THE WONDERFUL DHARMA LOTUS FLOWER SUTRA
Commentary by Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua
VOLUME I, which contains a faithful rendering of the Venerable Tripitaka Master-Hsuan Hua's commentary into modern English will be in print this year. Subsequent volumes will appear next year.
Buddha appeared in the world, in order to lead all beings to understand the
teaching of the Lotus Sutra. "For the sake of all living beings, I preach
the One Buddha-Vehicle. If you are able to receive these words with faith, you
shall all be able to become Buddhas. This vehicle is wondrously pure and
supreme. In all the worlds throughout the universe there is nothing more
|Contact the Buddhist Text Translation Society to order the complete set of volumes containing the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra and the commentary of Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua.|
NOW I AM ALSO THUS
TO BRING PEACE AND COMFORT TO LIVING BEINGS
I EMPLOY VARIOUS DHARMA DOORS
TO PROCLAIM THE BUDDHA PATH.
I USE THE POWER OF MY WISDOM
TO KNOW THE NATURE OF BEINGS' DESIRES
AND SPEAK ALL DHARMAS EXPEDIENTLY
TO LEAD THEM ALL TO HAPPINESS.
SARIPUTRA, YOU SHOULD KNOW,
AS I CONTEMPLATE WITH THE BUDDHA-EYE
I SEE THE BEINGS IN THE SIX PATHS,
IMPOVERISHED, WITHOUT BLESSINGS OR WISDOM
ENTERING THE DANGEROUS PATH OF BIRTH AND DEATH
WHERE THEY SUFFER UNREMITTINGLY;
DEEPLY ATTACHED TO THE FIVE DESIRES
LIKE A YAK CARING FOR ITS TAIL,
THEY SMOTHER THEMSELVES WITH GREED AND LOVE,
BLIND, AND IN DARKNESS, SEEING NOTHING.
THEY DO NOT SEEK THE MIGHTY BUDDHA,
NOR THE DHARMA WHICH CUTS OFF SUFFERING,
BUT, DEEPLY ENTERING DEVIANT VIEWS
WITH SUFFERING, THEY WISH TO CAST OFF SUFFERING.
FOR THE SAKE OF THESE BEINGS, I
GIVE RISE TO THE GREAT COMPASSION HEART.
NOW I AM ALSO THUS/Now, at present I, Sakyamuni Buddha, am also thus. I am also like the Buddhas of the past, future, and the present, in speaking the Dharma TO BRING PEACE AND COMFORT TO LIVING BEINGS; I lead all beings to gain security and happiness. Therefore I EMPLOY VARIOUS DHARMA DOORS/I use various Dharma approaches TO PROCLAIM THE BUDDHA PATH/ To expound the Buddha's Way Dharma.
I USE THE POWER OF WISDOM, I use the strength of the Buddha's true Real Wisdom TO KNOW THE NATURE OF BEINGS' DESIRES; Because all living beings have their own particular natural desires, the things they are fond of and because I have obtained true. Real Wisdom, I can understand all of their desires very clearly AND SPEAK ALL DHARMAS EXPEDIENTLY/Because I understand living beings, I use expedient Dharmas to teach and transform living beings, teaching them all the dharmas. TO LEAD THEM ALL TO HAPPINESS. I lead all living beings to be filled with the true bliss of Dharma, to receive ten Dharma's moisture, as the water moistens things. I moisten living beings with the Dharma leading them to obtain true joy.
SARIPUTRA, YOU SHOULD KNOW/Sariputra, you really should understand that THAT AS I CONTEMPLATE WITH THE BUDDHA EYE/As I now observe with my Buddha Eye I SEE THE BEINGS IN THE SIX PATHS/I see all the living beings in the six destinies of rebirth IMPOVERISHED, WITHOUT BLESSINGS OR WISDOM/All of them--gods, humans, asuras, hell-beings, hungry ghosts, and animals--are confused, deluded and don't know to wake up. This is because they have no wisdom and no blessed retribution. Why not? Because they are too poor. This is the poverty that results from not understanding the Buddhadharma. Because they don't understand the Buddhadharma they are truly pitiful, truly impoverished. If they had blessings and wisdom they would not be impoverished. But because they have neither, they are poor.
What is true wealth?
Understanding the Buddhadharma is true wealth.
What is poverty?
Not understanding the Buddhadharma is poverty.
So poverty and wealth depend upon whether or not you have blessings and wisdom. If you have blessings or wisdom you are wealthy; if you do not, you are poor.
Where do blessings and wisdom come from?
