--Translated by Disciple Bhiksu Heng Ch’ien
--Sponsored by the Buddhist Text Translation Society
At one time fulfills the condition of time. Ancient there was no fixed standard for the measurement of time, and every country followed its own calendar: a great deal of trouble was avoided by simply saying, "At one time". If the exact time were stated, historians would spend long hours and a great deal of energy trying to pinpoint the exact date, transposing from one calendar to another. At one time simply means at the time Sakyamuni Buddha spoke The Dharma Blossom Sutra.
The Buddha fulfills the condition of a host. Buddha, enlightened one, is a Sanskrit word. There are basically three categories of enlightenment:
1. Inherent enlightenment,
2. Initiated enlightenment, and
3. Ultimate enlightenment.
Inherent enlightenment is just the Buddha nature, which is possessed by all beings and does not require cultivation. Initiated enlightenment grows out of the initial thought to uncover the original Buddha nature. Initiated enlightenment must be pursued to ultimate enlightenment, which is perfect union with the Buddha-nature.
Enlightenment may also be broken down into three other types:
2. The enlightenment of others, and
3. The culmination of enlightenment.
Self-enlightenment is the accomplishment of the sravakas and the pratyekabuddhas, which distinguishes them from the common masses. The Bodhisattva, on attaining enlightenment, foregoes nirvana to enlighten other beings. The sravakas and the pratyekabuddhas differ from the Bodhisattva in that they cultivate only for their own enlightenment. For this reason the Buddha condemned them as "self—ending arhats", solely concerned with ending their own birth and death. He called them "withered sprouts" and "sterile seeds" for their unwillingness to ripen their enlightenment and sow the seeds of enlightenment in other beings. The Bodhisattva surpasses the sravakas and the pratyekabuddhas but his enlightenment falls short of that of the Buddha. The enlightenment of the Buddha is the culmination of self-enlightenment and the enlightenment of others, and constitutes the full realization of the inherent enlightenment.
The Buddha is Sakyamuni Buddha, who was born in Lumbini Park, the son of King Suddhodana of Kapilavastu, and named Siddhartha. He left the palace and all its pleasures at the age of nineteen to cultivate the Way, and realized Buddhahood at the age of thirty. For the next forty—nine years he spoke Dharma in over three hundred assemblies before he entered nirvana.
Mount Grdhrakuta(Vulture Mountain) was so named because it resembles the head of a vulture and is inhabited by a large number of those birds. It is the highest of the five mountains surrounding the City of the House of Kings (Rajagrha) about four miles northeast of the ancient site of that city.
The City of the House of Kings was the dwelling place of King Bimbisara of Magadha, one of the most faithful supporters of the Buddha. The City of the House of Kings is so named because an ancient ruler of Magadha conquered all India and gathered its kings together there. This king was born with two faces and four arms, which his father interpreted as an evil omen. He had the child abandoned in a forest with its head ripped off. A raksa ghost put the head back on the child's body and raised him to manhood. He ultimately became a great conqueror and king.
A bhiksu is a man who has left the home-life. Basically the word has three meanings:
1. a mendicant,
2. Mara's fear, and
3. destroyer of evil.
The left—home disciples of the Buddha were called mendicants because they did not make their own food, but went out each morning to beg in the villages where faithful lay followers made them offerings of food. They are called "the fright of Mara" because when a bhiksu leaves the home—life to follow the code of morality, an earth—bound raksa informs a space-travelling yaksa who then informs Mara, King of the Demons, in the Paranirmitavasavartin Heaven. When Mara learns that another man has coined the ranks of the Buddha, decreasing his own following, he trembles with fear. Bhiksus are called "destroyers of evil" because they eradicate The Three Poisons: greed, hatred, and stupidity. The twelve thousand great bhiksus fulfill the condition of an audience, thus completing The Six Conditions Essential to a Dharma Assembly.
Arhat also has three meanings:
1. "Worthy of offerings,
2. Killer of thieves, and
The Arhat, on the causal ground is a bhiksu, and conversely, the bhiksu on the result ground is an Arhat. Before certifying to the result of Arhatship, a bhiksu must beg for food to carry-on his cultivation. After certifying to the result, he is one worthy of offerings. He has done what others cannot do and men and gods alike wish to make offerings to him. An Arhat is called a "killer of thieves" because he has killed the thieves of the six sense organs. Arhat also means "non-production". The fourth stage Arhat obtains the patience of the non-production of dharmas by realizing that not a single dharma is produced or destroyed throughout the entire world system of one billion worlds.
