Although I instruct them,
They do not believe or accept,
Because of their deep attachment and greed
For all the defiling desires.
This is part 2. tying in the casting aside of the table to use the carts. It has two parts of which this is the first a. tying in the casting aside of the table.
Although I instruct them/Although the Buddha teaches living beings using various methods to instruct them, however, the living beings do not believe. They do not believe or accept/They continue to act as if they had never heard them. Why don't they believe? Because of their deep attachment and greed/for all the defiling desires/There are many kinds of desires. Some people are greedy for wealth; they desire more and more money. Other people are greedy with desire for sex. Still others are greedy for fame and want a good reputation; they want to be famous. This, too, is a form of desire. Some people are attached to eating good food. This is also a desire. Some people want to be leaders of the world; they have the desire for leadership. Other people want to be heads of state--emperors or presidents--and have that desire. Have you noticed how many people run for office? They all desire to be leaders. The various desires smother one's wisdom. In every thought one thinks only of how one can fulfill one's desires. In every thought one never forgets it. They are called "defiling" desires because they cover up one's wisdom. Because one has all these desires, one cannot have genuine wisdom and so one does confused things. One is constantly doing stupid things. Why? Because they are attached to their desires. So the text says, "Because of their deep attachment and greed." They are greedily attached to worldly fame, profit, sex, food, the power of leadership-all these things run people's minds around until they become extremely dull-witted. Because they are controlled by their desires, and dull-witted, although the Buddha speaks the Dharma to them, they don't believe it.
This is a bit like all the young people today who are taking drugs. This is a form of desire, too. When they take drugs, their powers of reason, and all their genuine wisdom gets lost. They live drunkenly and die in a dream; such is their "lifestyle." They have no idea what they are doing. They have been covered by the defilements of their desires and so their wisdom fails to manifest.
For this reason, expediently,
I speak to them of Three Vehicles,
To cause all living beings
To understand the sufferings in the Triple Realm.
I demonstrate and proclaim
The path which transcends the world.
If these children can with fixed minds
Perfect the Three Clarities and the Six Spiritual Powers,
This is part b. tying together the using of the carts.
For this reason, expediently/I speak to them of Three Vehicles/Because living beings become attached to defiling desires, and their greed for them is so deep, the Buddha has no alternative but to put away the genuine Dharma and speak to them the expedient, clever dharmas. He speaks to them of the Sound Hearer Vehicle, the Vehicle of the Conditioned Enlightened Ones, and the Bodhisattva Vehicle. This is called casting aside the permanent and using the provisional. One sets aside the eternal teaching and uses provisional dharmas, provisional wisdom, not the Real Wisdom.
I mentioned earlier that young people were taking drugs nowadays. They take then and think, "Ah! I have gone to empty space!" Some people have come here and told me that they have gone into emptiness. Would you say that was stupid or not? They even claim that a teacher has certified to their attainment of empty space.
This is truly a case of:
One with confused understanding transmits that confused understanding.
In one transmission, two misunderstand.
The teacher plummets to the hells;
The disciples follow with their hats in their hands.
To get to empty space, you certainly don't need to take any certain kind of drug. If, in order to get to this "emptiness" you have to ingest a drug, and if there is no drug then there is also no emptiness--then ultimately what kind of emptiness is it? You are just cheating yourself. You are being simply too stupid and people like this, as I have said before, won't believe you if you tell them that they haven't made it to emptiness. When the confused teacher tells them that they have, indeed, gone to emptiness, they believe him. Isn't that pitiful? It is just as if they were holding onto a big turd and refusing to let it go when you offer them some fine pastry. They insist that the excrement is more tasty than anything. Would you say such a person was intelligent or confused? And this isn't an exaggerated analogy. The situation is actually worse than that! Why? Because one is losing control of one's own humanity all together.
They don't know that, in order to be human, you have to have genuine wisdom. In believing in such illusive and false states they are much to be pitied. The Buddha had no way to deal with such people. All he could say was, "Ah! The 'drug' I am taking is even more wonderful than the one you are taking. Not only can you go to emptiness when you take it and come down when you quit taking it, but if you believe in my Dharma, you can stay in space forever; you don't have to come down at all."
Those living beings, with their greedy attachment to defiled dharmas believed the Buddha. They believed in the Four Truths, the Twelve Causal Conditions, the Six Perfections, and the Ten Thousand Conducts. The Buddha taught the Three Vehicles to cause all living beings/to understand the sufferings in the Triple Realm/In the desire realm, the form realm, and in the formless realm there is nothing but suffering; there's not a single good place in it.
