IN THE SURANGAMA SUTRA
Dr. Bhikkhunī Giới Hương
THREE GRADUAL PROGRESS STEPS
In the conclusion of the original cause of the upside-down states, arises the meaning of three gradual progress practices:
“Ānanda, each species of creature beings has twelve styles of the upside-down states, just as due to pressing the eyes, many sky-flowers are generated. Once the wonderfully illuminated perfect pure mind has become suddenly inverted, it creates a fullness of false random thoughts.
“Now that you have experienced the samādhi of the Buddha, you must cultivate three gradual progress steps to transform the original cause of these random thoughts. For example, the container must be washed by hot water, ashes, and incense to clean out the poisonous honey. Then, it can store the pure water.
“Revealing three gradually progress practices: What are three gradual progress steps? Firstly, it is to destroy the aiding causes of rebirth, secondly, sincerely cultivating to scrape the main characteristics of living beings, and thirdly, inverting diligently the present bad karma.”1
Each species of creature being has twelve styles of upside-down states, just as due to pressing the eyes generates many sky-flowers. Once the wonderfully illuminated perfect, pure mind has suddenly become inverted, it creates fullness of the false random thoughts. The Buddha advised Ānanda that if he develops the bodhi mind to cultivate samādhi of the Buddha, he must go through three gradual progress stages.
“Gradual” means step by step in order, cultivating gradually, learning slowly to understand and attain from low to high fruition.
“Spontaneous” means unplanned. For example, an upper level person practices Zen or listens to the teaching of the absolute Mahāyāna which he understands deeply with no wonder or challenge in the processes of being aware of the truth. Thus, such a great everlasting enlightenment is not limited by the time which is called “only a fingernail moment, he becomes the outflows (āsrava).
And here, the Buddha teaches us from the beginning to the fruition, there are three gradual progress lessons to practice. We are as a vase from beginningless time. It holds too much of greed (abhijjhā, visamalobha), hatred (byāpāda, dosa), and delusion (samohaṃ). If we wish to become a Dharma implement to contain the Buddha-Dharma, to become a Buddha, the first thing we must do is clean the vase with perfume in order that it can be able to contain the ambrosial water. It means we should use three gradual progress stages to clean our body and mind. Three gradual progress stages are as follows:
- To get rid of the aiding that causes the birth and death cycle.
- To scrape the main characteristics of living beings, i.e., to keep precepts.
- To prevent the manifestation of the present bad karma.
To the external aspect, we get rid of seducing conditions while in the internal aspect, we must keep strictly the precepts, avoid heedlessness as the common underlying nature of all men. At the six senses bases, we guard and pay attention at our mind, and prevent generating greed (abhijjhā, visamalobha), anger (upanāha), and ignorance (avijjā). That is the correct Buddhist karma leading to Buddhahood of a devout practitioner.
The gradual state means step by step. For example, we did number one already, then we move next to number two and three. Of course, we must walk from the lowest to the second and the third stairway. In any fruit, we also walk step by step, from the lowest to higher and the highest step, from narrow to wide. Likewise, we gradually cut off the external conditions and cultivate at six organs until we become a Buddha.
1. TRANSFORMING THE AIDING CAUSES
“What are the aiding causes? Ānanda, twelve species of living beings in this world are not completely independent, but depend on four styles of eating, such as eating in portion, contact, thought, and consciousness. Therefore, the Buddha said that all living beings must lean on eating to live.
“Ānanda, all living beings can live if they eat good food, and they die if they take poison. So, whoever wants to attain samādhi, should not eat five caustic herbs in the world. If these five are eaten in cooked food, they increase sexual lust. If they are eaten in uncooked, they produce anger.
“Therefore, in the world there are people to preach twelve sets of scriptural Buddhist categories,2 but they eat the caustic vegetables with much bad smell, so the devas and immortals in ten directions keep far away from them while the ghosts favor in this smell so much that they approach to touch their lips. Such people always live in the same place with ghosts, and their merits decrease day by day without lasting benefit anymore.
