The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Blossom Sutra 

Translated by Disciple Bhiksu Heng Ch’ien

Continued from issue 36

      Revata, “false unity.” One evening, before he had become a bhiksu, Revata was traveling through the desolate countryside far from any town or village. As the sun set he spied a tumbledown shack, and on investigation he found it a suitable place to spend the night. Near midnight he was awakened from deep slumber. A ghost clambered noisily into the shack carrying a corpse, intending to make a meal of it. Before he could take the first bite, however, a second ghost appeared, and, as Revata looked on in startled amazement, began to fight for possession of the corpse. They battled back and forth across the floor of the shack, shouting and cursing violently. However, it soon became clear to both of them that the contest was a standoff. They paused and the second ghost turned to Revata, "You can solve this. Which one should get the body?"

Revata blanched. In the first place he didn't think either one of them should get the corpse for dinner, and in the second place he knew better than to take sides in such a quarrel. He said, "All I can do is tell what I saw.  This ghost brought the corpse in, and then you came along and started fighting with him. That's all I know about it."

"What! Defeat my purpose with evasions! Well then, I'll yield the prize and make a meal of you." With which he ripped the hands and feet from Revata's limbs gulped them down, and flew out the door in a fury.

The first ghost reassured the stricken Revata, "Relax, friend, I'll repair the damage." He pulled the hands and feet off the corpse and joined them appropriately to the bleeding stumps of Revata's limbs. They fit perfectly, he was whole again. But how, he wondered, could the hands and feet of a corpse be so neatly joined to the ruined limbs of a living man. He sought out the Buddha and asked him how this unnatural unity could be. The Buddha explained, "The four great elements are falsely joined and the five skandhas don't actually exist. Unity and disunity, like and unlike, are merely false discriminations of the mind." Revata opened enlightenment.  "Oh," he said with a sigh of great relief, "there isn't anything." Separated from the false, the true spontaneously arose before him. He realized that what is produced and destroyed is false, and that only that which is neither produced nor destroyed is real.

Pilindavasta, "left-over habits", was so named because he had many habits leftover from past lives. On one occasion he wished to cross the Ganges River, and since he had attained Arhatship, he was able to command the spirit of the river to stop the water. He said to her, "Hey wench! Stop the river." Because he was an Arhat she had to comply, but she was extremely displeased at being called wench. After this happened several times, the river spirit went to complain to the Buddha. The Buddha promised her that he would personally bring the offender to her to apologize.

When he did, Pilindavasta just cried out, "Hey wench! I'm sorry."

She was furious, "How can you continue to be so rude when the Buddha is standing right next to you?" 

The Buddha, not wishing her to slander an Arhat, cut her tirade short, "Although you cannot remember, several hundred years ago you were one of Pilindavasta's servants, and when he ordered you about, he addressed you in this fashion. Now, although you have become a river spirit, he still addresses you in the same way out of habit."

Bakkula means handsome. For immeasurable aeons Bakkula purely maintained the precept against killing. He held it so well that he did not even have the thought of killing, and, as a result, he obtained release from five kinds of death.

He was able to speak immediately at birth and chattered away hilariously from the moment he drew his first breath. His mother thought, "This must be some kind of demon! I've never heard of anyone being able to speak at birth." She was so upset that she tried to do him in by cooking him in her frying pan, but Bakkula just sat in the pan and refused to fry. When fire failed, she dropped him in a pot of boiling water to scald him to death.  That didn't work either, so she tried to drown him. He wouldn't drown, so she threw him into the sea where she thought he would be eaten by a fish, and to her relief he was. However the fish didn't chew him because Bakkula couldn't be bitten to death. He stayed whole in the fish's belly until, shortly thereafter, a fisherman caught it. The fisherman slit the fish open with a knife, but again the knife couldn't cut Bakkula. By holding the precept against killing, Bakkula obtained release from five kinds of death: death by fire, death by scalding, death by being bitten, death by drowning, and death by the knife. At the age of one hundred and sixty he still had no illnesses and lived free from calamities, also a benefit of holding the precept against killing.

