This vast throng of spectators is in total awe of the Buddha, sitting majestically upon his royal Lion throne. As they circumambulate-round him clockwise seven times, they lay down at his feet a spectacular parasol (a canopy):
As soon as all these precious parasols had been laid down, suddenly, by the miraculous power of the Lord, they were transformed into a single precious canopy so great that it formed a covering for this entire billion-world galaxy. The surface of the entire billion-world galaxy was reflected in the interior of the great precious canopy, where the total content of this galaxy could be seen: limitless mansions of suns, moons, and stellar bodies; the realms of the devas, nagas, yaksas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, kimnaras, and mahoragas, as well as the realms of the four Maharajas; the king of mountains, Mound Sumeru; Mount Himadri, Mount Mucilinda, Mount Mahamucilinda, Mount Gandhamadana, Mount Ratnaparvata, Mount Kalaparvata, Mount Cakravada, Mount Mahacakravada; all the great oceans, rivers, bays torrents, streams, brooks, and springs; finally, all the villages, suburbs, cities, capitals, provinces, and wildernesses. All this could be clearly seen by everyone. And the voices of all the Buddhas of the ten directions could be heard proclaiming their teachings of the Dharma in all the worlds, the sounds reverberating in the space beneath the great precious canopy. At this vision of the magnificent miracle effected by the supernatural power of the Lord Buddha, the entire host was ecstatic, enraptured, astonished, delighted, satisfied, and filled with awe and pleasure. They all bowed down to the Tathagata, withdrew to one side with palms pressed together, and gazed upon him with fixed attention.
Billion-world galaxy(Skt-trisahasramahasahasralokadhatu): Robert Thurman’s note describes this cosmic wonder:
“Lit…three-thousand-great-thousand-world-realm. Each of these is composed of one thousand realms, each of which contains one thousand realms=one thousand to the third power=one billion worlds.”
Quite a mind conundrum when one considers Buddhist cosmology.
One of the young bodhisattvas present, Ratnakara (whom Thurman states has reached the tenth stage [Dharma cloud] of Bodhisattvahood), praises the Blessed One with a hymn and inquires about the nature of the Buddha-fields. The Buddha responds:
The Buddha said, “Noble sons, a buddha-field of bodhisattvas is a field of living beings. Why so? A bodhisattva embraces a buddha-field to the same extent that he causes the development of living beings. He embraces a buddha-field to the same extent that living beings become disciplined. He embraces a buddha-field to the same extent that, through entrance into a buddha-field, living beings are introduced to the buddha-gnosis. He embraces a buddha-field to the same extent that, through entrance into that buddha-field, living beings increase their holy spiritual faculties. Why so? Noble son, a buddha-field of bodhisattvas springs from the aims of living beings.
We can see that a Buddha-field is essentially one that is heavily influenced by a living Buddha—it is a Mind-being, a living idea or Dream of a Buddha—in this sense, YOU are a Dream of a living Buddha, whose field of influence encompasses your own Bodhi-Mind development; a Buddha-field is the nursery of the developing Bodhichild, through which a bodhisattva is spiritually developed through ten mystical stages leading to the mark of Tathagatahood, wherein this mystical-child becomes a member of the Tathata Family…essentially celebrating Mind’s Nirvana.
So, one could say that a Buddha-field is also a Mind-School…one that nurtures the developing gotra (Bodhi-seed) with all the attributes that constitute the self-realization of Noble Wisdom. Hence, the Blessed One commences to describe to Ratnakara all these noble attributes—empathically stating that “purity” is the noble mark and sign that a given Buddha has influenced such a Mind-field development:
The purity of his buddha-field reflects the purity of living beings; the purity of the living beings reflects the purity of his gnosis; the purity of his gnosis reflects the purity of his doctrine; the purity of his doctrine reflects the purity of his transcendental practice; and the purity of his transcendental practice reflects the purity of his own mind.
Next we have good ol’ Sariputra, as he is apt to do often in numerous Sutras, tossing in a monkey-wrench to gum-up the Buddha’s noble deliberations:
Thereupon, magically influenced by the Buddha, the venerable Sariputra had this thought: “If the buddha-field is pure only to the extent that the mind of the bodhisattva is pure, then, when Sakyamuni Buddha was engaged in the career of the bodhisattva, his mind must have been impure. Otherwise, how could this buddha-field appear to be so impure?”
He is saying that if the present saha-realm—which is a sad, soiled reality indeed—is somehow an indicative reflection of Sakyamuni Buddha’s influence…then his own Mind must surely be impure.
The Buddha uses the analogy of the sun and moon…asking if their noble light is somehow intrinsically impure because a blinded one cannot see it…or does the fault lie within the clouded mind of the blinded one himself? As Sariputra answers correctly that the fault lies within the soiled mind of the blind, the Blessed One says that, in like fashion, those who somehow perceive this Buddha-field to be impure is a direct result from their own blinding ignorance (avidya) and not the intrinsic purity of the field.
Next we are treated to a nice little dharma-battle between Sariputra and a great Brahma named Sikhin—who commences by scolding him:
Then the Brahma Sikhin said to the venerable Sariputra, “Reverend Sariputra, do not say that the buddha-field of the Tathagata is impure. Reverend Sariputra, the buddhafield of the Tathagata is pure. I see the splendid expanse of the buddha-field of the Lord Sakyamuni as equal to the splendor of, for example, the abodes of the highest deities.
Sariputra fires back with, yeah, right…you see splendor everywhere, yet I can detect all the highs and the lows within this Saha-realm…the good AND the bad…and it really stinks! Are we on the same page, man???
But the Brahma spits back with:
Brahma Sikhin replied, “The fact that you see such a buddha-field as this as if it were so impure, reverend Sariputra, is a sure sign that there are highs and lows in your mind and that your positive thought in regard to the buddha-gnosis is not pure either. Reverend Sariputra, those whose minds are impartial toward all living beings and whose positive thoughts toward the buddha-gnosis are pure see this buddha-field as perfectly pure.
What happens next simply has to be the most fun-packed action sequence in the whole of sutra-literature…in order to quiet-down this dharma-battle mess before it goes even further:
Thereupon the Lord touched the ground of this billion-world-galactic universe with his big toe, and suddenly it was transformed into a huge mass of precious jewels, a magnificent array of many hundreds of thousands of clusters of precious gems, until it resembled the universe of the Tathagata Ratnavyuha, called Anantagunaratnavyuha. Everyone in the entire assembly was filled with wonder, each perceiving himself seated on a throne of jeweled lotuses.
I just love that image of the Buddha’s big-toe stirring around this whole billion-world enterprise like it was some kind of galactic stew. It then becomes transformed into an all pervasive treasure-chest with everyone present perceiving themselves seated on a majestically jeweled lotus flower. The Blessed One uses this apt image to indicate that it all boils down to one thing—what the Mind perceives becomes its own reality. Sure, if one focuses on shit—then ones perception of the Buddha-field will be a most smelly one indeed. On the other hand, if one remains prior to all the “bull-shit”, then the Buddha-field will empower one to transcend all the crap of samsara, (it’s all just dust in the wind) focusing instead on the absolute splendor and purity of the Dharmakaya Itself.
Having now been purified from all their previous improper mind-conceptions of just what constitutes a purified field of a Tathagata, this chapter comes to an end as the assembly cleanses their Dharma-eye anew.