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(Tu-shun (557-640), a specialist in the Hua-yen (Avatamsaka) Austra, became the first patriarch of the Hua-yen school of Chinese Buddhism. He is remembered as a monk with exceptional healing abilities who lived close to the peasants. Translation by Thomas Cleary)

Question: Things being thus, what about knowledge?

Answer: Knowledge accords with things, being in one and the same realm, made by conditions, tacitly conjoining, without rejecting anything, suddenly appearing, yet not without before and after. Therefore the sutra says, “The sphere of the universal eye, the pure body, I now will expound; let people listen carefully.” By way of explanation, the “universal eye” is the union of knowledge and reality, all at once revealing many things. This makes it clear that reality is known to the knowledge of the universal eye only and is not the sphere of any other knowledge. The “sphere” means things. This illustrates how the many things interpenetrate like the realm of Indra’s net of jewels – multiplied and remultiplied ad infinitum. The pure body illustrates how all things, as mentioned before, simultaneously enter each other. Ends and beginnings, being collectively formed by conditional origination, are impossible to trace to a basis – the seeing mind has nothing to rest on.

Now the celestial jewel net of Kanishka, or Indra, Emperor of Gods, is called the net of Indra. This imperial net is made all of jewels: because the jewels are clear, they reflect each other’s images, appearing in each other’s reflections upon reflections, ad infinitum, all appearing at once in one jewel, and in each one it is so – ultimately there is no going or coming. 

Now for the moment let us turn to the southwest direction and pick a jewel and check it. This jewel can show the reflections of all the jewels all at once – and just as this is so of this jewel, so it is of every other jewel: the reflection is multiplifed and remultiplifed over and over endlessly. These infinitely multiplying jewel reflections are all in one jewel and show clearly – the others do not hinder this. If you sit in one jewel, then you are sitting in all the jewels too. And the reverse applies to the totality if you follow the same reasoning. Since in one jewel you go into all the jewels without leaving this one jewel, so in all jewels you enter one jewel without leaving this one jewel.

Question: If you say that one enters all the jewels in one jewel without ever leaving this one jewel, how is it possible to enter all the jewels?

Answer: It is precisely by not leaving this one jewel that you can enter all the jewels. If you left this one jewel to enter all the jewels, you couldn’t enter all the jewels. Why? Because outside this jewel there are no separate jewels.

Question: If there are no jewels outside this one jewel, then this net is made of one jewel. How can you say then that it’s made of many jewels tied together?

Answer: It is precisely because there is only one jewel that many can be joined to form a net. Why? Because this one jewel alone forms the net – that is, if you take away this jewel there will be no net.

Question: If there is only one jewel, how can you speak of tying it into a net?

Answer: Tying many jewels to form a net is itself just one jewel. Why? “One” is the aspect of totality, containing the many in its formation. Since all would not exist if there were not one, this net is therefore made by one jewel. The all entering the one can be known by thinking about it in this way.

Question: Although the jewel in the southwest contains all the jewels in the ten directions completely, without remainder, there are jewels in every direction. How can you say then that the net is made of just one jewel?

Answer: All the jewels in the ten directions are in totality the one jewel of the southwest. Why? The jewel in the southwest is all the jewels of the ten directions. If you don’t believe that one jewel in the southwest is all the jewels in the ten directions, just put a dot on the jewel in the south-west. When one jewel is dotted, there are dots on all the jewels in all directions. Since there are dots on all the jewels in the ten directions, we know that all the jewels are one jewel. If anyone says that all the jewels in the ten directions are not one jewel in the southwest, could it be that one person simultaneously put dots on all the jewels in the ten directions? Even allowing the universal dotting of all the jewels in the ten directions, they are just one jewel. Since it is thus, using this one as beginning, the same is so when taking others first – multiplied over and over boundlessly, each dot is the same. It is obscure and hard to fathom: when one is complete, all is done. Such a subtle metaphor is applied to things to help us think about them, but things are not so; a simile is the same as not a simile – they resemble each other in a way, so we use it to speak of. What does this mean? These jewels only have their reflected images containing and entering each other – their substances are separate. Things are not like this, because their whole substance merges completely. The book on natural origination in the Hua-yen Sutrasays, “In order to benefit sentient beings and make them all understand, nonsimiles are used to illustrate real truth. Such a subtle teaching as this is hard to hear even in immeasurable eons; only those with perseverance and wisdom can hear of the matrix of the issue of thusness.” The sutra says, “Nonsimiles are used as similes. Those who practice should think of this in accord with the similes.”

Vairocana Buddha’s past practices
Made oceans of Buddha-fields all pure.
Immeasurable, innumerable, boundless,
He freely permeates all places.
The reality-body of the Buddha is inconceivable;
Formless, signless, without comparison,
It manifests material forms for the sake of beings.
In the ten directions they receive its teaching,
Nowhere not manifest.
In the atoms of all Buddha-fields
Vairocana manifests self-subsistent power,
Promising the thundering sound of the ocean of Buddhahood
To tame all the species of sentient beings.

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