The Demonstration of the Inconceivable
State of Buddhahood Sutra
Thus have I heard:
Once the Buddha
was dwelling in the garden of Anathapindika, in the Jeta Grove near Shravasti,
accompanied by one thousand monks, ten thousand Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas, and many
gods of the Realm of Desire and the Realm of Form.
At that time, Bodhisattva-Mahasattva
Manjusri and the god Suguna were both present among the assembly. The World-Honored
One told Manjusri, "You should explain the profound state of Buddhahood for
the celestial beings and the Bodhisattvas of this assembly."
said to the Buddha, "So be it, World-Honored One. If good men and good women
wish to know the state of Buddhahood, they should know that it is not a state
of the eye, the ear, the nose, the tongue, the body, or the mind; nor is it a
state of forms, sounds, scents, tastes, textures, or mental objects. World-Honored
One, the non-state is the state of Buddhahood. This being the case, what is the
state of supreme enlightenment as attained by the Buddha?"
said, "It is the state of emptiness, because all views are equal. It is the
state of sign-less-ness, because all signs are equal. It is the state of wish-less-ness,
because the three realms are equal. It is the state of non-action, because all
actions are equal. It is the state of the unconditioned, because all conditioned
things are equal."
Manjusri asked, "World-Honored One, what is the
state of the unconditioned?"
The Buddha said, "The absence of thought
is the state of the unconditioned."
Manjusri said, "World-Honored
One, if the states of the unconditioned and so forth are the state of Buddhahood,
and the state of the unconditioned is the absence of thought, then on what basis
is the state of Buddhahood expressed? If there is no such basis, then there is
nothing to be said; and since there is nothing to be said, nothing can be expressed
Therefore, World-Honored One, the state of Buddhahood is inexpressible in words
The Buddha asked, "Manjusri, where should the state of Buddhahood
Manjusri answered, "It should be sought right in the
defilements of sentient beings. Why, because by nature the defilements of sentient
beings are inapprehensible. Realization of this is beyond the comprehension of
Sravakas and Pratyekabuddhas; therefore, it is called the state of Buddhahood."
Buddha asked Manjusri "Does the state of Buddhahood increase or decreases."
neither increases nor decreases."
The Buddha asked, "How can one
comprehend the basic nature of the defilements of all sentient beings?"
as the state of Buddhahood neither increases nor decreases, so by their nature
the defilements neither increase nor decrease."
The Buddha asked, "What
is the basic nature of the defilements?"
"The basic nature of the
defilements is the basic nature of the state of Buddhahood. World-Honored One,
if the nature of the defilements were different from the nature of the state of
Buddhahood, then it could not be said that the Buddha abides in the equality of
all things. It is because the nature of the defilements is the very nature of
the state of Buddhahood that the Tathágata is said to abide in equality."
Buddha asked further, "In what equality do you think the Tathágata
"As I understand it, the Tathágata abides in exactly
the same equality in which those sentient beings who act with desire, hatred,
and ignorance abide."
The Buddha asked, "In what equality do those
sentient beings who act with the three poisons abide?"
in the equality of emptiness, sign-less-ness, and wish-less-ness."
Buddha asked, "Manjusri, in emptiness, how could there be desire, hatred,
Manjusri answered, "Right in that which exists there
is emptiness, wherein desire, hatred, and ignorance are also found."
Buddha asked, "In what existence is there emptiness?"
is said to exist only in words and language. Because there is emptiness, there
are desire, hatred, and ignorance. The Buddha has said, 'Monks! Non-arising, non-conditioning,
non-action, and non-origination all exist. If these did not exist, then one could
not speak of arising, conditioning, action, and origination. Therefore, monks,
because there are non-arising, non-conditioning, non-action, and non-origination,
one can speak of the existence of arising, conditioning, action, and origination.'
Similarly, World-Honored One, if there were no emptiness, sign-less-ness, or wish-less-ness,
one could not speak of desire, hatred, ignorance, or other ideas."
Buddha said, "Manjusri, if this is the case, then it must be, as you said.
That who abides in the defilements abides in emptiness."
