WONDERFUL DHARMA LOTUS FLOWER SUTRA
Commentary by Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua
BE IT FROM BUDDHAS OF THE PAST
WHILE EXISTENT, OR AFTER THEIR EXTINCTION,
THOSE WHO HAVE HEARD THIS DHARMA,
HAVE ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED THE BUDDHA PATH.
THE WORLD HONORED ONES OF THE FUTURE,
THEIR NUMBER WITHOUT LIMIT,
ALL OF THESE THUS COME ONES
WILL ALSO SPEAK DHARMA EXPEDIENTLY.
ALL OF THE THUS COME ONES,
BY MEANS OF LIMITLESS EXPEDIENTS,
DELIVER ALL LIVING BEINGS
TO ENTER THE BUDDHA'S NON-OUTFLOW WISDOM.
OF THOSE WHO HAVE HEARD THE DHARMA,
NOT ONE WILL FAIL TO BECOME A BUDDHA.
BE IT FROM BUDDHAS OF THE PAST, In the past, all the Buddhas, WHILE EXISTENT OR AFTER THEIR EXTINCTION; Perhaps the Buddhas were in the world, or perhaps they had entered Nirvana. THOSE WHO HAVE HEARD THIS DHARMA/If there are those who have heard this Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra. HAVE ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED THE BUDDHA PATH/Because all the Buddhas of the past have spoken The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra, all the Buddhas of the present are speaking The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra, and all the Buddhas of the future will speak The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra. All the Buddhas of the past spoke The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra, and all those who heard its wonderful Dharma have already accomplished the Buddha Path. They have all become Buddhas.
THE WORLD HONORED ONES OF THE FUTURE; All the Buddhas to be THEIR NUMBER WITHOUT LIMIT/They cannot be counted ALL OF THESE THUS COMES ONES/All the World Honored Ones, WILL ALSO SPEAK DHARMA EXPEDIENTLY/They will also speak the expedient device Dharma-doors. They will first speak the provisional teaching and later return to the Real Teaching. ALL OF THE THUS COME ONES/All of the Thus Come Ones in the Ten Directions and the Three Periods of Time BY MEANS OF LIMITLESS EXPEDIENTS/They employ limitless boundless expedient device Dharma-doors DELIVER ALL LIVING BEINGS; They save and cross over limitless living creatures. TO ENTER THE BUDDHA'S NON-OUTFLOW WISDOM/They cause all beings to obtain the non-outflow wisdom of the Buddha.
OF THOSE WHO HAVE HEARD THIS DHARMA/"Hearing this Dharma" simply refers to hearing The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra. NOT ONE WILL FAIL TO BECOME A BUDDHA/Of those who have heard this Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra, there is not one of them who will not, in the future, become a Buddha. So we are now able to hear this Sutra and in the future each of us will have the opportunity to become Buddhas. Several thousand years ago Sakyamuni Buddha gave us all predictions of future Buddhahood and so we who have the opportunity to hear The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra should not take ourselves lightly. In the future you can become a Buddha. You shouldn't think that reciting the Buddha's name is such a simple thing to do. We recite the Buddha's name once and don't find it difficult. And why is it not difficult? It's because our karmic obstacles are not all that deep. People with karmic obstacles may want to recite the Buddha's name, but they are unable to do so. They are obstructed by their karmic obstacles and so they can't recite, even if they want to. Take Devadatta, for instance, he could only recite, "Namo." Why was he only able to recite the phrase "Namo?" It was because his karmic obstacles were too heavy.
An event in China also took place, which proves that those with heavy karmic obstacles are unable to recite the Buddha's name. Ch'in Hui was one of the great ministers of the Sung Dynasty. Basically he had a few good roots, and so he was very intelligent and placed first as chuang yuan, or top scholar in the Imperial Examinations. But after he became an official he grew envious of the worthy and jealous of the talented and therefore he created a great deal of tense karma. One of his worst deeds was to have Yao Fei murdered. The of tense karma he had created was extremely heavy and because Earth Store Bodhisattva had a close affinity with him, he came to take him across. He made a plan in advance, "I'll go there and if I can just get him to recite the word 'Buddha' I will release him of all of his of tenses. So then Earth Store Bodhisattva turned himself into a monk, he manifested as a Bhiksu, and went to see Ch'in Hui.
