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 (and this even includes whole chapters like the Bodhisattva of Sound Discernment). 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 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

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] 

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.”  

“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.” 

All Bodhisattvas and sentient beings in the Dharma ending age should turn away from, let go of and release themselves from all Illusions.

Rest and abide in Natural Great Enlightened Perfection, which is free from thoughts of illusion, free from ideas of of being free of thoughts of illusion, free from separation and free of concepts of being free of separation.

Just rest in Natural Great Enlightened Perfection.

There’s nothing to be separated from.

There’s nothing to do.

Even saying let go is too much of a concept.

As an analogy, one rubs two pieces of wood together to produce fire. The fire burns then goes out. Ashes fly and smoke disappears. The wood and fire and act of creating a fire are all gone and now appear like illusions. Using one illusion to end another illusion is similar.

But…

When these illusions end, it’s not like there’s just nothingness that remains.

Look…

What is it that notices that the fire is gone?

Empty and clear.

Vast and expansive.

Radiant and illuminating.

There is still an empty clear knowing that remains.

One’s pure awareness is not extinguished.

Turning away from an illusion as soon as one becomes aware of it does not require any skillful means.

Turning away from illusion to enlightenment does not require a sequence of steps.

All Bodhisattvas, and all sentient beings in the Dharma-ending age, should train in this way, in order to turn away from illusions forever.

Then, to restate this meaning, the World-Honored One spoke in verse:

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.

 

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.


The Bodhisattva of Pure Wisdom

The from the midst of the assembly the Bodhisattva of Pure Wisdom arose and asked the Buddha,

“World honoured one of Great Compassion, you have broadly shared with us things that have never been seen or heard before. Because of your excellent guidance our bodies and minds are at ease and we have all gained great benefit.

For the benefit of all of us here can you please share again the nature of the Dharma King’s complete and perfect enlightenment.

What are the differences between the actualization and realizations of sentient beings, bodhisattvas and Buddha’s.

Please teach us so that sentient beings of the dharma ending age can follow the way and be awakened and gradually enter the realm of Buddhahood.”

The Buddha answered the Bodhisattva of Pure Wisdom saying,

“The intrinsic fundamental primordial nature of Perfect Enlightenment doesn’t have different characteristics yet all the different characteristics arise within it.

It doesn’t have self-essence yet all sentient beings have it.

It is the intrinsic nature of all so there is no acquisition or actualization of it.

In fundamental awareness there are neither sentient beings of bodhisattvas.

Why?

Bodhisattvas and sentient beings are illusory. When illusions end there is neither actualizer or actualization, neither realizer and realized.

As an analogy, although the eye can’t see itself, its nature is impartial [free from subject and object], and yet there is no one who makes it impartial.

Sentient beings confused and caught up in their illusory projections. They try and use their illusory effort to remove illusory distinctions which create various teachings and trainings.

But if they train in the way of Buddha’s nirvana then they will eliminate distinctions and see that there is neither nirvana nor anyone in nirvana.

The Hindrances on the Path
Since beginning less time sentient beings have imagined that everyone has a self. They have loved this self, cherished it, protected it, fought for it. They don’t know that their thoughts rise and fall one after the other. This gives rise to love and hate, us and them, good and bad, right and wrong, want and don’t want.

They then become attached and addicted to the five desires of wealth, sex, fame, food and drink , and sleep. They hunger for sensory stimulation living in a state of perpetual agitation.

But if they meet a good friend who guides them to awaken to their fundamental awareness of Perfect Enlightenment and shows them the fleeting nature of the rise and fall of thoughts, then they will know directly for themselves that when they believe in, fuel and cling to thoughts this will give rise to all the trouble and torment of their lives.

But there may be some that then cling to this newly realized awakening, the purity of it, and because of that view can not break through to the freedom and ease of Perfect Enlightenment and this too will become a hindrance. This person is heading toward enlightenment but is not perfectly free. This is called ‘the ordinary person’s accordance with the nature of enlightenment.”

All Bodhisattvas seeing their knowledge and understanding as a hindrance obstructing the truth. But even if they eliminate the “obstruction of understanding” they still cling to and grasp onto a view of enlightenment. This “enlightenment obstruction” becomes a hindrance and they are not perfectly free. This is called ‘the bodhisattva before the stage of the first bhumi’s accordance with the nature of enlightenment.”

The idea of “attaining” illumination and realization is a hindrance. The Bodhisattva is always in realization without anyone abiding in realization. Where realizer and realized dissolve and vanish. All is illuminated in the light of suchness.

It ilike a person who has chopped off their own head – when the head has been severed there is no longer “chopper” to be found.

