Dharma Flower Sutra
with commentary of
WORRIED ABOUT HIM,
HIS HOUSEHOLD WAS LARGE AND
HUSBANDMEN AND SERVANTS,
SURROUNDED HIM REVERENTIALLY.
HIS FATHER, WORRIED ABOUT HIM/His father had hoped his son would see him through his o1d age, but he ran away instead! So he was worried, and grew older and older every day, thinking about him until he got wrinkles on his face. Now, the Sound Hearers are like children. They left the Buddha and ran outside. The Buddha wanted to save the Sound Hearers and looked for them everywhere, "worried."
SOUGHT HIM IN THE FOUR DIRECTIONS/UNTIL, TIRED OF THE SEARCH/After a while he got tired. HE STOPPED IN A CERTAIN CITY/This represents Shakyamuni Buddha looking for living beings to save and coming to the Saha world. WHERE HE BUILT HIMSELF A HOUSE/AND AMUSED HIMSELF WITH THE FIVE DESIRES/The five desires: wealth sex, fame, food, and sleep. They are the five roots of hell. Does this mean that the Buddha was greedy for the five desires? No. It's just an analogy. The Five Desires represent the living beings in the five paths that the Buddha wants to save, to lead to Buddhahood. So don't get it wrong and think, "If the Buddha is attached to the five desires, why shouldn't I be attached to them?"
HIS HOUSEHOLD WAS LARGE AND WEALTHY/The Buddha is the wealthiest person there is. WITH MUCH GOLD AND SILVER/an uncountable amount, MOTHER-OF-PEARL, CARNELIAN/ELEPHANTS, HORSES, CATTLE, AND SHEEP/HAND-DRAWN CARTS, like the carts the Emperor's concubines would ride in in ancient times. They were even more comfortable than our cars nowadays, and since they were hand-drawn, they had better suspension systems. In Manchuria, the cars have terrible suspension. They bounce up and down, and your butt gets sore from riding in them! PALANQUINS are the carts that the Emperors ride in. CHARIOTS/are vehicles in general. This great elder was very wealthy, and so he had the best of everything. HUSBANDMEN AND SERVANTS AND A MULTITUDE OF SUBJECTS/
THE PROFITS FROM HIS TRADE/EXTENDED TO THE OTHER COUNTRIES/His investments extended into neighboring lands. TRADERS AND MERCHANTS/The traveling traders and the sedentary merchants WERE PRESENT EVERYWHERE/MULTITUDES IN THE HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS/SURROUNDED HIM REVERENTLY / A thousand, ten thousand, million of them AND ALWAYS, BY KINGS/HE WAS CHERISHED AND REMEMBERED/The kings of other countries thought of him fondly. MINISTERS AND NOBLE CLANS/ALL HONORED HIM/FOR THESE REASONS/THOSE WHO CAME AND WENT WERE MANY/SUCH WAS HIS NOBILITY, WEALTH/AND GREAT AUTHORITY. "Great authority" means that the Buddha is complete with all dharmas, and so he is the King of all Dharmas.
Because he possesses all dharmas, he is reverentially surrounded by all the Great Bodhisattvas, Sound Hearers, and Arhats. The Buddha occupies the highest position of authority. Also, the Buddhas of the ten directions surround and protect the Buddha, and the Bodhisattvas of the ten directions protect his Bodhimanda. The Buddha turns the wheel of the unsurpassed and wonderful Dharma to teach and transform boundless numbers of living beings.
BUT THEN, AS HE GREW OLD AND
The Elder may have had great
wealth, BUT THEN, AS HE GREW OLD AND
DECREPIT/his health declined. Why did his health
decline? Because HE WAS FILLED WITH WORRY
FOR HIS SON/ He spent all his
energy worrying about his son. So he wasn't so strong and healthy
anymore. He was like an old piece of dry wood. In fact, the
Chinese word for decrepit, hsiu, is the wood radical
plus the word for decline.
