by Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua
Spoken during the last period of teaching in the life of Shakyamuni Buddha, the Lotus Sutra opens the provisional to reveal the actual. At last the full meaning of the Dharma is explained for living beings--all beings have the Buddhanature; all can become Buddhas. The profundity of the Sutra is elucidated for contemporary readers in the Venerable Master Hua's interlinear commentary. The first volume of Sutra and commentary will soon appear in soft bound edition.
I KNOW THAT THESE LIVING BEINGS,
HAVE NEVER CULTIVATED A WHOLESOME FOUNDATION,
ARE FIRMLY ATTACHED TO THE FIVE DESIRES, AFFLICTIONS.
BY REASON OF ALL THESE DESIRES
THEY SINK INTO THE THREE EVIL PATHS
REVOLVE ON THE WHEEL IN THE SIX DESTINIES,
WHERE THEY SUFFER UTTER MISERY.
THEY TAKE A TINY FORM IN THE WOMB,
WHICH, LIFE AFTER LIFE, CONTINUES TO GROW;
WITH SCANTY VIRTUE AND FEW BLESSINGS,
THEY ARE OPPRESSED BY SCORES OF SUFFERINGS,
AND ENTER THE DENSE FOREST OF DEVIANT VIEWS,
THOSE OF EXISTENCE, NON-EXISTENCE, AND THE LIKE.
THEY BECOME DEPENDENT ON THOSE VIEWS—
SIXTY-TWO OF THEM ALL TOLD.
THEY HOLD THEM TIGHTLY AND CANNOT LET THEM GO;
ARROGANT, THEY BRAG OF THEIR OWN LOFTINESS;
FLATTERING AND CROOKED, THEIR HEARTS ARE NOT SINCERE,
THROUGHOUT TEN BILLION AEONS,
THEY DO NOT HEAR THE BUDDHA'S NAME,
NOR DO THEY HEAR THE PROPER DHARMA--
PEOPLE SUCH AS THESE ARE HARD TO SAVE.
I KNOW THAT THESE LIVING BEINGS/Who are "these living beings?" They are the living beings who have no wisdom, they are those living beings who, confused and deluded, do not receive the Buddha's teaching. HAVE NEVER CULTIVATED A WHOLESOME FOUNDATION/In former lives, they never cultivated good roots and so they are stupid. Those people who have in the past cultivated good roots are intelligent, not stupid.
"Do I have good roots or not?" you may ask.
Don't ask whether or not you have good roots. Ask whether or not you choose or do not choose to cultivate in accord with Dharma. If you can rely upon the Buddhadharma to cultivate and responsibly practice and uphold the Buddhadharma, accept the Buddha's precepts, then even if you did not have good roots, you would develop them. If you don't cultivate according to the Dharma, and, having taken the precepts you fail to observe them, doing no good deeds at all--as it is said:
If I could benefit all under heaven by pulling a single hair out of my head,
I wouldn't do it. --
You’d have no good roots at all. You wouldn’t do a good deed the size of a single tiny hair to benefit someone else. If you could benefit everyone under heaven, by pulling out a single hair from your head, you wouldn’t do it. Why? "Well, if I pulled out one of my hairs it would hurt a lot and what difference does it make to me whether or not everyone under heaven receives benefit anyway. What's in it for me? I'm not going to do it." If you're like that, if you don't cultivate in accord with Dharma, then even if you had good roots you soon would have none. If you cultivate in accord with Dharma, then even if you don't have good roots, you'll get them. So, don't ask whether or not you have good roots.
I'll tell you something on a bit more profound level: If you didn't have good roots, there is absolutely no way you would be able to come to hear the Buddhadharma; you wouldn't have the necessary causes and conditions. For example we now, who are listening to the Buddhadharma--especially to The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra, in past lives have all planted good roots. But you shouldn't ask.
And I'm not going to answer your question, either. Why not? If I said you had good roots you'd get arrogant and say, "Look at me! The Dharma Master says that I have good roots and no doubt my good roots are not small." You'd get stuck-up. On the other hand, if I said you had no good roots and that, in fact, in your last life you were a pig or something and this life you're a person—you didn't plant good roots and that is why in this life you are so stupid, so dumb, you'd think, "Oh, last life I was a pig. Now I'm a person, but it doesn't mean much. I think I'll do a few rotten things and go back to being a pig. "And they always feel like nothing's going on. When they've eaten their fill, they go to sleep. If I spoke this way, it would cause you to retreat. So I can't tell you whether or not you have good roots.
Instead, ask yourself whether or not you can cultivate in accord with Dharma. If you can, then even if you don't have good roots, you have good roots. If you don't cultivate in accord with Dharma, then even if you have good roots, you don't. That's the crucial point.
So the Buddha knew that these people had never in past lives planted good roots, had never cultivated them. FIRMLY ATTACHED TO THE FIVE DESIRES/ They are firmly stuck. "Firm" means they can't break through them. There's no way to destroy them. Destroy what? The realms arising from the Five Desires. And what are the Five Desires? Those who have heard Sutras will know as soon as they hear it, forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and tangible objects. There is another list of the Five Desires: wealth, form, fame, food, and sleep. So it is said:
Wealth, form, fame, food, and sleep
Are the five roots of the hells.
These five desires are like five roots, which have sprouted, and whichever one you get stuck on can drag you right down into hell. They are the five roots of being born in the hells, the five roots of falling into the hells. You could also say that they are the five chains. They are chains in the hells, which drag you down into them.
Some may be greedy for wealth, and covet material possessions to the point that they would do anything at all, regardless of whether it was proper or not, to get what they are after. Basically, one would not covet wealth, which is not rightfully one's own. But you don't care whether it is right or not, whose money it is, whether it comes from a clean or dirty place, in a proper or improper way: you still covet it.
Form: This refers to beauty--specifically that of members of the opposite sex. This is the easiest matter in which people transgress. No matter who they are, when men and women meet, their first thought is to see if the other person is beautiful or handsome. That's the way most people think--about forms.
Fame: If people aren't greedy for wealth or forms, they may be greedy for fame, and get locked in the chains of fame. They enjoy nothing but running around promoting themselves in all kinds of ways, advertising themselves. One such person was a certain layman who had a card printed saying that he was president of such and such organization, head of such and such a group, and principal of this and that institute--the entire card was covered with his titles. What for? Because he loved fame, and wanted everyone to know his name. When you take a look at his card and see all his fancy titles, you're supposed to be very impressed. But that's the way fame is—really important to people.
