THE WONDERFUL DHARMA LOTUS FLOWER SUTRA
continued from issue #73
WITH COMMENTARY BY THE VENERABLE TRIPITAKA MASTER HSUAN HUA
translated by: Bhikshuni Heng Yin
reviewed by: Bhikshuni Heng Ch'ih
edited by: Bhikshuni Heng Hsien
AT THE END OF SIXTY SMALL AEONS, HAVING FINISHED SPEAKING THIS SUTRA, THE BUDDHA SUN-MOON-LAMP BRIGHTNESS IMMEDIATELY ANNOUNCED TO THE ASSEMBLY OF BRAHMA, MARA, SHRAMANAS, BRAHMANS, GODS, HUMANS, AND ASURAS, "TODAY, ON THIS DAY, AT MIDNIGHT, THE THUS COME ONE WILL ENTER NIRVANA WITHOUT RESIDUE."
THERE WAS AT THAT TIME A BODHISATTVA BY THE NAME OF VIRTUE TREASURY TO WHOM THE BUDDHA SUN-MOON-LAMP BRIGHTNESS THEN TRANSMITTED A PREDICTION, TELLING ALL THE BHIKSHUS, "THE BODHISATTVA VIRTUE TREASURY WILL NEXT BECOME A BUDDHA WITH THE NAME PURE BODY TATHAGATO 'RHAN, SAMYAKSAMBUDDAH."
AFTER THAT BUDDHA HAD TRANSMITTED THE PREDICTION, AT MIDNIGHT HE ENTERED NIRVANA WITHOUT RESIDUE. FOLLOWING THE BUDDHA'S CROSSING OVER INTO EXTINCTION, THE BODHISATTVA WONDROUS LIGHT UPHELD THE WONDERFUL DHARMA LOTUS FLOWER SUTRA FOR A FULL EIGHTY SMALL AEONS, EXPOUNDING IT TO OTHERS. THE EIGHT SONS OF THE BUDDHA SUN-MOON-LAMP BRIGHTNESS ALL SERVED WONDROUS LIGHT AS THEIR MASTER. WONDROUS LIGHT TAUGHT AND TRANSFORMED THEM, CAUSING THEM TO BECOME FIRMLY ESTABLISHED IN ANUTTARASAMYAKSAMBODHI.
The Buddha Sun-Moon-Lamp Brightness spoke The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra for a full sixty small aeons and in all that time not a single person in the assembly grew tired in body or in mind. AT THE END OF SIXTY SMALL AEONS, HAVING FINISHED SPEAKING THIS SUTRA, THE BUDDHA SUN-MOON-LAMP BRIGHTNESS IMMEDIATELY ANNOUNCED TO THE ASSEMBLY OF BRAHMA/ the Brahma god, MARA, the demon kings, SHRAMANAS, that is, the Bhikshus who have left home, THE BRAHMANS, one of the four Indian Varnas, also called the "Brahman resolve." They are an Indian outside way and they cultivate pure practices. THE GODS, HUMANS, AND ASURAS/ He made an announcement disclosed some news, saying, ON THIS DAY, AT MIDNIGHT, THE THUS COME ONE WILL ENTER NIRVANA WITHOUT RESIDUE. The Thus Come One Sun-Moon Lamp Brightness today, in the middle of the night... The Buddha was born at noon and entered Nirvana at midnight. Noon is yang and night is yin. This represents that when the Buddha came into the world it was as if the entire world was illumined by the sun, moon, and lamplight. After the Buddha crossed into extinction, entered Nirvana, it was like the darkness of night. Not only was this the case with the Buddha Sun-Moon-Lamp Brightness, but all the Buddhas are that way. They appear in the world at noon and enter Nirvana without residue at midnight.
NIRVANA is of four kinds, according to the explanations of the Consciousness Only School. Some texts give three kinds of Nirvana. I have previously explained four kinds of Nirvana, but not the three kinds. What are the three?