Ch'in Hui was at the height of his political career, a Prime Minister to the Emperor. When he saw the monk approaching he called to him and engaged him in conversation. The monk exhorted him to recite the Buddha's name, but he wouldn't do it. He said, "You really should recite the Buddha's name, a man in your high position..." But he refused to recite it.
"What use is recitation..." he said. He simply would not say the word "Buddha." All Earth Store Bodhisattva wanted him to do was to say the word "Buddha," and then he could free Ch'in Hui of his offenses, obviate them. But he refused to say it. Then Earth Store Bodhisattva manifested spiritual penetrations. He used his "whisk." In the forty-two hands there is one called the White Whisk Hand, isn't there? Those who have left home carry them to brush away the mosquitoes. Anyway, Earth Store Bodhisattva whisked him with his whisk and Ch'in Hui was forced to kneel in front of him. He wanted to get up, but try as he might, he couldn't do it. Then Earth Store Bodhisattva held out his palm and said, "Tell me what word it is that I'm writing on my palm," as he wrote the word, "Buddha." All Ch'in Hui had to do was say, "That's the word Buddha." in order to be entirely free of his of tense karma. But what do you think Ch'in Hui did? His heavenly eloquence burst forth and he said, "When young I was a top scholar. Now I'm the top ranking, number-one-name Imperial Scholar. Every piece of literature in the country must first be shown tome. If I couldn't even read that word, how could I have become the Prime Minister? I can read that word, all right, but I won't say it for you!" All he had to do was read it and his offense karma would have disappeared, but he wouldn't do it. Seeing this, Earth Store Bodhisattva realized, "Ah, his offense karma is indeed heavy. There's really no way I can save you." Later, Ch'in Hui fell into hell.
This proves that recitation of the Buddha's name is no simple matter. Why should we ordinarily recite the Buddha's name? In preparation for the time when our lives come to an end and we will need to do so.
"If we will need to recite when our lives are coming to an end, why not just wait until then? Why do we need to recite now?" you ask.
Everything, everything, is a question of habits. If you don't do something as a rule, then when your life is drawing to a close, you won't remember how to recite the Buddha's name. That is why, now, in ordinary times, we should learn how to recite the Buddha's name and cultivate the Pure Land Dharma-door. Then, when our lives are over we can be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.
Why should we be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss? It is because of the vows made by Amitabha Buddha in the causal ground when he was a Bhiksu named Fa Tsang, "Dharma Treasury." He made forty-eight great vows and said, "After I have become a Buddha, of all the living beings in the ten directions. If there is one who calls my name--who recites my name as Amitabha Buddha—I shall certainly guide them to my land. They can come to my land and eventually realize Buddhahood. In my land the people will be transformationally born from lotus flowers and so their bodies will be clear and pure." Because of the vows made by Amitabha Buddha, all living beings now who cultivate the Dharma-door of Buddha recitation will find it the easiest of the Dharma-doors.
In the Sutras it is said, "Of those beings in the Dharma ending age, not one in a million who cultivate will obtain the Way. Only through the practice of Buddha recitation will they be saved." Only through recitation of the Buddha's name can they be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss and thus be saved. So now it is the Dharma-ending age and it is appropriate for all of us to recite the Buddha's name. In the West, however, it is not the Dharma-ending Age. You could say that it is the Right Dharma Age.
Why can we say it is the Right Dharma Age?
This is because the Buddhadharma has just been transmitted to the West, and is just beginning to flourish. So now in America many like to investigate Dhyana, to meditate and this is a sign of the Right Dharma Age.
But the Dharma-door of Buddha recitation can be cultivated in the Right Dharma Age and it can also be cultivated in the Dharma-ending Age. The Dharma-door of Buddha recitation can be cultivated during any period at all. So, if you aren't making progress with other methods of work, you can cultivate the Dharma-door of Buddha recitation.
Dhyana Master Yung Ming Shou, the Sixth Patriarch of the Pure Land School, said,
With both Dhyana and the Pure Land
One is like a tiger with horns.
