1,000-year-old Arhat statues

This is A Thousand Buddhas Hall (千佛殿) in Lingyan Temple (灵岩寺) in Jinan, the capital city of Shandong Province in China’s east coast by the Yellow Sea. The hall houses 40 life-size statues of Arhats.

The building was erected in the early 7th century during Tang Dynasty, with the latest renovation carried out in the 16th century during the Ming Dynasty.

Of the 40 statues, 32 were created in 1066 during the Song Dynasty and the remaining 8 were added into the hall 500 years later during the Ming era.

Maintenance work in 1982 discovered that each statue contains an abdominal cavity completed with internal organs made of silk. Ancient coins, mirrors and documents were also inserted in the statues’ bodies.

Q & A on Complete Enlightenment

The Sutra of Complete Enlightenment records a Buddhist seminar and is viewed, particularly by Chinese school Buddhism, as the jewel on the crown of Buddhist classics, or the Ph.D. course in Buddhist teachings.

The seminar between Buddha and his 12 major disciples was taken place at a pure consciousness level and the minutes of the seminar are compiled in the form of Q & A.

It is believed that the sutra was of Sanskrit origin and introduced to China in the 7th century during Tang Dynasty, but there is also an argument that the sutra was in fact Chinese origin as the earliest version found in the world today is written in Chinese.

Question by Manjusri Bodhisattva

Dear Sikamoni Buddha, if someone wants to learn to liberate from illusive existence, how should he start to practice the complete enlightenment and how can he steer clear of bogus training programs?

A 1,000-year-old Arhat statue with internal organs made of silk in its body in Lingyan Temple
A 1,000-year-old Arhat statue with internal organs made of silk in its body in Lingyan Temple

Answer by Shakyamuni Buddha:

The complete enlightenment comes from unstained consciousness, which is the state of ultimate reality (真) and thusness (如).

All Buddhas started their practice by carefully monitoring thoughts in their mind and eventually stopped all deliberations which allow their consciousness to fully wake up and illuminate around without obstruction.

Notes by Chinese monk Dixian (谛闲): 

In the ultimate reality (bodhi) no thought pops up from the mind (nirvana), therefore no stain needs to be cleaned away from consciousness (一念不生无有可遣曰真);

With thusness, you have no obsession over any identity or ideology, so you are not attached to any certain point and are free to move around (万法自如亦无可立曰如).

When you are thoroughly aware while not thinking or visualizing, you have found your true self. (所谓无相之相,既性是也).

Question by Manjusri Bodhisattva:

If someone wants to learn to liberate from illusive existence, how should he start to practice the complete enlightenment and how can he steer clear of bogus training programs?

1,000-year-old Arhat statues with internal organs made of silk in its body in Lingyan Temple
A 1,000-year-old Arhat statue with internal organs made of silk in its body in Lingyan Temple

Answer by Shakyamuni Buddha:

Since time no-beginning, all sentient beings are lost in the illusive world created by their own imaginations. It is like a person who sees a flower in the air while in fact there is no flower in the air at all. The image of the flower is caused by a flower-shaped pterygium in his own eye. It is his diseased eye that produced a flower.

But the patient does not know. He not only believes in the solid existence of the flower but tries to find out from where the flower came, thus a chain of elusive events in the elusive environment occurs.

All existence is our imagination, and so is the cycle of life and death experienced by our perceived physical body.

It is like a man who is dreaming. In the dream, everything is real to him, but when he awakens he realizes there is nothing for him to hold on to.

Illusions (like dreams) come and go. Yet you cannot say they are something, because they do not exist; yet you cannot say they are nothing, because you have experienced them.

Buddhas are those who are fully aware of everything happening in their universe yet have acutely realized the empty nature of all things in existence. They have no obsession over something, nor do they have an attachment to nothing, therefore they are totally free.