Mahakausthila, which means big knees, was Sariputra's maternal uncle.  He often debated various philosophical points with his sister and he always won. When she was pregnant with Sariputra, however, the tables turned and she always won. Kausthila deduced that her son would be a great wise man, for his wisdom was such that it manifested through his mother while he was still in the womb. He knew that if he did not develop his learning his nephew would put him to shame. His quest for knowledge took him to southern India where he so diligently applied himself to his studies that he even forgot to cut his hair, beard, and fingernails, earning the name "Long-nailed Brahman." When he had mastered all the philosophies of India, he returned to his sister's house and asked, "Where is my young nephew?"

She replied, "He has left the home-life to follow the Buddha."

Kausthila was enraged, "My nephew defeated all of the greatest thinkers of India in debate, how can such a wise lad follow that absurd sramana?" Hoping to get his nephew back, he went to the Buddha and challenged him, "Sir! I wish to engage you in debate. If I lose I will cut-off my own head.  If I win, you must give my nephew Sariputra back to me."

"As you wish," said the Buddha, "What is your doctrine?"

Although Kausthila had spent over ten years in diligent study, he could think of no stand to take against the Buddha. Finally, in desperation he said, "I accept no views whatsoever. No matter what you say, I won’t accept it.”

(Continued below)


Many issues ago you were asked if you had noticed the eyes in the carious hands which appear on the covers of Vajra Bodhi Sea. Have you looked into them? Figured out their meaning? Perceived their wonderful use?

The Buddha replied, "Do you accept the doctrine of non-acceptance?"

Kausthila was dumbfounded.  He couldn't say yes and he couldn't say no.  He turned and ran. After several miles he stopped and thought to himself, "This will not do. I am a man and I must live up to my word." He returned to the Buddha and asked him for a knife.

"What for?" asked the Buddha.

"I said I would cut off my head and I meant it. Give me a knife."

The Buddha replied, "I allow no such foolishness in my Dharma. There is no reason to cut off your head." Then he spoke Dharma. Kausthila opened his Dharma-eye and saw that the Dharma of the Buddha was subtle and wonderful beyond belief. He said, "I studied the externalist teachings for many years, but all I learned cannot match a single phrase of Buddhadharma." He then became a disciple of the Buddha.

Nanda means "wholesome bliss.” Before Nanda left the home-life to follow the Buddha, he was a cowherd for King Bimbisara. On one occasion the King invited the Buddha and his disciples to live in the Garden of the Bamboo Grove, near the City of the House of Kings, for three months. He instructed his cowherds to move their herds near to the Garden so that they could send daily gifts of milk and cheese to the Buddha and the Order of Bhiksus. Nanda was among this group of cowherds, and he and his fellows often discussed the Buddha. They had heard that he was the son of King Suddhodana who had left the home-life and attained omniscience, and wondered whether or not he knew how to care for a herd of cows. They went to the Garden of the Bamboo Grove to ask him, and the Buddha spoke the Eleven Matters in the Tending of Cows for him, using the tending of cows as an analogy for cultivation. Nanda was so impressed by the Buddha's wisdom that he resolved to leave the home-life.  He quickly attained Arhatship.

Once the Buddha instructed Nanda to speak Dharma to a group of five hundred bhiksunis. After hearing Nanda's discourse on Dharma, all five hundred bhiksunis attained Arhatship. In the past these five hundred bhiksunis had all been the concubines of a single king, a faithful guardian of the Dharma who had erected a magnificent stupa in honor of a past Buddha.  The concubines also believed in the Buddha and daily made offerings at this stupa. They vowed that in the future they would all obtain liberation with the king. The king was a former incarnation of Nanda.

Sundarananda, the Buddha's younger brother, was Sundara's Nanda. That is, he belonged to his wife Sundara. Sundara, "well-loved" or "perfect features," was the most beautiful woman in India and Sundarananda worshipped the ground she walked on.

