Dharma Flower Sutra
with commentary of
His father, from the first, had set out seeking his son but in
vain. He settled midway in a city. His household was one of great
wealth, with limitless wealth and jewels, gold, silver, lapis lazuli,
coral, amber, crystal, pearls, and other jewels. His granaries and
treasuries were overflowing, and he had many servants, ministers and
assistants, as well as countless elephants, horses, carriages, cattle,
and sheep. The profits from his trade extended to the other countries,
and there were also many traders and merchants.
His father, from the first, had set out seeking his son but in vain/ The
father is the Buddha. The Buddha taught living beings, but they did not
cultivate the Great Vehicle. They preferred to cultivate the Small
Vehicle. They ran far, far away to another country. The Buddha set out
searching for them but did not find them. The Buddha was looking for his
disciples, but they didn't have the potential for the Great Vehicle, so
they did not meet up with him; he sought them in vain. He settled midday
in a city/ Midway means halfway between the Adorned Land of Real Reward
and the Land of Expedients with Residue. He stopped there and did not
continue to speak the Dharma and teach living beings. The city he
stopped in was that of nirvana with residue. However, His household was
one of great wealth/ Although the Buddha wanted to enter Nirvana, he
thought it over: "I have so many Dharma treasures and have no one
to pass them on to. Who am I going to give them to?" The great
wealth refers to the Three Storehouses and Twelve Divisions of the Canon
and all the limitless treasures of the Dharma.
His granaries/ where the grains were stored, and the treasuries/
where the gems
Ministers/ means great ministers.
Elephants represent the Three Contemplations in a single thought of the Great Vehicle: There is no order in contemp1ations--they are done simultaneously/ Emptiness is falseness and falseness is emptiness and so on. The very emptiness is itself falseness, is itself the middle. This is cultivated by the Bodhisattvas of the Perfect Teaching whose dispositions are very quick and who do not need to cultivate step by step. It is the Dharma door of the Sudden Teaching. They certify to attainment immediately.
Horses/ represent the Three
Contemplations in succession: First, one
contemplates emptiness after that falseness, and
after that, the middle. This guides
Bodhisattvas of the Special Teaching to the position
of the Great Vehicle. They cultivate step by
Sheep/ represent the analyzation
of Dharmas for self-cultivation and
leads the Sound
The profits from his trade/ Trade means literally going and coming. "Going" refers to ten thousand dharmas. "Coming" refers to the doctrine that the ten thousand doctrines return to the mind. "Profits" refers to teaching and transforming living beings who attain benefit thereby. It's like interest in the bank. When living beings are saved and led to the Great Vehicle position, it's like they collect interest. Extended to other countries/ that is, it filled the three realms.
Traders/ are businessmen who
travel around. Merchants/ refers to those who
stay in one
Then the poor son, having wandered through various villages and passed through countries and cities, at last reached the city where his father had settled.
Then the poor son/ that is, those of the two vehicles, having wandered through various village/ that is, running around in the burning house of the three realms, and passed through countries and cities/ having travelled in many paths, through many different lands and small settlements, at last reached the city where his father had settled./ Unknowingly, he arrived at the city where his father was living.
Tomorrow is the anniversary of Kuan Yin's leaving home, the 19th day of the 6th lunar month. The Bodhisattva has three anniversaries each year and you should remember them. If you don't remember them, it indicates that you do not really have faith in Kuan Yin Bodhisattva. For example, in China we say, "You should know your parents' age so you can sigh and know fear." This means, that you should know how old your parents are in order to be filial to them. When you know, for example, that your father is eighty years old you will be very happy and sigh, "Ah! He's a ripe old age." On a level deeper you will be afraid. Of what? "He's eighty already. He'11 soon die. My father will leave me soon." We should be just as filial to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and know, for example, the Buddha's birthday is the 8th day of the 4th month. The anniversary of the Buddha's realizing the Way is the 8th day of the 12th month. The day of the Buddha's entry into Nirvana is the 15th of the 2nd. month. The anniversary of the Buddha's leaving home is the 8th day of the 2nd month. These you should remember.
