The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra

The Collected Lectures of Tripitaka Master Tu Lun

Continued from issue 35 

Uruvilvakasyapa, "papaya grove kasyapa", was so named because he liked to cultivate in a papaya grove. He led a following of five hundred fire worshippers, including King Bimbisara of Magadha, and he was well known throughout India as a great Arhat. Because of his large following of disciples and his great fame, Sakyamuni Buddha wished to convert him to the Way. He visited Uruvilva where he was dwelling, by the cave of a great dragon, and asked to stay the night there.

Uruvilva replied, "A poisonous dragon lives in this cave. If you enter you will surely lose your life." 

The Buddha said, "The dragon cannot harm me. There will be no trouble." 

"It's your life, do what you please," said Uruvilva and walked away. 

      As soon as the Buddha entered the cave and sat down the dragon began thrashing about, belching poisonous smoke. The Buddha answered with a billow of smoke, which completely swallowed the smoke of the dragon. The dragon spit fire and the Buddha responded with flames, which extinguished the dragon's fire. Uruvilva heard the clamor and thought, "How pitiful! The Sage Gautama has met his end in the cave of the dragon." But to his amazement, the Buddha emerged from the cave carrying the subdued dragon in his begging bowl.  Still, Uruvilva's great pride was unbroken and he thought, "Although the Sage has mighty spiritual powers and has obtained Arhatship, his attainment cannot equal mine!"

The Buddha stayed to perform eight more feats of spiritual skill, but Uruvilva clung tenaciously to his pride. Finally the Buddha told him, "If you do not forsake your improper views, they will cause you to suffer through many aeons. You have not attained Arhatship nor are you headed toward Arhatship." Hearing this, Uruvilva prostrated himself before the Buddha in repentance. The Buddha told him to gather his followers and he would receive them as disciples. Then he spoke Dharma to them whereupon they all attained Arhatship. 

Gayakasyapa and Nadikasyapa were brothers of Uruvilva who also led followings of fire worshippers. Gaya, "city", was so named because he lived near the City of the House of Kings, and Nadi, "river" because he lived on the banks of a large river. Their two groups of fire worshippers numbered two hundred fifty each. When they heard their elder brother had become a disciple of the Buddha, they did likewise, so that the Buddha gained one thousand bhiksus in all.

Sariputra can be interpreted "son of Sari," "son of jewel," or "son of body." His mother was named Sari for her beautiful eyes, which resembled those of the sari bird, most likely an osprey. Therefore he was called son of Sari. Similarly his mother's eyes were compared to jewels and therefore he was called son of jewel. Further, he was born from his mother's body; therefore he was called son of body.

Sariputra was foremost in wisdom among the disciples of the Buddha, but his spiritual penetrations were also very great. On one occasion, when the Buddha was leaving to speak Dharma in another city, Sariputra had entered samadhi and was not aware that it was time to go. Mahamaudgalyayana noticed that he had remained behind so he called to him, but Sariputra wouldn't budge. Mahamaudgalyayana thought, "You won't leave samadhi, ehh? Let's see how you hold up against my spiritual penetrations. He exhausted all of his spiritual skills trying to move Sariputra, but he couldn't even ruffle his robe. Mahamaudgalyayana was recognized as foremost among the Buddha's disciples in spiritual penetrations, but he met his match in the greatly wise Sariputra.

Mahamaudgalyayana, like Mahakasyapa, was born after his parents sought for a son from a tree spirit. His family name was Maudgalyayana and his personal name was Kolita, after the tree in which the spirit dwelt. Mahamaudgaiyayana'a mother did not respect the Triple Jewel, and often slandered the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, so when she died she fell into the hells. When Mahamaudgalyayana attained Arhatship, he obtained The Five Eyes and The Six Spiritual Penetrations, which he used to see where his mother has been reborn. He saw that she was a hungry ghost suffering in the hells with nothing to eat. He wished to help her and took a bowl of food down to her, but as soon as she took a bite it turned to fire in her mouth due to the great weight of her karmic obstacles. Mahamaudgalyayana tried to help her by means of his spiritual penetrations but to no avail. He sought out his Master and begged for assistance. The Buddha said, "Your mother's offenses are many and you alone lack the strength to save her. You must call on the awesome power of the assembled Sangha of the ten directions, then liberation will be obtained." The Buddha established the Ullambana Dharma Assembly as an expedient device for the sake of Mahamaudgalyayana. Every year, on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, Buddhist disciples make offerings to the Sangha of the ten directions for the benefit of their parents and relatives.

