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REBIRTH VIEWS 
 IN THE SURANGAMA SUTRA
(Fifth Edition)
Dr. Bhikkhunī Giới Hương

doahong

 

CHAPTER XI
 BAD HABITS PRODUCE  SEVEN REALMS

Venerable Ānanda presented to the Buddha: “World- Honored One, Bhikkhunī (Bhikṣuṇī) Valuable Lotus Fragrance ordained the bodhisattva precepts but she commits sexual intercourse and then confirms that the sexual relations are not serious as killing or stealing, so they do not have the karmic retribution. After uttering these wrong words, there is a big fire at her female organ that spread, burning all her joints as she drops into the unintermittent hell. 

 “Again, as Mighty Crystal King exterminated the Gautama clan and Bhikhu Good Stars declared that all Dharmas are empty (without cause-effect). Both of them fall into the unintermittent hell (avīci). 

 “Do these hells have fixed places or do they appear in variety according to the karma of each person? We beg the great compassionate Buddha to kindly open our knowledge in order that all human beings who can develop their positive mind keep the precepts, respectfully listen to the decisive meanings, and happily preserve these things without violation.”

 The Buddha praised Ānanda, “What a good question!

It makes all living beings avoid the deviant views. Now you should focus on it; I will explain it for the sake of you all.

 “Ānanda, all living beings are originally really pure, but due to false views, the illusory habits are generated, which are divided into two parts, an internal site and an external side.”

AN INTERNAL SITE

“Ānanda, an internal site refers to the main characteristics that originate from inside living beings. For example, due to craving, false emotions arise. These emotions accumulate endlessly; they can create the lust liquid. Therefore, that is why living beings’ mouths release water as they think about delicious food. When they miss a person, or either like or dislike someone, their tears flow down. When they desire possessions and jewels, their mind releases a craving current to polish their body. When they enjoy sexual pleasure, from both male and female organs fluids come naturally.

 “Ānanda, there are a variety of loves, but their liquid flows are the same. These fluids cannot ascend—they

naturally go downward. This is called the internal side.”

AN EXTERNAL SIDE

“Ānanda, an external side refers to the characteristics that happen from the outside aspiration of living beings. Due to admiration, the ideals which are invented as well as accumulated without stopping can create the ascending air.

Therefore, that is why when living beings keep the prohibitive precepts in their minds, their bodies will be light and pure. When they chant sincerely the mantra from their minds, they become mighty and strong. When they wish to born in the heavens, in the dreams they definitely fly up there. When they focus their mind at the Buddha lands, then the Buddha realms appear in front of them. They, who serve the good and wise Dharma friends, put their egos down.

 “Ānanda, the thoughts differ, but the lightly flying are the same. With the upward fly without descending, they naturally become transcendent. This is called the external side.”1

In the part of a question, Venerable Purna (Purnamaitrayaniputra, Punnamantaniputta) asked the reason why living beings fell into six realms. The Buddha replied that because they committed killing, stealing, lusting, and lying. In this chapter, Venerable Ānanda asked the Buddha: “Do these hells have fixed places or do they appear in variety according to the karma of each person?” Owing to this question, the Buddha explained that due to false views , there are the internal and external habits to generate seven destinies.

The parts of śamatha and samādhi explained the right way to cultivate. In this part, Venerable Ānanda kindly manifested to make mistakes in order to remind us to avoid the dangers and offenses which we easily face and commit. Once we commit offenses, we will fall into the unintermittent hell , because four precepts of killing, stealing, lusting, and lying are the root or key while other precepts are branches.

The Buddha praised Ānanda’s question that it makes sense in helping living beings to get out of the false views: All living beings are originally really pure, but due to false views , the illusory habits are generated, which are divided into two parts,  an internal site and an external side.” Depending on many or less thoughts from an internal site or an external side, seven destinies will appear.

This is the Buddha’s vision. He recognizes with insight the road of cause-effect  and he compassionately instructs us to avoid it.

 What do the false views become the false habits? For example, when we see Ms. A, our false view  holds that she is Ms. A. But in fact, fifty years ago, she has not been born yet. At present, she borrows food from outside to nourish her body. In the future, she gets old, sick, and dies. It means the earth, water, wind, and fire disappear in the world. Ms. A also disappears gradually to become voidness. Therefore, if we see we are A, another is B. This is the false view.

