A Bilingual Series
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Preliminary Explanation of the Sutra's Meaning. A General Analysis into Ten Doors.
Preliminary Explanation of the Sutra's Meaning. A General Analysis into Ten Doors. National Master Ch'ing Liang says, "I now want to explain the Flower Adornment Sutra's subtle, wonderful, inconceivable meanings to enable everyone to understand, in ways appropriate to each, the Flower Adornment Sutra. How many principles are there in the Flower Adornment Sutra? A limitless, boundless number of them. There is the Dharma Realm of Specifics, the Dharma Realm of Principles, the Dharma Realm of the Non-Obstruction of Specifics and Principles, and the Dharma Realm of the Non-Obstruction of Specifics and Specifics-—layer upon layer without end, so there is no way to express them. It is like the great sea, which is so deep it cannot be fathomed and so wide it can not be measured. And no matter how much water is used, one could never use it all up unless, of course, you had spiritual penetrations. In that case you could swallow all the waters of the four great seas in a single gulp. But that's a special circumstance, a different topic of discussion.
What are the Four Dharma Realms? Generally speaking they are a construct of the human mind, which is so large there is nothing beyond it, so small nothing is in it. Principles spring from the mind. The entire universe is based on principles. From the substance of principles comes the appearance of specifics.
1) The Dharma Realm of Specifics. Specifics are all the various distinctions within the universe, none of which goes beyond the mind.
2) The Dharma Realm of Principles. Specific things have their differences, but they all come out of contemplations of principle. They are one in substance, one in nature—non-dual. Confused, then one is an ordinary being; enlightened, one is a Buddha.
3) The Dharma Realm of Non-Obstruction of Specifics and Principles. Principle is True Suchness. Specifics are the myriad dharmas. Therefore it is said that True Suchness can give rise to the myriad dharmas and that the myriad dharmas are just True Suchness. Consequently, the substantial principle and the appearance of specifics are perfectly, fused and unobstructed.
4) The Dharma Realm of Non-Obstruction of Specifics and Specifics. All dharmas are compatible, not mutually obstructive. The great can include the small, and the small can encompass the great. They are perfectly fused and unobstructed.
Now I will use analogies to represent the principle of the Four Dharma Realms.
1) The Dharma Realm of Specifics is like waves, in that specifics, like waves, take on millions of different shapes.
2) The Dharma Realm of Principles is like waves in that principles, although they have differences, are basically composed of the same substance, as waves are all composed of water.
3) The Dharma Realm of Non-Obstruction of Specifics and Principles is like waves in that they are mutually fused without obstructing the basic substance.
4) The Dharma Realm of Non-Obstruction of Specifics and Specifics is like waves in that they have one substance and one nature that is perfectly fused and unobstructed.
The principles of the Flower Adornment Sutra can be grasped in an endless number of ways and have inexhaustible functions. Intelligent people understand a little more of the doctrine; stupid people understand a little less. It's just like eating: greedy people eat more, and those with less greed don't eat so much. This is referring to Dharma food. The Flower Adornment Sutra is also like the rainfall: each being receives its own measure. This is referring to Dharma rain. The big trees absorb more rain, and the small plants and grass absorb less. The big trees stand for intelligent people; the small plants represent dull-witted people. Intelligent people have cultivated blessings and wisdom for many lives during many aeons, and so this life they are smart. When people are stupid it is because they have not heard the Buddhadharma before and haven't known how to cultivate, which results in their being dull-witted this life. This has held true from time immemorial.
One, The Causes and conditions for the Arisal of the Teaching.
One, The Causes and Conditions for the Arisal of the Teaching. Why did the Buddha want to speak the Flower Adornment Sutra? There must have been some causes. He couldn't have spoken this Dharma for no reason! As it is said:
Dharma does not on its own arise;
States as they manifest call it forth.
The Way is not traversed in vain:
Meeting with conditions there is response,
This verse says the Dharma does not arise by itself. There must be given circumstances before it arises. Therefore, we should rely on the Dharma to cultivate. For every bit of skill you acquire you gain just that much advantage. Upon meeting with certain conditions there will be a corresponding response. The causes and conditions for the Buddha's speaking the Flower Adornment Sutra were those of a great concern: the important concern of birth and death. It was, for the sake of all living beings, to open the knowledge and vision of a Buddha, show the knowledge and vision of a Buddha, enlighten to the knowledge and vision of a Buddha, and enter the knowledge and vision of a Buddha. For that reason, in the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra it says, "The causes and conditions for his appearing in the world were those of a great concern."
Two, The Stores and Teachings to Which It Belongs.