I demonstrate and proclaim/I instruct living beings, speaking to them of the path which transcends the world. There are three (aspects) to the world: There is
1. The world of living beings;
2. The material world;
3. The world of proper enlightenment.
What is the world of living beings? This is also called the world of proper retribution. It is the world of all of us living beings. The material world is also called the world of dependent retribution. The world of proper enlightenment is the world of the Buddha.
The Buddha has transcended the world. There are worldly dharmas, transcendental dharmas, and dharmas which are both worldly and transcendental. If these children can with fixed minds/All of the children refers to all living beings. If their minds are made up and they perfect the three clarities/1. the clarity of the past, 2. the clarity of the present 3. the clarity of the future.
The clarity of the past refers to the penetration of past lives, knowing the affairs of former lives. "Ah! Last life I was a student. I got my Ph.D., but I was so exhausted I spit blood and died. What a pity. I just got my Ph.D. and then I got sick and died. Just as I died I had an enlightened thought: 'This is too bitter: In my next life I am going to study the Buddha-dharma and cultivate.' And so this life I have met a Dharma Master and I listen to the sutras. So that's how this happened! When I understood the sutra, I decided to leave home."
Someone else gains the clarity of former lives and thinks, "I was a shepherd on the mountains. I felt that shepherding was not all that interesting and it would be better to study the Buddhadharma. But I never met up with the Buddhadharma. As I died, I made a vow that in my next life, when I was still young, I would encounter the Buddhadharma, listen to the sutras, and cultivate. And so, this life, I have."
These are just examples. Perhaps someone was a man who liked women and so this life he became a man. Or perhaps someone was a woman in his last life, but has now become a man. These are examples of the clarity of knowing former lives. You know about yourself and about others. It is also called the clarity of the past.
The clarity of the present is also called the clarity of the extinction of outflows. This means to attain the state of non-outflows. Those who have listened to the sutras will know what non-outflow means, but others might wonder what this means so I will give you a simple analogy: it is like a teacup with a leak in it. Whatever you pour in it flows right out. If there is no leak in it, it has no-outflows. People who don't know how to cultivate the Way all have outflows. If you cultivate and attain the Way, then you have no-outflows. When you have no outflows, that is the clarity of the present. This refers to the attainment of genuine wisdom. How can you gain the state of no-outflows? You must have genuine wisdom in order to do this. The reason one has outflows is because one is stupid.
What are outflows? Do you like to eat? That is an outflow. Do you like to drink coffee? That is an outflow. Men like women; that is an outflow. Women like men; that is an outflow.
"Well what isn't an outflow?" you ask.
Cultivation!! That's absolutely all there is to it! Number one: you have to cultivate. If you cultivate you can be without outflows. If you do not cultivate, you will have outflows.
"Hah!" you say, "I'd rather have outflows than cultivate!"
If that's what you like, go ahead, fine. If it suits you to have outflows, then go ahead and "outflow." Let's see just where you "flow out" to. You could flow out and turn into a pig, or a horse, or an ox, or flow into the hells, into the path of animals, or that of hungry ghosts. You pick your own path.
"You mean it's that dangerous?" you say.
You just figured that out? It's still not too late. You can still turn your head around and cultivate. Then you won't go to those evil places, you will go to the place of the Buddhas, the Bodhisattvas, the Sound Hearers, or the Conditioned Enlightened Ones.
There's nothing difficult about it. All you have to do is cultivate and then you can attain the state of no-outflows. That is the clarity of the present.
The third clarity is the clarity of the future, also called the clarity of the Heavenly Eye. With the heavenly eye, you can see the things inside the room you are in but you can also see what is outside of it.
"Dharma Master "you ask, "do you have the heavenly eye?"
I don't know. You ask me, but who do I ask. I'm not asking you if you have it. Why do you ask me if I have it? With the heavenly eye, not only can you see what is going on beyond the walls, which enclose you, but you can even see right into the heavens. You can see things in other worlds.
The Six Spiritual Powers/The first of the six is the Penetration (or power) of the Heavenly Eye. With the heavenly eye you can see what is inside your own body--the living beings within you that you must vow to save. Although the scientists can't count the number of living beings inside the human body, if you have the heavenly eye you can see them, and count them, and take them across.