They come through your cultivation of the Way.
Therefore, the living beings in the six paths are impoverished because they have no blessings or wisdom.
ENTERING THE DANGEROUS PATH OF BIRTH AND DEATH/They enter the risky, evil road of birth/death and death/birth. The road of birth and death is extremely dangerous. It is said,
Having lost this human body
In ten thousand kalpas it's hard to get another.
We are people, at present, but don't think it is easy to be a human being. Didn't I tell you earlier that when Sakyamuni Buddha was in the world he once picked up a handful of dirt and asked, "Is there more dirt in my hand or on the earth?"
The disciples all replied. "There is more dirt on the earth than in the Buddha's hand."
The Buddha then said, "Those who obtain a human body are like the dirt in my hand, that few. Those who lose the human body are like the dirt on the ground. So it is extremely dangerous to enter the risky road of birth and death.
WHERE THEY SUFFER UNREMITTINGLY/Their suffering continues from one life to the next. They may be a human in their present life, but there is no guarantee that they will be one in their next life. Thus their suffering is continuous and uninterrupted. Their suffering: the causes of suffering, the result of suffering, the retribution of suffering—it never ends.
DEEPLY ATTACHED TO THE FIVE DESIRES/Why don't they cut off their suffering? It is because they are deeply enmeshed, attached to the five desires. The five desires are forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and tangible objects, also called the five "dusts" (i.e. worldly) desires. LIKE A YAK CARING FOR ITS TAIL. The yak is a kind of ox and it places great importance on its tail. Because it thinks its tail is so important, it always watches out for it. As a result, since it thinks its tall is so important, people are always after it. Thus, out of his great desire to protect his tail, he ends up losing his very life. THEY SMOTHER THEMSELVES WITH GREED AND LOVE/Smother themselves means they die. As a result, like the yak, they die. BLIND AND IN DARKNESS, SEEING NOTHING; Blind means they cannot see. They are in the dark and are blind as well, so they cannot see anything at all. THEY DO NOT SEEK THE MIGHTY BUDDHA; This represents that the people have no wisdom, nor do they seek a teacher who understands. Therefore, those without wisdom, they are as if blind. If you have no understanding teacher, you are as If always in the dark. Therefore, you cannot see anything at all. Your not seeing the light means you have no wisdom. They don't try to find a way to ask the Buddha to help them. The great and mighty Buddha has great power and can rescue all living beings from suffering and difficulty. NOR THE DHARMA WHICH CUTS OFF SUFFERING; They don't seek instruction from the Buddha in the methods for cutting off suffering. BUT DEEPLY ENTERING DEVIANT VIEWS; Because they don't seek wisdom, and are like blind men, they deeply enter deviant views.
People are very strange. If you teach them the proper Dharma, you can teach them until you're blue in the face but they won't understand it. On the other hand, if you teach them a deviant dharma they'll catch on after just one lesson. Would you say this was strange? If it's the proper Dharma, you can try to teach them once, twice, three times, and they find it difficult to remember. But if you teach them some heretical "occult" dharmas they remember them very easily. People believe the deviant dharmas but while they may believe the proper Dharma for a moment, they soon lose faith in it. After a while, as soon as your back is turned, they no longer believe. So, "they deeply enter deviant views."
Why is it hard for people to learn orthodox dharmas and easy to learn deviant ones? It is because for life after life we have been deeply enmeshed in deviant views. The deviant views are our old friends, as familiar as our own blood relatives, our own flesh and blood. Such is the relationship and so it is very easy to learn them. We have forgotten the proper Dharma for a long time, and so, although we study it, it is not easy to remember it. We learn it once and then forget it, learn it again and then forget it again. Why do we forget it? Because we have become separated from it by too long a distance, we have become estranged from it and so it Is very easy to forget it altogether.
WITH SUFFERING THEY WISH TO CAST OFF SUFFERING/With their misery, with the root of their suffering, they try to get rid of their suffering; this is difficult to manage.
What is the root of suffering? Ignorance is the root of suffering.
Ignorance, and its various aspects are the root of pain.
When the root of pain has been cast out wholesome roots remain.
Merely rely on the wisdom sword's awesome spiritual might
To jump right off the spinning wheel and over the six-path gates.
Ignorance is the root of suffering. When you cut off ignorance, you also cut off the suffering at the root. If you wish to cut off ignorance, how are you going to do it? "Merely rely on the wisdom sword's awesome spiritual might." You should make use of your wisdom sword. With the sword of wisdom, you can sever ignorance. Having severed ignorance you may then jump right off the spinning wheel. So the most important thing is to have the wisdom sword. Without the wisdom sword, it will be difficult to get out of the sea of suffering.