1. The Nirvana of the purity of the nature. This type of Nirvana belongs to the virtue of the Dharmabody. The Buddha has three bodies: the Dharma body, the Reward body, and the Transformation body. The Nirvana of the purity of the nature belongs to the virtue of the Dharma body, that virtue being that it is not produced or destroyed, not defiled and not pure, not increasing and not decreasing. The virtue of the Dharma body, the virtue of Prajna, and the virtue of Liberation are the Secret Storehouse of Great Nirvana, three virtues of Nirvana.
2. The Nirvana of perfect purity. This type of Nirvana belongs to the virtue of Prajna.
3. The Nirvana of the purity of expedient means. This belongs to the virtue of liberation. The purity of expedient means refers to entering the false from emptiness; what is not produced takes on production and what is not extinguished takes on extinction. Although with in the six paths of rebirth, there is no defilement and entry into Nirvana brings permanent bliss. All actions and all practices are conducted from within the Nirvana of the purity of expedient means. These are the three kinds of Nirvana, which I have never explained before. Basically, the three kinds of Nirvana are me same as the four kinds of Nirvana, and this will be further explained, bit by bit.
Here, the text says, NIRVANA WITHOUT RESIDUE.
1) The first of the four kinds of Nirvana is the Nirvana of the purity of the self-nature. This corresponds to the Nirvana of the purity of the nature.
2) The second is the Nirvana with residue. What is meant by "residue"? It refers to those of the two vehicles. Although they have certified to the fruit, they still have bodies. Because their bodies remain, they are still bound by suffering. As long as you have a body, you suffer. Without a body, there is no suffering. Why are you greedy, hateful, and stupid? It is because you take a thief for your son and search outside. Because you have a body you have to take care of it and you are greedy, hateful, and stupid. If you have a body, you suffer. If you have a body, you are bound in suffering. This is called the Nirvana with residue.
3) When you have emptied the body and dharmas and there is no attachment to self or attachment to dharmas, this is called Nirvana without residue, the third of the four kinds; here, suffering has been ended. Brahman conduct has been established, cultivation of the Bodhisattva conduct has been accomplished, what was to be done has been done, what was supposed to be done has been done, and one undergoes no further becoming, one need not return to be reborn in the Three Realms.
4) The fourth is the Nirvana of no dwelling place which corresponds to the third of the three kinds of Nirvana discussed above, that of the purity of expedient means. Nirvana with and without residue correspond to the second of the three kinds, the Nirvana of perfect purity.
When the Buddha Sun-Moon-Lamp Brightness announced the news that he was going to enter Nirvana without residue, there was a Bodhisattva present by the name of VIRTUE TREASURY; his virtuous practices were especially complete. THE BUDDHA SUN-MOON-LAMP BRIGHTNESS THEN TRANSMITTED A PREDICTION to him. What is meant by "transmitting a prediction"? It is called "to suspend a prediction," to announce a future event, one for which the time has not yet come, the event is still hanging in the air. It hasn't yet "fallen to the ground." It is also said to be an advance prediction, which refers to giving you a prediction in this life for your becoming a Buddha in a future life, saying, "You, in a future age, will be a Buddha with such and such a name..."
TELLING ALL THE BHIKSHUS, THE BODHISATTVA VIRTUE TREASURY WILL NEXT BE A BUDDHA. After I have entered Nirvana, he shall become a Buddha. His name will be PURE BODY Thus Come One, TATHAGATO'RHAN, that is Thus Come One. ARHAN, Arhat, is One Worthy of Offerings, SAMYAKSAMBUDDHAH means One of Proper and Universal Enlightenment. Originally the Buddha has ten titles, but here only three are used to represent all ten.
AFTER THAT BUDDHA HAD TRANSMITTED THE PREDICTION to the Bodhisattva Virtue Treasury, AT MIDNIGHT HE ENTERED NIRVANA WITHOUT RESIDUE. In the middle of the night, the Buddha went into Nirvana, he "completed the stillness." FOLLOWING THAT BUDDHA'S CROSSING OVER INTO EXTINCTION, THE BODHISATTVA WONDROUS LIGHT UPHELD THE WONDERFUL DHARMA LOTUS FLOWER SUTRA, he accepted, upheld, read and recited and expounded it FOR A FULL EIGHTY SMALL AEONS, EXPOUNDING IT TO OTHERS, explaining it to them.