“People eat the caustic vegetable and even though they cultivate samādhi, they cannot receive the protection from bodhisattvas, devas, immortals, and good spirits in ten directions. Hence, the great mighty demon king takes advantage to manifest in the body of a Buddha to preach wrong Dharma for them, such as criticizing the precepts and praising lust (sarāgaṃ), rage (upanāha, viddesanā), and delusion (samohaṃ). At the time of death, these people will join the relatives of demon kings. When they end their merits as demons, they will fall into the unintermittent hell (avīci niraya).
“Ānanda, those who cultivate for bodhi should never eat five caustic vegetables. This is the first gradual progress step.”3
All living beings can live if they eat what is wholesome, and they die if they take poison. We like this danger, so the Buddha teaches clearly how dangerous it is! For example, we prohibit children from going out under the sunshine but they still like the sunny weather, because they are too young to distinguish the harm. Likewise, we do not recognize it, so the Buddha taught wherever the spicy vegetables are (onions, shallots, garlic, manic pile, and young garlic), the guardian and devas stay far away because it is the place of ghosts (pittivisaya).
We avoid eating or touching the spicy vegetables because as we touch or eat these things, we often meet the ghosts. The hungry ghosts hover around us to smell and enjoy five pungent plants. So, people who eat five spicy plants are the relatives of the ghosts (preta) and stay in the same place with ghosts, dissolve their merit as the days go by, and they experience no lasting benefit.
The condition is the spicy vegetable while the cause is greed (abhijjhā, visamalobha), anger (byāpāda, dosa), and ignorance (avijjā). Preventing the condition is to get rid of the greed and hatred. In fact, the greed, hatred, and delusion (samohaṃ) are not the condition, they are the root. Keeping out the condition is to cut off the root, i.e., to avoid eating these five caustic plants. If they are eaten raw, they increase our anger. If these five are eaten cooked, they cause sexual lust to arise. Thus, we should never eat them to prevent the bad conditions. Whoever seeks samādhi should refrain from eating five spicy herbs. Even if a practitioner entered the main samādhi, he must never eat them. Even if the Dharma preacher can expound twelve sets of sūtras, if they eat pungent plants, the guardian, heaven (deva), and immortal (half heavenhuman) stay far away from them, but the hungry ghosts (preta) hover around to touch their lips. Because the nature of the ghost is a kind of living being who likes to do evil karma, the Buddha advises us to never eat these things.
The Buddha provides only one example of five spicy plants. In fact, we have countless conditions around that are the aiding cause (pratītyasamutpāda, paṭiccasamuppāda) to the birth and death cycle (saṃsāra). Not only the pungent plants, but also all things that do not benefit our cultivation, we cut them off. Our lives in the family and society have thousands of kinds of conditions to lead lust (sarāgaṃ) and anger (sadosaṃ) to arise in our mind. Greed (abhijjhā, visamalobha) and anger
(kodha) arise in our mind. That is the form of ignorance (avijjā) or the root of delusion (samohaṃ). We thought these conditions were true, so we let the greed and the anger rise up.
Now, we must escape the conditions, because it causes the bad habit to be produced. For example, we know that someone hates us, does not like us. Every time they see us, they have a provocative posture, uttering words so deafening that our mind aches, which make us to easily succumb to our temper. If we recognize that they possess evil thoughts (palāsa), we should avoid them. We should not go in front of them having a defiant mood (thambha) with any animosity (upanāha) toward them. We must avoid the conditions to release the bad karma between us.
Whoever is often talkative or fighting (sārambha) which causes an unpeaceful saṅgha must leave the community. Demanding that someone leave the saṅgha is to get rid of the bad conditions that break peace in the temple.
We must be careful at keeping our five spicy herbs. We also are awakened at our six sense organs facing six worldly objects. Our mind must be mindful to escape from the bad condition, and avoid the arising of greed, hatred, and delusion to develop the self-craving.
Therefore, first of all, the Buddha advises that we should leave our parents to live in a pagoda; it is called preventing external conditions. Too often, parents who pamper their children and give them the best things easily get angry or sad if they see their children unhappy because they cannot get what they want. It is the love of parents to be the root to develop the greed, hatred, wrong view, craving, or ego-ness.
