The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra with commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua: Chapter 1: Introduction
The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra
with commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
Chapter 1: Introduction
Thus have I heard,
The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra contains twenty-eight chapters. The first chapter, “Introduction,” narrates the causes and conditions leading up to the speaking of the Sutra. Although the first passage of text of all Sutras is an introduction, this is the only Sutra that devotes an entire chapter to an introduction.
Thus have I heard. (Every Dharma Assembly must fulfill six requirements: faith, hearing, time, host, place, and audience.) “Thus” fills the requirement of faith. “I have heard” fills the requirement of hearing. (On Sunday during the lecture on the Vajra Sutra, the reasons behind these four words were already explained.) Dharma which is “Thus” can be believed; dharma which is not “Thus” cannot be believed.
Who is the “I” referred to here? There is the false self of the common person, and there is the divine self of non-Buddhist religions.
Here the “I” refers to the “false self,” not the true self.
You may ask, “Why does the text say, “I” heard? Basically isn’t it the ear which hears? Why doesn’t it say the ear heard?”
The ear is just one part of the body. The “I” refers to the entire body. Therefore Ananda said, “I have heard”.
Ananda spoke the words “Thus have I heard” for four reasons:
1. To resolve the assembly’s doubts.
2. To honor the Buddha’s instructions.
3. To put an end to disputes.
4. To distinguish Buddhist Sutras from the writings of other religions.
What doubts did the assembly hold? When Ananda compiled the Sutras and took the Dharma seat, he manifested the characteristics of the Buddha and thus caused the assembly suddenly to give rise to three doubts:
First of all, the Bodhisattvas, Arhats, and Bhikshus thought perhaps Shakyamuni Buddha hadn’t entered Nirvana after all, but had returned again to lecture on the Sutras.
Others thought, “This must be the Buddha from another place who has come to teach us.”
Still others thought, “Ananda has become a Buddha!” Otherwise, how could he manifest the thirty-two marks and eighty minor characteristics of a Buddha? How could he, surrounded by this dazzling purple-golden light, appear so splendid?”
But when Ananda took the Dharma seat and said, “Thus have I heard”, the three doubts were all resolved. The Bodhisattvas, Arhats, and Bhikshus then knew Ananda was saying, “This is the Dharma. It is thus. Thus it was that I personally heard this Dharma from the Buddha. It is not my own invention.”
The second reason the words “Thus have I heard” were used was in order to honor the Buddha’s instructions. When the Buddha was about to enter Nirvana, he told Ananda, “All the Sutras should begin with the words ‘Thus have I heard.’” And so when Ananda compiled the Sutras, he followed the Buddha’s instructions and used these four words at their beginning.
The third reason was to put an end to disputes. Ananda was one of the youngest of the Buddha’s disciples. If he hadn’t made it clear that the Sutras he was speaking were the Buddha’s and not his own, there would certainly have been objections. “You say you can speak Sutras? Well, so can we!” people would have said. But when Ananda said that the Sutras were not his own but were the Buddha’s, all the assembly, including his elders, his peers, and his juniors, had nothing to say. They were the Buddha’s Sutras. This silenced their objections and ended all disputes.
The fourth reason was to distinguish the Buddha’s Sutras from the writings of other religions. The texts of other religions begin their works with the words “A” or “O” meaning “non-existence” or “existence”, respectively. They say that all the ten thousand dharmas either exist or do not exist. The phrase “Thus have I heard” at the beginning of the Buddha’s Sutras sets them apart from the writings of other religions, which have a head but no tail, or a tail no head, because they advocate either existence or non-existence.
Ananda asked the Buddha about four matters before the Buddha entered Nirvana. The first concerned the compilation of the Sutras, and the Buddha replied that all Sutras should begin with the words, “Thus have I heard.” The second question was where the Buddha’s disciples should dwell, and the Buddha told them to dwell in the Four Applications of Mindfulness: mindfulness with regard to the body, feelings, thoughts, and dharmas.
The Four Applications of Mindfulness:-
1. Contemplate the body as impure.
2. Contemplate feelings as suffering.
3. Contemplate thoughts as impermanent.
4. Contemplate dharmas as without self.
The first Application of Mindfulness is to contemplate the body as impure. Our bodies constantly perspire, no matter how often we wash them. If you don’t wash, they soon begin to stink. Impurities always ooze from the nine openings on the body. Tears and matter flow from the eyes. Wax accumulates in the ears. Mucus comes from the nose. Phlegm and saliva come from the mouth. These are all unclean. No matter how much you wash on the outside, the inside is still filthy. We’ve discussed seven orifices so far. Add excrement and urine from the eliminatory orifices and that makes nine. Therefore you should contemplate the body as impure.
Living beings burdened with heavy greed should cultivate the contemplation of impurity and view the uncleanness of the body. Greed here refers to sexual desire. Those afflicted with sexual desire should apply this contemplation to counteract lust. No matter how beautiful the woman or how attractive the man they are still basically unclean. Since they are impure, how can you cling to them? Understanding their basic impurity, you won’t keep longing for them, and your sexual desire will diminish.
The second is to contemplate feelings as suffering. Everything you experience, be it pleasant or unpleasant, moves your mind. When your mind moves, that is suffering. There are many kinds of suffering. There are the Three Sufferings, the Eight Sufferings, and all the limitless sufferings. The Three Sufferings are:
1. The suffering within suffering.
2. The suffering of decay.
3. The suffering of process.
The Eight Sufferings are:
1. The suffering of birth,
2. old age,
3. sickness, and
5. The suffering of being separated from what one loves.
6. The suffering of being around what one hates.
7. The suffering of not getting what one wants.
8. The suffering of the raging blaze of the five skandhas.
The Three Sufferings are present within the Three Realms: the Desire Realm, the Form Realm, and the Formless Realm. No matter what you feel, it is bound up with suffering. If you can understand this, you won’t crave pleasure and you’ll be able to avoid suffering.
The third Application of Mindfulness is to contemplate thoughts as impermanent. In our minds, when one thought is produced, the former thought is extinguished. When yet another thought arises, the preceding one perishes. Thoughts succeed one another like the waves on the sea. Thought after thought arises without cease, but they are all impermanent. Every thought is vain and unreal. Therefore you should contemplate thoughts as impermanent.
The fourth Application of Mindfulness is to contemplate dharmas as without self. What are dharmas? Generally they are divided into five categories. They are explained in detail in the Shastra to the Door of Understanding the Hundred Dharmas, by Bodhisattva Vasubandhu.
There are eleven form dharmas.
There are eight mind dharmas.
There are fifty-one dharmas belonging to the mind.
There are twenty-four dharmas non-interactive with the mind.
There are six unconditioned dharmas.
Altogether there are a hundred dharmas. Although there are so many dharmas, among them all there is no self. Therefore, you should not be attached to dharmas. The Vajra Sutra says, “Even dharmas should be cast aside, how much the more so that which is non-dharma?” When you have cultivated to the extreme limit where both people and dharmas are both empty, you must give up attachment to dharmas. If you become attached to the existence of dharmas, you contract the Dharma Attachment. There are two kinds of attachments, the Self Attachment and the Dharma Attachment. Before people have understood the Buddhadharma, they are attached to the self. Everything revolves around themselves. With attachment they become obstructed, deluded, and filled with dream thoughts.
Once you understand the Buddhadharma, you may give rise to Dharma Attachments. So the Buddha spoke the Four Applications of Mindfulness and taught us to contemplate dharmas as devoid of self. Contemplate all dharmas as having no self. Since there is no self, how could there be dharmas? Therefore you must contemplate dharmas as without a self.
Contemplate the body as impure; feelings, thoughts, and dharmas are also impure. Contemplate feelings as suffering; the body, thoughts, and dharmas are also suffering. Contemplate thoughts as impermanent and also the body, feelings, and dharmas. Contemplate dharmas as without self, and also the body, feelings, and thoughts. The Four Applications of Mindfulness are thus mutually related. The Buddha told his disciples that after his Nirvana they should always dwell in these Four Applications and never leave them.
In answer to the third question that Ananda asked [regarding whom the disciples should take as their teacher after the Buddha entered Nirvana), the Buddha said, “Take the Pratimoksha, the precepts, as your teacher.” All Bhikshus and Bhikshunis must cultivate in accord with the precepts. If you do not rely upon the precepts in cultivation, the Dharma will become extinct. If the precepts are relied upon, the Buddhadharma will remain in the world. For every person who cultivates according to the precepts, Buddhism has just that much more light. If ten people cultivate according to the precepts, then Buddhism will give off ten parts of light. If a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand people cultivate according to the precepts and do not violate them, then boundless, limitless light will destroy all the darkness in the world. Therefore in cultivation, holding the precepts is essential.
As to Ananda’s fourth question, “How should we treat evil-natured Bhikshus?” the Buddha said, “Simply be silent and ignore them. There is no way to reason with them. All you can do is refuse to talk to them. They will become ashamed of themselves and may even come around to following the rules. The best method is not to argue with them.”
The word ‘thus’ expresses the credibility of the Dharma which is about to be heard. The Dharma which you may believe is ‘thus’. Dharma which you may not believe is not ‘thus’.
It accords with conditions, yet does not change.
It does not change and yet accords with conditions.
It is thus, thus unmoving;
The Dharma, clear and constantly bright--
Thus it is.
‘Thus’ also means it is ‘sealed with approval’. If you do things correctly, if you do things in accord with the Buddha’s heart, then it is ‘thus’. If you are at variance with the Buddha’s heart, then it is not ‘thus’.
“I have heard” is Ananda saying, “The Dharma which is thus is that which I personally heard the Buddha speak. It is not my own invention or my own creation. I heard it from the Buddha.”
Ananda was quite a bit younger than the Buddha. In fact, the Buddha left home when he was nineteen and accomplished the Way when he was thirty. Ananda was born on the day the Buddha accomplished the Way and, at twenty, he left home and served the Buddha. Therefore he did not hear the Dharma taught by the Buddha during the first twenty years of teaching. How then, was Ananda able to compile the Sutras if he hadn’t even heard those first twenty years of the Buddha’s teaching?
That’s a good question. Ananda was the Buddha’s cousin; he left home when he was twenty and made the vow to remember and record all the Buddha’s words. But since he hadn’t heard the first twenty years of the Buddha’s teaching, he requested the Buddha to repeat it all for him. So the Buddha, in secret, respoke all the Sutras to Ananda who, by means of his excellent memory, remembered them all perfectly. Thus, from beginning to end, all the Dharma the Buddha spoke went past his ears directly into his heart and was never forgotten. Therefore, it is said,
“The great sea of the Buddhadharma
flowed right into Ananda’s heart.”
Ananda was actually a great Bodhisattva who manifested provisionally as an Arhat. All the Sutras of the past Buddhas were compiled by Ananda. That is why, after his enlightenment, he was able to remember all the Dharma spoken by the Buddhas of the past. The Dharma spoken by all the Buddhas is essentially the same. For that reason, in the Dharma assembly of Shakyamuni Buddha, Ananda was able to entirely recall the Sutras he had been taught in the past, even though he did not hear them in this life.
At one time the Buddha dwelt on Mount Grdhrakuta, near the City of the House of the Kings, together with a gathering of Great Bhikshus, twelve thousand in all. All were Arhats who had exhausted all outflows and had no further afflictions. Having attained self-benefit, they had exhausted the bonds of all existence and their hearts had attained self-mastery.
A1. Thus have I heard - general introduction to the roots and branches divisions of the Sutra.
B1. At one time, the Buddha dwelt on Mount Grdhrakuta, near the city of the house of the kings - time and place Dharma was heard.
B2. Together with a Gathering of Great Bhikshus, twelve thousand in all. All were Arhats who had exhausted all outflows and had no further afflictions - audience.
C1. members of
D1. sound hearers
F1. well known
G1. Their category and number.
G2. Having attained self-benefit, they had exhausted the bonds of all existence and their hearts had attained self-mastery - Statement of their position and praise of their virtues.
At one time fills the time requirement. Since the calendar systems used in the various states of India and China were different, an exact date is not given, for that would lead to endless speculation among historians. What “time” was it? It was the “time” when Shakyamuni Buddha spoke the Dharma Flower Sutra. The “Buddha” fills the host requirement. To review, “Buddha” is a Sanskrit word meaning “the enlightened one.” The Chinese word Fo is a transliteration of only the first syllable, because the Chinese like to abbreviate.
There are three kinds of enlightenment.
1. Basic enlightenment. This is the inherent Buddha nature in all beings, our enlightenment potential which does not depend on cultivation.
2. Initial enlightenment is the resolve to study the Buddhadharma and actualize that enlightenment potential. Day by day, we become a little more enlightened. For example, each time we listen to the Sutra lecture, we understand a little more Buddhadharma. After ten days, we will understand quite a lot. Eventually we will come to understand it completely. When we understand it completely, we realize Buddhahood and that is the third.
3. Ultimate enlightenment.
There are also the following three types of enlightenment.
1. Self-enlightenment. Those who are self-enlightened are different from common people who are unenlightened. This refers to the Two Vehicles of Hearers and Condition-enlightened Ones.
2. The enlightenment of others. These are the Bodhisattvas who are different from the Hearers and Condition-enlightened Ones. These Bodhisattvas teach everyone the doctrines which they themselves have understood so that they can become enlightened too. This is the spirit of the Bodhisattva who benefits himself and benefits others. Those of the Two Vehicles only benefit themselves; they do not benefit others. They gain their own understanding, but do not seek to lead others to that same understanding. The Buddha called the people of the Two Vehicles “self-understanding Arhats”. He scolded them and said they were “withered sprouts and sterile seeds,” because they did not concern themselves with propagating the Buddhadharma.
3. The perfection of enlightenment and practice. This is the enlightenment of the Buddha. Although Bodhisattvas enlighten others, they have not perfected their enlightenment and practice. Only the Buddha has perfected both self-enlightenment and the practice of enlightening others.
Having perfected the three types of enlightenment and
Complete with the ten thousand virtues,
He is therefore called “The Buddha”.
Shakyamuni Buddha was born in India, the son of King Shuddhodana [the ruler of Kapilavastu). His personal name was Siddhartha. He left the home life when he was nineteen, realized Buddhahood at age thirty and taught the Dharma for forty-nine years in over three hundred Dharma assemblies. His disciple Ananda was thirty years younger than the Buddha and he left home when he was twenty. He heard the Buddha’s teachings for only twenty-nine years. But the Buddha used his spiritual penetrations to respeak the first twenty years of his teaching to Ananda who remembered them exactly and then recorded and compiled them.
The Buddha dwelt on Mount Grdhrakuta, near the City of the House of the Kings. This fills the requirement of place. The City of the House of the Kings (Rajagriha) is also known as Shravasti, a Sanskrit word interpreted to mean “abundant virtues.” The citizens were wealthy in the pleasures of the five desires, and they possessed the virtues of erudition and liberation. The five desires can refer to the five defiling sense objects--forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and tangible objects--or to wealth, sex, fame, food, and sleep. There was an abundance of the states of the five desires in that kingdom. Erudition means the people were fond of studying, and liberation means they were carefree and at ease. Rajagriha was the capital city of Magadha in Central India. The city was surrounded by five mountains--one of which was Mount Grdhrakuta,“ Vulture Peak”, so named because it was shaped like a vulture.
Together with a gathering of Great Bhikshus, twelve thousand in all. Most of the Sutras list a gathering of one thousand twelve hundred and fifty Bhikshus, but there was an especially large gathering at the Dharma Flower Sutra Assembly.
Great Bhikshus are those about to certify to the fruit of Arhatship.
Because the word Bhikshu contains many meanings, it is not translated but is left in Sanskrit. The three meanings of the word Bhikshu are: mendicant, frightener of Mara, and destroyer of evil.
1. Mendicant. Bhikshus do not prepare their own food. In the Buddha’s time, some of them maintained the ascetic practice of eating only once a day before noon; others maintained the ascetic practice of not eating after noon. When it was time to eat, they took their bowls into the city and begged from door to door and laypeople would give them offerings of food.
2. Frightener of Mara. When one who has left the home life is about to receive the complete precepts, the Precept Masters, consisting of Three Masters and Seven Certifiers ask him, “Are you a hero?”
He answers, “I am a hero!”
“Have you brought forth the resolve for Bodhi?” they ask.
“I have brought forth the resolve for Bodhi!” he answers.
The moment he answers the second question, an earth travelling yaksha ghost tells a space travelling yaksha ghost, who in turn informs the sixth desire heaven, where Mara dwells, saying, “Among people, such a person has left home. The Buddha’s retinue has increased by one and the retinue of Mara has decreased by one.” Hearing this, the demon king is jealous and frightened. Therefore Bhikshus are called Frighteners of Mara.
3. Destroyers of evil. Bhikshus destroy the evils of affliction and ignorance as well as the poisons of greed, hatred, and stupidity.
The assembly of Bhikshus who were Hearers, fill the requirement of audience. How many were there? Twelve thousand.
Every Sutra begins with these six requirements because unless all six requirements are filled, the Buddha will not speak the Dharma. For example there must be an audience to listen and a place in which to speak the Dharma. Thirdly, a host speaker is needed, a Dharma Master who genuinely understands the Buddhadharma. If you have an audience and a place but no one speaks the Dharma, you can’t convene a Dharma assembly. Next, you need a time, for example seven to nine in the evening. There must be a hearing, that is you need to come and listen. Otherwise, the requirement of hearing is not filled. If you listen but you do not believe it, then the requirement of faith is lacking. If you think, “I don‘t know what this Dharma Master is talking about . it. I don’t know if it is true or false,” then you lack faith.
You may think, “The Dharma Master speaks extremely well. He’s most articulate. The more I hear, the more I want to listen”, in which case the requirement of faith is met.
Now, in our Sutra lecture, this six requirements have also been met. First of all you must have faith, and then you can hear the lecture. In order for there to be a hearing, there must be a time and a Dharma Master who can lecture on the Sutra. Further, there must also be a place and an assembly that convenes. None of these six requirements must be lacking.
The phrase “together with a gathering of Great Bhikshus, twelve thousand in all” denotes the number present. The following phrases, all were Arhats who had exhausted all outflows and had no further afflictions; having attained peace and self-benefit, they had exhausted the bonds of all existence and their hearts had attained self-mastery, praise the virtue of the Arhats.
“All were Arhats”: The Sanskrit word Arhat has three meanings which correspond to the three meanings of the word Bhikshu. The Bhikshu is the cause; the Arhat is the fruition. Cultivation on the causal ground as a Bhikshu leads to the result of Arhatship.
1. One Worthy of Offerings. On the causal ground a Bhikshu is a mendicant. As a result, an Arhat is Worthy of Offerings, worthy of receiving offerings from men and gods, and both should make offerings to him. “Arhat” also means “One who should make offerings”--that is, one who should make offerings to the other Bhikshus. For example, when the Buddha was in the world, the Bhikshus and common people made offerings to the Buddha; but one time the Buddha transformed himself into a cultivator of the Way and made offerings to all the Bhikshus in turn.
2. Slayer of Thieves. An Arhat slays the thieves of ignorance and affliction, and the six thieves of the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind.
You may ask, “They have slain the thieves, but have they slain the non-thieves?”
Yes, as a matter of fact they have. Not only have they slain the thieves, they have slain the non-thieves as well.
Someone may wonder, “What are the non-thieves?”
In the Small Vehicle, the Hearers and Condition-enlightened Ones look upon certain things as not being thieves which at the Bodhisattva level are seen as thieves. These they have also slain.
3. One Without Birth. On the causal ground a Bhikshu frightens Mara, and as a result becomes an Arhat, One Without Birth. He is neither produced nor destroyed. At the Fourth Stage of Arhatship, one awakens to the Patience of the Non-Production of Dharmas; within the great trichiliocosm, one sees not the slightest dharma produced nor the slightest dharma destroyed. As it is an unspeakable, ineffable state, it can only be endured in the heart. Therefore, it is called the Patience of the Non-Production of Dharmas.
There are four levels of Arhatship. The First Stage Arhat is called a Shrotaapana. At the First Stage of Arhatship, birth and death have not yet been ended. It is called the “position of seeing the Way”. Shrotaapana means “stream enterer”. They have entered the stream of the Dharma Nature of the Sages and go against the stream of the six sense objects of the common person. The six sense objects are: forms, sounds, smells, tastes, tangible objects, and dharmas. Those who have certified to the First Fruit of Arhatship do not “enter into” forms, sounds, smells, tastes, tangible objects, or dharmas.
Forms: Because they have the power of concentration, forms do not move their minds. Whether or not a form is beautiful--no matter how nice looking it is--when they encounter it, their minds are not affected, and they do not “enter into” forms.
Sounds: Most people like to hear songs and music. First stage Arhats are simply not affected by sounds, be they good, bad, pleasant, irritating, right, or wrong sounds. They are not “turned by” sounds; they are able to “turn” the sounds. That is, they are in control.
Smells: Because they are turned by smells, people are fond of pleasant smells and are displeased by bad ones. If you are “fond of” or “displeased by” smells, you have thoughts of love and hate and are therefore affected by smells.
Tastes: Because we are turned by tastes, we like to eat a little more of the tasty foods and tend to avoid the bad ones. At the First Stage of Arhatship one is not affected by tastes.
Tangible Objects: Ordinary people are all greedy for objects of touch. Emotional love between men and women arises when one has not seen through and set aside the desire for objects of touch. People desire that their bodies come in contact with other bodies because they are not able to “turn” the objects of touch. Arhats at the First Stage are not affected by objects of touch. They are not greedy for beautiful things to touch or lovely things to hold onto.
Dharmas: There are many different kinds of dharmas. If you are attached to them, they are also defiling objects. First Stage Arhats are not attached to any dharmas whatever.
If someone claims that he has certified to the fruit, obtained the Way, and become enlightened, you can test him out. Invite him to lunch and present him with two dishes, one delectable, and the other nauseating. Then let him take his pick. But don’t tell him you are testing him or of course he will take the bad food. But, in deliberately wanting to eat the bad food, he also betrays a susceptibility to objects of taste. Why? Because he really likes the good food, but he knows you are testing him and so deliberately he eats the bad food. He is still being turned and is merely putting on an act. If he is truly not turned by smells and tastes he won’t do any picking; he’ll just eat the good along with the bad because he makes no distinctions. This proves the cultivator has a bit of skill but it’s still not for sure that he has certified to the First Fruit. You cannot casually claim to have certified to the fruit; you must be able to prove it.
Second Stage Arhats are called Sakridagamin, which means “once returner”. First Stage Arhats must undergo seven more rebirths, but Second Stage Arhats are called once returners because they need only be born once in the heavens and once among men.
Third Stage Arhats are called Anagamin, which means “never returner”. They do not again undergo birth and death.
The First Stage of Arhatship is called the Position of Seeing the Way. The Second and Third Stages are called the Positions of Cultivating the Way, because they still have to cultivate.
The Fourth Stage is called the Position Beyond Study. They need study no more. At the position beyond study, birth and death, that is Share-Section, has been ended, but they still haven’t ended Change Birth and Death. There are two kinds of birth and death: Share-Section Birth and Death and Change Birth and Death.
“Share” refers to our bodies. Everyone has a body, which is a certain size and weight and that is called our share. Everyone has their own particular lifespan. Change Birth and Death refers to the uninterrupted birth and death of the succession of thoughts which flow through the mind. Arhats have not ended Change Birth and Death. It is only at the Bodhisattva level that Change Birth and Death is ended. This has been a general discussion of the word Arhat.
The realm of the spiritual penetrations and transformations of Fourth Stage Arhats is an inconceivable experience, subtle and difficult to describe. Their spiritual powers are completely different from those of non-Buddhist religions. They have the Five Eyes and the Six Spiritual Penetrations. They can jump up into empty space and stand suspended right in the air. They can walk in the air too, and stand on their heads while suspended in space. They can emit flames from the top of their bodies and water from their feet, or they emit water from the top of their bodies and fire from their feet. They can fly and perform all kinds of miraculous transformations. In general, they can manifest eighteen different kinds of transformations. Because they have spiritual powers, they belong to the Four Sagely Realms: the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Condition-enlightened Ones and Hearers.
Once there was an Arhat who accepted a young disciple. As the two of them went out travelling one day, the disciple carried their belongings on his back. He thought, “There’s really nothing finer than the Bodhisattva Way. I am definitely going to study it and help all living beings.” Just as the disciple had that thought, the Arhat knew.
“Ah!” the Arhat thought, “He has decided to become a Bodhisattva. I am only an Arhat, so I should carry the baggage,” and he took the pack from the disciple.
As they continued down the road, the disciple began thinking of Shariputra. When Shariputra had tried to cultivate the Bodhisattva Way, he met a person who asked for his eye. Accordingly, he plucked out his left eye and gave it to him. However, the man said that he had no use for his left eye, he wanted Shariputra’s right eye. At that point, Shariputra’s Bodhisattva came to an abrupt end. “The Bodhisattva Way is obviously too difficult for me”, the disciple thought. “I’ll cultivate the Arhat-dharmas and take care of myself.”
When his teacher saw that his disciple, who had previously turned from the Small towards the Great, had now returned from the Great to the Small, and had, so to speak, shifted into reverse, he handed the pack back to him and said, “Here, I can’t carry this anymore.”
Pretty soon, the disciple’s Bodhisattva heart popped up again; he again turned from the Small to the Great, and the Arhat shouldered the pack again. Finally, the disciple’s curiosity got the best of him. “Why are you passing this thing back and forth like that?” he asked.
“When you bring forth the Bodhisattva heart,” said the Arhat, “I, as a mere Arhat, should rightfully carry the pack. When you retreat, I’m in no position to carry it and must return it to you.”
Hearing this, the disciple knew that his teacher was indeed extraordinary. He brought forth the Bodhisattva heart and diligently practiced the Bodhisattva Way. The Arhat had spiritual penetrations which permitted him to feel free wherever he went.
When the Venerable Ananda was about to compile the Sutras, he had not yet obtained the Fourth Stage of Arhatship, the extinction of outflows. The Arhats, who gathered to organize the convocation for compiling the Sutras decided that in order to take part one had to be a Fourth Stage Arhat. Consequently, Ananda, who was only a Third Stage Arhat, was left standing outside the door. They wouldn’t let him in and he was extremely upset. “I remember all the Sutras the Buddha spoke but now I can’t even attend the meeting. What am I to do?” He was so nervous--not angry, mind you, but nervous, that he certified to the Fourth Fruit of Arhatship. “I’ve certified to the Fourth Fruit,” he cried “Open the door and let me in!”
But the Arhats inside just said, “Really? If you’ve certified to the Fourth Fruit, you don’t need to have the door opened. Climb in through the keyhole.” Ananda did just that. So you see, Arhats don’t need to open the door to go into a room. If someone claims to be an Arhat, but still has to use the door, you can be sure he is lying. So Arhatship is not such a simple matter, as you can see from Ananda’s having been left outside the door when the Sutras were to be compiled.
“Having exhausted all outflows”: At the Fourth Stage of Arhatship one has exhausted all outflows.
There is not just one kind of outflow. How many kinds are there? Broadly speaking, there are 84,000 outflows and 84,000 afflictions. Afflictions themselves are outflows. Do you enjoy being afflicted? That’s an outflow. Where do outflows go? They flow out into the Three Realms--the desire realm, the form realm, and the formless realm.
All faults are called outflows. All thoughts of desire are outflows. If you like to eat good food, that is an outflow. If you like to listen to good sounds that is an outflow. Liking to live in a nice house or to sleep in a luxurious bed is an outflow. So how many are there? How many things can’t you set aside?
Outflows are like water pouring through a leaky bottle. No matter how much water you pour, it flows right through. With outflows, when you do acts of merit and virtue, the merit and virtue flow right out; you can’t keep it. Human bodies are riddled with outflows. The eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and eliminatory orifices all flow with matter. The false thoughts in the mind are also outflows. There are simply too many of them. There are an inexhaustible number of them, even more than 84,000.
“All outflows” refers to major shortcomings and minor faults. All of your peculiar, undesirable habits are outflows. To get even more basic, smoking, drinking, gambling, and chasing after women are all outflows. Chasing after men is an outflow too. Don’t think it applies only to men. It works both ways. Women, in fact have more outflows than men. Women have a monthly outflow. To be more explicit about it, when you cannot keep your semen, energy, and spirit in check, you have outflows. The biggest outflow occurs through the male and female reproductive organs as a function of sexual desire. There are many, many outflows.
However, these Arhats had exhausted all their outflows. Exhausted means that they had put them to an end. It does not mean that their outflows had flowed out until they were all gone. When you read the Sutras you have to be careful to interpret these things correctly. They had no outflows, they did not flow out. It was not the case that all their outflows had flowed out. Fourth Stage Arhats have obtained the Penetration of the Extinction of Outflows, which is one of the Six Spiritual Penetrations. Before one reaches the Fourth Stage of Arhatship, one has not obtained the extinction of outflows. These twelve thousand Arhats had exhausted all outflows and had not the slightest fault. They were sages.
“Having no further afflictions”: All of the great Arhats had obtained the Penetration of the Extinction of Outflows, and therefore had no further afflictions. If they had not obtained that penetration, they would still have afflictions. “Further” means that they will never become afflicted again.
They have done what they had to do,
And will undergo no further becoming.
Because they have ended birth and death, they have no affliction.
How many kinds of affliction are there? In general, there are 84,000 kinds of affliction. But that is really too many to discuss and so we will concentrate them into the term “ignorance”. Afflictions all arise from ignorance. There are three kinds of affliction which are also known as the three poisons. The three poisons cover over our Buddha natures. The reason from beginningless time until the present we have not realized Buddhahood is because of the three poisons. They poison us to the point that,
Drunk, we live and Dreaming, we die.
We simply cannot return to the root, go back to the source, and return to our original face. What are the three poisons? Number one: greed. Number two: hatred. Number three: stupidity.
Greed is insatiable. No matter what it is, you always want more and you want to appropriate everything for yourself. Everyone has his own greedy tendencies and nations all have their own greedy inclinations. National leaders are greedy to annex neighboring nations and individuals are greedy for wealth. They think one house is not enough and so they buy two. Then two houses are not enough so they buy a third. Three houses still don’t satisfy them and so they build a multi-storied mansion--all to keep up with the Joneses. “I am the richest,” they think. However, when the time comes, they can’t buy off their own lives. No matter how rich they are, they can’t bribe King Yama into letting them live forever. Greed is a deadly poison. It makes intelligent people muddled and sends good people down evil paths.
