The Collected Lectures of Tripitaka Master Tu Lun

~ The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Blossom Sutra

translated by Disciple Bhiksu Heng Ch’ien

Lecture 7

The Three Dharmas are all wonderful; the Dharma of the Heart, the Dharma of the Buddha, and the Dharma of Living Beings, all are wonderful.  One's thought creates the Ten Realms, and the Ten Realms are not beyond the manifestations of a single thought.

For example, if one has thoughts of greed one plants the cause for going to the hells or becoming a hungry ghost; thoughts of hatred plant the cause for becoming an asura; thoughts of stupidity plant the causes for becoming an animal. If one's thoughts are good one may be born among people; if one maintains The Five Precepts and practices The Ten Wholesome Goods one may be born in the heavens; if one cultivates the Dharma-door of the Four Truths of suffering, accumulation, extinction, and the Way one may become a Sound-Hearer. If one investigates the Twelve-fold Chain of Conditioned Causation one plants the cause for becoming One Enlightened to Causation; cultivating the Six Paramitas and the Ten Thousand Practices plants the seed of Bodhisattvahood; if one practices all Buddhadharmas, that is the cause for the realization of Buddhahood.

The Ten Realms are those of the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas. Those Enlightened to Causation, Sound-Hearers, Gods, Men, Asuras, Hungry Ghosts, and the Hells. The first four are known as The Four Holy Realms and the remaining six comprise The Six Common Realms. The Ten Realms are merely the manifestations of a single thought; therefore, the dharma of the heart is wonderful. If the dharma of the heart were not wonderful, the dharma of living beings and the dharma of the Buddha would not be wonderful either.

None of the Buddhas of the ten directions are beyond the manifestations of a single thought; none of the Bodhisattvas of the ten directions are beyond the manifestations of a single thought, and so forth including the livings beings of the remaining eight realms.

In explaining the word "thought" according to the Chinese character "hsin," the ancients said:

Three dots float above like stars,

Below the rests a crescent moon;

All living beings are its creation,

And Buddhahood springs from it as well.

In The Avatamsaka Sutra it is written:

If one wishes to fully understand

All Buddhas of the three periods of time,

One should contemplate the nature of the Dharma realm;

Everything is made from thought alone.

For example, when one comes here to hear explanations of Sutras it is because he first thought about it: "A Dharma Master is lecturing on the Sutras. I wonder what he has to say? I think I'll go and listen." One has this thought and his body follows it. If it were not for this one thought one would not have come.

This principle should not be explained mysteriously, for then no one will understand it. If it is not very mysterious, it may be understood with ease, and so I will speak of something ordinary, like eating. When one is hungry, one wishes to eat. How is this thought able to arise? One might reply, "I was hungry.' How can one be hungry? This is an inconceivable state.

In general, if one does not discriminate nor deliberate, that is Wonderful Dharma. If one reaches the level where there is no discrimination of deliberation, then;

Internally there is no body or mind,

Externally there is no world;

At this time one is liberated

From the sense organs and their objects.

When one obtains this state that is truly Wonderful Dharma; however, when one has not attained to this state one is still within the Wonderful Dharma. All movements, speech, and forms are Wonderful Dharma. If one speaks profoundly of this Dharma it is wonderful; if one speaks superficially it is still wonderful Dharma. Each and every dharma is Wonderful Dharma. It is merely a matter of whether or not one understands. If one understands, all dharmas are Wonderful Dharma. If one has not understood them, they can still be called Wonderful Dharma, however one is still confined to the coarse aspect rather than the subtle aspect of the wonderful.

      I have spoken of the Wonderful Dharma for several days, but alas, I have not exhausted its meanings. My explanation does not even approach that of the Great Master Chih Che who spoke about the word “wonderful” at Nanking for ninety days. What you know is Wonderful Dharma, and what you don’t know is also Wonderful Dharma.

The Wonderful Dharma is just "not knowing." One might ask, "If my 'not knowing' is Wonderful Dharma, how can I study it?" We are now studying "not knowing:" not knowing false thoughts; not knowing hatred; not knowing greed; and not knowing stupidity. That is wonderful. If one cannot give up greed, hatred, and stupidity, that is wonderful and yet not wonderful. If one is able to give them up, that is not wonderful and yet wonderful. The Wonderful Dharma is inexhaustible; if it were not inexhaustible, then it could not be designated as Wonderful. Thus, were I to continue speaking about the wonderful Dharma for several years, there would still be much left unsaid.  Now I will use another example to describe the Wonderful Dharma so that everyone might better understand it.

