The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Blossom Sutra

Sutra:                           Continued from issue # 40

      At that time the World Honored One, having been circumambulated, lavished with offerings, venerated, and praised by the fourfold assembly, spoke a Sutra of the Great Vehicle named The Immeasurable Principle, a dharma for instructing Bodhisattvas and spoken for their sake, one of which the Buddha s are protective and mindful.  After the Buddha finished speaking this Sutra, he sat in full lotus and entered the Samadhi of the Abode of the  Immeasurable Principle, body and mind unmoving. Then Mandarva flowers, Mahamandarva flowers, Manjusaka flowers, and Mahamanjusaka flowers rained down from the heavens upon the Buddha and the entire great assembly, as the Buddhalands throughout the universe trembled and shook in six ways.


      At that time the World Honored One, having been circumambulated... After the Buddha realized Buddhahood people did not know how to show their respect for him. To serve as models, gods from the Pure Dwelling Heavens manifested in human bodies before the Buddha, circumambulated him three times to the right, prostrated themselves before him, and withdrew to one side.

      Lavished with offerings, venerated, and praised. Those who make offerings to the Buddha do so out of respect, and with the utmost sincerity. It is to give the Buddha that which is most prized, and therefore what is most difficult to give. There was a beggar who spent his only coin to buy a pint of oil as an offering to the Triple Jewel.  The abbot of the monastery where he made the offering had the penetration of the heavenly eye and when the beggar approached the gates the abbot met him and invited him to lunch in the abbot's quarters. At the same time a great landowner delivered three hundred barrels of oil to the monastery, but the abbot told the guest prefect to meet him and he himself did not bother with the man.

      The bhiksus who lived at the monastery did not understand, "Why did you personally attend to the beggar who brought only a pint of oil and ignore the man who brought three hundred barrels?"

      The abbot replied, "The man who brought the pint of oil spent his last cent to buy it. That was a true offering to the Triple Jewel. The other man who brought three hundred barrels of oil could as easily have brought three thousand. The small sacrifice he made demanded little faith."

      The merit of an offering such as that beggar made is great.  Those who possess wealth in this life gained it through giving up what was difficult to give in the past.

      Respect for the Buddha should also be shown with the body and mind, therefore the great assembly also sing/s praises of the Buddha in verses, like this praise to Sakyamuni:
Within the heavens and on earth, 
There is no one like the Buddha;
In all the worlds throughout the cosmos
No one lives who can compare.
For I myself have fully seen them,
All the beings within those worlds,
Thus it is I know for certain,

The Buddha has surpassed them all.                       

      By the fourfold assembly. The fourfold assembly can be explained in two ways, the assembly of the Buddha's disciples, and the disciples who act in the assembly. Of the four assemblies of disciples there are two divisions:

those who have left the home-life:
1. bhiksus, and
2. bhiksunis,
and those who dwell at home:
3. upasakas, and
4. upasikas.

      Bhiksus and bhiksunis are the immediate followers of the Buddha who cultivate and propagate his Dharma to the exclusion of all worldly activities. Upasakas "close in deeds," and upasikas (feminine form) are the lay disciples who serve the Triple Jewel as Dharma protectors, maintaining a close relationship with the temples and monasteries, and cooperating with the Sangha to make propagation and cultivation of the Dharma successful.

      Of those who play a role in the sutra assembly there are also four kinds:

1. those who bring about the teaching;

2. those who directly benefit from the teaching;

3. those who influence the assembly; and

4. those who make cause with the assembly.

      Those who bring about the teaching have developed the wisdom necessary to know what dharmas need to be spoken at what time. They know the Buddha's intent and assist him by requesting the dharmas appropriate to the assemblies' needs.

      Those who directly benefit from the teaching are those to whom the teaching is directly spoken. All those who express doubts in this first chapter are those to whom the teaching is addressed and who will benefit from it.

