The Buddha Speaks of 
Amitabha Sutra

continued from issue 44

Commentary translated by Disciple Bhiksuni Heng Yin
Text Translated, by Disciple Upasaka I Kuo Jung
Edited by disciple Upasika Tun Kuo Hsun



Thus I have heard: At one time the Buddha dwelt at Sravasti, in the Jeta Grove, in the Garden of Anathapindada, together with a gathering of great Bhiksus, twelve hundred-fifty in all, all great Arhats whom the assembly knew and recognized..."


      Ananda's fourth question concerned evil-natured Bhiksus. The Buddha said, "Be silent and they will leave." Even while the Buddha was in the world, there were evil-natured Bhiksus, laymen, and ordinary people. "If you ignore them," said the Buddha, "they will lose interest and go away."

Thus I have heard. "Thus" fulfills the accomplishment of 1) faith. The Dharma, which is "thus", can be believed. Dharma, which is not "thus", cannot be believed. "I have heard" fills the accomplishment of 2) hearing. Since the ears do the hearing, why does it say, I have heard? This is because; where as the ears are just a small part of the body, "I" refers to the entire person. At one time fulfills the accomplishment of 3) time.

      "Why," you ask, "doesn't the Sutra state the month, day, and year?"  Calendars differ from nation to nation. Some countries begin the year in the first month, some in the second or third months of another country's calendar. There is no one way to indicate the date, and what is more, if the date were given, people would start doing research to determine if the date were correct. Because the Sutra only states, "At one time," there is no demand for historical verification.

In order to speak the Dharma, there must be an 4) audience's; in this case, it was the gathering of great bhiksus. The audience must also have the time to come and listen, for if they don't stay, of what use is their faith? They must have the time to listen, they must want to hear the Dharma, and they must believe in it. Then there must also be a Dharma-speaking 5) host. In this case, the Buddha is the Dharma-speaking host and the 6) place is Sravasti in the Garden of Anathapindada. Therefore, in the opening sentences of this Sutra, all six accomplishments are fulfilled.

Sravasti is the name of a city in India. Translated, it means "abundance and virtue,"1 because the seven jewels: gold, silver, lapis lazuli, crystal, mother of pearl, red pearls, and carnelian, and the five desires: beauty, wealth, fame, food, and sleep were in abundance there. The people of Sravasti were very intelligent and had the virtue of great learning2 and liberality.

You could also say that the five desires are forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and touchables. The states connected with the five objects of desires turn people's wisdom upside-down. The eyes run off after forms, the ears after sounds, the nose after smells, the tongue after tastes, and the body after tangibles. Deluded people spin around and around in pursuit of these five desires.

The people of Sravasti had great learning and refinement. They were also liberated, free, and unfettered, and were only slightly attached.

The Benefactor's Garden

...In the Jeta Grove, in the Garden of Anathapindada...

Anathapindada was a wealthy elder who lived in the city of Sravasti. In China, when King Wen established the kingdom, he assisted four kinds of people: widows, widowers, orphans, and the childless. Anathapindada assisted these four kinds of people, so he is called the benefactor of orphans and the solitary, the rendering of the Sanskrit of his name.3 He was also known as Sudatta, Sudatta interpreted as meaning, "joyous giving."4


1-feng te. The Sanskrit can represent the vernacular for sarvarsti, "It has everything."

2 The root /sru-/ means "hear," and can refer to learning.

3 -chi ku tu. His name in Sanskrit means  "giver of food to the needy", more literally "giver of balls of rice to those without a portion."

4 -le shih. Sanskrit su "well", /da/ "give."

The Amitabha Sutra with the Master's explanation is being readied for publication in book form. You may subscribe to it from the Vajra Bodhi Sea Publication Society at a prepublication discount (about one half off).

He was a rich man, but he didn't understand the Buddhadharma. In fact, he had never even heard the Buddha's name. One day, while arranging for his son's marriage, he paid a visit to his friend, the wealthy elder Shan T'an No.