Most people explain the heavenly eye by saying that you can see into the heavens with it, but you can also see the beings inside yourself. You can even count up the grains of rice that you eat. You can see how your meal is digesting in your stomach, just what's going on. You can know for sure just how good your digestive system is.
The second of the six is the Penetration of the Heavenly Ear. With the heavenly ear, not only can you hear what the gods are saying, but you can hear all the little bugs inside of you calling out. You can hear the germs talking, the flowers talking, the trees talking. Didn't someone say recently that when you go to pick a flower it is afraid and lets out a scream. That's right. If you have the heavenly ear, you can hear it saying, "Oh no! This is it; Oh no. It's all over!! I'm going to die!" When you start hearing all these sounds, though, you won't dislike it. You can choose not to listen to them too. It's up to you.
The heavenly eye sees more clearly than an X-ray machine and the heavenly ear more clearly than sonar equipment.
The third is the Penetration of Others' Thoughts. With this penetration, you can know exactly what someone is thinking before they have expressed their thoughts in words. With this penetration one can know the thoughts in another's mind while their ideas are just thoughts which flow like waves on the sea, one after another.
Long ago there was an Arhat who had the Six Penetrations and could read others' thoughts. One time they went on a pilgrimage carrying their belongings with them, to bow at the different mountain monasteries and shrines. The disciple carried the luggage. As they walked along, the disciple thought, "In the future I am definitely going to practice the Great Vehicle Dharma and cultivate the Bodhisattva Path, the Six Perfections and the Ten Thousand Conducts. I will save all living beings." When the Master saw that his disciple had resolved to practice the Great Vehicle path of a Bodhisattva while he himself was still just an Arhat, he knew that his disciple's vows surpassed his own and so he made his disciple give him the baggage. Then, despite his disciple's protestations, he carried it on his own back.
After they had gone on for a while, the disciple thought, "Gosh. The Bodhisattva Path is very hard to practice. Why, even Sariputra couldn't do it. How much the less will I be able to do it. It would be better to forget it." As soon as he had the thought to retreat from his Great Vehicle Bodhisattva vows, his master came up to him and handed the baggage to him saying, "Here, you carry this." The disciple had no idea why he did this. The luggage went back and forth several times like this until the disciple finally asked his master, "Why do you keep switching the luggage like that? What’s going on here, anyway?"
"Do you really want to know?" said the Arhat. "When you resolved to practice the Bodhisattva Path, since I am still just one of the Small Vehicle, it was my duty to carry the luggage. After a while, you retreated from your Great Vehicle Vows, feeling that if it was too hard for Sariputra, it would be certainly too hard for you. Then I gave the bags back to you."
How do we know it was too hard for Sariputra? Sariputra was a Sound Hearer. Once he resolved to cultivate the Dharma of the Great Vehicle Bodhisattva. Now it so happens that as long as you don't bring forth a resolve, no one will test you. However, as soon as you bring forth a resolve, and bring forth the Bodhi mind, especially if you are quite sincere about it, then the gods and dragons and the eight-fold division, or the Bodhisattvas will come to test you out. It's sort of like university entrance exams. If you pass, you get in. If you don't, you have to start over again. Sariputra decided to practice the Bodhisattva path and Bodhisattvas must practice giving. If someone wants something, they have to give it to them. Otherwise, they can't be called Bodhisattvas. As he was busy practicing the Bodhisattva path, Sariputra ran into a man who was sitting beside the road, crying. He was sobbing violently, and Sariputra's compassionate heart Bodhisattvas must have pity and sympathy for all living being--was moved. Since Bodhisattvas must find a way to ease the grief and distress of living beings, he asked the man, "Layman, why are you crying?"
"My mother is sick," said the man, "and in order to cure her illness, I have to find the eye of a living person. Where can I go to find a living person's eye? Yet without it, my mother won't get well. There's no druggist anywhere who can fill my prescription. What else is there for me to do but cry?"
When Sariputra heard this he thought, "Ah, his mother is sick. He needs a living eye. He is very filial, but there's certainly no pharmacy anywhere that's going to have a live eye. I'll give him one of mine." Then, filled with compassion, he reached up and plucked out his own eye with his hand. "Here," he said, "Take this eye and go cure your mother. I've helped you out; now don't cry."
The man took the eye, looked at it, and suddenly, threw it down on the ground in disgust, and stomped it to bits.
"Gee, why did you do that?" said Sariputra.
The man said, "Your old eye is stinky and smelly, and just plain useless, you know. Besides, what I need is a left eye. You gave me a right eye. You didn't even ask me which eye, but just gave me the wrong one. It's useless, utterly useless; If you really want to help me, then give me your other eye."