Kuan Yin Bodhisattva has
special affinities with us beings in the
Saha world. So we should always remember these
dates. What is more, on each anniversary,
students of the
The father had always been mindful of his son. Although they had been separated for over fifty years, he had never spoken of the matter to anyone, but merely pondered over it, his heart filled with regret, as he thought, "I am old and decrepit. I have much wealth: gold, silver, and precious gems, granaries and storehouses filled to overflowing. Such a pity that I have no son! One day I'm bound to die, and when I do, my wealth will be scattered and lost, for I have no one to bequeath them to." This is why he ever earnestly thought of his son. "IF I could only get my son back, I'd make him heir to my wealth. I'd be contented and happy and have no further worries."
The father has always been mindful of his son/ that is, the Buddha
constantly recollects his disciples, he always recollects the living
beings with the disposition of the Great Vehicle. And although they had
been separated/ the living beings the Buddha taught had been separated
from him for over fifty years. "Fifty years" represents
the Five Paths: gods, humans, hungry ghosts, animals, and hell-beings.
But had never spoken of the matter to anyone/ For such a long time the
Buddha never told anyone about this.
He never told anyone that his Small Vehicle living beings had left their
father and run away from home. Did the Bodhisattvas know about it? Yes.
But, since the Buddha never talked
about it, they never brought it up. The Great Vehicle Bodhisattvas knew
that the further the Small Vehicle people ran, the further off they'd
get. And yet the Buddha never talked about
this. But merely pondered over it, his heart filled with regret/
"Oh, why didn't I teach them more doctrine before, so that they
wouldn't retreat from their Great Vehicle resolve?" He was upset
because the children were simply too stupid. Those of the two vehicles
didn't know enough to come back home, that is, to
return to the Buddha.
World Honored One, the poor son then, hiring himself out as a laborer here and there, unexpectedly arrived at his father's house. Standing by the gate, he saw his father seated on a Lion-seat. His feet were resting on a jeweled footstool and he was reverently surrounded by Brahmans, Kshatriyas, and Lay-people. Necklaces of real pearls, their value in the millions, adorned his body. Attendants and servants, holding white whisks, waited on him right and left. Above him was a jeweled canopy hung with flowers and pennants. Fragrant water was sprinkled on the ground, and expensive flowers were scattered about. Precious objects were placed in rows, which were passed out and taken in on leaving and entering. Such were the adornments, and the majesty and authority of his awesome virtue. When the poor son saw his father possessed of such great power, he was immediately afraid and regretted having come there. Secretly he thought, "This is perhaps a king, or one equal to a king. This is no place for me to hire myself out. I'd better go to a poor village where there will be room for me to work and where I can easily obtain clothing and food. If I stay here any longer, I may be forced to work! And with this thought, ha quickly ran off.
World Honored One, the poor son then, hiring himself out as a laborer here and there... The Buddha's disciples had run off. Those of the Great Vehicle disposition had run away into the three realms. There, they were forced to undergo the eight sufferings, and so they were looking for a way out, a path out of suffering. They ran here and there seeking a method to escape but couldn't find one.
Unexpectedly arrived at his father's house. After a while, when they had been to many places, they came in turn to the place where the Buddha lived, that is, the land of Expedients with Residue and the Land of Adornment of Real Retribution. Standing by the gate, he saw that his father's house was beautifully adorned. He didn't dare stand in the middle of the gate, but only off to one side. This represents the Small Vehicle people who dwell in two extremes: one is emptiness and the other falseness. They don't stand in the Middle Way. He saw his father at a distance. Although he was far away, his son could still see him. This shows that the Small Vehicle people still had the Great Vehicle disposition. Seated on a lion-seat...The seat was carved with lions on it. This represents that the Buddha sits on the Dharma King's seat manifesting the ten thousand foot high Reward Body. His feet were resting on a jeweled footstool... The jeweled footstool represents the Buddha's perfection of both wisdom and samadhi.
And he was
by Brahmans. Brahmans are those who
cultivate pure conduct. Here, they
represent the Bodhisattvas at the stage of
Equal Enlightenment who were present in the
Avatamsaka Assembly. Kshatriyas are the
ruling class. Here they represent the
Bodhisattvas from the First to the Ninth Grounds
present in the Avatamsaka
Laypeople refers to the
other Bodhisattvas in the
Avatamsaka Assembly. The Buddha was surrounded by
these great Bodhisattvas.
