2019.08.07 Hearing All Sounds of the Brahma Heavens 諸梵音聲 悉得聞之

Wondrous Lotus Sutra  靜思妙蓮華




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2019.08.07

Hearing All Sounds of the Brahma Heavens

諸梵音聲悉得聞之

 

From Dharma Master Cheng Yen’s notes:

>> "If sentient beings can peacefully abide in this great mindset of impartiality and loving-kindness, they will be able to bring peace and joy to all beings without ever harming anyone. These are the sentient beings we can rely on."

>> In this way, people who teach the Dharma will abide peacefully amidst all this. They will hear these various sounds from afar without damaging their ear-root. Throughout the worlds of the ten directions, birds and beasts cry out to one another. People who teach the Dharma will hear them all from where they are.  [Lotus Sutra, Chapter 19 - On Dharma Masters' Merits and Virtues]

>> "As for the sounds of speech up above in the Brahma Heavens, Light-Sound Heaven, Universal Purity Heaven and even Peak Heaven, the Dharma teachers who abide here will be able to hear all of this."  [Lotus Sutra, Chapter 19 - On Dharma Masters' Merits and Virtues]

>> As for the sounds of speech up above in the Brahma Heavens, Light-Sound Heaven, Universal Purity Heaven...: Between form and formlessness, a speck of dust contains the principles of the universe. The Four Dhyana Heavens of the form realm are collectively referred to as the Brahma Heavens. Light-Sound Heaven: This is also called the Ultimate Pure Light Heaven because beings there use light as speech, emitting pure light from their mouths.

>> In the highest heaven of the second dhyana heaven of the form realm, the heavenly beings there are silent and never speak. In exact accordance with their intent, they radiate pure light in order to understand each other. Thus, it is known as Light-Sound [Heaven].

>> The sutras say: At the beginning of the first kalpa, human beings came from Light-Sound Heaven.

>> As for the sounds of speech... ...even [in] Peak Heaven: Peak Heaven is known as the Fourfold Void. It is located at the summit of the form realm, thus, it is called Peak Heaven. Those who are free of desire and practice meditation will be born [into the heavens] of the form realm.

>> "Brahma" means pure. It is the common name for the desireless heavens of the form realm. Due to the strength of their power of flawless wisdom, they can cure the delusions at their own stage, as well as the delusions of beings in higher stages.

>> The Dharma teachers who abide here will be able to hear all of this: The teachers who expound the Dharma abide here in this stage and are able to hear all of this.

>> Light-Sound Heaven is the ultimate heaven of the form realm's second dhyana heaven. In this heaven, the beings never utter sounds. When they wish to speak, they radiate pure light from their mouths, expressing the essence of language. Thus, it is called "Light-Sound [Heaven]."

 

"If sentient beings can peacefully abide
in this great mindset of impartiality and loving-kindness,
they will be able to bring peace and joy to all beings
without ever harming anyone.
These are the sentient beings we can rely on."

Do we understand this? We must know that, as "sentient beings, [we must] peacefully abide" in "this great mindset of impartiality and loving-kindness." Previously, we have discussed what it means to "peacefully abide." We must peacefully abide in this spiritual state. The world is full of so many sounds. Among the numerous sounds of sentient beings are the sounds of suffering, joy, peace and chaos. Sentient beings in different realms have different experiences of suffering and joy. To hear these sounds, we use our ears. Whether the sounds are wholesome or unwholesome, when we spiritual practitioners hear them, we [must] be able to clearly discern between these external states. Whether they are wholesome or unwholesome, full of suffering or joy, upon hearing them, we will be able to understand how to transform them into Dharma.

"One speck of dust contains the principles of the universe." This is wisdom. Upon hearing worldly phenomena, we must turn them into wisdom. Speaking of wisdom, have we thought about [how to] transform consciousness into wisdom? As we use our ordinary ear-root each day, we hear the sounds of cats making cat noises, dogs making dog noises, kind people speaking gently and unrefined people speaking harshly. Have our minds been defiled by these sounds of living beings?

In our spiritual practice, we must cultivate ourselves to remain undefiled. Even if [others] speak harshly to us and curse us, we must be understanding and accepting. If we can do this, then with this mindset, we will [take in] all sounds and, through understanding, turn them into this great mindset of loving-kindness, for we will be impartial to everything. If we wish to be impartial, we must first be accepting and understanding; only then will we be capable of impartial great love. Only when we are capable of impartial great love will we come to peacefully abide in this mindset, undisturbed by all worldly temptations. Then, our minds will remain at peace.

