THE WONDERFUL DHARMA LOTUS FLOWER SUTRA
continued from issue 63,64
with the commentary of
The Venerable Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua
trans: Bhiksuni Heng Yin
checked: Bhiksuni Heng Ch'ih
edited: Bhiksu Heng Kuan
WHILE DWELLING HERE,
I SEE AND HEAR SUCH THINGS AS THESE,
REACHING TO A THOUSAND MILLION THINGS,
SUCH A MULTITUDE OF THEM,
I SHALL NOW DESCRIBE IN BRIEF.
I SEE IN OTHER LANDS,
BODHISATTVAS, LIKE GANGES SANDS,
THROUGH VARIOUS CAUSES AND CONDITIONS
FOR THE BUDDHA WAY.
PERHAPS THEY PRACTICE GIVING,
WITH GIFTS OF SILVER, GOLD, AND CORAL,
OF TRUE PEARLS AND OF MANI
OF VAJRA AND OF OTHER GEMS.
OF SERVANTS AND OF CARRIAGES,
JEWELED HAND-DRAWN CARTS AND PALANQUINS,
THESE THEY OFFER UP WITH JOY
IN DEDICATION TO THE BUDDHA WAY,
VOWING TO OBTAIN THE VEHICLE
FOREMOST IN THE TRIPLE REALM
THE ONE WHICH ALL THE BUDDHAS PRAISE.
Like the things described above!
REACHING TO A THOUSAND MILLION THINGS/There are even more, many more things, a thousand million of them, SUCH A MULTITUDE OF THEM/ WHICH I SHALL NOW DESCRIBE IN BRIEF/All the many things I've seen I'll now talk about in general. I ask the Bodhisattva Manjushri to explain them to me in detail.
I SEE IN OTHER LANDS/Maitreya Bodhisattva says, "I can see in other worlds BODHISATTVAS LIKE GANGES SANDS/Bodhisattvas in number as the grains of sand in the Ganges River, THROUGH VARIOUS CAUSES AND CONDITIONS/SEEKING FOR THE BUDDHA WAY/
In seeking the Buddha Way we must foster merit and virtue and seek wisdom. Don't think you can attain the Buddha Way cheaply. See Bodhisattvas in number as many as the grains of sand in the Ganges River use all kind of causes and conditions...
does that mean, "all kinds of causes and conditions?"
PERHAPS THEY PRACTICE GIVING/Perhaps they practice the Dharma door of giving. What do they give? GIFTS OF SILVER, GOLD, AND CORAL/OF TRUE PEARLS AND OF MANI/The Mani pearl is also called the as-you-will pearl. MOTHER-OF-PEARL, CARNELIAN Mother-of-pearl is a precious substance, white in color. It appears to have ruts in it, but when you touch it, it's smooth. So it is written with the Chinese characters for cart: -ch'e, and ditch:
-chu, with the addition of the radical which means "stone"
-shih. That is or "cart rut."
Carnelian looks like it has red blood in it. OF VAJRA AND OF OTHER GEMS/Vajra refers to diamonds. Other gems are various precious substances. OF SERVANTS AND OF CARRIAGES/Perhaps they give their slaves and servants or their private cars. JEWELED HAND-DRAWN CARTS AND PALANQUINS/Jewels are inlaid on the carts. "Carts" refers to hand-drawn carriages, such as the Imperial chariot, which the ancient Emperors used to ride in. "Palanquins" are sedan chairs which are carried on the shoulders.
THESE THEY OFFER UP WITH JOY/They give with joy and happiness. They aren't like us. We give five, ten, or twenty dollars, and think it's a big thing. They gave away the seven jewels—such priceless things—and they did so happily, IN DEDICATION TO THE BUDDHA WAY/Why did they wish to offer up such valuable things? "I give away these expensive things, the things which are the hardest for me to give. I give them happily in exchange for realizing Buddhahood, in dedication to seeking the Buddha Way. VOWING TO ATTAIN THE VEHICLE/I vow, I wish, to attain the Buddha Vehicle because it is FOREMOST IN THE TRIPLE REALM/In the Three Realms, the desire realm, the form realm, and the formless realm, the realization of Buddhahood is foremost. THE ONE WHICH ALL THE BUDDHAS PRAISE/After realizing Buddhahood, all the Buddha’s of the ten directions praise it in exultation.
THERE ARE BODHISATTVAS WHO
GIVE A JEWELED COACH-AND-FOUR
WITH RAILS AND FLOWERED CANOPIES,
RICHLY ORNAMENTED CARRIAGES.
AGAIN ARE BODHISATTVAS SEEN
WHO GIVE THEIR FLESH, HANDS, AND FEET,
WHO EVEN GIVE THEIR WIVES AND CHILDREN,
SEEKING FOR THE UTMOST WAY.
