Introduction and Chapter 1

1. Introduction

1.1 The reasons for the arising of the teaching
1.2 The division and vehicle to which the Sutra belongs
1.3 A determination of the Sutra's principle
1.4 A full explanation of the title
1.5 A history of the translation
1.6 A detailed explanation of the Sutra

2. Chapter 1

1. Introduction

Sutras may be introduced in a number of ways, all of which help bring out the basic meaning of the text. In studying this Sutra we shall approach the text through the investigation of the following six items:

  1. The reasons for the arising of the teaching
  2. The division and vehicle to which the Sutra belongs
  3. A determination of the Sutra's principle
  4. A full explanation of the title
  5. A history of the translation
  6. A detailed explanation of the Sutra

1.1 The reasons for the arising of the teaching

Shortly after Sakyamuni's birth from his mother's side, his mother died and ascended to the heavens. After he had become a Buddha and had spoken Dharma for forty-nine years at over three hundred assemblies, he went to the Trayastrirpsa Heaven to teach her. This occurred between the speaking of The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Blossom Sutra and The Nirvana Sutra. He stayed in that heaven for three months and spoke this sutra of filial piety, The Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva.

1.2 The division and vehicle to which the Sutra belongs

Division refers to the three divisions of the canon, the Sutras, the Sastras, and the Vinaya. The Sutras encompass the study of Samadhi, the Sastras, the study of wisdom, and the Vinaya, the study of moral precepts. Since this Sutra discusses morality it belongs to both the Sutra and Vinaya stores. Vehicle refers to the Five Vehicles. Although some people say that there are only three - the Vehicles of the Sound-hearers, of Those Enlightened to Causation, and of Bodhisattvas - the Vehicles of Men and Gods can be added to these three to make five. This Sutra deals with the Vehicles of Men, Gods, and Bodhisattvas.

1.3 A determination of the Sutra's principle

The foundations of this Sutra are principles contained in eight terms grouped in four headings:

  1. The practice of filial piety
  2. The crossing over of living beings
  3. The rescuing of sufferers
  4. The repaying of kindness

1.3.1 The practice of filial piety

It means to be "filial" to one's parents and thus to be a dazzling light over the entire world. Both heaven and earth are greatly pleased by filial piety and so it is said, "Heaven and earth deem filial piety essential; filial piety is foremost. With one filial son, an entire family is peaceful." If you are filial to your parents, your children will be filial to you; if you are not filial to your parents, your children will treat you in the same manner. One may think, "What is the point of being human? Isn't it merely to try to get by as well as possible?" It certainly is wrong ! The first duty of human beings is to be filial to their parents. Father and mother are heaven and earth, father and mother are all the elders, and father and mother are all the Buddhas. If you had no parents you would have no body, and if you had no body, you could not become a Buddha. If you want to become a Buddha, you must start out by being filial to your parents.

1.3.2 The crossing over of living beings

To cross over means to go from one shore to another, from affliction to Bodhi; the Six Paramitas are also known as the six crossings-over. To cross beings over does not mean to cross over merely one, two, three, or four kinds, but all the ten kinds of living beings, so that they can eventually reach Buddhahood.

1.3.3 The rescuing of sufferers

This Sutra is able to pull living beings out of their sufferings.

1.3.4 The repaying of kindness

This means to repay the kindness of parents.

We have mentioned only the essential points of these four phrases and will leave it to you to make further study for them.

At the mention of the first of these headings, the practice of filial piety, some people will immediately think of rushing home to be filial to their parents. This in itself is an excellent wish and is quite commendable. It is extremely important, however, that those who return home to care for their parents not forget everything they have learned and find themselves slipping back into their old habits. The way to practice ultimate filial piety is to learn how to be a model for and a benefit to the world; the very best way to do so is to study and practice the Buddhadharma.

There are four basic kinds of filial piety: limited, extensive, contemporary, and classic. Limited filial piety is to be filial within your own family but unable to "treat others' elders as your own, treat others' children as your own."

With extensive filial piety you reach out to the whole world and consider all fathers and mothers in the world as your own. Although this filial piety is grand enough, it is by no means ultimate.

Contemporary filial piety is to model oneself on the present day methods of filial piety and to study their behavior. Classic filial piety is to be filial to all the myriad things, in the same way as the Twenty-four Paragons of Filial Virtue in China. But even classic filial piety is not ultimate.

