Sutra of the Eight Realizations of Great Beings
Day and night, at all times,
Buddha’s disciples should
mindfully 3 recite and contemplate
the eight realizations 4 of Great Beings.
The First Realization 5:
All the world is impermanent.
The earth is fragile and perilous.
All that arise 11, change, and perish,
are illusive, unreal, and without a master.
Mind is the root of evil 12;
body a reservoir of sin 13.
Thus observing and contemplating,
one gradually breaks free from birth and death 14.
The Second Realization:
Excessive desire is suffering.
Birth, death 15, and weariness in life
all originate from greed and desires.
Desiring less, being empty of effort 16,
body and mind are at ease and free.
The Third Realization:
The mind is insatiable,
always seeking, thirsty for more,
thus increasing our sins 17.
Bodhisattvas 18 renounce such conduct.
Always remember to follow the Way,
be content and at peace with poverty 19,
with wisdom as the sole vocation 20.
The Fourth Realization:
Indolence 21 leads to degradation.
Always practice with diligence 22,
vanquish all vexations 23,
subdue the four maras 24,
and escape the prison 25 of the skandhas and realms.
The Fifth Realization:
Ignorance 26 leads to birth and death.
Bodhisattvas are always mindful
to study and learn 27 extensively,
to increase their wisdom
and perfect their eloquence 28,
so they can teach and enlighten all beings,
and impart great joy to all.
The Sixth Realization:
Poverty and hardship 29 breed resentment,
creating harm and discord.
Bodhisattvas practice dana 30,
beholding the friendly and hostile equally 31;
they neither harbor grudges
nor despise malicious people.
The Seventh Realization:
The five desires 32 are perilous.
Even as laity, be not sullied by worldly pleasures;
think frequently of the three robes 33,
aspire to the monastic life
and cultivate the Way with purity;
let your actions be noble and sublime,
showering compassion on all.
The Eighth Realization:
Birth and death are like a blazing fire
plagued with endless afflictions and suffering.
Vow to cultivate the Mahayana 36 mind,
to bring relief to all;
and lead all to supreme joy 39.
These are the eight realizations of Great Beings,
Buddhas 40, and bodhisattvas.
They practice the Way with diligence,
develop compassion, and cultivate wisdom.
They sail the ship of dharmakaya 41
to the shore of nirvana 42,
returning again to samsara 43
to liberate sentient beings.
With these eight principles,
they point out the Way,
so that all beings may awaken
to the sufferings of life and death,
relinquish the five desires, and
cultivate the mind on the noble path.
If Buddha’s disciples recite these eight realizations,
in thought after thought 44,
they will eradicate countless sins,
advance on the bodhi path 45,
promptly attain enlightenment,
be forever freed from birth and death,
and always abide in joy.
8. emptiness 空. Both the self and all phenomena are without independent existence or inherent, fixed characteristics. They are impermanent, mutable, and mutually dependent; their individuality is in appearance only.
9. five skandhas 五蘊. Five aggregates—form, feeling, conception, volition, and consciousness (色受想行識). Form refers to our body or the physical world, the other four are of the mind. Ordinary beings see themselves as composed of these aggregates. When we analyze them deeper, we find no real substance.
16 empty of effort (wu-wei)無為. Free from contrived effort; free from clinging and attachments; unconditioned; absolute. Being wu-wei also means inner peace obtained by having no desires. Also translated as “unconditioned Dharma” where appropriate.
18 bodhisattvas 菩薩. One who, with infinite compassion, vows to become a buddha and to liberate countless sentient beings. A bodhisattva practices all six paramitas (perfections), but it is the prajna paramita that ultimately brings true liberation. Bodhi: enlightenment, to awaken. Sattva: sentient beings, beings with consciousness.
30 dana 布施(檀那). Charity. The first of the six paramitas (perfections) practiced by a bodhisattva. There are 3 types of generosity: giving of material, giving of solace (comfort, protection, removal of fear, etc.), and giving of Dharma.
36 Mahayana 大乘. The great (maha) vehicle (yana). It is the bodhisattva path which leads to Buddhahood. This involves devotion to the liberation of all beings and the perfection of wisdom. Mahayana mind: the bodhi mind, the enlightened mind, the buddha nature within all of us. To cultivate the Mahayana mind means to commit to the buddha path.
38 sentient beings. All living beings with sentience; beings that have awareness. They include devas (gods or heavenly beings, asuras (demi-gods 阿修羅), human beings, animals, hungry-ghosts, and hell-beings. Unlike buddhas and bodhisattvas, they are all trapped in samsara, but have the potential to become buddhas.
41 dharmakaya 法身. The Buddha has three bodies (kaya): dharmakaya, the truth body, which is formless, unborn, our original nature; sambhogha-kaya 報身, the bliss body, which can only be seen by great bodhisattvas; and nirmana-kaya 化身, the transformation body, which is the historical Buddha seen by ordinary beings.