Wondrous Lotus Sutra 靜思妙蓮華
With Pure Physical Eyes, We Can See Everything
From Dharma Master Cheng Yen’s notes:
"We call them the transcendent sense organs
because the Six Roots, such as the eye-root,
have beneficial, extraordinary powers.
They can illuminate our external world and awaken our consciousness
to fulfill the purpose of our Roots.
Thus, they are called the transcendent sense organs."
We must mindfully seek to comprehend this. We must remember that our sense organs connect with sense objects and our consciousness. Our sense organs are connecting with sense objects at every single moment within our lives; this is inescapable. How can we make the most of them to turn the lowly into the transcendent? For us unenlightened beings, our ignorance converges with our external world. Whenever we let a single thought go astray, this leads to a thousand wrongful actions! This is the state of unenlightened beings. However, because we uphold and read the sutras, we are able to understand the Dharma. This enables us to transform our views, understanding and perspectives from the lowly to the transcendent.
Thus, what we call "the transcendent sense organs" are "the Six Roots, such as the eye-root;" together, our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind are known as the Six Roots. That they "have beneficial, extraordinary powers" means that they are able to help us. We need to make good use of them. All Six Roots are indispensable to us. These "extraordinary powers" help us by making our spiritual practice more convenient so that we can practice competently and smoothly.
Therefore, we must be grateful every day that we are fully endowed with the Six Sense Organs, which keep us healthy, keep our views and understanding correct and make it so that everything we hear is right speech and right sounds. We should be grateful for all of this. These are "beneficial, extraordinary powers" which greatly enhance our strength.
No matter what conditions we encounter, when they enter into our consciousness, we can clearly analyze them without any mistakes.
This "fulfills the purpose of our Roots." When it comes to our Six Roots, the purpose of our eyes, noses, tongues and bodies are all the same. Because we are endowed with all Six Roots, we can fulfill our purpose. We can do all of this without difficulty. This helps us freely develop in a good direction. We can go among people to benefit others, accept and uphold [the Dharma], diligently engage in our practice and so on. We are able to accomplish all of these things. We must be endowed with all Six Roots in order to expediently fulfill [our purpose] of benefiting ourselves and others. "Thus, they are called the transcendent sense organs." This is achieved by the interplay of the Six Roots.
[The eyes] are divided into five types according to their functions: Physical eyes are limited and cannot see clearly. Dharma-eyes can only observe worldly phenomena. Heavenly eyes see clearly without limitations. Wisdom-eyes clearly discern emptiness. Buddha-eyes [shine] like 1000 suns. What they illuminate is all different, yet their essence is the same.
"Physical eyes are limited and cannot see clearly." We must remember that with physical eyes, we see things from the view of unenlightened beings, which is completely limited, and we cannot see clearly. We cannot see past [these limitations], which means we cannot see clearly. This is [the nature of] physical eyes. What about Dharma-eyes? When we use our Dharma-eyes to observe this mundane world of ours, we can analyze worldly [phenomena] so that, when it comes to general worldly matters, we can clearly discern right from wrong. Whether the lives of people in the mundane world, the human world, are on track or off course, Dharma-eyes are able to figure this out. If we engage in spiritual practice, we should more or less understand the principles. Listening makes them clearer, and through contemplation, we see them clearly. Through our relationships with others, we also come to understand them clearly. These are called Dharma-eyes. Our Dharma-eyes can only observe the superficial phenomena that arise. We perceive these coarse appearances, but we are able to analyze them.
"Heavenly eyes see clearly without limitations." Heavenly eyes can see more than just the mundane world. Heaven is completely good and free of evil. From the perspective of heavenly eyes, everything is wonderful; everything, upon analysis, is good. As for "wisdom-eyes," these surpass [heavenly-eyes]. They fully perceive good and evil, yet remain unhindered by good and evil. Everything is empty, [meaning] all good and evil is ultimately empty. People talk about how enjoyable life is, but in the end, all this enjoyment will still return to emptiness! Wicked people who glorify themselves will all return to emptiness in the end. Everything in the world is empty. "Emptiness" means we must clearly perceive that all phenomena are empty. Once we clearly understand this, we also need to give rise to wisdom, which is "wondrous existence."
Because of wondrous existence, the Buddha understood the emptiness of all things. However, there was one thing He could not see, though it definitely exists. This was something that must be sought. So, this is why the Buddha began to seek the true principles in the world. The true principles can neither be seen nor felt. Only through earnest rumination and contemplation, can we unite the [principles of] universe with the microcosm within our bodies, working hard to bring them together. Once we fully understand this, we will become one with the universe. Our intrinsic nature of True Suchness will become one with [the universe]. The principles of absolute truth and the principles of human nature, of humanity, will come together completely. We will view all worldly principles and matters as sharing one nature of True Suchness. They all share this essence, this truth. This is wondrous existence.
