A Sure Sign of the Proper Dharma：Shurangama Sutra
The Shurangama Sutra Is a Demon-spotting Mirror
Na Mo Sa Dan Tuo
Su Qie Duo Ye
E La He Di
San Miao San Pu Tuo Xie
Na Mo Sa Dan Tuo
Fo Tuo Ju Zhi Shai Ni Shan
Na Mo Sa Po
Bo Tuo Bo Di
Sa Duo Pi Bi
Na Mo Sa Duo Nan
San Miao San Pu Tuo Ju Zhi Nan
Suo She La Po Jia
Seng Qie Nan
Na Mo Lu Ji E Luo Han Duo Nan
Na Mo Su Lu Duo Bo Nuo Nan
Na Mo Suo Jie Li Tuo Qie Mi Nan
Na Mo Lu Ji San Miao Qie Duo Nan
San Miao Qie Bo La
Di Bo Duo Nuo Nan
Na Mo Ti Po Li Shai Nan
Na Mo Xi Tuo Ye
Pi Di Ye
Tuo La Li Shai Nan
She Po Nu
Jie La He
Suo He Suo La Mo Tuo Nan
Na Mo Ba La He Mo Ni
Na Mo Yin Tuo La Ye
What I just recited was the first twenty-eight lines of the Shurangama Mantra. These twenty-eight lines tell us to take refuge in all the Buddhas, all the Bodhisattvas, all the Hearers, all Those Enlightened by Conditions, and all the gods throughout empty space and the Dharma Realm. The last line, "Na mo yin tuo la ye," refers to what Chinese people call the Jade Emperor. Those who do not understand the Buddhadharma say, "The Jade Emperor belongs to Daoism. We shouldn't bow to him." They don't realize that the Jade Emperor is just Lord Shakra. As Buddhist disciples, we should also respect him and gather him in. This first section of the Shurangama Mantra is the section for protecting and supporting the Triple Jewel. Therefore, when this section is recited, all the demons, goblins, ghosts, and other strange creatures flee far away. They retreat as far as they can go.
Therefore, in Buddhism it is said that if there is even one person in the world who can recite the Shurangama Mantra, then the demons, goblins, ghosts, and all the other weird creatures will not dare to openly show themselves in the world. If not even one person can recite the Shurangama Mantra from memory, then at that point all the demons, goblins, ghosts, and all the other weird creatures will appear in the world. They will wreak havoc, but no one will recognize them. Right now, since there are still people who can recite the Shurangama Mantra, the demons, goblins, ghosts, and all the other weird creatures don't dare to openly show themselves in the world. There is a verse which expresses the meaning of this section of mantra.
A thousand red lotuses protect one's body.
As one sits astride a black unicorn.
Seeing this, the myriad demons go away to hide.
Dharma Master Ji Gong had this wonderful sound.
A thousand red lotuses protect one's body. A thousand red lotuses come to protect your body.
As one sits astride a black unicorn. When you recite the mantra, you are sitting astride a unicorn.
Seeing this, the myriad demons go away to hide. They all flee, because they are afraid to face such awesome virtue. We all know about the character Ji Gong in Buddhism. In his time, Ji Gong used this section of mantra, so the verse says, Dharma Master Ji Gong had this wonderful sound. This verse gives the general meaning of this section of mantra text. If we were to go into detail, the Shurangama Mantra is wonderful beyond words. Thus it is also said:
The esoteric wonder is inexhaustible.
It is truly difficult to fathom.
The secret words of Vajra come from
the inherent nature.
The Shurangama Mantra contains
Cultivators and ordinary people can open
the Five Eyes and Six Penetrations.
