The Surangama Sutra: Chapter Four – Section 4

The Parable of Yajnadatta

Purna said, “My mind is no different from the Buddha Mind in the way that they both are inherently pure and perfect, and although I have been through the endless cycle of death and rebirth since the beginningless time due to the deluded acts of my mind, and have even attained the Sagely State, I still haven’t completely ended all falseness and realized the Ultimate Buddhahood, where only the pure and perfect Buddha Mind remains in eternity. Now I beg to ask the Tathagata why all beings suffer from delusion? Why is their inherent wondrous luminosity kept being obscured? Why do they keep drowning in samsara?”


The Buddha said to Purna, “Although you have mostly eliminated your doubts, you still got some residual delusion. I will now explain this matter by referring to a mundane event. Have you not heard about Yajnadatta, the man from Sravasti who one morning held a mirror to his own face and fell in love with the eyes and eyebrows he saw in there? But then he became upset as he thought he had lost the face. It struck him that he must have turned into a faceless ghost and so madly he ran out of his house. What do you think is the reason that caused him to act like that?”

Purna replied, “He must be insane. There’s no other reason.”

The Buddha said, “The Ultimate Bodhi is perfect and true, and when it is deluded it is called false. So how can there be any REAL cause for delusion? For if there were a REAL cause, how could it be called FALSE? Delusion has no real basis, it arises from false thinking, which further leads to more and more false thinking. All the accumulated falseness keeps adding to and heaping on one another, eons after eons, becoming as numberless as dust motes. Although the Buddha can reveal this process to you, he cannot reverse it for you.

“Beings do not realize that their delusion has no real basis, so their delusion persists. If they could only realize that their delusion has no real basis, the delusion would lose its false support and simply vanish. There’s nothing to destroy here, since delusion was never born in the first place. So, the attainment of Bodhi is as if someone awake from a dream recalls what he saw in the dream. His mind is now wide awake and all clear, why would he want to hold onto the illusory things in the dream? Delusions are baseless to start with, so they are fundamentally non-existent, just like the non-existent things in a dream.

“In the case of Yajnadatta, there was really no reason for him to worry about his head being lost. If he could only have stopped his own madness, he would have realized that his head was not found from outside of himself. Even while he was still in his madness, his head had never gone missing.


“Purna, the same is true of the nature of delusion, which has no basis in reality. All you have to do is not to follow after the distinctions you make about the three kinds of continuity – the world, beings, and karmic retributions. By cutting off these three conditions, their causes will not arise. Thus, the madness in your mind, which is like the madness in Yajnadatta’s, will come to an end. And once it does, the cessation itself is Bodhi.

“The supreme, pure, luminous Buddha Mind is always available for anyone, extending everywhere throughout the Dharma Realm. One doesn’t have to obtain it from outside through toiling, struggling or proving. It is like someone wanders around begging for food without knowing that there’s actually a wish-fulfilling pearl sewn in his clothing. He may be poor, but his pearl has never been lost. Then suddenly someone wise points out the pearl to him, and it now fulfills every wish for him. He becomes very rich and thus realizes that the magical pearl comes not from outside.”


Ananda then came forward and prostrated at the Buddha’s feet before standing up and asking, “The World Honored One has just explained that once we eliminate the three conditions of killing, stealing, and sexual desire, their three causes will not arise. Then the Yajnadatta sort of madness ceases and Bodhi appears, which does not come from outside. This clearly is the working of causes and conditions. Why then the Buddha now rejects the doctrine of causes and conditions? Like other younger disciples here, it was through hearing about causes and conditions that I became awakened. And for other senior members in the assembly such as Maha-Maudgalyayana, Sariputra and Subhuti, it was also after hearing the teaching about causes and conditions from Brahmin elders that they became enlightened with no outflows. If now you say that Bodhi does not depend on causes and conditions, does it mean that enlightenment happens on its own? It would make what is preached by the heretics in Rajagrha, such as Maskari Gosaliputra and others, sounds like the truth. I only hope the Buddha will compassionately clear up the confusion for us all.”


The Buddha said to Ananda, “Let us take the example of Yajnadatta. If the so-called causes and conditions of his madness cease, his Bodhi nature would spontaneously come forth. The entire principle of cause, condition as well as spontaneity is nothing more than that.

“Ananda, Yajnadatta was born with his head – it has been a natural part of him and will always be for as long as he is. How could there be any legitimate cause and condition to justify his madness then? If there were indeed real causes and conditions for his going mad, then there would be real causes and conditions for his head going missing too, and his worries would have sound ground then. In reality though, his head has never gone missing. His worries were merely delusion. No actual change had taken place in this case – how could then his madness have come from causes and conditions?

“Further, suppose he were naturally born with the madness, then he should have been mad all along – where was the madness before he became mad? Since his madness was not an innate characteristic of his, and his head was intact, how could there be legitimate reason for him to run mad?

“By now you should realize that it was only his deluded consciousness running mad, and the talk of cause, condition, and spontaneity serves no serious purpose. That is why I say that once the three conditions (killing, stealing, and lust) cease to be, the Bodhi appears.

“Once the enlightened mind is revealed, the worldly mind ceases to stir. Once the mind is no longer subject to arising and perishing, it puts an end to all birth and death – thus is the effortless Way.

“Suppose you say it’s due to spontaneity, but in spontaneity there would still be arising and perishing, which are still subject to birth and death and therefore still pertaining to samsara.

“Bodhi and Nirvana are still so far away that in order to realize them you must undoubtedly endure through eons of diligent practice. Even if you could succeed in memorizing the twelve collections of the Mahayana canon taught by the Buddhas in the ten directions, with their profound doctrines as innumerable as the Ganges’ sands, it would only enhance sophistry. Even though you can talk about causes, conditions, and spontaneity with such clear understanding that people name you as the foremost in erudition, and you have accumulated many lifetimes’ worth of learning, you were not able to avoid falling into the Matangi pit. Why did you have to wait for me to use the Surangama Mantra to extinguish Matangi’s fires of lust, drying her river of love and turning her into a realized practitioner who is free of rebirth, and thus rescuing you?

“Therefore, Ananda, the many eons you have spent memorizing the Buddha’s esoteric and majestic Dharma are not as good as a single day of non-outflow practice that gives you the freedom to steer clear of the two worldly torments – hate and love.

“Matangi was a prostitute but even she could give up lust with the aid of the mantra, and now she has a Dharma name called Bhiksuni Nature. She and Rahula’s mother Yashodhara both have awakened from their past causes and realized that for eons they had suffered the pains brought upon by greed and desires. Now with single-minded dedication to non-outflow practices, one of them is freed from bondage, the other has received my prediction of her future enlightenment. Why do you still continue to cheat yourself by lingering in the stage of merely watching and listening?”

After receiving the Buddha’s teaching, Ananda and the assembly, with their doubts and delusions dispelled, all awoke to Reality. They felt a lightness of body and mind which they had never known before.