The essence of the third chapter is the urgent advice to master and practice the teaching of the sutra for the spiritual merit to be gained from it, the good life it leads to, and the usefulness to mankind and the world that it makes possible.
The questioner, the Bodhisattva Great Adornment, asks where this teaching comes from, toward what purpose it tends, and where it dwells. The Buddha answers that its origin is none other than an outflow from the innermost mind of the buddhas; that its purpose is to stir the minds of all people to seek supreme enlightenment - that is, the wisdom of the buddhas; and that its dwelling place is in performing the practices of the bodhisattva.
The innermost mind of the buddhas is the will that all life shall fulfill itself after its nature. This is the fundamental will of the universe itself, and if only man would live in accord with this will his troubles would end. But man is captive of a willful self, lives after the dictates of that self he clings to, and thus brings suffering on himself.
We might think of the enlightenment of the buddhas as the perception of two realities. The first is the way in which always and everywhere the will of the only true being in this world, the great life-force of the universe, appears in unlimited operation (that is, innumerable meanings) in both inanimate and living things. The second is the way in which all things and all forms subsist and have their being after their nature.
Applied to man, this means seeing that the true way to live is to live as one is. But the ordinary person so little understands how to live as one is that Shakyamuni resorted to all sorts of explanations of his teaching, depending upon the circumstances of his hearers. This adapted instruction has been described as tactful teaching.
Tactful teaching is an admirable and gratifying thing, but by virtue of its nature it brings up difficulties if, with changes in circumstances and position of the person, it happens that one fails to grasp the exact situation at any given time.
Thus it happens that the man of understanding is awakened to seek the supreme truth that applies to all people in all conditions. This is the awakening of the aspiration to buddhahood, and the object of the teaching of the Innumerable Meanings is to awaken this aspiration.
Now, in the response to the question where the teaching stays or abides, where it really is, where its true value is, we see that it is not in books or in the mind but in practice. Indeed, only in practice does the teaching come alive.
These three things - the origin of the teaching in the mind of the buddhas, its objective in stirring the aspiration to seek enlightenment, and practice - are elements of such paramount importance, pervading not only the Innumerable Meanings but all Mahayana teaching (the teaching of the Great Vehicle) as well, that it is essential here to grasp and keep them firmly in mind.
Returning to the text of the sutra itself, we next read the Buddha's explanation of the first of the ten merits:
"First, this sutra makes the unawakened bodhisattva aspire to buddhahood, makes a merciless one raise the mind of mercy, makes a homicidal one raise the mind of great compassion, makes a jealous one raise the mind of joy, makes an attached one raise the mind of detachment, makes a miserly one raise the mind of donation, makes an arrogant one raise the mind of keeping the commandments, makes an irascible one raise the mind of perseverance, makes an indolent one raise the mind of assiduity, makes a distracted one raise the mind of meditation, makes an ignorant one raise the mind of wisdom, makes one who lacks concern for saving others raise the mind of saving others, makes one who commits the ten evils raise the mind of the ten virtues, makes one who wishes for existence aspire to the mind of nonexistence, makes one who has an inclination toward apostasy build the mind of non-retrogression, makes one who commits defiled acts raise the mind of undefilement, and makes one who suffers from delusions raise the mind of detachment. Good sons! This is called the first inconceivable merit-power of this sutra."
The sense of this is clear enough, as is the sense of the remaining nine merits, and it is important for us to discern why there is such merit in the Sutra of Innumerable Meanings.
Copyright by Rissho Kosei-kai. All rights reserved.