The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra with commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua: Chapter 3: A Parable
The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra
with commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
Chapter 3: A Parable
Thereupon, Shariputra, with joyful enthusiasm, rose, placed his palms together, gazed reverently at the World Honored One’s face…
F2. Shariputra is led to understanding.
This, the third chapter of The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra, is called "A Parable." This corresponds to the metaphorical, one of the three styles of writing used in the Book of Odes, which are inspirational, narrative, and metaphorical. A parable is used because the doctrine is so profound that if it were spoken outright, no one would understand it. An analogy must be drawn to something else so that people can understand the principle involved
Thereupon, right after the second chapter, "Expedient Devices" had been spoken and the entire assembly had received predictions of Buddhahood, Shariputra, the disciple foremost in wisdom, with joyful enthusiasm, rose from his seat in the midst of the great assembly, placed his palms together, and gazed reverently at the Honored One's face. Pure and filled with delight in body, mouth, and mind, Shariputra spoke to the Buddha.
And said to the Buddha, “Now, having heard this sound of Dharma from the World Honored One, my heart rejoices and I have obtained what I never had before.”
G2. Shariputra explains himself.
I1. Telling of the three kinds of rejoicing.
And said to the Buddha, “Now having heard this sound of Dharma from the World Honored One, having heard The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra, my heart rejoices and I have obtained what I never had before. Previously, in the Vaipulya and Prajna Assemblies, I never heard a wonderful Dharma as subtle and miraculous as this.”
“What is the reason? In the past, I heard a Dharma such as this from the Buddha, and saw the Bodhisattvas receive predictions of Buddhahood, but we had no part in this matter. I was deeply hurt that I had lost the limitless knowledge and vision of the Thus Come One.”
“World Honored One, when I used to dwell alone in mountain forests, at the foot of trees, whether sitting or walking, I continually had this thought, “We all identically enter into the Dharma-nature, why has the Thus Come One shown us deliverance by means of the Small Vehicle Dharma? We are at fault, not the World Honored One.”
What is the reason? In the past, I heard a Dharma such as this from the Buddha, and saw the great Bodhisattvas receive predictions of Buddhahood. The Buddha conferred upon them predictions of their future Buddhahood. But we had no part in this matter. Although the Bodhisattvas had received predictions, we of the Small Vehicle did not have the status to take part in this supreme affair. We did not obtain a prediction from the Buddha, because we did not have the standing. I was deeply hurt that I had lost the limitless knowledge and vision of the Thus Come One. I was extremely pained, because I had not obtained a prediction from the Thus Come One. I had not been favored with the Buddha's compassion, and I thought I had lost out on the limitless wisdom and the limitless good roots.
World Honored One, when I used to dwell alone in mountain forests, at the foot of trees, whether sitting or walking, I continually had this thought: ‘We all identically enter into the Dharma nature.’ I used to live alone in the mountains, beneath the trees, because such places are very serene and quiet. They are appropriate for cultivation. I may have been sitting in meditation for several days at a stretch without moving. Then, when I got tired, I would get up and take exercise by walking around the tree or just walking through the glen. In any case, I always thought that we of the Small Vehicle and the Bodhisattvas identically possess the Dharma nature. Together we attain the Dharma spoken by the Buddha, and are nourished by the Dharma nature. Why has the Thus Come One shown us deliverance by means of the Small Vehicle Dharma? Why not use the Great Vehicle Dharma? Why did he use the Small Vehicle Dharma to save us? Was the Thus Come One prejudiced? Did the Buddha not care for the Small Vehicle people? Was he being uncompassionate?”
Those were Shariputra's musings.
We are at fault, not the World Honored One. Shariputra pondered back and forth, around and around, until he finally reflected upon himself. “ It is our fault. We of the Small Vehicle have dispositions which are shallow and thin. Our wisdom is non-existent; we are quite stupid, actually. If the Buddha had spoken the Great Vehicle Dharma to us, we would have been unable to accept it. It is our own fault. It has nothing to do with the World Honored One. It is not a question of his being prejudiced or not being compassionate. It is not that he does not care for us. Our own base, lowly dispositions, our own bad natures were such that, although the Buddha may have wished to speak the Great Vehicle Dharma, we could not have accepted it.”
“What is the reason? If we had waited for the lecture on the cause of realizing anuttarasamyaksambodhi, we would certainly have been delivered by means of the Great Vehicle Dharma. But we did not understand that expedient devices are spoken in accord with what is appropriate. Therefore, when we first heard the Buddhadharma, upon encountering it, we immediately believed, accepted, and considered it, and attained realization.”
What is the reason? Why is it our fault and not a case of the World Honored One being unfair? If we had waited for the lecture on the cause of realizing anuttarasamyaksambodhi, we would certainly have been delivered by means of the Great Vehicle Dharma. If we had waited a bit, thought it over, and then realized the Unsurpassed, Proper, and Equal, Right Enlightenment, we would certainly have been saved by means of the Great Vehicle. We would have relied on the Great Vehicle in our cultivation and in that way been rescued.
Anuttarasamyaksambodhi is the highest enlightenment of a Buddha. It is said to be“ right” enlightenment to differentiate it from the state of common people. Common people are not enlightened. The things that common people do are crazy and mixed-up, because they are not awake. Right enlightenment does not signify the state of enlightening others. Those of the Two Vehicles have obtained Right Enlightenment, but they have not attained Proper and Equal Enlightenment. The Buddha’s Proper, and Equal Enlightenment distinguishes him from those of the Two Vehicles. Proper and Equal Enlightenment is the enlightenment of the Great Vehicle Bodhisattvas, the Equal Enlightenment Bodhisattvas who enlighten themselves and enlighten others. They are properly equal with the Buddha, but are still off by just a little bit. Equal Enlightenment Bodhisattvas still have one share of production-mark ignorance which they have not destroyed. When they destroy it, they realize Wonderful Enlightenment, the enlightenment which is unsurpassed. This is the Unsurpassed, Proper, and Equal, Right Enlightenment, the position of Buddhahood.
At the level of Wonderful Enlightenment, one is called an "Unsurpassed Hero". Before reaching that level, the Bodhisattvas are called "Surpassed Heroes," because the Buddha is still above them. The Buddha is the Unsurpassed Hero, having realized the fruit of Buddhahood, the Unsurpassed, Proper and Equal, Right Enlightenment.
If you wish to certify to the fruit of Buddhahood, you must rely upon the Dharma of the Great Vehicle Bodhisattva.
But we did not understand that expedient devices are spoken in accord with what is appropriate. We did not understand that when the Buddha spoke the Dharma, he was using expedient devices to teach and transform us. He regards the potentials of beings and dispenses the teaching appropriate to the person. He prescribes the medicine according to the illness. He bestows the teaching according to the needs of the person being taught. Thus, he speaks in accord with what is appropriate.
Therefore, when we first heard the Buddhadharma, upon encountering it, we immediately believed and accepted it. When we heard the Buddha speak the Dharmas of the Four Truths, the Twelve Causes and Conditions, we believed them and considered it, diligently cultivated, and attained realization to the fruit of Arhatship.
“World Honored One, from of old, I have, day and night, continually reproached myself. Now, from the Buddha, I have heard what I never heard before, this Dharma which has never been before, and all my doubts have been severed. My body and mind are blissful, and I am at peace.”
J1. Conclusion proper.
World Honored One, from of old, I have, day and night, continually reproached myself. From the time of the Vaipulya Teachings until the present, from morning until night, from night until dawn, I have scolded myself. What is meant by “day and night”? Before one is enlightened, it is as if it were night. After enlightenment, it is as if the sun had risen. Those of the Two Vehicles who had realized the fruit of Arhatship, could be spoken of as being in the daylight. But if you compare them to the Bodhisattvas, they are still in the dark, and the Bodhisattvas are in the daylight.
“Reproach” means to restrain oneself. In Confucianism, they speak of it as “restraining oneself and returning to propriety.” Yan Yuan asked Confucius, “ How does one obtain humaneness?” Confucianism teaches humaneness, righteousness, and morality, and its followers look into the meaning of humaneness. Yan Yuan wanted to know how a person could dwell in humaneness. Confucius replied, “ Restrain yourself and return to propriety. That is humaneness.”
“But what is meant by ‘restrain yourself and return to propriety’?” Yan Yuan continued.
Confucius said, “If it is not in accord with propriety, do not look at it. If it is not in accord with propriety, do not listen to it. If it is not in accord with propriety, do not say it. If it is not in accord with propriety, do not do it.”
He said, “If it is not in accord with propriety, do not look at it. Not only should you not look at it, you should not even listen to it. For example, if people are gossiping, do not listen to them. If it is not in accord with principle, you should not say it. If it is not in accord with principle, you should not do it. In looking, listening, speaking, and acting, you must restrain yourself and return to propriety.”
Shariputra constantly restrained and reproached himself. He watched over himself. He followed the rules. He always kept track of himself and did not relax. For example, if you like to eat, but avoid indulging in good food, you are restraining yourself. If you like to be lazy and sleep, but restrain yourself from doing so, saying, "Hey, do not sleep so much. Do a little more work," that is just restraining yourself. If you do not like to study the Buddhadharma, but think, "I will certainly be vigorous in my studies of the Dharma," you are restraining yourself. Do not fear difficulty. People who succeed are, for the greater part, those who have skill at self-restraint. Without it, they would not have succeeded.
For example, I know a Dharma Master in Hong Kong named Shou Ye, who used to live at Guangji Temple at Five Peaks Mountain in China. It was extremely cold there, and he locked himself into seclusion in a room and did not come out. What did he do in there? He wrote out the Great Means Expansive Buddha Flower Adornment Sutra. That in itself is not such a remarkable feat; anyone could do that. But he did not write it with regular ink, he wrote it with his own blood. Each character was about 2 inches high and 2 inches wide. If the character had a lot of strokes, of course it took more blood to write. The Flower Adornment Sutra has eighty-some rolls, and several hundred thousand characters. It is one of the longest Sutras in Buddhism, and he was able to write it out with his own blood in his seclusion room. This shows that he had the skill of self-restraint.
Originally he did not know that many characters because he had received very little schooling. After he left the home life, he started to read the Sutras and then made a vow to practice writing them out. Now his characters are excellent.
Over a decade ago, this Dharma Master went to Vietnam and built a temple, and the Vietnamese officials all took refuge with him. Since those officials belonged to several different parties, he was afraid of getting too involved, so now he has gone to Hong Kong.
This Dharma Master is a contemporary monk of great virtue and ascetic cultivation. In this day and age, such people who have the skill of self-restraint are rare indeed.
Now from the Buddha, I have heard what I never heard before, this Dharma which has never been before, and all my doubts are severed. Shariputra says, "I have studied the Buddhadharma and heard the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra, and I have gotten rid of all my doubts." My body and mind are blissful, and I am at peace. What is meant by "blissful"? It means extremely pure, serene, happy, and comfortable. Shariputra is happy in body and in mind. He has attained a state of peace which is quite inconceivable.
“Today, indeed, I know that I am a true disciple of the Buddha, born from the Buddha’s mouth, transformed from the Dharma; I have obtained a share of the Buddhadharma”
Today, indeed, I know that I am a true disciple of the Buddha. I know that I am really the Buddha's disciple, that I am bound to become a Buddha in the future. Born from the Buddha's mouth, transformed from the Dharma. I have been born by transformation from out of the Buddhadharma. I have obtained a share of the Buddhadharma. I have obtained the spirit of the Buddha's Dharma body. I have obtained the Buddha's Dharma nature in its entirety. You might say that I have entered the stream of the Dharma nature.
At that time, Shariputra, wishing to restate this meaning, spoke verses, saying:
Hearing this Dharma sound,
I gain what I never had;
My heart is filled with great joy,
The net of doubts has been cast aside.
I1. Announcing the verses.
At that time, Shariputra, wishing to restate this meaning, spoke verses. He wanted to express himself even more clearly so he used verses to speak to the Buddha, saying: Hearing this Dharma sound, the miraculous sound of the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra, I gain what I never had. I have never before heard such a wonderful Dharma. My heart is filled with great joy. Within my heart, happiness arises. My body, mouth, and mind are all happy. The net of doubts has been cast aside. The net of doubts and misgivings that had covered my heart has been cast aside.
From of old, favored with the Buddha’s teaching,
I had never lost the Greater Vehicle.
The Buddha’s sound is extremely rare,
And can rid beings of their woes.
I have already attained to the end of outflows,
Yet hearing it my woes also are dispelled.
I2. Setting for the verses.
J1. The wisdom was not lost.
From of old, favored with the Buddha’s teaching. In life after life, from the distant past up until now, I have received the Buddha’s teachings. I had never lost the Greater Vehicle. In this way, my Great Vehicle seeds were tended and nourished. In this present life, they have ripened.
The Buddhas sound is extremely rare. The clear, pure, profound, far-reaching sound of the Buddha’s voice is the most rare sound in all the world. And can rid beings of their woes. If they hear the Buddha’s clear, pure voice, living beings can be freed of all their afflictions.
I have already attained to the end of outflows. I have already realized the Fourth Stage of Arhatship and attained the Penetration of No Outflows. Yet hearing it my woes also are dispelled. I had no worries to begin with, but my state was that of the Small Vehicle. Therefore, I had no genuine understanding of the doctrine of Bodhisattvahood. Hearing the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra, however, all my worries have been cleared away.
As I dwelt in the mountain valleys,
Sometimes at the foot of trees,
Whether sitting or walking,
I constantly thought upon this topic:
“Ah,” I cried in bitter self-reproach,
“Why have I deceived myself?
We, too, are the Buddha’s disciples,
And equally enter the non-outflow Dharma;
Yet, in the future, we shall not be able
To proclaim the Unsurpassed Path.
The Golden Color, the Thirty-two,
The Ten Powers and all the Liberations
Are together in a single Dharma,
But I have not attained these things.
The Eighty Wondrous Hallmarks,
The Eighteen Unshared Dharmas--
Such qualities of virtue--
I have missed them, every one.”
When I used to walk alone,
I would see the Buddha in the Great Assembly,
His fame filling the ten directions,
Vastly benefiting all beings.
I felt I had lost this benefit,
And had but cheated myself.
Constantly, both day and night,
I thought upon this matter,
And wished to ask the World Honored One
Whether or not I had lost it.
I often saw the World Honored One
Praising all the Bodhisattvas,
And so it was, by day and night,
I pondered on matters such as these.
Now I hear the Buddha's sound,
Opportunely speaking that Dharma
Which is without outflows--hard to conceive off--
And leads living beings to the Bodhimanda.
Once, I was attached to deviant views,
And was a teacher of the Brahmins.
The World Honored One knew my heart,
Pulled out the deviant, and taught me Nirvana.
I rid myself of deviant views,
And realized the Dharma of emptiness.
Then, I said to myself
That I had arrived at Quiescence.
J2. Wisdom formerly lost.
As I dwelt in the mountain valleys. Mountain valleys are clean and pure places for cultivation. When I lived there sometimes at the foot of trees. Sometimes I stayed in the groves, but whether sitting or walking. I may have been sitting there in meditation or I may have been practicing walking meditation, pacing around and around. I constantly thought upon this topic. What topic? “ Ah,” I cried in bitter self-reproach. I sighed in regret. Why have I deceived myself? How could I have cheated myself? We, too, are the Buddha’s disciples and equally enter the non-outflow Dharma. We all have attained to the Dharma of no outflows, that is, the position of Fourth Stage Arhatship, the attainment of the Penetration of No Outflows. The attainment of no outflows means the complete absence of sexual desire. If you have sexual desire, you have not attained to the state of no outflows. This is not to say that when there are no external stimuli you have no sexual desire, but that even when you see it, you have no thoughts of desire regarding that state. When such a state appears before you, you have no thoughts of desire. That is the no outflow Dharma.
Yet in the future, we shall not be able to proclaim the Unsurpassed Path, to teach the supreme, most wonderful Buddhadharma. That was what Shariputra was thinking to himself.
The Golden Color, the Thirty-two. The Buddha’s body is the color of gold and is endowed with the thirty-two marks of a great man. If you want to know what the thirty-two marks are, you can find them in a dictionary of Buddhism. The Ten Powers and all the Liberations. The Ten Powers have been discussed. The Liberations refer to the Eight Liberations, also called the Eight Renunciations and the Eight Victorious Places. Together with emptiness and consciousness, they make the Ten All-Places. Cultivators of Dhyana should be familiar with these. Are together in single Dharma. They are all within the Dharma nature, but I have not attained these things. Being of the Small Vehicle, I lacked the merit and virtue necessary to receive a prediction of Buddhahood from the Buddha.
The Eighty Wondrous Hallmarks. The Buddha’s body also is adorned with Eighty Minor Characteristics. These can also be found in a Buddhist dictionary. The Eighteen Unshared Dharmas. What is meant by “ unshared”? It means that these eighteen Dharmas are not shared by those of the Two Vehicles: the Hearers and the Conditioned Enlightened Ones. They are not shared by the Three Vehicles: the Hearers, the Conditioned Enlightened Ones, and the Bodhisattvas. They are not shared by them on the path of cultivation, because these are Dharmas possessed only by the Buddha. Thus, they are unshared by others. The Eighteen Unshared Dharmas--and you should know them--are:
The Thus Come One is:
1. Faultless in body.
2. Faultless in speech.
3. Faultless in mindfulness.
4. Has no perception of difference.
5. Has no unconcentrated thoughts.
6. There is nothing he does not know that has not already been cast aside.
7. His zeal never decreases.
8. His vigor never decreases.
9. His concentration never decreases.
10. His wisdom never decreases.
11. His liberation never decreases.
12. His knowledge and vision of liberation never decreases.
13. All his bodily karma accords with the practice of wisdom.
14. All his karma of speech accords with the practice of wisdom.
15. All his karma of mind accords with the practice of wisdom.
16. With his wisdom, he has unhindered knowledge of the past.
17. With his wisdom, he has unhindered knowledge of the future.
18. With his wisdom, he has unhindered knowledge of the present.
These are the Eighteen Unshared Dharmas, because they are unshared by those of the Two Vehicles and by Bodhisattvas. Only the Buddha has these eighteen.
Such qualities of virtue as previously mentioned, the Thirty-two Marks, the Eighty Minor Characteristics, the Ten Powers, the Eight Liberations, and all the rest, all this merit and virtue, I have missed them, every one. I Shariputra, one of the Small Vehicle, have lost out on this merit and virtue.
When I used to walk alone. When I was by myself, meditating or perhaps walking around, I would see the Buddha in the Great Assembly, His fame filling the ten directions. The Buddha’s name is known to all living beings in the ten directions. Vastly benefiting all beings. The Buddha broadly benefits all living beings and forsakes none. I felt I had lost this benefit, and had but cheated myself. Really, I never did lose the benefit, but I was cheating myself. Constantly, both day and night, in the six periods of the day and night, I thought upon this matter and wished to ask the World Honored One, whether or not I had lost it. Have I lost the benefit or not?
I often saw the World Honored One, the Buddha, praising all the Bodhisattvas. The Buddha continually extolled the virtues of the great Bodhisattvas. And so it was, by day and night, I pondered on matters such as these. I thought about it over and over.
Now I hear the Buddha’s sound, opportunely speaking that Dharma. He proclaims the wonderful Dharma in accord with the potentials of the living beings to be taught. Which is without outflows--hard to conceive of--and leads living beings to the Bodhimanda. It leads all creatures to the field of enlightenment.
Once I was attached to deviant views. Once, I had an attachment. I held to deviant knowledge and views. And was a teacher of the Brahmins, an outside way teacher. The World Honored One knew my heart. The Buddha knew what was in my heart, he knew my nature; he understood my causes and effects; he knew me quite thoroughly. He pulled out the deviant, and taught me Nirvana. He plucked out my deviant views, and replaced them with the Dharma of Nirvana, enabling me to realize the fruit of sagehood.
I rid myself of deviant views and realized the Dharma of Emptiness, the Dharma of True Emptiness, the wonderful fruit of Nirvana.
Then, I said to myself that I had arrived at Quiescence. I thought that certifying to the First, Second, Third, or Fourth Fruit of Arhatship was arriving at the level of Quiescence. I was wrong.
But now, at last, I realize
It is not real Quiescence.
For when I become a Buddha,
Complete with the Thirty-two Marks,
Revered by gods, humans, and yaksha hordes,
Dragons, spirits, and others,
Only then will I be able to say,
“This is eternal Quiescence without residue.”
The Buddha, in the Great Assembly,
Has said, I shall become a Buddha.
Hearing such a Dharma sound,
All my doubts have been dispelled.
J1. Conclusion itself.
K1. Conclusion proper.
But now, at last, I realize, it is not real Quiescence. Shariputra says, “Before, I thought I had attained Quiescence. Who would have guessed that it was nothing but Transformation City! It was not the treasure trove! Now, I have awakened. For when I become a Buddha. The position I previously attained was merely certification to the principle of one-sided emptiness. It was not the true, real quiescence. It was not the true attainment of Nirvana. In the future, when I become a Buddha complete with the Thirty-two Marks of a great man, revered by gods, humans, and yaksha hordes, honored by the gods in the heavens, the human beings, and all the ghosts, the entire Eight-fold Division, dragons, spirits, and others, only then will I be able to say, “This is eternal Quiescence, without Residue.” At that time, I will be able to say, “ I have truly attained Quiescence and entered Nirvana without Residue.”
The Buddha, in the Great Assembly has said, I shall become a Buddha. Presently, the Buddha, from amidst the Great Assembly has conferred a prediction upon me saying that I shall, in fact, become a Buddha. Hearing such a Dharma sound, all my doubts have been dispelled. All my doubts have disappeared.
When I first heard the Buddha speak,
My heart was filled with great fear and doubt:
“Is this not Mara disguised as the Buddha,
Come to disturb and confuse my heart?”
K2. Narrating the doubts.
When I first heard the Buddha speak the Dharma, my heart was filled with great fear and doubt. I thought, “Is this not Mara disguised as the Buddha, come to disturb and confuse my heart? Has the demon come and turned himself into the Buddha? How else could he be speaking such strange things? Has he come to ruin my cultivation of samadhi?” Shariputra admits that when he first heard the Buddha speak this wonderful Dharma, he had some doubts.
The Buddha, by means of various conditions,
Analogies, and ingenious speech,
Makes one's heart as calm as the sea.
Hearing him, the net of my doubts was rent.
The Buddha says that in the past,
The limitless Buddhas, now extinct ,
Dwelling in the use of expedients,
Also spoke this Dharma--each of them.
The Buddhas of the present and future,
Their numbers without limit,
Also used expedients
To expound Dharma such as this.
Just as now, the World Honored One,
From birth until his leaving home,
His attaining the Way and turning the Dharma wheel,
Also speaks by means of expedients.
The World Honored One speaks of the real Path.
The evil one does no such thing;
Hence, I know for certain
This is not the demon posing as the Buddha.
Because I had fallen into a net of doubts,
I said it was the doings of the demon.
Hearing the Buddha's compliant voice,
Profound, far-reaching, subtle and fine
Proclaiming wide the clear, pure Dharma,
Great is the joy within my heart.
My doubts are forever ended,
As in Real Wisdom I stand firm.
K3. Narrating his presently being led to understanding.
Shariputra says, “When I first heard the Buddha speak the Dharma, I thought a demon had come disguised as the Buddha to disturb my cultivation of samadhi. But the Buddha, by means of various conditions, analogies, and ingenious speech, expediently spoke the Dharma to me with his unobstructed eloquence. He makes one's heart as calm as the sea. The Buddha’s heart was as calm as the sea, and he caused my heart to become as calm as the sea. Hearing him, the net of my doubts was rent. Hearing the Buddha’s analogies and clever speech, my doubts vanished.
The Buddha says that in the past, the limitless Buddhas, now extinct, dwelling in the use of expedients. They all were established in the application of expedient Dharma-doors in order to teach the Dharma to living beings. Also spoke this Dharma--each of them. They all spoke the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra.
The Buddhas of the present and the future, their numbers without limit, also used expedients to expound wonderful Dharma such as this.
Just as now, the World Honored One, Shakyamuni Buddha, from birth until his leaving home, His attaining the Way and turning the Dharma wheel, also spoke by means of expedients. The Buddha manifested Eight Signs of Accomplishing the Way:
1. The Buddha descended from the Tushita Heaven. The Buddha descended from the Tushita Heaven to be born in India, in Kapilavastu, in the palace of King Shuddodana.
2. He entered the womb.
3. He dwelt in the womb. When the Buddha entered the womb, day and night, he spoke the Dharma for the gods, dragons, ghosts and spirits.
4. He left the womb. He was born in the world. When the Buddha Shakyamuni was born, he pointed one forefinger to the sky and one to the ground and said, “ In the heavens, and below, I alone am honored.”
5. He left home.
6. He accomplished the Way. While sitting beneath the Bodhi Tree one night, he saw a bright star and awakened to the Way.
7. He turned the Dharma wheel. He spoke Dharma for all living beings.
8. He entered Nirvana.
In the Tiantai Teachings, they omit the third, “dwelling in the womb,” and substitute “he defeated Mara” as the fifth, “he accomplished the Way,” as the sixth, and so forth. Actually, it amounts to the same thing, because in the Great Vehicle, the defeating of Mara is included within the “accomplishing of the Way.”
The Buddha manifested these eight signs which are referred to in the lines of the text: “From birth until his leaving home, His attaining the Way and turning the Dharma wheel...” Turning the Dharma wheel refers to expounding the Sutras and speaking Dharma.
The World Honored One speak of the real Path. The Buddha speaks the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra. The evil one does no such thing. This is the true, real wisdom, the doctrine of the Real Mark. The demon king, Papiyan, does not talk about such things. Hence, I know for certain, this is not the demon posing as the Buddha. Why did I think it was the demon acting as the Buddha? It was because I had fallen into a net of doubts. So I did not believe even the Buddha! I doubted him. I said it was the doings of the demon. I said, “The Buddha speaking the Dharma is actually a demon king speaking wildly!” Hearing the Buddha’s compliant voice, the wonderful sound which is compassionate, kind, joyous, and generous, profound, far-reaching, subtle and fine. The profound resonance of the Buddha’s voice is one of the Eighty Minor Characteristics. Hearing the Buddha proclaiming wide the clear, pure Dharma, great is the joy within my heart. I am very happy. My doubts are forever ended as in Real Wisdom I stand firm. I now abide securely in Real Wisdom.
I am certain to become a Buddha,
Revered by gods and humans.
I shall turn the Unsurpassed Wheel of Dharma,
To teach and transform Bodhisattvas.
J2. Final statement.
I am certain to become a Buddha. In the future, it is for sure that I will become a Buddha, revered by gods and humans, dragons, spirits, and so on. I shall turn the Unsurpassed Wheel of Dharma. In the future, I, too, shall turn the supreme Dharma-wheel to teach and transform all the great Bodhisattvas.
Part Two : Shariputra’s Prediction
At that time, the Buddha told Shariputra, “I, now, amidst the great assembly of gods, humans, Shramanas, Brahmins, and others, declare that in the distant past, in the presence of twenty thousand kotis of Buddhas, for the sake of the Unsurpassed Way, I have constantly taught and transformed you. You, throughout the long night, have followed me and received my instructions. I have used expedient devices to guide you to be born within my Dharma.”
F3. The Thus Come One tells of Shariputra's realization.
G1. Shariputra was taught the Great Vehicle in the past.
At that time, the Buddha told Shariputra. Right then, the Buddha said, “I, now, amidst the great assembly of gods, humans, Shramanas.” Shramana is a Sanskrit word which means “diligent and putting to rest.” They diligently cultivate morality, samadhi, and wisdom, and put to rest greed, hatred, and stupidity.
Brahmins are those of outside ways who cultivate pure conduct.
And others, declare that in the distant past, in the presence of twenty thousand kotis of Buddhas, during the time of the twenty-thousand Buddhas named Sun-Moon-Lamp Brightness and so forth, for the sake of the Unsurpassed Way, I have constantly taught and transformed you. The text says, “For the sake of seeking the Unsurpassed Way.” There are seven aspects to the adjective “unsurpassed” as follows:
1. The unsurpassed body.
2. The unsurpassed receiving and upholding.
3. The unsurpassed completeness.
4. The unsurpassed wisdom.
5. The unsurpassed inconceivability.
6. The unsurpassed liberations.
7. The unsurpassed conduct.
The Buddha says, “I have constantly taught and transformed you, Shariputra. You, throughout the long night, have followed me and received my instructions. Before you had understood, before you had become enlightened, it was as if you were following me in the dark, long night, receiving my teachings. I taught you the Buddhadharma.”
I have used expedient devices to guide you to be born within my Dharma. I have used all manner of expedient devices and Dharma-doors to lead you and so, Shariputra, you have been born within my Buddhadharma.
“Shariputra, in the past, I taught you to resolve yourself on the Buddha Way, but you have completely forgotten this, and so you say of yourself that you have already attained quiescence.
G2. Halfway through, he forgot it and grasped at the Small Vehicle.
