THE WONDERFUL DHARMA LOTUS FLOWER SUTRA
with the commentary of
The Venerable Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua
Translated by Bhikshuni Heng Yin
Reviewed by Bhikshuni Heng Ch'ih
WHEN THOSE BUDDHAS HAVE BECOME EXTINCT,
IF THERE ARE THOSE WITH GENTLE HEARTS,
BEINGS SUCH AS THESE, THEN, HAVE
ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED THE BUDDHA WAY.
AFTER THE EXTINCTION OF THOSE BUDDHAS,
THOSE WHO’VE MADE OFFERINGS TO THEIR SARIRAS.
BUILDING MILLIONS OF KINDS OF STUPAS
MADE OF GOLD, SILVER, OR OF CRYSTAL,
OF MOTHER-OF-PEARL, CARNELIAN,
ROSE QUARTZ OR LAPIS LAZULI,
CLEAR AND PORE, AND MOST ORNATE,
INTERWORKED TO GRACE THOSE STUPA SHRINES,
OR WHO'VE BUILT TEMPLES OUT OF STONE,
CHANDANA, OR ALOESWOOD,
HOVENIA OR' OTHER TIMBERS,
BRICKS, CLAY, AND THE LIKE,
OR WHO, WITHIN THE BARREN WASTES,
HAVE PILED UP EARTH INTO A BUDDHA SHRINE,
OR EVEN CHILDREN WHO, AT PLAY;
HAVE PILED UP SAND TO MAKE A TEMPLE,
ALL PERSONS SUCH AS THESE, THEN, HAVE
ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED THE BUDDHA WAY.
WHEN THOSE BUDDHAS HAVE BECOME EXTINCT/After the Buddhas have entered Nirvana IF THERE ARE THOSE WITH GENTLE HEARTS/If they have brought forth good and compliant hearts, are not head-strong, although at first glance it may look like they don't have many good roots, gradually they pile up merit and virtue and eventually, after a time, BEINGS SUCH AS THESE, THEN, HAVE/ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED THE BUDDHA WAY/They have already become Buddhas.
AFTER THE EXTINCTION OF THOSE BUDDHAS/After the Buddhas have passed into extinction, THOSE WHO'VE MADE OFFERINGS TO THEIR SARIRA/Those who have built pagodas to contain the relics of the Buddhas so that offerings can be made to them, BUILDING MILLIONS OF KINDS OF STUPAS/Stupas to hold the sarira of the Buddhas should be thirteen stories high. Stupas for Pratyeka Buddhas should be five stories high. Stupas for Third Stage Arhats, Anagamins, are three stories. Stupas for Second Stage Arhats, Sakrdagamins, are two stories, and stupas for First Stage Arhats, Shrotaapannas, are one story. So, when you build a stupa you should know the appropriate height.
What are the stupas made out of? MADE OF GOLD, SILVER, OR OF CRYSTAL/OF MOTHER-OF-PEARL, CARNELIAN, ROSE QUARTZ OR LAPIS LAZULI/CLEAR AND PURE, AND MOST ORNATE/The adornments are sparkling and pure and also very extensive and ornate.
INTERWORKED TO GRACE THOSE STUPA SHRINES; "Interworked" means that the gems are joined together and hang in chains around the tops of the stupas. OR WHO'VE BUILT TEMPLES OUT OF STONE/There may be those who build temples out of rock, CHANDANA OR ALOESWOOD/Or they may use fragrant chandana wood or fragrant aloeswood to build a Buddhist Temple or a Buddha image of HOVENIA OR OTHER TIMBERS/Hovenia is also a fragrant wood. BRICKS, CLAY, AND THE LIKE, Perhaps they build temples out of bricks or clay.
OR WHO, WITHIN THE BARREN WASTES, HAVE PILED UP EARTH INTO A BUDDHA SHRINE; Perhaps in the wilds they pile up the earth to make a Buddha temple; this is very easily done. OR EVEN CHILDREN WHO, AT PLAY/Even if little kids while outside playing, HAVE PILED UP SAND TO MAKE A TEMPLE; They make a big pile of sand and call it a Buddha temple.
