The Flower Adornment Sutra: A Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua: Chapter One: Part Three
The Flower Adornment Sutra:
A Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
Chapter One: The Wondrous Adornments of the Rulers of the Worlds
Translated in the Tang Dynasty by the Tripitaka Master Srãmana Siksananda of Khotan
Moreover indicates that a further explanation follows the previous section. Gandharva King Governing Nations, who is the Celestial King of the East, governs all the gandharvas. He has gained a passage into liberation of gathering in all sentient beings with sovereign expedients. “Sovereign” here means not forced, but very much at ease. “Expedients” means speaking Dharma in accord with sentient beings’ potentials—contemplating their potentials and enticing them with a teaching, speaking Dharma according to the person. One proclaims principles of the teaching according to the circumstances—that is how one would use expedients.
“Gathering in” means drawing in all sentient beings. How does one do that? One resembles a magnet that attracts iron filings, wherever they may be. There are two kinds of gathering in: (1) Gathering in by subduing means using a forceful method to subdue obstinate and stubborn individuals. Beings who are stubborn and refractory could only be subdued by methods even more insistent than they are. As a result those beings become tame. (2) Gathering in by compassion means gathering in beings with kindness and compassion. “Gathering in” often includes the idea of subduing as well. Not only this Gandharva King, but all sentient beings, gain this passage into liberation.
The Gandharva King named Light Resembling Trees gained a passage into liberation of everywhere seeing the adornment of all merit and virtue. He attained a passage into liberation of seeing the merit and virtue cultivated by all Buddhas, which adorn their Dharma bodies.
The Gandharva King named Pure Eyes gained a passage into liberation of ending the distress and suffering of all beings forever. Without much to do, sentient beings look for something to do. Without afflictions, they look for afflictions. Without too much trouble to begin with, they find ways to create trouble for themselves.
Now, Gandharva King Pure Eyes ends sentient beings’ worry and suffering forever, thus inspiring a treasury of happiness in them. When worry and suffering end, sentient beings become happy. That is this Gandharva King’s passage into liberation.
Gandharva King Floral Crown gained a passage into liberation of severing all sentient beings’ wrong views and delusions forever. Gandharva King Happy Stride and Universal Sound gained a passage into liberation of spreading everywhere like clouds, shielding and nourishing all sentient beings. Gandharva King Happily Dancing and Splendid Eyes gained a passage into liberation of manifesting an immense, wondrously splendid body, spreading peace and joy to all.
Gandharva King Floral Crown has an especially beautiful flower headdress. He has gained a passage into liberation of severing all sentient beings’ wrong views and delusions forever. Sentient beings are fraught with wrong knowledge and wrong views, which work more quickly and effectively than right knowledge and right views. You have to be taught and inculcated with right knowledge and views, but you don’t need to be taught wrong knowledge and views. You acquire them quite easily on your own. This Gandharva King destroys sentient beings’ wrong views and delusions forever.
One example of wrong knowledge and views is that many people insist that we do not have to hold precepts, cultivate samadhi, or practice wisdom. All of those are examples of wrong knowledge and views. They want to do away with the Three Non-Outflow Studies of precepts, samadhi, and wisdom. They insist on not holding precepts, not cultivating samadhi, and not acting with wisdom. They say that to do those things is unnatural and forced. Such wrong knowledge and views influence many people. Those who have a little bit of worldly knowledge are especially prone to these wrong knowledge and views.
Gandharva King Happy Stride has that name because he enjoys walking, such as taking a stroll in the garden. He also has the name Universal Sound because he enjoys playing music, such as playing the guitar. We have someone here who had a special fondness for guitars. He bought a very expensive, antique guitar. Then he couldn’t let go of it. “Well, what should I do? Could I have my guitar with me when I am a monk? No, that would be impossible. But if I don’t bring it along, where should I put it?” He pondered it over and over, back and forth, and could not sleep a wink for several days. Suddenly, he had an “awakening.” The man with the guitar gave it to his girlfriend; the woman with the guitar gave it to her boyfriend. They were able to give up their guitars and join the monastic life. Now, you’re supposed to truly let go. When you do, it counts. After they had left the home-life though, they were still thinking about their guitars. Why was that? These people are probably the relatives of the Gandharva King Happy Stride and Universal Sound, which explains the influence they have come under. However, this gandharva king has gained a passage into liberation. You should not gain a “passage into bondage” and be bound by your guitar.
Gandharva King Happy Stride and Universal Sound has gained a passage into liberation of spreading everywhere throughout the trichiliocosm like clouds, shielding and nourishing all sentient beings. Whereas before he had a universal sound, now he can universally protect and nourish sentient beings, benefiting all of them. Everyone is shielded as if they had an umbrella over them, protecting them from the sun, and so they feel cool and clear. And so this celestial king has gained this passage into liberation. You should not gain a passage into bondage. Whereas others gain a passage into liberation, you gain a passage that binds you up!
Gandharva King Happily Dancing and Splendid Eyes likes to move around, and he has beautiful eyes. He rolls his eyes, unlike you Americans…when you see someone, you enter a trance. Your gaze is riveted on that person, either on his face or eyes, and you enter samadhi. This Gandharva King’s eyes roll back and forth. He shows off his beautiful eyes on purpose. Those who have beautiful eyes may tend to want to roll their eyes in order to show others. He has gained a passage into liberation of manifesting an immense, wondrously splendid body. Not only does he have splendid eyes, he also has a tall, majestic build. When people see him, they are delighted and respectful. They so revere him that they cannot bear to be apart from him. Thus, he is spreading peace and joy to all. Whoever sees him feels calm and tranquil. One experiences a joy greater than any joy imaginable and peace greater than any peace imaginable. While looking at this Gandharva King, even if they do not eat, they won’t feel hungry. Even if they do not put on clothes, they won’t feel cold. That is how much charisma he has! He commands such great powers of attraction. All sentient beings are absolutely delighted over him. He is of great benefit to sentient beings. As soon as they see him, they become peaceful and joyous!
Gandharva King Lion Banner of Wonderful Sound gained a passage into liberation of dispersing all jewels of illustrious repute everywhere throughout the ten directions. Gandharva King Universally Releasing Jeweled Brilliance gained a passage into liberation of manifesting a brilliant, pristine body and making everyone immensely happy. Gandharva King Banner of Vajra Trees’ Blossoms gained a passage into liberation of everywhere moistening all trees, inspiring happiness in the beholder.
The next Gandharva King has the name Lion Banner of Wonderful Sound. He has gained a passage into liberation of dispersing all jewels of illustrious repute everywhere throughout the ten directions. With his wonderful sound, he scatters jewels throughout the ten directions. Sentient beings in the ten directions all admire this Gandharva King. He has great renown. When sentient beings hear of his great reputation, they will be saved and become enlightened. For this reason, he has the jewels of great renown. He has attained this passage into liberation.
The next Gandharva King is named Universally Releasing Jeweled Brilliance. He radiates the light of every variety of gem. He has gained a passage into liberation of manifesting a brilliant, pristine body and making everyone immensely happy. His passage into liberation consists of manifesting all kinds of happiness and having a pure Dharma body.
The next Gandharva King named Banner of Vajra Trees’ Blossoms gained a passage into liberation of everywhere moistening all trees. All trees are moistened by water, so their branches and foliage become luxuriant, inspiring happiness in the beholder. People are delighted by the sight of these trees. He attained that passage into liberation.
Gandharva King Everywhere Manifesting Adornments is skilled at adorning Buddhalands and bodhimandas. Since he is skilled at adorning Buddhalands, he gained a passage into liberation of skillfully entering all Buddhas’ states. He can manifest and adorn the states of all Buddhas, thus bestowing peace and joy upon sentient beings. That is how he dispels the worry, sorrow, and distress of all sentient beings. His heart is filled with great kindness and compassion. His kindness causes him to make beings happy, and his compassion moves him to alleviate their suffering.
Although we have not attained this passage into liberation we who cultivate the Way should always try to make others happy and allay their suffering. If we trouble others, increasing their distress and vexation, then instead of developing affinities, we make them resent us. We ought to use virtue to influence people and earn their respect. We cannot hope to gain their respect or admiration if we oppress them. If we are virtuous, everyone will respect us and will not get upset even if we scold them. However, if we do not behave virtuously, we will not be able to influence others. People will detest us or fear us. When they see us, they will act as if they had seen a wolf, a tiger, a robber, or a poisonous snake. They want to run away and not be around us. Conversely, if we are virtuous, everyone will want to be near us. Even if we are mad at people, they wouldn’t consider our attitude excessive or wrong. Why? Our awesome virtue elicits in sentient beings a reaction of peace and happiness. That Gandharva King gained this passage into liberation.
At that time, when Gandharva King Everywhere Manifesting Adornments attained his passage into liberation, Gandharva King Governing Nations, the leader of the gandharvas, received the Buddha’s awesome power. Relying upon the awesome virtue of the Buddhas of the ten directions and our original teacher, Sãkymuni Buddha, he universally contemplated the gandharva multitudes. He observed all these multitudes to see what kind of Dharma he should speak so as to accord with their potentials. There are different ways to contemplate and observe. One could contemplate from within a state of samadhi, as well as when one comes out of samadhi. From within a state of dhyana concentration, he saw the causes and conditions of the gandharvas and knew what dharmas he should speak to benefit them. He can also observe them after he has come out of samadhi to know what expedients should he use to teach and transform these gandharva multitudes.
And then he spoke the following verse. If he says too much, people will become impatient. They don’t want to listen and take in any more—it is as if they have some problem with their ears. Some people talk as if they were grinding beans for bean curd (tofu), pushing the stone mill back and forth, in which case their audience would become restless. Well, what should one do? One can say less by speaking in verses, for example. That’s why the Gandharva King spoke verses for the gandharva multitudes. Upon observing their causes and conditions, he spoke succinctly and briefly, reiterating the meaning previously explained so that people remember it easily. When they recite this four-line verse, they will remember it quickly. If people have to go over the prose, they might not be able to remember it as easily. For that reason, the meaning is repeated in the following four-line verse.
The innumerable doors to the realm of all Buddhas
Are ones that sentient beings have not yet been able to enter.
Pure in nature, the Well-gone One resembles space.
Everywhere he reveals a proper path for those in the world.
From within a state of samadhi, Gandharva King Governing Nations observes the past causes of sentient beings; and when he comes out of samadhi, he observes their present situation. Upon seeing the result, one can deduce the causes; observing the causes, one can figure out the result. He is able to understand the cause and effect of all sentient beings.
Why was this sentient being murdered? Ah, it’s because in the past he killed others. Why did that sentient being lose his possessions today? It’s because in the past he stole from others. Why does the husband of this woman always go out and fool around with other women? Because in one of her past lives, the wife was a man who fooled around with many women, and as a result he has to undergo the corresponding retribution in this life. Then there’s the opposite case where a woman goes out and fools around with men. What are the circumstances behind this? “Ah, so it is, so it is!” In the past she did not follow the rules. In general, the men were not faithful to their wives, and the wives were not frank and open with their husbands. They cheated one another. Such being the cause, such is the result. It is just that way. Thereupon you understand everything and you will not be afflicted. If you do not understand, you will be influenced by situations. If you understand, you can influence the situation.
Now the Sutra mentions the innumerable doors to the realm of the Buddhas. There are limitless, boundless doors but they are ones that sentient beings have not able been able to enter. The state of sentient beings and the state of Buddhas are different. Whereas sentient beings are always afflicted, bickering and fighting, and being upside-down, the state of all Buddhas is one of purity and effortlessness. The Buddhas do not act, but there is nothing that is not done. You argue that there is nothing going on, but the Buddha’s state contains everything. This is not something that sentient beings can understand. Therefore, they are not able to enter or reach the Buddha’s state.
Pure in nature, the Well-gone One resembles space. “The Well-gone One” is one of the Buddha’s ten titles. The Buddha’s nature is basically pure. Everywhere he reveals a proper path for those in the world. He opens a proper path for all sentient beings, so they may walk on this road and arrive at Buddhahood.
Some people are saying, “The Dharma Master spoke this Dharma especially for me.” Another person says, “I don’t understand this Dharma. It probably was not spoken on my behalf.” Actually it is not spoken for me or for you. It was spoken for someone else.
“Thus Come One” is one of the Buddha’s ten titles. Each and every pore of the Thus Come One / Is filled with an ocean of merit and virtue. Since the merit and virtue in a single pore surpasses an ocean, the merit and virtue in all those pores cannot possibly be fathomed or known. Bringing benefit and bliss to all those in the world. The merit and virtue is not for the Buddha’s own benefit and bliss, but rather, for the sake of sentient beings of the world.
The world includes the material world. The benefit and bliss do not affect the material world in any significant way, but they do affect the world of sentient beings. All sentient beings are nurtured by the Thus Come One’s merit and virtue. King Light Resembling Trees perceives thus. Gandharva King Light Resembling Trees has understood the state of this passage into liberation.
The colossal ocean of the world’s distress and suffering
Is dried up by the Buddha—not a drop remains.
The Thus Come One’s sympathy commands numerous expedients.
Pure Eyes understands this profoundly.
Beings of the world of sentience live in the colossal ocean of the world’s distress and suffering. Their worry and woe resemble an ocean. Therefore we say, “The sea of suffering is without bounds.” Well, what are we to do? “A turn of the head is the other shore.” Turning around means waking up. We wake up to the fact that this ocean of distress and suffering is measureless and boundless. And we have to let go of it. If we can let go, we attain ease and comfort. Why do we experience distress and suffering? Because we cannot let go. Why can’t we let go? Because we haven’t seen things as they really are. Why can’t we see things truly? Because we lack wisdom. And why do we lack wisdom? Because we do not cultivate the Way. If we cultivate the Way, we will have wisdom. With wisdom we can see things as they are. Having seen things truly, we will let go of them. Who enables us to acquire this wisdom? The next line of the Sutra text tells us.
That ocean is dried up by the Buddha—not a drop remains. The Buddha teaches and transforms us, urges us to cultivate and increase our wisdom. The Buddha is able to rid sentient beings of distress and suffering until none remains, not even a hair’s worth. The ocean of distress and suffering is dried up and vanishes. The Thus Come One’s sympathy commands numerous expedients.
The Buddha kindly and compassionately teaches beings, liberating them all. He pities and sympathizes with all beings. Cultivators should regard everyone with kindness, compassion, and sympathy. We can use kindness to make beings happy all the time, and compassion to relieve their suffering. We should take pity on sentient beings: “How deeply they suffer! We must do everything we can to alleviate their pain.” Then we employ assorted skill-in-means to help sentient beings. Gandharva King Pure Eyes understands this profoundly. He has a deep understanding of this dharma.
The ten directions’ oceans of lands are boundless. The oceans of lands in even a single direction are boundless, not to mention in ten directions. Even the oceans of lands right within our body are boundless, how much the more so if we were to discuss this on a broader scope!
Do the oceans of lands within each person’s body have boundaries? Our bodies are connected with the oceans of lands throughout the ten directions. Your own body is your ocean of lands. The bodies of others are oceans of lands of the ten directions. And other worlds are also oceans of lands of the ten directions. This principle can be expanded ad infinitum. There are infinite levels of meanings impossible to fully describe. If you can’t even locate the boundaries of the ocean of lands of your own body, how much the less can you hope to locate the boundaries of other oceans of lands of the ten directions?
Put simply: In your own ocean of lands, how many fine hairs make up your eyebrows? Could you count those fine hairs? They are a small number. Now, consider a larger quantity. Could you count the number of hairs on your head? You may say, “Yes, I can count the number of hairs in my eyebrows. It might take me ten years, but I can certainly count them all. I can even count the number of hairs on my head.”
Okay, you know how to compute. You have learned trigonometry, geometry, and algebra. Can you figure out how many pores and how many hairs there are on your body?
“Yes, I know. There are 84,000 of them.”
That’s just a general number. Maybe there are 85,000 or 86,000 or 83,000. That’s just a rough estimate. You don’t know the exact number for sure. And since we don’t even know clearly the ocean of lands within our own bodies, how much the less are we equipped to know the oceans of lands throughout the ten directions? Therefore, they are said to be boundless.
The Buddha’s wisdom light shines on them all. We do not have this knowledge because we lack the illumination of wisdom. If we had our wisdom eye open, then thoughts as numerous as dust motes in lands could be counted and known. If we could count that many thoughts, wouldn’t it be much easier to count an ocean of lands? The reason ordinary people do not know is that they aren’t enlightened. The Buddha has attained great, perfect enlightenment. The light of his wisdom completely and simultaneously illumines the oceans of lands of the ten directions. Unlike a spotlight or searchlight that shines in one direction but leaves the other directions dark, the Buddha’s light universally shines on all places at once.
What’s so great about this pervasive universal illumination? There must be advantages to it. Otherwise, what would the Buddha’s light shine for? For one, the light functions by universally purifying evil and wrong views. It completely purges and cleanses the evil and wrong views of beings in the ten directions’ oceans of lands. People with evil and wrong views like to bother others. For example, they may enjoy sending a wind over the ocean, stirring up huge waves in water that was originally placid and calm. Such people don’t give themselves any trouble, but create trouble for others. If their views were simply wrong, these people could still be saved. But when their views are evil, then these views become poisonous and sinister. For instance, such people may scheme to kill or eliminate their opponents. At any rate, evil and wrong views are really terrible.
In this liberation, the Buddha purifies those wrong, evil views. Due to his great kindness and compassion, he does not reject beings who have wrong and evil views. The Buddha doesn’t say, “I will not liberate you because you are so bad.” Instead, he universally purifies those wrong and evil views. King Trees’ Blossoms enters this passage. Gandharva King Trees’ Blossoms has understood this dharma.
For measureless eons, the Buddha...We are not the only ones who must be respectful when we listen to the sutras and Dharma. The Buddha, before he attained Buddhahood, also listened to the Dharma with respect. He was not lazy at all. It’s not known for how many great eons he cultivated expedient practices of great kindness. He cultivated a heart of great kindness and compassion and an impartial mind that did not discriminate between self and others. He practiced skillful expedients and spoke the most appropriate Dharma for each occasion. The more people listened to his Dharma, the happier they felt. The happier they were, the more they wanted to listen. The Buddha cultivated those expedient practices of great kindness. He comforts all those in the world. What does it means to comfort someone? When a person feels dejected and upset, another person may say, “Cheer up. It is only a small thing. Don’t take it so seriously. Once this blows over, it will be over and done with. Don’t get hung up on it.” Hearing such an exhortation, the first person’s spirits are uplifted and he feels better. That’s an example of comforting someone.
The Buddha comforts all sentient beings, making them peaceful and happy. Universal Sound awakens to and enters this path. Gandharva King Universal Sound understands this principle of this Dharma and skillfully enters this passage into liberation.
All rejoice to see the Buddha’s immaculate body.
He inspires in the inhabitants of this world unending delight.
Causes and effects leading to liberation are gradually achieved.
Splendid Eyes skillfully expounds upon this.
All rejoice to see the Buddha’s immaculate body. Why is the Buddha’s body pure? He has cast out all defilement—all greed, anger, and delusion—and retains only precepts, samadhi, and wisdom. Therefore his body is pure and immaculate. On the other hand, the bodies of sentient beings are filthy and impure, because we haven’t gotten rid of our greed, anger, delusion, and other defilements. That is a general explanation. A detailed explanation could take several great eons and still not be finished. Since the Buddha’s body is pure, all sentient beings rejoice to see it. Everyone is delighted to see the Buddha’s pure Dharma body. People not only rejoice in seeing the Buddha, but also respect and make offerings to him.
Whereas the Buddha has cultivated for measureless eons, we sentient beings have been creating karma for measureless eons all the way up to the present. Even now, we are still creating karma in our thoughts and actions. That’s why no one rejoices to see us. In fact, no one wants to see us. Since we are impure, no one wants to lay eyes on us.
He inspires in the inhabitants of this world unending delight. The Buddha inspires infinite, inexhaustible joy in sentient beings. At the end of every sutra spoken by the Buddha, it is recorded that “The great assembly greatly rejoiced, believed, accepted, and practiced according to the teachings.” That is because the Buddha inspires unending delight in sentient beings.
Causes and effects leading to liberation are gradually achieved. Liberation is not gained instantaneously. A certain period of time must transpire. Those who have not yet planted good roots are led to plant good roots. Those who have already planted good roots are led to increase those good roots. Those who have increased their good roots will bring their good roots to maturity. Those who have mature good roots can attain liberation. There are causes for liberation and effects of liberation. If we have planted causes for liberation at the level of planting causes, we will reap the fruits of liberation as a result. Liberation is attained step by step in gradual succession.
Splendid Eyes skillfully expounds upon this. Gandharva King Splendid Eyes skillfully reveals this principle to sentient beings, helping them to understand the Buddha’s state, cultivate the Dharma, and attain liberation.
Sentient beings, confused and deluded, forever flow and turn,
Most solid and dense is the ignorance that hinders and shrouds them.
For them, the Thus Come One speaks the vast, great Dharma.
King Lion Banner conveys this.
Sentient beings will not admit that they are deeply confused. If you tell someone that he is confused, he retorts, “Wrong! You’re the one who’s confused!” If you tell someone that he’s deluded, he counters, “No, you’re the deluded one!” Why do they snap back? They cannot admit their own ignorance. Everyone feels himself to be wiser and better than others. In fact, this is a case of being confused and deluded and not understanding principle.
“Confused” means unawakened; “deluded” means not understanding, being unclear and doubtful. Once a person is confused and deluded, he does not understand principle. If someone teaches him the Buddhadharma, this person will wonder, “Was there really a Buddha? I wonder if the Dharma is really true.”
Now, if you were to teach this person a vice, he would find it wonderful and would have no doubts. But he is skeptical when you try to teach him a good dharma. Teach him bad dharmas, and he has no doubts. Wouldn’t you say such a person was confused and deluded?
Sentient beings, confused and deluded, forever flow and turn. They may have wanted to come back before, but their karmic obstacles pull them away and so they flow and turn within the six paths of rebirth: suddenly in the heavens, suddenly on earth; suddenly in the realm of humans, suddenly in the realm of ghosts, suddenly in the realm of animals, and suddenly in the hells. They are carried along by the current of their confused and deluded karma. The more they flow, the farther they drift; the more they turn, the more disoriented they become. Sentient beings flow around and around until they are thoroughly deluded.
Most solid and dense is the ignorance that hinders and shrouds them. The obstacles of ignorance form a very solid and dense covering. Someone who is too deeply deluded cannot break through this covering. When such a person is encouraged to study the teachings of wisdom, he will say, “Are you saying that I’m dumb? You are far dumber than I am.” He refuses to admit his own ignorance. The Doctrine of the Mean [a classic Confucian text] speaks of this:
Would you say they were smart or foolish?
For them, the Thus Come One speaks the vast, great Dharma. The Buddha speaks the vast, great Dharma for these beings, dispelling their confusion and showing them the truth so they will regain their inherent prajña wisdom and no longer be ignorant. King Lion Banner conveys this. Gandharva King Lion Banner expounds freely upon the principles of this Dharma.
The Thus Come One universally manifests wondrous physical bodies, With measureless variation, equal to all sentient beings.
His different expedients shine on all worlds.
Universally Releasing Jeweled Brilliance perceives this.
The Thus Come One universally manifests wondrous physical bodies. The Thus Come One comes from nowhere and goes nowhere. For that reason, he is called the Thus Come One. There is another definition for Thus Come One: “Riding on the path of reality as it is, he comes to accomplish proper enlightenment.” Thus Come One is one of the Buddha’s ten titles. He manifests everywhere; there is nowhere he does not prevail; and there is nowhere he does not appear. Therefore, he “universally manifests.” The Thus Come One’s Dharma body reaches the Heaven of Neither Thought nor Non-Thought above and reaches the uninterrupted hells below.
“Wondrous physical bodies” refers to bodies adorned with the Thirty-two Hallmarks and the Eighty Subtle Characteristics. These wondrous physical bodies pervade the Dharma Realm, with measureless variation, equal to all sentient beings. The differences and kinds of sentient beings are measureless. To sum it up, there are beings born from wombs, eggs, moisture, and transformation. Womb-born creatures come about through emotion; egg-born creatures come about through thought; moisture-born creatures come about through union; and transformation-born creatures come about through separation. There are infinite variations among womb-born creatures, and the same is true of egg-born, moisture-born, and transformation-born creatures. Each category of birth has infinite variations. All of these creatures behold the Thus Come One’s wondrous physical bodies. His different expedients shine on all worlds. The Buddha employs numerous skill-in-means to teach and transform sentient beings, enabling them to attain the light of prajña wisdom. Gandharva King Universally Releasing Jeweled Brilliance perceives this. He understands the principle of this liberation and this state of the Buddha.