There is a saying, "A rotten piece of wood cannot be
This reminds me of a story. Long ago, there were three old people who got together to drink some wine--or perhaps some tea. It's not fixed. If I say wine, then those of you who like wine will find your mouths watering. So, let's not say for sure what they were drinking--maybe tea or coffee. Or maybe they were just eating some vegetables. Anyway, one of them was sixty, one was seventy, and one was eighty. The one who was sixty always liked to get his two cents in, and so he said, "Old brothers, we are eating vegetables here together this year. But next year, who knows which one of us won't be here?" What he meant, of course, was that they didn't know which one of them would be dead. They were all pretty old. The seventy-year old man thought, "That's sensible enough, but I bet I can think of something better." Then he said, "Hey Old Buddy! That remark was really off the wall you know, tonight when we take off our shoes and socks and go to sleep, we don't know who will be around to put them back on in the morning!" Well, the sixty-year old didn't have a thing to say in reply to that.
It so happened that the eighty-year-old was especially fond of the sixty-year old, and when he saw that the seventy-year old had put him down, he retorted, "Hey! You think you topped him with your statement, there. Try this one, "When I take in one breath, I don't know if I'll be around to exhale it!"
We can see that the eighty-year old was the clearest about the question of birth and death, and so he out-talked them both. The other two were most impressed and thought, "He's right. We don't know if we'll get our next breath. There's nothing left for us to do but cultivate like crazy and meditate and recite the Buddha's name and go to Sutra lectures."
You may wonder, "If they do those things, will they not die?"
MY FOOLISH SON HAS LEFT ME NOW/My child has not returned. He's really just too stupid. Stupid, stupid...never thinks of his father who is so old. FOR OVER FIFTY YEARS/ In the Five Paths he turns. THE THINGS IN MY GRANARIES AND STOREHOUSES/all the treasures, all the fine things. WHATEVER SHALL I DO WITH THEM?/What am I going to do? Huh?" What would you do?
then THE POOR SON,
The wealthy elder couldn't sleep at night, thinking of his son. And he
didn't have any appetite. Why couldn't he sleep? Because he was too
wealthy. He didn't know what to do with it all. So he was very worried.
THEN THE POOR SON/who had run away, that is, those of the Two Vehicles who
had run off, SEEKING CLOTHING AND FOOD/They were seeking the Dharma. WENT
FROM CITY TO CITY/ They passed
through the twelve places: the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind, plus
smell, taste, tangible objects, and dharmas. They also passed through the
eighteen realms of sense, that is, the six sense organs, plus the six
sense objects, plus the six corresponding discriminating
consciousnesses. For example, the eye organ sees the object of form, and
the eye-consciousness arises. Ears hear sounds, and the ear-consciousness
arises. The nose smells odors, and
nose-consciousness arises. The tongue tastes
flavors, and tongue-consciousness arises.
The body feels touch, and body-consciousness arises. When there is no
state manifesting, then there is no discrimination. But, once a state
manifests, then there is discrimination, and the twelve places extend into
the eighteen realms. Passing through the twelve places and the eighteen
realms, they then sought the food of the Proper Path and the clothing of
the Aids to the Path. So the text says, "Went from city to
city." They went from the city of eye to the city of ear, and on to
the nose, tongue, body, and mind.
SOMETIMES GETTING SOMETHING/This refers to those with the good roots but with outflows, doing good deeds, but not ultimate good. It means doing superficial things. SOMETIMES GETTING NOTHING/refers to non-outflow good roots. It means doing good without outflows, that is, ending birth and death and entering nirvana. Although one ends birth and death and enters nirvana, there is, in actuality, nothing attained, for birth and death is just nirvana, and nirvana is just birth and death. There is nothing attained, and so the text says SOMETIMES GETTING NOTHING.