      Those who influence the assembly already understand the teaching because they have heard it many times before many Buddhas.  They are the great Bodhisattvas whose presence awes the lesser members of the assembly and causes them to respect the teaching and carefully attend. When the Bodhisattvas appear, the great assembly knows a great teaching is about to be spoken and they listen carefully lest they lose great benefit.

      Those who make cause with the assembly make offerings to the Triple Jewel of food, clothing, medicine, and the like, hoping to establish affinity with the teaching and those who cultivate in accord with it. An illustration will make the principle behind this plain.

      There was a Dharma master in China who was exceptionally learned and able. He explained sutras with such eloquence that the gods came to listen whenever he spoke. However, no people ever came because he had no affinities with them. He understood the reasons for this and resolved to remedy the situation. He bought .several sacks of rice and retreated into the mountains to feed the birds. He recited the Great Compassion Mantra and the Surangama Mantra over the rice day and night, intending that the birds who ate the rice should be enabled by the power of the mantras to be reborn as people.

      He recited mantras and fed the birds for twenty years and then he descended into the city to lecture sutras again. All of the local young people came to hear him speak and received the teaching very respectfully; they had great faith in the master. They were just the birds he had fed in the mountains who had been reborn as people and came to study with him and protect his Dharma.

      Spoke a Sutra of the Great Vehicle. Before speaking The Dharma Blossom Sutra. the Buddha spoke The Immeasurable Principle Sutra. This is the first of The Six Auspicious Portents occurring in this world:

1. speaking dharma;

2. entering samadhi;

3. raining of flowers;

4. trembling of the earth;

5. rejoicing of the assembly; and

6. emitting light.

Although the Buddha often speaks Dharma, in this case the other events occurred in connection with it and so it is considered an auspicious event.

There are Seven Points of Greatness of the Great Vehicle;

1  great Dharma;

2  great resolve;

3  great understanding;

4  great purity;

5  great adornment;

6  great time; and 

7. great perfection.

The Dharma of the Great Vehicle embraces all The Twelve Classifications of Sutra Text and all Three Divisions of the Buddhist Canon; the Great Vehicle embraces the teaching of the Small Vehicle but the Small Vehicle does not include the Great.  Great resolve is necessary to cultivate in accord with the Great Vehicle doctrine for it demands the will to perfect The Ten Thousand Virtues of a Buddha over several great aeons. Great understanding arises from studying and cultivating this doctrine, and with great understanding comes the great purity of mind necessary to see the Way in its entirety. Great adornment refers to the adornment of wisdom, virtue, and blessings. Great time refers to the three great aeons through which a Bodhisattva must cultivate to attain the supreme result, the great perfection, which is the completion of The Six Paramitas and The Ten Thousand Practices: Buddhahood.

      Named the Immeasurable Principle. The immeasurable comes from the measurable and the measurable comes from the primary. The primary comes from the unmarked and the unmarked comes from the reality mark.  The reality mark is without marks, without the mark of birth and death and without the mark of nirvana; yet there is nothing which is not marked. It could also be said that the immeasurable just comes from the one, that the one is the immeasurable and the immeasurable is the one; all is one. But actually there is no one either; the one arises from the one-less. There isn't a one, but living beings want something to do, so they come up with the one and soon have the immeasurable.

      A dharma for instructing Bodhisattvas and spoken for their sake. one of which the Buddha s are protective and mindful. The Buddha spoke the Immeasurable Principle to teach the Great Vehicle Bodhisattvas how to cultivate to Buddhahood. The doctrine taught is one of which the Buddhas are ever mindful and protective, which the Buddha is reluctant to speak. They are protective of this dharma because it is difficult to us slander it and commit offenses.

      After the Buddha finished speaking this Sutra, he sat in full lotus and entered the Samadhi of the Abode of the Immeasurable Principle, body and mind unmoving. This is the second portent, entering samadhi.