Hatred is also difficult to change. One spark of anger burns down a forest of virtue. The firewood gathered in a thousand days is burned up by a single spark. You may foster great merit and virtue, but as soon as you lose your temper, it all goes up in a blaze.
What is meant by “offerings to the Triple Jewel”? If there is no hatred on your face, that is an offering to the Triple Jewel. To be pleasant and agreeable is just an offering to the Buddha. If you make offerings to the Triple Jewel, but do so in anger, with your face all twisted up in rage, no matter how fine your offerings, they will not please the Buddha.
With no words of anger, the mouth puts forth a wonderful fragrance. If you don’t scold people, your mouth is very fragrant.
The absence of hatred in the heart is a true jewel, but thoughts of anger are difficult to subdue. the Vajra Sutra talks about subduing the heart. This refers to subduing afflictions and false thinking.
Although it is easy to be greedy or hateful, it is also easy to spot these afflictions as they arise. Stupidity on the other hand, is deeply rooted and difficult to expose. Stupidity refers to being unclear about principle, taking what is right as wrong and what is wrong as right, saying what is white is black and what is black is white. Stupid people continually have false thoughts such as, “Wouldn’t it be nice if the flowers were always blooming?”
Now, flowers bloom and flowers fade, and that is the way of nature. But stupid people want them to be fresh everyday.
“Why isn’t the bright moon full all month long?” they wonder and they get quite upset when they see it wane. People who like to gaze at the moon want the moon to always be full. Thieves have a different attitude. They find the full moon’s light inconvenient for their nightly robberies and would much prefer to see no moon at all.
Those who like to drink wine think, “I have to have money in order to buy wine, but if all the rivers, stream, lakes, and oceans were filled with wine, wouldn’t that be great? All I’d have to do is walk down to the riverbank and take a drink.” These are examples of stupid false thoughts.
People who are greedy for money go to work to earn it and feel that they are toiling bitterly. “If all the trees had leaves of cash,” they think, “all I’d have to do is pick money off the trees!” All these things could simply never come to pass, but stupid people keep wishing, wishing for the impossible.
Other examples of stupidity are: those who have never been to school, but want to get a doctorate; those who have not planted the fields, but want to reap a harvest. Also, if you don’t cultivate but want to become a Buddha, that is the height of stupidity. If you haven’t even taken refuge with the Triple Jewel, and still expect to become a Buddha, that’s absurd.
Everyone is poisoned by these three poisons. They turn us upside down, make us confused, and prevent our wisdom from manifesting.
“Well then,” you ask, “what is to be done?”
Do not give rise to thoughts of greed. Do not give rise to thoughts of anger. Do not give rise to thoughts of stupidity. Extinguish greed, hatred, and stupidity and diligently cultivate precepts, samadhi, and wisdom.
Speaking of morality, samadhi, and wisdom, what exactly are they?
Morality means to stop evil and avoid error. This means to put an end to thoughts of greed. Thoughts of greed give rise to evil thoughts which are covetous of others’ goods. How do thoughts of greed arise? They arise because one does not understand how to practice morality. Morality teaches you to be content, to be satisfied with what you have and not to long for others’ valuables. One who upholds the moral precepts can bring thoughts of greed under control.
One who lacks the power of samadhi will give rise to thoughts of hatred and will see everyone else as being in the wrong and everything as just not working right. When not doing that, one will see oneself as in the wrong and get angry at oneself to the point that one may even slap one’s own cheek! Then fearing the other cheek might get jealous, one will slap it too.
The Chinese term for “jealous” literally means “drinking vinegar”.
During the Qing Dynasty, there was an emperor who had an official who was scared to death of his own wife. If he was late coming home his wife made him kneel beside the bed. Kneeling to have an audience with the emperor was one thing, but kneeling before his own wife was really too much and he had to remain kneeling until she gave him permission to rise. Since he was on very good terms with the emperor, he finally confided in him.
The emperor said, “Don’t worry. I have a method which will cause your wife never to push you around again.” Then he sent out an order calling the official’s wife to the palace. The “tigress” presented herself before the emperor.
“Why do you make your husband kneel beside the bed when he comes home late?” said the emperor. “That’s not a proper thing to do. Besides, he hasn’t been involved in any indiscreet affairs with other women, and even if he had, it is still not your place to oversee his business. If you reform your conduct and stop managing your husband, we’ll forget the whole thing. If you continue to restrict his freedom, I will force you to drink this cup of poison; I will have you put to death. If it suits you to quit watching over your husband, you won’t have to drink the poison. If you insist on watching over him, you will have to drink it and you will certainly die.”
The woman was amazingly bold. “Fine,” she said, “I’ll die right here and now.” She took the cup and drank the contents. Of course, it wasn’t really poison; it was only vinegar. The emperor had only said it was poison to see whether she would dare to drink it. The woman was braver than he thought. She would rather have died than quit watching over her husband. So in China, they say “drink vinegar”, when they wish to refer to a woman who keeps too close track of her husband. Luckily it was only vinegar. It may have soured her stomach, but it didn’t kill her.
People with quick tempers will vent their anger on themselves if there is no one else around. They will even hit themselves! Why? Because they have no samadhi power. People who have samadhi will not become angry. Angry tempers will only blaze if one has no samadhi.
Why are you stupid? Because you lack wisdom. All day your heart is preoccupied with false thoughts and gets no rest. You recognize nothing clearly. For people with wisdom:
When something happens they respond.
When it’s over they are still.
They take care of matters as they arise; when they are done, they set their hearts at rest. Their hearts are not the slaves of their bodies. If you lack wisdom, you are unable to control your body, because your mind is under its control and does its bidding. If you have genuine wisdom, then all matters are taken care of with razor sharp intelligence. Students of the Buddhadharma should be clear about all matters. Those who understand the Buddhadharma have wisdom. Those who do not understand the Buddhadharma are stupid. Wise people will not act stupidly, and stupid people are incapable of acting wisely.
I’ll now be perfectly frank and tell you the absolute truth: Stupidity is just wisdom.
You may object, “You’re confusing me! If that’s the case, why bother to strive for wisdom and get rid of stupidity?”
Don’t take my statement on face value alone. I am saying that the basic substance of stupidity transforms into wisdom. It is not the case that wisdom is to be found apart from stupidity. Wisdom is found right within stupidity; it’s simply a matter of your not being able to use it. When you are able to use it, it’s wisdom; when unable to use it, it is stupidity.
The same applies to samadhi. Samadhi is just anger and anger is samadhi. If you truly wish to gain samadhi, you should know that it is to be transformed right out of your anger. Morality too, is transformed from greed. Don’t look for them outside, for they are all contained within your own nature. If you are able to use them, they are morality, samadhi, and wisdom. If you are unable to use them, they remain greed, hatred, and stupidity. The wonderful is found right at this point, and this is also the point where you may not understand.
“Having attained self-benefit” means that they have already arrived at the level of self-benefit. How have they arrived at this level? Previously, the text said, “who had exhausted all outflows and had no further afflictions.” Why are we unable to attain self-benefit? Because we are continually “flowing out”. Free from outflows and devoid of all afflictions, these Arhats have themselves attained genuine benefit. What is the genuine benefit? It is true understanding, the attainment of genuine wisdom. People without wisdom have not obtained the genuine benefit. To obtain wisdom, to certify to the fruit of Arhatship, is called attaining self-benefit.
Self-benefit also is just enlightening oneself, that is self-enlightenment. Enlightened oneself, one benefits oneself. If you are then able to take the doctrines which you yourself have become enlightened to and teach them to all living beings, that is called benefitting others, enlightening others.
All the great Arhats in the Dharma Flower Assembly were self-enlightened. However they did not enlighten others. They only knew self-benefit; they did not benefit others, and so the text says, “...having attained self-benefit.”
“They had exhausted the bonds of all existence and their hearts had attained self-mastery.” “Exhausted” means non-existent. What is non-existent? There are three realms of existence which further divide into twenty-five planes of existence. The three realms of existence are:
1. existence in the desire realm
2. existence in the form realm
3. existence in the formless realm
The twenty-five planes of existence include the four continents and the four evil destinies, which are as follows:
The four continents:
Purva-videha in the East;
Jambudvipa in the South;
Apara-godaniya in the West;
Uttarakura in the North.
The four evil destinies:
the hells; the path of hungry ghosts; the path of animals; the path of asuras.
That makes eight planes of existence. They come into existence through the creation of karma, especially evil karma. Add the six desire heavens and the Brahma Heaven, and that makes fifteen planes. Then come the Heavens of the Four Dhyanas.
Some people who don’t understand the Buddhadharma think arriving at the level of the Fourth Dhyana is an extraordinary accomplishment. Actually it is still within the twenty-five planes of the three realms and is nothing special. The ultimate goal of cultivation is still far off. But a confused teacher may tell everyone that it is the highest level of attainment. For example, there was an unlearned Bhikshu who mistook the Fourth Dhyana for the Fourth Fruit of Arhatship. When he had exhausted the merit that had enabled him to dwell there and began to fall, he slandered the Buddha. “The Buddha said that those who reach the Fourth Fruit do not undergo birth and death. How come I’m falling?” Having slandered the Buddha, he fell eternally into the four evil destinies.
The unlearned Bhikshu did not fall alone. Several tens of thousands of his disciples also fell with him. So, as I have said repeatedly:
One with confused understanding transmits confused understanding;
In one transmission, two don’t understand.
When the teacher plummets into the hells,
The disciples follow right along.
The teacher asks his disciples, “What are you doing here?”
“You came, so of course we followed you,” is their reply.
The teacher thinks, “How did I manage to bring my disciples to hell?” He himself doesn’t know how it happened. The disciples are so fond of their teacher that they even follow him to hell. How pathetic!
The Four Stations of Emptiness are the Station of Boundless Space, the Station of Boundless Consciousness, the Station of Nothing Whatever, and the Station of Neither Perception nor Non-perception. The Four Dhyanas and the Four Stations of Emptiness are eight planes of existence. Adding the No-Thought Heaven and the Heavens of No Return (counted as one) makes ten planes. Those ten planes plus the fifteen planes above make twenty-five planes in all.
The Arhats present in the assembly had extinguished the bonds of all existence and transcended the Three Realms--the realm of desire, the realm of form, and the formless realm. So it says, “They had transcended the Three Realms and were not within the five elements.” They had gained genuine liberation from birth and death; they had exhausted the bonds of all existence.
“And their hearts had attained self-mastery.” The hearts of the Great Arhats then knew a boundless joy. Self-mastery is true happiness. There is nothing more comfortable or more joyful. So Avalokiteshvara is called “The Bodhisattva Who Contemplates with Self-Mastery”, which means that the Bodhisattva sits in meditation and is always very happy, extremely comfortable, and knows not even the slightest trace of vexation. Self-mastery refers to having no further afflictions, having attained self-benefit and having exhausted all the bonds of existence.
In this state, the heart has obtained true freedom and genuine wisdom. One is therefore, extremely happy. This kind of happiness is a true inner happiness. It is not an artificial emotional display of giggling and laughter. It’s an inner happiness, not an outside one. Don’t think that your laughing and joking is happiness; it’s really just upside-down affliction. Why is it upside down? It shows that because you have no samadhi power you are influenced by some situation that pleases you and you respond with laughter. There’s no real happiness in that; that’s just being upside down.
Their names were: Ajnatakaundinya, Mahakashyapa, Uruvilvakashyapa, Gayakashyapa, Nadikashyapa, Shariputra, Great Maudgalyayana, Mahakatyayana, Aniruddha, Kapphina, Gavampati, Revata, Pilindavatsa, Vakkula, Mahakaushthila, Nanda, Sundarananda, Purnamaitreyaniputra, Subhuti, Ananda, and Rahula--and other Great Arhats such as these, whom the assembly knew and recognized.
G3. partial listing of names
Above have been listed the names of twenty-one disciples who were among the twelve thousand Bhikshus present in the assembly.
Their names were: Ajnatakaundinya. Ajnatakaundinya was the first person whom the Buddha took across. He was one of the first five Bhikshus.
Shakyamuni Buddha sat beneath the Bodhi Tree and one night he saw a bright star and awoke to the Way. Having become enlightened, he contemplated to see who he should cross over first. “There are so many people in the world,” he thought. “Who should I save first?”
When the Buddha first accomplished the Way he sighed and said three times, “Strange indeed! Strange indeed! Strange indeed!” What was so strange? He continued, “All living beings have the Buddha nature. All can become Buddhas.”
The Buddha only said that all beings can become Buddhas. He did not say that they actually were Buddhas. But Buddhist disciples, or rather, pseudo-Buddhist disciples say, “Everyone is a Buddha!” They see no difference between ordinary people and the Buddha. This is a case of the blind leading the blind and blinding the eyes of men and god.
After Shakyamuni Buddha sighed three times, he used the Wonderful Observing Wisdom to determine who he should save first. “Ah!”, he concluded, “Ajnatakaundinya and four others are now at the Deer Park. I should cross them over first.” In past lives, these five people had exclusively concentrated on trying to ruin Shakyamuni Buddha. Limitless eons ago, when they all decided to cultivate the Way, the five of them had slandered and bullied Shakyamuni Buddha. Sometimes they beat him, other times they berated him. Sometimes they ate his flesh, other times they drank his blood. Violent, weren’t they? But while he was cultivating the causal ground, when the five beat him, he made the following vow, “You are all truly aiding me in my cultivation. In the future when I realize Buddhahood, I will certainly save you first. That is my vow. Because you are treating me badly now, I shall be especially good to you.”
When they scolded Shakyamuni Buddha, he said, “You scold me now, but I do not hate you. Not only do I not hate you, but I vow that when I become a Buddha, I will save you first.” If it had been us, we would surely have hit them or kicked them right back. But not only did Shakyamuni Buddha not defend himself, he resolved to be good to them. Once, the five of them got together in a small mob and approached him saying, “We have no meat to eat. You’re such a cultivator, do you think you could give us a little piece of your flesh?” Sure enough, Shakyamuni Buddha cut off a clean, lean piece of flesh for them. As they ate it, they muttered, “This meat is no good at all. Dog meat tastes better than this, to say nothing of pork, beef, or mutton. It’s tasteless. Your offering is not being relished.” Still they ate it. So they even scolded him while eating his flesh! Shakyamuni Buddha had thought that by offering them his flesh, they might be moved to shame and reform their conduct. Who would have thought that they would on the one hand eat his flesh, and on the other hand, scold him? This would have been the last straw for most people. “I didn’t buy this in the meat market,” they would have said. “I cut it off my own body. And you have the nerve to scold me?” But Shakyamuni Buddha just said, “Okay. You can eat my flesh and in the future when I succeed in my cultivation and become a Buddha, I will take you across first, because this flesh I have given you to eat is a Buddha-seed which I am planting in each of you.”
The same thing happened when they drank Shakyamuni Buddha’s blood. They said it was spoiled, bad blood, and Shakyamuni Buddha just endured it.
The best story of that of his encounter with King Kali. This story is mentioned in the Vajra Sutra. King Kali was a former incarnation of Ajnatakaundinya. Once he went to the mountains on a big game hunting expedition. He took along his concubines who had been confined to the palace, as if in jail, for many years. Now, they frolicked in the wide open spaces of nature, exploring the lush meadows and woods, the flowing streams, and the beautiful mountain surroundings. Suddenly they spotted a person sitting in a cave. His body was covered with a thick layer of dust and his hair was matted into a big lump. The concubines didn’t dare approach him. At first they thought he was a monster, but then they saw that he was just a strange person.
As a cultivator on the causal ground, Shakyamuni Buddha was practicing as this “Patient Immortal” and rarely saw anyone. When he saw the concubines, he decided to take them across. “Don’t be afraid,” he said, “I won’t eat you. I don’t eat people. I’m a person myself, in fact.”
The concubines said, “What are you doing here? What do you eat and why are your clothes so tattered? Can you walk? Why do you just sit there?”
The Patient Immortal said, “I am cultivating the Way. I exclusively cultivate patience.”
The concubines said, “What is patience?” They had no idea what it was.
The Patient Immortal said, “Patience means that no matter how impolite people are to you, you do not get angry or upset. Everything continues just as if nothing had happened.” And then he explained the methods of cultivating patience. As he spoke, his enthusiasm grew and the concubines who had never heard such wonderful Dharma , were enthralled. Soon the speaker and his listeners all had entered samadhi, and were oblivious to what was going on around them. If one listens to the Dharma with a true heart, one will not notice anything else that is going on. If one does not listen with a true heart, one will be distracted by every noise on the street--the tourists, the newspaper vendors, and so on. The Patient Immortal and his audience were completely absorbed in the practice of patience when along came King Kali. Sneaking up on the scene, he saw his concubines listening intently to the old cultivator, and he was immediately overcome with jealousy. “Just what do you think you are doing, seducing my women?” he screamed at the cultivator.
The Patient Immortal looked to see who was speaking and recognized that an emperor had come on the scene and said, “I’m teaching them the Dharma-door of patience.”
“Oh, really?” said the King. “Patience, eh? What exactly do you mean by that anyway? Are you patient?”
“Yes, I am,” said the Immortal.
“Very well,” said the King. “I’ll just give your patience a little test. If you are patient, that means you can endure any kind of pain, doesn’t it?”
“Yes,” said Shakyamuni Buddha.
“Well, I’m going to slice your hand off with my sword and see how patient you are,” said the King.
“Go ahead,” said Shakyamuni Buddha. The King then drew his royal sword and with one neat swing sliced off Shakyamuni Buddha’s hand.
“Does it hurt?” asked the King.
“No,” said Shakyamuni Buddha.
“Are you angry?” asked the King.
“I am not angry,” said the Buddha.
“All right, I’ll cut off the other hand and see what you do,” and he cut off the other hand.
“Now, does that hurt?” he asked.
Shakyamuni Buddha said, “It does not hurt.”
“Do you hate me?” the King asked.
“I do not hate you,” said Shakyamuni Buddha.
“I don’t believe you! I think you are lying,” said the King. “How could you possibly not hate someone who had cut off both of your hands? It’s impossible! I’ll cut off your foot and see if that makes you hate me. I’ll get the truth out of you yet,” he said and he cut off Shakyamuni Buddha’s foot. Ordinary people would certainly have been weeping in agony by this time, but Shakyamuni Buddha remained as if nothing had happened.
The King asked, “Does that hurt?”
“No,” said Shakyamuni Buddha, “it’s really nothing.”
“Ah, it’s nothing, huh? Do you hate me?”
“No, I don’t hate you.”
“All right then, you’re missing two hands and one foot. The other foot isn’t much use to you, O patient one who knows no pain, so we’ll just cut that one off too,” and he sliced off Shakyamuni Buddha’s other foot. “Hurts, doesn’t it?” said the King. “You’ve lost both your hands and both your feet. What are you going to do now? Tell the truth! Does it hurt? If you tell the truth, we’ll forget it. If you don’t tell the truth, I’ve got yet another test in store.”
Shakyamuni Buddha said, “It still doesn’t hurt.”
“Do you hate me?”
The King said, “That’s just what you say. You don’t dare admit that you hate me because I am a King. No matter how much it hurts, you continue to lie, because you don’t dare to tell the truth. Right?”
“Wrong,” said Shakyamuni Buddha. “And if I truly don’t hate you, my hands and feet will grow back on my body. If I do hate you, my hands and feet won’t grow back.” As soon as he said that, immediately his hands and feet grew back as if they had never been severed. Then all the Dharma Protectors and good spirits flew into a rage and sent down a great hailstorm which pounded King Kali unmercifully. Shakyamuni Buddha interceded on the king’s behalf saying, “Don’t blame him. He just came to test me and aid me in the accomplishment of the Way. In the future when I become a Buddha, he is the first person I am going to take across to Buddhahood. He shall be the first to be enlightened.”
In fact, King Kali in a later life became the Bhikshu Ajnatakaundinya, the first person Shakyamuni Buddha caused to become enlightened.
Therefore, Ajnatakaundinya’s name means “understanding the original limit”. It also means, “the first to be liberated,” for he was the first to become enlightened.
Mahakashyapa. “Maha” means great. Kashyapa, his family name means “drinking light” or “waves of light.” It also means “great turtle clan,” for it is said that when his ancestors were cultivating the Way, they saw a big turtle with a chart on its back and from this took their family name. The Chinese would consider the name “turtle” to be an insult, but Kashyapa’s name nonetheless means “big turtle.”
Kashyapa’s personal name was Pippala, which is the name of the tree to which his parents prayed in order to have their son. “Drinking light” doesn’t mean that he actually drank light, of course. It refers to the fact that Kashyapa’s body emitted a light which outshone and seemed to “drink up” all other light.
Where did the light come from? Kashyapa’s wife also left the home-life and became the Bhikshuni Purple-Golden Light. Long ago after the Nirvana of Vipashyin Buddha, she was a poor woman. One day, she came across the ruins of a temple and stupa. Inside, she saw a Buddha image. Someone had put a straw hat on it to protect it from the wind and rain. In the springtime in northern China where I come from, the women in the household weave these straw hats and sell them in the city. Anyway, the straw hat acted like an umbrella to protect the Buddha from the wind and rain which blew in through the holes in the roof but still it was badly weathered, cracked, and peeling. She compassionately resolved to repair the temple and regild the image. “How can I allow the Buddha to be battered by the wind and rain?”
Since she was poor, she went out begging to raise the funds for her project. Every day she took the money she had collected and exchanged it for gold. After about ten years of begging, she had accumulated quite a bit of gold and made arrangements to have the temple rebuilt. She also went to visit a goldsmith to see about having her gold refined to regild the image. The goldsmith asked her where she got so much gold. “I saw a Buddha image which was cracked and peeling,” she said, “and I begged for ten years to get enough money to buy this gold in order to repair it.”
The goldsmith said, “We should share this merit and virtue. I will help, too.” Actually he was so struck by her goodness in wanting to repair the image that he fell in love with her and wanted her to think well of him. When the image and the temple had been restored, the goldsmith asked the woman for her hand in marriage. “You are truly a good-hearted woman. You are the finest woman I have ever met. I had intended to remain unmarried, but now I have changed my mind. Won’t you marry me?”
The woman thought it over: “He isn’t a bad sort, himself. After all, he did only charge me half the usual fee to regild the image...” and she consented. Once they were married, they vowed to be husband and wife in every life. How powerful was their love! Because they had regilt the Buddha image, their bodies shone with a golden light. Thus, Kashyapa’s name means “drinking light” because his light swallowed up all other light.
From the time of his birth, Kashyapa’s body put forth golden light. When he grew up, his parents wanted him to marry, but he said, “The woman I marry must shine with golden light just like I do. Otherwise, I will not marry.” Sure enough, in a neighboring country such a woman was found and they were married. And when they certified to the Fruit of Arhatship, they discovered that they had been married to each other throughout many lifetimes. You shouldn’t make a mistake, however, and think to imitate them by making a vow to be married to someone for life after life. Kashyapa and his wife vowed to be married and then to cultivate the Way, to take refuge with the Triple Jewel, to leave the home-life and master the Way. Don’t just make a vow to be married to someone in every life. If you do, you’ll just get farther and farther off the track until you finally end up in the hells. You must cultivate the Way.
Kashyapa and his wife took refuge with the Buddha and certified to the fruit, and Kashyapa became the first Patriarch in Buddhism.
If you would like to meet Mahakashyapa, he is still in this world. He is in south-western China, sitting in samadhi on Chicken Foot Mountain in Yunnan Province. When the future Maitreya Buddha appears in the world, he will give Maitreya the robe which Shakyamuni Buddha gave him. So he is still in the world and has not entered Nirvana. Those with sincere hearts who travel to Chicken Foot Mountain to bow to Mahakashyapa may get to see him.
Although I said that Mahakashyapa means “drinking light,” it does not mean that he literally drank up light with his mouth. Rather, it means that the light given off by his body swallowed up all other light. For example, if Mahakashyapa went near a 500 watt lamp, his own light would be like that of a 1000 or 2000 watt lamp, which would outshine the 500 watt light and make it appear dim by comparison. “Drinking light” is used figuratively. You shouldn’t think that Kashyapa drank light instead of water.
Mahakashyapa was the oldest of the disciples and the foremost of the Buddha’s disciples in ascetic practices. He was the oldest of the disciples, but the older he got, the more vigorous he became, the stronger he grew, and the harder he worked. He was the son of a rich Brahman of Magadha and the King of Magadha had even bowed to him as his master. When he left the home life, he thought, “Cultivators are called ‘poor ones of the Way’. They have no business being rich.” So he gave away all of his wealth.
He also thought, “Cultivators must endure bitterness, bear weariness, and fear no suffering whatever.” So he concentrated on cultivating ascetic practices. Ascetic practices refer to undergoing suffering. That means, not eating well, not wearing fine clothes, and not living in a comfortable dwelling. The harder something is to bear, the more the ascetic must bear it. In all the ways ordinary people wish to find enjoyment, through eating, dwelling, and clothing, the ascetic wishes to undergo suffering.
One day when the Buddha was speaking the Dharma, he moved over and asked Kashyapa to sit beside him. At that time, Kashyapa was very old, perhaps a hundred and forty. The Buddha said, “You are getting old, Kashyapa. Your energy is failing. You should give up ascetic practices. Eat better, wear better clothes, and move to a more comfortable dwelling. I don’t know if you can bear up under such ascetic practices at your age.” But Kashyapa chose not to obey the Buddha, and he continued his ascetic practices as before.
Seeing this, the Buddha praised him highly saying, “The Buddhadharma will dwell long in the world largely because of Kashyapa’s cultivation of ascetic practices. His ability to practice them means that the Buddhadharma will certainly long endure.” Thus Patriarch Kashyapa was foremost in ascetic practices.
Once, when the Buddha was about to speak the Dharma, a god from the Great Brahma Heaven made an offering to him of a golden flower and then lay down on the ground and asked the Buddha to use his body as a chair and speak the Dharma for living beings. The Buddha sat down on the Brahma God, took the flower in his fingers and in the midst of millions of people and gods, gave a subtle smile. Kashyapa also smiled slightly, and with that, the Mind Seal Dharma was transmitted. So it is called the transmission of “twirling the flower and giving a subtle smile.” Then the Buddha said, “I have the Right Dharma Eye Treasury, the wonderful Mind of Nirvana, the Actual Mark which is unmarked, transmitted outside the teaching, the sealing of the Mind by means of the Mind. I have just transmitted it to Mahakashyapa. In this way Kashyapa became the First Indian Patriarch. A Patriarch is a disciple to whom the entirety of the Buddhadharma has been transmitted from the Buddha.
Since the time of the Buddha, the Dharma has been transmitted to only one Patriarch in each generation. Shakyamuni Buddha transmitted his entire Dharma to his disciple Mahakashyapa and Arya Mahakashyapa transmitted it to Arya Ananda who became the Second Patriarch. From Arya Ananda, the Dharma went to the Third Patriarch, Arya Shankavasa. From Arya Shankavasa it went to the Fourth Patriarch, Arya Upagupta, and so on to the Twenty-eighth Indian Patriarch, Great Master Bodhidharma, who took the Mind Seal Dharma to China where it was transmitted to the Second Chinese Patriarch, Great Master Shenguang, and then on through the Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Patriarchs. Then the flower of the Dharma bloomed with five petals: the five lineages of the Linji, Fayan, Caodong, Weiyang, and Yunmen and so forth until the present. And now, the Buddhadharma has come to the West. This has been a brief summary of the transmission of Buddhism.
The Twelve Ascetic Practices
Ascetic practices are called “dhutangas” which is a Pali word from the root dhu which means “to shake out.” “To shake out,” means to strike up your spirits and raise up your energy. When we have a Chan meditation session, we are also encouraged to strike up our spirits, to be vigorous, and to fear no suffering or difficulty. The harder it is, the more you should resolve to do it! As old as Patriarch Kashyapa was, he still kept up his ascetic practices.
There are twelve ascetic practices.
1. Wearing rag robes.
The first one deals with clothing. What kind of clothing? Rag robes--robes with hundreds of patches. One finds old, unwanted clothing on refuse heaps, washes it, and stitches it into a robe.
“What are the advantages of wearing such a robe?” you may ask.
If you wish to know the advantages, there are many. If you want to talk about the disadvantages, there are also many. Wearing rag robes, you do not become greedy for fine clothes or become vain as often happens when one puts on a new garment. It helps do away with one’s own greed and it also helps to lessen the greed of others. When people see you, they think, “That old cultivator is dressed in rags, not fine clothes. He’s a true adept and I should imitate him.” By means of your example, other Bhikshus also resolve to cultivate the Way. So, there are many advantages to the practice.
And what are the disadvantages? When you wear rags, thieves leave you alone. For example, when I was living at Nanhua Monastery, one night a gang of thieves came to loot the Monastery. They broke down the door and then demanded that I hand over the money.
I said, “Look at my robe. Do I look like a rich man?” I was wearing the same rag robe that I had worn in Manchuria when I sat in mourning for three years beside my mother’s grave. When I had finished the term of mourning, I continued to wear it in memory of her. In Manchuria, when my disciples took refuge, each of them gave me an inch sized patch for my robe; it was really ragged, but I had a lot of patches.
Then I said, “There are valuables in my room. Go get them.” But when they took a good look at me, dressed in rags, they decided I probably had nothing worth taking and so they didn’t go. Actually there were two living treasures in my room at the time--one was Dharma Master Faming, and the other was Dharma Master Zuyin from Hawaii. At that time they were still young novices.
Thus, when you wear rag robes, thieves keep their distance. The rich also stay away, and this saves a lot of trouble. Another important factor: women leave you alone. After you’ve worn your rag robe for awhile it takes on a rare fragrance which women find offensive. One could never finish speaking of the advantages of wearing rag robes.
2. Possessing only three robes. Cultivating this bitter practice, one owns nothing except one’s three robes. It is said,
Owning nothing beyond the limits of one’s person,
Vexation and annoyance do not arise.
Bhikshus who undertake this practice have only three robes. The first is the samghati, the great or host robe. It is commonly made of twenty-five strips of cloth. Each strip has four long and one short piece. The patches represent fields in which, through making offerings, the faithful can plant causes for future blessings. This robe is worn when entering the king’s palace, when taking the seat to speak Dharma, and when begging for food.
The second is the uttarasangha; the robe worn when entering the assembly. Made of seven pieces, it is worn by Bhikshus when attending Sutra and Dharma lectures.
The third is the antarvasaka, the all-purpose work robe, made of five pieces, which is worn in the monastery when doing manual labor and in all ordinary situations.