STARVING, EMACIATED/This doesn't mean that he was starving because he had nothing to eat. Rather, he was starving because he had not attained the Great Vehicle Buddha-dharma. Once one has "eaten" the doctrine of the Great Vehicle, one is full. Those of the Two Vehicles who have not yet understood the Great Vehicle are hungry, famished! "Emaciated" means they haven't obtained the great function, and they haven't obtained great merit and virtue. COVERED WITH SCABS/ His body was covered with sores and scabs. This means that one is confused about true principle and takes the false to be true; one takes a thief as one's own son, or we can say that one casts away the root and seeks the branches. Not understanding true principle, one gives rise to view delusions and thought delusions.
What are view delusions? View delusions refer to giving rise to greed and love when faced with a state. Why do you give rise to greed and love? Because you view the state and become confused. You see it and don't understand it. So, view delusions arise out of ignorance. Because you have not broken through your basic ignorance, when faced with a state you give rise to greed and love.
View delusion refers to what you see. Thought delusion takes place within the mind and is not related to what you see. You lack understanding, but go ahead and use the sixth (mind) consciousness to discriminate a11 kinds of things: good, bad, right, wrong, long and short, etc., etc. Most people think the discriminating mind is a good thing. Actually, it is the worst thing! You discriminate and discriminate until you're entirely confused. Once you get confused, you do stupid things. Giving rise to view delusions and thought delusion is what the text means by "covered with scabs." Most people think these delusions are just great. They don't know what they really are.
HE WENT ON HIS WAY UNTIL EVENTUALLY/ Step by step, he went from country to country until HE ARRIVED IN THE CITY WHERE HIS FATHER LIVED, where the Buddha was dwelling. Those of the Two Vehicles ran outside looking for the Dharma everywhere. They sought it everywhere but found no ultimate Dharma and finally wound up back with the Buddha.
HIRING HIMSELF OUT ALONG THE WAY,
HIRING HIMSELF OUT ALONG THE WAY/The poor son hired himself out to do odd jobs to keep himself alive. HE FINALLY REACHED HIS FATHER'S HOUSE/Without even realizing it himself, he arrived at his father's house. AT THAT TIME, THE ELDER/The greatly wealthy Elder, the one who had lost his son, WITHIN HIS GATEWAY/He was within the confines of his property, WAS COVERED BY A LARGE CANOPY/AND SEATED ON A LION-THRONE/It was an especially expensive seat. SURROUNDED BY HIS RETINUE/many members of his household, AND VARIOUS ATTENDANTS/He had many people to help him. SOME OF THEM WERE COUNTING UP/HIS GOLD, SILVER, AND OTHER VALUABLES/ HIS INCOME AND EXPENSES WERE/RECORDED THERE ON LEDGERS/People were figuring his accounts for him, recording the transactions in detail. The ledger represents the Four Vast Vows:
I vow to save the boundless
number of 1iving beings.
If one makes the Four Vast Vows, one has been "written in the ledger" to become a Buddha. One has a guarantee. The act of writing in the ledger is an analogy for cultivating the Way.
WHEN THE POOR SON SAW HIS FATHER/OF SUCH NOBILITY AND WEALTH/HE SAID, "THIS MUST BE A KING/OR THE EQUAL TO A KING"/This person is so noble and wealthy, he must certainly be a royal personage of one sort or another. IN FRIGHT, HE REPROVED HIMSELF/He was scared practically out of his wits, and he blamed himself saying, "What did you come here for? This is a king's place! You don't belong here! Whatever possessed you to come here?" He was hard on himself. "Why, you are just a poor nobody. How did you get in the king's house?" AND FURTHER TO HIMSELF HE SAID/"IF I STAY HERE LONG/I MAY BE OPPRESSED/I better not hang around here gawking! These people have a lot of clout. I'm sure to get pushed around. AND FORCED TO GO TO WORK"/I'11 have to work for them. HAVING HAD THIS THOUGHT/ HE HURRIEDLY RAN OFF/He ran off as fast as he could, hoping to avoid a scene.
TO A POOR VILLAGE, ASKING/TO BE HIRED OUT TO WORK/He didn't dare speak with the rich people. He went to the poor section of town asking for work. He felt more at ease with the poor folks, and he asked them if they had any odd jobs he could do.
