DHARMA FLOWER SUTRA
Reviewed by Bhikshuni Heng Chih
Chapter Five: Medicinal Herbs
This the Fifth Chapter of The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra, uses the herbs as an an analogy. Medicinal herbs can cure sickness, but they have to be administered properly. If they are administered incorrectly, not only will they fail to cure the sickness, they will make it worse.
At that time the World Honored One told Mahakashyapa and all the great disciples, "Good indeed! Good indeed! Kashyapa has well spoken of the Thus Come One's real and true merit and virtue, it is just as he said.
AT THAT TIME/ right after Mahakashyapa had praised the Buddhadharma in verse, THE WORLD HONORED ONE/ Shakyamuni Buddha, TOLD MAHAKASHYAPA AND ALL THE GREAT DISCIPLES/ assembled there, "GOOD INDEED! GOOD INDEED!/ You are really good, really good. KASHYAPA HAS WELL SPOKEN OF THE THUS COME ONE'S REAL MERIT AND VIRTUE. IT IS JUST AS YOU SAID./ you have spoken very correctly. However...
Furthermore, the Thus Come One has limitless, boundless asankheyas of merit and virtue. If you were to speak of it throughout limitless millions of aeons, you could not finish.
"FURTHERMORE, THE THUS COME ONE HAS LIMITLESS/ uncountable, BOUNDLESS ASAMKHYEYAS/ an uncountable number OF MERIT AND VIRTUE./ The merit and virtue he has cultivated and practiced. IF YOU WERE TO SPEAK OF THEM THROUGHOUT LIMITLESS MILLIONS OF AEONS, YOU COULD NOT FINISH./ If you spoke all day long, day after day, throughout an unreckonable amount of time, you still couldn't finish.
Kashyapa, you should know that the Thus Come One is the king of all the dharmas. Nothing that he teaches is false. He extensively proclaims all dharmas by means of wisdom and expedients, and whatever dharmas he speaks all lead to the ground of all wisdom.
"KASHYAPA, YOU SHOULD KNOW THAT THE THUS COME ONE IS THE KING OF ALL THE DHARMAS."/A11 dharmas are born from the Buddha. "NOTHING THAT HE SAYS IS FALSE/ everything he says is true. HE PROCLAIMS ALL DHARMAS BY MEANS OF WISDOM AND EXPEDIENTS./ In his teaching he includes the dharmas of all Three Vehicles. Wise1y he employs clever expedients to proclaim all the dharmas. AND WHATEVER DHARMAS HE SPEAKS ALL LEAD TO THE GROUND OF ALL WISDOM."/ The Dharmas the Thus Come One teaches lead to the other shore of wisdom. All wisdom is one of the three types of wisdom the Thus Come One possesses: the wisdom of all modes, the wisdom of the Way, and all-wisdom. (cf. Vol. 2, p.302)
Sutra: T 19a25
The Thus Come One contemplates and knows the tendencies of all dharmas. He also knows the depths of the mental processes of all living beings, having penetrated them without obstruction. Furthermore, he has ultimate and clear understanding of all dharmas, and he instructs living beings in a all-wisdom.
THE THUS COME ONE/ the Buddha, has three bodies and four wisdoms, five eyes and six spiritual penetrations.
The Three Bodies are: the Dharma Body, the Reward Body, and the Transformation Body. The Four Wisdoms are: the Great Perfect Mirror Wisdom, the Equality Nature Wisdom, the Wonderful Observing Wisdom, and the Perfecting Wisdom.
The Five Eyes are: The Buddha-eye,
the Dharma-eye, the Heavenly-eye, the
Wisdom-eye, and the Flesh-eye.
HE ALSO KNOWS THE DEPTHS OF THE MENTAL PROCESSES OF ALL LIVING BEINGS./ Every thought they have, the Buddha knows. That is why The Vajra Sutra says, "The Thus Come One knows the thoughts in the minds of all living beings." HAVING PENETRATED THEM WITHOUT OBSTRUCTION. He understands what living beings are thinking, totally. FURTHERMORE, HE HAS ULTIMATE AND CLEAR UNDERSTANDING OF ALL DHARMAS/ He has fathomed all dharmas completely; he completely understands them, and so HE INSTRUCTS LIVING BEINGS IN ALL-WISDOM/ He leads all living beings to attain all-wisdom, as well.
Sutra: T 19a27
Kashyapa, consider the world of three thousand great thousand worlds and the grasses, trees, forests, as well as the medicinal herbs, in their many varieties, with their different names and colors which the mountains, streams, valleys and flatlands produce.