ALL PERSONS SUCH AS THESE, THEN, HAVE/All of these different kinds of people have ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED THE BUDDHA WAY. Having accumulated a great deal of merit and virtue, they all become Buddhas together. They have now already become Buddhas.
THOSE WHO, FOR THE BUDDHAS, HAVE
MADE IMAGES BY CARVING
ALL THEIR MYRIADS OF MARKS,
HAVE ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED THE BUDDHA WAY.
PERHAPS THEY USED THE SEVEN GEMS
OR BRONZE, OR COPPER, WHITE OR RED,
OR WAX OR LEAD OR TIN,
OR IRON, WOOD, OR CLAY,
OR PERHAPS LACQUERED CLOTH,
THUS MAKING ADORNED BUDDHA IMAGES;
SUCH PERSONS SUCH AS THESE, THEN, HAVE
ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED THE BUDDHA WAY.
THOSE WHO, FOR THE BUDDHAS, HAVE/Those who, as an offering to the Buddhas, have MADE IMAGES BY CARVING; have made Buddha images, statues of the Buddhas, by rendering ALL THEIR MYRIADS OF MARKS/that is, all of the fine characteristics of the ten direction Buddhas, carving them with a knife HAVE ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED THE BUDDHA WAY/They have already become Buddhas.
PERHAPS THEY USED THE SEVEN GEMS/Maybe they used the seven jewels: gold, silver, lapis lazuli, crystal, red pearls, mother-of-pearl, red pearls, or carnelian. OR BRONZE OR COPPER, WHITE OR RED, Bronze is a mineral (shih t'ou) which looks like gold, but is not gold. WAX OR LEAD OR TIN/They may fashion Buddha images out of wax, or lead, or even tin. OR IRON, WOOD, OR CLAY, OR PERHAPS LACQUERED CLOTH, THUS MAKING ADORNED BUDDHA IMAGES/There are eleven kinds of meritorious virtues derived from making Buddha images, which today I'll explain to you:
1. In life after life you will have clear vision. Your vision will be keen and you will see things clearly. Why will you have this retribution? Because in former lives you made Buddha images.
2. Where you are born there will be no evil. In the place where you are reborn there will be no evil people, be they your neighbors to the left or right, your friends, or relatives--they will all be good people. You won't meet up with evil people or beasts.
3. You'll always be born in a noble family. You'll be born into a household, which is wealthy and honored, one with position and money.
4. Your body will be purple-golden in color. Why aren't our bodies the color of purple gold? In the past we never made Buddha images.
5. You'll possess an abundance of wealth. You'll have a great many valuable objects, treasures and the like.
6. You will be born in a worthy and good family.
7. You can be born as a king. You can be the emperor with the merit and virtue you obtain from making Buddha images. Now, there is no emperor, so you could be the president. Being the president and being the emperor amount to the same thing. Or, if you'd rather be emperor, you can find a country, which is a monarchy, and be born there.
8. You can be Wheel Turning Sage King, which is even more eminent—for as a Wheel Turning Sage King, if you cultivate you can become a Buddha.
9. You can be born in the Brahma Heavens and live for an aeon. Not only can you be a king among humans, but you can be a king in the heavens. You can be born in the Great Brahma Heaven and enjoy a lifespan which extends for an entire kalpa.
10. You will not fall into the evil paths. Those who make Buddha images will have no part in falling into the three evil paths: the hells, hungry ghosts, or animals.
11. In future incarnations you will still be able to revere the Triple Jewel. In the future you will, in every life, be able to honor the Triple Jewel, revere the Triple Jewel, and take refuge with the Triple Jewel. You won't fall.
So, hearing these eleven meritorious virtues, if we have the strength, we should make more Buddha image; if you make Buddha images your appearance will be perfect and full. Why is the Buddha's appearance so perfect and full? It is because for three great asankhyeya kalpas it is not known how many Buddha images he made. You count it up: during the first asankhyeya kalpa he encountered 75,000 Buddhas; during the second asankhyeya kalpa been countered 76,000 Buddhas; during the third asankhyeya kalpa he met with 77,000 Buddhas. If he met with that many Buddhas, of course he made more Buddha images than that; who knows how many he made? That is why his appearance is so perfect. But, in making Buddha images, we should not do it only in order to get a handsome appearance and make people fall in love with us. We should cultivate our blessing and cultivate our wisdom and then in the future we can realize Buddhahood. That should be our motive. So the text says, "Thus making adorned Buddha images."