What, then is ultimate filial piety? It is far beyond the scope of the four mentioned above. Sakyamuni Buddha's father locked him in the palace and he slipped out to cultivate a life of austerity in the Himalayas for six years, and after which he finally realized Buddhahood beneath the Bodhi tree. After he had become a Buddha, he ascended to the heavens to speak Dharma for his mother. This is ultimate filial piety.

If you want to practice ultimate filial piety you should investigate and practice the Buddhadharma; learn to be a good person and a positive force in the world. The practice of acts that benefit society is being genuinely filial to your parents.

1.4 A Full Explanation of the Title

The name of this Sutra is the Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva, and among the seven classifications of Sutra titles it belongs to those made up of a person and a Dharma. Earth Store Bodhisattva is the person and past vows a Dharma. Past vows can also be said to represent Karma, since they are deeds that he performed in the past.

Earth Store Bodhisattva is named after the earth, which not only gives birth to things and makes them grow but can store, great many things within itself as well. Because this Bodhisattva is like the earth, he can produce the myriad things and make them grow. Anyone who believes in him may obtain the treasures stored in the ground: gold, silver, lapis lazuli, crystal, mother-of-pearl, red pearls, and carnelian, etc.

Bodhisattva is composed of two words: Bodhi, which means "enlightenment," and Sattva, which means "being." A Bodhisattva can be said to be either one who enlightens living beings or an enlightened living being.

Past Vows also mean fundamental vows, vows that were made aeons ago. Long ago in the distant past Earth Store Bodhisattva vowed, "If the hells are not empty I will not become a Buddha; only when living beings have all been saved, then I will attain Bodhi."

The hells cannot cease to exist until the karma and the afflictions of living beings have come to an end, and that can never happen because of the nature of living beings. In the view of everyday science and philosophy, isn't Earth Store Bodhisattva's behavior irrational? Doesn't it mean that Earth Store Bodhisattva will never have the opportunity to become a Buddha? No, it does not mean that he cannot become a Buddha, and his vow is by no means irrational. His behavior is in fact a manifestation of great compassion.

Question: What is Earth Store Bodhisattva's Sanskrit name?

Answer: His Sanskrit name is Ksitgarbha, which means "Earth Store". There are ten aspects of the earth: it is wide and extensive, it supports all living beings, it is impartial, it receives the great rain, it produces grass and trees, it holds all planted seeds, it holds many treasures, it produces medicines, it is not moved by the blowing wind, and it does not tremble at the lion's roar.

Question: Isn't the reason for the earth's impartiality, its immobility in great wind, and its other characteristics, simply that the earth is an inanimate object without any feelings at all?

Answer: The feelings of the earth are not those that we humans feel. It does have its own feelings. The earth is also a sentient being. Past Vows renders the Sanskrit term Pranidhana; the full title of the Sutra may be reconstructed as the Ksitgarbha Bodhisattva Pranidhana Sutra. The vows that this Bodhisattva has made throughout the aeons have all been for the sake of the practice of filial piety. This Sutra has, among others, the following meanings:

  1. To traverse. There are many roads that can be traveled, but if you wish to become a Buddha you must follow the road that leads to the goal, i.e., the road indicated by the Sutras.
  2. Guideline. Sutras are like the mark left by a carpenter's chalk line; they show a clear and straight path that marks the most direct way to the goal.
  3. Garland. Sutras string together manifold principles like flowers in a chain.
  4. Thread. Sutras string principles together as a thread linking beads in a strand.
  5. To attract. Sutras are like lodestones, which attract iron filings. People are attracted to Sutras as iron is attracted to a magnet, and those who are studying this Sutra have been attracted to it in this way. The force, of course, cannot be seen, but its effect can, and if it is a great force it will attract more people than a small one.
  6. Permanent. No meaning can be added to or subtracted from Sutras, for to do so is to merit the hells.
  7. Law. The law is honored in the past, present, and future; it is a constant model by which beings may conduct their lives.
  8. Tally. In the ancient times, contracts might be written out and divided between the concerned parties. When the terms of an agreement were fulfilled, or whenever identity related to the contract had to be established, the two pieces were brought together to see whether or not they matched. Sutras are much like this in that they tally with or correspond to the principles of all Buddhas above and with the capacity of beings below.