Using immeasurable expedients based in great wisdom
The Buddha expounds for flocks of creatures, all and everywhere.
He enters the true practice of supreme bodhi.
Vajra Banner skillfully contemplates thus.
Using immeasurable expedients based in great wisdom . Great wisdom is the wisdom of prajña. One needs prajña wisdom to employ expedient methods and speak expedient dharmas. There are not just one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, or ten expedient dharmas. How many are there? There are infinitely many. Each one of them meets the potentials of some category of sentient beings. There are as many dharmas as there are categories of sentient beings. These expedient dharmas are used to teach and transform sentient beings. First, one observes the causes and conditions of sentient beings and determines what method to use to teach any specific kind of sentient being. One speaks a dharma geared to an individual’s needs, just as a physician dispenses medicine according to the sickness. Basically there is no dharma that is spoken, and yet no dharma that is not spoken. One speaks every dharma, but after speaking it, is not attached to it. That’s why we say there is no dharma that is spoken. Since beings’ minds are different, different dharmas are spoken for them.
The Buddha expounds for flocks of beings, all and everywhere. He expounds expedient doors, measureless doors of great wisdom’s expedients, causing sentient beings to enter the Buddha’s wisdom. He enters the true practice of supreme bodhi . He enters the supreme path of enlightenment and genuinely practices. When you cultivate, you have to really do it. You cannot merely render it lip service. You can’t say, “Since I know how to lecture on a few lines of the sutras, I am satisfied. That’s cultivation.” Nor can you be arrogant and say, “I know how to sit in meditation. I don’t have to cultivate.” And it’s also not the case that having translated a few sutras, you have cultivation behind you. Cultivation must be based on genuine virtue. If you lack virtue, no one will respect you. If you have virtue, no matter where you go, people will recognize you as a person of virtue who has entered genuine doors of practice. Vajra Banner skillfully contemplates thus. Gandharva King Vajra Banner is skilled at contemplating the state of this passage into liberation.
An instant contains hundreds of thousands of eons.
A Buddha’s spiritual power manifests this, yet he remains unmoved.
Comfort and joy he bestows equally upon all sentient beings.
This is the liberation of Delighting in Adornment.
An instant contains hundreds of thousands of eons. Hundreds of thousands of eons are compressed into a single instant; on the other hand, a single instant of time can be expanded to hundreds of thousand of eons. In the eyes of ordinary people, there seem to be short and long intervals of time. However, on the part of the Buddhas, long can become short, and short can become long. Short and long are nondual; they are one and the same. We may feel that a single lifetime is already a long period of time: From youth we progress to our prime, from our prime we move on to old age, and from old age we move on to death. We experience the sufferings of birth, old age, sickness, and death, and we undergo the processes of coming into being, dwelling, change, and extinction; formation, stasis, decay, and emptiness. We pass through several decades and feel that is a long time. However, from the perspective of Buddhas, that is simply a very brief instant of time. Within that single instant, we experience the sorrows and joys of partings and reunions. We suffer when we are separated from those we love, and we also get together again. We take all of this very seriously, considering it all to be real. But once we close our eyes, everything is gone. Isn’t that the same as a dream?
A Buddha’s spiritual power manifests this, yet he remains unmoved. By means of his awesome spiritual power, a Buddha can condense hundreds of thousands of eons into a single instant, and then expand that single instant into hundreds of thousand of eons. Isn’t that wonderful? Comfort and joy he bestows equally upon all sentient beings: With his awesome spiritual power, a Buddha endows sentient beings with peace and joy. This is the liberation of Delighting in Adornment. Gandharva King Delighting in Adornment experiences this kind of joy.
You may bring up any opinion you have, and we’ll discuss it.
Someone was wondering: “Animals are living creatures, and so are plants. Why is it that we are not allowed to eat meat, but we can eat vegetables? And since we are allowed to eat vegetables, why can’t we eat meat?”
This is the way to answer such a question: Living creatures are divided into those that are sentient and those that are not. Vegetables are not sentient. Although they possess some kind of awareness, they do not have emotions or feelings, and so they do not actually qualify as “sentient beings.” They must first be eaten before they will be transformed into sentient beings. That is, they go through the machinery of the human system, undergo a chemical process, after which their nature will become incorporated into the body of a sentient being: A human being is a machine, a scientific instrument. After going through a chemical change that involves the isolation of atoms, protons, and so on, those elements are gathered back into the human “machine.”
When people ask this sort of question, you can tell them, “Since you know that vegetables are also sentient beings and you do not wish to eat them, that’s okay. Don’t force it.” Then see what they will do.
This refers to Kumbhandha King Growth and Development, Celestial King of the South, who governs the kumbhandha ghosts. We have explained the kumbhandhas many times before, but I don’t know whether you remember it or not. If you do, you can explain it for us. There are many kinds of kumbhandha ghosts. They are also called “barrel-shaped ghosts,” since they do not have heads or legs. Since they resemble winter melons, they are also called “winter melon ghosts.”
Why do certain people encounter this kind of ghost? Such people are strong in yin energy but weak in yang energy. A Celestial King has to govern these ghosts, or else they will be even more intractable and unruly. Fortunately, Celestial King Growth and Development keeps them under control, so they do not get out of hand.
Moreover indicates that the following text continues to explain this ongoing topic. Kumbhandha King Growth and Development gained a passage into liberation of eradicating the power of all resentment and harming. “Resentment” means vengefulness and hatred; “harming” means injuring. One who harbors resentment harms others. Now this Kumbhandha King can dispel all resentment, hatred, and harming. He has obtained the power of this passage into liberation.
The next Kumbhandha King is named Dragon Ruler . He has gained a passage into liberation of cultivating the ocean of boundless methods of practice. He cultivates measureless, boundless dharma doors, which are as profuse as the ocean. He attained that passage into liberation.
The Kumbhandha King named Adorning Banners ornaments all Buddhalands, Way-places, and the pure lands of the ten directions. He has gained a passage into liberation of knowing the delights of all sentient beings. He knows what they like. Thereupon he always accords with sentient beings and speaks Dharma for them. He has attained this kind of state.
The Kumbhandha King named Magnanimous Practice brings benefit to sentient beings, helping all of them. That is his practice. He has gained a passage into liberation of universally accomplishing the karma brought about by pure, great light. “Universally accomplishing” means that he is impartial. He helps all sentient beings and benefits them, aiding all of them to accomplish the karma brought about by pure, undefiled dharmas, a treasury of great brightness of prajña. Here “karma” refers to good karma that will be accomplished. That is the passage into liberation of this Kumbhandha King.
The next Kumbhandha King is named Terrifying. Basically kumbhandhas are pretty frightening, but this one is even more so. All sentient beings are terrified by him, hence his name. However, although he has a frightening appearance, he has a kind and compassionate mind and wants to help sentient beings. He has gained a passage into liberation of revealing to all sentient beings the path of fearlessness that leads to peace and security. When sentient beings do not understand, he uses various dharma doors to facilitate their understanding. Although sentient beings fear him, he shows them the path leading to peace and security so that their fears will be dispelled.
On the subject of fear, the Confucian school says, “The superior person has three fears. He fears the ordinance of heaven; he fears a great person; and he fears the words of a sage.” He is apprehensive and cautious regarding the decree of heaven. When he meets a great personage, he is apprehensive and respectful. And he is also attentive and reverent towards the words spoken by a sage.
In general, people experience many kinds of fear. When they run into a tiger, they are so petrified that their feet turn to jelly and they cannot walk, since tigers can devour people. A person would experience the same kind of fear if he ran into wolves or poisonous snakes. Why do people experience fear?
They have not let go of their attachment to life. If we do not fear death, we will have no other fears to speak of. This Celestial King shows sentient beings the path leading to peace and security. He bestows fearlessness upon them, which is a kind of giving. There is the giving of wealth, the giving of Dharma, and the giving of fearlessness. This Kumbhandha King often gives sentient beings courage, much like Guanshiyin Bodhisattva. He dispels their fears. That is his passage into liberation.
The Kumbhandha King named Wondrous Adornment gained a passage into liberation whereby he dries up the sea of love and desire of all sentient beings. He destroys and dries up the love and desire of sentient beings. Due to a single thought of ignorance, sentient beings fall into lower states. Ignorance is a state of not understanding anything. When one understands nothing, one acts in a reckless and unruly manner, behaving improperly. That is, one gives rise to selfish desire and emotional love, which can be as profuse as an ocean. This Kumbhandha King knows how to dry up and extinguish that sea of love and desire, at which point sentient beings can attain the pure Dharma body. That is to have achieved a passage into liberation.
The Kumbhandha King named Wisdom like a High Peak has superior wisdom. He has gained a passage into liberation of universally manifesting a cloud of light in all destinies. “Universally manifesting” means appearing throughout the dharma realms of Bodhisattvas, Hearers, Sages Enlightened to Conditions, gods, humans, asuras, hungry ghosts, animals, and hell beings. He manifests in all those realms and makes appear a cloud of light amidst all destinies. There is darkness in the different destinies, but he manifests a cloud of light, illumining all sentient beings so they achieve great wisdom. That is his passage into liberation.
Kumbhandha King Robust Arms is very brave and skilled at battle. His strong and robust arms are as solid as steel; even if you hacked at them with a knife, you wouldn’t be able to cut through them. For that reason he is able to subdue the kumbhandha ghosts and become their king. He has gained a passage into liberation of universally emitting light and destroying heavy obstacles resembling a mountain. His light shines everywhere, dispelling obstacles from offenses as weighty as a mountain. Our karmic obstacles have no shape or form. If they had shape or form, space would burst since it would not be able to contain all of our karmic obstacles. Fortunately, karmic obstacles do not have shape or form, and so space has not burst open. However, karmic obstacles are as heavy as Mount Sumeru . Why is it that we do not have a resolute resolve for the Way? Why is it that we don’t have a long-lasting resolve for cultivation? It’s because we are burdened by these obstacles. They obstruct us so our resolve for cultivation is not firm or enduring.
Karmic obstacles derive from karma that we create. Our evil karma covers our wisdom. Therefore, during the refuge ceremony, there is passage that says, “We have created much evil karma, which obstructs and occludes the source of our mind. We are not worthy of being gathered in.”
Obstacles of retribution are present-day retributions resulting from karma we created in our former lives. Cultivators must pay attention to obstacles of afflictions. Take care to not have so many afflictions. Do not have such overwhelming ignorance that you get angry or upset at the slightest provocation. Affliction and ignorance are the absolute worst things in cultivation. Don’t think you can simply get angry if people treat you badly. That is the ugliest, the lowest, the most spineless thing to do. Once you get angry, all the effort you put into cultivation is lost. Cultivation means being patient with what others cannot be patient with, yielding to what others cannot yield.
People who have cultivation and virtue never really get angry. If a virtuous person makes a show of anger, people find it very easy to take. If a person lacking virtue blows up, however, it won’t work. Don’t think, “Now that I have virtue, I can get mad at others.” That will not do. Any indication of anger is a sign of your own stupidity. You cannot be mad at anyone. You shouldn’t get angry even at people who are one or two levels junior to you, or who are lower than you in position, much less your Dharma peers. You cannot attack others because of your own afflictions and ignorance.
From now on, this is how you should observe people: If an individual has truly gotten rid of his temper, afflictions, and ignorance, that individual has promise. Don’t look at his scholarship, wisdom, or eloquence. If he is still prone to ignorance and gets angry often, then, without having to ask, you should know that such a person has no skill to speak of. Not only does he have no skill, but he will soon fall into the hells; after all, he came from the hells. You should to pay attention to this point.
If you are a cultivator, no matter how badly people treat you, you absolutely cannot get angry at them. That’s the most important point. I remind you daily, over and over again: “Don’t get angry,” and yet you insist on getting angry. You insist on letting the tiger out of its cage. This is very pathetic. If you still cannot practice the paramita of patience after having cultivated for such a long time, everything will be to no avail. No matter how much merit and virtue you have, if you aren’t able to be patient, all of your efforts will be annulled. Every one of you should cultivate the dharma of patience. You should not get angry every day. This is important! Pay special attention to this point.
There is another list of two kinds of obstacles: obstacles of afflictions and obstacles of what is known. Getting angry is an obstacle of afflictions. Why aren’t you enlightened? Why haven’t you gained a passage into liberation? It is because you are blocked by obstacles of afflictions. Even if you are on the verge of enlightenment, the door leading to enlightenment closes once you become afflicted. What are the obstacles of what is known? It refers to an attitude of feeling that you know more than others, that your views are more correct than others. “My English is good, my Chinese is excellent, my French is great, and my Spanish is terrific!” Such a person feels he or she knows a great deal, and that is the obstacle of what is known. No matter what kind of obstacles they are, be they obstacles of afflictions or obstacles of what is known, these resemble a mountain that obstructs your mind’s enlightenment. And you will not gain a passage into liberation. Now this Kumbhandha King has gained a passage into liberation of universally emitting light and destroying heavy obstacles that resemble a mountain. Upon hearing this Dharma, we should reflect and be determined to get rid of our temper. Don’t hang on to it. Otherwise, you won’t gain this passage into liberation.
Kumbhandha King Eyes Resembling Flowers of Boundless Purity gained a passage into liberation of revealing to sentient beings, a treasury of irreversible, great compassion. This is the mind of great compassion that universally saves all sentient beings, enabling all of them to leave suffering and attain bliss. This Kumbhandha King has attained this passage into liberation.
The next one is Kumbhandha King Vast, Great Range . [Note: The character for “range” is the same as for “face.”] Does that mean he has a big, wide face? Is his face larger than his body? Does he have a big head, a small body, and short legs? No. Here, it means his scope of influence and control is great. He knows when any kumbhandha ghost misbehaves. The area of his jurisdiction is large, not his face. He rules over many kumbhandha ghosts. He has gained a passage into liberation of universally manifesting bodies that traverse all destinies. He can appear throughout the ten dharma realms, all the paths of rebirth. “Bodies that traverse” refers to going through birth and death, dying and then being born again, revolving on and on without beginning or end. From the human path one drifts into the path of hungry ghosts, and from the path of hungry ghosts one drifts into the heavens.
The Teacher of the World achieved the strength of patience and
For the sake of beings, cultivated for measureless eons.
Forever removed from the world’s arrogance and delusion,
His body therefore is most adorned and pure.
At that time, Kumbhandha King Growth and Development received the Buddha’s awesome spiritual power, universally contemplated the kumbhandha multitudes, and spoke the following verse . Whether you are a left-home person or a layperson, you must practice the Dharma after you have heard it. If you don’t practice, then you’d be better off not hearing the Dharma at all. If you practice the Dharma without having heard it, then it’s as if you had heard the Dharma. These lines of verse say:
The Teacher of the World achieved the strength of patience and…We should reflect upon this line of verse. The Buddha is the Teacher of the World who has achieved the strength of patience. Have we achieved that power? Have we achieved the strength of patience, or have we achieved the strength of violence? If we have achieved the strength of patience, in the future we will have a chance to be a Teacher of the World. However, some people acquire the strength of violence instead; that is, they heavy-handedly oppress others with force, authority, and position. Although people may appear to be subdued, they don’t really admire or respect a person who oppresses them. For instance, if my disciples disagree with me, I regard them as my good advisors. They are helping me to realize my strength in patience. You are checking to see if your teacher would be able to endure his disciples’ criticisms. Anyone of you who disagrees with your teacher is a good disciple. If you are impolite and rude to your teacher, you are a good disciple, my good and wise teacher. Those of you who agree with your teacher are not good disciples. If you respond with, “Yes, yes, I’ll do whatever you say,” you are not my good disciple.
For the sake of beings, cultivated for measureless eons. What “beings” does this refer to? It refers to strange creatures—really weird beings. What strange creatures? The strange creature that you are, and the strange creature that he is. What does this really mean? It simply means that people, basically all sentient beings, are “strange creatures.” Wouldn’t you say they are strange? They know how to sleep, eat, put on clothes, take advantage of situations, and they also know how not to take a loss. If these aren’t strange creatures, then what are they? They know how to benefit themselves but do not wish to benefit others. The Buddha cultivated for beings like these. Because of that, although these creatures are strange to start with, they will eventually no longer be strange. The Buddha cultivated on behalf of those strange creatures.
The Buddha considers all these beings his own sons and daughters. That’s why he set out to cultivate, acquired great spiritual penetrations, became enlightened, and perfected the method for ultimately ending birth and death. And then he taught that method to sentient beings, enabling them also to perfect that method of ending birth and death. However, this dharma is not easy to understand. The Buddha, wishing to understand this dharma, bravely underwent myriad sufferings and hardships for measureless eons. He cultivated various ascetic practices so as to rescue those pitiful “strange creatures” from suffering and bring them happiness.
Forever removed from the world’s arrogance and delusion. Take a look. You’ve been studying the Buddhadharma for so long, and yet you are still that arrogant and haughty. Not to talk about anything else, some Bhikshus are extremely arrogant toward Bhikshunis. They demand, “You Bhikshunis must practice the Eight Dharmas of Respect. If you don’t, I won’t be nice to you!” If that’s not arrogance, then what is it? They say, “Bhikshunis are not people. We don’t want to talk to Bhikshunis.” Haughtiness consists of being extremely rude, behaving like barbarians or country bumpkins. However, if a country bumpkin were to renounce his arrogance, he could become a Patriarch. On the other hand, if you claim to be a Patriarch to begin with, you couldn’t even be a country bumpkin given your arrogance.
His body therefore is most adorned and pure. Free from every arrogance and defilement, the Buddha’s body is the most splendid and pure, the most wonderful and majestic. He is endowed with the Thirty-two Hallmarks and Eighty Subtle Characteristics. People want to keep staring at the Buddha, never letting up their gaze.
In the past, in all places, the Buddha cultivated an ocean of practices, Teaching and transforming measureless multitudes in the ten directions. With various expedients he benefits all sentient beings. Dragon Ruler attains this passage into liberation.
In the past, in all places, the Buddha cultivated an ocean of practices. For measureless eons, the Buddha universally cultivated all dharmas and practices, not just one. He cultivated and practiced any and every dharma. He cultivated the Six Paramitas and the myriad practices. These were not practiced for just one lifetime. Maybe in one lifetime the Buddha exclusively worked on the paramita of giving and exhausted his efforts in giving. In his next lifetime he would work on the paramita of precepts. The lifetime after that he would work on the patience paramita. The lifetime after that he would work on the vigor paramita, and then the dhyana-paramita and the prajña-paramita, in subsequent lives.
The Buddha would focus on one paramita in each lifetime, making that the theme of his cultivation, but he would also complement that paramita with other practices. That’s how we work at Gold Mountain Monastery. Here, we take translation of the sutras as our main work, but we also study various languages and cultivate many dharmas. That is “in all places, one cultivates an ocean of practices.” The Six Paramitas and the myriad practices are as profuse as an ocean; they’re inexhaustible and unending.
Teaching and transforming measureless multitudes in the ten directions. Having cultivated that sea of practices to perfection, the Buddha then uses those practices to teach and transform sentient beings, leading all beings to follow the same path and universally cultivate an ocean of practices. The Buddha teaches and transforms measureless multitudes in the ten directions. With various expedients he benefits all sentient beings. In his every move, the Buddha cultivates on behalf of sentient beings. Therefore, after completing his own work in the Way, he employs various expedients and methods to benefit all beings. Kumbhandha King Dragon Ruler attains this passage into liberation.
With great wisdom, the Buddha rescues sentient beings.
He knows and understands their minds without exception.
He tames and subdues them with various feats of self-mastery.
Adorning Banners sees this and rejoices.
With great wisdom, the Buddha rescues sentient beings. The Buddha is someone who has reached Great, Perfect Enlightenment. There is nothing he does not know and nothing he cannot do. Therefore, with great wisdom, he saves sentient beings. How does he teach them? He tames and subdues them with various feats of self-mastery , many expedients. For every kind of sentient being, the Buddha will appear in the appropriate form to save that being and speak Dharma for him. For each being, the Buddha will speak the most suitable Dharma for liberating that being. He contemplates their potentials and teaches them the Dharma accordingly. Since beings have different faculties, they need to be taught and transformed using different methods. Thus it takes great wisdom to save and protect sentient beings. The Buddha uses great wisdom to teach sentient beings, saving all of them. Who recognizes their potential and the dharmas they need? Only the Buddha. He knows and understands their minds without exception. “The Thus Come One completely knows and sees all the various thoughts of sentient beings.” Since he completely knows and sees them, the Buddha knows which dharmas to use to teach and transform sentient beings. He selects dharmas suited to their individual dispositions.
He tames and subdues them with various feats of self-mastery: “Feats of self-mastery” refers to different kinds of spiritual powers that the Buddha uses to regulate and subdue beings. Sentient beings are very stubborn, but the Buddha uses various methods to eventually persuade them to develop the strength of patience. To greedy and stingy beings, the Buddha explains the practice of giving, enabling them to renounce their stinginess and greed. Some beings are very scattered and do not observe the rules, much less the precepts. To those beings the Buddha speaks of the precepts. He influences them to follow the rules, cast out all unwholesome dharmas and cultivate all wholesome dharmas, abstain from evil and practice goodness. Some sentient beings have huge tempers. They exhibit “the fire of ignorance and the spirit of a tiger.” The Buddha speaks the dharma of patience for them, teaching them to be tolerant. He does the same with the other paramitas of vigor, dhyana concentration, and prajña wisdom.
Whatever way sentient beings can be taken across, the Buddha will use that method, that spiritual power and wonderful functioning, to tame and subdue sentient beings, causing them to reform and renew themselves.
In response, his spiritual powers manifest, like light and shadow.
The Dharma wheel he turns is true and actual, identical to space.
For unending eons, he abides in the world.
This is the realization of King Magnanimous.
In response, his spiritual powers manifest . The Buddha’s spiritual powers manifest everywhere in response to potentials. His wisdom universally sheds light on sentient beings. Since the Buddha is endowed with wisdom, he—knows how to utilize his spiritual powers. His spiritual powers can also aid his wisdom. Therefore the Buddha appears according to the different kinds of sentient beings, to teach and transform them, like light and shadow. This works like a light that disperses shadows. Once the light appears, the shadows vanish. Sentient beings’ karmic obstacles resemble shadows. The Buddha’s spiritual powers and wisdom resemble light. Sentient beings’ karmic obstacles also resemble ice, while the Buddha’s spiritual powers and wisdom-light resemble the sun, which melts the ice. At that point, sentient beings can return to the origin and go back to the source. Although sentient beings are laden with karmic obstacles, after being illumined with the Buddha’s wisdom-light, their karmic obstacles will disperse. That is, although you may have karmic obstacles, if you cultivate according to the Buddhadharma, you can get rid of them.
The Dharma wheel is true and actual, identical to space. The great Dharma wheel constantly turns, and this is something that truly and actually happens. Although it is true and actual, you should not become attached to it. Do not be attached to the notion that there is a Dharma wheel that is turning, or that there are sentient beings who should be liberated. Once you become attached, you have an attachment to dharmas. Therefore, although the Dharma wheel is true and actual, it resembles space, which is intangible. You cannot find anything in empty space. The Buddha’s constant turning of the Dharma wheel resembles space.
For unending eons, he abides in the world. The Buddha is not attached to anything he does. That is the way he deals with the world and teaches and transforms sentient beings. He abides throughout countless, measureless great eons. He performs the Buddha’s work, which is like an image in a mirror, and sits in a Way-place resembling the moon’s reflection in water. In other words, he is not attached. This is the realization of Kumbhandha King Magnanimous. That king understands and has realized this passage into liberation.
Sentient beings are ever blinded by the cataract of ignorance.
The Buddha’s radiance lights up the path to peace.
Rescuing and protecting them, he frees them from suffering.
This is the dharma door contemplated by Terrifying.
Sentient beings are ever blinded by the cataract of ignorance. Why are sentient beings, sentient beings? Because of a single thought of unenlightened ignorance, they fall and become sentient beings. However, although sentient beings are unenlightened, they are still endowed with their original Buddha nature. But that unenlightened state covers them over. What is the lack of enlightenment? It is ignorance, which resembles cataracts in one’s eyes, blurring one’s vision. Since one cannot see clearly, one continues doing muddled and confused things. From this state of muddled confusion, beings give rise to many doubts and delusions. For example, they doubt the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. They are supposed to rely on the Buddha, but they do not believe in the Buddha. They are supposed to rely on the Dharma, but they do not study the Dharma. They are supposed to rely on the Sangha, but they do not revere the Sangha. They do not believe in, study, or revere the Triple Jewel. For that reason, they are “ever blinded.”