Once in China there was a government official who believed in the Buddha and could recite from memory the first half of The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Blossom Sutra. After having read the first half of the Sutra once he fully comprehended the principles within, but no matter how hard he worked he could neither remember nor understand the second half; after reading it several thousand times he still could not remember it. He thought this was really wonderful. "Why is it that after reading the first half only once I am able to remember it, but no matter how diligently I study the second half I can't remember it at all. This is indeed mysterious."

At that time he went to consult an enlightened master who was the Abbot of a nearby monastery. He went to the Abbot's room to request instruction and because he was an official with a great deal of authority, the Abbot warmly welcomed him. The official then said, "I sincerely believe in the Buddhadharma and primarily study The Dharma Blossom Sutra. However, for some reason, after having read the first half once, I am able to recite it perfectly, but no matter how much effort I use studying the second half I can't remember it. What is the reason for this?"

The Abbot of this monastery had obtained the Six Spiritual Penetrations as well as the Five Eyes: the Buddha eye, the heavenly eye, the wisdom eye, the dharma eye, and the fleshly eye. After hearing the man's question he told him, "I can tell you, but you shouldn't get angry, because what I am going to tell you is the truth. I am not trying to belittle you.”

      The official said, “Of course. If you speak of my previous deeds and their present results I will not get angry.”

      So the Abbot said, “In a previous existence you were a cow that helped plant the fields of a monastery and from this work you derived an abundance of merit. In that particular monastery, during the sixth month of every year, when the weather was warm, the Sutra texts were put out to air so that they would not get wormy. One day, when the Sutras were airing, you walked up to where they were spread out and sniffed The Dharma Blossom Sutra, but you only sniffed the first half and not the second. Because of the merit you had gained working for the monastery you were able to become a prominent official in this life, but because you only sniffed the first half of the Sutra you are only able to memorize that half and not the second half. Those are the previous causes and their present results.”

After learning this, the man increased his efforts toward protecting and supporting the Buddhadharma and the Master's bodhimandala. I don't believe that he will become a cow again.

What is the principle behind this? This is Wonderful Dharma. If one wishes to understand it, one cannot experiment, as in chemistry, to discover its origin. There is no way to discover it through experimentation. One has to single-mindedly do the work of cultivation; cultivate to obtain the Five Eyes and the Six Spiritual Penetrations, and then one will know the reasons for this Wonderful Dharma.

Lecture 8

      I will now discuss the Wonderful Dharma according to the T’ien T’ai doctrine of the Six Levels of Identity with the Buddha, which are:

1. identity with the Buddha in principle;

2. identity with the Buddha in name;

3. identity with the Buddha through contemplation and

4. identity with the Buddha in similarity;

5. identity with the Buddha through partial certification;

6. and absolute identity with the Buddha.

What is the Wonderful Dharma? The Wonderful Dharma can neither be conceived of nor fully described. With reference to the Buddha, the Wonderful Dharma does not increase; with reference to living beings it does not decrease. With reference to the Buddha it is not immaculate; with reference to the Buddha it is not defiled. With reference to Buddha it is not destroyed; with reference to living beings it is not produced. It is neither produced nor destroyed, neither defiled nor immaculate, neither increased nor decreased; such is the substance of Wonderful Dharma.

      Basically, the Wonderful Dharma is possessed by all mankind but we are unaware of it. This is the first, identity with the Buddha in principle, for in principle everyone is a buddha, since everyone has the buddha-nature. This is not to say, however, that everyone is now a buddha; everyone is a buddha merely in principle, and it cannot be said that everyone is actually a buddha.

As we study the sutras, and begin to understand the principles as spoken by the Buddha, we see that the heart is just the Buddha and the Buddha is the heart. The Buddha spoke Dharma because of the hearts of living beings; if living beings had no hearts then the Buddha would not have spoken Dharma. Thus we become aware of the term buddha as identical with the heart and this is second, identity with the Buddha in name.

