OF TRIPITAKA MASTER HSUAN HUA ON—
The Sutra of the
Earth Store Bodhisattva
by Disciple Bhiksu Heng Ching--
Sponsored by the Buddhist Text Translation Society
Continued from issue 36
Moreover, sea spirits, river spirits, stream spirits, mountain spirits, earth
spirits, brook and marsh spirits, sprout and seedling spirits, day, night, and
space spirits, heaven spirits, food and drink spirits, grass and wood spirits,
and other such spirits from the Saha and other worlds all assembled together.
rivers and streams are some of the various bodies of water, which cover the
earth. What is their origin? The great heat of the sun causes the earth, plants
and living beings to sweat, and. the accumulation of this sweat constitutes the
seas. The Surangama Sutra discusses the all-pervasive nature of water, which can
be demonstrated by the condensation on a metal plate left out over night.
Although water is everywhere, only some places manifest its substance; what is
all pervading about water is its nature. This is analogous to the Buddha-nature
in people. Although everyone has it, we see only the substance of living beings.
Just as water, although it can only be seen in some places, is all pervading, so
too are fire and the other elements. Their substances appear to contradict one
another, but their natures work in harmony and do not conflict.
keeps water from inundating the world? The Four Heavenly Kings have a precious
and wonderful gem, which has the power to halt water. Without this heaven and
earth would be joined in a mass of water.
Spirits. Sea means dark because you can't "see" into it and have no
way to know how deep it is. I am certain that this explanation is a new one and
that even the most scholarly of professors have never seen it before.
Within the sea
are a great many spirits, such as the dragon kings, the Jao, the Yang Ho and
others. The spirits of the sea are beasts of a sort; dragons are a well-known
example. The chief sea spirit, the Jao, has eighteen tails, eight legs, and
eight heads, which look human, four males and four females. There are many such
spirits, which need not be discussed now, but if you ever happen to be sitting
in meditation and encounter such a phenomenon, don't be upset. Just recognize it
for what it is.
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April 17 Birthday of the
Great Master Ch’ang Jen
18 Birthday of Cundi Bodhisattva
Birthday of the Venerable Master Hua
19 The Great Master Ch’ang Chih left the home life.
Birthday of Manjusri Bodhisattva.
10 Birthday of Sakyamuni Buddha.
30 Birthday of Medicine Master Bodhisattva.
June 13 Birthday of Ch’ieh
July 2 Birthday of
Wei T’ou Bodhisattva.
14 The Great Master Ch’ang Jen’s Enlightenment.
16 The Great Master Ch’ang Chih’s Birthday.
Spirits. Rivers are broad but are not very deep if compared to the sea. While
seas stay in one place and invite all the other waters to join them, rivers flow
Spirits. The word tree is defined by a homonym in Chinese, which means upright
or perpendicular. Here, in Jambudvipa, the Jambunada is the king of trees. When
trees become large and old they are known to be dwellings for ghosts and spirits
who lodge in trees where they feel a sense of security and comfort. If these
spirits are unable to find such a tree they experience a sense of distress. For
this reason Bhiksus are not permitted to cut down large trees; this is
specifically mentioned in the Dharmagupta vinaya.
the great General Ts'ao ordered a great tree cut down, even though it was
rumored to be the house of a spirit. The General said that he did not believe in
such things. Not much later he developed a splitting headache which had to be
cured by the physician Hua T'uo. The source of his headache, it was explained,
was the spirit whose home he had destroyed.
Nan Hua Monastery a large camphor tree received the precepts from the Venerable
Master Hsu Yan, and at Nan Yao, the Dharma seat of the Old. Man of Mt. Wei, a
Ginko tree also received the precepts.
Spirits. Mountains are defined by the Chinese words, which translate
"grow" or "produce," since things may grow and flourish on
Spirits. Ground may be explained by a homonym in Chinese, which means,
"bottom." Although the ground is on the bottom, it produces the myriad
and Night Spirits. Day is calculated as beginning at midnight, and night as
starting at noon. Although the sun is not visible at midnight, the Yang energies
begin to rise at that time. Shortly before daybreak, about three, four, or five
o'clock, this rise causes a corresponding rise of lustful desires in people.
After noon, when the Yin is rising, a similar phenomenon occurs. If the desire
can be contained, it can be transformed into wisdom. This is not unlike the
forked path leading to either the Abundant Fruit Heaven or the Heaven of No
thought. Traveling down one-path aides the flourishing of desires, turning on to
the other aids the growth of wisdom. In both cases there is a choice to be
made, and it is up to the individual to make it for himself.
Spirits. This spirit, whose Sanskrit name is Sunyata, is discussed in the
and Drink Spirits. Anything anyone eats, even a mere mouthful of water or piece
of fruit, is watched over by a spirit. If you believe this principle, the spirit
exists; if you do not believe it, it exists nonetheless. To say that such things
exist only if there is belief in them, and that they cease to exist if there is
no belief, is preposterous.