“Shariputra,” Shakyamuni Buddha called out again, “I have used various expedients to lead you to be born within my Dharma. In the past, I taught you to resolve yourself on the Buddha Way. I instructed you to make a great resolve, to vow to accomplish the Buddha Way, but you have completely forgotten this. You have now no recollection of the Dharma-door I taught you then.”
This is like before, I taught you all the Shurangama Sutra, but you have all forgotten it now.
And so you say of yourself that you have already attained quiescence. You say that you have attained the Dharma-door of genuine quiescence.
“Now, again, wishing you to recall the path you have practiced according to your past vows, I, for the sake of the Hearers, speak this Great Vehicle Sutra by the name of The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower, a Dharma for instructing Bodhisattvas of whom the Buddhas are protective and mindful.”
G3. Once again he is taught the Great Vehicle.
Now, again, wishing you to recall the path you have practiced according to your past vows. I wish to cause you to remember, to think back and recall the vows you made in past lives. You have made vows to the effect that in every life you would support my Dharma. What is more, you vowed you would study the Buddhadharma under me and realize the Buddha Way. Do you remember? You vowed you would not be satisfied with studying the Small Vehicle Buddhadharma or with realizing the fruit of Arhatship by any means. You should think over the vows you made in the past, vows to cultivate the Buddha Way. I for the sake of the Hearers, for those who are Shravakas, speak this Great Vehicle Sutra by the name of the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra, a Dharma for instructing Bodhisattvas of whom the Buddha is protective and mindful. When you study this Sutra, all the Buddhas throughout the ten directions will come to protect you and be mindful of you.
“Shariputra, in a future age, after limitless and boundless, inconceivable eons…”
F4. Shariputra is given a prediction.
Shariputra, in a future age, after limitless and boundless, inconceivable eons. I am now conferring a prediction upon you to the effect that, after a number of eons which is infinite and boundless, which cannot be conceived of with the mind or expressed in words.
“…having made offerings to some thousands of myriads of kotis of Buddhas, having reverently upheld the Proper Dharma, and having perfected the Path practiced by the Bodhisattvas…”
H2. Causal practices.
Having made offerings to some. “Some,” here, refers to a number that is uncountable. The exact figure is not known, but in general, Shariputra made offerings to a great many Buddhas--several thousands of myriads of kotis of Buddhas--who knows how many? Having reverently upheld the Proper Dharma. You will have most reverently practiced the Proper Dharma, not the deviant dharma.
And having perfected the Path practiced by the Bodhisattvas. Having completed the practices essential to Bodhisattvas, the Six Perfections and the Ten Thousand Practices.
“…you shall become a Buddha by the name of Flower Light Thus Come One, One Worthy of Offerings, One of Proper and Universal Knowledge, One Whose Understanding and Conduct Are Complete, a Well-gone One Who Understands the World, an Unsurpassed Knight, a Taming and Regulating Hero, a Teacher of Gods and Humans, a Buddha, a World Honored One.”
H3. Attainment of the fruition.
You shall become a Buddha by the name of Flower Light Thus come One. Here, we are give the list of the Buddha’s ten titles. The first is “Thus Come One.” The Buddha, the Thus Come One, “takes the Vehicle of the Way which is ‘ Thus’ to ‘Come’ to the realization of Proper Enlightenment.”
The Way which is “ Thus” is the real, substantial Buddha Way, the path of the realization of Buddhahood. The path of the realization of Buddhahood is most certainly not an illusion; it is real and substantial. Therefore, an explanation of the term “Thus Come One” is that the Buddha takes the Vehicle of the Way which is “Thus” to “Come” to the realization of Proper Enlightenment, that is, Buddhahood.
One of the best explanations of the term Thus Come One, however, is found in the Vajra Sutra. It says, “The Tathagata does not come from anywhere, nor does he go anywhere. Therefore, he is called the Tathagata.” The Tathagata, or Thus Come One, neither comes nor goes.
“Thus” also represents stillness. “Come” represents movement. Movement does not obstruct stillness; stillness does not obstruct movement. Movement itself is stillness and stillness itself is movement. Movement and stillness are of one “ Thusness.”
Why is there movement? Movement is manifest through stillness. Why is there stillness? Stillness appears out of movement. Stillness is produced from movement. Movement comes from stillness. That is why movement and stillness are of one “ Thusness.” They are dual and yet non-dual. Although they are two, they are one. They are like water and ice. Water is ice and ice is water. The principle is the same. So, movement does not obstruct stillness and stillness does not obstruct movement. Stillness, at its extreme point, becomes movement and movement at its extreme point turns into stillness.
We human beings move during the day and are still at night. However, sometimes during the time of stillness people move. Sometimes, during the time of movement, people are still. For instance, during the day, people are suppose to be on the move, but some of them may take naps. Sleeping is stillness and waking is movement. At night, one should sleep, but some people do not. That is movement.
Thus Come One, then, is the first of the Buddha’s ten titles.
The second title is One Worthy of Offerings. One ought to make offerings to the Buddha. Living beings should make offerings to the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. On the part of the Buddha, the Buddha is worthy and should rightfully receive the offerings of gods and humans. It is said, “Where there is seeking, there will be a response. There is no influence that does not come through.” When you make offerings, you do so because you are seeking something. You seek blessings and wisdom, and therefore, you make offerings to the Triple Jewel.
The third of the Buddha’s ten titles is One of Proper and Universal Knowledge. What is meant by “Proper Knowledge?” It means that one knows that the mind produces the ten thousand dharmas. “ Universal Knowledge” means that one knows that the ten thousand dharmas are only the mind. All dharmas come from the mind:
The Buddha spoke all dharmas, for the minds of living beings.
If there were no minds, what use would dharmas be?
The fourth title is One Whose Understanding and Conduct are Complete. “Understanding” refers to the light of wisdom. “Conduct” refers to his cultivation. Because the Buddha is replete with wisdom, he is said to be complete in understanding and conduct.
Fifthly, the Buddha is the a Well-gone One Who Understands the World. “Well” means good. “Gone” means that he has gone to a good place. He understands and is clear about everything in the world. There are no dharmas, either mundane or transcendental, which he does not understand.
His sixth title is that of an Unsurpassed Knight. Only the Buddha can be called the Unsurpassed Knight. Other living beings cannot. Bodhisattvas are called Great Knights. They also have the name, Surpassed Knights. But the Buddha is the Unsurpassed Knight. No one is higher than the Buddha.
A Taming and Regulating Hero: To steer a car, you have to turn the steering wheel. In northern China, they have horse carts. The driver cracks the whip and they go forward. This is just “regulating.” The Buddha is a great hero who tames and regulates those in the Three Realms: the Desire Realm, the Form Realm, and the Formless Realm.
A Teacher of Gods and Humans: the Buddha is a leader for both the gods in the heavens and the people on the earth. The Buddha has three meanings, “Self-enlightened,” “Enlightening Others,” and “ Complete in Enlightenment and Practice.” It is said,
Having perfected the Three Kinds of Enlightenment,
And replete with the ten thousand virtues,
He is therefore called “ the Buddha.”
A World Honored One means that the Buddha is honored both in and beyond the world.
“His country shall be called ‘Apart From Filth.’ Its ground will be level, pure and adorned, tranquil, and prosperous, and abounding with gods. It shall have lapis lazuli for soil and eight intersecting roads bordered with golden cords, and by which shall stand rows of trees made of the seven treasures constantly blooming and bearing fruit.”
His country shall be called ‘ Apart From Filth.’ Its ground shall be level, pure, and adorned. Not only will it be level, it will also be pure. There will be no garbage in it whatsoever, no unclean things. Tranquil and prosperous, and abounding with gods. The land will be peaceful and without any trouble at all. It will be filled with happiness. Not only will ordinary people live in this country, but many gods will dwell there, their numbers flourishing, like a blaze of flame.
It shall have lapis lazuli for soil and eight intersecting roads bordered with golden cords. Where the roads intersect, golden ropes will mark off the boundaries. By which shall stand rows of trees made of the seven treasures which constantly bloom and bear fruit. There will be seven rows of trees, and seven layers of jeweled netting. The trees will be laden with flowers and fruits.
“The Thus Come One Flower Light will also teach and transform living beings by means of the Three Vehicles. Shariputra, when this Buddha comes into the world, although it will not be an evil age, because of his past vows, he shall teach the Dharma of Three Vehicles.”
H5. Speaking of the Dharma.
The Thus Come One Flower Light will also teach and transform living beings by means of the Three Vehicles. The Buddha Flower Light will also use the Three Vehicles--of Hearers, Conditioned-enlightened Ones, and Bodhisattvas--to teach and transform living beings. Shariputra, when this Buddha comes into the world, although it will not be an evil age, an age of the Five Turbidities, because of his past vows, he shall teach the Dharma of Three Vehicles. Because of his original vows, he will speak the Three Vehicles. Why is this? It is because the teacher under whom he studied the Buddhadharma in the past, will have been Shakyamuni Buddha. Since his teacher spoke the Dharma of the Three Vehicles, the disciple also will make a vow to imitate his teacher. Although the age he will be born into will not be an evil one of the Five Turbidities, he will nevertheless teach the expedient Dharma of the Three Vehicles.
“That eon will be called ‘Adorned With Great Jewels.’ Why will it be called ‘Adorned With Great Jewels’? Because in that land, Bodhisattvas will be considered great jewels.”
H6. Name of the eon.
When the Thus Come One Flower Light becomes a Buddha, that eon will be called 'Adorned with Great Jewels.' Why will it be called 'Adorned With Great Jewels'? Because in that land, Bodhisattvas will be considered great jewels. This is because in that country they will take Bodhisattvas to be great jewels. During that eon, a great many Bodhisattvas, Mahasattvas will emerge. The Bodhisattvas will adorn the age.
The term Bodhisattva has been explained many times. But perhaps some of you have forgotten, so today I will take a little time to explain it. Where do Bodhisattvas come from? Bodhisattvas come from living beings. Bodhisattvas originally were living beings. Then, where do living beings come from? Living beings come from the Buddha. Where does the Buddha come from? He comes from living beings. Therefore, the Buddha comes from living beings; living beings come from the Buddha. Coming and going, going and coming; not coming and not going, not going and not coming.
This eon is named after great Bodhisattvas who are called "Great Jewels." They are great living jewels which adorn the age.
“These Bodhisattvas will be limitless, boundless, and inconceivable in number, beyond the reach of calculation or analogy. Without the power of the Buddha's wisdom, no one could know their number.”
H7. Size of the assembly.
These Bodhisattvas, these great living jewels, will be limitless, boundless, and inconceivable in number. How many Bodhisattvas will there be? You could never count them. You could never find their limits. Why is this? It is because their number is inconceivable. If it had a limit or boundary, it would be "conceivable." Beyond the reach of calculation or analogy. Because the number is inconceivable, it cannot be reckoned. The number of Bodhisattvas can not be counted, can not be alluded to. Who knows how many there will be? Their numbers will be like the grains of sand in the Ganges River. The entire land will be covered with them. That is why the eon will be called 'Adorned with Great Jewels.' Take a look at the Ganges River. Can you count the grains of sand in it? The number of Bodhisattvas is even greater than that! Without the power of the Buddha's wisdom, no one could know their number. Without the Buddha's wisdom, the Ten Wisdom Powers of the Buddha, no one could know how many Bodhisattvas there will be.
“When they wish to walk, jeweled flowers will spring up beneath their feet. These Bodhisattvas will not be those who have just brought forth the resolve. They will have planted the roots of virtue for a long time, and in the presence of limitless hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of Buddhas purely cultivated Brahman conduct, constantly receiving the Buddhas’ praise, constantly cultivating the Buddha’s wisdom, and complete with great spiritual penetrations, they will be well-versed in all the doors of Dharma, straightforward, ingenuous, and resolute. Bodhisattvas such as these will fill that country.”
When they wish to walk. When they are standing there, or sitting down—there is nothing unusual about it. However, as soon as they start to walk, jeweled flowers will spring up beneath their feet. When they walk, lotuses will spring up to receive their feet. These Bodhisattvas, boundless in number, will not be those who have just brought forth the resolve. They have not just now brought forth the Bodhisattva resolve. They have cultivated good roots for a long time and have realized unobstructed wisdom. These Bodhisattvas, you might say, are old Bodhisattvas, not young ones.
Last summer, during the Summer Session, I told you:
Fish eggs, the Amala fruit,
And newly resolved Bodhisattvas--
Of these three, there are many in the cause,
But few of them bear fruit.
Newly resolved Bodhisattvas sometimes do not make it. Fish spawn in the Spring, and although they lay many eggs, not all the eggs turn into fish. Some do, but many others are turned into mush by the currents in the sea.
The Amala Tree has lots of blossoms, but bears little fruit. Bodhisattvas find that bringing forth the Bodhi resolve is easy:
The heroic resolve is easy to bring forth,
But enduring determination is hard to maintain.
The heroic resolve may suddenly arise, "Ah! I have brought forth the Bodhisattva heart. I am going to give such-and-such an amount of money." Easy to say. But if you try to give that way every day, you will find it is not easy. It is easy to bring forth the resolve to become a Bodhisattva, but very difficult to continue cultivating the Bodhisattva Way for a long time. Sometimes, people may bring forth the resolve and then retreat. Haven't I said that in cultivating the Way, people will suddenly advance, and then, just as suddenly, retreat?
"Today I am thinking about my old friends. They are all dead, and my young friends, too, are no longer in this world. My middle-aged friend died in an auto accident. The old, middle-aged, and young ones are all dead. Human life is truly meaningless. In the future, everyone is going to die. What day am I going to die? Do not know..."
Yesterday, we went to "take across" someone who had passed away. It is the Chinese Buddhist custom that when someone dies, those who have left home recite Sutras to take them across. An eighty-seven year-old had passed away, so the entire company--three novices and a Bhikshu--went to recite Sutras. When we got back, I asked one of the novices how it was. He said he really liked doing it.
"Then you should find a way to cause more people to die, so that you will have work to do every day," I joked. Actually, you should not have such false thoughts, because if you want others to die, they will also want you to die. Then everyone dies together, and the world will have no people left.
Although you like to recite Sutras for the deceased, you should wait for the conditions to occur naturally; do not think of trying to cause more people to die.
Why do I bring this up? It is because in the future everyone is going to die. The question is: After we die, where are we going? Where did we come from in the first place? That, too, is a question. Therefore, you must find out where you came from before you were born and where you will be going after you die. When you are clear about that, you would not have lived your human life in vain. You would not have come here for nothing. So the Bodhisattvas who have just brought forth the resolve, seeing that everyone is bound to die, will get nervous, "I had better hurry up and cultivate the Way, recite the Buddha's name, meditate, keep precepts, and listen to Sutra lectures. I have simply got to cultivate. There is a lecture at 125 Waverly Place, Fourth Floor. We ought to take it in."
They go to one lecture, find it utterly tasteless, and never return. That is called "The Bodhisattva bringing forth the resolve--for a day." The first day they are quite enthusiastic. The second day, they have cooled off considerably. By the third day, their hearts are frozen solid. They have entered the ice-box when it comes to the Buddhadharma.
It is easy to bring forth that initial resolve, but difficult to sustain for any length of time. So, as the verse said, there may be a great many fish eggs, Amala blossoms, and newly resolved Bodhisattvas, but few of them actually come to fruition. So these old Bodhisattvas, who knows how many little Bodhisattvas were in the group that they began in? When they walk, lotuses spring up to catch their feet. When Shakyamuni Buddha walks, there are lotuses beneath his feet, and he walks four inches above the ground. He does not need to have his feet touch the ground in order to make footprints!
"Now, that I do not believe," you say. "How could someone make footprints whose feet do not even touch the ground?"
I do not care if you believe it or not. What difference does it make to me whether or not you believe it? I am lecturing the Sutras in accord with the truth. If you do not believe it--so much the better! That is my fondest wish, in fact. If you believed, I would not have to lecture on the Sutras. As long as you do not believe, I can keep on lecturing, just to get you to disbelieve! See? The inconceivable is right there.
These Bodhisattvas will not be those who have just recently brought forth their resolves. They will have planted the roots of virtue for a long time. For a long time, they will have planted the roots of virtue, merit, and blessings. What are the roots of virtue? They are obtained by planting blessings. If you do a lot of good deeds, you are planting the roots of virtue. If you do a lot of evil deeds, you are planting the roots of offenses. These Bodhisattvas did no evil and practiced every kind of good deed. For a long time, they had been planting the roots of their virtue, not just for a day or two, a month or two, a year or two, but in every life throughout limitless, countless eons. If they found out there was a good deed to be done, they did, regardless. They benefited all living beings.
And in the presence of limitless hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of Buddhas, these old Bodhisattvas purely cultivated Brahma conduct. "Purely" means clean, sparkling clean, not defiled by a single speck of dust.
Not defiled by a single speck of dust,
The myriad thoughts are all empty.
If one wishes to be truly pure, one must not handle money. If you have money, that is impure. Having no money is a form of purity. Why? Money is the filthiest thing there is. In spite of the fact that it is filthy, everyone takes it for a treasure. When people count money, they wet their fingers with saliva to count the bills. How filthy would you say that was? The germs are crawling all over the money, but that does not stop anyone from putting it right into their pockets, germs and all. The more the better! People like to be unclean. They take dirty things as gems. The pure cultivation of Brahma conduct means that you do not hold money.
"I cannot manage that," you say. Of course you cannot. If you could, you would be a Bodhisattva. But you cannot, and so you are not! It is as simple as that.
Constantly receiving the Buddhas' praise means that the Buddhas of the ten directions praised them all the time, saying, "You are really good old Bodhisattvas, great Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas." Why do they praise them? Because they have been cultivating their roots of virtue for a long time. They are naturally deserving of the Buddhas' praises.
Constantly cultivating the Buddha's wisdom. What is the Buddha's wisdom? It is real, genuine wisdom. Complete with great spiritual penetrations, not small ones. They do not just have the power of knowing others' thoughts, or knowing past lives, or the Heavenly Eye, or the Heavenly Ear. It is not that simple. They have great spiritual powers. With great spiritual penetrations, one does not have to intentionally contemplate in order to thoroughly comprehend everything. Those with small spiritual penetrations, such as the Arhats, have to deliberately contemplate. This means that, if they want to know about something, they first have to quiet their minds and deliberately think, "I want to know this..." They have a wisdom which comes from intentional thought. Those with great spiritual powers, on the other hand, do not have to do that. They do not have to settle their minds and sit down to meditate for five minutes or so before they can know something. They do not have to meditate, because at all times and in all places, there is nothing they do not know and nothing they do not see. That is great spiritual penetrations. If you study the Buddhadharma, you should know the difference between great and small spiritual penetrations.
They will be well-versed in all the doors of Dharma. The great Bodhisattvas know the entrance into the Dharmas, that is, how to get into them, so to speak. They will be able to penetrate the Real Mark of all Dharmas.
Straightforward means that their behavior is straightforward and not sneaky. Ingenuous means that they are not false. They are truthful in all they do. And resolute. When it comes to the Buddhadharma, their determination is extremely firm. They cannot be side-tracked, and they would never retreat. Bodhisattvas such as these will fill that country. Great Bodhisattvas like these will completely fill the land of the Thus Come One Flower Light during the eon called 'Adorned with Great Jewels.’
“Shariputra, the life span of the Buddha Flower Light will be twelve small eons, not counting the time during which, as a prince, he will not yet have become a Buddha. The life spans of the people in that country will be eight small eons.”
H8. The life span
Shakyamuni Buddha called out, "Shariputra, the life span of the Buddha Flower Light will be twelve small eons.” What is meant by a "small eon"?
Every one hundred years, the average human life span decreases by one year, and the average height decreases by one inch. We are now in a period of "decrease." When the human life span has decreased to ten years--it is now on the average of sixty or seventy years--it will begin to increase again, and keep increasing to 84,000 years. One period of increase and one period of decrease is considered to be an eon. One thousand of those eons is a small eon. Twelve small eons--how long is that? You will need some time to figure it out.
Not counting the time during which, as a prince, he will not yet have become a Buddha. The life span of twelve small eons does not count the time during which he is a prince and has not yet become a Buddha. The life spans of the people in that country will be eight small eons.
“After twelve small eons, the Thus Come One Flower Light will confer upon the Bodhisattva Solid Fullness a prediction of anuttarasamyaksambodhi, and announce to the Bhikshus, ‘The Bodhisattva Solid Fullness shall next become a Buddha by the name of Flowery Feet Peacefully Walking, Tathagata, Arhat, Samyaksambuddha. His Buddha-country will be of like character.’”
H9. The successor.
After twelve small eons, the Thus Come One Flower Light will confer upon the Bodhisattva Solid Fullness a prediction of anuttarasamyaksambodhi. He will give the Bodhisattva Solid Fullness a prediction. "Solid" means firm; "fullness" means complete. What is solid? His vow power. What is complete? His vow power. What is his vow? To become a Buddha! Since his vow to become a Buddha is complete, the Thus Come One Flower Light will give him a prediction of Buddhahood and announce to the Bhikshus, "After I have entered Nirvana, the Bodhisattva Solid Fullness shall next become a Buddha by the name of Flowery Feet Peacefully Walking." The word "Bhikshu," here, includes the Four-fold Assembly. His Buddha name will be Flowery Feet Peacefully Walking, because when he walks there will be flowers springing up to catch his feet. He will walk very peacefully. "Tathagata" is the Thus Come One. "Arhat" means One Worthy of Offerings. "Samyaksambuddha" means One of Proper and Universal Knowledge. His Buddha-country will be of like character. It will be like the land of Flower Light Thus Come One, with lapis lazuli for soil and so forth.
“Shariputra, when the Buddha Flower Light has passed into quiescence, the Proper Dharma Age shall dwell in the world for thirty-two small eons. The Dharma Image Age shall dwell in the world also for thirty-two small eons.”
H10. Duration of the Dharma's dwelling.
Shariputra, when the Buddha Flower Light has passed into quiescence, the Proper Dharma Age shall dwell in the world for thirty-two small eons. There are the Proper Dharma Age, the Dharma Image Age, and the Dharma-ending Age. The Dharma Image Age shall dwell also for thirty-two small eons. During the Proper Dharma Age, people are strong in dhyana samadhi. During the Dharma Image Age, people are strong in building temples, monasteries, and Buddha images. During the Dharma-ending Age, people are strong in fighting.
"Dharma-ending" means that there is no more Dharma. The Dharma has come to its final stages, like the tips of branches on a tree. The Proper Dharma Age could be likened to the root of the tree, the Dharma Image Age to the branches, and the Dharma-ending Age to the twigs, the tips of the branches. In the Dharma Image Age, people will still create Buddha images, but in the Dharma-ending Age, they would not even do that. What will they do? They will be strong in fighting. "You fight with me. I fight with you." Everybody will be thinking only of fighting with one another, and so the good Dharma will turn into "no Dharma." Without the good Dharmas, the Buddhadharma will become extinct.
Presently, there are words on the printed Sutra texts. When the Dharma-ending Age descends, the words will disappear from the paper. Why? The chemical warfare made possible by scientific progress has created pollution to the point that there is not a single place at present where the air is clean. It is all full of poison and so when people breathe it, if they do not get cancer, they come down with some other incurable disease. Because of this impure air, gradually, the words of the Sutras will be poisoned right off the paper. The first Sutra to disappear will be the Shurangama Sutra. So in the West, the first order of business is to investigate the Shurangama Sutra and promote it. Why do we recite the Shurangama Mantra twice every day, once in the morning and once at night? If there is no one in the world who can recite the Shurangama Mantra, the demons and strange creatures can get into the world. As long as there is one person in the world who recites the Shurangama Mantra, they do not dare come into the world.
Also, the Forty-two Hands work the same way. If one person has mastered the Thousand Arm Dharani Dharma, not a single demon in the great trichiliocosm will have the gall to appear in the world. So now our recitation of the Shurangama Mantra sustains the Proper Dharma Age. We are now turning the Dharma-ending Age into the Proper Dharma Age!
At that time, the World Honored One, wishing to restate this meaning, spoke verses, saying,
Shariputra, in a future age,
Shall become a Buddha, honored and all-wise,
By the name of Flower Light,
Who will save limitless multitudes.
H1. Verse introduced.
I1. Transcendence to attain the fruition.
At that time, when Shakyamuni Buddha had conferred the prediction upon Shariputra, the World Honored One, wishing to restate this meaning. The Buddha wanted to use verses to speak the meaning once more, in greater detail, and so he spoke verses, saying, Shariputra, in a future age, in the future, shall become a Buddha, honored and all-wise, a Buddha who saves all living beings and is honored for his wisdom by the name of Flower Light. His Buddha-name will be Flower Light Thus Come One. Who will save limitless multitudes. He will rescue limitless, boundless living beings.
Having made offerings to countless Buddhas,
And having perfected the Bodhisattva conduct,
The Ten Powers and other meritorious qualities,
He shall certify to the Unsurpassed Way.
I2. Verse of causal practices.
Having made offerings to countless Buddhas. Why will he become a Buddha? Because he will have made offerings to countless numbers of Buddhas and having perfected the Bodhisattva conduct. He will have practiced the Six Perfections and the Ten Thousand Practices, the path that Bodhisattvas are supposed to practice, that of benefiting oneself and benefiting others, enlightening oneself and enlightening others--the Bodhisattva Way. The Ten Powers and other meritorious qualities refer to the Ten Powers, the Eight Liberations, and the dhyana samadhis. The Ten Powers have been discussed. As to the seventh of the ten, that of knowing where all paths lead, this means that the Buddha knows that living beings who cultivate the Five Precepts and the Ten Good Deeds can be born into the heavens. If one cultivates the Four Holy Truths, one can certify to the fruit of Arhatship. If one cultivates the Twelve Conditioned Causes, one can certify to the fruit of Pratyekabuddhahood. If one practices the Six Perfections and the Ten Thousand Practices, one can certify to the fruit of Bodhisattvahood.
Because he has perfected the meritorious qualities of the Ten Powers, as well as other meritorious qualities, including the Eighteen Unshared Dharmas, the Four Truths, the Twelve Conditioned Causes, the Six Perfections and the Ten Thousand Practices--all the Dharma-doors. He shall certify to the position of the Unsurpassed Way.
When limitless eons have passed,
There shall be an eon named “Adorned with Great Jewels,”
I3. Verse of time and name of eon.
When limitless eons have passed there shall be an eon named "Adorned with Great Jewels. After unlimited eons have gone by, and Shariputra has become a Buddha, there will an eon named Adorned with Great Jewels.
And a world by name of “Apart from Filth,”
Being pure and without flaw,
With lapis lazuli as its ground,
And its roads bordered with golden cords,
With multicolored trees made of seven treasures,
Which constantly bloom and bear fruit.
I4. Verse about the country.
And a world by the name of "Apart from Filth" will be the world in which he realizes Buddhahood. Why will it be called "Apart From Filth?" Because there will be no unclean things there. It will be extremely clean. Being pure and without flaw. It will not have the slightest flaw, no "blemishes on the jade," so to speak.
With lapis lazuli as its ground. This blue gem shall be its ground. And its roads bordered with golden cords, with multicolored trees made of seven treasures. The combination of colors--blue and white, or red and yellow, or green and red--will cause those who see the trees to bring forth the Bodhi-heart. Why are they so beautiful? So that when people see them, their hearts want to seek the Way. "This place is so fine," they will think, "I had better hurry up and cultivate so that I can go there." Which constantly bloom and bear fruit. The trees will always be in bloom and will constantly be bearing fruit.
The Bodhisattvas in that land,
Will be always firm in mindfulness,
With spiritual penetrations and paramitas ,
All thoroughly perfected.
In the presence of countless Buddhas,
They will have well-learned the Bodhisattva Way.
I5. Verse concerning the assembly.
The Bodhisattvas in that land, in the world Apart from Filth, during the eon called Adorned with Great Jewels, will be always firm in mindfulness. Their resolve and their thoughts will be extremely firm. They will have all attained to the Three-fold Irreversibility: 1) Irreversible in position, 2) Irreversible in thought, and 3) Irreversible in conduct. With spiritual penetrations and paramitas all thoroughly perfected. They will have attained great spiritual powers and the paramitas, having gone to the other shore. They will have perfected them all.
In the presence of countless Buddhas, they will have well-learned the Bodhisattva Way. They will have studied and practiced the Bodhisattva Way, cultivating the Dharma-door of the Six Perfections and the Ten Thousand Practices.
Great Knights such as these
Shall have been transformed by the Buddha Flower Light.
I6. Verse about the teaching of the Dharma.
Great Knights such as these, all these limitless and boundlessly many great Bodhisattvas, shall have been taught and transformed by the Buddha Flower Light.
That Buddha, when still a prince,
Shall renounce his land and worldly glory,
And in his final body,
Leave home to realized the Buddha Way.
The Buddha Flower Light shall dwell in the world
For a life span of twelve small eons.
The people of his land
Shall live for eight small eons.
I7. Verse about the life spans.
That Buddha, when still a prince, shall renounce his land and worldly glory. He basically should have become the king, but he would not. He would not want his kingdom. He will renounce it and let go of all the wealth and honor he was due to receive. And in his final body, in his very last life, he shall leave home to realize the Buddha Way. He shall go forth from the home-life, become a Bhikshu, and cultivate to accomplish the Buddha Way.