That night, Shan T'an No rose and began to decorate his house. Sudatta asked, "You're adorning the house so beautifully, is there to be a celebration? Is your son going to be married?"

"No," said Shan T'an No, "I have invited the Buddha to receive offerings."

When Sudatta heard the word "Buddha," every hair on his body stood straight up on end.

"Who is the Buddha?" he gasped.

"The Buddha is the Crown Prince, son of King Suddhodana. He would have been the king, but he left home to cultivate the Way and become a Buddha instead. I have invited him here to receive offerings."

Having heard the word "Buddha," Sudatta could no longer sleep. Sakyamuni Buddha knew that Sudatta's heart was sincere, and he emitted a light, which shone so brightly that Sudatta thought it was dawn, got out of bed, and went out of the city. The city gate was locked, but the Buddha opened it with his spiritual powers and Sudatta proceeded to the Buddha's dwelling in the Bamboo Grove.

Just as Sudatta arrived, four gods descended, circumambulated the Buddha tree three times, and then bowed in order to show Sudatta the proper gestures of respect. Because Sudatta had never seen the Buddha or heard the Dharma, Sudatta followed the gods' example, and the Buddha explained the Dharma for him. Sudatta was delighted and exclaimed, "Buddha, you have so many followers, you really need a big place to live. I shall prepare one and invite you to live there."

Sudatta looked, but he couldn't find the right land. Finally, he saw Prince Jeta's garden, it was big enough, but Prince Jeta refused to sell. "If you want to buy my garden," laughed the Prince, "first cover the ground with gold coins. That's my price."

Sudatta didn't stay to bargain with him. He just said, "O.K.," and moved his entire treasury, piece by piece, to the garden and covered the entire grove. "Now your garden belongs tome," he said to Prince Jeta.

"I was only joking," said the Prince, annoyed. "I'm keeping it for myself. How could I sell it to you?"

"You told me that you would sell it if I covered it with gold, and I took you at your word, Sudatta said. "If you plan to be a King, you really shouldn't joke with people. A King must stand by his word."

"Very well," said the Prince, "you covered the ground with gold, so the park is yours. But you didn't cover the trees; the trees are mine, but I'll give them as a donation."

Because the trees belonged to Prince Jeta, it is called the Jeta Grove, and because the garden was Sudatta's, it's called the garden of Anathapindada, which was his other name.

...together with a gathering of great Bhiksus, twelve hundred fifty in all... This phrase fulfills the 5) audience accomplishment. "Together" means that they study under the same teacher, live in the same place, and investigate the Buddhadharma together. They all had the same resolve for Bodhi and had opened the same wisdom, attained the same result, and would together realize Buddhahood. Because they had so much in common, the text reads, "together."

The Sutra text first lists the assembly of Sravakas because Sravakas are sages who have transcended the world. The Bodhisattvas are listed next because they are sometimes Bhiksus and sometimes laymen. They cultivate the Middle Way and so they are listed in the middle. The gods and dragons of the eight-fold division are listed last, because they are in the world and represent the common people. Sometimes the Bodhisattvas are in the Dharma assembly, and sometimes they travel to other worlds. The Bhiksus, on the other hand, are the Buddha's constant followers. They always listened to the Sutras and the Dharma, and are consequently listed first.

Great has three meanings: 1) great, 2) many, 3) victorious. Bhiksus are respected by kings and great men and are consequently "great." They have cut off afflictions and destroyed the "many" evils. They are different from, and victorious over, all non-Buddhists.

Bhiksu has three meanings: 1) seeker of alms food, 2) one who frightens Mara, 3) destroyer of evil.

When one ascends the precept platform to be ordained, one's request for ordination may be granted after three appeals. An earth-bound yaksa spirit informs a space-travelling yaksa, who flies up to inform the heavenly demons. The heavenly demons are terrified and tell Mara, the king of the sixth desire heaven, "The Buddha's retinue has increased by one and ours has decreased by one!" At this Mara's palace quakes. Thus a Bhiksu is one who frightens Mara.

He also destroys the evils of the eighty-four thousand afflictions because he has resolved his mind on Bodhi.

