THE WONDERFUL DHARMA LOTUS FLOWER SUTRA
With commentary of the Venerable Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua
Translated by Bhiksuni Heng Yin
Continued from issues #60, 61, 62
THEN THE FOUR-FOLD MULTITUDE
IN BODY AND IN MIND ENRAPTURED,
THEY OBTAIN WHAT THEY HAD NEVER HAD.
THEN, at the time when the great earth shakes, THE FOUR-FOLD MULTITUDE/ that is, the Upasakas, Upasikas, Bhiksus and Bhiksunis. the four-fold assembly of disciples, REJOICES ALTOGETHER/ This is the Portent of the Rejoicing of the Assembly. IN BODY AND IN MIND ENRAPTURED/ THEY OBTAIN WHAT THEY HAD NEVER HAD/ "Enraptured" means extreme happiness In the past they had never been as delighted and happy. They obtain what they never had before.
THE BRIGHT LIGHT FROM BETWEEN THE BROW!
SHINES INTO THE EASTERN QUARTER,
CAUSING EIGHTEEN THOUSAND LANDS
ALL TO BECOME OF GOLDEN HUE.
AND FROM THE AVICI HELL
UPWARDS TO THE PEAK OF BEING.
WITHIN EACH OF THESE WORLDS ARE SEEN
THE BEINGS WITHIN THE SIX PATHS.
THEIR DESTINIES IN BIRTH AND DEATH,
THEIR KARMIC CONDITIONS, GOOD OR EVIL,
THEIR RETRIBUTIONS, FAVORABLE OR ILL--
ALL OF THIS IS SEEN.
THE BRIGHT LIGHT FROM BETWEEN THE BROWS/The white hair-mark, located between Sakyamuni Buddha's eyebrows, emits a great bright light, which SHINES INTO THE EASTERN QUARTER/into the East. CAUSING EIGHTEEN THOUSAND LANDS/ALL TO BECOME OF GOLDEN HUE/
AND FROM THE AVICI HELL/The avici hell is the lowest point in existence, called the "uninterrupted" hell. UPWARDS TO THE PEAK OF BEING/There are three realms of being, earlier discussed as the three realms of existence
1) Being (or existence) in the world of desire
2) Being (or existence) in the world or form;
3) Being (or existence) in the formless world.
The "Peak of Being" refers to the Heaven of Neither Perception nor Non-perception, which is the fourth of the Four Stations of Emptiness. Basically, it is located in the formless realm and thus cannot be represented, as being of any particular color nevertheless, Sakyamuni Buddha now emits light which shines all the way up to the top of the formless heavens.
WITHIN EACH OF THE WORLDS ARE SEEN/ THE BEINGS WITHIN THE SIX PATHS/In all worlds, within limitless Buddhalands, the path of the gods, the path of human beings, the path of asuras, the path of hell-beings, the path of animals, the path of hungry ghosts, all are seen. They have already been explained.
THEIR DESTINIES IN BIRTH AND DEATH/Within the six paths, living beings are
Born and then they die; they
Die and then are born'
Birth, birth, death--
Death, death, birth--
They spin around in the revolving wheel of the six paths of rebirth.
Although at present you are a human being in this world, don't assume that you will always be so. If your actions are good, you may be assured of keeping a human body, but if you do evil deeds, you will lose it.
What will you become?
Haven't I already told you? You may go to hell, become a hungry ghost, or turn into an animal.
THEIR KARMIC CONDITIONS, GOOD OR EVIL/ Perhaps your deeds are good, or perhaps they are evil. Goodness has its good karmic conditions and evil has its evil karmic conditions, but the deeds are done and the karmic conditions are created by you alone. It is said,
Good and evil are two diverging roads.
You can cultivate the good or commit crimes.
"Cultivate" means to practice the Way. "Commit" means to create offenses. There is a good road and a bad road it's up to you to choose which on you will walk. If you walk down the good road, you'll create good karma. If you walk down the evil one, you will create evil karma.
THEIR RETRIBUTIONS, FAVORABLE OR ILL/Good and evil refer to conditions on the causal ground. If you plant good causes you will receive favorable recompense. A favorable retribution means that every goes along with your heart, nature, and will. An unfavorable retribution goes contrary to your heart and will. Favorable and ill refers to the fruit (effect) brought about by prior actions. If you plant good seeds (causes), you'll reap favorable fruit (effect); if you plant seeds of evil, you'll reap an ill fruit.
