The Wonderful Dharma Lotus 
Blossom Sutra

Translated by Disciple Bhiksu Heng Ch’ien
(Continued from issue 37)


Moreover, there were those who had more to learn and those beyond learning, two thousand in all. There was the Bhiksuni Mahaprajapati, accompanied by six thousand followers, and Rahula's mother, the Bhiksuni Yasodhara, with her followers.

Furthermore, there were eighty thousand Bodhisattvas, Mahasattyas, who had irreversibly established themselves in the guest for anuttarasamyaksambodhi and had obtained dharani. They delighted in speech, eloquently turning the irreversible wheel of Dharma. They had made offerings to immeasurable hundreds of thousands of Buddhas, and in their presence sowed the seeds of the forest of virtue, constantly receiving their praise. They imbued themselves with compassion, well entering the wisdom of the Buddhas and, having penetrated great wisdom, they had reached the other shore. Their names were uttered and heard in immeasurable worlds, and they were able to deliver uncountable hundreds of thousands of living beings. Their names were: the Bodhisattva Manjusri, the Bodhisattva Contemplator of the World's Sounds, the Bodhisattva Obtainer of Great Might, the Bodhisattva Constant Vigor, the Bodhisattva Unresting, the Bodhisattva Jeweled Palm, the Bodhisattva Medicine King, the Bodhisattva Brave Donor, the Bodhisattva Jeweled Moon, the Bodhisattva Moonlight, the Bodhisattva Full Moon, the Bodhisattva Great Strength, the Bodhisattva Immeasurable Strength, the Bodhisattva, Surpasser of the Three Realms, the Bodhisattva Bhadrapala, the Bodhisattva Maitreya, the Bodhisattva Heap of Jewels, the Bodhisattva Guiding Master, and other Bodhisattvas, Mahasattvas, such as these, eighty thousand in all.


Those who had more to learn refers to those on the stages below the fourth stage of Arhatship. Those beyond learning refers to those who had attained the fourth stage of Arhatship. Two thousand in all refers to the sum of the two groups. Two thousand can also be interpreted to represent the interpenetration of The Ten Dharma-realms and The Ten Suchnesses. The Ten Suchnesses are:

1. The suchness of mark;        

2. The suchness of nature;         

3. The suchness of substance;

4. The suchness of strength;

5. The suchness of action;

6. The suchness of cause;

7. The suchness of condition;

8. The suchness of effect;

9. The suchness of retribution;

10. The suchness of the absolute equality of the roots and branches.

Each of The Ten Dharma-realms contains all the other nine Dharma-realms, and each of the resulting hundred Dharma-realms contains The Ten Suchnesses, making one thousand suchnesses. Each of The Ten Suchnesses contains all the other nine suchnesses, making one hundred suchnesses, each of which contains The Ten Dharma-realms, making one thousand Dharma-realms. Each of the thousand suchnesses contains The Ten Dharma-realms, and so forth without end.  The number two thousand represents the thousand suchnesses and the thousand Dharma-realms. The Ten Suchnesses will be discussed in more detail when they appear in the text of the Sutra.

Bhiksuni refers to women who have left the home-life. It has the same meanings as bhiksu.

Mahaprajapati means great love of the Way. Seven days after the Buddha’s birth, his mother, Mahamaya, died and ascended to the Trayastrimsa Heaven. Mahaprajapati served as the Buddha's stepmother, caring for him until he reached manhood, as she had done for a thousand previous Buddhas. The six thousand followers included her relatives and friends.

Yasodhara the second of the Buddha's three wives, also left the home-life and became a bhiksuni.

Bodhisattvas may be interpreted as enlighteners of sentient beings, enlightened ones among the sentient, or enlightened sentient beings.  Bodhisattvas are also called enlightened lords, and beings with great resolve on the Way, for they cultivate the Dharma of the Great Vehicle, self-enlightenment and the enlightenment of others, self-benefit and the benefit of others.

The great Bodhisattvas of the Dharma Blossom Assembly are called Dharma Princes; they are sons of the Buddha, the Dharma King. All living beings are the sons of the Buddha, but the great Bodhisattvas are called true sons of the Buddha, because their enlightenment enables them to protect and support the Buddha and his Dharma. There are also initiate and uninitiate sons of the Buddha. Initiate sons are the Arhats and bhiksus who follow the Buddha and study his Dharma; the uninitiate are all living beings who have not yet begun to study the Buddhadharma. It can also be said that those beings who study the Dharma but have not certified to one of the holy positions are among the uninitiate.