      Sitting in full lotus, legs folded atop one another, is a basic and important posture for cultivation. Sitting in meditation in full lotus, the body is firm and stable. When the body is unmoving, then the mind can also be unmoving.  Samadhi brings wisdom and morality brings samadhi; sitting in full lotus is the basic substance of morality.

      When I was in Northeastern China, there was an externalist master named Kuan Chung Hsi who had over four thousand disciples. He made much money cheating these disciples, but he was getting old and knew that when the time came to die his money would be of no use, He set out to find a true master who could teach him how to cultivate. He took his nephew Kuan Chan Hai with him and together they wandered throughout northern China in search of a teacher, and although they were very sincere, after three years of searching they had been unable to find a suitable one. Then they met me.

      When I was cultivating by my mother's grave Kuan Chung Hsi had heard of me but he had never seen me. One day I went to his house.  Strangely enough, the night before his nephew had seen me in a dream and in the dream he asked, me to teach him the Way. He heard me say, "You can't cultivate the Way. You eat pork and in the future you'll be reborn as a pig."  Again he asked me to teach him the Way. Then he saw me reach out and pull a piece of skin off his head, a piece of pig skin, "There, I've removed your offenses, now you can cultivate." When he told his uncle of this dream the old man became extremely excited.

      When I arrived at their house the two of them knelt before me and asked me to be their master. "How can I teach you anything! I haven't got the Way myself. I'm only twenty-three years old."  Still they insisted and would not get off their knees, I told them that I would take them to visit ail the great cultivators and they could choose one of them for a master.

      After visiting a number of accomplished masters the two of them were still dissatisfied and again asked me to teach them the Way.  I replied that I could not teach what I did not know, but that I would teach them a method of cultivation; I taught them to sit in full lotus. The nephew didn't have much trouble because he was young, but the old man's legs were stiff and he was big boned to begin with. One knee would stick up off the mat more than half a foot and he really had to force is to hold the position. I told them to keep practicing and left. After seventy days I returned and the old man's knees were so swollen he could hardly walk. "You should stop practicing the full lotus," I told him, "you can't take it."

      "Don't practice?" he said, "I am about to die. If I can't cultivate what will happen to me when I die? No matter what happens to my legs, I will practice unto death. I can't let a little pain stop me from cultivating."

      "Okay," I told him, "they're your legs," and I left. I came back three months later and his legs were no longer swollen. "Not sitting any more?"

      "No. I practice every day and no matter how long I sit my legs no longer hurt."  I saw that he had some determination so I showed him how to cultivate dhyana.

      His nephew still hadn't found a teacher, so on one occasion I took him to see the Venerable Ch'ang Chih, . because I felt certain he would wish to take refuge with such a virtuous master.  He didn't , however, and on our return, as we were passing through a small forest, he grabbed my robe and fell to his knees in front of me. "What are you doing?" I said.

      He replied, "My uncle and I looked for a master for many years, but there were none who I could believe in as much as I believe in you. So now I must bow to you as my teacher." I got angry, ripped my robe out of his hands and strode off into the forest. I looked back after going about three hundred yards and he was still kneeling, so I returned to ask him what he was doing. He said, "You've got to take me as a disciple! If you don't receive me I'll kneel here until I die."

      "Fine. It's your choice, nobody is making you do it." Then I stomped off again. After I'd walked about half a mile I looked back and saw that he was still kneeling. I went bade and told him he could be my disciple. He was my first disciple in China, and after taking refuge he practiced never lying down and ate only once a day at noon.

      His uncle practiced for about five years. He knew when his death was approaching and told his family what day he would be leaving and that they should not mourn him. When the day of his death arrived he sat in full lotus the then, without any illness, he died. On that evening many people in the village where he lived dreamt that they saw him being escorted off to the Pure Land of Amitabha by two youths in green robes.

