Commentary On Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva

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Commentary On Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva

Bảo Anh Lạc-22
COMMENTARY ON
AVALOKITEŚVARA BODHISATTVA
(Fourth Edition)
Dr. Bhikkhunī Giới Hương
Nhà Xuất Bản Ananda Viet Foundation



CONTENTS

 

On the Fourth Edition
Foreword
Preface
I.     General Introduction of Avalokiteśvara                                                      
II.    Hearing and Reflecting Method                                                                              
III.   Thirty-two Sambhogakāya                             
IV.   Fourteen Kinds of Fearlessness                                                                        
V.     Twenty-five Bodhisattvas Present Their Methods     
VI.   The Perfectly Penetrated Ear-Organ                                                            
VII.  The Methods of Pure Land and Hearing-nature               
VIII. Conclusion                                                                                                                                            
Glossary
References     
Works
Buddhist Music Albums

 

ON THE FOURTH EDITION

This is a revised and enlarged edition of the Commentary on Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, which was first published seven years ago. The second and third editions were printed in 2012 and 2014 at Phương Đông Publishing. This edition was also printed at Hồng Đức Publishing, HCM City, Việt Nam. In presenting this edition, I have maintained the contents in the first edition. However, for the sake of clarity, a few changes have been made, errors have been corrected, the equivalent Pāli and Sanskrit terms have been added to the glossary, and a summary, as well as discussion questions, have been added at the end of each chapter.

I would like to gratefully acknowledge with special thanks Bhikkhunī Viên Ngộ, Bhikkhunī Viên Quang, Hisayo Suzuki, and Pamela C. Kirby (English editors who worked as my assistants for English translating, proofreading, design, and publication).

Dr. Bhikkhunī Giới Hương    
University of California, Riverside   
March 7, 2019

 

 

Foreword

 By the Most Venerable Như Điển

 

The ancient wise ones often said, “The learning ocean is vast without shoreline, diligence is the shoreline, the blue sky is the destination, determination is the stairway to it.” After the coffin lid closes, we do not need to learn any more; however, if we are still alive, we must learn many things. We must learn what needs to be learned so that our understanding is enriched.     

At the end of 2017, Venerable Bhikkhunī Giới Hương in the United States asked me to read and edit the contents of Rebirth Views in the Śūraṅgama Sūtra, which I did. This time, she requested that I work on the Commentary on Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva.

I am on the way to Saint Petersburg and Moscow in Russia to attend the inauguration of Thảo Đường Pagoda and I took advantage of this opportunity to do Buddhist works in the daytime, while I read, corrected spelling, and wrote this introduction at night.

The book has six chapters. The first one introduces the history of Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva in Vietnam, China, and Korea following the tradition of Mahāyāna Buddhism. It has many simple-to-understand stories, but when proceeding to the second, third, fourth, and fifth chapters, readers have to use their intellect to explore them, because the author has incorporated the penetrating hearing method of Avalokiteśvara to form this work.

The content of this work directly relates to the Śūraṅgama Sūtra, especially to the twenty-five bodhisattvas presenting their own ways of awakening. The author has skillfully incorporated the Śūraṅgama Sūtra into the Commentary on Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, which helps readers to have the opportunity to get acquainted with both works. The author explains emptiness (Skt. śūnyatā; Pāli, suññatā) in detail, making it possible for us to read with great pleasure.

With regard to the section on Mahāsthāmaprāpta Bodhisattva practicing the recitation of Amitābha Buddha’s name, we find that the author has ingeniously incorporated Pure Land views to introduce the practice to readers here and disseminate this Pure Land idea.

Mañjuśrī Bodhisattva finally chose to listen to the nature inside the mind, the method used by Avalokiteśvara. Among the twenty-five bodhisattvas’ methods, this is the best because it matches the saha people’s capacity Because Ānanda just focused on listening, learning, and understanding, he lacked the practice to awaken completely. At that time, Ānanda only attained the first stage of awakening and was a stream-enterer. He failed to overcome the outflows (Skt. āśrava; Pāli, āsava), although other bhikkhus or bhikkhunīs in the Saṅgha were able to attain penetration by Avalokiteśvara’s hearing method.

Venerable Upāli, who sought to find his own nature, also surpassed the eight princes to renounce first, even though the eight princes came to see the Buddha before him. These eight had to go through a week filtering their ego (Skt. & Pāli, māna) and arrogance (Skt. & Pāli, atimāna) as proud princes of the Kapilavastu kingdom to adopt the Saṅgha lifestyle. Therefore, the ancient wise ones made a verse to praise the virtue of Venerable Upāli:

Becoming a monk before eight princes
Enlightening the perfect penetration in the Śūraṅgama
Assembly
Spreading the Vinaya of śrāvaka-yāna
From here, the Buddha Dharma flourishes.

Regarding the full text, as well as the meaning of this book, the author wants to introduce the practice from gradual to instant enlightenment, namely, śamatha (stillness), samāpatti (contemplation), and dhyāna (concentration). If a practitioner is going from the gradual to the instant enlightenment process, he or she can transform alaiya consciousness to be the Great Mirror Wisdom to win perfect enlightenment.