Previously we said that the earth receives the great rain and the plants grow on it. In these explanations there are often interconnected relationships that one should be alerted to. Grasses and trees represent the potential capacity of living beings, and sutras are the Dharma rain that falls on them. Each plant absorbs the amount of moisture appropiate for it -- more in the case of great trees and less in the case of grasses. Each receives an appropriate share of the total rainfall. This analogy holds for the relationship, which people have with Sutras. Study of this Sutra, for example, will lead the wise to understand the principles appropriate to them, and will cause the less wise to understand principles appropriate to their own abilities. Everyone who has good roots planted in the Buddhadharma will obtain the advantage suitable to him; those who do not have good roots will be led to plant good roots. Because Earth Store Bodhisattva practiced filial conduct in every life, this Sutra is known as a Buddhist classic of filial piety. This is an extremely important principle, for if people are not filial to their parents, they have not fulfilled the fundamental responsibility of human beings. It is essential that people repay the enormous kindness shown to them by their parents.

1.5 A history of the translation

The Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva was translated in the T'ang Dynasty by Tripitaka Master Sramana Siksananda of Khotan.

Although some editions of this Sutra attribute the translation to Dharma Master Fa Teng of the Ch'en Dynasty, most credit it to Tripitaka Master Siksananda of Khotan, a central Asian country, the name of which means "Earth Milk." An early king of that country, who was without an heir, prayed to the god of a local temple for a son. From the image's head came a child who would drink neither human nor cow's milk, but only a particular milky fluid that appeared on the earth. As a result of this mysterious happening the country was given its rather unusual name.

Sramana is a Sanskrit word, which means both "energetic" and "resting," because a Sramana energetically cultivates morality, Samadhi, and wisdom and puts greed, hatred, and stupidity to rest.

Siksananda, "delight in study," was so named because of his joy in learning Buddhadharma.

1.6 Detailed explanation of the body of the Sutra

We will now begin a discussion of the Sutra text proper.




Thus I have heard; at one time the Buddha dwelt in the Trayastrimsa Heaven speaking Dharma for his mother. At that time an indescribable number of Buddhas as well as great Bodhisattvas, Mahasattvas, from limitless worlds in the ten directions, all assembled together to praise Sakyamuni Buddha's ability to manifest the power of indescribably great wisdom and spiritual penetrations in the Evil World of the Five Turbidities, as well as his ability to regulate and subdue obstinate living beings so that they might come to know the Dharmas of suffering and bliss. Each of these sent his attendants to greet the World Honored One.


Trayastrimsa, "Heaven of the Thirty-Three," is not thirty- third in a vertical arrangement of heavens. Vertically it occupies the second position among eighteen heavens. Its name is taken from the fact that it is the central one among a group of heavens located on the same plane, with eight heavens on each of its four sides. The lord of the central heaven, the thirty-third, is named Sakra or Indra, and in Buddhism he is a protector of the Buddha's Dharma who does not merit a seat but must stand at all Dharma meetings. In the Surangama Mantra he is referred to in the phrase, "Namo Yin To La Yeh."

The lord of this heaven is the one taken by most people as being God Almighty, ruler of heaven and earth. Although he is extremely powerful and attends to divine matters as well as earthly ones, he is not really different from ordinary people, since he still has sexual desires and eats, drinks, and sleeps. Although he still has desires, they are far lighter than those of humans, who usually become famished after several days without food, exhausted after a few hours without sleep, arid and frustrated after a short time without sexual activity. Sakra can go for one, two, or even three hundred days without eating and can pass a year or so without sleep or sex. Although his desires are light, he still has not eliminated them.

The Heaven of the Thirty-Three is eighty thousand Yojanas high, and its city, the City of Good View, is made of seven precious materials and is sixty thousand Yojanas high. In the center of that city is Sakra's palace, which is made of the most exquisite and valuable gems. Since he is constantly surrounded by such splendor, Sakra has no desire to leave; in fact, he wants all beings to join him in this world, where the lifespan is a thousand years and where one century in the human world is just a day and a night. He extends his hospitality but does not know that because of his greed for heavenly delights even he himself is doomed to die eventually.