Two, The Stores and Teachings to Which It Belongs. Of Stores there is division into the Sound Hearer Store and the Bodhisattva Store. Of Teachings there is the T'ien T'ai Teaching and the Hsien Shou Teaching. To which Store does the Flower Adornment Sutra belong? Into which Teach-into does it fit? This will be explained in detail later on. For now the meaning of each door is being explained in general.
Those of the Sound Hearer Store cultivate the Four Noble Truths and the Twelve Conditioned Causes. Those of the Bodhisattva Store cultivate the dharmas of the Six Perfections and the ten thousand practices.
The T'ien T'ai Teaching is composed of the Four Teachings: Store, Connective, Separate and Perfect. The Hsien Shou Teaching divides into Five Teachings: Small, Initial, Final, Sudden and Perfect. The Store Teaching is also called the Tripitaka Teaching and constitutes dharmas cultivated by the Theravada. The Connective Teaching reaches to the previous Store Teaching and the following Separate Teaching. The Separate Teaching is a special teaching, different from both Store and Connective. The Perfect Teaching is the absolutely complete teaching.
The first three of those Teachings are provisional, expedient teachings. The last Teaching is the real teaching, that of the One Vehicle—of the Four T'ien T'ai Teachings, that is. Of the Five Hsien Shou Teachings, the Small is the Small Vehicle Teaching. It teaches the doctrine that all dharmas arise from conditions. It also teaches the emptiness of persons and the emptiness of dharmas. The Initial Teaching is the introductory teaching of the Great Vehicle. It discusses the doctrine of the existence of appearances of all dharmas, and then explains how the nature of all dharmas is empty. The Final Teaching is the Great Vehicle Sutras. It reveals the doctrine that all beings have the Buddha nature. During this period the Buddha speaks more about how the nature of dharmas is empty and less about the existence of the appearances of dharmas. The Sudden Teaching is not on the level of gradual cultivation. It is the principle of the accomplishment of Buddhahood: with the first resolution of the mind one achieves proper enlightenment. The Perfect Teaching is the most supreme, complete teaching. Its expression is perfectly fused and inconceivable. It enables the Three Vehicles of Sound Hearers, Pratyekabuddhas and Bodhisattvas to return to the One Buddha Vehicle.
Three, The Apportionment of Meanings and Principles.
Four, The Potentials Covered by the Teaching.
Five, The Shallowness and Profundity of the Teaching Substance.
Six, The Penetration and Restriction of the Purport and Aim.
Seven, Categories, Classifications, Chapters and Assemblies.
Sight, Responses and Penetrations in Transmission and Translation.
Nine, A General Explanation of the Sutra's Title.
Ten, Detailed Elucidation of the Meaning of the Text.
Three/The third door is called The Apportionment of Meanings and Principles. A portion is like medicine that is taken dose by dose. Those apportioned dosages of medicine are able to cure their respective ailments, and so this speaks of apportionments of meanings and principles: in order to clarify and apportion meanings, certain principles are spoken in accord with what is opportune. "Apportionment" also means to make distinctions and clarifications between former and subsequent passages of text.
Four, The Potentials Covered by the Teaching. "The Teaching" is the Flower Adornment Sutra. "The Potentials Covered" are living beings. The various living beings that the Flower Adornment Sutra teaches and transforms will all be discussed in detail later. Five, The Shallowness and Profundity of the Teaching Substance. The Teaching has a Teaching Body in that same way that people have physical bodies. Is the Teaching Substance of the Flower Adornment Sutra shallow or profound? This will be discussed in detail later. Six, The Penetration and Restriction of the purport and Aim. What is this Sutra's purport, and what is this Sutra's aim? In what way does this Sutra penetrate the meanings of other sutras without obstruction, and to what extent is its aim limited to this Sutra? That will all be explained later.
Seven, Categories, Classifications, Chapters and Assemblies. The verse describing the Twelve Divisions of the Canon was quoted before. The first is Prose, and the second Resumptive Verses which repeat what has been said in the prose passages. The third is Predictions given by the Buddha to a particular Bodhisattva or Arhat. The fourth is Interjections, primarily verses, which stand alone without any meaningful connection between them and the contexts in which they appear. Spontaneous Speaking Unrequested is the fifth. Almost all of the sutras spoken by the Buddha were spoken at someone's request, but there were some Spontaneous Speakings Unrequested, for example the Amitabha Sutra. The Dharma door of the Pure Land which it discusses is very profound, and the Arhats and Bodhisattvas did not know enough with their limited wisdom to request it, so the Buddha spoke it without request, the greatly wise Sariputra acting as its Assembly of Current Potentials after the Buddha had spontaneously spoken it. Causes and Conditions is the sixth Canonical Division, and Analogies the seventh. One uses analogies in speaking the Dharma to enable living beings to understand. The eighth Past Lives' Deeds, means what happened during the past lives of a particular Buddha or Bodhisattva. The ninth. Deeds of the Present Life, is what has happened in this lifetime. Expansions is the tenth, and the eleventh is What Was hitherto Unknown. Explanations makes the twelfth term. How many categories does the Flower Adornment Sutra have? How many classifications, chapters and assemblies? Later on they will all be set out in detail and clarified.
