The Wonderful Dharma Lotus 
Blossom Sutra

--Translated by Disciple Bhiksu Heng Ch’ien
Sponsored by the Buddhist Text Translation Society

(Continued from issue 38)

The Bodhisattva Manjusri. If all eighty thousand Bodhisattvas were listed by name, the Sutra would be far toe long, so eighteen of the leading Bodhisattvas are listed to represent the entire assembly.

      Manjusri is named first because he is the leader of all the Bodhisattvas, and because he resolves the doubts of the great assembly, as he has done for twenty thousand previous Buddhas. When later in this chapter the Buddha emits a light, which illumines eighteen thousand worlds, the great assembly is startled and full of doubt. The Bodhisattva Maitreya voices the doubts of the assembly and Manjusri answers them.

Manjusri, "wonderful virtue" or "wonderfully auspicious," is so named for his lofty vows and practice, and his unsurpassed wisdom. He is first among The Four Great Bodhisattvas: Manjusri, Avalokitesvara, Samantabhadra, and Ksitigarbha. In the past he was the Buddha Supremely Honored Dragon King, but he put Buddhahood aside to manifest as a Bodhisattva, supporting the assemblies of ail the Buddhas in teaching living beings.

The Bodhisattva Manjusri's bobdimandala is located on Mount Wu T'ai in the Province of Shansi, China. During the Ch'ing Dynasty the Venerable Master Hsu Yun made a pilgrimage to Mount Wu T'ai to pay homage to the Bodhisattva Manjusri. He started from P'u-t'ou Mountain in the South China Sea, two thousand miles from Mount Wu T'ai, and every three steps he prostrated himself to the Bodhisattva, seeking his help, so that he too could have great wisdom. When he reached the Yellow River it was winter and a heavy snow began to fall. Near the edge of the river he took shelter from the blizzard in a small hut, but after several days the snow had not let up, and he was about to die from the extreme cold and hunger. At that time he was discovered by a tramp who melted snow in a pan and made some yellow rice soup for him. After the Venerable Master had eaten the soup he felt much better and asked the man what his name was.

"Wen Chi," the man replied. "Where are you from?"

"I come from P'u-t'ou Mountain in the South China Sea."

"Do you have this in the South China Sea?" questioned Wen Chi, picking up a handful of snow and holding it in front of the Master.

"No," replied Master Hsu Yun.

"What are you eating then?"

Master Hsu Yun was unable to answer. The tramp Wen Chi accompanied the Master from the Yellow River to a spot near Mount Wu T'ai, carrying his baggage for him while he prostrated himself every three steps. Without the burden of his baggage, the Master was able to prostrate himself much more easily, and travel was faster. He asked Wen Chi, "Where are you from?"

"I'm from Mount Wu T'ai. All the bhiksus there know me quite well; they are all my good friends."

During the remainder of the journey the Master and Wen Chi often stayed at monasteries along the way, but many of the monks at those monasteries maligned Wen Chi and berated the tester, saying, "Hahh! You couldn't do it by yourself. You had to enlist a tramp to help you." Often they would not even allow Wen Chi to sleep within the confines of the monastery, but Wen Chi never showed any sign of anger. When they were near Mount Wu T'ai, he told the Master that a government official with a horse-cart would be up ahead and would carry the Master's baggage, and then he left. Just as Wen Chi had said, the Master was met by the official, and soon reached the mountain.  He asked all of the bhiksus there if they knew a tramp named Wen Chi, but they ail claimed to have never heard of such a person. Finally, one bhiksu asked the Master, "What was his name?"

"Wen Chi," replied the Master.

"OHH! That's Manjusri! Wen means Wen-shu-shih-li (the Chinese transliteration of Manjusri), and Chi is auspicious, the Bodhisattva Wonderfully Auspicious." Venerable Master Hsu Yun had made a long and difficult pilgrimage to Mount Wu T'ai to pay homage to the Bodhisattva Manjusri, not knowing that the man carrying his baggage was just Manjusri who had appeared as a tramp to help him. Manjusri could easily have revealed himself in the form of a wealthy elder, complete with horse and cart to carry the Master's baggage, but he chose instead to accompany the Master on foot, sharing his hardships.

