the commentary of Tripitaka Master Hua
Translated into English by
Bhiksuni Heng Yin
Reviewed by Bhiksuni Heng Ch’ih
We, from of old/The gods say, "All of us from limitless aeons in the past up until the present, Have often heard the World Honored One speak/"Often" means not just once, but many times. How many times? A countless number of times. But never have we heard such Dharma/However, although we have heard the World Honored One speak the Dharma, we never heard a Dharma as wonderful as this. So deep, so wondrous and supreme/It's profound, miraculous, lofty, and supreme, this deep, subtle Dharma. The World Honored One has spoken Dharma/ Now the World Honored One, the Buddha, speaks this wonderful Dharma and We rejoice accordingly/We, all the gods and the rest of those assembled listen to this Dharma joyfully. Especially, as the great wise Sariputra/The wisest among the Sound Hearers, Sariputra, "body seed," as he is called. Now receives the Honored Ones prediction/He receives a prediction of his future Buddhahood, the most valuable, most glorious of predictions, We too, are like this/Not only does Sariputra receive the Buddha's prediction, but we, all the gods, also have this hope. And will surely become Buddhas/In the future we will most surely, most certainly, become Buddhas. This is because in the Dharma Flower Assembly, there is not one being who will not become a Buddha. Throughout all worlds/When we become Buddhas we in all the worlds shall be Most Honored and Supreme. We shall also be the most venerable and no one shall be above us, no one shall be more lofty. Inconceivable is the Buddha's Path/The doctrine of the Buddha is the most inconceivable. It is most wonderful and most inconceivable. Taught expediently according to what is fitting/It is through expedient devices that the Buddha accords with the potentials of living beings with their dispositions, and speaks the Buddha dharma appropriate for them. May all of the blessed karma/May all of the blessings, virtue, good karma of us, the gods. In this life of lives gone by/ Either in this life, or in future lives and the merit and virtue of seeing the Buddhas/All the merit and virtue enabling us to see the Buddha all be dedicated to the Buddha Path/We, together, take this merit and virtue and dedicate it to our future attainment of the Buddha Path.
Birth, old age, sickness, and death: When people are born, it is extremely painful. But, because you were so small and didn't understand what was going, on, you quickly forgot the experience. However, when we get old, we shall all 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, your teeth fall out, and so your food is tasteless. Your eyes, ears and teeth all fail to help you. Pretty soon, your legs won't 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 old you can not even pick them up; they seem to weigh several thousand pounds. Would you say that was suffering or not? You can't manage even the most simple 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 it all and suffer the bitterness of sickness. Our former President Eisenhower has 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 was hospitalized with a grave illness. That's 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 he had understood the Buddhadharma, and put everything down, he would not have had to undergo the sufferings of birth, old age, sickness, and death. But because he didn't understand the Buddhadharma, he had no way to escape them.
Birth, old age, sickness, and death are, very democratic. Everyone is born, everyone grows old, everyone gets sick, and everyone dies. However, if you understand the Buddhadharma, genuinely awaken, put everything down, see through it all and let it all go you can obtain self mastery. Otherwise, you cannot. Once you have gained self mastery, for you there is no birth, no old age, no sickness and no death. That's the happiness of the attainment of ultimate Nirvana. Why did Sakyamuni Buddha toil so at his cultivation? It was just because he looked upon the process of birth, aging, sickness and death as entirely meaningless, entirely worthless. Everyone kept being born and dying, being born and dying:
This life: birth-aging-sickness-death;
Next life: birth-aging-sickness-death;
Over and over and over again birth-aging-sickness-death; this suffering never stops.
"It's just too stupid to stay here and keep turning around like this," thought Sakyamuni Buddha. "I am determined to separate from the suffering of birth, old age, sickness, and death," and thereupon he left his home to cultivate. Why? Just 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 couldn't part with the other living beings who had not. "All these living beings haven't left the sufferings behind. I shall take the wonderful Dharma which I have attained and spread the message to all these living beings." And 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 a self, and also from the views of existence and non existence and claim that they have attained Nirvana/This is Sariputra speaking. Those who study and those beyond study thought that they had left the views of self, and the view of existence, which is the view of permanence and the view of non existence, which is the view of annihilationism, and claim to 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/Now, in the presence of the World Honored One, they all hear a wonderful Dharma which they have never heard before, and they have all fallen into the pit of doubts and delusion. They have fallen into the pit of delusion and are confused and do not understand. Good indeed, World Honored One! Very fine you are. World Honored One, I beg that you would, for the sake of the fourfold assembly/we all wish that you, 0 most respected Honored One, would, for the Bhiksus, Bhiksunis, Upasakas and Upasikas, Speak of these causes and conditions/these doctrines To free them of their doubts and regrets/To cause those present in the assembly to separate from the doubts that they have. Please, World Honored One, be especially compassionate and explain these things to us." Basically, Sariputra himself had no doubts. But he saw that the four assemblies had not yet understood and, on their behalf, he now requests the Dharma.