THE EIGHT SONS OF THE BUDDHA SUN-MOON-LAMP BRIGHTNESS/That Buddha had eight sons: Intention, Good Intention, Limitless Intention, Jeweled Intention, Increasing Intention, Intention Rid of Doubt, Resounding Intention, and Dharma Intention. ALL SERVED WONDROUS LIGHT AS THEIR MASTER. They bowed to him as their teacher. WONDROUS LIGHT TAUGHT AND TRANSFORMED THEM, the eight sons, CAUSING THEM TO BECOME FIRMLY ESTABLISHED IN ANUTTARASAMYAKSAMBODHI. He caused them to bring forth hearts which were solid and Irreversible with respect to the Utmost Proper and Equal, Right Enlightenment, the Buddha fruit. They thought only to go forward and never thought to retreat. They were ever vigorous and they never rested.
The eight royal sons bowed to the Bodhisattva Wondrous Light as their master and he carried out his responsibilities as teacher quite dutifully. He spoke to them all day saying things like, "Don't be lazy. Don't sneak off to rest or take naps and don't go around stealing food!" That's how he kept rack of the eight princes. Even though they were royal princes, they still had to actually cultivate. When Shakyamuni Buddha left home to cultivate he was by no means lazy. He meditated in the Himalayas everyday. Those who have left home must cultivate the Way if they are to receive the offerings from the ten directions. If you don't cultivate the Way, it can be very dangerous. Don't think that leaving home is all that easy.
THE PRINCES, HAVING MADE OFFERINGS TO LIMITLESS HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF TENS OF THOUSANDS OF MILLIONS OF BUDDHAS, ALL REALIZED THE BUDDHA WAY. THE VERY LAST TO BECOME A BUDDHA WAS ONE NAMED "BURNER OF THE LAMP."
AMONG THE EIGHT HUNDRED DISCIPLES WAS ONE NAMED "SEEKER OF FAME," WHO WAS GREEDILY ATTACHED TO PROFIT AND OFFERINGS. ALTHOUGH HE READ AND RECITED MANY SCRIPTURES, HE DID NOT COMPREHEND THEM AND FORGOT MOST OF WHAT HE LEARNED. FOR THAT REASON HE WAS CALLED, "SEEKER OF FAME." BECAUSE HE HAD ALSO PLANTED GOOD ROOTS, HE WAS ABLE TO ENCOUNTER LIMITLESS HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF TENS OF THOUSANDS OF MILLIONS OF BUDDHAS, MAKING OFFERINGS TO THEM AND HONORING THEM, VENERATING AND PRAISING THEM.
MAITREYA, IT SHOULD BE KNOWN, COULD THE BODHISATTVA WONDROUS LIGHT HAVE BEEN ANYONE ELSE? I MYSELF WAS HE. AND THE BODHISATTVA SEEKER OF FAME WAS YOU, YOURSELF!"
THE PRINCES, the eight sons of the Buddha Sun-Moon-Lamp Brightness, after leaving home MADE OFFERINGS TO LIMITLESS HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF TENS OF THOUSANDS OF MILLIONS OF BUDDHAS. Cultivating both blessings and wisdom to perfection, ALL REALIZED THE BUDDHA WAY.
What is meant by cultivating blessings and cultivating wisdom? MAKING OFFERINGS TO LIMITLESS HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF TENS OF THOUSANDS OF MILLIONS OF BUDDHAS was the cultivation of blessings. Reciting and maintaining hundreds of thousands of tens of thousands of millions of the scriptures which the Buddha spoke was the cultivation of wisdom. Through accepting, maintaining, reading, and reciting, making offerings and paying honor, they perfected their blessings and perfected their wisdom and then later became Buddhas.
