The Collected Lectures of Tripitaka Master Tu Lun on



--Clarification of the Substance.

The Substance of this Sutra is the reality mark. The reality mark is unmarked, yet it gives birth to all marks, it is the mother of all creation. All the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, pratyekabuddhas, sravakas, and all other living beings come forth from this Sutra, but having come forth, it is not easy to return. By practicing in accord with this Sutra it is possible to return to the original source.

—-Elucidation of the Doctrine.

This Sutra expounds the doctrine of the cause and effect of the one vehicle. The cause is the cause of Buddhahood, and the effect is Buddhahood.  The Lotus Blossom illustrates the non-duality of cause and effect, for at the moment the lotus flower blossoms the pod of lotus seeds is revealed. Just so, in this Sutra all provisional dharmas open to reveal the real. The text says, "There is only the one Buddha vehicle and no other vehicles." Previously the Buddha spoke of the sound-hearer vehicle, the vehicle of the pratekabuddhas, and the Bodhisattva vehicle, to which may be added the vehicles of gods and men. But this Sutra dispenses with these five vehicles, and only the one vehicle, the unsurpassed Buddha vehicle, remains.

--Discussion of the Function.

This Sutra destroys doubts and awakens faith in the one Buddha vehicle.  While reciting this Sutra the Great Master Chih Che opened enlightenment and obtained the Single Turn Dharani, which turns the mind of the common person away from its attachment to dharma marks so that it penetrates the principle of emptiness, the first of the Three Truths. Based on his understanding of The Dharma Blossom, the Great Master Chih Che established the Doctrine of the T'ien T'ai Teaching.

—Determination of the Teaching.

The teaching of The Dharma Blossom is compared to clarified butter, or ghee, the most refined of all dairy products. From the initial whole milk is obtained skin milk, cream, butter and then ghee, the most delicious of dairy products. Of the Eight Teachings it expounds only the perfect teaching and negates all previous dharmas and vehicles to establish the dharma of the reality mark and the one Buddha vehicle.


      Translated from Sanskrit to Chinese by Tripitaka Master Kumarajiva of the Yao-ch'in in Dynasty.


Tripitaka Master Kumarajiva's father, Kumarayana, was the son of a prominent official of Central India. Although he stood to inherit his father's high position, Kumarayana took no interest in the affairs of state and chose instead to lead the life of a homeless mendicant. He traveled throughout the neighboring countries calling on various eminent masters. In the small country of Kucha, Kumarayana was personally received by the King and asked to be the National Master. The King had a beautiful young sister named Jiva who, because of her remarkable intelligence, looked with scorn upon her countless less gifted admirers. As soon as she saw Kumarayana, however, she wished to marry him. Her reaction was so marked that her brother could not help but notice, and so he forced Kumarayana into marriage.

When Jiva became pregnant with Kumarajiva, she began visiting Ch'ia-li-ta Temple to hear the masters lecture sutras there. On one occasion she attended a feast of offerings made to the Sangha by one of the ladies of the king's family. When she heard the Indian Masters speak she was able to understand their language, even though she had never studied it.  Furthermore, she fully grasped the subtleties of the doctrines they expounded. An Arhat roamed Ta-mo-ti-hsia said of this, "When the Venerable Sariputra, wisest of the Buddha's disciples, was in the womb, his mother also displayed exceptional intelligence. This child will have the wisdom of a sage."

Several years after Kumarajiva's birth, Jiva resolved to leave the home-life and don the robes of a bhiksuni. Kumarayana refused to give his consent, however, for although he had once been a bhiksu, he had since grown extremely fond of his rich and beautiful wife. Unable to leave the home-life, Jiva refused food and water. After six days, with her breath failing, her husband relented and told her that if she would just eat something he would let her have her way. Fearing deception, she asked that the abbot of Ch'ia-li-ta Temple first shave her head, and. then agreed to eat. After receiving the precepts, Jiva practiced dhyana with great determination and quickly realized first stage Arhatship.

Kumarajiva left the home-life at age seven. He recited Abhidharma texts at the rate of one thousand verses of thirty-two words each per day, and fully understood the principles therein. When Kumarajiva was nine, his mother went to India to escape the attention and offerings lavished on her as the sister of the King. In a small country in Northern India, Kumarajiva studied under the great Small Vehicle teacher Bandhudatta, who taught him to recite the Agama Sutras. After three years had passed, his mother wished to return to Kucha and because her son was not old enough to take care of himself, she took him with her. In the country of Kusana an Arhat again predicted greatness for Kumarajiva. He said that if at the age of thirty-five Kumarajiva had purely maintained the precepts, then he would greatly propagate the Dharma and convert as many people as the Fourth Patriarch of India, the Venerable Upagupta, who had taught millions to practice the Way. If he broke the precepts, such accomplishment would not be possible.