Ms. A who is composed of the earth, water, wind, and fire, is temporarily an illusion called Ms. A. If we think that Ms. A is true, it is the false view. Because we consider we are A, another is B. So, if B gives us cakes, we feel happy which is called the false habit. If B does not give us cakes, she eats alone; we will be annoyed and dislike her which is called the false habit. Such false habits come from false views. Today we accumulate a little bit; tomorrow we are angry a little bit. Due to benefits, we like to welcome the donor. Tomorrow we think of a plan or a trick to continuously have the cake to eat. Day by day, such habits are built. We become angry and greedy people.

Hence, from false views, there are false habits) which are divided into two parts, an internal aspect and an external aspect.

An internal aspect consists of like and dislike, happiness and unhappiness, and so on. An external aspect is the thought, admiration or inventing new ideals. We need to transform from mundane people into saints. The mundane is the ignorance  or illusion while the saints are our true nature or original mind.

The original mind is true, so we must return to live with it. That way, we will become a bodhisattva or Buddha. What mundane people indulge in are the falseness, foolishness, and illusion, When we detach to be awakened, it will disappear. In brief, the mundane or supreme all comes from our mind.

An internal aspect is our behaviors or characteristics which we accumulate for so long a time that they become a part of us and we regard them as ourselves. This is deep inside our mind, so it is called the internal side. They are the defilements of greed, anger, selfishness, lust, hate, gladness, worry, and so on which come from the ego-grasping, self-love, and wrong view. They constitute our nature or emotion.

An external aspect belongs to the outside aspiration. Thanks to the Buddhas, saints, and patriarchs teaching us how to have spiritual aspirations so that we can transform from mundane into a trans-mundane state. It is like a person who upholds the precepts, determines to keep the rules purely and seriously. Without doubt, we always live with our precepts in order to change from the mundane into supreme-mundane state. It is called an external aspect.

Thanks to studying Buddha-Dharma, we realize that greed, hatred, and delusion  are bad; we must transform them gradually. We cultivate to wash them out day by day but we must really want to clean them, then there is hope. In fact, if we daily practice sincerely, we wash a bit on the surface or outside. So, this is called an external aspect.

Actually, the mundane is delusive and illusory, while the saints are our reality, truth, and mind to which we must return to live in awakening. It is heavy, if we are too intent on emotion, we will suffer. In contrast, if it is light, if we incline the thought, we will attain sainthood and enlightenment.

An internal aspect belongs to emotion and an external aspect belongs to thought, so that living beings have seven destinies. Honestly, all of them come from the mind alone. The mundane or super-mundane, ghost  or devil is all from our mind. We are ordinary persons, but if suddenly we are enlightened, we will become Buddhas.

Owing to false views, if we see something wrong and do something dishonest, there are the external aspect and the internal aspect. For example, according to the Asian custom, the father-grandchildren are closer to blood than the mothergrandchildren. The internal aspect is close while the external aspect is far or outside. For us, the emotion is as the substance, we take it as our characteristic, so it is inward.

We have two parts—the emotion is the self-craving or ego-grasping. Sexual lust causes the semen to come out; this is called sexual lust attachment. The Buddha fears that we do not trust it, so he provides the realistic examples in life. Owing to craving attaching, we produce water in the world. Aversion causes anger so we generate fire without stopping. Stupidity turns into the earth and the distraction changes into wind and storms in the world. Hence, the lust, anger, ignorance, and disorder  have stimulated the arising of earth, water, fire, wind in the present. Our behavior produces all kinds of forms, so it is called an internal aspect.

The ideal is once we have aspiration for the truth and seek the reality, it causes the ascending air while living by the emotion produces the water in the world. Because of heaviness, the water usually runs down, never flows upward. Likewise, if we do not cultivate, if we only seek interest or fame for ourselves, we chase after the feelings of greed, like , dislike , we incur a bad heavy internal aspect in our karma. On the contrary, if we cultivate, go to the holy level, our body will release the ascending air which is light and pure. Thus, when we pass away, leave this body behind, we will fly to the higher realm. 