The esoteric wonder is inexhaustible. It is truly difficult to fathom. The Shurangama Mantra is extremely wonderful, and its transformations are inconceivable. It is very difficult to fathom. The secret words of Vajra come from the inherent nature. The secret words of Vajra, the Shurangama Mantra, is the secret within the secret. It is Vajra that supports and protects this mantra, which comes from our own Buddha-nature. The Shurangama Mantra contains miraculous wonders. The Shurangama Mantra is also known as a magical text. It is very miraculous and especially potent. That's why it is said, "The Shurangama Mantra contains miraculous wonders." Cultivators and ordinary people can open the Five Eyes and Six Penetrations. If you constantly recite the Shurangama Mantra with single-minded concentration, not thinking of anything else, you can attain the Five Eyes and the Six Penetrations. You can experience inconceivable states and transformations which are beyond the understanding of ordinary people. Therefore, I hope everyone will study and recite the Shurangama Sutra, and recite the Shurangama Mantra from memory.
Most scholars say the Shurangama Sutra is false and claim that it was not spoken by the Buddha. They say they have various pieces of evidence and documents to support it. This is all because they fear the Shurangama Sutra and have no way to deal with the principles in the Shurangama Sutra. What they fear most in the Shurangama Sutra are the Four Clear Instructions on Purity. The Four Clear Instructions on Purity serve as a demon-spotting mirror. All the demons, goblins, ghosts, and weird creatures are reflected in their true form. Furthermore, the section on the Fifty Skandha-demons exposes the celestial demons and externalists to the bone, enabling people to recognize their demonic appearance. Anyone who can memorize the Shurangama Sutra is a true disciple of the Buddha.
In the declining period of the Buddha-dharma, the first Sutra to disappear will be the Shurangama Sutra. Why will it disappear? Because these so-called scholars, professors, and even left-home people all claim it is false. Over time, their theory will become widespread, and people will all believe what they say and take the Shurangama Sutra to be false. Even Buddhist disciples will consider it false, and after a while the Sutra will disappear. That is how the Sutras become extinct. People no longer study them, so they disappear.
In the Shurangama Sutra, the Four Clear Instructions on Purity which explain killing, stealing, lust, and lying, are absolutely accurate and definite. That's why those scholars and professors fear the Four Clear Instructions on Purity. They only want to listen to muddled instructions and are terribly afraid of the Clear Instructions. If they admitted that the Shurangama Sutra is true, they would have no ground to stand upon. They would not be able to defend their smoking, drinking, and womanizing, for everyone would know them for what they are. The principles of the Shurangama Sutra are extremely accurate, extremely logical, and as clear as can be. That is why the entire Shurangama Sutra is a demon-spotting mirror. When this demon-spotting mirror is hung up, the demons, goblins, ghosts, and weird creatures are frightened out of their wits.
If what I have just said about the Shurangama Sutra and Shurangama Mantra does not accord with the Buddhas' mind and the Sutra's meaning, and if the Shurangama Sutra is really false, I am willing to stay forever in the hells and never come out to see the people in the world. Although I am a stupid person, I am not so foolish that I would want to go to the hells and never come out. For that reason, you should all deeply believe in the Shurangama Sutra and Shurangama Mantra.
What I have just said is my vow. If what I said does not accord with the Buddhas' mind, I am willing to go to the hells. I now request the infinite, endless, eternally dwelling Buddhas, Dharma, and San-gha--the Triple Jewel in the ten directions throughout empty space and the Dharma Realm--to silently certify what I have said and to enable all living beings to quickly realize the Buddha Way.
I also request the Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas in the ten directions, the Sound Hearers and Those Enlightened by Conditions in the ten directions, all the Worthies and Sages in the Sangha, and all the Dharma-protecting gods of the Radiant Assembly, to emit light and shine upon all living beings, enabling them to leave suffering, attain bliss, and be liberated from birth and death.
I also pray that all of you Good and Wise Advisors will instruct me if I have said something that disagrees with the Buddha-dharma. Although I am not intelligent, I hope you will try to teach me. Since I am a very stupid person with limited views, my words are far from perfect. Whether you are a left-home person or a layperson, I hope you will kindly teach me. I shall bow in respect and be grateful all my life.
If there is anyone who recites the Shurangama Sutra, I am willing to serve and make offerings to such a cultivator all my life. When the Proper Dharma prospers, the Shurangama prospers. When the Proper Dharma declines, the Shurangama becomes extinct. From this, you should all realize how important the Shurangama Sutra is in Buddhism.
