THE WONDERFUL DHARMA LOTUS FLOWER SUTRA
continued from issue #69
WITH COMMENTARY BY THE VENERABLE TRIPITAKA MASTER HSUAN HUA
by Bhiksuni Heng Yin
In this passage of text, Maitreya Bodhisattva continues his questioning of Manjushri Bodhisattva concerning the various states, which the Buddha caused to manifest within the white hair-mark light. Sakyamuni Buddha had revealed Six Portents and Maitreya Bodhisattva did not know the causes and conditions, which underlay them. Actually, it is certainly the case that Maitreya Bodhisattva was not unaware of them. He deliberately requested the Dharma for the sake of living beings. This is called "manifesting a great provisional device." He said, "MANJUSHRI/AGAIN THERE ARE BODHISATTVAS WHO, AFTER THE BUDDHAS CROSS INTO EXTINCTION/After all the Buddhas have completed the stillness, have entered Nirvana, Bodhisattvas MAKE OFFERINGS TO THEIR SHARIRAS. The Bodhisattvas make offerings to the Buddhas' shariras. The word sharira has already been discussed. It means "spiritually efficacious bones." Shariras represent the true body of the Buddha because they remain after the Buddha's cremation. When people make offerings to the Buddha's shariras, it is the same as making offerings to the Buddha.
Making offerings to the shariras is the same as making offerings to the Buddha, and making offerings to the Dharma Jewel is also the same as making offerings to the Buddha. Making offerings to the Sangha Jewel is the same as making offerings to the Triple Jewel. All you have to do is bring forth the resolve and be true to the extreme, without the slightest bit of defiled thought. What is meant by "defiled thought"? It is to make offerings to the Triple Jewel in the hope of obtaining something in return. That's not making offerings with a pure heart. When you make offerings to the Triple Jewel you should feel, "Making offerings is my responsibility. Why? Everyday, I have food to eat. The kindness the Buddha shows towards living beings is limitless and boundless. The Dharma's kindness to living beings is limitless and boundless and so is the Sangha's kindness. If the Triple Jewel did not dwell in the world, this world would be completely destroyed. Why would it be destroyed? It is because, in the absence of the Triple Jewel, the demon kings would come into the world, and, when the demon kings come into the world, they destroy it. So, in making offerings to the Triple Jewel we should think, "I eat everyday. If no one makes an offering to the Triple Jewel, how could I possibly swallow my food? As one of the Buddha's disciples I should protect and uphold the Triple Jewel. I should cause the Triple Jewel to be free from all difficulties." Therefore, making offerings to the shariras is just one way of making offerings to the Triple Jewel.
AGAIN ARE SEEN THOSE BUDDHAS' SONS/BUILDING STUPAS, BUILDING TEMPLES/ What are they doing? Not only are they making stupas, they are building temples. Stupas are places where people may come and make offerings to the Buddha's shariras, which are housed inside them. Temples are used for making offerings to Buddha images. For example, T'ien Hou Temple here (the Buddhist Lecture Hall) is a place in which many spirits are worshipped, and so it is called a temple. In this case, we are making offerings to many Buddhas. The stupas are also called "square graves," or "high and manifest places." AS COUNTLESS AS GANGES' SANDS/They do not build one stupa or temple and leave it at that. They build limitless, countless numbers of them, as many as the Ganges' sands, TO ADORN THOSE REALMS AND LANDS. They use the stupas and temples to adorn the lands so that they are extremely beautiful.
THE JEWELED STUPAS ARE TALL AND FINE/They are extremely high and fine. How tall are they? FIVE THOUSAND YOJANAS IN HEIGHT. How tall is that? One small yojana is forty li; a middle-sized yojana is sixty li; a big yojana is eighty li. So, how tall would five thousand yojanas be?
Long ago, when the Buddha was in the world, the following incident took place: There was at that time, a freak. He was a freak because he was wider than he was tall. He was five feet across and only two and a half, not quite three feet, tall. Do you think he was attractive or not? He was probably about two feet nine or so. Broader than he was tall, he looked like a pan for grinding bean curd, but the sound of his voice was extremely resonant and clear. It sounded like a bell. When he sang songs, it sounded as clear as a bell. People did not understand what causes and effects were at work with him, and so they asked the Buddha, "This person is so wide and so short, and yet he sings so exquisitely; his voice is just like a copper bell. Why is that?