A Bhikshu who cultivates ascetic practices should only have three robes, his bowl, and his bowing cloth.
The first two ascetic practices deal with clothing. The next five deal with that most important human activity: eating.
3. Begging for food. Sometimes this practice is given as “always begging for food.” “Always” does not mean all day long, for then one would have more food than one could eat. Rather, it means every day in the morning, Bhikshus go to collect alms for their midday meal. They do not cook their own food. In countries such as Burma and Ceylon, the donor will prepare an extra bowl of food as an offering to the Triple Jewel. They offer it to the first Bhikshu who passes by their house on his begging rounds. They kneel respectfully, hold the bowl over their heads, pour the contents into the Bhikshu’s bowl and then bow three times.
4. Consecutive begging. One begs from house to house, paying no attention to whether families are rich or poor. In the Shurangama Sutra we read:
“At that time Ananda took up his alms-bowl and, as he travelled through the city, received alms in sequential order. As he set out to receive alms from the first to the last donors, his vegetarian hosts, he thought not to question whether they were pure or impure; whether they were kshatriyas of honorable name or chandalas. While practicing equality and compassion he would not discriminate against the lowly but was determined to perfect all beings’ limitless merit and virtue.”
The practice of consecutive begging helps rid one of discrimination and allows one to give all living beings an equal opportunity to plant blessings, regardless of whether they are rich or poor. It is an act of great unselfishness.
5. Eating only one meal at midday. In the morning and evening one does not eat; one eats only one meal per day, and that is taken before noon. This is an excellent practice, but unfortunately it is not an easy one. Why? Because it is said, “The people take food as their foundation.” Everybody likes to eat. Human beings are born with the desire for food and whenever they get the slightest bit hungry, they want to eat something. This usually happens at morning and evening as well as at lunch time.
Eating once a day saves a lot of trouble. Cutting out two meals a day, one spends less time on the toilet.
It would be impossible to enumerate in full all the virtues derived from the practice of eating only once a day. In general, if you eat a little less you’ll have a little less trouble. If you eat too much you’ll have more trouble.
Whenever Bhikshus eat, they must observe Three Recollections and Five Contemplations. The Three Recollections are:
1. I vow to cut off all evil.
2. I vow to cultivate all good.
3. I vow to save all living beings.
You vow to cause all living beings to leave suffering and find happiness.
The Five Contemplations are:
1. Consider the amount of work involved in preparing the food.
How much human labor was involved in preparing the food? Take for example, the rice. It had to be planted, tended, and harvested. Although today we use machines, people formerly had to grind it and remove the husks. Then, it has to be cooked and served. A lot of effort went into every single grain. The ancients had a verse:
Hoeing the grain in the midday sun,
The farmer’s sweat falls into the earth;
Who would have guessed how much toil
Went into every single grain in the plate?
So the people of all nations should take care not to waste material goods or casually throw things away. One should consider the difficulty involved in making and distributing goods. The reason that some countries are now stricken with famine is because in the past they were wasteful. Those who believe in Buddhism should be particularly careful in matters of cause and effect and always be thrifty. Use what you can and give what is left over to others. Don’t throw things away. It is said,
If there’s rice wasted in the house
There will be hungry people in the streets.
If you waste food, it is as if you were taking it from the mouths of others. If you have more than you can eat, give it to those who have nothing to eat. Don’t waste it. So the first of the Five Contemplations is to consider the amount of work involved in getting the food to the table.
2. Reflect on whether or not one’s virtuous conduct is sufficient to entitle one to receive this offering.
Think it over: what virtuous practice have you done to entitle you to receive offerings from the ten directions. Is your merit sufficient or is it lacking? If it is lacking, you should hurry and cultivate the Way!
3. Guard the mind from transgressions, committed mainly through greed. Avoid the offenses created primarily through greed, hatred, and stupidity. Don’t greedily gobble down the good food and leave the bad food sitting there. Look on all the food as the same and do not discriminate among the good and bad flavors.
4. Regard the food as medicine to prevent the body from collapsing. While he eats, the Bhikshu should think of his food as medicine. “Why am I eating? I am actually taking medicine because if I don’t eat, I’ll waste away and die.”
5. Take this food only in order to accomplish the Way. “I eat only because I want to work hard and cultivate the Way. If I don’t eat, I won’t be able to stand up or sit properly. I could still sleep, but that can’t be considered cultivation. Since I want to cultivate, I can’t avoid eating. But I do so only because I want to cultivate.
Bhikshus must always observe these Three Recollections and Five Contemplations when they eat. There are a great many advantages to be gained by eating one meal a day.
6. Eating a fixed and moderate amount of food. This is the fourth of the five ascetic practices dealing with food. A moderate amount means that, just because the food is good, you don’t gorge yourself with it. Eating a fixed amount means that you eat the same amount every day. For example, every day you eat exactly two bowls of food whether the food is tasty or not. You wouldn’t eat only one bowl of bad food one day and the next day, when the menu has improved, eat three. Those who cultivate ascetic practices should reduce the amount of food they consume. If they can eat two bowls, then they should eat one and a half.
7. Not drinking juices after noon. After midday, one does not drink milk, juice, or other nourishing liquids. It’s a very difficult practice because even tea is prohibited!
Those are the five which deal with food.
I have a small announcement. We will be holding a Chan session here in a few days, and during that time the lectures on the Sutra will temporarily be discontinued and instructional talks on Chan meditation will be given each day. Those of you who like to meditate can join the session. Others who prefer to work can continue to work, and just come to sit or listen to lectures in your spare time.
Next are the five which deal with dwelling.
8. Dwelling in an aranya. Aranya is a Sanskrit word which means “a still and quiet place.” The noise of the bustling city does not reach one who dwells deep in the mountain groves in an aranya. It is therefore an excellent place in which to cultivate.
9. Dwelling beneath a tree. Dwelling in an aranya, one still has a fixed “place” in which one dwells. Why would one want to live at the base of a tree?
Cultivators take the earth and sky as their cottage and the four seas as their home. They dwell wherever they happen to be. Dwelling at the base of a tree, one avoids the rain and is very refreshed as well. However, one may only dwell for two nights beneath any one tree. On the third day, one has to find another tree. Bhikshus who genuinely cultivate, and who are lofty and pure in their practice, wish to avoid recognition and offerings. After spending two nights in a place, they leave. No one can find them, and no affinities are established.
10. Dwelling in the open. Dwelling beneath a tree, one is still protected from the wind and rain by the leaves and branches. Dwelling in the open, one truly takes the earth and sky as one’s house. Living in this way one is very natural and free. One bathes in the light of the moon and stars. It is said,
When the moon arrives at the center of the sky,
And the wind blows across the surface of the waters,
There’s a kind of clear, special flavor—
Guess how few have tasted it?
Very few people have any idea how wonderful such a lifestyle is.
11. Dwelling in a graveyard. You sleep with the dead, sit in the graveyard and enjoy a camaraderie with the ghosts. What for? In order to contemplate impermanence and understand the ephemeral nature of human life. Sooner or later we’re all going to die. After we die, we decompose into a heap of bleached out bones in the grave. Cultivating at the graveyard you awaken to the doctrine that all is impermanent and you will be able to relinquish your attachments and will not become involved in the workings of greed, hatred, and stupidity.
12. Always sitting and never lying down. When you cultivate this practice, your ribs never touch the mat. In India there was a Venerable Master Xie who throughout his whole life never once lay down. One who sleeps in a prone position may develop a need for more and more sleep and never think to get up and cultivate. If you always sit, when you wake up you’re all ready to begin cultivating and sit in meditation. This practice is a great aid in cultivation.
Some people may practice only one or perhaps a few of the twelve ascetic practices. For example, they may only practice wearing rag robes, or only practice restricting themselves to three robes, or only practice begging for food, or only practice consecutive begging, or only practice eating one meal a day, or only practice eating a fixed and moderate amount of food, or only practice dwelling in a graveyard, or only practice always sitting and never lying down. Although a very old man, Mahakashyapa practiced all twelve ascetic practices in accord with the Dharma. Thus, he was foremost of those who cultivate asceticism.
Uruvilvakashyapa, Gayakashyapa, Nadikashyapa. Previously there was the Great Kashyapa, and now we have Uruvilvakashyapa. Uruvilva’s name means “papaya grove” as it is said that he liked to cultivate in a papaya grove. Gaya’s name means “city,” and Nadi’s name means “river.”
These three brothers had all been fire worshippers before they took refuge with the Buddha. Believing that fire was the most powerful of spiritual forces and the mother of all creation, they worshipped it with slavish devotion, bowing and making offerings to it. Would you say this was stupid or not? As meaningless as it was, they continued to do it until they met Shakyamuni Buddha.
Shariputra. Probably everyone remembers who Shariputra was. There’s a special story about Shariputra which makes him hard to forget: Shariputra’s mother often used to debate with her younger brother Mahakaushtila, and she lost every time. Strangely enough, when she became pregnant with Shariputra, she began winning all the debates. Mahakausthila figured that the child in his older sister’s womb was surely a wise one and was helping his mother, augmenting her eloquence and intelligence. “I had better get some rhetorical skills,” he thought, “otherwise, I’ll be defeated by my own little nephew which would truly be disgraceful.” So he went to southern India to study. He was so industrious that he studied night and day and didn’t take time to cut his hair, shave his beard, or even cut his fingernails. They grew to several inches in length and everyone called him, “The Long-Nailed Brahman.” He didn’t deliberately let them grow, as do the long-haired bearded ones of today, who have dropped out of school. He was simply too busy to attend to his grooming. A model student, he labored day and night to the exclusion of all other activities. When he had mastered the Indian books of medicine, divination, physiognomy, and astrology, as well as literature and debating skills, he returned and asked his sister, “Where is my nephew?”
“He has left home under the Buddha,” she replied.
Kausthila was outraged. “My nephew began preaching when he was eight years old and has astounded the entire country by out-debating several hundred philosophers. How could such an intelligent child leave the home life under a mere Shramana. It’s pathetic.” Arrogant and upset, he went to see the Buddha. “I’ll have to see what special tricks that Shramana has that he managed to fool my brilliant nephew into becoming his disciple.”
When he met the Buddha, no matter how he tried to counter him, he failed. He had studied for so many years, not even bothering to cut his nails, in preparation for his debate with his nephew. Who would have guessed it would all have come to nothing? His nephew had left home under the Buddha and he himself had no idea what branch of his learning to use against the Buddha. He finally decided to set forth his doctrine.
“What is your doctrine?” the Buddha asked him.
“I take non-accepting as my doctrine,” Kausthila replied. “No matter what you say, I won’t accept it because I take non-accepting as my principle. Let’s see what you can do with that. Speak up!”
“Fine,” said the Buddha, “you take non-accepting as your doctrine, but let me ask you, do you or do you not accept your view of non-accepting?”
What a question! If he answered that he accepted his view, in accepting it he would be contradicting his own view of non-accepting. On the other hand, if he said that he did not accept his own view, he wouldn’t have any doctrine at all and how could he take non-accepting as his doctrine. If he accepted it, he would contradict himself and if he refused it, he wouldn’t have a doctrine at all. He didn’t have a leg to stand on. He was like a rootless tree. To make matters worse, before he began, he had made a bet with the Buddha saying, “If I win the debate, then my nephew comes home with me. If I lose, I’ll cut off my head and give it to you.” Now, scared to lose his head, he had no recourse but to run. When he had run about five miles, he stopped and thought, “I am a man after all. How can I go back on my word? I agreed to cut off my head if I lost. How can I run like a coward?” He decided to return, cut off his head, and consider the matter closed.
When he arrived, he asked the Buddha for a knife and the Buddha said, “What do you want it for?”
“I agreed to cut off my head if I lost the debate,” said Kausthila, “and so now I owe you my head. Isn’t that correct?”
“There is no such dharma within my Buddhadharma,” said the Buddha. “You lost, so let’s just forget it. What’s the use of cutting off your head?”
The Buddha then spoke the Dharma to him and he obtained the purification of the Dharma-eye. When his Dharma-eye opened, he realized the marvelous, unfathomable profundity of the Buddhadharma. “I spent all that time learning non-Buddhist teachings. They are not even a ten-thousandth part as good as the Buddhadharma,” he said, and he left home under the Buddha. So not only did he not regain his nephew, he joined the Buddha’s Sangha himself.
Shariputra’s name is Sanskrit. It means “egret-son,” “body-son,” and “pearl-son.” Shari means “egret” because his mother’s eyes were as beautiful as an egret’s. Putra means “son”. Shariputra also means “pearl-son” because his mother’s eyes were like pearls. Another explanation of Shariputra’s name is “body-son”, because he was born from his mother’s body.
Shariputra was the foremost of the Hearer disciples in wisdom. He wasn’t exactly number two when it came to spiritual powers, either. His spiritual powers were also great.
One time, Mahamaudgalyayana decided to compare his spiritual powers with Shariputra’s. Shakyamuni Buddha had gone elsewhere to speak the Dharma. When he did this, his disciples always went along to hear the Dharma too because they didn’t have any tape recorders in those days and if they missed a lecture, they couldn’t make it up. This time Shariputra had entered samadhi. Mahamaudgalyayana called to him, but he wouldn’t come out of samadhi. “All right,” said Mahamaudgalyayana, “I’ll use my spiritual powers to snap you out of it.” And he applied every ounce of spiritual power he had to get Shariputra to come out of samadhi, but he couldn’t budge even so much as the corner of Shariputra’s robe. How great would you say Shariputra’s spiritual powers were? Mahamaudgalyayana was generally recognized as foremost in spiritual powers but he lost to Shariputra, and this proves that Shariputra’s spiritual powers were even greater than his.
Great Maudgalyayana. Mahamaudgalyayana’s name is Sanskrit and means “turnip root” or “clan of bean gatherers. This is because his ancestors cultivated an Indian ascetic practice of eating only foods that grew wild in the forests and never eating foods that had been planted or harvested. His personal name was Kolita, or “jujube tree” because his parents prayed to a local tree spirit in seeking to have a son, just as Mahakashyapa’s parents had done. In this case, Maudgalyayana’s parents consulted the spirit of a koli tree and named their son Kolita in honor of the spirit.
Maudgalyayana’s mother may have consulted spirits, but she didn’t believe in the Buddha, the Dharma, or the Sangha. She slandered the Triple Jewel and spoke ill of it. Because of these heavy offenses, at death she fell into the hells. When Maudgalyayana attained the fruit of Arhatship and gained the five eyes and the six spiritual penetrations, he took a look at the entire world and finally located his mother in the hells. Seeing her suffering and starving, he took her a bowl of food. Her greedy nature had accompanied her from the human realm to the realm of the hungry ghosts, and so she immediately covered the bowl with one hand, hid it behind her sleeve, and ran off to eat it in secret, fearing the other ghosts might grab it away from her. But because her karmic obstacles were so heavy, the delicious food turned to fire in her mouth. Although Maudgalyayana was foremost in spiritual powers, he had no mantra or method to free his mother. Completely at a loss, he went to ask his teacher’s advice. The talents this disciple had developed were useless in this situation. He returned to the Jeta Grove and asked Shakyamuni Buddha to be compassionate and save his mother.
Shakyamuni Buddha said, “Your mother’s karmic offenses were created through slandering the Triple Jewel. You alone do not have the power to save her. If you want to help her, you should set up the Ullambana Offering--an offering for ‘liberating those hanging upside-down’--on the 15th day of the seventh month, which is the ‘day of the Buddha’s rejoicing’ as well as the last day of the Sangha’s annual rains retreat. On that day offerings should be made to the Sangha of the ten directions. Make sure you do not taste the food until it has been offered to the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. If you make offerings to the Triple Jewel on that day, your mother will leave suffering and attain happiness.” Maudgalyayana set up the Ullambana Festival according to the Buddha’s instructions. Ever since then, every year on that day, the ceremony is observed in all monasteries and temples to save parents and relatives from this life and from seven lives past.
You may say, “But my parents haven’t died.”
You can save your parents from seven lives past, and your present parents will also gain an increase in blessings and long-life.
Mahamaudgalyayana’s spiritual powers were extraordinarily great. Once when Shakyamuni Buddha was on his way to the Trayastrimsha Heaven to speak the Dharma, he passed by Mount Sumeru. On the way he met a poisonous dragon that was jealous of the Buddha. “Does a Shramana like you really think you can speak the Dharma in the heavens?” they said. “I won’t permit it!” And it spit out poisonous sand to try to kill the Buddha. But Maudgalyayana used his spiritual penetrations and turned the poisonous sand into soft, harmless cotton. The dragon then manifested in a huge body which wound around Mount Sumeru three times. Now, Mount Sumeru is very large. Our four continents, in fact, are on its four sides. Maudgalyayana also manifested a huge body, larger than the dragon’s, which coiled itself around Mount Sumeru nine times! But the dragon still would not admit defeat. Maudgalyayana then transformed himself into a tiny bug. He bore his way into the dragon’s intestines and bit them until it was in so much pain that it finally surrendered and took refuge with the Buddha. And so Maudgalyayana’s spiritual penetrations were extremely great.
Mahamaudgalyayana is Earth Store (Kshitigarbha) Bodhisattva. He couldn’t bear to see his mother suffering in the hells. He also couldn’t bear to see anyone else’s mother suffering. Accordingly, he vowed to be Earth Store Bodhisattva and to rescue beings from the hells.
Mahakatyayana. Maha means “great.” Katyayana means “literary elegance,” because this Venerable One spoke and wrote with great elegance and refinement. His name is also interpreted as “fan-cord” because his father died shortly after he was born, and his mother wanted to remarry, but the child Katyayana was a tie, like a fan-cord, which prevented her from doing so.
Katyayana’s name is also interpreted as “good shoulders,” because his shoulders were well-formed and good looking, and as “victorious thinker”, because he could out-think everyone else.
Katyayana, a skilled exponent of the Dharma, was foremost among the Buddha’s disciples in debate. No matter what point anyone tried to make, he could come up with a host of reasons and arguments to counter it. Once, he met a non-Buddhist who held to the view of annihilationism; that is, he did not believe in rebirth but believed that after death there was nothing at all. He confronted Katyayana with his position saying, “Buddhists believe that after death there is rebirth. I do not hold to that doctrine and I can prove that it is false. If there is rebirth, and beings are destined to suffer in future incarnations, then why has not even one of them ever returned to tell of his torment? This proves that there is no rebirth. When people die, it’s all over, like a lamp that has been blown out.”
Katyayana said, “Suppose a criminal were arrested, tried, and given a jail sentence. Would he be free to return home?”
“If you are saying that people after death are like criminals in jail, that may be the case for those in the hells,” said the annihilationist, “but what about those born in the heavens? Not one has ever returned to talk about it. Beings in the hells may have no freedom, but certainly heavenly beings should be free to come back and give a brief report.”
Katyayana said, “That’s a very reasonable question. However, people born in the heavens are like beings who have climbed out of the toilet and been washed clean. They wouldn’t be likely to want to jump back into the toilet, would they?”
The annihilationist had nothing to say.
“Besides,” Katyayana continued, “one day and one night in, for example, the Trayastrimsha Heaven is equal to one hundred years in the world of men. Born there, it would take several days to get settled. By the time they thought to return, several hundred years would have passed in the world of men. You would have long been dead and your bones turned to dust. How would you know they had returned?
The annihilationist was speechless. Each of the Buddha’s ten great disciples possessed a quality whereby he excelled the others. Mahakatyayana, the foremost in debate, was articulate, eloquent, and unbeatable.
Aniruddha. The Venerable Aniruddha’s name means “never poor”, because in limitless eons past he made an offering to a Pratyekabuddha. At the time he made the offering he did not know the mendicant was a Pratyekabuddha. The Pratyekabuddha, who lived in the mountains, had vowed to come down and beg only once every seven days at only seven houses. If he obtained no food, he would simply return and go hungry for another week. On this particular round, having obtained no food, he was returning carrying his empty bowl anticipating another week of hunger. Aniruddha knew this and was pained at heart. Times were hard and famine was rampant. Families had trouble supporting themselves, and had nothing left over to give those who had left home. Aniruddha a poor farmer who scraped his living out of the soil, ate the very coarsest, cheapest kind of unhusked rice, which he carried to the fields with him each day. When he saw the Bhikshu, he said, “That a cultivator such as yourself should have to undergo starvation is too pitiful. Won’t you accept my offering of coarse rice? If it’s not unacceptable, you may have it.”
“If you wish to give it, I’ll accept it,” said the Pratyekabuddha, “but what will you eat?”
“I can skip lunch today,” said Aniruddha. “It doesn’t matter.”
When the Pratyekabuddha had finished eating, he revealed his spiritual powers by manifesting the Eighteen Miraculous Changes which include things like emitting water from the upper part of one’s body and fire from the lower part, and emitting water from the lower part of one’s body and fire from the upper part, and ascending into space--things which Arhats and Pratyekabuddhas can do but which ordinary people find most unusual. After that, he said, “I accepted your offering and from now on, in every life, you will never again be poor,” then he left.
Aniruddha continued to work in the fields when along hopped a rabbit. Strangely enough, it jumped and frisked around and around Aniruddha as tamely as a horse, dog, or cat. “Don’t bother me,” Aniruddha finally said, “I’m working and I don’t have time to play with you.”
Then the rabbit jumped up onto Aniruddha’s back. No matter how hard Aniruddha tried to brush it off, it wouldn’t budge. It was as if it had grown roots right into Aniruddha’s shoulders. Aniruddha continued working, but he was getting worried. “What’s going to become of this rabbit on my back?” he wondered. As poor as he was, he still had a wife. When he returned home that evening, he asked her to knock the rabbit off his back. As she did so, the rabbit died and turned into gold! Aniruddha broke off its front leg and exchanged it for a large sum of cash. To his surprise, the front leg grew back again! The same thing happened whenever he broke off one of the back legs. He had struck it rich! No one knew how much he was worth because he could always break off part of the golden rabbit. Not only was he a rich man in that life, but throughout ninety one eons he was wealthy, honored, and never poor again.
When he made the offering, he did not know the Bhikshu was a Pratyekabuddha. After the Pratyekabuddha accepted it, he transferred merit to him, so that Aniruddha received the retribution of never being poor.
Aniruddha, the Buddha’s first cousin, liked best to sleep. In fact, every time the Buddha lectured on the Dharma Aniruddha would doze off with his head resting on the table snoring like thunder. Once the Buddha scolded him saying:
Hey! Hey! How can you sleep,
Like an oyster or a clam?
Sleep, sleep for a thousand years,
But you’ll never hear the Buddha’s name.
After the reprimand, in a burst of vigor Aniruddha decided never to sleep again but to truly dedicate himself to studying the Buddhadharma. He went for seven days and seven nights without sleeping and as a result he went blind. Shakyamuni Buddha, knowing that he had gone blind because of his great vigor in studying the Buddhadharma took pity on his little cousin and taught him the Vajra Bright-illumination Samadhi. Thereafter, Aniruddha cultivated according to Dharma and obtained the Penetration of the Heavenly Eye. In fact, his Heavenly Eye covered half of his head, enabling him to view the world system of three thousand great thousand worlds just as we would regard an amala fruit or an apple in our hands. Thus Aniruddha was foremost in possessing the Heavenly Eye.
Kapphina. Kapphina’s name means “house-constellation” because when Kapphina’s parents had reached the age of forty or fifty they still had no son. Going to a temple, they prayed to one of the 28 constellations. The 28 constellations (in Chinese) are jue, kang, di, fang, xin, wei, ji, dou, niu, nü, xu, wei, shi, bi, kui, lou, wei, mao, bi, zi, can, jing, gui, liu, xing, zhang, yi, zhen. Kapphina’s parents prayed to the fourth constellation, fang or “house,” whose corresponding element is the sun and whose associated animal is the hare. They received a response and had a son.
Gavampati. The Venerable Gavampati’s name means “cow cud” or “cow king” because when he was finished eating he continued to smack his lips like a cow chewing its cud. When cows are done eating, they go to sleep, but they continue to munch on their cud.
Because of this habit, Shakyamuni Buddha was afraid that people would ridicule him and consequently fall; so he sent Gavampati to the heavens to receive offerings from the gods.
Why did he have this habit? It was retribution for having created evil karma with his mouth by one sentence of slander. Long ago, in limitless ages past, he met an elderly Pratyekabuddha who had lost his teeth and chewed his food very slowly. “Old Master,” said Gavampati, “You sound just like a cow chewing its cud!”
The Pratyekabuddha said, “The retribution you will incur for having slandered me will be extremely grave. Hurry and repent!”
Gavampati, who was a Shramanera at the time, ridiculed the Master saying, “Repent of what? Why should I beg your forgiveness?” As a result of his slander, for five hundred lifetimes, he was reborn as a cow. When he finally became a person, his cow-like habits remained, and when he was done eating, he still worked his jaws like a cow. Such was the retribution for slandering a Pratyekabuddha. From this we should take special care in every movement and word not to casually slander or berate others. Watch yourself.
Revata. Revata’s name means “constellation” because his parents also prayed to a constellation for their son’s birth. It also means “false unity”. Because he was poor and had no place to live, one night he stayed in an old abandoned shack. That night two ghosts came--a big one and a little one. The big one was twenty feet tall and the small one was two feet tall. They were grotesque as could be with green faces, red hair, huge mouths, pointed fangs, and facial features that were all scrunched up together.
They came in dragging a corpse and asked him, “Shall we eat this corpse or not?” What they meant was “If you tell us to eat the corpse, we will eat you. If you tell us not to eat the corpse, we won’t have anything to eat, and so we’ll have to eat you. They were obviously going to eat him no matter what he said, so he didn’t say anything.
The big ghost ripped off the corpse’s legs and the little ghost ripped off Revata’s legs and stuck them on the corpse. Then the ghost ate the corpse’s arms and the little ghost ripped off Revata’s arms and stuck them on the corpse. The big ghost ate the entire corpse and the little ghost replaced its parts, one by one, with parts of Revata’s body.
Revata panicked. “My body has been used to repair the corpse and so not I don’t have a body!” The next day, he ran frantically through town asking everyone he met, “Do I have a body? Please tell me!”
“What?” they said. They had no idea what he meant and supposed that he was insane. Then he met some High Masters. “Shramanas,” he asked, “Do I have a body?” Among the High Masters was a certified Arhat who knew that Revata had the potential to leave the home life.
“Your body is fundamentally false,” he said. “If you cultivate and certify to the fruit and obtain the bright light of your own nature, that is true. What difference then, would it make whether or not you have a body?”
“If that is the case,” said Revata, “then I shall leave the home life and follow you.” After he left home, he became enlightened.
Although he had been eaten by ghosts, he saw that his body was basically false. Therefore he took the name “false unity”, Revata.
Pilindavatsa. This Venerable One’s name means “left-over habits,” referring to habits of many ages and many lifetimes which he had not gotten rid of. Once, he wished to cross the river; because he had certified to the fruit of Arhatship and had spiritual penetrations, he could demand that the river spirit stop the current so he could walk across. To the river spirit, who was a woman, he said, “Little Slave, stop the current.”
Because he was an Arhat, the river spirit had to comply. Although she dared not say anything, she was extremely displeased. This happened repeatedly until finally the river spirit complained to the Buddha. “Your disciple Pilindavatsa,” she said, “hasn’t the least bit of respect for me. He came to the river and said, ‘Little Slave, stop the current!’ He’s entirely too rude.”
The Buddha said, “When he returns I’ll have him apologize to you.” When Pilindavatsa arrived, the Buddha said, “When you were crossing the Ganges why did you say, ‘Little Slave, stop the current?’ You really shouldn’t have done that. Now, you had better hurry up and apologize to her.”
Pilindavatsa immediately went to the river spirit with his palms joined and laughingly said, “Little Slave, don’t take offense.” He had been instructed to apologize for having called her ‘Little Slave’, but in apologizing he also addressed her that way! Needless to say, she was furious.
“See that!” she said. “He stands right here in front of the Buddha and calls me Little Slave again!”
“You didn’t know this,” said the Buddha, “but five hundred lifetimes ago, you were Pilindavatsa’s servant and at that time he called you Little Slave when he gave you orders. Although you are now a river spirit, his habits have not changed and because of your previous master-servant relationship, he still calls you Little Slave.”
Hearing the Buddha’s words, the river spirit knew there was nothing she could do. Because of such heavy habits from the past, he was called “left-over habits”, Pilindavatsa.
Vakkula. This Venerable One’s name means “good-bearing.” In the past, throughout limitless kalpas, he exclusively cultivated the precept against killing. His cultivation of that precept was not like that of us ordinary people at all. His mind did not even give rise to the thought of killing. Not only did he not kill outwardly, inwardly he was spotlessly clean in that he never killed a single living creature. Because of this, he received five kinds of non-dying retribution.
When he was born, he was able to speak. He smiled and laughed and said, “Mama” and “Papa,” and was very playful. His mother thought “What on earth! I’ve never heard of a child who could talk and joke at birth. It must be a monster.” Since she was rather cruel and not compassionate, she put him in a frying pan and tried to fry him. But he wouldn’t fry. It was as if nothing were happening. The pan was red hot, but Vakkula was just as happy. “All right,” she said, “you may be fireproof, but you’re certainly not water-proof!” and she tossed him in a pot of rapidly boiling water, but he still didn’t die. Then she tried to drown him by holding him under water, but he couldn’t be drowned. Do you think this is strange or not?
She left him in the ocean and he was gulped down by a fish and he went right into the fish’s stomach, escaping the fish’s teeth. Just then, strangely enough, the fish was caught in a fisherman’s net and the fisherman cut the fish open with a knife. Vakkula was not harmed by the knife either, and jumped right out of the fish’s belly. Thus, he received the five kinds of non-dying retribution: the fire didn’t burn him, the water didn’t boil him, the ocean didn’t drown him, the fish didn’t chomp him to death, and the fisherman’s knife didn’t cut him. He received these five as a response from his observance of the precept against killing and among the Buddha’s disciples he was the foremost in longevity.
Mahakaushthila. The Venerable Kaushthila’s name means, “big knees” because big knees were a family trait. This Venerable One was Shariputra’s maternal uncle. As previously related, he made a bet with the Buddha that if he lost in debate, he would cut off his head. He was a gifted and eloquent debator. He was one of the Buddha’s constant followers, and the foremost disciple noted for eloquence.
Nanda.here are three disciples with the name of Nanda: Nanda, Ananda, and Sundarananda. Nanda is known as “Nanda the Cowherd” because he watched cows when he was a lad.