"World-Honored One. It a meditator seeks emptiness apart from the defilements,
his search will be in vain How could there be an emptiness that differs from the
defilements? If he contemplates the defilements as emptiness, he is said to be
engaged in right practice."
The Buddha asked, "Manjusri, do you detach
yourself from the defilements or abide in them?"
Manjusri said, "All
defilements are equal [in reality]. I have realized that equality through right
practice. Therefore, I neither detach myself from the defilements nor abide in
them. If a sramaga or Brahmin claims that he has overcome passions and sees other
beings as defiled, he has fallen into the two extreme views. What are the two?
One is the view of Eternalism, maintaining that defilements exist; the other is
the view of nihilism, maintaining that defilements do not exist.
One, he who practices rightly sees no such things as self or other, existence
or nonexistence. Why? Because he clearly comprehends all dharmas."
Buddha asked, "Manjusri, what should one rely upon for right practice?"
who practices rightly relies upon nothing."
The Buddha asked, "Does
he not practice according to the path?"
"If he practices in accordance
with anything, his practice will be conditioned. A conditioned practice is not
one of equality. Why? Because it is not exempt from arising, abiding, and perishing."
Buddha asked Manjusri, "Are there any categories in the unconditioned? "
answered, "World-Honored One, if there were categories in the unconditioned,
then the unconditioned would be conditioned and would no longer be the unconditioned."
Buddha said, "If the unconditioned can be realized by saints, then there
is such a thing as the unconditioned; how can you say there are no categories
in "Things have no categories, and the saints have transcended categories.
That is why I say there are no categories."
The Buddha asked, "Manjusri,
would you not say you have attained saint-hood?"
Manjusri asked in turn,
"World-Honored One, suppose one asks a magically produced person, 'would
you not say you have attained sainthood?' What will be his reply?"
Buddha answered Manjusri, "One cannot speak of the attainment or non-attainment
of a magically produced person."
Manjusri asked, "Has the Buddha
not said that all things are like illusions?"
The Buddha answered, "So
I have, so I have."
"If all things are like illusions, why do you
ask me whether or not I have attained sainthood?"
The Buddha asked, "Manjusri,
what equality in the three vehicles have you realized?"
"I have realized
the equality of the state of Buddhahood."
The Buddha asked, "Have
you attained the state of Buddhahood?"
"If the World-Honored One
has attained it, then I have also attained it."
Thereupon, Venerable Subhuti
asked Manjusri, "Has not the Tathágata attained the state of Buddhahood?"
asked in turn, "Have you attained anything in the state of Sravaka-hood?"
answered, "The liberation of a saint is neither an attainment nor a non-attainment.
"So it is, so it is. Likewise, the liberation of the Tathágata
is neither a state nor a non-state."
Subhuti said, "Manjusri, you
are not taking care of the novice Bodhisattvas in teaching the Dharma this way."
asked, "Subhuti, what do you think? Suppose a physician, in taking care of
his patients, does not give them acrid, sour, bitter, or astringent medicines.
Is he helping them to recover or causing them to die?"
"He is causing them to suffer and die instead of giving them peace and happiness."
said, "Such is the case with a teacher of the Dharma. If, in taking care
of others, he fears that they might be frightened and so hides from them the profound
meanings of the Dharma and instead speaks to them in irrelevant words and fancy
phrases, then he is causing sentient beings to suffer birth, old age, disease,
and death, instead offing them health, peace, bliss, and nirvana"
this Dharma was explained, five hundred monks were freed of attachment to any
dharma, were cleansed of defilements and were liberated in mind; eight thousand
devas left the taints of the mundane world far behind and attained the pure Dharma-eye
that sees through all dharmas; seven hundred gods resolved to attain supreme enlightenment
and vowed: "In the future, we shall attain an eloquence like that of Manjusri."
Elder Subhuti asked Manjusri, "Do you not explain the Dharma of the Sravaka-vehicle
to the Sravakas?"
"I follow the Dharmas of all the vehicles."
asked, "Are you a Sravaka, a Pratyekabuddha, or a Worthy One, a Supremely
"I am a Sravaka, but my understanding does not
come through the speech of others. I am a Pratyekabuddha, but I do not abandon
great compassion or fear anything. I am a Worthy One, a Supremely Enlightened
One, but I still do not give up my original vows."