There are others who don't care for wealth or form or fame, but guess what? They love to eat. They don't eat their own food, either, but specialize in cheating other people out of meals. When they hear there's a party, they crash the gate, sit down, and eat their fill--a fish eye concealed among the pearls. Because of this, everyone looks down on them as gluttons, and they are objects of scorn wherever they go. That's food.
The fifth--there are those who are not greedy for wealth, form, fame, or food, but they do love to sleep. They can go without eating, but they wouldn't hear of missing their sleep. They sleep until their brains pet all stuck together and they lose their wisdom; they sleep themselves into stupidity. It's often the case that people in Hong Kong and Taiwan actually sleep to death; they die of narcolepsy. Why? Because they like to sleep. They sleep to death feeling extremely happy; they aren't aware of anything at all, and just die in their sleep, painlessly. That is the fifth root of the hells.
Therefore, once you understand the Buddhadharma you should reform these bad habits. If you can't reform all five of them immediately, you can do it slowly, slowly.
AND BECAUSE OF STUPIDITY AND LOVE PRODUCE AFFLICTIONS/Because they cling to the five desires, they give rise to stupidity and develop love and attachment to them. Because of their craving for and attachment to the five desires, they think up all kinds of ways to obtain them, and when their efforts are frustrated they give rise to affliction. Why does affliction arise? Because they have no wisdom; they do not see the state clearly, they do not understand it. Basically, when one cannot obtain the five desires, one should return the light, reverse the illumination, and wake up. Not only do they fall to wake up, but they give rise to affliction.
BY REASON OF ALL THESE DESIRES/Through the causes and conditions of all these desires THEY SINK INTO THE THREE EVIL PATHS; So, greed for food, greed for sleep, greed for fame, scheming for profit, greed for wealth, and lust for forms—all these various modes of behavior arise, affliction is generated, and they become stupid. Through their stupidity, they fall into the three evil paths.
What are the three evil paths? The path of the hungry ghosts, that of the animals, and that of the hells. They were unable to free themselves; they looked upon the five desires as too important, and so they fell into the three evil paths.
REVOLVE ON THE WHEEL IN THE SIX DESTINIES; The six destinies refer to the six paths: the path of the gods, asuras, humans, hell beings, hungry ghosts, and animals. Around and around they spin on the wheel in the six paths of rebirth. Suddenly they are in the heavens and suddenly they are on earth; suddenly they are cows and suddenly they turn into horses. Suddenly they are hungry ghosts and suddenly they become asuras. They revolve back and forth in the six paths because they planted the cause to revolve in them. Accordingly, they receive the retributive effect of spinning on the wheel in the six paths. WHERE THEY SUFFER UTTER MISERY; "Utter" means, "total," all of it. What is it that they receive "utterly"? Agony. Suffering. All the misery and wretchedness of the six paths.
THEY TAKE A TINY FORM IN THE WOMB/And so they go to be born in a womb, they take a womb and get born perhaps as a human being or perhaps as a horse, a cow, or a mouse: See? Some people are afraid of mice. If you are afraid of mice, then don't do bad things. If you do bad things, then you may end up in the rat pile yourself, as a friend of the mice. Look at mice: they're dirty, filthy. You'd better be careful. Mice are also born from wombs. The "small form" means the very smallest kind of womb-born beings, which receive a tiny form in the womb—a very small form. WHICH, LIFE AFTER LIFE, CONTINUES TO GROW/ Taking a womb to be reborn, in one life they take one kind of womb, and in the next life they take another. From small creatures they turn into large creatures, and from large creatures they turn into old creatures. In general, their karmic obstacles continue to grow, and the fruit retribution of their evil karma through life after life only increases, and does not decrease. It just keeps getting bigger and bigger, and so the text says, "Which, life after life, continues to grow." Finally, how large it grows, no one knows.
WITH SCANTY VIRTUE AND BLESSINGS; the nature of their virtue is very slight and thin, and therefore their blessed retribution is also slight. They are OPPRESSED BY SCORES OF SUFFERINGS; So they undergo all the different kinds of sufferings: the three sufferings, the eight sufferings, and all of the limitless sufferings and so forth; they are oppressed by these sufferings. AND ENTER THE DENSE FOREST OF DEVIANT VIEWS; They run into the thickets of deviant views, deviant views as numerous as trees in the wood. So many deviant views! How could you ever find your way out again? THOSE OF EXISTENCE, NON-EXISTENCE, AND THE LIKE; Existence refers to the view of permanence, and non-existence, to the view of annihilationism. The dense forest of deviant views refers to the general list of sixty-two views. THEY BECOME DEPENDENT UPON THOSE VIEWS; They strike up a friendship with all these views and come to depend upon them; they come to a stop and lean upon the deviant views, SIXTY-TWO OF THEM ALL TOLD. There are a lot of these views, but they may generally be subsumed under sixty-two categories.
And what are the sixty-two views? I haven't explained them before, but: today I will. You have all heard about the Five Skandhas: form, feeling, thought, activity, and consciousness. Those of outside religions think, "Form is large and I am small. Form is extremely large and pervades the Dharma Realm. I am very small and I am within the form." This is really stupid. How could they run inside of form? How in the heck! It's ridiculous, and doesn't make sense. But they make up this theory anyway and say, "Form is great and I am small; I am within form." That's the view of one of the outside religions.
There's another outside religion with a theory. Their view is "Form is small and I am great. Form is within me," --the exact opposite of the preceding view. They say, "Form is contained within me." Ultimately, just exactly what form is, they have no idea. But form has jumped right into them: That's another view. That makes two.
Another outside religion has this deviant view: "Form is just me. What is form? It's just me." That makes three. Another deviant outside religion says, "form is apart from me. Form is separate from me." They have absolutely nothing to base their deviant views on. But that makes four of them:
1. Form is great; I am small. I am within form.
2. Form is small; I am great. Form is within me.
3. Form itself is me.
4. What is apart from form is me.
These four propositions apply to the remaining four skandhas as well. For example,
1. Feeling is great; I am small. I am within feeling.
2. Feeling is small; I am great. Feeling is within me.
3. Feeling itself is me.
4. What is apart from feeling is me.
The same applies for thinking, activity, and consciousness, making a total of 4 x 5= 20 views.
