THE WONDERFUL DHARMA LOTUS FLOWER SUTRA
commentary by Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua
"SARIPUTRA, "THE THUS COME FURTHER THINKS, "IF I MERELY USE SPIRITUAL POWER AND THE POWER OF WISDOM, AND CAST ASIDE EXPEDIENTS, PRAISING FOR ALL LIVING BEINGS THE POWER OF THE THUS COME ONE'S KNOWLEDGE AND VIEWS, POWERS AND FEARLESSNESSES. LIVING BEINGS WILL NOT BE ABLE IN THIS WAY TO BE SAVED. WHY IS THIS? ALL OF THESE LIVING BEINGS HAVE NOT YET ESCAPED BIRTH, OLD AGE, SICKNESS, AND DEATH, GRIEF AND MISERY, AND ARE BEING SCORCHED IN THE BURNING HOUSE OF THE TRIPLE WORLD. HOW COULD THEY UNDERSTAND THE WISDOM OF THE BUDDHA?
Outline: This is part two of the specific fitting of the analogy together which is 2. Casting aside the table for the carts. It breaks down into two parts of which this is the first a. fitting together the casting aside of the table to use the carts. This also breaks down into two parts of which this passage is the first, that is 1. The actual fitting together of casting aside the table.
How could they understand the wisdom of the Buddha? They never knew about the Buddhadharma, so if you tell them about the Buddha's wisdom, how could they understand it? For example, in the West, many people have never heard the word "Buddha." And so everyone is afraid of Buddhism, like the student who came today, I asked him, "Why have you stayed away so long?"
He said, "I was afraid."
I asked him what he was afraid of and he couldn't tell me. So I said, "This person is afraid of getting enlightened, afraid of becoming a Buddha, afraid of gaining understanding. Because once you understand, you can't continue to do confused things. So now in our Buddha-hall some lay-people know clearly something is wrong, but they want to do it anyway. They are quite clear that it's wrong to break the precepts, but they are determined to do so. They know quite well that taking drugs is wrong, but they do it anyway. Before you have studied the Buddhadharma, if you made mistakes, it's not important now. But once you understand the Buddhadharma, if you continue to make mistakes this is called, "Clearly knowing and deliberately violating the rules." If you do this, your offenses are tripled. Say originally you didn't know about the law and broke it and got five years in jail. If once you get out you break it again, you get 20 years for the second offense. So those who have made mistakes better hurry and change. Those who haven't made mistakes should be even more vigorous in their cultivation. Don't deliberately violate the rules. That's just
A mistake on top of a mistake
Confusion atop confusion
Suffering in suffering...
It's very dangerous, dangerous within dangerous. You're bound to be drawing very close to the hells; the realm of brute creation, or the realm of hungry ghosts are in your future for sure.
When people make mistakes, on the first offense if they really repent, then there's still hope. When they commit it the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth times and keep it up, they are increasing their offense to astronomical proportions. The more you do it the lower you're bound to fall. If you can return from the road of confusion, hurry and get back on the right track then
Although the sea of suffering is boundless,
A turn of the head is the other shore.
The sea of pain has no limit whatsoever, but once you change, you have made it across. People who have made mistakes must change. Those who haven't should work even harder to do better. Confucius said, "If you have committed offenses, don't be afraid to reform." If you have made mistakes, don't be afraid to change. If you're afraid to reform, then your offenses will always be with you. But if you can reform then those offenses disappear.
"SARIPUTRA, JUST AS THAT ELDER, ALTHOUGH HE HAD A POWERFUL BODY AND POWERFUL ARMS, DID NOT USE THEM, BUT MERELY APPLIED EXPEDIENTS WITH DILIGENCE TO SAVE ALL THE CHILDREN FROM DISASTER IN THE BURNING HOUSE, AND AFTERWARDS GAVE TO EACH OF THEM A GREAT CART ADORNED WITH PRECIOUS JEWELS, IN THE SAME WAY THE THUS COME ONE, ALTHOUGH HE HAS POWERS AND FEARLESSNESSES, DOES NOT USE THEM.
Outline: This is part two of the section "casting aside the table," it is called identifying the analogy.
The Thus Come One's wisdom is hard to understand and hard to comprehend. That is why the Buddha bestows the provisional for the sake of the real, for the sake of the real wisdom he teaches clever, expedient Dharma doors.
Sariputra calls Sakyamuni Buddha. Sariputra is foremost among the Sound Hearer Disciples in wisdom. However, when you talk about the wisdom of the Bodhisattvas, he certainly doesn't rank first there. Manjusri is first of the Bodhisattvas in wisdom.