Eight, Responses and Penetrations in Transmission and Translation.* There was the transmission from India to China, and now there is the transmission from China to America. In the future there will be a transmission from America to India. Why is that? It is certain that with it coming to America, India now will start to take the Buddhadharma seriously again. For at present in India Buddhism is not flourishing. That is because when Buddhism went to China, all the high Indian monks and patriarchs left India. They "flew" to China, and so India had no patriarchs. All that remained in India were leftovers, Bhiksus. Shramanas, who lacked ability. None of them could "fly," unlike Patriarch Bodhidharma who crossed the Yangtse on a reed. The ones who were left were lazy and only wanted to eat and sleep. Therefore, the people of India took one look at them and said, "Those are just rice-devouring worms; Big rice-bugs! So that's what Buddhism is like, huh?" In that way, the Indian people, who originally believed in the Buddha, withdrew their faith saying, "Do you see that? None of the people who have left home cultivate. It's all meaningless. What's so great about Buddhism?" It went on like that, and the lack of faith spread from one to another until tens, hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands and then millions all lacked faith. It was the bad impression made by a few that eventually caused such widespread disbelief.
Why did Buddhism flourish in China? It was because all of those patriarchs who came from India to China were intelligent, wise and. endowed with spiritual penetrations. People who met them really believed in them, and faith grew. Consequently, at that period Great Vehicle Buddhadharma flourished on a large scale in China. Now do you understand? The same reasons lie behind the widespread faith in Catholicism. The Catholics have started elementary schools, and people see chat all the priests and nuns do is reasonable and that they are conscientious, so the students in their schools have a good impression and say, "Catholicism is not bad: Let's believe in Catholicism:" One thing influences another. People's beliefs are influenced by their circumstances. If you make a bad impression on people they will not believe. So Buddhism did not flourish in India after all the patriarchs with talent, virtue, learning and spiritual penetrations had run "off to China. Once the embodiment of genuine inconceivable principles and the manifestation of inconceivable states was gone, the people of India ceased to believe in them. So now there is no Great Vehicle Buddhism in India. There is only Brabmnism, Yoga, which deal with superficial matters. I maintain that after Buddhism had been transmitted to America, America can go on to transmit it to India. And isn't that just a cycle? America transmits it to England, France, Germany, and afterwards it comes back to India, and the Indians exclaim, "Oh, Buddhism is so fine!" and they all believe again. That is cyclical, the completion of a cycle. Everything has a cyclical nature. That explains "Transmission."
"Translation." To begin with the sutras were in the language of India. The high monks brought them to China to translate them. Some of the Dharma Masters who came from India to China did not understand Chinese, and yet they had a kind of responsive penetration. There was a mutual sealing of the mind from one to another. They already understood without having spoken. For example, there might be a phrase they didn't know how to translate well into Chinese, and the Chinese, being very intelligent, would say, "Probably it should be translated such and such a way." The Indians, who did not understand Chinese, would hear this and find, "Hey, that's very wonderful! That's it! Use that phrase!" That's how it went, the way it was transmitted and translated. A great many difficult problems were resolved with no difficulty at all. They were able to resolve all of the difficult problems. That is the meaning of Responses and Penetrations in Transmission and Translation, which is the eighth.
*While translating sutras, sometimes, if people are sincere to the ultimate degree, they can understand principles that they were unable to understand, and can translate what they were unable to translate. Moreover, there are all kinds of responses and penetrations. For example, Dharma Master Hsuan Tsang brought back the six hundred fascicle Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra from India. While that massive text was being translated, in a single year's time the peach trees blossomed six times. Think it over, all of you. If you used scientific methods and gave the peach trees injections, or doused them with fertilizer, they still couldn't bloom six times in a single year. They blossomed and the blossoms fell, and after they fell a month or so would pass and then they would bloom again. They bloomed then fell, fell and then after a month or so they bloomed again. Within the space of a single year the peach trees blossomed six times. That represented the inconceivable state of the Six Perfections of the Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra.