There are four stages of Arhatship. The first stage Arhat called srota-apanna, "stream winner". One in this stage has left the flow of the six sense objects and entered the Dharma stream of the sages. Having developed samadhi power, he is not moved by the objects of the six senses: forms, sounds, smells, tastes, touchables, and dharmas. While beautiful forms delight the common man and ugly forms revolt him, the Arhat at the first stage remains impassive. He has not, however, ended-birth and death but must undergo seven more births in the world before doing so.
The second stage of Arhatship is called sakrdagamin, "once-returner". The once returner must be reborn once in the heavens and once among men before putting an end to birth and death.
The third stage Arhat is called anagamin, "never returner". The never returner has left the realm of desire and will only be reborn in the realms of form or formlessness.
Properly, only the fourth stage may be called Arhatship. The first stage is the stage of viewing the Way, the second and third are stages of cultivation of the Way, and the fourth stage is attainment of the Way. At the fourth stage all learning has been transcended and birth and death are ended. However, although the Arhat has ended birth and death in a physical body, he continues to dwell in transformation birth and death, the birth and death of thoughts. In transformation birth and death the Arhat's remaining confusion very gradually transforms to enlightenment.
The fourth stage Arhat possesses inconceivable spiritual penetrations and transformations such as The Five Eyes: the fleshy eye, the heavenly eye, the wisdom eye, the dharma eye, and the Buddha eye; and The Six Spiritual Penetrations: the penetration of the heavenly eye, the penetration of the heavenly ear, the penetration of past lives, the penetration of others' thoughts, the penetration of spiritual powers, and the penetration of the cessation of outflows. They can soar into space where they may stand, walk about, or do somersaults, emitting fire below their bodies and water above, or water below and fire above. Altogether they have eighteen spiritual transformations.
Once an Arhat was travelling on foot with a disciple who carried his baggage. As he walked the disciple thought, "The Way of the Bodhisattva is supreme; I must always benefit others in my cultivation." The master knew what the disciple was thinking, and he stopped him and took up the baggage.
After they walked a short distance the disciple's thoughts changed, "On the other hand, Sariputra resolved to follow the Bodhisattva Way and someone asked him for his eye. He gave the man his left eye, but the man crushed it on the ground and asked for his right eye. I had better remain on the Way to Arhatship." With that thought the master stopped and returned the baggage.
Still later the disciple again resolved to become a Bodhisattva, and again his master took up the baggage. The disciple asked, "What are you doing? I can carry it. You seem to be having a hard time making up your mind."
The Arhat replied, "Earlier in the day you decided to follow the Bodhisattva Way, whereas I follow the small vehicle, so it was only-proper that I carry the baggage. Later you changed your mind, so I gave the baggage back to you. But now you have renewed your resolve, so once again I should carry the baggage."
The Arhat's words amazed the young disciple, and inspired him to pursue the course of a Bodhisattva with unwavering determination.
Arhats are not impeded by material obstructions. When the Buddha's disciples assembled to compile the Sutras, Ananda was locked out of the assembly, because, although he knew all the discourses of the Buddha without flaw, he had not attained the fourth stage of Arhatship. He was frantic, so frantic in fact, that as he pounded on the door he suddenly realized the fourth stage. Elated, he demanded the door be opened. The Arhats inside replied, "Just come in! If you are an Arhat we don't have to open the door for you." Ananda walked through the door and joined the assembly.
The fourth stage Arhat achieves the cessation of outflows. Outflows arise from desire, whenever the mind desires fine food, beautiful music, or anything at all, it gravitates toward that thing and the light of the self-nature follows. It is like a cup with a hole in it; whatever is poured in leaks out. In common people, whatever merit and virtue has been accrued quickly flows out through the avenues of The Six Senses: the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind. The constant flow of thoughts, smoking, drinking, and sexual gratification are all outflows. The Arhat achieves cessation of all outflows, and the light of his self-nature no longer disperses through The Six Senses.
Because all of these twelve thousand bhiksus had obtained the cessation of all outflows, they suffered no afflictions. They had done what needed to be done and would not undergo further existence. Afflictions are also too many to number, and so generally it is said that there are eighty-four thousand types. All eighty-four thousand, however, can be summed up in The Three Poisons: greed, hatred, and stupidity. It is solely because of these three that we have spun for aeons in the wheel of birth and death, unable to accomplish Buddhahood.
Greed is insatiable. No matter what is desired, it is impossible to get enough. Rulers constantly plot to overthrow their neighbors; individuals constantly strive for a better house, more money, a sleeker car, and so forth. But no matter how much wealth you pile up, you can't buy off Yama, the King of the Dead. In the end, greed is a fool's indulgence; it deludes the most intelligent men and makes them stupid; it corrupts the most honest people and makes them thieves.