ALL OF THIS IS SEEN/The turning wheel of the six paths' interrelated processes of creating karma and undergoing retribution is all seen within the Thus Come One's white hair-mark light.
FURTHER ARE ALL THE BUDDHAS SEEN,
THE LIONS, THE SAGELY MASTERS,
EXPOUNDING ON THE SUTRA SCRIPTURES
OF FOREMOST SUBTLETY AND WONDER.
The Buddhas are seen as well. Among sages, they are the masters, and so the text says, FURTHER ARE ALL THE BUDDHAS SEEN/THE LIONS, THE SAGELY MASTERS, EXPOUNDING ON THE SUTRA SCRIPTURES/They expound the Great Vehicle Sutras which are OF FOREMOST SUBTLETY AND WONDER/It is truly the #1 rare wonderful Dharma.
CLEAR AND PURE IS THE SOUND,
OF THEIR SOFT, COMPLAINT VOICES,
TEACHING ALL THE BODHISATTVAS,
NUMBERING IN THE COUNTLESS MILLIONS.
THE BRAHMA SOUND, PROFOUND AND WONDROUS,
FILLS THOSE WHO HEAR WITH JOY,
AS WITHIN HIS WORLD EACH ONE
PROCLAIMS THE PROPER DHARMA.
CLEAR AND PURE IS THE SOUND/The sound of the Buddhas is extremely clear and bright. The phrases they utter are very fluent and lively and perfect. OF THEIR SOFT. COMPLIANT VOICES/Their voices are both resonant and soft, compliant and beautiful. The sound pleases the ear and delights the heart of the assembly. According to whatever kind of sound each person likes to hear, the Buddhas' voices take on that quality.
TEACHING ALL THE BODHISATTVAS/All the Buddhas teach and transform all the Bodhisattvas. NUMBERING IN THE COUNTLESS MILLIONS. Their number cannot be known. There are countless myriads of millions of them.
THE BRAHMA SOUND. PROFOUND AND WONDROUS/The clear, pure sounds are extremely deep and fine. FILLS THOSE WHO HEAR WITH JOY/The more people hear it, the more they enjoy hearing the Buddhadharma. AS, WITHIN HIS WORLD EACH ONE/PROCLAIMS THE PROPER DHARMA/All the Buddhas, residing in their own worlds, expound upon the proper Dharma, the genuine Buddhadharma.
THROUGH VARIOUS CAUSES AND CONDITIONS,
AND LIMITLESS ANALOGIES,
THEY CLARIFY THE BUDDHADHARMA,
TO ENLIGHTEN LIVING BEINGS.
TO THOSE WHO'VE ENCOUNTERED SUFFERING,
WEARY OF SICKNESS, AGING, DEATH,
THEY SPEAK ABOUT NIRVANA
WHICH BRINGS ALL SUFFERING TO AN END.
TO THOSE POSSESSED OF BLESSINGS WHO'VE
MADE OFFERINGS TO PAST BUDDHAS AND
RESOLVED TO SEEK THE SUPERIOR DHARMA,
THEY SPEAK OF ENLIGHTENING TO CONDITIONS
TO THOSE WHO ARE THE BUDDHAS SONS,
WHO CULTIVATE VARIOUS PRACTICES,
SEEKING WISDOM UNSURPASSED,
THEY SPEAK THE WAY OF PURITY.
THROUGH VARIOUS CAUSES AND CONDITIONS/People are not the same. They have varying dispositions, and so when teaching the Dharma, the Buddhas employ various types of causes and conditions to teach them and cure them of their differing bad habits and faults.
AND LIMITLESS ANALOGIES/Limitless means they cannot be counted. The Buddhas use an uncountable number of analogies to teach the Dharma, all for the sake of leading living beings to understand the genuine Buddhadharma and to cultivate in accord with it.
So the text says, TO CLARIFY THE BUDDHADHARMA/How do they clarify it? They use wisdom to illumine the Buddhadharma; they use the bright light of wisdom to bring about the understanding of all the Buddhadharmas.
