Preliminary Reflection: The Surangama Sutra


Cultivation of the Bodhi-mind is impossible without having a Sambodhic-Spirit that is first nurtured through Deep Samadhis; likewise Samadhis never reaches maturity without determined penetration through layers of accumulated habit energy leaking incessantly from the Alaya-receptacle. The Surangama Sutra is a Mind-manual that best delineates the process wherein both cultivation and Samadhi are procured and then employed to mine the Prajña-storehouse of Noble Wisdom. The procurement is initiated via a careful, meticulous, and precise surgery that peels back layer after layer of defiled garbha that clings like a cancerous scab across the face of Pure-Mind. Ānanda serves as the patient and the Tathagata is the brilliant surgeon who operates on his clouded-Alayic-clogged-mind thus healing and revealing the pure tissues of one’s inherent Buddha-nature. At times the surgery will appear tedious and boring for any rabid-reader who tries to skim through the Sutra without slowing-down their monkey-mind that interminably yearns for immediate sensate gratification. The Buddhadharma is not some kind of cheap-grace that offers instant enlightenment. It demands proper cultivation along the way and years of devoted Sutra study and disciplined dhyana. Like one mining for pure-gold it takes effort and a determined spirit that will not buckle under the least sign of difficulty, but resolutely works hard to win the dharma-prize of the marvelous mani-pearl of Noble Wisdom.

The Surangama Sutra also reveals that the closer one gets to proper realization of the Bodhi-mind that spiritual forces will be at work to forestall and discourage that noble-attempt. There are indeed legions of demons along the way:

“This sutra explains fifty kinds of “skandha demons”. Actually there are many, many demons: heavenly demons, earth demons, human demons, ghost demons, and weird demons. Heavenly demons are the demon-kings in the heavens who come to disturb your dhyana concentration. Earth demons that dwell on the earth, human demons, ghost demons, weird demons, and strange creatures also all come to disturb your dhyana concentration.” (From the intro of Vol 1 of the Sutra by the Buddhist Text Translation Society).

Of course the modern-materialistic mind would deny the existence of these demons, not realizing the fact that it is itself a member of the demon’s own family. Even when one “decides to leave the family of demons, cultivate dhyana concentration, end birth and death, and break through the turning wheel, the demons are still fond of you. They love you and can’t let you go. Therefore they come to bother your spirit and disturb your dhyana concentration.” (ibid) Like Ānanda discovered, it is only through cultivating Samadhi that the demons can be defeated. Let this be reinforced again: it is ONLY through disciplined dhyana (Deep-Samadhis) that the demon’s spell can be broken. Most people just carry on willy-nilly with their obtuse materialistic minds completely numb and unaware just how much they continually (through endless kalpas) give birth to the demons own children and grandchildren. Even Shakamuni Buddha himself was tempted before attaining Undivided Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi:

“Shakyamuni Buddha accomplished the Way beneath the Bodhi tree. He sat there for forty-nine days, and then one evening, he saw a star and awakened to the Way. “Strange indeed, strange indeed, strange indeed,” he said, “all living beings have the Buddha-nature. All can become Buddhas.” However, before he had accomplished Buddhahood, a heavenly demon came to test him. It transformed into a beautiful woman who came before the Buddha and spoke seductively, trying to get him to abandon his cultivation and marry her instead. But the Buddha, from within his samadhi, was not moved by the sight of this exquisite creature. He just thought, “You think you are really beautiful, but actually you are an old hag. Countless wrinkles line your face and from your eyes and nose flow filthy tears and mucus. There is snot in your nose and phlegm and saliva in your mouth. Your whole body is filthy, and yet you still come and try to cheat me.” The Buddha contemplated this thought from within Samadhi and transformed the demon’s power so that the demon turned into an old woman. Her hair turned white, her teeth fell out, and her nose began to run with snot. She looked wretched. “Look at yourself,” the Buddha told the demon. The demon looked and was so ashamed that she ran away. Many such demons came to test the Buddha, but the Buddha was never turned. Since he was not turned by the demons, he accomplished the Buddha-Way.” (ibid)

The Surangama Sutra is truly a wonder to behold. It does take effort to read, study, and digest, and your spirit WILL be challenged…but the dharma-rewards are well-worth faithfully taking the journey. Not only for your edification, but also and more importantly, freeing your spirit from the karmic-field of endless dukkha.

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