The Buddha’s radiance lights up the path to peace. This is a path leading to peace and security, upon which there are no calamities or perils. Why are there no calamities? The Buddha’s light drives calamities away. Rescuing and protecting them, he frees them from suffering: The Buddha acts as a kind father and guiding master for sentient beings. He works to protect sentient beings, like a nurse. The Buddha is a nurse for sentient beings. Sentient beings have so many problems that it seems likely they would make the Buddha nervous. Likely, I said, because that’s only my conjecture. It might not be that way. The Buddha has great samadhi power. No matter what happens, he remains thus, thus unmoving. Even if you oppose the Buddha, he acts as if nothing is going on. Even when you slander the Buddha, he considers your words to be praise. He enables beings to leave suffering and experience joy.
Full of woes, beings drift and flounder in the sea of desire.
The Buddha’s wisdom shines universally, vanquishing misery entirely.
Dispelling their suffering, he speaks Dharma for them.
Wondrous Adornment has enlightened to this.
Full of woes, beings drift and flounder in the sea of desire. Everyone has desire, which is as profuse as water in the sea. Some people have the desire for leadership. They want to be the leader, number one. They may wish to be President, governor, mayor, and so forth. Some people exhaust their means and wealth in order to be elected to office, and then afterwards they want to get their money back. How do they go about doing it? They take bribes and become corrupt. Some people have a desire for wealth. They go into business, farming, or some other profession, but no matter what they do, their goal is to make money. They desire wealth. Then there are those who desire fame. They want a good name. They cannot bear to hear others say even one uncomplimentary thing about them. To them, praise is sweeter than candy, but criticism is as bitter as huanglian [a bitter herb similar to goldenseal]. That’s the desire for fame.
Some people want to live in fancy houses, wear beautiful clothes, or buy fine pairs of shoes. Their desire may be great or small, but it is desire nevertheless. Some men want to find a girlfriend; some women want to find a boyfriend. That’s the desire between men and women, which is the most difficult to cut off. For that reason, sentient beings drift to and fro in the sea of desire. From the shore of birth and death, they are borne along the current of afflictions. It’s very difficult for them to arrive at the other shore of nirvana. They drift about, and eventually, they sink to the bottom of the sea.
This sea is “full of woes.” For instance, someone falls from the realm of the gods to the human realm. From the human realm he falls to the realm of asuras. From the realm of asuras he falls to the path of animals. From the path of animals he falls to the path of hungry ghosts. From the path of hungry ghosts he winds up in the hells. Day by day he sinks lower. Day by day he drifts farther and farther away.
He keeps drifting farther away from the Buddhadharma. He sinks down farther and grows distant from his original Buddha nature. For that reason, the sutra says, “Full of woes, beings drift and flounder in the sea of desire.” That sea is full of woes, or sufferings. First of all, there are the Three Sufferings: (1) the suffering within suffering, (2) the suffering of decay, and (3) the suffering of process. Then there are the Eight Sufferings: (1) birth, (2) old age, (3) sickness, and (4) death; (5) the suffering of being apart from those you love; (6) the suffering of being together with the ones you hate; (7) the suffering of not getting what you seek; (8) the suffering of the raging blaze of the five skandhas. That’s a general description. A detailed explanation would include measureless and boundless sufferings.
The Buddha’s wisdom shines universally, vanquishing misery entirely. The Buddha’s wisdom light shines upon the evil paths and dispels all the suffering therein. Dispelling their suffering, he speaks Dharma for them: After getting rid of their suffering, the Buddha teaches them the Dharma, leading them from confusion back to enlightenment, from suffering to bliss. Wondrous Adornment has enlightened to this state. This is the passage into liberation understood by Kumbhandha King Wondrous Adornment.
The Buddha’s body responds universally, nowhere unseen.
He transforms the multitudes, using an array of expedients.
With a voice like thunder, he lets fall the Dharma rain.
Lofty Wisdom enters this dharma door .
The Buddha’s body responds universally, nowhere unseen.
The Buddha is like a clear, cool moon,
Forever coursing in space.
When the water in sentient beings’ minds is clear,
Enlightenment is reflected therein.
The Buddha resembles a clear, cool moon, roaming easily in the void. When the water in the minds of sentient beings is pure, the Buddha’s clear cool moon will be reflected in the bodhi of their minds. That is how the Buddha’s body universally responds.
In a thousand pools of water, there will be a thousand moons.
Extending ten thousand cloudless miles, there will be ten thousand miles of sky.
One moon universally appears in all bodies of water.
The moons in those bodies of water all trace back to one moon.
One moon’s reflection appears in all bodies of water, meaning that it appears in the minds of all sentient beings. All the moons in those bodies of water can be traced back to the moon in the sky. They all come from that one moon. When sentient beings face the moon, they all feel that the moon is shining on them. They argue among themselves, insisting that the moon is shining on them alone. The moon might say, “Don’t fight among yourselves. I shine on everyone. I am not biased. Don’t fight.” That’s the same idea behind the Buddha’s body universally responding so that no one fails to see it. Just as there is no one who doesn’t see the moon, there is no one who fails to see the Buddha’s body.
He transforms the multitudes, using an array of expedients. The Buddha does not employ only one dharma door. He uses an assortment of skill-in-means. He dispenses the teaching according to the person. He dispenses medicine according to the illness. If he sees a child, he may say, “You study hard now. Learn to recite the sutras and mantras.” The child thinks, “If I learn my characters, I’ll be able to recite the sutras and mantras. Won’t that be cool?” The prospect of being able to recite the sutras and mantras spurs him on to study. That is one example of an expedient method, from which you can understand many others. The Buddha, out of great compassion, designs clever, provisional methods to teach and transform sentient beings.
With a voice like thunder, he lets fall the Dharma rain. The Buddha’s voice resembles a thunderclap. When thunder roars, sentient beings hear it. The Buddha sends down the rain of Dharma, speaking Dharma for sentient beings. Lofty Wisdom enters this dharma door. Kumbhandha King Lofty Wisdom enters this passage into liberation.
Pure, clear light is not released in vain.
Encountering it, beings find their severe obstacles dispelled.
The proclamation of the Buddha’s merit and virtue is boundless.
Robust Arms understands this profound principle.
Pure, clear light is not released in vain. This refers to the Buddha’s light, which is the light of wisdom. It is never released in vain. The Buddha may not release this light. If he does release it, however, it will most definitely have an impact. It has its function. What is this function? Encountering it, beings find their severe obstacles dispelled. Once the Buddha’s pure light shines on you, no matter how tremendous your obstacles are, they will be dispelled. What are severe obstacles? They include acts such as patricide, matricide, killing an Arhat, destroying the harmony of the Sangha, and shedding the Buddha’s blood—offenses for which one cannot repent. However, even these heavy obstacles can be eradicated. Once the Buddha’s light shines on you, your obstacles, however great, are dispelled. Whereas grave obstacles are like an iceberg, the Buddha’s light is like sunlight. Sunlight can melt an iceberg. The proclamation of the Buddha’s merit and virtue is boundless. If you try to describe the Buddha’s merit and virtue in detail, you will be unable to find its boundaries. There is no way to finish talking about it. Robust Arms understands this profound principle. Kumbhandha King Robust Arms has attained this profound, wonderful principle.
The Flower Adornment Sutra appears to have many repetitive passages. There are often sets of ten in everything that is brought up, such as ten kings and ten sets of verses. There seems to be no fear of repetition. The principles of the Flower Adornment Sutra are infinitely multi-layered and inexhaustible. There’s no way to finish talking about them. There are kings who oversee the kumbhandhas, gandharvas, asuras, kinnaras, garudas, gods, dragons and the rest of the eightfold division. Each king has his job and his own subordinates. Therefore, in translating the sutras, we should not be intimidated by the complexity of the work. Don’t be afraid of adding more names to our committees. The more people you have, the more you can pool their strength and resources. There isn’t just one Kumbhandha King, or one Gandharva King. There are always ten. By the same token, at the very least, we should have ten translators. We must emulate the states described in the Flower Adornment Sutra to produce fine work. Therefore, in the future, at least ten people should be involved in publishing the sutras. When we get ten people together, we will succeed in our job.
Wishing to bring comfort and joy to sentient beings...The Buddha wishes that all sentient beings be peaceful and happy. Most sentient beings are too deeply immersed in worry, sorrow, and suffering; thus they do not wish to leave their suffering. They are constantly wallowing in worry, sorrow, pain, and vexation. Every person has his own suffering and vexation. A king has his own suffering and vexation, a president has his suffering and vexation. Every family creates its own movie or performs its own play. Every individual also has his or her internal conflicts. Therefore, the Buddha willingly takes on suffering himself so that sentient beings can be happy. He cultivates great compassion for measureless eons. He took on various ascetic practices and cultivated great compassion. It was not the case that he practiced this great compassion for only one or two days. For measureless eons until the present, he has been cultivating this practice of great compassion to universally save all sentient beings. With various skill-in-means, he relieves their pain: Having perfected his great compassionate mind and practice, the Buddha adopts various provisional methods to dispel sentient beings’ sufferings, enabling them to leave suffering and attain bliss. Flowers of Purity sees thus. Kumbhandha King Flowers of Purity understands this principle.
The self-mastery of his spiritual powers is inconceivable. The Buddha’s spiritual powers are measureless and boundless, and so is the spiritual strength of his self-mastery. Spiritual powers derive from a very spontaneous kind of wisdom. Self-mastery comes from samadhi power. If you have true wisdom, you will acquire spiritual powers. If you have true samadhi power, you will attain self-mastery. If you lack samadhi power, you will not have self-mastery. The Buddha’s spiritual powers and his self-mastery are both inconceivable. They cannot be conceived of by the mind or expressed with words.
His body appears universally in the ten directions. Since the Buddha’s self-mastery and spiritual powers are inconceivable, his body can universally appear in the worlds of the ten directions, yet neither arrives nor departs . Actually, the Buddha has not gone to the ten directions, nor has he come from any specific direction. The Buddha neither comes nor goes. The one can manifest the many; the many can manifest the one. One and many are mutually non-obstructive. One is just many; many are just one. One and many are nondual. Therefore, there is no coming or going. The Vajra Sutra says, “The Thus Come One neither comes nor goes.” He is different from us because if we go there, we are no longer here; and if we are here, we are not there. The Buddha has this free and easy, wondrous functioning of spiritual powers:
Without moving from the Way-place,
He pervades the Dharma Realm.
Although the Buddha is stationed at the Way-place, he manifests his body throughout the worlds of the ten directions. What is more, sentient beings throughout the worlds of the ten directions can also see the Buddha and hear the Dharma.
Let me explain how dragons became dragons, and how tigers became tigers. Dragons harbor much hatred. They have huge tempers and become angry at the drop of a hat. On the other hand, they are very courageous and vigorous when it comes to cultivation; they do not fear suffering or difficulty. Unfortunately they do not observe the precepts. They are “fast with the Vehicle, but slow with the precepts.” They are very quick in cultivating the Great Vehicle, but they are slow and lax when it comes to holding the precepts. They do not pay attention to the precepts. They say, “There’s no need to hold the precepts. They’re very unnatural.” They do not regard the precepts highly. Since these people were fast with the Vehicle, they acquired spiritual powers. Since they were slow with the precepts, they fell into the animal realm. Although they have become animals, they have the spiritual powers to make themselves big or small and to come and go at will. Dragons can fly and transform themselves in inconceivable ways. However, they experience four kinds of suffering.
1. The suffering of being eaten by the birds with golden wings. Golden-winged peng birds like to gobble up dragons. It’s one thing if the dragons do not appear, but should they appear, a golden-winged bird can swoop down and gobble them up the way we swallow noodles. Golden-winged birds can spot dragons from 108,000 miles away. As soon as they see them, they immediately fly over to devour them. Dragons lose their spiritual powers at the very sight of a golden-winged bird. They freeze on the spot and wait helplessly to be gobbled up. Why is that? Because golden-winged birds specialize in subduing dragons. Dragons become very tame when they meet a golden-winged bird. They lie there as if in a drunken stupor, oblivious to everything. Although they have spiritual powers, they are finished once they see a golden-winged bird.
2. The suffering of manifesting their original body during intercourse. When dragons are engaged in intercourse, they no longer look like dragons. They assume their original shape and look like snakes. Usually they have golden-colored scales, but when they engage in intercourse they look like big snakes.
3. The suffering of having parasites lodged in their scales. Tiny parasites lodge themselves right in the scales of a dragon, gnawing at the dragon and making it unbearably itchy. Tiny bugs bite the dragon from within every scale, making it unbearable for the dragon.
Then what do you suppose the dragon does? It wants to rub its body against something to relieve the itch. When people have an itch on their body, they scratch it. Since the dragon’s claws cannot reach those itchy places, the dragon wants to rub its body against some surface to relieve the itch. It goes to the beach and rubs its scales against the sand. The sand, baked by the sun, feels like fire against the dragon’s body and is very painful.
Those are the four sufferings of a dragon, and they are quite a handful for it to deal with. You shouldn’t think, “Dragons are so free, soaring through the skies with total ease and independence. They can instantaneously go anywhere they please, without needing to buy an plane ticket.” You may think a dragon’s life is one of ease and comfort, but that is not the case.
Moreover, Dragon King Virupakshagained a passage into liberation of dispelling the burning agony of all those in the path of dragons. There are many kinds of dragons, and they experience many kinds of suffering. “Burning” describes a raging blaze. The pain they experience is so agonizing, it is as if they are being burned by fire.
Dragon King Sagara lives in a salty sea. He has gained a passage into liberation of manifesting the bodies of limitless sentient beings by transforming his own dragon body in a single thought. Not necessarily over a long period of time, but just in one thought, he transforms his own dragon form, manifesting the bodies of measureless sentient beings. No matter what bodies sentient beings have, he will manifest in a corresponding body. To creatures that fly, he manifests as a flying creature. To sentient beings that swim, he manifests as an aquatic creature. To mammals, womb-born beings, he manifests as a womb-born being. To beings born from eggs, he manifests as an egg-born creature. He manifests in various bodies to teach and transform sentient beings. That is his passage into liberation.
Dragon King Banner of Cloud-like Sounds has a sound resembling cloud and thunder, as well as a banner. He has gained a passage into liberation of uttering the ocean of the Buddha’s boundless names with a refreshing sound amidst all destinies—the twenty-five levels of existence within the three realms of existence. This includes the paths of rebirth of the gods, humans, asuras, animals, hungry ghosts, and hell beings. To speak of them in a general way, there are six paths of rebirth. When broken down in further detail, there are twenty-five levels of existence. All these levels of existence fall within the Desire Realm, the Form Realm, and the Formless Realm. Within those Three Realms, this Dragon King speaks Dharma with a pure sound.
A person’s voice or sound is important. If your voice is loud and clear, everyone enjoys hearing the Dharma you speak. If your voice is not pure or resonant, even if you speak Dharma that is good, people will not enjoy hearing you. Pure sound is like music. If your voice is like music, people become mesmerized by your voice to the point that they forget all of their idle thoughts. They enjoy hearing your pure sound.
This Dragon King has the passage into liberation of “uttering the ocean of the Buddha’s boundless names with a refreshing sound.” Each Buddha has 10,000 names; and 10,000 Buddhas have 100 million names. That is why it is called the “ocean of names.” In the beginning each Buddha had 10,000 names, but sentient beings could not manage to remember so many, and so the number was reduced to 1,000. But even then sentient beings could not manage to remember so many, since their dispositions were coarse and inferior. They could not remember so many names. Then the number was decreased to 100, but even that was too many. Sentient beings’ memories had deteriorated, and so they couldn’t remember the 100 names of the Buddha. Finally this was changed to ten names, which are: Thus Come One, One Worthy of Offerings, One of Proper and Pervasive Knowledge, One of Perfect Understanding and Conduct, Well-Gone One Who Understands the World, Unsurpassed Lord, Taming and Subduing Hero, Teacher of Gods and Humans, Buddha, and World Honored One. After the number of Buddhas’ names was reduced to ten, it was easy for people to remember them.
Dragon King Mouth Aflame can emit fire from his mouth that turns into a volcano. The fire he spouts can melt a mountain, hence his name. He gained a passage into liberation of universally appearing in boundlessly many Buddhalands that are differently established throughout the ten directions . Every Buddha world is established or brought into being differently. For example, the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss was set up by Amitabha Buddha. The Saha world is where Sãkyamuni Buddha propagates the Buddhadharma; he has set up this world. The worlds that the Buddhas set up are different. Each world has its unique individual features, and so the text says, “differently established.” Some worlds have been set up over a long period of time; others have been set up over a short period of time. Some worlds are adorned, while others are not. These worlds are manifestations with which the Buddhas respond to the potential of sentient beings, so as to save them. That Dragon King has attained that particular passage into liberation.
Dragon King Blazing Eyes, by means of his spiritual powers, emits a fiery light from his eyes. He has gained a passage into liberation of learning how the Thus Come Ones’ kind sympathy dispels the coverings and fetters of all sentient beings’ hatred and delusion. Hatred is prompted by ignorance, afflictions, and temper. Those who have huge tempers have intense hatred in their hearts. That is the covering of hatred. Then there is the covering of delusion. Delusion covers wisdom; and hatred covers compassion. When sentient beings are bound by these fetters of hatred and delusion, they lose their freedom.
“The Thus Come One’s kind sympathy”: Since sentient beings’ coverings and fetters of hatred and delusion obstruct their cultivation of the Way, the Buddha brings forth great kindness and compassion to dispel those coverings and fetters of greed, anger, and delusion. That is the passage into liberation of dispelling the three poisons of greed, anger and delusion, which brings about the perfection of the Three Non-Outflow Studies of precepts, samadhi, and wisdom.
Dragon King Cloud Banner gained a passage into liberation of revealing to all sentient beings the sea of great happiness, joy, and blessings. When sentient beings do not understand, he reveals and explains a principle to them, after which they understand. Since sentient beings are obstructed by delusion, after they hear his explanation, their obstruction of delusion goes away. He enables beings to give rise to great happiness and joy. Because they obtain blessings and wisdom, they are immensely happy. The great happiness, joy, and blessings continue to increase until they become like a sea. That is his passage into liberation.
When we listen to the sutras and investigate the Buddhadharma, we should have this attitude: “Renew yourself constantly; become a new person day after day.” Every time you listen to a sutra, you should act as if you are hearing it for the first time. Do not think, “I have heard it so many times already.” If you are hearing a sutra for the first time, you are bound to be very attentive. You will not think about other things or doze off. However, if you think, “I’ve heard this so many times. We hear sutras today, tomorrow, and the day after that. It’s too much…,” then it will be rather meaningless to you. Being bored, you will fall asleep or have false thinking and not pay attention. If, however, you can think to yourself, “This is the first time I am hearing the sutra. I must pay attention and not let this pass in vain.” Then you will most certainly attain something. If you listen to one sentence, you will understand that sentence. If you listen to one chapter, you will understand that chapter.
In the past, at Jiangtian Monastery on Gold Mountain in Zhenjiang Province of China, there lived a monk known as the “Living Buddha of Gold Mountain.” Wherever he went to listen to the sutras, he always knelt when he listened. He did not kneel on a cushion or a bowing mat. He knelt on the tile floor, placing his palms together very respectfully. If the Dharma Master lectured for two hours, he would kneel there for two hours, being very respectful and not lazy in the least bit. He wasn’t like some of you who, after listening to the lecture for a while, hunch over the table and fall asleep, or lean against the wall and doze off. Therefore, you should keep in mind that, “it’s not easy to be able to hear the Buddhadharma.” Then you won’t be lazy.
Dragon King Taksaka gained a passage into liberation of eradicating all fears by means of a pure sound that rescues and protects. This Dragon King attained a pure sound that rescues and protects. When any being hears his sound, all the fear and terror in that being’s mind will vanish. That’s the passage into liberation gained by this Dragon King.
Dragon King Boundless Stride can fly and soar in the air and undergo changes and transformations. He has extensive spiritual penetrations. He has gained a passage into liberation of manifesting all Buddhas’ bodies— not just the body of one Buddha, but the bodies of all Buddhas—as well as the successive stages of their dwelling , the stages of a Buddha’s life in the world: his appearing in the world, dwelling in the world, turning the Dharma wheel, taking across sentient beings, and entering nirvana. This Dragon King has obtained this passage into liberation and understood this principle.
Dragon King Swift Pure Color can fly and undergo transformations very swiftly. He has gained a passage into liberation of giving rise to the ocean of all sentient being’ great aspirations and happiness. He enables sentient beings to attain profuse aspirations and rejoicing, which are inconceivable and ocean-like. That is his passage into liberation. He can make sentient beings very happy. What are they happy about? They are happy about the Buddhadharma. What do they aspire toward? They aspire toward the Buddhadharma. He can influence sentient beings to turn away from confusion and return to enlightenment, renounce the deviant and follow the proper. He has attained this particular passage into liberation.
Dragon King Booming Sounds Carrying Everywhere is so named because he releases a great Dharma sound throughout the Dharma Realm. He has gained a passage into liberation of manifesting all impartial, delightful, and unobstructed sounds. Originally they weren’t there, but now he makes them appear. This kind of sound is impartial. Any sentient being can hear this Dharma sound. Upon hearing this Dharma sound, sentient beings are delighted at heart and extremely happy. How happy are they? They arrive at the state of nonobstruction. These sounds are unobstructed, and for that reason all sentient beings simultaneously get to hear this impartial, delightful, unobstructed sound. This Dragon King has obtained this passage into liberation.
The next Dragon King is named Free from Burning Afflictions. What dragons fear most is heat. Once it gets hot, the dragons cannot take it. They undergo the suffering of having hot sand burn their bodies. Dragons cannot stand the heat. They like inclement weather, overcast with clouds. During such times they are free from heated afflictions, and feel clear and cool. He has gained a passage into liberation of a cloud of great compassion that overspreads everywhere. This cloud is brought about by the power of his great compassionate vows. It spreads out in the sky above, protecting sentient beings. This is the passage into liberation of eradicating all the suffering in the world. He is able to dispel all worldly suffering. That is his liberation.
At that time, the Dragon King Virupakshareceived the Buddha’s awesome spiritual power, universally contemplated the dragon multitudes, all those in the dragon path, and spoke verses to reiterate his meaning.
Behold. This is telling all sentient beings to contemplate the Thus Come One’s Dharma, ever thus. It is always that way. It accords with conditions and does not change; it does not change but accords with conditions. Benefiting all sentient beings. The reason the Thus Come One speaks Dharma is to benefit sentient beings. When sentient beings obtain the nourishment of the Buddha’s Dharma rain, their Dharma body and wisdom-life are nurtured. With the power of immense kindness and empathy, the Buddha sympathizes with and has pity for all sentient beings. By means of the power of great compassion, he rescues those who have fallen into the fearsome paths. He pulls sentient beings out of the three fearsome paths of hell-beings, hungry ghosts, and animals. The beings in those three paths are terrified, trapped, and in peril. When sentient beings sink and fall into the three evil paths, the Buddha feels pity for them and pulls them out of suffering so they can attain bliss.
Sentient beings with all their differences / Manifest completely on a single hair’s tip. This is referring to the tip of a hair on the Buddha’s body, not on the Dragon King’s body. Dragons have scales, not hair. This describes the Buddha’s state, not the state of dragons. You should pay attention to this point. Dragons have scales, not hair. If the text were in fact referring to dragons, it would say, “Completely manifesting on the edge of a scale.”
Sentient beings with all their differences. This includes beings born from womb, egg, moisture, and transformation, those with thought, those without thought, those not completely with thought, and those not completely without thought; those with form, those without form, those not completely with form, and those not completely without form. Sentient beings have various differences, due to their different karmic retributions. Some beings undergo the retribution of suffering, some undergo the retribution of joy, while others undergo the karmic retribution of neither suffering nor joy. In general, they become deluded, create karma, and undergo the retribution. Driven by confusion, they create bad karma and undergo an unpleasant retribution. They have to suffer. Differences in karmic retribution result in different experiences such as suffering, joy, or neither suffering nor joy. All those differences manifest completely on a single hair’s tip. All of those various karmic retributions manifest. The kind of karmic retribution sentient beings undergo depends on the kind of karma they have created: Everything manifests on the tip of a hair on the Buddha. Although that is an incredibly tiny surface, different karmic retributions of all beings appear therein.