When greed is frustrated, hatred flares up. The fire of hatred consumes a forest of merit; the firewood gathered in a thousand days is burned in the spark of a single moment. Actions motivated by hate not only lack merit but consume it as well. Therefore it is said, "To have no hate is the most perfect of offerings; pure speech is the most fragrant of scents; a heart without anger is the most perfect of jewels." Offerings to the Buddha made in anger no matter how fine, will not be well received.
Stupidity is the failure to see things clearly, so that right seems wrong and wrong seems right. Stupidity produces deluded thoughts. A poet thinks, "0, if only the flowers were always in bloom!" or "If only the moon were always full." People who like to drink think, "Ah, if all the waters of the earth were wine...” People greedy for money think, "What if all the leaves on the trees were money." Because people are stupid, they cherish such impossible fantasies as these. It is like a farmer who forgot to plant his fields expecting to reap a harvest or someone who never went to school expecting to receive a Ph.D. How much more absurd to expect to become a Buddha without cultivating.
Common people dwell in confusion because they yield to The Three Poisons' because they have become slaves of their bodies. By cultivating morality, samadhi, and wisdom, the common person can annihilate The Three Poisons, sever the bonds of the physical body, and ascend to the position of a sage. Morality subdues greed, samadhi subdues anger, and wisdom subdues stupidity. Actually, greed is morality, hatred is samadhi, and stupidity is wisdom. Wisdom cannot be found apart from stupidity because wisdom and stupidity arise from the same source; they are identical. Inherent wisdom becomes stupidity because it is not used properly. Samadhi arises from the turmoil of hatred, and morality is the transformation of greed. Morality, samadhi and wisdom exist within the self-nature, but if you cannot use them they become greed, hatred, and stupidity. Herein lies the wonderful; however, herein also lies confusion.
Thus gaining self-benefit refers to the benefits of the cessation of outflows and the ending of afflictions. Common people who have not cut off outflows and afflictions do not know true self-benefit. Self-benefit is great wisdom, the certification to the fourth stage of Arhatship.
The bonds of existence refers to the bonds of existence in the Tree Realms; the desire realm, the form realm, and the formless realm, which may be further discriminated into The Twenty-five Realms of Existence. In the desire realm there are fourteen: The Four Continents:
1. The Southern Continent, Jambudvipa;
2. The Eastern Continent, Purvavideha;
3. The Western Continent, Aparagodaniya; and
4. The Northern Continent, Uttarakuru;
The Four Evil Destinies:
1. The realm of the hells;
2. The realm of the hungry ghosts;
3. The realm of animals; and
4. The realm of asuras; and
The Six Desire Heavens:
1. The Heaven of the Four Kings;
2. The Trayastrimsa Heaven;
3. The Suyama Heaven;
4. The Tusita Heaven;
5. The Nirmanarati Heaven; and
6. The Paranirmitavasavartin Heaven.
In the form realm there are seven:
1. The First Dhyana Heavens;
2. The Mahabrahman Heaven;
3. The Second Dhyana Heavens;
4. The Third Dhyana Heavens;
5. The Fourth Dhyana Heavens;
6. The Five Pure Dwelling Heavens; and
7. The Heaven of No Thought.
In the formless realm there are four, called The Four Stations of Emptiness:
1. The station of unlimited emptiness;
2. The station of unlimited consciousness;
3. The station of nothing whatsoever; and
4. The station of neither thought nor non-thought.
The fourth dhyana is only an initial step in cultivation, but many deluded teachers mistake it for something more substantial, as did the untutored bhiksu, who upon attaining the fourth dhyana concluded that he had attained the fourth stage of Arhatship. As a result, when his life in the fourth dhyana heavens ended, he slandered the Buddha, saying, "The Buddha has deceived us! He said that birth and death are ended at the fourth stage, but I am failing to a new rebirth." Because he slandered the Buddha, he fell all the way to the hells, and will not escape for a very long time. He is not alone, however; he has many disciples who followed him, just like the blind following the blind.
Arhats have exhausted all bonds of existence and stopped beyond the three realms, never to return. There are Nine Bonds of Existence:
Their minds were at peace means they were happy and content, like the Bodhisattva Contemplator in Peace who is able to sit in meditation from morning to night without the least affliction. This is the blissful peace which is unmoved by external states of joy and grief, pleasure or pain. The constant laughter and giggling which common people call happiness is mere perversion, an affliction, and not true bliss. People only laugh because they lack samadhi power and are turned by external states. Such bliss is still within the realm of duality: laugh today, cry tomorrow.
to be continued