Sūtra 12 (posted 02/2008, updated 12/2011) Book information on Home page
Sūtra of Detecting Good or Evil Karma and Requital
Translated from Sanskrit into Chinese in the Sui Dynasty
Master Bodhi Lamp (biography unavailable)
Fascicle 2 (of 2)
At that time Firm Pure Faith Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva asked Earth Store Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva, “Please indicate a viable way for the sake of those who seek the Mahāyāna.”
Earth Store Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas said, “Good man, if there are sentient beings that seek the Mahāyāna, they should first know the initial fundamental karma to do. To know the initial fundamental karma to do means that they need to cultivate faith and understanding by relying upon the one true reality. As their faith and understanding grow in strength, they will quickly develop the Bodhisattva character-type. The one true reality refers to the true mind of sentient beings, which, with inherent purity, without hindrances, has neither birth nor death. Like space, it does not differentiate but accommodates all, and it is equal in and universal to all. With the ultimate one appearance, it is perfect everywhere in worlds in the ten directions, non-dual and differentiation free, neither changing nor varying, neither increasing nor decreasing. For all sentient beings, voice-hearers, Pratyekabuddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Buddhas, the true mind is the same, which is true suchness, silent and never tainted, with neither birth nor death.
“Why? Because the mind that differentiates is like illusions without any reality. For example, mental functions, such as consciousness, sensory reception, perception, mental processing, memory, deliberation, and cognition, are neither blue nor yellow, neither red nor white, nor of mixed colors. They are neither long nor short, neither square nor round, neither large nor small. One can search for the shape of the mind throughout all worlds in the ten directions, but can never capture it under a classification. However, [the mind of] every sentient being, conditioned by ignorance and delusion, manifests false objects and clings to them through thinking and memory. This mind does not know itself but falsely claims its own existence. Although thoughts of a self and its belongings arise, there is no truth to them because the false mind is not an entity that can be seen. If there is no perception that differentiates, then there cannot be appearances differentiated into objects in space and time, such as the ten directions and the past, present, and future. Dharmas do not have independent existence, and they exist only as differentiations made by the false mind, which thinks of all objects as existent and distinct, identifying this as self and that as others.
“Because dharmas do not exist independently, they have no inherent differences. However, the false mind neither knows nor understands this. Having no substance within, it falsely perceives and recognizes that various dharmas exist outside. It identifies existence and nonexistence, this and that, true and false, good and evil, producing innumerable, boundless perceptions of dharmas. We should know this: All dharmas are born from perception constructed by the false mind. Furthermore, this false mind has no self-essence, and its false existence depends on its objects. Because it can think of and perceive objects, it is called the mind. Although this false mind and its objects depend upon each other and arise simultaneously, the false mind is the originator of objects. Why? Because the false mind does not understand the one appearance of the dharma realm, we say that this is the ignorance of one’s mind. Relying on the force of ignorance, it falsely manifests objects. If ignorance ends, then one’s attachment to the manifestation of objects will end. We should not say, out of lack of understanding, that objects have ignorance or that they cause ignorance. Evidently, objects do not cause ignorance to arise in Buddhas. The ignorance of one’s mind will not end by annihilating objects because objects have no independent existence and their dharma nature has always been in nirvāṇa. For this reason, we say that all dharmas arise from one’s mind. Know that dharmas should be called the mind because they in essence are not distinct, but are all encompassed in one’s mind. Furthermore, dharmas arise as appearances perceived by one’s mind, and manifest as birth and death together with one’s perception, never staying. All objects of mind move along with mind, continuing thought after thought. Their seeming stay and existence last temporarily.
“The meaning of mind comprises two aspects. What are these two? One is internal and the other external. The internal aspect of mind is divided into two. What are these two? One is true and other false. The essence of the true mind is changeless, pure, perfect, unobstructed, unimpeded, subtle, invisible, free from places, and eternally indestructible, relying on which all dharmas are constructed and developed [through causes and conditions]. By contrast, the false mind produces thoughts, perceiving, distinguishing, pondering, and recollecting objects. Although it can continuously construct [perception of] various kinds of objects, it is false, not true.