FOR THE SAKE OF THESE BEINGS, I/Because the Buddha sees living beings submerged in the sea of suffering: Born and reborn, dying over and over again, never ending birth or freeing themselves from death, the Buddha does GIVE RISE TO THE GREAT COMPASSION HEART/The Buddha gives rise to a heart full of compassion. How does the heart of great compassion arise? The Buddha thinks, "Ah, these living beings are just like my own sons and daughters. How can a parent stand by and watch his children suffer?" In this way he uses compassion to relieve the suffering of all his children, rescuing them from the sea of misery. He gives rise to a heart of great compassion In order to teach and transform living beings.
WHEN FIRST I SAT IN THE FIELD OF THE WAY,
CONTEMPLATING THE TREE OR WALKING ABOUT IT,
FOR A FULL THREE TIMES SEVEN DAYS
I THOUGHT UPON MATTERS SUCH AS THESE:
THE WISDOM WHICH I HAVE OBTAINED,
IS SUBTLE, WONDERFUL, AND FOREMOST:
BUT LIVING BEINGS ARE OF DULL FACULTIES
ATTACHED TO PLEASURES, BLINDED BY STUPIDITY,
SUCH BEINGS AS THESE --
HOW CAN THEY POSSIBLY BE SAVED?
JUST THEN THE BRAHMA HEAVEN KINGS
AS WELL AS THE GOD SHAKRA,
THE FOUR GOD KINGS WHO GUARD THE WORLD,
AS WELL AS THE GODS OF THE GREAT COMFORT HEAVEN
AND THE OTHER HEAVENLY MULTITUDES,
WITH THEIR RETINUES NUMBERING IN THE BILLIONS
REVERENTLY PLACED THEIR PALMS TOGETHER,
AND REQUESTED THAT I TURN THE DHARMA WHEEL.
THEN I THOUGHT TO MYSELF
WERE I ONLY TO PRAISE THE BUDDHA VEHICLE
BEINGS SUNK IN SUFFERING
WOULD BE UNABLE TO BELIEVE THIS DHARMA,
WOULD SLANDER IT OUT OF DISBELIEF
AND FALL INTO THE THREE EVIL PATHS.
BETTER WERE I NOT TO SPEAK THE DHARMA
BUT QUICKLY ENTER INTO NIRVANA.
WHEN FIRST I SAT IN THE FIELD OF THE WAY/Sakyamuni Buddha says, "When I, myself, had just become a Buddha, had just obtained the fruit of Buddhahood, and was sitting in the field of the Way, the Bodhimanda..." This is because he sat beneath the Bodhi Tree for forty-nine days. During that forty-nine days, he sat more than he walked. He sat in the Bodhimanda and became a Buddha.
CONTEMPLATING THE TREE OR WALKING ABOUT IT/After I became a Buddha, I observed the past causes and conditions and also the future causes and conditions. I made these observations as I sat beneath the Bodhi tree. Sometimes I walked about. "Walking about,” means to walk around the tree. On the one hand this was exercise and on the other it served to bring the thoughts of the heart together so that it did not become scattered." "The Buddha's heart is basically not scattered," you may wonder, "so why did he need to walk about?" He did it as an example so other living beings could imitate him and cultivate in that way.
FOR A FULL THREE TIMES SEVEN DAYS/For three times seven, that is, twenty-one days I THOUGHT UPON MATTERS SUCH AS THESE/He looked into these matters. What matters? The matters concerned with teaching and transforming living beings. THE WISDOM WHICH I HAVE OBTAINED, The wisdom I have got IS SUBTLE, WONDERFUL, AND FOREMOST/It is at once subtle and wonderful and also number one BUT LIVING BEINGS ARE OF DULL FACULTIES/My wisdom is superb, the most subtle and miraculous, but the dispositions of living beings are extremely dull; they are extremely stupid. ATTACHED TO PLEASURES, BLINDED BY/ They are attached to and seduced by the happiness before their eyes and they are blinded by STUPIDITY, BEING SUCH AS THESE--Their stupidity covers them just like one with sightless eyes. They are stupid because they have no wisdom and people without wisdom are as if blind. Beings like this, these beings without wisdom who are as if blind, HOW CAN THEY POSSIBLY BE SAVED? What can be done to save these stupid living beings, to bring them to understanding? Just as he was thinking about these things...