That is, if you both investigate Dhyana and also recite the Buddha's name, you are like a tiger with a pair of horns.
In this life you're a teacher of people.
Now, you can be a teacher and example for people.
In the future, you're a Buddhist Patriarch.
In the future you can become a Buddha and be a Patriarch. Therefore, genuine investigation of Dhyana is the same as genuine Buddha-recitation. Those who genuinely recite the Buddha's name are just genuine cultivators of Dhyana.
To explain it at an even more fundamental level: those who genuinely uphold the precepts are just genuine Dhyana investigators. Those who genuinely investigate Dhyana are just genuine upholders of the precepts. Those who genuinely lecture on Sutras and speak the Dharma may simply lecture Sutras but they are nonetheless genuine Dhyana investigators. A few days ago did I not say,
Penetration of the sect,
Penetration of speech--
Samadhi and wisdom are perfect and clear,
And there is no attachment to emptiness.
To be able to investigate Dhyana and also to lecture on the Sutras is called Penetration of both the sect and speech-- () for one understands both the practice of meditation and how to lecture on Sutras and speak the Dharma.
To speak even more deeply: those who genuinely investigate Dhyana are just genuine holders of mantras. Those who are genuine holders of mantras, true cultivators of the Secret School, are also just genuine Dhyana investigators. The five schools of Buddhism: Dhyana, the Teachings, the Vinaya, the Secret, and the Pure Land, although they are said to be five schools, they are fundamentally the same, ultimately one—not dual. Not only are they one, but there isn't even the "one." If there isn't even the "one" how could there be five? Those who truly study the Buddhadharma should understand this point. Some people say, "The Dharma-door of Buddha recitation is the highest and the Dharma-door of investigating Dhyana is incorrect." Others say the opposite. This shows they do not understand the Buddhadharma. For those who truly understand the Buddhadharma, "all Dharmas are the Buddhadharma, and none of them can be obtained." There isn't any Dharma, which can be obtained. Therefore, why add a head on top of your head? Why look for trouble when there isn't any? If you really understand the Dharma, there is no Dharma, which can be obtained. But, if you tell people who don't understand the Buddhadharma, "There isn't anything at all—nothing" they will feel disappointed. That is why the Buddha spoke the provisional Dharma for the sake of the Real Dharma, and spoke the provisional wisdom for the sake of the Real Wisdom. But in the end, what is the Real Wisdom like? It is just "non-attainment," it returns to the unobtainable. The Real Mark is unmarked and yet there is nothing not marked by it. That is the true, Real Wisdom.
ALL BUDDHAS HAVE MADE THIS VOW,
"AS TO THE BUDDHA PATH WHICH I HAVE WALKED
I WISH TO LEAD ALL LIVING BEINGS,
ALIKE TO OBTAIN THIS PATH."
AND THOUGH THE BUDDHAS OF THE FUTURE
WILL SPEAK A HUNDRED THOUSAND MILLION
COUNTLESS DHARMA DOORS, THEY ARE
IN FACT FOR THE SAKE OF THE ONE VEHICLE.
ALL BUDDHAS, DOUBLY PERFECT HONORED ONES
KNOW DHARMAS EVER HAVE NO NATURE,
THE BUDDHA SEED ARISES FROM CONDITIONS
THUS THEY SPEAK ONE VEHICLE.
ALL DHARMAS ABIDE IN THE DHARMA POSITION,
WHERE WORLDLY MARKS FOREVER DWELL;
HAVING UNDERSTOOD THIS IN THE FIELD OF THE WAY
THE GUIDING MASTER TEACHES IT EXPEDIENTLY.
The previous passage of text read, "All of the Thus Come 0nes/By means of limitless expedients/Deliver all living beings/To enter the Buddha's non-outflow wisdom. Of those who have heard this Dharma, Not one will fail to become a Buddha." This section of text falls under the outline heading, "The Singularity of the Cultivators." That is, everyone can accomplish the Buddha Path. The present passage of text, "All Buddhas have made this vow, "As to the Buddha Path which I have walked, I wish to lead all living beings, Alike to obtain this path." falls under the outline heading, "The Singularity of the Practice."
