Fragment uit de
Suràngama Soetra

Manjushri's appraisal of
Avalokiteshvara's meditation on hearing

The text

As commanded, Manjushri rose from his seat, prostrated himself with his head at the feet of the Buddha and reverently chanted the following gāthā:

Perfect and clear by nature is the Bodhi ocean,
Pure and faultless Bodhi is in essence wonderful.
Its fundamental brightness shone, so by chance creating
An object which then obscured its radiant nature.
Thus in delusion there appeared one-sided emptiness
In which an imaginary world arbitrarily was built.
Steadying itself, the thinking process made the continents
While the (illusory) knower became a living being.
The voidness so created within Bodhi
Is but a bubble in the ocean. Worldly
Realms, countless as the dust, arose
In this (relative) emptiness.
When the bubble bursts, the void's unreality
is exposed: how much more so is that of the three realms?
Though all return to One nature at the source,
There are many expedient methods for the purpose.
Though holy nature pervades all, direct
Or inverse methods are expedients;
Hence newly initiated minds of different
Aptitudes are quick or slow to enter Samādhi.
Form which from thought crystallizes
Is too difficult to look through.
How can perfection be achieved
Through this impenetrable form?
Sound, voice, word and speech are each
Confined to specific definition
Which by itself is not all embracing.
How can they help perfection to achieve?
Smell, perceived when in contact with the nose,
Without that contact is non-existent.
How can that which is not always present
Be a means to achieve perfection?
Taste exists not of itself, but is
Perceived when flavour's present.
Since sense of taste is ever varied
How can it to perfection lead?
Touch exists when there's an object touched;
Without an object touch is naught.
Since contact and its absence are not constant,
How can touch help to achieve perfection?
Dharma is inner defilement called;
Reliance thereon implies an object.
Since subject and object are not all embracing,
How can dharma lead one to perfection?
The organ of sight, although perceiving clearly,
Sees things in front but cannot see behind.
How can partial (sight of) the four quarters
Help one to achieve perfection?
The inward and the outward breath
Have no link uniting them.
How can they, thus unconnected,
Be used to achieve perfection?
The tongue is useless touching nothing;
When flavour is present, there is taste
Which vanishes when flavour's absent.
How can this help to achieve perfection?
Body must be conditioned to the object touched;
Both cannot be used for all embracing meditation
Which is beyond both subject and object with their limits.
How can this serve to achieve perfection?
The tumult of thinking with the mind disturbs
The serenity of right perception.
Since stirring thoughts are most hard to eradicate
How can intellect serve to achieve perfection?
Union of consciousness with eye and sight
Has three components that are not settled.
How can that which is devoid of substance
Be used as a means to win perfection?
The hearing mind which reaches into space
Needs a great cause for its development;
But untrained men cannot realize it.
How can this help to achieve perfection?
Meditation on the nose is only an expedient
Means to control the mind by fixing it for the moment,
But wrong dwelling can create an illusory abode.
How can this be used to achieve perfection?
Preaching the Dharma plays upon voice and words,
But awakening occurred during practice long ago,
Words and speeches never going beyond the worldly stream.
How can this be a means to achieve perfection?
Observance of rules of discipline controls
The body but never that which is beyond it.
Since control of body is not all embracing
How can this serve to achieve perfection?
Transcendental powers come from a former cause;
How can they derive from discriminating consciousness?
Since thinking from externals cannot stray,
How can it serve to achieve perfection?
If the element of earth be used for contemplation,
It is solid and cannot be penetrated;
Belonging to the worldly it lacks spirituality.
How can it be used to achieve perfection?
If meditation be on the element of water,
The thoughts that then arise have no reality.
Beyond feeling and seeing is the absolute;
How then can water help to achieve perfection?
If for meditation the element of fire be used,
Dislike of desire is not complete renunciation;
"Tis no expedient for newly initiated minds.
How then can fire become a means to achieve perfection?
If meditation is on the element of wind,
Motion and stillness are a false duality
From which Supreme Bodhi cannot develop.
How can wind serve to achieve perfection?
If the element of space be used for meditation,
Its dimness and dullness cannot be enlightenment.
Since whate'er is unenlightened differs much from Bodhi,
How can the element of space help to achieve perfection?
If on the element of consciousness you meditate,
It changes and is not permanent.
The mind fixed on it being false
How can that element then help you to achieve perfection?
Phenomena are all impermanent;
Thinking originally comes and goes.
Since cause will ever differ from effect,
How can the element of perception achieve perfection?
I now submit to the World Honoured One
That all Buddhas in this world appear
To teach the most appropriate method
Which consists in using pervasive sound.
The state of Samādhi can be
Realized by means of hearing.
Thus was Avalokiteshvara freed from suffering.
Hail to the Regarder of sound
Who, during aeons countless as Ganges' sand,
Entered as many Buddha lands to win
The power and comfort of his independence (1)