"KASHYAPA/ I shall now speak
to you a parable: CONSIDER THE WORLD OF THE
THREE THOUSAND GREAT THOUSAND WORLDS/ One world
"...AND THE GRASSES, TREES, FORESTS, AS WELL AS MEDICINAL HERBS, IN THEIR MANY VARIETIES/There are many varieties of plants and trees and herbs. WITH THEIR DIFFERENT NAMES AND COLORS WHICH THE MOUNTAINS/ the mountains represent the great Bodhisattvas, STREAMS, VALLEYS, AND FLATLANDS PRODUCE.
Sutra: T 19a29
A thick cloud spreads out, covering the three thousand great thousand worlds, raining on them equally everywhere at the same time, its moisture reaching every part. The grasses, trees, forests and medicinal herbs -those of small root, small stalks, small branches and small leaves, those of medium-sized roots, medium-sized stalks, medium-sized branches, medium-sized leaves or those of large roots, large stalks, large branches, and large leaves, and also all the trees, whether great or small, according to their size, small, medium, or large, all receive a portion of it. From the rain of the one cloud each according to its nature grows, blossoms, and bears fruit.
"A THICK CLOUD SPREADS OUT/ a
large, dense cloud spreads out, COVERING THE
THREE THOUSAND GREAT THOUSAND WORLDS, RAINING ON
THEM EQUALLY EVERYWHERE AT THE SAME TIME, ITS
MOISTURE REACHING EVERY PART/ It doesn't make
discriminations. THE GRASSES, TREES, FORESTS, AND
MEDICINAL HERBS-THOSE OF SMALL ROOTS, SMALL STALKS,
SMALL BRANCHES, AND SMALL LEAVES/ This
represents those of the Small Vehicle. THOSE OF MEDIUM-SIZED ROOTS, MEDIUM-SIZED STALKS, MEDIUM-SIZED
BRANCHES, AND MEDIUM-SIZED LEAVES/ those of the
Middle Vehicle, THOSE OF LARGE ROOTS, LARGE STALKS,
LARGE BRANCHES AND LARGE LEAVES/ those of the
Sutra: T l9b5
Although they grow from the same ground and are moistened by the same rain, still, all the grasses and Trees are different.
"ALTHOUGH THEY GROW FROM THE SAME GROUND AND ARE MOISTENED BY THE SAME RAIN/ The Buddha speaks one Dharma, but according to their dispositions, beings absorb what they can of it. STILL, ALL THE GRASSES AND TREES ARE DIFFERENT/ The One Vehicle is proclaimed with a single sound, and as the teaching of the Five Vehicles, is received according to the good roots of living beings.
Kashyapa, you should know that
the Thus Come One is also like this. He
manifests in the world like a great cloud rising;
with his great sound he covers the world with its gods, humans, and asuras,
just like that great cloud covers the three thousand great thousand lands. In the midst of the
great assembly he announces, "I am the Thus Come
One, one worthy of offerings, one of proper and universal knowledge,
one whose understanding and conduct are complete, well
gone one who understands the world, an unsurpassed lord, a taming and
regulating hero, teacher of gods and humans, the Buddha, the World
Honored One. Those who have not yet been crossed over, I cross over. Those who have not
yet been liberated, I
liberate. Those who have not yet been put at rest, I put
at rest. Those who have not yet attained Nirvana, I cause to attain Nirvana. I know things as they really are, both in
the present and in the future. I am the all-knowing one, the all-seeing
one, the one who knows the Way, the one who
opens the Way, the one who proclaims
the Way. The entire assembly of gods, humans and
asuras, all should come here to listen to the Dharma."
"KASHYAPA, YOU SHOULD KNOW THE THUS CONE ONE/ the World Honored One, IS ALSO LIKE THIS. HE MANIFESTS IN THE WORLD LIKE A GREAT CLOUD RISING/ for the sake of One Matter he manifests in the world to teach and transform living beings, WITH HIS GREAT SOUND HE COVERS THE WORLD WITH ITS GODS, HUMANS AND ASURAS, JUST LIKE THAT GREAT CLOUD COVERS THE THREE THOUSAND GREAT THOUSAND LANDS." "Asura" is a Sanskrit word. It means "no wine" or "ugly." That's because asuras have the blessings of the heavens, but not the virtue, and they like to fight. Thieves, for example, are asuras, yin asuras. Soldiers are yang asuras. There are asuras in the three good paths, as well as asuras in the three evil paths, depending on whether they do good or evil. "IN THE MIDST OF THE GREAT ASSEMBLY HE ANNOUNCES, 'I AM THE THUS COME ONE..."/ Someone here is thinking, "Ah hah! the Buddha must have a concept of a 'self.' He is saying, "I am the Thus Come One." If you really understand, the Thus Come One has no concept of self at all. The Buddha mounted the Way which is thus and comes to realize right enlightenment.
I will now give you an example.