Subhuti asked, "Why
are you a Sravaka?"
"Because I cause sentient beings to hear the
Dharma they have not."
"Why are you a Pratyekabuddha?"
I thoroughly comprehend the dependent origination of all dharmas."
are you a Worthy One, a Supremely Enlightened One?"
"Because I realize
that all things are equal in the Dharmadhatu "
Subhuti asked. "Manjusri,
in what stage do you really abide?"
"I abide in every stage."
asked, "Could it be that you also abide in the stage of ordinary people?"
said, "I definitely abide in the stage of ordinary people."
asked, "With what esoteric implication do you say so?"
so because all dharmas are equal by nature."
Subhuti asked, "If all
dharmas are equal, where are such dharmas as the stages of Sravakas, Pratyekabuddhas,
Bodhisattvas, and Buddhas established?"
Manjusri answered, "As an
illustration, consider the empty space in the ten directions. People speak of
the eastern space, the southern space, the western space, the northern space,
the four intermediate spaces, the space above, the space below, and so forth.
Such distinctions are spoken of, although the empty space itself is devoid of
distinctions. In like manner, virtuous one, the various stages are established
in the ultimate emptiness of all things, although the emptiness itself is devoid
of distinctions "
Subhuti asked, "Have you entered the realization
of sainthood and been forever separated from samsara?"
"I have entered
it and emerged from it "
Subhuti asked, "Why did you emerge from
it after you entered it?"
Manjusri answered, "Virtuous one, you should
know that this is a manifestation of the wisdom and ingenuity of a Bodhisattva.
He truly enters the realization of sainthood and becomes separated from samsara;
then, as a method to save sentient beings, he emerges from that realization. Subhuti,
suppose an expert archer plans to harm a bitter enemy, but, mistaking his beloved
son in the wilder-ness for the enemy, he shoots an arrow at him The son shouts,
'I have done nothing wrong. Why do you wish to harm me?' At once, the archer,
who is swift-footed, dashes toward his son and catches the arrow before it does
any harm. A Bodhisattva is like this: in order to train and subdue Sravakas and
Pratyekabuddhas, he attains nirvana; however, he emerges from it and does not
fall into the stages of Sravakas and Pratyekabuddhas. That is why his stage is
called the Buddha-stage. "
Subhuti asked, "How can a Bodhisattva
attain this stage?"
Manjusri answered, "If Bodhisattvas dwell in
all stages and yet dwell no-where, they can attain this stage.
can discourse on all the stages but do not abide in the lower stages, they can
attain this Buddha-stage.
"If they practice with the purpose of ending
the afflictions of all sentient beings, but realize there is no ending in the
Dharmadhatu; if they abide in the unconditioned, yet perform conditioned actions;
if they remain in samsara, but regard it as a garden and do not seek nirvana before
all their vows are fulfilled - then they can attain this stage.
realize ego-less-ness, yet bring sentient beings to maturity, they can attain
"If they achieve the Buddha-wisdom yet do not generate
anger or hatred toward those who lack wisdom, they can attain this stage.
they practice by turning the Dharma-wheel for those who seek the Dharma but make
no distinctions among things, they can attain this stage.
if Bodhisattvas vanquish demons yet assume the appearance of the four demons,
they cart attain this stage."
Subhuti said, "Manjusri, such practices
of a Bodhisattva are very difficult for any worldly being to believe."
said, "So it is, so it is, as you say. Bodhisattvas perform deeds in the
mundane world but transcend worldly dharmas."
Subhuti said, "Manjusri,
please tell me how they transcend the mundane world."
Manjusri said, "The
five aggregates constitute what we call the mundane world. Of these, the aggregate
of form has the nature of accumulated foam, the aggregate of feeling has the nature
of a bubble, the aggregate of conception has the nature of a mirage, the aggregate
of impulse has the nature of a hollow plantain, and the aggregate of consciousness
has the nature of an illusion. Thus, One should know that the essential nature
of the mundane world is none other than that of foam, bubbles, mirages, plantains,
and illusions; ill it there are neither aggregates nor the names of aggregates,
neither sentient beings nor the names of sentient beings, neither the mundane
world nor the supra-mundane world. Such a right understanding of the five aggregates
is called the supreme understanding. If one attains this supreme understanding,
then he is liberated, as he [actually] always has been. If he is so liberated,
he is not attached to mundane things. If he is not attached to mundane things,
he transcends the mundane world.