So, it is because of this that "Buddha-eyes [shine] like 1000 suns." They are as bright as 1000 suns. Just imagine how many planets there are in our single solar system. Whether it is bright or dark [on these planets] all depends on the sun, which illuminates them. For example, our Earth rotates 24 hours a day, and so we have day and night. For us to orbit [around the sun] take 365 days, or one year. As Earth revolves around the sun, the seasons change. Thus, our sun is able to share its light with so many planets.
So, within this great universe, in just one solar system alone, there are so many planets. The light that they need comes from the sunlight allotted by their revolution and rotation. The Buddha's wisdom shines like 1000 suns. With so many suns shining fully like this, there is nothing that cannot be seen.
We unenlightened beings cannot see all this. We are still in the dark. By "taking refuge" [in the Buddha], we "turn from the darkness to the light." We must eliminate the darkness and move toward the light. In this way, unenlightened beings dwell in a state of ignorance and darkness. However, the Buddha has completely seen the light. He clearly understands all principles and matters. The Great Enlightened One is the Buddha. With the Buddha-eyes, "what they illuminate is all different, yet their essence is the same." He has overturned everyone's attachments and views. Only the Buddha-eyes can see through them. He is also able to perceive all kinds of different environments and forms from His wise perspective. He has fully eliminated all wrongful [views]. "What they illuminate is all different, yet their essence is the same." Everything returns to the one same essence of enlightenment, which is True Suchness, this wondrous essence. This is the wondrous existence in true emptiness.
The Buddha sees all things completely, without missing anything. Thus, we say [His eyes] shine like "1000 suns." In this world, there are so many countless things. When His eyes gaze across the world, there is no place this light cannot reach, and there is nothing He does not understand.
So, as we discussed,
"These good men and good women, with their pure physical eyes they received from their parents at birth."
Their eyes are pure. But what about us? Our eyes see red, black, scarlet, white and so on, and we can discriminate between these various colors. However, the Buddha, with His eyes, sees through all of this. "Which element makes it red?, Which pigment makes it black?" and so on. There is nothing He does not see clearly. He sees through all these principles to the emptiness behind them all. He truly understands the principles by which these colors are formed and the things that make them up. When we analyze these things, we will find that they are empty. If we isolate the elements within these pigments, all these colors will simply disappear. Such things only come into existence through the bringing together of [other] things. Ultimately, we find nothing exists [independently]. This is the Dharma.
The Buddha, with His Buddha-eyes, can see right through things. This is enlightenment. This enlightenment is not exclusive to Prince Siddhartha from India, who attained Buddhahood. It is not. The Buddha wished to tell us that this [enlightened nature] is intrinsic to us all. However, we can also understand that everyone has their own way of thinking, and that we all perceive things differently. Despite our different perspectives, if we share the affinity to meet one another, we will come to understand one another, and we can turn our disparate views and opinions into a [mutual] understanding, with a common understanding, common vision and common action. By the same principle, the Buddha's insight shines like 1000 suns. He is able to explain the principles for us. We should also seek to understand the principles the Buddha explained for us, and we will come to share the same understanding, the same vision and the same actions. We will also be able to understand as much as [the Buddha].
In short, when it comes to spiritual practice, we must put the Dharma into action. Through reading, reciting, analyzing and listening to the sutras, we come to understand the principles. When we put the principles into action, there is nothing we cannot accomplish. We can learn so many things about the world. As for learning, to "constantly practice what we have learned" [means] we simply need to learn. When we learn and master skills, "Isn't it a joy?" When everyone is open and understanding, we will be very joyful. We must truly believe in and understand this.
Let us continue with the following sutra passage.
"[They] will see the great trichiliocosm and all the mountains, forests, rivers and seas within and beyond it."
We need to reanalyze this sutra passage. When the physical eyes we received from our parents at birth become pure, so will "all material phenomena created by the four elements." Our eyes are also created by the four elements. Everyone's body is created by the four elements. Everyone must have heard about the four elements, which are earth, water, fire and wind. Our bodies are also composed of earth, water, fire and wind. When the four elements are in harmony in our bodies, our bodies are healthy.
When the physical eyes we received from our parents at birth also become pure, then all material phenomena created by the four elements will become pure. The result is the [transcendent] eyes of the transcendent sense organs, not the superficial sense organs' physical eyes.