Sakyamuni Buddha saw that the conditions were ripe for his younger brother to leave home and become a bhiksu, but Sundarananda refused to give up his wife. The Buddha established an expedient. One day he went to Sundarananda's palace to beg for food, and when Sun" darananda saw his brother he wished to fill his bowl. The Buddha told him to take the food back to the Myagrodha Grove for him. "How can I do that?" he replied. "My wife's here." However he could not disobey his brother's command, so he asked Sundara if she would let him take the food to the Nyagrodha Grove for the Buddha. She just spit on the floor. "Be back before that dries. If you aren't back before that dries, don't come back at all."

When Sundarananda reached the Nyagrodha Grove, the Buddha would not allow him to return home, but told him the time had come for him to leave the home-life. Sundarananda, however, did not feel ready to leave his wife, and after he shaved his head he still thought of her day and night.

One day all the bhiksus accompanied the Buddha to go begging, but the Buddha instructed Sundarananda to remain behind to sweep the floors of the vihara. Under no circumstances was he to leave the Nyagrodha Grove. Sundarananda could hardly conceal his joy as he thought, "Now is my chance!  I'll sneak back to my wife." He began sweeping the great hall, thinking that as soon as he finished cleaning up he would go back home. But every time he cleaned a section of the hail the wind blew his sweepings all over the room again. When one window blew open he would hurry to close it, but as soon as he did another would fly open on the other side of the hail. He worked all morning but he couldn't get the place clean. He finally gave up. Time was running out and if he waited too long, he would not be able to make good his escape. He left the vihara and hurried down a little used road, thinking that the Buddha would probably return from the city on the main road. But as he rounded the first bend there was the Buddha. In a flash, Sundarananda dodged behind a tree.

"Where are you going, Nanda?"

"0 Lord, I came to greet your return."

"Come out from behind that tree, Nanda. There is something I wish to show you." The Buddha led him out to the mountains till they came upon a large colony of monkeys. The Buddha said, "Nanda, which do you find more attractive, these monkeys or your wife, Sundara."

      "World Honored One! How can you possible compare Sundara to these monkeys? Of course Sundara is more attractive."

Days passed and as Sundarananda had no' opportunity to escape, he became increasingly depressed. One day the Buddha again asked him to go on a short excursion, this time to the heavens. They visited a sumptuous palace inhabited by scores of heavenly maidens. The Buddha asked, "Which do you find more attractive, Nanda, these heavenly maidens or your wife, Sundara?"

"World Honored One, Sundara compared to these heavenly maidens is like one of those monkeys you showed me previously. There is no comparison."

As they strolled through the palace, Sundarananda took the opportunity to question one of the heavenly maidens, "Who is the lord of this palace?"

Came the reply, "Our lord is the younger brother of the Buddha, Sundarananada, who is now in the world cultivating the Way. When his present life ends he will be reborn in this heaven, and we are preparing for his arrival." Sundarananda was jubilant. He forgot all about his wife and began cultivating vigorously for rebirth in the heavens. The Buddha saw that though he had forgotten Sundara and had begun to cultivate all he ever thought about were the heavenly maidens waiting for him in the celestial palace. The Buddha again asked Sundarananda to go on a little excursion, this time to the hells.

As they walked through the hells of boiling lead and flying knives, of urine and excrement, and of pus and blood, Sundarananda paid scant attention.  But in the hell of boiling oil he saw something that nonplussed him. He saw a pot of oil stone cold with a ferocious looking ghost lying nearby about to drop off to sleep. Sundarananda roused him, "This is hell, how can you get off so easy?"

"I'm not an inmate, I work here."

"You don't look like you're working to me."

"Relax, the person destined for this pot hasn't died yet. The Buddha's younger brother, Sundarananda, is cultivating blessings on earth. He'll be reborn in the heavens, but when his merit is all spent, he'll fall into this pot. That's when I go to work. 

Sundarananda broke into a cold sweat. He quickly forgot the heavenly maidens and resolved to cultivate and attain liberation.

Purnamaitrayaniputra was named after his parents. His father's name was Puma, "full," and his mother's name was Maitrayani, "kindness." Putra means son. When he was born, a shower of jewels rained down upon his parent's house as an auspicious sign. Among the Buddha's disciples he was foremost in speaking Dharma.