"Furthermore, Subhuti, the basic nature
of the five aggregates is emptiness. If that nature is emptiness, there is neither
'I' nor 'mine.' If there is neither 'I' nor 'mine,' there is no duality. If there
is no duality, there is neither grasping nor abandoning. If there is neither grasping
nor abandoning, there is no attachment. Thus, free of attachment, one transcends
the mundane world.
"Furthermore, Subhuti, the five aggregates belong to
causes and conditions. If they belong to causes and conditions, they do not belong
to oneself or to others. If they do not belong to oneself or to others, they have
no owner. If they have no owner, there is no one who grasps them. If there is
no grasping, there is no contention, and non-contention is the practice of religious
devotees. Just as a hand moving in empty space touches no object and meets no
obstacle, so the Bodhisattvas who practice the equality of emptiness transcend
the mundane world.
"Moreover, Subhuti, because all the elements of the
five aggregates merge in the Dharmadhatu, there are no realms. If there are no
realms, there are no elements of earth, water, fire, or air; there is no ego,
sentient being, or life; no Realm of Desire, Realm of Form or Realm of Formlessness:
no realm of the conditioned or realm of the unconditioned; no realm of samsara
or realm of nirvana. When Bodhisattvas enter such a domain free of distinctions,
they do not abide in anything, though they remain in the midst of worldly beings.
If they do not abide in anything, they transcend the mundane world." When
this Dharma of transcending the world was explained, two hundred monks became
detached from all dharmas, ended all their defilements, and become liberated in
mind. One by one they took off their upper garments to offer to Manjusri, saying,
"Any person who does not have faith in or understand this doctrine will achieve
nothing and realize nothing."
Then Subhuti asked these monks, "Elders,
have you ever achieved or realized anything?"
The monks replied, "Only
presumptuous persons will claim they have achieved and realized something. To
a humble religious devotee, nothing is achieved or realized. How, then, would
such a person think of saying to himself, 'This I have achieved; this I have realized'?
If such an idea occurs to him, then it is a demon's deed."
"Elders, according to your understanding, what achievement and realization
cause you to say so?"
The monks replied, "Only the Buddha, the World-Honored
One, and Manjusri know our achievement and realization. Most virtuous one, our
understanding is: those who do not fully know the nature of suffering yet claim
that suffering should be comprehended are presumptuous. Likewise, if they claim
that the cause of suffering should be eradicated, that the cessation of suffering
should be realized and that the path leading to the cessation of suffering should
be followed, they are presumptuous. Presumptuous also are those who do not really
know the nature of suffering, its cause, its cessation, or the path leading to
its cessation, but claim that they know suffering, have eradicated the cause of
suffering, have realized the cessation of suffering, and have followed the path
leading to the cessation of suffering.
"What is the nature of suffering?
It is the very nature of non-arising. The same is true concerning the characteristic
of the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the path leading to
the cessation of suffering. The nature of non-arising is sign-less and unattainable.
In it, there is no suffering to be known, no cause of suffering to be eradicated,
no cessation of suffering to be realized, and no path leading to the cessation
of suffering to be followed. Those who are not frightened terrified, or awestricken
upon hearing these Noble Truths are not presumptuous. Those who are frightened
and terrified are the presumptuous ones."
Thereupon, the World-Honored
One praised the monks, saying, "Well said well said!" He told Subhuti,
"These monks heard Manjusri explain this profound Dharma during the era of
Kasyapa Buddha. Because they have practiced this profound Dharma before, they
are now able to follow it and understand it immediately. Similarly, all those
who hear, believe, and understand this profound teaching in my era will be among
the assembly of Maitreya Buddha in the future."
