A10 The specific explanation of the meaning of
B1 The preface
C1 The testimony of faith
explanation of the six fulfillments
Thus I have heard.
faith. Ananda, the Buddha’s cousin and the foremost in learning of
all his disciples, edited and compiled the sutras. At the beginning
of each sutra he says, “Thus I have heard,” indicating that the
words to follow are the Buddha’s words.
“Thus” means “Dharma such as
this, the eight volumes of the Shurangama
Sutra, is what I, Ananda, have heard. I, Ananda, myself heard
the Buddha speak this.” Therefore, dharma that is “thus” can be
believed; dharma that is not “thus” cannot be believed. “Thus,”
then, refers to the text of the sutra.
”Thus” satisfies the fulfillment of faith. All sutras spoken by the
Buddha begin with the six fulfillments: the fulfillment of faith;
the fulfillment of hearing; the fulfillment of time; the fulfillment
of a host - one who speaks the dharma; the fulfillment of a place;
and, the fulfillment of an audience.
1. The fulfillment of faith.
“Why must one have faith?” someone may wonder.
is the source of the Way
And the mother of merit and virtue
Because it nourishes all good dharmas.
Such is its great importance.
It is said,
Buddhadharma is like a great sea;
Only through faith can one enter it.
There is no other way to enter the sea of dharma except by faith.
Only by means of faith can one “deeply enter the sutra treasury and
have wisdom like the sea.” One should have faith that the Shurangama
Sutra is extremely
fine. Believe in the sutra. That is to have faith. That is what is
meant by the fulfillment of faith.
2. The fulfillment of hearing.
Those with the fulfillment of faith still must come
to listen to what is said. If you have only the fulfillment of
faith, then when lecture time comes you may be off in the park or at
a coffee house and miss the lecture entirely. That would be a case
of there being no realization of hearing.
But if instead you aren’t
out drinking coffee while sutras are being lectured - what is more,
if you aren’t even thinking about food though you’ve skipped dinner
and are thus making absolutely certain that you hear the sutra - you
have achieved the fulfillment of hearing. Since you have all come to
listen and have brought about the fulfillment of faith with your
sincerity, I will realize the fulfillment of hearing for you.
3. The fulfillment of time.
If you have faith and hearing, but you don’t have the
time, then there’s no way to hear the sutra. There must be an
appropriate time. Usually, you are either going to school or going
to work and have no time to come and listen to sutra lectures. But
now we have found the time to assemble and investigate the sutra.
fulfillment of a host.
You must also have a host to speak the dharma. If, for instance, you
want to listen to sutras, you must find someone to lecture them for
you. However, if you were to request one of your “do-it-yourself
dharma masters” (laypeople who use this title even though they have
not left the home-life in the orthodox tradition) to lecture, you
would find that you might as well lecture yourself. You already
understand what they lecture.
Therefore you must find a host who can
speak the dharma. It was for this reason that you pulled me out of
the grave. Basically I’m known as the “Monk in the Grave,” but you
have brought me out to lecture sutras and speak dharma for you.
”Who is the host of the sutra?”
Shakyamuni Buddha spoke the Shurangama
Sutra; he represents the fulfillment of a host.
fulfillment of a place.
“Once there is a host to speak the dharma, then everything is ready
for dharma to be spoken, right?” you ask.
No, you still need a place to lecture the sutras.
”What about the park? It’s big enough. We could go there for
That might work for a day or two, but by the third day the
authorities would prevent it. “This is a public park,” they would
say. “You can’t occupy it like this.” So you have to find somewhere
appropriate to bring about the fulfillment of a place.
fulfillment of an audience.
Finally, there must be people who come to listen. If there’s no
audience for the sutra lecture, you can go ahead and lecture to the
tables and chairs, but can they listen? No, an audience is
For the Shurangama
Sutra, the place is the Jeta Grove, in the Garden of the
Benefactor of Orphans and the Solitary, at the city of Shravasti,
where the Buddha dwelt with his disciples.
In this sutra, the audience is composed of the great bhikshus and
Bodhisattvas who came to listen.
When Ananda says, “Thus I have heard,” the “I” refers to the
“hypothetical self” of the Bodhisattva. There are four kinds of
Ordinary people have an
“attachment to the self” which comes from their attachment
to the body.
Non-Buddhist religions speak of a “divine
self.” They maintain that there is a God-head, or say that
they themselves are God.
Bodhisattvas follow worldly custom and
manifest a “hypothetical self.”