"The Shurangama is for opening wisdom. The Dharma Flower is for becoming a Buddha. The Avatamsaka is for teaching living beings." Therefore, in America I started out by lecturing on the Shurangama Sutra to a group of over thirty students from the University of Washington in Seattle. During the ninety-six days of summer vacation, I lectured on the Shurangama Sutra to those college students. During that time, there was only a half day's break on Saturdays. Aside from that, I lectured on the Sutra every day, and they all took notes. In the beginning, I lectured once a day, and then they studied on their own. After half a month, I assessed the time and the length of the Shurangama Sutra. Fearing that I might not finish in time, I began lecturing twice a day. After a while, I calculated again and decided that I still would not be able to finish, so I started lecturing three times a day. Finally, in the last half month or more, I lectured four times a day.
During the Summer Shurangama Study and Cultivation Session, not only did I lecture on the Sutra, I also cooked the meals, made tea, and did the grocery shopping and everything else for them. You could say I single-handedly took on all the monastic chores. Of course, I could have asked the students to take turns working, but I did not want to interfere with their cultivation and study of the Sutra. So I didn't let a single person help. Although I dare not say I was practicing the Bodhisattva Way, if people wanted to study the Shurangama Sutra, I was willing to dedicate my life to serve and support them. After ninety-six days, I finished lecturing the Shurangama Sutra. With the end of this lecture, people in America were beginning to give recognition to Buddhism.
At the end of the Shurangama Sutra lecture series, five people left the home-life. On New Year's Day, I said to the assembly, "This year, five lotuses will bloom in American Buddhism. In the future, these five lotuses will spread Buddhism in the West." That's what I said then.
After they graduated from the Summer Shurangama Lecture and Practice Session, five Americans left the home-life. I sent them to Hai Hui (Sea-like Assembly) Monastery in Taiwan to receive the precepts. The Good and Wise Advisors in Taiwan told them, "Now it is the Dharma-Ending Age. No one cultivates anymore. You're still eating one meal a day? You've been cheated by your teacher." When my American disciples heard this, they thought, "Oh, so we've been cheated by our teacher. What should we do?" The Good and Wise Advisors said, "Well, go ahead and eat. Drink wine and eat meat." The five people started to have doubts about Buddhism. "How come our teacher taught us to eat one meal a day, and now they tell us we should eat in the morning and evening as well? What's going on? There must be something wrong here." Their minds were swayed, and they wanted to start eating more meals, but they had a meeting and decided to go back and make sure before they did that. They also told the Good and Wise Advisors in Taiwan that they slept sitting up. Some people in Taiwan told them, "You sleep sitting up? People did that when the Buddha was in the world. Now the Buddha isn't around anymore, so why do you do it? It's really a case of Americans being cheated by the Chinese."
What happened then? When they returned, they got mischievous. They said, "In Taiwan, everyone eats three meals a day. We shouldn't eat just one meal." They acted naughty with me. They said more, but I don't remember that much. It took more than three months before their doubts were resolved.
At that time, some people in Taiwan would say, "Dharma Master Hsuan Hua has taken some hippies as disciples in America. There are many hippies hanging out in Golden Gate Park, and Dharma Master Hsuan Hua goes there to meditate. When the hippies see him meditating, they are curious and go up to talk to him. Then Dharma Master Hsuan Hua tells them to go visit the temple. They go to the temple and find that the lifestyle there is pretty similar to their hippie lifestyle, so they all leave the home-life."
There is another rumor in Taiwan: "You know what? Dharma Master Hsuan Hua takes drugs with the hippies in America. The hippies take LSD and marijuana. They can get high on just one capsule of LSD and feel as carefree as if they were in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. But Dharma Master Hsuan Hua can take more than ten capsules without being affected in the least. He doesn't get high or feel as carefree as if he were in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. That's why all those hippies admire him and left the home-life under him. Don't believe in him."