Sakyamuni Buddha smiled and said, "In the past, limitless kalpas ago, he was also a Buddhist disciple. At that time someone brought forth the resolve to build a jeweled stupa which was to be extremely tall. The man said, "Why build such a tall jeweled stupa? People won't even be able to see the top of it, for cryin' out loud. What use is such a tall one? If you build a stupa, build one, and have done with it. Such a big one is really, in my opinion, utterly useless. Well, anyway I'll contribute a little something, not a whole lot. I'll contribute the bell to hang at the top of the stupa. "Because he said that one sentence, "Why build such a high jeweled stupa? Don't make it so tall," in every life he was born as a dwarf, never over three feet tall, yet five feet wide. Nevertheless, because he had contributed the bell, his voice was extremely clear and resonant and when he spoke it sounded like the chiming of a copper bell. It was a direct consequence of his having given the bell that he had a good voice.
From the previous incident we can see that people cannot just talk casually. If someone wants to build a big temple and you go there and say, "Why build such a big temple? If you make a smaller one, it will still be a temple, won't it? It will get by," in the future you may be very short yourself. People with small bodies should bring forth a big resolve: "I am going to build a big temple," and in the future you will get a big body. That's the record for your consideration. Don't just say whatever you please. If people are building a temple or a jeweled stupa, take care not to go there and criticize it saying it's too tall or too short, too big or too small. As it is, the text says, "The jeweled stupas are tall and fine/five thousand yojanas in height/TWO THOUSAND YOJANAS IN BREADTH.
EACH STUPA AND TEMPLE IS ADORNED/WITH A THOUSAND CIRCULAR CURTAINS AND BANNERS, WORKED WITH INTERLACING DEW-LIKE GEMS. Within each stupa and temple there are a thousand circular curtains. Circular curtains are streamers of netting which are in a cylindrical shape and hang from the ceiling. They may be embroidered with flowers or they may have interstices in them. Banners are streamers. They are flags made of cloth and hung before the Buddhas as an adornment. On top of the circular curtains and the banners there are beautifully wrought gems.
AND JEWELED BELLS WHICH HARMONIOUSLY CHIME/Many people have given many jeweled bells, and, when the wind blows, "Lang, lang, lang," they sound, like the bells which we have hung on the lamps here.
ALL THE GODS, DRAGONS, AND SPIRITS/THE HUMANS AND NON-HUMANS, WITH INCENSE, FLOWERS, AND INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC/Incense means various types of incense. Flowers of various varieties were used. Instrumental music just means music. CONSTANTLY MAKE OFFERINGS, /They regularly use various types of circular curtains, banners, jewels, and jeweled bells, and all such precious, expensive things, to make offerings to the Triple Jewel.
FOURFOLD MULTITUDE WITH JOY
MANJUSHRI/Bodhisattva! ALL THE BUDDHAS' SONS/Every one of the sons of the Dharma Kings, ADORN THE STUPAS AND THE SHRINES, /They adorn the stupas and the temples, TO MAKE OFFERINGS TO THE SHARIRAS/ SPONTANEOUSLY, THE REALMS AND LANDS/ARE SUPERBLY FINE AND EXQUISITE, /They are especially superb and wonderfully fine, subtle, and wonderful. LIKE THE HEAVENLY KING OF TREES/As wonderfully beautiful as the heavenly king of trees. WHEN ITS FLOWERS BLOSSOM/When the flowers on the heavenly king of trees bloom, they are extremely beautiful and wonderful.
THE BUDDHA SENDS FORTH THIS SINGLE RAY/The Buddha sends forth the white hair-mark, light AND I AND THOSE ASSEMBLED HERE/I, and the great assembly, VIEW WITHIN THOSE REALMS AND LANDS, /see the territories which contain THE VARIOUS SPECIAL WONDERS, /an ineffable number of them, very, very many different kinds of special wonders.
THE SPIRITUAL MIGHT OF THE BUDDHAS/AND THEIR WISDOM IS MOST RARE/The spiritual power of the Buddhas, the strength of their spiritual penetrations and their wisdom is rare; there's nothing in this world that compares with them.