The Bodhisattva Contemplator of the World's Sounds (Skt. Avalokitesvara). In the past, immeasurable aeons ago, there was a Buddha in the world named Treasury of Jewels. A great, sagely King named Limitless Purity was encouraged by one of his chief ministers. Jeweled Sea, to make offerings to that Buddha and his disciples. The King made not just one, but many offerings to that Buddha and his countless sound-hearer disciples.  Moreover, he heard that Buddha proclaim the wonderful Dharma, conducted himself in accord with the teaching, and fixed his resolve on the utmost, right, and equal enlightenment. He finally vowed before that Buddha, that upon his accomplishment of Buddhahood his land would be free of all impurity and the suffering of the realms of the hells, hungry ghosts, and animals.  The Buddha Treasury of Jewels conferred a prediction of Buddhahood upon him, giving him the name Amitabha, and said that his vow to have a pure Buddha-land would be fulfilled; it is the present Land of Ultimate Bliss described in The Buddha Speaks of Amitabha Sutra.

      The minister Jeweled Sea made vows to save innumerable living beings from the suffering of the realms of rebirth. The Buddha Treasury of Jewels conferred a prediction on him also, saying, "Good man, you contemplate men, gods, and the living beings in The Three Evil Ways and give rise to compassion, desiring to remove their sufferings and afflictions and cause them to dwell in peaceful bliss. Good man, I therefore name you Contemplator of the World's Sounds. The Bodhisattva Contemplator of the World's Sounds is successor to the Buddha Amitabha. When the Buddha Amitabha enters parinirvana, the name of his Buddha-land will change to The World Wrought From Gems, and the Bodhisattva Contemplator of the World's Sounds will sit beneath a Bodhi tree and in a single thought realize Buddhahood, with the name The King of Mountainous Virtue and Universal Light.

The Bodhisattva Contemplator of the World's Sounds responds to the suffering cries of living beings throughout the ten directions, revealing himself in myriad forms in order to deliver them from their anguish. Because of this he is called the Greatly Compassionate Contemplator of the Worlds Sounds. He has a thousand eyes with which he contemplates the countless world systems, and, seeing beings struggling to free themselves from the sea of suffering, he reaches down with a thousand hands and pulls them to safety.

      The twenty-fourth chapter of this Sutra is devoted to this Bodhisattva, and at that time his limitless qualities will be discussed in greater detail.

The Bodhisattva Colossal Might (Skt. Mahasthamaprapta). Whenever this Bodhisattva walks, with every step he shakes the entire world system of one billion worlds and the palaces of the demons, so he is called Obtainer of Great Might. He vowed that his world would be the same as that of the Bodhisattva Contemplator of the World's Sounds; both of them now support the Dharma of Amitabha Buddha in the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss and will succeed him there as the Dharma Host, first Contemplator of the World's Sounds and then Obtainer of Great Might.

The Bodhisattva Constant Vigor (Skt. Nityodyukta). For the sake of even a single living being this Bodhisattva will pass through immeasurable aeons, following and trying to teach him. If that being will not accept the teaching, the Bodhisattva Constant Vigor does not once think to forsake him but perseveres tirelessly in the effort to enlighten him.

The Bodhisattva Unresting (Ski. Aniksiptadhura). The Bodhisattva Unresting has diligently cultivated all of the pure conducts in assemblies of Buddhas as numerous as the sands of the Ganges, not resting for a single moment.

The Bodhisattva Jeweled Palm (Ski. Ratnapani). On the causal ground this Bodhisattva cultivated the Dharma of The Forty-two Mudras and Eyes of the Bodhisattva Thousand-handed, Thousand-eyes Contemplator of the World's Sounds, and from this practice obtained many Dharma Jewels, such as the As-you-will Pearl Mudra which enables him to do anything he wishes. The Dharma jewels, which he obtained, embrace all other Dharma jewels, and he is therefore called Jeweled Palm.