TO ENLIGHTEN LIVING BEINGS/They cause all living beings to gain increasing wisdom and Bodhi. It's like digging a mine. The mine contains gold, but unless you find a way to dig it out, the gold will not appear. The Buddha-nature is inherent in the self-nature of living beings, but unless you explain it to them clearly, they will not under stand their inherent Buddha-nature and they will be unable to cultivate it.
TO THOSE WHO'VE ENCOUNTERED SUFFERING/Although common people suffer, the more they suffer, the more they like it, and the more they suffer, the more suffering they encounter. Basically, affliction is the root of the suffering common people undergo, but they don't want to cast their afflictions aside. They wish to keep the communication link between themselves and their afflictions open. They can't separate from afflictions, they can't separate from the causes and conditions of their suffering. So the more they suffer, the more they must suffer. When their suffering reaches its extreme point, they fall into the hells where they suffer eternally, without ever obtaining happiness. That's the way it is with common people.
Those of other religions who encounter suffering are unable to find a path, which will lead them out. They cultivate and uphold the methods of their religions, but are unable to end suffering. They continue to undergo suffering, and although it is not as intense as that in the hells, they may still run off to become hungry ghosts if they are not careful. Those of other religions cannot ultimately end suffering.
There are also people who are intelligent and clever and who have a bit of worldly wisdom. They have a thorough understanding of mundane dharmas, but they do not understand transcendental dharmas. So when they run into the causes and conditions of suffering, they have no way to bring them to an end. Wishing to end suffering, they only succeed in running into more suffering. Do you know how they think? They think, "Perhaps I shall rob someone of his money and then I won't have to suffer poverty." Because this kind of person has a small measure of wisdom he knows how to cheat people. He catches someone off-guard and sneaks off with his wealth or takes it by force. In spite of the fact that he is "wise," other people also have wisdom. He may think that he can get away with his clever tricks, but eventually he sets off a burglar alarm. The police get the call and take him to jail. If the crime is minor, his time in the pokey may not be long; for a heavy offense, he may be in longer. So it is that he receives his retribution in the world of people.
What about the future? People like this cannot end suffering. Where do they go?
In the future they may become animals. There are various causes and conditions, which cause one to fall into the hells, to turn into a ghost, or to become an animal. I'm simply mentioning some of them, but these are not the only ones. There are all manner of causes and conditions which can cause one to fall into the three evil paths and endure suffering there. So the text says, "To those who've encountered suffering/"
WEARY OF SICKNESS, AGING, DEATH/Fundamentally, there are Three Sufferings, Eight Sufferings, and all the limitless sufferings.
Of the Three Suffering, the first is the suffering within suffering. The second is the suffering of decay, which grows out of happiness. Originally there was no suffering, there was happiness, but the happiness decayed. Happiness cannot last for long, and when it goes it turns into the suffering of decay.
The third is the suffering of process, which is always present. There may be neither the suffering within suffering nor the suffering of decay, but still there is the suffering involved in the life process as one goes from youth to the prime of life to old age. The constant flux in thought after thought is like the action of waves on the sea. When the first wave disappears, the next one takes its place, and yet another follows it. No one can avoid the suffering of process.
Those are the Three Sufferings.
And now we will look into the Eight Sufferings. The first is the suffering of birth.
"But when I was born I didn't know what was happening," you may think. "How could that be considered suffering?"
You didn't know what was happening? It's just that you don't know that betrays the intensity of the suffering. You just don’t remember, that's all. And later on, because of the suffering of birth, you will be forced to endure the suffering of old age.
What is the suffering of birth?
When children are born they cry, making the sound (in Chinese) k'u! k'u!, which is also the way the Chinese word for suffering( -k'u) sounds. Their cries say, "This world is truly full of suffering, suffering, suffering." Although at the time they cry they are suffering, later on they forget. They forget the suffering, get caught up in the flow of life and forget to return to their original home. They think, "This world isn't bad." In the beginning they knew it was suffering, but after they are three years old, they forget their suffering.
Forget what suffering?
When a child is still in its mother's womb, he feels like he's inside a volcano if she eats hot things. If she eats cold things, he feels like he's in the hell of ice, freezing cold. But there is no way he can speak up and object to these problems. As he is born, he feels like he's being squeezed between two mountains. What is more, while in the womb the child was never exposed to the atmosphere. At the moment the air hits his body, he feels as if he were being slashed with knives. And so he screams, "K'u!' Suffering!" That's the suffering of birth.