A SINGLE, PURE LIGHT/THEY CAN ILLUMINE LIMITLESS LANDS/They illumine
limitlessly, limitless lands. SEEING THIS, WE HAVE ALL/I, myself, and all
present in the assembly, seeing these subtle, wonderful portents, such states,
OBTAINED WHAT WE HAVE NEVER HAD. None of us has ever seen anything like them.
WHY HAS THE WORLD HONORED ONE/For what reason has our Original Teacher Sakyamuni Buddha, the World Honored One, EMITTED SUCH A BRILLIANT LIGHT? /Why has he sent forth a light like this? SON OF THE BUDDHA, IT IS THE TIME TO ANSWER/Manjushri Bodhisattva, Son of the Dharma King, won't you please answer concerning all of our doubts? RESOLVE OUR DOUBTS SO THAT WE MAY REJOICE/ Enable us all to cast out our doubtful thoughts and become happy. Why are there doubts? Because no one understands or recognizes these states. So, when everyone understands and recognizes them, they will certainly be happy.
WHAT BENEFIT IS TO BE GAINED/What is it that Shakyamuni Buddha is planning to do in the way of benefiting living beings, BY PUTTING FORTH THIS BRILLIANT LIGHT? /He sends out bright light to illumine eighteen thousand worlds to the east, thus making use of the wonderful functioning of his spiritual penetrations.
WONDROUS DHARMA THE BUDDHA OBTAINED/AS HE SAT IN THE FIELD OF THE WAY/The Buddha
sat in the Bodhimanda and obtained the wonderful Dharma. DOES HE WISH, NOW, TO
PREACH IT? Does he wish to speak the wonderful Dharma, the wonderful Dharma the
Buddha certified to and obtained? Does he wish to speak about it to everyone? OR
IS HE GOING TO GIVE PREDICTIONS? /Or does he want to confer predictions upon
everyone? Of the two alternatives, probably the Buddha has one in mind.
AT THAT TIME, MANJUSHRI ADDRESSED THE BODHISATTVA, MAHASATTVA MAITREYA, AND ALL THE GREAT LORDS, SAYING, "GOOD MEN, IN MY ESTIMATION, THE BUDDHA, THE WORLD HONORED ONE, NOW WISHES TO SPEAK THE GREAT DHARMA, TO LET FALL THE GREAT DHARMA RAIN, TO BLOW THE GREAT DHARMA CONCH, TO BEAT THE GREAT DHARMA DRUM, AND TO PROCLAIM THE GREAT DHARMA DOCTRINE.
"GOOD MEN, I HAVE, IN THE PAST, IN THE PRESENCE OF OTHER BUDDHAS, SEEN SUCH PORTENTS. HAVING EMITTED THIS LIGHT, THEY IMMEDIATELY SPOKE GREAT DHARMA.
AT THAT TIME, right then, when the Bodhisattva MANJUSRI had heard the Bodhisattva Maitreya request that he explain away the doubts, he ADDRESSED THE BODHISATTVA, MAHASATTVA MAITREYA. Not only did he speak to Maitreya Bodhisattva but also to ALL THE GREAT LORDS, all the great Bodhisattvas present in the assembly. He said, "GOOD MEN, you good men who cultivate, IN MY ESTIMATION, that is, according to my calculations, the causes and conditions taking place here seem to indicate that THE BUDDHA, THE WORLD HONORED ONE, Shakyamuni Buddha, NOW WISHES TO SPEAK THE GREAT DHARMA. He wants to speak the great Dharma, a great Dharma which has never been spoken before; TO LET FALL THE GREAT DHARMA RAIN, just like rain from the sky, which moistens all the multitudes of beings with potential, that is, all living beings; TO BLOW THE GREAT DHARMA CONCH, to alert all living beings; TO BEAT THE GREAT DHARMA DRUM, to cause all living beings to awaken from their dreams; TO PROCLAIM THE GREAT DHARMA DOCTRINE, to expound the greatest Dharma principle.
"GOOD MEN, all of you good men, I HAVE, IN THE PAST, IN THE PRESENCE OF OTHER BUDDHAS, during the time of other Buddhas in the past, SEEN SUCH PORTENTS, I have seen such auspicious signs as these before. HAVING EMITTED THIS LIGHT, after they had emitted this kind of light THEY IMMEDIATELY SPOKE THE GREAT DHARMA.