Peking there once lived a man named Tuan Cheng Yuan who was often known as
Honorable tester Tuan. He once encountered a remarkable individual who was the
son of a very busy official who supervised several hundred parsons. While the
father worked at the duties incumbent upon an official, the son slept day in and
day out. This behavior annoyed the father who finally confronted his son.
at me," he said, "over sixty and working full time to support you, a
young man in your twenties. You ought to be ashamed."
father," the son said, "are a government official; I am a food and
are you talking about?"
I allocate the food which everyone will consume. It's that simple."
must be mad," said the father, controlling his temper, "there is no
such thing. Alright, if that's what you do, just tell me now, what am I going to
a moment," said the son, "I have to sleep first and then I will be
able to tell you."
father, by now nearly mad with rage, choked and shook as his son dropped off
once again to sleep. When he finally awoke, he informed his father that on the
next day he would go hungry.
I know you're mad," said his father. "How can a major government
official possibly go hungry?"
Father, actually you are going to get something, but it's only going to be a
slightly spoiled egg and half a bowl of soured millet gruel."
shouted the outraged father, "my own son is trying to make a fool of
me!" and he rushed off to order preparations for dressing ducks, chickens,
geese, fish and other delicacies for the next day's meal.
kitchen staff was unusually busy the next morning, preparing an elaborate meal,
which was delayed a bit as a result of an unusual amount of care and effort,
which went into it. Just as he was about to sit down to dinner, the official
received an urgent message, an order to disperse a bandit group in the
countryside. Not a moment could be lost, and he sprang to his mount at the head
of his troops and left his banquet steaming on the table. Before long, the
bandits were engaged and soon the scene of their encounter became a charnel
field on which the bandits were ultimately defeated.
men who had eaten their ordinary meal at the usual time were not fatigued by
hunger, but the official himself had not eaten a thing, and was weak with
exhaustion. Accompanied by some of his troops, he draw up at a nearby farmhouse
and asked for some provisions.
haven't a thing," replied the head of the household, "except an old
egg and a half-bowlful of millet gruel which we were saving for my pregnant
wife. The egg's a bit bad, and the gruel's gone sour, but you're welcome to them
if you want."
he downed the simple meal the official suddenly recalled his son's prediction of
the preceding day. From that time onward he left his son alone to preside over
food and drink, while he himself continued to preside as a human official.
I said before, if there is belief in spirits, they exist, and if there is not,
they exist nonetheless. A great many people say that such things exist only if
people believe in them, but this is not the case. It is much like gold found
deep in a mine. Knowing that there is gold in the mine can be likened to
believing; not knowing of the gold is like disbelieving. In the final
analysis, there is still gold in the mine, regardless of your belief or
disbelief. If you believe, you know there are spirits; if you disbelieve, you do
not know that there are spirits. But be that as it may, the spirits are there
nonetheless it is just that you lack the knowledge and vision, which can
encompass this state.
long ago there was talk of an earthquake hitting San Francisco. At that time I
established an insurance policy which guaranteed that there would be no such
disaster. In fact, as long as I am in this city, there will be no such problem;
however, if I am not in San Francisco, I will not pay any attention to this
matter. While I am here, I assure you that this city will not go into the sea,
simply because' I am not interested in going personally nor am I interested in
having any of my disciples visit the dragon king and the eighteen tailed,
eight-headed Jao. I'm not being selfish about this, it is just that not much
good can come of your seeing him.
In addition, all
the great ghost kings from the Saha and other worlds assembled together. They
were the Evil Eyed Ghost King, the Blood Eating Ghost King, the Essence and
Energy, Eating Ghost King, the Womb and Egg Eating Ghost King, the Sickness
Spreading Ghost King, the Poison Gathering Ghost King, the Kindhearted Ghost
King, the Blessings and Profit Ghost King. the Great Love and Respect
Ghost King, and others.
explain the word "all" in the phrase all the great ghost kings as
meaning many, but I explain it differently, and say that it means few. In fact,
it means one. Someone will object and ask why I explain "all," a word
that everyone knows to be plural, as one. I just like to because I am an
extraordinarily stupid man. When there are many numbers, I simply can't remember
them, but one is simple enough to remember. Two requires a bit of brainwork and
thought. If the Sutra text is explained as "many," we must ask just
exactly how large "many" is, and we find that it is an infinite
amount, a bothersome thing. Consequently, I explain "all" as meaning
"one." This is the point where my explanations of sutras differ from
most other people.
the great ghost kings means one ghost king, the one I happen to be explaining at
any particular moment. There are the Evil Eyed Ghost King, the Poison Collecting
Ghost King, and others, but I'll just explain them one at a time, and not lump
them together. Of course 'ail' can be taken to mean the collectivity of ghost
kings as a whole, yet at the same time it means any particular one.
moment ago I said that I explained "all" this way because I liked to,
but it was unprincipled of me to say this. I'd better explain my reasons in more
detail so you won't have nagging doubts about this matter. Where do the many
come from? They come from the one. In fact, the many do not even come from one.