Hence, "They will be able to bring peace and joy to all beings without ever harming anyone." If we can maintain a very peaceful state of mind and remain free of discursive thoughts, if we are able to do this, we can bring this state of mind of ours "to all beings." When we face the external world, we will have "a way to transform" it. Then, when faced with all circumstances and all beings, we will be able to help everyone abide peacefully. Only with an unwavering mind can we help everyone to abide entirely in "peace and joy without ever harming anyone." To be able to bring peace and joy to others without ever harming anyone requires us to be accepting and understanding. It requires mastery of spiritual practice to be able to help all sentient beings abide in peace and live their lives in peace and joy.

In this world, we meet many kinds of sentient beings. Among those we see most frequently are dogs who, upon seeing [a stranger], will raise their guard. They will bark at people and act fierce at first. Then, if we remain calm and show that we are friendly, once they are done barking, they will see we mean no harm, and they will naturally calm down. Then, the dog will naturally feel safe enough to lie on the ground and return our friendliness. Their calmness shows that they feel safe. By the same token, our human relationships work in the same way.

So, those who "bring peace and joy without ever harming anyone are sentient beings we can rely on." Among sentient beings, between people, we all depend and rely on each other. I often say that we humans must rely on each other in order to stay alive. Isn't our surrounding environment made possible by [the efforts of] many people? To complete [the construction of] our Great Hall, just think how they must have gone about this. For a structure to reach completion, it must go through a construction process.

For us to have such a clean [space] every day, someone must come to sweep and clean up. For us to sit down every morning in such an orderly manner, [the attendant monastic] must first come to lay out the padded cushions for everyone. Then, as we hear the sound of the bell and drum, we start to enter in an orderly fashion. [Their efforts] enable us to be so dignified and abide peacefully in this place. For our ears to hear the sutra and our mind to be at peace, we must rely on [others]. We depend upon so many people, those who built [this place] in the past and those who keep it in order in the present. Just think about it, how could we not depend on others? To depend on is to rely on. Every one of us must rely on the greater world around us to be able to engage in spiritual practice.

We must constantly maintain our gratitude for this. The previous sutra passage supplements what we have just discussed. "In this way, people who teach the Dharma will abide peacefully amidst all this."

In this way, people who teach the Dharma will abide peacefully amidst all this. They will hear these various sounds from afar without damaging their ear-root. Throughout the worlds of the ten directions, birds and beasts cry out to one another. People who teach the Dharma will hear them all from where they are.

People who teach the Dharma must first keep their minds at peace. Keeping our mind at peace means abiding peacefully in this place. Whether we abide peacefully here all depends on our mind. Wherever our minds go, we must find peace there. Our mind is our spiritual training ground; wherever we bring our spiritual training ground, our mind must abide peacefully amidst all this. "Amidst all this" refers to this moment in time. Wherever we go, our spiritual training ground will go there with us, [so] our thoughts must always abide peacefully in this spiritual training ground of our minds. This is how we become Dharma teachers.

Once we are able to do this, no matter how far away the sounds are, no matter the type of sounds they are, we will be able to hear and understand them all without damaging our ear-root. "Throughout the worlds of the ten directions," whether among people, among the birds that fly in the air or among beasts that walk upon the earth, whether they have no feet, two feet or four feet, these beings all make sounds. They are all considered sentient beings. All sentient animals make sounds.

People who teach the Dharma thoroughly understand the principles, so they clearly discern between good and evil. No matter what sound it makes, no matter what form it takes in the world, without looking with their eyes, they will understand it just by listening to with their ears. Thus, their ears can hear [sounds] very clearly. So, we must mindfully seek to remember the principles of understanding worldly phenomena [in terms of] the world-transcending Dharma; this is how we should understand them. So, as we learn the Dharma, we must learn to take it to heart and mindfully seek to comprehend it.

The following sutra passage says,

"As for the sounds of speech up above in the Brahma Heavens, Light-Sound Heaven, Universal Purity Heaven and even Peak Heaven, the Dharma teachers who abide here will be able to hear all of this."

We must mindfully seek to understand this. [This passage mentions] "the Brahma Heavens, Light-Sound Heaven and Universal Purity Heaven." This passage expresses that, in this this world, "between form and formlessness, a speck of dust contains the principles of the universe." This [refers to] the Dharma. What we see is both form and formlessness. "Form" refers to the worlds we just discussed, those worlds with various shapes and colors that we can hear and see. Now, [we turn to] formlessness. "Formlessness" refers to the Dharma, the spiritual realm. We can take the Dharma to heart, but what does this Dharma look like? We cannot take it out and look at it. This is form and formlessness.