Just as that Elder, previously mentioned, although he had a powerful body and powerful arms, previously that was an analogy for the Buddha's spiritual powers. The Buddha's spiritual powers are inexhaustible in their wonderful function, but he did not use them. Although the Buddha has spiritual powers and real wisdom, and he can use spiritual powers to teach living beings, he doesn't. Although he could teach living beings with real wisdom, he doesn't. What does he keep them back for? Is the Buddha too stingy to use them, fearing he will use them up? Is he afraid to use a little of his wisdom? Then why doesn't he use them? But merely applied expedients with diligence, he is very busy and does not rest, using clever expedient Dharma doors. He bestows the provisional for the sake of the real; teaching the Three Vehicles for the sake of the One Buddha Vehicle. The Three Vehicles are those of Sound Hearers, Conditioned Enlightened Ones, and the Bodhisattvas.
To save all the children from disaster in the burning house. He uses the clever expedient Dharma-doors to save all the living beings. He rescues all the thirty sons. "Thirty" represents the Sound Hearers, Conditioned Enlightened Ones, and the Bodhisattvas--those of the Three Vehicles. He saves the thirty sons and also five hundred people, that is, the beings in the five destinies. The five hundred people represent living beings in general. The thirty children are the children of the Buddha, his true sons, his "sons by blood." He rescues all living beings from disaster in the burning house, from the Triple World in which no peace can be found, the Triple World, which is like a burning house. The burning house is very dangerous and if you don't find a way to get out, you are going to burn to death: that would be "disaster."
Burned by what fire? By the fire of the three poisons--greed, hatred, and stupidity. In the three realms-the realm of desire, the realm of form and the formless realm, one is burned by greed, hatred, and stupidity, and it is incredibly dangerous.
And afterwards gave to each of them a great cart adorned with precious jewels. The Buddha used the Sheep Carts, the Deer Carts, and the Ox Carts, saying there were three carts outside the door and in this way he "cheated" the children into running out of the house. Then he gave each of the kids a Great White Ox Cart. This Great White Ox Cart was adorned with all manner of precious gems--the Six Perfections and the Ten Thousand Conducts. The Great White Ox Cart is just the Great Vehicle. The Great Vehicle here referred to is the Buddha Vehicle, not the Bodhisattva Vehicle.
There is only the Buddha Vehicle;
There are no other vehicles.
So it is a cart adorned with precious things.
Then why didn't Shakyamuni Buddha employ the Great White Ox Cart before? Why did he say there were Three Carts? It was because if he had talked about the Great White Ox Carts, the children wouldn't have been able to formulate any conception of what they were like, so he just said, "I have Sheep Carts, and Deer Carts, and Ox Carts." Little children like little things and if you would have talked about a Great Cart, they might have gotten scared and not dared think of wanting them. Likewise, if you don't mention the Sound Hearer, Conditioned Enlightened, or Bodhisattva Vehicle, but start right out talking about the Buddha Vehicle, people--haven't I said this before?--will be afraid. If you tell people the straight truth, they get scared. "How could that be? How could we become Buddhas?" they think. Ah...they retreat. Not only do they fail to go forward, but they recoil, they turn back. That is why the Buddha employed the clever expedient devices to pamper the kids, like babysitting for them. Babysitters have to know how to speak the children's language. Otherwise they can't do a good job. The Buddha knows that living beings haven't such great wisdom and that is why he speaks of the Three Vehicles. He waited until the Dharma Flower Assembly to let it all out in the open, to proclaim the entire substance of the Buddha Dharma to all living beings. He told all living beings they can all become Buddhas and that was like the gift of the Great Jeweled Cart.
Likewise, the Thus Come One, Sakyamuni Buddha is just like the Elder, giving the Great Cart to the children, because although he has powers, ten wisdom-powers, and fearlessnesses, four fearlessnesses, he does not use them, he doesn't use the real wisdom of the ten powers or the strength of the four fearlessnesses. Didn't I just say that the Buddha didn't use his spiritual powers, his real wisdom? Now, was he thinking that they were too valuable and he didn't want to use them up? No. It was because had he used real wisdom and the power of spiritual powers, living beings wouldn't have understood what he was doing. He didn't use them but spoke the clever expedients instead. But here, in the Dharma Flower Assembly, he opens the provisional to reveal the real and the entire Buddhadharma is told to living beings so that they can all quickly realize the Buddha Way.
HE MERELY USES WISDOM AND EXPEDIENTS TO RESCUE LIVING BEINGS FROM THE BURNING HOUSE OF THE TRIPLE WORLD, SPEAKING TO THEM OF THREE VEHICLES THAT OF SOUND HEARERS, PRATYEKA BUDDHAS, AND THE BUDDHA VEHICLE.
Outline: This is the second section in this section concerning the casting aside the table to use the carts. It is titled b. fitting the analogy of the use of the carts. It in turn divides into three sections of which the above is the first: l. fitting the analogy of the appropriateness of using three carts and the Buddha’s understanding of his children’s former thoughts.
