14 - Perfect Peace Lies in Freedom from Characteristic Distinctions
Upon the occasion of hearing this discourse Subhūti had an interior realization of its meaning and was moved to tears. Whereupon he addressed Buddha thus: It is a most precious thing, World-Honored One, that you should deliver this supremely profound discourse. Never have I heard such an exposition since of old my eye of wisdom first opened. World-Honored One, if anyone listens to this discourse in faith with a pure, lucid mind, he will thereupon conceive an idea of fundamental reality. We should know that such a one establishes the most remarkable virtue. World-Honored One, such an idea of fundamental reality is not, in fact, a distinctive idea; therefore the Tathāgata teaches: "Idea of fundamental reality" is merely a name.
World-Honored One, having listened to this discourse, I receive and retain it with faith and understanding. This is not difficult for me, but in ages to come, in the last five hundred years, if there be men coming to hear this discourse who receive and retain it with faith and understanding, they will be persons of most remarkable achievement. Wherefore? Because they will be free from the idea of an ego entity, free from the idea of a personality, free from the idea of a being, and free from the idea of a separated individuality. And why? Because the distinguishing of an ego entity is erroneous. Likewise the distinguishing of a personality, or a being, or a separated individuality is erroneous. Consequently those who have left behind every phenomenal distinction are called buddhas all.
Buddha said to Subhuūti: Just as you say! If anyone listens to this discourse and is filled with neither alarm nor awe nor dread, be it known that such a one is of remarkable achievement. Wherefore? Because, Subhūti, the Tathāgata teaches that the first perfection [the perfection of charity] is not, in fact, the first perfection: such is merely a name.
Subhūti, the Tathāgata teaches likewise that the perfection of patience is not the perfection of patience: such is merely a name. Why so? It is shown thus, Subhūti: When the Raja of Kalinga mutilated my body, I was at that time free from the idea of an ego entity, a personality, a being, and a separated individuality. Wherefore? Because then, when my limbs were cut away piece by piece, had I been bound by the distinctions aforesaid, feelings of anger and hatred would have been aroused within me. Subhūti, I remember that long ago, sometime during my last five hundred mortal lives, I was an ascetic practicing patience. Even then was I free from those distinctions of separated selfhood. Therefore, Subhūti, bodhisattvas should leave behind all phenomenal distinctions and awaken the thought of the consummation of incomparable enlightenment by not allowing the mind to depend upon notions evoked by the sensible world -- by not allowing the mind to depend upon notions evoked by sounds, odors, flavors, touch contacts, or any qualities. The mind should be kept independent of any thoughts that arise within it. If the mind depends upon anything, it has no sure haven. This is why Buddha teaches that the mind of a bodhisattva should not accept the appearances of things as a basis when exercising charity. Subhūti, as bodhisattvas practice charity for the welfare of all living beings, they should do it in this manner. Just as the Tathāgata declares that characteristics are not characteristics, so he declares that all livings beings are not, in fact, living beings.
Subhūti, the Tathāgata is he who declares that which is true, he who declares that which is fundamental, he who declares that which is ultimate. He does not declare that which is deceitful nor that which is monstrous. Subhūti, that truth to which the Tathāgata has attained is neither real nor unreal.
Subhūti, if a bodhisattva practices charity with mind attached to formal notions he is like a man groping sightless in the gloom; but a bodhisattva who practices charity with mind detached from any formal notions is like a man with open eyes in the radiant glory of the morning, to whom all kinds of objects are clearly visible.
Subhūti, if there be good men and good women in future ages, able to receive, read, and recite this discourse in its entirety, the Tathāgata will clearly perceive and recognize them by means of his buddha-knowledge; and each one of them will bring immeasurable and incalculable merit to fruition.