Dharma Flower Sutra

With commentary of Tripitaka Master Hua

Translated into English by Bhiksuni Heng Yin

Reviewed by Bhiksuni Heng Ch’ih



      Sariputra, the Elder then reflects, "I have a strong body and arms. I might gather them in a cloth pouch or on 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."


      Sakyamuni Buddha calls out again to Sariputra saying, the Elder then reflects/ This is in reference to the time when, for twenty-one days, the Buddha thought about what dharma he should speak that would be best suited to waking up living beings from their dreams.

"I have a strong body and arms"/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 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 burdens. The Buddha uses his wisdom to teach living beings gradually and to lead them to understanding. This wisdom is manifest from samadhi. The 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's not like us. We talk about getting rid of our faults, but don't 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 doesn't 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 Sakyamuni 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 to effect a 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. These two types of complete giving 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 does it have? A lot of them;
In general, it enables 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 of 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 the wisdom of all modes. However, living beings have bad tempers and if you teach them to do good things, they won't 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 using 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 don't permit them to do. If you teach them to do good things, they won't 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 didn't 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 he 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 "a strong body and arms."

"I might gather them in a cloth pouch"/In India cloth sacks were used to carry flowers. 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 on a table."/The Chinese text gives two characters, the first of which is 
(), chi, a small table. The second is(), an, a large table. Here in the lecture hall we have put several small tables together to make a large table. The small tables represent 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 the difficulties in the six paths. The small table represents the Four Fearlessnesses, 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 shouldn't be afraid of hearing it spoken once, twice, three, four, or even five times. Why? Once it is heard 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 won't have to eat tomorrow? No. You have to eat every day. 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. Don't fear hearing it too many times. If you do, it means there's some question about the wholesomeness of your roots. What question? The question of retreating from the heart of Bodhi. It doesn't 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 still am going to listen. If, out of a hundred sentences, the speaker says only one thing that strikes a responsive chord in me, a sentence that helps me get rid of my faults, then I will not have listened in vain."

You should not think, "His lecturing is meaningless. I'm 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 Bodhimanda. You should look upon the Bodhimanda 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 Bodhimanda."

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 complete giving for the sake of the person.

The admonishment door warns us to do no evil and is a kind of suppressing Dharma. Since you didn't listen to the exhortations, I'll scold you a good one; I'll 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 the 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 is narrow and small and has only one door/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 and so they are not able to get through the door. That is an explanation according to 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 don't understand the perfectly interpenetrating doctrine of the Great Vehicle. Although it is said to be a small and narrow door, it's not really. It's 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? 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 don't know how to get through the door, they don't understand the provisional. They also don't know how to get in the door, they don't 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 don't understand this doctrine. Although the Bodhisattvas know exactly how to get out, they also don't know how to get in. This refers to the Bodhisattvas of the Special Teaching and below, the Bodhisattvas of the Seven Expedients. The Seven Expedients don't 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 roundabout 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 and 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: Sound 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 good 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 harassed by the eight kinds of suffering and become attached to the Dependent and the Proper Retribution Worlds. The Dependent Retribution World refers to the mountains, 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 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 five 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 the bliss of the Dharma. All day long they are extremely happy, happy to the point that you couldn't even describe their happiness. That is why the first Dhyana is called 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 shouldn't 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 a formless heaven, you will not be able to get out of the Three Realms.

But, let's 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's 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, or the movie-samadhi, or the dancing samadhi. Crazy mixed-up antics! They are attached to their places of play. And what happens then? The next sentence lays it right on the line:

They may fall and be burnt in the fire/Luckily the text says "may." It doesn't say for sure that they will fall, and so there is still some hope. This means that if you are able to reform yourself and become unattached, if you know to turn back from the confused path, you may not fall. If you don't wake up, you will fall. It's not fixed. 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 don’t 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 pleasurable. 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 not the slightest intention of leaving. What is more, they don’t 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.


      "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’s a terrifying situation. "And they must hurry and come out so as not to be burned." If they don’t leave they will be burned by the fire.

      So thinking, he speaks to his sons, saying, "Come out, all of you, quickly! Hurry up and get out. If you don’t come out right away you will be burned by the five skandhas and the five turbidities. You don’t 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 don’t believe what the Elder says, and so they are not frightened or afraid of losing their very lives and have not the slightest intention of leaving/The children have no thought whatsoever to leave the burning house.