The Dharma Flower Sutra also contains Ten Wonders of the Root Section and Ten Wonders of the Traces Section but I haven't explained them in detail for fear people would not understand them. Presently we are discussing the 1) Singularity of the Cultivators, 2) the Singularity of the Practice, 3) the Singularity of the Teaching, and 4) the Singularity of the Principle.
In discussing the Singularity of the Practice, the text reads, ALL BUDDHAS HAVE MADE THIS VOW/The basic vows of all the Buddhas throughout the ten directions AS TO THE BUDDHA PATH WHICH I HAVE WALKED; What vow did they make? They said, "That Buddha Path which I have cultivated, that Dharma-door I WISH TO LEAD ALL LIVING BEINGS/I wish to cause all living beings ALIKE TO OBTAIN THIS PATH. To also cultivate this Path, to certify to the attainment of the Path.
You may ask, "Since there is no Dharma which can be obtained, why does the text say 'Alike to obtain this Path.' Although we speak in terms of "obtaining" this Path, this Path is by no means obtained from the outside. In The Vajra Sutra, Subhuti says, "While the Buddha was with Burning Lamp Buddha, there was no Dharma which he obtained as Anuttarasamayak sambodhi." Anuttarasamyak sambodhi is possessed by us inherently. It is definitely not obtained from the outside. That is why there is (in reality) nothing obtained.
We basically possess it, but we don't know what we do. Because we don't know we have it, it can be likened to a bright gem hidden in our clothing. We don't know that a shining gem has been sewn into our clothing. The gem is just that we are basically one with the Buddha nature. Why haven't we become Buddhas? It's because we have not found our inherent Buddha nature and so we have not become Buddhas. We now want to become Buddhas, but this actually just means getting back the valuables, which were ours to begin with, nothing more. The text says, ALIKE TO ATTAIN THIS PATH, to cause all beings also to cultivate this Dharma-door. This shows the Singularity of the Practice, the cultivation.
AND THOUGH THE BUDDHAS OF THE FUTURE/all the Buddhas to come SPEAK A HUNDRED THOUSAND MILLION; Even though they speak so many COUNTLESS DHARMA DOORS, THEY ARE IN FACT FOR THE SAKE OF THE ONE VEHICLE. In reality, actually, they are really spoken for the sake of the Dharma of One Vehicle, the Buddha Vehicle.
ALL BUDDHAS, DOUBLY PERFECT HONORED ONES/ The Honored Ones, the Buddhas, perfect in blessings and in wisdom KNOW DHARMAS EVER HAVE NO NATURE; They know that all Dharmas are basically without a self-nature. THE BUDDHA-SEED ARISES FROM CONDITIONS; All the Buddhas' Dharma-doors arise from conditions. THUS THEY SPEAK ONE VEHICLE; Therefore, it is for the sake of the Buddha's teaching of the One Vehicle that the other teachings are spoken, that is the Storehouse Teaching, the Special Teaching, and the Penetrating Teaching. They are all really presented for the sake of the Buddha Vehicle. This is to show the Singularity of the Teaching. They are all for the sake of the One Buddha Vehicle; there are no other vehicles.
THIS DHARMA ABIDES IN THE DHARMA POSITION/This Dharma refers to the Wonderful Dharma, that Dharma, the Wonderful Dharma of The wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra. "Abide in the Dharma position." And where is the Dharma position? DWELLING FOREVER IN WORLDLY MARKS the Dharma abides in the Dharma position, and is found to dwell in worldly appearances, for in worldly dharmas themselves are just worldly dharmas. So the Sixth Patriarch said, "The Buddhadharma is in the world. Enlightenment is not apart from the world. To search for Bodhi apart from the world/Is like looking for a hare with horns." So DWELLING FOREVER IN WORLDLY MARKS is where all transcendental marks forever dwell, the same as "dwelling forever in transcendental marks."
HAVING UNDERSTOOD THIS IN THE FIELD OF THE WAY/Sakyamuni Buddha says, "I sat in the field of enlightenment and after I became a Buddha I knew this doctrine and so THE GUIDING MASTER TEACHES IT EXPEDIENTLY. The guiding master uses all kinds of expedient devices to teach this Dharma, that is the Singularity of the Principle. The essential principle is one.