THE VERY LAST TO BECOME A BUDDHA WAS ONE NAMED "BURNER OF THE LAMP. "The name of the last of the eight sons to become a Buddha was "Burner of the Lamp" Buddha.
AMONG THE EIGHT HUNDRED DISCIPLES WAS ONE NAMED "SEEKER OF FAME." The Bodhisattva Wondrous Light had eight hundred disciples. One of the disciples was called "Seeker of Fame." Now, the Bodhisattva Wondrous Light was just the Bodhisattva Manjushri. Manjushri Bodhisattva was the master of the eight princes and taught and transformed them, teaching them all to become Buddhas. The last of the eight princes to become a Buddha had the Buddha-name "Burner of the Lamp." The Buddha Burner of the Lamp was Shakyamuni Buddha's teacher, and he transmitted the prediction of Buddhahood to Shakyamuni Buddha. This means that the Bodhisattva Manjushri was Shakaymuni Buddha's grand-teacher, his teacher's teacher.
Manjushri Bodhisattva now acts as Shakyamuni Buddha's disciple. The grand-teacher is now the disciple. What is the principle involved here?
Within the Buddhadharma, "The Dharma is level and equal with nothing above or below." It's just like a play, like a role in a play. Everything in the world, without exception, is just like a play. People all watch the play and then, when it's over, they go home. Manjushri Bodhisattva acted in the Saha world as the disciple of Shakyamuni Buddha and Shakyamuni Buddha's teacher was Manjushri Bodhisatta's disciple. So, take a look: "The Dharma is level and equal with nothing above or below," and so when Shakyamuni Buddha became a Buddha, Manjushri Bodhisattva had not yet done so, and so he is now Shakyamuni Buddha's disciple.
Among the eight hundred disciples of the Bodhisattva Wondrous Light, there was one named "Seeker of Fame." He just loved to seek fame and profit. What was he like? He never cultivated; he just laughed and joked all day long. He ran around outside, climbing on conditions at the homes of the wealthy people and influential officials, scheming for his own advantage. He did not cultivate; he did not recite Sutras. Well, he recited them, but his heart wasn't in it. He recited them over and over, but couldn't remember them. Why not? Because his heart was heavy laden with schemes for climbing on conditions. If you can't remember your Sutra recitations, you should take a clue from Maitreya Bodhisattva as a warning. He couldn't recite the Sutras because he was too involved in climbing on conditions and seeking fame.
Why can't you remember your Sutra recitations? It's because in your heart, you also seek fame and climb on conditions you seek fame and profit. You haven't put down tame and profit. If you put down those two words, "tame and profit," then you’d be able to recite any book at all after reading it only once. You wouldn't have to put forth any special concentration to memorize it. Why? Because you'd have no other thoughts. Without thoughts of greed, hatred, or stupidity, or climbing on conditions, your intelligence and wisdom would come forth.
WHO WAS GREEDILY ATTACHED TO PROFIT AND OFFERINGS. See? Even Maitreya Bodhisattva had that flaw. He was greedy for profit, craved offerings, climbed on conditions, and got stuck on profit and offerings. Profit just means money. He was greedy for people to give him a little cash, like the monks nowadays who receive offerings of money in red envelopes. They open them up, and if there's a sizable amount in it they are delighted. This is what is meant by being greedily attached to profit and offerings. If they get a little less, they grimace and groan. This is just a manifestation of being greedily attached to profit and offerings. If you are truly a person of the Way, it won't matter how much they give. A little is a lot and a lot is a little. A little and a lot--it's all the same, equal.
For example, last Saturday on the eighth day of the (lunar) month, one of my disciples saw people making offerings to the Dharma Master. Basically, would not even bring this matter up because it is likely to sound as if I'm asking for offerings, but unless I talk about it, no one will know. She saw that the Chinese people were all making offerings to the Master and so she also gave an offering envelope. At the time I didn't know how much was in it. After a while I opened it and saw that it was a penny. I was extremely happy.