These twenty views are of the present. There are also twenty such views with reference to the past and twenty with reference to the future; that is, 3 x 20= 60 deviant views.
What are the missing two views?
They are simply the view of permanence and the view of annihilationism mentioned in the Sutra text as "existence and non-existence". So, all told, they make sixty-two views, but these sixty-two views basically make no sense at all. So don't ask how they arrived at the sixty-two views. They basically have no principle behind them; they just set them up as deviant views. If you look for some principle behind them, you will fall into deviant views yourself. There's no principle behind them, but we should know what they are. We should also know that they are based on no principle whatever.
DEEPLY ATTACHED TO ILLUSORY DHARMAS/Those of outside ways are deeply, profoundly attached to these illusory dharmas. And what are the illusory Dharmas? The sixty-two views.
THEY HOLD THEM TIGHTLY AND CANNOT LET THEM GO/They hold onto them tightly, with all their might. They grab a hold of their sixty-two views and say, "This has principle. It's the way it is. I am great and form is small. Form is within me," or "Form is great, I am small. I am within form." They are stubbornly attached and won't change. They're attached to their opinions as correct. This is like a certain person who believes in a superstitious religion. He doesn't seek out the true principle; he doesn't pay any attention to whether it is right or wrong. He's superstitious and blindly faithful to his outside, heretical religion. "Holding tightly" means he holds on to his doctrines with extraordinarily solid faith, even more solid than faith in the Buddha or the Dharma Masters, even stronger. If you tell him to change he says, "No way. These dogmas were revealed by our infallible Patriarchs and they can't be changed. If you change them you've committed a mortal sin, you're damned to hell or lightning may strike you dead as an irredeemable heretic. I can't change the dogmas and I've got to believe in this religion."
I have something to tell all of you. Whoever doesn't believe what I say, be reassured that you won't be struck by lightning. And if you don't believe in the Buddha, you won't be struck dead by lightning either. Go ahead and refuse to believe. Later, when you've thought it over clearly, then you'll come back and believe. Now, if because you are confused, you believe in outside religions, that's all right, because when you finally wake up, you'll come back to Buddhism. Why do I say this? Because no matter what religion you believe in, it does not surpass Buddhism. All religions are contained within the Buddhadharma. However, there are long ways around and there are short cuts. If you believe in other religions, you'll have a longer walk. If you believe in Buddhism then, as the saying goes, "The pavilion by the water is the first to have the moon." If you become involved in Buddhism, you’ll understand sooner, get enlightened faster, and become a Buddha first thing. So I have a lot of disciples who listen to the sutras a while and then run off, but I don't pay any attention to them. If you want to run, then run. When you have run enough, you'll come back. Before you have run enough, of course you're going to want to run. But it's no problem. It's just like the five thousand who walked out. It's also like eating. When people are full, they don't care to eat, but once they get hungry, they start thinking about eating. One's attitude towards the Buddhadharma works the same way. If you think you don't need the Buddhadharma, if you're not hungry for it, you'll run off, but when you've run until you're hungry again, you'll come back to eat some more Buddhadharma.
So, "They hold them tightly and cannot let them go." ARROGANT, THEY BRAG OF THEIR OWN LOFTINESS. "Arrogant" means they are haughty, prideful, and self-satisfied. They brag of their own loftiness. They are always on a soapbox praising themselves. "Have you seen me? Me, me, me. Hah! You can't compare with me. Anything you can do I can do better." That's to hold yourself in high esteem, up on a pedestal one knows not how high. This is like a certain person who came here and said that he was extremely high-minded. This is just "bragging of your own loftiness," and what is the point of doing that anyway? Your heart should be modest.
FLATTERING AND CROOKED, THEIR HEARTS ARE NOT SINCERE. What is flattery? It's being a sycophant. When they see the governor coming, they open the car door for him, pour his tea, and light his cigarettes. They simply can't do enough for him to show their respect. They are not even that respectful towards the Buddha. But when they see a high official coming, they inevitably find a way to rub elbows with him. That's flattery. Crooked means they're not straightforward. They are basically out to borrow money from you because they know you've got it, but they don't come out directly and say, "I'd like to borrow some money from you."
THE GREAT COMPASSION HEART DHARANI SUTRA. From the Secret School of Buddhism, the sutra on the uses and power of the Great Compassion Mantra. With commentary by the Venerable Master Hua, and 84 pages of rare Secret School woodcuts. The first translation into any Western language. Sewn paperbound, 352 pages, 5 ½ x 8 ½, $10.00.
What do they say?
"Ah, today I need a little money. I might ask so-and-so if I can borrow some from him." Basically, they want to borrow from someone else but they bring up another person's name instead. Their tactics are roundabout, crooked. Crooked means not straight.
"Their hearts are not sincere." They aren't for real. They are two-faced, devious, not true. Not sincere means not true.
AND THROUGHOUT TEN BILLION AEONS/People like this can pass through a thousand, ten thousand, millions of aeons, such a long time—THEY DO NOT HEAR THE BUDDHA'S NAME. Why not? Because their good roots are too scarce. They have no good roots. NOR DO THEY HEAR THE PROPER DHARMA/Not only do they not hear the Buddha's name, but they have no opportunity to hear people lecture on the sutras either.
Those of you who are able to listen to sutra lectures all have good roots. People without good roots might come and sit for a minute, but they would soon feel like they were sitting on needles. "Extremely painful: Ouch:" And they'd hurry and get up and run away. Why? Because they have no good roots, and they can't sit for even a second before running off. That's because they have no good roots.
And they have no chance to hear the sutras lectured. Here in San Francisco we lecture the sutras every night. I ask you, are those who don't come here to hear the Buddhadharma in the majority or are those who do come in the majority? This question is like one the Buddha asked his disciples. He picked up a handful of earth and said, "Take a look. Is there more dirt in my hand or is there more dirt on the ground?" The disciples all answered, "Naturally, there's more dirt on the ground than in the Thus Come One's hand."