The Bodhisattva Medicine King (Skt. Bhaisajyaraja). When the Sagely Wheel-turning King Limitless Purity vowed to attain Buddhahood and dwell in a land free of suffering, his thousand sons also vowed to become Buddhas. That King became the Buddha Amitabha and his sons became The Thousand Buddhas of the Auspicious Aeon, in which we now dwell, Sakyamuni was the fourth of these thousand Buddhas. The King had two other sons by a different wife. The elder of these vowed that as each of his brothers attained Buddhahood he would serve as a Dharma protector. The other vowed to be the first to make an offering to each of them upon their accomplishment of the Way, and to continue to make offerings as long as they taught the Dharma in the world.  He further vowed that after each Buddha entered parinirvana, during the Dharma-ending Age, when the calamity of plague swept the world, he would cure the illnesses of living beings, both physical and mental, so that they would be able to cultivate the Dharma. He became Medicine King.                                        

The Bodhisattva Brave Donor (Skt. Pradanasura). The Six Paramitas are the basis of The Ten Thousand Practices, and giving is the first of The Six Paramitas. To give takes courage; with courage immeasurable merit can be obtained through giving, without it giving is difficult. You may intend to make gifts to other living beings but then you hesitate, "If I give this away I will have none for myself." Thinking of your own well being you lack the courage to give to others. The Bodhisattva Brave Donor gives all he has to those who are in need, without a thought for his own well-being. If he thought of himself he could not be called Brave Donor.

The Bodhisattva Jeweled Moon, the Bodhisattva Moonlight, the Bodhisattva Full Moon (Skt. Ratncandra, Ratnaprabha, and Purnacandra). Because these three Bodhisattvas purely cultivate the paramita of morality, their bodies and mouths are radiant like the full moon. Their awesome manner in the observance of morality serves as a model for all beings in The Three Realms.

The Bodhisattva Great Strength, the Bodhisattva immeasurable Strength, the Bodhisattva Surpasser of The Three Realms (Skt. Mahavikramin, Anantavikramin, and Trailokyavikramin). These three Bodhisattvas obtained their names from the cultivation of the paramita of vigor. Through matchless vigor they obtain their strength and transcend the desire realm, the form realm, and the formless realm.

The Bodhisattva Bhadrapala. Bhadrapala can be interpreted to mean holy protector, or holy chief. This Bodhisattva protects the assemblies of the Buddhas through his practice of the paramita of dhyana samadhi; hence he is called holy protector. He is one of the foremost Bodhisattvas, a chief among sages, hence he is called holy chief.

The Bodhisattva Maitreya. Maitreya means kindness. He is so named because by means of kindness he cultivates the paramita of patience, and because when a living being sees him that being obtains the Samadhi of Kindness. Maitreya is also known as the Bodhisattva Ajita "invincible," for there are no heavenly demons or externalists who can defeat him. The Bodhisattva Maitreya teaches the Dharma in the inner courtyard of the Tusita Heaven, preparing to enter the world and inherit Sakyamuni Buddha's position as teaching host.

Many confused externalists say that he has already entered the world, but the time when Maitreya will appear was clearly determined by Sakyamuni Buddha. Each aeon has a period of increase and a period of decrease, which is to say that the average lifespans and heights of human beings increase and decrease. The present aeon is in its period of decrease, every hundred years man’s lifespan decreases one year, and his height one inch. Presently, the average lifespan is approximately sixty-five years. When it reaches ten years, the period of increase will begin, continuing until the lifespan is eighty-four thousand years, at which time it will once again begin to decrease. When it has reached eighty thousand years, the Bodhisattva Maitreya will appear in the world, accomplish Buddhahood, and teach the Way to enlightenment in the Dragon Flower Dharma Assembly. Those people who say that he has already appeared in the world are jumping the gun by several million years.

The Bodhisattva Mass of Jewels (Skt. Ratnakara). This Bodhisattva has immeasurable merit. Since merit is precious, it is comparable to jewels, so he is called Mass of Jewels.

The Bodhisattva Guiding Master (Skt. Susarthavaha). Just as travel guides lead people about on holidays, this Bodhisattva leads people from the hells onto the road to enlightenment, causing them to fix their thoughts on Bodhi.

(To be continued)