Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Golden Light Sutra - my interpretation

I would like to share with you some interesting facts on The Golden Light Sutra from my own observation and analysis.

1. This is the sutra in which we learn the practice of animal liberation is extolled. There are 2 chapters on this: one, Chapter on Hungry Tigress, and Chapter on the Thousand Fish. In the chapter on thousand fish tells us there are 2 types of animal liberation: mundane (saving them from death by putting more water into the lake) and supramundane (releasing them from their animal state by sinking himself into the water and reciting the name of the Tathagata; the fish all died but they became gods in the heavenly realms).

In the chapter of the hungry tigress, the tigress did not have to kill to eat. Anyway, it was too weak to hunt. Mahasattva did not want to let the tigress incur more bad karma of killing if he jumped down and did not die. So, he made sure he actually will die upon jumping down. Preventing animals from having to kill for their meat, i.e. give them dead meat, is a form of animal liberation since you are preventing them from incurring more killing karma.

2. This is the sutra that involves all the 6 types of sentient beings – from humans (all the human kings mentioned in the stories, the merchant, the medical doctor, etc), higher Heaven gods (Goddess Shri, Goddesses Saraswati), the lower Heaven gods (the Four Heaven Kings), the ghosts and spirits (represented by the Ghost Kings mentioned in the sutra), and the animals (whole chapter dedicated to animals, eg fish and tiger. Elephants are also mentioned). Hell-beings are not able to but the bodhisattva named Mahasattva was ready to go there by doing the utmost self-sacrifice, ie. by committing suicide he will be reborn in hell for aeons. All these 6 types of beings are mentioned in the Chapter on Confession. This chapter sort of purifies the negativities of all samsaric beings.

3. Ultimate Bodhicitta is mentioned by the Vajrayana Masters as gladly staying in samsara for aeons and aeons to develop our full Buddha qualities and gladly taking suffering upon ourselves for the sake of others. Many people know by sacrificing himself to the hunger tigress and her cubs, is a compassionate activity. But the point many people miss is the fact that the prince will go to HELL for committing suicide. Committing suicide will result in rebirth in Hell, even though his intention is good. But by doing that, he completely destroyed self-cherishing. I quote from The Golden Light Sutra, “ In this way, for the sake of just one being I have happily remained in the hell realms for eons.” Kstigarbha Bodhisattva actually symbolizes this spirit of willingness to remain in hell realms. I realize that this is the intention of practising Bodhicitta - ultimately destroying our grasping on the wrong mode of existence. Only by complete self-sacrifice can Buddhahood be perfected. So, lately I realize bodhictta is not just being compassionate. Many of us are not even willing to give way to others in a traffic jam; not to say of “going to Hell for you”? We will say “No, way! You go yourself…” So, this chapter should be about destroying the grasping of self and phenomena.

4. The Chapter on "Healing Illnesses" is an exhortation to practice Aspiration and Action Bodhicitta.

5. The Span of the Tathagata’s Life is a symbol of the wisdom of conventional and ultimate truth (Emptiness) according to one interpretation I have read regarding the length of the Tathagata’s life also mentioned in the Lotus Sutra.

6. With the detail descriptions of the teeth, the eyes, the tongue and nose, etc, the chapter on Lotuses is an encouragement for us to practice Samatha.

7. Chapter of “Confessions” is an exhortation for us to engage in purification practices.

8. After accumulating merits, and purifying our negativites, with the right practice of Samatha, we can understand the correct view of Emptiness, in the chapter on Emptiness.

Hence I find that the reason this sutra is so powerful is because it actually is a strategic road map to Buddhahood for all sentient beings. We must really see it in this manner, beyond just about stories and dreams and goddesses. But this is only my personal dharma sharing. Again I stand to be corrected if it is wrong.

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