Nanda’s name means “wholesome bliss.” As a cowherd, he heard the Buddha speak the Eleven Matters of tending cows, using the tending of cows as an analogy for cultivation of the Way; Nanda, realizing that the Buddha was possessed of all-knowledge, resolved to leave home and soon attained the fruition of Arhatship.
On one occasion the Buddha instructed Nanda to preach to a group of five hundred Bhikshunis. Hearing him speak, they all attained Arhatship. In the past, the five hundred Bhikshunis had been the concubines of a single king. The king, a great Dharma protector, built a large pagoda in honor of a Buddha. The concubines, believed in the Buddha and made offerings at the pagoda, vowing that in the future they would all obtain liberation with the king. The king was a former incarnation of Nanda
Sundarananda. Sundarananda was named after his wife, Sundari. Sundari means, “good at loving”. Whom did she love? Nanda (Sundarananda). Her name also means “attractive”, because she absolutely stunning; it could be said that she was the most beautiful woman in all of India. Sundarananda was so beguiled by her beauty that he never left her side. It was as if they were magnetized or glued together; walking, standing, sitting, and reclining, they were an inseparable couple.
Shakyamuni Buddha wanted him to leave home. Sundarananda was the Buddha’s younger brother. When the Buddha saw that his causal affinities were mature enough that he could leave home he also knew that Sundarananda couldn’t give up his wife to do it. Thus, the Buddha decided to apply an expedient measure. One day, when Sundarananda and his wife were eating lunch he went to the palace to beg for alms.
When Sundarananda saw his older brother he wanted to offer him some food, but the Buddha said, “Take it to the Jeta Grove.”
“How can I do that?” said Sundarananda. “How can I leave my wife home alone?” He didn’t dare contradict his brother’s orders, so he asked his wife: “The Buddha said I should take the food to the Jeta Grove. Is it all right if I go?”
“Yes, on one condition,” she said. “I am going to spit on the floor; you must return before that spit is dry. Otherwise, you needn’t bother coming in the door, because I won’t let you in.”
“All right,” said Sundarananda, thinking he would easily make it back in time, but when he arrived, the Buddha wouldn’t let him go! He ordered him to shave his head and leave home. Sundarananda spent all day trying to figure out a way to sneak back home to see his wife because he simply couldn’t let her go.
One day all the Bhikshus went out to beg and Shakyamuni Buddha told Sundarananda, “Stay here today and watch the door. You’re not going anywhere today. Sweep the floor and clean the place up. We’re going out to beg, and we’ll bring some food back for you.”
Sundarananda was ecstatic. “Finally! A chance to escape!” he thought. He planned to sweep the floor, wash the windows and run. Strangely enough as soon as he got one end of the hall swept, dirt would collect on the other side. He swept all morning until he was perspiring with exhaustion, but he still couldn’t get the floor clean. As soon as he closed one window, another would blow open and the sweepings would fly around the room; then, when he shut that window, yet another would fly open. He was getting more and more frustrated the later it got. The morning was slipping away; the Buddha would return soon, and he would have missed his chance. Finally, in desperation, he ran.
He knew if he met the Buddha, he would have to return to the Jeta Grove. He also knew that the Buddha always travelled by the main roads, and so he took a side road and who do you think he ran into? The Buddha! He was returning from his alms round. Sundarananda jumped behind a big tree and, as he backed around the tree, the Buddha followed him. He would reverse his direction and the Buddha would do so as well. Finally, they met face to face and the Buddha said, “What are you doing?”
“I waited for you until I couldn’t wait anymore,” said Sundarananda. “I decided to come and escort you back to the Jeta Grove.”
“Good,” said the Buddha “let’s go back.”
Since he had no other choice, he returned with the Buddha and after he had eaten lunch, the Buddha asked him, “Would you like to go out sight-seeing with me today? I’ll take you out to play.”
Sundarananda thought, “I don’t have the heart to go play. I’m only concerned with running home. I really don’t have the spirit, but if the Buddha wants me to go I can’t refuse,” and he forced himself. They went to a mountain where there were a lot of monkeys. The Buddha asked him, “Tell me, which is more beautiful, Sundari or these monkeys?”
“Why of course my wife is more beautiful. How can you compare these ugly monkeys with my wife? What an insult!”
The Buddha said, “You are truly intelligent; you can tell the good from the bad. Now let’s return.”
By now, Sundarananda was obsessed with thoughts of his wife. Several days passed and no opportunity to run away presented itself. The Buddha said to him, “You seem so depressed every day. I can’t imagine what’s on your mind. Let me take you up to the heavens for a look around.”
“I wonder what the heavens are like?” thought Sundarananda. They ascended into the heavens, and there they saw a lovely heavenly palace filled with exquisite heavenly maidens. The Buddha said, “Who do you say is more beautiful, the maidens or Sundari?”
“The heavenly maidens!” said Sundarananda. “Compared to these goddesses, Sundari looks like a monkey! There’s no comparison.” As they went on their way, Sundarananda lagged behind and stole a word with one of them. “Who is your master?” he asked.
“Our master is the Buddha’s little brother, Sundarananda. He has now left home under the Buddha and cultivates the Way. Next life he will be reborn in heaven and we are to be his attendants.”
Delighted at the prospect, Sundarananda resolved to cultivate. Forgetting all about Sundari and thinking only of goddesses, he cultivated to be reborn in the heavens. When he had cultivated for a long time, the Buddha, seeing that he was no longer thinking of Sundari, but only of the maidens, thought: “I think I’ll show him something unusual.”
“Sundarananda, ” he said, “You’ve been to the heavens, but you’ve never seen the hells. Would you like to accompany me there?”
Since the Buddha taught that the hells were most unpleasant, Sundarananda wondered what would be the use of going there, but agreeing to go and take a look, he followed the Buddha there. They saw the hells of the mountains of knives, the hell of sword trees, the hell of boiling oil, the hell of fire-soup--all the hells. In one of the hells, he saw a pot of oil that was barely simmering. Two ghosts who were supposedly tending it, were nodding off, and the fire was on the verge of going out. One of the ghosts in fact was even lying down sound asleep! Two truly lazy ghosts, neglecting the pot for their nap. Sundarananda asked, “Hey, Old Friend, who’s your boss? How can you get away with sleeping on the job?”
The ghost yawned and rubbed his eyes. “What’s that you say?” he replied.
“I said I want to know why you are loafing on the job,” Sundarananda said. “Pots of oil have to boil, you know.”
“What do you know?” asked the ghost. “The person destined to undergo punishment in this pot isn’t due here for a long time.”
“What do you mean?” asked Sundarananda.
“The Buddha’s little brother, Sundarananda, has already left home under the Buddha. He cultivates the blessings of the heavens and in the future will be reborn there. When he has used up his heavenly blessings, the five signs of decay will manifest. He will then fall into the hells to be boiled in this very pot of oil, because he did not cultivate the Way properly. He’s still got several hundred years, however, so why should we busy ourselves boiling the oil now? Our jobs are quite soft; we can sleep all day if we like.”
When he heard this, Sundarananda’s entire body broke out in a cold sweat.
“That pot’s intended for me,” he moaned. “What am I going to do?”
The Buddha took Sundarananda back to the Jeta Grove and spoke to him of the Dharma-door that birth in the heavens is bound up with suffering, emptiness, impermanence, and non-self. He cultivated the Buddhadharma and certified to the fruit of Arhatship. Sundarananda was hopelessly in love with his wife, and yet he fell out of love as soon as he saw women more beautiful than her. Then, because he saw the sufferings in the hells, he decided truly to cultivate the Way, something he never would have done otherwise. The name Nanda also means “bliss”, but this Nanda is different from the one discussed previously. He takes his name from his wife, Sundari, because he was “Sundari’s Nanda”.
Purnamaitrayaniputra. Purnamaitrayaniputra takes his name from a combination of his father’s name, Purna, meaning “full” and from his mother, Maitrayani, which means “compassionate woman”. Putra means “son”. Among the Buddha’s disciples he was the foremost expounder of the Dharma. Just as he was born, an auspicious rain of jewels fell from the heavens upon his house.
Subhuti. Subhuti’s name means “empty-born” because when he was born the family treasuries were discovered to be empty. His father consulted a diviner who told him this was an extremely auspicious sign and so he was also known as “good and auspicious”. Then, exactly seven days after he was born, the wealth reappeared in the treasuries and he became known as “good appearance”.
Ananda. Ananda was the Buddha’s first cousin and his attendant. He also compiled and edited the Sutras. His name means “rejoicing” because he was born on the day the Buddha realized Buddhahood. Rejoicing, his father gave him the name and the entire country celebrated the Buddha’s enlightenment.
Rahula. Rahula was the Buddha’s son. The Buddha is said to have had three wives. The senior was Gopika, the next was Yashodhara, and the junior was Mrigadava. Rahula was the son of Yashodhara. When he was born, the members of the Shakyan clan from which the Buddha came were outraged because the Buddha had already left home for six years. They all said, “She’s certainly been up to no good. The Buddha has already been gone for six years. How could she legitimately have a son?”
In truth, Rahula had dwelt in his mother’s womb for six long years, but no one believed it; it was too improbable. The angry Shakyans wanted to punish her, to put her to death, and the evil rumors spread through the streets and all over the countryside. Soon everyone knew that the Buddha had been absent for six years and his wife had given birth to a son. One of Yashodhara’s servants spoke to the King on her behalf saying that she had not done anything untoward and that the child really was the Buddha’s, but no one believed her because it’s simply impossible to carry a child for six years. At that time, Yashodara made a vow. “If I have violated the rules of conduct, then, when I jump into a pit of fire, my son and I will burn. If I am blameless, then the heavenly spirits will protect us, and we will not burn.” Then people made a large pit, filled it with lots of wood, and lit a roaring fire. Holding Rahula in her arms, she threw herself into the flaming pit. Miraculously, it turned into a pool of water and a lotus emerged to catch them. Seeing this, the King and everyone else realized they had made a mistake. They knew that the situation with Yashodhara and her son was very special, and they stopped slandering her.
Rahula’s name means “obstacle”. In a former life, as a child, he had plugged up a mouse-hole with a piece of wood and waited six days before he removed it. As a result, he received the retribution of having to dwell in his mother’s womb for six years. Everyone should think it over. The network of cause and effect is indeed severe! Rahula was the Buddha’s son, and even he had to undergo six years of retribution.
“Obstacle” also refers to the fact that he created a lot of trouble for Yashodhara--he was quite an obstacle.
Ultimately, where did Shakyamuni Buddha’s son come from? Was he actually Shakyamuni Buddha’s son?
Did Shakyamuni Buddha have his son in the manner common to ordinary husbands and wives?
No. Before the Buddha left home, Yashodhara expressed her desire to have a son. The Buddha merely pointed his finger at her and she became pregnant. This may sound like a myth, but it is only one of many such occurrences within the Buddhadharma. It is an inconceivable realm. If you want to research and verify it, there is no way to do so except by working hard and cultivating until you reach the level where you will know that the realm of the Buddha is miraculous and hard to conceive of. It’s inconceivable.
Just now two people came in and listened to the lecture for a while, but probably they didn’t like what they heard, so they left. It is not easy to sit through the Sutra lectures every day. One must truly have great good roots in order to be able to sit here comfortably. The two of them left because they did not feel comfortable at all.
And other Great Arhats such as these whom the assembly knew and recognized. “Such as these” refers to the above mentioned twenty-one great Arhats whom the great assembly knew. Knew means that in their hearts, they understood them. Recognized means that they had seen them with their own eyes. To understand by means of the mind and eyes is called “know and recognize”.
In Chinese the phrase “know and recognize” also means “sense”. Those with good sense have wisdom. However, you can look at it from the opposite angle: if you can truly be without “sense”, that is genuine wisdom. If you can truly be without “sense”, then you can also be without “thought or schemes”. Without “thought or schemes” your own inherent wisdom will certainly manifest and this is your genuine “sense” and wisdom. So, in explaining doctrines, you must explain the opposite angles as well as the doctrines themselves. Thus these Great Arhats were known and recognized by the assembly.
Great Arhats are not small Arhats. In Hong Kong there is someone nicknamed “Little Arhat”. He’s a little monk and he goes around laughing and joking from morning until night. He’s very innocent and he won’t accept any offerings from people at all. If he does accept something he immediately gives it away to someone else. So everyone calls him the “little Arhat”.
Great Arhats accept offerings from men and gods according to the meaning of their name, “ones worthy of offerings”. They have also “slain the thieves” and undergo no more birth. As I previously mentioned, not only have they slain the thieves, they have slain the non-thieves as well.
“But that really sounds unreasonable to me,” you say.
What makes you think the Great Arhats are reasonable? They have spiritual powers and transformations. If you want to reason with them, it simply can’t be done. They have also slain the non-thieves. At the Arhat level what are not taken to be thieves, at the Bodhisattva level are still seen as thieves and so they must kill the “non-thieves”. In going from the Small Vehicle to the Great Vehicle, the non-thieves must also be slain.
Moreover, there were those with further study and those beyond study, two thousand in all. There was the Bhikshuni Mahaprajapati with her retinue of six thousand, and Rahula’s mother, Bhikshuni Yashodhara, also with her retinue.
F2. Moreover, there were those with further study and those beyond study, two thousand in all.--the lesser known.
E2. There was the Bhikshuni Mahaprajapati with her retinue of six thousand, and Rahula’s mother, Bhikshuni Yashodhara, also with her retinue.--the Bhikshunis
Moreover, there were those with further study and those beyond study, two thousand in all. Not only were there great Arhats present, but there were two thousand of those with further study and those beyond study. The position of those with further study is that previous to the attainment of the fourth fruit of Arhatship--they still have more to learn. The position beyond study is the fourth level of Arhatship. Altogether, there were two thousand of them. They represent the Ten Suchnesses which will be discussed later. To simply name them, they are;
1. The suchness of the marks;
2. The suchness of the nature;
3. The suchness of the substance;
4. The suchness of the powers;
5. The suchness of the functions;
6. The suchness of the cause;
7. The suchness of the conditions;
8. The suchness of the effect;
9. The suchness of the retribution; and
10. The suchness of the ultimate equality of the beginning and end.
Each of the ten Suchnesses divides into ten, making one hundred Suchnesses. Each of those hundred Suchnesses divides into ten again, making one thousand Suchnesses. Thus, the use of the word “thousand”--“two thousand in all.”
There was the Bhikshuni Mahaprajapati with her retinue of six thousand...Maha means “great”. Prajapati means “love of the Way”. “Great love of the Way” was the sister of the Buddha’s mother. Seven days after the Buddha was born, his mother died and was reborn in the Trayastrimsha Heaven; her sister, Mahaprajapati, raised the Buddha as her own. Not only did she do so for Shakyamuni Buddha, but she was the aunt and foster mother of a thousand Buddhas. “With her retinue of six thousand” refers to her relatives, friends, and such.
And Rahula’s mother, Bhikshuni Yashodhara, also with her retinue. The Buddha’s wife, Yashodhara, later left the home-life as the Buddha’s disciple to become a Bhikshuni. A Bhikshuni is a woman who has left home. The word also has the same three meanings as the word Bhikshu, that is, a mendicant, a frightener of Mara, and a destroyer of evil. With her retinue refers also to a great many people. All assembled at the speaking of the Dharma Flower Sutra.
There were eighty thousand Bodhisattvas, Mahasattvas all irreversibly established in anuttarasamyaksambodhi. All had obtained dharani and the eloquence of delight in speech and turned the irreversible wheel of the Dharma. They had made offerings to limitless hundreds of thousands of Buddhas and in the presence of those Buddhas had planted the roots of myriad virtues. They were constantly receiving those Buddhas’ praise. They cultivated themselves in compassion and were well able to enter the wisdom of the Buddhas. They had penetrated the great wisdom and arrived at the other shore. Their reputations extended throughout limitless world realms, and they were able to cross over countless hundreds of thousands of living beings.
D2. There were eighty-thousand Bodhisattvas.--the Bodhisattvas
E1. There were eighty-thousand Bodhisattvas--statement of category and number
E2. All irreversiby established in anuttarasamyaksambodhi. All had obtained dharani and the eloquence of delight in speech and turned the irreversible wheel of the Dharma. They had made offerings to limitless hundreds of thousands of Buddhas and in the presence of those Buddhas had planted the roots of virtue. They were constantly receiving those Buddhas’ praise. They cultivated themselves in compassion and were well able to enter the wisdom of the Buddhas. They had penetrated the great wisdom and arrived at the other shore. Their reputations extended throughout limitless world realms, and they were able to cross over countless hundreds of thousands of living beings.--statement of position and praise of virtues.
There were eighty-thousand Bodhisattvas, Mahasattvas. Bodhisattvas enlighten living beings. Mahasattvas are great Bodhisattvas with seven qualities discussed below. Bodhi means “enlightenment” and sattva means “being”. A Bodhisattva is an enlightened being who enlightens other sentient beings. Bodhisattvas are also known as “living beings who have great hearts for the Way”. They are also living beings, but they have great, large hearts for the Way. They are also called “beginning knights”.
Mahasattvas are the great Bodhisattvas. The Mahasattvas have seven qualities of greatness.
1. They are complete with great roots. Their extremely deep foundation is a kind of greatness. They are great in that they have, as the Sutra text states, “planted the roots of a myriad virtues”. For many lives and throughout many eons, they have sent down and nurtured roots of goodness which are now extremely deep. Good roots are called “roots of virtue”, and they are the basis of moral virtue. They have sent down the roots of the virtuous nature. How many of them? A limitless and boundless number. “A myriad” indicates their great quantity.
As the Vajra Sutra says, “You should know that such people will have planted good roots with not just one Buddha, two Buddhas, three, four, or five Buddhas, but will have planted good roots with measureless millions of Buddhas.” The Mahasattvas have planted their good roots of virtue in the presence of as many Buddhas as there are grains of sand in limitless, boundless, thousands of billions of Ganges Rivers. So, they are complete with great roots.
2. They possess great wisdom. Where did they acquire this great wisdom? It came as a result of having brought forth the great Bodhi heart. Bringing forth the great Bodhi heart, they resolve to cross over all living beings. However, although they cross over all living beings, they do not become attached to the mark of having crossed them over. As the Vajra Sutra also says, “All Bodhisattvas, Mahasattvas, should subdue their hearts with the vow: ‘I must cause all living beings--those born from eggs, those born from wombs, those born from moisture, those born by transformation, those with form, those without form, those with thought, those without thought, those not completely with thought and not completely without thought--to enter Nirvana without residue and be taken across to extinction. Yet of the immeasurable boundless numbers of living beings thus taken across to extinction, there is actually no living beings taken across to extinction.’”
Although the Buddha saves countless living beings, in actuality there are no beings that he saves. Living beings save themselves. This is called, “Crossing over living beings but not attaching to the mark of doing so.” Mahasattvas are not like us ordinary people who do a good deed and then say, “I have caused a certain number of people to leave the home-life,” or “I have caused a certain number of people to believe in Buddhism. So and so is one I saved. So and so is one I convinced to believe in the Buddhadharma. So and so is one I introduced to the Buddhadharma.” Ah! Ordinary people are attached to so many marks! Why? Because they are deluded. If they had great wisdom, they would have no attachment to marks. Bodhisattvas should separate from all marks and then they may attain anuttarasamyaksambodhi. If one does not separate from all marks, one is not a Bodhisattva. Mahasattvas have great wisdom.
3. The third quality of the Mahasattva is: They believe in the great Dharma. What is the great Dharma? The great Dharma is the Dharma of the Great Vehicle. You must believe in the Dharma-doors of the Great Vehicle. You must deeply believe in Prajna. You must deeply believe in cause and effect, and you must deeply believe in the Dharma-door of the Great Vehicle’s Real Mark. You need a heart of such great belief because the Buddhadharma is as vast as the sea and can only be entered by means of faith. Without faith, although the Buddhadharma is vast, you will not be crossed over by means of it. Why? Because you have no faith. So it says,
Faith is the source of the Way
and the mother of merit and virtue, because
it nourishes all good roots.
Where do good roots come from? They come from faith. They grow out of the heart of faith. Faith is the mother of the merit and virtue which you cultivate. Therefore, belief in the great Dharma is the third quality of a Mahasattva. Great Bodhisattvas believe in all the great Dharmas. They have faith in the supreme wonderful Dharma; they believe especially deeply in the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra. Thus, they believe in the great Dharma.
If we have genuine and great faith in the Buddhadharma, then we are Bodhisattvas, Mahasattvas, too. The Vajra Sutra says, “All who hear these phrases and produce even one thought of pure faith are completely known and completely seen by the Tathagata.” Only one single thought of the most pure, firm faith brings blessedness and virtue which surpasses that of one who has made enough offerings of the seven precious things to fill the Great Trichiliocosm. The Thus Come One is certain to know your thought; your faith will not have been in vain. Students of the Buddhadharma should bring forth hearts of genuine faith and then they will be able to obtain a response.
For example, there are those in this Sutra assembly who have taken ill with the flu and who have coughs. I had intended to tell them to rest, but they still grit their teeth and insist on listening to the Sutra lectures. This proves that they have genuine faith. Belief in the Buddha and the Dharma should be as genuine as that. When I was young and listening to the Sutras, I too was sometimes ill, but I never failed to attend a Dharma meeting. I made up my mind that, as long as I had a breath of air, I would study the Dharma. I would not rest unless I was totally bed-ridden or unable to move. I never would have thought that now I would meet so many who “know my sound”, and who also listen to the Dharma, illness and all. However, one shouldn‘t force things. If you are too uncomfortable, it is all right to rest.
4. They understand the great principle. What is the great principle? Above, it is said that one must have great faith. In order to understand the great principle, one must do so by means of faith. In the Avatamsaka Sutra one speaks of the four stages of faith, understanding, practice, and certification. First of all you must believe, then you must understand. After you understand, you must put your understanding into actual practice. Through actual practice, you may gain certification.
What is the great principle? I will tell you: You must understand that all living beings basically are Buddhas. That is the great principle. This refers to the first of the Six Levels of Identity with the Buddha, that of Identity with the Buddha in Principle. In principle, everyone is a Buddha. However, in order to realize Buddhahood you must cultivate. If you fail to cultivate and yet say, “I am the Buddha, the Buddha, Buddha, Buddha...” that’s useless. It’s like calling yourself the Emperor, saying, “I am the Emperor. I am the Emperor.” But do you have subjects and ministers who are loyal to you? Do the people support you? No.
Of what use is a self-proclaimed emperor? If you say that you are the Buddha, in principle, you are correct. But you must specifically cultivate, otherwise you will be unable to return to the root, go back to the source, and recognize your original face.
Why must one understand that all living beings are basically Buddhas? It is because the Real Mark wisdom is not separate from the hearts of living beings. The wisdom of the Real Mark is complete within the hearts of us all. Therefore, the fourth is to understand the great principle.
5. Cultivate the great conduct. Which Dharma doors should one cultivate? One must diligently cultivate the Six Paramitas and the Ten Thousand Conducts. What are the Six Paramitas?
a. Giving. First of all, one must give. Giving means to give to others, not to instruct others to give to you. Some people talk a lot about giving by telling other people to give to them, but they don’t give to others. Not only are they not Bodhisattvas, they aren’t even as good as Arhats.
Giving has been discussed many times. There are three kinds of giving: 1) the giving of wealth, 2) the giving of Dharma, 3) the giving of fearlessness.
The giving of wealth includes both inner and outer wealth. Outer wealth refers to one’s kingdom and treasures, to one’s wife and children. Those who practice the Bodhisattva Way have no thought at all of self or others and so they think, “What is mine is yours and what is yours I don’t necessarily want.” They have no mark of other and no mark of self, and so they are able to give away their kingdoms, their homes, and even their wife or children. Shakyamuni Buddha for example, should have become a king, but he chose instead to become a monk. He had three very beautiful wives, but he didn’t want them; he renounced them and let them go their way. Relinquishing the glory of royalty, he went to the Himalayas to cultivate the Way.
Inner wealth refers to: your head--if someone wants your head you give it up without a second thought; your eyes--if someone wants your eyes, you also give them up. You give your brains and marrow in the same way. Head, eyes, brains and marrow, skin, blood, flesh, sinews, and bones--all can be given to others.
What is meant by the giving of Dharma? It is to speak the Dharma to benefit beings, to teach and transform all living beings by explaining the Buddhadharma to them.
Of all the offerings,
The Dharma offering is supreme.
The offering of Dharma is to propagate the Buddhadharma for the sake of all beings. Thus, students of the Buddhadharma should learn how to lecture on the Sutras. Do not hoard a lot of wealth and fail to come to the aid of the starving masses. Those who understand the Buddhadharma must introduce it to others. They should think, “If I understand one percent, I will explain one percent to others. If I know 100 percent, I will explain 100 percent.” This is the gift of Dharma.
The third is the giving of fearlessness. When someone encounters disasters or calamities which terrify them, at that very moment you should go to reassure them saying, “Don’t be afraid. It’s not important. You’ll certainly evoke a response because your heart is so good; certainly nothing terrible will come of it.” Having dispelled their fear, you have given the gift of fearlessness.
Thus, there are three kinds of giving.
b. The second perfection is that of morality. There are many different sets of moral precepts. There are the five precepts, the eight precepts, the ten precepts, and the ten major and forty-eight minor Bodhisattva precepts. There are also the two hundred and fifty precepts for Bhikshus and the three hundred and forty-eight for Bhikshunis. We should hold the precepts.
c. Patience. Patience is a fine quality indeed. If you are able to be patient, you possess a treasure. Haven’t I said before:
Patience is a priceless treasure
Which few know how to mine.
Patience is a priceless jewel but no one knows how to use it. People may be patient once, or, pushing it, even twice. But on the third time, they blow up. “Just what do you think you are doing bullying me like that? Do you really think I’m afraid of you? Hah! I’ve stood for this just about long enough. Once, twice, three times--I have had all I can take. This is really too much!!!” And then the fight is on. These things happen when one loses patience.
Once there was an old cultivator of patience. He wrote out a sentence on a sign-board and hung it on his door. It said, “My nature is like ashes.” That is, his nature was like burnt out ashes and had not even a spark of fire in it. He never got angry; he worked hard and cultivated until he was very mellow, just as flexible and yielding as water. Then, along came a Bodhisattva to test him. He looked at the sign and said, “What does that sign say?”
“It says, ‘My nature is like ashes,’” replied the cultivator.
A few minutes later, he again asked, “What does that sign say?”
“My nature is like ashes,” came the reply.
A moment later: “What does that sign say? I can’t remember clearly...”
“My nature is like ashes.”
He asked the question several thousand times, and finally, the old cultivator ignited. “It says, my nature is like ashes. MY NATURE IS LIKE ASHES!!! What are you trying to do anyway? What are you trying to prove? I’m cultivating the Way. Just who are you to come and stir up trouble?!!”
“Oh?” came the reply. “It would seem that the ashes have a bit of fire in them after all,” and so saying, he ascended into empty space. Who was he? He was Guanshiyin Bodhisattva and he had come to test the cultivator. But after several decades of cultivating a nature like ashes, he flunked the test. Guanyin Bodhisattva said, “You’d better cultivate some more. I’ll be back in another twenty years to see you again.”
See? It’s not easy. Patience means that you have no temper. When I was a disciple, I never dared get angry, whether I was in my teacher’s presence or not. Why? Because my teacher wasn’t stern like I am. He was very compassionate. If I got angry, he would refuse to eat. He’d say, “I haven’t done a good job teaching my disciple, so I won’t eat.” Because of this, I didn’t dare get angry.
Did I have a temper? My temper was huge, bigger than anyone’s, but because I left home to cultivate, I learned to control it. So now, in America I have just accepted three Americans as left-home disciples. Before they left home, they weren’t bad tempered, but now that they have, they haven’t learned anything except how to get angry. They have mastered the art of blowing their tops. Yesterday, two of them came complaining to me. One said that the other had gotten angry and the other said that the first one had gotten angry. In the end who did get angry? I don’t care. But I decided to establish a rule which I announced yesterday and announced again last night and will repeat once again this evening. I don’t care who gets angry, who is in the right or who is in the wrong, but whoever gets angry must kneel in front of the Buddhas for a day and a night, twenty-four hours. During this time they are not allowed to rise, either to go to the bathroom, eat, drink, or sleep. That’s my rule and if you don’t kneel before the Buddhas, I will do it for you myself. Try it and see.
But not only does the one who gets angry have to kneel, all of the disciples, that is, the three Americans, all have to kneel together, which means that the two who did not get angry also have to kneel.
“But that’s unjust!” you say. “If only one gets angry why should the other two also have to kneel?”
If you are worried about justice, you should be informed that there simply is no justice in this world. If you’re afraid, then don’t get angry. Don’t think you can get away with getting angry when I’m not around either, because you’ll be punished just the same. You may think I don’t know, but for all you know I may have a secret information service, or someone may tell me and you’ll have to kneel all the same. Is that clear? Patience: Why will you have to kneel without eating, drinking, or sleeping? So that you can cultivate patience. If you get angry, that means you must cultivate patience and learn to bear the pain in your knees as you kneel. Did you hear that clearly? If so, the law goes into effect immediately.
A number of people who were thinking of leaving home are suddenly afraid. “The Master is really stern! I don‘t think I’d dare leave home under him.”
If you’re afraid, then just don’t get angry, and everything will be all right. I didn’t invent this law; it’s an age-old custom. But whether or not you kneel is up to you, not me. Why did I establish the rule? If I didn’t, then as I accepted more disciples, they would constantly be fighting and bringing their silly arguments to me. There wouldn’t be enough hours in the day to pass judgements on their stupid cases. How can cultivators of the Way get angry? They can’t. If, as a teacher, you get angry at your disciples, that’s permissible. But to get angry at one’s peers is not.
Patience is a priceless gem
Which few know how to mine;
But if you can master it
Everything works out fine.
If you’ve mastered patience, then everything goes well. If you haven’t, everything goes wrong.
d. The fourth perfection is that of vigor. Last summer, one of my disciples spoke about vigor and now he is being vigorous because he has come to the lecture illness and all.