Likewise one uses the mind that perceives hindrances to remove those same hindrances perceived. When these hindrances are removed, the remover has vanished.

The teachings in sūtras are like a finger pointing at the moon. When one sees the moon, one knows that the finger pointing at the moon is not the moon. Likewise a Buddha uses words to point at the truth] for Bodhisattvas. This is how a Bodhisattva on a Bodhisattva ground accords with the nature of enlightenment.

All hindrances themselves are of the nature of ultimate enlightenment.
Both achieving mindfulness and losing mindfulness are liberation.
Thoughts are of themselves the arising of suchness – same as the state of no-thought.
Both following the Dharma and wandering aimlessly are both nirvana.
Both knowledge and delusion are prajna-wisdom.
Both attainments of a Bodhisattva and the attainments of a non-Buddhists are both bodhi.
Ignorance and true suchness are not different realms.
Observing the precepts, doing meditation, and developing wisdom, as well as entertaining greed, anger, and delusion, are all pure activities.
Sentient beings and the worlds they live in are of the same dharma nature. Both hells and heavens are Pure Lands.
Regardless of their differences of characteristics and expressions of those characteristics all sentient beings have intrinsically accomplished the Buddha Path.
All afflictions, vexations and frustrations are the ultimate liberation.

The Buddha’s ocean-like wisdom, which encompasses the whole dharmadhatu, clearly illuminates all phenomena as empty space.

This is called ‘the Buddha’s accordance with the nature of enlightenment.’

The Bodhisattvas in this assembly and all sentient beings in the Dharma ending age should not try to arouse or block their thoughts, or try to understand or comprehend deeply their states of mind or try to determine whether or not they have clearly seen what is true or false.

Just rest in the great un-doing, un-mindfulness, un-meditation.

Just be at ease.

Release.

Rest in the radiance.

There’s nothing that needs to be done.

If someone after hearing this Dharma door, goes beyond their shock and fear and believes in it, understands it, accepts it, upholds it, and practices the non-practice then they are in accord with the nature of enlightenment.

Know that the person who believes in it, understands it, accepts it, upholds it, and practices the non-practice has made offerings to the Buddhas and great Bodhisattvas as numerous as the grains of sands of a billion Ganges Rivers and has planted the deepest roots of goodness.

I say that these people will accomplish the Buddha’s Great Wisdom of All Aspects of the Way Things Are.

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

Pure Wisdom, you should know that
When one fully realizes the perfect nature of bodhi (awakening)
One then knows that there was nothing ever to actualize or attain
And there are no Bodhisattvas or sentient beings

Yet between the times of enlightenment and non-enlightenment
There are differences in levels of realization and actualization

Sentient beings are obstructed by their knowledge and understanding
Bodhisattvas [not yet on any bhumi’s] have not discarded their attachment to their perceptions.
Bodhisattvas on the Bodhisattva ground realize that all perceptions are indeed nirvāṇa
And they have stopped clinging to and abiding in any appearances

When one fully attains great enlightenment
It is called a “pervasive accord” (as awareness includes everything)

If sentient beings in the dharma ending age
Do not give rise to thoughts
I say that
They, in their present life, are already Bodhisattvas,
Because they have made offerings to Buddhas as numerous as the sands of the Ganges
And completed their accumulation of merits.

Know that there are multiple skillful means in the Dharma,
And all of them are in accord with wisdom.


Bodhisattva at Ease in All Pervading Powerful Majestic Virtue

Then the Bodhisattva at Ease in All Pervading Powerful Majestic Virtue arose and asked the Buddha,

“Great Compassionate World Honoured One you have greatly explained the different ways to be in accordance with the nature of enlightenment and because of that you have caused the minds of a multitude Bodhisattvas to become illuminated. Hearing your wisdom-voice has given so much benefit and merit even though we haven’t done any spiritual practices to receive it.

World-Honored One, as an analogy, a great city has four outer gates for those coming from the four directions to enter into the city. As there is more than one road to the city, likewise there is more than one skillful means for Bodhisattvas to adorn Buddha Lands and attain awakening.

I pray that the World-Honored One will share with us the number of different kinds of spiritual trainees, and all the skillful means and training steps that will enable the Bodhisattvas in this assembly and all sentient beings in the Dharma-ending age who seek the great vehicle of Mahāyāna to quickly come to awakening, and to playfully abide in the Buddhas ocean of great nirvāṇa.

The Buddha answered the Bodhisattva at Ease in All Pervading Powerful Majestic Virtue saying,

“The radiant awareness of unsurpassable wondrous enlightenment pervades everywhere in all ten directions and gives rise to Buddhas and all dharmas as everything is equal and of the same substance – suchness.