Sariputra's right eye socket was hurting quite a bit by this time. If he ripped out his other eye, he'd be totally blind, for heaven's sake. "That sinks it!" he said. "You're not getting any more eyes from me. Go look somewhere else."
"I see," said the man. "So your Bodhisattva resolve was just half a resolve, huh? It wasn't total. You could only give one eye, you couldn't give them both. Okay. So much for that. We'll just have to wait a while, won't we?" said the man and suddenly flew up into the air. He was actually a god who had come to test Sariputra. He flunked, of course, so he'd just have to wait for a few years and try again.
So the Arhat said to his disciple. "When you remembered the story if Sariputra, you didn't dare to bring forth the Bodhisattva resolve. I gave the bags to you, then, because we both were Small Vehicle people at" that time and being the teacher, it wasn't right for me to carry the luggage. If there's work to do, the disciples should do it. If there's good food and drink, the teacher should get it first."
"In the future," the disciple thought, "I am certainly going to bring forth the Great Vehicle resolve."
To continue the discussion of the Six Spiritual Penetrations, the fourth is the Penetration of Past Lives. This means that one knows what one did in one's past lives. You know if you were good or evil. You know if you were Chinese or not. "Ah, Last life I was Chinese, but I got born in America. What for? Last life I made a vow: There's no Buddhadharma in America. I am going to go there and be reborn so that I won't have to learn English later. I can pick up Chinese real quickly, too."
So now you have met a Chinese Dharma Master and this is all because of conditions set up in former lives--bit by bit you learn the Buddhadharma. Some learn real fast. Some learn very slowly. Some can only listen to it, they can't practice it. They think, "The Buddhadharma is the Buddhadharma and I am me." Still others can actually practice it, really cultivate. They aren't afraid of suffering or hardship in their cultivation.
Perhaps in one's last life one was an Indian who knew that it was time for Buddhism to move West, and so they were reborn in America. In general, that's what the knowledge of past lives is like. It just means to know what went on in one's past life.
The next spiritual penetration is that of Spiritual Fulfillment () also called the Realm of the Spiritual () and also called the Penetration As-you-will (). This means that however you think you'd like it to be, that's the way it is. If you want to eat an apple--there's an apple! If you want to eat an orange--zip! there's an orange. The same applies to pastries and everything. In general, whatever you think you want, there it is. It's "as-you-will" and auspicious. You can even think, "I'd like to have a lot of money," and a lot of money appears. With this Penetration, you can go into the water and not drown. You can go into the fire and not be burned. That's really "as-you-will." This doesn't mean just "walking on a few coals," either. You can sit and meditate right in the middle of the flames, but they won't burn you. Why? Because you have the Penetration of the Realm of the Spirit. This doesn't mean you can just pick up a little skill in Japan and then be able to walk on some coals. That isn't so special. If you can sit right in the fire and have a lotus appear beneath you, that's really something. What's the use of just being able to walk across some coals? It's of no great use, really. The world isn't covered with burning coals, you know. If it were and you were the only person who could walk on them, that would be pretty meaningful. But this isn't the time of Hsuan Tsang in the T'ang Dynasty who went to India to get the Sutras and had to pass through the flaming mountains. If you can get through the flaming mountains, you are rather talented.
People who have the Penetration of Spiritual Fulfillment are not afraid of water or fire. Some people are not affected by cold, but this isn't of any great use either. When I was in Manchuria I could walk around outside in the freezing weather without a coat on. I could walk barefoot in the snow. The snow didn't hurt my feet at all. But this is just a minor state, a tiny bit of skill. It's certainly not the Penetration of Spiritual Fulfillment. Anybody can bear the cold. All you have to do is be able to bear it and not be afraid of the cold. Bear the cold. People are like that. If it's cold, and you bear it, and get through it, then after a while you won't feel cold anymore. Take a look at the birds. They don't wear shoes or socks, but they walk around in the snow. That doesn't mean they have spiritual powers, does it? They can all do it. Being able to bear the cold just means you have entered a bit into the realm of no-outflows.
If you have the Penetration of Spiritual Fulfillment, you can walk right through walls, you can go right into the earth, and you can appear and disappear at will.
"I don't believe that," you say.
Of course you don't believe it. If you did believe it, you would also be that way; you could do it, too."
"You believe in it," you say, "can you do it?"