His spiritual transformations fill the world: Why is the Buddha able to do this? The Buddha has spiritual powers. He can manifest many within one, and one within many. He can make the small encompass the great, and the great encompass the small, so that great and small are mutually nonobstructive. The endless changes and transformations of the Buddha’s spiritual powers fill the lands of the universe. Thus, Sagara contemplates the Buddha. Since he understands the Buddha’s state, he attains this passage into liberation and this samadhi. Sagara means “ Salty Sea ,” because this dragon king lives in a salty ocean, but he does not fear the saltiness.
The Buddha, with the unlimited strength of his spiritual powers,
Extensively proclaims his epithets equal to the number of sentient beings. He enables all to hear according to their likes and pleasures.
Cloud-like Sounds enlightens thus and understands.
Dragon King Banner of Cloud-like Sounds spoke this verse. The Buddha, with the unlimited strength of his inconceivable and indescribable spiritual powers / Extensively proclaims his epithets equal to the number of sentient beings. The Buddha has many titles. In the beginning, each Buddha had 10,000 titles. Then, since beings’ memories grew worse, 9,000 were taken away so only 1,000 remained. However, people still could not manage to remember and so 900 were taken away, leaving 100 titles. Even then people could not remember his titles clearly. Sentient beings were confused by too many titles, and so 90 were taken away, leaving only ten titles. Therefore, the Buddha has ten titles, which are easy to remember. All Buddhas have these ten titles.
But, as described in this verse, the Buddha extensively proclaims Buddhas’ titles as many as there are sentient beings. There is another meaning to this line. The Buddha extensively proclaims the titles of Buddhas so as to awaken sentient beings. When sentient beings hear the Buddhas’ titles, they plant good roots and bring forth the great bodhi resolve. That’s the idea behind pronouncing titles of Buddhas as many as there are sentient beings.
He enables all to hear according to their likes and pleasures . The Buddha universally gives sentient beings a chance to hear the Dharma they enjoy hearing, according to their potentials. Dragon King Cloud-like Sounds enlightens thus and understands the state of this passage into liberation.
Multitudes in measureless, boundless lands are such that the number of sentient beings in those Buddhalands cannot be known. The number of beings in Buddhalands is measureless and boundless, their thoughts are measureless and boundless, and their accomplishments are also measureless and boundless. Although there are so many sentient beings, the Buddha encompasses them all in a single pore. A single pore of the Buddha can contain all those beings The Thus Come One then sits–serene amidst the assemblies. The Buddha allows all those Bodhisattvas to dwell in his pores, while he peacefully abides amidst the assemblies in the Buddhalands of the ten directions. So perceives Mouth Aflame Dragon. The Dragon King who emits flames from his mouth sees this and understands this state.
The angry, hateful thoughts of all sentient beings,
The fetters, coverings, and delusions—as deep as the ocean
Are completely eradicated by the Thus Come One’s sympathy.
Blazing Dragon observes this with lucidity.
The angry, hateful thoughts of all sentient beings...“Angry, hateful” means having a big temper and often blowing up. People with big tempers tend to harbor much anger and be impatient. Actually, all sentient beings have hateful and angry thoughts. These thoughts act as coverings and fetters. They cover over their wisdom light and bind sentient beings up so that they are no longer free. The fetters, coverings, and delusions—deep as the ocean…Sentient beings bind themselves up, depriving themselves of freedom, like a silkworm spinning a cocoon around itself, imprisoning itself inside. Just as a silkworm spins a cocoon and imprisons itself, people imprison themselves with the fetters and coverings of three poisons: greed, anger, and delusion. They are bound up by their extreme delusion. The more greedy, angry, and deluded sentient beings are, the deeper those poisons become, to the point that sentient beings cannot extricate themselves from the mire. They lose their freedom. Therefore the text describes these fetters being “deep as the ocean.” Sentient beings will never be able to pull themselves out.
All those problems are completely eradicated by the Thus Come One’s sympathy . The Thus Come One, out of kindness and pity, rescues sentient beings and dispels their greed, anger, and delusion. Blazing Dragon observes this with lucidity. Dragon King Blazing Eyes clearly perceives and recognizes this state. He attained this passage into liberation.
If sentient beings can let go of their greed, anger, and delusion, they will all attain ease and comfort. It’s just because they cannot renounce greed, anger, and delusion that they lack ease and comfort. We should model ourselves after Dragon King Blazing Eyes, understand this principle deeply, and then let go of our attachments and quickly attain ease and comfort.
The power of all sentient beings’ blessings and virtue…Sentient beings have both blessings and offenses. Offenses refer to transgressions; and blessings refer to wholesome merit and virtue. If you create offenses, you will fall into the realms of the hells, hungry ghosts, and animals, and be a guest to the three evil paths. If you create wholesome merit and virtue, you will be rewarded with blessings and be reborn in the realms of gods, asuras, and humans. You will be a guest to the three paths of wholesome rebirth. But in either case, you will not be in control.
Blessings come from the accumulation of meritorious deeds. When you have amassed a great deal of goodness and merit, you will have virtue. The Buddha is replete with both blessings and wisdom. His blessings are perfect and full, and so is his wisdom. Blessings and wisdom come from cultivation. If you cultivate you will have blessings; if you do not cultivate, you will not have blessings. Wisdom comes from learning. Therefore, Dharma Master Yongming Shou in his song called “ Samadhi and Wisdom Aid Each Other” says, “Samadhi must be cultivated; wisdom comes from learning.” You have to cultivate samadhi through investigating Chan and sitting in meditation. Wisdom comes from listening to the sutras and Dharma. If you listen to the sutras and Dharma often, your wisdom will unfold. Therefore, samadhi must be cultivated and wisdom comes from learning. By listening to the sutras and Dharma every day, you develop wisdom. When your mind reaches a single focus, you will develop great wisdom. If you do not focus your mind, you will develop a little wisdom. When a large quantity of blessings and virtue are amassed, they develop a strength of their own. If you have a large amount of blessings and virtue, you will have great power; if you have a small amount of blessings and virtue, you will have little power; and if you do not have them at all, you will have no power. Whether it is the power of blessings or that of virtue, it completely manifests within the Buddha’s pores. All the power of blessings and virtue of sentient beings throughout the ten directions and the three periods of time, to the ends of space and the Dharma Realm, are completely manifest within the one of the Buddha’s pores.
Now they return to the ocean of great blessings. Within a single pore of the Buddha, limitless sentient beings manifest. After that, sentient beings throughout the Dharma Realm of the ten directions are brought back to the sea of great blessings. That is, they become Buddhas and attain great blessings. So contemplates Banner of High Clouds. Dragon King Banner of High Clouds attains this samadhi, enters this passage into liberation, and understands this state .
This verse is spoken by the Dragon King Taksaka in praise of the Buddha’s wisdom-light. He says: The Buddha’s pores release the light of wisdom. Every pore on the Buddha’s body emits boundless, immaculate wisdom-light. Right within the light, wondrous Dharma is proclaimed to teach and transform sentient beings. His brilliance proclaims wondrous sounds that reach everywhere. Within the wisdom-light treasury of the Buddha, the Dharma wheel is turned to teach and transform sentient beings and the inconceivably wondrous Dharma is proclaimed.
Those who hear cast out worry and fear: Their apprehension and distress are dispelled. Taksaka Dragon awakens to this path. Among the Dragon Kings, Taksaka is the one with “many tongues.” What does his name mean? In proclaiming the Buddhadharma, this Dragon King can speak simultaneously in many languages. He has understood this principle, this samadhi, and this passage into liberation.
All the Thus Come Ones of the three periods of time,
Their lands, adornments, and the sequence of their eons
Manifest within the body of the Buddha.
Vast Stride sees the strength of these spiritual powers.
All the Thus Come Ones of the three periods of time—the past, present and future. In the past there were boundlessly many Buddhas. In the present there were boundlessly many Buddhas. In the future there will also be boundlessly many Buddhas. For this reason the sutra says, “All Thus Come Ones of the three periods of time,” indicating there are many Buddhas.
You might find this unreasonable. But do you accept the fact that there was last year, this year, and next year? You can understand that, can’t you? There was last year, this year, and the year to come—those are the three periods of time. You have forgotten over half of what happened last year. Even if you remember, your memory will not be very clear. As for the events of this year, you might have forgotten a smaller portion and still remember the greater half of them. As for the events that will happen next year, you have absolutely no notion of them now, not so much as half of what will happen.
The same principle applies to the three periods of time. We have forgotten virtually all of what happened in our past lives. In our present life, we remember a bit of what has happened. And we have no idea of what will happen in our future life. Drawing the comparison to last year, this year, and next year, you can understand the workings of past life, present life, and future life. You can compress the scope and talk about last month, this month, and next month. Then you will get an even better understanding.
And if you still think the time intervals are too long, you can talk about yesterday, today, and tomorrow. You have forgotten most of what happened yesterday, but you still remember a little bit of what went on. You remember most of today’s events and have forgotten some. You don’t have any idea about what will happen tomorrow, however. You argue, “But I know that I have several appointments tomorrow.” Appointments do not count. It only counts if you know beforehand what will happen during the times when you don’t have an appointment. If you know what will transpire tomorrow without being told by anyone, then it counts. And if you admit that you don’t really know, that’s just the principle behind past life, present life, and future life.
Their lands, adornments, and the sequence of their eons: The lands of Buddhas are adorned and wondrously splendid. For example, the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss is adorned with the seven precious things: Gold, silver, vaidurya, crystal, mother-of-pearl, rubies, and amber. Our Saha world, on the other hand, is adorned with tiles, stone, earth, and wood. The Eastern Land of Medicine Master Vaidurya Light is adorned with vaidurya. Therefore, each Buddha’s land and Way-place has its own ornamentation. As for the timing of their events: for how many great eons, or small eons, does the Proper Dharma dwell in the world after a Buddha realizes Buddhahood? Which Buddha comes first, and which Buddha comes later? There is a clear order to all of this. It is not jumbled up. Manifest within the body of the Buddha: These states of all the Buddhalands do not manifest elsewhere; they appear right within a single pore on the Buddha’s body.
The text puts it very plainly. The first line says, “I observe,” and the last line says, “This is what the Dragon King Fast and Swift enters.” It’s obvious that the Dragon King himself is making that contemplation.
He says: I observe the Thus Come One’s past practices . What practices? Making offerings to the Buddhas of the three periods of time. I contemplated how he made offerings to the oceans of all Buddhas . Since there are that many Buddhas there is no way to enumerate them, and so the text describes them as “seas of all Buddhas.” How his happiness and joy increased. In the past when the Buddha was making offerings to all Buddhas, he his happiness and joy increased before all of those Buddhas. Thus enters Swift Dragon. This kind of samadhi, this liberation, this enlightenment, belongs to Dragon King Swift. He understands this principle and enters this passage into liberation.
The Buddha, with expedient sound that adapts to various kinds of beings,
Speaks Dharma for them, inspiring happiness.
His pure and elegant sound pleases the multitudes.
Carrying Everywhere hears and rejoices.
The Buddha, with expedient sound that adapts to various kinds of beings. In teaching and transforming sentient beings, the Buddha uses various skill-in-means. For the sake of the actual, he dispenses the provisional. For the sake of the Bodhisattva path of the Great Vehicle, he speaks the Dharma of Hearers of the Small Vehicle. Expedients refer to clever, provisional methods. The Buddha speaks Dharma for sentient beings with those clever, provisional methods.
The Buddha speaks Dharma for them, inspiring happiness. All sentient beings are filled with the bliss of Dharma. They get to understand their mind and see their nature. His pure and elegant sound pleases the multitudes: Not to mention the Buddha’s words, people become enlightened if they just hear the Buddha’s voice. “Pure” means clear and resonant. The Buddha’s voice, unlike most people’s voices, is especially splendid and also elegant. It makes people immensely happy.
Carrying Everywhere hears and rejoices. When the Dragon King Carrying Everywhere sees this state and hears this wonderful sound, he becomes happy at heart. He has understood this passage into liberation.
Sentient beings oppressed in the realms of existence
Drift and flounder in karma and delusion, with no one to save them.
The Buddha liberates them with great compassion.
Great Dragon Free from Burning realizes thus.
Sentient beings are born from a collection of conditions. They transmigrate within the three realms: the Desire Realm, the Form Realm, and the Formless Realm, drifting endlessly. Sentient beings are oppressed in the realms of existence . The realms of existence refer to the twenty-five levels of existence within the Three Realms. People are so oppressed in these levels of existence that they live as if drunk and die as if in a dream. They drift and flounder in karma and delusion, with no one to save them. They flow and turn in the Three Realms, driven by the power of the sea of their karma. They give rise to delusion, create karma, and undergo the retribution. They go around and around in this cycle.
Coming out of a horse’s belly,
They enter a donkey’s womb.
How many times have they gone to King Yama’s court?
Having just passed through Lord Sãkra’s palace,
They come once again to the boiling vats in the hells.
Suddenly sentient beings are in the heavens; suddenly they are in the hells. People are like motes of dust that bob up and down in space. Within a boundless sea of karma they float and drift. Suddenly they are hungry ghosts; suddenly they are animals. As they revolve in karmic delusion, there is no one who delivers them from their plight, no one who saves them from this sea of karma, no one who rescues them from the three realms.
The Buddha liberates them with great compassion. By means of his wisdom boat of great compassion, the Buddha saves all beings. He guides those who have not planted good roots to plant them; those who have planted them to make them grow day after day; those whose good roots have grown to bring them to maturity; and those with mature good roots to be liberated. By means of his wisdom boat of great compassion, the Buddha rescues all beings from the sea of karma.
What do you think of this explanation? If I have explained a certain line incorrectly, you should bring it up for discussion. Do not be afraid to speak up if you hear something explained incorrectly. Now is the time for you to open your mouth and talk. Does anyone have an opinion? As for delusion, it is the root of ignorance. There are coarse delusions, subtle delusions, delusions of ignorance. There are also view delusions, thought delusions, and delusions as many as dust motes and sand. What are thought delusions? They arise when, “confused about principle, one gives rise to discrimination.” What are view delusions? They occur when, “coming face to face with a state, one gives rise to greed and love.” Face to face with a state, you give rise to greed and craving. You lose your samadhi and become confused. For instance, when people who like to gamble go to Reno and start playing with the slot machines, they become so confused that they forget everything. They aren’t even aware that they have lost all their money. That’s one kind of delusion. Why are they confused? They have greed and craving. They are greedy and wish to win, and they are in love with money. That is “coming face to face with a state, one gives rise to greed and love,” which constitutes view delusions.
Thought delusions arise when, “confused about principle, one gives rise to discrimination.” When one’s mind is unclear, one makes many distinctions, yet one is still unclear after that. And there are delusions as many as dust motes and sand grains. No one knows how many delusions are there. Delusions stem from ignorance. From ignorance come three kinds of delusion. Based on those delusions, sentient beings create karma. Why do they create karma? It is because they do not understand. They steal, kill, engage in improper conduct, lie, and take intoxicants. They violate the precepts against killing, theft, lust, lying, and taking intoxicants. Why do they violate the precepts? It is because they do not understand. They are confused. That’s creating karma. And, having created the karma of killing, they will undergo the retribution of killing. The karma of theft will bring about the retribution of theft. The karma of lust will bring about the retribution of lust. You will undergo the retribution for whatever karma you create. If you kill someone’s father, someone will kill your father. If you kill someone’s brother, someone will kill your brother. Retribution is evident in many situations. That is the process of becoming deluded, creating karma, and undergoing retribution. The power of the sea of karma is just that way. Take a look at how much karma people create. The karma each individual creates is very complicated; it is not only one kind of karma. Therefore, the power of karma resembles a great sea. People are blown and tossed about by the winds of karma.
Take a look at Vaisravana, who truly has great kindness and compassion. Most people or Buddhas and Bodhisattvas tend to rescue sentient beings who do good. However, he vows to save evil beings. Moreover, Yaksha King Vaishravana(“Wide Renown”), the Celestial King of the North, gained a passage into liberation of rescuing and protecting evil sentient beings with boundless skill-in-means. He regards all evil beings as his friends. No matter what evil someone might do, he will rescue and protect that being. This Yaksha King is truly compassionate. He gained this passage into liberation.
The next Yaksha King is named Sovereign Sound. When he speaks Dharma, sentient beings who hear him feel very much at ease, hence his name. He has gained a passage into liberation of universally contemplating the dispositions of sentient beings, rescuing and protecting them with expedients. This is part of the Buddha’s state. He understands this state.
Yaksha King Sternly Holding Weapons and Insignia. “Sternly” means strictly and cautiously; “holding” means brandishing. He holds weapons and insignia. In ancient times, when Chinese officials went out, they always had attendants hold up large signs that said, “Silence” and “Maintain Distance,” meaning that people on the streets should keep quiet or go back to their houses and keep out of the way. The roads had to be cleared for the officials. What the attendants held up were insignia. Others also brandished spears, knives, chains, and rods. All of those fall into the category of “weapons and insignia.” Great officials had their weapons and insignia, and so did this Yaksha King. He gained a passage into liberation of nourishing and benefiting sentient beings. He may aid them with provisions and wealth, or aid them with his wisdom, which is to give them Dharma. Moreover, he may dispel the suffering and difficulties of sentient beings, which is the giving of fearlessness. This Yaksha King nourishes all emaciated and evil sentient beings—poor, emaciated people who create a lot of bad karma. Being destitute and undernourished, they need help from others. Therefore, yaksha King Sternly Holding Weapons and Insignia helps those sentient beings change their evil ways, go toward the good, and turn over a new leaf. He gained this passage into liberation.
Yaksha King Great Wisdom became king of the Yakshas because he has great wisdom. Among ghosts, Yakshas are the most unruly. They have considerable spiritual powers, and because of that they often lie and do not admit to their improper conduct. However, most Yaksha Kings cannot possibly cheat this Yaksha King endowed with great wisdom. This Yaksha King forever accords with sentient beings and speaks Dharma for them. He gained a passage into liberation of praising the ocean of the meritorious virtues of all sages. Before sentient beings, he praises the sea of merit and virtue cultivated by all sages, including Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Hearers, Sages Enlightened to Conditions, and all other sages. He says, “Such and such a Buddha, while at the level of planting causes, cultivated such and such meritorious virtues and perfected such and such practices. Such and such a Bodhisattva cultivated such practices and accomplished his work in the Way.” That’s how he praised the sages. He didn’t stop at one or two lines of praise. Instead, day after day, and at all times, he lauded the ocean of meritorious virtues of all sages and worthy ones. That is the passage into liberation of this Yaksha King.
Yaksha King Lord Flaming Eyes gained a passage into liberation of universally contemplating all sentient beings with the wisdom of great compassion. Yaksha King Vajra Eyes gained a passage into liberation of using various skill-in-means to bring benefit and peace to all beings.
Yaksha King Lord Flaming Eyes emits fire from his eyes. He gained a passage into liberation of universally contemplating all sentient beings with the wisdom of great compassion. He observes all sentient beings’ minds, bodies, and dispositions with his great wisdom of compassion. That is his passage into liberation.
Yaksha King Vajra Eyes has eyes that constantly emit light that resembles vajra. There is another way to explain this. Most people’s eyes cannot handle smoke, but his eyes are immune to smoke. They are as solid as vajra, and smoke does not disturb them. Some Yakshas can emit poisonous smoke. Without vajra eyes, you would not be able to open your eyes. This poisonous smoke is somewhat like teargas. It fills people’s eyes with tears so that they cannot see. Some Yakshas have this ability to release teargas bombs. However, Yaksha King Vajra Eyes is not afraid of this smoke, and so he is able to oversee those Yakshas. He has gained a passage into liberation of using various kinds—not just one kind—of skill-in-means to bring benefit and peace to all beings. He brings them benefits and happiness. That is his passage into liberation.
Yaksha King Robust Arms gained a passage into liberation of universally entering the significance of all dharmas. Yaksha King Bravely Opposing Great Armies gained a passage into liberation of guarding all sentient beings, so that they dwell industriously in the Way.
Yaksha King Robust Arms is especially healthy and strong. He has gained a passage into liberation of universally entering the significance of all dharmas. He can understand the meaning of all dharmas. He “deeply enters the sutra treasury and has wisdom like the sea.” Since he has understood the meaning of the treasury of sutras, his wisdom is tremendous.
yaksha King Bravely Opposing Great Armies is very courageous. No matter how many enemies he encounters, he is able to hold them back, hence his name. He gained a passage into liberation of guarding all sentient beings, so that they dwell industriously in the Way. Sentient beings who have wrong knowledge and views get put back on the right path and remain there at all times. They reflect on the wondrous Dharma and do not allow the time to pass in vain. That is his passage into liberation.
Yaksha King Abundant Resources and Wealth gained a passage into liberation of increasing the accumulated blessings and virtue of all sentient beings, thus enabling them to experience perpetual joy. Yaksha King Power to Topple High Mountains gained a passage into liberation of easily recalling and producing the wisdom light of the Buddha’s power.
Yaksha King Abundant Resources and Wealth is very rich and has a great amount of wealth. Although he is rich, he is not a miser. Instead he gives his wealth away to sentient beings. He gained a passage into liberation of increasing the accumulated blessings and virtue of all sentient beings. He gives his wealth to sentient beings, endowing them with increased blessings and virtue, thus enabling them to experience perpetual and boundless joy.
Yaksha King Power to Topple High Mountains is so strong that with a single shove of his hand, he can push over a high mountain. For instance, the cause of the recent earthquake in Mexico was the pushing over of high mountains, probably by Yakshas. It was reported that the earthquake killed over 900 people, but the total death toll is unknown. Mexico is quite close to us. Although they had an earthquake there, we did not experience an earthquake here. It’s not known whether it was the Yakshas or some asuras acting up. [Note: This was said during the lecture on August 29, 1973 . The earthquake had occurred the day before.]
This Yaksha King who is able to destroy high mountains has gained a passage into liberation of easily recalling and producing the wisdom light of the Buddha’s power. He forever accords with sentient beings. He recollects in thought after thought, never forgetting, the light of wisdom of the Buddha’s power and aid. He has attained this passage into liberation.
At that time, the Great Yaksha King Wide Renown received the Buddha’s awesome spiritual power, universally contemplated the Yaksha multitudes and their causes and conditions, and spoke the following verse .
The offenses of sentient beings are severe and terrifying.
For hundreds of thousands of eons, they fail to see the Buddha.
Drifting in life and death, they undergo innumerable sufferings.
Wishing to save them, the Buddha appears in the world.
The first verse says that sentient beings create too many offenses, and for that reason, they do not see the Buddha, hear the Dharma, or see the Sangha. They drift and flow in the sea of birth and death, undergoing various kinds of retribution. For that reason the Buddha appears in the world, wishing to save those sentient beings.
The offenses of sentient beings are severe and terrifying. Sentient beings refers to people, as well as evil beings. They become deluded, create karma, and undergo retribution. Driven by ignorance, they do not understand anything, and as a result create different kinds of evil karma and undergo different kinds of retribution. These offenses are too many; they are very frightening. For hundreds of thousands of eons, they fail to see the Buddha. Because their offense karma is excessive, for hundreds of thousands of myriads of eons they cannot see the Buddha, hear the Dharma, or draw near the Sangha.
Now all of you laypeople can see the Buddha, hear the Dharma, and see left-home people. This proves that you have planted good roots in the past. If you did not have good roots, you would not be able to see the Buddha. Think about the history of the West, stretching back to several thousand years ago: no one left the home-life, studied the Buddhadharma, or bowed to the Buddhas. But now they have begun to do this. Therefore, in hundreds of thousands of years, it is difficult to get to see the Buddha, hear the Dharma, or see the Sangha . “It is difficult to obtain a human birth; it is difficult to get to hear the Buddhadharma; it is difficult to encounter a wise teacher.”