There are two types of vigor; bodily and mental. Bodily vigor refers to bowing to the Buddhas, reciting Sutras, and holding mantras, working hard at cultivation and never ever relaxing--sleeping less, too. It‘s no easy matter to be a monk. You can’t just sleep all day. Vigor by day and vigor by night. Those who vigorously apply genuine effort do not just put on a show for other people. They cultivate vigorously whether anyone is looking or not. The work of cultivation is done for oneself; it is not done as a show. You must be vigorous.
e. The fifth perfection is Dhyana samadhi. This refers to cultivating skill in investigating Dhyana meditation. Perfection of mental vigor lies in constant mindfulness. Mental vigor is the diligent cultivation of precepts, samadhi, and wisdom and the eradication of greed, hatred, and stupidity--evicting thoughts of greed, hatred, and stupidity from your heart. Then, once you are vigorous, you can cultivate the investigation of Dhyana meditation. Dhyana meditation needs the aid of vigor. If you are not vigorous, it’s like setting something in the sun for one day and then freezing it for ten. You shouldn’t be one who is fond of the lotus today and fond of the peony tomorrow--in other words, fickle. If you heat something in the sun for one day and then freeze it for ten, what use has it? Don’t cultivate for one day and rest for ten. In Chinese both words sound the same:
修 cultivate (xiu)
休 rest (xiu)
You’ll never obtain skill in Dhyana samadhi that way.
f. The sixth perfection is Prajna. Prajna is the most important of the perfections. Roughly, it means “wisdom”. In cultivating, one must have wisdom. Without wisdom, there is no way to cultivate. Stupid people may cultivate and try to make progress, but they never get anywhere. Those with wisdom can apply effort in any situation because they have genuine Prajna.
Of the green bamboo
and yellow flowers,
None is not Prajna.
Everything’s a manifestation of wisdom. For example, one of my disciples told me that another one said, “Every time (the disciple who told me this) talks to me, he scolds me.” Who is he scolding? Isn’t that stupid? If you were intelligent, how could you receive a scolding? Even if he was scolding you, if you had wisdom you wouldn’t accept his scolding and it would revert right back to him. The Sutra of Forty Two Sections says that someone once scolded the Buddha, but the Buddha made no reply. The Buddha said, “You insulted me but I didn’t respond and so the insult reverts to you. It is like trying to spit at the sky: The spit will fall right back into your own face.” So even if he does scold you, if you don’t react, it’s just as if he hadn’t. If he scolds you, pretend he is singing you a song or that you don’t understand him because he is speaking Japanese, or Chinese, or French. If you can’t understand him, then, there’s no problem whatever. This is genuine wisdom. If you do understand him and think, “He’s scolding me!” Well, then ultimately who are you? Bodhisattvas do not have the mark of self, others, living beings, or a lifespan. How can they hold onto an “I”? Those who have left home especially must take their “selves” and throw them into the Pacific Ocean. Get rid of them! Have no self and then everything will be okay.
This has been a discussion of the fifth of the Seven Qualities of a Mahasattva: They cultivate the great conduct, that is, the Six Perfections and the Ten Thousand Conducts.
We have been discussing the Seven Qualities of Greatness of a Mahasattva and have discussed the first five: they are complete with great roots, they possess great wisdom, they believe in the great Dharma, they understand the great principle, and they cultivate the great conduct.
Within the cultivation of the great conduct we have talked about the Six Perfections. The Ten Thousand Conducts indicates many practices. To speak of them in detail, there are not merely ten thousand, but eighty-four thousand. However, because of the limitations of time, we cannot discuss each one in detail.
Now, we will discuss the Three Phases of Thought.
Bodhisattvas sweep away the
Three Phases of Thought,
And annul the Four Marks.
They sweep away the Three Phases of Thought as one would sweep the dirt up off the floor. What are the three phases of thought? They are: 1) past thought, 2) present thought, and 3) future thought.
What is past thought? It is thought which has already gone by. Having already gone by it’s in the past.
Present thought: You may say, “This is the present,” but just as you say it, it passes and becomes the past. The present does not stand still and the past has already gone by. The present does not stay. If you say this is the present, it’s already gone by. It’s turned into the past. So present thought cannot be obtained.
And what about future thought? Future thought has not yet arrived. Since it hasn’t arrived, where are you going to find it? So it is said, “past thought cannot be obtained, present thought cannot be obtained, and future thought cannot be obtained.” If these three, the past, present, and future phases of thought are entirely unobtainable, what is there to be attached to? There is nothing to be attached to. When there is no attachment, that is the attainment of liberation. The attainment of liberation--that is genuine freedom.
Bodhisattvas also cultivate the Four Methods of Conversion: 1) giving, 2) kind words, 3) helpfulness, and 4) cooperation.
Bodhisattvas should be resolved to give, to make gifts of wealth, Dharma, and fearlessness to all living beings as discussed above. Kind words: Bodhisattvas must practice affectionate speech. But only Bodhisattvas can do this; those who are not Bodhisattvas cannot. Bodhisattvas use kind, affectionate words which spring from the compassionate affection they hold for all living beings. How did they become compassionate? Bodhisattvas have no mark of self. They see all living beings as identical with themselves. Not only do they see all living beings as identical with themselves, but they see themselves as identical with all living beings, not only identical but as a unity. They make no distinctions between “him and me”. So they like to rescue living beings because it is the same as rescuing themselves. They do so by means of compassionate and kind words to all living beings.
Helpfulness: All living beings like to receive benefit. You should benefit them, help them out in their affairs. There are many ways to help others, but in general, Bodhisattvas do deeds which cause others to obtain advantage.
Cooperation: Bodhisattvas can transform themselves into thousands of millions of bodies. When they see a living being, they determine which kind of body they will need to assume to save them. Then they transform to that kind of body to teach it. For example, when Shakyamuni Buddha was practicing the Bodhisattva Way, he turned into a deer in order to teach and transform the deer.
Practicing the Bodhisattva Way, you must practice what is hard to practice. If it’s basically difficult, you have to do it. That’s the Way of the Bodhisattva. They must give up what is hard to give up. If it’s hard to renounce, you must renounce it. The harder something is to give up--your riches for example-- the more genuine the renunciation becomes. You must bear what is difficult to bear. Things which are difficult to endure must be endured. This is the duty of one who practices the Bodhisattva Way. What is hard to yield, you must yield. If it is difficult to yield in a given situation, you must be able to do so. I often say:
You must eat what others cannot eat and bear what others cannot bear.
This is not to say “eating what others cannot eat” means that you rush in and eat all the good food before anyone else gets a chance to have any. It doesn’t mean that one eats the most delectable delicacies in the world, those which others have never tasted. It means that one eats those things which others do not like to eat. Bodhisattvas can eat such things.
I will tell you something: I am not a Bodhisattva, but I can eat the things which others do not like to eat. When I was seventeen years old, in Manchuria there was a Virtue Society which exclusively taught the Way, virtue, humaneness, and righteousness. I joined the Society when I was sixteen. When I was seventeen, I became the head instructor of about sixty or seventy people. I was very young and the students were men and women in their forties, fifties, and sixties. The society advocated thrift and economy to the point that we even ate our potato skins. People would usually throw the skins away, but in the Virtue Society we talked about morality and eating what others do not like to eat. So I said to the students, “When everyone eats their potatoes, they shouldn’t spit the skins out. Force them down. This will show that we actually do eat what others cannot eat.”
I said it and I ate my own potato skin, but the students for the most part let my words blow past their ears like the wind and spit the skins out on the tables or on the floor. When we ate, no one was allowed to talk. I had already told them not to spit out the skins so I didn’t pay any attention to what they did. After lunch I went around the tables with a bowl, picked up all the potato skins that the students had spit out on the tables and on the floor and I stood in front of them and ate them. The students were aghast and very embarrassed. From that time on, not a single student dared to spit out his potato skin. They never spit them out again. If I hadn’t actually practiced what I preached with my own example, I could not have influenced the students to change. They spit the skins out of their mouths and I put the skins in my mouth and ate them. They were greatly ashamed. This is called “eating what others cannot eat and bearing what others cannot bear.”
Bearing what others cannot bear: What is it that people cannot bear? Temper! If you bully a person a little bit, he will get angry. If you can bear others’ anger, perhaps by pretending that they are singing you a song or speaking a foreign language, it is as if nothing happened. Bearing, enduring, yielding, and renouncing are all primary prerequisites of those Bodhisattvas who cultivate the great conduct.
6. The Sixth Quality of a Mahasattva is that they pass through great kalpas. How great are the great kalpas that they pass through? I will tell you: One kalpa is 139,600 years. One thousand kalpas is a small kalpa. Twenty small kalpas is a middle kalpa. Four middle kalpas is a great kalpa.
How many great kalpas does the Bodhisattva pass through? Three great uncountable numbers of kalpas. The Bodhisattva traverses three great asamkhyeyakalpas. Asamkhyeya is a Sanskrit word which means “uncountable”. Think it over: what does it add up to? Three great asamkhyeya kalpas--how long would you say this was?
So it‘s not easy to be a Bodhisattva. It takes a long, long time. You must pass through many, many great kalpas to be a Bodhisattva Mahasattva.
7. The Seventh Quality of a Mahasattva is that he seeks the great result. What is the great result? The result of anuttarasamyaksambodhi, that is, of supreme equal and proper enlightenment, the result of the realization of Buddhahood.
A Bodhisattva who has all seven qualities is therefore called a Mahasattva, a Great Being.
How many Mahasattvas were present at the speaking of the Lotus Sutra? There were eighty thousand of them, all of whom had entered the path towards certification to the supreme equal and proper enlightenment. Once on the path, they only made forward progress.
All irreversibly established in anuttarasamyaksambodhi . There are three kinds of irreversibility. 1) Irreversibility of Position. As Great Vehicle Bodhisattvas, they would never retreat to the position of the Two Vehicles. 2) Irreversibility of Thought. Bodhisattvas are ever mindful in the practice of the Bodhisattva Way, in the practice of the Six Perfections and the Ten Thousand Conducts. In every thought they think only of going forward; they never retreat. It would never occur to them, “Ah, I’m not going to practice the Bodhisattva Way anymore. I’ll go back to the Two Vehicles and be an independent Arhat instead.” It would never happen because they are irreversible. 3) Irreversibility of Practice: They only go forward; they do not retreat. Thus, there are Three Kinds of Irreversibility: position, thought, and practice.
All had attained dharani and the eloquence of delight in speech.Dharani is a Sanskrit word interpreted as meaning “unite and maintain” or “suppressing and holding”. “Unite” means that they unite all Dharmas. “Hold” means that they hold limitless principles. The Dharmas spoken by the Buddha contain an unlimited number of principles and the irreversible Bodhisattvas had all obtained dharani, the uniting of all Dharmas and the holding of all principles.
Dharani also means “spell” or “mantra”. It means suppressing and holding because dharanis give rise to goodness and eradicate evil. They suppress evil and uphold the good. They suppress evil and cause good deeds to be practiced. It also carries the meaning of “doing no evil and practicing all good acts,” which is the meaning of the term “morality”. However there is a slight difference in that the moral precepts must be upheld by you. With the dharani, you recite a mantra which helps you to sever evil and cultivate goodness. The power of the mantra aids you.
There are many kinds of dharanis. The Sutra text states, “all had attained dharani and the eloquence of delight in speech.” This could also be interpreted to mean that they had attained the Dharani of the Eloquence of Delight in Speech.
And turned the irreversible Dharma Wheel.. The Bodhisattvas turn the Wheel of Dharma to teach and transform living beings. What is meant by turning the Dharma Wheel? There is a common phrase, “The Dharma Wheel Forever Turns.” The eternal turning of the Dharma Wheel refers to the irreversible Dharma Wheel. What is meant by the turning of the Dharma Wheel? For example, here we lecture on the Sutras and speak the Dharma. We are also translating the Sutras into English, and introducing the Buddhadharma to all people and this, too, is turning the Dharma Wheel. There are not just one but many different types of work involved in propagating the Buddhadharma, all of which are considered to be the turning of the Dharma Wheel to teach living beings. Therefore, as disciples of the Buddha, we must take the work of turning the Dharma Wheel as our own work, as our duty and responsibility. We should do whatever work we can do to turn the Wheel of the Buddhadharma.
For example, now in the scientific age, we have a wet-copier and every day we put out typescript copies of the English translation of the previous night’s lecture so that everyone can have a copy. This is called turning the Dharma Wheel. Turning the Dharma Wheel is the circulation of the Buddhadharma so that it flows like water and never stops.
When I was young, I also did the work of propagating the Buddhadharma. At first, before I was able to lecture on the Sutras, I printed Sutras. Whenever someone was printing a Sutra, I would contribute enough money for the printing of a few hundred or a few thousand copies. Then I would give them to my friends or relatives, perhaps at New Year’s or some other holiday, or on their birthdays I would make them a present of a copy of a Buddhist Sutra. The Chinese like red paper, so I wrapped them in red paper so that they made beautiful gifts. I would say, “I am giving you the most important gift there is. Why? Because it can save your life, the life of your wisdom and your Dharma body. Because you are my friend, I am giving you that which I like most--the Buddhadharma.” I spoke to them very sincerely and earnestly and they could not but read them. Once they read them, they would become interested in the Buddhadharma and come to me saying, “Where did you get those Sutras? I have some friends I would like to give copies to. Can you give me a few more?” Then I was in business distributing books. No matter who was printing Sutras, I would subscribe. While I was in Manchuria, my wealth consisted of nothing but Buddhist Sutras. I had more Sutras in my room in Manchuria than there are in this entire lecture hall--a whole lot. Wherever I go, I have a lot of Sutras.
In Hong Kong I spent the most money on Sutras. I probably printed more than a million dollars HK worth of Sutras. When I was about to come to America I gave away over several hundred thousand dollars worth of Buddhist Sutras; I would give each person a big package of them as gifts. I had planned to give them away gradually, but because I was going to America, I hurried up and gave them away because I had no place to store them. The thing I liked to do most was print Sutras. Now that you are making copies of the lectures this is also a very good way to spread the Dharma. It pleases me a great deal. This is how I turned the irreversible Dharma Wheel; I hope that everyone will exert themselves vigorously in this regard.
They had made offerings to limitless hundreds of thousands of Buddhas.Not only did they turn the irreversible Dharma Wheel, but they made offerings to all the Buddhas, limitless numbers of them, an uncountable number. How many? Hundreds of thousands of Buddhas.
And in the presence of those Buddhas had planted the roots of a myriad virtues.These great Bodhisattvas throughout limitless kalpas and in the presence of limitless Buddhas had sent down and nourished the roots of the virtuous nature. How did they plant them? How did they nurture them? By making offerings to the Triple Jewel and turning the irreversible Dharma Wheel. If you can make offerings to the Triple Jewel, that is to nourish and nurture the roots of your virtuous nature.
They were constantly receiving those Buddhas’ praise. The eighty thousand Mahasattvas were constantly, at all times receiving the praise and commendation of all the Buddhas who said to them, “Good men! You are truly fine! Good men! You practice the Bodhisattva Way and you are not bad at all. The Buddhas all praise the Bodhisattvas.
They cultivated themselves in compassion.They had always used a compassionate heart to teach and transform beings, and they cultivated compassion in their own persons.
And were well able to enter the wisdom of the Buddhas. They were quite capable of attaining the Buddhas’ wisdom.
They had penetrated the great wisdom and arrived at the other shore.They had penetrated the greatest wisdom there is, that is, the understanding of the Buddhas. Great wisdom is the Buddhas’ wisdom, the Buddhas’ wisdom is the great wisdom. Having attained the great wisdom of the Buddhas, they were then able to arrive at the other shore. The “other shore” refers to the Sanskrit word “Paramita,” perfection.
Their reputations extended throughout limitless world realms.The eighty thousand Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas’ names had been heard in all the limitless worlds by all living beings who were constantly aware of them.
And they were able to cross over countless hundreds of thousands of living beings. They could save and transform an uncountable number of hundreds of thousands of tens of thousands of them.
Their names were: the Bodhisattva Manjushri, the Bodhisattva Who Contemplates the World‘s Sounds, the Bodhisattva Who Has Attained Great Might, the Bodhisattva Constant Vigor, the Bodhisattva Unresting, the Bodhisattva Jeweled Palm, the Bodhisattva Medicine King, the Bodhisattva Courageous Giving, the Bodhisattva Jeweled Moon, the Bodhisattva Moonlight, the Bodhisattva Full Moon, the Bodhisattva Great Strength, the Bodhisattva Unlimited Strength, the Bodhisattva Who Has Transcended the Three Realms, the Bodhisattva Bhadrapala, the Bodhisattva Maitreya, the Bodhisattva Jewel Accumulation, the Bodhisattva Guiding Master--and other Bodhisattvas, Mahasattvas such as these, eighty thousand in all.
E3. Partial listing of their names.
What were the names of the eighty thousand Mahasattvas? Since there were eighty thousand of them, if we were to list every name, the Lotus Sutra would be too long. So only the few who are leaders have been listed to represent the rest.
Their names were: the Bodhisattva Manjushri. Manjushri, a Sanskrit word, is interpreted as “wonderful virtue” or “wonderfully auspicious”. Of the Bodhisattvas, Manjushri has the greatest wisdom and so he is known as “The Greatly Wise Bodhisattva Manjushri.” Among the Bodhisattvas he holds the highest rank and so he is listed first, before the Bodhisattva Who Contemplates the Sounds of the World. There are four great Bodhisattvas: Bodhisattva Manjushri, the Bodhisattva Who Contemplates the Sounds of the World, (Sanskrit--Avalokiteshvara, Chinese--Guanshiyin), The Bodhisattva Universal Worthy (Sanskrit--Samantabhadra, Chinese-Puxian) and Earth Store Bodhisattva (Sanskrit--Kshitigarbha, Chinese--Dizang).
Bodhisattva Manjushri dwells in China on Wutai Mountain where his Bodhimanda is located. His efficacious responses are marvelous beyond all reckoning. He realized Buddhahood long ago and was called Buddha of the Race of Honored Dragon Kings. After realizing Buddhahood, he “hid away the great and manifested the small,” in order to practice the Bodhisattva Way, and teach and transform living beings, and help the Buddha propagate the Dharma. His spiritual penetrations and miraculous functions are inconceivable.
In China, the great contemporary late elder master the Most Venerable Hsu Yun, made a vow to bow once every three steps to Mount Wutai to pay reverence to the Bodhisattva Manjushri. He bowed from Mount Putuo, an island in the South China Sea, one thousand miles to Mount Wutai in Shanxi province. Every time he took three steps, he made one full prostration to the ground. Then he rose, took three steps, and bowed again. He was bowing to the Bodhisattva Manjushri, seeking a response so that he might open his wisdom and become greatly wise just like that Bodhisattva. The distance was approximately one thousand miles. At one bow every three steps, how long would you say it took him? A long time. If you want to know the details, see Elder Master Hsu Yun’s Year-to-Year Autobiography or his Pictorial Biography.
When the Venerable Hsu Yun had reached the Yellow River it was winter and snowing. He took refuge from the storm in an old vendor’s straw hut beside the Yellow River. The snow fell unceasingly and the Venerable Hsu Yun was right on the verge of dying from the cold and hunger.
Just then, an old beggar came by. He melted some snow in a pan and made some yellow rice gruel and gave it to the Elder Master. When the Elder Master had eaten it he felt revived and asked the beggar his name.
“My name is Wen,” the beggar said.
“And what is your other name?” the Master asked.
“I am called Wen Ji,” the beggar replied, and he asked the Master, “Where are you from?”
“I have come from Mount Putuo in the South China Sea,” the Master replied.
Wen Ji pointed to the snow and said, “Do you have this in the South China Sea?”
The Master replied, “No.”
“Then what do people eat there?”
The Master was speechless.
The two of them decided to journey together to Mount Wutai. The beggar didn’t bow; he carried the Master’s pack. Without the heavy pack to carry, his bowing and walking was much easier. Before, it took great effort to bow and rise. Now he was able to bow faster. When Master Hsu Yun was bowing, the Master asked Wen Ji, “Where are you from?”
“I come from Mount Wutai,” said the beggar, “and all the monks there know me. They are all my good friends.”
They continued their journey. Sometimes they stayed in monasteries along the way, and the monks would gang up on the beggar and scold the Master. “If you are making a pilgrimage, make one. If you’re bowing you should just bow. Why have you got an attendant? What kind of show are you putting on?” they jeered.
Everywhere they went, the two of them were harrassed. Sometimes people wouldn’t even allow the beggar to stay in the temples, but would immediately throw him out. He underwent a great deal of harsh treatment.
Although the beggar had been able to endure a lot of abuse, when the two of them had nearly reached Mount Wutai, he finally decided he had suffered enough at the hands of the monks and he told the Master, “Up ahead, someone will come to help you, but I am going to leave now,” and he took his leave.
The Master went on ahead and sure enough, he soon met an official from Hunan with a horsecart. The official put the Master’s pack on the horsecart and the Master continued to bow once every three steps.
When they arrived at Mount Wutai, the Master asked if they knew a beggar named Wen Ji. But no one, not a single monk on Mount Wutai knew of such a beggar. Later, someone asked the Master, “What was the beggar’s name?”
“Wen Ji”, the Master replied.
“Oh! That’s Manjushri Bodhisattva! ‘Wen’ stands for ‘Wenshu’ [the Chinese transliteration of Manju) and ‘Ji’ stands for ‘auspicious’ [one of the meanings of ‘shri’ in Manjushri). The beggar was the Bodhisattva Wonderfully Auspicious, Manjushri.
So the Venerable Master Hsu Yun had bowed all the way to Mount Wutai seeking a magical response from Manjushri Bodhisattva and he moved the Bodhisattva to come and carry his backpack for him. Master Hsu Yun made the tremendously difficult journey of over a thousand miles to pay reverence to Manjushri Bodhisattva and Manjushri was walking right along with him for ever such a long time but he didn’t recognize him. When, later, he realized that it was Manjushri Bodhisattva, he was nowhere to be seen.
So the wonderful occurrences of Manjushri Bodhisattva are indeed inconceivable.
Because the Bodhisattva is wonderful, he transformed himself into a beggar. He could have transformed himself into a wealthy elder with a horse and carriage to help the Master, but instead he went with the Master on foot, and shared his hardships. There are many such incidences of his magical deeds, but we won’t go into them now.
When Manjushri Bodhisattva was born, ten kinds of extraordinary events occurred which show that his merit and virtue was perfect and his wisdom was the foremost.
The ten auspicious signs that manifested at Manjushri’s birth were:
1. The room was filled with bright light. On the day that Manjushri Bodhisattva was born, his house was filled with a light that was unlike that of the sun, moon, stars, or lamps. This light represented the Bodhisattva’s light of Prajna wisdom. It indicated that this Bodhisattva had great wisdom which could dispel all darkness.
2. The vessels were filled with sweet dew. Sweet dew is an elixir of immortality found in the heavens. If you drink it, it will make you full. You can go without eating and not feel hungry. We ordinary people get hunger pangs if we skip a meal, because we have not obtained the nourishment of sweet dew. Guo Xian has not eaten for several days, and he is so hungry that he can barely come to recite the Sutras or listen to the Dharma. However, he still forces himself to come to the lectures. See how he sits there with his head down and body hunched over? It’s as if his spine has gone soft. When I asked him how many days he had gone without eating, he said he didn’t remember. I asked him, “Has it been a hundred days?” He said no. “Has it been ten days?” He said no. I think it’s been about a week. Poor child! He’s so gaunt from hunger, yet he still grits his teeth and continues to fast. I feel sorry for him. Today and tomorrow he can drink some water, tea, orange juice, or milk. He can eat an apple, or an orange. He can take it easy. I don’t want him to starve, or else his mother will cry. It won’t do for my disciple to starve! Although his teacher won‘t cry, he will be very pained at heart. So, don’t be so foolish, you hear? [[[Disciple]]: Yes.] All living beings have the Buddha nature, but because you haven’t had the response of being anointed with sweet dew on the crown of your head, you feel hungry and listless. Since you’re so weak, you can look for an apple to eat. You can eat one, or even two. I will allow it. It won‘t be considered stealing.
Sweet dew can make you full, and it can make you feel pure and refreshed. If hungry ghosts are anointed on the crown with sweet dew, their offense karma is immediately eradicated and they can go off to rebirth. “The vessels were filled with sweet dew.” Manjushri Bodhisattva uses sweet dew Dharma to rescue all living beings. When the gate of sweet dew is opened, all the hungry ghosts come in and get their fill.
3. The seven treasures well forth from the earth. The seven treasures are gold, silver, lapis lazuli, crystal, mother-of-pearl, red pearls, and carnelian. They are considered treasures because of their rarity. In this world, whatever is rare is regarded as a treasure. Things that are abundantly found are not treasures. Dirt, for example, is basically very precious, because people cannot survive without it. However, no one cherishes it. If you tried to give people a handful of dirt, they wouldn’t want it. If you say, “This is the most precious thing and I would like to give it to you,” they take a look and see that it’s dirt, and they throw it on the ground. Why? Because dirt is found everywhere. Basically the earth is very valuable, but no one regards it as such, because it’s all over the place. Thus, it is not a treasure. Water is also a very precious resource without which we could not live. Not only people, but all living creatures depend on water for survival. So the Venerable Lao Zi said,
“The highest good is like water. Water well benefits the myriad things and does not contend. It dwells in places that people despise. Thus it is close to the Way.”
Water brings benefit to all things and beings, yet doesn’t claim any credit. It doesn’t say to plants, “It’s all because of me, water, that you are able to grow so large and have such gorgeous blooms. Without me, how could your blooms look so pretty? You really ought to thank me.” Water does not think like that. “It dwells in places that people despise.” Water dwells in the lowest places, where no one else likes to live.
Metal, wood, water, fire, and wood are all beneficial to people. Why don’t people conserve these things? Because there is so much. Since wood is everywhere, people don’t cherish it. Why do people prize gold? Because it is so scarce. Its scarcity is what makes it valuable. It is not found just anywhere. If you were to go to the Land of Ultimate Bliss, where the ground is made of gold, you’d find that dirt is valuable there, because there isn’t any. If you were to present someone there with a handful of dirt, they would cherish it the way we might cherish a piece of stone retrieved from the moon. It’s just a rock, but because it came from the moon, it is priceless. When a worthless bit of dirt from the Saha world is taken to the Land of Ultimate Bliss, it’s regarded as a rare treasure. The seven treasures are treasures because they are rare and not easy to obtain. Since Manjushri Bodhisattva has a limitless storehouse of treasures, at the time of his birth the seven treasures welled forth from the earth. There was an inexhaustible supply of them that could never be used up.
“Where are they?” you may ask.
They are at the place of Manjushri’s birth.
“Can I go there?” You should not be greedy. If you’re thinking of going there to take some of the treasures, perhaps the cost of getting there will exceed the worth of the treasures. So quit having such a false thought!
4. The gods opened the treasuries. The wheel-turning sage kings have seven treasures [a different list than the one given above], one of which is the guardians of the treasury, that is, gods who watch over their treasuries. The treasuries mentioned here were buried in the ground by people long ago and forgotten, so the gods opened them and exposed the treasures so people could take them.
5. Chickens gave birth to phoenixes. Basically of course, chickens only give birth to chickens. But at the time of Manjushri’s birth, they gave birth to phoenixes, a kind of auspicious bird. When someone sees a phoenix, it means something lucky is going to happen to them. In ancient times, Confucius once said, “The phoenix does not come. The river does not give forth the map. I should also stop.” Earlier, Fu Xi had drawn the Eight Trigrams in accordance with the drawings on the back of a turtle that came out of the river. Confucius says, “I’m going to stop. I don’t need to preach about the Way of virtue anymore.”
6. Pigs gave birth to dragons. This is even more unusual than chickens giving birth to phoenixes. Basically, dragons are born from dragons, and phoenixes are born from phoenixes. But at this time, the pig raised at home gave birth to a piglet that had dragon scales on its body.
7. Horses gave birth to unicorns. Horses ordinarily give birth to horses, but at this time they gave birth to unicorns. The unicorn can be considered a king of beasts, like the lion and the tiger. Unicorns are auspicious creatures. During the reign of Emperor Yao in ancient China, there were many unicorns and phoenixes and everyone could see them. Later, as living beings’ offense karma grew heavier, these auspicious birds and beasts were no longer seen. In “Huai Ling Jie” Confucius says:
In the times of Tang and Yu, unicorns and phoenixes roamed freely.
Those times are no longer; what have you come for now?
Unicorn! Unicorn! My heart grieves for you!
During the Tang dynasty of Emperor Yao and the Yu dynasty of Emperor Shun, unicorns and phoenixes often came to this world to roam and were seen by people. Confucius says, “The Tang and Yu dynasties are long gone, so why have you come? What do you seek? Unicorn, unicorn, I’m really worried for you.” When Confucius was born, a unicorn had come and given forth a precious book from its mouth. His mother had tied a string around the neck of the unicorn. Years later, Confucius saw a unicorn struck down by hunters and recognized it by the string around its neck as the same unicorn that had appeared at his birth. Seeing the unicorn struck down by hunters, Confucius knew that he did not have long to live. That’s why he sighed and spoke the above verse.
The seventh sign is that horses gave birth to unicorns.
8. Cows gave birth to white zai. The white zai is an extremely rare animal of white color. It‘s neither like an ox, nor like a horse, nor like a donkey, nor like a mule. It’s not like anything at all. It looks like a horse, but it has the hooves of an ox. It’s in a special category all of its own. It is also an auspicious animal.
9 The grain in the granaries turned to gold. I asked one of my disciples, “Of what use is gold? Can it be eaten? Grain can be cooked and eaten, but how can one eat it after it turns to gold?” He gave a very intelligent answer, saying, “If you exchange the gold for money, you can buy lots of grain.” I believe that. His answer makes a lot of sense. I didn’t understand before, but his answer has suddenly enlightened me. He also asked who was greedy, and I said I was. I’m greedy for all of you to become Buddhas quickly. That’s what my greed is made of. So I don’t want my disciple [the one who is fasting) to starve; I want him to become a Buddha faster.
10. Elephants with six tusks appeared. As we know, elephants usually only have two tusks. At the time of Manjushri’s birth however, the elephants raised by his family grew six. tusks.
These ten auspicious signs occurred at the time of the Bodhisattva’s birth and represent the Ten Perfections of the greatly wise Bodhisattva Manjushri, which make him different from other Bodhisattvas.
If you want to meet Manjushri Bodhisattva, you should first remember these ten auspicious signs. Then when you see Manjushri, you can say, “Elder One, you are an old friend of mine, the teacher who understands me the best.”
“Why do you say that?” he will ask.