Mahasattvas "great beings" are great Bodhisattvas.

There are Seven Characteristics of Mahasattvas:

1. They have perfected great roots;

2. They have great wisdom;

3. They have faith in the great Dharma;

4. They understand the great principle;

5. They cultivate the great conduct;

6. They have passed through great aeons;

7. They seek the great result.

1. They have perfected great roots. The Mahasattva has deeply planted the roots of the forest of virtue in many lives throughout many aeons. The roots of virtue are the basis of all achievements attained through cultivation of the Way. Great beings such as these are described in The Diamond Sutra, "It should be known that men such as these have not merely planted good roots before one Buddha, two Buddhas, three, four, or five Buddhas, but have done so before immeasurable billions of Buddhas."

2. They have great wisdom. Great wisdom refers to the unwavering resolve to realize Bodhi. The Bodhisattva, however, does not merely realize Bodhi for himself, but delivers all living beings from suffering as well, yet he does not seize upon the mark of a living being that has been delivered.  Again The Diamond Sutra states this very well:

The Buddha told Subhuti, "Bodhisattvas, Mahasattvas, should control their thoughts in this manner: "All classes of living beings, whether egg-born, womb-born, moisture-born, transformationally-born, with form, without form, with thought, without thought, or neither with nor without thought, I will deliver to extinction by causing them to enter the nirvana without residue; thus will I deliver to extinction immeasurable, innumerable, illimitable living beings, but in reality not a single living being will be delivered to extinction. What is the reason? Subhuti, if a Bodhisattva has the mark of a self, the mark of a person, the mark of living beings, or the mark of a life, he is not a Bodhisattva."

The Bodhisattva has great wisdom and is therefore not attached to marks.  Stupid people, on the other hand, are firmly attached to marks and wave good deeds about like banners. The Bodhisattva separates from marks, determined to attain the utmost, right, and equal enlightenment.

3. They have faith in the great Dharma. The great Dharma is the Dharma of the Great Vehicle, the reality mark of all dharmas. Faith is the sole means of access to the great sea of Dharma, it is the source of the Way and the mother of all merit and virtue. The merit of even a single thought of pure faith is immeasurable, far surpassing that obtained through a universal offering of wealth.

4. They understand the great principle. With faith the Dharma is studied, and through study it is understood. The great principle is the first of The Six Levels of Identity with the Buddha, identity with the Buddha in principle. In principle all living beings are Buddhas, but to realize that principle requires cultivation. To call yourself a Buddha and not cultivate is totally useless and equivalent to a peasant calling himself king, for although he himself acknowledges his position, his fellow countrymen don't, and his royal mandates fall on deaf ears. Without cultivating, it is impossible to return to the origin and realize Buddhahood. To cultivate properly it is necessary to understand that all living beings are Buddhas and that the reality mark wisdom is present in the minds of all living beings.

5. They cultivate the great conduct. The great conduct refers to The Six Paramitas and The Ten Thousand Practices of the Bodhisattva. The Six Paramitas are:

a. giving;

b. morality;

c. patience;

d. vigor;

e. dhyana samadhi; and

f. prajna.

a. Giving. There are three types of giving:

(1) giving of wealth;

(2) giving of Dharma; and

(3) giving of fearlessness.

The first type of giving, the giving of wealth, is further divided into the giving of internal and external wealth. External wealth refers to material possessions. The cultivator of the Bodhisattva Way should have no thought of self; with no thought of self he is not attached to material possessions as belonging to him, and is able, to forsake them all for the sake of living beings. Sakyamuni Buddha, for example, would have become a wealthy emperor, but he renounced all of his possessions, including his three beautiful wives, to become a bhiksu, cultivate the Way, and accomplish Buddhahood all for the sake of living beings. Internal wealth refers to the head, eyes, marrow, blood, and all the other parts of the body. Wherever there is a need the Bodhisattva responds, even if he must sacrifice his own body.

The second type of giving, the giving of Dharma, is the most supreme gift of all, for it enables living beings to hear of the Way of liberation, to resolve to cultivate it, and to attain Buddhahood. The third type of giving, the giving of fearlessness refers to the removal of living beings' fears and worries. If, in times of calamity you cause others to forget their fears and worries, this is the gift of fearlessness.

b. Morality. This refers to the vinaya, the code of morality. The vinaya contains the precepts to be followed by students of the Dharma on all levels. The core of the code of morality is contained in The Five Precepts, which are held by both laymen and those who have left the home-life. They forbid:

(1) Killing;

(2) Stealing;

(3) Sexual misconduct;

(4) Lying; and

(5) Indulging in intoxicants.