You can talk back and forth, but whether they are hippies or not does not matter. He who works hard in cultivation is good. He who does not work hard in cultivation is not good. If he is not a hippie, but he does not cultivate, that is not good. If he is a hippie and he cultivates, that is just as good. Therefore, in Buddhism, mere talking about cultivation doesn't count. There must be real practice and real benefit. Don't just say, "I have concentration. I have this samadhi or that samadhi." And another person also comes up with another kind of samadhi.
Now I will tell everyone about some lines that I thought of:
Paying lip service to samadhi,
They say, "I am right and you are wrong."
In time, their original appearance is revealed,
And they are covered with offenses.
This is saying that people just pay lip service to Buddhism and treat it as child's play. They talk carelessly without taking responsibility for the cause and effect. Who will fall into the hell of Ripping Out Tongues? Precisely that kind of people. When they get there, their tongues will be ripped out and they cannot talk anymore. In their minds they will think, "What a mess I'm in. If I knew this was going to happen, I wouldn't have fooled around like that."
They always paid lip service to samadhi, saying, "I'm right. You're wrong about everything. Even if you were right, I'd say you were wrong. And if you're wrong, I also say you're wrong." Would you say that is just? In everything, they say "I am right and you are wrong." "In time, their original appearance is revealed."
After a long distance, one will know a horse's stamina.
After a long time, one will see a person's heart.
In time, their true form is uncovered. "And they are covered with offenses." Their bodies are covered by offensive karma. They enter the Hell of Ripping Out Tongues without even realizing it.
"Dharma Master, don't scold people. As you speak the Dharma, why are you scolding people?" you ask. I am not scolding anyone. I bow to the ants and mosquitoes every day; how would I dare to scold people? But I cannot refrain from telling the truth. The truth is just like that.
Let me tell you, it's just those people that criticize me who have taught and helped me, making me the way I am today. So the people who criticize and slander me are all my Good and Wise Advisors. They are all my teachers. My teachers all pay lip service to Chan. The reason I know how to do it is because I learned it from my teachers.
I have another verse which begins: "All people are my teachers." Everyone is my teacher. As long as you have blood and breath, I want to learn from you. If you are good, I learn the good. If you are bad, I learn the bad. I want to learn until I am a martial arts expert, skilled in all weapons. That way, when I am challenged to a fight, I will have many winning moves. "I am a teacher for all people." I am also everyone's teacher. "I always teach myself." I am very often a teacher for myself. I am also constantly a teacher for others. That way, everyone can encourage one another to vigorously advance on the Bodhi Way. Let's not linger in the Saha world, scheming and calculating about wins and losses. Let's see who will reach the Land of Ultimate Bliss first!
Someone says, "Dharma Master, you keep arguing and refusing to admit that you are scolding people. Do you admit it? If you admit that you are scolding people, then you won't scold them anymore. Right?" But the one who scolds people is like "one who spits up into the skies, and gets the spit back on his own face." We should like being scolded, because when people scold us, they are giving us fertilizer. Our fields are not fertile, so they need to be fertilized. Then our crops will be abundant and our fruits will thrive.
"Dharma Master, you just said that all people are your teachers. But there are good people and bad people, and if you take them all as teachers, you will learn to be both good and bad," you object. You have misunderstood. When I say "All people are my teachers," I mean that good people teach me how I should be, and I learn to be like them. Bad people teach me how I should not be, and I learn to not be like them. That's why all people are my teachers. "I always teach myself." We ourselves must always be alert and not make mistakes, not act in ignorance. We should use bright wisdom in handling all matters instead of using stupidity and ignorance to take care of things. We must turn states around, rather than being turned by states. "Do not fail to perform a good deed, thinking it is trivial. Do not perform an evil deed, thinking it is insignificant." Don't think, "That good deed is trivial. I'm not going to do it. That bad deed is really minor. I'll go ahead and do it. It doesn't matter." For example, you think, "I'm vegetarian, but it won't matter if I eat an egg." But in the future when you are reborn as a chicken, you will know that it was because you ate chicken eggs. If you are not clear in these small matters, then you are "mixing good and evil, and the retribution will not be off." It's not fun at all.