Former President Eisenhower has left the world, as have Yu T'ien Hsiu, one of the Lecture Hall's Dharma Protectors and a Dharma Protector called T'ang, for whom we recited Sutras a few days ago. Also other people have left the world. Eisenhower was a two term president who benefited America in many ways. Since we are living in America and he has already left the world, 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, perhaps he can in his next life. We should use our true hearts in dedicating the merit to him and it will certainly be efficacious. We will also recite the Buddha's name for Yu T'ien Hsiu and our Dharma Protectors so they may leave suffering and attain bliss. Also, next Saturday is Kuan Yin'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 bow it in the afternoon. The Dharma lecture will be here in the Lecture Hall and The Earth Store Bodhisattva Sutra will be lectured as usual. If you want to bow the repentance twice you can continue bowing after the lecture. On this day bowing repentances and reciting Kuan Yin's name yields merit several thousand millions of times greater than on ordinary days. Now, everyone should know this. In the Lecture Hall, every night we shall recite the Buddha's name five minutes for President Eisenhower and for the Lecture Hall's Dharma Protectors. Tomorrow we shall set up memorial tablets for them and put them in the merit and virtue hall for a month to cross them over. We shall also invite them to the Sutra Lectures. They didn't hear the Sutras when alive, but now that they are dead they can come to the lectures and then in the future, when they understand, they too can separate from the sufferings of birth, old age, sickness and death. Tuesday is Sakyamuni Buddha's 'Nirvana anniversary and everyone should recite "Namo Original Teacher Sakyamuni Buddha" a little more on that day. We shall now recite for President Eisenhower.
At that time the Buddha told Sariputra, "Have I not said before, that all the Buddhas, World Honored Ones, speak the Dharma by means of various causes and conditions, parables, and praises, and expedient devices all for the sake of Anuttarasamyaksambodhi?
All of these teachings are for the sake of transforming the Bodhisattvas, However, Sariputra, I shall now again make use of a parable in order to further clarify the principle, for all, those who are wise can gain understanding through parables.
Sakyamuni Buddha heard Sariputra request the Dharma on behalf of the four assemblies, in order to clear up their doubts. At that time the Buddha, told Sariputra, "Have I not said before/"Didn't I already say this? Haven't we been through this one before?" The question implies that, 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's a rhetorical question and you shouldn't take it to mean that he actually did not say it before, that's not what it means. It means, "Didn't I tell you this already?" Tell you what?
That all Buddhas, World Honored Ones, speak the Dharma by means of various causes and conditions/All the Buddhas, World Honored Ones, throughout the ten directions use various kinds of causes and conditions parables and phrases/clever speech and expedient divider I expedient device Dharma doors, to speak various kinds of dharmas. 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/all the various causes and conditions, parables, phrases and expedient devices are dharmas which are for the sake of transforming the Bodhisattvas/This passage is a slight reprimand. It implies, "I already told you this, and you still don't understand? Ah, and you ask again!" But the word "however" that follows, takes the sting out of the reprimand and assures Sariputra, "Rest assured, Sariputra, you are a good child, you are very intelligent." However, Sariputra, I shall now again make use of a parable in order to clarify the principle/I will use another analogy in order to make the doctrine a little clearer for you. For all those who are wise/All those who have wisdom 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.
Sariputra, I now I'm going to use a parable to teach you the wonderful Dharma. Suppose, hypothetically speaking, that in a country/What is meant by "country?" It is an analogy for the Real Retribution Adorned Land, which is where the Bodhisattvas dwell, a city/which is an analogy for the Expedient with Residue Land, 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 country also represents the large, inclusive aspect, as its boundaries are very large. A country is divided up into smaller states and so the country represents that which reaches the farthest and is the largest, like the boundaries of a country. 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. The country represents the Real Retribution and Adornment Land, the city represents the Land of Expedients with Residue, and the villages represent the Land where the Common and Sagely Dwell Together. There was a great elder/The great elder is an analogy for the Buddha, the Buddha is a great elder. In terms of worldly dharmas, the elder has ten kinds of virtuous practices, ten virtues, which a few days ago, in the car on the way to Mr. T'ang's funeral I told the three western left home people. Now, I'll explain them again.
The Ten Virtues of an Elder
1. His name is honored. The elder has an honorable name. In Chinese, when we ask a person what their name is, we say, "What is your honorable name?" But that is not the same as having an honorable name. This is not just a polite form of address. It means that the person's name is basically very highly esteemed and honored, you can ask someone whose name is not really honored, "What is your honorable name?" but your question will carry the flavor of, "Your name isn't really honorable..." An honorable name means just that, a worthy name, not a cheap one.