The world of form is what we presently live in, and we must accept the Buddha-Dharma in our lives. "A speck of dust contains the principles of the universe." The Buddha-Dharma enters our mind. If everyone can understand both the form realm and the formless realm, drawing them close to us, then we will be able to understand the Dharma. Here, [the Buddha] talks about "the Brahma Heavens, Light-Sound Heaven" and "Universal Purity Heaven." These places all have names. The Four Dhyana Heavens of the form realm are collectively referred to as the Brahma Heavens.

As for the sounds of speech up above in the Brahma Heavens, Light-Sound Heaven, Universal Purity Heaven...: Between form and formlessness, a speck of dust contains the principles of the universe. The Four Dhyana Heavens of the form realm are collectively referred to as the Brahma Heavens. Light-Sound Heaven: This is also called the Ultimate Pure Light Heaven because beings there use light as speech, emitting pure light from their mouths.

There are Three Realms we [can exist in]; the desire realm, form realm and formless realm. [The form realm] surpasses the desire realm. The worlds that we just discussed are full of the various sounds of suffering and joy. The form realm surpasses [the desire realm], but it is still [bound by] "form."

Now we are discussing the Brahma Heavens. We recall from before how the Brahma Kings come from all directions. This is [what it is like in] the Brahma Heavens. [The Brahma Kings], along with their palaces, all come together to request teachings and listen to the Buddha teach the Dharma. The Brahma Kings have already surpassed the desire realm, so, in the form realm, they must still seek the Dharma. This is what we must seek to understand. Our minds are the same, but if we ask someone what they are thinking, we cannot see their thoughts. When our thoughts are completely pure and undefiled, our [mind] can also be called formless. However, we still have afflictions. The Brahma Heavens are free of afflictions. There is form, but no afflictions. When we engage in spiritual practice this way, if we cultivate understanding and acceptance like we just discussed, then our minds will turn from evil to good. [When encountering] evil sounds and forms, we can transform them into goodness. However, in the form realm, there is no need for transformation. [Everyone is] naturally good because they do not allow these unwholesome conditions into their minds. This is called the Brahma Heavens. The Brahma Heavens are in the form realm. The form realm is comprised of the Four Dhyana Heavens.

Dhyana is "calm contemplation." People there have the intent and mindset to solely contemplate these teachings, to seek, listen to and contemplate the Dharma. This is how the form realm is. People there are free of defilements and greed, their mind will always remain in meditation, and all their thoughts are virtuous; this [state] is known as "skillful contemplation," which is dhyana. The Four Dhyana Heavens are divided into the four types of dhyana, the first dhyana, second dhyana, third dhyana and fourth dhyana. So, the form realm is comprised of the Four Dhyana Heavens, which are referred to as the Brahma Heavens.

What about "Light-Sound Heaven"? "Light-Sound Heaven" is also called the Ultimate Pure Light Heaven. [Beings there] use light as speech. So, in that heavenly realm, they do not speak [to communicate]. Since they do not use their voices to communicate, they do not need to use their ears to hear. They use light as their language. They emit light from their bodies, and this is the language they use to communicate. These are extremely blessed people who are very cultivated practitioners, which enables them to transcend the desire realm. In the form realm, those who transcend the use of spoken language are extremely blessed.

In the human realm, there are also many people who have transcended spoken language. However, such sentient beings all suffer. Some are deaf and mute, with no voice, who communicate by sign language. Others are blind, deaf and mute all at once. The deaf and mute, as we just mentioned, have lost the functions of two organs. Some people have lost function in three organs and are deaf, blind and mute. If someone cannot see with their eyes, hear with their ears or use speech to express themselves, how can they communicate with others? All they can use is their hands. We must learn the movements of their hands to understand the meaning they intend to convey. This is very difficult. In the human realm, the desire realm, we find [people] like this, who have no need for spoken language, but they still live lives of extreme suffering.

However, in "Light-Sound Heaven," they also have no need for this. The light they emit from their bodies expresses what they want to say and communicates their state of mind. Speaking takes up a lot of energy, and listening to people talk is not easy, either. To speak, we must use energy, a lot of energy, because we must consider whether the listener can hear us clearly. So, to express ourselves, we must expend a lot of energy to speak, and then everyone who listens has to be very mindful to clearly hear what the Dharma is expressing. This is all hard work. But [for those beings] who emit light from their bodies, no matter how far away they are from others, they are able to see and understand the language of the light emitted [by others]. Thus, [they] "emit pure light from their mouths." When they want to say something, they will start to move and emit light, which represents their voice. This takes place in the form realm.