Although those conditions are difficult to encounter, we have encountered all of them now. We have met the Buddha, heard the Dharma, and seen the Sangha. Beings who do not meet the Buddha, hear the Dharma, or see the Sangha, however, are drifting in birth and death. They revolve in the six paths of rebirth: gods, humans, asuras, hell-beings, hungry ghosts, and animals. Sometimes they are born as gods in the heavens. Sometimes they are asuras; sometimes they are born in the human realm; sometimes they fall into the realms of hell-beings, hungry ghosts, or animals. Drifting endlessly in the six paths of rebirth, they undergo innumerable sufferings. Think about it. Every person experiences his or her own afflictions. Every family has its afflictions. Every nation has its afflictions. Every individual has his or her afflictions. How could you call the world a happy place? Everybody has his or her troubles. As the saying goes, “Every family stages eight plays. Every person has a sutra that is difficult to recite.” The “sutra” of each person’s life is not easy to read. Wishing to save them, the Buddha appears in the world. The Buddha appears just to rescue beings that are suffering.
The Thus Come One saves and protects all in the world. He comes into the world for the sole purpose of saving sentient beings. He manifests before all sentient beings. The Buddha is like the moon in space, and sentient beings are like water. The moon is reflected in the water of the minds of sentient beings. Therefore, the Buddha appears before all sentient beings. You see the moon above your head; I see the moon above my head. No matter how far apart we are from one another, even if we are separated by thousands of miles, each one of us feels that the moon is right above our own head. The Buddha is the same way in that he manifests before all sentient beings. Why? To quell their misery in the dreadful paths of transmigration. He wants to stop, to put an end to the fearsome paths—the three evil paths of hell-beings, hungry ghosts, and animals. The three evil paths are fearsome, but the three good paths are not ideal, either. Therefore, the sutra describes it as “misery.” The distress undergone from revolving in the six paths of rebirth can never be fully described in words. But the Buddha is able to stop this anguish of revolving. Sound King enters thus this dharma door. Yaksha King Sovereign Sound understands this passage into liberation.
Evil karma is a heavy obstacle for sentient beings.
The Buddha unveils wonderful principles to help them understand.
He is as a bright lamp, illumining the world.
Sternly Holding Insignia sees this dharma.
Evil karma is a heavy obstacle for sentient beings. Why do sentient beings fail to become enlightened and realize Buddhahood? Their karmic obstacles are too heavy. This is evil karma, not good karma. How do they create evil karma? The body can commit the three evils of killing, theft, and lust. The mouth can commit the four evils of idle speech, false speech, harsh speech, and divisive speech. Idle speech refers to improper speech that involves deviant knowledge and views, speech that is unclean and inappropriate. For example, men like to engage in improper discussions concerning women, and women like to discuss men in an improper way. False speech refers to lying. Some people might not talk, but once they open their mouths, they start to tell lies. What lies do they tell? They say, “The hens we raise at home lay duck eggs. They lay five eggs at a time, and five ducks hatch from those eggs.” They insist that chickens can give birth to ducks. That is impossible, but they insist upon it. Ignorant country people hear this and say, “This is amazing! In our villages, chickens lay chicken eggs, and ducks lay duck eggs. Chickens would never lay duck eggs. This must be some kind of scientific invention. How did you discover it?” The person replies, “I won’t tell you the secret. If I did, my chickens would no longer lay duck eggs.” That’s to engage in false speech—lying.
Harsh speech refers to scolding people. Some people manage to scold others in a very clever way. They are scolding you, but you cannot even come up with a retort. Obviously, they insist that they are not scolding you. Divisive speech refers to gossiping, bringing up Mr. Li’s problems before Mr. Zhang, and discussing Mr. Zhang’s faults with Mr. Li. It’s one thing if such people do not speak, but once they start talking, they berate others and create schisms. Two people may be good friends to begin with, but after this third individual enters the picture and creates a schism, that friendship is ruined. [Divisive speech is literally “double-tongued” speech.] Although the mouth is small, it has some fantastic talents. It is capable of four evils.
The mind has three evils, three tremendous problems. Just about everyone has those three problems: greed, anger, and delusion. Greed is insatiable: “the more the better.” Anger includes hatred. One finds fault with everybody. Delusion is foolishness. Fools are always doing deluded things. Those are the three evils of the mind.
The Buddha unveils wonderful principles to help them understand. Wonderful principles are wonderful Dharma. These wonderful principles counteract your problems and faults. The Buddha enables sentient beings to understand and become enlightened. He is as a bright lamp, illumining the world. The Buddha appears in the world like a bright lamp, or the bright sun, which banishes darkness. Sternly Holding Insignia sees this dharma. Yaksha King Sternly Holding Insignia understands this state and enters this passage into liberation.
Across the oceans of eons, Buddhas cultivate every practice. This can refer to the Buddhas of the ten directions and the three periods of time. The ten directions are east, south, west, and north; southeast, southwest, northeast, northwest; above, and below. The three periods of time are the past, present and future. The Buddhas of the ten directions and the three periods of time include our original teacher Sãkyamuni Buddha. Actually, this line of text is referring to Sãkyamuni Buddha. However, all Buddhas of the ten directions and the three periods of time all realized Buddhahood through cultivating practices for seas of eons. “Every practice” refers to the Six Paramitas and the myriad practices. The Six Paramitas are (1) giving, which counteracts stinginess and greed; (2) holding precepts, which counteracts violation; (3) patience, which counteracts anger; (4) vigor, which counteracts laziness; (5) dhyana concentration, which counteracts the lack of concentration; and (6) prajña, which counteracts delusion. The myriad practices include all practices that benefit sentient beings.
Among all the practices that Buddhas cultivate, the most important one is that they praise all Buddhas of the ten directions. Before every Buddha became a Buddha, he always praised the Buddhas of the ten directions. They all walked that path. They lauded the Buddhas with various praises and songs. If you praise the Buddhas, the Buddhas will also praise you.
Hence, their own lofty repute spread far and wide. Because the Buddha praised the Buddhas of the ten directions, extolling those Buddhas’ titles, the Buddha himself attained a lofty, far-reaching, and great reputation. It is so lofty that all the gods know about the Buddha. It is so far-reaching that the Buddha’s name is known throughout empty space and the Dharma Realm.
King Wisdom understands thus. Yaksha King Great Wisdom understands this passage into liberation. Of the Buddha’s the wisdom powers, one is “the wisdom of knowing what is and is not the case.” The Buddha understands what is logical and what is illogical.
The Buddha’s wisdom is boundless like the void. What appearance does wisdom have? It has no shape or form, just like space. Just as space has no boundaries, wisdom too is boundless. His Dharma body is vast, great, and inconceivable. The Buddha’s Dharma body is vast, without boundaries, and inconceivable, like space. Accordingly, he appears throughout the ten directions. Because the Buddha’s Dharma body is vast and boundless, he appears in worlds throughout the ten directions. yaksha King Flaming Eyes contemplates thus. He deeply contemplates and understands this principle and attains this passage into liberation.
In the midst of all destinies, he proclaims with wondrous sound,
Speaking Dharma to benefit the flocks of beings.
Wherever his sound reaches, the myriad sufferings end.
Vajra Eyes enters this expedient means.
In the midst of all destinies, he proclaims with wondrous sound. Within the six paths of rebirth, the Buddha proclaims Dharma with wonderful and subtle sounds. When all sentient beings hear these sounds of Dharma, they obtain benefit. Speaking Dharma to benefit the flocks of beings. The Buddha speaks Dharma according to the situation, bringing benefit to all sentient beings Wherever his sound reaches, the myriad sufferings of sentient beings end. Once they hear the sounds, they are saved. Yaksha King Vajra Eyes enters this expedient means. He obtains this expedient passage into liberation.
Question: What is meant by passage into liberation? I don’t understand it.
Answer: Your wanting to understand—just that is a passage into liberation. Do you understand? One is free from hang-ups and impediments. One is removed from all delusion. One realizes sagehood and obtains true self-mastery. If you wish to attain liberation, you have to realize the fruition and obtain true comfort and ease. This is not something you can merely talk about or understand just by hearing it. Rather, it’s like eating. You have to put the food in your mouth before you can taste it. A passage into liberation works the same way. After you have attained it, you will understand. If you haven’t attained a passage into liberation, how could you understand? Right now we are merely talking about it. But upon obtaining the passage into liberation, you will enjoy true freedom. You can live if you wish to live; you can die if you wish to die. For example, the Second Chan Patriarch Shenguang was accused of insanity and executed. A sign that he had gained a passage into liberation was that, at his execution, he bled a white, milky fluid instead of regular blood.
If you reach that state, you can be said to have attained the passage into liberation. Even though the Second Patriarch was killed, he felt no pain. He said, “If you wish to kill me, go right ahead!” The Bhikshu Lion was the same way. He entered the passage into liberation. Do you know about the Bhikshu Lion [ Àryasimha ]? He was a Patriarch from India . He came to a country where the emperor believed in heterodoxy, and the emperor had him killed. A white, milky substance flowed from the Patriarch’s body. It tasted sweet and fragrant. If you drank it, you would become a patriarch, too.
Do you understand now? You have understood the meaning, but you haven’t attained this passage into liberation. Keep on working hard. There’s hope for you. Simply use the ten powers of a common person. Hearers have the ten powers of Hearers, and Bodhisattvas have the ten powers of Bodhisattvas. Common people also have their ten powers. Forge ahead vigorously; do not be lazy, and there is hope.
All profound, vast principles…The Dharma contains boundless, measureless principles. “The supreme, profound, wonderful Dharma.” There is nothing higher, more profound, more wonderfully subtle than the Dharma. “Is difficult to encounter in millions of eons.” It’s not easy to encounter the Dharma. For several thousand years, practically nobody in Western countries has heard the Dharma, seen the Buddha, or seen the Sangha. They have just begun recently. Actually, several thousand years is a very short period of time. Billions of eons is a very long period of time. Throughout that long period of time, it is not easy for one to encounter the Dharma.
Now the text says, “All profound, vast principles,” which encompasses everything the Buddha has spoken. The Buddha’s orations make up the twelve types of literature in the three baskets of the canon [the Tripitaka ]: sutras, vinaya, and Sästras. The twelve types of literature include prose, reiterative verses, etc. All of these are very profound and extensive in meaning. They are extremely vast and profuse, also subtle and fine to the utmost.
Although these dharma doors are wonderful beyond words, they can be expressed in a single phrase by the Thus Come One. In a single sentence, the Buddha can completely proclaim all dharmas. Or you can say that the vast, profound principles of all dharmas stem from a single phrase. The Buddha can explain this vast, profuse meaning with a single phrase.
Such doctrines pervasively fill the worlds. These vast, profound principles universally pervade the world. For this reason, the purport of Buddhism is perfectly blended and nonobstructive. There are no boundaries. Therefore I often say to you: It’s not the case that only those who believe in Buddhism are counted as Buddhists and those who do not are not considered Buddhists. It doesn’t work that way. According to the purport of Buddhism, whether or not you believe in Buddhism, you are still a Buddhist. This is because Buddhism pervades space and the Dharma Realm. Why do we say that you are a Buddhist whether or not you believe in Buddhism? It’s because all beings are endowed with the Buddha nature. Since they are all endowed with the Buddha nature, all of them can become Buddhas. Even if they do not believe in Buddhism now, in the future they will believe in it. Even if they do not believe in Buddhism in the near future, they will definitely believe in Buddhism in the distant future. Not only that, they themselves will definitely become Buddhas in the future. The dharma doors of Buddhism are all-encompassing. There is not a single sentient being who is outside of Buddhism. Therefore I often tell you that it does not worry me if any of you run away, it only worries me when you come here. If you run away, I can take a break and rest. If you’re here, I have more work. Therefore, I do not fear your running away. Why? You can never run outside of the Dharma Realm. Since you will always be within the scope of the Dharma Realm, you are a Buddhist. Sooner or later you will have to come back. All I have to do is wait long enough for you. If you want to run away now, it’s no problem. Little Guo Fang did not come last night, but tonight she came. It’s the same principle here. Why did she come tonight? Because there’s candy here. Likewise, I have no fear about sentient beings running away. Even if you run away, eventually you will come back, because there is paramita here. Everyone wants to savor paramita, just as everyone likes to eat candy.
If you can become one with space and the Dharma Realm, how vast a scope is that! And so the text says, “Such doctrines as these pervasively fill the world.” King Robust Wisdom is enlightened thus. This is the passage into liberation that Yaksha King Robust Arms understands.
Sentient beings abide in deviant ways.
The Buddha reveals the inconceivable, proper path,
Making everyone in the world into a vessel of the Dharma.
Bravely Opposing Armies enlightens thus and understands.
Sentient beings includes those born from wombs, eggs, moisture, and transformation; creatures which fly, swim, and move; and even vegetation. They abide in deviant ways. Sentient beings are strange. They are skeptical about a proper path that you teach them. They wonder whether it is true or not. But if you teach them a deviant path, they will not entertain any doubts. Towards a deviant path, they believe without doubting. Towards a proper path, they doubt and fail to believe.
What’s meant by a deviant path? It means not holding the precepts. What’s meant by a proper path? It means holding the precepts. People do not hold the precepts against killing, theft, lust, false speech, and taking intoxicants. For instance, if you say to someone, “Come, I’ll treat you to a drink,” they are delighted. Or, if you say, “I’ll treat you to some dope,” they are also delighted. But, if you say, “Let’s go listen to the sutras,” they will probably respond with, “But today I have an important appointment. I would like to go with you, but I cannot cancel that appointment.”
For that reason, we have a saying: “I exhort you to do good, and you don’t have money. Even if you have money, you don’t. But when a disaster hits, you have thousands of dollars. Even if you don’t have money, you do.” In ordinary circumstances, if you exhort someone to donate a hundred thousand dollars to help build a temple, they will say, “No, I don’t have such money.” But when they are kidnapped and a million-dollar ransom is demanded, these people will quickly come up with the money. Even if they don’t have it, they quickly come up with it.
“I wish to discuss wholesome things with you, and you say, ‘I’m too busy.’” Let’s say, you invite someone to go listen to the sutras, and he answers: “Yes, I want to go, but I’m too busy. I don’t have time.”
“But, at the end of your life when you head for the yellow springs (the underworld), even if you’re busy, you’ll still have to go.” When the day comes for you to die, you’ll rush to the underworld where the springs are yellow. No matter how busy you are, you’ll still have to see King Yama. That’s how strange people are. You teach them to abstain from killing and they say, “That’s stupid.” You teach them to abstain from theft, and they say, “Well, that doesn’t really matter.” For that reason, I’ve told you that whoever has the talent can try to steal rice crust from the kitchen. If you teach them how to steal, they are delighted, but if you exhort them to not steal, they have a hard time accepting that. It’s as if their ears are plugged up.
The Sutras say, “Sentient beings abide in deviant ways.” They refuse to listen if you teach them the proper way, but they are glad to listen if you teach them deviant ways. If you say to someone, “Do you have time? We can go watch a burlesque show,” they will be delighted and go with you. Or you say, “Let’s go watch a movie; it’s fantastic!” And they will gladly go with you. But if you invite them to go listen to the sutras, they will not be as delighted. They are born with wrong knowledge and wrong views, and so they abide in deviant ways and refuse to tread a proper path. To put it more plainly, men and women do not behave properly. They do not observe their proper roles.
The Buddha reveals the inconceivable, proper path. Wishing to save these unruly sentient beings, the Buddha points out to them a proper path, which means abstaining from killing, theft, lust, false speech, and taking intoxicants. Just that is the proper path. To take refuge with the Triple Jewel and bring forth the bodhi resolve—that is the proper path. It is inconceivable. If you can walk a proper path and bring forth the bodhi resolve, an inconceivable state occurs. Your offenses will be eradicated and your blessings will grow. Your karma will be exhausted and your emotions will be empty.
Making everyone in the world into a vessel of the Dharma. The Buddha wishes everyone in the world to become vessels of the Dharma. What does that mean? It’s said, “A superior man is not merely a tool,” meaning he is not limited to only one function, like a teacup which can only be used for drinking tea, or a saucer which can only be used for holding a teacup. People are not that way. They are capable of doing many things. Therefore, a superior person is not merely an instrument or a tool, like a teacup that is only used so that people may drink tea. Rather, an outstanding individual has many skills and functions. “Vessels of the Dharma” refers to those who are carriers of the Way. People can carry the Way. They can cultivate, relying on the false to cultivate the true. Do not look upon your stinking skin bag as being that precious. It’s a makeshift house.
The purpose of our living in that house is to cultivate the Way. We are relying on the false to cultivate the true. But don’t become over-attentive to the external trappings of the house, to the point that you ignore the person who lives in it. If the tenant becomes sick or dies, the house is rendered useless. Right now, the tenant of every house is sick. What kind of sickness is it? The sickness of greed, anger, delusion, jealousy, selfishness, laziness, gluttony, and desire for sleep. From morning to night, some people only want to sleep. Having sat down for a while, they say, “Ah, if I get to nap a little, that would be paramita.” Those people attain the sleep paramita. Others attain the eating paramita. Others attain the wearing clothes paramita. Others attain the laziness paramita. Everyone here wants to savor paramita.
The Great Master, the Sixth Patriarch, became a vessel of the Dharma. So did Patriarch Hanshan and Patriarch Dantian. They forged an indestructible body through their cultivation. Although they had a physical body, that body did not decompose or rot after they passed away. They were vessels of the Way.
All the blessed acts done in any world…Blessings come from doing good works. If you engage in good works, you will achieve blessings, but if you don’t, you won’t obtain blessings. We often say “rewards of blessings,” which implies that blessings come about through doing good deeds. This line refers to the blessings amassed by all those in the world of sentience. Small blessings accumulate until they become profuse blessings. If you do not amass blessings, they won’t come about. Thus we have the saying,
Families that amass good works will certainly enjoy a surplus of good fortune.
Families that amass unwholesome works will certainly suffer an abundance of calamities.
Families that amass good works will enjoy the rewards of blessings. Families that engage in unwholesome deeds will not enjoy the rewards of blessings. “All the blessed acts” means that there is not just one kind, but many kinds of blessings. Because people have engaged in many good works, they reap blessings. I often say to you:
To endure suffering is to put an end to suffering;
To enjoy blessings is to use up blessings.
If you undergo some suffering, you will put an end to them. If you refuse to undergo suffering, your suffering will never end. On the other hand, you might cash in on your blessings. For example, rich people buy expensive, fine clothes; they are cashing in on their blessings. They also buy a fancy house and eat good food. Thus, they enjoy the best in clothes, food, and housing. Then they get themselves a fancy car and ride in it on all occasions, and they never have to walk again. They fear that people will not notice their beautiful limousine, and so they honk their horn, making a lot of noise so that people will notice that it is a beautiful, expensive Cadillac. For example, a Hong Kong movie actress bought a Cadillac that was $110,000 Hong Kong dollars and showed off everywhere with it. That’s called enjoying one’s blessings.
And still, some people feel this is not classy enough. They go on to purchase a yacht or a boat, and go out fishing on holidays, having a lot of fun. That’s enjoying one’s blessings. And, should these people have more money, they can buy their own airplanes. They can fly anywhere they want. But after they are through with enjoying their blessings, after they use up all their money, they don’t have any left. Therefore we say, “To enjoy blessings is to use up blessings.”
Now where do those many deeds of blessings” come from? They are illumined by the Buddha’s light. It’s only because of the aid of the Buddha’s light that we are endowed with blessings and enjoyment. The ocean of the Buddha’s wisdom cannot be fathomed. The Buddha’s wisdom is measureless and boundless like an ocean. There is no way to know or understand it. There’s no way to reckon how great that ocean is. Abundant Wealth is liberated thus. Yaksha King Abundant Resources and Wealth understands this principle and has attained this passage into liberation.
“Recollecting” means reminiscing about past events and always reflecting upon them. What does this yaksha King recollect? He thinks back on past eons, kalpas, very long periods of time reaching into the distant past. Kalpa is Sanskrit and refers to a tremendously long interval of time, estimated to be 139,600 years, but it may be longer or shorter; it’s not fixed. Since it’s not fixed, we can explain a kalpa in terms of a period of increase and a period of decrease.
A small kalpa is made up of a period of increase and a period of decrease. What’s meant by increase? Every hundred years, the average human life span increases by one year and the average human height increases by one inch. When this increase reaches its ultimate point, a period of decrease sets in. Every hundred years, human life span decreases by one year, and human height decreases by one inch. Right now we are in a period of decrease. During Sãkyamuni Buddha’s time, the average life span was 70 years. Now, the average life span is 60 to 65. Although some people live longer, I am talking about the average age. Every hundred years, human life span decreases by one year and human height decreases by one inch. This decrease happens until the average human life span gets down to ten years, and average human height gets down to about one or two feet. At that time, people will resemble midgets. Nowadays people are protesting that the door handles of most stores are too high, and that these midgets cannot reach the door handles. They are saying that the door handles should be lowered. But then people who are seven or eight feet tall voice the opposite complaint that the door handles of stores are too low. They insist that the door handles be placed higher, so that it would be more convenient for tall people. As you can see, short people and tall people disagree, while we average people have no need to disagree about anything at all.
My feeling on this issue is: with today’s scientific advancements, we might as well have three door handles, accommodating people who are short, medium, and tall. That would silence the objections. But it would also require a lot of expenditure.
When people’s life span reaches an average of ten years, however, they will be shorter than a midget. They will be shorter than a child. A child’s hands can reach the door handle now. Actually, there are many issues worth protesting. An infant could protest, “Why was I born so little? I should be big right from birth.” Old people can protest, “Why should I age? I want to remain young forever.” If you dwell on these matters, there will never be peace on earth. There will be chaos everywhere instead. And right within this chaos, there will be major calamities.
When the kalpa of decrease reaches its end, another period of increase sets in. Every hundred years, human life span will increase by one year, and human height will increase by one inch. This increase continues until human life span reaches 84,000 years, at which point another period of decrease sets in. When human life span decreases to 80,000 years, Maitreya Bodhisattva will appear in the world to teach and transform sentient beings. Unlike Sãkyamuni Buddha who spoke Dharma for 49 years in over 300 assemblies, this Bodhisattva will manage to finish teaching and transforming all the sentient beings with whom he has affinities in a single day and night. He will do it very quickly.
Recollecting how, during countless eons in the past, / The Buddha cultivated the Ten Powers. It’s not known how many kalpas the Buddha has cultivated. A period of increase and a period of decrease comprise one kalpa. One thousand of those kalpas make up a small kalpa. Twenty small kalpas make up one medium kalpa. And four medium kalpas make up one great kalpa. Imagine how great a number that is. It’s hard to reckon. Professor Cheng Xi wrote an interesting book called Chan Sayings of the Mind. In one of the sections he said, “From a young age I wanted to think up the greatest number. But how should one write out this large number? Add a zero to 1, and you have 10. Add another zero, and you have 100. Add three zeros, then there is 1,000. Four zeros will make it 10,000. Five zeros will make it 100,000. Six zeros will make it 1,000,000 (one million). Seven zeros will make it 10,000,000 (ten million).” Cheng Xi kept on adding more zeros until numbers filled up the entire room, the floor, the whole ceiling, the walls, and so on, but the numbers hadn’t run out. Then he went outside to draw more zeros, at which point he filled all of space with zeros. Not only did he not know how big the number was, he could not even count how many zeros there were. Well, the number of great kalpas resembles the number he wrote.
For hundreds of thousands of times more than this present analogy, the Buddha cultivated. In those countless kalpas the Buddha cultivated the Ten Powers. Some of you have left the home-life two-and-a-half days, and you complain, “But I haven’t attained anything.” Well, what do you want to attain? You think you receive something two-and-a-half days after you became a monk or nun? That’s a joke. The Buddha cultivated the Ten Powers for countless kalpas. These powers are developed gradually, bit by bit.
And was able to perfect every power . The Ten Powers enable one to perfect and achieve all powers. Thus King Lofty Banner understands. Yaksha King Power to Topple High Mountains Like Banners has understood this principle.
Mahoraga means “big belly-goer” and also “great python.” They resemble pigs, except that they have no legs. In China, many people eat pythons. They cage the pythons and feed them until those pythons become very fat. It’s difficult to kill a python since the python is slippery and is hard to grasp.
People place a knife on the latch of the cage. Once the python slides over the latch, the knife rips open its stomach and kills it. Then the people eat the flesh. Pythons are not as long and slender as snakes. They are full and round, like pigs without legs. They are fierce, too. They can bite people and kill them. They are one division among the eight divisions of Dharma-protecting ghosts and spirits.