The Six Harmonious Unities of the Sangha

These Bhiksus were assembled together as a Sangha. Sangha is a Sanskrit word, which means, "harmoniously united assembly."1 They live together without bickering or fighting and are united in specifics and in principle. In principle, they have given proof to liberation and to the unconditioned. Specifically, they are united in six ways: dwelling, speech, thoughts, attitude, morals, benefits.

      1) As a group they dwell together. They don't look at one another's faults and fight among themselves. No one has a special style. There are, for example, no drinkers or smokers, how much the less solitary addicts. Everyone who lives with the Sangha follows the rules.


1 -ho ho chung.

2) Harmonious in speech, they do not quarrel. They don't gossip. They don't say, "So and so has such and such an asset, and so and so has such and such a fault. Three frogs have six eyes." Their speech is harmonious and what they talk about is important and has principle. They don't argue.

3) With harmonious thoughts, they like the same things. One likes to study the Buddhadharma and so does the next. One is vigorous and the next is more so. The more one person cultivates, the more the next person cultivates. Everyone makes vigorous progress.  Everyday they are more energetic, not more lazy. Cultivating more and speaking less, their minds are in harmony with the same happiness.

4) With harmonious attitudes, they have the same liberation.

5) With the same precepts, they cultivate together.

6) In harmony, they mutually share their benefits.

Twelve hundred and fifty in all...These were the Buddha's constant followers, his retainers. When the Buddha went to lecture Sutras, these Arhats always went along, even if they had already heard the Sutra.

There were actually twelve hundred fifty-five disciples, but for the sake of convenience the number was rounded off to twelve hundred fifty. In the Deer Park, the Buddha first taught the five Bhiksus. Then Yasas the Elder and his fifty disciples took refuge. The Venerable Sariputra and the Venerable Maudgalyayana together had a hundred disciples who took refuge.

The Brothers Kasyapa

The three Kasyapa brothers had a thousand disciples. Five hundred were with Uruvilva Kasyapa. His name means "papaya"1 or "great turtle clan."2 It is said that he awakened to the Way upon seeing the pattern on a tortoise's shell. It is also said that he cultivated in a papaya grove. Some accounts claim that he had a lump on his chest which resembled a papaya; some describing it as concave, and some as convex! What is probable is, liking to eat wood melons, he cultivated in a melon grove, and in time a papaya grew on his body. Papayas are good for curing illnesses of the lungs. He was also called "Pippala" which is the name of the kind of tree to which his parents prayed to in order to have a son.

 The second Kasyapa was called Gaya Kasyapa. He was named after a mountain called "Gaya," meaning "elephant's head "3 because of its shape.


1 -mu kua lin.

2 -ta k'uei shih.

3 -hsiang t'ou shan.

      The third Kasyapa was called Nadi Kasyapa. Some explain Nadi as "river"1 and some as "city"2. An explanation, which includes the two, describes the river as running by the city.

These three brothers had a total of one thousand disciples.

The Conversion of Uruvilva Kasyapa

The Buddha first taught and crossed over the five Bhiksus in the Deer Park. Then he considered who to cross over next. Looking into the matter, he saw that in Magadha the potential of the three Kasyapa brothers had matured and so he went there to cross them over.

He consequently went to the dwelling of Uruvilva Kasyapa, but, being unable to say, "I have come to save you. Do you believe me?" he devised a clever expedient device. "It's nightfall," he said, "and I can't travel any farther. May I stay on here?"

Kasyapa was already one hundred and sixty years old at this time. He had many spiritual powers and worshipped fire, "He's unusual," he thought when he saw the Buddha. I wonder why he is so special." But, try as he might, he could not figure out the Buddha. The Buddha appeared ordinary, but Kasyapa knew that he was special. "Strange," he thought, "I can see anyone else's background just by looking. Why can't I see his?" Then he said, "All right, you can stay here," and he put him in the cave where his dharma-protecting dragon lived. His dharma protector, the dragon, was extremely fierce, and fatally scorched to death anyone who approached. In the middle of the night the dragon tried to scorch the Buddha. The Buddha had, however, entered the firelight samadhi and could not be burned. Then the Buddha put the dragon in his bowl. He probably didn't have to trick him by saying, "You can only make fire, you can't come into my bowl," the way the Sixth Patriarch had once said to another dragon, "You can only manifest a big body, not a small one," The Buddha used the Dharma in a very natural way to get the dragon into his bowl. Then he explained the Dharma to him and the dragon took refuge.