In the highest heaven of the second dhyana heaven of the form realm, the heavenly beings there are silent and never speak. In exact accordance with their intent, they radiate pure light in order to understand each other. Thus, it is known as Light-Sound [Heaven].

"This is the highest heaven among the second dhyana heaven of the form realm." It is the highest heaven. "The heavenly beings there are silent and never speak." Light-Sound Heaven exists within the realm of the second dhyana heaven. They are all very quiet there; they are silent and never speak. There is no sound, and all is quiet. In this realm, in exact accordance with their intent, they emit pure light according to their thoughts. What a beautiful place! "This is how they understand each other. Thus, it is known as Light-Sound [Heaven]." This is what Light-Sound Heaven is like.

The sutras say: At the beginning of the first kalpa, human beings came from Light-Sound Heaven.

So, in the sutras, in several sutras, it says, "At the beginning of the first kalpa, human beings came from Light-Sound Heaven." This is a legend. [From] this heavenly realm, the earliest human beings in this world came down from Light-Sound Heaven. This must be so. If not, why would there be so many different kinds of languages in the world? At first, humans were silent and never spoke. Then, the more karma they created, throughout every realm and region, their [karma] grew more and more severe, [until] they opened their mouths and no light came. Stuttering hoarsely, [they attempted to give] names to appearances. [By giving] names to appearances, languages [were created] to set these [words]. This is a speculation. The sutras say that the beings from Light-Sound Heaven were humanity's earliest ancestors. This is how [human beings] began. In their realm, there were no sounds. However, when they came to this world and became like us human beings, they slowly came to make sounds. Since every region of the world is different, various different languages emerged. This is the legend.

As for the sounds of speech... ...even [in] Peak Heaven: Peak Heaven is known as the Fourfold Void. It is located at the summit of the form realm, thus, it is called Peak Heaven. Those who are free of desire and practice meditation will be born [into the heavens] of the form realm.

"As for the sounds of speech..." "...even [in] Peak Heaven." Peak Heaven is the Fourfold Void, the Four Dhyana Heavens. "It is located at the summit of the form realm." It is located at the summit of the form realm, thus it is called Peak Heaven. "Thus, it is called Peak Heaven. Those who are free of desire and practice meditation will be born [into the heavens] of the form realm."

Thus, the form realm has levels. There is the first dhyana, second dhyana, third dhyana and fourth dhyana. We advance level by level to become "free of desire and practice meditation." This is in the form realm. We engage in spiritual practice to become free of desire. Once free of desire, we will contemplate and use our mind to discern between things. For us human beings, we have yet to reach the form realm's second and third dhyana; this is impossible for us. We can engage in skillful contemplation right now. We have the Dharma, which is formless. The Dharma we are listening to right now cannot be grasped or seen, but we still have the Dharma. We can express it in this way.

"Brahma" means pure. It is the common name for the desireless heavens of the form realm. Due to the strength of their power of flawless wisdom, they can cure the delusions at their own stage, as well as the delusions of beings in higher stages.

"'Brahma' means pure." Brahma has the meaning of pure. So, from the Brahma Heavens upward, everything is pure. This state of purity is "the common name for the desireless heavens of the form realm." There, [beings] are free of desirous thoughts. They are completely pure and free of desire. In the desire realm we inhabit, the most severe desire is lust. This is what causes more people to be born. People fail to discern between good and evil, creating many troubles in the human realm. Thus, people are born from desire.

To [return to] our pure nature, we must free ourselves of these lustful desires [in order to] free ourselves of the desire realm [and reach] the heavens in the form realm. Only by freeing ourselves can we return to our pure and undefiled [nature]. No matter how we cultivate our minds, we must attain this pure and undefiled state. "The common name for the desireless heavens of the form realm" is "Brahma." There, [beings] are free from the realm of desire. They are no longer defiled; their minds are pure. This is what the Brahma Heavens [are like]. So, this is "the common name for the desireless heavens of the form realm."

"The strength of their power of flawless wisdom" [refers to] how they have cultivated flawless wisdom. Everyone should still remember "flawless wisdom." When we are free of afflictions, we will not let any of the teachings leak away, even slightly; we will always keep the Dharma in our minds. This is "flawless wisdom." This power of flawless wisdom is very strong. We might say that a person has a very strong memory and is very capable, but they still have flaws. Anyone with flaws will still have desires and afflictions. This is "flawed wisdom."