AGAIN ARE BODHISATTVAS SEEN
WHOSE HEADS, EYES, AND BODIES WHOLE
ARE OFFERED UP MOST JOYFULLY
SEEKING FOR THE BUDDHAS WISDOM.
I SEE ROYAL MONARCHS WHO,
VISITING THE BUDDHAS' COURTS,
ASK ABOUT THE UTMOST WAY,
AND THEN FORSAKE THEIR PLEASANT LANDS,
PALACES, MINISTERS, CONCUBINES,
AND, CUTTING OFF THEIR BEARDS AND HAIR,
CLOTHE THEMSELVES IN DHARMA-ROBES.
SEEN ARE BODHISATTVAS WHO
BECOMING BHIKSHUS, DWELL ALONE,
WITHIN THE WILDS, IN QUIETUDE,
RECITING SUTRA TEXTS WITH JOY.
AGAIN ARE BODHISATTVAS SEEN,
STRIVING WITH HEROIC VIGOR,
ENTERING THE MOUNTAINS DEEP,
TO PONDER ON THE BUDDHA WAY.
AGAIN ARE BODHISATTVAS SEEN/WHO GIVE THEIR WIVES AND CHILDREN/Not only are these Bodhisattvas able to give valuable objects, but they can even give their bodies, their own flesh, their hands and feet, or their wives and children to others. Would you say that such giving was practicing that which is difficult to practice? We give a little money or a small gift and feel extremely self-satisfied, even arrogant, and think that we have earned a great deal of merit. And yet here we see Bodhisattvas who can, if someone else needs them, give away their bodies, their flesh and blood, their hands and feet.
"But," you say, "what use is there in giving away a body? If you give someone a body, he can't eat it. Why give it?"
When Bodhisattvas practice the Bodhisattva Way, they may encounter someone who has a particular illness and needs, perhaps, a heart transplant, such as those the present-day doctors perform. Or perhaps they need a liver, spleen, lungs, or kidneys. The doctors remove the diseased one and put in a good one. The Bodhisattvas, seeing such living beings, will supply the needed organ, perhaps a new heart, eyes, liver, spleen, kidney, or gall bladder. The Bodhisattvas would even sacrifice their own lives to save living beings; for the sake of a single living being, they would give up their own lives. This is to give the body.
Perhaps there is a living being who has injured his hand. Seeing this, the Bodhisattva will give his own hand to him. The same goes for the feet. Maybe someone was hurt in an auto accident, his bones smashed and his legs crippled. Seeing this person in suffering, the Bodhisattva will give his own foot to him. This is done in order to teach and transform living beings.
These Bodhisattvas are practicing the Bodhisattva Way and they will even give their wives and children. We are not talking about Bodhisattvas who have already attained spiritual penetrations; they are simply Bodhisattvas who have brought forth the Bodhisattva resolve. They have not obtained and spiritual penetrations to speak of, but simply have hearts full of giving.
What do they give?
That which is most difficult for people to relinquish. Their spouses. To say nothing of giving up one's wife or husband, most people find it extremely painful even to be separated from them for a short period of time. They find this extremely painful. However, these Bodhisattvas, seeing that others need wives, will give their own wives away. There are many causes and conditions surrounding such giving.
In my book The Record of Water and Mirror Reflections, I wrote about the Abbot of the monastery where I cultivated, the Venerable High Master Ch'ang Jen. When he was cultivating the Way, he gave away his wife. How did that happen?
He had a wife, but when his father and mother died, he resolved to practice filial piety by sitting beside their graves for a period of three years. While he sat by the grave, his wife was at home observing "widowhood," and she didn't like it. She was a living widow, so to speak, and finally, she couldn't stand it. She went to the gravesite and insisted that her husband return home with her. She went once, twice, three, four, and even five times, but he wouldn't return. His heart was sincere; his cultivation was sincere.
Those who have sincere hearts, who genuinely cultivate the Way, are bound to encounter demons. It is said,
When the Way grows a foot taller,
the demon grows taller by ten;
When the Way grows ten feet,
the demon sits right on your head.
Because he was sincere and refused to return home, his wife thought of an ingenious plan. "So you won't return home? I'll find some other man to spend my days with," she said.
"Take up with some other man, if you like," he said, "I'm through with household affairs. I have renounced all; I have put everything down. I pay no attention to such matters whatsoever."
Would you say he had truly decided to cultivate the Way or not? If he hadn't truly been intent on cultivating the Way, when his wife threatened to find another man, how could he have endured it? But he said, "All right. Fine. If you find a man you like, someone you think you love, then go with him."
"Go with him?" she said. "Okay. I'm going to go looking," and she went back and found herself a man. Then she brought the man with her to the gravesite and confronted her husband, saying, "If you do not return with me now, I'm going to go...marry this man!"