Moreover, Mahoraga King Kind Wisdom gained a passage into liberation of helping sentient beings amass merit and virtue by using all the expedients of spiritual powers. He understands that the Buddhas make use of all the spiritual powers. There are Six Spiritual Powers:
The Six Spiritual Powers work in the same way as the Ten Powers, in that the spiritual powers of the Buddhas differ from the spiritual powers of the Bodhisattvas. The spiritual powers of the Bodhisattvas differ from those of Hearers and Sages Enlightened to Conditions, which in turn differ from those of the ghosts and spirits. They are of varying levels of achievement. For example, the spiritual powers of an Arhat allow him to see the workings of cause and effect within 80,000 great kalpas. A Bodhisattva is able to contemplate the workings of cause and effect within and beyond 80,000 great kalpas. A Bodhisattva can contemplate the workings of cause and effect within a hundred worlds. But the Buddha can contemplate the workings of cause and effect of innumerable kalpas.
It is different for different people. For example, if a pure youth leaves the home-life, his spiritual powers will be very different from those of a person who leaves the home-life in his middle age. The spiritual powers of a person who starts cultivating in his middle age are vague and unclear. But someone who cultivates from early childhood can see things very distinctly. He knows the past, present and future very clearly. People who start cultivating in their middle age, especially if they had a loose lifestyle in the past, will only have vague perceptions, if they perceive any states at all. The state will appear to exist and yet not exist. They cannot recognize things clearly. Often when they come upon these states, they are confused by them and run off to the hells. This is because they fail to recognize these states. They lack the eye of wisdom.
As for “expedients,” there are many gateways. These are skillful, clever expedients tailored to suit the situation and the time. They are provisional and flexible, not rigid. They help sentient beings to amass merit and virtue. Starting from a small amount, the merit and virtue accumulates. Once the merit and virtue is gathered together and becomes great, he understands. That is his passage into liberation.
The Mahoraga King named Clear, Majestic Sound understands the Buddha’s state. He has gained a passage into liberation of enabling sentient beings to eradicate their heated afflictions and gain a cool, clear joy. This means cooling off the fiery temper of sentient beings, so they become cool and comfortable. That is his passage into liberation.
The Mahoraga King named Supreme Wisdom and Ornamented Topknot gained a passage into liberation of universally leading sentient beings of wholesome and unwholesome insights to enter pure dharmas. There are beings with wholesome insights, and those with unwholesome ones. Those who are wholesome have wholesome insights; the unwholesome have unwholesome insights. These “enlightened” beings understand a lot of principles; they understand some wholesome principles, as well as some unwholesome principles. It’s very easy for these sentient beings to go down the wrong track, because they feel they understand, but in actuality they do not truly understand. It’s easy for them to go astray. And for that reason, this Mahoraga King causes them to enter pure, unconditioned dharmas and walk on a proper path. That is his passage into liberation.
When the Buddha walks, the soles of his shoes are two inches above the ground, so his shoes do not get soiled. A sage who has realized the first stage of Arhatship can fly. The soles of his feet do not touch the ground when he walks; his distance above the ground is almost imperceptible, comparable to the thickness of a piece of paper.
That way he won’t crush any bugs. In response to a sage’s virtue, bugs will, on their own, move at least eight inches away from his feet. The bugs run away so that a sage will not crush them to death. Wouldn’t you say that is wonderful?
Mahoraga King Lord Wondrous Eyes has beautiful eyes, hence his name. He gained a passage into liberation of understanding and arriving at total non-attachment. He understands nonattachment. Who is unattached? The Buddha. The Buddha is not attached to any state. He is not attached to any phenomena, but he is not apart from phenomena, either. The sutra says, “total non-attachment.” To what is he not attached? To blessings and virtue, ease and comfort, and impartiality. He is not attached to anything. The Buddha and the Sangha comprised of the Buddha’s disciples are fields of blessings for sentient beings. Therefore we have the saying, “Although clay dragons cannot send rain; when you seek rain you have to go to clay dragons.” The clay dragons in the temple cannot make it rain. However, when you pray for rain, you must make your request before the clay dragons. “The common Sangha cannot help you plant blessings. But when you seek blessings you must rely on the common Sangha.”
People who cultivate blessings must be cautious at all times. Do not squander your blessings; do not disturb others. If you upset others, right there you are losing your blessings. Why is it that we undergo so much suffering in the world? Because we don’t cultivate blessings. Blessings can be cultivated anywhere. Simply remember to not give others trouble. Be mindful at all times not to squander your blessings. That means watching yourself in everything you do. Check and see if you have been doing deeds of blessings and virtue.
To be unattached means not being attached to either emptiness or existence. Those are two extremes, not the Middle Way . The Middle Way is neither emptiness nor existence. The Buddha contemplates all sentient beings impartially; they are all seen as Bodhisattvas and Buddhas. The Buddha regards all sentient beings as his past parents and future Buddhas. If we regard everyone as our past parents and future Buddhas, how could we possibly give them trouble? How could we give trouble to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas? Therefore we must regard all beings equally. If we can do that, we will attain ease and comfort. Why will we enjoy ease and comfort? Because we will have blessings and virtue. If you have blessings and virtue, you will attain ease and comfort. If you have ease and comfort, you will attain impartiality. That is the passage into liberation of this Mahoraga King. That is his samadhi.
The Mahoraga King named Lamp-like Banner often releases light, which is a manifestation of his wisdom. Lamp-like Banner exemplifies his wisdom. He has gained a passage into liberation , the Buddha’s state, of instructing all sentient beings. This means opening the Buddha’s knowledge and views, revealing to them the Buddha’s knowledge and views, and causing them to enlighten to and enter the Buddha’s knowledge and views. That is opening, revealing, enlightening to, and entering the Buddha’s knowledge and views. He instructs the sentient beings of the six paths of rebirth, causing them to leave dark and frightening paths. What is darkness? It is a state of being without light so that one cannot see anything. Frightening means terrifying. Why is one afraid? Because there is darkness and no light, and so one becomes terrified. But now this Mahoraga King is able to cause sentient beings to leave the dark and fearsome paths, that is, the three evil paths.
The path of the hells is dark, the path of hungry ghosts is dark, and so is the path of animals. The beings there lack wisdom. But when they meet Mahoraga King Lamp-like Banner, they will attain light and wisdom. That is his passage into liberation.
The next Mahoraga King is named Supreme Light Banner. This light is most sublime, more brilliant than other lights. He gained a passage into liberation and understood the Buddha’s state of rejoicing in the knowledge of all Buddhas’ merit and virtue. He recognizes that all Buddhas are adorned with merit and virtue.
The Buddhas are replete with the myriad virtues, which is why they became Buddhas. They are brought to accomplishment by merit and virtue. Since this Mahoraga King understands this state, he can help sentient beings understand it, too, and become happy. That is his passage into liberation.
Mahoraga King Lion Chest—this refers to the area around the stomach. He has gained a passage into liberation of, with audacious strength— he is the bravest and strongest—acting as a savior for all sentient beings. He takes rescuing and protecting all sentient beings as his responsibility. If even a single sentient beings has not become a Buddha, he will not rest. That’s how he acts as a rescuing and protecting master for sentient beings. Whenever sentient beings encounter disasters, he saves them. If they are drowning in water, he delivers them from drowning. If they are being burned by fire, he delivers them from the fire. That is his passage into liberation.
The Mahoraga King named Sound of Many Wondrous Adornments has a beautiful voice. When people hear this sound, they forget all their worry and distress, hence his name. He has gained a passage into liberation of causing sentient beings to give rise to boundless happiness and joy according to their recollection. They forget all their worry and afflictions. That is his passage into liberation.
The Mahoraga King Sumeru Chest gained a passage into liberation of remaining determined and unmoving in the face of all conditions—all states and situations. No matter what state he encounters, he will definitely not move or waver until he reaches the other shore satisfactorily. And he will definitely arrive at the other shore, perfecting paramita. That is his passage into liberation.
The next Mahoraga King is named Adorable Brightness. Everyone likes him. He has gained a passage into liberation of revealing a path of equality for sentient beings, who are not equally alike. He has attained the Buddha’s state. Why does he say that sentient beings are not equally alike? There are some who are rich, some who are poor, some who are wise, some who are foolish, some who are honored, and some who are lowly. There are many cases of inequality. For their sakes, he reveals to them the path of equality in cultivation, where everybody can become a Buddha in the end. He instructs sentient beings on those principles. That is his passage into liberation.
At that time, Mahoraga King Awesome Light of Kind Wisdom received the Buddha’s great, awesome spiritual power, universally contemplated the mahoraga multitudes, those huge pythons that crawl on their bellies, and spoke the following verse to reiterate this meaning.
You should contemplate the Thus Come One’s pure nature,
Universally manifesting awesome light to benefit all kinds of creatures.
He reveals the path of sweet dew, giving rise to their clarity and coolness.
The myriad sufferings disappear forever, with nothing to rely upon.
Mahoraga King Awesome Light of Kind Wisdom spoke the verse: The first line is an exhortation to all the mahoraga multitudes to observe the purity of the Buddha’s nature. You should contemplate the Thus Come One’s pure nature. All of you mahoraga retinues: Observe how the Buddhas’ nature is fundamentally pure and undefiled. Universally manifesting great, awesome light to benefit all kinds of creatures. When sentient beings are illumined by the Buddha’s light, all of them attain benefits He reveals the path of sweet dew, giving rise to their clarity and coolness. The Buddha shows how sentient beings can obtain the flavor of sweet dew. What is sweet dew? It is the elixir of immortality. When hungry and thirsty sentient beings obtain sweet dew, they will become full and content. When sentient beings laden with karmic offenses obtain sweet dew, those karmic offenses will be eradicated. Even if beings are caught in the hells, when they obtain sweet dew, the hells of boiling water will transform into a lotus pond. In short, no matter what unpleasant situation you happen to be in, you will feel cool and clear and attain benefit if you obtain sweet dew. The myriad sufferings disappear forever, with nothing to rely upon. Once the Buddha’s awesome light shines on you, all your sufferings will be wiped away. Why? Because karmic obstacles are dispelled, and so suffering is cast out. What do the many sufferings rely upon? They are based in karmic obstacles. They exist because of karmic obstacles. Without karmic obstacles, the many sufferings disappear, having nothing to rely upon.
All sentient beings inhabit the ocean of existence,
Ensnaring and shrouding themselves with the delusion of evil karma.
He shows them the practice of still and quiet dharmas.
Awesome Sound Undefiled deftly understands thus.
All sentient beings inhabit the ocean of existence. Sentient beings stay in the great ocean of the Three Realms—the Desire, Form, and Formless Realms—and the twenty-five levels of existence. Ensnaring and shrouding themselves with the delusion of evil karma. Each of the twenty-five levels of existence within the Three Realms has its own karma. Sentient beings in the Desire Realm have their own karma; those in the Form and Formless Realms each have their own karma. From evil, karma is created. Karma deepens one’s delusion and confusion. Karmic delusions are like chains and fetters that bind us up so we are not free. We are also blind in the sea of karma. Since we cannot see the light, we are deluded and do not develop wisdom.
Sentient beings must repent of their karmic offenses and reform before those offenses can be eradicated. “Repentance can dispel offenses so massive they fill the sky.” However, if people’s karmic obstacles are deep, they do not want to repent and reform. They have no shame and remorse.
He shows them the practice of still and quiet dharmas. Sentient beings with evil karma are shown still and quiet dharmas of the Buddha. What are still and quiet dharmas? I will tell you clearly. They refer to the absence of afflictions. They refer to dhyana-samadhi, without a trace of ignorance or afflictions Awesome Sound Undefiled deftly understands thus. That Mahoraga King can understand this passage into liberation.
The Buddha’s peerless wisdom defies conceptualization.
He thoroughly knows the mind of every sentient being.
He clarifies pure dharmas for them.
The mind of Ornamented Topknot is enlightened thus.
Measureless Buddhas appear in the world,
Becoming fields of blessings for all sentient beings.
Their vast oceans of blessings are unfathomably profound.
Great King Wondrous Eyes completely sees thus.
All sentient beings dread and fear suffering.
The Buddhas arrive before them, saving and protecting them,
No matter where they are throughout the Dharma Realm and space.
Thus, Lamp-like Banner courses in this state.
The meritorious virtue within a single pore of a Buddha
Could not be measured by the united efforts of all beings in this world.
It is boundless and inexhaustible, like space.
Vast, Great Light Banner thus perceives.
The Buddha’s peerless wisdom defies conceptualization. The Buddha’s wisdom is as vast and boundless as the ocean. It has no equal, and it cannot be conceived or imagined. There is nothing the Buddha does not know and understand. For that reason, he thoroughly knows the mind of every sentient being. The Buddha is very clearly aware of all the idle thoughts going through sentient beings’ minds. He clarifies pure dharmas for them. Since their minds are obscured by their desire for fame and benefit, sentient beings give rise to ignorance. The Buddha, wishing to teach beings how to leave suffering and attain happiness, speaks pure dharmas for them. He teaches them how to cultivate the Three Non-Outflow Studies of precepts, samadhi, and wisdom, and how to pull out the roots of the Three Poisons of greed, anger, and delusion.
Measureless Buddhas appear in the world . There are infinitely many Buddhas in the ten directions and the three periods of time. They are equal in number to sentient beings. There are as many Buddhas as there are sentient beings. Buddhism maintains this, because it teaches that everyone has the Buddha nature and can become a Buddha. As long as people cultivate, they have a chance to become Buddhas. It’s similar to how all people have the chance to become a president or head of state. As long as they are adequately qualified in terms of possessing knowledge and expertise, capability, public spirit, and good health, they have the opportunity to become a president or head of state.
Limitless, boundless numbers of Buddhas appear throughout the worlds, becoming fields of blessings for all sentient beings, giving all beings an opportunity to plant blessings. There is inconceivable merit and virtue in making offerings to the Triple Jewel. However, the merit and virtue will be great only if one makes offerings without greedy expectations. The merit and virtue in a single fruit or flower offered with a pure mind is incalculable.
Their vast oceans of blessings are unfathomably profound. Making offerings with a sincere heart that seeks nothing in return, one gains an ocean of blessings that is vast, deep, and difficult to measure. The greater the merit and virtue, the deeper the ocean of blessings. Every Buddha cultivated blessings and wisdom for three asamkhyeyas of eons, making offerings to all Buddhas, realizing Buddhahood only after perfecting both their blessings and wisdom.
All sentient beings dread and fear suffering. All beings are distressed and afraid of having to suffer painful retributions. Having planted evil causes in their greed for momentary pleasures, they cannot escape the unpleasant consequences. Bodhisattvas, on the other hand, fear causes rather than results. When planting causes, they are especially cautious to avoid the slightest false thinking. They receive bitter retributions calmly and willingly, without cursing heaven or blaming others, for they know that the law of cause and effect is fair and exacting.
The Buddhas arrive before them, saving and protecting them . The Buddhas from the ten directions and the three periods of time appear in front of those sentient beings who have strayed onto crooked, perilous paths. Those beings, under the influence of ignorance, have lost their clarity of mind and their wisdom, and have departed from the broad, great Way to follow uneven, twisted, and dangerous trails. Out of pity for them, the Buddhas steer their ships of compassion back to this world in order to rescue these beings from the sea of suffering.
No matter where they are throughout the Dharma Realm and space. Throughout the Dharma Realm and space, there isn’t a single place where the Thus Come One does not sacrifice his body to save sentient beings. Thus, Lamp-like Banner courses in this state. That is the state that the Mahoraga King Lamplike Banner cultivates, and the passage into liberation that he understands.
The meritorious virtue within a single pore of a Buddha. The Buddha’s merit and virtue is measureless and boundless. Not to mention all of his merit and virtue, even just a fraction of it—the amount within one of the Buddha’s pores—is already measureless and boundless. Why is this? It is because when the Buddha cultivated on the cause-ground, when he first brought forth the resolve, he always sought to benefit others. He wanted to benefit sentient beings, and so he acquired merit and virtue. If you don’t benefit sentient beings, you won’t acquire merit and virtue. How does one benefit sentient beings? First, you should set up a Way-place and support the Triple Jewel. The Triple Jewel is the field of blessings for sentient beings. If sentient beings seek blessings, they should seek them with the Triple Jewel. No matter how large or small a meritorious deed is, you should try to do it. Every Buddhist should try his or her best to support and make offerings to the Triple Jewel. That’s the basic duty of every Buddhist disciple.
At the level of planting causes, the Buddha cultivated all kinds of merit and virtue: drawing near to, taking refuge with, protecting, and making offerings to the Triple Jewel. He created every kind of merit and virtue, whether great or small. He did not stand on the side and watch. He did not say, “That’s fine, you can do the merit and virtue. I’ll be an onlooker.” He wasn’t like that. Even if that merit and virtue was as infinitesimal as a mote of dust, the Buddha still did it. Even if that merit was so large that it filled up space and pervaded the Dharma Realm, the Buddha also tried it. As a Buddhist, he made offerings to the Triple Jewel to the best of his ability. After making many offerings, his merit and virtue multiplied until it became infinite. That being so, the merit and virtue in every one of his pores also became measureless and boundless. Why? Because every one of the Buddha’s pores contains all the sentient beings throughout space and the Dharma Realm. In every pore he turns the great Dharma wheel and teaches and transforms sentient beings. Who among us ordinary people has those spiritual penetrations and merit and virtue? None of us. Why? Because we are unwilling to take that kind of initiative. We only know how to be selfish and self-seeking. We only care about our own advantages. We will do anything that benefits us personally, but refuse to do anything that brings us no advantages. For that reason, sentient beings remain sentient beings. Since we have refused to perform any kind of merit and virtue for measureless eons, we are still miserable sentient beings. The Buddha, on the other hand, has delighted in creating merit and virtue for measureless eons, and so he has become a Buddha. There is immeasurable, boundless merit and virtue in every one of his pores.
The Buddha’s meritorious virtue could not be measured by the united efforts of all beings in this world. “Measured” is explained this way in the Book of Odes: “The other person has a certain thought. I try to measure it.” Somebody has a false thought. You try to figure out what it is. Whereas this Chinese word for “measured” is usually pronounced du, here it should be pronounced in the fourth tone, duo. Even if everyone in the world collectively speculated on the measure of merit and virtue, the amount would still be incomprehensible. Since the Buddha is always creating merit and virtue, even if everyone in the world put their minds together and tried to measure his merit and virtue, they would not be able to know how much there is. It is boundless and inexhaustible, like space. You cannot find its boundaries. There’s no way to completely calculate the amount of the Buddha’s merit and virtue. Therefore it is inexhaustible. It resembles space in being boundless and unending. The Buddha has created so much merit and virtue that its measure is equal to space.
The Thus Come One penetrates all dharmas. Since the Buddha wishes to benefit and save all sentient beings, he himself cultivated all sorts of merit and virtue. Having perfected them, he can deeply enter the sutra treasury and have ocean-like wisdom, and he can penetrate all dharmas. To penetrate all dharmas means to understand and know how to use all dharmas. Brightly illuminating their nature. He completely understands the nature of every gateway of the 84,000 dharmas.
His wisdom-light illumines the reality of dharmas clearly. What is this like? Unshaken, he remains—like Mount Sumeru , Wonderfully High Mountain. The Heaven of the Four Kings is half way up that mountain. The summit of Mount Sumeru is higher than the Heaven of the Four Kings. The Trayastrimshä Heaven is situated on top of Wonderfully High Mountain. This mountain is forever unmoving. An earthquake cannot move it; even if the sky caves in, it still won’t move.
It is thus, thus, unmoving. The reality of dharmas resembles Mount Sumeru in samadhi. With the power of courageous vigor, the Buddha saves and protects all beings. Who is the savior of all beings? It is the Buddha. Lion Chest thus enters this dharma door . Mahoraga King Lion Chest understands and enters this dharma door and this state. He has attained this passage into liberation.
If I make a mistake in reciting the sutra text, you should quickly correct me, since I am reciting the “wordless” sutra with my eyes closed. And so if you have your eyes open and see that I have made a mistake, tell me. Throughout vast eons in the past, the Buddha , Sãkyamuni Buddha, countless eons ago, amassed an ocean of happiness—bottomless in depth. The Buddha did not get upset for even a moment. He only gave rise to happiness, which was as profuse as an ocean. He was unlike those of us who feel that we’ve been happy long enough and that we should get angry from time to time. Your teacher has to drag you by the ear and admonish you repeatedly, “Do not get angry. Do not become afflicted. Do not give rise to hatred.” I have done this for so many years. Every year I ask for a donation from you—a large contribution, not a small one. What kind of donation? A donation of your greed, anger, and delusion. I want you to give me your greed, anger and delusion, and I can exchange them for precepts, samadhi and wisdom. However, you cannot part with your greed, anger and delusion. The more I ask for a donation from you, the more you aren’t willing to part with those things. But the Buddha is not like this. If someone asks for greed, anger and delusion from him, the Buddha willingly gives it to him. The Buddha is always happy and never worries about anything. His happiness is as deep and infinite as an ocean. That means he is happy with anyone he sees. At the level of planting causes, the Buddha felt happy for all sentient beings he saw. He resolved to save every being he met. No matter how badly that sentient being treated him, the Buddha would not say, “I’ll not save you anymore.” For instance, the Buddha vowed that when he became a Buddha, he would take across King Kali.
Hence, due to the Buddha’s amassing an ocean of happiness, those who see him are delighted without exception. There is no one who isn’t delighted when they see the Buddha. Sound of Adornments so enters this dharma. Mahoraga King Sound of Many Wondrous Adornments attained this passage into liberation.
“If people scold me, I should accept the retribution.” If you can think that way, you won’t lose your temper. However, stubborn sentient beings are hard to tame and subdue. In cultivating, you must cultivate the paramita of patience, the paramita of vigor, the paramita of holding precepts, the paramita of dhyana concentration, and the paramita of wisdom. Don’t be so foolish. The most worthless, shameful, and lowly way for a cultivator to behave is to constantly lose his or her temper. Not only do you lose your status of the Way, you lose your human character altogether. Take a look at wise and intelligent people in the world. They don’t blow their tops at the drop of a hat. Their demeanor is definitely very different from most people.
When one understands the Dharma Realm to be formless,
The ocean of paramitas is thoroughly perfected.
Magnificent light universally rescues sentient beings.
Chest Like a Mountain knows this expedient thus.
When one understands the Dharma Realm to be formless. One clearly understands and knows that the Dharma Realm has no form or appearance. What is the Dharma Realm? Last year, someone came here to listen to the Flower Adornment Sutra. After the lecture, he said, “There is nothing that does not flow forth from the Dharma Realm, and nothing that does not return to the Dharma Realm.” He sounded as if he really understood the Buddhadharma. Then I asked this person, “What is the Dharma Realm?”
He opened his mouth so wide that he couldn’t manage to close it. He didn’t know what the Dharma Realm was. Isn’t that a case of eating food but not digesting it? Isn’t that a case of talking about food or counting others’ treasures? He knew how to say, “There is nothing that does not flow forth from the Dharma Realm, and nothing that does not return to the Dharma Realm.” But he couldn’t explain what the Dharma Realm was. Actually, the Dharma Realm is the true mind of sentient beings. Our true mind fills the Dharma Realm. The Dharma Realm is not apart from our true mind. Therefore, it’s said,
It’s like composing an essay. First of all, you must be clear about the topic. For instance, suppose you are given the topic, “The Superior Great Man.” You might interpret it this way, “ Superior means such a person is ascending. He is a big man who is trying to climb up a ladder.” Isn’t that ridiculous? Actually, “Superior Great Man” is another title for Confucius. In the past that’s the way we used to address him. “Great Man” refers to a sage. However, if you interpret it to mean someone trying to get to heaven by climbing up a ladder, you have misunderstood the topic. Professor Hsieh, who is here right now, will certainly agree with me. Moreover, there is no ladder that goes up to heaven, so how could you write such an essay?
By the same token, you must understand the Dharma Realm. The Dharma Realm is the mind of sentient beings. Well, what does the mind look like? It doesn’t have an appearance. If it had an appearance, it wouldn’t be the mind. You say, “I know, my heart is red.” [In Chinese, the same character is used to mean ‘heart’ and ‘mind’.] Well, that’s different from my heart. My heart is black.
You ask, “Have you seen your heart?” Well, have you seen it?
“No, I haven’t seen that your heart is black.”
And I haven’t seen that your heart is red. The ordinary, flesh heart, is red. Your heart and my heart are both red. However, that is not our true mind. Our true mind pervades all places. It exhausts the empty space and pervades the Dharma Realm; all of that comes into being because of our true mind. So, the Dharma Realm is just the true mind. “I don’t believe this,” you say. “How could the mind become the Dharma Realm?”
