THE WONDERFUL DHARMA LOTUS FLOWER SUTRA

with Commentary by Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua
translated by Bhikshuni Heng Yin
reviewed by Bhikshuni Heng Ch'ih

SUTRA:

AS THE BUDDHAS OF THE THREE PERIODS OF TIME

IN SUCH A MANNER SPOKE THE DHARMA,

SO DO I LIKEWISE NOW EXPOUND

THE UNDISCRIMINATED DHARMA.

ALL BUDDHAS COME INTO THE WORLD

BUT RARELY, AND ARE HARD TO MEET:

AND WHEN THEY ARE WITHIN THE WORLD,

IT'S HARD FOR THEM TO SPEAK THIS DHARMA;

THROUGHOUT LIMITLESS, COUNTLESS AGES,

HARD, TOO, THIS DHARMA IS TO HEAR.

AND THOSE WHO CAN HEAR THIS DHARMA--

SUCH PERSONS, TOO, ARE ALSO RARE.

LIKE THE UDUMBARA FLOWER,

IN WHICH ALL TAKE DELIGHT,

AND WHICH THE GODS AND HUMANS PRIZE,

BLOOMS BUT ONCE IN A LONG, LONG TIME,

SO ONE WHO HEARS THIS DHARMA, GIVES JOYFUL PRAISE,

WITH EVEN JUST A SINGLE WORD,

HAS THEREBY ALREADY MADE OFFERINGS

TO ALL BUDDHAS IN THE THREE PERIODS OF TIME.

SUCH PERSONS ARE EXTREMELY RARE--

RARER THAN THE UDUMBARA.

Commentary:

AS THE BUDDHAS OF THE THREE PERIODS OF TIME/IN SUCH A MANNER SPOKE THE DHARMA/Sakyamuni Buddha says, "I now speak the genuine, real Buddhadharma, teaching the doctrine of the Real Wisdom, the Buddha Vehicle, in the same manner as did all the Buddhas of the past, present, and future. My manner of speaking is the same. SO DO I LIKEWISE NOW EXPOUND/Now I, just like the Buddhas of the past, present and future, speak the Dharma in the same way. THE UNDISCRIMINATED DHARMA/I speak the most subtle and wonderful, the foremost, the Dharma of the One Buddha Vehicle, only One Buddha Vehicle, there are no other vehicles-that undiscriminated Dharma. It is not that which the conscious intellects of ordinary people can understand.

ALL BUDDHAS COME INTO THE WORLD/The Buddhas throughout the ten directions appear in the world BUT RARELY AND ARE HARD TO MEET/To be able to meet with the ten directions Buddhas appearing in the world happens but once in a great, great while. So it says "But rarely," for they are hard, hard indeed to encounter.

AND WHEN THEY ARE WITHIN THE WORLD/IT'S HARD FOR THEM TO SPEAK THIS DHARMA/If one should come upon a Buddha appearing in the world, it is also extremely rare for the Buddha to speak The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra. It is also not easy. That is why Shakyamuni Buddha started out by preaching the Three Storehouses Teaching, the Agama Sutras, then spoke the Vaipulya and the Prajna Teachings. It was not until the very end that he spoke the Dharma Flower. So it is very difficult to speak this Sutra. THROUGHOUT LIMITLESS COUNTLESS AGES/HARD, TOO, THIS DHARMA IS TO HEAR/To be able to hear the Dharma is hard. Speaking this Dharma is difficult, and listening to it is also difficult. So now this speaking of The Dharma Flower Sutra is a most rare Dharma Assembly. AND THOSE WHO CAN HEAR THIS DHARMA/SUCH PERSONS, TOO, ARE ALSO RARE/Those who can hear The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra, those people are very hard to meet with, hard to come by. What are they like?

LIKE THE UDUMBARA FLOWER/Udumbara, which means "auspicious response," is an auspicious flower. It blooms only once every three thousand years, so it is hard to come upon. And once it blooms it quickly fades and falls. That's why it is so rare and valuable. IN WHICH ALL TAKE DELIGHT/Because the Udumbara flower is so rare, blooming only once every three thousand years, everyone delights in it. AND WHICH THE GODS AND HUMANS PRIZE/All the gods and human beings like it, YET APPEARS BUT ONCE IN A LONG, LONG TIME/But this flower will not bloom until the time is right.

SO ONE WHO HEARS THIS DHARMA, GIVES JOYFUL PRAISE? One who hears The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra, who is happy and who extols it WITH EVEN JUST A SINGLE WORD/If he just speaks a single sentence in praise of the Sutra. HAS THEREBY ALREADY MADE OFFERINGS/If he says, "The Dharma Flower Sutra, is really wonderful," that single sentence counts as having made offerings TO ALL BUDDHAS IN THE THREE PERIODS OF TIME/throughout the ten directions.