JUST THEN, THE ELDER,
JUST THEN, THE ELDER/The Elder, the Buddha, then SEATED ON THE lion-throne/so high and grand, SAW HIS SON AT A DISTANCE/ The minute he saw him, he knew that it was his own son, the son who had run off when he was quite small. AND SILENTLY RECOGNIZED HIM/ He didn't tell anyone.
HE THEN COMMANDED HIS ATTENDANTS
HE THEN COMMANDED HIS ATTENDANTS/TO SEIZE HIM AND BRING HIM BACK/"See that person?" he said, speaking of his son, "Go get him and bring him back here." THE POOR SON CRIED OUT IN ALARM/This is exactly what he was afraid would happen! They were coming after him! "What are you doing? Why are you seizing me? I haven't committed any crime! Are you going to kill me? I haven't broken any laws! I wouldn't mind working for you, but I insist on a salary." AND FAINTED, FALLING TO THE GROUND/He was so scared, he fainted. Those of the Two Vehicles did not understand the Great Vehicle and wondered why they were being forced to study it. "THESE PEOPLE HAVE CAUGHT ME/I SHALL CERTAINLY BE KILLED/WHY, FOR FOOD AND CLOTHING'S SAKE/DID I COME TO THIS PLACE?"/ "They are going to kill me for sure. What shall I do? If they kill me, I won't be able to keep on eating and wearing clothes. Rats! Why are you forcing me to go with you?"
THE ELDER KNEW THAT HIS SON/WAS
STUPID AND LOWLY/He knew that his son was
used to hanging around with poor people and
that he had never been to school, that he
was stupid and base, that he had no wisdom at
all. In fact, he was rotten. Because the
son was so unintelligent, the Elder knew that
"HE WOULDN'T BELIEVE ME IF I TOLD HIM/He would
think I was trying to cheat him. If I told him
the truth, he would never believe me. HE
Someone says, "The son ran away, and so now he does not recognize his father. The father recognizes his son. This happens all the time in the world."
True enough. However, this is no ordinary father and son. This is a "transcendental," not a worldly, father. This is the great, compassionate father. He is genuinely compassionate towards all living beings. "Genuine compassion" means that he is not the slightest bit selfish. Most fathers are kind to their children, but they are more or less selfish about it. They think, "When I get old, my children will take care of me."
"Dharma Master," you say,
"this doesn't apply to Americans. We don't hang
on to our children, and when we get old, we
have Social Security!" So it is with
The Buddha teaches us how to bring an end to the process of birth and death, to understand how it is we are born and how it is that we die. He wants us to know why some people are rich and others are poor, why some are beautiful and others ugly. How does all this happen? Who arranges it? Is it the parents? But parents don't consciously plan their children's appearances or fate. The Buddha tells us about ignorance conditioning activity, conditioning consciousness, conditioning name and form, and so on, all the Twelve Links. He wants us to wake up from our confused dreams. But, as children we have run away from our father. The Buddha is the father of all living beings. But we would rather be poor sons, and we don't want to return home. The Buddha recognizes his children, but they do not recognize him. It's a predicament, for sure. What's to be done?
THEN HE USED AN EXPEDIENT,
THEN HE USED AN EXPEDIENT/The Elder knew the workings of the poor son's mind. He knew his son was rather base and didn't think in lofty terms. If he had told him he was his father, he would never have believed him. Therefore, he used an expedient device AND SENT SOME OTHER MEN/He sent some Bodhisattvas disguised as Sound Hearers and Conditioned Enlightened Ones. ONE-EYED, SQUAT, AND UGLY/"One-eyed" represents those of the Two Vehicles who have the "petty wisdom of one-sided emptiness." "Squat" refers to those of the Two Vehicles as not having fathomed the source of the Real Mark. They do not seek out the dharma of the Real Mark. "Ugly" means that they have not perfected the adornments of the myriad forms of goodness. They were not attractive in appearance.