You are all here listening to the Sutra
being explained. The more intelligent of you
remember more. Those of average intelligence remember
less than the smart ones, and the duller ones
remember even less. The rain of Dharma of the
Thus Come One falls in the same way. Those with
greater wisdom get more moisture. Those with
average wisdom get average moisture. Those
with little wisdom get less moisture. Everyone
is listening to the same Sutra, but everyone
understands the doctrine on his or her level of understanding. It's different for everyone.
If you know that you don't understand, that means that you must understand some of it! If you realty didn't understand, you wouldn't even know that you didn't understand. If you know that you don't understand, you are on your way to understanding. Why don't you understand it? Because you've never heard it before. You have not heard the Dharma before, so it's quite natural that you don't understand it the very first time you hear it. Still, if you know that you don't understand "one bit," then that's the "one bit" you do understand! Today you understand one tiny bit, tomorrow you'll understand two parts, and the next day, three parts and so on. Day by day your understanding will grow. Besides, I've lectured to you for so long, if you don't understand one bit, you are quite extraordinary in your own way! Tomorrow you'll only understand half a bit and the day after nothing at all.
"ONE WORTHY OF OFFERINGS, ONE OF PROPER AND UNIVERSAL KNOWLEDGE/ To understand that the ten thousand dharmas are only the mind is called "proper knowledge." Proper and universal knowledge is just understanding the mind. ONE WHOSE UNDERSTANDING AND CONDUCT ARE COMPLETE. Through cultivation he attains the perfect fruition--Buddhahood. WELL-GONE ONE WHO UNDERSTANDS THE WORLD/ "Well gone" means that he has gone to a good place. UNSURPASSED LORD/ There is no one higher than him. TAMING AND REGULATING HERO/ He tames, guides, and controls living beings. TEACHER OF GODS AND HUMANS, THE BUDDHA. THE WORLD HONORED ONE."/ The Buddha dares to say these things of himself. "THOSE WHO HAVE NOT YET BEEN CROSSED OVER, I CROSS OVER. That is, those who have not yet understood the Buddhadharma, I lead to an understanding of it. I take them from the place where there is right and wrong to the place beyond right and wrong. I take them from the place where there is good and evil to the place beyond good and evil. I take them from the place where there is birth and death to the place where there is no birth and death. I take them across.
"THOSE WHO HAVE NOT BEEN LIBERATED, I LIBERATE./ I set them free. I bring them to understanding. THOSE WHO HAVE NOT YET BEEN PUT TO REST, I PUT TO REST."/ He makes those living beings happy who have never known happiness, "THOSE WHO HAVE NOT YET ATTAINED NIRVANA, CAUSE TO ATTAIN NIRVANA./ Those who haven't attained the fruition of Nirvana, with its four virtues: permanence, happiness, true self, and purity, I cause them to attain it., to attain the bliss of still extinction.
"I KNOW THINGS AS THEY REALLY ARE, BOTH IN THE PRESENT AND IN THE FUTURE. I AM THE ALL- KNOWING ONE."/ The Buddha says this, and in his case it's true. He wasn't like the person who once claimed to know everything. I asked him, "If you know everything, then how many grains of rice did you eat at lunch today?"
"I don't know!" he
"THE ALL-SEEING ONE, THE ONE WHO KNOWS THE WAY/ He knows the Way to cultivate. "THE ONE WHO OPENS THE WAY/ a pioneer among cultivators. THE ONE WHO PROCLAIMS THE WAY. THE ENTIRE ASSEMBLY OF GODS, HUMANS, AND ASURAS SHOULD COME HERE AND LISTEN TO THE DHARMA./ Listen to the lectures on the Dharma! So, as you sit here in this lecture hall, you may not see a lot of people. But there are very many gods, and dragons, and others of the eight-fold division present. If you opened your Five Eyes and had the Six Spiritual Penetrations you'd know: "The Lecture Hall is packed! It's standing room only! I can't even find a place to stand, for heaven's sake!" It's probably better you can't see. If you could, you wouldn't even have room to walk around.
Sutra: T 19b15
Then, countless thousands of myriads of millions of kinds of living beings came before the Buddha to hear the Dharma.
THEN, COUNTLESS THOUSANDS OF MYRIADS OF MILLIONS OF KINDS/ there are many different kinds, OF LIVING BEINGS/ They all CAME BEFORE THE BUDDHA/ to the Dharma Flower Assembly in order to hear The Dharma Flower Sutra.
Sutra: T 19b16
THEN, the Thus Come One, contemplating the sharpness and dullness of the faculties of these living beings, their vigor or laxness, according to their capacity, spoke the Dharma for their sakes...
