THE COLLECTED LECTURES
TRIPITAKA MASTER HSUAN HUA ON—
The Sutra of the Past Vows
Earth Store Bodhisattva
from issue 46
by Disciple Bhiksu Heng Ching
by the Buddhist Text Translation Society
limitless asamkyeya kalpas ago a Buddha Pure Lotus-Eyes Thus Come One appeared
in the world. His life span was forty kalpas. During his Dharma Image Period, an
Arhat who had great merit and who crossed over living beings, teaching them as
he encountered them, met a woman named Bright Eyes who made an offering of food
is your wish?" asked the Arhat.
Bright Eyes replied, "On the day of
my mother’s death I performed meritorious deeds for her rescue, but I do not
yet know in what path she has been born."
Out of pity for her, the Arhat entered
into samadhi to contemplate, and saw that Bright Eyes’ mother had fallen into
an evil path where she was undergoing extremely great suffering. The Arhat
asked, "When your mother was alive, what deeds did she do that she should now
be undergoing such a great punishment in an evil path?"
Eyes replied, "My mother enjoyed eating fish, turtles, and the like. She
particularly relished their fried or boiled roe, and because she was fond of
eating, she took thousands of lives. Oh, Venerable Compassionate One, how can
she be saved?"
Arhat pitied her and established an expedient device and said, "With a sincere
will be mindful of Pure Lotus Eye Thus Come One, and also make carved and
painted images for the benefit of the living and the dead."
On hearing this, Bright Eyes renounced
everything she loved, drew an image of that Buddha and made offerings before it.
Moreover, she wept sorrowfully as she respectfully gazed at and worshipped that
Buddha. Suddenly, in the small hours of the night, as if in a dream she saw that
Buddha’s body, dazzling gold in color and as large as Mt. Sumeru, emitting
This Buddha said to Bright Eyes, "Before long your mother will be born in your own household and as soon as she
can know hunger and cold she will speak."
Shortly thereafter a maidservant in
the house bore a son who spoke within three days of his birth. Lowering his head
and weeping mournfully he said, "In life and death one must undergo
retributions for his own deeds. I am your mother and have been in darkness for a
long time. Since leaving you I have constantly been reborn in the great hells.
As a result of receiving the power of the merit which you did, I have been able
to be reborn, but only as a poor son of low class. My lifespan, moreover, will
be short, and after thirteen years I will fall into an evil path again. Don’t
you have some plan to effect my liberation?"
Arhat sat in dhyana and investigated the plight of Bright Eyes’ mother. His
investigation involves an act of volition for its accomplishment, whereas
Bodhisattvas are able to use their spiritual penetrations at any time, any
place, and need not deliberately make an effort to meditate and enter samadhi.
eyes renounced everything which she loved, drew an image of that Buddha, and
made offerings before it. Just as the Brahman women sold her most house,
Bright Eyes gave away and sold her most cherished possessions for the sake of of
performing an offering of incense, flowers, ointments, fruits, food and drink,
clothing, bedding, and medicinal herbs before the Buddha Pure Lotus Eyes. Later
the Buddha appeared to her as if in a dream; because of her extreme
sincerity and earnestness, there was what was called an "intertwined
response with the way," and she saw the Buddha's body.
When Bright Eyes heard the servant’s
child’s words, she knew without doubt that it was her mother and choking with
sobs she said to the child, "Since you are my mother you should know your own
past offenses. What deeds did you do that caused you to fall into the evil paths?"
servant’s child said, "I have undergone this retribution as a result of
killing and slandering. If it were not for having received the merit, which you
gained to rescue me from difficulty, my karma would be such that I could not yet
have attained liberation."
On hearing this Bright Eyes asked, "What happens during retribution in the
servant’s son answered, "Merely to speak of those sufferings is unbearable,
and even a hundred thousand years would not suffice to describe them all."
On hearing this Bright Eyes wept
bitterly and said into empty space, "May my mother eternally be separated from
the hells, and after these thirteen years may she be without her heavy offenses
and leave the evil paths. O, Buddhas of the Ten Directions, have compassion and
pity me. Hear the far-reaching vows, which I am making for the sake of my
mother. If she can leave the Three Paths forever, leave the lower classes, leave
the body of a woman, and never again have to endure them, then before the image
of the Thus Come One Pure Lotus-Eyes, I vow that from this day forth, throughout
hundreds of thousands of tens of thousands of millions of kalpas, I will rescue
living beings who are suffering for their offenses in the hells, and others of
the Three Evil Paths. I will rescue them all and cause them to leave the realms
of the hells, hungry ghosts, animals and the like. Only when the beings who are
undergoing retribution for their offenses have all become Buddhas will I myself
accomplish the right enlightenment."