LACKING AWESOME VIRTUE/Those of the Two Vehicles do not possess the Four Fearlessnesses, and so they are not "awesome." Because they do not have the Four Virtues of Nirvana, they are said to be without "virtue."
"SPEAK TO HIM." HE
SAID/"AND TELL HIM, 'YOU WILL WORK WITH US/What will
WHEN THE POOR SON HEARD THIS/HE HAPPILY FOLLOWED THEM BACK/He was delighted. He went to work getting rid of dung. AND SWEPT OUT THE DUNG AND FILTH/Swept out the delusions of views and the delusions of thought, CLEANING ALL THE DWELLINGS/He cleaned them. The dwellings here refer to the six sense organs and the Five Skandhas. Ordinarily, the eyes get attached to forms, the ears get attached to sounds, the nose gets attached to smells, and the tongue gets attached to tastes, the body gets attached to objects of touch, and the mind gets attached to dharmas. This attachment to the objects of sense makes one "unclean." Now, in cleaning the dwellings of the six senses, they have all been purified so that the eyes are not turned by forms, the ears are not turned by sounds, the nose is not turned by smells, the tongue is not turned by tastes, the body is not turned by objects of touch, and the mind does not get turned by dharmas. If you can purify the six sense organs, you are able to "turn states," instead of being turned by them. The Five Skandhas are also purified.
FROM HIS WINDOW, THE ELDER
FROM HIS WINDOW, THE ELDER/WOULD
OFTEN WATCH HIS SON/REMEMBERING THAT HE
THEN THE ELDER/PUT ON A WORN AND DIRTY ROBE/The Buddha first spoke the Great Avatamsaka Sutra. At that time, those of the Two Vehicles had eyes but did not see him; they had ears but did not hear him. So the Buddha hid away the great and manifested the small. He hid away the great body with which he had spoken The Avatamsaka and manifested instead in the body of an ordinary-sized Bhikshu. Manifesting as the old Bhikshu is represented in the text by "put on a worn and dirty robe."
AND, HOLDING A DUNG SHOVEL/He manifested as one of the Two Vehicles, WENT TO WHERE HIS SON WAS/The Buddha couldn't approach them directly, so he employed various expedients, EXPEDIENTLY DRAWING NEAR TO HIM/HE SAID, "WORK WITH DILIGENCE"/He exhorted him to cultivate the Four Applications of Mindfullness:
1.Contemplate the body as impure.
He also exhorted him to cultivate the Four Right Efforts:
1. Good that has not arisen is
caused to arise.
"FOR I HAVE INCREASED YOUR
WAGES/This refers to the Four Bases of
Psychic Power. AND SHALL GIVE YOU OIL FOR YOUR
FEET/Oil provides wind-proofing and
water-proofing for the feet. It provides Dhyana
Samadhis. YOUR FILL OF FOOD AND DRINK/The food
and drink of spiritual penetrations. The food
and drink refers to the rice, flour, salt,
and vinegar mentioned in the prose section.
The rice represents the emptiness of people.
The flour represents the emptiness of
dharmas. Rice and flour refer to the Proper Path.
Salt represents impermanence. Vinegar
represents suffering. These two refer to the
Aids to the Path. If you want to eat rice or
flour, you must add some salt or vinegar to
make them palatable. The Proper Path, in
the same way, needs the Aids of the Path for
THUS, HE SPOKE SHARPLY SAYING/"YOU MUST WORK HARD!"/Do not be lazy. Work hard and don't waste your time. Cultivate the Four Right Efforts and the Four Bases of Psychic Power.
AND THEN IN GENTLER TONES, HE ADDED/in reassuring tones, "YOU ARE LIKE MY OWN SON"/Work hard. Don't get distracted. Don't strike up false thinking; don't run away. Just stay here and keep working. You are just like my very own son."