1. dwelling in the love of views;
2. dwelling in the love of desire;
3. dwelling in the love of form;
4. dwelling in the love of the formless.
The left represents entering into the wisdom of the false and brushing away the dust of "unknowing." "Right and left" then refers to brushing away the dust of emptiness and falseness (existence).
Above him was a jeweled
canopy. The jeweled canopy represents his
real compassion, his great compassion heart.
Hung with flowers and pennants. The flowers
represent the four methods of conversion:
giving, kind words, conduct profitable to
others, and similar work. There are three
kinds of giving:
Fragrant water was sprinkled
on the ground. The fragrant water is
the water of Dharma. The water of Dharma is
sprinkled on the ground of the minds of
the Great Vehicle Bodhisattvas, washing
away all the dust of their delusions. The
water is also the water of Samadhi, which is
sprinkled on the scattered mind to "unscatter
1. the three groups of pure precepts;
2. the great Shurangama Samadhi;
3. real wisdom;
4. cutting off doubts about the two truths;
5. practicing the wrong path while penetrating the Buddha Path;
6. virtue of wisdom;
7. virtue of severing.
To gain samadhi, one must first keep the precepts. If you have samadhi, then you can gain wisdom. If you don't keep the precepts, you won't gain samadhi, and you will never give rise to wisdom. Therefore, in cultivating the Way, the precepts are the most important requirement.
There are five basic precepts: 1. No killing. 2. No stealing. 3. No sexual misconduct. 4. No false speech. 5. No taking of intoxicants. Some people say, "Killing and stealing should be prohibited. Sexual misconduct is a little harder, but that should also be prohibited. Lying is no good, so that should be prohibited. But drinking-- what problem is there with drinking? Why include that? The Buddha must have made a mistake when he set up that precept."
Do you think this person's
reasoning is correct? It may seem to have
some principle, but actually it's totally
wrong. Intoxicants confuse the nature. Once you
drink, say, although you may never think
about murdering someone, you might. You might
not steal ordinarily, but under the
influence of intoxicants you might steal, or
with your desire inflamed by the alcohol
you might commit sexual misconduct. You
might lie under the
influence, too. You might be
asked what precepts you had broken, and
you'd answer, "I didn't break any!"
|This reminds me of a story about the five precepts. There was a layman who took the five precepts and swore off drinking. He didn't drink for two or three years, until the urge hit him. He thought, "Killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, and lying are definitely to be avoided. But it's not going to make any difference if I drink a little wine." He went out and bought some wine and took it home. He was a little tipsy, looking around for some hors d'oeuvres, when, quite accidentally, the neighbor's chicken ran right into the house. "Fried chicken!" he thought, forgetting all about the precept against killing. "A gift from god!" he thought.||
I have not had a drink in so long. God has
forgiven me and given me this chicken." He
cut off its head and poured boiling water over it
to remove the feathers. Then he fried it
until it was quite crispy. The more he ate,
the better the chicken tasted and the
sweeter the wine got. He got so carried away, he
even ate the chicken bones! He was ninety
percent drunk by this time, when the neighbor
lady knocked on his door. "Did my chicken
come this way?" she asked him.
The third pure flower, real wisdom, is our original wisdom inherent in everyone. No one lacks it. However, we forget about it and fail to make use of it. We use provisional wisdom instead, the wisdom of the world. Real wisdom is transcendental wisdom. With it one can penetrate the real mark of all dharmas; one can understand all dharmas.
The fourth pure flower is that of cutting off doubts concerning the two truths. The two truths are the common truth and the real truth. The common truth refers to attachment to all worldly marks. The real truth is the nature of the transcendental. One refers to the marks and the other to the nature.
Neither of these two truths reaches the absolute. They correspond to the first two of the three contemplations. The common truth is the truth of emptiness, and the real truth is the truth of falseness. They do not reach the level of the middle way, but fall into the two extremes. Cutting off delusions concerning these two truths, then, is the fourth pure flower. While delusions concerning them remain, one is not pure. When the delusions are cut off, one is pure.