In the past, we continuously talked about flawless wisdom to remind us all to free ourselves from the defilements of desires and afflictions. The "Brahma" in Brahma Heavens [means] pure; [to get there] we must reach the point where the strength of our power of flawless wisdom is already at its purist and we have taken the Dharma entirely to heart. When we "can cure the delusions at [our] own stage," this means that our minds will be free of delusions and ignorance. Then, we will also [be able to cure] "the delusions of beings in higher stages." When we can [cure our own delusions], we will also come to understand those more cultivated than ourselves, who are even purer. In these realms, each stage surpasses the next. So, those who engage in spiritual cultivation and teach the Dharma must understand the Dharma and take it to heart.

The beginning of the Chapter on Dharma Teachers [says that] to become a Dharma teacher, we must first advance along a certain course of spiritual cultivation. Only then can we truly be called Dharma teachers. So, "The Dharma teachers who abide here will be able to hear all of this."

The Dharma teachers who abide here will be able to hear all of this: The teachers who expound the Dharma abide here in this stage and are able to hear all of this.

These Dharma teachers, whether they engage in spiritual cultivation through walking meditation or sutra recitation, take all [the teachings] to heart with a strong memory. Such Dharma teachers, in this world of unenlightened beings, will be able to surpass ordinary people. In fact, when an ordinary monastic speaks, such as myself, thought I tell everyone about the Dharma, my state of mind still cannot reach this flawless state. I still have afflictions, and what I say to everyone is still flawed. I still have to use my voice, for I cannot emit light from my mouth. I must still use a lot of energy to produce sounds to speak to everyone. So, as I am speaking to you all right now, a Dharma teacher like myself is still "flawed." Sometimes, as we hear sounds, we still hear many noises; it is not easy to overcome these noises. However, Dharma teachers who have overcome these states abide in a state of purity and flawlessness, and they can accept and understand any sound, transforming evil into good. Such Dharma teachers can hear all the sounds of the world and are able to understand them virtuously. Hence, "The teachers who expound the Dharma abide here in this stage." [This stage is] a pure state of mind.

Light-Sound Heaven is the ultimate heaven of the form realm's second dhyana heaven. In this heaven, the beings never utter sounds. When they wish to speak, they radiate pure light from their mouths, expressing the essence of language. Thus, it is called "Light-Sound [Heaven]."

"Light-Sound Heaven" is the summit of the form realm's second dhyana heaven. "In this heaven, the beings never utter sounds. When they wish to speak, they radiate pure light from their mouths, expressing the essence of language." They do not need to speak. They sit down gently and open their mouths [so that] others can understand the phenomena they want to [talk about]. They are unlike us unenlightened beings, who must explain things again and again. We worry that others do not understand us, so we repeat ourselves again and again, several times over. However, virtuous beings [in Light-Sound Heaven] speak with pure hearts. To explain the essence of things, they only need to open their mouths, and everyone would probably be able to understand everything that they say. Everyone will understand what they want to say; they are able to [express themselves] like this. "They radiate pure light from their mouths, expressing the essence of language." They only need to emit this pure light, and the essence of what they want to express in their hearts will be understood by all. This takes great effort.

Dear Bodhisattvas, it is not that we cannot succeed in learning the Dharma or in our spiritual practice. To do these things, we must free ourselves of our many worldly, discursive thoughts and our ignorance and afflictions. We must begin to cultivate ourselves, starting at the ground of unenlightened beings. We still live in the realm of sentient beings, but we are very fortunate that we have been able to encounter the Buddha-Dharma. Those at the initial stage of Bodhisattvas are in "the stage of joy." [Those who] feel joy upon hearing the Dharma are at the initial stage of Bodhisattvas. And being at the initial stage of Bodhisattvas, we must learn how to face the world and all of its sounds, all the crude and loud noises, so that we can understand them. The sounds we hear all require us to practice the Bodhisattva-path and actualize the Six Paramitas in all actions. By gathering many people together, then wherever there is a need, we will go there to help others. "I am willing; I will go!" Then, we return with great joy. "We are grateful!" Even though it is hard work to go [help], once we complete an exhausting mission, we come back with gratitude and joy, because helping others is a very joyful thing and we resolved the needs of people in suffering. So, once we complete this important task, we are joyful. These are Bodhisattvas at the ground of joy; we give unconditionally, with mutual gratitude.

Within a group of Bodhisattvas, inevitably, there will be unenlightened beings in the initial stages. Inevitably, some people will have their opinions, and others will have their own opinions. Our opinions might not be in agreement, and all of us have afflictions, also. So, how do we cultivate ourselves to the point that we take joy in our work, listen with contentment and have gratitude for one another, working together in harmony with mutual respect and good affinities? Can we achieve this? This is the greatest lesson that we must learn through our spiritual practice. So, we must always be mindful!