THE ELDER, IN HIS WISDOM, EVENTUALLY ALLOWED HIM TO COME
THE ELDER, IN HIS WISDOM/The
Buddha, 1n his wisdom, teaches and transforms
all living beings, causing all living beings
to turn from the Two Vehicles and understand the
Great Vehicle Dharma. EVENTUALLY ALLOWS HIM
TO COME AND GO/to go back and forth from
the Two Vehicles to the Great Vehicle. FOR A
PERIOD OF TWENTY YEARS/In cultivation, it
took twenty years to get rid of the dung of
delusions of views and thought. HE WAS PUT IN
CHARGE OF THE HOUSEHOLD BUSINESS/During that
twenty years, he was in charge of all the affairs
of the Elder's household. HE SHOWED HIM
HIS GOLD, SILVER/REAL PEARLS. AND CRYSTAL/THE
INCOME AND EXPENSE OF ALL HIS THINGS/his
valuables. HE CAUSED TO KNOW/all the Buddha's
THE FATHER KNEW HIS SON'S MIND GRADUALLY HAD EXPANDED,
THE FATHER KNEW HIS SON'S MIND/GRADUALLY HAD EXPANDED/After a time, the son no longer lacked self-respect. His mind was larger. AND WISHING TO GIVE HIM HIS WEALTH/The Buddha wished to give all his Buddhadharma to those of the Two Vehicles. HE GATHERED TOGETHER HIS RELATIVES/THE KINGS, AND GREAT MINISTERS/ all the great Bodhisattvas. THE KSHATRIYAS AND LAYPEOPLE/IN THE MIDST OF THIS GREAT ASSEMBLY/HE SAID, "THIS IS MY SON/HE LEFT ME AND WENT AWAY/When just a child he ran off to another country, FIFTY YEARS AGO/He fell into the wheel of rebirth of the five paths in the Three Realms. AND IT HAS BEEN TWENTY YEARS/SINCE I SAW HIM RETURN/Those of the Two Vehicles had heard the Great Vehicle Dharma before. They had forgotten it, all right, , but it was still there floating around in their subconscious, as it were. They had been cultivating, now, for twenty years, working at sweeping out the dung, practicing the Bodhisattva-dharmas.
"LONG AGO IN A CERTAIN CITY/I LOST MY SON/SEARCHING FOR HIM EVERYWHERE/I CAME TO THIS PLACE/EVERYTHING THAT I OWN/MY HOUSES AND SERVANTS/I BEQUEATH IT ALL TO HIM/THAT HE MAY USE IT AS HE PLEASES/He can do whatever he wants with it." The Buddha turns over his entire inheritance of the Buddhadharma to those of the Two Vehicles as something that was rightfully theirs all along.
THE SON, RECALLING HIS FORMER POVERTY
THE SON, RECALLING HIS FORMER
POVERTY/ Those of the Two Vehicles are
interested in self-improvement only. AND HIS
LOWLY INTENTIONS/He had no great resolve, no
THE BUDDHA IN THE SAME WAY KNEW OUR FONDNESS FOR THE PETTY.
THE BUDDHA IN THE SAME WAY/KNEW OUR FONDNESS FOR THE PETTY/He knew that we preferred the small vehicle.
AND SO HE NEVER SAID TO US, "YOU SHALL BECOME BUDDHAS." INSTEAD HE SAID THAT WE COULD ATTAIN CESSATION OF ALL OUTFLOWS, REALIZE THE LESSER VEHICLE, AND BECOME SOUND HEARER DISCIPLES.
AND SO HE NEVER SAID TO US/He
never told us that we, the Sound Hearers,
could become Buddhas. "YOU SHALL BECOME
to be continued -
SHURANGAMA SUTRA, Volume 5. This
volume contains the methods of gaining
perfect penetration used by twenty-five sages
in the Shurangama Assembly. Kuan Yin
Bodhisattva speaks in detail about using the ear
organ to return the hearing to hear the self-nature.
ENTERING THE DHARMA REALM, Volume 2. The Youth Good Wealth travels south to meet ten Good Knowing Advisors as he progresses through the Ten Dwellings of a Bodhisattva. AVAILABLE early January, 1981.
FLOWER ADORNMENT SUTRA, Ten Grounds
Chapter, Part II. This volume contains the
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