So, you are incredulous. Now I’ll tell you: The ten dharma realms are not beyond a single thought of the mind. The ten dharma realms are: the dharma realm of Buddhas, the dharma realm of Bodhisattvas, the dharma realm of Sages Enlightened to Conditions, the dharma realm of Hearers, the dharma realm of gods, the dharma realm of humans, the dharma realm of asuras, the dharma realm of animals, the dharma realm of hungry ghosts, and the dharma realm of hell beings. None of these goes beyond a single thought of the mind. What’s meant by Dharma Realm? It is transformed from the Dharma. Within the dharma realm of Buddhas there are measurelessly many Buddhas. The dharma realm of Bodhisattvas, the dharma realm of Sages Enlightened to Conditions, the dharma realm of Hearers, and so forth, are all brought about by various transformations of the Dharma. Divided, we say there are ten dharma realms. When put together, there is only one Dharma Realm, which is but a single thought of the true mind. What is the form and appearance of the true mind? Can you show it to me? No, it has no form or appearance. “Without form or appearance” is a definition of the Dharma Realm. And so the text says, “When one understands that the Dharma Realm is without form or appearance,” one realizes that the Dharma is empty, without anything being emptied. Even emptiness is done away with. That which empties and that which is emptied are both done away with. That is the Dharma Realm.
The ocean of paramitas is thoroughly perfected. Once you understand that the Dharma Realm is formless, you will understand the basic substance of your intrinsic nature, which is thus, thus unmoving, constantly clear and bright. There are six paramitas, ten paramitas, and thousands upon thousands of paramitas. We could say there are 84,000 paramitas, since there are 84,000 dharma doors. If you understand that the Dharma Realm is formless, you will be replete with the sea of paramitas. Magnificent light universally rescues sentient beings. This refers to the light of wisdom that emanates from your cultivation. Your wisdom light is infinite, exhausting empty space and pervading the Dharma Realm, without leaving anything out. Whenever that great light treasury illumines sentient beings, those sentient beings will be saved. They will stop suffering and experience bliss. They become one with the Buddha’s great light, and so they are rescued. They are no longer as deluded as before. Illumined by the Buddha’s light, they bring forth brilliant wisdom, enter the great light treasury, and are saved. “All sentient beings” includes you and me, because we have not escaped the realm of sentient beings. Don’t assume that you are not a sentient being. If you are not a sentient being, then what are you? You think it over. You say, “I am a ghost.” Even ghosts are sentient beings. They haven’t run outside of the realm of sentient beings. So how could you not be a sentient being? That’s impossible. However, there’s one way to get out of it: become a Buddha! After you become a Buddha, you are no longer a sentient being, and yet you are not apart from sentient beings. Even after you have become a Buddha, you are not divorced from sentient beings. You are still one with them. You are two and yet not two. If you refuse to admit that you are a sentient being, then are you a piece of wood? Wood is something insentient. However, in the future it will also become a sentient being. “Beings, whether sentient or insentient, together perfect the Wisdom of Modes.” Don’t you think that’s wonderful?
Chest Like a Mountain knows this expedient thus. Mahoraga King Sumeru Chest knows this skill-in-means. Other sentient beings, such as ourselves, have to keep on cultivating before we will be able to understand this dharma door. Even so, it’s good for us to hear about it.
Contemplate the Thus Come One’s powers of self-mastery.
Consistently he appears everywhere in the ten directions.
All sentient beings are illumined and led to enlightenment.
Wondrous Brightness enters this proficiently.
Mahoraga King Adorable Brightness says, “Contemplate. Take a look.” At whom? Contemplate the Thus Come One’s powers of self-mastery. See how comfortable, carefree, and wonderful he is? He’s wonderful beyond words. Consistently he appears everywhere in the ten directions. Throughout the worlds of the ten directions, his Dharma body appears by transformation, and his awesome virtue descends. His transformation-bodies go everywhere in the ten directions, appearing in equal measure in all places. This is like rain coming down. Big trees obtain more rain, small trees obtain less rain, and the grass obtains an even smaller amount. Sentient beings all obtain what is appropriate to their measures. They receive however much they deserve. It is completely unbiased, impartial, public-spirited, and fair. There is nothing unbalanced or unequal about this. It is the most balanced and equal. Those with great roots obtain great nourishment; those with lesser roots obtain lesser nourishment. Each obtains what is appropriate for his measure. It’s neither excessive nor deficient. This is like the food and drink in the Land of Ultimate Bliss . Whatever beings there wish to eat, that food will appear before them. In the Saha world, people who are waiting for bread or cake to fall down from the ceiling, will never get anything. However, in the Land of Ultimate Bliss , without having to wait, food and drink will arrive. All a being there needs to do is give rise to a single thought, “Ah, wouldn’t it be nice this morning to have steamed dumplings!” And immediately a dozen dumplings will appear before him. He eats one, and it’s delicious. He eats a second one and it tastes even better. He goes on to eat three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, and eleven. There’s only one left. He still isn’t completely full. He finishes the last one and feels just full. It’s perfect, not too much and not too little. That’s “the perfection of twelve dumplings” [a pun that sounds like “enlightenment to the twelve conditions” in Chinese, shi er yuan jiao.] There’s no left-over, and nothing extra. That’s the principle of each obtaining the appropriate amount.
All sentient beings are illumined and led to enlightenment: When the Buddha’s great light treasury shines upon them, they are enlightened. You can try it out, too. Have the Buddha’s light shine on you, and you can become enlightened, too. If you want to try it out, I’ll connect the electric wiring for you. You can go through this kind of electrotherapy, and you will recover from any illness you might have.
Wondrous Brightness enters this proficiently. Adorable Brightness is the name of this Mahoraga King. He uses the Buddha’s light to eradicate your karmic offenses. This wondrous light is even more effective than X-ray or other rays. Upon being illumined by it, you will be cured of every sickness.
Moreover, Kinnara King Bright Heaven of Kind Wisdom gained a passage into liberation of universally generating happiness and joy through all deeds. Kinnara King Wonderful Floral Banner gained a passage into liberation of experiencing unsurpassed bliss of Dharma, bestowing peace and joy upon all.
The state of the Flower Adornment Sutra is infinitely multi-layered. Now, continuing with the principle not yet completely explained previously, the text says: Moreover, Kinnara King Bright Heaven of Kind Wisdom. In a while we’ll have some people explain what kinnaras are. This Kinnara King gained a passage into liberation of universally generating, which means causing all sentient beings to generate, happiness and joy through all deeds. If sentient beings create good karma, they will enjoy happiness and joy. If they create evil karma, they will suffer from anxiety and woe. That is his passage into liberation.
Kinnara King Wonderful Floral Banner gained a passage into liberation of experiencing unsurpassed bliss of Dharma. He has understood this state of the Buddha, which fills him with the bliss of Dharma. He takes the joy of dhyana as his food. When he listens to the sutras and the Dharma, he is filled with Dharma bliss. Although he does not eat, he does not feel hungry, and although he does not sleep, he doesn’t feel tired.
As the saying goes, “He spurs himself on and forgets to eat; he is so happy that he forgets his worries.” Because he has obtained the bliss of Dharma, he forgets all his worries. This Kinnara King experiences unsurpassed, the highest, bliss of Dharma, bestowing peace and joy upon all. It does not count if he alone obtains the bliss of Dharma. He is further able to enable all sentient beings to receive comfort and joy. That’s “benefiting oneself and benefiting others; enlightening oneself and enlightening others.” He himself is happy, and he enables others to feel likewise. That is his passage into liberation.
The next Kinnara King is named Assorted Adornment. He has many kinds of adornment, not only one kind. This refers to a kind of wonderful, sublime beauty that adorns Buddhalands. He has gained a passage into liberation of achieving a treasury of tremendous, pure faith and understanding resulting from the perfection of all merit and virtue. He has perfected all merit and virtue from cultivating various acts of blessings. His merit and virtue, once perfected, is tremendous, and he experiences a treasury of pure faith and understanding. “Pure” means not going crazy. If one goes crazy, then one is not pure. Pure means not being defiled. One does not give rise to thoughts when encountering states. It means:
It’s as if you see, but don’t see. You hear music in your external environment, such as the sounds of drums and cymbals, but your mind is not attached to the state. You hear as if you haven’t heard. When one reaches the state of hearing as if not hearing, seeing as if not seeing, one obtains a treasury of pure faith and understanding.
An icchantika is someone who is deficient in faith. But now, one has faith, and so one is not an icchantika. One can foster the source of merit and virtue, and cause the forest of merit and virtue to grow. The very first requisite that the Flower Adornment Sutra brings up is faith. Next comes understanding, then practice, and then realization. Those are the four stages of the Flower Adornment ;Sutra: faith, understanding, practice, and realization, which all of us should study in detail. In this verse, faith and understanding are profuse and so they are described as a “treasury.” One obtains this passage into liberation. Who? Kinnara King Assorted Adornments has attained this state.
Yesterday I received several books from Taiwan, a few of which were about the Living Buddha of Gold Mountain. In the past, someone wrote a biography of the Living Buddha of Gold Mountain, which was an inconceivable story. I have read several selections from this version of his biography. I have remembered a few sections, and I will relate them to you. The incidents described in this book may be hard for most Westerners to believe. Being unable to do such things themselves, they may draw the conclusion that the facts are unsubstantiated. There is no concrete evidence and no scientific explanation for such events. However, these things did happen as a matter of fact.
Gold Mountain is located in Zhenjiang County . Most people call it Gold Mountain Monastery, but actually that’s a mistake. The monastery itself is called Jiangtian Monastery, and the mountain on which it is built is called Gold Mountain. Gold Mountain is a very well-known Way-place. And the Living Buddha lived at that monastery, cultivating ascetic practices. He performed all sorts of chores, but most people disliked him. Most of the monks complained that he did not observe the rules of the monastery. It wasn’t the case that he did not observe the rules, but that his state was rather inconceivable. His disregard for the rules was like the disregard for the rules that some of us show. Some of us say, “You people can go ahead and do something, but I’m not going along with you. I want to do my own thing.” The Living Buddha wanted to do his own thing, too. What did he want to do? For example, if people ate peanuts, no matter where they dumped the peanut shells, the Living Buddha would pick up the shells and eat them. The same applied to the shells of melon seeds. He did not eat the kernel inside; he ate the shell. After people ate their bananas and threw away the peels, the Living Buddha would pick up the peels and eat them. Of course nothing would happen if he didn’t see those discarded things. But if he did see them, then he would move very swiftly. People could not fend him off fast enough. Even if they didn’t want him to eat such things, he would grab them before they could stop him. He was incredibly fast. Because of those incidents, most people complained that he did not follow the rules.
He was also known for another unique feat. Before he ate, he would blow his nose and let some of his snot and saliva run into the bowl. He would then stir them up in the bowl and eat the mixture. People who sat at the same table would feel like vomiting because he was simply too dirty. Also, he would pick up newspapers and the like and eat those, too. He could eat paper. He had a disdain for paper with words printed on it, saying that it was just such printed matter that was harming the world the most because of the turmoil those words created. And so he ate up printed words. Whether he could digest all this stuff or not, we don’t know. However, that was what he ate. And that was how he did not comply with the rules. Any one of you who is able to manage that, anyone who can eat that stuff, is welcome to disregard the rules. The Living Buddha ate what others rejected. He could eat smelly and rotting stuff that had maggots in it.
Moreover, he could cure illnesses. A certain incident happened in Burma. One of his refuge disciples sent an old woman to him with a message, a written invitation to a meal. When the Living Buddha saw the note, immediately he slapped the old woman on the face, yelling, “If you want to invite me to a meal then do so. Why bother to write me a note?” The old woman wanted to blow up because she was slapped. However, she knew that most people called him the Living Buddha, and she did not dare to get angry. Suddenly she realized that whereas she had been suffering from a severe toothache, right after she was slapped across the face, her toothache was gone. There were many such strange feats in which the Living Buddha cured people of their sicknesses. He concocted a soup called prajña soup. What ingredients did the prajña soup have in it? Its stock was his foot-washing water. Then he would spit into the water, or put something dirty from his body into the water and stir it up. That was what he called prajña soup. People were told to take it home and drink it, after which they recovered from their illnesses. If they had an internal sickness, they were given prajña soup. If they had an external sickness, then the Living Buddha would punch them to heal them.
He was able to cure people’s illness, and everyone called him the Living Buddha, but he was someone who did not comply with the rules. Any one of you who does not wish to not follow the rules can first try eating the stuff that he ate. If you can manage that, I’ll permit you to disregard the rules. However, you must be able to digest the stuff. Then it counts. You cannot throw up after eating it. Those are a few things about the Living Buddha of Gold Mountain. The author of his biography met him in his youth. Very often, the Living Buddha lived in the homes of his lay disciples, most of whom were rich and famous people. One time when he was about to go to the house of a lay disciple, this layman told the author, “In a couple days a Living Buddha will visit.”
The author had heard the name too, and so he was excited, and asked, “Can I meet him too?”
“Yes, of course,” said the layman.
The author said, “In that case, I will wait for him.”
Soon after that, everyone ran outside to welcome the Living Buddha. When the refuge disciple saw the Living Buddha, he bowed to him outside. Well, what happened then? When his disciples bowed to them, he bowed back to them. He wasn’t like any of you, and he wasn’t like me, either. When laypeople or left-home people bow to me, I just stand there and take it. There’s also a Bhikshuni who does the same. When people bow to her, she just stands there. Those are places where we don’t match up to the Living Buddha. When his lay disciples bowed to him, he also bowed back to them. They engaged in a series of bows. When the author saw this, he thought to himself, “What kind of Living Buddha is this? He doesn’t even understand the rules of etiquette. When did left-home people ever bow to lay people? That’s ridiculous!” Immediately he had no respect for Living Buddha. He was quite displeased, in fact.
After they welcomed the Living Buddha into the house, the Living Buddha said, “By rights, left-home people should not bow to lay people. However, a left-home person should bow to a monk when he encounters one. Thereupon he got up and bowed to the author, who thought, “I was criticizing him in my mind, but he read my thoughts.” He felt this was very strange, and did not dare to be disrespectful after that. He knew that the Living Buddha was unusual.
The Living Buddha then said, “Tonight we can stay in the same room.”
The servant wanted to bring in another bed, but the Living Buddha said, “No, there’s no need. I can sit on this square stool.”
The author thought that since they were sharing the same room, there would be a chance to talk to the Living Buddha that night. However, right after the meal, the Living Buddha put his legs in full lotus and started to meditate. He did not utter a single word. Then at midnight , he started to speak on his own. What did he say? Now, originally the author had some doubts about the Living Buddha. He was wondering, “How did this title Living Buddha come about? His name is Miao Shan. He’s not really a Living Buddha; it’s just that most people call him that.”
Just as the author was entertaining those doubts, the Living Buddha spoke his thoughts out loud, as if he was completely cognizant of what was going on in his mind. The author was shocked. From that time on, he had an especially good impression of the Living Buddha.
The thing about the Living Buddha that most merits our respect is that he did not want money. He did not hold the precept against not holding money. When people gave him money, he simply put it into his mouth and swallowed it. He would accept however much money you gave him. He did not refuse it. That was his special dharma door.
He had a dharma treasure. From morning to night, he would intone, “Who is mindful of Namo Amitabha Buddha? Who is mindful of Namo Amitabha Buddha?” He would intone this in his special chanting style, with a clear, resonant voice. He especially liked to sing out loud at night. When everyone else had gone to sleep at night, the Living Buddha would sing at the top of his lungs, “Who is mindful of Namo Amitabha Buddha?” That’s why most people thought he was a nuisance.
The next Kinnara King is named Delightful Roar. He delights the mind by means of his roars, which are like the lion’s roar, a great sound. That’s the name of this musical spirit. He has gained a passage into liberation of constantly emitting every delightful sound. Often he makes pleasing sounds, thereby dispelling the sorrow and terror of all who hear. Those who hear his sound will be apart from fear. Although he has attained this state, he is not the only one who has that state. Rather, the Buddha is replete with this kind of pleasing, roaring sound. When sentient beings hear this sound, they are happy and leave behind all worry and fear. Their worries, sorrow, suffering and distress are alleviated, and they feel joyful. That is his passage into liberation.
The Kinnara King named Brilliance of Bejeweled Trees gained a passage into liberation of establishing sentient beings in great compassion, enabling them to hear the Dharma and enlighten to their original causes and conditions. These sentient beings awaken to the fact that originally their nature is pure. That is his passage into liberation.
Kinnara King Everywhere Delighting the Beholder gained a passage into liberation of manifesting bodies of a myriad wondrous forms. Kinnara King Adornment with Supreme Light gained a passage into liberation of understanding the karma that leads to perfecting all sorts of supreme adornments.
The next Kinnara King is named Everywhere Delighting the Beholder. Because he manifests wondrous form bodies, sentient beings are delighted to see him. He gained a passage into liberation of manifesting bodies of a myriad subtle, wondrous forms. He also knows how the Buddha manifests wonderful bodies to teach and transform sentient beings, causing them all to be happy.
Kinnara King Adornment with Supreme Light gained a passage into liberation of understanding the karma that leads to perfecting all sorts of supreme adornments, which is just the Buddha fruition. What kind of karma brought about this fruition of supreme adornment? He understands this passage into liberation.
Kinnara King Exquisite Flower Banner gained a passage into liberation of capably contemplating the retributions that result from all worldly karma. He knows the different karmic retributions of those in the world. For whatever causes one plants, one reaps the corresponding results. If you plant a good cause, you will reap a good result. If you plant an evil cause, you will reap an evil result. Reaping an evil result means undergoing an evil retribution. This is a fixed principle. As for sentient beings among the nine dharma realms: how did Bodhisattvas become Bodhisattvas? They cultivated good deeds, the Six Perfections and the Myriad Practices, and so they became Bodhisattvas. Sages Enlightened to Conditions cultivated the karma of the Twelve Causal Conditions, and thereby became Sages Enlightened to Conditions. Hearers cultivated the Four Holy Truths and became Hearers. We plant causes and reap the results. If you plant the causes of good works, merit and virtue, you will be reborn in the three wholesome paths. If you commit offenses and transgressions, you will fall into the three evil paths. Therefore, each has his or her own karmic retribution. This Kinnara King is skilled at contemplating the retributions that sentient beings in the world receive due to their karma. That is his passage into liberation.
Kinnara King named Earth-Shaking Power can shake the earth. He is that powerful. He can cause earthquakes. He has gained a passage into liberation of constantly embarking on any deed to benefit sentient beings. He constantly gives rise to a strength that enables him to benefit sentient beings and make them happy. That is his passage into liberation.
Kinnara King Awesome and Brave Lord has awesome virtue and is very courageous. He acts as a ruler of kinnaras. He gained a passage into liberation of fully understanding the thoughts of all kinnaras. There are many kinnaras, and their thoughts are hard to decipher. However, this Kinnara King is skilled at knowing their thoughts. Kinnaras are very unruly. From morning to night they are always bouncing up and down. They like to dance. This king is good at cleverly gathering in and guiding them. He employs various skill-in-means to regulate and subdue them. He watches over them. Although he is called Awesome and Brave Lord, he does not rule them with his awesome might. Instead he uses skill-in-means to teach and transform the kinnaras as if teaching young children. That is called “cleverly gathering in and guiding them.” There are two ways to teach and transform: the twin doors of gathering in and of subduing. Subduing means forcefully getting them under control. Sentient beings may be very stubborn. In that case, one has to use a strong method to subdue them. That is the dharma of subduing. On the other hand, there is the dharma of gathering in, which is like coaxing young children so they don’t cry. Guiding them means to regulate them. For example, there are those who insist that they don’t want others to watch over them. This Kinnara King specializes in watching over those who don’t want others to watch over them. That is his passage into liberation.
At that time, Kinnara King Bright Heaven of Kind Wisdom , who was the first Kinnara King mentioned, received the Buddha’s awesome spiritual power, universally contemplated the kinnara multitudes, and spoke the following verse.
As for the Living Buddha of Gold Mountain, he also had some special skills. He could do what most people cannot do, especially Westerners. What skill did he have? If people had sores or carbuncles that were oozing blood and pus, he could press his mouth against the sore and suck out all the blood and pus. He didn’t spit out the contents. He would swallow it. Once there was a woman who had an eye disease. For two months her eyes hurt so bad that she could not open them. She could not see anything. Then she knelt before him and asked for his help. The Living Buddha rubbed her head, while with his mouth he sucked the eye. That woman was screaming as he was doing this. He managed to squeeze out black-colored blood and pus, enough to fill a teacup—it was black and white all mixed up together. Then he told the woman, “You eat half of this, and I will eat the other half. If you eat your half, it will put an end to your suffering.”
The woman did not dare to refuse. Because she couldn’t see anything, she didn’t know what it was, and so she ate one half, and the Living Buddha ate the other half. After they had both finished eating that stuff, he ordered the woman to open her eyes. She did, and she regained her vision. This is something that most people aren’t able to do. But he was able to do it. If you have that kind of skill, then you will come close to him. I don’t have such skill.
All peace and joy in the world of sentience. In this world, some are happy while others are miserable. But now we are talking about happy events, which includes all happy and peaceful events. How do they come about? They arise from seeing the Buddha. “Peace” refers to an absence of disasters and sickness. Not only is one very peaceful, one is also joyous. How do these benefits come about? All of them come about from seeing the Buddha, hearing the Dharma, and seeing the Sangha. Then those happy events arise. The great Teacher of humans and gods, which is another name for the Buddha, at all times benefits all sentient beings. He does not only benefit himself, he benefits himself and benefits others, enlightens himself and enlightens others. When he has perfected the conduct of enlightenment, he becomes a Buddha. After becoming a Buddha, he is a place of universal refuge, saving and protecting them. He continues to teach and transform sentient beings and benefit them. If sentient beings are caught in disasters or difficulties, the Buddha rescues them. He is the true place of refuge for sentient beings. This set of verses was spoken by Kinnara King Bright Heaven of Kind Wisdom.
He proliferates all happiness and joy. The Buddha is able to fill sentient beings with the joy of Dharma. When they hear the Buddhadharma, they are delighted. All in the world experience them—these feelings of happiness and joy—without end. All those in the world can obtain this Dharma joy. It is like water which flows without end. No one ever sees the Buddha in vain: Those who see the Buddha will definitely accrue merit and virtue. None of it will pass by in vain. Whoever sees the Buddha will obtain Dharma joy. Whoever obtains Dharma joy will cultivate according to the Dharma and realize the fruition. This effort will not be in vain. Floral Banner is enlightened to this. Kinnara King Floral Banner has understood this state, this passage into liberation.
The ocean of the Buddha’s merit and virtue is infinite, measureless and boundless. Not to talk about all of the Buddha’s merit and virtue, even the merit and virtue in one of his pores is measureless and boundless, like an ocean that is infinite.
In the heavens above and below there is no one like the Buddha. Throughout the worlds of the ten directions, none can compare with him. Sentient beings in worlds of the ten directions do not have merit and virtue that can compare to the Buddha’s.
Its boundaries cannot be found. Since this ocean is too immense, you will not be able to find its boundaries, its shores. It is vast and great and without boundaries, lofty and deep and unfathomable. It is higher than Mount Sumeru and deeper than any ocean. There’s no way to know its boundaries. His light shines throughout the ten directions. The Buddha’s light shines on the worlds of the ten directions. When sentient beings in worlds of the ten directions obtain the aid of the Buddha’s light, they return from confusion and return to enlightenment, renounce the deviant and follow the proper.
The Thus Come One’s —the Buddha’s—vast, magnificent sound, also his perfect sound, Dharma sound, issues forth always. He proclaims Dharma without interruption. For this reason, once when Great Master Zhi Zhe (“Wise One”) of Tiantai Mountain was reciting the Dharma Flower Sutra and realized the Dharma Flower Samadhi, the single-revolution dharani, he saw that the Dharma Assembly on Vulture Peak still had not dispersed. Great Master Zhi Zhe saw that Sãkyamuni Buddha was still speaking Dharma there. This proves that the Buddhadharma can move countlessly many eons from the past to the present, and also move countlessly many eons in the future to the present. The past is not the past; the future is not the future. What about the present? It cannot be obtained. Therefore, it’s said, “Past thought cannot be got at. Present thought cannot be got at. Future thought cannot be got at.”