So, the Buddha taught that we should leave our home for a monastery which helps us avoid the condition of the birth and death cycle. It can be said that parents and existent beings are in the condition of saṃsāra. They are living in the cycle of
“ignorance-karma-suffering.” If we live with them, i.e., we engage in the cycle of “ignorance-karma-suffering,” so we must leave home for the temple. This is another aiding cause of rebirth which needs to transform. After we are liberated, we will return home to guide members in family to cultivate. Moreover, when we leave our home to live in monastery, we have to shave our hair. Our hair is also an aiding condition of rebirth, so we have to cut off it, in order that we do not take time to comb or take care of it daily because it is illusory. The Buddha wants his disciples to be realistic and save time to do everything in the true significance. There is a saying, “Live in a gourd, you grow round. Live in a tube, you grow long.” If we live in a tube, we want to grow round which is impossible. If we live in gourd, we want to be long which is impossible too. Likewise, in a good situation in a pagoda, the great ideal of super mundane can be generated and the bad conditions will be restrained.
This saying implies that we should not look down on the external conditions. We should choose good people to make friends. If we see the heavy drinkers, gamblers, as well as gossips, we should stay away from them, and not make friends with them. We do not waste time to think about the gossip. Let them do their business, we do our business. It is good plan that we should avoid them. We should be careful to choose the good teacher to preach, good friends to communicate, and good accommodations to stay.
If we have just practiced as a beginner, we must follow these three gradual progress stages. In Buddhism, children are often obedient to their parents to keep the filial piety. It is the fundamental moral. Then why does the Buddha advise us to leave our family for renunciation? Why should we leave the “father like the great mountain, the mother like water out of the source”? Why should we say farewell and enter the temple, cut off the family lifestyle?
Because there are so many ties in families we cannot have much time to cultivate or learn scriptures as when we renounce and live in a temple. Therefore, the Buddha teaches that monk or nun should lead a life without family in order that they reach the holy life for themselves and others.
Avoiding the external conditions, staying away from family to live in a pagoda, and preventing influence of mundane habits. Monks and nuns are not allowed to gather in neighborhood for leisure and must respect their cultivation life to gain much fruit of peace and liberation. They have much time to cultivate for themselves and train for others. Monks and nuns live in the good circumstance of a saṅgha so that they have many opportunities to develop bodhi mind, and build a good Dharma brotherhood.
The patriarch declared that “Tigers fail as they leave their herds. Monks fail as they leave their saṅgha.” A strong tiger will be killed by hunters if it leaves its herd to go out in forest. Monks and nuns cannot cultivate good if they do not live in a good cultivating circumstance. Most of them fail in their will, only a few can succeed and they rarely have opportunities to teach other a spirit life because they have not experienced it.
Why do monks and nuns have to live in the community? Living at the pagoda, our craving (trishna) and selfness (māna) will be worn out. Although we study a lot of scriptures, we still attach subtly to our selfness (mātna) and views from our consciousness store. We easily forgive our mistakes as well as skip our bad thoughts. Thus, we need to live with our companions around so that our friends can see our wrong actions to remind us to correct and confess in order that we can continue to improve. So, the temple or pagoda is a good condition for this ideal to succeed.
Thanks to our teachers and friends, we can wash out the greed, hatred, delusion, conceit, doubt, and wrong view, and so forth. These poisons are implicit in our daily speech, action, and thought which can manifest in our appearance, smile, gesture, and behavior. Once these poisons from our mind appear without our attention, then the master, friends, and others will remind us, they even force us to repent. This is the reason why the Buddha teaches us to rely, repent, and support one another to purify our three karmas of mouth, body, and thought. The life of six virtue unions guarantees purity for the left-home people, so the Buddha states that “Tigers fail as they leave their herds. Monks fail as they leave their saṅgha.”
If we wish to gain sainthood, we have to live with our teachers and friends. If we live alone, we only enjoy the peace and do not gain sainthood. Beginners who leave their home need to live in the Saṅgha, in order that they can rely on the great blessing of the community to practice and proceed.
In brief, a cultivator needs to quit five pungent plants which helps prevent the conditions of greed (abhijjhā, visamalobha), hatred (byāpāda, dosa), and delusion (samohaṃ) from arising. Too often, we do not notice the conditions. From now on, we need to be mindful of it.
