All not ready for sudden enlightenment
should walk the gradual path to it now.
大佛顶首楞严经: 四种决定清净明诲章: 断淫篇
The Great Buddha’s Crown’s Foremost Śūraṅgama Sūtra: Section On Four Kinds Of Definitive Clear Instructions For Purity: Passage On Severing Lust
Sūtra: The Buddha [Śākyamuni] told Ānanda, ‘You often hear within my Vinaya [i.e. disciplinary rules for monastics], [which] proclaim cultivating practice of the Three Definitive Teachings [of observing precepts (for morality), for cultivating concentration and realising wisdom]. What called gathering [or guarding] the mind as precepts, [is that] due to precepts, give rise to concentration, [and] due to concentration, develop wisdom, [which] are thus named as the Three Learnings [above] without outflows [of attachment, aversion and delusion, which are the Three Poisons].
Comments: The Three Learnings can be understood via the analogy of our present minds being polluted, choppy and murky lakes, which require clearing of dirt, representing avoiding of evil by training to observe the precepts. This is followed by calming of the water, representing training for concentration. Finally is to peer through the stilled water to directly perceive the treasure at its bottom, representing training for wisdom. This is the way to train without having the Three Poisons flowing outwards from body, speech and mind.
Sūtra: Ānanda, what is gathering of the mind, [that] I name as precepts? If all worlds’ six realms’ sentient beings [as hell-beings, hungry ghosts, animals, humans, asuras and gods], their minds do not lust [i.e. have sexual desire], thus [will they] not accord with their [cycles of] births and deaths [in] continual succession. You cultivate samādhi [i.e. meditative concentration], originally to exit defilements [that cause afflictions]. [With] lustful minds not eradicated, [these] defilements cannot be exited [from].
Comments: Lust falls under attachment or greed, as the first of the Three Poisons, which keep the rounds of rebirth turning. As thoughts related to lust usually arise as the last thought before death and before rebirth, this is how it traps us life after life. This is why it has to be eradicated for liberation to be attained. As the Buddha was speaking especially to monastics already training with celibacy, he spoke of severing lust directly as a goal to be achieved. For lay Buddhists, celibacy is not expected immediately, though lust should also be severed gradually (eventually) if liberation is to be attained. To train towards this, there is regular practice observation of the Eight Precepts (which requires abstaining from all sexual conduct). Note that this is just the first of four definitive clear instructions for purity to note. With the other three being avoiding of killing, stealing and lying.
Sūtra: Even if with much intelligence and meditative concentration manifesting before [them], if not severing lust, [they] will definitely fall to the demonic realm, [as a] higher grade’s demon kings, middle grade’s demonic hordes, [or] lower grade’s demonic women. That and all other demons, also with assemblies of disciples, each and every one [of them] self-claiming to have accomplished the unsurpassable path [to Buddhahood].
Comments: Those who cultivate the path to Buddhahood without reduction, towards total elimination of lust, as a worst-case scenario, might be reborn as demons. What they have is merely worldly intelligence and not true wisdom, while their ‘meditative concentration’ is also not true. This is so as both true concentration and true wisdom must arise from the precepts being truly observed. What manifests as concentration could be their greedy minds fooling themselves and/or external demons fooling them, so as to mislead them to serve them, and/or to eventually become reborn as one of them. These demons also go against the fourth definitive clear instruction for purity by lying in the gravest way possible with false claims of being Buddhas to mislead more.
Sūtra: After I enter parinirvāṇa [i.e. relinquish my physical body], within the Dharma-Ending Age [i.e. this present era], many such demonic hordes will flourish in the world. Widely engaging in greedy lust, as [false] ‘good-knowing friends’, enabling many sentient beings, to fall into the pit of attachment and views, losing the Bodhi path [to Buddhahood]. You [should] teach the world’s people to cultivate samādhi, first [by] severing the mind’s lust, [which] is named the Tathāgata’s [Thus Come One] and previous Buddhas, World-Honoured Ones’ first definitive pure and clear instruction. As thus, Ānanda, if not severing lust, those who cultivate meditative concentration, [are] like steaming sand and stone, desiring them to become rice, [which] passing through hundreds of thousands of kalpas [i.e. world cycles], [they are] only named hot sand. Why is this so? These are not rice originally, [of] sand and stone composed thus.
Comments: We are currently in the age the Buddha warned us about, which is why we should pay special attention to these teachings. Otherwise, we might be fooled by deviant teachers’ encouragement to imagine the continual and unchecked fulfilment of lust is not at all an obstacle on the path to Buddhahood.
Sūtra: You [all], with lust [for] bodies, seeking Buddhahood’s wonderful fruit, even if attaining wonderful awakening, are all [with] lust [as the] root. [With the] root becoming lust, [there is] rebirth in the three paths [of hell-beings, hungry ghosts and animals], certainly not able to exit [them]. [For the] Tathāgata’s Nirvāṇa [of Buddhahood], what path cultivates to realise it? [There] must be lust’s potential [of arising], [in] body and mind completely severed, also without the nature of severance, [then] of the Buddhas’ Bodhi, this is able to be hoped for.
Comments: If lust is very strong and left unchecked to grow, as worst-case scenarios, this can lead to rebirth in the three lower realms mentioned, thus being difficult to escape from them, much more from rebirth entirely. For Buddhahood to be attained, the uprooting of lust should be so thorough, that there is no need to suppress it from arising at all. Yet, just as it is difficult, in this Dharma-Ending Age, to instantly and totally sever lust in this lifetime, it is difficult to realise Buddhahood here and now.
However, the Buddha, taught Niànfó (practice of mindfulness of the name of Amitābha Buddha – ‘Āmítuófó’) as a most skilful means to regularly, at least suspend workings of all Three Poisons, including greed as lust in everyday life. With sufficient practice, this can surely also be done on the deathbed. Connecting one’s Buddha-nature with Āmítuófó instead any of the poisons, Pure Land will be reached, where there will be no more outflows of the poisons in practice towards Buddhahood. (Note that Niànfó was taught by the Buddha to be an unsurpassable meditative practice for samādhi: http://purelanders.com/2012/01/16/buddha-mindfulness-is-supreme-meditation)
Sūtra: Such as I [have] spoken, is named Buddhas’ speech. Not such as spoken, is Pāpiyān’s [“The Very Wicked One”; Māra (“Murderer”, who strives to kill all goodness); the evil demon king] speech.’
Comments: The Buddha is unequivocal here, directly summing up his above teachings as definitive, and not to be compromised for all goals of liberation (Arhathood and Buddhahood). Any teaching that counters them are not only not conducive for liberation, they are the same as Māra’s words, which lead farther away from liberation, to remain trapped in rebirth.
Translated By Shen Shi’an,
with comments and notes in parentheses
The Buddha’s Second Definitive Pure And Clear Instruction
The Buddha’s Fourth Definitive Pure And Clear Instruction