The Buddhas have the ”true self” of the
The ordinary person is attached to his body and feels
that it is his real self. Actually the body is but a temporary
dwelling, like a hotel. You can live in a hotel for a while, but
eventually you will have to move. You can’t stay forever.
people do not understand this principle. They think, “My body is
me,” and they strive to feed it well and dress it beautifully. They
look for pleasure to indulge it in. They want an elegant home and
beautiful surroundings. They busy themselves dressing well, eating
rich food, and living high - all only to help out their “stinking
The human body is merely a stinking skin-bag. You don’t believe it?
Take a look. Unclean matter oozes from your eyes. Your ears
discharge wax, which is also unclean. Your nose is full of filthy
mucus and your mouth is full of unclean saliva and phlegm. If you
don’t bathe for four days, your body begins to stink, and if you
perspire, it becomes foul in just a day or two. Feces and urine are
also filthy. Impurities are constantly being discharged from the
nine bodily apertures of the eyes, ears, nostrils, mouth, anus, and
urethra – they’re all unclean. What is there to love about your
You may dress it in finery; dab it with perfume; slave for it
all day applying lipstick, rouge, and powder as some women are wont
to do - all for the sake of the false shell of the body. No matter
how good the food, it still turns into excrement. Decorating the
body is just like decorating a toilet with beautiful material. No
matter how elegant the toilet turns out, it is still a place to
deposit filthy things. Would you say the insides of a human body are
Tell me, what’s so good about your body? When the time comes to die,
it retains no sentiment for you. It doesn’t say, “You’ve been so
good to me, I’ll live a few extra days and help you out.” It can’t
do it. So what good is the body after all? Nonetheless, the ordinary
person is attached to his body and takes it as himself. “This is MY
body,” he says. “You hit ME! I can’t allow that! How dare you insult
Ultimately, who is that “me”? He doesn’t even know who he is, and
yet he says others are insulting him or hitting him. He hasn’t
recognized his original face and thinks the flesh body is “me.” The
spirit and the self-nature are the true self, but he has not found
them. He can't see them. He doesn’t even know enough to look for
them. He just assumes he’s doing the right thing by slaving for the
sake of his body.
If your primary concern is to get the better half of things for
yourself, you haven’t figured out life right. Anyone like that won’t
be able to make things add up. He is busy for the sake of himself to
the exclusion of all else. Therefore, a Bodhisattva is never busy
for himself. He is busy for the sake of others. If people want his
help, he will give it to them, regardless of the circumstances.
Non-Buddhist religions speak of a “divine self.” “What is the self?”
they say. “It is God.” There are many varieties of this kind of
self, but they will not be discussed at this time.
What is the “hypothetical self” of the Bodhisattva? Ananda says,
“Thus I have heard.” However, Ananda is enlightened; at the time he
recalls the Buddha’s words for us, he has already attained arhatship,
and so he no longer has any “I” - any ego. In saying “I have heard,”
he is simply following worldly custom and assuming a hypothetical
self in order to be comprehensible to ordinary people who have an
attachment to the self.
Bodhisattvas do not have the characteristic of a self. They
recognize the ordinary attachment to the self as false, and they
seek the true self of one’s own nature. It is from the false self
that you can arrive at the true self, for only if you recognize the
false can you find the true. If you don’t recognize the false as
false, how can you find the truth?
Why are we now investigating the Buddhadharma? It is because we are searching for true principle. Why
do we seek true principle? Because we know that everything in the
world is false, and we want to find the truth within falsity. What
is the true self of one’s own nature that the Bodhisattva seeks? It
is the Buddha. The Buddha is the true self.
Before you have realized Buddhahood, your “I” is false. The Bodhisattva knows the self is
false, but the ordinary person says, “You say the self is false, but
as I see it, my body is excellent. It is strong, tall,
well-proportioned and handsome. You may say it is false, but I think
it is true.” He can’t see through it, and so he can’t put it down.
Unable to put it down, he cannot become truly independent.
The phrase “I have heard” indicates the fulfillment of hearing.
”Now, basically,” you may say, “the ears hear. Why doesn’t it say,
.Thus the ears heard,. instead of ‘Thus I have heard.’?” Actually,
the ears cannot hear. They are merely the organ of hearing. What
hears is the nature, which is eternally present. It is the mind that
heard. What it heard was the dharma which is “thus.”
”Which dharma is ‘thus’?” you ask.
It is the Shurangama
Sutra that Dharma
Master Paramiti wrote out on sheer silk, placed in an incision he
made in his arm, carried to China, and translated into Chinese. Now
it has come to America, where it has been translated into English.
It is what Ananda himself heard the Buddha speak. It is what the
Buddha has transmitted to China. It is not something that Ananda as
an individual put together and made. It is the dharma the Buddha