Seeing such spiritual penetrations and transformations, Kasyapa knew that his own virtue was not as great as the Buddha's. Thereupon, he took refuge and instructed his five hundred disciples to do the same. Soon after leaving home, they gave proof to the sagely fruit.

Kasyapa's two younger brothers were also fire-worshippers, but when they saw that their brother had become a High Master, they wanted to leave home as well. They did, and along with their five hundred disciples, they soon gave proof to the sagely fruit.

That makes one thousand two hundred and fifty-five disciples. Out of gratitude for the Buddha's deep kindness and his teaching, they were the Buddha's constant followers. No matter where the Buddha went, they accompanied him to protect the assembly. For example, when we lecture Sutras, those who come to listen protect the assembly. Even though they already understand the doctrines, they still take time from their busy schedules to come and listen.


1 -ho.


Bhiksu, a Sanskrit word, has three meanings which correspond to the three meanings of the word Bhiksu, because being a Bhiksu is the cause of attaining Arhatship, and Arhatship is the result of cultivation as a Bhiksu. It's a matter of cause and effect.

An Arhat is: 1) Worthy of offerings. On the causal ground, the Bhiksu is a seeker of alms food, and as an Arhat he is worthy of the offerings of gods and men, 2) One without birth. On the causal ground, the Bhiksu frightens Mara, and in the result, as an Arhat he undergoes no further birth. 3) Slayer of thieves. On the causal ground, the Bhiksu destroys evil, and in the result the Arhat has slain the thieves of ignorance and affliction.

On the causal ground, the Bhiksu frightens the demons of the five skandhas, the afflictions, and death. Mara, Death, is also just a demon. Cultivators cultivate, yet when they fall ill and confront death they are afraid. "I'm going to die!" they cry, turned by the demon of death. Real cultivators fear nothing. They are not afraid of life and they are not afraid of death. Life and death are the same. Death and life are not different. There is no distinction between them. If, while alive, cultivators can be as if dead, they will have no thoughts of desire. How can one have sexual desire, greed, hate, stupidity, pride, or doubt as a dead man? When one arrives at this state there are no afflictions, no troubles at all. This is true happiness.

This state is not easy to attain.  On the other hand, it is not difficult either. If one wants to, one can do it.

Last year, when Kuo Ning (Dharma Master Heng Ching) was very sick, he said to me repeatedly. "I'm really suffering."

I said, "The more suffering the better. The more you suffer, the more you'll understand."

One day it seemed as if he had died. He went to a happy place full of people.

"Happiness is fine," he said, but I want to see my teacher."

"Who is your teacher?" the people asked. As soon as they heard his teacher's name they were unhappy. "You can't see your teacher here," they said.

"Then I'm leaving," he said, and came back, not having died after all. You might say he has conquered the demon of death. Subsequently, his skill has increased greatly. He has opened the three closings and now has a bit of a state.

These Arhats were all very famous and their virtue was respected by the entire population. Everyone knew their names and recognized their faces.


Lower rebirth of the middle grade in the Pure Land



...Elders Sariputra, Mahamaudgalyayana, Mahakasyapa, Mahakatyayana, Mahakausthila, Revata, Suddhipanthaka, Nada, Ananda, Rahula, Gavampati, Pindola-Bharadvaja, Kalodayin, Mahakapphina, Vakkula, Aniruddha, and others such as these, all great disciples.


      Elder is a term used to show respect for another's position. There are three kinds of elders: 1) Elders in age, 2) Elders in the Dharma nature, 3) Elders in blessings and virtue.