Once Purnamaitrayaniputra requested permission from the Buddha to return to his home to speak Dharma to his countrymen. The Buddha said, "The people of that country are corrupt and, evil, how will you deal with them?"

Purnamaitrayaniputra replied, "I will practice patience. If I am slandered, I will rejoice that I was not struck. If struck, I will rejoice that I was not beaten with staves. If beaten with staves, I will rejoice that I was not hacked to death with swords. If hacked to death with swords, I will rejoice at parting from this poisonous bag of skandhas."

Subhuti, "emptily born," was so named because at his birth all of the treasures of his father's great household disappeared, leaving the treasure houses empty. His father called in a diviner who declared that the newborn child was auspicious, so he is known as "good omen." After seven days all of the family treasures reappeared, so he is also known as "good manifestation."

Subhuti delighted in roaming through the mountains and forests alone, practicing dhyana concentration. Among the disciples he was the foremost in understanding the principle of emptiness.

Ananda, "rejoice," was so named because he was born on the day of the Buddha's enlightenment. Because this was such an auspicious day for a son to be corn, his father rejoiced hence the name. Ananda was the Buddha's cousin and served as his personal attendant for nearly thirty years. When the Sutras were compiled, he recited them all from memory for the assembly of Arhats. Among the disciples he was foremost in learning.

Rahula was the son of Sakyamuni Buddha, born six years after the Buddha left the palace to seek the Way. At his birth a storm of opprobrium broke about the head of his mother, Yasodhara, for how could she legitimately bear a child six years after her husband's departure. The whole palace was in an uproar and the relatives of the Buddha wished to put the offender to death.  Yasodhara remained unruffled through it all. She said to her accusers, "Prepare a pit of fire. If I have transgressed, then when I am thrown into the flames I will be burned to death. But if I have not transgressed, the spirits of heaven will protect me and I will not be harmed." A pit of fire was prepared and, with Rahula in her arms, Yasodhara leapt into the flames, but as she did the fire became a pool of water and a lotus emerged to catch her.

Rahula means obstacle. Rahula remained in the womb for six years because in a previous life, as a small child, he had blocked up a rat's hole with a piece of wood and only returned to remove it after six days. Even though he was the Buddha's son, he received this stern retribution. Cause and effect is a very grave affair.

Was Rahula really the Buddha's son? Yes. Did Sakyamuni Buddha and Yasodhara conceive their son in the manner common to all men and women? No.  Before he left the palace, the Buddha knew that Yasodhara desired to have a son, so he merely pointed his finger at her womb and Rahula was conceived.  This may seem rather incredible, but in the Buddhadharma there are a great many mysteries far more profound. The only way to understand is to cultivate the Way and gain first-hand experience.

Wise men refers to the great Arhats, called wise because they have clarity of knowledge and vision. Those who lack clarity of knowledge and vision are stupid, but again it is the total absence of knowledge and vision which is true clarity, for when they are totally absent, the inherent wisdom of the self-nature reveals itself.

      Great Arhats are those who receive the offerings of men and gods, who kill the thieves of ignorance, affliction, and the six senses, and obtain the patience of the non-production of dharmas.                 

(To be continued)

Climb Gold Mountain

During the 1973 summer the Sino-American Buddhist Association, Vajra Bodhi Sea Publications, and Gold Mountain Dhyana Monastery will jointly sponsor three five week Sutra Study and Meditation Sessions. During these sessions daily explanations of important Buddhist Sutras will complement approximately five hours of meditation in addition to sutra and mantra changing. The final week of each session will be devoted solely to the practice of a single dharma, either Ch'an meditation or recitation of the Buddha's name. The dates for the sessions are:

First Session—June 3rd through July 7th;

Second Session—July 8th through August 11th;

Third Session—August 12th through Sept. 15th.

You may attend one, two, or all three of the sessions. The closing date for registration for the first session is May 26th, 1973. There is no better way to introduce yourself to Buddhism and the path of cultivation than by attending one of these sessions. For further information, call or write the Sino-American Buddhist Association 1731 15th St. CA, USA. (415) 6215202.