SUCH PERSONS AS THESE THEN HAVE/ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED THE BUDDHA WAY. They have all become Buddhas.
THOSE TOO PAINT BRIGHT BUDDHA PICTURES
WITH THE MARKS OF THEIR HUNDREDS OF BLESSINGS,
WHETHER THEY DO IT THEMSELVES OR EMPLOY OTHERS,
THEY HAVE ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED THE BUDDHA WAY.
EVEN CHILDREN WHO, AT PLAY,
WITH A STRAW, A STICK, OR A PEN,
OR EVEN WITH THEIR FINGERNAILS
DRAW IMAGES OF THE BUDDHA,
PEOPLE SUCH AS THESE THEN WILL
GRADUALLY ACCUMULATE MERIT AND VIRTUE,
PERFECT THE HEART OF GREAT COMPASSION,
AND HAVE ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED THE BUDDHA WAY.
THEY WILL TEACH ONLY BODHISATTVAS,
AND RESCUE COUNTLESS MULTITUDES.
Although previously the text said that one may make Buddha images out of lacquered cloth, the precept? Prohibit the use of lacquer to make Buddha images, because lacquer has an unpleasant odor. Also, the precepts say that one is not allowed to sit in front of a standing Buddha image or recline in front of a sitting Buddha image. I just brought this up so you would all know about it.
THOSE WHO PAINT BRIGHT BUDDHA PICTURES/Like the images we have here WITH THE ADORNING MARKS OF THEIR HUNDREDS OF BLESSINGS/The Buddha images are adorned with the marks, of the Buddha's hundreds of blessings. WHETHER THEY DO IT THEMSELVES OR EMPLOY OTHERS/Perhaps they make the Buddha images themselves, or perhaps they pay someone else to-do it. THEY HAVE ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED THE BUDDHA WAY/Doing this kind of work they can all become Buddhas.
EVEN CHILDREN WHO, AT PLAY/Little kids out playing who WITH A STRAW, A STICK, OR A PEN/Perhaps they make a Buddha picture with a piece of straw, or with a stick of wood, or perhaps they draw one with a color crayon. OR EVEN WITH THEIR FINGERNAILS/Or perhaps, standing in the mud, they scratch out a Buddha image with their fingernails DRAW IMAGES OF THE BUDDHA/In Szechwan, long ago, there was a person who recited The Vajra Sutra. As he recited The Vajra Sutra, he would write it out in empty space with his hand. He stood in the same place every day and recited and "wrote out" The Vajra Sutra in this way. And what do you think happened? Later, when it rained, the rain didn't fall in the spot where he had written out the Sutra. This happened every time it rained. Those who had opened their Buddha-eyes saw that, even though the man had written out the Sutra in empty space, the gods and dragons and the rest of the eight-fold division were there protecting the Sutra and not allowing the rain to fall in the spot where the Sutra had been written. Later a temple was built there. So you see, all he did was write it out in the air with his hands and received such a great response. This event was recorded in a work called The Efficacious Events of the Vajra Sutra. This really happened.
PEOPLE SUCH AS THESE THEN WILL/People like those mentioned above who make Buddha Images GRADUALLY ACCUMULATE MERIT AND VIRTUE/They will bit by bit accumulate a great deal of merit. PERFECT THE HEART OF GREAT COMPASSION/They will completely perfect the heart of great kindness and compassion AND HAVE ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED THE BUDDHA WAY/They have now already realized the Way of the Buddha.
THEY WILL TEACH ONLY BODHISATTVAS/But as Buddhas they will teach only Bodhisattvas. They will teach the Sound Hearers to return from the small and go towards the great and cultivate the Bodhisattva Dharmas and from there dedicate their efforts to the Buddha Vehicle AND RESCUE COUNTLESS MULTITUDES/ They will cross over and save limitless, boundless living beings who will also all together accomplish the Buddha Way.