I would like to introduce this valuable book to readers from every corner. In my opinion, if you read this Avalokiteśvara book first, you should also read the author’s other book, Rebirth Views in the Śūraṅgama Sūtra. These books will complement each other regarding the search for the true mind.

Conversely, if you read the book Rebirth Views in the Śūraṅgama Sūtra first, you should also read this book, Commentary on Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, so that both significant and realistic perspectives are fulfilled mutually.

I came to know that Venerable Bhikkhunī Giới Hương is translating both books into English to serve English readers. This is not a simple task, because from my perspective, foreigners may find it complicated to understand and practice emptiness and the Amitābha essence. But with the responsibility of being a professor at Vietnam Buddhist University with a PhD and an English literature degree, she has attempted to accomplish works in both Vietnamese and English languages, despite being busy with many duties. How extraordinary this is! I therefore hope that you try to read from the first page to the last page, for your own sake as well as the sake of others.

Most Venerable Như Điển
Founding Abbot of Viên Đức Monastery, Hannover
Viên Đức Monastery, Ravensburg, Germany

Preface

Avalokiteśvara is a female bodhisattva. There are many female Buddhists (upāsikā), but those who become sages or Buddhas are scarce.

According to the Southern Buddhist tradition (Theravāda), there exists the Therīgāthā (Songs of the Elder Nuns), which consists of seventy-three stories about the lives, cultivation, strenuous effort, and realized experiences of the elder nuns who were female arahants or on the way to arahantship. From accounts in the Buddhist Mahāyāna tradition, there are many sūtras related to several female bodhisattvas, such as Mahāsthāmaprāpta and Avalokiteśvara. The latter is assumed to be the most unique as she is the Great Compassionate Mother. She endows sentient beings with pleasure and saves them from misfortune; in particular, she takes sounds as her contemplative object and deeply listens to sentient beings crying from the suffering in life. Thus, in the mind of every Buddhist, she is a perfect symbol of the Compassionate Goddess in Buddhism.

Those who are inclined to the feminine loving mother’s tenderness and aspire to get free from suffering and gain happiness put their trust in worship of Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva.

The boundless love of Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva is comparable to the love of the mother in a family, the gentlest of all. She no longer incarnates as a Buddha or a bodhisattva residing high in the sky but appears in our popular belief as a gentle mother who soothes her childrens’ suffering with her hands. If these things can be done, Buddhism in general and Buddhist compassion (karuṇā) in particular will manifest in real life. Only a great mother with much thinking (84,000 heads), with penetrating eyes (84,000 eyes), and with innumerable means (84,000 hands), who is full of love for sentient beings, is ready to save people from a sea of suffering, can bring warm comfort and inspire people to practice compassion, equality, selflessness, and altruism. Buddhism is a compassionate religion, of which Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva is the symbol of the Compassionate Goddess. Her outstanding power can save sentient beings from seven disasters and exterminate the three poisons, namely, greed (abhijjhā, visamalobha), anger (byāpāda, dosa), and ignorance (avijjā), satisfy two wishes (having a baby girl or baby boy), embody thirty-two manifestations, and make use of fourteen methods to preach the doctrine.

In the Śūraṅgama Samādhi Sūtra, the Buddha told Maṅjusrī Bodhisattva to choose an appropriate method for human beings in the saha world to cultivate the way. Twenty-five sages rose in turn and presented their own ways of attaining enlightenment. Maṅjusrī Bodhisattva chose Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva’s universally penetrating hearing method as the best one because living beings are easily subjected to sound. Realizing that the Śūraṅgama Sūtra is exquisite with profound meanings, I made up my mind to compile a book about the context and the contents of the gradual twenty-five saints’ expositions, in which the emphasis is on the method of universally penetrating hearing. My work concentrates on Quan Âm Quảng Trần (Commentary on Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, translated into Vietnamese by Bhikhunī Bảo Giác) and on Chapters V and VI from the Śūraṅgama Sūtra (translated into Vietnamese by Upāsaka Tâm Minh). In this book, I also would like to introduce the life, origin, and meanings, as well as other items related to the titles of Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva. For this reason, the present work is called Commentary on Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva (Quan Âm Quảng Trần). “Quảng” means “extensive” and “Trần” means “exposition.” This book makes an attempt to comment on and explain the wondrous attributes of Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva in order to recommend the cultivation of the way.

I sincerely pay homage to our Venerable Master Hải Triều Âm, who has instructed me on how to comprehend the deep meaning of Mahāyāna sūtras, particularly the Śūraṅgama Sūtra, with simple examples and words from her actual practices and experiences. May the merits and virtues gained from this work be transferred to our master and all living beings. May all beings start out to practice the method of returning to the hearing and entering the stream of the self nature of listening ability, where they can detach the external sound from what is heard.

The stainless and pure light
Of the sun of wisdom eliminates all darkness
The wonderful method of the listening ability
Illuminating the whole world.
Profound tranquility, wonderful insight, and perfect  penetration in the present,
Temporarily penetrating and practicing the hearing-
nature in vajra samādhi.

 

I am looking forward to all good, knowing friends’ instructions for improving my work in future editions. My deep thanks for all kinds of guidance.

Devotedly paying homage to Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva of great compassion and the universally penetrating listening.

Dr. Bhikkhunī Giới Hương
Hương Sen Temple

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