Mahamaudgalyayana was designated first among the Buddha's disciples in spiritual penetrations, and the accounts of his exploits are many. On one occasion the Buddha and his disciples were traveling to the Trayastrimsa Heaven where the Buddha wished to speak Dharma to his mother. As they traveled up Mount Sumeru, two pugnacious dragons spit black clouds of venomous fog, which totally eclipsed the light from the Second Dhyana heavens and made progress impossible. Several bhiksus asked the Buddha for permission to engage the dragons in battle, but the Buddha refused them saying, "The might of these dragons will be difficult to overcome. Your powers are not sufficient." Then Mahamaudgalyayana prostrated himself before the Buddha and requested that he be allowed to subdue the dragons. The Buddha consented and the fight was on.

The dragons manifested colossal bodies, which wrapped seven times around Mount Sumeru, their tails in the seas at the base and their heads at the peaks. Mahamaudgalyayana countered with a fourteen-headed body, which he coiled around the mountain fourteen times. The dragons were terrified but refused to admit defeat. They spit storms of adamantine sand from their mouths, but Mahamaudgalyayana transformed it to showers of flower petals. Then he took the offensive. Shrinking himself into the body of a small bug, he flew into the dragon's eyes and out through their noses, in through their ears and out their eyes, all the time gnawing at their flesh. The maddened dragons were defenseless and begged to take refuge with the Buddha.

Mahakatyayana, Katyayana can be interpreted as "literary elegance," "good shoulders," "victorious thinker," and "fan cord." All but the last are self-explanatory. He was named "fan cord" because shortly after he was born, his farther died and his mother wished to change residences; but because she had young Katyayana she was unable to move; he bound her up like the cord which binds a fan.

The Venerable Mahakatyayana was an excellent speaker, able to broach any subject from numerous viewpoints, always with principle. One time he met an externalist who asked him, "In the Buddha's doctrine it is said that a person who dies may be reborn in the states of woe to undergo suffering, whereas in my teaching, it is said that there is no rebirth; when a person dies it is like a candle that has burned out. I have never met or heard of a single person who has died and then returned to speak of the sufferings he has undergone, how can you speak of future birth?" 

Mahakatyayana replied, "You argue that if people die and descend into the states of woe that some of them should return to tell you about it. However, people who have descended into the states of woe are like criminals who have been placed in prisons they are not free to come and go as they wish."

The annihilationist said, "This is true for those who fall into the state of woe, but not for those people who are reborn in the heavens. Why have I never seen any of the people who have died and been reborn in the heavens return to tell of it?"

"There is principle in what you say," replied Mahakatyayana, "but you should know that when people leave this world and are reborn in the heavens, it is as if they have climbed out of a cesspool and washed themselves clean; they would not be likely to jump back into the filth again. Even if they did return, a day and night in one of the lowest heavens is equivalent to a hundred years on earth. When someone is reborn in the heavens he delights in his beautiful surroundings; it probably wouldn't occur to him to return for at least three days, but in those three days, three hundred years have passed on earth. You would have long since died and turned to dust." The externalist had nothing to say.

Aniruddha, "never poor," received his name because in a past life he made offerings to a pratyekabuddha. This pratyekabuddha came down from the mountains once every week to beg at seven houses, and if he did not obtain any food he did not continue. On this-occasion he had not obtained any food for two weeks running. Aniruddha worked a field by the road and always noticed the pratyekabuddha as he came and went, and as he returned from the village Aniruddha thought, "This is the second time this old bhiksu has passed my field with an empty bowl. Ahh, the times are so poor there is not enough for the villagers, let alone enough to give mendicants." Although he himself did not have enough to eat, he decided to give his meal for the day to the pratyekabuddha. Before the pratyekabuddha took the meal he asked Aniruddha, "If I accept this meal as an offering, what will you eat?"

Aniruddha replied, "It won't hurt me to go a day without food. These are hard times for bhiksus.

After the pratyekabuddha accepted the offering, he used his spiritual penetrations to benefit Aniruddha, and said, "Because you were able to give what is difficult to give, in every future life you will have great wealth."