SHOULD PERSONS, IN STUPAS OR IN TEMPLES,
TO JEWELED OR PAINTED IMAGES,
WITH FLOWERS, INCENSE, BANNERS, OR CANOPIES
MAKE OFFERINGS WITH A REVERENT HEART
OR SHOULD THEY CAUSE OTHERS TO MAKE MUSIC,
BEATING DRUMS, PLAYING HORNS, CONCHES,
PAN-PIPES, FLUTES, LUTES OR BAMBOO LYRES,
GUITARS, CYMBALS, OR BRASS GONGS--
WITH MANY WONDROUS SOUNDS AS THESE
PLAYED SOLELY AS OFFERINGS.
SHOULD PERSONS, IN STUPAS OR IN TEMPLES/If there should be people in a stupa or in a temple TO JEWELED OR PAINTED IMAGES; it doesn't matter whether the images are jeweled or painted. Merely pen and ink drawings are also all right. WITH FLOWERS, INCENSE, BANNERS OR CANOPIES; If they use flowers or incense or banners or jeweled canopies. This also includes other articles such as beads, clothing, food and drink, music, or merely placing one's hands together respectfully MAKE OFFERINGS WITH A REVERENT HEART/If, holding thoughts of respect, they make offerings to the Buddha images...
OR SHOULD THEY CAUSE OTHERS TO MAKE MUSIC/Or perhaps they tell others to make music, BEATING DRUMS, PLAYING HORNS, CONCHES/They may play on drums or blow on horns or conches, things like that. PAN PIPES FLUTES, LUTES OR BAMBOO LYRES/Perhaps they play panpipes, or blow on flutes or strum lutes or bamboo lyres GUITARS, CYMBALS, OR BRASS GONGS. Perhaps they pick guitars, play the cymbals, or brass gongs. Brass gongs are rather large. Perhaps you've never seen one.
When you're making music you should make proper music. You should not sing deviant love songs, songs about men and women, emotion and love. You can't make that kind of music in front of the Buddhas. Your music should be made to praise the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. For example, hitting the wooden fish is a kind of music-making, reciting Sutras and reciting mantras is also a way of using music as an offering to the Buddha.
WITH MANY WONDROUS SOUNDS AS THESE/All these many kinds of subtle and wondrous sounds PLAYED SOLELY AS OFFERINGS/They use them only as offerings to the Buddha.
OR IF, WITH HAPPY HEARTS, WITH SONGS
AND CHANTS THEY PRAISE THE BUDDHA'S VIRTUES,
WITH EVEN ONE SINGLE SMALL SOUND,
THEY HAVE ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED THE BUDDHA PATH.
IF PERSONS WITH SCATTERED HEARTS
GIVE BUT JUST A SINGLE FLOWER
AS AN OFFERING TO A PAINTED IMAGE,
THEY SHALL GRADUALLY SEE INCALCULABLE BUDDHAS.
SHOULD THEY BOW IN WORSHIP,
OR ONLY PLACE THEIR PALMS TOGETHER,
OR EVEN RAISE A SINGLE HAND,
OR GIVE A SLIGHT NOD OF THE HEAD,
BY WAY OF OFFERINGS TO THE IMAGES
THEY SHALL GRADUALLY SEE UNLIMITED BUDDHAS.
THEY WILL, THEMSELVES, ACCOMPLISH THE SUPREME PATH,
CROSS OVER COUNTLESS MULTITUDES,
AND ENTER NIRVANA WITHOUT RESIDUE--
AS A FIRE IS EXTINGUISHED WHEN THE FUEL HAS BEEN CONSUMED.
OR IF, WITH HAPPY HEARTS, WITH SONGS/Perhaps someone has thoughts which delight in praising the Buddha and uses songs AND CHANTS, THEY PRAISE THE BUDDHA'S VIRTUES/Songs are of various types. Chants are "Brahma", or "pure" sounds, like odes. "Praise" means to laud the virtues of the Buddha, to praise the Buddha's virtuous practice, his virtue in the Way. EVEN WITH ONE SINGLE SMALL SOUND, Maybe they make only a tiny, tiny melody as an offering to the Buddha's virtuous conduct THEY HAVE ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED THE BUDDHA PATH. If, by means of a very small sound they accomplish the Buddha Path, how much the more quickly will they be able to accomplish the Buddha Path with more and bigger sounds!