      An elder in age has lived for many years. A Dharma nature elder understands the Buddhadharma and comprehends his self-nature. Regardless of his age, he is nevertheless an elder in terms of his wisdom and intelligence.  One such as this may be young in years, but he can lecture Sutras and explain the Dharma. His wisdom is limitless like the great sea, and his eloquence is unobstructed.
      Elders in blessings and virtue are fortunate, because people like to make offerings to them. Because of their virtuous conduct they are like fields where, by making offerings, one plants the causes of future blessings.


Sariputra was a "Dharma-nature" Elder. At the age of eight years he studied and mastered all the Buddhadharma in only seven days, and he could out-debate all the Indian philosophers.

Sariputra's name is Sanskrit. His father's name was Tisya and his mother's name was Sarika. Hence he was known as Upatisya, "Little Tisya," and as Sariputra, "son (putra) of Sari."

The name Sariputra may be translated three ways l) "body son"1 because his mother's body was extremely beautiful, and her features very refined; 2) "maina son,"2 due to his mother's eyes which were as beautiful as those of a maina bird; 3)"Jewel son"3 because his eyes shone like jewels. Sariputra's mother's eyes were beautiful, and when she bore this jewel-eyed son, his eyes were beautiful too.

He was the foremost of the Sravakas in wisdom. His wisdom had no peer. While still in the womb, he helped his mother debate, and she always won. In the past, whenever she had debated with her, brother, she had always lost, but while she was pregnant with Sariputra her brother couldn't debate as well as she, and he had lost.

      "This Isn't your own power," he said, "the child in your womb must be incredibly intelligent. He is helping you debate, and that's why I lost." Thereupon he decided to study logic and traveled to southern India, where he studied for many years. There was no electricity at that time, yet he studied day and night. He mastered the Four Vedas, the classics of Indian knowledge, without wasting a moment. He didn't take time to mend his tattered clothing, wash his face, or even cut his nails which grew so long that everyone called him "Long-nailed Brahmin."

Having mastered various philosophical theories he returned to debate with his sister's son. He had spent a great deal of time preparing for the event, and felt that if he lost it would be the height of disgrace. "Where is your son?" he asked his sister.

"Sariputra has left home under the Buddha," she said.

The long-nailed Brahmin was displeased. "How could he?" he said. "What virtue does the Buddha have? He's just a Sramana. Why should anyone follow him? I'm going to go bring my nephew back!"

He went to the Buddha and demanded his nephew, but the Buddha said, "Why do you want him back? Establish your principles and I'll consider your request."

"I take non-acceptance as my doctrine," said the uncle.
      "Really?" said the Buddha. "Do you accept your view of non-acceptance? Do you accept your doctrine or not?"

Now the uncle had just said that he did not accept anything. But when the Buddha asked him whether or not he accepted his-own view of non-acceptance, he could hardly admit he accepted it, for it would invalidate his principle of non-acceptance. But if he said he didn’t accept it, he would contradict his own statement of his doctrine and his view. He was therefore unable to answer either way.

He had made an agreement with the Buddha that if he won he would take his nephew, but if he lost he would cut off his head and give it to the Buddha.


1 -shen tzu.

2 -ch'iu tzu.

-chu tzu.

So what did he do? He ran!

About four miles down the road he stopped and thought, "I can't run away; I told the Buddha that if I lost he could have my head. I'm a man after all, and I should keep my word. It's unmanly to run away." Thereupon, he returned to Sakyamuni Buddha and said, "Give me a knife. I'm going to cut off my head."

"What for?" said the Buddha.

"I lost, didn't I? I owe you my head, don't I?"

"There's no such principle in my Dharma," said the Buddha. "Had you won, you could have taken your nephew, but since you lost, why don't you leave home instead?"

"Will you accept me?" he said.

"Yes," replied the Buddha.

So not only did the nephew not return, but the uncle didn't return home either. 
      At age eight, the Great Wise Sariputra had penetrated the "real mark" of all dharmas in only seven days, and defeated all the philosophers in India. When Sakyamuni Buddha spoke the Amitabha Sutra without request, Sariputra was at the head of the assembly, because only wisdom such as his could comprehend the deep, wonderful doctrine of the Pure Land Dharma door.