“The external aspect of mind refers to dharmas, or various kinds of objects, which appear according to one’s thinking. This is the distinction between the internal and external aspects of mind. Therefore, we should know that the internal false perceptions are the cause and function, and the external false appearances are the results and projections. Considering these meanings, I say that all dharmas are called the mind. Furthermore, the external appearances of one’s mind are like objects seen in a dream, which are produced by the thinking mind and are not real external objects. Indeed, all objects perceived are dreams of one’s ignorant consciousness, fabricated by one’s thinking. Moreover, because the internal false mind does not stay, moving thought after thought, the objects it perceives also do not stay, moving thought after thought. Therefore, various kinds of dharmas arise because the false mind arises, and they cease because the false mind ceases. Such appearances of birth and death cannot be captured because they are in name only. As one’s mind does not go to the objects, the objects do not come to one’s mind, like reflections in a mirror, neither coming nor going.
“Therefore, the appearance of birth and death of all dharmas cannot be captured because dharmas have no self-essence. They have always been empty, with neither birth nor death. Because dharmas in true reality have neither birth nor death, they have no differentiable appearances as objects. They are in the one flavor of silence and stillness, called true suchness, the highest truth, the inherent pure mind. One’s inherent pure mind is profound and perfect because it does not distinguish objects. Because it does not distinguish, it is universal. As it is universal, all dharmas rely on it to establish themselves. Furthermore, this mind is called the Tathāgata store, which encompasses immeasurable, boundless, inconceivable, affliction-free, pure, meritorious karmas.
“The dharma body of a Buddha is unobstructed, unhindered, free, and indestructible since the origin without a beginning. Always active, never resting, it manifests various kinds of meritorious karmas everywhere in all worlds, variously transforming and benefiting sentient beings. The dharma body of one Buddha is the dharma bodies of all Buddhas, and the dharma bodies of all Buddhas are the dharma body of one Buddha. The karmas [of all Buddhas] are also undivided, without any distinction between those of one Buddha and those of another Buddha, because they are equal and indistinguishable. Their karmas, based on the one dharma nature, are the same, spontaneously arising as manifestations, without differentiation. As Buddhas’ dharma bodies pervade everywhere, perfect and motionless, sentient beings die here and then are reborn there, relying on their dharma bodies [which are also perfect and motionless]. The dharma body is like space, which can accommodate all forms in various shapes and types. For example, the existence of forms in various shapes and types relies on space as they arise, grow, and remain in space. Accommodated in space, they use space as their field. Nothing can be outside the domain of space. We should know that the domain of space containing forms is indestructible. Although space is revealed when forms are destroyed, the domain of space never increases, decreases, moves, or changes. Neither does the dharma body of a sentient being. It can accommodate various kinds of karmic requitals of a sentient being because the existence of such karmic requitals relies on the dharma body. Established and stored in the dharma body, karmic requitals relying on the dharma body as their essence. Nothing can be outside the realm of the dharma body.
“We should know that the dharma body of a sentient being can never be destroyed. When one’s afflictions have been eradicated, the dharma body is fully revealed, yet the realm of the dharma body neither increases nor decreases, neither moves nor changes. However, it has been concealed by one’s ignorance since time without a beginning. Conditioned by the force of delusion, it manifests false objects through causes and conditions. Further influenced by the false objects, it imagines a self and its belongings through causes and conditions, then does karma to undergo the suffering of repeated birth and death. Those with such a dharma body are called sentient beings. If there are sentient beings that gain strength from the purity of the dharma body, their afflictions will diminish, and they will turn away from the worldly life to seek the Way to nirvāṇa. If they have faith in the one true reality, practice the six pāramitās, and acquire the Thirty-seven Elements of Bodhi, they will be called Bodhisattvas. When these Bodhisattvas have completed all the good dharmas in their training and ultimately discard the dream fabricated by ignorance, their names will be changed to Buddhas. It should be known that sentient beings, Bodhisattvas, and Buddhas are differentiated only by false names and words of the world. Their dharma bodies are ultimately equal, with no distinguishable appearances. Good man, this is a brief explanation of the meaning of the one true reality.