IF PERSONS WITH SCATTERED HEARTS/If there is someone whose heart has no samadhi power, and is extremely scattered and confused, GIVE BUT JUST A SINGLE FLOWER/If they use only one flower, or only one kind of flower AS AN OFFERING TO A PAINTED IMAGE/as an offering to a painted image of the Buddha THEY SHALL GRADUALLY SEE INCALCULABLE BUDDHAS. Because of the merit and virtue obtained by making offerings to the painted images, they shall gradually see an uncountable number of Buddhas.
SHOULD THEY BOW IN WORSHIP/Should someone bow to the Buddha OR ONLY PLACE THEIR PALMS TOGETHER/Or just place their palms together while standing in front of the Buddha OR EVEN RAISE A SINGLE HAND/Or even make a salute with one hand; this is an act of only slight reverence. OR GIVE A SLIGHT NOD OF THE HEAD/If they just nod their head BY WAY OF OFFERING TO THE IMAGES/Using these acts which show only slight respect as offerings to the painted images or jeweled images THEY SHALL GRADUALLY SEE UNLIMITED BUDDHAS/They shall, from the first thought in which they bring forth the resolve (for Buddhahood) gradually come to see an unlimited number of Buddhas.
THEY WILL, THEMSELVES, ACCOMPLISH THE SUPREME PATH/They themselves will also realize the Buddha Path. CROSS OVER COUNTLESS MULTITUDES/Not only will they themselves accomplish the Buddha Path, but they will vastly cross over an unlimited, incalculable number of living beings AND ENTER NIRVANA WITHOUT RESIDUE/They will enter into the Nirvana without residue AS A FIRE IS EXTINGUISHED WHEN THE FUEL HAS BEEN CONSUMED. When the firewood has all been burned, the fire goes out. The living beings with potential to be taught are like the fuel. The Response Body of the Buddha, which appears to rescue living beings, is like the fire. When the potential living beings have all been crossed over, the "Response" Fire goes out, so it says, "As a fire is extinguished when the fuel has been consumed."
IF PERSONS WITH SCATTERED HEARTS
ENTER STUPAS OR TEMPLES
AND SAY BUT ONCE "NAMO" TO THE BUDDHA
THEY HAVE ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED THE BUDDHA PATH.
IF PERSONS WITH SCATTERED HEARTS/"Scattered hearts" means no Ch'an samadhi, it also means, "not turning to one." This is as when the tourists come here to take a look at the temple and gaze around at the Buddha images. They do not have sincere hearts. What is more, they may look at the images, but they don't know anything about the Buddha and so you could say they were the scattered ones among the scattered ones.
ENTER STUPAS OR TEMPLES/If they go into Buddhist Stupas or into Buddhist temples AND SAY BUT ONCE "NAMO" TO THE BUDDHA/All they have to do is say one sentence, "Namo Buddha," and, from that very first recitation, they will ultimately be able to become Buddhas.
What is the reason? It is because "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." If you want to travel a thousand miles, where do you begin? You begin with that first step. Having taken that first step, you can travel a thousand miles. "The perfect interpenetration of the ten thousand virtues begins with the first thought." If you wish to become a Buddha it begins with that very first thought. In that first thought (The Chinese word is-nien, which also means "recitation") you plant the Buddha seed, and in the future you reap the Buddha fruit.
Reciting "Namo Buddha," "Namo Amitabha Buddha," "Namo Original Teacher Shakyamuni Buddha," or "Namo Medicine Master Buddha Who Dispels Calamities and Lengthens Life," may seem very easy to do, but such an opportunity is difficult to meet with. All of you have now come to know how to recite the Buddha's name, how to recite "Namo Amitabha Buddha, Namo Sakyamuni Buddha, Namo Medicine Master Buddha Who Dispels Calamities and Lengthens Life," but think it over. Of the people in the world, are those who do not know to recite the Buddha's name in the majority, or are those who do? You might say that the ones who can recite the Buddha's name are as few as the solitary moon and those who do not know how to recite the Buddha's name are as many as the stars. Take a look: Are there more stars or more moons? Those who can recite the Buddha's name are able to do so because the good roots from their former lives have matured, enabling them to encounter the Dharma-door of Buddha Recitation.