The Buddha Flower Light shall dwell in the world for a life span of twelve small eons. The people of his land shall live for eight small eons.
When that Buddha has passed into quiescence,
The Proper Dharma shall remain in the world
For thirty-two small eons,
Widely saving living beings.
When the Proper Dharma has vanished,
The Dharma Image shall remain for thirty-two.
The sharira shall be distributed widely,
For the offerings of gods and humans.
I8. The Dharma's dwelling.
When that Buddha has passed into quiescence, when the Thus Come One Flower Light has entered Nirvana, the Proper Dharma shall remain in the world for thirty-two small eons, widely saving living beings. During the thirty-two eons of the Proper Dharma Age, vast numbers of living beings will be taken across the sea of suffering.
When the Proper Dharma has vanished, when it has passed out of existence, the Dharma Image Age shall remain for thirty-two small eons as well. The sharira shall be distributed widely. The sharira of the Buddha Flower Light shall be distributed widely throughout the world and many stupas shall be erected. For the offerings of gods and humans. The gods in the heavens and the humans below shall make offerings to the sharira, to the jeweled stupas containing them.
The deeds of the Buddha Flower Light,
Shall be such as these.
That Sagely Honored One, Twice Complete,
Shall be supreme and beyond compare.
And he is just you, yourself!
It is fitting that you do rejoice.
H2. Concluding praise.
The deeds of the Buddha Flower Light shall be such as these. In general, his actions shall be as just enumerated. That Sagely Honored One, Twice Complete. The one complete in blessings and wisdom, shall be supreme and beyond compare. He will be the most excellent; no one will be able to compare with him.
And he is just you, yourself! And just who is this Flower Light Buddha? He is just you, Shariputra. In the future, you shall become the Buddha Flower Light. It is fitting that you do rejoice. You should be happy and rejoice, for in the future, you shall become a Buddha.
Part Three : The Parable
At that time, the Four-fold Assembly of Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Upasakas, and Upasikas, as well as the great multitude of yakshas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, kinnaras, mahoragas, and so forth, seeing Shariputra, in the presence of the Buddha, receive a prediction for anuttarasamyaksambodhi, greatly rejoiced in their hearts and leapt for unbounded joy.
F5. Rejoicing of the Great Assembly.
H1. Editor of Sutra tells of the assembly's rejoicing.
At that time, after Shakyamuni Buddha had bestowed the prediction upon Shariputra, the Four-fold Assembly of Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Upasakas, and Upasikas: Bhikshus are men who have left home; Bhikshuni are women who have left home. Upasakas are men who are at home and Upasikas are women who are at home. Not only was the Four-fold Assembly of disciples present, but the gods, dragons, and the Eight-fold Division was there, too. As well as the great multitude of yakshas, "speedy ghosts" who run very fast.
Gandharvas are musical spirits in the court of Shakra. Asuras are those who have heavenly blessings, but not heavenly authority. They do not have the virtue conduct of the gods. Asuras are sometimes found in the Three Good Paths, and other times they are counted in the Four Evil Paths. The Three Good Paths are those of the gods, humans, and asuras. The Four Evil Paths are the asuras, hell beings, hungry ghosts, and animals. Why are asuras put into the Four Evil Paths? It is because their temperament is very feisty. They are always trying to pick fights with people. It is because of their strength in fighting that they are counted among the Four Evil Paths. There are asuras, too, among humans, in the hells, in the heavens, among the animals, and the hungry ghosts. Asuras are just those who like to fight. No matter what kind of living being it is, if it likes to fight, it is an asura.
Garudas are the great Golden-winged Peng Birds. These birds have a wingspan of three hundred yojanas. With a single flap of their wings, they can dry up the entire ocean, exposing all the dragons to view. They gobble up the dragons just like we eat noodles! They open their mouths and pop in a dragon, open their mouths and pop in a dragon. Their bodies are huge, so their lips are big, too, and they can swallow dragons just like we eat noodles. Kinnaras are also musical spirits in Shakra's court. Mahoragas are the big snakes. When the Buddha spoke the Dharma, the gods, dragons, and the rest of the eight-fold division all went to listen. This is just a general list. There were also a lot of other kinds of beings there.
Seeing Shariputra, in the presence of the Buddha, receive a prediction for Anuttarasamyaksambodhi: The great assembly saw Shariputra receive a prediction of his future Buddhahood as the Thus Come One Flower Light. Greatly rejoiced in their hearts. See? Greatly wise Shariputra, in the future, can become a Buddha! They were ecstatic! And leap for unbounded joy. They jumped around just like when people are happy to the extreme they may jump for joy, not dancing, but just expressing their happiness.
Each removed his upper garment and presented it as an offering to the Buddha. Shakro Devanam Indrah and the Brahma Heaven King, together with countless gods, also made offerings to the Buddha of heavenly wonderful garments, heavenly mandarava flowers and mahamandarava flowers, and so forth.
H2. Explaining the offerings.
Each removed his upper garment: Each of them removed his most expensive upper garment. And presented it as an offering to the Buddha. Now, as to making offerings to the Buddha, in the Indian custom, Bhikshus had a precept that they could have only three robes in their possession. One was the Samghati robe, also called the host robe, which is twenty-five strips and one hundred and eight patches. There is also the seven-piece robe and the five-piece robe. These are the only three robes they were allowed. Now, if they removed their robes and offered them to the Buddha, wouldn't they be left without a robe and thereby breaking a precept? Wherever left-home people go, their three robes have to go with them. But if they removed their most upper garments. their most expensive garments of course being the host robe, wouldn't they be missing a robe?
You should not have an attachment at this point and look at it as so stuffy. At that time, the Bhikshus might have had the offerings of some other people, extras of which they gave the newest ones to the Buddha. Or perhaps some Bhikshus had already died and had entrusted their clothing to others who took this happy occasion to offer them to the Buddha. There are a lot of ways you could explain this. Lay people of course can give away their valuable clothing as they like. "Upper" garments can refer to the clothes they wore on the upper part of their bodies or it can refer to the finest, most expensive garments.
Shakro Devanam Indrah, (same as above) the Lord of the Heaven of the Thirty-three, also known as Shakra, and The Brahma Heaven King, the King of the Great Brahma Heaven, together with countless gods, also made offerings to the Buddha of heavenly wonderful garments, the wonderful clothing of the gods, Heavenly Mandarava Flowers, white flowers, and Mahamandarava Flowers, big white flowers, and so forth includes the Manjushaka Flowers and the Mahamanjushaka Flowers, that is, the red flowers and the big red flowers.
The heavenly garments they tossed aloft remained in empty space and whirled around. Then, all at once, in empty space hundreds of thousands of myriads of kinds of heavenly music began to play, and there fell a rain of heavenly flowers.
The heavenly garments they tossed aloft remained in empty space and whirled around. They revolved in empty space as if they were flying, and twirled around and around. Then, all at once in empty space hundreds of thousands of myriads of kinds of heavenly music began to play, all at the same time. And there fell a rain of heavenly flowers.
As they uttered these words, “Long ago in Varanashi, the Buddha first turned the Wheel of Dharma. Now, he turns again that unsurpassed, magnificent Dharma-wheel.”
H3. Leading to understanding proper.
As they uttered these words, "Long ago, in Varanashi, in the Deer Park, the Buddha first turned the Wheel of Dharma. He turned the Dharma-wheel of Four Truths, called The Three Turnings of the Dharma-wheel of the Four Holy Truths. Now, he turns again that unsurpassed magnificent Dharma-wheel. He is speaking The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra.
At that time, all the gods, wishing to restate this meaning, spoke the following verse:
Long ago in Varanashi,
You turned the Dharma-wheel of Four Truths,
Discriminatingly speaking of the Dharmas,
The production and extinction of Five Heaps.
Now, again, you turn that wondrous,
Unsurpassed, great Wheel of Dharma.
This Dharma is deep and recondite,
And few are those who can believe it.
H1. Verse of opening the provisional to reveal the one reality.
At that time, after the gods, dragons, and the eight-fold division heard that the Buddha was about to turn the Dharma-wheel again, all the gods, wishing to restate this meaning, spoke the following verse:
Long ago in Varanashi, the World Honored One, previously, in the Deer Park, you turned the Dharma-wheel of Four Truths. You expounded the Three Turnings of the Dharma-wheel of Four Truths. Discriminatingly speaking of the Dharmas; suffering, origination, extinction, the Way, the Twelve Conditioned Causes, the production and extinction of Five Heaps; form, feeling, perception, impulse, and consciousness. The Truth of Suffering is produced from the Truth of Origination. Where there is production, there is extinction and because of the Truth of Origination, the Truth of Suffering arises. Not long after it is produced, it is extinguished. The extinction of both production and extinction is the Truth of Extinction.
What is extinguished? Suffering and origination. The extinction of suffering and origination is the Truth of the Way. Therefore, suffering, origination, extinction and the Way have their roots in the Five Skandhas.
Now, again, you turn that wondrous unsurpassed great Wheel of Dharma. Long ago you spoke the Dharmas of the Four Truths and the Twelve Conditioned Causes and now you speak the most wonderful Dharma. What is it? It is The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra. This Sutra is the King of Dharmas. It is supreme. There is nothing more lofty than this. It is the genuine wisdom. In this Sutra, the provisional wisdom is done away with and the true, real wisdom is taught.
This Dharma is deep and recondite and few are those who can believe it. This Sutra is extremely deep and most wonderful. Most people's wisdom cannot fathom it, because it is so wonderful. Unable to fathom it, they disbelieve it. For example, over a thousand years ago in China, there were "flying cars." When the Yellow Emperor was battling with Chiyu, the leader of a barbarian tribe, there were already flying cars. the Yellow emperor invented the compass, because during the battle, Chiyu was able to set off a poisonous fog which screened their vision. So the Yellow Emperor invented the compass so he could know the four directions. But, a thousand years ago, if you had told someone, "In the future there will be planes which will fly in space," to say nothing of rockets, no one would have believed you. "Impossible," they would have said. Why wouldn't they have believed you? Because it is too wonderful. "How could people possibly fly around in space? Absurd."
Before Columbus discovered America, if you had gone around saying, "I know where there is another continent. It is rich with gold and silver," most people would not have believed you. Ultimately, did it exist or not? It did, but for the most part, people did not believe it. It was there all the time, but no one believed in it. After it was "discovered," it was not the case that it suddenly sprang into existence. It was there all the time.
The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra says that everyone can become a Buddha--all living beings can become Buddhas. Nobody believes it. "How can I become a Buddha? It is ridiculous to think that all living beings can become Buddhas, and I do not believe it." Ultimately, can people become Buddha? If not, then how did the Buddha realize the fruit of Buddhahood? Shakyamuni Buddha was just a person. We, too, are people, but we have not cultivated. We have not practiced as bitterly as Shakyamuni Buddha, in our cultivation, and so we have not yet become Buddhas. If we imitate Shakyamuni Buddha in his bitter cultivation, we would very quickly become Buddhas. Why haven't we become Buddhas? Because we are lazy! Because we do not diligently cultivate the good Way.
Why has Shakyamuni Buddha become a Buddha? Because he diligently cultivated the good Way. There is no other esoteric secret involved. It is like traveling. If you want to go somewhere, you have to start walking, or else get into your car, take a bus, a train, or a plane. In any case, you have got to start moving. If you just say, "I am going to New York," and do not go, you will never get there. You have got to set yourself in motion. Shakyamuni Buddha knew that becoming a Buddha was a possibility, and so he began cultivating the Path to Buddhahood. Finally, he realized it. We are now still living beings and we do not think it is bad at all. "I am a human being. I am quite intelligent." Who knows how large our mark of self looms--higher than Mount Sumeru! The mark may loom high, but the things we do are not high at all. They are base and lowly. How are we base and lowly? We have not rid ourselves of greed, for one thing, and that is base and lowly. Our hatred and stupidity we find impossible to put down, too. We take ourselves too lightly. That is why the text says, "Few are those who can believe it.”
We from of old,
Have often heard the World Honored One speak,
But never have we heard such Dharma,
So deep, wondrous, and supreme.
The World Honored One has spoken the Dharma,
And we rejoice accordingly,
As the greatly wise Shariputra
Now receives the Honored One's prediction.
We, too, are like this,
And will surely become Buddhas,
Throughout all the worlds,
Most honored and supreme.
The Buddha's Way is inconceivable,
Taught expediently according to what is fitting.
May all of our blessed karma,
In this life and in lives gone by,
And the merit and virtue gained from seeing the Buddha,
Be dedicated to the Buddha Way.
H2. Rejoicing and dedicating the merit as they gain understanding.
We, from of old. The gods say, "All of us from limitless eons in the past up until the present, have often heard the World Honored One speak. "Often" means not just once, but many times, a countless number of times. But never have we heard such Dharma. Although we have heard the Buddha speak the Dharma, we have never heard a Dharma as wonderful as this. So deep, wondrous, and supreme. It is profound, miraculous, lofty, and supreme.
The World Honored One has spoken the Dharma, the wonderful Dharma, and we rejoice accordingly. All the gods and the rest of those assembled listen to this Dharma joyfully. Especially, as the greatly wise Shariputra, the wisest among the Hearers, now receives the Honored One's prediction. He receives a prediction of his future Buddhahood, the most valuable, most glorious of predictions. We, too, are like this. All the gods also have this hope, and will surely become Buddhas. In the future, we will most surely become Buddhas. This is because in the Dharma Flower Assembly, there is not one being that will not become a Buddha. Throughout all the worlds. When we become Buddhas, in all the worlds, we shall be most honored and supreme. We shall also be the most venerated. No one shall be above us. No one shall be more lofty. The Buddha's Way is inconceivable, taught expediently according to what is fitting. It is through expedient devices that the Buddha accords with the potentials of living beings and speaks the Dharma appropriate to them.
May all of our blessed karma, in this life and in lives gone by, all of the blessings, virtue, and good karma of the gods, and the merit and virtue gained from seeing the Buddha, be dedicated to the Buddha Way. We, together, take this merit and virtue and dedicate it to our future attainment of the Buddha Way.
At that time, Shariputra spoke to the Buddha, saying, “World Honored One, I now have no further regret, having received from the Buddha a prediction for Annutarasamyaksambodhi. But the twelve hundred whose hearts have attained self-mastery, and who formerly dwelt in the Stage of Study, were constantly taught by the Buddha who said, ‘My Dharma can enable one to separate from birth, old age, sickness, and death and attain to Ultimate Nirvana.’ Both Those Who Study and Those Beyond Study alike have separated from the View of Self, the Views of Existence and Non-existence, and so forth, and claim that they have attained Nirvana. Yet now, hearing from the World Honored One that which they have never heard before, they have all fallen into doubt and delusion. Good indeed, World Honored One, I hope that you would, for the sake of the Four-fold Assembly, speak of these causes and conditions, to free them of their doubts and regrets.”
E2. Circuit of speaking the parable.
F1. Opening the three to reveal the one.
G1. The request.
At that time, when all the gods had finished speaking their verses and dedicating all their merit and virtue towards their future attainment of the Buddha Way, Shariputra spoke to the Buddha, saying, "World Honored One, I now have no further doubts or regrets. Hearing the Dharma the Buddha has spoken, I have no doubts. This is because the great and wise Shariputra understood the wonderful Dharma the Buddha spoke. He had no doubts, because he had already caught on to it. He could not ever doubt it again.
Having received from the Buddha a prediction for Anuttarasamyaksambodhi, a prediction for the Unsurpassed Proper, Equal, and Right Enlightenment, saying that his Buddha-name would be the Thus Come One Flower Light.
But the twelve hundred whose hearts have attained self-mastery, all of the 1250 disciples who have gained self-mastery, all the great Bhikshus, who formerly dwelt in the Stage of Study: the Stage of Study refers to stages prior to the attainment of Fourth Stage Arhatship. Were constantly taught by the Buddha who said: the Buddha continually taught them saying, ‘My Dharma can enable one to separate from birth, old age, sickness, and death and attain to Ultimate Nirvana.' From within my Buddhadharma, you can release yourself from the sufferings of birth, old age, sickness, and death.
Birth, old age, sickness, and death: When people are born, it is extremely painful. Since you were so small and did not understand what was going on, you quickly forgot the experience. However, when we get old, we shall suffer the bitterness of old age. In what way is old age a form of suffering?
As you grow old, your eyes grow dim and your hearing fails, you teeth fall out, and so your food is tasteless. Your eyes, ears, and teeth all fail to help you. Pretty soon your legs would not help you, and soon neither will your hands. Your hands may want to pick something up, but when the time comes, they shake uncontrollably, and it becomes impossible to pick anything up. Americans like to eat with knives and forks, but when you are old, you cannot even pick them up! They seem to weigh several thousand pounds. Would you say that was suffering or not? You cannot even manage even the simplest, most basic things. After a while, your body quits on you, and all you can do is lie in bed all day long. Finally, you get sick on top of that, and suffer the bitterness of sickness.
Recently, former President Eisenhower died. He was a very old man. Despite the fact that he was the President, he still had to die. A few days ago, the newspapers reported that he had been hospitalized with a grave illness. That is the suffering of sickness. Then, he underwent the suffering of death. He had occupied the most glorious position there is, but when the time came for him to die, the spirit of death was not polite at all, and forced him to undergo great pain. Why? Because he had never studied the Buddhadharma. If one can understand the Buddhadharma and put everything down, one will not have to undergo the sufferings of birth, old age, sickness, and death. One can put an end to them all.
Birth, old age, sickness, and death are very democratic. Everyone is born, grows old, gets sick, and dies. However, if you understand the Buddhadharma, truly wake up and put everything down, you can obtain control over your own birth and death. Otherwise, you cannot. Once you have gained self-mastery, for you, there is no birth, old age, sickness or death. That is the happiness of the attainment of Ultimate Nirvana. Why did Shakyamuni Buddha toil so at his cultivation? It was just because he looked upon the process of birth, aging, sickness, and death as entirely meaningless. Everyone kept being born and dying, being born and dying:
Birth, aging, sickness, death: suffering;
Death, birth, aging, sickness: suffering;
Sickness, death, birth, aging: suffering;
Aging, sickness, death, birth: suffering.
In past lives there was birth, aging, sickness, and death. In this life there is birth, aging, sickness, and death. In future lives there will still be birth, aging, sickness, and death.
Over and over again, this suffering never stops. "It is just too stupid to stay here and keep turning around like this," thought Shakyamuni Buddha. "I am determined to separate from the sufferings of birth, old age, sickness, and death." So he then, left home to cultivate. Why? It was because he wished to remove himself from the sufferings of birth, old age, sickness, and death.
In realizing Buddhahood, the Buddha separated himself from these sufferings, but he could not part with the other living beings who had not. "All these living beings have not left the sufferings behind. I shall take the wonderful Dharma which I have attained and spread the message to all these living beings." He told them, "My Dharma can enable one to separate from birth, old age, sickness, and death and attain Ultimate Nirvana."
Both Those Who Study and Those Beyond Study alike have separated from the View of Self, the Views of Existence and Non-existence, and so forth, and claim that they have attained Nirvana. This is Shariputra speaking. Those Who Study and Those Beyond Study thought that they had left the View of Self, and the Views of Existence and Non-existence, that is the view of permanence and the view of annihilationism.
Yet now, hearing from the World Honored One that which they have never heard before, they have all fallen into doubt and delusion. Now, in the presence of the World Honored One, they all hear the wonderful Dharma which they have never heard before, and they have fallen into the pit of doubts and delusions. They do not understand.
Good indeed, World Honored One,I hope that you would, for the sake of the Four-fold Assembly, speak of these causes and conditions, to free them of their doubts and regrets. The Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Upasakas, and Upasikas all wish to put aside their doubts. Basically, Shariputra, had no doubts, but he saw that the Four assemblies had not yet understood, and so, on their behalf, he requested the Dharma.
Former President Eisenhower has left the world. Also, Yu Tienxiu, one of the Lecture Hall's Dharma Protectors, and a Dharma Protector called Tang have left the world. Eisenhower was a two-term President who benefited America in many ways. Since we are living in America, we should transfer merit to him to take him across so that he may soon hear the Buddhadharma and realize Buddhahood. He did not hear the Buddhadharma in his last life, but perhaps he can in his next life. We should use our true hearts in dedicating merit to him and it will certainly be efficacious.
Also, next Saturday is Guanyin's anniversary. In the Chinese custom, everyone likes to bow to the Buddha on that day. So next Sunday we will bow the Great Compassion Repentance in the morning at eight o'clock and also in the afternoon. The Dharma-lecture will be here in the Lecture Hall and The Earth Store Sutra will be lectured as usual. If you want to bow twice, you can continue bowing after the lecture. On this day, bowing repentances and reciting Guanyin's name yields several thousands of millions of times of greater merit than on ordinary days. Everyone should know this. In the Lecture Hall, each night, we will recite the Buddha's name five minutes for President Eisenhower and for the Lecture Hall's Dharma Protectors. Tomorrow, we will set up memorial tablets for them and put them up in the Merit and Virtue Hall to cross them over. We shall do this for a month, inviting them to the lectures. They did not hear the Sutras while they were alive, but now that they are dead, they can come to the lectures and in the future, when they understand, they can also leave the sufferings of birth, old age, sickness, and death. Tuesday is Shakyamuni Buddha's Nirvana anniversary and everyone should recite "Namo Original Teacher Shakyamuni Buddha" a little more on that day. we shall now recite for President Eisenhower.
At that time, the Buddha told Shariputra, “Have I not said before that all Buddhas, World Honored Ones, speak the Dharma by means of various causes and conditions, parables, phrases, and expedient devices, all for the sake of Anuttarasamyaksambodhi? All of these teachings are for the sake of transforming Bodhisattvas. However, Shariputra, I shall now again make use of a parable in order to further clarify the principle, for all those who are wise gain understanding through parables.”
H1. The arising.
When Shakyamuni Buddha heard Shariputra request the Dharma on behalf of the four assemblies, in order to clear up their doubts, at that time, the Buddha told Shariputra, "Have I not said before..." didn't I already say this? Haven't we been through this one before? The question implies, of course, the Buddha had told him before. "I did not not tell you. I did tell you, didn't I? Isn't that right?" It is a rhetorical question and you should not take it to mean that he actually did not say it before. That is not what it means. It means, "Didn't I tell you this already?" Tell him what?
That all Buddhas, World Honored Ones, speak the Dharma by means of various causes and conditions: All the Buddhas throughout the ten directions use various kinds of causes and conditions, parables, phrases, clever speech, and expedient devices. But although all manner of Dharmas are spoken, they are all for the sake of Anuttarasamyaksambodhi. The Dharmas are all spoken for the sake of nothing else but the Unsurpassed, Proper, Equal, and Right Enlightenment. All of these teachings are for the sake of transforming Bodhisattvas. This passage is a slight reprimand. It implies, "I already told you this, and you still do not understand! Ah, and you ask again?" But the word "However" takes the sting out if it and reassures Shariputra, "You are a good child, you are very intelligent."
"Shariputra, I shall now again make use of a parable in order to further clarify the principle. I will use another analogy to make the doctrine a little clearer for you. For all those who are wise gain understanding through parables. Through the use of analogies, they can understand the doctrine."
The following section of text is very difficult to explain, so you should pay particular attention to it.
“Shariputra, suppose that in a country, a city, or a village, there is a great Elder, aged and worn, of limitless wealth, possessing many fields, houses, and servants.”
H2. Parable proper.
J1. Setting up parable.
K1. General parable.
L1. Parable of the elder.
Shariputra, now I am going to use a parable to teach you the wonderful Dharma. Suppose, hypothetically speaking, that in a country: 'Country,' here is an analogy for the Real Retribution Adorned Land, which is where the Bodhisattvas live. A city is an analogy for the Land of Expedients with Residue, which is where those of the Two Vehicles dwell. A village is an analogy for the Land in Which the Common and Sagely Dwell Together, which is where you and I now live. The Buddha dwells in the Land of Permanent Still Pure Light.
The word "country" also refers to the large, inclusive aspect, as its boundaries are very large. A country is then divided up into smaller states. The country represents that which reaches the farthest and that which is the largest. A city is ruled by minor officials. San Francisco and New York are cities. Cities are neither far-reaching nor nearby; they are middle-sized. Villages are very small. Their boundaries do not extend for any great distance. They are small towns or hamlets.
There is a great elder: The great elder is an analogy for the Buddha. The Buddha is the great elder. In terms of worldly dharmas, an Elder has ten kinds of virtuous practices:
The Ten Virtues of an elder
1. His name is honored. The elder has an honorable name. In Chinese, when you ask a person what their name is, you say, "What is your honorable name?" This is just a polite formality. It is not the same as having an honorable name.
What is meant by having an honorable name?
In terms of worldly people, being born in the household of an emperor, or a noble lord is honorable. In India, the Kshatriyas are an honorable clan. One born in the family of a king can become a king in the future. One born in the family of a noble lord will become a noble lord.
2. He is of lofty position. The elder has a high position. His rank is especially high. What is meant by this? A Prime Minister or perhaps a great general has a high rank.
3. He has great wealth. He is very rich. Most people have storehouses full of rice or other grains, but this storehouses are completely filled with gold!
4. He has awesome courage. He is brave and courageous. It is aid, "His majesty makes one tremble." It is also said, "His awesomeness is to be feared." Everyone who sees such a person, although he has never struck, scolded, or killed anyone, everyone is still afraid of him. That is because he is awesome. Courage means bravery. He is dignified and impressive, solemn, like the great generals in military array who look very deadly. One knows not how many people they control.
5. His wisdom is profound. He has wisdom, and this wisdom is the highest, transcending all other wisdom. Such wisdom is extremely deep. All things are to him as clear as if in the palm of his hand. Nothing gets past his deep wisdom. Within his mind is contained all existence; he knows everything. All of his clever expedient devices are better than those of ordinary people. He is positively outstanding, smarter than even the most intelligent people.
6. He is advanced in years. He is very old. Although he is very old, the older he gets, the stronger he becomes. The older he gets, the healthier he becomes. He is a model for people, a leader for them.
7. His practice is pure. His conduct is pure, extremely lofty and clean. He is like a piece of white jade without a single flaw. This shows that he is immaculately pure.
In The Book Of Songs (Shi Jing), it says,
"A flaw in a mace of white jade may be ground away;
But for a flaw in speech, nothing can be done."
If there is a black spot on a mace of white jade, you can slowly polish it away. If what you say has a flaw in it, there is no way to erase it.
So the seventh virtue of an elder is that his conduct is pure. Ordinary people cannot even come close to measuring up to it.
8. His propriety is perfect. The elder is polite to everyone. He would never lack manners. He is courteous towards all. Whether you are rich or poor, noble or lowly, he is polite to you. He entertains people according to the proper rules. For example, if a friend comes he may invite him to have a cup of coffee. If his friend likes soda pop, he will treat him to a bottle. In general, he entertains guests appropriately.
9. He is praised by his superiors. It is not unusual to receive praise from one inferiors. It is rare to be praised by those above one. However, the elder is, in fact, praised by those above him.
10. He is a refuge for his inferiors. Those beneath him all return respectfully to him. He is honored by all within the four seas, and all people are like brothers and sisters to him. All people come to him for support.
For example, the king is supported by his subjects, and the President is supported by the citizens.
In this analogy, the elder represents the Buddha. Let us now discuss the Ten Virtues of an Elder as they apply to the Buddha:
1. The Buddha is born from the real limit, the True Suchness of the three periods of time, and therefore, his name is honored. The three periods of time are the past, the present, and the future. True Suchness is also called the nature of the Thus Come One's Storehouse. Because he is born from the principle substance of the Real Limit, the Buddha's name is honored.
2. The Buddha's cultivation of merit and virtue is perfect, his Way karma has been realized, and he has certified to the attainment of the Ten Titles of the Buddha. Having certified to the highest position, that of Buddhahood, he has a lofty position.
3. The Buddha has the wealth of the Dharma and the ten thousand virtues. The Buddha's Dharma is the greatest form of wealth there is, and his myriad virtues are perfect and interpenetrating. His Dharma wealth and myriad virtues are completely perfect, and so he is said to have great wealth.
4. The Buddha has Ten Wisdom Powers, and heroic courage with which to subdue demons and regulate those of external paths. He conquers the heavenly demons and regulates those of outside ways. In order to do this, he uses the Ten Wisdom Powers.
Ten Wisdom Powers of the Buddha: The wisdom power of knowing points of enlightenment and non-enlightenment. The wisdom power of knowing the karmic retributions of the three periods of time. The wisdom power of knowing all the Dhyanas, liberations, and samadhis. The wisdom power of knowing the superiority or baseness of the roots of all living beings. The wisdom power of knowing the various understandings. The wisdom power of knowing the various realms. The wisdom power of knowing where all paths lead. The wisdom power of the knowledge of the unobstructed Heavenly Eye. The wisdom power, without outflows, of knowing former lives. The wisdom power of eternally severing all habitual energies.
With these Ten Wisdom Powers, the Buddha is mighty, heroic, and awesome. He can tame all the heavenly demons and externalists.
Since he conquers heavenly demons and subdues those of outside ways, he is said to have great awesome courage.