THOSE WHO RECEIVE THE OFFERINGS OF GODS AND MEN,
THE BUDDHAS OF THE PRESENT IN THE TEN DIRECTIONS,
THEIR NUMBER LIKE THE GANGES SANDS,
MANIFEST WITHIN THE WORLD,
TO BRING PEACE AND COMFORT TO LIVING BEINGS,
AND ALSO SPEAK THE DHARMA SUCH AS THIS.
KNOWING THE FOREMOST STILL EXTINCTION,
THEY EMPLOY THE FORCE OF EXPEDIENTS
AND THOUGH THEY DEMONSTRATE VARIOUS PATHS,
THEY ARE IN REALITY FOR THE SAKE OF THE BUDDHA VEHICLE.
KNOWING THE CONDUCT OF LIVING BEINGS,
THE THOUGHTS DEEP WITHIN THEIR HEARTS,
THEIR HABITUAL ACTIONS FROM THE PAST,
THE NATURE OF THEIR DESIRES AND THE POWER OF VIGOR
AND THEIR FACULTIES, KEEN OR DULL,
THEY EMPLOY VARIOUS CAUSES AND CONDITIONS,
ANALOGIES AND VERBAL EXPRESSIONS,
RESPONDING TO THEM WITH EXPEDIENT TEACHINGS.
THOSE WHO RECEIVE OFFERINGS OF GODS AND MEN/Those who are deserving of the offerings of men and gods THE BUDDHAS OF THE PRESENT IN THE TEN DIRECTIONS/All the Buddhas currently in the ten directions THEIR NUMBER LIKE THE GANGE'S SANDS/Their number is as many as the grains of sand in the River Ganges. MANIFEST WITHIN THE WORLDS/They appear in the worlds of the ten directions TO BRING PEACE AND COMFORT TO LIVING BEINGS. They act out of the desire to bring peace and security to living beings. AND ALSO SPEAK THE DHARMA THUS. They also speak The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra. KNOWING THE FOREMOST STILL EXTINCTION; Knowing the number one Dharma of still extinction, the wonderful principle of the Real Mark, THEY EMPLOY THE FORCE OF EXPEDIENTS; If they started out by speaking the Real Mark, no one would understand and so they use the power of various expedients and bestowing the provisional for the sake of the actual; AND THOUGH THEY DEMONSTRATE VARIOUS PATHS; They demonstrate all manners of Dharma doors and various doctrines THEY ARE IN REALITY FOR THE SAKE OF THE BUDDHA VEHICLE. Their final aim, the ultimate goal, is to speak the Buddha Vehicle, to cause living beings to become Buddhas. But the Buddha KNOWING THE CONDUCT OF LIVING BEINGS; the conduct, and activity of living beings AND THE THOUGHTS DEEP WITHIN THEIR HEARTS; What they are thinking in their minds. THE HABITUAL ACTIONS FROM THE PAST; That is the defilements habitually practiced in past lives now present as karmic retribution. THE NATURE OF THEIR DESIRES AND THE POWER OF THEIR VIGOR; They all have thoughts of desire and different measure of zeal in pursuing the objects of their desire. THEIR FACULTIES, KEEN OR DULL; Some living beings have sharp dispositions and others are slow witted. Those with keen faculties are intelligent. Those with dull faculties are stupid. THEY EMPLOY VARIOUS CAUSES AND CONDITIONS; They use all types of causes and conditions ANALOGIES AND VERBAL EXPRESSIONS; Parables and phrases. RESPONDING TO THEM WITH EXPEDIENT TEACHINGS; According to the basic natures of living beings, they respond to the beings and teach them the Dharma, using expedient device Dharma-doors. For example, to living beings who are very stubborn, hard to subdue, they speak about hearts full of compassion to take them across. To stupid living beings they explain Prajna so that they may give rise to wisdom. They teach scattered living beings how to cultivate Dhyana samadhi. To creatures who are lax they teach vigor. Living beings who continually violate the precepts, they instruct in morality. People heavily burdened with greed are taught to give. So they employ various expedient device dharma-doors to teach living beings. This is what is meant by "responding to them with expedient teachings."