Notes by Chinese Monk Dixian: 

So the reason for sentient beings to be trapped in the cycle of beginning and ending and life and death is not their experience in illusions but their passionate attachment to certain illusions and belief they are real. (无执,即无惑;无惑,即不造业;不造业,即无轮回之相。故病根在一执字)

It is not a problem to experience illusions, as long as you do not have an attachment to your elusive self-identity in the elusive drama and do not obsess over particular perspectives generated from your certain position, you are in the Ultimate Reality and Thusness (只要对境不起分别妄见,我法二执即空,当体既是真如)

Question by Samantabhadra Bodhisattva:

Dear Shakyamuni Buddha, since the mind is part of the illusion, how can people realize they are in the illusive world and free themselves from the elusive trap?

1,000-year-old Arhat statue
A 1,000-year-old Arhat statue with internal organs made of silk in its body in Lingyan Temple

Answer by Shakyamuni Buddha:

All illusions are born from an elusive mind. When consciousness is fully awakening, all illusions will vanish including the elusive mind.

How to free yourself from illusion using an elusive mind?

Firstly you make yourself aware of all thoughts coming into your mind, then you are aware all thoughts in your mind are illusions. When you no longer need to remind yourself of the elusive nature of all thoughts, you have separated your consciousness from the illusion of separation. As you further separate the separation from the illusion of separation, you will reach the stage where nothing to be separated from, which is the removal of all illusion.

When you have removed all illusion, you are instantly free from all confinement.

Yet even though all illusion is extinguished, you do not enter into nothingness. Your consciousness is fully aware.

Notes by Chinese Monk Dixian (谛闲):

The real awareness is without thought; and the true reality is without illusion (觉相是无相之相,即是真境;真境是无境之境,即是真性).

If you fully realize life and death are illusions, you will experience no suffering when you go through incarnation; if you truly aware cessation of illusion is also an illusion, you will not be afraid of returning to the world of illusion. (了得生死如幻,故入生死海,不受生死苦;了得涅槃入幻,故能不住涅槃而度众生)

Question by Universal Vision Bodhisattva:

Dear Shakyamuni Buddha, can you please elaborate on the steps of awakening practice?

A 1,000-year-old Arhat statue
A 1,000-year-old Arhat statue with internal organs made of silk in its body in Lingyan Temple

Answer by Shakyamuni Buddha:

The first step is to live in virtue and find the same virtuous people to work on awareness practice, then set up a sitting meditation routine. During each session, try not to think anything but be mindful of your environment.

Notes by Chinese Monk Dixian:

Each time when you are not using your eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind to sense the world yet still keep full awareness, you are momentary with your consciousness and land in the true reality. By then you can detect no world outside of your body, no world inside of your body, and no existence of your body. Keep prolonging and expanding this state until one day your awareness extends to all worlds and includes all times – the past, present and future. It is a state where all are present and nothing changes. (于静室中,试参此境界:外无身,内无心,一念不起,心与境合,当体即真,直至圆裹三世,一切平等不动).

We experience changes, because we only focus on a portion of our consciousness and the focus keeps shifting, thus changes manifest. When we are with our whole consciousness, there will be no beginning and no end, no birth and no death, but eternity. (觉性平等不动,真空而显不空。众生以生灭心观之,故有动相。并非法动,实是心动).

Question by Vajragarbha Bodhisattva:

Dear Shakyamuni Buddha, if all sentient beings possess fully enlightened Buddha nature, how can they be so ignorant? If sentient beings are so stained, how can you say they are by essence perfectly pure?

A 1,000-year-old Arhat statue
A 1,000-year-old Arhat statue with internal organs made of silk in its body in Lingyan Temple

Answer by Shakyamuni Buddha:

Think about melting gold ore. The gold does not come into being because of the process of melting. But before refinement, the gold has been stained by all sorts of minerals. Yet even its perfect golden nature is hidden, it’s always there and never disappears. It just needs to be uncovered and purified.