I've gone kind of crazy today, and I don't really know what I am saying. If I have offended you, please come up and give me a beating or scolding. I would be very delighted.
The Wonderful Effects of the Shurangama Mantra
The Shurangama Mantra is in the Shurangama Sutra. The word 'Shurangama' has the meaning 'absolutely firm and solid.' In China, this Sutra is considered one of the most important Sutras. It is said: "to become a Buddha requires the Dharma Flower Sutra; to develop one's wisdom requires the Shurangama Sutra." I'm very willing to lecture on the the Shurangama Sutra and the Dharma Flower Sutra, because these two Sutras can develop people's wisdom and lead them to Buddhahood. Not only do I want to talk about them, but I also hope everyone here will study and understand them, especially the Shurangama Sutra.
Speaking of the Shurangama Sutra, I remember in China there was a Great Master named Zhi Zhe ("Wise One") who, upon hearing the name of the Shurangama Sutra, wanted to read it. For that reason he bowed in the direction of India every day, hoping to someday to study it. Although he made full prostrations for eighteen years, he never saw this Sutra. Though the wisdom and intelligence of Great Master Zhi Zhe surpassed that of ordinary people and his eloquence had no limits, he still revered and bowed to the Shurangama Sutra. This shows how important this Sutra is.
As long as the Shurangama Sutra exists in this world, the demons from the heavens and the externalists will be afraid to show themselves. Unfortunately, the Shurangama Sutra will be the first to disappear in the Dharma-ending Age. After this Sutra disappears, the demons from the heavens and the externalists will take advantage of the situation. That is why now there are some who pretend to be experts on Buddhism, who say they are scholars of Buddhist studies or professors of Buddhism in such-and-such universities, and they publicly suggest that the Shurangama Sutra is a spurious Sutra created by the Chinese. All of you just think for a moment: Although China has produced many sages, I doubt that we could find one among them who could have written the Shurangama Sutra. I firmly believe that the Shurangama Sutra is genuine and correct, and that it offers the means to subdue demons from the heavens and control externalists. That is because the phrases in the Shurangama Mantra serve to subdue demons from the heavens and control externalists. From the beginning to the end, each line of the mantra has its mystical effect and inconceivable power. It was because of the Shurangama Mantra that the Shurangama Sutra was spoken.
In the past, someone in Hong Kong translated the Shurangama Sutra into English, but he deleted the section on the rites of setting up the Shurangama Platform and also left out the entire Shurangama Mantra. He said that no Westerners would believe in the Shurangama Mantra, that they wouldn't recite it since they consider mantras to be superstitious and don't believe in the functions of mantras. Therefore, he left out the instructions for setting up the platforms and for practicing and upholding the Great Shurangama Dharma. After coming to this Western country--the United States, I personally realized that there are many Westerners who love to chant the Shurangama Mantra. Not only do they like to chant the Shurangama Mantra, they are even able to recite it from memory! At Gold Mountain Monastery, I had a disciple who joined us in reciting the Shurangama Mantra during morning recitation and again during evening recitation. After twenty-six days of reciting it in the morning and evening, he was able to recite it from memory. The first test I gave to my students in America was on the Shurangama Mantra. I stipulated in the summer session (1968) that whoever could memorize the Shurangama Mantra would pass, and whoever could not would fail. There was one who memorized the Shurangama Mantra in twenty-six days, and another who memorized it in twenty-eight days. And now, many Western Buddhists are familiar with the Shurangama Mantra.
All of us should stop for a moment and think, "Why do these fake Buddhist experts, self-proclaimed scholars, and college professors say that the Shurangama Sutra is false?" It's because the doctrines of the Shurangama Sutra counteract the faults of these people; it clearly exposes their faults. For example, it explains very clearly that the Four Clear Instructions on Purity must not be transgressed. Since these people have no intention of eliminating their faults, they insinuate that the Shurangama Sutra was created by the Chinese. Who were the first ones to say this? The Japanese. Who told the Japanese? It is said that a Chinese Dharma Master informed them that the Shurangama Sutra was counterfeit. I don't know whether that Dharma Master understood the Shurangama Sutra. We don't have to mention his name, because it was a long time ago. Since then, people have been spreading the rumor that the Shurangama Sutra is not genuine. This shows that the Buddhadharma is declining: people within Buddhism made up such a rumor, gradually causing doubts in others. Over a period of time, people became doubtful and disbelieving, and in their disbelief they put this Sutra away in the attic. That's equivalent to destroying it, for no one will study this Sutra or have any interest in it. Over the course of time, the Sutra will disappear, not because of something like the words fading away or the pages falling out, but because, little by little, people will forget about it.
