The Introduction to the Dharma Flower Sutra says: “[They were] Arhats who had exhausted all outflows and had no further afflictions. Having attained self-benefit, they had exhausted the bonds of all existence and their minds had attained self-mastery.” This passage describes the state of Arhats who have certified to the Way. Now I will briefly explain the meaning of the passage:
Exhausted all outflows: Outflows include: talking too much, listening too much, seeing too much, and having too many idle thoughts. What is not having outflows? Simply “not seeing what is improper, not listening to what is improper, not speaking of what is improper, and not acting upon what is improper.” Propriety refers to rules, and rules are the same as precepts. Not seeing what is not proper, your eyes will be pure; not listening to what is not proper, your ears will be pure; not speaking of what is not proper, your tongue will be pure; not acting upon what is not proper, your body will be pure. Freedom from outflows means the six sense faculties are pure. Having outflows is like having a leak in a container, through which the water leaks out, so that the container never stays full. In cultivation, leaking refers to getting afflicted and losing your temper. You cultivate a little merit and virtue and then turn around and burn it out with the fire of ignorance. You can never succeed in your cultivation like this. You should all be very careful in this matter.
To be “thus, thus, unmoving” externally and free of all desires internally, is to have no outflows. If you are externally composed yet moved internally, you still have outflows. In other words, having acts or thoughts of desire is the same as having outflows; not having them is not having outflows. Cultivating the Way means becoming free from outflows and developing the skills of returning to the source and regaining one’s purity. These great Arhats have burned off the extraneous matter and kept only the essence, so they are said to have exhausted all outflows.
Had no further afflictions: How can one not have any afflictions? Simply by not fighting, not being greedy, not seeking, not being selfish, not pursuing self-benefit, and not lying. Since the Arhats are like this, they have exhausted all outflows and subdued all afflictions.
Having attained self-benefit: They have attained the benefit of “taking the bliss of Dhyana for food and being filled with the joy of the Dharma.” They have all attained the samadhi of non-contention; they have extinguished thoughts of winning and losing. It is said, “Contention involves the concept of winning and losing. This goes against the Way and gives rise to the mind of the four characteristics. How can one attain samadhi this way?”
Had exhausted the bonds of all existence: Existence refers to the twenty-five kinds of existence in the Three Realms. Bonds refer to being bound by birth and death due to afflictions. View-delusions, thought-delusions, delusions like dust and sand, and the delusion of ignorance prevent living beings from leaving the Three Realms. If we can eradicate all our bad habits and faults, break all the bonds of affliction, and dissolve all the problems of the Three Realms, we have exhausted the bonds of all existence and ended share-section birth and death.
Their minds had attained self-mastery: How could they do this? Because their minds have attained happiness and freedom. How have their minds attained self-mastery? Because they have exhausted all outflows, have no further afflictions, have attained self-benefit, and have exhausted the bonds of all existence. These great Arhats have exhausted all outflows, have established pure conduct, and have done what they had to do, and so they will undergo no further becoming.
Our mind has no self-mastery because it is controlled by “otherness.” When our body is here but our mind isn’t, it’s a case of being controlled by something else. If the mind isn’t thinking of the south, it’s thinking of the north; if it’s not thinking of east and west, then it’s thinking of south and north. It never stops. The random thoughts swirl around. They kick out the host and let the external guest-dust rule. Thus the mind has no self-mastery. To attain self-mastery means having no random thoughts. Then the self-nature emits a bright light which illumines heaven and earth. Both body and mind are pure, free, and at ease.
This is a very important passage－please remember it. Study it until you understand, and then I can assure you that you will end birth and death, just like the Arhats. Before we have proven the results of Arhatship, our minds are not free. Only after we have certified to Arhatship, expelled the guest-dust, and subdued afflictions can we attain self-mastery.