As far as the various practices are concerned, in reality they’re not different from one another. The expedient methods that accord with Perfect Enlightenment are numberless. Even though there are numberless practices they all fall under three broad types which resonate with the inclinations of different practitioners.

Shamatha (Calm Abiding/Peaceful/Quiet/Relaxed)
If a Bodhisattva awakens to the wisdom of his inherent radiant awareness they can use that recognition of perfectly clear stillness to quiet the small mind and ease the body.

In that stillness you can see and know when you’re being pulled away by your thoughts and can witness the commotion and motion of the small mind of perceptual consciousness.

Wisdom arises from this stillness, from this calm, from this quiet and your attachment and clinging onto the dust-like, dreamlike, illusion-like, rise and fall of the body and mind and all appearances stops.

As this stillness and quietness arises from within, you experiences lightness, ease and compassion.

In this quietness and stillness, the minds of all the Buddhas in the all the worlds of the ten directions are revealed, like reflections in a mirror. This skillful means is called Shamatha.

Samapatti/Vipasyana (Insight Meditation)
If a Bodhisattva awakens to the wisdom of his inherent radiant awareness they can use that recognition of perfect clarity to realize the illusory nature of all dharmas.

You can use the radiant awareness to see and know the illusory, fleeting, grasping, moving nature of the small mind, the sense faculties and their objects.

Then using the analytical power of that small mind they use illusion to eliminate illusion and to illuminate illusory multitudes.

Seeing and knowing illusion then compassion, lightness and ease naturally arises.

Bodhisattvas who train in this gradual arising insight practice discover that there is an observer of illusions which is not the same as the illusion. Eventually you will see and know that this sense of being an observer is also an illusion and all appearances of illusions will end.

This marvelous and wonderful expedient training method practiced by Bodhisattvas and is like a seed sprouting and growing from the earth is called Samapatti/Vipasyana.

Dhyāna (Absorption in Natural Awakening of Empty Clarity of Non-Meditation)
If a Bodhisattva awakens to the wisdom of their inherent radiant awareness and releases from stillness and illusory appearances they will know that both the body and mind are also concepts to be dropped.

They will naturally abide in pure awareness free from ideas and concepts of hindrance and non-hindrance, stillness and movement, samsara and nirvana.

They will laugh and enjoy the world, and all that appears, as all that appears is pure illuminating suchness.

Just as the sound of a bell reverberates through the metal and permeates all of space resounding far and wide, unhindered and free. Likewise the radiance of your pure awareness Illuminates everything, permeates everywhere, is unhindered by samsara and nirvāṇa.

Realization and liberation arises from within, and you experiences lightness, ease and compassion.

One’s wondrous awareness is in accord with nirvāṇa and is beyond anyone’s false perception that their body and mind constitute a self, a person, a sentient being, and a lifespan. This skillful means is called dhyāna.

These Three Accord
These three Dharma doors and practice methods are in intimate accordance with Perfect Enlightenment.

Buddhas in every direction in all times accomplish Buddhahood through these skillful means.

All the different expedient methods and practices all tie back in some way to one of these three activities.

When a Bodhisattva perfects their training in them they attain perfect enlightenment.

If on your practice of the sagely path someone teachers delivers, and succeeds in guiding hundreds of thousands of millions of people into arhatship and pratyekabuddhahood, they cannot be compared with someone who hears this hindrance free dharma of perfect enlightenment and practices it even for an instant.

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

All Pervading Powerful Majestic Virtue
You should know that
One’s unsurpassed great enlightened mind
Of pure radiant awareness
Is intrinsically non-dual
And the skillful means
That are in accord with it
Are countless.

The Buddha reveals
Three skillful means:
In the stillness and quietness arising from śamatha,
One’s mind is mirror-like reflecting all images.
Samapatti, wherein all is seen as an illusion,
is like a seed growing gradually.
The cessation and liberation arising from dhyāna of natural awakening
Is like the hindrance-free sound resonated from a bell.
These three wondrous Dharma Doors
Are in accordance with enlightenment.

The Buddhas everywhere
and the great bodhisattvas
achieve Buddhahood through them.

Perfect actualization of these three
is called ultimate absolute nirvana.

Bodhisattva Cleansed of All Karmic Hinderances

Then the Bodhisattva Cleansed of All Karmic Hinderances rose from their seat and asked the Buddha,

“O World Honored One of great compassion! You have explained at length to us such inconceivable things as the practices of the causal stages of all Buddhas, and have given this assembly insights they’ve never had before. 