Then the Buddha said, "Those who obtain a human body are like the dirt in my hand; those who lose the body of a human are like the dirt on the earth." Those who lose their human body and are unable to return in future lives as a person, but instead become hungry ghosts or animals, or perhaps fall into the hells, are as many as the vast amount of dirt on the earth.
Now, I can draw an analogy too, and say, "Those who come to listen to the sutra lectures are like the dirt in my hand. Those who do not come to listen to the sutras are like the dirt on the earth." See how rare they are? Those who come to hear the sutras are like gold. They all have good roots. Those who don't come are like the dirt, the refuse; there are that many of them. So, those of you who are able to listen to the sutras and hear the Dharma truly have a rare opportunity. Especially in America. Go check, in all of America you won't find another Buddha-hall where there are Dharma lectures every night. There's not another place where they spread Buddhism so intensely. They think that one lecture a week is extraordinary, while here there are lectures every single evening, and everyone works together to investigate Buddhism. This is really inconceivable. In the future you are all destined to become the founding fathers, the pioneers of American Buddhism.
PEOPLE SUCH AS THESE ARE HARD TO SAVE/People like this, without good roots, are especially difficult to take across, truly hard to save. See? In San Francisco, with its population of several hundreds of thousands of people, only these twenty or so are really determined to listen to the sutras. Pare indeed; Those without good roots are difficult to save. You can teach them the clear, correct principles of the Buddhadharma; they will listen and understand very clearly that they are correct, but they'll still oppose you. Would you say that this was strange or not? Why does this happen? It happens because they have no good roots. If they had good roots, they would listen to the Buddhadharma.
In China, at Gold Mountain, there was one they called the Living Buddha. He listened to the sutras, and no matter which Dharma Master was lecturing, he would kneel to listen. He got down on both knees, placed his palms together, and was reverently attentive to what was being said. He was a living Buddha, and everyone called him by that name, but he was still so sincere that whenever there was a sutra lecture he would go, bow to the lecturing Dharma Master, and then kneel to listen to the sutra. Would you say he was sincere or not?
Why did they call him the Living Buddha? It was because one time he jumped right off the top of the Gold Pagoda, and when he hit bottom, nothing happened: he didn't die. He was able to cure people's illnesses too. How did he do that? He used "Paramita Soup." What is Paramita Soup? It was the water he had washed his feet in. He would add some fragrant ashes or some sawdust or dirt, and when a sick person came to him he would give it to the person to drink. Once people drank it, their sicknesses would be cured. So everyone called him the Living Buddha.
In the West, to be able to attend a Dharma Assembly such as this is extremely rare, something which, you might say, has never been before. Today I spoke with two of the bhikshus about what it means to lecture Sutras. I said that in the future, in the Dharma Ending Age, the Buddhadharma will become extinct, non-existent. The Buddhist sutras will disappear, and although the paper will remain, the words will cease to exist. As strange as it sounds, they will just fade off the paper, and you won't be able to see them. The first of the sutras to disappear will be The Surangama Sutra. That is why in coming to the West to spread the Dharma, I first lectured The Surangama Sutra, because it is the Sutra for developing wisdom. If you look into the doctrines discussed in that Sutra you will find that they are truly much more wonderful than any of the theories propounded by modern-day science or philosophy; they talk about primary principles.
Now that I have finished lecturing The Surangama Sutra, I am lecturing The Dharma Flower Sutra for you Westerners to hear, and when I have finished, if there is an opportunity, I intend to lecture The Great Avatamsaka Sutra for you. That's even more wonderful. It is the King of Sutras. The Dharma Flower Sutra is also called the King of Sutras, but that King is not as big as the Avatamsaka King. The Avatamsaka King is like a Gold Wheel-Turning Sage King. The Dharma Flower King might be compared to a Silver Wheel-Turning Sage King, and The Surangama Sutra could be considered a Copper Wheel-Turning Sage King. They are all kings among the Sutras.
Before lecturing it, I will tell you a bit about where it came from.
Where did The Avatamsaka Sutra come from? After the Buddha realized Buddhahood, the first thing he did was to speak The Avatamsaka Sutra. When he spoke it, those of the Two Vehicles could not hear him; they could not hear the Buddha speak The Avatamsaka Sutra. They couldn't even see him. That is why it is said,
They had eyes, but couldn't see Rochana.
The Buddha manifested a 10,000 foot high Rochana-body to speak the Great Avatamsaka.
They had ears, but couldn't hear the perfect, sudden teaching.
Although they had ears, they couldn't hear the perfect, sudden Dharma-door.
So, when the Buddha spoke The Avatamsaka Sutra, those of the Two Vehicles didn't understand it, and only the Great Vehicle Bodhisattvas were clear about it. Later, it was taken by the Dragon King to the Dragon Palace, and it disappeared from the world of human beings. Then along came the Fourteenth Patriarch Nagarjuna, "Dragon Tree," Bodhisattva. He had completely mastered all secular literature, and, because he had spiritual penetrations, he went down to the Dragon Palace to take a look at their Tripitaka. There he found the Three-Volume set of The Great Avatamsaka Sutra. The first volume contained chapters in number equal to the dust motes in an entire world and verses in number equal to dust motes in ten great trichiliocosms. The second volume had twelve hundred chapters and four hundred ninety-eight thousand eight hundred verses. The third volume contained forty-eight chapters and one hundred thousand verses. The standard Chinese edition was translated by Tripitaka Master Shikshananda during the T'ang Dynasty, and contains thirty-nine chapters.
Since he had no way to remember so much, he only memorized the last volume. When he came back, he wrote it out from memory with a brush. That is how Dragon Tree Bodhisattva in the Dragon Palace used his memory power--because his memory was extremely good. He read it once and remembered it in its entirety. That is where The Avatamsaka Sutra came from.
And when we have finished The Dharma Flower Sutra, we shall hear The Great Avatamsaka Sutra. Having heard the three Kings of Sutras and understood them, you will then be able to understand all the other sutras on your own without having them explained to you. Here in the West the Buddhadharma has just begun to flourish, and so it is fitting that the Great Vehicle Dharma be propagated in order to teach and transform the Great Vehicle Bodhisattvas. Don't see yourselves as insignificant. You are all ones who in the past made vows agreeing to come to America with me to help me propagate the Buddhadharma. So that's why I've met with you extremely intelligent Westerners who come here every day to study the Buddhadharma; this is because of a far-reaching affinity, a cause which goes 'way back and was planted long, long ago. I'm telling you the truth; you should not disbelieve it.