There are four styles of eating which twelve categories of living beings often use as follows:
1. Eating by portions: Eat each piece or drink per mouthful. A patient fails to chew but swallows but the soup going straight to the intestine instead to mouth. It also belongs this kind of portion.
In what realms do the creature beings eat in this portion way? The heaven (deva), human (manussa), and animal (tiracchānayoni) realms. They use the following:
–Three sense objects as their foundation: scent, bad smell, and non-smell.
–Three flavors: sweet, insipid, and sour.
–Touch (vedanā): touch food or smell portion of scent (per portion) to feel full without hunger.
2. Eating by contact (sparsha): Use the mind subject to contact with six consciousnesses to make food. This is the way of eating of ghosts (preta) and spirits. They contact with the scent to feel full.
3. Eating by thought: The inflow (srava) thought of the mental consciousness specializes in endless thinking. It is turned into the wonderful meditative view to assist in maintaining the heavenly (deva) body.
The meditative power is as nourishing as food and the Dharma joy is served as food. In daily life, we enjoy practicing meditation and studying scripture so much that we feel the ecstatic and true happiness in present moment which serves as the nourishing food for our body and mind. The Buddha sat meditation for forty-nine days without eating anything because the ecstatic samādhi remained to balance his body.
4. Eating by consciousness: The eighth consciousness maintains the body without decay. Nails and hairs grow longer, old cells die and new cells are born which are thanked by the consciousness to remain and operate the activity of the body. Eating by consciousness is the spiritual dish. As cultivators, we should not watch action movies or read violent magazines because they are also unwholesome for conscious nourishment.
In fact, four saints and six mundane realms all use the eating by consciousness but some are still in ignorance (avijjā) while others are awakened and liberated.
With saints, their consciousnesses are perfectly enlightened; it is called Tathāgata Store (tathãgatagarbha), because it retains countless merits including the (āsrava) outflows, neither material nor immaterial, neither dwelling, nor without dwelling. This way of eating comes from unbelievable merit. Beings in the hells (niraya) also live by their consciousness which also belongs to this kind of eating.
We, human beings, eat by portions, thoughts, and consciousness. Once we feel so ecstatic in sitting meditation so much that it is possible to spend six hours without movement, frostbite, and hunger. It is also called eating by consciousness and thought.
However, although they can maintain their lives for many kalpas, they will also fall into the hell one day because they did not attain the absolute essence. This means that our way of cultivation is still very lengthy.
2. THE MAIN CHARACTERISTICS OF LIVING BEINGS
Ānanda, living beings who want to enter samādhi firstly must firmly keep the pure precepts. They must destroy the lustful thoughts (sarāgaṃ), without drinking wine or eating meat, and they only eat cooked rather than raw foods.
Ānanda, if cultivators do not destroy the desire and killing, it is impossible for them to transcend three worlds.
You must contemplate lust (sarāgaṃ) as a poisonous snake or an enemy. Firstly, you must observe the sound-hearer’s (śrāvaka) four or eight parajikas precepts to control your motionless body; after that you cultivate the bodhisattva’s pure precepts to control your motionless mind. When the important precepts are obeyed successfully, the cultivators do not produce the karma of birth and killing one another in this world. If people do not steal, they will not be indebted to repay the past due in this world. If the pure cultivators enter samādhi, even though they have not attained the divine eyes, they will see ten directions of the worlds by the flesh body which is given by their parents. They will see the Buddhas, listen to Dharma, receive personally the Buddha’s teaching, attain the superpower to travel through ten directions, gain the pure vision of past lives, and do not face to the difficult dangers. This is the second gradual practice.6
The first thing is leaving home to live in a pagoda. The next thing is to be ordained with the sramanera precepts, siksamana precepts, bhikkhunīs (bhikṣuṇī) precepts, from the low stage to high stage. Because we come from the womb, our flesh and bones are made from blood, so our nature is ignorance (avijjā), since the beginningless time we have lived with delusion.
Scraping the characteristics of living beings: According to precepts and scriptures, we build right view for ourselves, follow the saints’ examples in each step so that our ignorance can turn into bodhi nature. This is the second nature.