Moreover, there are The Eight Lay Precepts, The Ten sramanera Precepts, The Ten Major and Forty-eight Minor Bodhisattva Precepts, The Two Hundred Fifty Bhiksu Precepts, and The Three Hundred Forty-eight Bhiksuni Precepts.

c. Patience. With patience any obstacle can be overcome, so it is said, "Patience is a priceless jewel, but men who use it are few. If used well it will surely gain victory on the grandest scale." Most people can be patient for a short while, but then their patience wears thin, and they explode in anger. There was one old cultivator of patience who, thinking that his patience was perfected, hung a sign on the door of his hut saying, "A heart of ashes," meaning that he had no more temper. Not long after he had hung out his sign, a visitor strolled by, stopped, looked at it and asked, "What does that sign say?"

"A heart of ashes," replied the cultivator.

"What was that?"

"A heart of ashes," he replied again.

"Sorry, I didn't hear you. What did you say?"

"A heart of ashes," And so the conversation continued until the visitor had asked several hundred times, whereupon the old cultivator's ashes sparked anew. "It says my heart was like ashes, but now I'm ablaze! What gives you the right to ask so damn many questions! You're just trying to make me mad!  Get off my property or I'll throw you off!" As soon as he said that, the stranger rose in the air, transformed into the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, and said, "It looks as though the sign will have to go. Keep practicing, I'll be back in twenty years to see how you're doing."

d. Vigor. There is bodily vigor and mental vigor. Bodily vigor refers to bowing to the Buddha s, reciting sutras, holding mantras, and other such practices. Mental vigor is the diligent practice of morality, samadhi, and wisdom and the eradication of greed, hatred, and stupidity. Vigor is not an outward display for the benefit of others; your cultivation is solely your own concern and your achievements depend solely on the effort you expend.

e. Dhyana samadhi. Investigation of dhyana should be practiced daily, for it is only through perseverance that meditational skill is acquired.  Just as food will spoil if put in the refrigerator only one day out of ten, so too, meditational skills will spoil if not put into daily use.

f. Wisdom. Wisdom is an essential ingredient in cultivating, for without it practice has no sense of direction or discipline. Without wisdom, the cultivator is unable to recognize states and is confused by them. For example, if a stupid person is ridiculed he becomes angry, whereas the wise person simply ignores it. He understands that if slander is not received, it falls back on the slanderer, just as if he had spit straight into the air and the spit fell back in his face.

The Ten Thousand Practices represent the broad scope of the Bodhisattva Way. In brief, however, the practice of the Bodhisattva is to not grasp at thought. Past thought is already past, and is therefore non-existent. The present is in constant motion and cannot be pinpointed; as soon as it is grasped it has passed. The future has not come yet, how can it possibly be grasped? If it is understood that thought, whether past, present, or future, cannot be grasped, there will be no attachments. Without attachments, liberation is attained.

Bodhisattvas also practice The Four Dharmas of Attraction in order to liberate living beings. The Four Dharmas of Attraction are:

a. giving;

b. kind words;

c. beneficial deeds; and

d. identifiable modes.

Giving was discussed above in the explanation of The Six Paramitas. With Kind Words Bodhisattvas encourage living beings in their practice, praising their efforts and achievements, making them happy so that they wish to continue and accept the teaching. Beneficial deeds refers to all deeds of the body, mouth, and mind. The Bodhisattva benefits living beings in all three types of action so that they will receive his teaching. Identifiable modes refers to the manifestations used by the Bodhisattva to accord with the disposition of living beings. In order to teach a specific class of living beings, the Bodhisattva manifests in a form to which those beings can easily respond, and then serves as a model and teacher for them.

6. They have passed through great aeons. One aeon is one hundred thirty-nine thousand six hundred years. One thousand aeons equals a small aeon; twenty small aeons equals a medium aeon; and four medium aeons constitute a great aeon. The Mahasattva passes through three great aeons in his cultivation of the Bodhisattva Way.