Having seen the Buddha’s arduous toil through life time after lifetime as innumerable as the grains of sand of the Ganges, and see this effortful in practice unfold as if they were but an instant of a thought, we bodhisattvas feel deeply fortunate and joyous.

World Honoured One, to save all beings from innumerable lifetimes of struggle in search and strain after the Natural Perfect Awakened Mind which is originally pure and ever present, please explain what kinds of defilements cause sentient beings to suffer in delusion and not enter into Illuminating Suchness in this instant.

Please Buddha, my only request is that you thoroughly reveal the nature of phenomena so that this assembly and sentient beings in the Dharma Ending Age may use your teaching, experience and wisdom as a guiding light in the future.  

The Buddha answered the Bodhisattva Cleansed of All Karmic Hinderances saying,

Since beginningless time, all sentient beings have deludedly conceived and attached to the idea a ‘self,’ a ‘person,’ a ‘sentient being’ and a ‘lifespan’ —they take these four concepts and distort them into an idea of a real me.

Founded on this delusion of a self, duality arises – love and hate, like and dislike, us and them which then creates even more delusion.

These two mutually dependent delusions produce the false karmic path. Producing false karma then makes one see and believe in transmigration, birth and death. Those tired of the struggles, strain and suffering of samsara then believe in nirvana – still trapped in dualistic thinking they cannot enter pure enlightenment. Why? Because they still believe in someone who’s being freed from samsara and entering nirvana. So it doesn’t matter if the mind is agitated in thought after thought or empty of thoughts – they still are confused and perplexed and cannot abide in perfect enlightenment..  

It’s not that they are being blocked or rejected by enlightenment – rather it is because all of us haven’t awakened to our fundamental natural state of perfect awakening and rested in it.

Pure awareness does not reject anyone or anything – how can it? It embraces all so it is all embracing and that includes you right now in this very moment. Pure awareness is available right now – so what do you mean there is much to practice? All of us are already awakened – the practice is to drop the illusion and rest in your very own empty knowing radiance. The light of wisdom shines right now as naturally perfect empty clarity. 

So why can’t sentient beings abide in natural awakening? Since beginngless time original ignorance has arisen creating dualistic grasping and a subjective ego. The wisdom-eye cannot arise because they become trapped in a body-mind filled with ignorance. This then creates likes and dislikes, love and hate, greed and aversion, Selfing solidifies and this self enjoys it when things go well and gets angry and frustrated when life doesn’t go as they planned or wanted.

So what is the trace of the “self”?

It is that which is witnessed by a witnessing mind of sentient beings. That sense that “I am” meditating.

For example when you’re healthy you naturally forget all about your body. But the moment the body has and ache a pain or you get sick you make an effort to heal and get back to health. You try lots of different things and you’re immediately and finely aware of your existence as a self. 

This selfing is only in reference to this ‘witnessing’ that you perceive and grasp to an apparent self-essence. Every kind of witnessing from this level up to the Buddha’s perfect perception of pure nirvana, is all the ‘trace of “self.”

So what is the trace of “person”? 

It is the cognition and affirmation continually made of the prior “witnessing” where you believe wholeheartedly in that feeling of a self. It is not until you have experienced for yourself the letting go of “self” that you can break free of that sense of being a person.

From this sense being a “person” all the way up to that sense of a “witnesser” until the final release is what is called the trace of a person. 

So what is the ‘trace of “sentient being”?’ 

It is that feeling and experience which is after self-witnessing and believing-cognition of self where ownership, classification and labelling takes place. Take for example the person who says “I am a sentient being.” What this person has called ‘sentient being,’ is neither a person or self but is a mere categorization, labelling and setting apart of various imputed isolated qualities that have been clumped together and called “sentient being”. It is a creation. There then is the “experience” of awakening but this is just more traces of selfing. This idea of having realized something is the trace of sentient being.

So what is the ‘trace of “lifespan”?’ 

It is the small karmic ego mind of sentient beings that threads together and tries to make sense of the prior traces. This small karmic mind and the wisdom mind cannot perceive themselves. But when the karmic mind dissolves into the wisdom mind – like when hot water melts ice – there is no distinctions and nothing crystallized to point to. That crystallized ice mind that may be aware of being melted fades away as well. The non-existence of a false-self and the apparent awareness of such a self is just like this.

If sentient beings in the degenerate age do not comprehend this makeup and coming together of the “four traces” of the small petty crystallized ego-mind, even after attempting to cultivate the path for lifetime after lifetime for countless eons they still will be bound by the “marks of attachment” to false notions. They are thus forever prevented from enjoying the fruits of sage hood. 