Scraping the characteristics of living beings means we go against them. We control ourselves to not chase after greed (abhijjhā, visamalobha) for beauty, form, fame, sleep, food, drink, sleep, and rest anymore. However, they permeated our blood; it is difficult for us to remove them. We cannot clean lightly but must clean them out. We must clean all kinds of greed out so that we do not fall into hell (niraya).
Entering samādhi means essentially upholding the precepts purely, especially we must cut off lust (trishna), alcohol, and meat. They make human beings delusive.
Why are we painful if we quit our ordinary nature? Once we do something wrong, our parents or teachers shout at us, we cry a lot, or we will fight with them. It is hard for us to remove these bad behaviors. Someone backbites us and we also do the same to them; we do not easily quit these bad natures.
Our skin and flesh are made from blood, blood comes from rice and dirt water. Our mind attaches to our skin and flesh and we ourselves build our selfness. Now we quit them, the selfness, we cannot bear it. We keep grasping everything, so if someone takes our things, we will be angry, while whoever takes care of us, we will fall in love with him. This is the main characteristic of living beings.
We regard greed (abhijjhā, visamalobha) and anger (kodha) as our nature while we consider the skin, bone, blood, and flesh as our body which we cannot abandon. It is difficult for us to omit them. So, we need to refrain from killing, without eating the meat of living beings to build compassion. We refrain from stealing other’s possession to build generosity.
Four important precepts, such as not-killing, not-stealing, not-lusting and not telling lies are the root of other precepts. We must uphold them seriously and as purely as the transparent ice. We are mindful in every movement and gesture of body, mouth and mind. Precept, concentration, and wisdom are related together with the virtue.
Once we intend to say something wrong, we must be mindful to stop. If we intend to grasp cakes from others, we must control our hands. If we intend to step on an ant, we should kindly move our feet away. We have to build compassion for ourselves and we need to have ability and concentration to uphold the precepts without failing. If we keep talking nonstop, we will fail to maintain our own precepts. The wisdom helps us know how to discriminate right from wrong. Concentration assists us in knowing how to control our speech and action. If someone is lazy about cultivating precepts, concentration, and wisdom, he cannot scrape his main mundane characteristics or his inner part off and will stay in the rebirth cycle. These bad characteristics are from the external aspect, but we have been influenced for so long that it permeates into our blood to be the inner aspect. It is as an enemy who invades our house so long time that it becomes the house owner.
Habits are formed from many past lives, so they are latent in our mind. Some people really do not want to steal but because of their deep habits, they like to collect or steal things. Such people must recite mantras to destroy these bad habits so that they can uphold their precepts and approach the improvements.
Whenever reciting mantras, people can cut off their false thoughts. Thanks to the power of mantra, the bad habits from beginningless time cannot arise anymore. Thus, keeping precepts means detaching these characteristics of human beings. Promising to hold the precepts proves that we are making a great attempt.
Today, monks or nuns, especially those who left their home to be novices when they were children, can keep their precepts perfectly. It proves that they are as the saints who appear in this life. We need to respect them because they have to live without family, stay away from ordinary property, and keep the pure virtue demeanors to be a role model for people in the world.
Someone cannot liberate from rebirth if he keeps thinking of sexual lust (sarāgaṃ) and stealing other’s things. He must repay the debts in his next life. The debt will remain if we have not repaid. Especially, monks or nuns should not grasp things in the pagoda as their personal belongings. Because devotees offer to the Triple Gems, the offerings belongs to Three Gems. Living in a pagoda, we should not waste what the devotees offer. If we do, we will be debt to them. However, if we lead a meaningful and pure life for others, what the devotee offers will be the means of building the Triple Gems, we will not be in debt. Therefore, monks and nuns have to lead a pure life to bring peace to others.
Thanks to the precepts, concentration is born. Six organs are pure because we keep precepts perfectly. Thanks to concentration, wisdom is developed, and then our vows of transmundane are fulfilled.