After making this vow she clearly
heard the Thus Come One Pure Lotus-Eyes say to her, "Bright Eyes, you have
great compassion to be able to make such a great vow for your mother’s sake. I
see that your mother will cast off this body after thirteen years and will be
born a Brahman with a lifespan of kalpas in the Land of No Concern, after which
she will accomplish Buddhahood and cross over as many men and gods as there are
sand grains in the Ganges."
Buddha told Samadhi Self-Existent King, "The Arhat with great merit who saved
living beings is now Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva, the mother of Bright
Eyes is Liberation Bodhisattva, and Bright Eyes herself is now Earth Store
Bodhisattva. Because of his compassionate pity he has made as many vows as there
are sand grains in the Ganges to rescue living beings.
"Men and women in the future who do
not practice good but who do evil, who do not believe in cause and effect, and
who indulge in sexual misconduct and false speech, who practice double tongued
and harsh speech, and who slander the great vehicle, will certainly fall into
the evil paths. But if they encounter a good spiritual advisor who, in the flick
of a finger, leads them to take refuge with Earth Store Bodhisattva, those
living beings will obtain release from the retribution of the Three Evil Paths.
Those whose acts show deference, who are respectful with a determined mind, who
gaze in worship, praise and make offerings of flowers, incense, clothing, gems
or food and drink will be born in the heavens. There they will enjoy supremely
wonderful bliss for hundreds of thousands of kalpas. When their heavenly merit
is ended and they are born below in the world of men, they will be imperial
kings throughout hundreds of thousands of kalpas and will be capable of
remembering the causes and results of their former lives. O, Samadhi
Self-Existent King, Earth Store Bodhisattva has inconceivable and ineffable
great spiritual power to benefit living beings. All of you Bodhisattvas should
recall this Sutra, proclaim, and widely spread it."
Self-Existent King said to the Buddha, "World Honored One, please do not be
concerned. We thousands of ten thousands of myriads of Bodhisattvas,
Mahasattvas, receiving the Buddha’s awesome spirit, will certainly proclaim
this Sutra widely throughout Jambudvipa for the benefit of living beings."
Having spoken thus to the Buddha, the
Bodhisattva Samadhi Self-Existent King put his palms together respectfully,
bowed, and withdrew.
of you may think the study of Dharma is uncomfortable. What do you think it
would be like in the hells? Though you might scream that you did not want to endure such misery, you would have no way to escape, for if your
offenses are not exhausted, there is simply no way out. If you undergo a little
pain in the human realm, just think how much less painful it is than being in
the hells. Thinking this way, no matter how badly your legs hurt when you
meditate, you will always be happy and will know no suffering.
see, as the Brahman woman on the causal ground, even Earth Store Bodhisattva was
helpless and could only weep to the Buddha to save her mother from the paths of
knives, of blood, end of fire, as well as those of Three States of Woe. And now,
in turn, you should all be aware that if it were not for the great vows of Earth
Store Bodhisattva, we might very well be undergoing retributions in the hells,
being tormented among the hungry ghosts, or suffering among the animals. The
reason that we have become humans is that Earth Store Bodhisattva made vows to
rescue us. Since we have not yet achieved the penetration of past lives,
however, we do not realize the good fortune we have derived from him, how much
merciful and compassionate aid we have received. If he had not made his vows, we
would all be in great danger. Consequently,
we should always remember to repay his kindness. Ultimately, like Bright Eyes'
mother, we can be born in the Land of No Concern, which is the Western Paradise,
the Land of Ultimate Bliss.
when I lectured at the University of California, a student asked if Buddhists
believed in cause and effect. I replied, "It is not a matter of belief or
disbelief. If you believe in it, then there is such a thing as cause and effect;
if you do not believe in it, cause and effect operate just the same. For
example, go punch someone; you will certainly get hit back. Your initial punch
is the cause, and your being beaten in return is an effect. Now, do you believe
the principle that when you hit someone you will be hit in return?"
student was speechless, even though he probably had a store of theories ready to
propound in order to demonstrate the non-existence of causal relationships.