The four elements come together to create all material phenomena. Everything in the world is composed of the four elements. Look at this dead piece of wood on the table. This is an example of an imbalance among the four elements. It used to be tree which grew from a seed. With soil, sunlight, water and oxygen, this was once a flourishing tree. This tree lived its life, but then its water dried up, it left the earth and all these causes and conditions disappeared. Thus, that piece of wood dried out and decayed.
Once the four elements disperse, all that remains is the waste, which is useless. Through this dissolution of the four elements, it has returned to emptiness. If you wanted to find out what kind of wood it is, you would not be able to figure it out.
In short, when it comes to all material phenomena, after the dissolution of the four elements, there will be nothing left, only emptiness. Thus, "All material phenomena are created by the four elements" means that if we separate [the elements], we find nothing, for they are ultimately empty. This means that they are pure and undefiled. It does not matter if it gets oxygen or not; it is just a piece of dead wood. But if the tree were still in good condition, it would definitely care about getting enough water, sunlight and air and so on. When things are alive and growing, they have various colors and forms for us to discern.
Therefore, the four elements create these worldly forms and appearances, including our bodies, actions and so forth. These are all phenomena; "All material phenomena are created by the four elements." So, we can pollute the four elements as well, but when they return to [their nature], they are pure. If we truly understand the principles of absolute truth, we will return to this purity. We receive our physical eyes from our parents at birth. With that same pair of physical eyes, if we work hard at our spiritual practice, our way of seeing things will become different. Our past views and understandings now differ from our current perspectives. Now, our perspective should make us think, "Just let go!, Don't be attached!, Stop holding onto things." When we let go and eliminate all our afflictions, we will be pure.
"The result is the [transcendent] eyes of the transcendent sense organs, not the superficial sense organs' physical eyes." This is different from our ordinary vision. When it comes to all of the attachments we have as ordinary people and the appearances we see, we [must] eliminate them completely. Then, we will see the world with pure eyes. We will use our pure eye-consciousness to see all worldly matters. Then, naturally, when we go among people, we will be unconditionally giving. This way of seeing things is completely different. Some people go among people just because they want to get something in return. But when Bodhisattvas go among people, they understand that all phenomena are empty, [except for] wondrous existence. So, we must form good affinities with sentient beings and sentient beings will help us succeed in walking the Bodhisattva-path. As we continue to witness all the suffering of sentient beings and all ways of life in the world, we come to understand the principles. This is the Bodhisattva way of seeing things, which is very different.
That which is pure can work together freely. The physical eyes are superficial sense organs. When the superficial sense organs connect to the Five Sense Objects, the Pure Sensory Roots reflect the external world. They cannot reflect upon themselves. The mind-root of the superficial sense organs is our physical brain. From when we first take in [external conditions], they adhere to our root-consciousnesses, and our surging mind changes with the conditions, [as it becomes] defiled by phenomena.
"That which is pure can work together freely." Those with pure vision can work together freely. "The physical eyes are superficial sense organs." All superficial sense organs are the same in that they are superficial and focus on appearances. "When the superficial sense organs connect to the Five Sense Objects, this helps the Pure Sensory Roots reflect the external world." Without our eye-root, how would we know the appearances of everything in the world and the principles contained within them? Therefore, we should be grateful for our vision, which is the function of our eyes. [Sense Organs] "cannot reflect upon themselves." With our own eyes, we cannot see what our own eyes look like. We can only use our eyes to see other people, but we are unable to reflect upon ourselves. This reflection only happens when our consciousness engages in self-reflection. Our eyes cannot observe our consciousness. Instead, our consciousness depends on our eyes to perceive the outside world. Our eyes cannot see our consciousness. Therefore, our eyes are nothing more than [a tool of our consciousness].
"The mind-root of the superficial sense organs is the physical brain." Despite its ignorance and afflictions, [the mind] must work with the eyes to analyze [the world]. Without [the mind], the eyes [are nothing]. Sariputra gave away his eyes. Once he took out his eyes, they were useless. Before that, he could use these eyes to see the external world.
However, since he took his eyes out, even if he wanted [to see], he had no eyes to see from. Therefore, the superficial sense organs require unenlightened beings to analyze [what they perceive] with their minds. These are [the workings of] "the physical brain." If we uphold the Dharma, our eyes will be considered pure eyes. Otherwise, when our unenlightened consciousness connects with our eye-root, it will just function as a piece of flesh, as nothing more than a sense organ to be used by our consciousness.