3. OPPOSITE THE PRESENT KARMA
“What is the present karma? Ānanda, whoever keeps such important precepts purely, do not have thoughts of sexual lust, and do not overindulge in chasing the six external sense-objects anymore. Because they do not chase after worldly objects, they will return to their own reality. Without the conditions of worldly objects, there is no reason for six faculties to contact. Thus, they reverse their flow to return to the perfect. The functions at six organs are not disturbed, and then all countries in ten directions are illuminated pure as the radiant moonlight in a lapis. Their bodies and minds are the wonderful tranquil equal perfection, and they attain the great peace in which all the secret pure penetrations of all Tathāgatas appear. Then, these cultivators attain Anutpattika-dharmakshanti (Uncreated Dharma Patience). They gradually practice following their virtue to gain the saint positions. This is the third gradual practice.”7
The first gradual stage is entering the pagoda to cultivate in order to avoid the condition of birth and death. The next stage is upholding precepts and the last is going against the manifestation of karma.
We, who are the cultivators, have lived at the pagoda for a long time, are ordained as well, study scriptures, and have to practice this third gradual stage in order that we can observe insight and control our mind daily.
Every time our six organs contact (sparsha) with six sense objects, we need to be mindful right away. We need to be aware of them with mindfulness, because the Buddha said that our mind is like a monkey which moves from this branch to another branch all day long. We need to be aware not to let arise in the mind thoughts of greed (abhijjhā, visamalobha), hatred (byāpāda, dosa), and delusion (sarāgaṃ). This is the way cultivators should pay attention in detail. We should live in solitude to reflect on our mind and control it at each moment so that we can purity our habits from beginningless time. This is an important task we have to do.
Because of good deeds from past lives, now we understand saṃsāra, cause-effect (pratītyasamutpāda, paṭiccasamuppāda), the morality-immorality. We uphold the precepts with attention. The manifestations of the present karma are our appearance (the subject) and what is around us (the object).
If our manifestation of present karma is good, it means we created good deeds in past lives and in this life, we inherit them. For example, many devotees donate quartet offerings;8 we see offerings and disciples’ respect; we hear sweet sounds and words; we wear the smooth robe and live in the pure pagoda without thinking, and so on. All things come and are satisfying and pleasant.
However, the wise ones have to contemplate that due to our past good deeds, they can inherit such conditions. If we do not cultivate seriously in this life, our merit will be worn out. So, being in this advantaged situation, we who do not enjoy much, use wisdom (prajñā) to contemplate this body as illusion, live with a pure mind, detach from the blessing life, and should be calm in any worldly situation.
If the manifestation of the present karma is not good, we often encounter what we dislike, other insults (sātheyya), and betrayals (makkha). We need to contemplate them which come from our past bad deeds. We have to contemplate our false thoughts, body, and action to accept the repay of the bad result. We repay lightly without complaint (soka) and sadness (parideva) because all appear illusory (samohaṃ). We must keep calm, tranquil, and peaceful so that we can expect to lead a good life in the future.
If the manifestation of karma in this life is good, many disciples will come to offer four necessary items9
(in Saṅgha life) to seek merit. We must control our mind without being influenced by worldly objects and respect. Upholding precepts wholeheartedly and dwelling on the bodhi nature without attachment to the external aspects so that we can return to our united reality.
The mundane people often chase after six sense objects while we, cultivators, must go inversely to the inflow to return to one pointedness. The meditating practitioners mindfully return to the bodhi nature, while some recite the name of Amitābha Buddha to be single-minded. Once six functions of organs do not manifest anymore, detaching the body, our minds are purely blissful as moonlight in crystal, then all lands in ten directions are brilliantly clear. We will experience the equally tranquil wonderful penetration.
The wonderful penetration is the wisdom of receiving the intuitive nature while our body has arisen from karma, impermanence, and is unreal. Knowing, seeing, and hearing is the measureless lifespan without birth and death. The body can end but the hearing and seeing still exist. Likewise, the bodies of cat, dog, and other species can be decayed but their hearing and seeing are boundlessly permanent. Ants and worms, and others have the same characteristics with our Amitābha nature. Let’s recognize the equally tranquil wonderful penetration in our Amitābha nature.
Due to the dark ignorance (avijjā), the crabs, fishes, animal (tiracchānayoni), human (manussa) beings, heaven (deva) beings, hell (niraya), ghosts (pittivisaya), and so on, are born. The forms are different but their measureless lifespan or the hearing and knowing essences are the same. Those who comprehend these things will abide in the Pure Land with Buddhas and bodhisattvas which the mundane people cannot comprehend.