When the Buddha was in the world he had a cousin named Devadatta. Devadatta was the Buddha's exclusive adversary. He did nothing but oppose the Buddha. The Buddha taught his disciples to eat one meal a day, in the middle of the day. Devadatta—hah!--was determined to manifest a strange and special style and outdo him. "So you eat one meal a day?" he said. "I teach my disciples to eat one meal every hundred days." Sakyamuni Buddha taught his disciples to be vegetarians and not to eat meat. Devadatta said, "Not only do I teach my disciples to refrain from eating meat, they do not even consume salt." This was done merely to prove that, no matter what, Devadatta was always one up on the Buddha, was always higher than the Buddha. But no matter how he tried, he never recited the Buddha's name. If you tried to teach him to recite it, he wouldn't do it. All his life, all he ever did was create offenses, continually opposing the Buddha. When his evil karma had finally reached the point of overflowing, he went to hell, alive. Going to hell "alive" means that right in his very body of flesh he went to hell. He fell into hell alive. Just as he was about to go to hell, just as he was at the gates of hell, he thought to recite the Buddha's name. He wanted to recite the Buddha's name, but he couldn't get a sound out. All he could scream was "Namo!" and he couldn't say the word "Buddha." See? His karmic obstacles bound him so tightly that he couldn't even say the word, "Buddha." Sakyamuni Buddha saw him and said, "He's really pitiful, but don't look at him lightly. When he's finished his punishment in the hells, and gets out of hell and cultivates, he will become a Pratyeka Buddha. His Pratyeka Buddha name will be simply "Namo." Because he recited "Namo" as he fell into hell, as a Pratyeka Buddha he will be called "Namo."
So don't look on it as all so easy and think, "I can recite the Buddha's name whenever I feel like it." Right now, you aren't blocked by your karmic obstacles. When they obstruct you, if you thought to recite, you wouldn't be able to.
Also, when the Buddha was dwelling in the world—I already told this story during the Summer Session last year, but I'll tell it again so you can all become more familiar with it and understand its principles more fully--there was a very poor man who had no money. He saw Sakyamuni Buddha, accompanied by his 1250 disciples, going out every day to beg for food and he thought it was not bad. Every, day they went out with their bowls, begged for their food, came back and ate, and that was all there was to it. "Very good," he thought, "I'll leave home." He thought the Bhiksus went out and begged and were very comfortable and didn't do any work, no bitterness and no bother, very pure and free and so he decided to leave home and went to the Jeta Grove to ask for permission to do so. But that day Sakyamuni Buddha was not in the Jeta Grove. He had gone out to accept offerings of food for lunch. And as to the Buddha's disciples: Some had opened their Buddha Eyes, some had opened their Dharma Eyes, some had opened their Wisdom Eyes, and some had the Five Eyes and Six Spiritual Penetrations. Others had certified to the First, Second, Third or even Fourth Stages of Arhatship.
Now, to "open" the eyes is not to certify to the fruit. When people have opened their Buddha Eye, this is called "The Retribution Virtue-Penetration." This happens because in previous lives one has cultivated the Forty-Two Hands and the Surangama Mantra a great deal, these various Dharma-doors, which brings about this resultant retribution. But this is definitely not the same as certifying to the first fruit, the second, third, or fourth fruit. Arhats who have certified to the fruit can see the operation of cause and effect throughout eighty great aeons. Those who have opened their Buddha Eye or their Wisdom Eye may be able to see as far as one life, two lives, three lives, five lives, ten lives, one hundred lives, a thousand lives, or ten thousand lives; but they cannot see as far as eighty thousand great aeons. Certified Arhats, however, can see all the causes and effects of eighty thousand great aeons. So when the poverty-stricken old man came to leave the home life, the Disciples, the Great Arhats, contemplated and observed his potential to see if he could leave home. They saw that this person, in the last eighty thousand great aeons, had never made an offering to the Buddha, had never bowed to the Buddha, had never recited the Buddha's name, or uttered even a tiny sound of praise as an offering to the Buddha, given a single flower, or even put his hands together, or waved one hand, or even nodded his head! Since he had no such merit and virtue; how could he leave home? It is said,
Don't say that leaving home is easy to do.