CLARIFYING THE STATE OF POSITIVE THOUGHT AND NEGATIVE EMOTION

“Ānanda, all beings in the world are in the consecutive course of birth and death. They live following their habitual inclination. Once they die, they change into a different flowing. At the time of dying, when the final warm air has not left their bodies, all the good and bad karmas which they have accumulated in this life suddenly and simultaneously manifest. They experience the intermingling of two trends, such as the antagonistic toward death and an attraction to living.”

1. THE WHOLE POSITIVE STATE: Whoever is in the total thought state will ascend to certainly be born in the heaven realms. While flying, if they have blessings, merits, and wisdom, as well as the pure vows, they will be awakened to see all pure lands of the Buddhas in ten directions and they will be born in the realms as they wish.

2. THE STATE OF MORE POSITVE THOUGHT, LESS NEGATIVE EMOTION: Whenever they have more positive thoughts than emotion, they ascend not very high where they can become the flying immortals, the great mighty ghosts kings, the traveling space yakshas, or the traveling earth rakshasas who go at any corner of the four heavens without barriers.

 If they have good vows and hearts to protect BuddhaDharma or precepts, they will go to support whoever keeps precepts, chants the mantras, practices meditation, and follows the Dharma patiently. These heavenly beings themselves stay close to the Buddhas under the Tathāgatas’ seats.

3. THE EQUAL STATE BETWEEN THOUGHT AND

EMOTION:  Whenever thought and emotion are equal, they are neither flying up nor falling down, but they are born in the human realm. If their thought is bright, they will be smart. If their emotion is dark, they will become foolish.

4. THE STATE OF LESS THOUGHT AND MORE EMOTION: Whenever they have more emotions than thought, they enter the animal species. By having the heavier emotion, they become the fur-bearing beasts. By being the lighter emotion, they become the winged creatures.

5. THE STATE OF SEVEN EMOTIONS AND THIRD THOUGHTS: Whenever they experienced the state of seven emotions and third thoughts, they are born in the ocean or at the fire region, where they often bear the heat. Having the bodies of hungry ghosts, they are constantly burned by that blaze. Because water can hurt them, they have nothing to eat or drink for hundreds of thousands of kalpas.

6. THE STATE OF NINE EMOTIONS AND ONE

THOUGHT: When they experienced the state of nine emotions and one thought, they are born in the fire realm and in the interacting point of wind and fire. By having the lighter emotion, they are born in the intermittent hell. By being the heavier emotion, they are born in the unintermittent hell to bear constant suffering.

7. THE WHOLE EMOTION STATE: When they experience the whole emotion state, they sink into the avīci hell. Moreover, if they defame Mahāyāna Buddhism, slander the Buddha’s precepts, expound the Dharma for the offerings as well as the respect from the devotees, execute five felonies as well as ten major offenses, then they are further reborn in avīci hells) in ten directions.

 Due to evil karma, we face bad results. In the same community karma of human beings, there is the available personal hell) for any crime.2

All of us desire to live and are afraid of death. On one side we fear death, on the other side side we are thirsty to live. These two desires are intermingled with each other. We are living following our habitual tendencies. After death, we come to change into another flowing. At the verge of dying, when our final warmth has not completely left our bodies, all the good and evil deeds that have been done in this life suddenly and simultaneously manifest. We experience the intermingling moment of two habits: an abhorrence of death and an attraction to life. This is so frightening! It warns us to practice diligently in order that we can be mindful at the intersection point. If we are living a pure, liberated and holy life, we will ascend without the intermingling moment of two habits of negative or positive.

 The whole thought: We always cultivate or focus on reciting the name of Amitābha Buddha without remembering the emotions of love and hate; we will get the blissful wisdom. If we wish to come to Buddha land, our pure consciousness will lightly ascend and see the Buddhas in ten directions. The Pure Land School presents this method clearly with three necessary steps of belief, conduct, and vows in the western land while the Śūraṅgama Sūtra calls it the whole positive thought or whole pureness.

1.The state of more thought and less emotion: A person cultivates diligently but remains a little negative about the self and the possession of self. He can fly lightly but not too high, so he becomes an asura, a great mighty ghost king or a Dharma guardian who protects the cultivators from dangers. Guardians uphold the precepts and support those who hold precepts like them. If guardians cultivate concentration, they will support those who practice meditation like them. They do not leave Dharmas. The Dharma guardians belong the Buddhist divine beings or devas, protect Dharma, and have higher realms than human beings. They experience more thought than emotion, thus they fly upward, while we human beings have the balanced level of thought and the emotion. Normally, ghosts or devils live in the three evil realms, but Dharma guardians who protect Dharma have much more bliss and merit than ghosts or mundane people. There are the Vajna devas with the sharp teeth and the great mighty deva kings, and so on. They also have the superpower to travel from one to another realm without obstacles.