Why? Since they regard these traces of self to be nirvana, and they regard their witnessing and cognition to be consummation of enlightenment. It is like a man who mistakes a thief for his son. His family’s holdings will always come up short. Why? Because the lover of self also loves nirvana, and takes the suppression of self as the characteristic of nirvana. The hater of self also hates saṃsāra. Not knowing that it is the attached love itself that is actually saṃsāra, he singles out saṃsāra for hatred, calling it “non- liberation.”

Therefore, this is called [cultivating] the True Dharma in the Dharma Ending Age. 

Why? 

Because they mistake the various aspects of the self for nirvana, and regard their experiences and awakenings as accomplishments. There is still traces of this “I” egoic small petty crystallized mind remaining.

This is comparable to a person who mistakes a thief for their own son. Their wealth and treasure will never increase. 

Why? 

Because if one grasps onto and believes deeply in the self, one will also grasp onto and believe deeply in nirvana – that liberation from the self. This is still dualistic grasping. 

The root of grasping onto the self is merely suppressed and seemingly  there is the appearance of nirvana. 

Similarly, if there is one who hates the self, one will also have hatred for samsara. Not knowing that grasping, clinging, attachment is the real source of samsara and this selfing mind. One is still in dualistic grasping by pointing to samsara and calling it “non-liberation”. 

How does one recognize and know this Dharma of non liberation? 

If sentient beings in the Dharma Ending Age, while cultivating bodhi, have experienced slight realization of Complete Enlightenment and think that they’re completely free, then they have not exhausted the root of the trace of the self. 

If someone praises their Dharma, it gives rise to great joy and pride in their mind and they want to liberate the praiser. If someone criticizes their achievement, that gives rise to anger and hatred in their mind. 

Thus one can tell that their attachment to the phenomenon of the self is strong and firm. This self is hidden in the storehouse consciousness and plays freely through sense faculties without interruption.

If these aspirants of the awakened mind don’t see through the traces of the self they will be unable to abide in primordial pure and perfect enlightenment.

If emptiness of the self is known then there is also known that there is no “eliminator” of self.

But if one sees oneself as expounding and sharing the dharma then one has not ended their perceptions of having a self. This is also true with the perceptions of being a sentient being and having a lifespan.

Sentient beings of the degenerate age get caught in the traces of self and end up calling it the holy dharma. Compassion and sympathy bursts forth for them. Even though they make diligent effort in their practice all they’re really doing is aggravating the disease and making it worse. Making it even harder to rest and abide in the spacious natural unborn radiance of perfect enlightenment.

Sentient beings do not see and know these four traces of self. But they still claim realization of the Buddha Mind but the opposite is true. When they see others making swift progress along the way the become jealous and upset. This is a sure sign of not breaking free of the small self and because of that they cannot awaken to their inherent potential of Primordial Enlightenment.

Sentient beings hope for buddha but put no energy of effort into awakening to their natural state. They fall in love with learning and intellectual knowledge which only increases their sense of self. 

What they should do is courageously and diligently strive to alleviate their own suffering, and afflictions. Attain what they have not attained, sever what they have not severed. 

Not allowing greed, anger, love, pride, flattery, crookedness, jealousy and envy to arise and extinguishing all love and attachment to self and other. Whenever this is faithfully done the Buddha assures you that these people gradually awaken. 

Find a genuine Teacher so you will not fall into mistaken views. 

And be ever mindful if you’re being swept away by love or hate, like or dislike, because if that’s the case you can’t enter into and abide in the ocean of pure radiant awareness.

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

Bodhisattva Cleansed of All Karmic Hinderances, know that
All sentient beings,
Because of their attachment to and love of the self
Have falsely been transmigrating since beginningless time.

Because they have not removed the four false traces of self
They cannot attain bodhi.

Love and hate arise in their minds,
And they harbor thoughts of flattery and crookedness.
They are full of confusion and perplexity
Unable to enter the city of enlightenment.

If they want to reach the land of realization,
They must first discard greed, anger, and delusion,
And stop retaining their love of dharmas in their minds.
Then they will gradually attain enlightenment.

As one’s body has always been empty,
From what can one’s love and hate arise?

One should seek a beneficent learned friend
In order not to fall into the wrong views.
If one entertains love or hate with respect to what one seeks,
One ultimately cannot attain enlightenment.