When Ananda began his speeches with "Thus I have heard," he did so to eliminate doubts about who was speaking, to honor the Buddha's instruction, to put an end to the arguments that might have come about if any senior members of the assembly accused him of having made up the texts himself, and to distinguish Buddhist from non-Buddhist sutras, since all the latter begin with some variant of the words "existence" or "nonexistence."

Why did Ananda say "I," rather than "my ear," heard? The word "I" is used to represent the entire person whereas the term "ear" would be partial. In order for a sutra to be spoken, a certain number of conditions must be fulfilled. These are called the Six Establishments. They are the establishments of credibility, of a hearer, of a time, a host, a place, and of an assembly. The initial word of the text, "thus," establishes the first of these, the credibility of the Sutra. The first sentence establishes the second, the hearer.

The Sutra merely says" . . . at one time," thus fulfilling the third of the Six Establishments, that of time. The Buddha fulfills the fourth, establishment of a host. The Trayastrimsa Heaven fulfills the establishment of a place, the fifth of the Six Establishments. Speaking Dharma for the sake of his mother is the sixth establishment.

The Buddha's mother, the Lady Maya, "Great Illusion," ascended to the Trayastrimsa Heaven seven days after her son's birth. The Lady Maya has been the mother of all the Buddhas and will also be the mother of future Buddhas, each of whom must go to the Trayastrimsa Heaven to speak Dharma for her. All this is done the way actors perform in plays. Those who understand the world know that it is like a theatrical piece in which people come together will be separated, and undergo all kinds of comic and tragic experiences. Although the theatergoers experience emotional reactions in the theater, of pleasure, anger, sorrow, joy, love, hate, desire, so on and so forth, those who understand know that it is all just a play, a dream, an illusion, a shadow. The Diamond Sutra says:

As a dream, a fault of vision, as a lamp,
A mock show, dewdrops, or a bubble,
So should one view what is conditioned

The Buddha, dwelling in the Playful Samadhi, teaches living beings as if nothing were going on, quite unlike ordinary people who have many attachments. "East," they insist, "is east, and west is west, and that's all there is to that." This kind of view is what keeps living beings from seeing the total interpenetration and unobstructed fusion of all things. Because they do not understand that there is nothing that is not false and empty, living beings bind themselves unnecessarily. In the Playful Samadhi, the Buddha, at the request of his father, the Wheel-Turning King, or in some cases at the request of Brahma, speaks Dharma for his mother in the heavens. At this assembly he spoke the Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva.

Although this Sutra was spoken for the Buddha's mother, the twelve hundred fifty Bhiksus who followed the Buddha, as well as Sakra and numerous other gods, were all present.

Therefore the establishment of the assembly is made by the phrase" …for the sake of his mother," for it includes the great assembly, thus completing the Six Establishments.

Sakyamuni is a specific name of a particular Buddha. Buddha is the name common to all Buddhas. ‘Sakya’, "capable of humaneness," is a family name that indicates the humaneness with which this Buddha crosses all living beings over from suffering to bliss. ‘Muni’ means still and silent, which refers to Samadhi. "Capable of humaneness" represents the aspect of immutability.

Although the Buddha responds to various conditions, he does not change; while he is still and unmoving in Samadhi, he can respond to the thoughts of living beings. Since he is "still and silent" he can know everything; since he is "capable of humaneness" he can see everything. Thus it is said,

"The thoughts of all living beings are known and seen by the Thus Come One," Because of this, cultivators of the Way receive a response that corresponds exactly to their own sincerity. Those whose thoughts contain one degree of sincerity receive one degree of response; those who show tenfold sincerity receive a tenfold response; and those who have a millionfold sincere thoughts receive that great a response. From the original, enlightened, still, and unmoving ground,

Sakyamuni Buddha can move to reach out and aid living beings,

Buddha, "the enlightened one," is so called because he has perfected three enlightenments-inherent, initial, and ultimate--as well as ten thousand virtues. Everyone who cultivates in accordance with the principles of Buddhadharma can attain the position of an enlightened Buddha. Upon becoming enlightened, Sakyamuni Buddha said,

"All living beings have the Thus Come One's knowledge and vision, and are kept from actualizing it only because of their attachments and false thoughts."