While staying in a temple in Kashgar on the journey back to Kucha, Kumarajiva picked up one of the massive censors from the altar and held it atop his head in offering to the Buddha. Then it occurred to him, "I am just a child, how can I lift such a heavy thing?" With that thought the censor crashed to the ground. From that moment on he fully understood that all things in the world come from the mind alone. He stayed at that temple for two years reciting Abhidharma texts and, at the end of that time, had no doubts or questions regarding them. During that time he fully studied the Vedas and other externalize texts, and he also mastered such worldly arts as medicine, divination, and astrology.

On one occasion he heard a Great Vehicle sutra being explained. Hearing the doctrine of the emptiness of all dharmas, he questioned the lecturing Dharma Master, "What doctrine is this that condemns all dharmas, calling them empty and false?" The Dharma master replied, "All the organs, the objects of the organs, and their consciousnesses are not real. They only seem to exist because you are attached to them and do not understand that what arises from cause has no real substance." Kumarajiva began to investigate the Great Vehicle and saw that though the teaching of the Small Vehicle was indeed wonderful, the Great Vehicle was the wonderful within the wonderful.

When Kumarajiva was twenty he received, he full precepts. His mother, by that time, had realized the third stage of Arhatship. She advised him that his affinities lay in China, that he should go there to establish the Great Vehicle. She added that he would undergo a great deal of hardship and obtain nothing in return. He replied, "The path of the great Bodhisattva is to benefit others and forget the self. If the time is ripe to transmit the Dharma, how can I attend to my body? If there are men ripe for enlightenment, how can I fear suffering?"

Before setting out for China, Kumarajiva wished to convert his Small Vehicle teacher to the Great Vehicle. The King of Kucha, however, viewed him as a great national asset and refused to let him set out in search of his old master. Fortunately, at that time Bandhudatta appeared at the border seeking entrance to Kucha. The King accompanied Kumarajiva to meet him and asked why he had come. Bandhudatta replied, "In the first place I have heard of the exceptional understanding of my disciple, and secondly, I wished to meet you, 0 King, for I have heard you are a courageous guardian of the Dharma."

At his temple in Kucha, Kumarajiva discussed the Great Vehicle with his Master, using the Sutra of the Questions of the Virtuous Woman to demonstrate that causation is both empty and false, and to break his Master's attachment to the existence of dharmas. His Master questioned him, "What great advantage has led you away from the Small Vehicle? You speak of the emptiness of all creation, but emptiness is basically just empty, what use does it have?"

Kumarajiva replied, "In the midst of true emptiness is wonderful existence: in the midst of wonderful existence is true emptiness. The Great Vehicle is the ultimate teaching of the Buddha, measureless and illimitable.  The restricted principles of the Small Vehicle rely heavily on names and marks and do not point the way to ultimate liberation."

His Master said, "I have an analogy for the principle of true emptiness in wonderful existence. A fool engages a weaver to make him an exceptionally fine piece of silk, but when the weaver shows him the finished product, the fool complains that it is too coarse. The weaver tries again and again to please the fool, but in vain. In exasperation he confronts his customer with nothing at all, saying, 'This is my finest work; it must surely satisfy even your subtle taste.' The fool sees nothing and asks the weaver what he is talking about. The weaver replies, 'This cloth is woven so finely your coarse vision is unable to see it. Only I, the Master Weaver, can see it!' The fool, thinking this cloth must be quite unique, pays a handsome price for something that doesn't exist. The principle of wonderful existence is true emptiness appears to be nothing more than a ruse to deceive the feebleminded."

Kumarajiva won his Master over only after a full month of debate. His Master said, "Now that I understand the truth of the Great Vehicle. I wish to become your disciple.”

"How can you become my disciple?" replied Kumarajiva. "You are already my Master."

Said Bandhudatta, "I am your Small Vehicle master, you will be my Great Vehicle master." Thus it was that Kum5rajlva received his own Master as a disciple.

At that time in China, in the country of Fu-ch'in, the court astrologer saw a star over India. He told the King, Fu Chien that this meant a great sage would come to China from the West. Fu Chien knew that this could only be Kumarajiva of Kucha and he sent an army of seventy thousand men to Kucha to escort him to China. The commander, Lu Kuang, was instructed not to do battle but only retrieve the sage.