      What is more/because they are so young, they don’t know what is means by “fire”/This represents the living beings in the five paths who don’t know that the eight sufferings and the five skandhas can burn our Dharma bodies and burn off our good roots. They don’t know what is meant by "house"/They also don’t know that the five skandhas and the six sense organs, the twelve places, and the eighteen realms are the apparatuses which create suffering; 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 don’t know the causes 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 don't 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 don't cultivate according to the Great Vehicle Buddhadharma.

This passage is the Admonishment Door, a warning to the children, but they don't listen. The Buddha considers quitting teaching and transforming living beings. Although it occurs to him to stop teaching, he is very compassionate and he can't bear to forsake living beings. 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 in time we certainly shall be burned. I shall now devise an expedient device so that my sons can avoid this disaster."


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 and 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 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 that a contradiction?

Previously, he was speaking about his Dharma body, saying that 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 this 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;


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 knows what they like and what their dispositions are. The Buddha knows the natures and preferences of 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 and so forth. All beings have their preferences when it comes to the Dharma-doors of the Three Vehicles. To which they happily respond/I will take a guess, according to the situation, and figure out what dharmas they will 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."


      ...speaks to them saying, "The things you will love to play with are rare and hard to get/The toys you have now aren't that fine. You shouldn't 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've 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'll be sorry. Now, come right out, and I'll give them to you. Things such as these: a variety of sheep carts, deer carts/especially beautiful. You've never seen anything like them. So pretty! If you want a sheep cart, I'll give you a sheep cart. If you want a deer cart, I'll 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 Sound 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! Pronto! And I shall give you whatever you want/Don’t hang around the burning house. Hurry right out!"


Then the children, hearing their father speak of these precious playthings which suited their wishes exactly, eagerly pushed and shoved one another aside in a mad scramble, all fighting to get out of the burning house.


Then the children/those of the Three Vehicles, hearing their father speak of these precious playthings/the Dharma-doors of the Three Vehicles, which exactly suited their wishes/They were so new and wonderful that they aroused the children's curiosity. They were 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 as a clever expedient. 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 Chih-che 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 can't 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 phrase "Great Master." The Great Master Chih-che can't just be called "Chih-che." If students of the Buddhadharma don't 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 can't 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. Don't 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 but 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 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's because we don't understand true principle. Having 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's 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 won't do wrong things. "Pushed and shoved" means that when the children, those of the Seven Expedients, heard that 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 their view delusions. Thus, the phrase "pushed and shoved 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 summits. "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 Surangama 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 more 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 allotted lifespan from your day of birth to your dying day, including your actions from 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 fourth stage 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 isn't easy. We are tied up by our dispositions and can't get free of them.

You may think, "I am very free. I just do what I please." It's 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's fun."

When the fun is over, then what? What benefit is it?

"Well, at least I'm happy for a short time."

So you're happy for a short time, but no one knows how much time you will spend suffering. At the very least, after a movie your eyes are tired and you lack energy. That's an obvious form of suffering. Or perhaps you enjoy various forms of pleasure thinking that 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 can't 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 to 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 your 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. Don't dally, thinking it's 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 very confused. Now every day 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 can't just casually call out their names. A few days ago I told you that you can't casually call out the names of past patriarchs. You also shouldn't 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 should not look at the faults of those who have left home. If they have faults, they will gradually improve and you shouldn't blame them for them.

I am very happy that some of my disciples are going to leave home. I'm so happy, in fact, that I can't 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 layperson in the temple you don't recite Sutras or cultivate the Dharma it's very, very dangerous. You shouldn't 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'm too happy I can't sleep. When I'm worried, I can't sleep, either. If my lay disciples don't cultivate and instead turn into snakes, I'll lose sleep over it. So every one of you should work hard. Don't 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's calling me a 'Dharma Master,'" and even if they wanted to relax a little, they won't. "I am a Dharma Master, and I should study a little more Buddhadharma," or "I am a layperson, 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's 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 others' strong points and ignore their weaknesses. Those with strong points should be encouraged to make them even stronger. Those with weaknesses should gradually 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 don't work hard, than I can only sigh, "This person...I have no way to save him," and I won't be able to sleep. That's the way it is.