“Those who want to develop their belief in and understanding of the one true reality should learn the approach of two observations. What are these two? One is the observation that all dharmas are only mind and consciousness, and the other is the insight into true suchness. One who wants to learn to know one’s mind and consciousness should observe anywhere and at any time that all dharmas are mind, as one does karma with one’s body, voice, and mind. One should be aware of all the objects that one’s mind dwells on. One should not allow one’s mind to pursue objects blindly without being aware. Thought after thought, one should follow each thought and observe its content, enabling one’s mind to know that it is producing perceptions and thoughts, not the objects producing thoughts or differentiations. One’s mind produces innumerable perceptions, such as long or short, good or evil, right or wrong, gain or loss, advantage or disadvantage, existence or nonexistence, while objects have no differentiating perceptions. Since objects never have any perception, they are free from self-images, such as long or short, good or evil, existence or nonexistence. In this way one should observe that all dharmas are produced by one’s mind. Apart from one’s mind, there is not a single dharma that can perceive distinctions for itself. Never giving up, one should stay with and note one’s mind, and know that there are only thoughts and imaginations, no real objects. This is called training in the observation that all dharmas are only mind and consciousness. However, this is not called the observation that all dharmas are mind and consciousness when one’s mind is a blank, not knowing what it is thinking, and says there are objects outside itself. One who stays with and notes one’s mind should know one’s greed, anger, and delusion, as well as wrong views. One should also know one’s good, evil, and neutral thoughts, as well as exertions, concerns, and suffering. When one is sitting [in meditation], one should follow the objects of one’s mind and know that, thought after thought, only the mind rises and falls. It is like the flow of water and the flame of a lamp, never staying even temporarily. From there one should attain the Samādhi of the Silence of Percepts.
“After one has attained this samādhi, one should next learn to observe one’s mind by means of śamatha and vipaśyanā. One who believes in and practices śamatha as a method to observe one’s mind should ponder the invisible true mind, which is perfect and free from differentiation, never moving, neither coming nor going, because the mind in its original nature has no birth. One who believes in and practices vipaśyanā should observe that the internal and external objects manifest as birth and death, as the [false] mind rises and falls. Even visualization of a Buddha’s physical body occurs in the same way. It follows one’s mind in its birth and death, like an illusion, like a conjuration, like the moon in the water, and like the reflection in the mirror. It is not the mind but not apart from the mind, neither coming nor not coming, neither going nor not going, neither born nor not born, neither formed nor not formed. Good man, one who can learn to observe one’s mind by these two methods will quickly set off on the Way of the One Vehicle. We should know that the observation that all dharmas are only mind and consciousness is called the supreme door to wisdom. It enables one’s mind to be intensely keen, to develop the power of faith and understanding, and to enter quickly into the meaning of emptiness, because one will succeed in activating the unsurpassed great bodhi mind.
“One who wants to develop insight into true suchness should ponder that one’s mind in its true nature has neither birth nor death, nor does it abide in perception through faculties, such as seeing, hearing, and knowing. One should ignore the thoughts of differentiation. Then one can gradually pass the four samādhis of the formless realm—Boundless Space, Boundless Consciousness, Nothingness, and Neither with Nor without Perception—and attain the Samādhi of the Likeness of Emptiness. After one has attained the Samādhi of the Likeness of Emptiness, one’s coarse differentiation through sensory reception, perception, mental processing, and consciousness will not be active. From then on, one’s training and learning will be under the protection and care of beneficent learned friends who have great lovingkindness and compassion. As one trains assiduously, overcoming all obstacles, one can gradually enter the Samādhi of the Silent Mind. Once one has attained this samādhi, one can then enter the Samādhi of the One Action. After one has entered this Samādhi of the One Action, one will see innumerable Buddhas and will take wide-ranging and far-reaching actions, with one’s mind set in the Position of Firm Belief.
“Those who firmly believe in and understand these two ways of observation, called śamatha and vipaśyanā, can definitely move in the right direction. They will be able to practice and learn worldly dhyānas and samādhis, without being captivated by them. They will be able to develop all their roots of goodness and train in all the Thirty-seven Elements of Bodhi. They will have no fear of birth and death and have no interest in the Two Vehicles because they can rely on these two ways to observe their minds. These are the most skillful ways because they are the foundation of wisdom-knowledge.
“Furthermore, there are two types of people who can train and learn according to their faith and understanding. What are these two types? One type has high capacity and the other type has low capacity. Those with high capacity already know that the realm of external objects is produced by one’s mind and that objects are false and unreal, like dreams and illusions. They definitely have no doubts or concerns in this regard. The driving force of their five aggregates is less obstructive, and their wandering minds are less active. These people should learn to develop insight into true suchness.