Once it is understood that the heart is the Buddha and that the Buddha is the heart, one must then work at cultivation. If one does not work at cultivation, but is merely identical to the Buddha in principle and in name, there is no benefit. One must cultivate. The Buddha-nature lies within the self-nature in the same manner that gold lies hidden within a mine. This refers to the identity with the Buddha in principle. In order to show that there is actually gold in the mine, it is necessary to dig for it and bring it forth. This corresponds to identity with the Buddha in name. Furthermore, before one can actually make use of the gold it is necessary to smelt it. In like manner, one must cultivate in order to attain to buddhahood, and this process of cultivation is the third, identity with the Buddha through contemplation and practice.

There are many methods of cultivation by which one may smelt the ore of his personality and thereby reveal the nominal gold of his buddha-nature; practicing dhyana meditation; mindfulness of the Buddha; or recitation of sutras. By diligent application of one of these methods, a level may be reached where internally there are no sense organs and externally no sense objects, where internally there is no body and mind and externally there is no world, where there is no mark of a self, a person living beings, or a life, and no past, present, or future thought. In this case, a taste of the Wonderful Dharma has been obtained, but not full realization of its flavor. This is the fourth, identity with the Buddha through similarity.

      At this point one cannot stop, but must continue to work at cultivation until he is able to view his “innate appearance.” “Innate appearance” is a term from the Dhyana School. In the T’ien T’ai Doctrine this is called “attaining to the state of the simultaneous contemplation of the Three Truths in a single thought.” The Three Truths are the truths of the “true,” the “false,” and the “middle.”

In the Dharma-door of the Pure Land School this state is spoken of in The Buddha Speaks of Amitabha Sutra as "undeviating single-mindedness." When this state is attained, one recites "Namo Amitabha Buddha" and this single thought of mindfulness of the Buddha cannot be penetrated by the wind or flooded by the rain; everything is in a state of unity. The entire system of one billion worlds is included within this one thought of the Buddha. At that time there are no mountains, rivers, or earth, no buildings, houses, or other structures, no self, no others, living beings, or life; everything is empty. Even if one wishes to quit reciting "Namo Amitabha Buddha" he cannot do so, for his mindfulness continues like a waterfall which never ceases to flow.  This is termed "undeviating single-mindedness" and is the Mindfulness of the Buddha Samadhi in which recitation spontaneously occurs. One may think, "I don't wish to recollect the Buddha," but within, one is still reciting "Namo Amitabha Buddha," like continuously flowing water. When this happens, it is extremely wonderful. The sound of people talking is "Namo Amitabha Buddha."  The murmuring wind and the gurgling streams all say, Namo Amitabha Buddha."

When "undeviating single-mindedness" is attained, one views all the adornments of the Pure Land including the Buddha Amitabha, the pools of the seven precious gems, and the green, yellow, red, and white lotuses respectively emitting green, yellow, red, and white light. Then one can accomplish Buddhahood not only in this world, but in a myriad worlds, in any world he wishes.

In cultivation of the Way there are numerous strange experiences which one may encounter; don't become attached to them. In the Dhyana School it is said, "If the Buddha comes, strike the Buddha; if a demon comes, strike the demon." Even if the Buddha comes, the mind should not move and thus the power of samadhi should be cultivated. Do not think, "Oh! The Buddha has come, how delightful," and become happy. All phenomena are false; what happiness is there? If one sees the nominal basis of all phenomena, he beholds The Thus Come One. If existence is seen as emptiness, that is true emptiness; if existence is seen in emptiness, that is wonderful existence. True emptiness is fundamentally not empty, wonderful existence is basically non-existent. This is the fifth, identity is basically non-existent. This is the fifth, identity with the Buddha through partial certification. Although there is certification, it is not yet absolute.

      One must be like Sakyamuni Buddha, who saw a bright star in the evening sky as he sat beneath the Bodhi tree and then became enlightened to the Way, fathoming the basic source of Dharma. This is the sixth, absolute identity with the Buddha, because one personally certifies to Buddhahood and realized the fundamental substance of Wonderful Dharma.

One will not discover the wonder of Dharma through deliberation or discrimination, hence they should not be used as tools for cultivation.  Discrimination is the function of the sixth consciousness and deliberation is the function of the seventh. The Surangama Sutra reveals that Ananda had precisely this problem: "When Ananda saw the Buddha, he made obeisance and wept sorrowfully, for he regretted that he had spent innumerable aeons in the sole pursuit of knowledge and was not yet fortified with the power of the Way...." In studying the Buddhadharma one should set aside the conscious mind in favor of the genuine mind. The genuine mind is Wonderful Dharma and it is not found through deliberation.