Having forgotten the suffering of birth, during his prime he doesn't feel particularly troubled, but once he gets old, his eyes refuse to help him, his ears refuse to work, and so do his teeth. He can't see or hear clearly and having lost his teeth, he can't appreciate the taste of his food. This is the second suffering, that of the suffering of old age.
Getting old in itself is not all that bad, but once old, he can't walk anymore and has to lean on a crutch to get around. When he walks, his legs won't listen to his orders. He may want to take a step, but his legs are lazy and refuse to move. It takes a great expenditure of energy to take a single step. Would you say that this is suffering or not? Not many years before, when he sent down an order, his six sense organs all obeyed promptly, but once he got old, they refused to obey orders. But even that can't really be considered suffering. If you have a bit of skill in being patient, you won't feel that it is suffering.
The suffering of sickness, the third, however, is definitely frightening. Sickness is most democratic. From an emperor, president, king, or great official, to the lowest beggar and stupidest wretch, no matter who you are, if you get sick you will feel that you have lost your freedom. Forced to stay in a hospital and follow the doctor's orders, you'll feel that sickness is even more suffering. There are many kinds of diseases and many kinds of suffering to go along with them. But even these are not as frightening as the most extreme form of suffering, the suffering of death.
There is no suffering greater than that of death, the fourth of the Eight Sufferings. Birth, old age, sickness, and death are all suffering, and birth and death are the extremes. Death and birth involve the same kind of suffering. Dharma Masters of the past have said that birth is like ripping the shell from a live tortoise, and death is like skinning a live cow. Would you call this suffering or not?
We study the Buddhadharma precisely because we wish to end birth and death and escape from the revolving wheel, to avoid the sufferings of birth, aging, sickness and death. The Sutra text says, "If there are people who have encountered suffering and grown weary of aging, sickness, and death..." The suffering of birth is also included in these lines.
Not only do we face the sufferings of aging, sickness, and death, but during our lives there are also-haven't I told you this before? the suffering of being separated from what one loves, the fifth of the Eight Sufferings. "Ah: "you say. "I really love that person." Maybe you are a man who loves a woman or a woman who loves a man. You love each other and this makes you happy. But you have to part, you suffer.
"I can avoid that kind of suffering," you think. "If it's the suffering of being separated from what I love, I will simply never leave.
Wherever my loved one goes, I will follow. If the one I love runs to the ends of the heavens I will follow him there, if he runs to the moon, I'll go to the moon; if he runs to the sun, I'll follow him. Wherever he does, I will go."
You will? When he dies, will you go along with him?
"Yes," you say, defiantly, "I'll go with him."
If you do, then you'll suffer. But if you don't go with him, you endure the suffering of being separated from what you love. Either way, you'll suffer. It just doesn't work out. That's a brief discussion of the suffering of being separated from what one loves.
The suffering of being around what one hates is the sixth. "I just basically hate that person," you say. Perhaps it's even your wife. You may be really dissatisfied with her, but she loves you so that she follows you wherever you go. Or perhaps you say, "I can't stand that friend of mine. I've got to get away from him." But when you move to another city, you make another friend who turns out to be exactly like the first. This is called "the suffering of being around what one hates." Those with whom you have no affinity, you grow to detest. But, the way fate would have it, when you leave that person and go somewhere else, you run into someone exactly like him. The person you left behind was half a pound, and the person you meet turns out to be eight ounces--no more, no less--exactly the same. That's the suffering of being around "What one hates.
There is yet another kind of suffering, the seventh, the suffering of not getting what one wants. You may want to get rich, but you're always poor. You may want to become an official, but you're always a clerk. You may want a good wife, but you can't find one. You may want a good husband, but you can't find one. You can't get what you want, and you brood on it from morning to night, causing yourself endless affliction. Why? Because you can't get what you seek. Because you can't get it, you suffer even more, to the point that insomnia strikes. You toss and turn; you roll over on one side, but you can't get to sleep; you roll over on the other side, and still can't get to sleep. From dusk till dawn, you don't sleep a wink, and the next morning your eyes are uncomfortable, your body tired, and you feel listless. Would you say this is suffering or not?