Elder Firm and Solid Liberation
What is meant by having an honorable name? In terms of worldly people, being born in the household of the Emperor, or a noble Lord. In India, the Ksatriyas are an honorable class. It means that your family, your clan, is noble. One born in the family of a king will in the future certainly become a king. Those born in the family of a noble lord will in the future certainly become noble lords.
2. He is of lofty position. Position refers to his place, his rank. It is especially high. What is meant by this? A Prime Minister or perhaps a great general, one who is in charge of the government of the entire country.
3. He has great wealth. He has a lot of riches. Most people have storehouses full of rice or other grains, but his storehouses are completely filled with gold.
4. He has awesome courage. He is brave and martial. It is said, "His majesty makes one tremble." It is also said, His awesomeness was to be feared." Everyone who sees such a person, although he has never struck anyone or scolded anyone or killed anyone, still everyone's afraid of him. That's because he is awesome, "courage" means bravery. So awesome courage means, "Dignified and also impressive.” He is very dignified and solemn, like the great generals in military array who look very deadly. One knows not how many people they control. Kuo Ning said that the first time he saw Kuo Ti he was a bit afraid. Why? It's because Kuo Ti is a Buddhist Policeman, so when you see him you're afraid of him. That's awesome courage. Because he has awesome courage all people must follow his orders. Policemen are very tall and big. When the people see them, they don't dare break the law. However, some people really hate the police. Why? "They make things too inconvenient for me."
5. His wisdom is profound. He has wisdom, and this wisdom is the highest, transcending all other wisdom.
Yesterday, we were talking about the ten virtues of the elder. Today, we shall continue with the fifth, that is "His wisdom is extremely deep. It is said, "All things are to him as clear and as if in the palm of his hand." Everything is as clear as if it were right in his hand and nothing gets by his great, deep wisdom. Within his mind is contained all existence; he knows everything. All of his clever expedient device dharmas as well as the "clever strategies for victory: are different from those of ordinary people. It is said, "He excels his peers, and rises above the rest." He is better than those like him; he is smarter than even the most intelligent people. And that is the fifth virtue of the elder, "profound wisdom."
6. He is advanced in years, he is very old. Although 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 (Shih Ching) 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, but if what you say has a flaw in it, there is no way to get rid of it.
The seventh virtue of the great Elder is that his conduct is lofty, pure arid high. Ordinary people can't 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 most courteous towards all. Whether you are poor or rich, 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 them to have a cup of coffee or a root beer. You must be cordial in accord with the rules and entertain them with what is "exactly right." For example, if I have a friend who likes to drink coffee, and I invite him out for a cup that is exactly right. If he likes to drink soda pop and you treat him to one whatever he likes you give him and make him happy. You do this because you want to be cordial, not because you are a sycophant. This is to be cordial in accord with the rules.
9. He is praised by his superiors. It is very common to be praised by those beneath one, but when praised by one's superiors, that is indeed rare. 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. All in the four seas are his brothers. All people come to him to respectfully rely upon him, and support him. For example, the king is supported by the citizens and the President, too, is supported by the citizens.
The Elder in the analogy Buddha, Sakyamuni Buddha. Let us now discuss the Ten Virtues of the Elder as they apply to the Buddha.
1. The Buddha is born from the real limit, true suchness of the three periods of time; therefore, his name is honored. The three periods of time are the past, 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 Lofty Titles of the Buddha: Thus Come One, One Worthy of Offerings, One of Proper and Universal Knowledge, One of Clarity and Conduct Complete, Well Gone One Who Understand the World, Unsurpassed Knight, Taming and Regulating Hero, Teacher of Gods and Humans, the Buddha, World Honored One. Having certified to the Buddha position, he has attained the Ten Titles, and become the highest; consequently, it is said, 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 Powers. 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 are none he hasn't penetrated.
What is means by "one mind, three wisdoms?" When the Buddha cultivates the Contemplation of Emptiness, he obtains All Wisdom. By cultivating the Contemplation of the Truth of Falseness, he obtains the Wisdom of the Way. By cultivating the Contemplation of the Middle Way, he obtains the Wisdom of All Modes. With one mind he obtains three kinds of wisdom. There are none he hasn't penetrated. This represents the profound wisdom of the Buddha.
6. Advanced in years. Sakyamuni Buddha did not leave home just in this one life. Limitless aeons ago he had already accomplished Buddhahood, realized Right Enlightenment. Therefore, in The Brahma Net Sutra it says, "I have come to this Saha world over 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 speed 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 Sakyamuni Buddha. The Buddhas are basically of one mind and there is nothing seen as above or below, high or low. But the ten direction Buddhas became Buddha: 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 T'ien T'ai. Teaching they are
continued next issue