Why have people made up this false theory? Simply because they do not want to follow the rules. The Sutra also states that the various spiritual powers associated with the fifty skandha-demon states are not significant. So those people think, "Even if I had some spiritual powers, they would be considered false." I've heard that a certain cultivator in Japan has spiritual penetrations--it's said that he can point his finger at a candle and cause it to light up. Is this the case? I haven't witnessed it yet. I'm going to Japan on the fourteenth, so maybe I'll look him up. A long time ago he also wanted to see me, so when I visit him we can exchange ideas.
The importance of the Shurangama Sutra and the Shurangama Mantra is beyond words. Even if I were to speak to the end of time, it would be impossible to completely describe its wonderful effects. It is inconceivable. Today I'm using a very honest mind to candidly tell all of you about the wonderful effects of the Shurangama Mantra. When I was in Manchuria, whenever I met people who were sick, I was determined to cure their illness. What power did I use to cure sick people? The power of the Shurangama Mantra.
The Shurangama Mantra contains five divisions: In the East is the Vajra Division, hosted by Akshobhya Buddha; in the south, the Jewel-creating Division, hosted by Creation of Jewels (Ratnasambhava) Buddha; in the center, the Buddha Division, hosted by Vairochana Buddha; in the West, the Lotus Division, hosted by Amitabha Buddha; in the North, the Karma Division, hosted by Accomplishment (Amoghasiddhi) Buddha. These five divisions control the vast demon armies of the five directions. When you recite the Shurangama Mantra, the soldiers of the five demon armies will lower their heads in obedience. They will behave themselves and will not dare to oppose the awesome power of the Shurangama Mantra.
In the Shurangama Mantra, there is a Dharma for Quelling Calamities. When you recite the mantra, all disasters and misfortunes will disappear. There is also a Dharma for Subduing. No matter what kind of demons from the heavens or heretics you encounter, when you recite the Shurangama Mantra, you will destroy the power of the demons and subdue them. There is a Dharma that Increases Benefits. When you are cultivating the Way, this dharma will help you increase your wisdom, your resolve for Bodhi, and the power of your vows; it can increase everything. This is called the Dharma that Increases Benefits. There is an Accomplishment Dharma. When you recite the Shurangama Mantra, no matter what Dharma-door you practice, you will accomplish it. There is another dharma called the Hooking and Summoning Dharma. This dharma is to be employed when you encounter demons from the heavens and heretics and you want to seize them, just as the policemen in our society catch criminals. When you want to catch the demons from the heavens or the heretics, all the kind-hearted Dharma-protecting spirits, the gods and dragons, and the remainder of the eightfold division, and the 84,000 Vajra Store Bodhisattvas will immediately seize them. This is the Hooking and Summoning Dharma.
The Shurangama Mantra consists of five sections and can be divided into over thirty types of dharmas. It was because of the power of the Shurangama Mantra that I was able to treat people's illnesses when I was in Manchuria. However, it is not the case that just anyone can casually use the Shurangama Mantra. When one uses it, one doesn't necessarily have to use the whole mantra, because it contains over thirty types of dharmas. When I mentioned this, some professors in the United States didn't really understand Buddhism, and they thought, "Oh! Now I see that the Shurangama Mantra is just a combination of many little mantras." How ridiculous! They themselves do not understand, so they use the scientific mind of a professor to speculate on the inconceivable state of the Shurangama Mantra. This is what I've heard. What a joke!
