At that time, he contemplated the wonderful Jewel Net hung in Lord Brahma's palace and preached the Brahma Net Sutra for the Great Assembly. He said:
"The innumerable worlds in the cosmos are like the eyes of the net.
Each and every world is different, its variety infinite.
So too are the Dharma Doors (methods of cultivation) taught by the Buddhas.
"I have come to this world eight thousand times.
Based in this Saha World, seated upon the Jeweled Diamond Seat in Bodhgaya and all the way up to the palace of the Brahma King, I have spoken in general about the Mind-Ground Dharma Door for the benefit of the great multitude.
At the noumenon level, there is no Buddha, Mara or anyone.
But this statement can only be understood when one's cultivation has attained that stage of Sages to understand it fully and without falling into the usual trappings of one's unawakened or Mind.
As we are still at the phenomenal level, we are still physical beings, so it's best we remember that before we think ourselves as 'non-existent' which can lead to the wrong grasp of True Emptiness and falling into the error of nihilism, 'an-atman' or 'anatta' does not equal to non-existence but rather impermanence and inherent Emptiness of the 'I', used as an expedient teaching.
Subhuti, if anyone should say that Buddha declares any conception of egoity do you consider he would understand my teaching correctly?
No, World-honored One, such a man would not have any sound understanding of the Tathagata's teaching, because the World-honored One declares that notions of selfhood, personality, entity and separate individuality, as really existing, are erroneous - these terms are merely figures of speech.
[Thereupon Buddha said]: Subhuti, those who aspire to the Consummation of Incomparable Enlightenment should recognize and understand all varieties of things in the same way and cut off the arising of [views which are mere] aspects. Subhuti, as regards aspects, the Tathagata declares that in reality they are not such.
They are called "aspects". So I tell you - Thus shall ye think of all this fleeting world:
A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream;
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream.
...most cultivators are still attached to "duality," and have not reconciled essence and marks, existence and non-existence, noumenon and phenomena. That is why they embrace essence to reject marks, noumenon to reject phenomena, Emptiness to reject Existence, and vice versa -- thus creating disputes, doubts and perplexity.
Little do they suspect that there is mutual identity between noumenon and phenomena -- phenomena are noumenon, noumenon is phenomena. If we divide them and consider them separately, phenomena are not true phenomena, noumenon is not true noumenon. This is true also of essence and marks, existence and non-existence and other dualistic dharmas.
For this reason, the Vimalakirti Sutra speaks of the non-dual method to destroy this attachment.
Non-dual means reconciling all things, penetrating into their very nature; it does not mean "one."
This is the true realm of "Mind-Only."
Any other doctrine based on the Dharma Doors of Existence or Emptiness is merely an expedient for teaching purposes.
The Sutras state:
To tire of and abandon "conditioned" virtues is the action of demons. Yet, to be greedy and attached to transcendental, unconditioned virtues is also demonic action.
Ancient sages have also said:
Conditioned dharmas, while illusory, cannot be abandoned if we are to attain the Way.
Although unconditioned dharmas are true, if we become attached to them, our wisdom-nature will not be comprehensive.
It is also stated in the Treatise on the Middle Way:
Because common sentient beings grasp at external forms, the Sutras destroy this attachment with the truth of Emptiness. If as soon as they are free of the disease of attachment to Existence they fall into the error of grasping at Emptiness, there is no medicine that can help them.
As the Prajna Paramita Truth of Emptiness sounds lofty and miraculous, when educated people read this literature, they usually get caught up in the error of "speaking on the level of principle" about everything and look down on those who follow forms and marks in their practice.
Thus, they create the karma of arrogance and self-importance. While they expound the Truth of Emptiness, their actions are entirely in the realm of Existence, as exemplified by the following couplet:
Above, their mouths speak about the totally wonderful,
Below, their feet do not part with even a mote of dust.
In the past, high-ranking spiritual teachers often used the Truth of Emptiness to cure the disease of attachment to Existence. However, the achievements of these masters were genuine, and their teachings were adapted to the capacities and circumstances of the recipients, bringing them actual benefits. This can be seen from the following stories.
One more point to bear in mind: if we speak about the Truth of Emptiness without having attained that stage or at least reached a certain level of achievement in our practice, we certainly cannot convert others, but will only end up in useless arguments and disputes.
Of the two types of attachments, to Existence and to Emptiness, the latter is the more dangerous.
Both the Lankavatara and the Esoteric Adornment Sutras warned:
It is better to be attached to Existence, though the attachment may be as great as Mount Sumeru, than to be attached to Emptiness, though the attachment may be as small mustard seed.
Attachment to Existence leads to mindfulness of cause and effect, wariness of transgressions and fear of breaking the precepts, as well as to such practices as Buddha and Sutra Recitation and performance of good deeds.
Although these actions are bound to forms and not liberated and empty, they are all conducive to merit, virtue and good roots.
On the other hand, if we are attached to Emptiness without having attained True Emptiness, but refuse to follow forms and cultivate merit and virtue, we will certainly sink into the cycle of Birth and Death.