THEREFORE, SARIPUTRA, I
SET FORTH EXPEDIENTS FOR THEM,
SPEAK OF THE WAY TO SUFFERING’S END,
AND DEMONSTRATE NIRVANA, THOUGH
I SPEAK OF NIRVANA, YET
IT IS NOT TRUE EXTINCTION, FOR
ALL DHARMAS FROM THEIR ORIGIN
EVER MARKED WITH STILL EXTINCTION ARE.
WHEN THE BUDDHA'S SONS HAVE WALKED THE PATH,
IN A FUTURE AGE THEY'LL BECOME BUDDHAS.
I POSSESS THE POWER OF EXPEDIENTS,
AND DEMONSTRATE THE THREE-VEHICLE DHARMA;
ALL OF THE WORLD HONORED ONES
SPEAK THE ONE VEHICLE PATH.
NOW ALL OF THOSE ASSEMBLED HERE
SHOULD CAST THEIR DOUBTS ASIDE.
THE SPEECH OF ALL BUDDHAS IS THE SAME:
THERE'S ONLY ONE, NOT TWO, VEHICLES.
THEREFORE SHARIPUTRA, I/Sakyamuni Buddha says, "People are all difficult to save. Why are they difficult to save? Simply because they are too stupid. They are so stupid that if you teach them the genuine Dharma, they don't understand it. They doubt it and wonder, "That's what you say, but I don't know if it's that way or not. I don't know if that is the Dharma or if that is not the Dharma. Because of this, because people are hard to save, Sariputra, I SET FORTH EXPEDIENTS FOR THEM/I set up some provisional, clever expedient device Dharma-doors and SPEAK OF THE WAY TO SUFFERING'S END. I speak the Three Storehouse Teaching, so that they may separate from suffering, end all suffering. So it is said,
Cut off origination,
Long for extinction, and
Cultivate the Way.
Everyone should know that everything in this world is suffering. Knowing suffering, you should end suffering. That is why I speak this Dharma-door of ending suffering. I speak the Dharma of the Four Holy Truths. AND DEMONSTRATE NIRVANA, THOUGH/"Demonstrate" means that I instruct the Small Vehicle people in the method to certify to the wonderful fruit of Nirvana, to certify to the Four Virtues of Nirvana: permanence, bliss, true self, and purity.
Although I SPEAK OF NIRVANA, YET/Although I do teach the wonderful Dharma of the non-production and non-extinction-Nirvana, IT IS NOT TRUE" EXTINCTION, FOR/However, that Dharma which I speak for those of the Two Vehicles Is not the genuine, ultimate Dharma of still extinction. ALL DHARMAS FROM THEIR ORIGIN/Why do I say that it is not the ultimate still extinction Dharma? Because all dharmas basically, from where they begin, from their origin, EVER MARKED WITH STILL EXTINCTION ARE. The basic substance of the Dharma is still and extinct. It is "thus, thus." "Thus, thus," is the characteristic of still extinction; still extinction is just "thus, thus;" "thus, thus" is just still extinction.
WHEN THE BUDDHA'S SONS HAVE WALKED THE PATH/I have spoken the Small Vehicle Dharma for these people to cultivate. However, after they have cultivated the Small Vehicle Dharma to perfection, they must still return from the Small and go towards the great, and walk the Bodhisattva Way in order to be genuine sons of the Buddha. When they have cultivated the Bodhisattva Way to perfection then IN A FUTURE AGE THEY SHALL BECOME BUDDHAS/ In a future life they shall certify to the Buddha fruit. But, although the Two Vehicle people will eventually certify to the Buddha fruit, if, in the very beginning, you teach them to cultivate for the Buddha fruit, to practice the six perfections and the ten thousand conducts, they will be frightened, thinking of the difficulty involved in practicing the Bodhisattva Way, and so I POSSESS THE POWER OF EXPEDIENTS/ I set up provisional, clever expedient devices, because after realizing Buddhahood, I first spoke The Great Avatamsaka Sutra but at that time people of the Two Vehicles could not comprehend it. So, I use various kinds of expedient devices, provisional, clever methods AND DEMONSTRATE THE THREE-VEHICLE DHARMA/Therefore I taught the Dharma-doors of the Three Vehicles, the Three Vehicles being the Vehicle of Sound Hearers, Condition-Enlightened Ones, and the Bodhisattvas.
ALL OF THE WORLD HONORED ONES/Although I teach the Three Vehicles, the Sound Hearer, Condition-Enlightened, and Bodhisattva Vehicles, my ultimate aim, my final goal, is still to cause all living beings to become Buddhas. So, not only do I speak the highest Buddha Vehicle, but all of the World Honored Ones throughout all the worlds in the ten directions, all the Buddhas, SPEAK THE ONE VEHICLE PATH. They also first speak the Three Vehicles and later return the three to the One, opening the provisional to reveal the real. They take the provisional teaching of the Three Vehicles and put it down to display the unsurpassed Real Teaching of the One Vehicle, the Real Teaching being the Buddha Vehicle. They all speak the Way of the One Vehicle.
NOW, ALL OF THOSE ASSEMBLED HERE/Presently, in this Dharma Assembly, all those gathered together, the Bodhisattvas, Arhats, Bhiksus, Upasakas, Upasikas, ghosts and spirits, all of the gods and dragons and the rest of the eight-fold division, SHOULD CAST THEIR DOUBTS ASIDE/All of you should get rid of your doubts; you should not harbor doubts concerning the Dharma of The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra. Don't be like a fox, which has foxy-doubts and disbelieves. When foxes cross the river when it has frozen over, they take a step, cock their ears, and then listen to hear if the ice creaks. Will it hold them or will it crack and dump them into the river? So, they take a step, and listen; take another step, and listen some more. Although they don't hear a sound they still don't believe, and with every step they have to stop and listen again. This is what is known as "fox-like doubts." Foxes are full of doubt.
Those who believe in the Buddha but do not have good roots will half believe in the Buddhadharma and half disbelieve. Their faith is not true and real because they have not cast their doubts aside.