"I don't suffer in that way," you say, "I am not greedy to get rich, to become an official or to find a good wife or husband. I don't want anything at all, and so I do not suffer. What is more, I don't hate or love anyone. So I don't endure suffering, do I?"
Your body is subject to the tricks played on it by the five skandhas, form, feeling, thought, activity, and consciousness. They rattle around in your body, hopping back and forth all day long, driving you to the point that you haven't even the time to take a breath. Form, feeling, thought, activity, and consciousness are the five skandhas. No one can avoid the last of the Eight Sufferings, the suffering of the raging blaze of the five skandhas; it is a very extreme form of suffering.
Those are the Eight Sufferings. So much suffering! How can you bring it to an end?
THEY SPEAK ABOUT NIRVANA/Because of all this suffering, the Buddhas teach the Dharma of Nirvana. What is this? "Nir" means not produced, and "vana" means not destroyed. It is to teach you not to be attached. Seek instead the supreme Way and attain the happiness of Nirvana, where there is no birth and death. Without birth and death, you will have ended the Three Sufferings, the Eight Sufferings, and all the limitless sufferings all of them will have come to an end. You will have attained permanence, happiness, true self, and purity, the Four joyful and blessed Virtues of Nirvana WHICH BRINGS ALL SUFFERINGS TO AN END/If you obtain Nirvana, you will have exhausted the limits of all suffering. There will be no more suffering.
TO THOSE POSSESSED OF BLESSINGS WHO'VE/The text speaks here of people who have cultivated the Way and MADE OFFERINGS TO PAST BUDDHAS AND/ in the past they made offerings to the Triple Jewel. If you would like to avoid suffering, then make offerings to the Triple Jewel. In the presence of the Triple Jewel, perform acts of merit and virtue, but when you do, don't say, "I gave money to the temple. What did they spend it on?" You shouldn't ask. You shouldn't pay attention to how the offering is used. You plant your own blessings and don't worry about what is done with your offering. If you make offerings to the Triple Jewel, do everything within your power to seek blessings and wisdom before them.
How does one seek blessings? To foster merit and virtue is to cultivate blessings.
How does one seek virtue? Study the Buddhadharma. Listen to Sutra lectures, and read and recite Sutras. This will develop your wisdom. The text says, "To those possessed of blessings/" Why do they have blessings? Because, in the past, they made offerings to the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.
RESOLVED TO SEEK THE SUPERIOR DHARMA/They are determined to go on, to make progress, to seek the superior Dharma. Superior means "special," a special kind of Buddhadharma.
THEY SPEAK OF ENLIGHTENING TO CONDITIONS/The Buddhas teach them the Dharma of the Twelve Conditioned Causes, the Dharma of those Enlightened to Conditions. The Twelve Conditioned Causes have been discussed many times and there's no time to go into them today, so they won't be explained, but merely listed. They are:
1. Ignorance, which conditions
2. Action, action which conditions
3. Consciousness, consciousness which conditions
4. Name and form, name and form which conditions
5. The six sense organs, the six sense organs
6. Contact, contact which conditions
7. Feeling, feeling which conditions
8. Craving, craving which conditions
9. Grasping, grasping which conditions
10. Becoming, becoming which conditions
11. Birth, and birth which conditions
12. Old age and death.
Those of the Vehicle of Conditioned-Enlightened Ones, one of the Two Vehicles, cultivate the Dharma of the Twelve Conditioned Causes.
TO THOSE WHO ARE THE BUDDHAS' SONS/WHO CULTIVATE VARIOUS PRACTICES/ SEEKING WISDOM UNSURPASSED/ THEY SPEAK THE WAY OF PURITY. To those who seek the most lofty wisdom, the Buddhas explain the Way of purity, the Six Crossings over, the Paramitas.
to be continued
Hua T'ou Dzan
(To the tune of "I've been working on the railroad.")
I've been working on my hua t'ou, all the livelong day.
I've been working on my hua t'ou, my afflictions fall away.
"Who is mindful of the Buddha?"
"Form is empty, emptiness is form."
Stop your thoughts while they're arising
And you won't be reborn.
by Sramanera Heng Sure