And bestow fearlessness upon all living beings. (2)
O you who (have achieved) the sound profound, (3)
The seer of sound, (4) of sound the purifier, (5)
Who, unfailing as the sound of ocean tides, (6) saves all beings in the world make
Them secure, ensure their liberation and attainment of eternity.
Reverently I declare to the Tathāgata
What Avalokiteshvara said:
When one dwells in quietude,
Rolls of drums from ten directions
Simultaneously are heard,
So hearing is complete and perfect.
The eyes cannot pierce a screen,
But neither can mouth nor nose,
Body only feels when it is touched.
Mind's thoughts are confused and unconnected,
(But) voice whether near or far
At all times can be heard.
The five other organs are not perfect.
But hearing really is pervasive.
The presence or absence of sound and voice
Is registered by ear as 'is' or 'is not'.
Absence of sound means nothing heard,
Not hearing devoid of nature.
Absence of sound is not the end of hearing,
And sound when present is not its beginning.
The faculty of hearing, beyond creation
And annihilation, truly is permanent.
Even when isolated thoughts in a dream arise,
Though the thinking process stops, hearing does not end,
For the faculty of hearing is beyond
All thought, beyond both mind and body.
In this Sahā world
Teaching is by voice.
Living beings who cognize not hearing's nature,
Follow sound to continue transmigrating.
Though Ānanda memorized all that he had
heard, he could not avoid perverted thoughts.
This is to fall into samsara by clinging to sound;
Whilst reality is won against the worldly stream.
Listen, Ānanda, listen closely,
In the name of Buddha I proclaim
The Vajra king of Enlightenment,
The inconceivable understanding that illusions
Are unreal, the true Samādhi that begets all Buddhas.
You may hear of esoteric methods
From Buddhas countless as the dust,
But if you cannot eradicate
Desire, to hear much causes errors.
To hear your very Self, why not turn backward
That faculty employed to hear Buddha's words?
Hearing is not of itself,
But owes its name to sound.
Freed from sound by turning hearing backwards,
What do you call that which is disengaged?
When one sense organ has to its source returned,
All the six senses thereby are liberated.
Seeing and hearing are like optical illusions,
Just as all three worlds resemble flowers in the sky.
With hearing disengaged, the illusory organ vanishes;
With objects eradicated, perfectly pure is Bodhi.
In utter purity, the bright light pervades all,
With its shining stillness enfolding the great void.
All worldly things, when closely looked at,
Are but illusions seen in dreams.
Dream-like was the Matangi maiden:
How could she keep your body with her?
Like a clever showman
Presenting a puppet play,
Though movements are many,
There is but one controller.
When that control is stopped,
Figures show no nature.
Likewise are the six organs,
Derived from one ālaya
Which divides into six unions.
If one of these returns to source,
All six functions are ended.
With all infection ended,
Bodhi is then realized.
Any defiling remnant requires further study
Whereas full enlightenment is the Tathāgata.
Ānanda and all you who listen here
Should inward turn your faculty
Of hearing to hear your own nature
Which alone achieves Supreme Bodhi.
That is how enlightenment is won.
Buddhas as many as the Ganges' sand
Entered this one gateway to Nirvāna.
All past Tathāgatas
Have achieved this method.
All Bodhisattvas now
Enter this perfection.
All who practise in the future
On this Dharma should rely.
Avalokiteshvara did not practice
It alone, because through it I also passed.
The Enlightened and World Honoured One
Has asked about the best expedients
For those in the Dharma ending age
Who wish from samsara to escape
In their search for Nirvāna's heart.
It is best to contemplate on worldly sound:
All other methods are expedients
Used by Buddha in particular cases
To keep disciples from occasional trouble.
They are not good for indiscriminate practice
By men of different types.
I salute the Tathāgata Store
Which is beyond the worldly stream.
Blessed be coming generations
So that they have (abiding) faith
In this easy expedient.
'T is good for teaching Ānanda
And those of the Dharma ending age
Who should use the hearing organ
Which surpasses all others
And with the True Mind accords.

(After hearing this) Ānanda and the assembly (felt) their bodies and minds to be in tune with the profound teaching. To them the Buddha's Bodhi and Parinirvāna were like the way home which a traveller should know well before returning from a long journey abroad. Others present, such as the eight classes of non-human beings, students of the Hearer's Vehicle and Bodhisattvas who had just developed the Bodhi Mind and whose number was countless as the sand in ten Ganges rivers, awakened to their fundamental minds, avoided defilement and won the pure Dharma eye. After hearing the gāthā, Bhiksuni Self-Nature realized arhatship and an uncountable number of living beings developed the unsurpassed Samyak Sambodhi mind.

Remarks 1 - 6 by Han Shan Te Ch'ing

1: The Bodhisattva's power to take on thirty-two transformation-bodies.
2: His power to bestow fourteen kinds of fearlessness upon all living beings.
3: His meditation on sound leading to elimination of ego.
4: His meditation on worldly sound to realize two unsurpassed merits.
5: His immunization from all attachments by means of meditation on sound.
6: His realization of universality that causes him always to respond to the needs of others like the tide that never fails to rise and fall.

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