Not only was he foremost in wisdom, he wasn't second in spiritual penetrations either. Once a layman invited the Buddha to receive offerings, Sariputra had entered samadhi, and no matter how they called to him, he wouldn't come out. He wasn't being obnoxious by showing off, thinking, "I hear them, but I'm not moving, that's all there is to it." No, he had really entered samadhi.

When he didn't respond to the bell, Maudgalyana, foremost in spiritual powers, applied every bit of strength he had, but could not move him.  He couldn't even ruffle the corner of his robe. This proves that Sariputra was not only number one in wisdom, but also in spiritual penetrations. He wasn't like us. If someone bumps us while we sit in meditation, we know it, Sariputra had real samadhi.

We should look into this: Why was Sariputra foremost in wisdom? Why was he called "The Greatly Wise Sariputra?" It's a matter of cause and effect.   Ina former life, in the causal ground, when he first decided to study, he met a teacher who asked him, "Would you like to be intelligent?"

"Yes, I would," said Sariputra.

"Then study the Dharma door of Prajna wisdom. Recite and hold the Great Compassion Mantra, the Surangama Mantra, the Ten Small Mantras, and the Heart Sutra.1 Recite them every day and your wisdom will unfold."

Sariputra followed his teacher's instructions and recited day and night, while standing, sitting, walking, and reclining. He did not recite for just one day, but made a vow to recite continuously, to bow to his teacher, and to study the Buddhadharma life after life. Life after life, he studied Prajna, and life after life his wisdom increased until, when Sakyamuni Buddha appeared in the world, Sariputra was able to penetrate the real mark of all dharmas in only seven days.

1 These are daily recited in Buddhist temples for morning recitation.

"Who was his former teacher? Just Sakyamuni Buddha! When Sakyamuni Buddha realized Buddhahood, Sariputra became an Arhat, and because he obeyed his Good Knowing Adviser, he had great wisdom. He never forgot the doctrines his teacher taught him, and so in seven days, he mastered all the Buddha's dharmas.

When one has not studied very much Buddhadharma in the past, one learns mantras and Sutras very slowly. One may recite the Surangama mantra for months and still be unable to recite it from memory. It is most Important, however, not to be lazy. Be vigorous and diligent. Like Sariputra, don't relax day or night. Those who can't remember should study hard, and those who can should increase their efforts and enlarge their wisdom. You should consider, "Why is my wisdom so much less than everyone else's? Why is his wisdom so lofty and mine so unclear? Why do I understand so little? It's because I have not studied the Buddhadharma." Now that we have met the Dharma we should vow to study it. Then in the future we can run right past Sariputra and study with the Great, Wise Bodhisattva Manjusri, who is far, far wiser than the Arhat Sariputra. This is the cause behind Sariputra's wisdom, a useful bit of information to know.

Three American Sarmaneras and two American Sramanerikas have now received in Taiwan the complete precepts: the Bhiksu, Bhiksuni and Bodhisattva precepts. You could say that they are new Bodhisattvas returning to America. People who have received the Bodhisattva precepts cultivate the Bodhisattva Way, and people who have received the Bhiksu precepts uphold the Buddhadharma and teach living beings. When these five return, we Americans should protect them as precious treasures. We should be their Dharma protectors, for they are returning to America to establish American Buddhism so that in the future, Americans will be able to cultivate and realize Buddhahood. This is my hope.


The Sanskrit word maha has three meanings: 1) great, 2) many, and 3) victorious. As an elder, one is respected by kings and great ministers. Having studied the Sutras in the Tripitaka, an elder has victoriously transcended all non-Buddhist religions.

Maudgalyayana is Sanskrit and means "descendent of a family of bean gatherers."1 His name also means "turnip root"2 because his ancestors ate turnips when they cultivated the Way. He is also called "Kolita" after the tree where his father and mother prayed to the spirit of that tree for a son.


1 -ts'ai shu shih.

2 -lai fu.