You say, "How could a penny make you happy?" Westerners don't understand this custom, but she was abl6 to practice this Dharma and, although it was only a penny, it showed that she had a sincere heart. I think on that day she didn't have any money and so she gave only a penny. That night, she made another offering of four dollars and told me, "I didn't have any money today."
I said, "I know. Your penny made merit and virtue for you perhaps as much as giving a hundred, a thousand, or ten thousand dollars would have, because you were sincere. In the Buddhadharma, as long as you have a sincere heart, you obtain merit and virtue regardless of how much money you give as an offering. If you do not have a sincere heart, even if you give a lot, it's still a little. If you have a sincere heart, it you give a little, it's still a lot. You only need make your offering with a true heart." I'm now playing Maitreya Bodhisattva, and asking you all for offerings. Hah! If Maitreya Bodhisattva had this flaw, how much the more so am I likely to have it?
ALTHOUGH HE READ AND RECITED MANY SUTRAS. At that time the Bodhisattva Seeker of Fame, Maitreya, one of the eight hundred disciples—although it has not been clearly stated that Maitreya Bodhisattva is the Bodhisattva Seeker of Fame, it will be shortly and so I am telling you ahead of time—READ means that, with the book in front of him, he read the sutras. RECITED means that he recited them without the book, just as now, in the mornings, the three who have left home along with several laymen recite the Shurangama Mantra. At five o'clock they rise to sit in Dhyana. They sit until seven and then recite the Shurangama Mantra, and The Vajra Sutra, and The Heart Sutra. The best would be to recite the Great Compassion Mantra twenty-one times to seek a response and whatever you seek, you may obtain. If you recite the Great Compassion Mantra, the Lecture Hall will be filled with a rare fragrance: that state arises when one recites the Great Compassion Mantra. If you recite Sutras sincerely a rare fragrance may also manifest. How does that happen? When you recite the Sutras, heavenly maidens will scatter flowers and the fragrance will manifest. But you must recite with a sincere heart; in the same way you must make offerings to the Triple Jewel with a sincere heart. If you have a sincere heart, when you recite a single sentence of the Sutra you can startle heaven and move the earth. The ghosts and spirits in heaven and earth will all know about it. If you don't have a sincere heart, you can recite the entire Sutra but all you do is strike up false thinking. What false thinking do you strike up? You think, "I'm reciting the Sutra today, I wonder if anyone will send me offerings? I'm reciting the Sutra so I can get offerings." If you have that kind of false thinking, then no one will make offerings to you. Why? Because your heart is filled with the wish for offerings and so they will not appear. If you have thought, it is false thought. Without thought, you may obtain a response. If you do not seek offerings, and they come, that is a response. Although he read and recited ANY SCRIPTURES, not one Sutra, like just The Vajra Sutra or The Dharma Flower Sutra, or The Shurangama Sutra; he recited a lot of them. HE DID NOT COMPREHEND THEM. He couldn't remember them. Comprehend means to remember them very clearly. If you can't remember them, then you remember the first part and forget the last part, or remember the last part and forget the first part. If you remember the first and the last, then you forget the middle part, and you can't recite it. You have to listen to others and follow along with them. If you do that, the merit and virtue is theirs, it is not your own. Do you understand? You must be able to recite them on your own. You must comprehend them, recite them yourself. Comprehend means to understand and be well versed in them. If well versed, you can recite them from the first part to the very end and remember them all.
Now, he read and recited them, but couldn't remember them, couldn't comprehend them, AND FORGOT MOST OF WHAT HE LEARNED. He didn't really recite. He recited the first part and forgot the last, forgetting a whole lot of it. FOR THIS REASON HE WAS CALLED SEEKER OF FAME. I believe that he probably did not give himself this name. Someone else probably gave it to him saying, "All you do is seek fame and seek profit. We'll just call you Seeker of Fame Bodhisattva!"
