The Surangama Sutra: Chapter One – Section 2

The Quest for Spiritual Enlightenment

Before the great assembly, the Buddha extended his golden arm to circle his hand on the crown of Ānanda’s head and said, “There is a samādhi called ‘The great and royal Śūraṅgama spoken from above the crown of a Buddha’s head’, and it is the perfection of the myriad practices, a wondrous and magnificent path, the unique portal through which the numerous Buddhas in all ten directions have passed in order to transcend the conditioned world. You should all now listen attentively.” Ānanda humbly bowed and waited for the Buddha’s compassionate instruction.


The Buddha said to Ānanda, “You and I are from the same family, and we share the natural bond among relatives. At the time you first made the resolve to become enlightened, what excellent attributes did you see in my Dharma that immediately led you to reject the familial affection and conjugal love found in the world?”

Ānanda replied, “Ever since I saw the thirty-two manifestations of supremely wondrous radiance emanating from the Buddha’s whole body, as clear as crystal, I often thought to myself that a body with such purity and magnificence could not be the consequence of sexual activities. Why? The energies of desire are coarse and murky. Foul and putrid intercourse results in a turbid merging of procreative substances, which cannot possibly generate a body with such a pristine concentration of purple-golden light. That is why I admired the Buddha and why I shaved my head to follow the Buddha’s teachings.”

The Buddha said, “Excellent, Ānanda! Now, all of you should know that since the beginningless time, all beings have been undergoing death and rebirth over and over, simply because they have not been awakened to the pure wisdom which is the essential nature of the mind. Instead, the workings of their minds are all distorted, and because the workings of their minds are distorted, they are bound to the endless cycles of death and rebirth.”

“Now since you all wish to attain enlightenment and discover the truth of your own nature, you should answer my questions straightforwardly, because that is the path that the numerous Buddhas everywhere have taken, as they freed themselves from death and rebirth. Their minds were pure, their words were straightforward, and therefore, at every point in their progress, from the first stage to the last, they were never devious and evasive.”


“Now, Ānanda, I ask you this: when, in response to the thirty-two manifestations, you first made the resolve to attain full awakening, just what was it that saw those manifestations, and who was it that took delight in them?”

Ānanda replied, “I took delight in them with my mind and eyes. Because I saw with my eyes and admired with my mind. In this way I became resolved to extricate myself from death and rebirth.”

The Buddha said, “It is as you say: your mind and eyes were the reason for your admiration and delight. Someone who does not know where his mind and eyes are will not be able to overcome his attachment and obsession. Consider, for example: when bandits invade a country and the king sends forth his soldiers to drive them out, the soldiers must first know where the bandits are. It is the fault of your mind and eyes that you are bound to the cycles of death and rebirth. I am now asking you: precisely where are your mind and eyes?”