The Wonderful Dharma is indeed wonderful but those who can make use of it are few indeed. In the past there was Layman P'ang, who, after opening enlightenment, thought, "Since countless lives in immeasurable aeons only now have I opened enlightenment; ahh, a difficult situation indeed." And so he said, "To understand the Wonderful Dharma is difficult, difficult indeed. It is like placing ten bushels of sesame seeds on the leaves of a tree." Sesame seeds are tiny and the leaves of a tree are not flat. If a sesame seed is placed on the leaf of a tree it will probably fall off. Placing ten bushels of sesame seeds on the leaves of a tree would be difficult indeed.

The object of cultivation is to change one's faults but there is a tendency to cherish afflictions. Although one may not wish to become angry, circumstances may arise in which his temper is tested. For example, although one may decide to quit drinking, a friend might try to discourage him saying, "Ahh, just one more for the road and then you can quit." He had decided to quit but he falls back into the habit of drinking again. Later, after he has re-established his resolve, yet another friend might say, "Joe invited you and you went drinking with him. What're you being such a stuffed shirt with me for? Come on, remember the good old days!” And he gives in. He wishes to stop drinking but it is not easy. It is like trying to place ten bushels of sesame seeds on the leaves of a tree.

      Layman P’ang had a wife. Although married, he became enlightened, and so did his wife, his son, and his daughter. When Layman P’ang complained of the difficulty of cultivation, his enlightened wife replied, “You say that it is difficult, but I day it is quite easy, easy indeed. In my opinion, to understand the Wonderful Dharma is easy, easy indeed. The heart of the patriarchs is apparent in every blade of grass. Every single blade of grass is the seal of the heart of all Buddhas. Of the emerald bamboo and yellow roses, there are none which are not prajna.” The bamboo and flowers are all manifestations of perfect wisdom. Therefore Mrs. P’ang said, “Su Tung P’o wrote, ‘None of the mountains’ colors are not the vast and long tongue; the burblings of the brooks are all the clear, pure sound.” Tell me, what is not the Wonderful Dharma? The grasses and woods are all wonderful Dharma; what is so difficult?”

Of the two elder P'angs, one said that cultivation was difficult and the other said that it was easy. Then the P'ang's daughter Ling Chao said, "It is neither difficult nor easy. When I'm hungry I eat, when I'm tired I sleep. What difficulty is there in this?" Thus she demonstrated that the Wonderful Dharma is present in ordinary daily activities; everything is wonderful Dharma. Therefore, eating, wearing clothes, and sleeping all are Wonderful Dharma.

            The cultivator of the Way eats every day,

            Yet does not eat a single grain of rice;

            He wears clothes from morning till night,

            Yet does not wear a single stitch.

Isn’t that a lie? No it isn’t. This is descriptive of a state where, “thoughts are not present” one looks but does not see, listens but does not hear, and ears but is not aware of the flavor.” This is to have reached the state of no thought. Although such a cultivator may be fast asleep, he remains as clear and unconfused as when he is awake, whereas ordinary individuals experience grandiose dreams and illusory thoughts as they are immersed in the confusion of sleep.

      In China there was a National Master named Yu Lin who was extremely intelligent. Yu Lin's Master told his disciples that he would pass on the Dharma to anyone who could memorize The Dharma Flower Sutra in one single day and night. Yu Lin's Dharma brother, Yu Feng, slept from morning until night, causing National Master Yu Lin to think to himself, "I will certainly be the first to memorize the Sutra.” When he went to his Master and said, “I can recite it. How about my Dharma brother?” his Master said, “Your Dharma brother recited it for me yesterday evening.” How was his Dharma brother Yu Feng able to do this? His state was the same as that described by P’ang Ling Chao. Although he slept all day long, he was not actually asleep, but in fact he was absorbed in samadhi. Those who can do the work of cultivation can enter samadhi while walking, standing, sitting, or lying down. Those who cannot do the work find everyplace to be either too noisy or too impure. If one’s thoughts are pure, then every place is pure. And so P’ang Ling Chao said, “It was neither difficult nor easy. When I’m hungry I eat, when I’m tired I sleep.”


The Collected Lectures of Tripitaka Master Tu
Lun on the Lotus Blossom Sutra will be
continued in future issues of Vajra Bodhi Sea.