The Dharma is like water that washes off dirt. As a well, a pond, a stream, a river, a valley stream, a ditch, or a great sea, each alike effectively washes off all kinds of dirt, so the Dharma effectively washes off the dirt of all delusions of living beings.
The nature of water is one, but a stream, a river, a well, a pond, a valley stream, a ditch, and a great sea are different from one another. The nature of the Dharma is like this. There is equality and no differentiation in washing off the dirt of delusions, but the three laws, the four merits, and the two ways are not one and the same.
Though each washes equally as water, a well is not a pond, a pond is not a stream or a river, nor is a valley stream or a ditch a sea. As the Buddha Tathāgata, the Victor, is free in the Dharma, all the teachings preached by Him are also like this.
Though preaching at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end all alike effectively wash off the delusions of living beings, the beginning is not the middle, and the middle is not the end. Preaching at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end are the same in expression, but different from one another in meaning.
From the Sutra of Innumerable Meanings