“Proclaim” means to expound, to explain in a very free, expressive way, saying what one wishes to say, speaking the Dharma and principles one wants to utter, like water that flows on and on without stop. Revealing the true dharma of leaving worries behind. He teaches sentient beings how to separate from worry, sorrow, suffering, and distress, how to leave suffering and attain bliss. This is the dharma door he reveals to sentient beings. How does one separate from worry, sorrow, suffering, and distress? By cultivating precepts, samadhi, and wisdom. With those three, one is no longer worried. When one does not have hang-ups and impediments, one has no more worries. That is a true and actual dharma for leaving worries behind. Cultivating precepts, samadhi, and wisdom is a true and actual dharma spoken by the Buddha. This is not a false dharma for cheating people.
When sentient beings hear, they rejoice with delight. When they hear the Buddha’s actual and true dharma, all of them are delighted. They are all happy, and they believe, accept, and put it into practice. Roar believes, and thus accepts. This Kinnara King deeply enters this state, and he understands, believes, and accepts this passage into liberation.
I contemplate the Thus Come One’s power of self-mastery,
Arising from his cultivation in the past.
With great compassion he rescues beings, leading them to purity.
King Bejeweled Trees enlightens thus and enters.
Kinnara King Brilliance of Bejeweled Trees spoke this verse: I contemplate the Thus Come One’s power of self-mastery. How did the Buddha obtain this spiritual power of self-mastery? It didn’t come about easily. Arising from his cultivation in the past. If the Buddha hadn’t cultivated, he would not have such power of self-mastery. Because he cultivated, he obtained this spiritual power of self-mastery. With great compassion he rescues beings, leading them to purity: The Buddha, endowed with great compassion, rescues all sentient beings, guiding them to return to their origin, turn away from confusion and return to enlightenment, renounce the deviant and follow the proper. He wants them to return to their original purity. King Bejeweled Trees enlightens thus and enters. Kinnara King Brilliance of Bejeweled Trees understands and enters this state, this passage into liberation.
It is not easy to meet the Buddha. It’s not known how many great eons have to pass before one can encounter the Buddha, listen to the Dharma, and see the Sangha. To see and hear the Thus Come One is difficult indeed. Although the Buddha’s Dharma body pervades all places, most sentient beings who do not have the Five Eyes cannot see the Buddha’s Dharma body. As for the Buddha’s form body, it is not easy to encounter that, either. Not only is it not easy to encounter it, it is also hard to get to hear the Buddha’s name. It is not easy to get to hear, “Namo Fundamental Teacher Sãkyamuni Buddha,” or “Namo Amitabha Buddha.” It’s also not easy to get to hear the titles of Buddhas of the worlds of the ten directions.
It is not easy to get to see or hear the Buddha. Only after millions of eons do sentient beings encounter him. Not only one million, but throughout hundreds of thousands of myriads of millions of eons, still it’s not easy to encounter the Buddha. After that long of a time, sentient beings who have affinities with him finally get to see the Buddha. As for sentient beings lacking the requisite affinities:
His many marks are adorned and complete. Instead of “many marks” (zhong xiang), my edition of the sutra says “sentient beings” (zhong sheng). When you corrected me, it caused me to be “enlightened.” Anyway, I noticed that “sentient beings” already occurs in the previous line, so I believe this is a misprint. Furthermore, it doesn’t make much sense to say, “Sentient beings are adorned and complete.” It makes more sense to say, “His many marks are adorned and complete.” The “many marks” refer to the Thirty-two Marks and the Eighty Subtle Characteristics. The subtle characteristics are implicitly included along with the marks. All the marks are adorned and perfect. King Delighting the Beholder sees thus. Kinnara King Delighting the Beholder understands this kind of state and passage into liberation.
You may observe the great wisdom of the Thus Come One:
He universally responds to the wishes of all sentient beings.
He proclaims all paths of wisdom without exception.
Supreme Adornment understands thus.
With wonderful functioning, he always universally responds to the wishes of all sentient beings. No matter what sentient beings desire and think about, he will grant their wishes. He fulfills all their desires. He proclaims all paths of wisdom without exception: He expounds upon all the principles that cause sentient beings to develop wisdom, omitting none.
He expounds upon the true appearance of all dharmas, causing all beings to attain great wisdom. There is nothing he holds back and fails to explain. Kinnara King Supreme Adornment understands this passage into liberation thus.
The sea of karma is unimaginably wide. The karma created by sentient beings may be good or evil. Good karma leads to enjoyable rewards. Evil karma leads to bitter retributions. Good karma results in pure conditions. Evil karma creates defiled conditions. You are always accompanied by your karma; it never leaves you. Your good karma follows you, and so does your evil karma. They follow you like a shadow, never leaving you for a moment. Suppose you create the karma of killing. You will then undergo the retribution of being killed. In the hells, you will constantly be boiled in the cauldron of oil, sent up the mountain of knives, and so on. If you engage in theft, you will also undergo agony in the hells. The hand with which you stole will be chopped off. If you stole with both hands, both of your hands will be chopped off. You will have to undergo that kind of retribution.
Some people create the karma of lust. What do I mean by “the karma of lust”? It means being wanton or promiscuous. For instance, although a man may be already married, he still wanders around looking for an affair with a woman. Or there may be a married woman who looks for an affair with another man. These people will fall into the hells in the future. What kind of hell will they enter? They will fall into the hell of Molten Copper. The hell of Molten Copper is truly inconceivable and marvelous.
The molten copper is actually a red-hot chunk of burning copper, but when a man looks at it, it appears as the woman he loved the most in his past life. This woman isn’t wearing any clothes, and she looks even more compelling than a strip-tease dancer, so he runs over to hug her. But suddenly as he hugs her, he finds that he cannot let go of her, and his body is burnt to charcoal. Wouldn’t you say this is hard to take? Even though it is hard to take, he still has to endure it. This is the retribution of molten copper, for a man who is promiscuous and indulges his desires.
What happens to a woman who indulges in lust and desire? When she looks at the molten copper, it appears as the man whom she once liked the most; so immediately, she runs forward and hugs him. Once she hugs him, she becomes aware that the contact is painful and unbearable, but she has no way to avoid it. She can’t get away from him and she is burnt to charcoal, and she smells very foul. These are the consequences for the men and women who indulge in sexual misconduct.
After hearing this, some of the audience may be saying, “Really? Is it true?”
Well, if you think it couldn’t happen, nothing is stopping you from trying it out.
If you tell lies, what kind of offense will you get? You may have to go to the hell of “Pulling Out Tongues” where your tongue will be severed, so that you can’t talk in the future. By then, your tongue has been sliced off!
What do you think happens to those who like to take intoxicants? If you like to drink alcoholic beverages, in the future you will go to hell where you suffer from burning in “fiery alcohol.” People have these kinds of retributions because of the karma they have created. If you want to speak extensively about it, the topic is limitless and boundless. Therefore the text says, “The sea of karma is inconceivably vast and great.”
Sentient beings’ suffering and joy arise from it. The suffering and bliss of sentient beings arise from karma. The Buddha demonstrates these truths. The Buddhas are able to instruct sentient beings about principles such as these, and can bring them to understand cause and effect. King Flower Banner is thus aware. Kinnara King Floral Banner can understand these principles and this method for liberation.
The Buddhas’ spiritual powers are perpetual. The Buddhas of the ten directions have same awesome spiritual powers. “Unceasing” means non-stopping. All Buddhas of the ten directions turn the great Dharma wheel and use all kinds of wisdom light to teach and transform sentient beings and cause them to become enlightened. They turn the great Dharma wheel eternally, without stopping. It is therefore called “the ever-turning Dharma wheel.”
In all directions, the earth trembles eternally. Sometimes, if the earth quakes, it is the Buddha manifesting his spiritual power. And sometimes it is a demon showing his spiritual power. The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas reveal their spiritual power in order to let sentient beings realize that the world is impermanent and changing. The demon, however, shows his spiritual power because he wants to delude sentient beings so they enter the door of birth and death, leave the Bodhi path behind, and become one of his retinue.
Although no sentient beings apprehend. No sentient being can understand these kinds of state and principles. Although Buddhas constantly benefit sentient beings, sentient beings still do not recognize the Buddhas’ kindness and compassion. Immense Power constantly perceives and understands these things. This is a state of Kinnara King Earth-Shaking Power. He understands this state.
Among the multitudes, the Buddha demonstrates his spiritual powers. The Buddha turns the Dharma wheel and teaches and transforms multitudes of sentient beings in Dharma assemblies in all Buddhalands of the worlds of ten directions. In each and every sea-vast Dharma Assembly there are sentient beings listening to the Dharma. When the Buddha is lecturing, he will manifest all kinds of spiritual powers to cause sentient beings to become enlightened on their own. Thus the text says, “demonstrates his spiritual powers.” His resplendent brilliance enlightens them. The Buddha radiates great wisdom light to cause all beings also to attain the same kind of wisdom light, and likewise to attain proper knowledge and proper views and get rid of deviant knowledge and deviant views. “Great light” means wisdom, the light of prajña that shines upon all sentient beings and causes them to become fully enlightened. He reveals all the states of the Thus Come One. The Buddha employs many varieties of spiritual powers to reveal the states of the Buddhas. And thus all these states appear. The states of the Buddha are unfathomable like empty space. Awesome and Brave Lord thus observes. Kinnara King Awesome and Brave Lord is able to understand this door of liberation.
Moreover, since the meaning of this entire passage has not been fully explained, the explanation continues here. The text continues to discuss the principles of the Flower Adornment Sutra and the oceanic multitudes present at the Dharma Assembly. Now the discussion focuses on the Garuda Kings, one of the eightfold division of ghosts and spirits. Garuda is Sanskrit and means “golden-winged bird.” Garudas are able to subdue dragons. When dragons happen to meet these birds, they immediately lose all their spiritual powers and can only wait for these great birds to eat them. In this world, one creature subdues another. When a lion roars, all the animals are subdued. When the great golden-winged peng bird appears, the dragons are subdued. A garuda’s wings can extend to 330 yojanas. One small yojana is equal to forty miles, one middle yojana is equal to sixty miles, and one great yojana is equal to eighty miles. From this, we see that even 330 small yojanas cover a huge area. Therefore, with one flap of the garuda’s wings, all the water in the sea is gone. Since there isn’t any water left, all the dragons are exposed to view. The peng bird swoops down, picks up these several-hundred-foot-long dragons with his beak, and devours them in a single gulp, like a person eating noodles.
The dragon species was fast becoming extinct. The garuda, being extremely large, would eat a lot of dragons. There weren’t enough dragon sons and grandsons for him to eat, and if he were to swallow just one large dragon, he still wouldn’t get full. He would swallow two or three at a time. And since he kept on eating the dragons, it’s not surprising that the dragons were nearing extinction.
The Dragon King could not endure it anymore, and he went seeking for help, but to no avail. Finally, the dragon went to seek protection from the Buddha at the Dharma Assembly. The Buddha agreed to help by giving the Dragon King his precept sash. He told the dragon king to distribute it among the dragons, so that in the future, the peng bird would not be able eat them. And it really worked! Once they were covered by the Buddha’s sash, the peng bird was unable to see the dragons anymore. The peng bird, however, had nothing to eat and would soon starve to death.
The peng bird went to see the Buddha because he suspected that it might be the Buddha’s spiritual power that prevented him from eating the dragons. He asked the Buddha, “World Honored One, since you don’t allow me to eat the dragons, I will starve to death. You can’t call this a practice of compassion. You are compassionate towards the dragons, but not towards me. You have no compassion for me, and I will soon die of hunger. This proves that the Buddha’s compassion is not universal.” This is how the peng bird tried to reason with the Buddha.
The Buddha said, “Very well, from now on during lunch time, I will instruct my disciples to give you some of their food. You may eat their food, but only on the condition that you can’t eat any more dragons. You must become vegetarian and recite the Buddha’s name from now on.”
So the great golden-winged peng bird took refuge with the Buddha and became one of the eightfold division of Dharma-protectors. In this way, the dragons did not become extinct, and the garuda still has food to eat. That’s why during the meal offering ceremony, left-home people make offerings to the peng bird.
They recite a verse that goes like this:
Garuda King Swift and Powerful gained a passage into liberation of universally contemplating the realms of sentient beings with an eye free from attachment and obstruction. He has attained the Buddhas’ unattached and unobstructed eye. “Free from attachment and obstruction” means it is boundless and unhindered. This Buddha eye can contemplate throughout space and the Dharma Realm, and it can contemplate all sentient beings in worlds throughout the ten directions. He can observe the causes and conditions of sentient beings everywhere. That is his passage into liberation.
Let me say some more about the Living Buddha of Gold Mountain. One time the Living Buddha went to Hong Kong. In Hong Kong there was a wealthy man who had one wife and five concubines. Because he simply had too much money, his household was Westernized. What does it mean to be Westernized? For example, in Chinese homes, people usually use chopsticks. In his household, however, they used knives and forks instead. They ate in the manner of Westerners. Everything they ate had to be absolutely fresh. For example, if they were to have chicken, the bird would be bought alive and killed just before it was to be cooked. Fish were also brought home alive and killed just before being eaten.
The manager of a certain Hong Kong monastery took the Living Buddha to this wealthy businessman’s home. This “boss” looked down on the Living Buddha of Gold Mountain, but his third concubine believed in the Living Buddha and insisted that he stay for a meal at their home. When invited, the Living Buddha accepted. For everyone else, the table was set with knives and forks, but for the Living Buddha they set chopsticks. The Living Buddha may have seen knives and forks before, but maybe he hadn’t and didn’t know what they were. The boss was sitting beside him, and the Living Buddha picked up the boss’s knife and fork and began to play with them. When the boss saw his eating utensils being handled by such dirty hands, he was extremely indignant and said, “Hey, monk, you should learn to have a little samadhi. Even if you have never seen these things before, still you can’t just casually act like a monkey that grabs things at random without the least bit of samadhi.”
The Living Buddha replied, “Yes, you are right. I have never seen these things before, and I don’t have any samadhi.” Everyone continued eating. After they finished eating, the Living Buddha put his legs up in the full lotus posture and began to meditate right there at the table. The things were all cleared from the table, and he continued to sit there. He sat until dinnertime. The table was set for supper and the Living Buddha was invited to eat. He did not respond. He just sat there. He sat through the night. The next morning he also did not eat. At noon he did not eat. He just kept sitting there.
By that time the household was in a panic. They thought he had died right there in their house. What should they do? No matter how they pushed at him, he did not move. No matter how they called to him, they could not rouse him. He just sat there with his eyes half open and half shut. He sat for a day and a night. The manager of the monastery came back and the members of the household said to him, “Has that monk that you brought here died on us? Why is he like that?”
Upon hearing that, the boss woke up and immediately knelt to repent before the Living Buddha, whereupon the Living Buddha came out of samadhi. He opened his eyes and gave a big laugh. Thereupon the entire household asked to take refuge with the Living Buddha. The Living Buddha said, “You can take refuge with me if you want to, but after you do, your entire household must become vegetarian.” Thereupon the entire household resolved to become vegetarian, and after that they never used knives and forks again!
The Garuda King by the name of Indestructible Jeweled Crest gained a passage into liberation of universally dwelling throughout the Dharma Realm. He makes all beings throughout the Dharma Realm peaceful and happy, free from afflictions and worries. The principle involved is that of the Buddha dwelling in the bodhimanda beneath the bodhi tree in all worlds of the ten directions to teach and transform sentient beings, helping all beings to be free from suffering and attain bliss. Sages set forth teachings in order to transform and rescue sentient beings. Garuda King Indestructible Jeweled Crest attained that passage into liberation.
The Garuda King whose name is Pure Swiftness gained a passage into liberation of achieving a universal strength of vigor that reached paramita. He helps all sentient beings achieve this, having achieved it first himself. His wish is for all sentient beings to have the same accomplishment that he himself has had. Here it refers to achieving paramita. Paramita is a Sanskrit word that means “gone to the other shore.” That is, from this shore, which is birth and death, one passes through the flow of afflictions, and reaches the other shore, which is nirvana. Sanskrit is an Indian language, and in India , when something had been achieved fully, it was described as paramita . Completing something was also called paramita. That’s why for cultivation to be brought to accomplishment is also described as paramita . By extension, if you have afflictions to start with, but later you manage to get rid of them, then you have gained paramita . The power of vigor is required to assist paramita . If you are not vigorous, you can’t attain paramita .
To reach paramita , that is, to achieve something, you must employ the strength of vigor. The Garuda King named Pure Swiftness achieved this kind of paramita and power of vigor, and so he entered this passage into liberation. Right in front of the Buddha, he attained this kind of state. Having attained it himself, he wanted all beings to obtain the advantages of this sort of paramita as well. That’s why his passage into liberation is called achieving a universal strength of vigor that reaches paramita .
The Garuda King gained this passage into liberation through seeing the Buddha, hearing the Dharma, and cultivating. All we sentient beings, upon hearing about the states in the Flower Adornment Sutra, should reflect upon ourselves for every phrase we hear. We should ask ourselves, “Is this dharma door right for me? Can I cultivate it? Am I able to gain this kind of passage into liberation? Do I want to gain passages into liberation, or passages into affliction?” If you prefer passages into affliction, you won’t achieve passages into liberation. To attain passages into liberation, you must first have no passages into affliction. If from morning to night you open the passages into affliction and close the passages into liberation, you will never achieve liberation. After you listen to Dharma and hear sutras lectured, you have to cultivate according to the Dharma. Otherwise it’s futile to listen to sutra lectures and Dharma talks. Don’t fail to pay attention to the Dharma after having heard it for a long time. It’s a mistake to be inattentive to putting the Dharma into practice. Therefore, every time we hear of a passage into liberation or state, we have to pose the question, “Is this dharma doorsuitable for me? Which passage into liberation should I cultivate?” So many passages into liberation have been discussed so far, but if the more you hear the less you want to be liberated, you’re making an even greater mistake.
The Garuda King in this passage is named Adorned with Steadfast Resolve. He would not find a few flea bites intolerable. When you encounter a state, you must recognize it. Then you won’t be turned by the state. Otherwise, the state will turn you. No matter what unpleasant, adverse state this Garuda King faces, he doesn’t retreat. If people slander him, he doesn’t become afflicted or discouraged. As badly as people might treat him, he does not turn back from his resolve for bodhi. His determination to achieve bodhi is irreversible. His name includes the word “Adorned” because not only is he steadfast, he is vigorous. In addition, he wishes to adorn all Buddhas’ lands. Since he never turned back from his resolve, this Garuda King gained a passage into liberation of developing a courageous might, valiant vigor. However great the difficulty, he’s not afraid. He is determined to overcome it. He will come out victorious no matter what demon from the heavens or externalist proponent tries to fight with him. His valiant might and irreversible resolve enable him to have things be as he wishes. He is able to enter the state of a Thus Come One, the state of a Buddha. He obtained that passage into liberation. Note that the Garuda Kings are not garudas. They watch over garudas, which is why they are called kings. Why do we say this? It is because they appear in the bodies of garudas to teach and transform garudas; but basically they are already Bodhisattvas. The Garuda Kings being discussed now and the Kinnara Kings discussed before are all manifestations of Bodhisattvas.
The next Garuda King is named Great Ocean’s Power to Gather in and Sustain. He has wisdom like the great sea, and he has the power to gather all sentient beings into the Buddhadharma and sustain them there. He gained a passage into liberation of entering the immense ocean of wisdom of a Buddha’s conduct. He can deeply enter the practices of a Buddha and cultivate the Buddha’s dharma doors, which are an ocean of vast, great wisdom. He attained the passage into liberation of cultivating a vast ocean of wisdom.
He was able to practice what is hard to practice,
And able to endure what is hard to endure.
Since he sought the Buddhadharma with that kind of solid resolve, he obtained pure light. That’s why his name is “Garuda King Pure Light of Solid Dharma. He gained a passage into liberation, a kind of state of samadhi, called helping countless sentient beings to each perfect his unique wisdom. Whatever sentient beings may be seeking, he is sure to fulfill their wishes and bring them to accomplishment. He does this not just for one sentient being, but for all sentient beings. What is accomplished is each being’s distinct wisdom. The Chinese character cha should be pronounced qi when it means “different” or “special,” as here. There are two interpretations of this wisdom. The first is that each sentient being has his or her own special kind of wisdom, the wisdom he or she should have. Since each type of being differs from the others, the wisdoms differ too, every category of being having the wisdom that belongs to that category. Another explanation is that each type of sentient being obtains a different kind of wisdom, the wisdom which each kind of being should obtain.
In these cases, the interpretation is “unique” in the sense of “special and different.” A further interpretation is possible, namely that the word should be “differentiating,” referring to the Dharma-selecting eye. One is able to use discernment, differentiating wisdom, to select the dharma doors which one likes and from which one obtains a response. Garuda King Pure Light of Solid Dharma achieved that kind of door of liberation.
The next Garuda King is named Wondrously Adorned Crown Cowl. The reason for his name is that the crown that he wears on his cowl is extremely beautiful and adorned, and all sentient beings like to see it. This Garuda King gained a passage into liberation of adorning the citadels of the Buddhadharma. He is skilled at decorating the Dharma cities of all Buddhas. All bodhimandas are citadels of the Buddhadharma, including the following:
Bodhimandas where Sutras are lectured,
Bodhimandas where Sutras are recited,
Bodhimandas where one bows to the Buddhas,
Bodhimandas where one recites the Buddha’s name,
Bodhimandas where one bows repentances,
Bodhimandas where Sutras are translated,
Bodhimandas where Sutras are distributed.
In general, all places where one finds the Buddhadharma are citadels of the Buddhadharma. This Garuda King is very good at adorning the cities of Dharma of all Buddhas, making the bodhimandas especially pure, ornate, and supreme. He obtained this kind of state, entering this door of liberation.
The Garuda King named Adroitly Appearing Everywhere manifests very rapidly in all places, which is why he has that name. This Garuda King gained a passage into liberation of realizing the indestructible power of impartiality which, like vajra, cannot be destroyed. He has impartial, great kindness, practicing great kindness towards those with whom he lacks affinities, and great compassion of identity in substance. He recognizes that all sentient beings will become Buddhas in the future, which is why he has the power of impartiality. He gained that passage into liberation.
The next Garuda King is named Universally Contemplating all the Oceans of sentient beings, there being so many sentient beings that they are like great oceans. His name also means “universally contemplating all the seas of sentient beings’ afflictions,” since beings also have so many afflictions they resemble vast oceans. Another interpretation of his name is “universally contemplating the oceans of sentient beings’ wisdom,” for the wisdom of all sentient beings is also as profuse as great oceans. Furthermore, his name means “universally contemplating the oceans of the power of sentient beings’ karma,” that karmic power of sentient beings also being like enormous oceans. In short, “universally contemplating oceans” means that he observes the oceans of sentient beings everywhere, the power of their karma, their afflictions, their wisdom, and their retributions as if they were vast oceans.
This king of the garudas, the great golden-winged peng birds, gained a passage into liberation of thoroughly knowing the forms of life and manifesting for them accordingly. From contemplating all the oceans of sentient beings, he gains comprehensive knowledge of sentient beings’ bodies, according to their individual categories. In turn he appears in appropriately individualized bodies for those sentient beings to teach and transform them. For example, he may contemplate the bodies of human beings and then appear in human form to speak Dharma for sentient beings. Or he may contemplate the bodies of gods, and appear in the body of a god to speak Dharma for sentient beings. He may see bodies of asuras, and appear in the body of an asura to speak Dharma for beings. He may observe the bodies of animals and manifest in animal bodies to speak Dharma for beings. He may contemplate the bodies of hell-beings and hungry ghosts, and appear in the form of a hell-being or a hungry ghost to speak Dharma for sentient beings. His speaking of Dharma for sentient beings enables them to become free from suffering and attain bliss, turn back from confusion, take refuge with enlightenment, and cultivate the Bodhi Way . He entered that door of liberation.
Because Garuda King Dragon Voice and Immense Eyes ate so many dragons, his voice started to resemble the voice of a dragon, which is very resonant. The outer aspect of his eyes, too, became similar to dragons’ eyes—very ugly. Due to his diet of dragons, he became dragon-like in all respects, hence his name. He gained a passage into liberation of having the wisdom to understand all sentient beings’ activities of birth and death. He can understand what sorts of karma sentient beings create once they are born, and what types of retributions they will endure after they die. He was able to have the contemplative wisdom to know the causes and effects behind all sentient beings’ retributions. The “activities” of their births and deaths means the kinds of karma they create after they are born and the retributions they undergo after dying. Because he understands those principles, he is very good at speaking Dharma for sentient beings to teach and transform them and to enable them to gain the passages into liberation suited to them.