All Dharmas are the Buddha's own and special Dharmas, and "all Dharmas" include the Dharmas of all religions - Christian, Confucian, Taoist, Muslim, or any others. There is not a single religion that can say it does not have a Dharma and thus it falls outside "all Dharmas." All Dharmas are the Buddhadharma and all Dharmas are unobtainable; there is not a single Dharma that exists.


At that time the Thus Come One smiled and emitted hundreds of thousands of millions of great light clouds such as the Great Perfect Fullness Light Cloud, the Light Cloud of Great Compassion, the Light Cloud of Great Wisdom, the Light Cloud of Great Prajna, the Light Cloud of Great Samadhi, the Great Auspicious Light Cloud, the Light Cloud of Great Blessing, the Light Cloud of Great Merit, the Light Cloud of Great Refuge, and the Light Cloud of Great Praise.


Among the millions of clouds of light, these ten are mentioned because they represent both the living beings in the ten Dharma realms and the contemplation of the ten Dharma realms.

The Great Perfect Fullness Light Cloud represents the Buddha Way, which pervades all Dharma realms. There is no place where it is not found. Every single mote of dust in the entire Dharma realm is illuminated by this cloud of light.

The Light Cloud of Great Compassion connotes empathy and the ability to rescue beings from their sufferings. Such conduct describes the Bodhisattva Way because Bodhisattvas do everything in their power to give living beings what they like.

The Light Cloud of Great Wisdom refers to the wisdom of Pratyekabuddhas, those who are enlightened to causation. By contemplating the Twelve Links of Conditioned Causation, they have come to understand the birth and death of the Ten Thousand Things, and through that understanding, their inherent great wisdom is manifested.

The Light Cloud of Great Prajna. Prajna, i.e. wisdom, is of three types: Literary Prajna, Contemplative Prajna, and Reality Prajna. In order to maintain distinction between the light clouds previously discussed, which represents the Dharma realm of Pratyekabuddhas, and this cloud of light, which stands for the realm of the Sound-Hearers, the term "Prajna" is left in Sanskrit rather than translated. When Sound-Hearers hear the sound of the teaching, they develop Contemplative Prajna, through which they are able to attain to Reality Prajna and the state of Arhatship.

The Light Cloud of Great Samadhi, "transic-concentration," represents the realm of the gods who cultivate the superior grade of the Ten Good Deeds and thus attain the power that enables them to penetrate the Four Dhyanas and the Eight Samadhis that their corresponding heavens can be attained by those who take refuge with the Triple Jewel, maintain the Five Precepts, and cultivate the superior grade of the Ten Good Deeds.

The Great Auspicious Light Cloud represents the human realm, in which auspicious happenings are cause for rejoicing and fate is taken to be the origin of most events. Those who take refuge with the Triple Jewel and maintain the Five Precepts can be born in the human realm.

The Light Cloud of Great Blessing refers to the realm of the Asuras, who are sometimes found among the gods, sometimes among humans, and sometimes in other paths. These beings have the virtue of the gods but are lacking in blessings.

The Light Cloud of Great Merit shines on the realm of the animals. It is emitted by the Buddha for the purpose of eradicating the offenses of beasts so that they may leave suffering and obtain bliss.

The Light Cloud of Great Refuge, representing the realm of the hungry ghosts, is emitted to induce these creatures to change their ways and take refuge with the Triple Jewel.

The Light Cloud of Great Praise represents the realm of the hells and is emitted for the benefit of denizens of that region.


After emitting more indescribable clouds of light, he also emitted a great many wonderfully subtle sounds such as the Danaparamita sound, the Silaparamita sound, the Ksantiparamita sound, the Viryaparamita sound, the Dhyanaparamita sound, and the Prajnaparamita sound.


Although the Buddha speaks with a single sound, each living being hears it differently and in his own tongue, be he Japanese, English, French, or an inhabitant of any other realm. There is no need for translation, because the sound of the Buddha is totally inconceivable.

In Chinese the word "sound" may be defined with a homonym that means "to drink," since living beings receive the Buddha's sound just as a thirsty man receives water. It is sometimes explained by another homonym that means "hidden," because although his sound is often large, at other times it is only a still, small voice.

The Danaparamita sound. Dana, "giving," is of three kinds: giving of wealth, of Dharma, and of self-confidence. How should one give?