All sentient beings live in worlds with beginning and end, being born and dead, having prior and after, keeping gathering and scattering, continually arising and ceasing. While you are in this circular motion of going and returning without a moment’s lapse, you found that all things keep changing. This is like when you are in a travelling boat, the shore appears moving.

Using a cyclic mind, you will only produce cyclic views.

Once you have freed yourself from this self-generated cyclic existence, your perfectly enlightened consciousness will emerge.

Notes by Monk Dixian (谛闲法师):

A partial view is a biased view, which favours a particular potion but disregards the whole, thus generating a vision of motion that causes beginning and end, birth and death. (偏计是生死之根。偏计不空,轮回不能出)

Comments from Google Plus

Phillip Johnson:
Mass enlightenment means abandoning the attachment to personal karma and the illusion of separateness. The Bodhisattva does not reincarnate, we all collectively be.

All Things Chinese:
Bodhisattva can incarnate and from time to time they do.

After you wake up from dreams, you can return to dream in a lucid state.

But by rule, they cannot disclose they are beings of a celestial realm or beyond, or they would have to leave this world.

So if you meet anybody who claims to be the reincarnated Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva or Living Buddha or other historical Buddhist figures, and tells you he can lift you to a Buddha-land in Heaven if you submit your will and your wealth to him, and intimidates you that he could send you to hell if you try to break away from his control, you should know he must come from a cult.

Question by Maitreya Bodhisattva:

Dear Shakyamuni Buddha, could you please advise how Bodhisattvas and sentient beings can sever the root of cyclic existence? How many types of cyclic existence are there? How to identify the levels of enlightenment? And when returning to the world after enlightenment, how to awake the sentient beings who are still lost in an elusive dream?

A 1,000-year-old Arhat statue
A 1,000-year-old Arhat statue with internal organs made of silk in its body in Lingyan Temple

Answer by Shakyamuni Buddha:

All types of beings, regardless born from eggs, wombs, moisture, or by transformation, enter a life form through a desire to reproduce, which is driven by an obsession with attached love.

Attached love gives rise to desire while desire gives rise to the life force. Thus to sever the root of cyclic existence and free yourself from birth and death, you must get rid of your love and desire.

The reason for bodhisattvas to return to the world is not due to attached love but unconditioned compassion covering all sentient beings, so they will not be stuck and lost in the elusive dream.

In the process of severing the root of cyclic existence, all sentient beings have to overcome two obstacles. The first is not being able to realize they are in a dream and comprehend the full awakening state (理障), and the second is not being able to fully awake in practice due to negative karmic effects (事障).

For those who have permanently discarded love and desire, the condition to awake is met; but if they are yet to recognize the difference between the elusive world and the true reality, they will not be able to actually awake. (If you have the ability to travel to a particular destination but you don’t even know the existence of the destination, you will never get there).

This highlights the importance of encountering a genuine teacher who can point the right direction to the destination.

NOTE: Love is a state in that someone has a strong emotional attachment to particular things or sentient beings while compassion is an approach that tries to understand (not endorse) problems experienced by anybody and is willing to help fix them when requested.

Question by Pure Wisdom Bodhisattva:

Dear Sakyamuni Buddha, could you further elaborate on the different stages of cultivation and different results through different cultivation methods?

A 1,000-year-old Arhat statue
A 1,000-year-old Arhat statue with internal organs made of silk in its body in Lingyan Temple

Answer by Shakyamuni Buddha:

Bodhisattvas and sentient beings are in fact all illusory existence, and so are aspects of their difference, because, by essence, all consciousnesses are completely translucent therefore no variation between each other.

However, during the process of erasing all stains in the lucent true nature, there are landmarks at each stage of the progress.

All sentient beings keep going through moment-to-moment arising and cessation of self-identities, therefore experiencing feelings of likes and dislikes and becoming addicted to certain subjects, based on how the “self” is treated and how the viewpoints of “self” are responded to.