Perhaps he was afraid of being beaten up, or maybe he simply did not want to
attack people, but in any case that was the end of that. Of course, you should
all know fiat you should not go around hitting people. If you do, you are
planting a case and you are going to get clobbered. That is an effect.
you are not good to others, they will not be good to you. If you plant good
seeds, you will reap good fruits. If you have bad friends, you will become a bad
friend yourself, and if you have good friends, you will become like them. The
principle of cause and effect applies everywhere. You needn't look outside to
see why people are not good to you: just ask yourself, "Am I good to
them?" Always turn your light back and look inwards. Don't be like a camera, which can only take pictures of other people and
not know what its own inside looks like.
who is given to double tongued speech presents one face to one person and
another face to another. You praise A to his face, and speak with him of B's
faults. When with B you speak ill of A. In this way you may cause separations
and schisms, and so this offense includes one of the gravest offenses, breaking
up the harmonious Sangha.
is meant by breaking up the harmonious Sangha? The Buddhadharma is studied with
Bhiksus and Sramaneras, and one who studies Buddhadharma cannot study on the one
hand and on the other slander those from whom he studies. Laymen may not speak
of the faults of those who have received the Bhiksu or Sramana precepts; this
holds as well, of course, for Bhiksunis. One may not destroy or cause dissention
in the Sangha, saying to one person, who has left home, for example, that
another one has this or that fault. This kind of activity sows the seeds of
dissention and causes the harmonious Sangha to disperse. To do this is to commit
one of the five grave offenses discussed earlier.
only the Sangha, one may also not slander the Great Vehicle. One may say that
there is simply no such thing as the Mahayana, and that only the P51i canon may
be believed. The other day, for example, an insane man came here, and when he
saw us studying Sutras in Chinese, asked if it had been taken from Pali. He
didn't even know what Pa1i was, let alone understand the question of
is meant by good knowing advisor? The word good in this title may be explained
as able, because a good knowing advisor is capable of knowledge; that is to say,
he is capable of knowing, without any obstruction whatever, that the triple
world is like a burning house. There are three kinds of good knowing advisors:
Fellow Cultivators, and
first of these are those who supply the things necessary to support the Triple
Jewel, and they act as Dharma Protectors. The second, fellow cultivators, help
find and correct one another's flaws. Since one may not know his own
shortcomings, his fellow cultivators can help point them out. This does not mean, however, that they pick on one another and rile each
other up. Far from it. The idea behind this kind of relationship is mutual aid.
is a bit of shop talk among lapidaries which says, "Slice, rub, and
polish." To render a piece of rough jade into a beautiful gem, you must
first slice it open; then you must grind away all the flaws and polish it.
A similar process of self-cultivation is what is being described here.
is a Teaching Good Knowing Advisor? One who instructs beings in the
Buddhadharma, who lectures Sutras, and speaks Dharma in order to teach them, is
such a one.
finger flick lasts for sixty-four ksanas, each of which in turn lasts for the
space of twenty blinks of an eye and contains nine hundred births and deaths.
Each of these twenty blinks is twenty thoughts long. If one can encounter Earth
Store Bodhisattva, and in the flick of a finger he can return to and rely upon
this Bodhisattva, offering up his life and conduct, he will completely eradicate
limitless offenses meriting the states of woe.
of you Bodhisattvas should recall this Sutra, proclaim and widely spread it.
The reason why we now have a chance to see and study this Sutra is that all of
those Bodhisattvas have been proclaiming and spreading it. If it were not for
them, we would have no way to encounter this rare Dharma jewel.
In April this year the Sino-American Buddhist Association will sponsor
two meditation sessions at Gold Mountain Dhyana Monastery. The first will begin
on Saturday, April 5th and will consist of seven days of alternate
sitting and walking, chanting and silent, meditation on the name of
Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva. Participants will arise at 3:40 A.M. each day and
begin at 4:00, and continue through until 10:00 P.M. every evening with one-hour
periods of sitting meditation on the Compassionate One’s name broken by
half-hour periods of walking and chanting the name. This session will
commemorate the Anniversary of the Venerable Master Ch’ang Jen’s birthday,
the Venerable Master Ch’ang Chih’s departure from the home life, and the
Venerable Master Hua’s birthday.
second session will be devoted solely to dhyana meditation. It will begin on
Sunday, April 14. Participants will arise at 2:30 and begin walking meditation
at 2:45 and sitting at 3 A.M. There will be a minimum of twelve one-hour sits
during the day, interspersed with periods of walking and running. The session
will run from 2:30 A.M. until midnight each day for seven days.
These are difficult sessions designed for those who truly wish to end birth and
death; those wishing to attend should apply in advanced at Gold Mountain