It is the result of having planted the causes of Bodhi throughout many lives.
Those who leave home must have planted good roots in many lives and brought forth the Bodhi heart. It's not just a matter of thinking, "I'd like to leave home," and doing it. If you don't have the good roots, you might want to leave home, but obstacles will arise. You might leave home for one or two days and then return to lay life; or you might leave home for one or two months and then return to lay life; or you might leave home for one or two years and then return to lay life. You might leave home for three years, five years, or ten years and then return to lay life. Such things do happen. People return to lay life and don't leave home again. So, don't think leaving home is very simple. Take, for example, these three Sramaneras. You can't say for sure which of them will be the first to run away and return to lay life. Perhaps none of them will return to lay life. There's nothing fixed about it. These are matters of the future.
So the Arhats saw that he had not planted good roots in the last eighty great aeons and therefore would not be able to leave home. They told him, "You can't leave home. You are too old; you can't cultivate. It would be best for you to go back to wherever you came from. Don't stay here."
Hearing this, the old man was struck with grief. On the one hand he walked and on the other he wept. "I had thought leaving home would be very simple. I never would have guessed that the Buddha's disciples would not accept me. Probably they refused me because I'm old and poor. Well, if they wont accept me I'll just go jump in the sea and drown and end it all!" Then, still walking and weeping, he made his way for the sea and suicide. But, just as he was about to jump, along came Shakyamuni Buddha. "Old Man, why are you throwing yourself in the sea?" he asked.
"I wanted to leave home," the old man replied, "And I went to the Jeta Grove to do so but the Buddha wasn't there and the Buddha's Disciples wouldn't accept me. As far as I'm concerned there is really nothing joyful in human existence, and I'd rather just hurry up and end my life. My life is meaningless."
Shakyamuni Buddha said, "So you want to leave home? That's no problem. Come back with me. I'll allow you to leave home."
The old man returned with the Buddha, left home, cultivated, and after just a few days, certified to the fruit of Arhatship. The Buddha's disciples did not understand this at all. "How strange!" they thought. "This person has no good roots; how could he certify to Arhatship? He hasn't done a single good deed throughout the last eighty thousand great aeons. How could the Buddha permit him to leave home?" They questioned the Buddha who gave them the following explanation.
"You Arhats can only see the causes and effects of the last eighty thousand great aeons. What happened outside of that, you don't know. This old man, over eighty thousand great aeons ago, was a poor firewood gatherer in the mountains. One day, he met up with a tiger. Just as the tiger was about to bite him, in his great fear he screamed 'Namo Buddha!' That one recitation scared the tiger away, and so he wasn't eaten. The seed planted by his single recitation of "Namo Buddha!" has now matured as the good roots, which have enabled him to leave home and certify to the fruit of Arhatship.
From the looks of this we can tell that it is not easy to leave home.
Also, in India there was a certain outside Way sect whose members made-offerings to the image of a heavenly spirit. The heavenly spirit's body was made of wood or clay, but the head was made of gold. Once, a thief wanted to steal the head, but when he went to take it, the awesome virtue of the heavenly spirit made him afraid. In his fear, he thought to recite, "Namo Buddha!" The recitation dispelled his fears because his reciting "Namo Buddha" had stripped the heavenly spirit of its awesome virtue. Fearlessly, then, he stole off with the golden head. Later on, everyone said, "Take a look at that heavenly spirit everyone believes in. It's not the least bit efficacious. If it were, how could it have had its head stolen? It's useless to believe in it." When they said this, the heavenly spirit's efficacious spirit came along and took possession of a person's body. Spirits sometimes give off an efficacious energy, and if it takes possession of someone, the victim will become senseless, as if he were drunk.
So the spirit began to speak through the medium and said, "It's not that I am not efficacious. When the thief came, he basically was afraid to take my head. But when he recited, 'Namo Buddha,' the whole area was flooded with Buddha-light and I couldn't open my eyes and was unable to protect my head. That's how he managed to steal it. It is certainly not the case that I am not efficacious, but the awesome virtue of the Buddha is even greater than mine and so I had no way to protect my head."