“Those with low capacity do not yet know that external objects, false and unreal, are only [projections of] one’s own mind. Because it is hard to tame their minds, which are tainted with strong passions and blocked by hindrances, they should first learn to observe that all dharmas are only mind and consciousness. Although they are learning to believe and understand, because their roots of goodness are shallow, they are unable to advance; their evil afflictions cannot be subjugated gradually; and their minds are skeptical and timid. They are fearful of going down the three evil life-paths and of being reborn into the eight difficulties. They are fearful that they may not always encounter Buddhas or Bodhisattvas; that they may not be able to make offerings or hear the true Dharma; and that it would be hard for their faith in bodhi to bring them accomplishment. Those who have such doubts, fears, and various kinds of hindrances should, in all places and at all times, diligently say my name. If they achieve single-mindedness, their roots of goodness will flourish and their motivation will become intensely keen.
“Then they should observe that my dharma body and the dharma bodies of all Buddhas are in essence equal to their own, not different, not distinct. With neither birth nor death, the dharma body is complete with the four virtues: eternity, bliss, true self, and purity, totally worthy of being a refuge. They should also observe the appearances of their own body and mind, which are impermanent, painful, with no self, and impure, like illusions or conjurations, worthy of disgust. If they can learn to observe in this way, they will quickly develop the mind of pure faith, gradually diminishing their hindrances. Why? Because those who have learned to hear my name can also learn to hear the names of Buddhas [in worlds] in the ten directions. Those who have learned to make obeisance and offerings earnestly to me can also learn to make obeisance and offerings earnestly to Buddhas [in worlds] in the ten directions. They are called the ones who learn to hear profound Mahāyāna sūtras. They are called the ones who learn to uphold, copy, revere, and make offerings to profound Mahāyāna sūtras. They are called the ones who learn to accept and uphold, and read and recite, profound Mahāyāna sūtras. They are called the ones who learn to stay far away from the wrong views and not to malign the profound true meanings. They are called the ones who learn to have faith in and understanding of the ultimate, profound highest truth. They are called the ones who can annihilate their hindrances caused by sin. They are called the ones who will accumulate immeasurable merit. These people after death will not go down the evil life-paths or be reborn into the eight difficulties. They will hear the true Dharma again to cultivate faith and to train accordingly. They can also be reborn as they wish in pure Buddha Lands.
“Furthermore, if they wish to be reborn in a Pure Land somewhere, they should remember the name of the Buddha of that world. If they earnestly say His name with a single, undistracted mind, and make observations as described before, they will definitely be reborn in the Pure Land of that Buddha. Their roots of goodness will grow stronger, and they will quickly arrive at the spiritual level of no regress.
“Know that single-minded contemplation of the equality of the dharma bodies of Buddhas, as described before, is the supreme karma for developing one’s roots of goodness. Those who practice diligently will gradually head for the Samādhi of the One Action. Attaining this Samādhi of the One Action opens the mind of vast wondrous actions, and is called attaining a likeness of the Endurance in the Realization of the No Birth of Dharmas. Because they can hear my name, they also can hear the names of Buddhas [in worlds] in the ten directions. Because they can earnestly make obeisance and offerings to me, they also can earnestly make obeisance and offerings to Buddhas [in worlds] in the ten directions. Because they can hear profound Mahāyāna sūtras, they also can uphold, copy, revere, and make offerings to these sūtras. Because they can accept and uphold, and read and recite, profound Mahāyāna sūtras, they will not fear the profound, ultimate highest truth, nor will they malign it. [Other reasons] are that they have acquired the right views and are able to believe and understand them; that they will definitely annihilate the hindrances caused by sin; and that they have acquired an accumulation of immeasurable merit. Why? Because as the silent wisdom-knowledge of the differentiation-free bodhi mind arises, viable karmas and various kinds of vows and actions spontaneously manifest. Those who can hear my name will have firm faith and take beneficial actions. Those who can hear my name will even acquire the assurance not to desert the One Vehicle. However, if they recite my name with a muddled and tainted mind, this should not be called hearing my name. Their practice will not produce firm faith or understanding. They will, however, receive worldly good requitals, but not vast, profound, wonderful benefits. With a muddled and tainted mind, they will not be able to gain profound great benefits from all the good karmas they do.
