The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra
To elaborate on the Four Applications of Mindfulness.
1. Contemplate the body as impure. How is the body impure? It is a combination of the mother's ovum and father's sperm. Therefore it is basically impure and we should not look upon it as so very important. If, for example, you don't bathe for a week, the body starts to smell and collects all kinds of unclean matter. From nine orifices, the body constantly excretes impure substances. There are tears and matter always coming from the eyes. Earwax is always coming out of one's ears. That makes four orifices. Then the two nostrils, which constantly flow with mucus, making them unclean. The mouth has saliva and phlegm, which is also unclean. That makes seven orifices. Then you add the eliminatory orifices and that makes nine. You may think of your body as being very precious, but actually when you get right down to it, it is filled with all manner of unclean substances. Our bodies are nothing more than garbage cans. If you insist on slaving away like mad for the body, what good is it? You work so hard to give it a nice place to live in, a lot of fine clothes, and the best food. You are so good to it, but it shows you no courtesy at all. When the times comes, it's still going to get old. No matter how well you treat it, when the time it gets old, it gets old. That's all there is to it. And no matter how you pamper it, when it gets sick, it just gets sick, and when the time comes for it to die, it goes right ahead and dies. It would be hard to fully discuss the impurity of the body as it flows with impurities from nine orifices. The body is impure having contemplated the impurity of the body, you should contemplate as impure feelings, thoughts, and dharmas, as well.
2. Contemplate feelings as suffering. Feelings means what one experiences. One usually tries to have good feelings and experiences, and yet all our feelings are involved with some form of suffering. There are three, eight, and limitless sufferings. The three sufferings are: the suffering within suffering, the suffering of decay, and the suffering of the (life) process. Suffering within suffering refers to the poverty and misery of all living beings. The Suffering of decay refers to the impermanence of wealth and honor. When one loses one's wealth and honor, that is the suffering of decay. The suffering of the (life) process, apart from the suffering within suffering and the suffering of decay, refers to the suffering inherent in the life process itself as one grows from childhood to adulthood, to middle age, and on to death. In every thought of our ordinary, everyday experience there is unceasing change which ends in suffering. One should also contemplate the body, thoughts and dharmas as suffering.
3. Contemplate thoughts as impermanent. Our thoughts keep changing, thought to thought. One should also contemplate the body, feelings and dharmas as impermanent.
4. Contemplate dharmas as without a self. Contemplate likewise, the body, feelings and thoughts as without self. Their views are in direct opposition to that of cultivation, so they are called the Four Inversions. The Four Inversions having arisen, then the Five Turbidities arise, and we have the world of the Five Turbidities. Then to the Five Turbidities, add the Eight Sufferings: birth, old age, sickness, death, being separated from loved ones, being together with those one hates, not getting what one wishes, and the raging blaze of the five skandhas. All this suffering arises and so the text says All at once, All four sides/ were enveloped in raging flames/ All at the same time, the Four Inversions, Five Turbidities, and Eight Sufferings arose, inflaming each other.
The beams, ridgepoles, rafters, and pillars/ The ridgepole is the main support of the building. The beams support the roof. The rafters and pillars support the house, too. They represent our four limbs, bones, and various other parts of our bodies. Shook and split with the sound of explosion/ What is meant by "the sound of explosion?" When the life is cut off, that is like an explosion. "Split" refers to the force of the wind cutting through the body like a knife. The life is over and the energy is cut off and the bones separate from the flesh and this is represented by the line snapped apart and fell.
the walls and partitions collapsed and caved in/ The walls and partitions
referred to here are just the body. The body is a combination of the
four elements. At death, the four elements separate and each one—earth,
air, fire, and water--returns to where it came from. When the four
elements scatter, that is like the walls and partitions falling apart
and caving in. When the elements in the body scatter, the body
All at once all four sides/ "All at once is an analogy. It stands for the sudden arisal of the Four Inverted Views, the Five Turbidities, and the Eight Sufferings. Those of non-Buddhist religions, and inverted living beings reverse the Four Virtues of Nirvana, applying them to conditioned existence. They say,
1. What is not permanent is permanent.
2. What is not happiness is happiness.
3. What is not self is self.
4. What is not pure is pure.
Ran about in a panic/ Unable to get themselves out/ They couldn't get out of the Three Realms. If it weren't for the Triple Jewel—the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha—and the Four Truths, and the Four Applications of Mindfulness, they would never be able to get out of the Three Realms.
