Recite This Sutra Backwards and
Forwards from Memory!
The Shurangama Sutra is a demon-spotting mirror which, when shone on the demons, can expose them. In the light of its truth, the celestial demons and externalists are exposed in their original forms—they are seen for what they really are—and it is impossible for them to hide. There's no place for them to run.
When the great Master JrJe first learned of the existence of the Shurangama Sutra, he was in China and the Sutra was in India. So he bowed every day toward India, with the hope that the Sutra would come to China. He did this for eighteen years. Look at the sincerity of the highly virtuous Sanghans of the past who were endowed with wisdom. Not a single one of them failed to praise the Shurangama Sutra. That's because as long as the Shurangama Sutra remains in the world, the Dharma also remains. Once the Shurangama Sutra is gone, the Dharma will go.
What's meant by the Dharma-ending age? It just refers to the demise of the Shurangama Sutra. And who would want to destroy that Sutra? The heavenly demons and externalists. And why? Because this Sutra is like a sty in their eyes, or a thorn in their sides; as long as they know that it's around, they can't sit still, they can't stand firm. And so they devise ways to claim that it is not an authentic Sutra, that it's fraudulent. When that happens, we Buddhist disciples must be clear about what's behind it. We should only speak true principle, so that every word we utter is genuine and firmly based on the truth. As we investigate the Fifty Skandha Demon States section of the Shurangama Sutra, we can see how important this Sutra is. The deviant demons are most afraid of this part of the Sutra.
Venerable Master Syu Yun lived for 120 years, and throughout his life he didn't write a commentary on any Sutra except the Shurangama Sutra. For more than a decade, he carefully protected the rough draft of the commentary he had written on it. Yet, in the end it was lost when Yun Men was overtaken. Its disappearance was a great loss in the life of the Venerable Master, and for all of us. I know that the Venerable Master Syu Yun was extremely attentive to this Sutra and always encouraged people to study it. In his teaching he always advocated that people leam to recite this Sutra backward and forward from memory.
I also know that even during his lifetime, people would often bring up the idea that the Shurangama Sutra was inauthentic. The Old Master would then say, "That's just what's meant by the Dharma-ending Age, when people mistake fish-eyes for pearls, when people are able to blind the eyes of believers so that they can't see clearly and can't distinguish between the true and the false.
Books are written all the time by ordinary people about their ideas and theories, and many people read these books. Yet, most people never bother to read the Sutras. They store them up on a high shelf somewhere and that's that; they never even open them. From this we can see how extremely heavy people's karmic obstacles are—they can't even get these books open.
When people hear deviant knowledge and views, they believe it tenaciously. But when they hear the truth, they don't believe it. They are riddled with doubts—always questioning it. They can't believe the true Dharma.
Here at the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, we study the Shurangama Sutra. It would be best if you could read it or study it together for an hour or two a day, and in that way leam it by heart. It would be even better for you to learn the Dharma Flower (Lotus) Sutra, the Avatamsaka Sutra, and the Shurangama Sutra all by heart. If that were to happen, it would mean that the proper Dharma is still in the world.
The Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is such a good place. All of us here should do things which rise above the common lot. That's not to say that we wish to be competitive and compare ourselves to others. It simply means that given this special opportunity, we should make the most of it and insure that the Proper Dharma will remain in the world for a long time.