5. Profound wisdom. As to the Buddha:
The one mind and the three wisdoms--
there is none he has not penetrated.
What is meant by "one mind, three wisdoms?" When the Buddha cultivates the Contemplation of Emptiness, he attains All-wisdom. By cultivating the Contemplation of the Truth of Falseness, he attains the Wisdom of the Way. By cultivating the Contemplation of the Middle Way, he attains the Wisdom of All-modes. With one mind he attains three kinds of wisdoms. There are none he has not penetrated. This represents the profound wisdom of the Buddha.
6. Advanced in years. Shakyamuni Buddha did not leave home just in this one life. Limitless eons ago, he had already accomplished Buddhahood, realized Right Enlightenment. Therefore, in The Brahma Net Sutra it says, "I have come to this Saha World 8,000 times." Thus, he is advanced in years.
7. Pure in practice. The three karmas of the Buddha all accord with the conduct of wisdom. All of his body karma accords with the conduct of wisdom; all of his speech karma accords with the conduct of wisdom; all of his mind karma accords with the conduct of wisdom. He never makes mistakes or errors. Because his three karmas accord with the conduct of wisdom, his practice is pure.
8. His propriety is perfect. The Buddha has perfected the awesome deportment. His heart is as big as the great sea. The Buddha's awesome deportment is never off in the slightest degree. He has three thousand awesome deportments, and eighty thousand minor practices.
9. Praised by his superiors. The Greatly Enlightened Ones of the ten directions, that is, the Buddhas of the ten directions, all praise Shakyamuni Buddha. The Buddhas are basically of one mind and there is nothing seen as above or below, high or low. But the ten directions Buddhas became Buddhas long ago, and so they are, so to speak, older in years.
10. A refuge for his inferiors. The Seven Expedients all return to him. What are the Seven Expedients? There are many different ways to explain them. However, according to the Tian Tai Teaching, they are:
1. The Vehicle of people
2. The Vehicle of gods
3. The Vehicle of Hearers
4. The Vehicle of Conditioned Enlightened Ones
5. The Vehicle of the Storehouse Teaching Bodhisattvas
6. The Vehicle of the Pervasive Teaching Bodhisattvas
7. The Vehicle of the Separate Teaching Bodhisattvas
Living beings of these Seven Expedients, also called the Seven Vehicles, all rely on the Buddha. Thus, he is a place of refuge for this inferiors. This concludes the discussion of the Ten Virtues of the Elder as they apply to the Buddha.
Four Methods of Explaining Sutras
In lecturing Sutras, there are four methods one can use:
1. Causes and conditions.
2. The essential teaching. That is, to explain according to the essential points of the teaching, telling which particular teaching each point belongs to, the Storehouse, Pervasive, Separate, or Perfect Teachings.
3. The roots and traces.
4. The contemplation of the mind.
These are four different ways to explain each passage of text. However, if we applied them all to every passage, it would take too much time. But now I will explain the Ten Virtues of the Elder according to the method of contemplation of the mind. The previous explanation was done according to the causes and condition method.
The Ten Virtues of the Elder According to the Method of Contemplation of the Mind.
The Ten Virtues of the Elder do not go beyond one thought of the mind. According to the method of Contemplation of the Mind, we shall explain them one by one:
1. His name is honored. Where does the Wisdom of Contemplation of the Mind comes from? It comes from the Real Mark. The Wisdom of Contemplation of the Mind is born in the Real Mark. Born into the family of the Buddhas, through the Real Mark, his name is honored.
2. His is of lofty position. He does not give rise to Three Kinds of Delusions: a) view delusion, b) thought delusion, or c)delusions as many as dust and sand. You can also say that they are: a) coarse delusion, b) subtle delusion, and c) delusions of ignorance. Not giving rise to the three delusions means not having these three confusions, no view delusions, no thought delusion, and no delusions as many as dust and sand.
What is meant by "view delusion?" It means that when you see something, you are confused by it. View delusion refers to producing greed and love when faced with a state. When something happens, you give into greed and attachment. Why do you give rise to greed and love? Because you are confused.
Thought delusion means to be confused about the principle and give rise to discrimination. Unclear about the principle, you start giving rise to various kinds of discrimination. These are the easiest kinds of delusions to have.
Delusions as many as dust and sand means that in your mind, there are countless subtle doubts, as many as the grains of sand in the Ganges River.
View delusions are sometimes called coarse delusions. Thought delusions are sometimes called subtle delusions. Delusions like dust and sand are sometimes called delusions of ignorance.
Although the Elder’s genuine wisdom has yet to come forth, since he does not give rise to the Three Kinds of Delusions, he is already wearing the Thus Come One’s robe and cultivating quiescence. This is what is meant by being of lofty position.
3. He has great wealth. How does this relate to contemplation of the mind? In contemplation of the mind, his great wealth is explained in terms of the Three Truths: a) The truth of emptiness, b) the truth of falseness, and c) the truth of the middle way. These Three Truths contain all merit and virtue, and are replete with the wealth of Dharma, the precious storehouse. Therefore, he has great wealth.
4. He has awesome courage. With awesome courage, he uses wisdom to conquer love and views. While contemplating the mind, he has a kind of wisdom which can subdue love and views.
Love is something that everyone has. Views are something which everyone clings to. Without views, there is no clinging. Without clinging, there is no love. Without love, there is no affliction. Why do we have afflictions? It is because of love. In the wisdom of contemplation of the mind, the Buddha conquers the afflictions of love and views. Therefore, he has awesome courage.
5. His wisdom is profound. Previously, the awesome, courageous wisdom has not yet reached the level of being profound. It was only capable of conquering love and views. Now, at the level of profound wisdom, he has united with the Middle Way. The Middle Way illuminates the Real Mark of all Dharmas. He knows what is provisional Dharma and what is real Dharma, and knows this very clearly. The two wisdoms, provisional and real, are just the two Dharmas, provisional and real. He understands the clever provisional expedients and the real Dharmas without obstacle.
6. He is advanced in years. At this time, his ability to cultivate this kind of contemplation enables him to transcend the Seven Expedients listed above. Having transcended them, he is advanced in years.
7. His practice is pure. Cultivating the contemplation of the mind, you observe your own mind and nature. the contemplation of one's own mind and nature is called "superior concentration." It is the highest form of samadhi power. This kind of samadhi power enables one to be without error in the three karmas. In the karma of body, mouth, and mind, one is without error. Therefore his practice is pure.
8. His propriety is perfect. The mind, when encountering causes and conditions or a particular state, does not lose the awesome deportment. One is always in accord with the Dharma's regulations. His propriety and manners are perfect.
9. His superiors praise him. If one is able to cultivate this kind of contemplation, then with deep faith, one can understand the marks of dharmas. This causes all the Buddhas to rejoice. Since they are happy, they praise the cultivator.
10. He is a refuge for his inferiors. If one has cultivated, the gods, dragons, and those of the eightfold division as well as the four assemblies of disciples revere one. Above, didn't the Sutra text say, "Though held in reverence by gods and dragons, they do not find it cause for joy." The gods and dragons come to pay their respects, but they do not disturb one's mind and nature which remain, "Thus, thus, unmoving" This is an indication of one's samadhi power. Because one has samadhi power, those beneath one find one a place of refuge and gods, dragons, and the eightfold division all revere and trust one.
This concludes the discussion of the Elder as an analogy for the Buddha.
"Aged:" It is said that as one grows older, one acquires virtue. Virtue can be spoken of in terms of inner and outer virtue. Inner virtue refers to wisdom. If one has wisdom, one will have virtue. Outer virtue is wealth. With resources, you can cultivate outer virtue. The Elder is very old, and he knows the past and present. He knows what happened in the past and he understands what is going on now. This penetration of the past and present is also an analogy for the Buddha's wisdom virtue.
"And worn:" This means that his strength is deteriorating, although his basic disposition and his determination remain robust. He is very experienced. "Worn" represents the Buddha's severing virtue. Severing virtue is the virtue gained through severing attachments and afflictions. The Buddha is not like us. We find it hard to cut off afflictions and bad habits. However, it is said,
Not severing what should be severed,
One must bear the consequences.
If you should have stopped doing something and you have not, you will have to take the unpleasant repercussions. The Buddha is not that way. He cuts off what he should cut off, because he has the severing virtue. Why does he has it? Because he has the wisdom virtue. Because he has the wisdom virtue, he sees everything very clearly. He would not be confused. He would not see a state unclearly. This represents the Buddha's severing virtue.
"Of limitless wealth:" This is an analogy for the Buddha's unlimited blessings and virtue. It is said that the Buddha is of limitless wealth, because he is adorned with the myriad virtues.
"Possessing many fields:" Fields are where crops are planted; they sustain life. We plant the fields, reap the harvest, and in this way maintain our livelihood. That is the function of fields. The fields here referred to can nourish the wisdom-life of our Dharma-bodies and the life of our wisdom.
How do we cause our Dharma-body's wisdom-life to grow? We investigate Dhyana and perfect our skill in samadhi. that is how we cause it to grow. While cultivating the skill of Dhyana Samadhi, you must simultaneously cultivate Prajna Wisdom. Therefore, the analogy is that of Dhyana Samadhi assisted by the strength of Prajna Wisdom which increases the wisdom-life of the Dharma-body. Such is the meaning of the word "field."
"Houses:" What use are houses? They are places to put our bodies; our bodies live in houses. What does this represent? It represents the "realm of reality" which dwells within wisdom. People live in houses. The Real Mark dwells in genuine wisdom. Thus, the houses are an analogy for the true wisdom of the realm of reality.
In speaking of the blessings and virtue of the Buddha, he has extensively cultivated the Six Perfections and the Ten Thousand Conduct, without failing to cultivate even the smallest, finest conduct. In terms of his wisdom, there is no realm it does not illuminate. There is not one state it does not shine upon.
"And servants:" Servants are those employed to work for one. the Buddha does not actually has servants. They are an analogy for the Buddha's expedient Knowledge and Vision which is perfect and complete. With expedient Knowledge and Vision, he can do anything at all. This means that, among those who turn in the six paths of rebirth, he is able to harmonize the light.
Lights do not struggle with each other. Lights easily mix. In the six paths, coming and going, although the Buddha manifests as undergoing birth and death, still, he is not attached to birth and death. Why does he harmonize the light among the six paths? Because he wishes to accommodate all the many beings with the potential for being taught. He uses expedient methods in teaching the Dharma. He does not teach it straight away, but finds ways "around" living beings. He employs clever expedient devices to teach and transform them. The servants referred to in the text, then, represent this use of expedient Knowledge and Vision, expedient Knowledge and Vision being, as it were, the servants of Real Wisdom.
“His house is spacious and large…”
L2. Parable of the house.
His house is spacious and large. The Elder's house is vast and not small. Ultimately, how big is it? I will tell you: It is as large as the desire realm, the form realm, and the formless realm. It is as large as the three realms in which living beings run back and forth, being born and then dying over and over. They are born and then they die; they die and are then reborn, and never succeed in freeing themselves from the turning wheel in the three realms. They run around inside of it, but they do not know how to get out. Shakyamuni Buddha came into this world to manifest a response/transformation body to point out to all living beings that this house is not a peaceful one.
“…having only one door…”
L3. Parable of only one door.
This house may indeed be spacious and large, but there is only one door. The house is an analogy for the three realms. In the three realms, there is no peace. It is like a burning house. Later on in the chapter, the house catches on fire. The one door represents the Buddha Path of the One Vehicle. It is only through the One Vehicle of the Buddha Path that one can escape the three realms, that one can separate from this place of unrest. Later, it speaks of the children inside the great burning house who are not afraid, but continue to play happily at their games. They do not know the seriousness of the fire raging in the house. This represents all of us in the three realms who think it a very delightful place. You are unaware that you are about to be burned to death by the fire. Thus, there is only one door out of the three realms.
“…but with a great many people--one hundred, two hundred, even five hundred of them--dwelling within it.”
L4. The parable of the five hundred people.
But with a great many people, and beings from the five paths as well. One hundred, two hundred, even five hundred of them, dwelling within it. The one hundred people represents the path of the gods. The two hundred people represents the path of human beings. Three, four, and even five hundred represent the animals, ghosts, and the beings in hell.
"But," you may ask, "what about the Six Path Wheel? What happened to the asuras?"
Not a bad question. We do speak of the Six Path Wheel, but the present passage of text merely refers to the five paths. This is because asuras may be found in all the five paths and so they are omitted. This does not mean that they are left out altogether. It means that they are subsumed under the other five paths, and are therefore a secondary classification, not a path proper.
"But with a great many people" represents the beings in the five paths.
Asura is a Sanskrit word which means "ugly." How are they ugly? Most people's noses are below their eyes, but the asuras' noses are above their eyes! Would you say that was good looking? Also, their eyes, nose, ears, and mouth are bunched together in the middle of their faces. Would you call that attractive? That is just the male asuras, however. The female asuras are very beautiful. Do you remember the story I told you about the asuras king's beautiful daughter?
Asura also means "no wine." They have the blessings of the gods, but not the power of the gods, and so they are not allowed to drink wine. If they were, their tempers would be even more fierce. Since they have no wine, although they are hostile, it is not as bad as it might be. Asuras love to fight and make war. The asuras in the heavens fight with the heavenly troops. The asuras among human beings fight in the national armies. Animal asuras are, for example, the wild horses. Horses are usually pretty docile, and eat together in harmony. A wild horse, however, does nothing but bully the other horses and hurt them. That is an asura horse for you. Didn't one of my disciples say that he had an asura dog? I said, "You are not exactly included outside the asura realm yourself. You are an asura person." When he translated, he only translated the asura dog part. He did not translate the part about the asura person. Hah!
There are also asura ghosts who specialize in hurting people. In general, their tempers are very big. They are like fire-crackers at New Years. If you would rather be a Bodhisattva, do not explode all the time.
In the five paths, the path of the gods alone is divided into many, many categories. Among humans, there are the rich and the poor, the citizens and the officials. There are also armies and police forces. Some people are very poor and some are wealthy. Some are born very good looking and others are ugly, like the asuras. Some have no eyes, some no noses. some cannot speak, some are deaf, and some are blind. There are many kinds of people. Some people are as intelligent as spirits. Some people say, "He is as intelligent as a ghost," but actually ghosts have intelligence that belongs the yin, or dark side. Intelligent people are like spirits. It is said, "Intelligent and properly wise, they are called spirits." It is also said, "Caocao was as crafty as a ghost. Emperor Yao was as wise as a spirit." Some people are intelligent and others are outstandingly stupid.
For example, I have two disciples, here, who are very intelligent. They have very good memories. I remember when they memorized the Shurangama Mantra and were the first to learn it. The Shurangama Mantra usually takes, at least, six month to learn, but they only needed one month or so. It is not easy to memorize it. Now that some Westerners suddenly can recite, it is inconceivable!
What is more, my disciples now lecture on the Sutras and they do so much better than I do. Why? Because I speak in Chinese, and they speak in English. So, unless you do not have time, you really should come and listen to them speak the Dharma. Do not miss it. I would come myself, but sometimes I am too busy. I do not really need to come, because they learned it from me, anyway! So do not think, "The Master is not here so let us leave, too." You have to investigate the Buddhadharma. I am not trying to act like a big shot, but I have been studying for several decades and you are just beginning, and so you cannot be lazy.
So there are many kinds of people. There are also many kinds of animals and hungry ghosts. You are all no doubt very familiar with hungry ghosts. Although you probably have not been hungry ghosts, those who study the Buddhadharma should know what they are all about. Hungry ghost have nothing to eat. They keep looking for food, but never find any. Why are they hungry ghosts? Because when they were people, they were greedy for food. As people, they ate too much, and so as ghosts, they are "hungry."
There were five hundred people in the big house, that is in the desire realm, the form realm, and the formless realm. So it is said, "There is no peace in the Triple World. It is like a burning house." Soon, in The Dharma Flower Sutra, the house is going to catch on fire. It will not be like a burning house, it will be a burning house. We have not escaped from the burning house yet, either. We are in the burning house. Think it over. Is it dangerous or not? I do not need to say too much about it.
I will tell you something more. Why are people intelligent? Why are they stupid? Intelligent people have recited many Sutra and studied the Buddhadharma. They have also printed Sutras. Why are people stupid? Because they have not recited Sutras or studied the Buddhadharma, and they have not printed Sutra. Life after life, they grow stupider. People who print Sutras grow more and more intelligent, life after life. So I just said I had two disciples who had very good memories. Probably in former lives they read many Sutras. And it is for sure that they have great affinities with The Shurangama Sutra and The Dharma Flower Sutra. So no one should be jealous of them, because of their intelligence. The more jealous you are, the stupider you become. If you are jealous of smart people, you will be stupid yourself. Why? Smart people got that way by planting blessings. Stupid people did not cultivate blessings or print Sutras. We do not want to print just one Sutra, but many different ones.
Now, in the Buddhist Lecture Hall, we are printing The Thousand Hand, Thousand Eye Heart Dharani Sutra. The Great Compassion Mantra contained within this Sutra is an inconceivable state, and whatever you seek from it shall be fulfilled. No one should pass up this chance to help print the Sutra. Do whatever you can, give whatever you can. You do not have to over do it. Do what you can. Things should be done naturally and happily. If you want to be intelligent, print more. If you want to be stupid and know nothing at all, then you need not take part. That is the news for now.
“Its halls and chambers are decaying and old; its walls are crumbling. The pillars are rotting at their bases; the beams and ridgepoles are toppling dangerously.”
L5. The fire breaks out.
M1. Describing the house which is burning.
Its halls and chambers are decaying and old. Halls represent the Desire Realm. Chambers represent the Form and Formless Realms. The halls also represent the lower part of the human body. The chambers represent the upper part of the body and head.
The halls represent the desire heavens in the Triple Realm. Chambers represent the heavens in the form and formless realms. That is the three realms.
Decaying represents the corruption, evil, and impermanence with the three realms. In the three realms, the revolution of living beings is unceasing. Sometimes things are good, but this never lasts. Things decay. Old means that the three realms were not created only recently, but were there before.
It's walls are crumbling. In our houses we have walls, but what are the walls in the three realms? The walls represent the four elements, earth, air, fire, and water. They are the walls on the four sides. Also, the four walls are said to be wine, form, wealth, and anger. They are like four locks, which lock people up.
So a verse says,
Wine, form, wealth, and anger are four walls.
Many living beings are held within them.
If you can leap out of the walls,
You can be an ageless king with eternal life.
Our bodies are like the three realms. The skin and flesh are like the walls. Crumbling means that there is no peace in the three realms. Our bodies quickly go bad.
The pillars are rotting at their bases. Our human lives are like the pillars. You could also say that our two legs are the pillars. The pillars are rotting. This means that they are dangerously near to breaking down. There is no peace in the three realms; it is like a burning house. Soon, the situation will be very dangerous. Our lives are soon over.
The beams and ridgepoles are toppling dangerously. Speaking of the body, the spine is like a beam. The mind’s consciousness is like the ridgepole. Toppling refers to the ceaseless changes in the mind. This is a very dangerous moment. The moment of death has come. That is the general meaning of this passage.
Upon reading this passage of text, we should realize that we are not going to live forever. No matter what great talents, what wealth, what riches you have, when the time comes to die, you two hands will be empty. You would not be able to take any of it with you. In this world, people fight for fame and scramble for benefits. That is a very stupid thing to do. You should return to the root and go back to the source, recognize your original face. Your original face--what is it like? It is like nothing at all. If it were "like" something, it would have a mark. If it had a mark, it would be subject to production and extinction. Our basic self-nature is not defiled or pure, not produced and not extinguished. It is not increased and not decreased. Our original face has no problems whatsoever. Our original face, as it says in The Shurangama Sutra, is the "eternally dwelling true mind, the bright substance of the pure nature."
If you return to your original face, understand it, then you can turn all of your afflictions into Bodhi. If you do not understand your original face, you turn Bodhi right into afflictions. So it is said,
In this world, there is nothing going on.
But stupid people stir up trouble.
Basically, there is nothing happening, but people have to find something to keep themselves busy. If you tell them they are acting stupidly, they say, "You are the stupid one." Why do they say you are stupid? Because you do not do the things they do. You do not act like they do and so they say you are stupid. Basically, nothing is going on, but they create a lot of disturbance to keep themselves busy. If that is not stupid, what is? If you have the skill to understand the self-nature, then:
The eyes view external forms, but inside there is nothing;
The ears hear mundane sounds, but the mind does not know.
One person sees forms as forms, shapes as shapes. If you understand the original face, then, seeing forms, there is no form, seeing shapes, there is no shape. One person looks at forms and shapes and see them as forms and shapes, but for someone who has understood his self-nature, there are no forms or shapes. Forms and shapes--do they really exist? One person sees them and says that they exist. Another person sees them and says they do not. Ultimately, do they exist or not? If you see them as existing, they exist. If you see them as non-existent, then they do not exist. That is why it is said:
Everything is made from the mind alone.
This means that it depends on what you do, how you think about it. The same matter is not viewed in the same way. The ears hear all the sounds of the world, but the mind is not turned by them, is not moved by the states of the five desires.
You say, "You explain this principle, but I do not believe it."
I already knew that you would not believe it. It is not just now that I found out. I know long ago you did not believe it. Why? Because you have not reached that level. You do not have that skill and so you do not believe. If you had that skill, you would be able to do something like this: Seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling, and knowing--these six states of consciousness would all listen to your orders. They would be obedient to your commands and under your control. If you told them to see, they would see. If you did not order them to see, they would not see. If you told them to hear, they would hear. If you did not tell them to hear, they would not hear. The same applies to smelling, tasting, feeling and knowing. So in studying the Buddhadharma, you can study for any number of years, but when you encounter a situation your mind must not move. If you can have an unmoving mind, then you have samadhi power. If you see a state and are turned by it, then you have no samadhi power. If you have no samadhi power, you can study the Buddhadharma until you are old and die, but it will have been of no use whatsoever.
Therefore, we are now lecturing The Dharma Flower Sutra, which tells us that the world is a very bad place. It is as dangerous as a burning house. It is very easy to get burned to death in this fire.
Then, how can we avoid burning to death? It is just as I said, do not be turned by states.
The eyes view external forms, but inside there is nothing.
The ears hear mundane sounds, but the mind does not know.
Understand your original face. Originally, who are you? Originally, you are the Buddha! Since originally you are the Buddha, you should return to the root and go back to the source, go down the road to Buddhahood. The Buddha has perfected the adornments of the myriad virtues. As we walk down the road to Buddhahood, we should do all kinds of good deeds to help us to succeed. That is the most important thing. We should do all the good deeds we have the power to do. What are good deeds? Helping others and benefiting others. Bodhisattvas benefit themselves and benefit others, enlighten themselves and enlighten others. Do these things.
You say, "I have heard that a lot."
Really? How many times?
"Several dozen times."
Well, how many times have you done it? Right, you have heard it a lot: "Benefit others and benefit yourself," but how many times have you done it? How many "others" have you benefited? How many "others" have you caused to become enlightened? One...two...probably not. If you have not even benefited or enlightened one or two people, what use is your having heard of it? No use at all. The Way must be walked. Do it truly! Do it sincerely! Plant your feet firmly on the ground and do the work straightforwardly. What is meant by "doing it truly?" The same deed can be done by two people differently. Some may do it with the thought to benefit themselves, and some may do it with the thought to benefit others. Doing it to benefit others is doing it truly.
Some people may understand a principle and leave it at that, not worrying about whether or not anyone else understands it. If understanding it yourself, you can then in turn teach it to others and cause them to understand, that is to enlighten oneself and enlighten others. In general, there are different ways of doing everything in this world. One person may be selfish and seek his own benefit, and someone else may do nothing but benefit other people. Those who are selfish and seek their own benefits go to the hells. Why? They are simply too selfish. Those who benefit others also go to the hells. What for? To rescue living beings. Their goal is to undergo suffering themselves in order to teach those in the hells how to leave suffering and attain bliss. Earth Store Bodhisattva, for example, is in the hells all day long being a friend to all the hungry ghosts. But his intention is to take the ghosts across from suffering to bliss. There are a lot of confused people in the world, and as much understanding as I possess I will pass on to them so that they may also understand. That is called “enlightening oneself and enlightening others.” To sum it up, there are different ways of doing everything.
One should benefit oneself and benefit others. If you want to know what someone is like, watch and see if what they do is for their own benefit or for the benefit of others. That is what you should take note of.
I just said that wine, form, wealth, and anger were the four walls. The Bodhisattva also has four walls--wine, form, wealth, and anger--which he has not jumped over. The Bodhisattva takes saving living beings as his wine. The more living beings he saves, the more he “drinks” and the “drunker” he becomes.
The Bodhisattva take the twelve divisions of the Tripitaka as form, and so he wants to study them. The Bodhisattva also loves the wonderful Dharma as his wealth. Thus, he is tremendously wealthy. The Bodhisattva also has a “temper.” He takes the Six Perfections and the Conduct of Ten Thousand as his energy source and practices them every day. Without the Six Perfections and the Conduct of Ten Thousand, he would have no energy; he would die. Bodhisattvas have everything we people have; the names are the same, the things themselves are different. The more the Bodhisattva drinks the wine of saving living beings, the more he enjoys himself. He loses himself altogether! The Vajra Sutra says, “If a Bodhisattva has a mark of self, a mark of others, a mark of living beings, or a mark of a life, he is not a Bodhisattva.”
Tell me, if he was not drunk, how could he not even have a self? It is because he has imbibed too much of the wine of saving living beings and has thereby lost himself. Not only has he lost himself, he has no mark of living beings, people, or a life. He has nothing at all.
“Hey, come on, you mean he has nothing at all?” you ask.
That is right! I hope you all master this, too, and drink the wine of saving living beings.
Basically, there is nothing to say about the Buddhadharma. So I just say things that people do not want to hear.
“All at once, throughout the house, a fire breaks out, setting the house ablaze.”
M2. Describing the fire.
All at once, througout the house. “Throughout” means all around, on all sides, everywhere. This refers to the Eight Sufferings. The Eight Sufferings pervade the four elements and the four types of births. The Eight Sufferings have been discussed many times before. They are:
1. The suffering of birth.
2. The suffering of aging.
3. The suffering of sickness.
4. The suffering of death.
5. The suffering of being separated from loved ones.
6. The suffering of being together with those one hates.
7. The suffering of not getting what one seeks.
8. The suffering of the raging blaze of the Five Skandhas.
The Four Types of Births are:
1. Birth by womb.
2. Birth by egg.
3. Birth by moisture.
4. Birth by transformation.
Each type of birth has its own sufferings. However, creatures born from wombs know only the sufferings of womb-birth, and know nothing of the pain involved in egg, moisture, or transformation birth. When you become one of those kinds of beings, you will know of the sufferings that type undergoes. Now, we have not entered the other classes of birth so why talk about their sufferings? Because the greatly wise Buddha has already pointed the Way for us clearly, we know the Eight Sufferings pervade the four births.
“Throughout” means that the sufferings pervade the four births and the four elements.
All at once refers to the four types of birth and the four elements and the eight sufferings as all impermanent. Because they are impermanent, it says, “all at once.” You could also say that the Eight Sufferings exist “all at once,” or that one kind of suffering comes to exist all of a sudden. They are all impermanent.
A fire breaks out. Quite suddenly, a fire arose. Fire refers to suffering. The suffering, basically, does not exist, but because of ignorance various forms of suffering arise. Ignorance is the worst thing. Our tempers are just the fire-energy of our ignorance. Once the fire of ignorance arises, one does not understand anything at all. One has no judgement at all. That is just stupidity, because of stupidity, these sufferings come into being, and the fire of ignorance arises. You might also say that the fire of the Five Skandhas, form, feelings, perception, impulses, and consciousness, arise. The five skandhas are like fires.
Setting the house ablaze. This refers to the five skandhas which burn our bodies. The house represents the body. The five skandhas dwell within the house of the body and they set five kinds of fires which burn the house down. The fires are our tempers. It is said:
The body of a tiger, and ignorance’s blaze,
Are the roots of errors from former live’s days.
The fire of ignorance is as fierce as a tiger and it comes from former lives. In former lives one created too many offenses and so one now has no merit and virtue. Therefore, in this life, one has a big temper. This big temper is terrible! But you might also say it was the very best. How can you say it is both the very best and the very worst? No matter what it is, within the good, there is bad and within the bad, there is good. Things get good bit by bit, and things go bad, bit by bit, too. In what way is anger the very worst thing? After you get angry, you feel uncomfortable all over, even very pained. Wouldn’t you say that was bad? It is very bad for the body.
In what way is anger the very best thing? Once you get angry and realize it is painful, you would not let it happen anymore. Thus, you get rid of your anger. No more tiger; no more fire of ignorance. They are gone, because you have awakened. You know that anger is not good. It is like slapping yourself. If you get angry, you suffer. Realizing it is painful, you quit doing such stupid things as getting angry. Isn’t that the very best? You have escaped from what is not good. If you can fight your way out of the enemy’s trap, you are a hero. Although the fire of your ignorance is fierce, if you can escape from it, you are a Buddhist hero. Students of the Buddhadharma must break through ignorance. How? As I just said: Wake up. If you do not wake up, if you get angry and do not even realize it is a stupid thing to do, you get angry again and again, three times, four, five, up to countless times--ah! Ignorance, ignorance, and--pop! You die of rage!