“Good man, know that those who diligently practice dhyāna without appearance, as described before, will receive profound great benefits before long. They will gradually attain Buddhahood. The profound great benefits mean that they will acquire the Position of Firm Faith when they achieve the Endurance in Faith; that they will acquire the Position of Firm Dharma when they achieve the Endurance in Accord; and that they will acquire the Position of Authenticity when they achieve the Endurance in the Realization of the No Birth of Dharmas. Furthermore, they will achieve the Endurance in Faith because they can develop the Tathāgata character-type; they will achieve the Endurance in Conformity because they can understand Tathāgata actions; and they will achieve the Endurance in the Realization of the No Birth of Dharmas because they can engage in Tathāgata work.
“In brief, there are four reasons for one’s gradual attainment of Buddhahood. What are these four? First, one attains Buddhahood because one’s faith in the Dharma is complete. On the Ground of Character-Type, one definitely believes that dharmas, pure and equal, have neither birth nor death, and that there is nothing to wish for or seek. Second, one attains Buddhahood because one’s understanding of the Dharma is complete. On the Training Ground for Excellent Understanding, one has developed profound understanding of dharma nature and knows that Tathāgata work is neither constructed nor formed. One no longer sees the duality between saṁsāra and nirvāṇa because one has no fear. Third, one attains Buddhahood because one’s verification of the Dharma is complete. On the Ground of the Pure Mind, one has acquired the differentiation-free, silent dharma knowledge, and acquired inconceivable spontaneous karmas, because one no longer has the intention to seek. Fourth, one attains Buddhahood because one’s meritorious actions are complete. On the ultimate Bodhisattva Ground, one can remove all hindrances because the dream fabricated by ignorance has ended.
“Furthermore, we should know that there are three situations in practicing the worldly dhyāna with appearance. What are these three? First, without the power of the right faith and understanding, one can be greedy for the benefits of dhyānas and samādhis and become arrogant. Thus misled, one may fall back to seeking worldly benefits. Second, without the power of the right faith and understanding, one’s meditation can trigger biased decisions based on disgust. Out of fear of birth and death, one may fall back to the Two Vehicles. Third, with the power of the right faith and understanding, one can rely on the one true reality to practice intently the two observational ways, śamatha and vipaśyanā. Because one believes and understands that all dharmas are produced by one’s mind, like dreams or illusions, one will not be captivated by the benefits gained from worldly dhyānas. Nor will they fall back to seeking the worldly fruits in the Three Realms of Existence. Because they believe and know that saṁsāra in true reality is nirvāṇa, they will not, out of fear, fall back to seeking the Two Vehicles.
“Those who practice and learn dhyānas and samādhis should know that there are ten signs in ascending grade, which fully encompass the progress of meditation. They can help the student to succeed accordingly without mistakes or faults. What are these ten signs? First, the sign of facility in controlling thoughts. Second, the sign of desire to remain in a state. Third, the sign of clarity in a state and in entering or leaving it. Fourth, the sign of firmness in remaining in a state. Fifth, the sign of progress through skillful and intense contemplation. Sixth, the sign of comfort through gradual adjustment, joy, faith, and understanding, which remove doubts. Seventh, the sign of benefits brought by victorious progress in concentration that responds less to distraction. Eighth, the sign of success in remediation because of excellent merit acquired from enhanced clarity and firmness in meditation. Ninth, the sign of no mistakes or faults because one’s thoughts can manifest at will as corresponding meritorious karmas. Tenth, the sign of extraordinary command evidenced by adeptly entering and exiting the preceding nine states in sequence and at will. These are the ten successive signs that encompass the progress of meditation.”
Firm Faith Bodhisattva asked Earth Store Bodhisattva, “How do you skillfully expound the profound Dharma to help sentient beings discard their timidity and weakness?”