Don't ask me. I am lecturing to you. You aren't lecturing to me. You don't understand the principle, so I am explaining it to you, but don't ask me. I don't need anyone to give me tests. I don't want into any university, so I'm not up for any extra exams or tests of my capacity to practice the Bodhisattva path. The Penetration of Spiritual Fulfillment is miraculous and ineffably wonderful. I have just described it superficially to you because there just isn't any way to describe it fully; it's too profoundly spiritual. With it you can rise right up into empty space, and, from the top of your body emit fire and from the lower half emit water. Or you can emit water from the top of your body and fire from the lower half. You can manifest the eighteen changes in emptiness.
Finally, the sixth penetration is that of the Extinction of Outflows. This means that there are no outflows into the Three Worlds. The ghosts and spirits have the other five Spiritual Penetrations, they do not have the penetration of the Extinction of Outflows. They all have outflows and they have not certified to the fruit. In order to be without outflows, one must have certified to the fruit of Arhatship. One then obtains the Penetration of the Extinction of Outflows. Only when one has the Six Spiritual Penetrations is one an Arhat. You can't say that, with one or two of the Penetrations, you are an Arhat. Arhats aren't that "worthless." You can't just open your Heavenly Eye or obtain some small measure of wisdom and be an Arhat. Arhats must be without outflows. If you can be without outflows, you are an Arhat. If you can't be without outflows, then you are very far away from being an Arhat. However, you should be aware of this point: even if you obtain the Five Eyes and the Six Spiritual Penetrations, you can't use them carelessly and waste them.
"But if I don't use them, then what's the use of having them?" you ask.
I'm not telling you not to use them. I'm just telling you to use them in a big way, not for petty affairs. For example, if you're being small minded with them, you might see someone and think, "I'll just show off a few spiritual powers for this person." Then you say to him, "You were just at home and I know what you had to eat and who you made telephone calls to."
"Strange, indeed," says the person as he hears you enumerate his lunch and phone calls. "He really does have spiritual powers."
You shouldn't use spiritual powers for such petty purposes. If you do, your state will be just that small.
How does one use one's spiritual powers in a big way? Take a look and when you see a place where a great disaster is due, for example an earthquake that will kill tens of thousands of people, you think of a way to make the ground undergo a transformation so that it won't quake. That's a big use. Don't use your spiritual powers to determine how many cookies a child ate in one day or how many times the child cried. What's the use of knowing that? Right? If you see a disaster due a certain place, and use your powers to save the people in that place without their even knowing it, that's using them in a big way. They will be saved but they won't know that a certain Arhat saved them. You shouldn't let people know or encourage them to give you thanks. If people know and start thanking you, then your state once again is very small. There is a saying:
The good which is done
For others to see
Is not truly good.
Evil done fearing others will know
Is truly great evil.
If you do good things hoping that others will notice, you aren't really doing good things. You're just doing it for fame or to get people to respect you. The second verse says:
When one of great goodness falls,
He becomes one of great evil;
When one of great evil reforms,
He becomes one of great goodness.
In the future when you obtain the Five Eyes and the Six Spiritual Powers, don't use them to satisfy your curiosity. Don't go minding other people's business, either, checking out what the neighbors are having for lunch or what's on sale at the supermarket. That's not what they're for. When you obtain them, you must save them for great, important matters, not small, petty ones. Use them when you have no other recourse, but if you can handle the problem without using them, then don't use them. They are like jewels. If you leave a pearl in the doorstep, sooner or later someone is going to come along and steal it. If you leave your precious gems out in view and fail to put them in a safe place, they are going to get stolen. Spiritual powers are like gems, too, and you must take good care of them. Put them away in your Thus Come One's Treasury.
-Continued next issue
WONDERFUL DHARMA LOTUS FLOWER SUTRA VOLUME III CHAPTER II, EXPEDIENTS Available in April 1979, from the Buddhist Text Translation Society.
Dharma Master Hsuan
Hua delivers his lectures on The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra in
the traditional style of the great Buddhist commentators. After first
dividing the sutra into short sections, he then gives a general
commentary on them and a specific one on each word and phrase as he
interprets the nuances of the Chinese terms meaning's for his American
disciples, and answers many difficult questions posed by his students.
Thus, although stylistically traditional, his commentary contains much
basic material not only for the academic and religious study of the sutra,
but also for the study of a first generation, American Buddhist monastic
-Upasika Kuo Lin
(Nancy) Lethcoe, Ph.D.