Buddhists must cultivate patience.
What is patience?
When the most unbearable thing happens to you, you view it as if nothing were happening. You put it down. You cool off your brain and steady yourself. When something happens, do not immediately get angry. Cool off, and approach it in a reasonable manner. Then, you would not set off the fire of ignorance. There is no end to talking about this, but in general, the fire of ignorance can burn our bodies and ruin them. It can burn your house to ashes.
“The Elder’s sons, ten, twenty, even thirty of them are inside the house.”
L6. Parable of the thirty sons.
“The Elder” as previously stated, is the Buddha, the Thus Come One. His sons refers to his “true sons,” and “initiate sons.” Ten refers to the Bodhisattvas. Twenty refers to the Hearers, and thirty refers to the Conditioned Enlightened Ones. Others say that the ten are the Hearers, the twenty are the Conditioned Enlightened One, and the thirty are the Bodhisattvas. Either way is all right. This is just an analogy, after all. The Dharma is flexible, not fixed, especially analogies, because they are not real to begin with. Even though they are not true in fact, they are true in principle.
The disciples of the Three Vehicles are within the triple realm, so the text says, are inside the house. They had heard the Buddhadharma in the past. In former lives, for limitless eons, they had listened to the Buddhadharma, and so they are very close, natural relationship, like that of blood relatives, like father and son. Because their affinities were so strong they became the Buddha’s “sons,” Dharma Princes. The Dharma Princes of the Great Vehicle were the Bodhisattvas. The Dharma Princes of the Middle Vehicle were the Conditioned Enlightened Ones. The Dharma Princes of the Small Vehicle were the Hearers. The number in each category is not fixed, however, for some of the Small Vehicle may have gone over to the Middle Vehicle and some of the Middle Vehicle may have gone over to the Great Vehicle. They were all within the burning house. The thirty sons represent the Buddha’s retinue. Other than the thirty sons, there were beings in the five paths, the “five hudred people,” who were not as close to the Buddha. So, the sons represent those of the Three Vehicles.
“The Elder, seeing the fire arise from the four sides, is greatly alarmed and makes the following reflection: ‘Although I have been able to escape safely through this burning doorway, all my children remain inside the burning house, happily attached to their amusement, unaware, unknowing, not alarmed and not afraid. The fire presses upon them and the pain will sear them, but at heart they do not mind it, nor have they any thought to escape.”
K2. Specific parable
L1. Parable of the Elder seeing the fire.
The Elder is the Thus Come One. Seeing represents the Buddha’s vision with his Buddha eye, and this is not ordinary seeing. Seeing the fire arise represents the Buddha with his Buddha-eye, viewing the living beings in the six paths.
From the four sides: The beings in the six paths undergo the sufferings of the five skandhas. These sufferings arises from the four directions. The four directions represent the Four Applications of Mindfulness: Mindfulness with regard to the body, feelings, thought and dharmas. This was explained earlier in the passage about “Thus have I heard.” You should know that the body is a very unclean thing, a useless thing. Do not act as a slave for the body, a servant for the body. As the poet Tao yuanming said, “My mind has been my body’s slave.” In his elegant essasy, The Return, he writes,
I am going home!
My fields and gardens are choked with weeds.
Why should I not return?
My mind has been my body’s slave,
But why should I remain melancholy?
Having awakened to the past,
I need not reproach myself.
I know that in the future I can make up for it.
I know that I am not far from the path of confusion,
But I am now awake to the present as “right, and the past as “wrong.”
He says, “I am going home. I want to go back. I should return to my home.” But we shall change the meaning here a bit and say, “I want to return to my Buddha-home.”
My fields and gardens are choked with weeds. We can change it and say, “The field of my mind is choked with weeds.” The mind is like a field, and it has been badly neglected. Why? Because we have not studied the Buddhadharma, and the “grass” has grown up in our minds. The more “grass” there is, the stupider we become. The weeds are choking the garden of our minds, and if we do not hurry up and study the Buddhadharma, our mind will be wild and uncultivated.
“Why should I not return? I should hurry right up and go back. My mind has been my body’s slave. My mind has been working for my body. But why should I remain melancholy? Why should I be so unhappy and so depressed? Having awakened to the past, I need not reproach myself” Awakened means to understand. “Ah! I know that everything I did before was incorrect.”
Tao Yuanming called himself on his own faults. We all make mistakes. The only thing to be afraid of is that you are not aware of them. If you know about your own faults, then you are on your way to being a good person. Knowing that he was wrong in the past, there is no use wasting time in self-reproach.
“But I know that in the future I can make up for it. In the future I can do better.
“I know that I am not far from the path of confusion. I am like a lost sheep on a crooked path. The path of confusion, the stupid things I did, are still close at hand, but “I am now awake to the present as ‘right,’ and the past as ‘wrong’. I know that what I did before was wrong. I plan to do better in the future.”
This essay is extremely good. I like it very much. Later, if you want to learn it, I will explain to you.
The Elder saw the big fire arise from all four directions. The four directions refers to the Four Applications of Mindfulness, the first of which is to comtemplate the body as impure. It is not a clean thing. Knowing this, you will not act as slave for the body, as Tao Yuanming so aptly wrote, “My mind has been my body’s slave.” His meaning was much like that of the Sutra.
Ten Types of Wisdom of Those of the Three Vehicles.
Why does the text say “thirty” sons? Why doesn’t it says “eight” or “nine?” If you add them up, 10+20+30=60. Sixty represents the Six Perfections of those of the Great Vehicle.
Why does the text say “Ten?” This is because the Bodhisattvas, Hearers, and Conditioned Enlightened Ones, these Three Vehicles, all have ten kinds of wisdom.
1. Worldly wisdom. Although it is said to be worldly wisdom, it includes transcendental wisdom, because the sages of the Three Vehicles have used worldly wisdom to enlighten to all worldly dharmas. After that, they seek world-transcending Dharmas. Therefore, although it is said to be worldly wisdom, it is also transcendental wisdom. To put it another way, worldy wisdom itself is just transcendental wisdom. If you do not have worldly wisdom, how could you possess transcendental wisdom? World-transcending wisdom is born from worldly wisdom.
2. The wisdom of other’s minds. Hearers, the Conditioned Enlightened Ones, and the Bodhisattvas all have this wisdom. It is the Spiritual Penetration of Knowing the Thoughts in other People’s Minds. This spiritual penetration is produced from samadhi. The Arhats, that is, the Hearers, find it necessary to “intentionally observe” by means of the “wisdom of other’s minds.” This means that they have to use their minds to observe. If they do not, they would not know what it is someone else is thinking, and what it is they are about to do.
The wisdom of other’s minds which the Conditioned Enlightened Ones possess also involves this “intentional observation.” However, they do not need to be sitting in Dhyana cultivating samadhi to carry it out. They just “intentionally observe,” and, whatever you had it in your mind to say or do, they know. Thus, the Conditioned Enlightened Ones are one level higher in this respect than the Hearers.
At the Bodhisattva level, the wisdom of other’s thoughts does not require them to “intentionally observe.” They can know anytime. Thus, they are one level higher than the Conditioned Enlightened Ones. There are a lot finer discriminations which can be made, if one were to explain it in detail.
3. The wisdom of suffering. What does suffering have to do with wisdom? If you understand suffering, you will want to end suffering. If you want to end suffering, you can be rid of suffering. If you have no wisdom, how can you understand suffering? If you have no wisdom, you will suffer and not even realize you are suffering! If you have the wisdom to understand suffering, you can end suffering.
4. The wisdom of origination. This is the second of the Four Truths. Origination refers to the accumulation of afflictions. What does it have to do with wisdom? If you can know that origination involves affliction, if that is not wisdom, what is it? If you lack the wisdom or origination, you would not even know it is affliction. When affliction besets you, you will think of it as bread and butter and eat your fill! Why? Because you lack wisdom. With wisdom, when it comes, you will be aware: “Ah hah! That is affliction.” That awareness is just wisdom.
5. The wisdom of extinction. What is extinguished? Affliction. With the wisdom of origination, you still need the wisdom of extinction which eradicates afflictions. When afflictions are extinguished, Bodhi is produced and thus you obtain the Four Virtues of Nirvana:
3. True self
6. The wisdom of the Way. In cultivating the Way, you also need wisdom. If you have no wisdom, you would not be able to cultivate. You will waste your time all day long, and time will run out on you. In cultivating the Way, you need the wisdom of the Way.
7. The wisdom of Dharmas. Dharma is the Buddhadharma. If you want to cultivate the Buddhadharma, you must have the Selective Dharma-eye. The Selective Dharma-eye is just wisdom, our eyes of wisdom. With the Wisdom-eye, you would not do stupid things. Without it, you will.
What are stupid things? In studying the Buddhadharma, it is of primary importance that you do not commit the Ten Evil Acts. Secondly, you must diligently cultivate the Ten Good Deeds.
The Ten Evil Acts
Three are committed with the body:
2. Stealing, and
3. Sexual misconduct
Three are committed with the mind:
5. Hatred, and
Four are committed with the mouth:
7. Abusive speech
8. Double-tongued speech
9. Frivolous speech, and
10. False speech
The majority of our offense karma is created with our mouths. How can the mouth create offenses? By talking. If you say good things, there is no offense involved. Strangely enough, the mouth delights in speaking evil, in gossip, and in slander. That is the easiest place for the mouth to go wrong and create offenses. One gossips, because one lacks the Selective Dharma-eye, one lacks wisdom. No matter what Bodhimanda it is, do not speak of its shortcomings. Their faults and problems are their own. We do not want to go there and put in our two cents. This is because:
Others’ wrongs, others’ obsessions,
Are their bad karma and their transgressions.
It is also said,
Good and evil are two diverging roads.
You can culivate the good, or commit offenses.
If you cultivate the Way, you cultivate it. If you create bad karma, you create it. That is just the way things are. There is nothing strange about it. Those who cultivate the Way should support the Bodhimanda. Then, you will be creating merit and virtue. You should not try to break up the Bodhimanda. If you break up the Bodhimanda, you create offenses. If support it, you establish merit. If you have the Selective Dharma-eye, you will not ruin the Bodhimanda. If you do not have it, you will get involved in various stupid actions.
8. The wisdom of comparison. Like the wisdom of the Dharma in which one uses the Selective Dharma-eye, this wisdom is one of comparing and choosing the superior Dharma-doors to cultivate.
9. The wisdom of the ultimate. Among the Three Vehicles, this is wisdom at its extreme point, exhausting all principles in which nothing is not known and seen.
10. The wisdom of non-production. This is the wisdom of the Patience with the Non-production of Dharmas. If you obtain this patience then, in the Three Realms, you do not see a single dharma produced and you do not see a single dharma extinguished. This experience cannot be fully expressed in words, nor can it be forgotten. You bear it in your mind; you know yourself. It is like a person who drinks water and knows for himself whether it is cold or warm.
These are the Ten Types of Wisdom, and each of the Three Vehicles has these ten. Thus, the text says “ten, twenty, or even thirty.” The people of the Three Vehicles are all in the burning house. The Elder, that is, the Buddha, using the Buddha-eye, sees the living beings in the six paths being burned by the fire of the Five Skandhas, and seeing the fire arise from the four sides.
The four sides, as I mentioned earlier, represent the Four Applications of Mindfulness.
The Four Applications of Mindfulness
1. Contemplate the body and impure.
2. Contemplate feelings as suffering.
3. Contemplate thought as impermanent.
4. Contemplate dharmas as without a self.
Our bodies are unclean things. In what way? Take a look. Perspiration flows from the entire body, and once you perspire, you smell. Tears and matter flow from the eyes. Wax oozes from the ears and mucus flows from the nose. Saliva and phelgm flow from the mouth. These seven orifices are always leaking unclean substances. Then, add the eliminatory orifices and you have nine holes which constantly ooze with impurities. Everyone is familiar with these impurities. In our flesh and blood, there are many kinds of bacteria as well which are impure. Someone may not believe this at all, but in the future, advances in science will, no doubt, prove that the flesh and blood are unclean. It is all very complex. Especially when people eat a lot of strange things which get into their systems and do strange things. The matter in the digestive system is also unclean. So why should you be so caught up in working for your body? First of all contemplate the body as impure.
Secondly, contemplate feelings as suffering. Pleasurable sensations are enjoyable at first, but one soon grows tired of them, and they become disagreeable. It is a very obvious principle that there is nothing much to pleasure in itself.
Thirdly, contemplate thought as impermanent. Thought after thought changes and moves on. Thoughts are like the waves on the sea. When one thought passes, another takes its place. Produced and extinguished, produced and extinguished, thoughts do not stop. Therefore, contemplate thoughts as impermanent. The Vajra Sutra says, “Past thoughts cannot be apprehended; present thoughts cannot be apprehended; future thoughts cannot be apprehended.” Past, present, and future, none of the three phases of thought can be got at. So contemplate thought as impermanent.
We are never aware of where our thoughts have gone off to. Mencius said, “If people’s chickens and dogs run off, people go after them. But if their thoughts run off, they do not know to go after them.” If someone’s dog runs away, they may even go so far as to put an ad in the paper saying, “I have lost my dog! It is such and such a color and weighs so many pounds, and is of such and such a breed.” If their chickens run off, they look for them everywhere. But when their minds go running off, they do not go after them. Where did their thoughts run off to? How can thoughts run off? When you have false thinking, that is just your mind running off. You may false think all day long. You think about getting rich, think about being an official, think about seeking fame and profit--these are all false thoughts. If you are destined to become an official, you will quite naturally do so. If you are destined to be famous or wealthy, it will happen according to your fate. You do not need to have false thinking about it and seek after it. Nevertheless, people insist on seeking after fame and profit, wealth and position, and do not understand that they should do good deeds. If you want your future to be bright, you should merely do good deeds and not ask what the future will bring. If you do good things, things will naturally go well for you.
Fourthly, contemplate all dharmas as without self. Not only is there no self, there are no dharmas either! Make empty both people and dharmas. Empty the emptiness as well.
The Four Applications of Mindfulness are very important. If I spoke of them in detail, what with The Dharma Flower Sutra being so long, when would I ever finish? So I have just commented on them briefly.
Seeing the fire break out on all four sides, the Elder is greatly alarmed. What does this mean? Doesn’t the Elder represent the Buddha? How can the Buddha be afraid? The Buddha is fearless. How can he be frightened? His great alarm is a manifestation of his great kindness and compassion. The Buddha is afraid that living beings will retreat from their resolve for Bodhi, and so he is alarmed. If they retreat from their resolve for Bodhi, they will enjoy no bliss. With kindness, the Buddha bestows joy upon living beings. With compassion, he relieves them of their sufferings. The Buddha’s fright represents his kindness and compassion for the living beings undergoing all the manifold miseries they must suffer if they retreat from the thought for Bodhi.
And makes the following reflection: Although I have been able to escape through this burning doorway. “I” is the Elder referring to himself. The door represents the doctrines of emptiness and existence. The four sides of the door represent existence. The center of the door which one goes through represents emptiness. Although we speak of emptiness and existence, originally there is no emptiness or existence, because the Buddha, in the “buring house” relies upon the final principle of the Middle Way to cultivate and accomplish the fruition of Buddhahood. He has escaped the burning house through the buring doorway.
The Buddha has safely escaped, because he is not harrassed by either the Five Skandhas or the Eight Sufferings. Nor is he shaken by the Four Inverted Views. The Four Inverted Views are four types of upside-down understanding and views. Common people and those of external religions take the Four Virtues of Nirvana and wrongly apply them to conditioned existence. Thus, their views are upside-down. The Buddha is not shaken by these four, and so he has escaped safely. He is secure and tranquil, having escaped the Three Realms.
The Four Inverted Views.
1. Taking what is impermanent as permanent.
2. Taking what is not bliss as bliss.
3. Taking what is not true self as true self.
4. Taking what is not pure as pure.
Although the Buddha has escaped, all my children remain inside the burning house. We living beings are still inside the burning house and we cause the Buddha to worry. Happily attached to their amusements. In the burning house, the children, the disciples of the Three Vehicles and the five hundred people and all beings in the Three Realms are busy playing. Amusements refer to their attachment to views and to love. They have been shaken by state of love and views. In the Great Compassion Repentance it says, “Love and views are the root, the body and mouth are the conditions for the creation of all offenses within all of existence.” Love and views are at the heart of the problem. The body and mind are the agents. Within the twenty-five planes of existence in the Three Realms, one is caught and does not wake up.
Amusements means that one accomplishes nothing. Attached to the five defilements: forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and tangible objects, to the five desires: wealth, sex, fame, food, and sleep, and in the end, you do not obtain the slightest advantage. Your birth into this world has been in vain. You live and die in vain and your whole life amounts to nothing. Born muddled, you die muddled. Although you are born and die in a muddle, you have no thought to escape.
If you were ask, “How were you born?”
“I do not know,” you answer.
“How do you plan on dying?”
“I do not know,” you answer.
You have no thought to escape birth and death. This is just like children playing. They play together and jump about all day. As they play, they are unaware. Although they are within the burning house, they do not realize it is on fire. They do not say, “It is on fire. Let us get out!”
Unknowing means that they do not undertand that fire is a “hot dharma.” In the hot dharma of fire, their bodies may be seriously harmed, but they do not know this, and so they are...
Not alarmed. Children who have never seen a tiger may be told about tigers, but they would not recognize one when they see one. If they accidently run into one, they will say, “Where did that big kitty come from?”
Unafraid, they do not know that the fire can rob them of their lives. They do not understand how fierce the fire is.
What is more, living beings are unaware of suffering, unknowing when it comes to origination, and not alarmed at what injures the Way or frightened at the prospect of losing extinction. We have not awakened to suffering, do not know about origination, and are not alarmed when our karma of the Way becomes obstructed, and are not frightened at the thought of losing the happiness of Nirvana. Not having heard the Dharma of the Four Truths means that they lack “hearing” wisdom and “considering” wisdom.
Three Types of Wisdom.
1. Hearing wisdom. This refers to listening to the Dharma. After hearing the Dharma, one needs,
2. The wisdom of consideration. With this wisdom, one thinks about what one has heard.
3. The wisdom of cultivation. This refers to putting what one has learned into actual practice.
If one lacks hearing and considering wisdom, one is unaware. One one does not then cultivate while in the burning house, one is unknowing. Without vision and understanding, one is not alarmed. If one lacks the understanding that comes from consideration, one is frightened.
The fire pressess upon them, and the pain will sear them. Living beings in the five paths of rebirth and those of the Three Vehicles are within the burning house and yet they are not afraid. The fire will soon burn them to death. The fire pressing in on them refers to the Three Sufferings which oppress the body:
The Three Kinds of Suffering.
1. The suffering of suffering. This refers to the suffering of poverty. If poverty is suffering, what about prosperity?
2. The suffering of decay. When one’s blessings run out, things go bad. This is the suffering of decay.
3. The suffering of process. This refers to the suffering involved in the life process itself, from birth to middle age, from middle age to old age, and finally death.
These three kinds of suffering, also called three kinds of feeling, are like a fire pressing in on one.
The pain will sear the living beings, those of the Three Vehicles, and the Buddha. The living beings and those of the Three Vehicles are like the Buddha’s sons. The Buddha’s sons will be burned in the fire. Won’t this cause the Buddha to suffer? The pain will sear them and the Buddha himself will personally undergo greater suffering, just as if his body were being stripped of its flesh.
But at heart, they do not mind it, nor have they any thought to escape. The fire burns right beside them, but they are not disturbed by it in the least. Heart refers to the Sixth Mind Consciousness. The first five consciousnessess are linked to the sixth and the sixth has no thought to escape. Would you say this was delusion or not? If it were not delusion, how could they be seared by the fire and not even think about running away? Deluded by what? The Three Poisons: greed, hatred, and stupidity. Greed, hatred, and stupidity have deluded them to the point that they add suffering atop their sufferings and grow more and more deluded.
Now, I will explain this passage in terms of the Five Evil Turbidities:
Happily attached their amusements: This refers to the turbidity of views and the turbidity of of afflictions, in other words, love and views. Once you have views, you turn your back on enlightenment and unite with the dust. You have afflictions, because you have love. Where there is love, there are afflictions. Take a look: There are some very intelligent people who are so caught up in love that they do nothing all day but laugh and then cry, laugh and then cry. When they have finished crying, for some reason unknown to them, they start to laugh. When they have laughed for a while, they start crying again. Why? It is because there is affliction inside of love and it creates a lot of problems.
Unaware, unknowing, not alarmed, and not afraid refers to the turbidity of living beings. The fire pressess upon them, and the pain will sear them refers to the turbidity of the lifespan. But at heart, they do not mind it, nor have they any thought to escape refers to the turbidity of the eon. We living beings, caught up in the Five Turbidities, have forgotten about returning home. Giving rise to views of people and self, right and wrong, all day long we run about hither and yon in the Five Turbidities, rising and sinking without cease. Sometimes, they bob to the surface, other times they sink to the bottom, just like fish in the water having such a good time! But who knows when the fisherman’s net will come and rob them of their very lives?
We living beings in the Five Turbidities are trapped in a net which is even fiercer. What is the net? It is our karma, our offense karma. When your offense karma hooks you, you will be just like fish caught in a net. When people are caught by their own offense karma in King Yama’s net, they are dragged into the hells to undergo suffering. Is this frightening or not? You should not think this is such a peaceful place. Do not assume that the world is such a fine place. It only seems fine to you, because you have not awakened from your dreams. Once you wake up, you will know that this is not such a safe place to be.
Tonight, there will be a small earthquake. Originally, everyone has been saying for a long time that San Francisco was due for an earthquake. Why hasn’t that big earthquake happened yet? I will tell you: It is because of the power derived from our recitation of the Shurangama Mantra. This power has scared away the demon kings who do not dare come near to disturb us. After this, whenever you recite Sutras or mantras, you should contemplate and concentrate on causing San Francisco to be very calm and peaceful, without any trouble.
We are here studying the Buddhadharma, and when new people come, we should treat them warmly. You should welcome them as you would your own brothers and sisters. The Dharma-protecting laypeople of longstanding should give up their seats to the new people and let them sit at the tables, because the old-timers can get by sitting just anywhere. And do not look down on new people saying, “He does not understand the rules or how to bow or to recite mantras.” While we do not go out into the streets and drag people in for lectures, when they do come, we must certainly invite them to the lecture and give them a place to sit. We should be especially polite to new people and not slight them, because they do not understand the Buddhadharma. When all of you first came, did I look down on you? Was I aloof towards you? I welcomed you all. But now, you must welcome the new people. Before, I did not have so many Western disciples. Now that you have taken refuge with me, you should support your Master and take a share of his load. Do not let new people feel very disappointed and make them want to leave. This is not such a large group, after all. We must lead many people to study the Buddhadharma and then there will be hope for the future. Take note of this. The Master’s disciples should support the Bodhimanda. Supporting the Bodhimanda is just supporting the Master. Being good to everyone is just supporting the Bodhimanda. So, treat all the new people well. Look after them and do not look down on people. You were once just like them, you know. Now that you are a bit different, you should think of a way to cause them to be different, too. That is the attitude that students of the Buddhadharma should have.
“Shariputra, the Elder then reflects, ‘My body and arms are strong. I might gather them into a cloth pouch or onto a table and take them from the house.’ He further reflects, ‘This house has only one door and it is narrow and small. My sons are young and immature and as yet know nothing. Attached to their place of play, they may fall and be burnt in the fire.’”
L2. Parable of casting aside table to use carts.
M1. Parable of casting aside the table.
N1. Method of exhortation not suitable.
Shakyamuni Buddha calls out again to Shariputra, saying, the Elder then reflects. This is a reference to the time when, for twenty-one days, the Buddha thought about what Dharmas he should speak that would be best suited to wake living beings up from their dreams.
My body and arms are strong. The Buddha is speaking about himself. The body represents the Buddha’s spiritual penetrations which are ineffably wonderful. The arms represent the Buddha’s wisdom which raises up all living beings.
The Buddha’s spiritual penetrations conquer the karmic force which bears down heavily upon all living beings, carrying the load of their karmic forces. The Buddha uses his wisdom to teach living beings gradually and to lead them to understanding. This wisdom manifests from samadhi. Samadhi is the Buddha’s virtue of severing as discussed previously. When the Buddha says he is going to sever something, he does it. He is not like us. We talk about getting rid of our faults, but do not get rid of them. Then we have to undergo the consequences. With the virtue of severing, the Buddha can discriminate the Real Mark of all dharmas.
The Buddha also has the virtue of wisdom. With this wisdom, he speaks the Dharma. In speaking the Dharma, the Buddha uses both the virtue of severing and the virtue of wisdom. Thus, he accomplishes the Dharma-body.
To enter the two qualities of the virtue of severing and the virtue of wisdom, you must do so by means of the two doors of exhortation and admonishment. Exhortation means to encourage people to do something. To admonish is to warn people not to do something. These two doors can be related to the Four Types of Complete Giving, which are:
1. Complete giving for the sake of the person.
2. Complete giving in order to cure.
3. Complete giving which is mundane.
4. Complete giving of the primary principle.
The door of exhortation is the first, the complete giving for the sake of the person. The door of admonishment is the second, the complete giving in order to cure.
Basically, there is nothing to say about the Buddhadharma. That which is spoken is only superficial. Previously, I said,
In the non-dual Dharma-door, one does not open one’s mouth.
In the ground of the primary principle, there are basically no words.
What is the ground of the primary principle? There is also nothing one can say about it.
If the Dharma cannot be spoken, then why do we speak the Dharma? Why did Shakyamuni Buddha speak the Dharma?
His speaking of the Dharma was based upon the Four Types of Complete Giving. “Complete” here, means universally pervading. One universally gives with the Four Types of Complete Giving.
The exhortation door belongs to the complete giving for the sake of the person. The admonishment door belongs to the complete giving in order to cure. “For the sake of the person” means to speak the Dharma for living beings. “To effect a cure” means to speak the Dharma to counteract the bad habits and faults of living beings. Those two types of complete give are spoken for the sake of the complete giving of the primary principle. The complete giving which is mundane is also spoken for the sake of the primary principle. They are set forth as preliminary expedient dharmas.
Therefore, when the Buddha first spoke the Dharma, he spoke the exhortation door to cause all living beings to offer up all good deeds. They must do all kinds of good things.
And what is the use of doing good deeds? What advantages do they have? A lot of them! In general, they enable you to accomplish the Ten Powers of the Thus Come One.
By means of the exhortation door, one also accomplishes the Four Fearlessnesses of the Buddha:
1. The fearlessness of All-wisdom.
2. The fearlessness of speaking Dharma. When the Buddha speaks the Dharma, it is like the roar of the lion which terrifies all the wild beasts. The heavenly demons and those external religions all come and take refuge.
3. The fearlessness of speaking about dharmas which obstruct the Way. The Buddha teaches which dharmas obstruct the Way and which do not, discriminating the Real Mark of all dharmas, causing living beings to wake up.
4. The fearlessness of speaking of the dharmas which lead to the end of the path of suffering.
If we rely upon the exhortation door spoken by the Buddha and offer up all good deeds we, too, can obtain these Four Fearlessnesses and also obtain the Wisdom of All Modes. However, living beings have bad tempers and if you teach them to do good things, they would not necessarily do them. If you teach them to do evil things, they do them right away.
Since living beings are unable to accept the exhortation door, the Buddha teaches them the admonishment door. He says, “Hey! Don’t you dare do that!!” giving them a loud and stern warning just like parents teaching their children not to do improper things. “Do no evil!! You are not permitted to do any evil deeds! Since it did not work before when I taught you to do good things, I am now forbidding you to do anything evil.” Strange. Living beings have a habit of doing the evil things you do not permit them to do. If you teach them to do good things, they would not do them. Living beings have habits which are too deeply ingrained for even the Buddha to do anything about. They deliberately insist on doing an evil deed just to try it out, just to see what trouble it brings. They try it out and try it out until eventually they fall. If you tell people to do no evil, they insist on doing it. If you teach them to do good, they refuse. The Buddha thinks, “They are so disobedient, then I will not teach living beings!” and he wants to quit teaching them. “Hah!”
What is the advantage of doing no evil? You can certify to the great Nirvana, to its four virtues of permanence, bliss, true self, and purity. But, living beings insist upon doing evil and are unable to accept the admonishment door. The Buddha tried the exhortation door, but they did not listen. Then, he tried to warn them with the admonishment door, but they still did not listen. Since there were no teachable living beings, the Buddha decided to take a rest and not teach and transform living beings. But then again, if he did not teach living beings, the Buddha would have nothing to do and would feel compelled by his idleness to find himself a job. So he thought he would try speaking the Great Vehicle Dharma, teaching by means of spiritual powers and wisdom.
Adorned with the power of samadhi and wisdom,
With these, one saves living beings.
Previously, when praising the Elder, it was said that he was advanced in years. This represents the virtue of wisdom and the virtue of severing. These two virtues are also represented by the phrase, “body and arms are strong.”