Bodhisattva of Universal Enlightenment

Then the Bodhisattva Universal Enlightenment rose from their seat and asked the Buddha,

“O World Honored One of great compassion! You have openly explained clearly the faults that can arise in practice so that this great assembly of bodhisattvas has gained what it never had experienced before. Their minds are now at peace and they have gained a great tranquility, secure, and steadfast because of the teaching that you shared so they can use it as a guiding vision for their practice.

Sentient beings in the degenerate age are fast becoming far removed and distant from the Buddha and his teachings; the great sages and saints now seldom appear and heretical teachings flourish in their absence.

What manner of teachers should sentient beings seek guidance from?
What kind of Dharma should they depend upon?
What kind of meditation practices and trainings should they partake in?
What form of imperfections should they seek to remedy?
How can they best arouse the Bodhi-mind thus avoid falling into erroneous views?

The Buddha answered the Bodhisattva of Universal Enlightenment saying,

Sentient beings in the degenerate age who aspire to arouse the Great Mind of Enlightenment should seek out a Genuine Teacher, a good friend to show them the truth.

Those who wish to practice and set themselves to the task of awakening should seek out someone who has achieved the vast expansive view of suchness that sees the way things are, whose mind is not bound and does not cling to characteristics and is not attached to the realms and views of arhats and solitary realizers.

A guiding light whose mind remains pure and clear while fully invested and active in alleviating worldly afflictions.

A teacher that though they may be riddled with physical illness their mind of vastness is never forgotten.

Though they may display misdeeds to save sentient beings they continually praise purity in thought, word and deed and they do not lead sentient beings into unruly or undisciplined conduct or demeanour.

Even as they show you your shortcomings they reveal to you your own Buddha nature.

If you can find this type of teacher and good friend then surely you will discover unexcelled perfect enlightenment for yourselves.

When sentient beings of the dharma ending age meet such a teacher they should make offerings to them – including your bodies and lives to help them. Give them everything you have. Food, clothes, wealth, property – help them in their mission to free all beings. Bring them your family and friends. Give them everything.

Such a genuine teacher constantly displays a radiant mind in the four modes of walking, standing still, sitting, and lying down.

Even though they reveal to you your various faults they do so out of compassion not arrogance or pride.

If you keep your view positive about this good friend and genuine teacher you will accomplish perfect enlightenment and the radiance of your mind flower will illuminate all the worlds in the ten directions.

The Four Faults (Maladies)
The wonderfully amazing dharma that should be actualized and exhibited by this Genuine Teacher should be free of the four maladies.

What are these four?

The first is the fault of contrivance. This is the fault of doing something to attain perfect enlightenment.

If someone were to say, “In my quest for perfect enlightenment if I fully apply myself and perform these actions and practices I will attain Perfect Enlightenment.” This is clearly not true since the nature of enlightenment is ever present and can never be attained through doing something.

The second is the fault of allowing things to be as they are.

If someone says, ‘In my quest for perfect enlightenment, I neither cut off saṁsāra nor seek nirvāṇa, and I have no thoughts about the arising or ceasing of saṁsāra or nirvāṇa. I let things happen according to dharma nature and just go along naturally with life.’ This is clearly not true since the nature of enlightenment is never attained by letting things be. The spontaneous energy of compassion compels you to action to free us all. And moved even the Buddha to practice under the Bodhi tree.

The third is the fault of stopping thoughts.

If someone says, ‘In my quest for perfect enlightenment, I will now stop forever all the thoughts in my mind in order to realize the quietness, equality and stillness of all dharmas.’ This is clearly not true since the nature of enlightenment is never attained by the stopping thoughts, quietness and stillness or equality. Thoughts themselves and their movement are the arising of suchness, the birds sing and the ten thousand myriad things reveal the truth naturally.

The fourth is the fault of annihilation.

If someone says, “‘I will now end all afflictions forever. As my body and mind are absolutely empty and nonexistent, so too are the false states of my sense faculties and their corresponding sense objects. In my quest for perfect enlightenment, everything is forever abiding in nirvāṇa.’ This too is a fault because perfect enlightenment is not annihilation. If it was why does the Zen Master smile while drinking tea?

One who is free from these four maladies will know the absolute and perfect purity of Illuminating Suchness.

Seeing clearly this view is called right insight and not seeing clearly this view is called mistaken insight.

If sentient beings in the Dharma-ending age want to train and cultivate themselves, they should find a teacher, beneficent learned friend,
and throughout their lives they should make offerings to a them and serve them in their mission to liberate sentient being.

If the teacher becomes close to them, they should not become proud or arrogant. If the teacher becomes distant or leaves them, they should not get angry or harbour any resentment.

A teacher continually works to awaken their students so seemingly agreeable and disagreeable, pleasant and unpleasant, wanted and unwanted situations will arise, they should view them like wisps of clouds in an empty sky.