Those who have realized the elusive nature of “self” and thus try to sever the attachment to this false identity yet are not perfectly free, are the sentient beings having stepped on the straight path towards complete enlightenment.

Those who have eliminated their obsession for “self” but are yet to be perfectly free due to their attachment to the concept of “enlightenment”, are the bodhisattvas halfway through their journey to the destination of complete enlightenment.

Those who have successfully eliminated their attachment to both the elusive “self” and the concept of “enlightenment” so their consciousness becomes totally translucent and thus free from self-generated confinement, are the bodhisattvas having arrived in the land of complete enlightenment.

Those who are not only totally translucent but make no differentiation between this land and the other shore, between path and destination, between the elusive world and the true reality, between life and nirvana, hence are free to get in and come out of heaven, hell and earth, are the Buddhas, the masters of their fate and their world.

Comments from Google Plus:

Jose Moron:
Different ways of teaching peace.

All Things Chinese:
It’s not about peace but total freedom that does not come at the expense of causing others to lose a portion of their freedom, which is the case in the human world.

Anyone who talks about peace without mentioning justice in a land ruled by jungle laws, and anyone who promotes freedom without mentioning responsibility in a human community relying on each other’s cooperation to survive and to progress, is fooling himself or, worse, deliberately misleading others.

Jose Moron:
If we can’t learn from each other then we will never understand anyone nor understand anything else.

All Things Chinese:
Learning from each other is a way to broaden one’s single perspective generated from an isolated “self” and thus expanding one’s narrow scope of “self”. Once your “self” includes the entire universe, you are the master of your world.

Question by Power and Virtue Unhindered Bodhisattva:

Dear Sakyamuni Buddha, a great city will have four gates for people coming from various directions. So is the way to enlightenment which should not be limited to one path. Can you please explain in detail the different methods suitable for different groups of people and sentient beings?

A 1,000-year-old Arhat statue with internal organs made of silk in its body in Lingyan Temple
A 1,000-year-old Arhat statue with internal organs made of silk in its body in Lingyan Temple

Answer by Shakyamuni Buddha:

There are three general methods that all cultivators practice, according to each person’s preference based on his karmic configuration.

The first method is to settle all the thoughts in your mind. By so doing, you will become aware of the agitating motion of consciousness. Once all thoughts have vanished, as the ripples faded away from the surface of a lake, your mind will be so clean that is transparent enough to reveal your full consciousness underneath and smooth enough like a mirror to reflect all things in your environment.

Note: Your full consciousness includes your conscious mind (a tip of your consciousness and the front counter of your subconscious storage), your subconsciousness (that is formed by habits and categorized by emotion) and the boundless ocean of unconsciousness (that you don’t even realize its existence before you can muddle through a messy corridor full of junks deposited by your conscious mind and your subconsciousness).

The second method is to create desirable thoughts and desirable illusory realities to overwrite those undesirable, so as to help you realize the illusory nature of the reality you are in and have perceived as the solid and real reality.

Note: This method could be handy for those who are unable to pacify their mind or unable to comprehend the true reality beyond form. However, before using this method to pursue enlightenment, you will have to understand the concept of Nothingness and realize your entire world (good or bad) is the reflection of your own mind (conscious mind) and your own heart (subconsciousness), otherwise, you won’t be able to distinguish the desirable from the undesirable and you could easily be tricked to a wrong track and trapped in another kind of undesirable illusory reality.

The third method is to keep reminding yourself of the illusory nature of your mind, your body and your environment, and be fully aware that anything you see, you hear, you smell, you taste and you touch is the result of your imagination and your perception. Therefore you observe the world but won’t be mentally and emotionally affected by the comings and goings thus they won’t become part of your subconsciousness to reinforce your habit. It is comparable to the ringing sound of a bell which penetrates the outside but never lingers in the air.