I might gather them into a cloth pouch. In India, cloth sacks were used to carry flowers in. The cloth pouch represents the Buddha’s knowledge and vision. The cloth pouch, although one thing, can contain many things. It represents that the Buddha’s knowledge and vision, although a simple thing in itself, can contain the knowledge and vision of all living beings within it. Knowledge refers to the Wisdom of All Modes. Vision refers to the Buddha-eye. The Wisdom of All Modes means that there is nothing the Buddha does not know. The Buddha-eye means that there is nothing the Buddha does not see. Using his knowledge and vision, the Buddha can rescue all living beings from the revolving wheel of the six paths of rebirth.
Or onto a table: The Chinese text gives two characters, the first of which is 几 (ji), and is a small table. The second is 案 (an), a large table. Here in the lecture hall we have put several small tables together to make a large table. The small table represents the Four Fearlessnesses which are used to teach and transform living beings so that they may escape from the suffering in the Three Realms and avoid difficulties in the six paths. The small table represents the Four Fearlessesses, but this dharma is comparatively small, not broad and expansive. The large table represents the Ten Wisdom Powers of the Buddha.
In hearing the Dharma, you should not be afraid of hearing it spoken once, twice, three, four, or even five times. Why? Hearing it once, it has “walked through” your eighth consciousness and planted a vajra seed. Do not think that once you hear a Dharma, you need not hear it again. The Dharma is like our food and drink. If you eat today, does that mean you would not have to eat tomorrow? No. You have to eat everyday. After you eat, you wait a while and then you get hungry again and eat again. Hearing the Buddhadharma works the same way. You hear it once and then you hear it again. Do not fear hearing it too many times. If you do, it means there are some questions about the wholesomeness of your roots. What question? The question of retreating from the heart of Bodhi. It does not matter who is lecturing on the Dharma, as long as there is a lecture, we should take time from our busy schedules to go listen to the Dharma. You should think, “I listen to the Dharma, and whether the lecture is good or not, I am still going to listen. If, out of a hundred sentences, the speaker says only one thing that strikes a responsive chord in me, a sentence which helps me get rid of my faults, then I will not have listened in vain.”
You should not think, “His lecture is meaningless. I am not going to listen.” When you listen to the Dharma, first of all you plant your own vajra seeds, and secondly you are supporting the Dharma Assembly and the Bodhimandala. You should look upon the Bodhimandala as you look upon your own household. You should feel the same responsibility for it. “I listen to the lectures everyday. I hear the Dharma everyday. Everyday I take care of my household affairs and I also protect the Bodhimandala.”
The Buddha uses the Ten Wisdom Powers to teach and transform living beings in the Six Paths of rebirth so that they may leave suffering and attain bliss. Previously the Four Fearlessnesses represented by the small table was a relatively simple dharma. The Ten Powers save beings both horizontally and vertically, and are more expansive and inclusive.
For twenty-one days after his enlightenment, the Buddha thought and pondered, “What dharma should I use to teach and transform living beings? Should I use the great or the small dharma?” He thought about it for twenty-one days and the dharmas he decided to use are grouped under the exhortation door. The exhortation door is a dharma which “gathers in.” It gathers in living beings in the same way a magnet attracts iron filings. Thus it belongs to the first of the Four Types of Complete Giving, complete giving for sake of the person.
The admonishment door warns us to do no evil and is a kind of suppressing Dharma. Since you did not listen to the exhortations, I will scold you a good one! I will use a strict method to teach you. The exhortation door was a compassionate door. The admonishment door was a severe door. Thus the Buddha used both the gathering and suppressing dharma to teach and transform living beings. The Four Fearlessnesses, the Ten Powers, and the Knowledge and Vision of the Buddha were used to lead all living beings from the burning house.
He further reflects, ‘This house has only one door and it is narrow and small.’ What is the one door? It is the One Buddha Vehicle, the door of the white ox cart, the Great Vehicle. It is a very small door. Although it is the Great Vehicle, there are so many people to come through it that it will certainly be too small.
The One Vehicle is represented by the one door. You could also say the one door represents the doctrine of the One Vehicle, the Purity of the One Way. What is the door? It represents the proper teaching, the orthodox Buddhadharma. Further, a door is something which people can go through. In the same way, the proper teaching teaches and transforms living beings.
What is meant by “narrow and small?” Externalist religions cannot go through this door, because they are attached to the concepts of permanence or annihilationism. The living beings in the Seven Expedients are also unable to get through this door. Only the Bodhisattvas of the Great Vehicle’s Perfect Teaching are able to go through this door. The Seven Expedients are made up of those with the disposition of the Small Vehicle. Explained in terms of the doctrine itself, this door is the largest door, for only the Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas of the Perfect Teaching can go in and out of this door. Small Vehicle people do not understand the perfectly interpenetrating doctrine of the Great Vehicle. Although it is said to be a small and narrow door, it is not really. It is the biggest. The Small Vehicle people neither understand nor comprehend it, and so for them, it is narrow and small.
The wonderful doctrine of the One Buddha Vehicle is said to be the doctrine of uniformity, because it is not mixed with any other doctrines. Since the doctrine is one, the path is especially pure. This pure path is the only path, and so it is said that there is one door. Why is the door said to be small? It is because the oneness of the doctrine and the oneness of the Way are fine and subtle, inconceivable. Inconceivable means that it is difficult to understand. This is to speak of it in terms of the theory.
To explain it in terms of the teaching, it is the Perfect Teaching, the teaching in which the provisional and real are non-dual. Ordinary people do not know how to get through the door, they do not understand the provisional. They also do not know how to get in the door, they do not understand the real. The provisional and the real, these two teaching doctrines, are not understood by common people. Although those of the Two Vehicles understand how to get out, they never understand how to get in. Thus, they also do not understand this doctrine. Although the Bodhisattvas know exactly how to get out, they also do not know how to get in. This refers to the Bodhisattvas of the Special Teaching and below, the Bodhisattvas of the Seven Expedients. Those of the Seven Expedients do not understand this teaching doctrine and so the teaching of the One Buddha Vehicle is “narrow and small.” Since they are unable to travel it, for them, the great becomes small and narrow. This Dharma-door belongs only to the One Buddha Vehicle. So the door is narrow and small and there is only the One Buddha Vehicle.
The one door is the Great Vehicle’s white ox cart door which represents the One Buddha Vehicle. We have explained the One Buddha Vehicle according to the teaching and according to the theory. Now, we will explain it according to the conduct.
Conduct refers to the cultivation of the Perfect Teaching. It is a direct conduct, not a crooked or round-about conduct, because nothing can obstruct it or block it up. Therefore, the conduct is one. In cultivating the Bodhisattva Way, you go directly to the position of Buddhahood, to the Bodhimanda, where you realize the Buddha fruit. It is a “door” because you go straight through it. However, walking through the door is a kind of wonderful conduct which is not easy to cultivate. The Great Vehicle Buddhadharma is hard to cultivate. No expedient Dharma-doors are used and so the door is said to be narrow and small. In reality, this Dharma-door is by no means narrow or small. It is the broadest and greatest of doors.
My sons are young and immature, the ten, twenty, or thirty sons mentioned previously, that is, those of the Three Vehicles: Hearers, Conditioned Enlightened Ones, and Bodhisattvas.
What is meant by “young and immature?” Everyone knows that children are immature. They have no sense and so they are not afraid or alarmed. Although during the time of the twenty thousand Buddhas, those of the Three Vehicles have both studied the unsurpassed Way, and cultivated the Bodhisattva Dharmas, and although they have been both taught how to cultivate the Way and transformed by those twenty thousand Buddhas, still their good roots are small and weak, and without strength. Since their Great Vehicle roots are weak, they are young and immature. In the Buddhadharma, those of the Three Vehicles are looked upon as little children.
And as yet know nothing: Because their good roots are so scanty, when those of the Three Vehicles hear the Great Vehicle Buddhadharma, they slander it as did those arrogant five thousand people who walked out at the beginning of the speaking of the Sutra. When they heard the Buddhadharma, they did not believe it. They ran off, because they “knew nothing.” They had no common sense.
Attached to their place of play: They are caught up in their place of play. Not only are they unable to accept the Great Vehicle Buddhadharma, they also wish to retreat from their resolve for Bodhi. Having retreated, where do they end up? Attached to love and views! Having retreated from the Bodhi heart, they are harrassed by the eight kinds of sufferings and become attached to the Dependent and Proper Retribution Worlds. The Dependent Retribution World refers to the mountans, the rivers and the earth and all the vegetation and buildings. The Proper Retribution World is our bodies. The Proper Retribution World is also called the sentient world and the Dependent Retribution World is also called the material world. Having retreated from the Bodhi heart, they undergo the eight sufferings and become attached to these two worlds. That is what happens to ordinary people.
There are Three Realms: the realm of desire, the realm of form, and the formless realm. Beings in the realm of desire are attached to the five desires: wealth, sex fame, food, and sleep. The fire desires may also be said to be: form, sound, smells, tastes, and tangible objects, that is, the objects of the five senses.
Beings in the realm of form also have their attachments. They are attached to the flavor of Dhyana. Beings in the four heavens of Dhyana are attached to the delight of Dhyana and bliss of the Dharma. All day long they are extremely happy, happy to the point that you could not even describe their happiness. That is why the First Dhyana is call the blissful ground of leaving production, the second is called the blissful ground of the production of samadhi, the third is called the wondrous ground of leaving bliss, and the fourth is called the pure ground of getting rid of thought. The flavor of Dhyana is the taste of meditation. All of a sudden these beings become attached to their happiness like children who eat one piece of candy and then want another and another. Those in the form heavens are attached to the flavor of Dhyana.
Beings in the formless realm have their attachments, too. They are attached to their samadhi. You should not think that hearing “precepts, samadhi, and wisdom” talked about all day is all there is to it. If you get attached to your samadhi and are born in the formless heaven, you will not be able to get out of the Three Realms.
But let us not speak of the beings in the desire, form, and formless realms--which of us has no attachments? If we had no attachments, we could escape the Three Realms. A person might basically be very intelligent, but ends up doing all kinds of crazy things, because he is attached, caught up in his place of play. Today he runs south and tomorrow he runs north; the next day he runs east, and then he runs west. People cannot put down their stupid behavior. They are all attached to their places of play. Why? It is a lot of fun here! They are like people in a movie theatre who forget all about their homes. Or they run off to gamble and forget to go home, forget everything. You might say they have entered the gambling samadhi, the movie samdhi, the dancing samadhi, the drinking, smoking, or dope samadhi. Crazy mixed-up antics! They are attached to their places of play. And what happens then? The sentence lay it right on the line:
They may fall and be burnt in the fire: Luckily the text says “may.” It does not say for sure that they will fall, and so there are still some hope. This means that if you are able to reform yourself and come unattached, if you know to turn back from the confused path, you may not fall. If you do not wake up, you will fall. It is not for sure. This is like when a person has been arrested and has not yet been convicted or sentenced. It could go either way.
Why might they fall? Because they are young and immature, that is, stupid. Children have no sense. They are very stupid. Likewise, attachment to the five desires which causes one to fall is also very stupid. They fall, because they are young and immature, too young to understand things. They fall, because they know nothing, they simply do not know any better. They take what is suffering as bliss and turn their backs on enlightenment in order to unite with the dust. They go against the doctrine of enlightenment and think the most painful things are pleasureable. People like this fall into the three evil paths. Once they fall, they will be burnt in the fire. What is the fire? The Eight Sufferings, the Five Skandhas, and the Five Turbidities. Once burned, it will be even harder for them to wake up.
“‘I must tell them of this frightful matter, that the house has caught fire, and they must hurry and come out so as not to be burned.’ So thinking, he speaks to his sons, saying, ‘Come out, all of you quickly!’ Although the father, in his pity, induces them with good words, still all the sons are happily attached to their amusements and play and refuse to believe him. They are not frightened or afraid and have no intention of leaving. What is more, they do not know what is meant by fire, what is meant by house or what is meant by being lost. They merely run from east to west in play, staring at their father.”
N2. Method of admonishment not suitable.
I must tell them of this frightful matter. I should tell the people of the Three Vehicles and those in the five paths of rebirth, that the house has caught fire. It is a terrifying situation. And they must hurry and come out so as not to be burned. If they do not leave, they will be burnt by the fire.
So thinking, he speaks to his sons, saying, ‘Come out, all of you, quickly!’ Hurry up and get out. If you do not come out right away, you will be burned by the Five Skandhas and the Five Turbidities. You do not want to be burned to death, do you? Hurry and escape so that you may leave suffering and attain bliss.
Although the father, in his pity, induces them with good words, still all the sons are happily attached to their amusements and play and refuse to believe him. They do not believe what the Elder says, and so they are not frightened or afraid of losing their lives. And have no intention of leaving. The children have no thought whatever to leave the burning house.
What is more, because they are so young, they do not know what is meant by fire; this represents the living beings in the five paths who do not know that the Eight Sufferings and the Five Skandhas can burn our Dharma-bodies and burn off our good roots. They do not know what is meant by house; that the Five Skandhas and the Six Sense Organs, the Twelve Places and the Eighteen Realms are the apparatus which creates sufferings; they are the origin of suffering.
Or what is meant by being lost. “Lost” means to turn your back on the light and go towards the darkness, to travel back and forth between birth and death and further rebirth. They do not know the cause of the injury to their Dharma-bodies.
They merely run from east to west in play, staring at their father. They run to the east for a while, and then they run to the west. They have no sense of direction, no principle, and no idea of where they are going. They are just running around confusedly. This running is just turning one’s back on the light and going towards the darkness. By running headlong into the darkness, they are born and die, over and over again. Suddenly, they are in the heavens; suddenly, they are in the hells. There is nothing fixed about it. No one is in control. They just run to the east and west.
“Staring at their father” means that, even though their father warns them, since they do not know what a fire is, what a house is, or what it means to be hurt, they just go right on revolving in birth and death and are not the slightest bit afraid. They just stare at their father, playfully as if nothing were happening. This represents their not venerating the Great Vehicle Buddhadharma and not listening to the Great Vehicle teaching. So it says, “they just stare at their father” and laugh, because they do not cultivate according to the Great Vehicle Buddhadharma.
This passage is the Admonishment Door, a warning to the children, but they do not listen. The Buddha considers quitting teaching and transforming living beings. Although it occurs to him to stop teaching, he is very compassionate and he cannot bear to forsake living beings and so he decides to think up some other method.
“Then, the Elder has this thought, ‘The house is already ablaze with a great fire. If my sons and I do not get out in time, we certainly shall be burned. I shall now devise an expedient device so that my sons can avoid this disaster.’”
M2. Parable of using the carts
N1. Suitability of the three carts.
Having decided not to use the table, the Elder now decides to use carts to entice the children to leave the burning house.
“Then, when the Elder told the children to leave the burning house, they were so engrossed in their play that they did not realize the danger they were in. Seeing that they just ignored him, the Elder has this thought, ‘The house is already ablaze with a great fire. It is ablaze with the fire of the Eight Sufferings and the Five Skandhas. If my sons and I do not get out in time, we certainly shall be burned.’ The Buddha and the disciples of the Three Vehicles and the beings on the five paths will be burned in the fire.
Previously, the Elder said, “Although I have been able to escape safely through this burning doorway...” and now he says that he, too, is about to be burned. Isn’t this a contradiction?
Previously, he was speaking about his Dharma-body, saying it could escape safely. Here, in referring to being burned with the children in the fire, he is talking about his Response-body. So, in reading Sutras, you have to be able to tell what is going on.
I shall now devise an expedient device so that my sons can avoid this disaster. The Buddha thought, “I should set up some clever expedient method to lead living beings to escape being burned in the fire of the skandhas, sufferings, places, and realms. They will then be able to escape disaster, this harm, and not get burned in the fire.
“The father, knowing both the predispositions of his sons and the preferences each has for various precious toys and unusual playthings to which they happily responded…”
N2. Knowing the children’s former delights.
The father, the Buddha, knowing both the predispositions of his sons and the preferences each has. It is said, “No one knows a child as well as his father.” A father will surely know how his children are predisposed, that is, he will know what they like. It is also said, “No one knows living beings as well as the Buddha.” The Buddha knows all the desires of living beings. He know what they like and what their dispositions are. The Buddha knows the natures and preferences of all living beings. “Predispositions” refers to the Small Vehicle Buddhadharma which they cultivated in the past. Everyone has his own preference. Some people cultivate giving, some cultivate the Four Truths, others cultivate the Twelve Conditioned Causes. The Dharmas each person cultivates are the preferences they have. So, the Buddha knows living beings’ hearts, what they prefer. What do they prefer?
Various precious toys and unusual playthings: This represents the Four Truths, the Twelve Conditioned Causes and so forth. All beings have their preferences when it comes to the Dharma-doors of the Three Vehicles. To which they happily responded: I will take a guess according to the situation, and figure out what dharmas they like.
“…speaks to them, saying, ‘The things you will love to play with are rare and hard to get. If you do not take them, you will certainly regret it later. Things such as these: a variety of sheep carts, deer carts, and ox carts, are now outside the door for you to play with. All of you should quickly come out of this burning house and I shall give you whatever you want.’”
N3. Praising the three carts as rare.
Speaks to them, saying, “The things you will love to play with are rare and hard to get. The toys you have now are not that fine. You should not be attached to them. In the burning house, there is nothing to be fond of; it is, in fact, very dangerous. All of you should not play with those toys, because I have some other fine things. I have some really super toys. You have never seen toys as much fun as these. They are brand new. See? They are very rare. They are imported! If you do not take them, you will certainly regret it later. You will be sorry. Now, come right out and I will give them to you. Things such as these: a variety of sheep carts, deer carts, especially beautiful. You have never seen anything like them. So pretty! If you want a sheep cart, I will give you a sheep cart. If you want a deer cart, I will give you a deer cart. Ox carts are even less of a problem. Just hurry and get out. They are now outside the door for you to play with. I have put them right here, outside the door. So come on out! The sheep cart represents the Hearer Vehicle. The deer cart represents the Conditioned Enlightened Vehicle. The ox cart represents the Bodhisattva Vehicle. The three carts are the Three Vehicles.
A sheep drawn cart can only pull small things, and so it represents the Small Vehicle. The deer has more strength than the sheep and can pull more things. An ox cart is more powerful than a deer drawn cart. It can pull people and things--a lot of them. So the carts represent the Small, Middle, and Great Vehicles. They are all right outside the door, and they are lots of fun to play with. You can get in them and go wherever you want.
All of you should quickly come out of this burning house. Come on, you kids, hurry and get out. Quick! And I shall give you whatever you want. Do not hang around in the burning house. Hurry right out!
“Then the children, hearing their father speak of these precious playthings which suited their wishes exactly, eagerly push and shove one another aside in a mad scramble, all fighting to get out of the burning house.”
N4. Granting the childrens’ wishes.
Then the children, those of the Three Vehicles, hearing their father speak of these precious playthings, the Dharma-door of the Three Vehicles, which suited their wishes. They were so new and wonderful they aroused the children’s curiosity. They are exactly what they wanted, what they had hoped for. They had hoped for the Dharma of the Three Vehicles and so the Buddha spoke it to them. This was his clever expedient to rescue living beings in the Five Paths. He could not speak about the One Buddha Vehicle, because they were so busy playing that they had forgotten everything. They had forgotten all their Dharmas and were caught up in the Three Realms.
It was not until the very end that the Buddha spoke of the One Buddha Vehicle, the real, genuine Dharma. The Dharma Flower Sutra sets forth this real wonderful Dharma. There is nothing in it which is provisional. So the Great Master Zhi Zhe spoke of this Sutra as purely perfect and solitarily wonderful. It is the Dharma-door of the Perfect Teaching.
In studying the Sutras, we must certainly be respectful. We cannot call the Patriarchs by their names. For example, the Sixth Patriarch cannot be called “Hui Neng.” He should be called the Great Master the Sixth Patriarch. For a common person to call out a Great Master’s name is a most disrespectful thing. The First Patriarch Bodhidharma, for example must be called by his title with the addition of the pharse “Great Master.” The Great Master Zhi Zhe cannot just be called “Zhi Zhe.” If students of the Buddhadharma do not pay proper respect to the ancients and the patriarchs, they will be unable to understand the Buddhadharma. You must be very respectful and add the term “Great Master” or “Venerable” to their names. You cannot just call out “Hui Neng” to show that you are higher than he is! You can call children by their names, but not your elders. This is something that students of the Dharma must take note of. Do not study the Buddhadharma on one hand and create offenses on the other. In studying the Dharma, you should eradicate offense karma. If you study it on one hand and fail to respect it, you will only increase your offense karma. It will increase to the point that people who were clear-headed will become confused and not follow the rules.
To speak of this passage in terms of the Three Kinds of Wisdom, the phrase “which suited their wishes exactly” refers to the Wisdom of Hearing. It shows that “the potential beings and the teaching are well-suited to one another.” Each of the children had a favorite toy. This represents the Buddha setting up clever expedient Dharma-doors in which all beings take delight. Since this passage indicates the Wisdom of Hearing, it points to the cultivation of the Four Applications of Mindfulness.
The word “eagerly” here means that their hearts became very bold. It represents the Wisdom of Thought. This kind of thought is done by means of Contemplative Prajna. It is not the false thought of ordinary people. This kind of thought comes from the investigation of Dhyana. If you are eager, vigorous, and go forward in your cultivation, you must have the sword of wisdom. This sword of wisdom can distinguish right from wrong and prevent one from taking the wrong path.
What is the wrong path? It means to know clearly that something is wrong, but deliberately do it. One may know that something is wrong, but insist on doing it anyway. This is because one lacks the wisdom sword and is stupid. Not only is such a person stupid, he is the stupidest of people.
Before we have understood the Buddhadharma, if we take the wrong road, it is because we do not understand true principle. Have entered the door of the Dharma, and even taken refuge with the Triple Jewel, one must offer up one’s conduct in accord with the teaching. If one does not, in the future, one is sure to fall into the hells. There is not the slightest doubt about it. Why? Because one clearly knew that it was wrong and did it anyway. If one has genuine wisdom, one would not do wrong things. “Push and shove” means that when the children, those of the Seven Expedients, heard there were new toys, they looked into the Four Holy Truths and having done so they were able to subdue and sever view delusion.
One another aside: This refers to their contemplation of the Four Holy Truths: suffering, origination, extinction, and the Way. In so doing, they are able to sever the view delusions. Thus, the phrase “push and shove one another aside” refers to their investigation of the Four Truths which leads to the subjugation of view delusion.
This passage also refers to the Four Additional Practices: “One another aside” refers to the first two, heat and summit. “In a mad scramble” refers to the third, patience. “All” refers to the fourth, highest mundane Dharma. These Four Additional Practices were discussed in the Shurangama Sutra.
A mad scramble refers to the Position of Seeing the Way, that is, the First Fruit of Arhatship. At this position view delusions have been severed. View delusion is defined as giving rise to greed and love when facing an external state. Now these delusions have been severed and one “sees as if not seeing,” “loves and yet does not love.” There is no view delusion. However, having reached first stage Arhatship one has only ended share section birth and death. One has not ended change birth and death. One has not yet reached the place where the “two deaths eternally cease.”
What is share section birth and death? It refers to each person having his own share and his own section. Your share refers to your body, from the soles of your feet to the top of your head. Your section refers to your alloted lifespan from your day of birth until death which are controlled by your karma. Sages of the first fruit have ended this share section birth and death.
Fighting to get out: This refers to the Way of thought, that is, cutting off the last of the thought delusions in order to certify to the stage beyond study, fourth stage Arhatship. When one has certified to the fourth stage of Arhatship, one can escape the Three Realms. If one has not certified to the fourth stage of Arhatship, one cannot escape the Three Realms. At fourth stage Arhatship, view delusions and thought delusions have both been cut off. At that time:
One passes beyond the Three Realms,
Is not within the Five Elements.
One is not confined by one’s temper or
Pressured by desire for things.
“Temper” refers to our nasty dispositions inherited from our parents. We may try to get free of our bad tempers, but it is not easy. We are tied up by our dispositions and cannot get free of them.
You may think, “I am very free. I just do what I please.” It is just your “doing as you please” that makes you unfree! You are being controlled by your disposition. You like the movies, and so all day long you watch movies. Ultimately, what use is it?
“Well, it is fun.” When the fun is over, then what? What benefit is it?
“Well, at least I am happy for a short time.”
So you are happy for a short time, but who knows how much time you will spend suffering? At the very least, after a movie your eyes are tired and you lack energy. That is an obvious form of suffering. Or perhaps you enjoy various forms of pleasure thinking they are blissful when actually they are the roots of suffering. You take suffering as bliss, and you have been tied up by your habits. You would like to transcend the Three Realms, but you cannot get out. You want to study the Buddhadharma? Your temperament grabs you and prevents you from doing so. “Studying the Buddhadharma is of no great use. It would be better take a nap or have something to eat. At least that will help out the body.”
Not pressured by desire for things.” You are not pushed or covered over with desire for material things. What gets covered over? Your wisdom.
“No” you say, “I feel like I get smarter and smarter every day.”
If you like to smoke, drink, or take drugs, these are all desires for material things which cover over you self-nature’s bright light and Prajna wisdom so that you do things that are upside-down, things involved with deviant knowledge and views. Because we are confined by our tempers and pressured by a desire for things, we are caught in the Three Realms and never make it out. Would you like to get out? Then, use your Prajna wisdom sword to cut off all your temper and lust for things, and then you can certainly transcend the Three Realms.
Like the children, we should fight to get out of the burning house. Do not dally thinking it is fun. It may be “fun,” but it is also the most dangerous place you could possibly be. Students of the Buddhadharma must grab hold of proper knowledge and views in order to get out of the Three Realms.
A few days ago, I heard one of my disciples gossip. He said he knew that before he was climbing on conditions to get people to make offerings and now he knows that this is wrong. This proves that he has not wasted his time in cultivation. He has obtained a bit of the benefits of Dhyana Samadhi, and he should take care to guard his state and not relax. His state is the same as the First Dhyana, but he must continue to work hard. There are very few Westerners who cultivate the Way. People who are confused about the Way are many. Before you left home, you were also confused. Now everyday you meditate and work hard and investigate the Buddhadharma; this means that you have made progress.
After this, you should address left-home people as “Dharma Master.” You cannot just call out their names. A few days ago, I told you that you cannot casually call out the name of the past patriarchs. You also should not call out the names of the present patriarchs. You now are future American patriarchs. All you need to do is do a good job. In the future when you become enlightened and have a bit of spiritual powers you will have success. So now, all my disciples must call each of the left-home people by the title “Dharma Master.” We shall set up rules now so that it will become a custom in the future. The Dharma-name is basically a name that only one’s Master or other high monks can use. Ordinary people do not call people by their Dharma-names. They may use their other names. Lay people should not look at the faults of those who have left home. If they have faults, they will gradually improve and you should not blame them for them.
Today we received notice of the upcoming precept-transmission in Taiwan. This time, the transmission will be very good, because they will provide the three robes and the bowl and sitting cloths as gifts to create affinities. In the past, on the mainland, they do not always do this. They sent a lot of forms, but we do not know how many people will be going to take the precepts. If you would like to go, you should apply early.
I am very happy that some of my disciples are going to leave home. I am so happy in fact that I cannot even sleep at night! I just think, “Oh, they really work hard.” But though the left-home people work hard and eat one meal a day, you lay people should work hard, too. You should work even harder than the left-home people and not just go to sleep all day, fail to listen to the lectures, and when the time comes, refuse to recite the Sutras. If you act like that, in the future you will become a snake. If as a lay person in the temple you do not recite Sutras or cultivate the Dharma it is very, very dangerous. You should not think you can get off so cheaply. If things get dangerous, I will be even more on edge and lose more sleep at night. When I am too happy, I cannot sleep. When I am worried, I cannot sleep, either. If my lay disciples do not cultivate and turn into snakes, I will lose sleep over it. So everyone of you should work hard. Do not wait until someone is watching over you to start working. You should be diligent.
Lay people should be addressed as “Layman so and so...” If you call them by that title, they will think, “I ought to do a good job.” When you say “Dharma Master” they think, “He is calling me Dharma Master.” Then, even if they wanted to relax a little, they would not. “I am a Dharma Master and I should study a little more Buddhadharma,” or “I am a lay person and I ought to support the Buddhadharma.” So everyone will live up to their names and walk down the road to Buddhahood. “Oh ho! So that is what becoming a Buddha is all about!” You will think when you get there. So from today on, the lay people must respect one another and be compassionate towards all. The best thing would be to look at other’s strong points and ignore their weaknesses. Those with strong points should be encouraged to make them even stronger. Those with weaknesses should gradualy turn them into strong points. This is my hope for each of you. I have the same equal compassionate regard for all of you and certainly am not closer to any one of you than to any other. Whoever cultivates, and genuinely works and practices the Buddhadharma is my real “jewel” of a disciple. If you do not work hard, then I can only sigh, “This person...I have no way to save him,” and I would not be able to sleep. That is the way it is.
“At that time, the Elder, seeing that all his sons had gotten out safely and were seated on the ground at the crossroads, is without further obstruction; his mind is at peace and he is filled with joy.”
L3. Parable of giving all a great cart.