Students of the Buddhadharma should not allow themselves to be controlled by the Five Quick or Five Dull Servants. Do not be turned by them. You should transform them and then they can become Dharma Protectors.
What has just been discussed represents the difficulty of escaping the realm of desire. One must rely upon the power of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha in order to escape the Triple Realm.
All the ghosts and spirits screamed loudly
While the hawks, and vultures, and other birds Kumbhandas, and so forth
Ran about in a panic unable to get themselves out.
This is part four, the appearance of the burning fire.
All the ghosts and spirits/ meaning those ghosts and spirits mentioned before. They represent the Five Quick Servants and the Five Dull Servants. Screamed loudly/ They raised their voices in a great, loud bellow, great scream. Why did they scream? They saw the walls falling in on them and so they were all scared. While the hawks, vultures, and other birds/ Hawks can eat deer. The vultures like to eat unclean things. These birds represent the most evil of the Five Dull Servants, that is, the most powerful of the Five Dull Servants.
By "most evil" and "most powerful" we mean, whichever Servant is the most dominant in any particular human personality. Basically the Servants themselves are of equal power, but an individual personality may be more afflicted with one of them than another, and so, for that person, that Servant is the most powerful, the most evil. For example, if you are a person with a great deal of greed, greed is the most powerful servant on your list. Another person may not be bothered by greed, but may have an uncontrollable temper and so hatred is the most powerful servant for him. The same applies to all the other Servants,
Evil beasts and poisonous insects hid away in the holes and crevices
While the Pishaca Ghosts also dwelt therein...
This begins section b. verses about the affairs in the caves, which represent the realm of form. It has three sections of which this is the first 1. the analogy of the different kinds of beings being burned.
This passage of text talks about the realm of form. Evil beasts and poisonous insects/mentioned above hid away in the holes and crevices/When they saw the house catch on fire, they ran to hide away in the crevices and crannies. The holes and crevices represent the realm of form. While the Pishaca Ghosts/Pishaca Ghosts are the ghosts that eat semen and energy. They also were hiding away in the holes, in the form realm, that is. This represents people who attain the Four Dhyanas, and are born in the form realm heavens. The form realm heavens are like the holes and crevices. Also dwelt therein/in the realm of form.
Their blessings and virtue scanty they were hard pressed by the fire;
They wrought harm on one another drinking blood and eating flesh.
This is part two concerning the affairs in the realm of form, that of explaining the origin of the fire and the strength with which the fire arose.
Why did the fire start? Who do people get angry? It is because their blessings and virtue are scanty/very thin, very slight. Because they have no blessings, in turn they have no virtue and so they like to get angry. In China they say,
Lacking virtue, one wears a smokestack on one's head.
Why do people get mad? Because they haven't enough virtue. People/with virtuous conduct do not get angry. Even if they do get angry, it's not for real. They may pretend to get angry sometimes but they are just using this kind of dharma door to subdue someone. It is one way of teaching people. Some living beings will just think you are joking and won't take you seriously unless you get a bit upset with them. So Bodhisattvas sometimes utilize this kind of suppressing dharma; but when ordinary people get angry it's because they don't have enough virtue. Since they don't have enough virtue, they catch on fire with anger.
So the reason the fire in the house broke out is because their blessings and virtue were scanty. They were hard pressed by the fire/They had no blessings or virtue and so the fire arose and they were hard pressed by it. This represents the fact that in the Three Realms, there is no safe, peaceful place. The Four Inversions, the Five Turbidities, the Eight Sufferings, and the Five Skandhas pressed in from all sides, like a raging fire.
They wrought harm on one another/because they are in the form realm they dislike the realm below, the realm of desire, and they like the realm above, the formless realm. They forcefully apply the realms above to the realms below to suppress the subtle afflictions of the lower realms. The realm above dislikes the realm below. Drinking blood and eating flesh/Drinking blood here refers to the attachments of those in the form and formless realms. What attachments do they have? They are attached to not talking. They don't say anything all day long. They think that not talking is a form of cultivation. So they get attached to silence and this is like "drinking blood." Cultivators may sometimes quit talking altogether. But that's a kind of attachment. Living beings in the form and formless realms have this attachment. These living beings have another kind of attachment, too. They are attached to their own merit and virtue. They are hung up on the good deeds they have done. Being attached to their own merit and virtue is like "eating flesh." So the line "drinking blood and eating flesh" refers to the attachments of beings in the form realm.