Hearing this, one may wonder, "Did the Buddha assist the thief in stealing the gold head of the heavenly spirit? Did he aid him in doing this evil karma?"
No. The thief recited the Buddha's name and the merit and virtue from the recitation of the Buddha's name is inconceivable. Whether a good person or an evil person recites, it has the same effect. It's not the case that when an evil person recites it, there is no merit and virtue, but when a good person recites it, there is. The merit and virtue is the same. So even though he was a thief, he still called on the Buddha, and his "Namo Buddha" enabled him to steal the heavenly spirit's gold head. The Buddha certainly wasn't helping him be a thief, rather, the Buddha was helping him perfect his good roots.
You say, "If he steals, how can he have good roots?"-
Take a look at this passage of The Dharma Flower Sutra:
...and say but once, 'Namo to the Buddha,'
They have already accomplished the Buddha Path.
Even though at that time he was a thief, he planted good roots through his recitation, and so in the future he can certainly become a Buddha. This is called, "Vigorous in opposition and accord." Even though he was a thief, he still recited the Buddha's name. The Buddha didn't help him steal the heavenly spirit's head, but the Buddha does treat everyone equally, and those who recite, be they good or evil, obtain the same efficacious response. So the text says,
...and say but once, 'Namo to the Buddha,'
They have already accomplished the Buddha path.
Hearing this account you shouldn't make the mistake of thinking, "If the thief recited the Buddha's name and stole the heavenly spirit's gold head, I'll go recite the Buddha's name and steal perhaps the earth spirit's silver head, or maybe some valuable human head." You can't do this. The thief who stole the heavenly spirit's head did not understand the Buddhadharma. Perhaps he heard someone say in passing, "It's good to recite 'Namo Buddha," and so when he was afraid, it occurred to him to recite it. He had certainly never studied the Buddhadharma. Students of the Buddhadharma should take care not to use the awesome virtue of Buddha recitation or lean on the Buddha's light to help them steal with impunity or break the law. You cannot do that. Once you have studied the Buddhadharma and know that stealing is against the law, if you go ahead and do it, your of tense is double. This is something you should all understand clearly. Why do I bring this up? It's because there was once a monk, who, before leaving home had been in the army. Later, he studied the Buddhadharma and had great faith in Buddha-recitation. Before he left home he himself recited and he led others in recitation. Five or six years after he left home--I saw him receive the precepts myself—he ran off to Tao Feng Mountain in Hong Kong. At Tao Feng Mountain they specialize in convincing those who have left home to return to lay life. When those who have left home go-there, the first thing they do is give theta money. Then they give them women. Left-home people who have no money go there; those who are looking for women go there. It's a Christian organization, which is exclusively out to ruin those who have left home, exclusively out to ruin Buddhism. That's the kind of place it is.
When the monk got there he took a job as a cook. Those who had left home always went off their pure vegetarian diet when they went there. They killed ducks and chickens and took a great many lives. As cook, the monk thought that because he recited the Buddha's name he could save the living beings as he killed them and, on the one hand he cut off their heads with a knife, and on the other he recited "Namo Amitabha Buddha" as he did so. He thought that by reciting he could cross the chickens over as he killed them, but in the end, when he had been there for a little over half a year, he went insane and died. So you cannot do this kind of thing. And everyone should be particularly clear about it. If you deliberately violate a precept the of tense is tripled. He had no authority to do such a thing. If you have the power to see that as you kill them they are for sure being reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, that's one thing. But if you can't actually see it happen, if you don't have that power, you cannot. You can't just say, "I'm hoping that it will be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss." That's not permissible. So, hearing this account, don't misunderstand it and think that as long as you recite the Buddha's name you can create of tenses. Those who recite the Buddha's name should not create of tenses. They should be even better than they were before they recited it and not commit the smallest offense or do the smallest evil deed.
I saw that monk myself. Later he went insane. When he went insane, he wanted to see me. He knew that if he could see me perhaps he would have some hope of eradicating his offense karma. But he never did get to see me. He was called Hung Hui and was a grand-disciple of Hsu Lao.