“Why, I know the ten auspicious signs that occurred at the time of your birth.” When you recite them for him, he will be delighted and say, “Yes, you are my old friend.” He won’t deny it, because you really know him. If you don’t know them, then although Manjushri Bodhisattva is not prejudiced, since you don’t recognize what he’s all about, he won’t draw near you. The greater your recognition of him, the closer he will be to you. The reason we want to know the realm of every Bodhisattva is because we want to be every Bodhisattva’s friend and brother. Every Bodhisattva is our good and wise advisor. Each one of you will be good and wise advisors of Bodhisattvas one day, so you shouldn’t look lightly upon yourselves.
The Bodhisattva Who Contemplates The World‘s Sounds. In Sanskrit the Bodhisattva’s name is Avalokiteshvara. In Chinese, it is Guanshiyin, “contemplator of the world’s sounds” and Guan Zi Zai, “contemplator of self-mastery”. We should all recognize this Bodhisattva. Because he is very compassionate, no one fears him and everyone knows him. This Bodhisattva is like a compassionate mother who grants the wishes of all living beings according to what they seek. There is a popular saying in Chinese,
Home, home, Guanshiyin;
Guanshiyin Bodhisattva is Amitabha Buddha’s chief disciple. Amitabha Buddha is the teaching host in the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss. To his left stands the Bodhisattva Guanyin and to his right, the Great Strength Bodhisattva. They are known as the Three Sages of the Western Direction. When Amitabha Buddha steps down as teaching host, the Bodhisattva Guanyin will succeed him. Bodhisattva Guanshiyin will be succeeded by Great Strength Bodhisattva.
Because the Bodhisattva Who Contemplates the World‘s Sounds can manifest in countless forms to relieve beings of their sufferings, he is known as the Greatly Compassionate Guanshiyin. With a thousand eyes he views living beings tossing in the sea of suffering, and with a thousand hands he reaches down to pull them out.
The twenty-fifth chapter of The Dharma Flower Sutra deals with the Bodhisattva‘s miraculous powers. We shall wait until then to discuss them further.
The Bodhisattva Who Has Obtained Great Might. Whenever this Bodhisattva takes a step, the entire great trichiliocosm quakes in six different ways. This is why he is called “Great Strength”.
What are the Six Types of Earthquakes?
The first three refer to movement:
The following three refer to sounds:
These movements are much more severe than those which could be caused by our biggest bombs. However, unlike modern weapons which wreak havoc, the six types of quakes couldn‘t possibly hurt anyone.
The Bodhisattva Who Has Obtained Great Might is also known as the Bodhisattva of Boundless Light because one who sees the light of but one of the Bodhisattva‘s hair-pores will see as well the pure, subtle light of the Buddhas of the ten directions.
The Bodhisattva Constant Vigor. “Constant” means he never quits. He never quits being vigorous in his cultivation. There are two kinds of vigor: bodily vigor and mental vigor. This Bodhisattva cultivates practices to teach and transform living beings. He is not like some of us who may start a project and then as soon as the problems start to arise, abandon it in favor of taking a nap. The Bodhisattva Constant Vigor never sleeps, he just keeps working.
He will pass through limitless kalpas trying to teach one single living being and help him to bring forth the heart of Bodhi. He may instruct him in countless Dharma doors, but in all that time, he may still be unable to save him. Despite the fact that he has spent so much time and effort trying to save him, he will never grow weary or become discouraged. If we would like to save living beings, we should follow his example. If, in this life, we are unable to save someone, we should resolve to try again in the next life, or the life after, or the life after that, until we finally succeed.
On the other hand, if you notice that someone has been following you around, trying to teach and transform you, you should hurry up ant take their teaching to heart and bring forth faith. That person may very well be the Bodhisattva Constant Vigor who has gone to so much trouble life after life, just trying to teach you! You shouldn’t go on ignoring him. Listen to him!
Mental vigor means that you never become discouraged, you never think, “It‘s too hard!” and you never feel that there are simply too many difficulties involved in teaching and transforming others. Constant vigor is unflagging diligence.
The Bodhisattva Unresting. You may wonder, “Just what is the difference between Constant Vigor and Unresting? Aren‘t the two concepts pretty much the same? Why do we need two separate Bodhisattvas?”
Actually it is not known how many Constant Vigor Bodhisattvas there are. They are numberless. We also cannot calculate the number of Bodhisattvas Unresting there are. In other words, if you are constantly vigorous in your cultivation of the Buddhadharma, then you, yourself, are the Bodhisattva Constant Vigor. If you pursue your study of the Dharma without resting, then you are the Bodhisattva Unresting. It should be clear that there are an incalculable number of these Bodhisattvas.
“But what is the difference between the two?”
Although they are basically the same, if you want to speak of their differences, the Bodhisattva Constant Vigor continually enters the paths of rebirth in order to save living beings; the Bodhisattva Unresting passes through an enormous amount of time without ever becoming tired.
“Not getting tired” means that one does not fear fatigue. If one is bowing to the Buddha or reciting Sutras, one does not rest the moment one feels a bit tired. No matter what one does, one never rests. The Bodhisattva Unresting is always extremely busy, but he never gets upset because no one is helping him or because no one knows that he‘s doing good deeds. He would never advertise his own merit. There was a layman who used to come here and advertise his merit, praising himself for having worked for the temple or given money. His propaganda didn’t get very far, however, because more and more Americans came to the temple and his English wasn’t very good. He was quite the reverse from Unresting Bodhisattva who, for as many kalpas as there are sand grains in the Ganges River, did not rest at all and never took a break. The days turned into months and the months turned into years; the years turned into hundreds of thousands of tens of thousands of millions of kalpas, and the Bodhisattva Unresting did not rest at all.
The Bodhisattva Jeweled Palm. Jewels refer to treasures, Dharma jewels. Palm is the palm of the hand. A Bodhisattva may be named after his practices or his original vows. What is meant by practices? They are the Dharma doors which he cultivated. What are original vows? They are the vows he made on the causal ground when he was just beginning his cultivation. Some Bodhisattvas take their name from their virtuous practices and morality; others take their name from their special powers and skills.
The Bodhisattva Jeweled Palm holds many different kinds of Dharma jewels in his palm. The first is the As-You-Will Pearl Dharma Jewel. With the As-You-Will Pearl, everything is “as your heart wishes” and you get what you seek. The second jewel he holds is the Lariat Hand and the third is the Jeweled Bowl Hand. The fourth is the Jeweled Sword Hand, the fifth, the Vajra Hand and Eye. The sixth is the Jeweled Pestle Hand. The seventh is the Bestowing Fearlessness Hand. The Bestowing Fearlessness Hand dispels all fear.
On the causal ground, the Bodhisattva Jeweled Palm cultivated the Forty-two Hands and Eyes of the Thousand-handed, Thousand-eyed Bodhisattva Who Contemplates the Sounds of the World. Thus he obtained the name Jeweled Palm, because all his palms hold all manner of gems and Dharma jewels. So he is called Bodhisattva Jeweled Palm.
The Bodhisattva Medicine King. Medicine King Bodhisattva and Medicine Superior Bodhisattva were explained in the Shurangama Sutra in the passage in which twenty-five sages each discuss the methods they used to obtain perfect penetration. These two Bodhisattvas were brothers.
There is an account in Buddhism of their past affinities. Long ago, there was a Wheel-Turning Sage King who had a thousand sons. The thousand sons all made vows to leave home and cultivate. Accordingly, they are to become the thousand Buddhas of the present age, called the Worthy Kalpa. Of the thousand Buddhas, four have already become Buddhas, Shakyamuni Buddha being the fourth to appear in the Worthy Kalpa.
The Wheel-Turning King also had a concubine by whom he had two additional sons. The elder son made a vow to protect and support his thousand older brothers when they became Buddhas. Whenever a Buddha appears in the world, he acts as their protector.
The second son, seeing that his brother had vowed to be a Dharma Protector, vowed that whenever any one of his thousand brothers became a Buddha, he would be the first to make offerings to him, but not just once, he would continue to make offerings all during the time that Buddha dwelt in the world. And he would not make offerings to just one older brother, but to all one thousand of them, each as they became Buddhas.
After those Buddhas each enter Nirvana and the Dharma-ending Age descends, the younger brother has vowed to rescue living beings. Using various kinds of medicines, he cures the illnesses of living beings. At the end of the kalpa, there occur the three disasters of flood, fire, and wind as well as the disasters of war and pestilence. In epidemics, those who contract the disease will die immediately. But the Bodhisattva Medicine King has vowed to save all sick living beings. This is Bodhisattva Medicine King’s past life history. He devoted himself to curing the illnesses of living beings. Not only did he cure the illnesses which plagued their bodies, but he cured as well their mental illnesses. He cured the sicknesses of their hearts and bodies so that afterwards they could cultivate.
The Bodhisattva Courageous Giving. Courage is bravery. One must have courage in order to give. If one has no courage, one will be unable to give. The Ten Thousand Conducts take the Six Perfections as their mainstay, and the Six Perfections take giving as their mainstay. Thus, the other Perfections and the Ten Thousand Conducts are all included within the practice of giving.
If you give with courage and bravery, the merit and virtue you will obtain is inconceivable. If, in giving, you use an inconceivable spirit and energy, the reward you obtain will also be inconceivable.
For example, we may intend to give, but as soon as we have a thought of ourselves, our good intentions vanish. “If I give my money to him, what am I going to do? If I give away my clothing, what am I going to wear? If I give away my house, where am I going to live?” This is an example of a lack of courage. As soon as one thinks of oneself, one will lose one’s courage and fail to give.
Take for example, food and drink. You may have the thought to give it away, but then it occurs to you, “If I give this away what will I eat?” The moment you think of yourself, your courage dissolves along with the spirit of courageous giving.
The Bodhisattva Courageous Giving thinks to give and, without further ado, he gives. He thinks, “He’s in trouble. I’ll help him out. I’ll give him a hundred dollars to buy some clothes and something to eat.” He gives and that’s all there is to it. Once you think of yourself, you will lose your courage. This Bodhisattva gives with courage; he gives wealth, Dharma and fearlessness in the most vigorous and energetic fashion and so he is called the Bodhisattva Courageous Giving.
The Bodhisattva Jeweled Moon takes his name from the jeweled moon. The Bodhisattva Moonlight takes his name from the light of the moon which dispels the darkness of the night. The Bodhisattva Full Moon. These three Bodhisattvas, Jeweled Moon, Moonlight, and Full Moon take their names from firmly holding the moral precepts. As it says in the Shurangama Sutra, “Stern and pure in the Vinaya, they were great exemplars in the Three Realms.” The Vinaya is the moral code. The three Bodhisattvas held the precepts until their light shone as brightly as the full moon. Although the names differ, they all come from the pure holding of the precepts. In reality, the Bodhisattva Jeweled Moon is just the Bodhisattva Full Moon, and the Bodhisattva Moonlight is just the Bodhisattva Jeweled Moon. It is said,
Purely holding the precepts
One is like the full moon;
The body and mouth are pure,
With no flaws or errors.
When the karma of body, mouth, and mind is pure, all darkness vanishes. Thus, the three Bodhisattvas take their names from having cultivated the observance of the precepts.
The Bodhisattva Great Strength. The Bodhisattva Great Strength is especially powerful. His great strength is equal to that of the Bodhisattva Who Has Attained Great Might.
The Bodhisattva Limitless Unlimited Strength. Great Strength is not limitless strength. This Bodhisattva‘s strength surpasses that of the Bodhisattva Great Strength. Actually great strength is just limitless strength and limitless strength is great strength.
The Bodhisattva Who Transcend ed s the Three Realms. This Bodhisattva transcends the realm of desire, the realm of form, and the formless realm. How does he transcends them? It is by means of his great strength and also by means of his limitless strength. The Bodhisattvas Great Strength, Limitless Unlimited Strength, and the Bodhisattva Who Transcend ed s the Three Realms all cultivate the same practice, the Perfection of Vigor. They go forward with heroic vigor. How do we know that they cultivate vigor? Their great strength, limitless strength, and the transcending of the three realms are proof. The three names are actually the same. Great Strength is Limitless Strength. Limitless Strength is the One Who Transcends the Three Realms. Without limitless strength, one could not surpass the three realms. So the three Bodhisattvas cultivate the practice of vigor and they have great, limitless strength and the courage and spirit to surpass the three realms. Therefore, they are always vigorous and they always go forward--that‘s what their names mean.
The Bodhisattva Bhadrapala. There are three ways of interpreting this Bodhisattva’s name. The first is “Worthy Protector”, the second is “Worthy Leader”, and the third is “Worthy Guardian”.
What is meant by “Worthy Protector”? This Bodhisattva is able to protect the Buddha’s work and so he is called “Worthy Protector”. He is one of the Great Bodhisattvas, one of the leaders, a leader of worthy people--a “Worthy Leader”. His name also means Worthy Guardian, for among the sages and worthies, he is able to guard and support living beings. Thus, the word Bhadrapala has these three meanings.
The Bodhisattva Maitreya. Maitreya means “compassionate clan”. He is also known as Ajita, “Invincible” because no heavenly demons or externalists can be victorious over him. Maitreya Bodhisattva dwells in the inner court of the Tushita Heaven and cultivates the “compassionate heart samadhi”. Everyone who meets him brings forth a compassionate heart. Because he is compassionate towards all beings, all living beings are fond of him and loyal to him.
Bhadrapala Bodhisattva cultivates the Perfection of Dhyana Samadhi. The Bodhisattva Compassionate Clan, or Invincible, cultivates the “compassionate heart samadhi”, which is also called “the patience samadhi”.
When Shakyamuni Buddha steps down as teaching host of the Saha world, Maitreya will succeed him. When will this happen? Many externalists say, “Maitreya Bodhisattva has come. Maitreya Bodhisattva has appeared in the world.” But they are talking nonsense. Why do I say this? Shakyamuni Buddha stated very clearly when Maitreya would come.
This present world kalpa is now in a period of decrease. Every hundred years, man’s average lifespan decreases by one year and his height by one inch. When man’s average lifespan is ten years, the period of increase will begin again and every hundred years man’s height will increase one inch and his average lifespan will increase by one year. When man’s lifespan has reached eighty-four thousand years, the period of decline will begin again and when man’s lifespan has decreased to eighty thousand years, Maitreya Bodhisattva will appear in the world. He will come to teach and transform living beings in the “Three Dragon Flower Assemblies”. So those present day externalists who do not understand the Buddhadharma are simply indulging in confused prattle. The time of Maitreya Bodhisattva’s appearance has been definitely fixed.
According to the calculations within the Buddhadharma, man’s average lifespan at present is between sixty and sixty-five years. When the average lifespan has decreased to ten years it will begin to increase again. How much time will that take? Then, it will increase to eighty-four thousand years. How long will that be? Then it will again decrease until it reaches eighty-thousand years and Maitreya Bodhisattva will then appear in the world. So those people who presently speak nonsense are truly pitiable.
The Bodhisattva Jewel Accumulation. This Bodhisattva has accumulated many treasures. What are they? He has accumulated limitless, boundless merit and virtue. The merit and virtue which he has amassed is like a precious treasure--Dharma treasure.
The Bodhisattva Guiding Master. What is a guiding master? To guide is to lead. A master is a teacher. He is the guide and teacher of living beings and he shows them the Way. Now we have people who take tourists out on tours and they are called tour guides. The Bodhisattva Guiding Master leads people to return to the proper road, to return to the Buddha path. Who does he lead? He leads those who have fallen into the hells. When people have fallen into the hells, they do not think to bring forth the Bodhi mind. As they undergo punishment and torment, they do not know to repent and reform. So the Bodhisattva Guiding Master uses all manner of expedient devices to lead them to bring forth again the heart of Bodhi and to cultivate the Way to Bodhi. This is the meaning of Guiding Master Bodhisattva’s name.
And other Bodhisattvas, Mahasattvas such as these, as the ones listed above, there were Bodhisattvas, Mahasattvas to the number of eighty thousand in all. When I lectured the Earth Store Sutra and when I lectured the Dharma Flower Sutra, I explained the Seven Qualities of a Mahasattva and I shall now give a test. Whoever remembers them should explain them for all of us: 1) They plant good roots, 2) They possess great wisdom, 3) They have great belief, 4) They understand the great principle, 5) They cultivate the great conduct, 6) They pass through great kalpas, and 7) They preach the great truth.
At that time, Shakra Devanam Indrah was present with his retinue of twenty thousand gods. Among them were the God Moon, the God Universal Fragrance, the God Jeweled Light, and the Four Great Heavenly Kings with their retinues, ten thousand gods in all. There was the God Comfort, and the God Great Comfort, with their retinues, thirty thousand gods in all.
D3. Other members of the assembly
E1. Desire Realm heaven gods.
At that time. At what time? At the time when Shakyamuni Buddha spoke the Dharma Flower Sutra, and the eighty thousand Bodhisattvas had all arrived at the Bodhimanda to join the assembly. The eighty thousand Bodhisattvas were great Bodhisattvas; they were the sons of the Buddha. The Buddha is the Dharma King and the Bodhisattvas are Dharma Princes. Therefore in the Amitabha Sutra it says, “Manjushri, the Dharma Prince...” In the Dharma Flower Sutra the great Bodhisattvas all were Dharma Princes.
The Buddha has three kinds of sons: 1) true sons, 2) initiate sons, and 3) uninitiate sons.
Who are the Buddha’s true sons? They are the Bodhisattvas, the Dharma Princes who are the Buddha’s external retinue as they protect and support the Buddha on the outside. The initiate sons are the Bhikshus and Arhats who act as the inner retinue. The uninitiate sons are the common people, living beings in general. They have not studied the Buddhadharma, and so they are “uninitiate”--they stand on the outside. One could also say that uninitiate sons are those within the Buddhadharma who, although they study the Buddhadharma, they have not certified to the fruit, and they remain on the level of a common person and are not at the position of the worthy sages.
The Buddha’s three kinds of sons include the Bodhisattvas, Arhats, and all living beings in the six paths. The beings in the six common realms and those in the three sagely realms, that is, beings in the nine Dharma Realms are all included among the Buddha’s sons.
Shakra Devanam Indrah is a Sanskrit word which means “able to do”. Able to do what? Able to be the heavenly lord. Shakra is the one many revere as “the lord on high” or “our father in heaven” or “the heavenly host”--in other words, God. He is the one whom the externalists worship. In the Shurangama Mantra he is referred to as “Yin tuo la ye.” “Yin tuo la ye”, the king is just Shakra Devanam Indrah.
Shakra is the ruler of the Heaven of the Thirty-three, the Trayastrimsha Heaven, which is the second of the six desire realm heavens. He is revered by the Chinese as the Great Jade Emperor, an emperor in the heavens. But he still ranks in the six common realms; he has not yet reached the level of the sage. In Buddhism he is regarded as a Dharma Protector. Although he protects the Buddhadharma, he is not even given a place to sit in the assembly of the Buddha; he has to stand.
If he doesn’t even have a seat in the assembly, why do so many people worship him? Why do they believe in him and regard him as the only true lord of heaven and earth?
Although he doesn’t even have a seat in the Buddhadharma and although he is forced to stand and act as a Dharma protector, within his own territory, he is the one and only mighty leader. There is an apt analogy for this situation:
There was a very small country village located deep in a mountain valley which had no communication with the outside world. The mayor often went to the big cities where he was recognized merely as a small town mayor. But to his citizens, country folk who had never been out, he said, “I am the world’s greatest ruler! Everyone must obey my commands. I am the emperor. I am the president. I am the world ruler.” Because he was their leader, they assumed that he was telling the truth. They didn’t know that above the mayor stood the governor, the senators, and the president, or perhaps the emperor. Why didn’t they know? Because they had never communicated with the world beyond their small isolated mountain village. As far as they knew, the mayor is the highest personage, the greatest in the world, and they all respected him and trusted him.
The Heavenly Lord is just like the small town mayor. Those who do not understand the Buddhadharma are like the poor mountain people who have never been to the big city and know nothing about the big, wide world. The country folk think that the mayor is the highest ruler and common people who do not understand the Buddhadharma only know that there is a Lord on High, a Heavenly Lord. They don’t know that above him are the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. They don’t know because the Lord doesn’t want his subjects to know, just like the mayor doesn’t want his citizens to mingle with the outside world because if they did, they would quickly realize that he was simply a small-time mayor, and they wouldn’t put quite so much faith in him. Shakra is that way, too.
Where did Shakra come from? Many, many lives in the past, Shakra was a woman. Not only was he a woman, he was a poor woman. Not only was he a poor woman, he was a beggar woman. One day, she came across an image of Kashyapa Buddha and noticed that its gold finish was cracked and peeling. She gathered thirty-two of her women friends together and they combined their efforts to raise funds in order to have the temple rebuilt and the image regilded. The merit and virtue they acquired from this act caused them to be reborn as heavenly lords, each in her own heaven. The woman who organized the project was reborn as Shakra in the heaven in the center, located on the peak of Mount Sumeru. Her thirty-two friends were born as rulers in thirty-two heavens surrounding it, eight on each of the four sides, making thirty-three heavens in all. Thus we have the name “Heaven of the Thirty-three”.
Ultimately, how many heavens are there?
There are an uncountable number. However, the Heaven of the Thirty-three is located on the peak of Mount Sumeru and is the second of the six desire realm heavens. The Heaven of the Four Great Kings is located half-way up Mount Sumeru and is the lowest of the six desire realm heavens.
Shakra Devanam Indrah was present with his retinue, those of his own kind, twenty thousand gods, among whom were the God Moon, the God Universal Fragrance who is fond of fragrance and so emits fragrance from his person continually which perfumes the Dharma Realm. The God Jeweled Light is fond of jewels and consequently emits jeweled light.
The Four Great Heavenly Kings dwell in the lowest desire realm heaven. It is half-way up Mount Sumeru. One king dwells on each side. In the east dwells Dhritarashtra, “the king who maintains his country.” In the south dwells Virudhaka, “increasing and growing.” In the west dwells Virupaksha, “broad eyes”. In the north dwells Vaishravana, “erudite.” They are known as the Four World-Protecting Kings because they endeavor to protect living beings of this world from ghosts and spirits who would harm them.
Each with his retinue, ten thousand gods in all.They all came to the Dharma Assembly to hear the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra.
Although the God Universal Fragrance is fond of fragrance and the God Jeweled Light is fond of jewels, it’s not that they like these things for themselves. The God Universal Fragrance knows that all living beings like fragrance and so he emits a fragrance which pervades the world. If it wasn’t for the fragrance this god emits, the world of human beings would reek with an unbearable stench. The fragrance he emits wards off those foul odors.
The God Jeweled Light knows that all beings are greedy for valuable objects. He radiates a jeweled light to fulfill the wishes of living beings. Once their wishes have been fulfilled, they can bring forth the heart of Bodhi. The God Universal Fragrance does not emit fragrance because he likes to smell it but because he knows all beings like good smells. The God Jeweled Light does not radiate jeweled light because he likes jewels, but because he knows all beings like them. The gods emit fragrance and light because they wish to cause living beings to awaken to the fact that such inconceivable states do exist in the world, and so that they will then bring forth the supreme heart of Bodhi.
The God Comfort. Extremely comfortable, he dwells in the fifth of the desire-realm heavens, the Nirmanarati Heaven, which is the “heaven of transformational bliss.” The bliss in this heaven is created through transformation.
The God Great Comfort is from the sixth desire realm heaven, the Paranirmitavashavartin Heaven, “the heaven of the comfort derived from the transformation of others.” The gods of this heaven do not find their comfort within their own heaven, but they take as their own the transformations created by the other gods in the other heavens.
With their retinue, thirty thousand gods in all. So many! More than the gods above. Shakra only had twenty thousand. These gods had ten thousand more.
There was the God King Brahma, ruler of the Saha world, as well as the Great Brahma Shikhin and the Great Brahma Brilliance, and others, with their retinues, twelve thousand gods in all.
E2. gods of the form realm heavens.
The Saha World. What is the Saha World? Saha is a Sanskrit word. The Saha World is the “sweet world,” the sweetest place there is.
“Dharma Master,” you say, “I’ve been listening to your lectures on the Sutras for a long time and you haven’t made a mistake yet. This time, however, you’re definitely wrong. ‘Saha’ is interpreted from the Sanskrit as ‘able to endure’ because it is a place where suffering is endured. If anything, Saha means ‘bitter’, not ‘sweet’.”
Really? Then if you know it is bitter, why do you cling to it? Why are you still unable to part with this world? Why do I explain Saha as sweet? Just because I see that you are unable to give it up. If you can’t bear to part with it, it must be sweet, don’t you think? If it were bitter, you would have let it go long ago.
You say, “Well, Dharma Master, if you put it that way, there’s not much I can say.”
There may not be much you can say, but I have something to add: this world is not bitter; it is also not sweet. It is a tasteless world--utterly bland. But, despite its lack of taste, it’s full of trouble. What kind of trouble? It’s real pain. So, Saha means “able to endure”, for in this world beings are able to bear a great deal of suffering, both internal and external. Externally, there are the Three Sufferings, the Eight Sufferings, and limitless sufferings.
They endure the Three Sufferings: the suffering within suffering, the suffering of decay, and the suffering of process. They endure the Eight Sufferings: the suffering of birth, old age, sickness, and death, the suffering of being separated from what one loves, the suffering of being around what one hates, the suffering of not getting what one wants, and the suffering of the raging blaze of the five skandhas.
So much suffering! And yet, they patiently endure it saying, “It is truly unbearable; how can it be endured?” Basically, it’s simply unbearable and yet still you are able to bear it, and what is more within this state of extreme suffering, you feel perfectly at ease in the Saha World. You can still patiently endure it; you are still unable to let go of this world. This is why I say that this is a “sweet” world. Most people think it’s as sweet as an apple. Actually, once they have tasted it, they know that this world is bitter, as bitter as huanglian, the bitterest of medicinal herbs. In fact, it’s even more bitter. Knowing the bitterness of this world, and yet still being able to bear and undergo it, is very difficult.
If you were able to take as much bitterness cultivating the Way, you would certainly become a Buddha. In Manchuria, my disciple Guo Shun said, “When I was a prisoner in a Japanese labor camp, I never had enough food to eat, I didn’t have enough clothes to keep me warm, and I never got enough sleep. If those who cultivate the Way could endure one half of the suffering endured by labor camp prisoners, they would most certainly accomplish Buddhahood.” After he left the home life, he ate only one meal a day, before noon, and never ate at other times. Day and night he sat in Dhyana, never lying down to sleep. Of all my disciples, he was foremost in the cultivation of ascetic practices.
Later, Guo Shun didn’t want to remain in the Saha World, and so he set himself on fire. After he had burned to death, his body remained sitting in full lotus posture. When the people went to examine him, they reached out and touched his body and it crumbled into ashes. This proves that he had samadhi power. If he had not had the skill to enter samadhi, the fire certainly would have caused him to jump. If ordinary people get burned, they invariably jump away. But when the fire had gone out, Guo Shun’s body remained in sitting posture and he hadn’t moved an inch--proof of his samadhi power.
So if anyone says that he has samadhi power and can enter samadhi, you can test him out. Burn him. If he doesn’t move, then he really does have samadhi power. If he’s still sitting there when the fire goes out, then his samadhi is genuine. If your samadhi power isn’t up to that, then don’t brag that you have samadhi. So I don’t dare say that I have samadhi power. If I said I did, I might get tested out.
The Saha world includes the three periods of time--past, present, and future, as well as space.
There was the God King Brahma, ruler of the Saha World. A ruler is one who is the boss. The God King Brahma is the king of the Great Brahma Heaven.
As well as the Great Brahma Shikhin. Shikhin is Sanskrit and means “crown curls”, because his head is covered with curls.
And the Great Brahma Brilliance--there was another god named Brilliance.
And others--more of them--with their retinue, twelve thousand gods in all.
More on the Three and Eight Sufferings.
The Three Sufferings:
1. The suffering within suffering. This is the suffering of poverty and distress. One may be poor and then follows the suffering of having no food to eat, having no clothes to wear, and no place to live. Would you call this suffering or not? It is suffering within suffering.
2. The suffering of decay. One may have food, clothes, and a place to live, in fact one may live in a fabulous penthouse apartment--one may not only have clothes to wear, but one may own the most fashionable, beautiful garments--one may not only have food to eat, but one may eat the world’s rarest and tastiest delicacies, things no one else has ever tasted--but it’s all too good to last, and the good times are soon over. Perhaps one’s house catches on fire, or one is robbed, or has some kind of accident, and, although one once enjoyed wealth and honor, one’s happiness decays and falls apart. This is the suffering of decay.
3. The suffering of process. If one does not undergo the suffering within suffering or the suffering of the decay of wealth and honor, one must still undergo the suffering of process. From youth to the prime of life, from the prime of life to old age, from old age to sickness, from sickness to death--in every thought there is shifting and changing, like the waves on water which follow one another without cease. No one can avoid this process of aging which continues unceasingly. This is the suffering of process.
The Eight Sufferings:
1. The suffering of birth.
2. The suffering of old age.
3. The suffering of sickness.
4. The suffering of death.
5. The suffering of being separated from what one loves. Through circumstances, you may be forced to separate from that person whom you love the most, the one you cannot bear to be separated from. This kind of suffering is extreme.
6. The suffering of being around what one hates. Perhaps you really hate someone. “I can’t stand him,” you say. “I’m leaving. I don’t want to be around him.” So you go somewhere else and meet someone exactly like him, whom you hate just as much. You think you can just walk out and that will be the end of it, but wherever you go, you run into someone just like him. This is the suffering of being around what you hate.
7. The suffering of not getting what one wants. When you wish for something and long for it but there’s no way you can obtain it, that is suffering.
8. The suffering of the raging blaze of the five skandhas. This suffering is even more extreme than the above. The five skandhas, form, feeling, thinking, activity, and consciousness are never more than a step away. They are right with you, walking, standing, sitting, and reclining.
The five skandhas are like a raging fire, a blazing conflagration.
There were eight Dragon Kings: The Dragon King Nanda, the Dragon King Upananda, the Dragon King Sagara, the Dragon King Vasuki, the Dragon King Takshaka, the Dragon King Anavatapta, the Dragon King Manasvin, and the Dragon King Utpalaka, and others, each with his retinue of several hundreds of thousand followers.
E3. the dragons
Long ago, there were many dragons, and everyone could see them. In the present day, however, they do not appear. Why? Because there are too many people and the dragons out of fear do not dare show themselves. Dragons belong to the class of animals, but they are not like ordinary animals because they have spiritual penetrations.
What spiritual penetrations do they have? They can make themselves big or small. They can manifest so that people can see them, and they can also make themselves invisible by means of the transformations of their spiritual penetrations.