7. They seek the great result. They seek the great result of anuttarasamyaksambodhi, the utmost, right, and equal enlightenment of all Buddhas.
      Irreversibly established themselves in anuttarasarnyaksambodhi means that they had obtained the path to the utmost, right, and equal enlightenment and moved forward, never retreating. Further, irreversibility is of three types, irreversibility of position, conduct, and thought. The Bodhisattva's position is irreversible in that he perseveres in his cultivation of The Six
Paramitas and The Ten Thousand Practices, not forsaking them for lesser dharmas. The Bodhisattva's thought is irreversible in that in every thought he seeks the utmost, right, and equal enlightenment.

More specifically, according to the perfect teaching of The Dharma Blossom Sutra, the stage of irreversibility refers to the first of The Ten Dwellings of the Bodhisattva Way, the dwelling of initial resolve. This agrees with the doctrine of The Avatamsaka Sutra, in which it is stated that, "At the time ""of initial resolve, right enlightenment is accomplished."  Once the initial resolve has been established, right enlightenment is a certainty, just as when you resolve to sweep the floor, the floor is as good as swept. At this stage the Bodhisattva has obtained prajna and is apart from the two types of birth and death; this is irreversibility of position. He has obtained liberation, the culmination of all practice; this is irreversibility of conduct. He has testified to reality, the Dharma-body of the Buddha; this is irreversibility of thought.

Dharani means all inclusive holding and is of four types:

1. The Dharani of dharmas;

2. The Dharani of principles;

3. The Dharani of spells; and

4. The Dharani of forbearance.

The dharani of dharmas refers to the ability to hear and grasp all the dharmas of the Buddha without forgetting them. The dharani of principles is the ability to hold the principles of all dharmas without forgetting. The dharani of spells is the ability to hold spells without losing them. The dharani of forbearance is the ability to peacefully dwell in the reality mark of all dharmas. Dharmas, principles, spells, and forbearance are the dharmas which are held. By means of dharani one is able to hold the substances of those dharmas as well. The substance of the dharani of dharmas is mindfulness. The substance of the dharani of principles is wisdom, that of spells, samadhi, and' that of forbearance, undiscriminating wisdom.

They delighted in speech, eloquently turning the irreversible wheel of Dharma. Bodhisattvas must turn the wheel of Dharma to teach living beings, fulfilling their vows to enlighten others. Turning the Dharma wheel refers to any activities involved in the propagation of the Buddha's teaching, such as the lecturing, translating, and printing sutras. Students of the Dharma should take the turning of the Dharma wheel as their own responsibility, not allowing the flow of the stream of Dharma to run dry.

They imbued themselves with compassion. The Bodhisattva imbues his body, mouth, and mind with compassion, responding to the needs of living beings caught in the wheel of birth and death. Well established in unmoving wisdom and fearing no hardship, the Bodhisattva does not depart from the triple realm but, out of compassion for all living beings and in accord with their dispositions, reveals himself to them in a myriad forms. The Bodhisattva's mouth is imbued with compassion as it speaks Dharma throughout the realms of the gods, men, asuras, animals, hungry ghosts, and the hells. With a compassionate mind the Bodhisattva establishes expedient dharmas so that living beings on all levels of existence can be led to the realization of their original Buddha-nature. The compassion of the great Bodhisattva is undiscriminating as it universally manifests throughout the Dharma-realm.    

--To be continued

Buddhist Calendar

May   30 Medicine Master Bodhisattva's Birthday

June  13 Ch'ieh Lan Bodhisattva's Birthday

July   2 Wei T'ou Bodhisattva's Birthday

14 Great Master Ch'ang Jen's Enlightenment

16 Great Master Ch'ang Chih's Birthday

18 Kuan Yin Bodhisattva's Enlightenment

Aug.  11 Great Strength Bodhisattva’s Birthday

      13 Ullumbana Festival Day of the Buddha’s Rejoicing

      22 Nagarjuna Bodhisattva’s Birthday

      27 Earth Store Bodhisattva’s Birthday

      30 Great Master Hui Neng’s Birthday

Sept. 18 Dipankara Buddha’s Birthday

Oct.  10 Great Master Ch’ang Jen Left the Home Life

      11 Venerable Master Hsuan Hua Left the Home Life

      12 Great Master Ch’ang Chih’s Enlightenment

      14 Avalokitesvara Left the Home Life

Nov.   5 Medicine Master Buddha’s Birthday

      30 Patriarch Bodhidharma’s Birthday