But because we say that the many comes from the one, there is no way not to
start with one. Once that has been counted, it is possible to count a second
followed by a third and so forth. Thus one is limitless, and the limitless all
return to one. A single one disperses to become the myriad numbers, the myriad
numbers all return to a root of one. Thus, in cultivation, it is important to
return to a unity, to one. Cultivation means to cultivate the mind and unify it.
There is a saying, "When the one is attained, everything is finished."
Once the one is obtained, there are no further matters left. If thoughts are
unified, wisdom will manifest; if they are dispersed and many, the one is said
to be seeking outside.
you are able to avoid giving rise to a single thought, everything will manifest.
The six organs will mutually function and the covering clouds disperse. In this
passage of text we've encountered many ghosts, but if not even a single thought
arises, -there will not be a single ghost. Not only will there not be any
ghosts, there won't be any spirits either. In fact, there won't be any
Bodhisattvas and not even a Buddha. There won't be anything at all, and yet at
just that time everything will become manifest. Buddhas will come,
Bodhisattvas will come, Arhats, pratyekabuddhas, everything will become manifest
because you won't have anything at all. As long as you still have anything, they
will not come.
this 'all' is the point of the wonderful. Don't let 'all' be 'all', let it be
one, and then don't even have that. Then the great ghost kings will become
non-existent and run off. When there aren't any ghosts, there isn't any world,
and when there isn't any world, well, what is there to be worried about? No
worries, no cares, not a single obstacle. This is what is meant by the phrase,
"Understand the nature of self and others, be equal to heaven and
you fathom and end the nature of others, self, and things, you are heaven and
earth, and heaven and earth are you. You are all Buddhas and all Buddhas are
you. There is no distinction and no discrimination, so how could there possibly
be an I, a you, or a he? How could there be a mark of self, of others, of living
beings, or a life? There is none of this. If you have nothing at all, how can
you have any afflictions? This condition is one of purity and wisdom. When not
even a single thought arises, everything manifests, the six organs function
together and the clouds disperse—an indescribable state.
it is indescribable, isn't it better not to describe it? That wouldn't do at
all. I describe it because I like to describe. Even if you don't want me to
talk, I shall still do so. Who is it, anyway, who knows that this is
indescribable? Who? So, I'm going to keep on talking and discuss all the great
examine the Chinese word for ghost. Take a look, ghosts have long legs. ()
can't measure how long they are, and rather doubt that even Chinese professors
would be able to explain this, since the legs of ghosts are so long that there
is no way to see where the ghost is. In Chinese, 'ghost' is a homonym of a word,
which means to return. Ghosts are defined as 'returning' and so it is said when
a person dies, he returns. He returns to the place where he committed offenses.
English you can say that ghost sounds like the word 'go.' It can be derived as
follows: 'go, goes, ghost.' Ghosts go off to hell. In Chinese they return, and
in English they go, they go off to the hells, because they consider it their
home. Ghosts become confused because they like to run about, going here and
there, playing about all over and enjoying what they think is fun.
Unsuspectingly they find that they have gone off to the mountain of knives, the
tree of swords and the cauldron of oil. They go, go, go, go off to the hells, to
the realm of animals, to the hungry ghosts. Where have the great ghost
kings under discussion here gone? They have not gone anywhere, they are right
there in hell.
Essence and Energy Eating Ghost King, Pisaci is Sanskrit, eats the essential
energies of both people and plants. The reason for the unexpected decay of
energies is that they have been taken by this ghost.
Womb and Egg Eating Ghost King is responsible for the miscarriages and premature
stillbirths which occur.
Sickness Spreading Ghost King runs about spreading diseases and encouraging
epidemics. The Poison Gathering Ghost King, on the other hand, is a beneficial
ghost king, who removes poisons from people. Although he is a ghost king, he is
really a transformation body of a Bodhisattva. He rescues living beings by
gathering the poisons, which they have contracted.
Kindhearted Ghost King leads other ghosts to resolve their thoughts on
Essence and Energy Ghost King got his position because he liked to kill, but
would not give the flesh of any of the animals he killed to his wife. Not only
would he not allow her any of the meat, he would not even give her the blood to
drink. Since he wouldn't even give his own wife a mouthful of blood, you can
imagine how he treated other people. He was extremely stingy, and as a result
has to eat the most unclean things.
Blessings and Profit Ghost King is actually the spirit of wealth but in this
sutra is classified as a ghost
(To be continued)
Sino-American Buddhist Association, Gold Mountain Dhyana Monastery, and the
Vajra Bodhi Sea Publication Society will sponsor the Buddha's Birthday
celebrations this year, and cordially invite all Buddhists to attend the
anniversary of the birth of, our original teacher, Sakyamuni Buddha. The holiday
fails on May 10th this year and the major celebrations and ceremonies will take
place on Sunday, May 6th. SET THIS DAY ASIDE NOW!