And how did they become dragons? You shouldn’t look down on them just because they are animals, for in previous lives, dragons were people who cultivated the Way. However, they were “quick with the Vehicle and slow with the precepts.” That is, they cultivated the Great Vehicle practices with vigor, but neglected the precepts. They cultivated the Way with great intensity, but they did not keep the precepts. They did not sever their thoughts of desire, specifically thoughts of sexual desire. Because they did not cut off their thoughts of desire, they did not keep the precepts. Thus, although they cultivated the Way and worked very hard investigating the Great Vehicle Buddhadharma, because they did not keep the precepts and were very negligent about them, they fell into rebirth in the bodies of dragons. On the one hand, because they didn’t keep the precepts, they were born in the bodies of dragons. On the other hand, because they cultivated the Great Vehicle and were very vigorous in cultivating the Buddha Way, they obtained spiritual penetrations, even though they were animals. I explained this principle when I lectured on the Shurangama Sutra, but I was afraid you might have forgotten and so I have repeated it. “Quick with the Vehicle, but slow with the precepts,” they fell to rebirth in dragon bodies.
There are those who are “quick with the precepts but slow with the Vehicle.” They keep the precepts very sternly but are not vigorous in cultivating the Great Vehicle Dharma. Such cultivators are born as humans, as wealthy and honored people. They are, however, not very bright. Although they are very wealthy and honored, they are very stupid. Because they uphold the precepts very strictly, they are wealthy and honored. Because they did not read or recite the Great Vehicle Sutras or investigate the Buddhadharma, they lack wisdom. Thus, they are rather stupid--not totally stupid, but not overly intelligent either.
Others are “quick with the Vehicle and quick with the precepts.” While making speedy progress in their cultivation of the Great Vehicle Buddhadharma, they keep the precepts well. They are extremely dedicated in their investigation of the Buddhadharma. Such people can perhaps certify to the fruit or, if they don’t certify to the fruit, they can be reborn in the heavens and enjoy divine blessings.
Still others are “slow with the Vehicle and with the precepts.” They don’t cultivate the Great Vehicle Buddhadharma and they don’t keep the precepts. All day they are lazy as can be. Some who have not left the home life do not investigate Buddhism or practice it and are very lazy. There are even those who have left home who do not investigate the Buddhadharma and are extremely lazy. In the morning they sleep in until ten o’clock. Then they rise. And at night they retire early.
‘Tho the sun has risen three hundred feet the monk has still not risen;
But scheming for name and fame is not as good as doing nothing.
The sun is high in the sky but the monk is still sound asleep in bed. But seeking for name and plotting for fame is not as good as just being lazy and not doing anything at all. Laziness is better by far!
Lazy, they are slow with the Vehicle and with the precepts. They don’t keep the precepts and don’t investigate the Buddhadharma. They claim to have left home; it’s only a name because they don’t actually cultivate--they don’t work hard. They may be fond of sneaking off to take it easy. The minute there is work to do, they retreat. But if there is something good to eat, they are the first ones to sneak a bite. They are good at eating but lazy in doing. In this way they fall into hell; they run off to the hells. There, since they love to eat, they are free to eat from morning to night. What do they eat? Pills of hot iron. You’d rather not work or study? You won’t have to do anything there at all, except undergo punishment. Perhaps you will be fried in oil, thrown onto a mountain of knives, on the sword trees, or into the cauldrons of boiling oil--you can have a taste of that. Why? Because you are lazy! We’ll see if you are still lazy once you get there. This is what happens to people who neglect both the Vehicle and the precepts.
In the Dharma Flower Sutra Assembly, there were eight dragon kings present. There were also a great many small dragons.
This reminds me of when I was in Manchuria, my disciple, Guo Shun, the disciple who set himself on fire, was quick with the Vehicle and with the precepts. He maintained the precepts and cultivated the Great Vehicle Buddhadharma. He built a small grass hut, about eight by eight. When he asked me to perform the opening ceremony, called “opening the light,” I went with several of my disciples, Guo Neng, Guo Zhi, Guo Zuo, and Guo Ying. That night, I stayed in the hut and ten dragons came by asking to take refuge with the Triple Jewel.
As the weather had been extremely hot and there hadn’t been any rain for a long time, I asked the ten dragons, “Dragons are in charge of the rain. Why haven’t you made it rain? And you want to take refuge?”
The dragons replied, “Before it can rain, we have to have an order from God Shakra, that is Shakra Devanam Indrah. Without his order, we wouldn’t dare just casually make it rain.”
So I said to the dragons, “You go and tell Shakra that I am asking for rain within a thirteen-mile radius of this hut. If you persuade Shakra to permit rain tomorrow then the day after tomorrow, I shall transmit the Three Refuges to you and accept you as disciples of the Buddha.”
Sure enough, the next day it rained in, as a matter of fact, a radius of just thirteen miles around the hut where I was standing. No rain fell outside of a thirteen-mile radius. On the following day, I transmitted the Refuges to the ten dragons. After taking refuge, they began to cultivate.
I gave the dragons the name “Hurry and Cultivate.”
Now, this may sound like a myth, but in reality there is nothing in the least mythical about it. It was my own personal experience.
Dragons can undergo an infinite variety of transformations by means of their spiritual penetrations.
There were eight dragon kings. Present at the Dharma Flower Sutra Assembly were eight dragon kings: The Dragon King Nanda, the Dragon King Upananda.The first was Nanda. Nanda is Sanskrit and means “bliss”. Upananda means “wholesome bliss”. These two dragon kings were brothers. In the past, they were very unruly. Later they met and were tamed by Mahamaudgalyayana. Now they have become Dharma Protectors who have come to the Dharma Flower Assembly to listen to the Sutra. The two dragon brothers, Bliss and Wholesome Bliss, guard Magadha, regulating the winds and rain and insuring good crops, benefiting the population greatly.
The Dragon King Sagara. Sagara means “ocean”. He is a dragon king who lives in the sea.
The Dragon King Vasuki. Vasuki means “many heads”. A single dragon body may have nine heads, twelve heads, fifteen heads--three or seven heads.
The Dragon King Takshaka. Takshaka means “putting forth poison”. He puts forth many lethal vapors.
The Dragon King Anavatapta. Anavatapta means “no heat”.
The Dragon King Manasvin. His name means “large body,” because he is very big.
The Dragon King Utpalaka, which means “blue lotus”.
And others, each with his retinue of several hundreds of thousand followers. Not only were these eight dragon kings present, but there were also a lot more. Each dragon king brought along a flock of dragon sons and dragon grandsons, lots of little dragons, several hundreds of thousands of them in their train.
There were four kinnara kings: the Kinnara King Dharma, the Kinnara King Fine Dharma, the Kinnara King Great Dharma, and the Kinnara King Upholder of Dharma, each with his retinue of several hundreds of thousands of followers.
E4. the Kinnaras
There were four kinnara kings. Not only were there dragons present in the assembly, but there were also kinnara kings. Kinnaras are one of the Eight Classes of Supernatural Beings. The Eight Classes of Supernatural Beings include the gods, dragons, yakshas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, and mahoragas. “Kinnara” means “doubtful spirit”, because they resemble human beings, but they have a horn on their head.
Kinnaras are musicians in the court of the Jade Emperor (Shakra).
The Kinnara King Dharma. There was a doubtful spirit called Dharma who has many dharmas or methods of making music.
The Kinnara King Fine Dharma not only has many dharmas for making music, but they are extremely fine. His music is such that it impresses all who hear it.
The Kinnara King Great Dharma and the Kinnara King Upholder of Dharma. The Kinnara King Great Dharma makes music of magnificent sounds. His Dharma is great, and so are the sounds of his music. The music made by the doubtful spirit Upholder of Dharma leads people to bring forth hearts which delight in cultivating according to Dharma.
Fine Dharma’s music not only leads people to study and practice the Buddhadharma, but it also expresses the fine and subtle sounds of Dharma. The music made by Great Dharma expresses the greatness and expansiveness of the Buddhadharma. Upholder of Dharma’s music is not only delightful to hear, it also makes people want to cultivate according to the Dharma, to receive and uphold the Dharma.
Each with his retinue of several hundreds of thousands of followers. Each kinnara king was accompanied by a lot of followers, several hundreds, or several thousands, or perhaps several tens of thousands of them in their train.
There were four gandharva kings: the Gandharva King Music, the Gandharva King Musical Sound, the Gandharva King Beautiful, and the Gandharva King Beautiful Sound, each with his following of several hundreds of thousands of followers.
E5. the gandharvas
Gandharvas are also musical spirits in the Jade Emperor’s court. Hearing that the kinnaras and gandharvas are musicians, we should not become attached to the fact and say, “In Buddhism, there are the kinnara kings and the gandharva kings who make music,” and then use it as an excuse to study music. You should know that they made music for the Jade Emperor. It was not made within the Buddhadharma. After taking refuge with the Buddha, they became Buddhism’s Dharma Protectors and are listed with the Eight Classes of Supernatural Beings, some of which are ghosts and some spirits who protect the Buddhadharma. This is not a recommendation that you study music.
There were four gandharva kings. Gandharva is a Sanskrit word which means “incense inhalers” because they particularly like the smell of incense. When the Jade Emperor wishes to make music, he just burns some ox-head chandana incense, and when the gandharvas smell it, they come to make extremely fine music.
The first was the Gandharva King Music, a talented musician. The Gandharva King Musical Sound made even better music than the Gandharva King Music. The Gandharva King Beautiful. His music was exquisitely beautiful, not only melodic, but elegant as well. The Gandharva King Beautiful Sound was the last of the gandharva kings.
Each with his retinue of several hundreds of thousands of followers. There were lots of little gandharvas in their train, and also lots of little kinnaras--all came to hear the Buddha speak the Dharma.
Don’t be like a certain singer who goes around chirping like a bird and singing a song for everyone he sees. Don’t be like that. What is more, that person is always making excuses for himself to me saying, “Of the eighty-four thousand Dharma doors, this is one!” He says that making music is one of the Dharma doors, but he’s utterly shameless. He is attached to and caught up in music, and so he tries to snag others into becoming attached to it as well. It’s truly pitiful.
There were four asura kings: the Asura King Balin, the Asura King Kharaskandha, the Asura King Vemachitrin, and the Asura King Rahu, each with his retinue of several hundreds of thousands of followers.
E6. the asuras
Asura is a Sanskrit word which is interpreted “without wine” for they have no wine to drink. It is also interpreted as “ugly” because they have a very repulsive appearance. This applies only to the men, because the women are very beautiful. They are called “without wine”, because they have the blessings of gods but not the authority of the gods. Asuras may be found in the realms of the gods, people, hungry ghosts, and animals.
Asuras are of a hostile temperament; they relish fighting. They like to wage and win wars. In the heavens a group of asuras are especially war-like and are constantly battling with the heavenly generals and troops. As I have told you many times before, the Asura King Vemachitrin had a beautiful daughter named Shachi to whom the Jade Emperor became engaged. Why did he want to marry her? The Jade Emperor still has thoughts of desire as well as a body. Because he has not severed thoughts of sexual desire, he likes beautiful women. One day, catching sight of the beautiful asura girl, he became enamored of her and asked the asura king for his daughter’s hand in marriage. The asura king thought, “The Jade Emperor’s got a lot of power,” and he consented.
After they were married, the Jade Emperor liked to listen to an immortal speak the Dharma. Because he went to lectures every day, the asura girl soon grew suspicious. “He goes out every day and never gets home until late at night. Most likely he’s out playing around with other women.” Finally, she confronted him, “Just where do you go every day? You wouldn’t be conducting some improper business on the side, would you?”
“No,” said the Jade Emperor. “I go to lectures on the Sutras every day and that’s why I’m always home late. You shouldn’t be suspicious.”
The asura girl, not believing he was going to Sutra lectures, decided he must certainly be up to no good. The asura girl had a certain amount of spiritual power and was able to make herself invisible. She could be standing in one spot and ordinary people with mortal eyes, or even the Jade Emperor, with his heavenly eyes, couldn’t see her.
So, one day when as usual the Jade Emperor got in his chariot and headed for the lecture, the asura girl made herself invisible and rode along. Upon arriving, the Jade Emperor got out of the chariot and so did the asura girl. Then she materialized.
“What are you doing here?” asked the Jade Emperor in surprise.
“What are youdoing here?” she snorted.
“I’ve come to listen to the Sutra lecture,” he said.
“Well, so have I,” she countered.
Now, the Jade Emperor is still a common mortal; he’s not a certified sage by any means, and so he sometimes gets afflicted. This time, he picked up his lotus flower whip and lashed the asura girl. The asura girl was furious and went directly to her father.
Previously, when the Jade Emperor was about to be married, he had invited the asura king to a banquet. As a gesture of respect to his new father-in-law, he sent out his heavenly generals and troops to welcome him. However, the asura king was suspicious and was displeased at the Jade Emperor’s display of power. Now his daughter returned with the report that the Jade Emperor was not following the rules at all. “Every day he goes out with other women,” she said. “And today, when I tried to talk to him about it, he struck me!” At this, the asura king became enraged. “Jade Emperor,” he stormed, “this means war! We’re going to fight to the finish,” and he mobilized the asura troops against the Jade Emperor.
Strangely enough, the Jade Emperor lost battle after battle and could find no way to overcome the asura king. Finally he had no recourse but to ask the Buddha for help. The Buddha told him to instruct his troops all to recite “Mahaprajnaparamita!” As they went into battle, they recited the phrase “Mahaprajnaparamita!” The asuras lost battle after battle until they had retreated as far as they could and were backed up into a lotus seedpod.
Why was the asura king unable to withstand “Mahaprajnaparamita!”? It‘s very simple. Before they recited it, they would win a battle and then lose a battle; after they recited the phrase the Buddha taught them, they won continuously. Previously, the asuras and the heavenly troops had been more or less equal in strength. Neither side had any wisdom to speak of, and their battles were utterly chaotic. When the heavenly troops recited “Mahaprajnaparamita” they attained great wisdom while the asuras still had none. When those without wisdom fight those with wisdom they invariably lose. So the asuras were very stupid and the heavenly troops were very wise. When the wise battle against the stupid, sooner or later, the stupid ones always lose. Such was the situation between the asuras and the heavenly troops.
More than anything, asuras like to fight. We can take a look at the people in the world: whoever likes to fight is an asura. Asuras aren’t necessarily found only in the heavens. Human beings who like strife and war are transformation bodies of asuras. They liked to fight when they were in the heavens, and they continue to do so as people.
There were four asura kings: the Asura King Balin. Balin means “fettered” because he was tied up. Who tied him up? He was tied up by the heavenly troops.
The Asura King Kharaskandha. Kharaskandha means “broad shoulder blades” because his shoulders were especially broad and he was very powerful.
The Asura King Vemachitrin. Vemachitrin was the asura king just mentioned who fought the Jade Emperor. Although he was terribly ugly, his daughter was remarkably beautiful. After his battle with the Jade Emperor, he ended up retreating into the seedpod of a lotus. His name means “sea water wave sound”.
The Asura King Rahu. Rahu means “obstructing and holding”, for when he raises his hand he can blot out the light of the sun and moon. One could explain his name in many ways. You might say he can obstruct afflictions; you might also say that he is obstructed by afflictions. If you say he can obstruct afflictions, then he has no afflictions; that’s one explanation. You could also say that he has been obstructed by afflictions so that all day long he gets angry and wants to pick a fight.
Each with his retinue of several hundreds of thousands of followers. Each asura brought along a great many followers.
There were four garuda kings: the Garuda King Great Majesty, the Garuda King Great Body, the Garuda King Great Fullness, and the Garuda King As You Will, each with his own retinue of several hundreds of thousands of followers.
E7. the garudas
There were four garuda kings. What’s a garuda king? Those of you who have heard Sutras explained, will know. Those who haven’t will know after I explain it. Garuda is Sanskrit. It means “the great golden-winged peng bird.” They are not born from eggs, but from the womb or from transformation. Their bodies are immense and they have a wing-spread of 300 yojanas, a yojana being 80 li, a li being about one third of a mile. When he flaps his wings, the entire ocean dries up, exposing all the dragons who live in its depths. The peng bird then eats the dragons, one by one, just like we eat noodles.
Chickens and birds eat worms, and worms belong to the same category as dragons. In fact, most insects recognize dragons as their rulers. The small birds eat small worms; the big birds eat big worms--that is the peng birds eat dragons. Dragons are simply big worms. Well, the peng birds had been eating the dragons for quite a while, until finally the dragons were on the verge of extinction. The reason we don’t see dragons around in this world anymore is because, for the most part, they were eaten by the peng birds. If, however, the dragons became extinct, the peng birds would have nothing to eat and would also starve. This is why we don’t see many peng birds around either. As the dragons disappeared, the peng birds lost their sustenance and began to diminish as well. So, if we in the world have nothing to eat we will also become extinct.
Finally the dragons went to the Buddha pleading for help. “The race of dragons is facing extinction,” they said, “because we are truly no match for the peng birds. With their spiritual strength, they can cause the oceans to dry up with a single mighty flap of their wings. Because we have no place to hide, they are eating us so fast that soon the race of dragons will entirely disappear.”
Then Shakyamuni Buddha took one of his old precept sashes--not a new one--and said, “Take this back with you and give one thread of it to each dragon to wear, and the peng birds will not be able to see you.” The dragons returned and followed the Buddha’s instructions and sure enough, the next time the pengbirds flapped at the ocean, they saw no dragons on the bottom. When they figured out that the Buddha had helped the dragons, they went to the Buddha to argue their side of the case.
“You’ve helped the dragons,” they said, “but now we have nothing to eat and we’re going to starve to death. What’s to be done?”
Shakyamuni Buddha said, “You won’t starve. Don’t eat the dragons. After this, I will instruct my disciples to send out part of their meal for you to eat, every day at noon.”
This is why, when we perform the noon meal offering, when we send out a bit of food for them, we recite this verse:
The great peng, the golden-winged bird,
And all the ghosts and spirits in the wilds,
The rakshasa ghost mother and her children--
May they all be filled with sweet dew.
And we give the peng birds their food.
From that time on, the peng birds did not eat the dragons. Nevertheless, they had managed to eat most of them and now only a few dragons remain. There are only four or five dragons left, one in each ocean or so, and they are rarely seen. The great peng birds took refuge with the Triple Jewel, and you may have seen their pictures in various books. However, although the peng birds are huge, they have spiritual penetrations and can make themselves small. They are more or less like the dragons in that respect. Dragons can perform transformations themselves and they are peng bird food, so of course the spiritual penetrations of the peng birds must be inconceivable. Don’t think that the spiritual penetrations of dragons are so special, because those of the great peng are even greater.
There were four Garuda Kings: the Garuda King Great Majesty. He soars into empty space and fills the heavens and covers the earth with his majestic, awesome presence.
The Garuda King Great Body. Garuda kings are big enough to begin with, but this one is massive, bigger than the average garuda. Even he is not as big as the Garuda King Great Fullness. He’s so big that when he lands on the ocean, he displaces every drop of water in it, completely filling it.
The Garuda King As You Will. There was yet another garuda king called As You Will. As you like it, just as your heart wishes it to be, everything’s just the way it should be. If he wants to eat dragons they jump right into his beak. He doesn’t even have to flap his wings at the ocean to get his dragon meals because as soon as he thinks about eating a dragon they pop right into his mouth. He just says, “Here! Here! I want to eat you!” and the dragons obediently comply for the Garuda King As You Will.
Each with his retinue of several hundreds of thousands of followers. A great number of them all came to join the Dharma Flower Assembly.
There was Vaidehi’s son, the King Ajatashatru, with his retinue of several hundreds of thousands of followers. Each made obeisance to the Buddha’s feet, withdrew to one side and sat down.
E8. the humans
There was Vaidehi’s son, the King Ajatashatru. Vaidehi is Sanskrit and means “consider”. Vaidehi had a son named Ajatashatru. Ajatashatru means “hated before birth”. Before he was born many inauspicious events took place. His name also means “fingerless”, because when he was born, his mother hated him so intensely that she bit off one of his little fingers.
Ajatashatru committed every evil deed including all of the Five Rebellious Acts--that is, unpardonable offenses. He 1) killed his father, 2) killed his mother, 3) killed an Arhat--a certified sage--4) shed the Buddha’s blood--one time he threw a rock at the Buddha and it hit him on the foot and drew his blood--and 5) broke up the harmony of the Sangha. Those of you who have read the Sutra of the Sixteen Contemplations will know the causes and conditions surrounding these events.
As a Prince, Ajatashatru was Devadatta’s friend. Although Devadatta was the Buddha’s cousin, he did everything he could to slander and ruin the Buddha, behaving in an entirely strange and sinister fashion. Knowing that the prince was heir to the throne, he cultivated his friendship and then persuaded him to kill his own father and mother so that the prince could become king. Then, as King, he could have the Buddha killed too and Devadatta would be proclaimed as the “new Buddha”. As the “new king” and the “new Buddha”, the two of them could then together rule the world. So, despite the Buddha’s awesome virtue, his own cousin was his bitter enemy.
Acting on Devadatta’s ill advice, the prince had his father imprisoned in a dungeon, surrounded by seven walls. One had to pass through seven doors in seven walls to get in. It was impregnable, stronger than even iron or brass. He denied him food and water until he was on the verge of starvation. Such were the prince’s commands and with the king in jail, no one dared protest them.
Because Vaidehi loved her husband very much, she managed to sneak in to see him. In those days, women wore head ornaments studded with hollow beads. Vaidehi filled the beads with grape juice. Wearing them on her head, she stole in to see her husband and gave him the juice to drink.
What kind of a son had they given birth to who would want to starve his own father to death?
When the king had drunk the grape juice, the two of them sat there in the jail cell and began to cry. The king thought, “Shakyamuni Buddha is a greatly enlightened one, complete with all-knowledge. He certainly knows how I have been suffering here in jail. He should rescue me!” Just as he thought of the Buddha, the Buddha knew, and he sent Great Maudgalyayana, his disciple, to speak the Dharma to him every day, and teach him how to cultivate and apply effort.
Vaidehi bowed in the direction of Mount Grdhrakuta, where the Buddha resided. Then the Buddha himself came to see her and she wept saying, “This world is too full of suffering. I don’t wish to dwell in it any more. I want to find a better world where I won’t have to undergo so much pain. My own son wants to kill me. What is the good of remaining in this world?” She asked the Buddha to point out a bright road for her rebirth in another world. The Buddha spoke the Sutra of Sixteen Contemplations which are sixteen methods of contemplation teaching one how to seek rebirth in the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss by reciting the name “Namo Amitabha Buddha.” Vaidehi and her husband cultivated that Dharma accordingly and later were reborn there.
King Ajatashatru killed his mother and father, created disharmony within the Sangha, killed Arhats, and shed the Buddha’s blood. These Five Rebellious Acts basically cannot be repented of. There is no way to save one who has committed them. However, later, realizing his mistakes, he stood before the Buddhas, wept bitter tears, and brought forth deep repentance. Because he completely reformed himself, the Buddha relieved him of his offenses. Thus he was able to attend the Dharma Flower Assembly. King Ajatashatru was the foulest and most evil of men, but he later reformed his faults and went towards the good. He came to the assembly with his retinue of several hundreds of thousands of followers, kings, great ministers, and the common people, all of whom came to hear the Sutra.
Each bowed his head at the Buddha’s feet, withdrew to one side, and sat down. The above mentioned gods, dragons, and the entire eightfold division, as well as all the people, bowed to the Buddha. Then they returned to their proper places and sat down.
At that time, the World Honored One, having been circumambulated by the fourfold assembly, presented with offerings, honored, venerated, and praised.
A2. Specific explanation of roots and branches of Sutra.
B1. branches division: opening provisional to reveal real (from here up to and including Chapter 14).
C1. intro. section (from here to end of Chapter 1).
D1. gathering of the assembly.
Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Upasakas, and Upasikas are the four assemblies of disciples. It may also be said they are 1) the initiating assembly, 2) the interlocutory assembly, 3) the influential assembly, and 4) the assembly which creates affinities.
Bhikshus, men who have left home, and Bhikshunis, women who have left home, are the two assemblies of left-home disciples. Upasakas are male lay people; Upasikas are female lay people. Together they make up the two assemblies of those at home. These are the four assemblies of disciples. Upasaka and Upasika are Sanskrit words which mean “men who draw near and serve,” and “women who draw near and serve,” respectively. They draw near the monasteries and the temples and the Triple Jewel to aid and assist them in their affairs. They make up the two “outer assemblies”--the Dharma Protectors.
Bhikshu has three meanings: 1) mendicant, 2) frightener of Mara, and 3) destroyer of evil. Bhikshuni also has these three meanings. They are the two “inner assemblies”--the Buddha’s retinue, the assembly which practices the Dharma.
As to the second set of four assemblies, the first, the initiatory assembly understands the Buddha’s purpose. Their causal affinities have already matured so that they initiate through their questions the Buddha’s explanation of points of doctrine. They have wisdom and the ability to devise provisional methods, that is, the wisdom to set up clever expedient devices. They are able to perceive the potentials of beings present and to know the appropriate time a given Dharma should be spoken. Then they take the initiative and ask the Buddha to speak Dharma, acting as the initiatory assembly.
The second is the interlocutory assembly. These are the ones whom the Buddha directly addresses in speaking the Dharma. For example, in the Vajra Sutra, Subhuti is the interlocutory assembly. In the Amitabha Sutra, Shariputra is the interlocutor, along with all the other Great Bodhisattvas and Great Arhats. The other Sutras all have their interlocutory assemblies as well. In the Shurangama Sutra, for example, Ananda is the interlocutor, along with the Twenty-five Sages.
The third is the influential assembly. Those in this assembly already understand the Buddhadharma and they do not necessarily need to hear it preached. These Great Bodhisattvas have already frequently heard the Buddha speak Dharma, but they still come to support the Dharma Assembly and act as an influence on the others who see them and think, “The Great Bodhisattvas have come to hear the Sutra,” and so they too delight in listening. Without the Great Bodhisattvas in the audience, they might have thoughts of disbelief. “Nobody comes to listen to the Sutra,” they might think. “Probably the Sutras the Buddha speaks are meaningless.” But when the Great Bodhisattvas come to hear the Sutra, the Arhats, the Bhikshus, and Bhikshunis, Upasakas, and Upasikas see them and think, “The Great Bodhisattvas have come!” Their hearts grow faithful and sincere. They stare unblinkingly; their spirits are in rapt attention and they clean out their ears and listen respectfully. Their eyes don’t turn away; their spirits are fixed attentively, and they listen to the Buddha preach the Dharma as if they had just washed their ears clean--with the utmost reverence. Why? Because they have been influenced by the influential assembly which has secretly aided them in bringing forth the resolve to listen.
The fourth is the assembly which creates affinities. They feel that they have no Dharma affinities with people to speak of, and so they go to the Dharma Assembly to create them.
What is meant by “creating affinities”?
In America, there are few Dharma Assemblies, but in China, Sutras are lectured in many Dharma Assemblies. People will buy candy and give each member of the audience perhaps three pieces, or five, dividing it between them; and then they all eat candy. Or they may buy cookies for everyone. First they offer them to the Buddha, next to the Dharma, then to the Sangha; they save some for everyone, giving it to them in order to create affinities. Others buy fruit or other things which people like to eat in order to establish this connection.
Why do they wish to create affinities?
It is because they feel they have no affinities with people. They don’t get along with their relatives, and their “friends” don’t care for them. Nobody likes them at all in fact and so they want to create affinities with others by giving them food or small gifts.
Some give money. In China, the audiences consist mainly of those who have left-home, not lay people. The lay people may buy cloth or other necessities to present as offerings to those who have left home. This is the assembly which creates affinities with those in the Dharma Assembly, the last of the fourfold assembly of disciples.
At that time the World Honored One, having been circumambulated by the fourfold assembly. In the Dharma Flower Assembly, the fourfold assembly was present in its entirety. What is meant by circumambulated? In Chinese it is made up of two words which means “to encircle” and “to wind around”. It means to walk around something in a circle as we did when we installed the Buddha image and then walked around it reciting “Namo Amitabha Buddha”. In Buddhism, as a matter of ceremony, one circumambulates the Buddha three times, keeping the Buddha to one’s right, in other words, a clockwise circle.
And after this, everyone should remember that when we have a gathering we should stand in line and progress clockwise in an orderly fashion when serving ourselves lunch. If everyone goes in opposite directions, collisions will occur and everyone will feel crowded and pushed. If everyone proceeds clockwise in an orderly fashion, no one will bump heads.
After the Buddha realized Buddhahood, people did not know how to pay reverence to him. So then some gods from the Five Pure Dwelling Heavens transformed into people and appeared before the Buddha. They circumambulated him three times to the right, bowed in worship, retreated to one side, and then sat down in order to serve as an example--to show the humans how to properly worship the Buddha. This is the meaning of “circumambulate”.
Presented with offerings, honored, venerated, and praised. Not only did they circumambulate the Buddha and bow before him, but they also made offerings to him. So many people! What did they give him? They presented him with an offering of a true, respectful heart. So it says, “honored, venerated”. Honored means that they put their five limbs--knees, elbows, and forehead--on the ground, prostrating themselves in worship. In Buddhism, bowing in this way is the highest form of paying respect.
They venerated the Buddha and they also praised him. We are praising the Buddha when we recite Sutras or verses, as for example, the verse in praise of Amitabha Buddha which begins, “Amitabha’s body is the color of gold. The splendor of his hallmarks has no peer.” Another verse goes:
In the heavens and below there is no one like the Buddha;
In the worlds of the ten directions he is without equal.
I have seen everything in the world that there is to see,
And there’s nothing in it that compares with the Buddha.
All the praises of the Buddha, the World Honored One, lauding him as most venerable, honored and esteemed, are spoken to praise and laud him.
To say a few more words about creating affinities: It is extremely important to do so, for if you do not, no matter how well intended you are towards someone they will be displeased with you. Why is this? Because no affinity exists between you.
Long ago, there was an extremely intelligent Dharma Master who could memorize the Sutras after simply reading them once. He was not as dull-witted as I am; I have to read them three times before I can remember them. He could remember them after the first reading. He could also lecture on all the Sutras; he did it so well that, because of his unobstructed eloquence, even the gods came to hear him. However, although the gods came, no people came to hear him. Why did the gods attend? Because his lectures were just too wonderful. Why didn’t any people show up? Because he simply had no affinities with people. Since he was wise, he understood the reason, the workings of cause and effect behind it, and he went to live in the mountains. He bought a lot of rice and sat in the mountains and fed the birds. From morning to night he recited the Great Compassion Mantra and the Shurangama Mantra over the rice and contemplated all the birds thinking, “All the birds who eat my rice shall in their next life become people, casting off their animal bodies.”
