Bodhisattva at Ease in Majestic Virtue

Then the Bodhisattva at Ease in Majestic Virtue rose from his seat in the midst of the assembly, prostrated himself at the feet of the Buddha, circled the Buddha three times to the right, knelt down, joined his palms, and said: “O World Honored One of great compassion! For our sake you have extensively clarified the different ways of according with the nature of enlightenment and caused the enlightened minds of the multitude of bodhisattvas to be illuminated. Hearing your perfect voice, we have gained great benefit without cultivation.

“World Honored One, a great city has four gates. People coming from different directions have more than one entrance. Likewise, all bodhisattvas who embellish the Buddha Lands and attain bodhi do so by means of more than one single expedient method. Please, World Honored One, broadly expound to us all the expedient methods and stages as well as how many types of practitioners there are, so that the bodhisattvas in this assembly and sentient beings in the Dharma Ending Age who aspire to the Mahayana may quickly attain enlightenment, and roam and play in the Tathagata’s ocean of great quiescent-extinction.” Having said these words, he prostrated himself on the ground. He made the same request three times, each time repeating the same procedure.

At that time the World Honored One said to the Bodhisattva at Ease in Majestic Virtue: “Excellent, excellent! Virtuous man, for the benefit of the multitude of bodhisattvas and sentient beings in the Dharma Ending Age, you have asked the Tathagata about such expedient methods. Listen attentively now. I shall explain it to you.”

Hearing this, the Bodhisattva at Ease in Majestic Virtue was filled with joy and listened silently along with the assembly.

“Virtuous man, unsurpassable wondrous enlightenment pervades all ten directions. From it arise the Tathagatas and all dharmas, which are equal and identical to one another and of the same substance. [Likewise], the various methods of cultivation are, in reality, not different [from one another]. Though there are countless expedient methods for becoming attuned to the nature of enlightenment, if one categorizes them according to their different natures, there are three kinds.

“Virtuous man, if, after awakening to pure Complete Enlightenment, bodhisattvas with pure enlightened minds engage in the cultivation of stillness, they will cleanse and settle all thoughts. Becoming aware of the agitation and restlessness of consciousness, they will cause their wisdom of stillness to manifest. Their bodies and minds, [which will be realized as adventitious] guests and dust [1] will be permanently extinguished. [2] Inwardly they will experience lightness and ease [3] in quiescence and stillness. Because of this quiescence and stillness, the minds of all Tathagatas in all ten directions will be revealed like reflections in a mirror. This expedient is calle samatha.

“Virtuous man, if, after awakening to pure Complete Enlightenment, bodhisattvas with pure enlightened minds realize the nature of mind and realize that the six sense faculties and sense objects are illusory projections, they will then generate illusion as a means to eliminate illusion. Causing transformations and manifestations among illusions, they will enlighten illusory sentient beings. By generating illusions, they will experience lightness and ease in great compassion. All bodhisattvas who practice in such a manner will advance gradually. That which contemplates illusion is different from illusion itself. Nevertheless, contemplating illusion is itself an illusion. When all illusions are permanently left behind, the wondrous cultivation completed by such bodhisattvas may be compared to the sprouting of seeds from soil. This expedient is called samapatti.

“Virtuous man, if, after awakening to pure Complete Enfightenment, bodhisattvas with pure, enlightened minds grasp on to neither illusory projections nor states of stillness, they will understand thoroughly that both body and mind are hindrances. [Awakening from] ignorance, their [minds] will be illuminated. Without depending on all sorts of hindrances, they will permanently transcend the realms of hindrance and nonhindrance and make full use of the world as well as the body and mind. They will manifest in the phenomenal world [without any obstructions], just as the sound of a musical instrument can travel beyond [the body of the instrument]. Vexations and nirvana will not hinder each other. Inwardly, they will experience lightness and ease in quiescent-extinction. They will accord with the realm of quiescent-extinction in wondrous enlightenment, which is beyond the reach of body and mind and the reach of self and others. All sentient beings and all life are only drifting thoughts. This expedient method is called dhyana.

“Virtuous man, these three Dharma methods are intimately in accordance with Complete Enlightenment. Tathagatas in all ten directions accomplish Buddhahood through these means. The myriad expedient methods used by bodhisattvas in all ten directions, whether similar or different, depend on these three activities. At the perfect actualization of these practices, one accomplishes Complete Enlightenment.

“Virtuous man, if in his practice on the holy path, a person teaches, delivers, and succeeds in guiding hundreds of thousands of millions of people into arhatship and pratyekabuddhahood, he cannot be compared with someone who, upon hearing these Dharma methods of the unhindered Complete Enlightenment, practices accordingly for even an instant.”

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

Majestic Virtue, you should know
that the unsurpassable mind of
great enlightenment is intrinsically nondual.
Even though the various expedients
that accord with it
are limitless in number,
the teachings of the Tathagata are
altogether three in kind.
Quiescent and still in samatha,
[the mind] is like a mirror
reflecting myriad images.
Samapatti, wherein all is seen as an illusion,
is like a bud growing gradually.
Dhyana is quiescent-extinction,
[yet, its functions are] like the sound
of a musical instrument.
These three wondrous Dharma methods
are all in accordance with enlightenment.
The Tathagatas in all ten directions
and the great bodhisattvas
achieve Buddhahood through them.
Perfect actualization of these three
is called ultimate nirvana.

[1] “Body and mind” refers to the six sense faculties (liu gen) and consciousnesses (liu shi). “Guests and dust,” (ke cheng) refers to the six sense objects (liu cheng).

[2] At this stage one is free from the bondage of the five skandhas and the eighteen realms of existence.

[3] There are different degrees of “lightness and ease” (qing an). Sometime it means an experience of physical and mental pliancy. On a deeper level, it is an experience of enlightenment, where one is free from the burden of body and mind. In this case it refers to an enlightened state since it is experienced in the state of quiescence and stillness (ji jing).