To put it another way, why is it that some people believe in the Buddhadharma and half disbelieve at the same time? It is because they are stupid. If they had Prajna wisdom they couldn't possibly have doubts. But, because they lack Prajna wisdom, if you speak the true Dharma to them, they hear it as false dharma. If you speak the subtle Dharma to them they hear it as the coarse dharma. They do not have the selective Dharma eye. That is why they give rise to doubts.
THERE'S ONE, NOT TWO, VEHICLES/THE SPEECH OF ALL BUDDHAS IS THE SAME/ The Buddhas of the ten directions say only the same things. What are they? They speak only the One Vehicle, the Buddha Way. That is, the One Buddha Vehicle, the true, real wisdom, the true real, real mark Dharma-door. There are not two vehicles. There's no Great Vehicle and no Small Vehicle; there's no Bodhisattva Vehicle either. The Great Vehicle, the Small Vehicle, the Sound Hearer Vehicle, the Condition-Enlightened Vehicle, and the Bodhisattva Vehicle--all these do not exist. They only speak the Buddha Vehicle; they only speak the Dharma-door of the Real Teaching; they don't speak the provisional teaching. This is called "opening the provisional to reveal the Real." They put the provisional, clever expedient device Dharma-doors off to one side, and only speak the wonderful doctrine of the Real Mark. So now, the Sound Hearers and the Condition-Enlightened Ones should return from the Small and go towards the Great, cultivate and practice the Real Wisdom. Don’t continue to be unable to part with the provisional wisdom. If you can’t put down the provisional wisdom you won’t be able to understand the Real Wisdom. So, there is only one vehicle, not two. There is only the Buddha Vehicle; there are no other vehicles.
THROUGHOUT COUNTLESS AEONS IN THE PAST,
INNUMERABLE EXTINCT BUDDHAS,
A HUNDRED THOUSAND, TEN THOUSAND OF THEM,
A NUMBER BEYOND ALL CALCULATION,
WORLD HONORED ONES SUCH AS THESE HAVE
EMPLOYED VARIOUS CONDITIONS AND ANALOGIES
AND WITH THE POWER OF COUNTLESS EXPEDIENTS
PROCLAIMED THE MARK OF ALL DHARMAS.
ALL OF THESE WORLD HONORED ONES
SPOKE THE DHARMA OF ONE VEHICLE,
TRANSFORMING BEINGS WITHOUT LIMIT,
LEADING THEM INTO THE BUDDHA PATH.
THROUGHOUT COUNTLESS AEONS IN THE PAST/Limitless aeons of the past, a countless number of them, and these aeons were definitely not small aeons; they were great aeons.
What is a great aeon? Aeon, or "kalpa" in Sanskrit, means "division of time." Basically, there's no fixed way to measure time, and there's nothing in reality, which corresponds to the concepts "time" or "division." But, because living beings make discriminations with their minds, the past, present, and future come into being. Time in itself basically is without a past, present or future. These three come into being through the discriminations made in-the minds of living beings. In The Vajra Sutra the Buddha says very plainly that there is no such thing as a division of time. He says, "Past thought cannot be gotten at, present thought cannot be gotten at, and future thought cannot be gotten at." (Vaj. Praj., p. 114).
What is meant by, "Past thought cannot be gotten at?" What's past is past, over and done with. If you say, "This is past," it has already gone by. You cannot obtain it.
"Present thought cannot be got at." If you say, "This is the present," just as you say it, it goes by. The present does not stay. The past has gone by, and the present goes right on by; it does not stay in one place.
"And future thought cannot be gotten at." The future has not yet come, so why are you going out to welcome it? If it hasn't arrived, you needn't go out to meet it. The future just hasn't gotten here yet, and the present can't be held in one place; therefore, it also does not exist. The past has gone; you shouldn't go chasing after it. Thus, the three phases of thought ultimately cannot be gotten at.
Speaking of the three phases of thought as unobtainable, in Szechwan there was a Dharma Master by the name of Chou who specialized in explaining The Vajra Sutra. Not only did he excel in explaining it orally, but he also wrote a commentary on it. He titles his commentary: The Green Dragon Commentary and Notes" (Ch'ing lung shu ch'ao). He heard that in the South, in Yang Chou, those who had left home were investigating Ch'an and sitting in meditation, but no one there lectured on the sutras or spoke the Dharma. He sighed and said, "These people are all sons and grandsons of demons. In Buddhism the sutras should be lectured and the Dharma should be spoken. What is the use of doing nothing all day but sitting in Dhyana meditation?" So he put his Green Dragon Commentary and Notes in two baskets, fastened the baskets to a pole, shouldered the pole, and set out on foot for San Chiang, that is, Ch'ang Chiang, Yang Chou, Nan Ching, Shang Hai, that area. He planned to lecture on the sutras there and teach and transform living beings.
Just as he was nearing Yang Chou he saw a pastry shop. An old woman was running the store. At that very moment, while he was shouldering his pole with its two baskets containing The Green Dragon Commentary and Notes on The Vajra Sutra, he felt a pang of hunger in his stomach and decided, to buy a piece of pastry. He put down his pole and said, "I would like a pastry, please."
The old woman asked him, "Where are you from?"
"I've come from Szechwan," he replied.
"What are you carrying that load of paper for?" she asked. "Where do you plan on selling it?"
The Dharma Master said, "Ah! This is my commentary on The Vajra Sutra and it's not for sale."
"Really? A commentary on The Vajra Sutra?" she said. In The Vajra Sutra there are three sentences which I would like to ask you to explain for me."
Hearing this, Vajra Joe (Chou) said, "For heaven's sake, I wrote a commentary on the entire sutra; I should hope I could answer your question. Ask away."
She said, "Dharma Master, as you comment on the passage of the Sutra which says, 'Past thought cannot be gotten at; present thought cannot be gotten at; future thought cannot be gotten at," I would ask you, today, which cake would you like to take?"