He continued to spend his days feeding all the birds on the mountain and the birds spread the word among themselves that there was food. The news passed down the grapevine and soon they came in great flocks to eat the rice. He did this for twenty years and then went back down the mountain and began lecturing on the Sutras again. This time, things were entirely different. The young people in the area flocked to listen to his lectures. Not only did they listen, but they were extremely respectful of him and honored him with five-point prostrations. They were obedient and did exactly as they were told, completely faithful to him.
And where did the young people come from?
They were the birds who had cast off their bird bodies and become humans. Because they had been nourished by the Dharma Master’s Dharma food and obtained such benefit, as people, they did not forget the kindness he had shown them and came to support him.
Here, we have three masters--four including myself--and when I lecture, I don’t care if anyone listens or not. But in the future if no one comes to listen to your lectures, you can go feed the birds. After you’ve fed them, there will be plenty of people to listen to you.
Because the Dharma Master created affinities with the birds, when the birds became people they came to hear the Buddhadharma. So everyone should pay attention to this point and seek to create affinities with everyone. This is why you should not lose your tempers or rage at people. If you do that, you will have no affinities with them and you‘ll turn into “loner” Dharma Masters. No one will believe in you and wherever you go, no one will make offerings to you. In the future, you may even starve to death, but it’s not for sure.
Today, I will explain “making offerings”. Offerings should be made with a true heart, with a sincere heart.
What is a true heart? And what is a sincere heart?
With a true heart, you give up that which you cannot give up. That’s the true heart. It means giving up that which you love most. If you can renounce it, that’s the true heart.
What is a sincere heart? A sincere heart is an unscattered heart. With a sincere heart, when you do something, you do it straightforwardly, with great earnestness. It also means to “turn your thoughts to one,” to have a single heart--not two hearts--when making offerings.
Long ago, there was a beggar who saw that everyone made offerings to the Triple Jewel, in order to foster merit and virtue. He thought that, although he didn’t have much money, he would use all the money he had to buy a pint of oil and present it as an offering to the permanent dwelling, the temple, the Triple Jewel--the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.
The Abbot of the temple had attained the Penetration of the Heavenly Eye, and when the beggar arrived at the temple gate, the Abbot was there to greet him. He escorted him back to the temple, inviting him to his own quarters, and was most attentive to him. He even asked him to stay for lunch.
Not long after that, another man who was very rich sent a lou of oil, about two or three hundred pounds, several hundred times the amount the beggar had given as an offering to the Triple Jewel. However, the Abbot merely sent the Guest Prefect to greet him and did not go himself. The monks and novices did not understand his actions and asked him, “Why did you go to escort a poor beggar who gave only a pint of oil and ask him to your own quarters to eat lunch, and then when someone else sent three hundred pints, three hundred times the beggar’s gift, you did not attend to him yourself? We are quite puzzled about this and would ask you, Abbot, please to explain.”
The Abbot said, “You don’t understand. The poor man who gave one pint as an offering used all the money he had to buy it. Would you say he was sincere or not? The one who bought three hundred pints was wealthy. He not only could have bought three hundred pints, but 30,000 pints or even more, and so for him, the offering was nothing special at all. The poor man with a true heart renounced that which is difficult to renounce. He exhausted his entire worldly resources to make the offering. If he were not a great Dharma Protector could he have done something like that? That is why I went to greet him and invite him to lunch. The other man was terribly wealthy and his gift of three hundred pints was just like one hair from nine cows. Why should I have looked after him?”
From this we can see that in making offerings to the Triple Jewel you must renounce what is hard to renounce and give what is hard to give, then the merit and virtue accrued is great. Those who are wealthy did not gain their wealth in this present life only. Because in previous lives they were able to renounce that which is hard to renounce and do what is hard to do, they are wealthy in their present life.
This is what the Abbot said to the novices and monks by way of explanation, and after that they understood the principle that when making offerings to the Triple Jewel, one must use a sincere and true heart.
Honored means one honors with the body and the mind. It should not be that the body honors but mind does not. Nor should it be that the mind honors but the body does not. Both the body and mind should honor, within and without--a unity. That is what is meant by “honored”. Venerated means not to treat with disrespect. Praise means to laud the Buddha with verses--ten million of them, telling how rare the Buddha is.
For the sake of the Bodhisattvas, spoke a Great Vehicle Sutra named TheLimitless Principles, a Dharma for instructing Bodhisattvas of which the Buddha is protective and mindful.
D2. manifestation of portents
E1. six portents in this world system
F1. portent of speaking Dharma.
For the sake of the Bodhisattvas, spoke a Great Vehicle Sutra named Limitless Principles. The Sutra was titled Sutra of Limitless Principles. The Buddha spoke it before he spoke the Dharma Flower Sutra. He spoke the Sutra of Limitless Principles as a Dharma for instructing Bodhisattvas of which the Buddha is protective and mindful.
At that time, Six Portents were manifest.
What were the Six Portents?
1. The portent of speaking Dharma;
2. The portent of entering samadhi;
3. The portent of the raining of flowers;
4. The portent of the shaking of the earth;
5. The portent of the rejoicing of the assembly; and
6 The portent of emitting light.
Most likely these are the Six Portents. I may be mistaken, but I don’t believe I am. I don’t think my memory is quite that bad. Those are the Six Portents and we are now discussing the first, the Portent of the Speaking of Dharma.
Someone may ask, “But the Buddha very often speaks the Dharma and enters samadhi. Why have such common occurrences suddenly become auspicious portents?”
This speaking of Dharma differs from that of other times. This time, after he spoke the Dharma, the Buddha entered samadhi. Having entered samadhi, there was a rain of flowers. After the rain of flowers, there was an earthquake. After the earthquake, everyone rejoiced and the Buddha emitted the white hair-mark light. These all betoken an extraordinary circumstance; thus, they are called the Six Portents.
“For the sake of all the great Bodhisattvas, spoke a Great Vehicle Sutra.” “The Bodhisattvas” refers to the eighty thousand Mahasattvas present in the Dharma Flower Assembly. They were all great Bodhisattvas who listened to a Great Vehicle Sutra.
What is a Great Vehicle Sutra?
These are the Seven Qualities of the Great Vehicle, as cultivated by Great Vehicle Bodhisattvas:
1. The greatness of the Dharma. The entire Tripitaka with its Twelve Divisions of Sutra Texts, is contained within the Great Vehicle Sutras. The Small Vehicle does not include the Great Vehicle, but the Great Vehicle does include the Small Vehicle. So, first of all, the Dharma is great.
2. The greatness of the heart brought forth. What is meant by bringing forth the great heart? It is to bring forth the great heart of Bodhi, not the small heart of Bodhi, so that, from the level of a common person, right up until the realization of Buddhahood, one never retreats. An unretreating heart is a great Bodhi heart.
3. Understanding the Great Storehouse. This refers to understanding the doctrines contained within the Great Vehicle Bodhisattva Storehouse. The Great Storehouse is the Bodhisattva Storehouse. Understanding the doctrines of the Bodhisattva Storehouse and cultivating according to the Dharmas of the Bodhisattva Storehouse is to understand the Great Storehouse.
4. The greatness of purity. Bodhisattvas who study the Great Vehicle can see the Way and their hearts are great, immaculate, pure, and clear.
5. The greatness of the adornment. With what do they adorn themselves? Blessings and wisdom. They adorn themselves with blessings and virtue, wisdom and intelligence.
6. The greatness of the time. They pass through three great asamkhyeyas of kalpas. The sixth may also be explained as the greatness of the cause.
7. The greatness of the perfection. Perfection refers to the fulfillment of the Six Perfections and the Ten Thousand Conducts. They adorn themselves with the hallmarks and characteristics and obtain the fruit of Bodhi. So this may also be explained as the greatness of the fruit or result.
Because of these seven qualities, it is called the Great Vehicle.
Everyone says, “The Great Vehicle? Why that’s just Mahayana!”
“Well what is Mahayana anyway? How big is it?” I ask. “How many qualities of greatness are connected with the Great Vehicle?” And they don’t know.
Having heard the Seven Qualities of the Great Vehicle, we should note that they differ somewhat from the Seven Qualities of a Mahasattva which were previously enumerated. So it’s the Great Vehicle spoken for the sake of the Bodhisattvas. “Speak” means to expound. “Sutra” is a text. The word Sutra has already been discussed; it is a Sanskrit word which is interpreted as a “tallying text” for it tallies above with the principles of all the Buddhas and below with the opportunities for teaching living beings. It also has many other meanings which need not be reiterated here.
Before Shakyamuni Buddha spoke the Dharma Flower Sutra, he spoke a Sutra called the Sutra of Limitless Principles. “Limitless Principles” means that the principles are uncountable. However,
“Where does the limitless come from?”
It comes from the limited.
“And where does the limited come from ?”
From the one.
“Where does the one come from?”
It comes from the markless.
“Where does the markless come from?”
It comes from the Real Mark.
Therefore it is said, “The Real Mark is unmarked.” The limitless principles come from the limited principles and the limited principles come from the one principle, the primary principle.
“Where does the one principle come from?”
It comes from the markless, the markless principle. The markless principle comes from the Real Mark principle.
The Real Mark is unmarked. Which mark does it not have? It has no mark of birth and death. The Real Mark is also not unmarked, for it has no mark of Nirvana. Without the marks of birth and death or Nirvana, it is the Real Mark.
However, there is nothing which is not marked by it. Everything, for example, the limitless principles, all come from it, from the Real Mark. For this reason, the Sutra of Limitless Principles is also the Sutra of the Real Mark Principles.
Previously I have explained the word “all”, as “one”. Why? For this reason: The one is limitless and the limitless is one. In fact, there isn’t even one. That’s the Real Mark.
“Where does the one come from?”
It comes from the absence of one.
Basically there isn’t a “one”, but people deliberately stick another head atop their heads and come up with a “one”. When there’s nothing to do, they go out and find ways to be busy. Basically there is no problem at all, but people fuss around and find problems to take care of.
What is the function of the Sutra of Limitless Principles which the Buddha now speaks? It is a Dharma for instructing Great Bodhisattvas, a method for teaching and transforming them, instructing Bodhisattvas in the methods used to practice the Bodhisattva Way. The Bodhisattvas study the Great Vehicle Dharma, of which the Buddha is protective and mindful. Basically, the Buddha had no intention of speaking this Dharma, and he remained silent for a long time not discussing it. Why? Because the Buddha is protective and mindful of this Great Vehicle Dharma. He had no intention of speaking it. If he did speak the Great Vehicle Dharma, it might cause all living beings to disbelieve it; certainly, it would not be appropriate to their potentials. Since it was inappropriate, the Buddha waited a long time before speaking this Dharma.
This has been a discussion of the first of the Six Portents: the Speaking of Dharma.
After the Buddha had spoken this Sutra, he sat in full lotus and entered the samadhi of the station of limitless principles, body and mind unmoving.
F2. portent of entering samadhi.
This is the second portent, that of Entering Samadhi.
After the Buddha had spoken this Sutra, after Shakyamuni Buddha had spoken this Sutra...“Which Sutra? Was it the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Sutra?”
No. It was the Sutra of Limitless Principles, which is the Dharma for instructing Bodhisattvas of which the Buddha is protective and mindful. Since he had spoken the Sutra, one might expect him to take a rest. He did not rest however. He sat in full lotus.
The lotus posture may be a full-lotus or a half-lotus, depending on whether both or only one of the legs are pulled up over the opposite thigh.
“Why sit in full lotus?”
It aids you in your cultivation of the Way. The lotus position is also called the “vajra sitting.”
No doubt you have all heard me relate the account of the “ghost-pressured Dharma Master” and so I need not repeat it now, but I will talk about the full-lotus position.
When practicing Chan, if you sit in full lotus, then you are less likely to doze off. That’s the first advantage.
“What is meant by dozing off?”
It means that you sit there and sleep! When you sit there in full lotus, you won’t fall over as it creates a solid balance beneath you. It promotes the easy development of your samadhi power. One meditates with the hope of obtaining samadhi power; the lotus position is helpful in this regard. When your samadhi power comes forth, your wisdom power will be increased, because wisdom power comes from samadhi power. Samadhi power comes from precept power. When you sit in full lotus, upright and sedate, that is your own inherent precept substance. From the precepts comes samadhi; from samadhi comes wisdom. Precepts, samadhi, and wisdom, the Three Non-Outflow Studies, are born from full-lotus sitting.
Another thing: When you sit in full-lotus, all the gods and dragons and the rest of the eightfold division protect you. With the gods, dragons and others of the eightfold division protecting you, the deviant demons, outside ways, weird demons and strange ghosts--all the demon kings retreat far into the distance; they run far away. Therefore the vajra full-lotus sitting is a most important factor in cultivating the Way.
When I was in Manchuria the following event occurred: there was a dharma teacher of an outside-way who had over three thousand disciples, but he knew that he had no skill in his spiritual cultivation. For this reason, he went everywhere, seeking the Way. He didn’t dare let his disciples know what he was doing, because if they knew he did not have the Way, they would no longer believe in him. He transmitted a non-Buddhist dharma and at the same time traveled everywhere looking for the Way. He looked for two or three years but still did not meet a bright-eyed learned advisor.
Later, he met me. How did that happen? I had known him some time previously, but had not seen him for a long time. He had heard of me when I was sitting beside my mother’s grave as an act of filial piety. He had heard of me, but had never met me. One day I went to his house. The night before, his nephew had had a dream in which he saw me, even though he had never actually met me and did not know me. When he saw me in his dream, he didn’t know why, but he sought the Way from me. His name was Guan Zhanhai. He heard me say, “You can’t seek the Way; you can’t cultivate the Way. Why? Because you are wearing a skin of foul retribution on your body; you have a skin of offense karma.”
He persisted in asking me for the Way and then, I reached out my hand and from the top of his head, pulled an entire layer of skin off of him. I threw it on the ground and when he looked at it, he saw it was the skin of a pig. Then in his dream I said, “Now that I have pulled off your skin of offenses, you can cultivate the Way.”
The day after the dream, I went to his house, for I knew his uncle, Guan Zhongxi. He said, “Uncle, who is he? I dreamt last night that he came here and pulled a pig skin off of my body.”
The uncle said, “He is the one who cultivates filial piety from Xihuangqi (West Yellow Banner) in Lalin. He’s well known as the Filial Son.” The nephew was delighted and related to his uncle the particulars of his dream. His uncle had the Way uppermost in his mind and he too, rejoiced. “The Way has been sent to our home!” he said. “We should quickly seek the Way from him!” The two of them knelt before me and refused to get up; they wanted me to accept them as their teacher. I was twenty-three at the time.
I said, “I can’t be anyone’s teacher. I don’t have the Way; I am seeking the Way myself at present.”
“Be compassionate,” they pleaded. “We both know that you are a cultivator of the Way and we must bow to you as our teacher!”
I said, “Don’t worry. I will take you around everywhere to seek for the Way. When you meet someone you feel is qualified to be your teacher, you may bow to him. Don’t bow to me as your teacher,” and I refused to accept them.
Today, we will just speak this far.
Yesterday, we were talking about sitting in full lotus. Guan Zhongxi and his nephew Guan Zhanhai had sought the Way from me. Guan Zhongxi had over three thousand disciples, but he had no method by which to end his own birth and death. He very anxiously went everywhere seeking the Way. After several years, probably about three, he had not found it. When I went to his home, his nephew had had a special dream, and so he knew who I was. The two of them knelt before me begging me for the Way.
I said, “I don’t have the Way, but I can help you find it. Come along with me and we shall search everywhere for it--in all the temples and monasteries, or wherever there are cultivators, and when you meet someone who suits you, you can take him as your teacher. They came along with me, and we traveled to all the well-known places where people cultivated the Way. I introduced them to the cultivators, but in all cases they were not satisfied with them and returned again to seek the Way from me.
I said, “I don’t have the Way. All I can do is instruct you in a method of cultivation. What method? The full-lotus sitting. Try it out and see if you can sit in full-lotus.”
When the uncle tried it, his right leg stuck straight up in the air, over six inches off the bench. This was because he was one of the native mountain people and they had the peculiar trait of having very large kneecaps. They were known as “big kneecap bones.” Although it was very difficult, still, he could get into that position and sit, so I told him to practice sitting that way and then I left.
Over seventy days later I returned to his house. His kneecaps had been quite large to begin with, but now they had swollen even bigger. They were so swollen that he couldn’t even walk. In Manchuria, iron-wheeled carts are used for transportation, and the wheels are about two inches wide. They make two-inch ruts in the roads. Guan Zhongxi was unable to step over a cart rut, his legs were so swollen. Seeing this, I felt the practice was too severe, so I said to him, “You shouldn’t practice sitting in full-lotus. It’s something you probably just can’t manage. You can stop practicing it.”
He said, “Only if I die will I discontinue practicing this sitting. As long as I haven’t died, I don’t care how swollen my legs get, I shall continue to practice, because if in cultivating the Way one is not able to bear pain, how can one possibly expect to succeed? If I can’t even discipline myself to sit in full-lotus, how can I possibly cultivate the Way? I am determined to accomplish it.”
I said, “If you are going to be that way, I won’t pay any attention to you. If you practice, practice! If you don’t, don’t. Do as you please,” and I left.
After one hundred days--the previous time it had been seventy days--I again returned to his house and saw that he could now walk. His legs were no longer swollen. I asked him, “Have you quit practicing the full-lotus position?”
“No,” he said, “and now, not only has the swelling gone down, but my legs no longer hurt. Both my legs lie on the bench, they don’t stick up in the air anymore, and they don’t hurt.”
I said, “Those with determination know success. Your strong resolve brought about your accomplishment.” I then taught him the methods used to cultivate Dhyana. He practiced them, cultivating the skill of sitting in Dhyana meditation.
His nephew, Guan Zhanhai, had traveled with his uncle everywhere seeking the Way. He sought it for three years, and then two more--five years in all--and still had not found a teacher. He was extremely well-disposed toward me and always gave me gifts on New Year’s and other holidays, perhaps good things to eat or other things, a great many of them. I knew he thought well of me.
Once, I took him to the Three Conditions Temple where I was staying, to meet the Abbot. I had assumed he would bow to the Abbot as his teacher, but he didn’t. We started out for his house. About half-way there, we passed through a small forest. Suddenly, he grabbed my sleeve and knelt down. I said, “What are you doing?” He said, “I have traveled for so many years and of all the people I have seen, I believe in you the most. Now I must bow to you as my teacher.”
Seeing him in such a state, tugging at my sleeve, I pretended to get angry. I jerked my arm away, turned around and stomped off. I walked about a quarter of a mile and turned around to see him still kneeling there. He hadn’t risen and tears were rolling down his face. I walked back and stood before him. “What are you doing?” I said.
“You must accept me as your disciple,” he sobbed, “otherwise, I am not going to get up. I’ll stay here kneeling until I die.”
“Oh? Well, kneel until you die; that would be the very best thing you could do!” I said. “If you want to die kneeling, go ahead, but nobody’s ordering you to do it. Kneel all you want, but I am leaving,” and I left again. I walked about one third of a mile and turned around to see him still kneeling; he hadn’t risen. At that point my heart felt a slight twinge, and I returned and said, “Very well, I’ll accept you.” He was the first disciple I received in Manchuria.
Before taking refuge he was a vegetarian. After taking refuge, he practiced sleeping sitting up. He never lay down, never allowed his ribs to touch a mat or bed. He also never ate after noon.
After his uncle had been cultivating for roughly five years, he knew himself on what day he was going to go to rebirth (die). He addressed the members of his household saying, “On such and such a day I am going to leave. You must not cry or grieve. Most of all, I would like to see the Filial Son. If he could come, that would be the very best. But I do not know where he is at present and have no way to send him a letter. Everything else, I can let go of, but this one wish alone remains unfulfilled.”
When the day arrived, he sat upright, and without any illness he died sitting. After his death, many people in his village had a very strange dream: they all dreamt that they saw two young lads dressed in dark robes, in front of him, leading him off to the West. This is what his wife later told me.
Sitting in full-lotus is a most important factor in cultivation of the Way. If you can master it, it will be extremely beneficial for you in your cultivation.
Having finished speaking the Sutra of Limitless Principles, Shakyamuni Buddha sat in full-lotus and entered the samadhi of the Station of Limitless Principles. To enter into the samadhi of Limitless Principles is also just to enter into the Real Mark Samadhi, where only the Real Mark remains.
Body and mind unmoving. Someone may ask, “When the body does not move, we can observe this, but how can one know if the mind is unmoving?”
If your body does not move, then your mind may also be unmoving. Once your body moves, your mind moves as well. Therefore, those who have entered samadhi do not move either in body or mind. The mind, or heart, being discussed here [in Chinese “mind” and “heart” are represented by the same character) is not the lump of flesh within your chest; it is the true mind. Whether or not you enter samadhi, the true mind is basically unmoving. So the text says, “body and mind unmoving.” Why is it unmoving? Because the Buddha has entered samadhi. His body and mind have obtained the realm of the clear, pure, basic source. For this reason, the body and mind are unmoving. This has been a discussion of the second, the Portent of Entering Samadhi.
At that time there fell from the heavens a rain of mandarava flowers, mahamandarava flowers, manjushaka flowers, and mahamanjushaka flowers, which were scattered upon the Buddha and the entire great assembly.
This passage of text is the third, the Portent of the Raining of Flowers. At that time, when Shakyamuni Buddha had entered samadhi, body and mind unmoving, at that very same time there fell from the heavens a rain, falling down out of the sky, of mandarava flowers. Mandarava is a Sanskrit word. Mandarava flowers are interpreted as “white flowers,” or as “flowers which go along with one’s wish.” Mahamandarava flowers are the big variety of white flowers.
Manjushaka flowers are “red flowers.” Mahamanjushaka flowers are huge, deep red flowers. These were the flowers which were scattered upon the Buddha and the entire great assembly. All present in the Dharma Assembly received the offering of flowers.
“What does the rain from heaven of these four kinds of flowers represent?”
They represent the Dwellings, Practices, Dedications, and Grounds. In the Shurangama Sutra we have already heard about the Ten Dwellings. They are represented by the mandarava flowers. The mahamandarava flowers represent the Ten Practices. The manjushaka flowers represent the Ten Dedications. The mahamanjushaka flowers represent the Ten Grounds. Thus, the four kinds of flowers represent these four sets of positions, the four Bodhisattva levels.
“Which were scattered upon the Buddha”: The flowers drifted down and settled upon the Buddha and upon the entire great assembly as well. “The entire great assembly”: In cultivation everyone must pass through the Ten Dwellings, the Ten Practices, the Ten Dedications, and the Ten Grounds. This, then, has been a discussion of the third, the Portent of the Raining of Flowers.
All the Buddha universes quaked in six ways.
All the Buddha universes quaked in six ways. This is the fourth, the Portent of the Shaking of the Earth. Why was it that all the Buddha universes quaked in six ways? It was because Shakyamuni Buddha was about to speak the Dharma Flower Sutra. Before he spoke the Dharma Flower Sutra, these various occurrences took place to indicate and point out the great significance of the Sutra. That is why all these states manifested.
“All the Buddha universes” refers to all the universes in which there are Buddhas. They all quaked in six ways. The Six Types of Earthquakes have been explained many times and in fact I even quizzed you on them once. Some of you may remember one of them, some two, some three, others four or five, but nobody remembers all six. Now, I am not going to ask you if you know them, I’ll just go ahead and tell you again:
The Six Types of Earthquakes are 1) banging, 2) roaring, 3) crackling, 4) shaking, 5) surging, and 6) rising. The first three refer to sound; the second three refer to movement, to the visible appearance of the earth as it shakes, rises, and surges. One set is sound; the other is movement.
The Six Types of Earthquakes represent the six faculties: eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind. Generally speaking, there are Six Types of Earthquakes, but if one wishes to expand the explanation, there may be said to be Eighteen Types of Earthquakes by virtue of the fact that each of the six have three applications. Three times six, of course, is eighteen, and they represent the eighteen realms of sense. The eighteen realms of sense are composed of the six sense faculties, the six sense objects, and the six consciousness.
How do each of the Six Types of Earthquakes turn into three?
Let’s take the fourth, shaking, for example: the first is shaking; the second is universal shaking, and the third is everywhere universal shaking. That’s three. Banging works the same way: banging, universal banging, and everywhere universal banging. There’s also roaring, universal roaring, and everywhere universal roaring as another three. Crackling, universal crackling, and everywhere universal crackling are another three. Surging, universal surging, and everywhere universal surging are another three. Rising, universal rising and everywhere universal rising are yet another three. That makes eighteen in all.
“What is meant by the set of three?”
“Shaking” refers to shaking in one particular place. “Universal shaking” is the shaking in one set of four continents: Jambudvipa in the south, Uttarakuru in the north, Aparagodaniya in the West, and Purvavideha in the east. When the four great continents shake, that is termed “universal shaking.”
However “universal shaking” refers to only one set of four continents. “Everywhere universal shaking” refers to shaking throughout the entire three thousand great thousand worlds; they all shake. The Six Types of Earthquakes taking place to the ends of empty space and throughout the Dharma Realm is termed “everywhere universal shaking.”
The Six Types of Earthquakes also represent the four levels: the Ten Dwellings, the Ten Practices, the Ten Dedications, and the Ten Grounds with the addition of Equal Enlightenment and Wonderful Enlightenment, a total of six positions.
What does the quaking represent?
It represents the breaking up of our ignorance, because as you break through six levels, the six positions, you break through ignorance six times. Each time you break through it, it diminishes. Thus they are called the Six Types of Earthquakes.
Everyone who sits in Chan undergoes these Six Types of Earthquakes. Those who do not sit in Chan may also experience them. They represent the six sense faculties: eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind. These are the Six Types of Earthquakes.
Let’s discuss the term “surging.” When there is surging in the east, there is sinking in the west. The east surges up and the west sinks. The movement begins in the east. The east is associated with wood and wood with the color green. In the human body, the color green is associated with the liver. Thus, the liver is associated with wood. The liver is associated with the eyes and so this deals with the eye faculty.
The south is associated with the color red. The south and the color red are associated with the heart and fire. Fire is red and is associated with the human heart. The heart is associated with the tongue; the tongue is red.
The west is associated with white and metal. Within the human body, metal is associated with the lungs. The lungs are white in color. Of the six sense faculties, the nose is associated with the lungs.
When the merit of the eyes arises, the afflictions of the nose are wiped away. When the afflictions of the eyes disperse, the merit of the nose arises. Each of the six faculties has its own merits. The merits of the eye, ear, nose and tongue are discussed later on in the Dharma Flower Sutra; they are discussed as in the Shurangama Sutra as well. So when the merit arises, afflictions are wiped away. When afflictions arise, merit is wiped away. So they interact in their quaking.
The north is associated with the color black, water. In the human body the color black is associated with the kidneys. The kidneys are associated with the ear faculty. With relation to the ear and tongue: when the merit of the ear arises, the afflictions of the tongue are wiped away. When the merit of the tongue arises, the afflictions of the ear are wiped away. They interrelate with regard to merit and affliction. The four directions are represented by the body, and the center, by the mind. The body is complete with the four faculties and the mind conceptualizes through them. So the Ten Dwellings, the Ten Practices, the Ten Dedications, the Ten Grounds, Equal Enlightenment, and Wonderful Enlightenment are represented by the Six Types of Earthquakes. The eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind are also represented by the Six Types of Earthquakes. The inner quakings take place in the six faculties; the outer quakings have three involving movement and three involving sound. A lot could be said about them, but today we will stop here.
“All the Buddha worlds quaked in six ways.” This is the fourth, the Portent of the Shaking of the Earth. The Six Types of Earthquakes represent quaking at the gates of the six sense faculties. The six sense faculties--eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind--interact to aid one another. One could also say that they have formed themselves into a party, banded together like the lang and the bei. What is meant by “banded together like the lang and the bei?” The two animals, the lang and the bei must be together in order to walk. If they are not together they can’t walk. Why? Because the lang and the bei are unlike ordinary wolves. The lang has only forelegs and the bei has only hindlegs. The two of them must get together in order to walk. So it is said, “banded together like the lang and the bei.” The eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind--the six sense faculties--are also this way. They can do evil deeds and they can also do good deeds. When they run downhill, they can drag your Dharma-body with them into hell, or perhaps into the realm of hungry ghosts, or the animal kingdom. This happens all because the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind have taken you there.
When one realizes Buddhahood, it is also because of the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind cooperating with each other. They are no longer like the lang and the bei banding together for criminal purposes, but the function as a cooperative organization. You help them and they help you. For example, as I said earlier, “When the merit of the nose arises, the afflictions of the eyes are wiped away. When the merit of the eyes arises, the afflictions of the nose are wiped away.”
“What is meant by the ‘afflictions of the eyes’ and the ‘afflictions of the nose?’”
The afflictions of the eyes: When you see things you like but cannot obtain them, then there is affliction. When you see them you give rise to a heart of greed. Your eyes see them and your heart gives rise to greed, and so this type of affliction is created because of the eyes.
“Then what is meant by the merit of the eyes?”
The merit of the eye: When your eyes read the Sutras, you think, “The Sutras are truly fine. I’m going to read them,” and your eyes help your heart to understand the doctrines in the Sutras. When your eyes see images of the Buddha, you then bow to the Buddha.
Why did you bow to the Buddha?
Because your eyes saw the image of the Buddha and so you wished to pay reverence and make offerings. This came about through the merit of the eyes. The eyes can help you and so can the nose, the ears, the tongue, the body and the mind. All of the six sense faculties work in the same way with the same power. They can help you or they can destroy you. It depends upon what you do.
If you base your actions on wholesome merit and virtue, the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind will help you do acts of wholesome merit and virtue. If you operate from a base of transgression, offense, and error, the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind will also come to your aid in doing acts of transgression, offense, and error. For this reason the Shurangama Sutra says, “If you fall into hell, it’s because of your six sense faculties; if you realize Buddhahood, it’s also because of your six sense faculties.” Nothing else.
So when I say that stupidity is just wisdom, the principle is the same as that of the use of the six sense faculties. When you’ve heard Sutras explained for a while, you will reach the point where, comprehending one point you will comprehend all; understanding one you will understand all; knowing one, you will know all; awakening to one, you will awaken to all.
The inherent nature is like empty