      Then Mandarva flowers. Mahamandarva flowers. Manjusaka flowers, and Marhamanjusaka flowers rained down from the heavens upon the Buddha and the entire great assembly. Mandarvas are white flowers and Mahjusakas are red flowers, both of which cause those who see them to feel joy. The raining of these four kinds of flowers is the third portent and represents The Ten Dwellings, The Ten Conducts, The Ten Dedications, and The Ten Grounds, in that order. These are stages of cultivation that must be passed through.

As the Buddha lands throughout the universe trembled and shook in six ways. This is the fourth portent, the trembling of the earth. The Six Movements are:

1. three sounds;

A. banging,
B. roaring, and
C. cracking,

2. and three movements;

D, shaking, 
E. rising, and 
F. surging.

Further, each movement and sound is threefold; for example, there is simple shaking, movement in one place; extensive shaking, movement throughout The Four Continents; and universal shaking, movement throughout the entire world system of one billion worlds. Each of the movements and sounds manifests on these three levels. These six movements and sounds represent The Ten Dwellings, The Ten Conducts, The Ten Dedications, The Ten Grounds, equal enlightenment, and wonderful enlightenment. At each of the six stages of cultivation another level of ignorance is smashed.

      These Six Movements of the ground also manifest internally through The Six Sense Organs.  Generally, the ground symbolizes the substance of the mind, and The Six Movements represent the transforming of the defilement of The Six Sense Organs into purity. Simple movement represents this transformation taking place in The Six Sense Organs, extensive movement is its manifestation in The Six Sense Objects, and the universal movement is its manifestation in The Six Sense Consciousness, thus including ail eighteen of the realms of sense perception.

      The transformation of the substance of The Six Sense Organs from affliction to Bodhi is done through the practice of dhyana samadhi. Through the application of substantial effort and patience, the practitioner will experience these six movements, representative of The transformations taking place within his body.

      The eyes are related to the liver; the liver is brown and belongs to wood which is related to the East. The tongue is related to the heart; the heart is red and belongs to fire which is related to the South. The nose is related to the lungs; the lungs are white and belong to metal, which is related to the West. The ears are related to the kidneys; the kidneys are black and belong to water, which is related to the North. Each organ has its merits and afflictions, as will be discussed later in the Sutra. When an organ's merits arise, its afflictions perish; when its afflictions arise, its merits perish. The arising and perishing of the merits and afflictions of the different organs is mutually related. When the merits of the nose arise, the afflictions of the eyes perish; when the merits of the eyes arise, the afflictions of the nose perish. When the merits of the tongue arise, the afflictions of the ears perish; when the merits of the ears arise, the afflictions of the tongue perish.

      The Six Sense Organs mutually assist one another, either giving rise to merits or .afflictions. If they are allowed to course in afflictions they will lead you down to The Three Evil Ways, the hells, hungry ghosts, and animals. If you put them to work, giving rise to their merits, they can take you to Buddhahood. For example, if you see forms with your eyes, desire them, but cannot obtain them, afflictions arise. On the other hand, if you read sutras with your eyes, they can help you understand the principles of the Buddhadharma: the merit of the eyes. Or perhaps you see images of the Buddha and respect is aroused in your mind; merit arising from your eyes. The ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind are also just like that; they can aid or harm you depending on how you use them. The principle here is the same as that of stupidity and wisdom, both of which are of the same substance; it manifests as stupidity or wisdom according to your ability to use it. If you follow your sense organs and become entangled in external objects, that is the afflictions of your organs. If, however, you are able, through effort applied in cultivation, to turn one of The Six Sense Organs around and return it to its original nature, all the other organs will follow suit.  Therefore it is said:

The self-nature is like empty space, 
Both true and false are held within. 
Fully understanding the primal substance 
Penetration of one is penetration of all.

--to be continued

      The translation of the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Blossom Sutra with a commentary by Tripitaka Master Tu Lun which appears in Vajra Bodhi Sea is being made by Bhiksu Heng Ch'ien under the sponsorship of the Buddhist Text Translation Society.