Giving, in order to be true giving, should be done in such a way that the substance of the Three Wheels is seen as empty. The Three Wheels are the giver, the gift, and the recipient. If the thought of any of these occurs in the transaction and an idea that one is giving arises, his giving becomes a kind of stinginess. When giving takes place with the Three Wheels seen as empty, no attachment to giving arises, and not even a remembrance of giving remains. Thoughts of giving cancel out the good retribution that might have come from the act. Then, at best, the giving rates merely a heavenly reward. Such giving cannot bring one to the state of being without outflows.

Paramita, "gone to the other shore," is a Sanskrit term that means simply the completion of anything that is being done, reaching any goal for which one has set out.

The near shore is the state of being a foolish layperson, the far shore is reaching the level of the sages. This shore is not understanding Buddhadharma, the other shore is complete understanding. There are different kinds of shores, however, and some are ultimate while others are not.

The Silaparamita sound. Sila, "cool refreshment," "no annoyance," or "to repel," may be summed up in the English word "morality": the morality that repels all evil, as described in the proverb, "Do no evil, do only good."

"Avoid all evil" means, of course, not to do anyone myriad evils that can be done. Although the word "all" here means one, it also says "all," and so we say that all is one and explain this phrase as meaning not to do one single evil.

"Do only good" means to do as many good deeds as there are pores in the body. "Only good" means "all good," and so it is not permissible to say that you can do one good deed and avoid another. Regardless of whether a good deed is large or small, it should be done.

Although the principle of avoiding all evil and doing only good can be understood by a three-year-old child, an eighty-year-old master admitted that even at his age he could not do it perfectly.

Sila also means moral precepts. When the Buddha was about to enter Nirvana, the Venerable Ananda asked four questions, one of which was who should be the teacher of the disciples after the Buddha left them. The Buddha replied that the Pratimoksa, the moral precepts, were to be taken as the master. Precepts teach the principle of avoiding all evil and doing only good and are of the utmost importance in cultivation of the Way. In cultivation, giving, too, is foremost, but the precepts have equal priority. For that matter, in speaking Dharma, there is nothing that occupies a second place; everything is foremost. Any Dharma at all is foremost, and when asked which of the eighty-four thousand teachings is first, he replied that they all are. '

The eighty-four thousand Dharma Doors are established as medicine to cure the eighty-four thousand illnesses of living beings. Each person has his own particular sickness, and whatever cures it is the foremost of medicines as far as he is concerned. How can a sickness among all be determined in the first place ?

Some medicines cure headaches, some cure toothaches, some cure eye infections, while others cure internal illnesses. It would be an error to say that anyone of them is foremost among medicines. For those with headaches, headache medicines are best; for those with broken legs quite another remedy is the superior one.

The Diamond Sutra says, "This Dharma is equal and has no high or low." Consequently all of the eighty-four thousand methods are foremost.

The Ksantiparamita sound: Ksanti, "patience," is a virtue that must be practiced over long periods of time to be brought to perfection. It is a virtue that is constantly being tested.

Patience, although seemingly easy to cultivate, is always subject to trying and unexpected tests. It is only during these tests that the proof of the practice is found.

The Viryaparamita sound: Virya, "vigor," is the fourth of the Six Perfections. Those who truly understand vigor apply it to the cultivation of the Buddha Way, but many people apply vigor to the non-beneficial ascetic practices cultivated by externalists. There are many such groups in India. One, for example, models itself on cattle, and its adherents eat only grass. Others do all manner of extreme things in the name of cultivating vigor.

Such vigor is quite useless since it is pursued among unwholesome Dharmas. This is turning one's back on the Way. Vigor should be applied in wholesome Dharmas, such as bowing to the Buddha, reciting Sutras, performing repentance ceremonies, reciting the Buddha's name, and other practices which involve vigor of the body. From vigor of the body, vigor of the mind-- in which every single thought is a cultivation of wholesome Dharmas-- arises. When such vigor is practiced, even fatigue and hunger are forgotten. But if vigor slackens, problems arise: fatigue sets in, energy and spirit drain, and the only thing left is to sleep. We should examine our own vigor to discover if this is true.