As the pratyekabuddha left, a big rabbit leapt out of nowhere onto Aniruddha's back and no matter how he tried he could not dislodge the creature. He got his wife to help him unseat the animal. When they finally wrenched it free, it proved to be no ordinary pest; it transformed into solid gold. Aniruddha immediately broke off a leg and went to sell it in the village so he could get something to eat. When he returned, the leg had grown back. He knocked another leg off the rabbit and it too grew back. He was rich. Not only in that life, however, but in every life he was wealthy because he had made offerings to a pratyekabuddha. If he had known the pratyekabuddha was a pratyekabuddha and made the offering with an eye to great benefit, he would have got nothing; as it was, he struck it rich in every life for ninety-one aeons.

Aniruddha was a cousin of the Buddha but whenever the Buddha spoke Dharma, Aniruddha would fall asleep and start snoring. The Buddha scolded him: 

"Fool! Why are you sleeping!

Like an oyster locked in his shell.

If you sleep you'll sleep a thousand years

And not even once hear the Buddha's name."

So great was his contrition that Aniruddha vowed never to sleep again, and after seven days and nights he went blind. Sakyamuni Buddha saw that he had been extremely sincere and truly wished to study the Dharma, so he taught him the Blissful-Sight Illuminating Vajra Samadhi. By cultivating this samadhi, Aniruddha obtained the penetration of the heavenly eye, in fact, half his head became a heavenly eye. He could see the world system of one billion worlds just as it if were an orange in the palm of his hand.

Kapphina can be interpreted as "night lodging" or "house—constellation." When his parents were approaching fifty years of age they still had no son, so they sought for one from the fourth of the twenty-eight constellations, the House Constellation. The House Constellation is the fourth of the seven constellations in the eastern quarter and is also called the Constellation of the Four Heavenly Dragons. After Kapphina became a bhiksu, the Buddha designated him foremost among the disciples in the art of astrology.

Just after Kapphina had left the home-life he had not yet seen the Buddha, so he began traveling toward the Buddha's dwelling place. He encountered a heavy rainstorm and asked a potter if he could spend the night in his pottery shed. The potter said yes, and so Kapphina gathered together some straw and sat down. Later in the evening another bhiksu stopped at the shed for shelter, and Kapphina yielded his seat of grass to him and sat on the bare ground. After they exchanged a few words of greeting the bhiksu asked Kapphina where he was headed. Kapphina replied that he was looking for the Buddha. The bhiksu then spoke Dharma for him, eloquently describing the path of purification, whereupon Kapphina became enlightened. He then realized that the other bhiksu was just the Buddha. While taking a night's lodging, Kapphina obtained the Way and so was called "night-lodging."

Gavampati, "cow cud," ate like a cow. When he ate he sounded like a cow, when he digested he sounded like a cow, and when he finished eating he chewed his cud like a cow. Because he ate this way, Sakyamuni Buddha feared people would slander him and commit offenses, so he sent him to the heavens to receive offerings where the gods would not pay any particular attention to how he ate. Gavampati ate like a cow because many aeons in the past he had slandered a pratyekabuddha. The old pratyekabuddha had no teeth and when he ate he slurped in a most alarming manner. Gavampati was a young novice of noble origin, and the old cultivator's table manners offended him. "What an ungodly noise you make, old man! You sound like a herd of cattle chewing their cud." 

The pratyekabuddha replied, "Because you have slandered me, you will encounter many difficulties in the future. You should repent at once." 

"Repent what? Hahh! I'm not going to bow to you." Because he slighted the pratyekabuddha, he was reborn as a cow for five hundred lives, and because of that he could not get rid of the habits of eating like a cow. 

--To be continued-


Issue #3, page 6, last paragraph. The first three lines of this paragraph should read:

The Fourth Patriarch's name was Tao Hsin.

While still very young he left home...

Issue #3, page 7. The first four lines of the first paragraph on this page should be changed to read: 

Hearing of the Master's great virtue, in the seventeenth year of the Chen Kuan Reign of the T'ang Dynasty, the Emperor sent a messenger to invite him to the imperial palace. The Patriarch declined...

Issue #4„ page four, second paragraph. Change line three to read:

...he went to the temple on the Mountain...and change lines nine and ten to read:

...At age thirteen he received the ten novice precepts, and followed Patriarch....