SUCH A PERSON IS EXTREMELY RARE/RARER THAN THE UDUMBARA/The Udumbara blooms but once every three thousand years, but this person is even rarer. So you can see that it is difficult to hear the Dharma. Such causal affinities are hard to come by. This means that we should be very happy to hear it now. Throughout limitless ages we have planted vast good roots and today the good roots have matured, enabling us to hear the Sutra. If you did not have good roots, you would certainly never have had the opportunity to hear The Dharma Flower Sutra.

SUTRA:

ALL OF YOU SHOULD HAVE NO DOUBTS,

FOR I AM THE DHARMA KING,

AND DECLARE UNTO THE MULTITUDE:

"I USE ONLY THE PATH OF THE ONE VEHICLE

TO TEACH AND TRANSFORM BODHISATTVAS.

THERE ARE NO SOUND HEARER DISCIPLES."

SHARIPUTRA, ALL OF YOU,

THE SOUND HEARERS AND THE BODHISATTVAS

SHOULD KNOW THIS WONDROUS DHARMA IS

THE SECRET ESSENCE OF ALL BUDDHAS.

Commentary;

ALL OF YOU SHOULD HAVE NO DOUBTS/Sakyamuni Buddha says, "This Dharma is more difficult to encounter than the Udumbara flower. Take care, all of you, not to doubt the Dharma, which I have spoken. Why not? Because, FOR I AM THE DHARMA KING/I am the king of all the dharmas, having obtained the real, true real wisdom. AND DECLARE UNTO THE MULTITUDE: I will now use my trustworthy, true words to tell all of you assembled in the Dharma gathering, as well as the assemblies of the future: I USE ONLY THE PATH OF THE ONE VEHICLE/I use only the path of the One Vehicle, the Dharma of realizing Buddhahood, TO TEACH AND TRANSFORM BODHISATTVAS/Teaching all of the Bodhisattvas, THERE ARE NO SOUND HEARER DISCIPLES/And within this Dharma, there is no teaching dharma for the Sound Hearer disciples, there is no dharma for teaching those of the Small Vehicle.

SARIPUTRA, ALL OF YOU/Sariputra, all of you Sound Hearer people, THE SOUND HEARERS AND THE BODHISATTVAS/Now, all of you Sound Hearers should turn your Sound Hearer Vehicle in the direction of the Great Vehicle. You should return from the small and head towards the great. Don't continue to be satisfied with obtaining just a little. Don't draw the line for yourself in the middle of the road saying, "This is it: I'm going half way. I don't want to go any further." SHOULD KNOW THIS WONDROUS DHARMA IS/You should know that the wondrous Dharma spoken by all the Buddhas in The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra is THE SECRET ESSENCE OF ALL BUDDHAS/This is the most esoteric, most import and wonderful Dharma spoken by all the Buddhas in the ten directions and the three periods of time. Whatever you do, don't doubt it!

SUTRA:

IN THE EVIL WORLD OF FIVE TURBIDITIES,

THOSE ATTACHED AND TAKING PLEASURE IN DESIRE ALONE,

LIVING BEINGS OF SUCH AN ILK

WILL NEVER SEEK THE BUDDHA PATH.

EVIL MEN OF FUTURE AGES WHO HEAR

THE BUDDHA SPEAK OF ONE VEHICLE,

IN CONFUSION WILL NOT ACCEPT OR BELIEVE IT,

AND SLANDERING THE DHARMA WILL FALL INTO THE EVIL PATHS.

YET THOSE WITH SHAME, WHO ARE PURE,

AND RESOLUTELY SEEK THE BUDDHAS' PATH,

FOR ONES SUCH AS THESE, I PRAISE

THE PATH OF ONE VEHICLE, EXTENSIVELY.

Commentary:

