to the Pure Dharma Palace of Liberation, and actualize the marvellously adorned realm of Great Perfect Enlightenment.

Then the Buddha, in order to help clarify what he shared with the assembly said,

Maitreya, you should know that
The reason all sentient beings
Do not experience liberation
Is because of selfish desire
So they remain in the cycle
Of birth and death.

If you can separate yourself
From like and dislike,
As well as the three poisons of
Desire, hatred and delusion
You will all perfect the Buddha’s way
And permanently destroy the Two Hindrances,
Regardless of your character type.

When you meet a good friend
A teacher to show you the way
You will swiftly and easily
Be in alignment with your vows
Abide in Perfect Enlightenment
And rest in Great Nirvana.

The bodhisattvas of the ten directions
Relying on the Great Compassionate vow
Appear in the world of saṃsāra

Practitioners of the present
As well as sentient beings of the degenerate age
Should diligently eliminate all attached views
And directly return to
Great Perfect Enlightenment.

 

 

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