"From when we first begin to take in [external conditions], they adhere to our root-consciousnesses." When we first see this square shape, which is just a [printed] text we can read, we take up [the book] to read it. However, once we read it, our surging mind changes with the conditions. This is what we unenlightened beings [do], as we use our eyes observe things.
[They] will see the great trichiliocosm: They will see the state of this Saha World, the transformation-land. "See" refers to the ability to see and discern. The mountains, rivers and so on represent the different appearances to be seen.
"[They] will see the great trichiliocosm," means our eyes also have this ability. They are able to see the great trichiliocosm. We need to make good use of them, for they enable us to see far and wide. We have not been to such places, for we are just sitting here, [but] others have seen these places, so they can share what they saw with us. "Wow, I have traveled all over the world!" Videoconference technology is so advanced nowadays. You just need to sit in a chair or stand in one place to be able to see a scene from any country in the world and come to understand their culture. Without even going there, you can see everything clearly.
This requires us to utilize our consciousness. This depends on whether we use our pure consciousness or defiled consciousness. When we use our pure eyes, we must carefully contemplate the great trichiliocosm. This is the desire realm. In the desire realm, people are full of greed and desire. How about the form realm? There are forms, but people do not covet them. In the formless realm, people do not place importance on these objects, nor do they covet them. This way of thinking is very simple and pure, and people do not have convoluted thoughts. So, their thoughts are very pure, free from ideological impurities. This is the world within our minds. Of course there are other worlds beyond this one. We are only discussing the world within our minds.
"They will see the state of this Saha World, the transformation-land." Through our eyes, we are capable of understanding this Saha World. The Buddha manifested in this Saha World. It was here that He came to understand human life and gathered together His insights into life to realize the principles of all things in the universe. Then, He began to transform sentient beings. Within the human world, this Saha World, planet Earth, the Buddha came to completely understand the principles of all things in the universe. These are the Buddha's understanding and views. We also must depend on this world and these superficial sense organs to fully understand the wondrous principles of our pure nature of True Suchness
"'See' refers to the ability to see and discern." Sight enables us to see and observe. We can see all these defiled things that make unenlightened beings give rise to ignorance, but we can also use our pure eyes to see and understand everything in life. Then, we can go among people and use this to truly transform and give our love to all beings. This pure and undefiled [vision] also extends to our perspectives and consciousness. Therefore, "the mountains, rivers and so on" throughout the surface of the entire Earth "represent the different appearances [we] see." All the mountains and rivers have appearances that we can see with our eyes. Since our eyes enable us to see, we are able to perceive all these different appearances. If we can clearly understand them, with one Root clear, all Six Roots will be clear. This is why I tell everyone that we must be very mindful!
"All the mountains, forests, rivers and seas within and beyond..." This sutra passage says, "All the mountains, forests, rivers and seas within and beyond..."
"All the mountains, forests, rivers and seas within and beyond...": "Within" and "beyond" represent circumstantial and direct retributions. "Beyond" represents circumstantial retributions, which [cause us to be born in] certain countries within the world. "Within" represents direct retributions. The body is analogous to the earth. The hair is analogous to the forests. The blood vessels are analogous to the rivers. The internal organs are analogous to the seas
"'Within and beyond' represent circumstantial and direct retributions." When we are born into the world, we all have circumstantial and direct retributions. As for our circumstantial retribution, all of us here now, by circumstance, [were born] into this country. We all have our own circumstances and families. Based on our circumstantial karmic conditions, we have been born into a place. Then, we come to depend on this place, this world. Whether we are born in this Saha World, whether we are born onto this Earth, depends on our circumstantial retributions. We all depend on this land and this Earth; we rely on these circumstances to live.
"Within" represents "direct retributions." Our direct retribution comes from the karma we created in the past, which we carried with us into our present life with our bodies. When it comes to direct retributions, we all reap what we sow and suffer the karma we create. When we cultivate ourselves, we reap the benefits. If we do not, we must suffer the karma we create. All our past, present and future lives follow this same [principle]. Our direct retribution determines our future and present bodies.
The "body" is analogous to "the earth." Our bodies are also composed of the four elements. The universe is composed of the four elements, and so are our bodies. Thus, they are called the macrocosm and the microcosm. Our bodies are analogous to the earth. "The hair is analogous to the forests." On our earth, there are so many forests. "The blood vessels are analogous to the rivers." [The way that] our blood flows makes it analogous to the rivers. Our stomach is like the sea, able to take water in and let water out. This is an analogy. These are analogies of macrocosm and microcosm.