Note: This method can also work wonders for those who get used to keeping their mind busy and are sensitive to the environment.

Comments from Google Plus

John Hanley:
The third way sounds the best.

All Things Chinese:
The third method is more suitable for intellectuals and artists.

But the first method is the most simple and straightforward, yet, precisely because of this, a bit hard to follow for most people.

It’s worth noting that the second method is often abused by various cults in the name of a Buddhist sect (like Lamaism which has introduced a large number of illusory worlds and beings with their roots in obsessive Saktaṃ of Hinduism and dark shamanistic Benjiao).

John Hanley:
I guess it depends on what it means to settle your thoughts. I take that to mean that if you have a problem, like a disagreement with someone or a debt, that you resolve it so it no longer bothers you.

But the third way seems to seek to go beyond that, by understanding cause and effect isn’t really how reality works.

All Things Chinese:
If our consciousness is water in a pond, our thoughts are like ripples in the water.

The thoughts are prompted by external stimuli from our environment, like the ripples that are generated by gusts of winds.

After the wind passed, the ripples are still expanding (like a chain of thoughts) which have developed some complicated images that look so vivid as if really exist.

By then we can see no water but the images, maybe an angel’s smiling face or a devil’s vicious expression.

When one ripple faded away, another gust of wind blows through and a new ripple emerges.

As long as we live in this illusory world, our environment will never cease to produce external stimuli to evoke mental ripples.

In order to see the water and the whole water in the pond, we thus need to stop generating new ripples.


The first method is to suspend the use of the mind which habitually produces chains of thoughts in response to outside stimuli.

Our subconsciousness is deposited everywhere in our body and everywhere in our environment. But we usually only use our eyes, ears and noses to detect the environment around us and then send their reports to the brain (hard drive) for the mind (program) to piece all information together and to make sense of the happenings and to issue orders for responses.

So in the first stage, you should use your whole body to sense and feel the environment, which can not only wake up your subconsciousness but is a way to bypass your mind.

Once the ripples have disappeared, you’ll be able to see the whole water where all past and future possibilities with their causes and effects are stored.

In the third method, you can still use your mind, but stop following your thought to produce a chain of thoughts.

Thoughts themselves are like sands and can’t really bind together to obstruct anything. But our emotion is like water. When sands are mixed with water, they turn into hard and solid concrete and the surface of the water will become impenetrable.

If you just observe the thoughts coming and going without stringing them together into blocks, there will be no problem for you to see the water.

Michael Cammock:
Thanks for the extra piece of information… It is good to know about the extremes that some go to, so as to be aware of them and be able to make the right decisions about how to make oneself clear of any corruption that may come from these other extremes…

All Things Chinese:
Yep, it’s better to go nowhere than heading towards the wrong direction.

Some cults would threaten the followers who try to break away by telling them they would be condemned to hell.

Don’t give a shit. What you may encounter in this life or where you may head after death depends on your own decision and your own action. No one can determine other people’s fate.


2 thought on “Complete Enlightenment”
  1. For the ordinary mortals who are forever distracted by worldly attractions, unfulfilled desires, resentment etc.. how do they to follow the path?

    1. The desires and emotions are prompted by the memories when you experienced pleasure or displeasure, while the memories are brought forth by your current thoughts. So you only need to monitor the thoughts in your mind to avoid opening the zip file of the past memories.

      In the beginning, you can start by doing sitting meditation, even just five minutes each session. During the meditation, you should do nothing else but one thing only: to watch the thoughts popped up in your mind. Remember, just watch them, don’t follow them. Each thought has a lifespan of a split second, and it is our action of following the thought and develop it into a whole drama, including past experiences and future prospects, brings up emotions and desires.

      Once you’ve learned how to control your thoughts in your mind during meditation, you can apply this method to your daily life.

      If you can control your thoughts, you can control your past memories and your future prospect, therefore your desires and emotions, as well as your fate.

You are welcome to share your thoughts here