Honestly, if we want to be good at precepts and behavior, why do we keep making mistakes, doing evil, or being a slave of karma? It is habits which are accumulated from past lives, hidden deeply in our mind. For example, there are many people who do not want to tell a lie, but as they encounter problems, even though they do not think about lying, they still utter a lie and build many false stories.
There are many monks and nuns who keep their demeanors but once hearing some music, they move suddenly their bodies or beat their fingers following the rhythms. To transform these deep habits, they have to sincerely recite the mantra countless times to control themselves and preserve their supermundane noble manner.
While chanting the mantra, the cultivator’s mind does not allow wandering with the illusion. Thanks to the mantra, the beginningless time habits are destroyed and go against the manifestation of present karma. Our daily life follows our habits It easily runs down the slope to fall into the hole. So if we invert our habits by going uphill, it is difficult and causes fatigue. The deep habits of defilements (kleśa), greed (abhijjhā, visamalobha), hatred (byāpāda, dosa), ignorance (avijjā), arrogance (atimāna), cover (chādeti), and wrong view (micchāditthi) must be cleaned out from the consciousness, and then the cultivator will attain sainthood.
The Buddha taught that in any situation or position, we must take these three gradual progress practices as the fundamental. Cultivating samādhi is abiding on the hearing nature, choosing an organ of seeing or smelling, or other to dwell on. It means living with the bodhi nature to filter out the defilements (kleśa).
The meaning of these three gradual progress practices are to transform the upside-down state. Our first upside-down state is that we often eat, drink, breathe, and take sunlight to compose the blood, skin, bone, and flesh which we consider our shelter, accommodation, or selfness. This is the reason why the patriarchs often compared our action or behavior to silkworms when they release their silk to build a safe place to protect themselves. However, the cocoons do not know that it is the silken cocoon that is the reason for people who drop it into boiling water to take silk for their own use.
We act as the silkworms. Since beginningless time, we have been ignorant in our mother’s womb until we get older and die. We keep thinking how to eat, how to wear clothes, and we do not care to cultivate and nourish our spiritual life. The body is the prison of craving which we consider to be our real body. This is the first upside-down state. After wrongly clinging to this body as our true substance, we move to consider the surrounding circumstance of six worldly objects as real. This is the second upside-down state.
Six consciousnesses rely on objects and the body for the distinction to arise between good and bad, benefit and harm in order that the calculation and defilements are generated. This is the third upside-down state.
Internally, we grasp our selfness and externally, we cherish worldly objects in which we create the negative karmas of killing, stealing, lusting, and telling lies. That leads to the consecutive human beings and worlds. Therefore, we need to cultivate three gradual progress stages to transform three upside-down states. Like a poison vessel that contains five impurities in the conscious store, we must use the three gradual progress practices to wash the vessel. Once the defilements or hindrance is cleaned, then we will be able to contain the Dharma water and we can peacefully dwell on the Buddha nature.
SUMMARY OF CHAPTER X
Chapter X explains the three gradual progress steps: Firstly, destroying the aiding causes of rebirth (abstaining from eating the five caustic herbs); secondly, sincerely cultivating to scrape the main characteristics of living beings (keeping the precepts as pure as ice), and thirdly, inverting diligently the present bad karma (avoid chasing after six worldly objects).
We must experience the samādhi of the Buddhas and must cultivate three gradual progress steps to transform the original cause of these random thoughts. There are four styles of eating which twelve categories of living beings often use as follows: eating by portion, contact, thought, and consciousness.
1. Why do we abstain from five caustic herbs?
2. Please discuss the interpretation of four ways to eat by portion, contact, thought, and consciousness.
3. Please explain the paragraph: “You must contemplate lust as a poisonous snake or an enemy. You must observe the sound-hearer’s four or eight parajika precepts to control your motionless body. When the important precepts are obeyed successfully, the cultivators do not produce the karma of birth and killing one another in this world.”
4. Why is it called “sincerely cultivating to cut out the main characteristics of living beings”?
5. What is “inverting diligently the present bad karma”?