This Venerable One was the foremost in spiritual penetrations. In his cultivation of the Way, when he first certified to Arhatship he obtained six kinds of spiritual penetrations: the heavenly eye, the heavenly ear, the knowledge of others’ thoughts, the knowledge of past lives, the extinction of outflows, and the complete spirit. With the heavenly eye, one sees not only the affairs of men, but every action of the gods as well. With the heavenly ear, one hears the gods speaking. With the knowledge of others' thoughts, one knows what others are thinking and planning before they speak. With the knowledge of past lives, not only does one know what they are thinking, but one clearly knows their causes and effects from former lives.

As to the extinction of outflows, everyone has outflows. They are like leaky bottles: pour something in the top and it flows out the bottom. The bigger the hole, the faster the flow. The smaller the hole, the slower the flow. If there are no holes, there are no leaks, no outflows. The extinction of outflows is the absence of leaks.

What outflows do people have? Food and drink become the outflows of feces and urine. If you like to get angry, that's an outflow. If you are greedy, hateful, or stupid, you have outflows. Pride and doubt are outflows, too.

With outflows, nothing can be retained, but without them, all leaks disappear. Outflows are simply our faults. People...If we don't have big sicknesses, we have small sicknesses, and if we don't have small sicknesses we have little faults. If we don't have big outflows, we have small outflows and if we don't have small outflows, we have slow leaks, little bad habits. A lot can be said about outflows. The absence of them is called the Penetration of the Extinction of Outflows.

The Penetration of the Complete Spirit is also called the "penetration of the realm of the spirit" and the "spiritual penetration of everything as you will it to be." The complete spirit means that you have an inconceivable power. Not even the ghosts and spirits can know of your thousand changes and ten thousand transformations, for you have penetrated all realms and states without obstruction. "As you will,” means that everything is the way you want it. If you want to go to the heavens, you go; if you want to go down into the earth, you go. You can walk into the water without drowning and into the fire without burning. If you're in your room and think, "I'd rather not go out the door," you can walk right through the wall. How can this be? It's "as you will" according to your thought. However you think you would like it to be, that's the way it is. You Just have to wish for it and you attain your aim. These are the Six Spiritual Penetrations.

When Mahamaudgalyayana first obtained these penetrations, he looked for his father and mother. Not so much his father, actually, as his mother. Where was she? His mother was in hell. Why? Because she had not believed in the Triple Jewel, the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, and what is more, she had slandered them. She had also eaten fish eggs and flesh, and thereby had killed many beings.

Seeing her in hell, Maudgalyayana sent her a bowl of food. She took it in one hand and hid it with the other because she was afraid the other hungry ghosts would see it and try to steal it from her. Being greedy herself, she knew that the other hungry ghosts were greedy too, and so she covered it over stealthily.

Although it was good food, her heavy karmic; obstacles prevented her from eating it. When the food reached her mouth, it turned into flaming coals, which burned her lips. Maudgalyayana's spiritual powers could not prevent the food from turning into fire, so he asked the Buddha to help him.

 The Buddha told him to save his mother by arranging an Ullambana offering. Ullambana means, "releasing those who are hanging upside down." People in hell who have become hungry ghosts are as if hanging upside down. The Buddha told Maudgalyayana that on the fifteenth day of the seventh (lunar) month, the day of the Buddha's delight, the day of the monks' Pravarana, he should offer all varieties of food and drink to the Sangha of the ten directions. In this way he could rescue his mother so she could leave suffering and obtain bliss.

Maudgalyayana followed these instructions and his in other was reborn in the heavens. Not only was his mother saved, but all the hungry ghosts in the hells simultaneously left suffering and attained bliss.

Now, you may say, "I don't believe that the food and drink becomes fire when the hungry ghosts eat it." Of course you don't believe it! I didn't believe it either, once. But the world is full of strange, strange things. It would be hard to speak about them all. How much the less can one be clear about those things beyond this world. Let's take water, for example. People and animals see water as water, but the gods see it as lapis lazuli and the hungry ghosts see it as fire. It's all a question of individual karmic manifestations. Gods have the karmic retributions of gods, men of men, and ghosts of ghosts.