JUST THEN THE BRAHMA HEAVEN KINGS/The kings in the Brahma heavens AS WELL AS THE GOD SHAKRA/As well as the God Sakra, the Heavenly Lord in the Heaven of the Thirty-three. THE FOUR GOD KINGS WHO GUARD THE WORLD; The four heavenly kings who protect the world AS WELL AS THE GOD OF GREAT COMFORT/As well as the ruler of the Mahesvara heaven, the heaven of Great Comfort. AND THE OTHER HEAVENLY MULTITUDES/And also all the other gods, a great assembly of them WITH THEIR RETINUES IN THE BILLIONS/Every heavenly king brought along a billion retainers and they REVERENTLY PLACED THEIR PALMS TOGETHER AND MADE OBEISANCE/They all stood before me respectfully with their palms joined, then circumambulated to the right three times and very, very respectfully bowed AND REQUESTED THAT I TURN THE DHARMA WHEEL/All the gods and their followers, why did they join their palms and bow to me? They wanted to ask me to turn the Dharma Wheel. What is meant by "turning the Dharma Wheel?" It is to speak the Dharma. Speaking the Dharma is turning the Dharma Wheel. They requested me to teach the Dharma.
THEN I THOUGHT TO MYSELF; Sakyamuni Buddha, because so many hosts of gods had asked him to speak the Dharma, had to think the matter over again WERE I ONLY TO PRAISE THE BUDDHA VEHICLE; If I merely taught the Buddha vehicle and did not speak the other Small Vehicle Dharmas.
BEINGS SUNK IN SUFFERING; Because living beings would know that the Buddha path was so long and distant and so difficult to trod...one must pass through three great asankheya kalpas before one can become a Buddha...so living beings would all "gaze at the sea and heave a great sigh. What is meant by "gazing at the sea and heaving a great sigh?" The Buddha Dharma is like the great Pacific Ocean. You take a look at it and think, "How can I even get across it. How can I get to the other side?" Seeing the Buddhadharma as too lofty and too profound, they wouldn't want to study it. They would think, "There's no way I could ever learn something as great and profound as the Buddhadharma?" This is like those who have never heard Sutras and who don't like the Sutras take one look at The Dharma Flower Sutra and think, "It's so big; two thick volumes. When will we ever finish listening to it? Do I really have that much time?" And so they don't listen. But once you have got a bit of the flavor of the Buddhadharma, you will feel that the Dharma is the most important thing in your life; it stands in the highest position. You will think, "Even If I don't have time to eat, wear clothes or sleep, I will certainly study the Buddhadharma." And whenever Sutras are being lectured you will go to listen. According to the rules in Buddhism, the lay people who study Buddhism must go to Dharma assemblies being conducted within 40 miles of their residence.
Living beings are sunk in suffering WOULD BE UNABLE TO BELIEVE THIS DHARMA/Because living beings are too stupid, they do not believe you, when you speak of the Buddha Vehicle. WOULD SLANDER IT OUT OF DISBELIEF/Their not believing themselves is not important, but then they start to behave in a manner which breaks up the Dharma. They create causes and conditions of slandering the Buddhadharma. Because they don't believe, they slander and defame the Dharma. Their lack of faith is just slandering the Dharma, and their slandering of the Dharma betrays their disbelief. If one has thoughts of slander with regard to the wonderful Dharma of the Real Teaching, they create limitless and boundless offense karma AND FALL INTO THE THREE EVIL PATHS/They will in the future end up just like the mother of the Brahman woman in the Earth Store Bodhisattva Sutra. They will fall into the three evil paths, into great hells. Luckily, the Brahman woman's daughter was a former incarnation of Earth Store Bodhisattva and the daughter was able to rescue her and gain rebirth for her in the heavens. We should each ask ourselves, can we be sure that our son or daughter is Earth Store Bodhisattva, or someone like him who, after we have died, will come and rescue us? There's no guarantee and so we should bring forth a genuine heart of faith in the Buddhadharma.
BETTER WERE I NOT TO SPEAK THE DHARMA/The Buddha thought to himself, "Because living beings might slander the Dharma out of disbelief and thereby fall into the three evil paths, it would be better not to speak The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra, AND QUICKLY ENTER INTO NIRVANA/I will enter Nirvana right away and not remain in this world to turn the Dharma Wheel.
I THEN RECALLED, "THE BUDDHAS OF THE PAST
PRACTICED POWERFUL EXPEDIENTS,
AND AS I NOW HAVE OBTAINED THE PATH
IT IS FITTING THAT I ALSO TEACH THREE VEHICLES."