M1. The father rejoices on seeing the children escape the danger.
At that time, the Elder, the Buddha, seeing that all his sons have gotten out safely and are seated on the ground at the crossroads. The Buddha saw that the living beings had gotten out of the burning house and were sitting on the ground at the crossroads. The crossroads represents the method of contemplation of the Four Truths: The method of contemplation of suffering, the method of contemplation of origination, the method of contemplation of extinction, and the method of contemplation of the Way. This contemplation leads to the wisdom of suffering, the wisdom of origination, the wisdom of extinction, and the wisdom of the Way. “On the ground” means that, in cultivating the Four Truths to certify to the fruit, one severs entirely the delusions of views and thought in the three realms. “Seated” means they have certified to the fruit and do not seek further progress. Certifying to the first fruit, one does not seek the second; certifying to the second fruit, one does not seek the third and so on. One just sits there and stops.
People in the three realms are as if tied up by the revolving wheel of the six paths. Now, seated at the crossroads they have transcended the revolving wheel. What is meant by his mind is at peace? The Buddha’s heart was at peace, because he had seen all living beings safely get out of the burning house and certify to the fruit of Arhatship. He is filled with joy, because the disciples had avoided the disaster. What disaster? That of being burned by the eight sufferings, five skandhas, six senses, twelve places, and the eighteen realms--the various kinds of sufferings, and so the Buddha was filled with joy.
A father may have sons or daughters who have to undergo danger or trouble. When he hears that his sons and daughters have escaped the danger, he is very happy. This is like now, everyone here is very vigorous in studying the Buddhadharma and comes to listen to the Dharma. During the day they work and it is very tiring. When time comes for the Sutra lecture, no matter how far away they are, they come to listen. This causes your teacher’s heart to be very happy. He thinks, “These students of the Dharma are so sincere.” If none of you came to hear the Buddhadharma as I was lecturing here, it would like when Dharma Master Yin Guang lectured in Nanjing--only one person was in the audience, night after night. Finally, he spoke with him and said, “So you find my Sutra lectures interesting, do you?”
The man replied, “I do not have any idea what you are talking about. I do not understand any of it.”
“Then what are you doing here?” said Master Yin Guang. “I am waiting for you to finish so I can put the chairs away,” he said.
Master Yin Guang’s heart was pained. “I thought I had a real friend here when all the time there was not a single person!” Master Yin Guang had a lot of Way virtue. He went into seclusion on Mount Putuo for eighteen years and saw no guest in all that time. What was he doing those eighteen years? Reading the Tripitaka. Later, he wrote many articles. They are extremely good, because he developed his wisdom by reading the Tripitaka. He was the thirteenth Patriarch of the Pure Land School. He had a lot of virtuous practice, yet no one listened to him lecture on the Sutras. Why not? Because he did not do a lot of advertising or pressure people into coming. He never put ads in the paper.
Now, when I am lecturing in Chinese and so many Westerners come to listen, my lectures are translated into English. Whose merit is this? The translator’s. If no one translated, no one would know what I was saying. So I am very happy.
A Story: Do not Let Your House Burn Down!
Speaking of children fighting to get out of the burning house, that reminds me of a story. There was once an old married couple who cultivated the Pure Land Dharma-door. They recited “Namo Amitabha Buddha” everyday. Someone told them, “When you recite, you should get the Buddha-recitation Samadhi. After you obtain that samadhi, when the wind blows it would not blow on you, and the rain would not fall on you. At that time, you will certainly gain great advantage.”
One day, the old couple’s daughter-in-law had to go to work. She could not find a baby-sitter for her three and four year old children, so she gave them to the old couple to look after. The children were very mischievious and started playing with matches, lighting little fires. The old man told the old lady, “Go tell the kids not to light fires. They could burn the house down!”
The woman said, “You just keep minding trivial matters. How can you expect to attain the Buddha-recitation Samadhi that way? The Buddha-recitation Samadhi means you cannot pay attention to any external matters at all. What are you doing watching over the kids?”
The old man thought, “All right. I will just forget it,” and continued his recitation. If I keep reciting the Buddha’s name, it will generate enough merit to keep the house from catching on fire.”
So the two of them kept reciting until, finally, the house did catch on fire! The old couple did not even know, because they were not paying attention. When a neighbor came over to put out the fire, he saw the house was half-burned already and the other half was going fast, but the old couple was just sitting there reciting the Buddha’s name. “How can you ignore the children, let the house burn down, and not even get out yourselves?” he cried.
The old man glanced at his wife and said, “See? I told you the kids were playing with fire, and you said not to pay any attention to it but to concentrate on getting the Buddha-recitation Samadhi. The house has burned down; have you got the Samadhi?”
The old woman said, “Well, why wasn’t the recitation effective? We recited and the house burned down anyway. Probably there is nothing efficacious about recitation at all.”
Actually, she was just superstitious. Kids do not know what is going on. They have to be watched over. You cannot just let them play with fire. Thus, a perfectly good home turned into the a burning house. Although they did not get out themselves, luckily a good knowing advisor was able to rescue them at the last minute.
Now, we are talking about getting out of the burning house; we should not act as stupidly and superstitiously as that old couple. Do not think that just because you recite the Buddha’s name there will be no fire. Recitation brings its own merit and virtue, but if you do not watch over the children, the danger of fire is till ever-present.
Someone asks, “The Sutra says that if one who recites the name of Guanyin Bodhisattva happens to enter into a great fire, the fire will not burn them. Why, when they were reciting Amitabha Buddha did the house catch on fire?”
The Sutra is referring to one who accidentally “happens” to enter a great fire. If someone is standing there while the house accidently catches fire, that situation differs from the former. The first is a fire which could not be prevented. The latter is one which the old man already knew about, but ignored. They knew the kids might start a fire, but paid them no mind. Thus, the house caught fire.
Students of the Buddhadharma should not be like that muddled old couple. Do not think that you can rely on reciting the Buddha’s name and nothing will happen. That is just being stupid. Reciting the Buddha’s name is reciting the Buddha’s name, but if something happens, you have to be prepared. It is said, “If you are prepared, there are no emergencies.
“Then the children all speak to their father, saying, ‘Father, the fine playthings you promised us a while ago, the sheep carts, the deer carts, and the ox carts, please give them to us now.’”
N2. The children demand the carts.
This is the section of text which the children all demand their carts. The three carts are an analogy for the positions of the Three Vehicles. Because they wish to obtain the Three Vehicles, they must transcend the three realms. Once one has transcended the three realm, the Three Vehicle fruits are ultimately unobtainable. The Three Vehicles are all the provisional teaching, ultimately unobtainable and non-existent. During the Vaipulya Teaching Period, those of the Three Vehicles were scolded by the Buddha. During the Vaipulya Period, those of the Storehouse Teaching were reprimanded. He told them, “You are withered sprouts and sterile seeds! You are all just self-ending Arhats who only watch over themselves. You are corrupt elements. You have no guts at all. When I teach you, you pay no attention and do not even follow the rules. You do not practice any of the Dharma methods I teach you. You are so lazy!” Thus, he scolded those of the Storehouse and Pervasive Teachings.
Then he spoke in praise of the Special Teaching. He said, “You of the Special Teaching are not bad. You have a bit of spunk.” He rewarded those of the Perfect Teaching, those beings with the potential which is perfectly penetrating without obstruction. “They really cultivate well. Their skill has about matured.”
During the Vaipulya Period the Buddha scolded the partial and the small and praised the great and rewarded the Perfect.
During the Prajna Period of the Buddha’s teaching, a process of selection went on to see which had the Great Vehicle dispositions and which had the Small Vehicle dispositions. All the disciples went through many selection processes. So the Buddha, in several decades, taught and transformed sages who had certified to the fruit, obtaining Arhatship and cultivating the Bodhisattva Vehicle. This was the result of several decades of work.
The Dharma Flower Sutra itself says, “The expedients are not real.” This means that the three types of provisional dharmas taught previously were nothing but expedients. They are not real, actual Dharmas. You should not misunderstand. Before, you were not ready to receive the true Dharma, and so I did not teach it to you. Now, in the Dharma Flower Assembly, the truth is coming out, the genuine Dharma is being spoken. Shariputra very respectfully requested the Buddha three times to speak the Sutra, until the Buddha finally agreed to speak it. The three requests are what is represented in the analogy by “asking for the three carts,” the deer cart, the sheep cart, and the ox cart. They want the Three Vehicles from the Buddha.
Shariputra and the entire assembly were extremely sincere and earnest in their request that the Buddha speak the true Dharma. The three requests refers to the Hearers, the Conditioned Enlightened Ones, and the Bodhisattvas asking for the carts. The children want their toys.
Previously, the three types of provisional dharma were taught; now the one real Dharma is being taught. That is the Great Vehicle, which is for living beings with the Great Vehicle potential. They have brought forth the resolve to cultivate the Great Vehicle, to go from the small towards the great. However, we must realize that during the Vaipulya period those of the Three Vehicles received a lot of scoldings from the Buddha. He taught and transformed them for a long time. Sometimes the Buddha reasoned with them, and other times he upbraided them. However, they did not know what to do. There were living beings then who wanted to seek the Great Vehicle Dharma, but they do not know how to go about asking for it. It was not until the Prajna Assembly, when Prajna was being taught, that “the teaching was passed on and the wealth was bequeathed.” The teaching passed from the Small Vehicle to the Great Vehicle, just as a father will hand down his wealth to his children.
In the Prajna period, when the teaching was passed on, the living beings did not know ultimately whether or not they could obtain the wonderful Great Vehicle Dharma. It was at this point that they got the idea to seek the Great Vehicle. Although the idea arose, they did not understand until the Dharma Flower Assembly when Shariputra earnestly requested three times, speaking up and asking for the carts. Thus, this passage of text is the kids speaking up and demanding the carts. They said, “Father, the fine playthings you promised us a while ago, the sheep carts, the deer carts, and the ox carts, please give them to us now. Daddy, you promised to give us those neat toys. We want them right now!
“O Shariputra, at that time, the Elder gives to all of his sons equally great carts.”
M3. Giving all the children great carts.
N1. Statement of giving the carts.
Shakyamuni Buddha calls out again, “O Shariputra, at that time, the Elder give to all of his sons. The sons represent all living beings. Because all living beings are equal, it says, “all of the sons.” Equal means that they are equal with the Buddha. Living beings and the Buddha are equal. Living beings and the mind are also equal. This is an analogy showing that all living beings have the Buddha-nature and all can become Buddhas.
Since the Buddha-nature is the same in all of them, they are all the Buddha’s children. The Buddha’s heart is not particularly fond of any one living being. They are all treated alike. He is extremely compassionate towards all living beings, and so he gives to all of his sons equally great carts. The equal giving of the great carts represent the Buddhadharma as equal, without distinctions. There, it is said, “All dharmas are the Buddhadharma.” The analogy is to the Great Vehicle Mahayana Teaching, the genuine Buddhadharma. It is different from the three provisional dharmas which preceded it. However, the preceding provisional dharmas are also subtle, wonderful, and inconceivable. Although they are provisional dharmas, they were set forth for the sake of the real. They are essentially the same. Thus, he gives them all the Great Vehicle Dharma.
All the sons get a big cart. Though he gives them the Great Vehicle Buddhadharma, each of them in the distant past had their habits and their particular emphasis in study and practice. For example, some had cultivated the Four Truths–suffering, origination, cessation, and the Path–cultivated by those of the Small Vehicle. Some studied the Twelve Conditioned Causes (ignorance leads to activity; activity leads to consciousness; consciousness leads to name and form; name and form lead to the six entrances; the six entrances lead to contact; contact leads to feeling; feeling leads to love; love leads to grasping; grasping leads to becoming; becoming leads to birth; birth leads to aging and death).
Others practiced the Six Perfections (also known as the Six Paramitas–giving, precepts, patience, vigor, Dhyana samadhi, and wisdom). The Truths, Conditions, and Perfections, as well as kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity (the Four Unlimited Thoughts)--these were all practiced. There were also the form dharmas and the mind dharmas. There were opposing and the according dharmas, dharmas of dependent and proper retributions, phenomenal and noumenal dharmas, and dharmas of cause and dharmas of fruition. There were those who cultivated their own dharmas and those who cultivated dharmas of others. There were those who culitvated the dharmas of understanding and those who cultivated dharmas of delusion, that is, dharmas of liberation and dharmas of confusion. There were those who cultivated many or great dharmas and those who cultivated small or few dharmas.
There were those who cultivated dharmas of blessings and those who cultivated dharmas of wisdom. How did they cultivate blessings? In all situations, they took the short end of the deal and did not try to get off cheap. They benefitted others and not themselves. They helped others and did not ask others to help them. If you help others for long enough, you will naturally obtain blessings. Suppose you see a person who has no blessings at all. If he has twenty cents in his hand he is likely to buy something that makes him sick or something that will cause him some other kind of trouble. Why doesn’t he has any blessings? He has never cultivated blessings. Cultivating blessings is not just helping people out. It means also not obstructing people and not causing them to be unhappy with you. If you obstruct others, you are throwing away your blessings.
You may argue, “But isn’t that practicing giving?”
Right. It is giving. If you give away your blessings like that, no one actually receives your gift, and no one gets any benefit out of the transaction.
For example, you give away your blessings by slamming the door when entering the hall where others are meditating, studying, or doing other types of work. If you cause those meditating to jump, keeping them from entering samadhi, then you have just given away your blessings. Or if the sound scatters the students’ concentration as they translate Sutras, then you have just given away your blessings, thrown them away. In general, anything which gets in other people’s way and makes them unhappy is all “giving away” your blessings.
As another example: You have all taken refuge with the Triple Jewel, and bowed to me, such a stupid person, as your teacher. Why do I say that I am stupid? Because I often give rise to afflictions and this is a manifestation of stupidity. How do I give rise to afflictions? Perhaps one of you disobeys. When you took refuge with me, you said that you would offer up your conduct in accord with the teaching. But after you took refuge you just turn your backs on the teaching and refuse to practice it. You reject my teachings and do not obey them. Why did you take a teacher? If you want to study the Buddhadharma, you must do so in a straightforward manner, not just haphazardly.
In China, when Dharma Master Xuan Zang went to India to get the Sutras, he was tormented by demons and suffered considerably to obtain the Dharma. Now, it is very simple to listen to the Sutras and study the Dharma. If you do not study properly, it indicates a lack of virtue and a failure to plant good roots in past lives. That is why you do not study the Buddhadharma seriously and you make your stupid teacher very upset. Last year, I remember there were two disciples to whom I said, “You do a good job. Study the Buddhadharma, and do not give me trouble. If you continue to give me trouble, and fail to study properly, then not only are you failing to support your teacher’s Dharma, but you are destroying it.”
The causes and effects involved with destroying the Dharma bear consequences which are so dangerous they cannot even be spoken of. If you make trouble in a Bodhimanda, made trouble for your teacher, or made trouble for the Triple Jewel, you are “giving away” your blessings, and soon you will have none. If you have no blessings, then you will most certainly not secceed in your cultivation of the Way.
As to cultivating wisdom, one must respect the Sutras. You cannot just read them and expect to develop wisdom. You must treat them with great respect. The Tian Tai Master Zhi Zhe, for example, after hearing only the title of The Shurangama Sutra, bowed toward India, where the Sutra was, everyday for eighteen years, but he never saw the Sutra. In China, Great Master Zhi Zhe was enlightened while reading The Dharma Flower Sutra. There were also many other Dharma Masters who bowed to The Dharma Flower Sutra, The Shurangama Sutra, and to The Avatamsaka Sutra, to every word in them. They bowed once for every word in the Sutra, using an ancient coin, the kind with a hole in it, to mark their place. They bowed to them in that way for their entire lifetime. You can open your wisdom either by bowing to Sutras or by reading them.
I will tell you something that is extremely important, and do not let it go in one ear and out the other: You must practice what you know. You cannot just read the Sutra and think, “I understand the principle,” and let it go at that. You must actually do what the Sutras instruct you to do. The Sutras tell you to get rid of all your faults and you must do that. If you do not get rid of your faults, you might as well not study the Buddhadharma. The Buddhadharma is just that inconvenient. If you think you can study it and hold on to your imperfections, it canont be done. This is one point to which everyone should pay special attention. I am not joking with you. If you do not get rid of your faults and deliberately violate the Dharma’s regulations, then you would be better off not studying the Dharma at all. If you do, you will certainly wind up in the hells.
Another thing, in cultivating the Way, everyone has to watch over themselves and do everything they can to get rid of their habits and faults. I look upon all of you as equal. I am not insisting that you improve instantly, but I hope that you will gradually improve and get rid of your faults. I am deeply concerned for all of you and I watch after you. I worry about your faults more than I do my own, in fact, because I hope that all of you can be better than me. I hope that you will blaze the trail for Buddhism in the West, and be pioneers, as it were. Do not look upon yourselves lightly.
If you speak about dharmas in detail, there are limitless and boundless dharmas, and so it said,
All dharmas are the Buddhadharma.
All you need to do is understand and it is the Buddhadharma. When you do not understand, it is still the Buddhadharma. The only difference is that you do not understand it.
So you have now understood a bit of the meaning of the Buddhadharma. You should go forward and actually practice it. Do not be sloppy about it. The Hearers, the children, all of them had their dharmas which they had practiced in former days, but they were all provisional teachings. They were not the real teaching. Now the real begins. That is why, today, I have told you some real Dharma. No one should be aftraid of making a mistake. Just be afraid you would not correct it. If you do not correct your mistakes, not only do I have no way to help you, but even Shakyamuni Buddha himself could not save you!
The dharmas they studied before were all different, and so the text says, each. Although they were different then, now they are all equal. You all get the Mahayana Teaching.
In the Great Vehicle Dharma:
One includes all.
It is universally perfect, universally accessible.
The Great Vehicle Dharma includes all dharmas. It is complete with all dharmas. All living beings can obtain it. That is why it is called the Great Cart! It is just the Great Vehicle, real wisdom. So the Buddha says, “Shariputra! At that time, the Elder gave each of his sons equally a great cart.” Every living beings gets a cart. There is no partiality and no one is excluded. Everyone gets one. That is why The Dharma Flower Sutra is said to open the provisional to reveal the real. This is the wonderful doctrine of the Great Vehicle.
“The cart is high and wide, adorned with a multitude of intertwining jewels, surrounded by railings, and hung with bells on its four sides. Further, it is covered with canopies, adorned with various rare and precious jewels, strung with jeweled cords and hung with flowered tassels. The cart is heaped with beautiful mats and set about with rosy cushions. It is yoked to an ox, plump and white and of fine appearance, of great muscular strength, that walks with even tread, as fleet as the wind, having also many servants who follow and guard it.”
N2. Explaining the equality of the carts.
O1. Explaining the substance of the carts.
The cart is high and wide: Ultimately, how high and how is it? High and wide describes the appearance of the cart, but the cart itself is an analogy, so no one can tell exactly how high or wide it is. The cart is an analogy for the Great Vehicle Dharma.
Someone once said to me, “That person cultivates the Great Vehicle and that person cultivates the Small Vehicle.” I replied, “How big is the Great Vehicle? How small is the Small Vehicle? How big does it have to be before it qualifies as ‘Great’? How small does it have to be before it is considered ‘small’? Where do you draw the line?”
The Great Vehicle is so high you cannot see its top, and so broad you cannot see its borders. This, again, is an anolgy. High and wide represent the Knowledge and Vision of the Thus Come One. The Knowledge of the Thus Come One is All-wisdom, and the Vision of the Thus Come One is the Buddha-eye. With his vision, there is nothing the Buddha fails to see; with his knowledge, there is nothing does not know. Horizontally, its boundaries encompass the entire Dharma Realm. And how far do the boundaries of the Dharma Realm extend? There is nothing beyond them. No one can discover the borders of the Dharma Realm. Why not? Because the Dharma Realm includes the Three Thousand Great Thousand World systems within it.
Can we measure the Three Thousand Great Thousand Worlds in terms of numbers? We cannot.
Therefore, horizontally the Thus Come One’s Knowledge and Vision encompasses the borders of the Dharma Realm.
Vertically, it plumbs the depths of the Three Truths. The Three Truths are: the empty, the false, and the middle. These Three Truths include all the Buddhadharmas. Therefore, the Knowledge and Vision of the Thus Come One is complete with all the Buddhadharmas. Thus, the cart is high and wide.
Adorned with a multitude of intertwining jewels: The jewels are hooked together and strung as adornments. There are many different kinds of them strung together to adorn the cart and make it beautiful.
This, too, is an analogy. It represents the ten thousand practices adorning our Dharma-bodies. “Adorned” and “intertwining” means that we must cultivate in order to perfect the Ten Thousand Practices. If you do not cultivate, you cannot perfect them. So the cart is adorned with a multitude of intertwining jewels, and this means that we must reliably practice the methods of the Ten Thousand Practices.
Surrounded by railings: According to the words of the text, we would say that the cart was surrounded by railings on all four sides. Hung with bells on its four sides: These bells made beautiful sounds. These phrases are also analogies, as is the entire chapter. You cannot explain them according to the literal meaning.
The Parable chapter is the hardest chapter in the entire Sutra to explain and the hardest to understand. However, if you deeply enter the principles of the Sutra, then this chapter is the most valuable and the most important to explain. If you can understand the Parable chapter of The Lotus Sutra, you will be able to understand the other chapters very easily.
You could also say that this was the easiest chapter to explain. How is that? If you understand it, it is easy! If you do not understand it, then it is very difficult. In fact, everything works this way.
The railings represent Dharani. Dharani is a Sanskrit word which means “uniting and holding.” The phrase above “adorned with a a multitude of intertwining jewels” referred to cultivation on the causal ground of the Ten Thousand Practices and the resulting fruit of the ten thousand virtues. “Surrounded by railings” represents Dharani.
What are the uses of Dharani? They are limitless and boundless. “Uniting” means that it unites all dharmas; it collects all dharmas together. “Upholding” means that it upholds limitless meanings. Dharani also means that you “unite and uphold” the three karmic vehicles, body, mouth, and mind, and commit no violations. You uphold all the Buddhadharmas. Why do we say that they surround the cart? This means that the Dharani can uphold the ten thousand good deeds. It also supresses the mass of evils. It supresses the mass of evils so that without any outward manifestation, they are all eradicated. It supports all good deeds so they can be done. This is what is meant by saying:
Do no evil;
Practice all good deeds.
The bells make a sound when they are struck or when they move. This represents the Four Types of Unobstructed Eloquence:
1. Unlimited eloquence in speech.
2. Unlimited eloquence in dharma.
3. Unlimited eloquence in meaning.
4. Unlimited eloquence in delight in speech.
As to the first, (Unlimited) Eloquence in Speech, the poem I lectured earlier, “The Return” is a good example of a work by one who possessed this eloquence. Although a recluse, Tao Yuan Ming still wrote this poem. He could not hide away. In fact, even today people still read his work. The things he said were phrased very well, and his words were moving. People who did not believe in the Buddhadharma were influenced to believe through his writing.
The second, (Unlimited) Eloquence in Dharma means that although it may be the same dharma, one can express it in terms of the ten thousand dharmas. Then, one can bring it back to the one dharma.
It is said,
The single root divides into ten thousand branches;
The ten thousand branches return to the single root.
This means that one principle expands into limitless doctrines and those limitless doctrines again return to the one doctrine. Thus,
One is all and all is one.
“All” come into being through the accumulation of many “ones.” There are no fixed dharmas. Whether you speak horizontally or vertically--no matter how you speak—it is still dharma.
The third is (Unobstructed) Eloquence in Meaning. Meaning refers to the principles and what they mean. There are a great many of them. Yet the great number of meanings are just “no meanings.” There is Unobstructed Eloquence in Meaning.
The fourth is (Unobstructed) Eloquence in Delight in Speech. The speaker of Dharma does not speak for those who are not interested. For those who are interested, he speak the Dharma like flowing water. The doctrines he explains are limitless and endless, and he enjoys speaking the Dharma.
Further, it is covered with canopies: Beautiful silks and satins covered the cart. This is an analogy for the Four Unlimited Minds of the Buddha, kindness, compassion, joy, and giving.
Kindness means to make living beings happy. Compassion means to relieve them of their sufferings. Joy means to rejoice in teaching and transforming living beings. Giving means that he gives to all poor living beings. The Buddha has great virtuous conduct, because he has unlimited kindness, compassion, joy, and giving.
Of all the virtuous practices, kindness and compassion are the highest. They are the greatest, and so the Buddha protects all beings. The Sutra says, “With compassion, you can perfect the Ten Powers and Four Fearlessnesses.” This is the Thus Come One’s compassion. The Buddha’s kindness, compassion, joy, and giving are boundless. The canopies represent these Four Unlimited Minds. He cultivates the practices of the Four Unlimited Minds and therefore accomplishes his pure Brahma conduct.
Adorned with various rare and precious jewels. This represents the cultivation of the ten thousand pratices in order to adorn the Four Unlimited Minds. The beauty of the cart means that in the Great Vehicle Dharma one must perfect the Six Perfections and the ten thousand practices, that is, all the Dharma-doors to adorn the Great Vehicle Dharma.
Strung with jeweled cords: This represents the Four Vast Vows:
1. I vow to save the infinite number of beings.
2. I vow to sever the endless afflictions.
3. I vow to study the limitless Dharma-doors.
4. I vow to realize the Supreme Buddha Way.
But the Four Vast Vows are something simply to be recited. You must actually put them into practice. You, personally, must do all you can to fulfill these Four Vows. If you just recite them, that is useless. You must return the light and reverse the illumination and ask yourself: “I have vowed to save the infinite number of beings. Having I saved any? If I have, well, that is the Bodhisattva Way. If I have not, I better start saving them.” However, when you save living beings, you must not become attached to the mark of saving living beings. Do not say, “I saved that one, and that one...” Separate from all marks, for that is the essence of the Dharma.
I vow to sever the endless afflictions. Ask yourself everyday, “Have I severed them or not? If not, I better.” Unless you sever your afflictions, you will never be free of them.
How does one sever afflictions? It is not hard at all. It is not a matter of taking a knife and slicing them off. You should know that affliction is Bodhi. Affliction itself is Bodhi, just like ice is water and water is ice. All you need to do is melt the ice of your afflictions into the wisdom water of Bodhi and you will have severed those afflictions. Do not search for afflictions apart from Bodhi. Do not look for Bodhi apart from afflictions. They are one thing. If you know how to use it, it is Bodhi. If you do not know how to use it, it is affliction. Why do we say that living beings are the Buddha and the Buddha is living beings? When you have saved all living beings, you are a Buddha. If you have not saved all living beings, you are still a living being. There is no difference between living beings and the Buddha. All you need to do is wake up and then you are a Buddha. When you are confused, you are a living being. Do not search outside of yourself for living beings to save. That is just seeking outwardly. When you have saved all the living beings in your own self nature, then you have saved all living beings.
The Sixth Patriarch’s Sutra says, “I vow to save the infinite number of beings in the self nature.” Why doesn’t it refer to the infinite number of living beings in someone else’s nature? It says, “self nature,” because all living beings are one. There is no “you” or “me” or “them.” All are included within the self nature.
“I vow to sever the afflictions in the self nature.” Note that it says “self” nature. You cannot say, “Hey, you have studied the Buddhadharma for so long, how come you have not severed your afflictions?” If you had severed your own afflictions, you would not see the afflictions of others. When you have severed afflictions, then even when living beings have afflictions, you do not see them as afflictions. You just think, “Well, that is the way living beings are. If they were not like that, they would not be living beings. They cannot change their basic make-up. Living beings are just living beings.”
What about the Buddha? He is just the Buddha! The Buddha is not different from living beings.
Enlightened, you are a Buddha.
Confused, you are a living being.
There is no difference between enlightenment and confusion, either. If you are not confused, you are enlightened. If you are not enlightened, you are confused. There is no real difference. It is just like ice and water.
“I vow to study the limitless Dharma-doors.” “Have I studied them? Ah, all I did today was sleep. I did not do anything.” You did not do anything? You have got to study!
“I vow to realize the supreme Buddha Path.” Have you realized it? No? Would you like to realize it?
“Well, let me think it over...” If you think it over, you will have to wait another three great kalpas. If you do not think it over, you do not have to wait. You can become a Buddha tomorrow, because you do not have to think it over! If you are determined to become a Buddha, you will. Those who are determined are successful. The Buddha is just waiting for you to realize Buddhahood. If you do not want to, the Buddha would not force you to. You must want to cultivate the Dharma and accomplish the Buddha Path. If you have not realized Buddhahood, you have got to cultivate. If you do not cultivate, you cannot arrive at the position of Buddhahood.
Hung with flowered tassels: These represent the Four Methods of Conversion:
2. kind words,
3. beneficial conduct,
It is said,
If you want to lead them to the Buddha’s wisdom,
First bait the hook with something they like!
If you want them to develop the wisdom of a Buddha, you must first determine what it is they like. Then, you give it to them to induce them into the Buddha’s wisdom. For example, people like money. If you give them some money, that is practicing the give of wealth. Then, they will think, “I was broke and he gave me some money,” and they will be very happy. At that time, if you speak some Dharma to them, they will accept it. You put the Dharma in second place, although normally it is first. You did this, because they were not happy and you wanted to make them happy first. You give them a little money, and when they are delighted with it, you speak the Dharma. “Ah, that has principle. It really makes a lot of sense,” they think. That is the giving of Dharma. Then, you give them fearlessness. You say, “Do not worry about it. Everything is going to work out. No need to be afraid...”