*You may say, "Well, we've been translating sutras for so long and we have yet to see any responses." Ha! There have been lots of responses; it's just that you have not felt them. That San Francisco has had no earthquake is due to the merit and virtue of your translating sutras. Here you are translating sutras, and it makes the earth spirit protect this spot, of earth and say, "You can't dump all these Dharma Masters who are translating sutras into the ocean! Don't quake! This place should be as solid as steel or vajra, at least until the translation of sutras is completed." It's just that you don't see and are unaware of this kind of response from translating sutras, and when I tell you about it you still do not believe it. That is why I don't like to talk about these things. It's only because today we have come across this title "Responses and Penetrations in Transmission and Translation" that I'm willing to talk about it a little. Whether you believe is up to you. Someone is having a false thought and saying, "Do you know for certain that San Francisco is due to have an earthquake?" "Well, do you know for certain that it is not due to have an earthquake?
Nine, A General Explanation of the Sutra's Title. Within the doors, the ninth door is A General Explanation of the Sutra's Title. Ten, Detailed Elucidation of the Meaning of the Text. The tenth is a meticulous explanation of the text of The Great Means Expansive Buddha Flower Adornment Sutra. The Flower Adornment Sutra is generally analyzed into Ten Doors and each of those doors in turn divides into ten doors to make one hundred doors. Each of those hundred doors divides again to make a thousand doors, and each of the thousand doors further divides to make ten thousand doors. There are endless layers of doors, each door having the certain potentiality for the accomplishment of Buddhahood. People who cultivate the Way must pass through those doors in order to reach the state of Nirvana.
To begin with, causes and conditions. When the Sage sets forth a Teaching, it must be for a reason. Sumeru, the mighty ocean, because of causes great are stirred and swayed. Now the mountain of the Thus Come One's smelted virtue sways, the sea of wisdom deep and vast is stirred, not due to slight conditions. Therefore, in the Sutra text it says, "Not due to one condition, not due to one concern, do Thus Come Ones appear and attain accomplishment." Their appearance basically is for the sake of the GREAT FLOWER ADORNMENT.
In this passage National Master Ch'ing Liang discusses the causes and conditions. That is, he discusses the causes and conditions in general, not in detail, which is why he says, "To begin with, causes and conditions." Within the Ten Doors, at the very beginning one discusses the causes and conditions for the arisal of the Teaching. No matter what the circumstance or thing, it arises from a combination of conditions.
When the Sage sets forth a Teaching. He says that when the Sage, that is, the Buddha, sets forth this kind of Teaching, it must be for a reason. There has to be a reason, a motivation, for his being able to establish that Teaching. It is the same as the fact that Sumeru, the mighty ocean, because of causes great are stirred and swayed. A Mount Sumeru, "Wonderfully High Mountain," is at the center of every world. The first heaven of the six Desire Heavens, the Heaven of the Four Kings, is located halfway up Mount Sumeru. At the peak of Mount Sumeru is the second Desire Heaven, the Trayastrimsha Heaven. Something so huge as Mount Sumeru or a great sea would only be swayed or stirred by the very greatest of spiritual penetrations.
Now the mountain of the Thus Come One's smelted virtue sways. Now if one is going to sway the Buddha's mountain of virtue in the Way, the kind of virtue which is refined and smelted to the ultimate, and if the sea of wisdom deep and vast is stirred, it is not due to slight conditions. They are not minor causes and trivial conditions. Therefore in the Sutra text it says, "Not due to one condition, not due to one concern, do Buddhas, Thus Come Ones, appear, come into the world, and attain accomplishment. It is not because of one matter, not for a single reason, that the Buddha appears in the world, accomplishing the appearance of a Buddha in the world. Their appearance basically is for the sake Of the GREAT FLOWER ADORNMENT. When the Buddha appears in the world it is in order to speak the Great Flower Adornment Sutra, and, for that reason, these causes and conditions are especially great. All of you think it over. If the causes and conditions were not great, why would the Flower Adornment Sutra have been stored away in the Dragons' Palace, to be transmitted among people only after seven hundred years had gone by? Therefore, these kinds of causes and conditions are all inconceivable states.
First come causes, then conditions, each opening ten meanings, which represents infinity.
The causes: ten interpretations. One, because the Dharma should be that way. Two, because of the fulfillment of past causes. Three, because of responding in accordance with potentials. Four, for the sake of the root of the Teaching. Five, in order to display the virtues of the fruit.