THEN, THE THUS COME ONE, CONTEMPLATING/ in detail THE SHARPNESS AND DULLNESS OF THE FACULTIES OF THESE LIVING BEINGS/ "Faculties" also means "roots." There are many different living beings. Some have sharp faculties, while others have dull faculties. Some are smart, and some are stupid. THEIR VIGOR OR LAXNESS/ Vigorous ones go forward and make progress. Lax ones are lazy. ACCORDING TO THEIR CAPACITY HE SPOKE DHARMA FOR THEIR SAKES/ To the vigorous ones he spoke of vigor. To the lax ones he spoke of laxness to cure them of their laziness and encourage them to work harder. He spoke to each one just that dharma which they would be able to receive according to their individual capacities. If they were not able to accept it, then the Buddha wouldn't speak it. That is why, at first, the Buddha did not teach the Real Dharma. He taught the provisional Dharma instead.
...in limitless varieties, causing them all to rejoice and quickly attain good benefit. After having heard this Dharma, all of these living beings presently are at ease; in the future. they will he born in a good place. By means of the Way, they will enjoy happiness and also be able to hear the Dharma. Having heard the Dharma, they will separate from all covering and obstructions. Within all the dharmas, according to their powers, they will gradually gain entry to the way.
...IN LIMITLESS VARIETIES/ the Buddha speaks all manner of dharmas, CAUSING THEM ALL TO REJOICE--to be happy. The Buddha spoke the Dharma to make living beings happy. He spoke whatever Dharma they would respond to happily. Once they were happy and interested, he gradually sent them down the Path to Buddhahood. AND QUICKLY ATTAIN GOOD BENEFIT. AFTER HAVING HEARD THIS DHARMA, ALL OF THESE LIVING BEINGS PRESENTLY ARE AT EASE; IN THE FUTURE, THEY WILL BE BORN IN A GOOD PLACE/ In the present they are tranquil and at ease. In the future they may be born in the heavens or among wealthy humans.
BY MEANS OF THE WAY, THEY
WILL ENJOY HAPPINESS/ By cultivating the
Way, they will
Sutra: T 19b21
Just as that great cloud rains down on all the grasses, trees, forests, and medicinal herbs and each, according to its nature, fully receives the moisture and grows...
JUST AS THAT GREAT CLOUD RAINS DOWN ON ALL THE GRASSES, TREES, FORESTS, AND MEDICINAL HERBS/ The various types of vegetation represent the various kinds of living beings. There are Bodhisattvas, Sound Hearers, Pratyeka Buddhas, gods, people, hell-beings, hungry ghosts, and animals. AND EACH, ACCORDING TO ITS NATURE/ according to capacity.. .Each living being accepts that dharma which they can accept, and each grows accordingly. FULLY RECEIVES THE MOISTURE AND GROWS/ The larger ones get more; the smaller ones get less. Those who are wise get more wisdom, those with less wisdom get less. But, whether they get more or less, they all get some, and they all grow.
Sutra: T 19b23
... So, too, the Thus Come One speaks of a Dharma having one mark and one taste, that is to say: the mark of liberation, the mark of extinction, culminating in the wisdom of all modes.
...SO, TOO, IS THE DHARMA SPOKEN BY THE THUS COME ONE OF ONE MARK/ What is the one mark? It is the mark of True Suchness of the essential nature of the minds of living beings, The mark of True Suchness is like a piece of ground, AND ONE TASTE/ The one flavor is the Buddhadharma of the One Vehicle.
THAT IS TO SAY: THE MARK OF LIBERATION/ Those living beings who haven't planted good roots are led to plant them. Those who have planted them, nurture them so they can grow. Those who have well-grown good roots find them brought to maturity. And those whose good roots have matured are led to liberation.
THE MARK OF SEPARATION refers to leaving suffering and distress. THE MARK OF EXTINCTION/ the wiping out of all affliction, CULMINATING IN THE WISDOM OF ALL MODES/ the wisdom of the Buddha. The Buddha speaks Dharma with the hope that all living beings will one day attain the Buddha-wisdom.
Sutra: T 19b25
Those livings beings who, hearing the Thus Come One's Dharma, uphold read, recite and cultivate it as taught will not themselves be aware of the merit and virtue they obtain.
THOSE LIVING BEINGS WHO, HEARING THE THUS COME ONE' S DHARMA, UPHOLD, READ, RECITE, AND CULTIVATE IT AS TAUGHT/ cultivating as the Buddha told them to and practicing what they have been told to practice in accord with Dharma. They WILL NOT THEMSELVES BE AWARE OF THE MERIT AND VIRTUE THEY OBTAIN./ Things are pretty much the same here. You come to listen to the Buddhadharma. You have all changed a great deal for the better, although you yourselves may not be aware of this. "How have I changed?" you wonder. You are unaware of the fact that you've lost your bad habits now, and even if you wanted them back, you wouldn't how where to start looking for them!
-to be continued-