In Buddhism, the Buddha does not advise us to be born in heaven, because even though we have a pleasant long lifespan with super power and merit, it will end and after that we will fall down into lower realms. In the human world, even our lifespan is shorter than heavenly beings, we have less merit than devas, but we have the ability to understand the Buddha’s teaching for salvation. The Dharma guardians are as bodhisattvas whom we respect for their ideals to protect Buddhism.

2. The balanced state of thought and emotion: When people experience the balanced state of thought and emotion, are neither flying up nor falling down, they are born in the human realm . In this balanced state, if they incline to the emotions, they become foolish. If their thought is bright, they are smart. The emotions are the defilements such as greed , hatred , foolishness ), defilements , lust , no-lust , dislike , revenge , jealouys, selfishness ) self-clinging and phenomenonclinging, and so on, that is the foolish way . In contrast, the positive thought is the insight ideals of sacrifice, virtue, donation, altruism, diligence, practice, meditation, and so on.

3. The state of more emotions and less thought: If people sincerely cultivate, it will be good. Otherwise, whoever cherishes ego only return to the suffering, and will be born as the lower types of foolishness and selfishness. However, if luckily they have a little bit of religious practice, a little positive thought, they can raise up to live as the animals on the earth. There is a variety of the animal species. If they have the heavier emotion, they become the fur-bearing beasts. If they are the lighter emotion, they become the winged creatures. If they are cruel and evil, they become the wild brutal animals.

4. The state of seven emotions and the third thoughts: If people experience only the third positive thought, and there is the heavy state of seven negative emotions, they are reborn under the water. Inside and beneath the earth, there is water. Where there is a water source, there is also a fire region. So, even if they have not dropped in the fire realm, they will be born in the ocean, but they will still be affected by the heated atmosphere of the terrible blaze. The bodies of hungry ghosts are constantly burned by that fire and they have nothing to eat or drink for hundreds of thousands of kalpas.

The more negative emotion people have, the more suffering they are subjected to. To avoid this, we must devotedly practice the positive virtues, such as altruism, nobility, and prevent negative emotions as pessimism, doom, and so on.

5. The state of nine emotions and one thought: Whoever has only one positive thought but also has nine negative emotions, they will be born into the circle of fire and the intersection point between the lines of wind and fire. If it is a lightly negative emotion, they will transform in the intermittent executed hell. If it is heavier negative emotion, they will be born immediately in the uninterrupted executed hell to be subjected to suffering constantly. These beings are evil, immoral, break the precepts, harm other people, and fail to be born as human and even animal. They must transform in the hell which is lower than human and animal realms.

6. The entire state of emotion: Whoever experiences a wholly negative emotion sink into the avīci In addition, if they slander Mahāyāna Buddhism, break the Buddha’s precepts, speak crazy and false Dharma to receive offerings and reverence from the faithful disciples, and commit five rebellious conducts, as well as ten major offenses, that forces them to be born in avīci hells in ten directions.

What are the hells in ten directions? A hell is in a realm for a certain time. Once this realm disappears, the hell also disappears. The victims will be transformed in another realm and subjected to the suffering in another hell. Once that realm disappears, such a hell) also disappears. The victims will bear the extremely terrible executed hells in ten directions. This means the creature beings are dreadfully punished in all spaces and times.

This is the retribution for their terrible offenses. This is what the Buddha replied to Venerable Ānanda’s question about  the same community karma of human beings—is there available personal hell for any crime.

Hells are the available realistic punishment for anyone who takes responsibilities for what he created with his terrible karma. Likewise, if one creates offense, he will incur retribution. In the world, we are living with the same human karma since the beginningless time,. There are  available hells for any personal crime. Likewise, in a society, there are many available prisons for those who commit crimes. Those who do not commit the offenses will not be imprisoned. This karma is our personal part. We have the same community karma as human beings. If someone attends to the Buddhist affairs with anger, please do not blame this on  other people’s mistakes, because it comes from the angry seeds in our karma. Once we retain anger in our mind, we have to be subjected to retribution. However, there are some people who do not maintain their anger, but they manifest their anger with a serious face and words in order to remind other people to correct their mistakes. This is the flexible means. These bodhisattvas have merit without offenses, because they use the means of “deep meaning in their strictness and sternness. This is the compassion to instruct people in cultivating.