Earth Store Bodhisattva replied, “Good man, those who have just initiated their resolve to seek the Mahāyāna have not yet elicited faith, and are skeptical and timid in regard to the profound Dharma for attaining the unsurpassed bodhi. In that case, I always reveal the true meanings in a suitable way to comfort them, enabling them to discard their timidity and weakness. Therefore, I am called the good speaker of comforting words. How do I comfort them? Sentient beings with low capacity and a small mind, having heard that the unsurpassed Way is most victorious and most wondrous, activate their resolve out of greed for pleasure. Then they are concerned that seeking the unsurpassed bodhi would require them to accumulate immense merit and to carry out difficult actions and ascetic actions for delivering themselves and others. The goal can be achieved only by arduous endeavor through birth and death for a large number of kalpas. For this reason, their minds feel timid and weak.
“I will explain to them the meaning that all dharmas in their original nature are empty. In true reality, there is no self, neither self nor others, neither subject nor object, neither departure nor arrival, neither direction nor place, nor past, present, or future. I will further explain to them the eighteen emptinesses. Whether saṁsāra or nirvāṇa, all dharmas have no definite appearances that one can capture. I will also tell them that dharmas are like illusions or conjurations, like the moon in the water, like reflections in the mirror, like a gandharva city, like echoes in the valley, like mirages, like water bubbles, like dew, like lamplight, like distorted visions, like dreams, like lightning, and like clouds. One’s afflictions [that drive one’s] birth and death are weak in nature and easy to eradicate because they ultimately have no substance to be captured. They have never been born, and hence can never die. Their true nature being silence and stillness, dharmas are in nirvāṇa. Explanations such as these can shatter all the wrong views and one’s attachment to one’s body and mind, enabling one to discard one’s timidity and weakness.
“Moreover, there are other sentient beings that also feel timid and weak because they are unable to understand the tenets of the Tathāgata’s teachings. We should know that the tenets of the Tathāgata’s teachings are based on the one true reality that He has seen. They are the Way for one to discard the evils of birth, aging, illness, and death. They are the realization that the dharma body is the accumulation of immeasurable merit, eternally cool and changeless. The Tathāgata sees clearly that, within the bodies of all sentient beings, there are also such true, wondrous, and pure virtues, concealed by the darkness and defilements of ignorance. Consequently, sentient beings undergo immeasurable suffering in the long night of birth, aging, illness, and death. Invoking His mind of great lovingkindness and compassion, the Tathāgata wants to enable all sentient beings to end their suffering and to realize the dharma body, in order to enjoy bliss in the highest truth. The dharma body is apart from thinking and differentiation. It can be realized only if one can transform one’s false consciousness so that it no longer clings to illusions through thinking and memory. However, sentient beings delight in differentiating and clinging to dharmas. Because of their delusion, thinking, and imagination, they repeatedly undergo birth and death. Then the Tathāgata, wanting them to discard their thoughts of differentiation and fixation, explains that worldly dharmas do not truly exist and that their essence is ultimate emptiness. Even supra-worldly dharmas do not truly exist and their essence is also ultimate emptiness. An extensive explanation is provided in the eighteen emptinesses. Thus, He reveals to them that all dharmas are not apart from the essence of bodhi, which is neither existence nor extinction, neither nonexistence nor non-extinction, nor both existence and extinction; neither sameness nor difference, neither non-sameness nor non-difference, nor both sameness and difference. Bodhi does not have a single appearance to be captured because it is free from all appearances. Being apart from appearances, it cannot be captured by words. In the dharma of bodhi, there is neither a speaker of words nor a hearer that receives them. Bodhi cannot be known by thinking. In the dharma of bodhi, there is neither a subject that grasps nor an object that is grasped. It is free from the differentiation between the appearances of self and others. Thoughts of differentiation are false, not in accord [with bodhi].
“However, sentient beings with low capacity are unable to comprehend these explanations. They mistakenly believe that the unsurpassed bodhi and the dharma body of the Tathāgata are emptiness only, ultimately nothingness. Their minds, timid and weak, are fearful of ending up with nothing gained. They perceive cessation and extinction and hold the view of increase and decrease. Then they turn around to slander [the Buddha], disdaining themselves and others. I thereupon explain to them that the true nature of the Tathāgata’s dharma body is ‘not empty’ because it in essence is complete with immeasurable pure, meritorious karmas. Since time without a beginning, not by cultivation or formation, it has always been inherently perfect. The dharma body is also complete in the body of every sentient being, neither changing nor varying, neither increasing nor decreasing. Because such explanations will enable them to discard their timidity and weakness, they are called comforting words.