BECAUSE HE HAD ALSO PLANTED GOOD ROOTS/ Although he was called Seeker of Fame, he had also planted many good roots and cultivated many practices, cultivating blessings and cultivating wisdom. HE WAS ABLE TO ENCOUNTER LIMITLESS HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF TENS OF THOUSANDS OF MILLIONS OF BUDDHAS MAKING OFFERINGS TO THEM AND HONORING THEM, VENERATING AND PRAISING THEM. He made offerings to limitless hundreds of thousands of tens of thousands of millions of Buddhas, honored limitless hundreds of thousands of tens of thousands of millions of Buddhas, venerated and praised limitless hundreds of thousands of tens of thousands of millions of Buddhas.
MAITREYA, IT SHOULD BE KNOWN, Manjushri Bodhisattva said, "Maitreya Bodhisattva, you ought to know, COULD THE BODHISATTVA WONDROUS LIGHT HAVE BEEN ANYONE ELSE? Do you know who he was? He wasn't anybody else but--who? I, MYSELF WAS HE. He was just me, Manjushri Bodhisattva. Do you remember?" So, sometimes one of my disciples says, "I've thought of it!" "Thinking of it" must just mean remembering it. AND THE BODHISATTVA SEEKER OF FAME, just who was the Bodhisattva Seeker of Fame? He WAS YOU, YOURSELF! You, Maitreya Bodhisattva, you were one who sought fame and profit. But now, you've gotten rid of many of your faults in that regard and have made a lot of progress compared to the way you used to be."
"THE PORTENTS NOW SEEN DO NOT DIFFER FROM THOSE, AND SO, IN MY ESTIMATION, TODAY THE THUS COME ONE IS ABOUT TO SPEAK A GREAT VEHICLE SUTRA CALLED THE WONDERFUL DHARMA LOTUS FLOWER, A DHARMA FOR INSTRUCTING BODHISATTVAS OF WHICH FHE BUDDHA IS PROTECTIVE AND MINDFUL." AT THAT TIME MANJUSHRI, IN THE MIDST OF THE ASSEMBLY, WISHING TO RESTATE THIS MEANING, SPOKE VERSES, SAYING,
Today, I'll finish explaining the prose section so you won't forget where we left off and I won't have to think about it or remember it either.
THE PORTENTS NOW SEEN/ When Maitreya Bodhisattva heard Manjushri Bodhisattva give away his previous identity as a Bodhisattva who sought fame, he himself had already gotten rid of his mark of a self and so he wasn't embarrassed and he didn't feel "All you do is talk about my bad points. You're really rude." He didn't think that way at all.
Manjushri Bodhisattva said to him, "I now see Shakyamuni Buddha emitting a white hair-mark light, along with the other portents, six in all, and they are just the same as those previously manifested by the Buddha Sun-Moon-Lamp Brightness. THEY DO NOT DIFFER FROM THOSE. "Those" refers to the portents manifested by the Buddha Sun-Moon-Lamp Brightness; "now" refers to those now manifested by Shakyamuni Buddha. The portents are the same AND SO IN MY ESTIMATION, because of this, I now calculate, think about it..." Actually Manjushri Bodhisattva didn't need to think about it. He knew it all along. But he accords with worldly methods and says, "I have thought it over and it is my considered opinion that TODAY, THE THUS COME ONE, now, this very day, the World Honored One Shakyamuni Buddha, IS ABOUT TO SPEAK A GREAT VEHICLE SUTRA CALLED THE WONDERFUL DHARMA LOTUS FLOWER SUTRA , The title was The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra. A DHARMA FOR INSTRUCTING BODHISATTVAS OF WHICH THE BUDDHA IS PROTECTIVE AND MINDFUL.
AT THAT TIME, MANJUSHRI, then, the Bodhisattva Manjushri, IN THE MIDST OF THE ASSEMBLY, in the great assembly, WISHING TO RESTATE THIS MEANING, thinking to repeat the principles yet again, SPOKE VERSES, SAYING, He used verses to repeat, to reiterate, what he had just said.
HE SHURANGAMA SUTRA, Vols. I & II. One of the greatest writings of the Buddhist Mahayana; the first two of ten volumes of translation from the Chinese, with commentary by the Venerable Master Hua.