AND WHEN I HAD BEEN THINKING THUS,
THE TEN DIRECTION BUDDHAS ALL APPEARED,
AND WITH THE BRAHMA SOUND ENCOURAGED ME SAYING,
"EXCELLENT INDEED, 0 SAKYAMUNI!
THOU FOREMOST GUIDING MASTER,
FOR, HAVING OBTAINED THE UNSURPASSED DHARMA,
YOU FOLLOW THE PRECEDENT OF ALL THE BUDDHAS
IN APPLYING POWERFUL EXPEDIENTS.
WE HAVE ALL OBTAINED AS WELL
THAT FOREMOST DHARMA, MOST MIRACULOUS
BUT FOR THE VARIOUS KINDS OF LIVING BEINGS,
DISCRIMINATE AND TEACH THREE VEHICLES.
THOSE OF SLIGHT WISDOM WHO DELIGHT IN LESSER DHARMAS
DO NOT BELIEVE THAT THEY CAN BECOME BUDDHAS.
THAT IS WHY WE USE EXPEDIENT MEANS,
DISCRIMINATING AND TEACHING THE VARIOUS FRUITS.
ALTHOUGH THREE VEHICLES ARE TAUGHT,
IT IS ONLY FOR THE SAKE OF INSTRUCTING BODHISATTVAS.
I THEN RECALLED, "THE BUDDHAS OF THE PAST/After a bit, it occurred to me that all the Buddhas of the past had PRACTICED POWERFUL EXPEDIENTS; They applied, they put forth, the power of expedients AND AS I NOW HAVE OBTAINED THE PATH/As I have now obtained the Buddha path IT IS FITTING THAT I ALSO TEACH THREE VEHICLES"/I should also bestow the provisional for the sake of the real and speak of the doctrines of the Three Vehicles. AND WHEN I HAD BEEN THINKING THUS/Just as I was thinking that THE TEN DIRECTION BUDDHAS ALL APPEARED; The Buddhas present throughout the ten directions all appeared right before my eyes. AND WITH BRAHMA SOUNDS ENCOURAGED ME SAYING, They used the clear pure Buddha sound to encourage me. They chatted with me. What did they say? "EXCELLENT INDEED, 0 SAKYAMUNI/Very fine, very fine, Sakyamuni Buddha THOU FOREMOST GUIDING MASTER; You are really the number one, the greatest guiding master in the world FOR HAVING OBTAINED THE UNSURPASSED DHARMA/You have obtained the supreme wonderful Dharma and YOU FOLLOW THE PRECEDENT OF ALL THE BUDDHAS/You follow along with all the Buddhas of the ten directions IN APPLYING POWERFUL EXPEDIENTS; You use the power of clever, provisional devices. WE HAVE ALL OBTAINED AS WELL; We, the Buddhas of the ten directions have all obtained THAT FOREMOST DHARMA, MOST MIRACULOUS; this wonderful Dharma, this most wonderful, foremost Dharma. BUT FOR THE VARIOUS KINDS OF BEINGS; Because of living beings we DISCRIMINATE AND TEACH THREE VEHICLES." That is why we discriminate and speak of the Great Vehicle and the Small Vehicle, the Sound Hearer Vehicle, and the Conditioned Enlightened Vehicle--the three Vehicles.
"THOSE OF SLIGHT WISDOM WHO DELIGHT IN LESSER DHARMAS/These stupid people have very little wisdom so they like the lesser dharmas. They don't have the disposition for the Great dharmas. They are like children who can only play with small toys. If you give them something too big, they can't play with it. So you can only teach the Small Vehicle Dharma to the Small Vehicle People. If you spoke the Great Vehicle Dharma to them they'd just get all confused and wouldn't understand it. DO NOT BELIEVE THAT THEY CAN BECOME BUDDHAS/Why do they delight in the lesser dharmas and why can't they hear the great Dharma? It is because they themselves don't believe that they can become Buddhas. THAT IS WHY WE USE EXPEDIENT MEANS/It is because of this that we employ provisional, clever expedient devices-Dharma doors DISCRIMINATING AND TEACHING THE VARIOUS FRUITS/Speaking of the first fruit, the second, third, and fourth fruits, and certification to the stages of Arhatship and Pratyeka-Buddhahood. ALTHOUGH THREE VEHICLES ARE TAUGHT/Although we discriminate and speak three vehicles IT IS ONLY FOR THE SAKE OF INSTRUCTING BODHISATTVAS." In actuality, the three vehicles are only taught in order to teach and transform Bodhisattvas, to lead them to cultivate the Dharma-door of the Buddha Vehicle.
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