Previously, there was a discussion of making offerings to shariras and to the Triple Jewel, but I have not yet finished. I have something more to add, because we still have a bit of time. "Why should people make offerings to the Triple Jewel?" you may wonder, "Why shouldn't the Triple Jewel make offerings to me?" Why doesn't it make offerings to you? It doesn't make offerings to you because you are not one of the Three Jewels, and so you are not entitled to receive offerings.
Why should you make offerings to the Triple Jewel? It is because the Triple Jewel provides a place for you to plant blessings. If you would like to seek blessings, you must perform acts of merit and virtue before the triple Jewel. If you do not make offerings to the Triple Jewel, in the future, when you become a Buddha, no one will make offerings to you. To say nothing of becoming a Buddha, if you don't make offerings to the Triple Jewel now, even when you leave home to become a monk no one will make offerings to you. Why? Because when you were at home, before you left home, you did not make offerings to the Triple Jewel.
I often think, "Why doesn't anyone make offerings to me? Ah, it's because before I left home, I didn't make offerings to the Triple Jewel. That is why now that I have left home, very few people make offerings to me. I constantly bring forth a heart full of repentance. I am extremely ashamed. So, now, I wish to explain this principle to you, so that you won't have to be like me and have no one make offerings to you.
In making offerings to the Triple Jewel, one cultivates blessings and cultivates wisdom. To cultivate wisdom, one must print Sutras and propagate the Buddhadharma, or do other types of work to spread the Dharma. Didn't I mention this before? An example is our present preparation for publishing a magazine, which is all part of cultivating wisdom. If you want to cultivate wisdom, you must support the work of propagating the Dharma. If you want to cultivate blessings, you should make offerings to the Triple Jewel. If you don't make offerings to the Triple Jewel, then in the future, when you are one of the Three Jewels, no one will make offerings to you, as I just said. So, now, before you are part of the Triple Jewel/you must support the Triple Jewel, make offerings to the Triple Jewel, and take care of the Triple Jewel by taking care of all their hardships and difficulties.
Cultivate both blessings and wisdom. If you cultivate blessings but do not cultivate wisdom, you are like an elephant wearing a necklace of beads. If you cultivate wisdom but do not cultivate blessings, you are like an Arhat with an empty begging bowl. What does that mean? If you merely concentrate on cultivating wisdom and do not cultivate blessings, in the future, when you certify to the fruit and realize Arhatship and have succeeded in your cultivation of the Way, no one will make offerings to you.
"But yesterday you said that if someone sat for ten days people would certainly make offerings to them," you wonder. "How could it be that a certified Arhat would receive no offerings? I find this terrifying. The Buddhadharma is too dangerous! It would probably be better not to study it at all."
That may be the case, but if you don't cultivate the Buddhadharma, you won't ever become a Buddha. If you want to slide down, do as you please. If you want to become a Buddha, if you think, "I understand the Buddhadharma quite clearly and I shall certainly be diligent and seek progress in my study of it," then you should break through all the various difficulties and go forward in your cultivation. In your cultivation, cultivate blessings and cultivate wisdom. If you don't, cultivate blessings, no one will make offerings to you. If you don't cultivate wisdom, you'll be stupid. The Buddha is complete in both blessings and wisdom. His blessings are perfect and his wisdom is perfect, and so he is known as the "Doubly-complete Honored One." In our cultivation, we, too, should cultivate blessings and wisdom. In all circumstances we should cultivate blessings. In all situations we should cultivate wisdom. Do not be like the Arhat with the empty bowl who cultivated wisdom but did not cultivate blessings. No one makes offerings to him. If you only cultivate blessings, but not wisdom, then you're like a big dumb elephant wearing a pearl necklace. It may look beautiful, but he's very stupid. So, you who study the Buddhadharma should cultivate both wisdom and blessings. You just do so actually and in fact, and not just talk about so doing. If you speak it, it's the Dharma; if you do it, it's the Way. This is a point, which everyone should know.
to be continued
-By Gwo Shr Ettelson
For an enlightening look at the cosmology of war, see News from the Dharmarealm, this issue, which features a Dharma talk given by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua at Central Park, Santa Clara, titled "Energies for Peace. "Earth overcome by wood; wood overcome by metal; metal overcome by fire; fire overcome by water; and water overcome by earth--the earth symbolic of the Buddhadharma--the concept of the Middle Way, puts a peaceful end to a vicious cycle.