This is how, with the Buddha's help, Maudgalyayana saved his mother.


Again, maha means great, many, and victorious. The Sanskrit word kasyapa means "great turtle clan,"1 because Mahakasyapa's ancestors saw the pattern on the back of a giant turtle and used it to cultivate the Way.

Kasyapa also means, "light drinking clan,"2 because his body shone with a light which was so bright it seemed to "drink up" all the other light.


1 -ta k'uei shih.

2 -yin kuang shih.

Why did his body shine? Seven Buddhas ago,3 at the time of the Buddha Vipasyin, there was a poor woman who decided to repair a ruined temple. The roof of the temple had been blown off and the images inside were exposed to the wind and soaked by the rain. The woman went everywhere and asked for help, and when she had collected enough money she commissioned a goldsmith to regild the images. By the time the work was finished the goldsmith fell in love with, her and said, "You have attained great merit from this work, but we should share it. You may furnish the gold and I will furnish the labor free." So the temple was repaired and the images refurbished. The goldsmith asked the woman to marry him and, in every life, for ninety-one kalpas, they were husband and wife and their bodies shone with purple and golden light.

Kasyapa was born in India, in Magadha. When he was twenty his father and mother wanted him to marry, but he said, "The woman I marry must shine with golden light. Unless you find such a woman I won't marry." Eventually they found one, and they were married. As a result of their good karma their bodies shone with golden light and they cultivated together and investigated the doctrines of the Way. When Mahakasyapa left home to become a Bhiksu, his wife became a Bhiksu called "Purple and Golden Light."

Mahakasyapa also had the name "Pippala," because his parents prayed to the spirit of that tree in order to have a son.

Mahakasyapa holds an important position in Buddhism. When Sakyamuni Buddha spoke the Dharma, the Great Brahma Heaven King presented him with a golden lotus, and Sakyamuni held up the flower before the assembly. At that time, hundreds of thousands of gods and men were present, but no one responded except Mahakasyapa, who simply smiled. Then the Buddha said, "I have the right Dharma Eye Treasury, the wonderful Nirvanic mind, the real mark which is unmarked. This Dharma door of mind-to-mind transmission has been transmitted to Kasyapa." Thus Mahakasyapa received the transmission of Dharma and became the first Buddhist Patriarch.

Venerable Kasyapa is still present in the world. When he left home under the Buddha he was already one hundred and sixty years old. By the time Sakyamuni Buddha had spoken Dharma for forty-nine years in over three hundred Dharma assemblies, Kasyapa was already over two hundred years old. After Sakyamuni Buddha entered Nirvana the Venerable Kasyapa went to Southwestern China, to Chicken Foot Mountain in Yun Nan Province. It has been over three thousand years since the Buddha's Nirvana, but Mahakasyapa is still sitting in samadhi in Chicken Foot Mountain waiting for Maitreya Buddha to appear in the world. At that time he will give Maitreya the bowl, which the Four Heavenly Kings gave Sakyamuni Buddha and which, Sakyaminu Buddha handed over to him, and his work in this world will be finished.


3The number of Buddhas who have responded to the needs of men to appear in the world to teach and transform are countless, but beginning with the seven Buddhas of antiquity, we have: 1) Vipasyin Buddha, 2) Sikhin Buddha, and 3) Visvabhu Buddha, all of whom appeared in the Alamkarakalpa (Adorned Kalpa), and 4) Krakucchanda Buddha, 5) Kanakamuni Buddha, 6) Kasyapa Buddha, and 7) Sakyamuni Buddha, of the present Bhadrakalpa (Worthy Kalpa).

      Many cultivators travel to Chicken Foot Mountain to worship the Patriarch Kasyapa and on the mountain there are always three kinds of light: Buddha light, golden light, and silver light. Those with sincere hearts can hear a big bell ringing inside the mountain. It rings by itself, and although you can't see it, you can hear it for several hundred miles all around the mountain. This is an inconceivable state.

to be continued