There is the question that if people who cultivate diligently definitely go to the higher level, what about people who forget their bodies to serve others. Can they get merit to ascend the same as people cultivate diligently? Yes, they can. But they must really detach (service but without seeing that they are serving: non-self and no-dharma) from the bottom of their hearts, not only announcing it.

Those who single-mindedly recite the name of Amitābha

Buddha  with whole positive thoughts, want the stillness, quiet.

They are not talkative and put everything aside to focus on this practice.

It may seem that they are selfish and care only for their salvation, but it is not that. As soon as they are enlightened, they will have the great ability to teach and transform all kinds of living beings. They observe noble silence to keep their mindfulness and to avoid disturbing motion.

The root of birth and death comes from the organs, objects, and consciousness. The fundamental of bodhi is to live with the intuitive mind. Hearing is the hearing essence to hear the self-nature. If we keep attaching to our unordered consciousness, we cannot concentrate which leads to the domination of the heavy state of negative emotion.

It is said that if a preacher speaks crazily false Dharma to benefit himself, he will fall into hell for his retribution, because he intends to make people trust in him. The preacher, who does not intend to cheat listeners, thinks that his lecture is delivered correctly; he does not commit a crime. Thus, the preacher should propagate Dharma properly so that living beings can be influenced by his positive teachings.

If someone has much negative emotion but sincerely recites the mantra diligently and repents, he also finds relief.

According to bodhisattva’s precepts, if someone devotedly repents his offense until he sees good signs from the Buddha, it means his offenses are eliminated. This is called the holding form of repentance.

If those who have not yet made vows to uphold the precepts commit offenses, their retribution is light, but if  those who do make vows to uphold the precepts commit offenses, they incur offenses seriously. However, if they know how to repent and transform, their retribution can be eliminated. They can start to cultivate diligently so that they can bring benefits for the sake of many. Normally, once people break a certain kind of percept, they should repent according to the category.

Upholding the bodhisattva’s precept, they must repent according to the bodhisattva’s precept.

Upholding the bhikkhunīs (bhikṣuṇīs’) precepts, they must repent according to the bodhisattva’s precept.

Upholding five or ten precepts, they must repent according to five or ten precepts.

 

SUMMARY OF CHAPTER XI

Chapter XI focuses on the bad habits producing seven realms: heaven, immortal (half deva-human), asura, human, hell, hungry ghosts, and animal are the inner parts (presented inwardly by sentient beings since beginningless time) and the external parts (the good characteristics have been recently practiced as the external).

Living beings who keep the prohibitive precepts in their minds, chant sincere mantras from their minds, focus their mind at the Amitābha Buddha lands, and serve good and wise Dharma friends, put their ego down fly upward fly without descending and they naturally become transcendent. This is called the external side.

Due to craving, false emotions arise to create the lustful liquid. Therefore, living beings who think about delicious food, miss a person, desire possessions and jewels, and enjoy sexual pleasure experience their craving water flowing out. These fluids cannot ascend. It is their nature to flow downwards. This is called the internal side.

There are seven bad habits leading living beings to rebirth as follows:

1. The whole positive state: They will ascend in the heaven realms. If they have pure vows at the pure lands, they will be born in the realms as they wish.

2. The state of more positive thought, less negative emotion: They ascend not much higher where they can become the flying immortals.

3. The equal state between thought and emotion: They are born in the human realm.

4. The state of less thought and more emotion: They enter the animal species.

5. The state of seven emotions and third thoughts: They are born as demons.

6. The state of nine emotions and one thought: They are born in the intermittent hell.

7. The whole emotion state: They sink into the avīci hells in ten directions.

 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. Define inner and outer parts.
  2. List the examples of flying gently upward of the external parts.
  3. List the examples of sinking heavily down of the inner parts.
  4. What is the wrong view that makes the wrong practice?
  5. Talk about seven states of thought and emotion generating seven realms.

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