Then the god Suguga said
to Manjusri, "Virtuous one, you have repeatedly taught the Dharma ill this
world. Now we beg you to go to the Tushita Heaven. For a long time, the gods there
have also been planting many good roots. They will be able to understand the Dharma
if they hear it. However, because they are attached to the pleasures of their
heaven, they cannot leave their heaven and come to the Buddha to hear the Dharma,
and consequently they suffer a great loss. "
Manjusri immediately performed
a miraculous feat that caused the god Suguga and all others in the assembly to
believe that they had arrived at the palace of the Tushita Heaven. There they
saw gardens, woods, magnificent palaces and mansions with sumptuous tiers of railings
and windows, high and spacious twenty- storied towers with jeweled nets and curtains,
celestial flowers covering the ground, various wonderful birds hovering ill flocks
and warbling, and celestial maidens in the air scattering flowers of the coral
tree, singing verses in chorus, and playing merrily.
Seeing all this, the god
Suguna said to Manjusri, "This is extraordinary, Manjusri! How have we arrived
so quickly at the palace of the Tushita Heaven to see the gardens and the gods
here? Manjusri, will you please teach us the Dharma?"
Elder Subhuti told
Suguna, "Soil of heaven, you did not leave the assembly or go anywhere. It
is Manjushri's miraculous feat that causes you to see yourself in the palace of
the Tushita Heaven."
The god Suguna said to the Buddha, "How rare,
World-Honored One! Manjusri has such a command of samádhi and of miraculous
power that in an instant he has caused this entire assembly to appear to be in
the palace of the Tushita Heaven."
The Buddha said, "Son of heaven,
is this your understanding of Manjushri's miraculous power? As I understand it,
if Manjusri wishes, he can gather all the merits and magnificent attributes of
Buddha-lands as numerous as the sands of the Ganges and cause them to appear in
One Buddha-land. He can with one fingertip lift up the Buddha-lands below ours,
which are as numerous as the sands of the Ganges, and put them in the empty space
on top of the Buddha-lands above ours, which are also as numerous as the sands
of the Ganges. He can put all the water of the four great oceans of all the Buddha-lands
into a single pore without making the aquatic beings in it feel crowded or removing
them from the seas. He can put all the Mount Sumerus of all the worlds into a
mustard seed, yet the gods on these mountains will feel that they are still living
in their own palaces. He can place all sentient beings of the five planes of existence
of all the Buddha-lands on his palm, and cause them to see all kinds of exquisite
material objects such as those available in delightful, magnificent countries.
He can gather all the fires of all the worlds into a piece of cotton. He can use
a spot as small as a pore to eclipse completely every Sun and moon in every Buddha-land.
In short, he can accomplish whatever he wishes to do."
At that time, Papiyan,
the Evil One, transformed himself into a monk and said to the Buddha, "World-Honored
One, we wish to see Manjusri perform such miraculous feats right now. What is
the use of saying such absurd things, which nobody in the world can believe?"
World-Honored One told Manjusri, "You should manifest your miraculous power
right before this assembly." Thereupon, without rising from his seat, Manjusri
entered the Samadhi of Perfect Mental Freedom in Glorifying All Dharmas, and demonstrated
all the miraculous feats described by the Buddha.
Seeing this, the Evil One,
the members of the assembly, and the god Suguga all applauded these unprecedented
decals, saying, "Wonderful, wonderful! Because of the appearance of the Buddha
in this world, we now have this Bodhisattva who can perform such miraculous feats
and open a door to the Dharma for the world."
Thereupon, the Evil One,
inspired by Manjushri's awesome power, said, "World-Honored One, how wonderful
it is that Manjusri possesses such great, miraculous power! And the members of
this assembly, who now understand and have faith in the Dharma through his demonstration
of miraculous feats, are also marvelous. World-Honored One, even if there were
as many demons as the sands of the Ganges, they would not be able to hinder these
good men and good women, who understand and believe in the Dharma.
Papiyan the Evil One, have always sought opportunities to oppose the Buddha and
to create turmoil among sentient beings. Now I vow that, from this day on, I will
never go nearer than one hundred leagues away from the place where this doctrine
prevails, or where people have faith in, understand, cherish, receive, read, recite,
and teach it.