With that one question, Vajra Joe's mouth fell shut and he was speechless. He ultimately didn't know which cake to take, that is, how to answer her, and he realized that his theories wouldn't hold water. Consequently, he put his Vajra Sutra Commentary in storage and headed for Kao Min Monastery, to Lung T'an, to do some work in the meditation hall. Eventually he became enlightened, and then knew that the entire Dharma storehouse can be understood only through concentrated effort on real practice. If you don't work hard, but only use intellectual zen, you can talk back and forth, up and down, and your words are still nothing but the skin, for you have not realized the genuine principles contained within the sutras. In Great Master Yung Chia's "Song of Certifying to the Way," it says,
With penetration of the sect
And penetration of speech
Samadhi and wisdom are perfect and clear,
And there's no attachment to emptiness.
"Penetration of the sect" means not only can he lecture on sutras and speak the Dharma, but he is also able to investigate. Dhyana in meditation. "Penetration of speech" means that not only is he able to investigate Dhyana in meditation, but he can also lecture on the sutras and speak the Dharma. This is called the penetration of both the sect and the speaking. The "sect" refers to the Dhyana (Ch'an) sect, and ""Penetration of the sect" means not only can he lecture on sutras and speak the Dharma, but he is also able to investigate. Dhyana in meditation. "Penetration of speech" means that not only is he able to investigate Dhyana in meditation, but he can also lecture on the sutras and speak the Dharma. This is called the penetration of both the sect and the speaking. The "sect" refers to the Dhyana (Ch'an) sect, and "speaking" refers to lecturing on the sutras and speaking the Dharma. speaking" refers to lecturing on the sutras and speaking the Dharma.
He understands them both, and therefore, "Samadhi and wisdom are perfect and clear." Why has he penetrated the sect? It is because he has samadhi power and wisdom power. Samadhi power and wisdom perfectly interpenetrate. Samadhi aids wisdom, and wisdom aids samadhi. To have samadhi but no wisdom is merely to penetrate the sect, and not to penetrate the teachings. To have wisdom but no samadhi is only to penetrate the teachings and not to penetrate the sect.
The verse says, "Samadhi and wisdom are perfect and clear, and there's no attachment to emptiness." He neither has an attachment to Dharma nor an attachment to self. He has no attachment to self, no attachment to Dharma, and also no attachment to emptiness. He has no attachment to people, to self, or to emptiness. This is the perfect clarity of samadhi and wisdom without attachment to emptiness.
You may ask, "In explaining the word "aeon" (kalpa), since you say that there is no past, present, or future, why do we still speak of the past, present, and future?
Didn't I just tell you? It is because living: being's have these thoughts of discrimination in their minds; that is why we talk about the past, present, and future.
But just what is an "aeon"?
That's a complicated question, and we really don't have enough time to go into it. Let me say for now that "one increasing and one decreasing constitute an aeon."
What is meant by "one increasing and one decreasing"?
"Decreasing" means that every hundred years the human lifespan decreases by one year and the average height decreases by one inch. When human life expectancy decreases to ten years it begins to increase again, and, in the same way, every hundred years, the lifespan increases by one year and the average height increases by one inch. When human life expectancy increases to 84,000 years, it once again begins to decrease. When it has decreased to 80,000 years Maitreya Bodhisattva will appear in the world as a Buddha. So, it decreases from 84,000 years to ten years and then increases again to 84,000 years. One increasing and one decreasing is called an "aeon."
One thousand of these aeons is called a "small aeon." One thousand of these small aeons is called a "middle aeon." Four middle aeons make up a "great aeon."
Our world is divided into periods of becoming, dwelling, decay, and emptiness. The becoming (creation) of a world lasts for twenty small aeons. The period of dwelling lasts for twenty small aeons, and the periods of decay and emptiness also last for twenty small aeons each. Therefore, within a great aeon is contained the complete cycle of the four periods of becoming, dwelling, decay, and emptiness. That is what is called a great aeon.
And here in the text, how many great aeons are we speaking of?
An incalculable number. Why do I say they are incalculable? Because they are beyond all count; there is no way to calculate their number.
INNUMERABLE EXTINCT BUDDHAS/Within these uncountable aeons, an unlimited number of Buddhas became Buddhas, and an unlimited number of Buddhas passed over into extinction; they also passed through a very long period of time. In such a long period of time, so many Buddhas, A HUNDRED THOUSAND TEN THOUSAND OF THEM/A NUMBER BEYOND ALL CALCULATION/Their number can't be reckoned, WORLD HONORED ONES SUCH AS THESE/EMPLOYED VARIOUS CONDITIONS AND ANALOGIES. They used all sorts of cause's and conditions and all sorts of analogies; they use expedient device Dharma-doors and WITH THE POWER OF COUNTLESS EXPEDIENTS/An uncountable number of provisional, clever expedient devices PROCLAIMED THE MARK OF ALL DHARMAS. They proclaim the Real Mark of all Dharmas.
All dharmas: Speaking of all dharmas, there are one hundred dharmas, and also a thousand dharmas, ten thousand dharmas, and an unlimited number of dharmas.
What are the hundred dharmas? I'll just mention their names, because there isn't time to go into them in detail.
There are eleven kinds of form dharmas.
There are eight mind dharmas.
There are fifty-one dharmas belonging to the mind. Fifty-one are subsidiary mind dharmas; eight are called the mind kings. The mind kings control the subsidiary mind dharmas, which have to obey the King's orders.
Twenty-four dharmas do not interact with the mind, and there are six unconditioned dharmas, making one hundred in all.
A verse about the dharmas runs:
Form dharmas are of eleven different kinds;
Eight kinds of dharmas are of the mind;
Fifty-one belong, twenty-four don't interact...
Plus six unconditioned make one hundred, in fact.
But all of these dharmas are spoken for the sake of the Real Mark Dharma. ALL OF THOSE WORLD HONORED ONES/Every one of the World Honored Ones SPOKE THE DHARMA OF THE ONE VEHICLE/They all speak the Buddha Vehicle; they all speak the Real Wisdom. They all "open the provisional to reveal the real." The Three Storehouse Teaching, which they set forth previously, is to "manifest the provisional for the sake of the real," that is, they speak the provisional, clever expedient devices for the sake of the Real Wisdom. But their final destination, their ultimate goal is to speak the wonderful doctrine of the Real Mark, in other words, the doctrines discussed in The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra. TRANSFORMING BEINGS WITHOUT LIMIT, They teach and transform an unlimited number of living beings, hundreds of thousands of myriads of them LEADING THEM TO THE BUDDHA PATH/They serve to cause all living beings quickly to realize the Buddha Way and quickly to attain the wonderful virtues of Nirvana: permanence, bliss, true self, and purity, the four kinds of happiness.
