The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Blossom Sutra
(continued from issue #41)
At that time the entire great multitude of bhiksus, bhiksunis upasakas, upasikas, gods, dragons, yaksas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, kinnaras, and mahoragas, both human and non-human, as well as the minor kings, and the holy wheel-turning kings, obtained what they had never had before, rejoiced, and putting their palms together, single-mindedly gazed at the Buddha.
Bhiksunis. There was one cultivator of dhyana who worked hard and opened enlightenment. He sought out an accomplished master to have his achievement certified. The master asked him, "What did you obtain?"
"I obtained nothing."
"Then what enlightenment do you have?"
"I know that basically bhiksunis are just women."
"Ahh, true understanding." The master had The Five Eyes and knew the cultivator was not lying so he certified his enlightenment. Many great masters expressed their understanding of the self-nature in simple and mundane terms. Their understanding, however, is only dimly reflected in their words and those who think they see their own nature in the words of others, however profound, have missed the whole meaning of the Buddhadharma. They are externalists and far from the Way.
Yaksas "speedy" are big ghosts, able to push mountains hundreds of miles with a single shove. They are also called "solid brave ones."
Mahoragas are big boa snakes.
Non-Humans refers to ghosts and spirits.
Minor kings are kings of small countries.
Holy wheel-turning kings are of four classes. Gold holy wheel-turning kings have limitless wealth and a thousand sons to support them. Wherever they go they reap great profit and their will is triumphant. They rule all of The Four Continents and have a lightning fast chariot' which carries them the length and breadth of this realm. A silver holy wheel-turning king rules over all but the northern continent, a copper holy wheel-turning king rules over the southern and eastern continents and an iron holy wheel-turning king rules over only the southern continent.
Obtained what they had never had before, rejoiced, and putting their palms together, single-mindedly gazed at the Buddha. This is the fifth portent, the portent of the rejoicing of the assembly.
Thereupon the Buddha emitted from the white tuft between his eyebrows a light, which illuminated eighteen thousand worlds to the east, omitting none of them, reaching downward to the Avici Hells and upward to the Akanistha Heaven. The living beings in The Six Destinies and all the current Buddhas of those lands were entirely seen, and the sutras and dharmas spoken by those Buddhas fully heard. All the cultivators who had obtained the Way, the bhiksus, bhiksunis upasakas, and upasikas within those lands were also seen, as well as the Bodhisattvas, Mahasattvas, and their various circumstances, beliefs, understandings, and appearances in cultivating the Bodhi saliva Way. The parinirvana of those Buddha s and stupas of the seven jewels erected to honor their sarira were also seen.
Thereupon the Buddha emitted from the white tuft between his eyebrows a light, which illuminated eighteen thousand worlds to the east, omitting none of them. The white hair tuft centered between the; Buddha's eyebrows is called the precious seal of the reality mark of the middle Way, and represents The Four Virtues of Nirvana, permanence, bliss, true self, and purity. The tuft has a hollow center, which represents permanence; the exquisiteness of the hair tuft represents bliss; its softness represents true self, and its white color represents purity. The light of the white tuft universally illumines the ultimate potential of all living beings, that is, Buddhahood, and among all the sutras, it is only in The Dharma Blossom that the Buddha emits this light. This indicates that The Dharma Blossom Sutra is the complete, sudden Dharma-door to the Buddha's wisdom, based on the reality mark.
The Buddha's light manifesting in this world and in others represents self-enlightenment and the enlightenment of others. Putting forth this white light smashes the darkness of ignorance to manifest the wisdom of the middle Way. Within it can be seen all the marks of a Buddha, all his cultivation, his merit and virtue, his enlightenment, and his nirvana. According to the Small Vehicle, when he is born, the hair tuft, for those able to see it, is five feet across; while he cultivates the Way it is fourteen feet across; and on accomplishing Buddhahood it is fifteen feet across. Actually it is much bigger. The hair mark of Amitabha Buddha is described as being as large as, five Mount Sumerus. All Buddhas have the same marks; Sakyamuni's hair tuft is also as big as five sumerus.
The eighteen thousand worlds illuminated by the Buddha's light represent The Eighteen Realms of Sense Perception, The Six Sense Organs, The Six Sense Objects, and The Six Sense Consciousnesses. Here the Buddha's light from his white tuft illuminated eighteen thousand worlds to the east, but it is not the case that the illumination of his light is limited to the east. He is able to extend or retract its illumination in any direction horizontally or vertically. The illumination in the east represents the cause and effect of the one Buddha vehicle. The east is the initial direction of the four directions and thus it represents the Ten Dwellings, the initial positions on the Bodhisattva Way. The first of the Ten Dwellings is the dwelling of initial resolve, at which point the Bodhisattva is irreversible as the knowledge and vision of the Buddha begins to unfold before him. Because the Bodhisattva is irreversible, the stage of initial resolve includes all the remaining positions on the Bodhisattva Way, and therefore the text reads "omitting none of them."
Reaching downward to the Avici Hells. The Avici "boundless" Hells are the deepest of the hells. In the Avici Hells, space is boundless because whether one person or countless people inhabit them, they are filled. Time is boundless because those who fail into these hells suffer for a seeming eternity.
