Essence of the Infinite Life Sutra – Excerpt Twenty-One

They completely realize that all dharmas are like a dream, an illusion, or an echo.

“Echo” refers to reverberated sounds. If we shout in a valley, there will be echoes. This excerpt sentence conveys the same meaning as this teaching in the Diamond Sutra: “All conditioned existences are like a dream, an illusion, a bubble, or a shadow.” Both explain the truth of all phenomena in the universe.

All phenomena exist but they do not truly exist because their existence does not last forever but changes from moment to moment. That is why phenomena are said to be impermanent.

Therefore, we can use and enjoy the phenomena but should not be attached to them. When we are attached, we will suffer. All afflictions, evil karmas, and retributions arise from attachment.

All phenomena, including our bodies, are impermanent. Therefore, we should also not be attached to our bodies; where the body is concerned, we should just accord with conditions. If we become ill, we can cure the illness with a pure mind and we will recover. The body changes according to the mind. When the mind is pure, all the organs in the body will naturally work properly—there will be no illnesses.

This excerpt is to teach bodhisattvas to have true wisdom, to truly and thoroughly awaken, and to realize that all phenomena are not real. If one is truly awakened, one will naturally be unperturbed in any situation and one can enter very deep meditative concentration—being unperturbed is achieving meditative concentration. When one’s mind is not perturbed, one will truly understand all phenomena. This understanding is wisdom. Being free of discrimination and attachment is meditative concentration. When we have both meditative concentration and wisdom, meditative concentration and wisdom are perfect and complete. This is where we start to cultivate meditative concentration and wisdom. This is real.

The Diamond Sutra says: “All conditioned existences are like a dream, an illusion, a bubble, or a shadow, like a dewdrop or a flash of lightning. Contemplate them thus.” “Dewdrop” refers to the morning dew. “A flash of lightning” exists for an extremely short time. “Contemplate them thus” means that this view is correct and is the truth. In all situations, when one’s mind has no thoughts of gain or loss, true or false, good or bad, right or wrong, and beneficial or harmful—one’s mind will be completely pure.

The Buddha talked about true and false, right and wrong, good and bad, and beneficial and harmful. Who are these teachings for? For ordinary beings. For those who cannot see through to the truth. When one cannot see through, one has attachment. When there is any single thought of discrimination or attachment, in everything there is truth and falsehood, there is right and wrong, and there is good and bad. In his aim to guide people to end wrongdoings and practice virtuous conduct, the Buddha had no choice but to use expedient teaching.

We should know that the Buddha, in his expedient teaching, used diametrically opposed principles. This duality helps us to not fall into the Three Evil Paths. We should first keep ourselves in the Three Good Paths and avoid falling into the Three
Evil Paths. This is, however, not the true purpose of the Buddha’s teaching. The true purpose is to help all beings transcend the Three Realms and attain Buddhahood in one lifetime. But because the beings cannot accept this, the Buddha used expedient teaching. As to the true teaching, there is no teaching to expound on.