IN THE EVIL WORLD OF FIVE TURBIDITIES/The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra is the secret essence of all the Buddhas, and so Sakyamuni, from the time he realized Buddhahood, waited a long time before speaking the Lotus Sutra. Why did he not speak it? Because it was too important. If this Dharma were spoken, living beings would not believe it, and would fall into the three evil paths. So rather than cause this to happen, he did not speak this Dharma. But in the evil world of the five turbidities--the aeon turbidity, the view turbidity, the affliction turbidity, the living beings turbidity, and the life turbidity--THOSE ATTACHED AND TAKING PLEASURE IN DESIRE ALONG/In the evil world of the five turbidities, the thing that all living beings like is sensual pleasures. "Desire" refers to all those things they greedily desire, they enjoy. LIVING BEINGS OF SUCH AN ILK/WILL NEVER SEEK THE BUDDHA PATH/These living beings crave the objects of their desires. They are greedy for temporary happiness. Everyone is confused by these temporary, non-ultimate pleasures. They are confused because they don't understand them. For example, people have various desires. Those greedy for wealth are confused by wealth. Those greedy for beauty are confused by beauty. Those greedy for food and drink are confused by food and drink. Those greedy for dope are confused by dope. They take some drugs and think, "I probably didn't take enough and that's why I didn't get enlightened. Perhaps there's some hope if I take a larger dose this time." Basically, it is completely impossible, and yet, the more confused they are, the more confused they become, the deeper their confusion grows until, because of their greed for this sensual desire, they think of it in every thought. Whatever you desire, you are confused by that desire. If you are confused by that thing, then you can't free yourself. It is as if you were caught in quicksand, unable to free your legs. You get one leg out, but the other is still caught. Then you get the other leg out, but the first leg gets stuck again. So they are forever confused by all these desires. "Living beings of such an ilk." The Buddha knew long ago there would be such deluded people. These people "will never seek the Buddha path." It will never occur to them to seek the Buddha path, to bring forth-genuine wisdom, or to break through their confusion.

      EVIL MEN OF FUTURE AGES WHO HEAR/In the Buddha's time--the future just refers to the present time, our present day. So the Buddha knew about it long ago. He knew about the evil people to come in the future. THE BUDDHA SPEAK OF ONE VEHICLE/When these evil people hear the Buddha speaking of the Buddhadharma of the One Vehicle IN CONFUSION WILL NOT ACCEPT OR BELIEVE IT/ They will doubt The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra. In their confusion they will wonder, "What's he talking about? I've never heard anything like this. What does he mean, "become a Buddha"? AND SLANDERING THE DHARMA WILL FALL INTO THE EVIL PATHS/Not only will they not accept or believe it, but they will slander it. They will say, "He says that's the Buddhadharma, but there's no such thing." In this way they will fall into the hells, among the animals, or into the path of hungry ghosts. YET THOSE WITH SHAME, WHO ARE PURE/Those people who know enough to feel ashamed, to know their mistakes and resolve to reform them and improve their conduct, who are pure in their cultivation, WHO RESOLUTELY SEEK THE BUDDHA PATH/Who are determined to become Buddhas, IT IS FOR ONES SUCH AS THESE, I PRAISE/It is fitting that for the sake of these living beings I praise THE PATH OF ONE VEHICLE, EXTENSIVELY/It is for them that I laud The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra, the Buddha Path of the One Vehicle

SUTRA:

SARIPUTRA, YOU SHOULD KNOW,

THUS IS THE DHARMA OF ALL BUDDHAS:

BY MEANS OF MILLIONS OF EXPEDIENTS,

APPROPRIATELY IT IS SET FORTH;

BUT THOSE WHO DO NOT STUDY IT

WILL NEVER COME TO UNDERSTAND IT.

SINCE ALL OF YOU ALREADY KNOW

ALL BUDDHAS, MASTERS OF THE WORLD,

WORK BY MEANS OF FITTING EXPEDIENTS,

YOU SHOULD HAVE NO FURTHER DOUBT

BUT LET YOUR HEARTS BE FILLED WITH JOY

AND KNOW: YOU WILL REACH BUDDHAHOOD.

Commentary:

SARIPUTRA, YOU SHOULD KNOW/Sariputra, you and all the Bhiksus, Bhiksunis, Upasakas and Upasikas, the Bodhisattvas, the gods and dragons, and the rest of the eight-fold division--you should all be informed that THUS IS THE DHARMA OF ALL BUDDHAS/The Buddhas of the ten directions have the same identical path. All the Buddhas are the same. So it is said,

All Buddhas of the three periods of time, and the ten directions

Have the same identical Dharma-body.

Their Dharma-body is one and so it is said "Thus" is the Dharma of all Buddhas. The Dharma of all the Buddhas throughout the ten directions is the same. It is all like the wonderful Dharma of The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra. However, they observe the potential conditions and then speak the Dharma, BY MEANS OF MILLIONS OF EXPEDIENTS,' They speak according to the potentials of the living beings to be taught, and so in speaking it they employ millions of different expedient methods, limitless expedients to teach and transform living beings, APPROPRIATELY IT IS SET FORTH/Appropriately means in accord with the potentials of the living beings. When living beings need a particular dharma, the Buddha then teaches it to them. BUT THOSE WHO DO NOT STUDY IT/Although the Buddha speaks that dharma for them, if they do not study it and put it into practice, they WILL NEVER COME TO UNDERSTAND IT/ They will not be able to comprehend the Buddhadharma. You must study and practice it deeply before you can understand it. Since they do not understand the Buddhadharma, they will not, of course, be able to cultivate according to it. Unable to cultivate according to it, they will not be able to become Buddhas.