The fifth pure flower is that of practicing on the wrong path, but penetrating to the Buddha path. Although one is going down the wrong road, one still manages to return to the Buddha path. In this case, one's cultivation is not in accord with the wonderful doctrine of the Great Vehicle, with the proper path. Perhaps one cultivates the small vehicle dharmas, or dharmas of outside religions, or unbeneficial austerities.
The sixth pure flower is the virtue of wisdom. When the virtue of wisdom is perfected, one clearly sees the original nature. One recognizes the original nature, that is, sees the original mind. One understands the mind and sees the nature.
The seventh pure flower is the virtue of severing. When this virtue is perfected, ignorance is broken, is ended, not just for a time, but forever.
These are the seven pure flowers referred to in the text by the phrase "and expensive flowers were scattered about."
Precious objects were placed in rows represents the wonderful dharmas of the Great Vehicle. Which were passed out and taken in on leaving and entering. Real wisdom was taken in. Passed out means that he went to transform those with affinities. Taken in means those of the Two Vehicles were attracted. Passed out means they were given the Great Vehicle Dharmas. Such were the various adornments, as above mentioned, and the majesty of his awesome virtue. This represents the limitlessness of his spiritual powers, the sea-like limitlessness of his thirty-two marks and eighty characteristics. These various marks, like the sea, are extremely majestic and awesome.
When the poor son saw his father... When those of the Small Vehicle
saw the Buddha...They had
run outside and didn't know the real method for cultivation. They ran
all over, back and forth. When they returned, they saw the Buddha.
Possessed of such great power and authority...His great power represents the
greatness of his wisdom.
"Great authority" represents the greatness of his spiritual
powers. They saw the Buddha's wisdom and spiritual powers were so
great He was immediately afraid. Upon
seeing the Buddha's marks and characteristics
a body with
sea-like marks, those
of the small vehicle
were afraid. Why? They
had never seen anything so wonderful
marks surpassed those of the
gods! So they were afraid. They thought,
it's a demon king." And
regretted having come
there..."How did I get here?" Secretly
he thought, "This is am perhaps a
King or one equal to a
here does not refer to the
king of a country nor does it refer to the Great Brahma
Heaven King. It refers to
the demon king.
He was like Shariputra, who
this be a demon come to
disturb my mind?" Shariputra,
with all his great wisdom, had some doubts. Now the poor son, who
couldn't hold a candle to Shariputra as
far as wisdom goes, thought this was a
demon king or one of the demon's retinue that
is, the demon's children
and grandchildren. "This is
no place for me to hire myself out. This is no place for me to
cultivate. This is no place to make money. If I
cultivate here, I won't get enlightened, I
won't get any
advantages. I'd better go to
a poor village
where there will be room for
me to work. I'd
better be off on the other side
of the tracks, actually." This means he'd
be better off cultivating the Two Vehicles.
"I can work at my cultivation
there. And where I can easily obtain clothing, the clothing of the
aids of the Path, and the food of the Proper Path. I'd
be better off cultivating there.
Then the wealthy elder, seated
on the Lion-seat, seeing his son,
recognized him and his heart rejoiced greatly, as he thought,
"I now have someone to whom I can bequeath my wealth and
treasuries. I have constantly been mindful of my son, but had no way
of seeing him. Then, all of a sudden, he came on his own, and my wish
has been fulfilled. Although I am old and decrepit I still longed for
him with regret."
He then sent attendants to follow him and bring him back. Thereupon, the servants quickly apprehended him. The poor son in alarm shouted in resentment, "I have committed no offense. Why have I been seized?" The servants, with even greater haste, grabbed him and dragged him back. The poor son thought to himself, "I am blameless and yet have been imprisoned. This surely means that I will die," and, even more frightened, he fainted and fell to the ground.
The father saw his son from afar and said to the servant, "I do not need this person. Do not force him to come along. Sprinkle cold water on his face to bring him to, but do not speak further with him." Why was this? The father knew that his son's resolve and will were inferior and lowly, and that his own nobility was a source of difficulty to his son. Therefore, although he was certain that this was his son, he expediently refrained from telling anyone, "This is my son." The servant said to the son, "I now set you free. You may go wherever you wish." The poor son was delighted, having gained what he had never had before. He rose from the ground and went to a poor village to seek clothing and food.
