THE SHURANGAMA SUTRA
The Fifty Skandha-Demon States
Explained by the
Venerable Master Hua in 1968
Further, Ananda, in this state of samadhi, the good person sees the disintegration of the form skandha and understands the feeling skandha. At that time he has a sublime vision and is overwhelmed with gratitude. In this situation, he suddenly evinces tremendous courage. His mind is bold and keen. He resolves to equal all Buddhas and says he can transcend three asamkhyeyas of eons in a single thought
Further, Ananda, in this state of samadhi, the good person, which includes all good people who are cultivating the Way, sees the disintegration of the form skandha and understands the feeling skandha. Among the five skandhas, he knows that the form skandha is gone, and he is quite clear about the feeling skandha. At that time he has a sublime vision and is overwhelmed with gratitude. A very special and rare vision appears in his mind, and he feels excessively grateful for it. However, excess is as bad as insufficiency. There is little difference between going too far and not going far enough. Neither is in accord with the Middle Way. For example, while traveling, if you go beyond your destination, it is the same as if you had not arrived at all.
In this situation, in this state of samadhi, he suddenly evinces tremendous courage. His mind is bold and keen, fearlessly vigorous. He resolves to equal all Buddhas, saying, "The Buddha and I are the same." And he says he can transcend three asamkhyeyas (limitless numbers) of eons in a single thought. He says that he can transcend the first, second, and third asamkhyeyas of eons in the space of a single thought.
Therefore, he says he is a Buddha. Not only does he say he is a Buddha, he says everyone is a Buddha. Such a person has fallen prey to wrong knowledge and views. It's true that everyone is potentially a Buddha, but one has to cultivate in order to realize Buddhahood. Even when one cultivates, it is not possible to become a Buddha in a single thought. It takes a long time. Although the time can be shortened if one understands the Buddhadharma and practices according to it, one still cannot attain Buddhahood in a single thought. This person cultivates, but he lacks wisdom and does not have a Good and Wise Advisor to instruct him. Although he works hard at cultivation, he develops wrong views along the way. Seeing that such a long time has passed without his becoming a Buddha, he simply states that he is a Buddha. This is the experience of "praising oneself as the equal of the Buddhas" that occurs during the breakdown of the feeling skandha. He says he is the same as all Buddhas. Actually, with that one mistaken thought, he is already possessed by a demon.
This is called "being too anxious to excel in cultivation." If he understands, then there is no error. This experience does not indicate sagehood. If he realizes that and remains unconfused, then after a time it will disappear. But if he considers himself a sage, then a demon of insanity will enter his mind. As soon as he sees someone, he will boast about himself. He will become extraordinarily haughty, to the point that he recognizes no Buddha above him and no people below him. Lacking proper samadhi, he will certainly fall.
In the lecture on the Shurangama Sutra, we have now reached the very important section on the fifty kinds of deviant states caused by the five skandhas. If people who cultivate do not understand these fifty skandha demons, they will easily go astray in their cultivation. If you can recognize the states of these skandha demons, then you will not get carried away with reckless boasting and assume that you are an extraordinary individual. Therefore, I invite you to encourage your relatives and friends to come listen to this section on the fifty skandha demons, so they will know about the states which occur in cultivation.
This is called "being too anxious to excel in cultivation." This state occurs as a result of your efforts in cultivation. Because of this overexertion resulting from transformations within your own nature, you become courageous. There is nothing wrong with courage and vigor if you use them to advance in your cultivation of the Buddhadharma. But you must not become conceited and say, "Oh! I'm a Buddha myself." So you're a Buddha? The Buddha spoke the Three Treasuries and the Twelve Divisions of the Canon. How many Treasuries and Divisions have you spoken? You don't even understand them, yet you say you are a Buddha. Isn't that absurd? The Buddha spoke the entire Canon, and you haven't spoken even a single Treasury or Division of the Canon, so how can you claim that you have become a Buddha? Even if you could explain the Treasuries and Divisions and understand their principles, at best you could call yourself a disciple of the Buddha, not a Buddha. But this person, feeling that everyone in the world reveres the Buddha, wants to be a Buddha, too, so that after he dies, people will make offerings to him. Actually, after death he will be buried in the ground. He will turn to dust and nothing will be left of him.
If he understands, then there is no error. It is all right to have such courage, as long as you understand that it is merely a state and does not mean you have become a sage. This experience does not indicate sagehood. If he realizes that and remains unconfused then after a time it will disappear.
But if he considers himself a sage, saying, "Oh, this means I've become a Buddha!" then a demon- of insanity will enter his mind. So you see, if you do not even recognize the fifty skandha demons, how can you be- come a Buddha? This demon is one of arrogance, pride, and conceit. It bores into his mind and takes possession of him, driving out his soul. The demon king takes over and acts as his soul. As soon as he sees someone, no matter who the person is, he will boast about himself and how he is right and everyone else is wrong. He denigrates others to exalt himself
They are all in the wrong, and he alone is honored; he thinks he has be come a Buddha! He will become extraordinarily haughty toward everyone, to the point that he recognizes no Buddha above him. There are no Buddhas above. Why? Because he's a Buddha himself. And he sees no people below him. Then what does he see? He says that everyone is a Buddha, that he himself is a Buddha, and that there is no Buddha above him. He himself is Buddha, and in the future everyone will become a Buddha along with him. That is why he sees no people below. Lacking the proper state ofsamadhi, he will certainly fall.
(to be continue)