They should let go of the seeming separation between them and other sentient beings – they all are of the same essence.

If you practice in this way you will discover Perfect Complete Enlightenment.

Sentient beings in the Dharma-ending age cannot attain bodhi because they are trapped by the small mind and are living in a world of duality. Since beginningless time they have been tending to and nourishing seeds of love and hate, and they hold onto perceptions of themselves and others as separate.

Look upon all beings with the thought they at one time they were your mother and cared for you enduring pain and hardship so that you could thrive. Hold that view dualities will soften.

Self and other, like and dislike, this sense of separation – all of it is released.

Arouse the heart-mind of awakening and think to yourself, “I vow to cause every sentient being throughout the universe to awaken to ultimate Perfect Enlightenment.”

Knowing well that there is no one that attains enlightenment, no one that helps awaken beings, nor is there any trace of self.

Whoever makes this resolve will not fall into the wrong views.

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

Bodhisattva of Universal Enlightenment,
you should know that
sentient beings in the degenerate age
who sincerely seek out a Genuine Teacher
should find one who is aligned with Right View,
and whose mind is far away from the Two Vehicles
who does not break the precepts
and keeps the root of the precepts constantly pure.

The Dharma they proclaim and actualize
should be free from the four faults of
contrivance,
allowing things to remain as they are,
stopping thoughts,
and annihilation.

If such a teacher becomes close to you,
never be arrogant or proud.
If that teacher should become distant or leave you,
never be hateful nor resentful.

When observing your teacher in various situations
one should regard them as precious and rare moments,
like a Buddha appearing in the world.

If you leave home like the Buddha did,
you save all sentient beings,
enabling them to eventually discover Perfect Enlightenment
for themselves.
Free from the traces of self
constantly resting in wisdom
you are naturally able to transcend mistaken views
actualizing Enlightenment and parinirvana.


The Bodhisattva of Complete Enlightenment

Then the Bodhisattva Universal Enlightenment rose from their seat and asked the Buddha,

“Most Compassionate World-Honored One, you have comprehensively and extensively elaborated on the expedient means and methods for realizing Primordial Perfect Complete Enlightenment, empowering the sentient beings in the degenerate age to receive great benefit and come to discover awakening for themselves.

Blessed one, we Bodhisattvas here have already awakened. Yet, after your parinirvana, how will the unawakened sentient beings in the dharma ending age who are afflicted and have forgotten their true self-nature ever come to this noble realization for themselves?

In what way should they conduct meditation retreats in order to fully cultivate this Perfect realm of Enlightenment?
Which of the three kinds of pure contemplation are foremost within the cultivation of Perfect Enlightenment?

May you bestow your Infinite Compassion upon all of here in this assembly and all sentient beings in the Dharma-ending age.”

The Buddha answered the Bodhisattva of Complete Enlightenment saying,

Whether during the time that the physical body of this Buddha is still present, after his paranirvana or during the degenerate age, there will always be those sentient beings of the Mahayana character type, who believe in Perfect Enlightenment, who believe that they too can discover it, who believe in helping all sentient beings awaken to their own Buddha Nature and those who want to follow the great way of the Buddha;s and masters for themselves.

If they live a busy life with various commitments they should be sure to be ever mindful of themselves. Their world and their very lives are your dharma halls. Difficulties and challenges are your teachers. They should shine the light of mindfulness on their own thoughts, words and deeds. Continually being vigilant with compassion for themselves as they go about their days trying to be more of a blessing and less of a burden to others.

They should set up times every day to meditate as much as circumstances will allow and contemplate for themselves the teachings I have already shared.

If on the other hand they are not busy with various commitments they can setup or go to a retreat that allows them an opportunity to practice and engage deeply with the teachings.

The Great Silent Retreat
The duration of the retreat can be anywhere from 120 days to half a day.

They retreat site should be simple and clean as should be themselves.

If a Buddha is present they should gaze upon them as a meditative aid and skilful means.

If a Buddha is not present then an image or statue can be used. For some time they can transfix their gaze upon the Buddha. Then they can try and picture and visualize the Buddha within their mind. Imagining that the Buddha is alive and present with them in that moment.

They should decorate their retreat spaces with adornments, such as flowers and hanging banners.

They should perform prostrations, bowing down to all the Buddha’s of the three times and ten directions.

Saying their own names they should beseech the Buddhas for their mercy and ask for their compassion and repent of the unskillful thoughts, words and deeds that they have committed.

This type of practice will bring about positive experiences and their minds will become light and peaceful.