AND FURTHER, ALL GREAT SAGELY LORDS
KNOW, WITHIN ALL OF THE WORLDS,
THE GODS AND MEN, AND OTHER BEINGS,
THE DESIRES-DEEP WITHIN THEIR HEARTS,
AND USING DIFFERENT DEVICES
HELP REVEAL THE FOREMOST PRINCIPLE.
IF THERE APE LIVING BEINGS WHO
HAVE MET WITH BUDDHAS IN THE PAST,
HEARD THE DHARMA, PRACTICED GIVING,
OR HELD THE PRECEPTS AND BEEN PATIENT,
AND WITH VIGOR, DHYANA, WISDOM, AND SO FORTH
VARIOUSLY CULTIVATED BLESSINGS AND WISDOM,
ALL PERSONS SUCH AS THESE, THEN, HAVE
ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED THE BUDDHA WAY.
AND FURTHER, ALL GREAT SAGELY LORDS/The Lords are all the Buddhas. "Great Sagely Lord" is another title of the Buddha. KNOW, WITHIN ALL OF THE WORLDS, There is the world of sentience and the material world. The world of sentience is also called the Orthodox Retribution and the material world is also called the Dependent Retribution. The Buddhas know, within the two Retributions, Orthodox and Dependent, that is, within the world of sentience and the material world, THE GODS AND MEN, AND OTHER BEINGS, They know the people in the heavens and the people in the human realm, and all of the different species of living beings and THE DESIRES DEEP WITHIN THEIR HEARTS, "Deep within their hearts" refers to the thoughts of desire which are hidden deepest in their hearts. Such thoughts of desire are known by the Buddhas. AND, USING DIFFERENT DEVICES/Because they understand the thoughts of desire of living beings, they set forth provisional, clever, expedient device Dharma-doors to rescue living beings and HELP REVEAL THE FOREMOST PRINCIPLE. The expedient devices are the Small Vehicle, the Great Vehicle, or else the Sound Hearer Vehicle, the Condition-Enlightened Vehicle, and the Bodhisattva Vehicle. The use of expedients is to supplement, to aid (in the realization of) the foremost principle, the Buddha Vehicle, to help them towards the most lofty vehicle, the Buddha Way.
IF THERE ARE LIVING BEINGS WHO/if any of the different kinds of living beings HAVE MET WITH BUDDHAS IN THE PAST, If in former lives they encountered the Buddhas, HEARD THE DHARMA, PRACTICED GIVING/If they heard the Dharma, listened to the Buddhadharma, the Dharma which the Buddha teaches, his speaking of the Six Crossings Over and the Ten Thousand Conducts, they then decided to practice giving. Practicing giving, they give wealth, Dharma, and fearlessness. The practiced all forms of giving. OR HELD THE PRECEPTS AND BEEN PATIENT, or perhaps they cultivated the Crossing of giving, or perhaps they cultivated the Crossing of holding precepts.
Giving crosses over stinginess. If you're a miser, you can't practice giving. If you practice giving, you can reduce your miserliness.
Holding precepts crosses over violations. If you observe the precepts, you will not violate the precepts.
Patience crosses over anger. The Crossing of patience: so you like to lose your temper? You should cultivate the Crossing of patience and not get angry. Change your attitude; change your temperament. When people with quick tempers refrain from getting angry, just that is patience. So, patience crosses over anger; anger just means "getting mad."
AND WITH VIGOR, DHYANA, WISDOM, AND SO FORTH/ Vigor takes laxness across. Are you lazy? You should cultivate the Crossing of vigor. Vigor crosses over laxness, laziness.
Dhyana samadhi crosses over scatteredness. Are you scattered? Do you lack samadhi power? If you don't cultivate it, you'll never have it. Thus, Dhyana samadhi crosses over scatteredness.
The last of the Six Crossings is that of wisdom. What does wisdom cross over? It crosses over stupidity. If you have wisdom, your stupidity will turn to wisdom; if you have no wisdom, your wisdom turns to stupidity. It's one thing, but it goes by two names. The other five Crossings work the same way. For example, patience is simply the transformation of anger. Vigor is the transformation of laxness. Dhyana samadhi is the transformation of scatteredness. It's just a matter of making the transformation. If you break precepts, but afterwards keep them, you have transformed your precept breaking.
Giving crosses over stinginess. You can't part with anything. Because you can't let go, you can't obtain anything. If you want to "get," you must first "give." If you don't give, you won't get:
Give, get, give, get:
You must give
Giving, then, takes stinginess across.
Stinginess: You really don't want to give that money. Giving money is like cutting off your own flesh. To part with a penny brings a pain to your heart and a pang to your liver. Nevertheless, the Six Crossings Over must be cultivated in order for one to realize Buddhahood.
VARIOUSLY CULTIVATED BLESSINGS AND WISDOM/Practicing the Six Crossings Over, you 'cultivate blessings and wisdom.
ALL PERSONS SUCH AS THESE, THEN, HAVE/People like this have ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED THE BUDDHA WAY. Figure it out: how long did it take them to practice the Six Crossings and the Ten Thousand Conducts in order to finally realize the Buddha Way? In the beginning, they cultivated good on a small scale, but it continued to build up until it was a large scale; from one act of goodness many acts of goodness grew; from one blessing, many blessings came to be cultivated; from one kind of wisdom, many kinds of wisdom came to be cultivated. Then, when both blessings and wisdom were perfected, they accomplished Buddhahood.
Now we are beginning to cultivate, and none of us knows how many lives we have cultivated previously. But regardless of how many lifetimes one has been cultivating, whether one has in fact cultivated at all in the past, one should still cultivate. You can't not cultivate. You can't say, for example, "Since I didn't cultivate in former lives, I might as well not cultivate now." That way, you'll never have any blessings or wisdom. If you didn't cultivate in former lives, you should begin cultivating now. If you did cultivate in former lives, you should continue to cultivate. You should not worry about whether or not you planted blessings and wisdom in former lives. In this present life we have encountered the supreme Buddhadharma, so we should certainly begin and be vigorous and brave right up until we become Buddhas, at which time we can consider our work finished,Lotus Sutra-to be continued