What do you think? Someone without genuine samadhi power and a true mind of the Way would have gone home, wouldn't he? But he didn't go. "Fine," he said, "go with him," and his wife went off to spend her days with another man. He gave his wife away and didn't ask for so much as a cent in return. This is truly an example of Bodhisattvas even giving their wives and children; SEEKING FOR THE UTMOST WAY/Why do they do this? Because they seek the utmost Way. Bodhisattvas who seek the utmost Way must be able to renounce that which is difficult to renounce. The more difficult it is for you to give up, the more meaningful your act of renunciation becomes. It then truly counts as
Seeing through it,
Breaking through it,
Giving it up and
You can't say, "I'm going to hold onto those things I can't part with. Even if I could become a Buddha by giving them up, I still won't let go of the things I love, the people I love." If you think like this, it's because you don't place importance on the Buddha Way. If you saw the Buddha Way as truly important, you would be able to put absolutely everything down. If the Buddhadharma was of primary importance to you, you wouldn't become influenced by improper external circumstances.
AGAIN ARE BODHISATTVAS SEEN/WHOSE HEADS, EYES, AND BODIES WHOLE/There are other Bodhisattvas who give their heads, eyes, and torsos. The Bodhisattvas mentioned above gave outer wealth and inner wealth. The outer wealth refers to wives and children; the inner wealth is the bodily flesh, hands and feet. But they did not give their entire bodies. They only gave their flesh, or their hands or feet, but not their heads and eyes. Now these Bodhisattvas give their very heads and their eyes, their entire bodies ARE OFFERED UP MOST JOYFULLY/If any living being at all is in need of a head, they will give their heads; if they need eyes, they will give their eyes. In fact, they'll give their bodies whole, or any part of them whatever.
thinks, "This is the height of stupidity. How can you give your own body to others?"
Joyfully: They give cheerfully. They don't give angrily. They don't say, "So you're giving? Let's have a little contest. If you give ten thousand dollars, I'll give twenty thousand. If you give twenty thousand, I'll give thirty thousand." They are not competitive in their giving. On the contrary, they give happily and cheerfully.
Why do they give?
They give, SEEKING FOR THE BUDDHA'S WISDOM/They want to obtain the Buddha's wisdom.
MANJUSRI/Bodhisattva Wonderful Virtue: I SEE ROYAL MONARCHS WHO/I also see kings, not just one king, but many of them VISITING THE BUDDHAS' COURTS/ What are the kings doing? They are going off to visit the Buddha’s. What for? TO ASK ABOUT THE UTMOST WAY/They ask about the supreme Buddha Way, the Buddha Way which is of unparalleled excellence. After they ask about it, the Buddha instructs them in the doctrines of suffering, emptiness, impermanence, and no self. He says, "Everything in this world is bound up in suffering.
Wealth and honor are like a dream before dawn,
Power and fame like a floating cloud;
The bones and flesh of the present also are not real.
Before your very eyes
Devotion turns to hatred...
Wealth and honor are as insubstantial as a dream just before the sun comes up. Power and fame are all like floating clouds in space. They do not last. The bones and flesh of the present moment, the relationships of father and son, husband and wife, elder and younger brothers—all of your flesh and blood are unreal. You love each other and are all involved in close emotional interplay’s, but in the future, when times goes by, they will turn into hatred and aversion."
When the kings hear this instruction from the Buddha’s they immediately, without further thought THEN FORSAKE THEIR PLEASANT LANDS/Their happy pleasure grounds. They give them away. PALACES, MINISTERS, CONCUBINES/ Their palaces made of jewels, their palace halls and pavilions made of aloeswood and sandalwood, their ministers and their concubines--they give them all away.
CUTTING OFF THEIR BEARDS AND HAIR/They become little novices, and they CLOTHE THEMSELVES IN DHARMA-ROBES/They put on the clothes worn by those who have left the home life, the Dharma-kshaya or five piece sash, worn by novice monks.
The kings leave the home-life, seeking the Dharma of the precepts, and so this section of verse deals with morality. The passage preceding it dealt with the perfection of giving. This section deals with receiving the precepts, the perfection of morality.
SEEN ARE BODHISATTVAS WHO/BECOMING BHIKSHUS, DWELL ALONE/WITHIN THE WILDS, IN QUIETUDE/RECITING SUTRA TEXTS WITH JOY/There are yet other Bodhisattvas who leave the home-life to become Bhikshus. This section deals with the perfection of patience. Perhaps, Bodhisattvas are seen who leave the home-life to become Bhikshus. They dwell alone, deep in the mountain forests or in mountain caves. As they dwell there, sometimes-evil people or evil beasts will come upon them. Why does this section deal with patience? When evil people come to rebuke or strike them, they must patiently endure it. When evil beasts bite them they also must be patient and not become frightened or alarmed. So these four lines discuss patience. They like to recite and read Sutras.
to be continued