Why do we want to talk about the Shurangama Mantra? Because it was for the sake of the Shurangama Mantra that the Shurangama Sutra was expounded. Without the Shurangama Mantra, there wouldn't be any Shurangama Sutra. Therefore, since that person from Hong Kong left out the Shurangama Mantra and didn't translate the rites of setting up the platform, you could say that his English translation is like a person without a head. What can a person do if he has no head? When we translate Sutras, we shouldn't arbitrarily add or delete sentences by interpreting passages out of context or using our own limited understanding and wisdom. If we did, it would be like viewing the sky through a reed or measuring the ocean with a gourd. This is not allowed when we are translating Sutras.
Now, we are also working on Sutra translations at Gold Mountain Monastery, and we absolutely must retain all the text that is in the Sutras. We will not chop off the head or do away with the feet. Nor will we be like a certain professor who translated liang zu zun (which means "Doubly Perfect Honored One") as "Most Venerable of Two Legged Beings," implying that we should "Take refuge with the Buddha's two legs." [The Chinese character zu can mean perfect or foot.] This way of translating (word-for-word) cannot be said to be completely incorrect, but it is quite far from the intent of the text and does not agree with the original meaning in the Sutra. For these reasons, we are extremely attentive and careful in all the Sutras we translate at Gold Mountain Monastery. We would not casually delete a paragraph in the Sutras. Since I'm talking about the Shurangama Sutra today, I have taken an opportunity to bring this up.
Disciples of the Buddha Should Recite and Uphold the Shurangama Sutra
The Shurangama Sutra is a Sutra that acts like a demon-spotting mirror in Buddhism. All the celestial demons, externalists, and the li, mei, and wang liang ghosts reveal their true appearance when they see the Shurangama Sutra. They have no way to hide and no place to flee to. And so in the past, when Great Master Zhi Zhe heard of the existence of this Sutra, he bowed in the direction of India for eighteen years. For eighteen years, he used this spirit of utmost sincerity to pray for this Sutra to be brought to China.
Of all the greatly virtuous and eminent monks of the past, all the wise and lofty Sanghans, there was not a single one who did not praise the Shurangama Sutra. Therefore, as long as the Shurangama Sutra exists, the Buddhadharma exists. If the Shurangama Sutra is destroyed, then the Buddhadharma will also become extinct. How will the decline of the Dharma come about? It will begin with the destruction of the Shurangama Sutra. Who will destroy it? The celestial demons and externalists will. They see the Shurangama Sutra like a nail in their eyes and a thorn in their flesh. They can't sit still, and they can't stand steady; they are compelled to invent the deviant theory saying that the Shurangama Sutra is false.
As Buddhist disciples, we should recognize true principle. Every word of the doctrines in the Shurangama Sutra is the absolute truth. There isn't one word which does not express the truth. So now that we are studying the Fifty Skandha-demons, we should realize even more just how important the Shurangama Sutra is. The Shurangama Sutra is what the deviant demons, ghosts, and goblins fear most.
The Venerable Master Hsu Yun lived to be a hundred and twenty years old, and during his whole life, he didn't write a commentary for any Sutra other than the Shurangama Sutra. He took special care to preserve the manuscript of his commentary on the Shurangama Sutra. He preserved it for several decades, but it was later lost during the Yunmen incident. This was the Elder Hsu's greatest regret in his life. He proposed that, as left-home people, we should study the Shurangama Sutra to the point that we can recite it by memory, from the beginning to the end, and from the end to the beginning, forwards and backwards. That was his proposal. I know that, throughout his whole life, the Elder Hsu regarded the Shurangama Sutra as being especially important.
When someone informed the Elder Hsu that there were people who said the Shurangama Sutra was false, he explained that the decline of the Dharma occurs just because these people try to pass fish eyes off as pearls, confusing people so that they cannot distinguish right from wrong. They make people blind so that they can no longer recognize the Buddhadharma. They take the true as false, and the false as true. Look at these people: this one writes a book and people all read it. That one writes a book and they read it too. The real Sutras spoken by the Buddha himself are put up on the shelf, where no one ever reads them. From this, we can see that living beings' karmic obstacles are very heavy. If they hear deviant knowledge and deviant views, they will readily believe them. If you speak Dharma based on proper knowledge and proper views, they won't believe it. Speak it again, and they still won't believe it. Why? Because they don't have sufficient good roots and foundations. That's why they have doubts about the proper Dharma. They are skeptical and unwilling to believe.