And upward to the Akanistha Heaven. The Akanistha Heaven is the Heaven of Ultimate Form, the highest of the heavens in the form realm.
The living beings in the Six Destinies. The Buddha illuminated the eighteen worlds so that the gods, asuras, men, animals, hungry ghosts, and hell dwellers of each world were clearly seen. The realms of gods, asuras, and men are The Three Wholesome Destinies, and the realms of animals, hungry ghosts, and hell dwellers are The Three Evil Destinies. The realm of asuras is sometimes counted among the evil destinies, making four. This passage of text is the first item in a list of The Six Portents in Other Worlds:
1. Seeing The Six Destinies;
2. Seeing the Buddhas;
3. Hearing the Dharma;
4. Seeing the fourfold assembly obtain the Way;
5. Seeing the practices of the Bodhisattvas;
6. Seeing the parinirvana of the Buddhas.
Gods become gods because in the past they held The Five Precepts and practiced The Ten Wholesome Conducts. The first precept prohibits killing, the second stealing, the third sexual misconduct, the fourth lying, and the fifth intoxicants. The retribution for killing is a short life, a great deal of sickness, and a violent death. The retribution for restraint is a long life, good health, and a peaceful death. Therefore the Buddha advised his followers not to kill.
Those who steal from others will in the future lose their wealth. Those who do not steal will be able to preserve their wealth. Therefore the Buddha advised his followers not to steal.
Those who lust after other's wives in the future will be cuckolded themselves.
Again, those who never lie, and have not lied in the past, will not be deceived or cheated. Those who lie and cheat others will receive the same treatment in the future.
The retribution for indulging in intoxicants is stupidity, and more immediately, broken health. Using intoxicants to any great degree makes cultivation difficult because intoxicants fog the mind and poison the body. However, the greatest danger is that under their influence the other precepts are likely to be disregarded. All of the actions prohibited by The Five Precepts can lead to the lower paths, the animals, hungry ghosts, and hells.
Asuras cultivate good with a vengeance. They fight for merit, striving for recognition, so they cannot reap the true merit of the Bodhisattva who gives without hope of anything in return. While giving, the asura thinks, "Oh, he gave five dollars to the Triple Jewel; I'll give ten. What? He gave ten; I'll give twenty." Whenever he opens his mouth he contends for first position or worse, he only lets a few people know, to let the news of his secret good leak out slowly.
People get to be people because they have held The Five Precepts and cultivated The Ten Wholesome Conducts. The gods have held them on the highest level, asuras at a middle level, and people on the lowest level.
Living beings are born into The Three Evil Destinies because of The Three Poisons, greed, hatred, and stupidity. Extreme greed brings about rebirth as a hungry ghost. Hungry ghosts suffer from hunger because in previous lives they were greedy for food.
Hatred brings about rebirth in the hells. Once in the hells anger may blaze anew. "How did I get here! Goddamn mountain of knives isn't going to cut me up! I'll beat the hell out of it!" Anger gets you to the hells and anger keeps you there.
Stupidity brings about birth in the animal realm. The only cure for stupidity is to study the Great Vehicle Buddhadharma. Those who don't believe this, ignore the Buddhadharma, and do not act in accord with the principles of Dharma, will fall into the realms of animals or worse. Perhaps when such beings are reborn as humans once again, they will be more inclined to study the Dharma.
Revolving in the wheel of birth and death is a very straightforward affair. Each action brings about a definite and appropriate reaction. Plant a cause for Buddhahood and become a Buddha, plant a cause for hell and go to hell.
And all the current Buddhas of those lands were entirely seen, and the sutras and dharmas spoken by chose Buddha s fully heard. This is the portent of seeing the Buddhas and the portent of hearing the Dharma. All of the sutras and dharmas spoken by the Buddhas seen in the eighteen thousand worlds were heard.
All the cultivators who had obtained the Way, the bhiksus, bhiksunis, upasakas, and upasikas within those lands were also seen. This is the portent of seeing the fourfold assembly obtain the Way. Each of the Buddhas was speaking Dharma to the fourfold assembly to lead them to cultivate and certify to the sagely positions.
...as well as the Bodhisattvas, Mahasattvas, and their various circumstances, beliefs, understandings, and appearances in cultivating the Bodhisattva Way. This is the portent of seeing the practices of the Bodhisattvas.
The parinirvana of those Buddhas and stupas of the seven jewels erected to honor their sarira. Were also seen. This is the sixth of the Six Portents in Other Worlds, seeing the parinirvana of the Buddhas. Nirvana means non-production and non-extinction. It is also called perfect quiescence and the perfection of merit and virtue. There are Four Types of Nirvana:
1. The nirvana of the purity of the self-nature;
2. The nirvana with residue;
3. The nirvana without residue; and
4. The nirvana of no dwelling place.
Sarira are magical relics. When Sakyamuni Buddha was cremated an, immeasurable number of sarira appeared in the ashes. Sarira represent the Dharma-body of the Buddha and Buddhist disciples enshrine them in stupas, also called pagodas, to worship and make offerings to them.
(To be continued)
Translated by disciple Bhiksu Heng Ch'ien and edited by Bhiksu Heng Pai, the first volume of the Lotus Sutra containing the first to chapters in translation with an extensive commentary is now being prepared for publication.