Each of the Six Paramitas involves vigor. Giving, morality, and patience belong to vigor of the body, while vigor, Dhyana, Samadhi, and Prajna belong to vigor of the mind. Explained in this way, vigor does not exist, for it is identical to the other five Paramitas. When giving is generous, it is vigorous giving; when precepts are held firmly, it is the vigor of morality. Diligence is applying vigor in the substance of vigor itself. The ceaseless cultivation of Dhyana is the vigor of Dhyana, and the constant practice of wisdom is the Prajnaparamita.

One may argue that vigor was practiced once but found to be fatiguing and consequently of no benefit. This is simply an attachment to one kind of vigor, and it keeps one from true vigor. As long as one thinks his vigor is great and that the Six Paramitas are being cultivated energetically, there is no vigor at all, because there is a vigor that blocks not anything at all. It is only when there is no understanding as true vigor. When the Buddhadharma is understood, there is that things exist.

Of course, it cannot be argued that if one is not vigorous he has reached the state of not having a single thing. That is quite a different kind of non-vigor. If the Buddhadharma is truly understood, then it is genuine vigor while that is non-vigor, since there is no attachment to it. If there is no real understanding of Buddhadharma, there is an attachment to vigor, and consequently, no vigor. After the Buddhadharma has been understood, everything must be relinquished. If this is not done, Dharma has not been fully understood, for the Buddhadharma teaches beings to forsake all attachments and appearances.

The Dhyanapiiramita' sound. Dhyana, "thought cultivation," or "quiet consideration," is of several sorts. There are the Four Dhyanas, the Eight Samadhis, and the Nine Successive Stages of Samadhi, as well as Worldly Dhyana, World-Transcending Dhyana, and the Superior Grade of World-Transcending Dhyana.

Ordinary people cultivate Worldly Dhyana, which includes the Four Unlimited Thoughts and the Four Formless Samadhis. These states need not be discussed in detail. If you apply effort and cultivate sitting meditation, you will spontaneously come to understand them. To explain them all would be like talking of food and not eating it because we would not know the flavor. For the time being, it is sufficient to say that there are many types of Dhyana: Worldly, World-Transcending, Superior, Thus Come One Dhyana, Patriarch Dhyana, and so forth. All that remains to do is the work of cultivation, in order to attain them and know them ourselves.

The Prajnaparamita sound. Prajna, "wisdom," is of two types, wordly and world-transcending. Worldly wisdom is the clear argumentation of worldly principles in such matters as science and philosophy. Clear argumentation is the ability to find principles where there are none. World-Transcending Prajna is the ability to think of the Buddhadharma in every thought, so that even in sleep, dreams, and sickness there is only thought of the Buddhadharma.

In the final analysis, these two are just one kind of wisdom; the difference lies in its application. Used in the world, it becomes worldly wisdom; applied to world-transcending Dharmas, to the Buddhadharma, it is world-transcending wisdom. Although Prajna is not two, it is divided.

Suppose, for example, that through the study of worldly Dharmas, one comes to realize that conditioned existence is impermanent, marked by suffering, and devoid of self. If this wisdom gained from worldly Dharmas is used to investigate world-transcending Dharmas, it becomes world-transcending wisdom. Because most people have worldly wisdom but not world-transcending wisdom, they are involved in confused and inconsequential matters, while ignoring the fundamental question of life and death. Some people, on the other hand, investigate world-transcending questions, but do not investigate worldly Dharma.

One cause of intelligence is good deeds done in past lives. However, good deeds should not be done for publicity. They should be done but not spread about-for example, if one pays ransoms for prisoners, it should be done without letting them know the identity of their liberator. Another cause of intelligence is the recitation of Sutras. Reciting the Diamond Prajnaparamita Sutra several tens of thousands of times, for example, is a good cause of future intelligence.

If one does not practice secret good deeds in this life, however, one's intelligence backfires and becomes an obstacle. How is that so? If one is not at all clever, he cannot do very many bad deeds; but those who are clever not only are able to do evil but are just as good at covering up their tracks so that they never get caught.


The Sound of Great Compassion, the Sound of Joyous Giving, the Sound of Liberation, the Sound of No-Outflows, the Sound of Wisdom, the Sound of Great Wisdom, the Sound of the Lion's Roar,- the Sound of the Great Lion's Roar, the Sound of Thunderclouds, the Sound of Great Thunderclouds.