In Kucha, Kumarajiva knew of Lu Kuang's approach and of his intent, and he advised his King not to oppose the Chinese since they came in peace and were, moreover, more than a match for the troops of Kucha. The King did not listen, and in the ensuing engagement he was killed and his forces routed.

With Kumarajiva in custody, Lu Kuang started back to China. One night he camped his army in a gorge at the base of two mountains. Kumarajiva advised him not to remain the night in that inauspicious place or disaster would result. Lu Kuang advised him to leave military matters to military men.  Shortly thereafter a flashflood swept down the gorge and washed away a good part of the army. From that time on Lu Kuang sincerely believed in Kumarajiva.

When Lu Kuang and his army arrived at the Province of Ku Tsang, word was received that Fu Chien had been murdered by Yao Ch'ang, who now ruled in Fu-ch'in, newly named Yao-ch'in in honor of the king. Uncertain of how he would fare under a new ruler, Lu Kuang remained in Ku Tsang and set up a government of his own.

Although Lu Kuang believed in Kumarajiva, he didn't always take his advice, when his most esteemed minister, Ch'ang Chih, fell ill, Lu Kuang paid a Brahman healer an enormous sum of money to cure him. Kumarajiva knew the man was a swindler and the illness was incurable, so he warned Lu Kuang, "No matter how much money you give him, he can't cure your minister. I can prove it to you. I have a five colored cord, which I will burn to ashes. When I put the ashes in water, if the illness can be cured, the ashes will remain ashes; if it cannot be cured, the ashes will again become the five colored cord."  He burned the cord and dropped the ashes in a cup of water; the ashes transformed into the original cord. Nevertheless, Lu Kuang paid the swindler and, of course, Ch'ang Chih did finally die.

Yao Ch'ang, the ruler of Yao-ch'in was succeeded by his son, Yao Hsing, a staunch supporter of the Buddhadharma. Yao Hsing wished to have Kumarajiva for his country and so sent an army to bring him there. Meanwhile, Lu Kuang had died, and his son, Lu Chuan, had assumed control of Ku-tsang. Lu Chuan's reign was short-lived, however, for he was soon assassinated by his nephew, Lu Ch'ao, who, after a particularly inauspicious term of rule, was finally put to death by his younger brother, Lu Lung. It was, therefore, Lu Lung and his soldiers who were attacked and defeated by the army of Yao Hsing.

Kumarajiva finally arrived in Ch'ang-an, capital of China during the Yao-ch'in Dynasty, where he was made National Master. He established a translation center with over eight hundred bhiksus and lay scholars and by the time he died he had produced some three hundred rolls of translation.

Yao Hsing sincerely wished to see the Dharma flourish in his country and gave Kumarajiva whatever he needed. However, he was concerned with the fate of the Dharma after the Master passed on, for his talents were unmatched. In the hopes of obtaining many little sages, he forced Kumarajiva to accept ten wives and went so far as to build a house for him apart from the rest of the Sangha. Although Kumarajiva's virtue was such that he was unmoved and unbesmirched the other bhiksus began to complain and wished to have wives themselves.

One day Kumarajiva insisted on cooking lunch for the whole assembly, but when lunch was served each bhiksu found just one needle in his bowl.  Before they could protest, the Master addressed them, "Whoever can eat his needle can have a wife. If you aren't able to eat a needle, you aren't able to have a wife." As the bhiksus sat staring at their needles, Kumarajiva walked down the rows of tables and one by one ate every needle. Then he and two attendants began walking back to his house. Halfway home he stopped. He asked the two to help him pull out the needles as they emerged through his pores. They returned with every, one of the needles.

At the end of his life, Kumarajiva asked to be cremated. He said that if his translations were in accord with the Buddha's teaching, then his tongue would not burn, but if there were errors in his work, his body would burn completely. After his cremation, his tongue was found in the ashes untouched by the flames.

      Kumarajiva was given the title Tripitaka Master because he had deeply probed into all Three Divisions of the Buddhist Canon, the Sutras, Vinaya, and Sastras, and because he had immersed himself in the study of morality, samadhi, and wisdom, thereby obtaining a first-hand knowledge of the principles expounded by the Buddha. This title is not, however, special only to Kumarajiva, but is applied to any bhiksu who has studied well and understood the Buddhist Tripitaka.