We have "direct and circumstantial retributions. Circumstantial" means that we are born onto this earth by circumstance. Depending on our own karmic retributions, we are born into different circumstances and grow up in different environments. When we grow up, [the question then becomes], what do we do with our bodies? Are we doing evil deeds or good deeds? Depending on what we do, we will reap the corresponding retributions. The karma we created in our past lives determines the circumstances of our present lives. In that case, what should we do with the bodies we have now? We must understand this clearly. We also have the entire earth and all its features within our own microcosm. How can we bring the four elements into harmony? How can we make use of the four elements to serve all beings throughout the world? We must mindfully seek to comprehend these things.
Our circumstantial retribution is the country in the world where our body resides by circumstance. So, it is called our circumstantial retribution. Our direct retribution is our body, [composed] of the Five Aggregates. This body is the retribution brought about in direct response to our karmic forces, thus it is called our direct retribution. Since we are able to reside in this body, ․there must be a land where our body resides. Thus, this land is also considered our retribution.
"Our circumstantial retribution is the country in the world where our body resides by circumstance." In all the countries of the world, everyone, based on their own karmic conditions, are born onto this earth. Our bodies are born there [by circumstance]. "So, it is called our circumstantial retribution." Into different countries, based on these circumstances, we are born there. Our direct retribution is our body of the Five Aggregates. The Five Aggregates are form, feeling, perception, action and consciousness. Through the aggregation of these things, we are able to live, take action and create all kinds of karma.
"This body is the retribution brought about in direct response to our karmic forces." Based on our karmic forces from past lifetimes, we bring these retributions upon our bodies. These are our karmic forces. "Thus, it is called our direct retribution." Our body is brought about by the union of the Five Aggregates. As for form and feeling, when we see various forms, do we feel a sense of greed, or do we feel a sense of renunciation? This is about our own feelings. As for feeling and perception, what kinds of images do we perceive in our minds, and how do we act on them? So, this is form, feeling, perception and action. Once we perceive things, how do we take action? Are our actions good or bad? Our daily life is inseparable from the Five Aggregates. Once we take action, this all gets stored in our "consciousness."
This "consciousness" is the eighth consciousness, which we discuss often. Everything we do gets stored in our consciousness. We cannot take anything with us when we die, yet karma will follow us into our next life. All the good and evil karma we create will be stored in our consciousness. The consciousness allocates our direct and circumstantial retributions to us. This is also how we transmigrate throughout cyclic existence. In the human realm, people do not have control over their own lives; this is how it is for unenlightened beings. However, this is why we must make good use of our body-root. If we are fully endowed with these Five Roots, we must diligently make use of our pure consciousness. For the sake of our direct retribution, we must learn how to turn defilement into purity.
"Since we are able to reside in this body, there must be a land where our body resides." Since we have our body, there must be a land for our body to reside in. For example, there is a group of [volunteers] from different countries who went to Africa. They have different skin colors. Their livelihoods and languages are all different. However, they share one thing in common, which is the Dharma. Their hearts and minds are one with the Dharma; this is what they share. In Africa, they are also able to sing out, "There is no need to go far to seek the Buddha on Vulture Peak. Vulture Peak is already in our own minds. In each person there is a stupa on Vulture Peak. We can practice at the foot of that stupa." This means their Dharma is one with our Dharma. They have accepted our Dharma and have put it to use there.
Before the end of the [gathering], everybody stood up [and sang], "Tzu Chi volunteers follow in Master's footsteps." They all share the same direction. This is the body we all reside in, and this is the land where our body resides. With their current direction, they are moving toward this Dharma. In the future, these people will all be born into the same place as us. United by the same aspiration, path and vows, we act together. In the future, the lands we reside in and the directions our bodies go in to help others will share a common ground. The principle is the same.
So, we must understand [the meaning behind] "all the mountains, forests, rivers and seas within and beyond." Everyone has their circumstantial and direct retributions. No matter which country we live in, all human beings are the same. They are inseparable from "all the mountains, forests, rivers and seas within and beyond." Because of the causes and conditions and karmic forces we created in the past, we are born into this place by circumstance, and we come together in this place.
In short, we will always come together in life. But what is it that brings us together? For us, we come together through the Dharma. We share the same virtuous Dharma of the Bodhisattva-path. We walk the Middle Way; we follow the Bodhisattva-path. We bring emptiness and existence together, uniting both sides. Within and beyond our world are our direct and circumstantial retributions. We believe they exist, and so, this is "existence." We are not attached to this. We must always put the Dharma into action. Understanding the Dharma, we go among people to transform sentient beings. This is called the Bodhisattva-path. The Bodhisattva-path is called "the Middle Way." I hope everyone understand this clearly. So, we must always be mindful!