The Sound of Great Compassion. In Chinese, the term "compassion" consists of two characters. The first connotes the kindness that bestows happiness, and the second the mercy that is able to rescue beings from their sufferings. All beings who hear this sound of the Buddha are able to leave suffering and attain bliss, end rebirth, and cast off death.

The Sound of Joyous Giving. Kindness, Mercy, Joy, and Giving are called the Four Unlimited Thoughts. This sound indicates the joy which should accompany giving.

The Sound of Liberation. To be liberated is to obtain genuine independence, without restraint or bondage; liberation is freedom from the sufferings of the Six Paths on the wheel of rebirth.

Once a Bhiksu requested Dharma from a famous master. "Superior One," he asked, "how can liberation be attained?"

"Who," replied the master, "is binding you?"

At those words, the monk was enlightened and realized, "Fundamentally no one binds me up; I bind myself. One who does not bind himself attains liberation spontaneously."

The Sound of No-Outflows. This sound is also the sound of existence without ignorance, for, as long as one has even a trace of ignorance, he cannot attain the state without outflows, Why are we greedy? Because we suffer ignorance. Why do we have stupidity? Because of our ignorance. Why do we have desire? Because we don't understand karma. If one attains the Sound of No-Outflows, he is without ignorance.

The Sound of Wisdom. Wisdom is the complement of stupidity, If you are characterized by one, you do not have the other, because the two cannot stand together. But we would also say: wisdom is stupidity and stupidity is wisdom.

Someone may now say, "Then because I am rather stupid, I must be wise. I might as well indulge my stupidity to the utmost." If we are truly able to carry this out, truly able to take our stupidity to the ultimate, that in itself is true wisdom.

Someone may object that he can't believe these principles. No matter is said, he cannot believe that wisdom and stupidity are identical since he has watched stupid people be confused, and wise people behave with precise clarity.

This objection is not invalid; in fact it is quite right. Looked at it differently, on the other hand, such position is quite erroneous, since stupidity can change and become wisdom. It is because of this potential for change that we say that stupidity is wisdom; because wisdom becomes stupidity when it fades,and so we say that wisdom is stupidity.

The wise do not say that they cannot be stupid. The wise-those who have genuine independence and true liberation-do not behave in a confused manner, and fools do not act wisely. While stupid people are moved by others, the wise do not budge, because they have a selective Dharma eye and can discriminate properly. If something is right, they respond; if it is wrong, they don't move.

Fools, on the other hand, often know quite clearly that what they are about to do is wrong, but they go ahead and do it anyway. Gamblers, for example, know that the chances of becoming rich are a million to one against them, and yet, moved by their greed and ignorance and they lose everything at the end. Even though they become penniless, they usually do not awaken but rather say that since they were only off by one number when they last lost, they are sure to win next time. If we don't think this is stupid, we can ask if casino operators could make a living off gamblers who always got rich.

Stupidity is not confined to gambling. Some people smoke opium. Although we have heard time and again that it is a harmful practice, some people try it a number of times, and each time they smoke they feel as if they have not quite reached the ultimate state. And so they try again, and yet again, until they find themselves addicted. Not only are they unaware that they have lost their independence, but, what is worse, they think that their drugs are their independence. They think that they are free to do whatever they wish; but if they lack their opium, they become irritable and their eyes start to water and their skin begins to itch. Anyone with any wisdom does not get involved in such things.

The Sound of Great Wisdom: Great Wisdom can see the consequences of actions even more clearly. Great wisdom is simply the study of the Buddhadharma, the means of attaining genuine independence.

The Sound of the Lion's Roar, The Sound of the Great Lion's Roar: When the lion, the king of beasts, roars, he sets all the animals trembling simultaneously, petrified with fear. All are brought to heel by this sound, even the ferocious tiger and rapacious wolf.

The Sound of Thunderclouds. The Sound of Great Thunderclouds: The sound of the Buddha covers the entire world, like a great mass of rain clouds that covers the earth and then 'pours out a rain that nourishes the roots of all the plants', each of which receives the amount of moisture it needs. In the rain of the Buddhadharma, each being obtains exactly the amount its roots are able to absorb in order to help its Dharma-body grows and its wisdom increases.