Kind words: This refers to compassionate concern, like that of parents for their children. They fear their child will catch cold, or get too warm, or be hungry or thirsty. Children like people to be kind to them and so the parents say, “I like you a lot; I am very fond of you.” This kindness is also present in the Buddhadharma. When you speak, you do not talk about “love,” but just say things they like to hear, things that make them happy. When you speak kindly to them, living beings are attracted to you.
Beneficial conduct is also a way of attracting living beings. It means doing things that benefit living beings.
Cooperation: If you want to teach and transform a living being, you must be the same as he, be his friend. If he is a businessman, you are a businessman. If he is a student, you become a student. In general, you do the same kinds of work that he does. Eventually, you will be able to convert him to Buddhism, to take him from confusion to enlightenment. When Bodhisattvas teach and transform living beings, they are willing to do anything at all. They are more concerned for living beings than parents are for their children. Bodhisattvas practice the Bodhisattva Path, cultivating the Four Methods of Conversion. In this way, they attain four kinds of spiritual penetrations. The Four Methods of Conversion are also called the Four Spiritual Powers. They cause all living beings to be happy.
Living beings may clearly be in error, but the Bodhisattvas want to save them, to take them across. They forgive them, they overlook their faults, hoping that in the future the living beings will be able to reform, hoping that they would not remain sunk in confusion forever. Wait a bit! They do not see the faults of living beings. No matter what kind of mistake a living being makes, the Bodhisattva is compassionate and does not blame him. Those are the Four Methods of Conversion. It is not that they just do those things, but they carry out their work with a miraculous functioning of spiritual powers. Living beings are taught and transformed without even being aware of it. Sometimes, living beings make mistakes, and without their knowing quite how, their mistakes are corrected, and they are “like new.” They do not know that the Bodhisattva, without any outward manifestation, influenced them with his virtue so that the mind of that being was able to change and reform. Some living beings cannot be so influenced, but the Bodhisattva still does not give up hope that in the future he will change. The Four Methods of Conversion are ineffably wonderful.
We are all living beings. When we think about the compassionate protection afforded us by the Bodhisattvas, we should hurry and and thank them, and tearfully repent of our past stupidity. “The Bodhisattvas are so good to me, and I still do not even realize it.” Thus, in the Sutra text, the phrase, “hung with flowered tassels” is an analogy for the Four Methods of Conversion.
The cart is heaped with beautiful mats: There are beautiful mats spread out in the cart, layer upon layer. This is an analogy for the cultivation of skill in the Dhyanas. Everyday you steep yourself in the cultivation of Contemplative Prajna. Eventually, you will have an accomplishment. “Heaped” means that they are piled up and soft. This represents sitting in Dhyana and attaining the state of “light peace.” This makes you feel especially happy. You feel extremely blissful. In this state, you sit again and again and the feeling keeps returning, without interruption. When you walk, you feel that it is like the wind, not that you are walking fast, but, before you have even taken a step, you arrive at where you are going. It is like a light breeze, and you do not even feel that you are walking.
The gentle breeze passes by,
But there are no waves on the water.
You are sitting there, but you do not feel like you are sitting. Standing, you do not know you are standing. Reclining,you do not know you are reclining. However, this state must be cultivated in order to be obtained. It is a state in which there are no others and no self. You must work hard in order to understand its wonderful advantages. If you do not work hard, you would not be able to know them. I have explained a bit of it, but to taste the true flavor, you will have to discover it for yourself.
Set about with rosy cushions: This is an analogy for the dharma of non-discrimination. There are inner cushions and outer cushions on the cart. The inner cushions are used inside the cart. The outer cushions are used when the cart is stopped. They are used to prop up the front of the cart so that it would not sit right on the ground. This represents the time in cultivation when one applies effort. At this time, movement does not obstruct stillness, and stillness does not obstruct movement. Movement is just stillness and stillness is just movement. Movement and stillness are one substance. When the cart is moving, it moves; when it stops, it is still. Whether it is still or moving, it is the same cart. When we cultivate the Way, in movement and in stillness we are still people. That is what the outer cushions represent.
The inner cushions are used to support the body when it sits or lies down to rest. The resting of the body and mind represents the Single-conduct Samadhi. In the Single-conduct Samadhi, one can give rise to genuine Prajna Wisdom. That is the inner cushions.
Yoked to an ox, plump and white: The ox is tied to the cart. This represents people when they have no outflows. Haven’t I spoken before about the non-outflow Prajna Wisdom? “Yoked to an ox” just means “no outflows.” This is no easy matter. Every habit and fault we have is called an outflow and all our thoughts of desire are outflows. Why don’t we become Buddhas? It is because we have outflows. Why haven’t we become enlightened? It is because we have outflows. Why is our habitual energy so heavy? It is because we have outflows. Why do we have desire? It is because we have outflows. If one has no outflows, then one is liberated. When one has obtained the non-outflow wisdom, if one cultivate the Four Truths, one succeeds in that cultivation. If you hold on to your non-outflow wisdom, you do not do things which reflect deviant knowledge and deviant views. If you cultivate the Twelve Causal Conditions, you realize them and become enlightened. If you cultivate the Six Perfections, you arrive at the other shore. In general, if you can look after your own household, that is what is meant by non-outflows.
What are “no outflows?” In China, there is a saying:
Everyday, guard against fire;
Every month, guard against thieves.
You have to watch over your own house. Guard against the fire of ignorance. When ignorance arises, one fears neither heaven nor earth nor spirits nor ghosts. “If a monster comes, I will take it one!” Why does one act like that? Because the fire of ignorance has been lit. We must guard against such fires of ignorance every day.
Every month one must guard against the thieves within one, not those on the outside. It is said, “It is hard to defend yourself from the thieves in your own house.” If a thief comes from the outside, he would not know where you have put your treasures. If you have got a thief inside your house, however, he will know right where to go to steal your valuables. You must guard yourself from your eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind--the six thieves. These six can turn your mind upside-down, and you get all afflicted. Isn’t this pitiful? The eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind steal the Dharma treasures from your self nature. You let your house get out of control and you have outflows. Once the outflows start, they keep on flowing, and you end up just like everyone else. If you can maintain the non-outflow state, you will certainly realize Buddhahood. Outflows, however, are very quick to start.
If you have no outflows, you are yoked to a white ox cart. If you have outflows, you have not been yoked up to it. When I lectured on The Heart Sutra, one of the verses had a line which said:
The great white ox cart’s rapidly turning sound;
The yellow-faced child jumping and thumping.
Your mind may jump, thump, and race, but since it is yoked to the white ox cart, it does not get very far.
White is the base of all colors, the absence of any stain or defilment. It represents the basic substance of the Dharma which is pure and undefiled. It has not, the least spot of dust on it, and so it is white. It is interactive with the non-outflow wisdom. If there are defilements, there is no attainment. The great white ox cart represents the Four Applications of Mindfulness having been cultivated to the point of perfect accomplishment, to enlightenment.
The white ox also represents the Four Right Efforts:
1. Those good roots which have not come forth are caused to come forth.
2. Those good roots which have come forth are caused to grow.
3. Evil which has not come forth is caused not to come forth.
4. Evil which has already come forth is eradicated.
Plump and white: The two aspects of the good in the Four Right Efforts are represented by “plump.” “White” represents the eradication of evil in the Four Right Efforts.
The Four Bases of Psychic Power are:
3. Mindfulness, and
Zeal refers to the accomplishment of whatever you wish, that is, when it concerns the cultivation of the Buddhadharma. For example, if you wish to succeed in your cultivation, you will. Vigor: For example, one disciple wishes to bow to The Dharma Flower Sutra everyday. If he continues to keep his vow by bowing, he will perfect the psychic power of vigor. Thus, he will blaze a trail in Western Buddhism by doing things no one has ever done before.
With the psychic power of mindfulness, things go just as your heart wishes them to go. Consideration means that you just think about them and you get your aim. But the Four Bases of Psychic Power must be based on the non-outflow wisdom. If you have no outflows, this means no sexual desire. Sexual desire is the root of all outflows. If you have no sexual desire, that is the non-outflow wisdom. If you have sexual desire, you have not attained to the non-outflow wisdom.
And of fine appearance: This represents the bringing forth of the Great Vehicle mind. All dharmas are complete in the mind and the mind indicated the total all-inclusive functioning of the Great Vehicle. The one word “mind” includes all dharmas.
Of great muscular strength: The great white ox is powerful. Its muscles are large and strong. The muscles represent the Five Roots, and the strength represents the Five Powers. The Five Roots are five kinds of good roots. Why are they called roots?
When the roots are deep, the trunk is solid;
When the roots are solid, the branches are luxuriant.
If the roots are deep, the branches are lush. When the roots are solid, the brances and leaves are very beautiful. The Five Roots are:
4. concentration, and
As to faith, the Buddhadharma is as vast as the sea, and only be faith can one enter it. Therefore, faith is the root of studying the Buddhadharma. You must have the root of faith. If you have faith, you can send down deep roots. The greater your faith, the deeper your roots. With no faith, you have no roots. Although I lectured on the Buddhadharma for you everyday, you still must believe it and send down your own roots.
Vigor: You cannot just believe, you have to be vigorous and make progress. If you are not vigorous, and just believe without practicing, it is useless. You must go forward and practice.
Mindfulness: You must have presence of mind and never forget to practice. If you have the root of mindfulness, you will not be moved.
Concentration: You may think, “The Buddhadharma is not bad. I will go save a few living beings and get them to believe in Buddhism.” But as soon as you get near some living being, he says, “Christianity is the very best religion. Catholicism is the very best. Come and study with us.” Since you have no samadhi, you become one of their converts! They transform you. You do not transform them. This happens, because you have no samadhi. If you had samadhi, you would save those you wished to save and would not be “saved” by them.
Wisdom: Out of the root of samadhi comes wisdom. When the root of wisdom is sent down, you are even less moved.
The Five Powers are just the Five Roots which have grown. The roots grow into the powers. Thus the Five Powers are the powers of faith, vigor, mindfulness, samdhi, and wisdom.
With the Five Powers, by means of the non-outflow wisdom, you can accomplish all kinds of good roots, and all kinds of Bodhi seeds and grow to fulfillment.
That walks with even tread: Because the ox has great muscular strength his walk is steady. He never takes a wrong step. This represents the equality of samadhi and wisdom. If one has wisdom one also has samadhi, and if one has samadhi one also has wisdom. Samadhi and wisdom are evenly balanced. As one’s samadhi increases, so does one’s wisdom, and as one’s wisdom increases, so does one’s samadhi. They are balanced. If you have samadhi and no wisdom, you will be a stupid cultivator. If you have wisdom but no samadhi, you will become a frenzied cultivator. You must let wisdom aid samadhi and samadhi aid wisdom. They should support each other.
The even tread also represents the Seven Limbs of Enlightenment, also called the Seven Bodhi Shares, or the Seven Dharma-door for the enlightening to the Way. They are among the Thirty-seven Wings of Enlightenment which the Buddha taught to those of the Two Vehicles. However, the Great Vehicle includes them as well.
The Thirty-seven Wings of Enlightenment are composed of:
1. The Four Applications of Mindfulness.
2. The Four Right Efforts.
3. The Four Bases of Psychic Powers.
4. The Five Roots.
5. The Five Powers.
6. The Seven Limbs of Enlightenment.
7. The Eight Sagely Way Shares (the Eightfold Path).
The Seven Limbs of Enlightenment are:
1. Selecting a dharma. In Selecting a dharma, one chooses between the right and wrong dharmas, the proper and the improper dharmas, true and false dharmas, real and illusory dharmas. How do you select them? You use the non-outflow wisdom and the Selective Dharma-eye to pick the dharma. We must pick out true, proper, real, and good dharmas to cultivate. Improper, false, and deviant dharmas should be avoided.
2. Vigor. Having selected a dharma, one must vigorously cultivate it. You must be vigorous in your cultivation of genuine dharmas, not in cultivating false dharmas. If you are vigorous in cultivating false dharmas, that is just false vigor. You must have the Enlightenment Share of Vigor which just means that you need to understand what road it is you need to walk down in your cultivation.
3. Happiness. There are both proper and improper happiness. If you cultivate correctly, you will gain proper happiness. Some people obtain a kind of insane happiness. When this happens, you follow your insane desires and do insane things; you feel very happy, but you are actually just upside-down. You should take joy in both Dhyana and Dharma, take the joy of Dhyana as your food and be filled with the delight of Dharma. You should be happy to have obtained the Buddhadharma. You should think, “Before, I did not understand the Buddhadharma at all. Now I understand all these principles and they are so lofty and profound! I am truly happy!”
Those are first three of the Seven Limbs of Enlightenment. There are four more:
4. Casting out. You must determine what is true and what is false. Keep the true, but get rid of the false. What is false? Afflictions. Cut off afflictions.
5. Renunciation. You must renounce those things which you should not hold on to. For example, when sitting in Dhyana, you cannot get attached to the advantages gained thereby. Some people sit in Dhyana and get a bit of a state and promptly become attached to it. They cannot put it down and constantly hanker after that happy state. When you have cast it aside, you need...
6. Samadhi. Samadhi refers to Dhyana Samadhi. In cultivation, when one is not attached to anything, one gains accomplishment in the skill of Dhyana Samadhi. Once you have this accomplishment, you have got the Enlightenment Share of Samadhi.
In other, non-Buddhist, religions, they “hold to a quiet darkness.” This means that they suppress the thoughts of the mind-consciousness so that they do not arise. This is a type of samadhi cultivated by external religions and you should avoid it. You must cultivate proper samadhi. What is proper samadhi? It means not being attached to anything. If you have proper knowledge and proper views, you will then have proper samadhi.
The first three of the Limbs of Enlightenment are to be used when you feel depressed or drowsy. The second three are to be used when you are nervous or upset. The ability to use the first six counteract these mental states is called the Enlightenment Share of...
7. Mindfulness. Cultivators should know about the Seven Limbs of Enlightenment. Those who have brought forth the Bodhi heart should cultivate according to them. By means of these seven, one regulates the body and mind so that they are free of all dangers. That is what is meant by “that walks with even tread.” It is a manifestation of his spiritual skill.
As fleet as the wind: The great white ox is pulling the cart as fast as the wind. There are many different kinds of winds. Hurricanes blow people and things right away. Everyone like light breezes, however. This wind is not a light wind or a hurricane. On the other hand, you could say that it is both a light wind and a hurricane. Why? It is a light wind, because it makes you feel refreshed and comfortable. It is a hurricane, because it blows away the deviant knowledge and views of demons and externalists. The light breeze is also an analogy for the Eight Sagely Way Shares (the Eightfold Path). One should cultivate according to these eight:
1. Right views. If you have deviant knowledge and deviant views, you cannot accept the Buddhadharma. You must have right knowledge and right views. Using the non-outflow wisdom, you break through all deviant knowledge and views to cultivate right knowledge and views. Right views means, “If it is not in accord with propriety, do not look at it.”
2. Right thought. This means, “If it is not in accord with propriety, do not listen to it.” Why would you think about it? Because you listened to it.
3. Right speech means, “If it is not in accord with propriety, do not talk about it.” Do not gossip.
Even if you know very clearly that someone is at fault, forgive them. People are just people, after all. If people do not make mistakes, they would all have become Buddhas long ago. People have heavy habits and no one can avoid doing a few things wrong, so do not talk about people’s faults. That is right speech. Do not get together with your friends and sit in judgement on other people. People in this world come together because of affinities. We have met here to study the Buddhadharma together so we should look at people’s good points, not at their mistakes.
“But what if they are wrong and refuse to change, then what will we do?”
Do not worry about whether or not they will change. Just have faith that they will. If you confront them head on with, “You are wrong!” they will resist. “Who are you to tell me what to do?” they will fire back. “I will just boss you around instead, because I can see a few places where you are off” and then the fight is on! Each one says the other is wrong when actually they are both wrong. They both get upset and then retreat from the Bodhi mind. “To heck with it. I am not going to cultivate the Way. I am leaving. I am not going to leave home. I am going back to lay-life!!” How much offense karma have you created, here? So speak properly, and do not just talk about other’s faults.
4. Right action. This means that you do proper things. “If it is not in accord with propriety, do not do it.” Do not do deviant things like going into the gambling business and developing spiritual powers in the number’s racket. That is deviant action.
What is right action? Sitting in Dhyana Meditation without any false thinking. Studying the Buddhadharma. That is the most proper form of action.
“But,” you ask, “if I study the Buddhadharma, where will I get food to eat?”
You should not worry about that. If you study well, you will naturally have food to eat.
5. Right livelihood. During your life, you should do things properly, out in the open. As to deviant forms of earning a living, there are four types:
A). Manifesting a strange style. This means to act eccentrically. For example, a man wearing flowers in his hair walking around on the streets would attract attention. Or perhaps one wears some outlandish costume to attract a lot of attention to oneself.
B). Speaking of one’s own merit and virtue. “I built a temple here. I built a bridge over there. I gave to this and that cause...” No one knows how great their merit and virtue is.
C). Telling fortunes. Perhaps you consult the I Jing for someone and say, “Oh no! You are really in for it. Tomorrow you are going to die! If you do not give me several hundred or several thousand dollars, you are going to lose your life.” The person hears this and thinks, “What use will my money be to me if I am dead? Might as well give it to him and live a little longer.” Thus he has been cheated out of his life savings. Or you say, “In the future you are going to be the President, but right now you have to do some merit and virtue. Give me five thousand dollars and do something good for me and I will guarantee your future success.” The fellow thinks, “Gee, that is really cheap to be President,” and he gives him the five thousand and waits to become President. By the time he realizes he will be waiting forever, the person he gave the money to has disappeared. He has gone somewhere else, or perhaps he has died. He could predict the other person’s death, but he was unable to predict his own. This is just cheating people.
D). Speaking loudly and acting in an overbearing manner. The person speaks in booming tones so that those who hear him think he is very unusual. They respect him and make offerings to him.
Speaking of one’s own offerings. “Oh, so and so gave me five hundred thousand dollars, and so and so gave me a million. They really believe in me.” But you just talk that way to get someone else to make offerings to you. “They made offerings, you should, too.” This is climbing on conditions, trying to get offerings. All of you should listen carefully. When did I ever say, “So and so made offerings to me...” When I do, you will know that I am guilty of using a method of deviant livelihood and you should not make offerings to me.
6. Right vigor. Some people are vigorous in proper ways and others in deviant ways. What is proper vigor? What is deviant vigor? Deviant dharmas harm other people. Those who cultivate deviant dharmas work very hard in the six periods of the day and night, cultivating all kinds of ascetic practices. These ascetic practices, however, are unbeneficial. They may imitate the behavior of cows or of dogs, and practice being like chickens. They imitate cows and eat grass and say they are being vigorous, because they saw that a cow was born into the heavens. They did not realize it was because of the merit and virtue which the cow had done in previous lives. They thought the cow was born in the heavens, because it ate grass! So they take a cow for their teacher. The cow has no understanding of dharma whatsoever, and if you study with a cow, that is called improper vigor.
As to studying with a dog... Hah! They say that dogs watch over the door for people and that brings merit. Dogs eat excrement and that is a form of ascetic practices, and so they imitate dogs. They also imitate chickens. Chickens go looking for food, pecking on the ground, and so they do this, too. They pretend that their hands are chicken legs, and they peck at the ground. They think this is an ascetic practice, that they can do something no one else can do. Actually, this is just an unbeneficial type of ascetic practice. Although it is unbeneficial, they would not admit it as such. They think it is cultivation. They are not properly vigorous and they have no genuine wisdom. That is why they observe the morality of cows, dogs, and chickens.
Right vigor means to cultivate according to the Buddha’s Four Applications of Mindfulness, Four Right Efforts, Four Bases of Psychic Powers, Five Roots, Five Powers, the Seven Limbs of Enlightenment, the Eightfold Path, the Four Holy Truths, and Twelve Causal Conditions. Cultivating according to the Six Perfections is also right vigor. Right vigor means to cultivate according to the Buddhadharma. One does not cultivate dharmas which the Buddha did not teach. This is called offering up your conduct in accord with the Buddha’s instructions. Right vigor means vigor with the body and vigor with the mind. Mental vigor means recollecting the Triple Jewel, not neglecting it for a second. Vigor with the body means putting the teachings into actual practice. For example, bowing to the Buddha, reading the Sutras, bowing to Sutras, and bowing repentance ceremonies and reciting the Buddha’s name were all manifestations of bodily vigor, actual upholding of the Buddhadharma.
7. Right mindfulness. This means mindfulness of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. Deviant mindfulness means mindfulness of deviant views, prejudiced views, love and emotion. Deviant mindfulness means being selfish–always thinking about yourself first. One can never forget about self or others. Right mindfulness means that whenever we have time we should recollect the Buddha, reciting, “Namo Amitabha Buddha,” or “Namo Medicine Master Buddha,” or “Namo Shakyamuni Buddha.” We should recollect the Dharma–recite the Great Compassion Mantra, the Shurangama Mantra, and Sutras such as the Vajra Sutra, the Dharma Flower Sutra, and the Shurangama Sutra. There are several laywomen here who go to work all day and then skip dinner to come here at night and recite Sutras. That is right mindfulness.
Mindfulness of the Sangha. What Sangha? The worthy sages of the Sangha of the ten directions. Who are they? The great Bodhisattvas, Arhats, and Bhikshus. Now, in the world, all who have left the home-life are members of the Sangha. If you are mindful of the Sangha, you will make offerings to them. If you are mindful of the Dharma, you make offerings to the Dharma. If you are mindful of the Buddha, you make offerings to the Buddha. If you do not want to forget the Triple Jewel, you must make offerings to the Triple Jewel. If you want to make offerings to the Triple Jewel, you must respect the Triple Jewel. By making offerings to the Triple Jewel, you plant blessings. If you want to have fields of blessings, you must plant them by making offerings to the Triple Jewel. There is a saying that goes:
Although one cannot plant blessings with the common Sangha,
If you want blessings, you must seek them from the common Sangha.
Although a clay dragon cannot bring rain,
If you want rain, you must seek it from a clay dragon.
The “common Sangha” refers to ordinary left-home people, those who have not certified to the fruit. Although they cannot bring you blessings, when you seek blessings, you must seek them from the common Sangha. If you seek blessings from them with a sincere heart, then the sagely Sangha of the ten directions will naturally send you blessings. If you do not seek blessings from the common Sangha and go looking for the sagely Sangha, you can look to the ends of the horizon, to the end of the ocean, and you would not find one. If you seek blessings, you must start by seeking them from the common Sangha.
The “clay dragon” cannot make rain. However, if you want rain, you have to seek for rain at the temple of a clay dragon. Westerners probably are not familiar with this method, but in China when people want rain, they seek it by going to a dragon king temple. In the temple there is a clay dragon. If you seek rain there, you will gain a response. It will rain. Now, in the scientific age, they say that people do not have control over the rain. They say rain comes from condensation in the atmosphere. That is correct, but the condensation has no life of its own. It is like a computer. Unless someone operates the computer, it cannot compute. The same principle applies. The rain comes from condensation, but still, imperceptibly, in a way people cannot see, the spirits and dragons are controlling it. But this is not something we common folk with our science can understand through research. Really, the rain is caused by the dragons!
“I have never seen any dragons,” you say. “How can they make it rain?”
Well, if you have not seen any dragons, we will just have to wait until you do and then I will explain to you how it works. Now, you have not seen any so I would not tell you about them. However, I remembered when I was in Manchuria a very strange thing happened. I had a disciple there named Guo Xun. He worked hard at his cultivation and was even more sincere than I am! He was my favorite disciple. One day, he built himself a small hut. Beside it there was the Dragon King Temple. When he had finished building the hut, he asked me to perform the opening ceremonies. On opening day, ten dragons came over from the temple next door and asked to take refuge with the Triple Jewel. Would you say this was strange or not? I had four disciple with me at the time and two of them had the Buddha Eye and the Heavenly Eye. When they meditated, they could observe all kinds of things. After the ten dragons asked to take refuge, I said to them, “It has been several months since there has been any rain. You are dragons. Why don’t you make it rain. Why are you so lazy?”
They wanted to take refuge and so when I scolded them. They did not get angry. They said, “The Jade Emperor, Shakra, gives us orders to make it rain. If he tells us to make it rain then we can do it.”
I said to the dragons, “Tell him that in the world here there is a left-home person by the name of so-and-so who is now asking for rain within a radius of forty miles from where he is. If it rains tomorrow, I will let you take refuge the day after tomorrow. If it does not rain tomorrow, you cannot take refuge, you cannot be my disciples, and you cannot take refuge with the Triple Jewel.”
They went right up into the heavens with my message which turned out to be very efficacious. The next day, in fact, it rained and, what is most strange, it rained right within a forty-mile radius of where I was. There was no rain outside of forty miles. The day after, I let them take refuge. That was my experience with dragons and rain. But this is something that, although I personally experienced it, those who do not believe it far outnumber those who do. Ultimately, why is this? I do not know either! I do not pay any attention to whether or not people believe it. I just bring it up for your information. In the future, when you come to believe in it, you will know that what I told you today was really true.
There was another similar experience I had while in Hong Kong. One year Hong Kong had no rain during the spring and summer. All the temples, Buddha halls, and places of cultivation were praying for rain. They sought for four or five months and did not get any. I originally do not pay attention to such matters, because I have never liked to get involved in things like that. Besides, there were so many people seeking for rain, surely their power would be greater than mine. So I ignored the whole thing. But after five or six months I could not ignore it any longer, because I was living at Xi Le Yuan where the water was almost dried up. I said to one of my disciples, “You have three days in which to recite ‘Namo Amitabha Buddha,’ and seek for rain. If it does not rain in three days, you need not come back and see me ever again.” She very obediently recited and after two days it rained. Then what do you think happened?
All the Buddha Halls in Hong Kong advertised that the rain was a result of their having prayed for it. They all took out ads. Not a single person knew that the rain had come as a result of the recitation of my disciple. She never advertised it. Why did I give her three days to get rain? Because I knew I had ten dragon disciples, and if they were not lazy any one of them could make it rain. I told them to make it rain and sure enough it rained inside of two days. Things like this have happened often. One time we were making offerings to the heavens and the rain clouds gathered. Everyone said, “Call off the ceremony. It is going to rain.” It takes four hours to do the ceremony and right after we were done and had just moved everything inside, it started pouring down rain! Whether you believe or not, if you have experienced these things, you know. In Hong Kong my disciples really believe in me. They know that when I say something it is efficacious.
Tomorrow is the first day of the fifth month, and the fourth month (April) has already passed. I said there would not be an earthquake in the fourth month and sure enough, my words were efficacious. There are a lot of causes and conditions involved in this, but there is not time to go into them now.
Once you have right mindfulness, you need…
8. Right concentration. Right concentration is the opposite of deviant concentration. What is deviant concentration? It is attachment. You cannot put it down. For example, some people like to drink and although you tell them not to, they continue to drink with great concentration because they have this deviant concentration. Or they like to take drugs. The more they take the stupider they get. When you tell them not to, they say, “I can get enlightened taking this stuff. When I take this, things really start happening. I go through changes. I see and hear differently. The world becomes adorned with the seven jewels. Isn’t that a state?” It is deviant concentration, that is what it is! For example, one person came here to listen to the lecture, but not a word could get in because he had his deviant concentration going and he was very attached. “I am right! I cannot listen to you!” That is deviant knowledge, deviant views, and deviant concentration.
Then what is right concentration? Right concentration is the cultivation of the Four Dhyanas, the Eight Samadhis. Do not have a self at all. Cultivate these Dharmas, but forget your “self.” If you have forgotten your “self” how could you still keep on drinking, taking drugs, and indulging yourself? Everyone looks for advantages for themselves, but people who cultivate the Ch’an School forget about advantages. That is right concentration.
Having also many servants who follow and guard it : The servants represent expedient Dharma-doors, the Paramita of Expedients. By means of expedient Dharmas, one arrives at the other shore. What are expedients? What are servants? Expedient Dharmas are those which are indirect and which accord with people’s wishes. How do they do this? Say people do a certain kind of work, and you go help them out. That is being expedient. The heavenly demons and outside religions and those of the Two Vehicles cannot get away from expedients but follow the wisdom of expedients in their cultivation of the Way.
The servants can also be said to represent the spiritual powers gained on the result-ground by the Bodhisattvas. The result-ground Bodhisattvas have already certified to the fruit and attained to the position of the Ten Grounds. That is what is meant by “result” ground. These Bodhisattvas all have spiritual powers and their spiritual powers accord with the wishes in their minds. They can do whatever they wish to do. This spiritual power is as their minds wish it to be and so the text says, “Having many servants who follow and guard it.” This means that the Great Vehicle Dharma requires many expedients to bring it to accomplishment. With these spiritual powers, one can do anything at all. It is like having a lot of servants.
Looked from the point of view of “