He then sent attendants...Because he recognized the Two Vehicle people and saw that they had returned and were about to run off yet again, he sent Bodhisattvas, Knights of the Dharma body, to go teach and transform them. To follow him and bring him back. He said, "Go cross them over and te11 them to return." The servants, the Bodhisattvas, quickly apprehended him. The Bodhisattvas were in a great hurry to teach and transform them; they went there and spoke the Great Vehicle Dharma to them straight away, saying, "Hurry up and practice the Bodhisattva Path! The Bodhisattva Path is the Way to realization of Buddhahood. "Apprehended" him means that they spoke praises of the Great Vehicle Dharma hoping to cross them over.
The poor son, in alarm...The people of the Two Vehicles had never
before heard the Great
Vehicle Dharma. They had spent their whole lives studying the
Small Vehicle. Naturally,
they were frightened. "Is there such a Dharma?" they
The servants, with even greater haste, grabbed him and dragged him back. The more they didn't want to cultivate it, the more they insisted that they do. "No way. You absolutely must cultivate the Great Vehicle Dharma and return from the small towards the great. If you don't cultivate the Great Vehicle Dharma, how can you become a Buddha? Don't be so unreasonable. Hurry up and cultivate the Great Vehicle." The more they didn't want to listen, the more they forced them to listen. The more they tried to get them to listen, the less they wanted to listen, and they grew fearful.
The more the servants tried to drag him back, the more frightened he
became. "What's going on
here?" he thought. "I'm being taken under false pretenses.
If you really wanted me to cultivate, why would you be so impatient
and rash about it?"
The father, the Buddha, saw his son, those of the Two Vehicles, from afar, that is, scared to death. "From afar" means that he saw that those of the Two Vehicles refused the teaching of the Bodhisattvas. He then decided to use an expedient device. He said to his servant, and said to the servant, "I do not need this person." Don't speak the Dharma to him. Don't try to talk him into it saying, "The Buddhadharma is great. It's the most wonderful. You can end birth and death and gain wisdom if you study it." Since he doesn't know anything at all about it, he simply thinks, 'What's he talking about? What's 'ending birth and death?' What do you mean, 'gain wisdom?'" If you tell him too much, he just runs away. You have to be able to see what people like. So, today one disciple first gave her son a piece of candy. She didn't worry about whether or not he believed in the Buddhadharma. First give them something sweet. Then, ever afterward they will remember the Buddhist Lecture Hall as being sweet, and it will be a pleasant memory. If you give them bitter-melon as soon as they get here, they won't like it. If you tell them, "It's really bitter here. It's very difficult to cultivate the Way," they won't want to cultivate. They won't want the bitterness. I believe that if some of my disciples had known how hard it was here when they first came—you have to get up early, and you get to bed late—they would have run off long ago for sure. But they have gained a taste for cultivation and now, even though they may think about running off, still they want to give it a try.
I have one disciple who wants to leave home, but he has lied to me several times. People said to me that I should not allow him to leave home, because in the future if he didn't follow the precepts it would be bad. It would be best just to tell him to leave. I thought it over and people all come to understanding from having not understood. Now, he wants to cultivate the Way, and this is not an easy matter. In America, this heavenly place, no one wants to fall into the hells. Those who have left-home do not eat well, their living arrangements are not the best, and most people would consider this hell. But, this hell is a hell for ending suffering. It's not like the Avichi hell which has no end. So, we will let him have another chance to cultivate the Way. In Buddhism one must be compassionate. We'll see how it goes, give it a try.
"I do not need this person. Do not force him to come along." Don't force him to
cultivate the Great Vehicle
Buddhadharma. Wait a while.
Why was this? The father knew that his son's resolve and will were inferior and lowly, and that his own nobility was a source of difficulty to his son. The poor son was afraid of the Great Vehicle Buddhadharma so he passed out, collapsing on the ground. The servant sprinkled cold water on his face. This represents the water of the teaching of the Four Holy Truths. The teaching of the Four Truths "brought him to," that is, led him to cultivate and certify to the fruit.