SINCE ALL OF YOU ALREADY KNOW/Sariputra, you and all the great Arhats, great Bodhisattvas, great Bhiksus and others, already know the genuine, wonderful Dharma, and that ALL THE BUDDHAS, MASTERS OF THE WORLD/All the Buddhas of the ten directions and me, Shakyamuni Buddha, are the guides, the masters of the world, and WORK BY MEANS OF APPROPRIATE EXPEDIENTS/We use the clever, provisional expedients in teaching living beings. AND YOU SHOULD HAVE NO FURTHER DOUBTS/All of you in the assembly should have no more doubts, BUT LET YOUR HEARTS BE FILLED WITH JOY/Hearing The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra, your heart should be very happy, and you should remember that it is difficult to encounter, that these affinities are not easy to come by, AND KNOW: YOU WILL REACH BUDDHAHOOD/Each one of you should know that you will in the future certainly become Buddhas. So in the Dharma Flower Assembly, all living beings are assured of their realizing Buddhahood, because Shakyamuni Buddha has given them all predictions to that effect.

END OF ROLL I, CHAPTER TWO, OF The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra AND COMMENTARY.

Now I shall explain the verse in praise that follows the end of this chapter. Usually the verses are not explained, but I thought I'd let you hear it.

VERSE:

THE WORLD HONORED ONE MANIFESTED PORTENTS;

MAITREYA WONDERED ABOUT THE AUSPICIOUS SIGNS,

SO MANJUSHRI EXPLAINED THEM EXTENSIVELY

FOR THE SAKE OF THOSE ASSEMBLED.

THE ANCIENT BUDDHAS EMITTED THE WHITE HAIR LIGHT;

THE DHARMA KING WAS REQUESTED THRICE

TO SET FORTH THE FRAGRANCE OF THE WONDERFUL LOTUS.

NAMO DHARMA FLOWER ASSEMBLY OF BUDDHAS AND BODHISATTVAS.

Commentary:

THE WORLD HONORED ONE MANIFESTED PORTENTS/The World Honored One, Sakyamuni Buddha, emitted portents, six of them, and so MAITREYA Bodhisattva WONDERED ABOUT THE AUSPICIOUS SIGNS/Do you know who Maitreya Bodhisattva is? He is the coming Buddha. Maitreya Bodhisattva is one who loves to eat. That's why he is so fat. If he didn't love to eat, I don't believe he'd be that fat. He's so fat he can't even walk. Anyway, Maitreya Bodhisattva had some doubts. He didn't understand why the Buddha had manifested the Six Portents, and so he asked Manjusri Bodhisattva to explain. MANJUSRI EXPLAINED THEM EXTENSIVELY/FOR THE SAKE OF THOSE ASSEMBLED/Manjusri explained how the past Buddhas had also done this and explained the various doctrines involved. THE ANCIENT BUDDHAS EMITTED THE WHITE HAIR LIGHT/The Buddhas of the past throughout the ten directions at the same time put forth light to praise Shakyamuni Buddha. THE DHARMA KING WAS REQUESTED THRICE/Sariputra requested the Buddha to speak the Dharma three times, TO SET FORTH THE FRAGRANCE OF THE WONDERFUL LOTUS/To speak The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra.

NAMO DHARMA FLOWER ASSEMBLY OF BUDDHAS AND BODHISATTVAS/In just reciting this phrase, your merit and virtue is unlimited. So in Japan the Nichiren Sect exclusively recites nam nyo ho ren-ge kyo (which in Chinese sounds like namo myao fa lyan gen chu, which means "Namo to the Wonderful Dharma Lotus, pull it out by the roots!") They even want to pull the lotus out by its roots! By merely reciting the Sutra's name they obtain great benefit. If they don't have a job, they get work. If they have no food, they get food. If they have no tea to drink, they get tea to drink. If they have no wine, they get wine to drink--just by reciting nam nyo ho ren-ge kyo. How do I know? I've never heard them do it, but a few days ago Liu Mei Seng came from the Philippines and said that he went to Japan to lecture on the Buddhadharma, and found a lot of Americans studying there. What do they learn? They learn how to recite nam nyo ho ren-ge kyo, and they say that those who recite it get work if they have no work, clothes if they have no clothes, and those without food get food. Itís incredibly wonderful. When I heard that I thought, "In the future, if I run out of food, Iíll recite it." For now I have food though, so I donít need to recite it right now, just explain it.

END OF ROLL I, CHAPTER TWO, OF The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra AND COMMENTARY.