Here at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, we will be setting up the Shurangama Platform, so it would be ideal if some of you bring forth the resolve to read the Shurangama Sutra every day for one or two hours. You can study it daily just as if you were studying in school, and memorize it so that you can recite it by heart. If you can recite the Shurangama Sutra, the Dharma Flower Sutra, and even the Avatamsaka Sutra from memory, that would be the very best. If someone is able to recite the Shurangama Sutra, the Dharma Flower Sutra, and the Avatamsaka Sutra from memory, then it will mean that this is still a time when the proper Dharma exists in the world. Therefore, in such a wonderful place as the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, everyone should bring forth a great Bodhi resolve to do these things.It is not that we are competing with others. We should be outstanding, rise above the crowd, and do these things.
In the past, I had a wish: I wanted to be able to recite the Dharma Flower Sutra and the Shurangama Sutra from memory. In Hong Kong, there is a disciple named Guo Yi (Heng Ding) who can recite the Shurangama Sutra from memory. I taught him to study the Dharma Flower Sutra, but in the end he probably didn't finish memorizing it, which is very regrettable. In such a fine place as we have here, everyone should bring forth a great resolve to study the Buddhist Sutras and precepts--the Shurangama Sutra, the Dharma Flower Sutra, the Vinaya in Four Divisions, and the Brahma Net Sutra--until he can recite it from memory. That would be the best, for then the proper Dharma would surely remain here for a long time.
Don't Plant a Seed for the Hells
Let me tell you the honest truth about the Shurangama Sutra. The Shurangama Sutra is the Buddha's sharira, the Buddha's real body. It doesn't matter who criticizes the Shurangama Sutra. If it is a Bodhisattva criticizing the Shurangama Sutra as being false, this Bodhisattva will fall into the hells instantly; if it is an Arhat criticizing the Shurangama Sutra as being false, this Arhat will also fall into the hells right away. Needless to say, those ordinary people, those scholars, are nothing but trash; basically they are not qualified to understand the Shurangama Sutra at all, nor are they qualified to criticize the Shurangama Sutra. Therefore, anyone who criticizes the Shurangama Sutra--I don't care who he is--is planting a seed for the hells.
The Shurangama Sutra is a Sutra that represents the whole of Buddhism. If the Shurangama Sutra didn't exist, there wouldn't be any Buddhism. Therefore, the Buddha predicted that when the Dharma is in the process of becoming extinct, the Shurangama Sutra will be the first to disappear. After it disappears, the other Sutras will disappear in succession. As Buddhists, if we want to protect and support Buddhism, we first have to protect and support the Shurangama Sutra. We have to lecture on and explain the Shurangama Sutra in every place, translate the Shurangama Sutra, recite the Shurangama Sutra, and most of all, memorize the Shurangama Mantra. The Shurangama Mantra is the Buddha's Dharma-body. Wherever the Shurangama Mantra is found, that's where the Buddha's sharira is.
I mentioned previously that none of us who are Buddhists should criticize the Shurangama Sutra and say that it is false. You musn't say that! If you say that, you are planting a seed for the hells; you are just trying to fall into the hells. You don't want to be a human being in this world; instead you want to fall into the hells, to be a hungry ghost, and to be an animal in the future. Just by having that one thought of saying that the Shurangama Sutra is false, you are sowing the cause for falling into the Avici Hell forever and never coming out. Do you know why so many people fall into the hells? It's because they do not believe in the Shurangama Sutra. Those Ph.D.'s and scholars who disclaim the Sutra nowadays are completely ignorant. They are not qualified to judge which Sutra is true and which one is false because they do not have the Dharma-selecting Eye! They do not know what the Buddhadharma is all about; all they do is echo the words of others.