Then they should direct their energies and thoughts toward deeper practice.

On the first day of their retreat, before a Buddha or a Buddha statue they should say,

‘I, (insert your name), travel upon the Bodhisattva Vehicle and cultivate their practices of liberation. I enter with them into the discovery and abiding in the pure abode of Absolute Reality.

I take the great perfect enlightenment as my temple and let my body and mind peacefully abide in the wisdom of equality knowing that self and others are equal and identical.

Since the intrinsic self-nature of nirvana is not restricted in any way, is open vast like space and all embracing compassion, I will abide for the duration of this quiet retreat with the Buddha’s and great bodhisattvas of the three times and ten directions.

Since I will be cultivating the bodhisattva’s great causes and conditions of unsurpassed marvelous enlightenment, I will not be constrained, look unfavourably upon and have any negativity toward the limitations and unskillfulness of the other practitioners.’

This is called the Great Silent Retreat as manifested by the Maha-Bodhisattvas.

After successfully completing this three-fold meditation regimen, for three terms, you can practice anywhere without hindrance.

When sentient beings of the degenerate age who seek the Bodhisattva Way and are practicing this meditation process come upon various experiences during their practice they will not cling or attach to them in any way.

Three Methods of Meditation (Shamatha, Samapatti-Vippasana, Dhyana)

Shamatha
If sentient beings practice Samatha they should engage in perfect stillness by not giving rise to conceptualizations and thoughts. Stillness taking to its pinnacle will reveal enlightenment.

Stillness pervades all the universe and one’s very own body just as enlightenment does.

Since enlightenment pervades the universe, a single thought produced by any living being in the universe can be perceived by these practitioners.

When their enlightenment reaches out and pervades hundreds of thousands of universes the same results prevail.

But no matter what is experienced during these practices one should not cling or attach to them.

Samapatti
If sentient beings practice Samapatti they should first see all beings in all worlds and all directions as Buddha’s and Bodhisattvas.

Relying on various skillful means they will diligently cultivate samadhi in gradual steps even though this will be hard for them.

They should make the great vow to save all sentient beings and thus ripen their seeds of Complete Perfect Enlightenment.

But no matter what is experienced during these practices one should not cling or attach to them.

Dhyana
If sentient beings practice dhyana they should focus first on the breath. They should let the rise and fall of the breath soothe and heal them.

Then to strengthen their concentrative power they can count the breath up to ten.

After they are proficient in that they can move onto seeing how the breath rises, abides and ceases.

Seeing next how thoughts too arise abide and cease.

Then they can look into that state which is there before the arising of thoughts, that knows thoughts have arisen, that knows they abide, that knows they cease and then the state after the thoughts have ceased.

They should know when they have been hooked by thought and then release and abide in the awareness that knows.

That way they will see thoughts for what they are and their dhyana practice will happen whether they are walking, standing, sitting or lying down.

But no matter what is experienced during these practices one should not cling or attach to them.

These three meditation techniques are the foremost skillful means and if sentient beings thoroughly practice them with heartfelt diligence and perseverance, they will be called, ‘Buddha’s appearing in the world.’

A Repentant Heart
If there are sentient beings of the degenerate age who can’t quite get any momentum on or understand these skillful means but still have the desire to discover their awakened heart-mind but somehow always fall short of their goal it is because of strong karmic energy, patterns and hindrances from the past.

They should feel deep remorse for their unskilful thoughts, words and deeds. They should confess their mis-steps and continuously re-ignite their hopes to discover their Awakened heart-mind and help to free all beings.

They should notice when and release from those moments when they are caught by hatred, attachment, envy, jealousy, flattery, and crookedness and continually strive for the unsurpassed state of mind.

If one of the above meditation practices does not work for you try one of the others as they all pertain to the same single matter of awakening.

Try again and again. Never give up.

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

Bodhisattva of Complete Enlightenment
you should know
that all sentient beings
who want to seek the unsurpassed way
would benefit greatly
by going for a retreat
and at the outset of the the retreat
repent of, and admit their beginningless unskillful actions
For a period of twenty-one days
and then move onto the meditation practices
never grasping or clinging onto any experience they may have.

In śamatha, perfect stillness (quiescence);
In samapatti, perfect mindfulness;
In dhyāna, relaxation and clear observance of the breath.

These are called “the three pure meditations.”

Those who diligently practice
are called “Buddhas appearing in the world.”

Those with karmic hindrances
and who cannot bring this into effect
should repent and feel remorse for their unskillfulness
that has built up since beginningless time

When all hindrances and obscurations are extinguished
The Buddha-state appears before your eyes.

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