“Then there are foolish and obstinate sentient beings that, having heard such explanations, still remain timid and weak. Reasoning that the dharma body of the Tathāgata is originally perfect, not by cultivation or formation, they too think that there is nothing to gain, and feel timid and weak. Or they may fall into the wrong views, such as naturalism. I then further explain to them that, by doing all the good dharmas, they will develop and perfect the physical body of the Tathāgata, and acquire immeasurable merit, which will bring pure requital. Because such explanations will enable them to discard their timidity and weakness, they are called comforting words.
“The profound meanings I explain are in accord with true reality, without faults, because they are not contradictory. How do you know that they are not contradictory? The dharma body of the Tathāgata is non-verbal, apart from perception, thinking, and appearances, neither empty nor not empty. Although it cannot be revealed by words, according to the worldly truth, it can be reasonably described, through illusory causes and conditions, in relative terms with false names. Because the nature of the dharma body, neither empty nor not empty, is free from differentiation, free from the distinction between self and others, and free from all appearances, one can say that the essence of the dharma body is ultimate emptiness. When one’s mind is free from differentiation and thinking, it does not perceive a single appearance, nor does it know itself as something existent. Therefore, this meaning of emptiness is definitely in accord with true reality.
“Furthermore, the meaning of emptiness includes that, when one is free from differentiation and thinking, not a single appearance is there to be considered empty. Because true reality is revealed, it is said to be ‘not empty.’ Apart from consciousness and perception, without false appearances, true reality is forever neither changing nor varying. There is not a single appearance that can be destroyed or annihilated because true reality is apart from increase and decrease. Free from differentiation, true reality has been complete with the spontaneous karma of immeasurable merit since time without a beginning. Because it is never separated from such meritorious karma, it can be said to be ‘not empty.’ All sentient beings have such an accumulation of immeasurable merit, but it is concealed and obstructed by the darkness of their ignorance. Because they do not know or see what they have, they cannot acquire these merits and benefits. Then it is no different from not having them. Sentient beings do not have them because they do not know and see their dharma body. Its merits and benefits are not called the belongings of sentient beings because they cannot enjoy them. The only way to realize their dharma body is to carry out all good dharmas to surmount hindrances. Only then will sentient beings acquire its merits and benefits. That is why I say that doing all good dharmas will produce the physical body and the wisdom body of the Tathāgata. Good man, the profound meanings I explain are definitely true, free from contradiction. Know them as such.”
When Earth Store Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva was introducing such a superb, viable, profound Dharma Door, 10,000 koṭi sentient beings activated the anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi mind, standing in the Position of Firm Faith. Moreover, 98,000 Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas achieved the Endurance in the Realization of the No Birth of Dharmas. [Members of] the huge multitude each offered celestial incense and flowers to the Buddha and Earth Store Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva.
Then the Buddha told the multitudes, “You all should accept and uphold this Dharma Door and circulate it widely in your respective lands. Why? Because such a Dharma Door is hard to encounter, which can bring great benefits. One who has heard Earth Store Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva’s name and believes in his words will quickly discard all obstructive matters and attain the unsurpassed bodhi.”
Then the multitudes said in unison, “I will accept and uphold it, and circulate it in the world, never to dare forget.”
At that time Firm Pure Faith Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, what is the name of this Dharma Door, which is included in the Sūtra of the Six Faculties, pronounced by the Tathāgata? I should accept and uphold the tenets of this Dharma, and enable all in future times to hear them.”
The Buddha told Firm Pure Faith Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva, “This Dharma Door is called Detecting Good or Evil Karma and Requital. It is also called Annihilating Hindrances and Developing Pure Faith. It is also called Revealing the Profound Ultimate True Meaning for Facilitating the Progress of Those Who Seek the Mahāyāna. It is also called the Good Comforting Words for Enabling One to Discard Timidity and Weakness, in Order to Enter Quickly the Resolute Dharma Door of Firm Faith. You should accept and uphold these names and meanings.”
After the Buddha gave the names of this Dharma Door, all in the assembly rejoiced. They all believed in, accepted, and reverently carried out the teachings.
—Sūtra of Detecting Good or Evil Karma and Requital, Fascicle 2
Translated from the digital Chinese Canon (T17n0839)