First come causes, then conditions, each opening ten meanings, which represents infinity. Right now, to start with, the causes will be discussed, and afterwards the conditions will be explained. There are ten kinds of causes, and there are also ten kinds of conditions. Why is it that ten kinds are discussed instead of discussing eleven kinds, or nine kinds? It is because ten is a round number, easy to remember and to use in calculations. The same consideration lies behind the Western decimal system, also based on ten. "Ten" here represents an infinite number of tens, an inexhaustible series. One becomes ten, and when, among those ten, each one in turn becomes ten, that results in one thousand. The series can continue indefinitely, and so stands for the principle of infinity. Ten, then, is used symbolically, in order to express the concept of infinity.
The causes: ten Interpretations. What are the ten interpretations used in the discussion of the causes?
One, because the Dharma should be that way. That is just the way the Dharma is. "Should be that way," means that's just the way it is. What way is that? It is just having causes and conditions. That is, the first of the causes and conditions is because the Dharma should be that way.
Two, because of the fulfillment of past causes. The second of the causes and conditions for the speaking of the Flower Adornment Sutra is that the Buddha, upon making up his mind to cultivate, resolved that in the future he would speak a Sutra whose state was most inconceivable. There were those kinds of causes on the causal ground, and so it is because of the fulfillment of past causes. "Fulfillment", refers to the fact that on the causal ground he made that kind of vow, and consequently he now speaks this kind of great Sutra. "Because the Dharma should be that way" also means that when each and every Buddha becomes a Buddha, he must first speak the Flower Adornment Sutra. The Way of every Buddha is the same. Buddhas are all identical. Whenever any Buddha becomes a Buddha, he first speaks the Flower Adornment Sutra. He may not speak any other Sutras. "Because the Dharma should be that way" also means that all of the Buddhadharma is within the Flower Adornment Sutra, and that the Flower Adornment Sutra is the way the Dharma is, the way the basic substance of the Dharma is. The Dharma is basically that way. It is brought into being from vows made in the past.
Three, because of responding in accordance with potentials. "According" means following along with. "Potentials" means the living beings that are to be taught and transformed. "Responding" is as in "interaction of responses and the Nay." Responding to potentials means speaking Dharma suited to particular potentials, the kind of Dharma that rescues those kinds of "potentials. What Dharma is that? It is the inconceivable, wonderful Dharma spoken in The Great Means Expansive Buddha Flower Adornment Sutra, which rescues all living beings of great roots and great capacity. That is because of responding in accordance with potentials.
Four, for the sake of the root of the Teaching. The fourth kind of cause is for the sake of the basic root of the most superior Vehicle, the Final Teaching.
Five, in order to display the virtues of the fruit. It makes evident the virtues upon fruition. What are they? They are the virtues of becoming a Buddha, in as much as the Flower Adornment Sutra can make to appear the virtues of the fruition which is the Buddha's state.
Six, in order to discuss the Ground-positions. Seven, in order to speak of supreme conduct. Eight, in order to set forth true Dharma. Nine, in order to reveal the causal nature. Ten, to benefit the present and the future.
Six, in order to discuss the Ground-positions. The sixth cause is the wish to discuss and bring out just what the fruit-positions are to which they attain. Seven, in order to speak of supreme conduct. The seventh kind of cause is the wish to speak about the most supreme doors of conduct: the doors of conduct of cultivating the Ten Faiths, the Ten Dwellings, the Ten Practices, the Ten Transferences, the Ten Grounds, Equal Enlightenment and Wonderful Enlightenment, so that one finally reaches the Wonderful position.
Eight, in order to set forth true Dharma. The eighth kind of cause is the wish to set forth and display the true and actual, wonderful Dharma. And what is that? It is the Dharma of the non-obstruction of specifics and principles, and the non-obstruction of specifics and specifics.
Nine, in order to reveal the causal nature. All living beings possess the cause for becoming Buddhas, yet if that is not revealed to them they remain unaware of it. Therefore, the cause of all living beings becoming Buddhas is now revealed.
Ten, to benefit the present and the future. The tenth cause is in order to bring benefit to all living beings, reaching from the present to the future. However, "the present" spoken of by National Master Ch'ing Liang is the time of the T'ang Dynasty, whereas "the future" is our present time.
-Continued next issue.
WONDERFUL DHARMA LOTUS FLOWER SUTRA, VOL. II. In this Sutra the Buddha sets forth the One Buddha Vehicle; all beings possess the Buddha-nature and are destined for Buddhahood. Although we are all potential Buddhas, it is only through cultivation and practice of the principles of the Buddhadharma that we can actualize that potential. Therefore, the commentary of the Venerable Master is filled with analogies, examples, expedients, and exhortations, all for the purpose of leading us to Buddhahood. He truly brings the teachings of Sakyamuni Buddha to life so that their application to us, today, is immediately obvious. 324 pages, complete with index, and comprehensive outline by Ming Dynasty Master Ngou-i.