Sakyamuni Buddha, then, bestowed the provisional for the sake of the real and merely spoke the expedients; these expedient dharmas are controlled by wisdom. With wise expedients, one observes the conditions and dispenses the teaching, speaking the dharma appropriate to the person. Like prescribing a drug for a certain illness, one teaches a certain dharma appropriate to that person. Living beings have many illnesses--greed, hatred, and stupidity being the most violent. These three poisons smother the life of wisdom of our Dharma body. Greed means one can never get enough. The more the better. There's no time of satiation. Would you say this was violent or not? Since one is never satisfied, one lusts day and night, at all times. There's no respite.
Hatred: "It's not the way I want it; you cross me and I'll explode with anger!" One can't even sleep at night trying to think of ways to get even. Once hatred arises, one manifests the asura face--and that's ugly. One's contorted features move to the middle of one's face--a big family, all united! They get together to do business. What business? Beating people! Refusing to speak! Scowling with a black face so that everyone runs off with their tails between their legs! Let's get out of here. This guy's a human bomb! He's an atom bomb looking for a place to explode." It's self-starting, too. It can go off anytime, without any official sanction. Not only do you hurt yourself, you hurt other people as well; not only do you hurt other people but you hurt yourself, too. How's that? Once that ignorance is set ablaze, every bit of self-discipline you had accumulated goes up in the blaze, along with your wisdom. I mean, take a look: angry people are incredibly stupid. If they weren't stupid, they wouldn't get angry! Which truly wise person has ever had a nasty temper?
So when you get angry, your facial features mobilize and move to the center of your face, united in battle. Hatred works like that: the asura-face. Angry people are all asuras. Now, am I indulging in name-calling here? No. Asuras just like to get angry. They have no other talent. All day long they express themselves by getting angry. Why do they get angry? Because they are greedy. Without greed, one would have no reason to get angry. And why do they get angry? Because they are stupid. If you were intelligent, you wouldn't get angry. Those who habitually get angry can be lumped together in the Dharma Realm of asuras. So greed, hatred, and Stupidity burn off your inherent wisdom, the merit and virtue of your Dharma body. It's the biggest fire there is.
The Buddha uses wisdom to speak expedient Dharma-doors and knows which Dharma to speak when he meets any given person. How's that? The Buddha speaks the Dharma with one single sound and living beings understand it according to their kind. When the Buddha speaks the Dharma, and people hear it, it is the doctrine of cultivation, which leads to the realization of Buddhahood. It wakes people up. When spirits hear it, they also give rise to the Bodhi-mind and cultivate to certify to the fruit. When Bodhisattvas hear it they also give rise to the Bodhi-mind. When the Arhats hear it, they do, too. Sound Hearers and Conditioned Enlightened Ones all give rise to the Bodhi-mind. The same is true for all living beings in the Nine Dharma Realms. No matter which living being, in whatever realm, when it hears the Buddha preach the Dharma, it gives rise to the Bodhi-mind. The Buddha uses one sound to speak the Dharma and living beings, in their different kinds, all understand the wonderfulness of it. That's what is meant by expedient wisdom. Using wise expedients one teaches and transforms living beings.
To rescue living beings from the burning house of the Triple World in the world of desire, the world of form, and the formless realm. He "rescues" them just as if extending his hand to living beings sinking in the mud, to pull them out to safety. Living beings trapped and immobile in the burning house of the Triple Realm are just on the verge of dying in the conflagration, and along comes the Buddha, the Cosmic Fireman, with fire extinguisher in hand, to save living beings, to give them a hand, and he's not afraid of dying himself. The Buddha runs right into the Triple Realm, to help us and he's not afraid for his own life. So, see how compassionate the Buddha is towards us. Hearing this, people with even the slightest trace of conscience should be weeping bitter tears, "The Buddha is so good to us. If we don't cultivate now...Why! we can't even be considered human! We're gonna fall right into the hells, right in with the hungry ghosts, right into the animal realm." So how can we cry over some long lost friend, or some relative who's in trouble? Here we are, ourselves, just about ready to burn to death in the burning house and the Buddha forsakes his very life to save all living beings. If we didn't cultivate now we are really letting the Buddha down. We are flying in the face of the Buddha's compassion kindness, joy, and giving. His kindness bestows joy, his compassion relieves us of our sufferings. He's saving us from our suffering so we can be happy. We really should bring forth the Bodhi-mind. Don't be lazy like you were before. You should know a little shame and not continue to be as hostile as you were before. Wake up! The Buddha's waiting for us.
"But Dharma Master," you say, "you just told us that the Buddha freely parts with his very life in order to save us. Since he has already become a Buddha, does he still have to die?"The Buddha doesn't die, right, but living beings do. Although the Buddha has ended birth and death and won't die again, we have not. And, again, our lives are just the Buddha's life. That is why if we don't hurry up and end birth and death by cultivating the Way we will be then in effect dragging the Buddha around to die with us. Now! Hurry up and bring forth the Bodhi mind! Make progress with vigor and don't be lazy anymore. The Buddha discriminated and spoke of three vehicles in order to teach and transform living beings, speaking to them of three vehicles that of Sound Hearers, Pratyeka Buddhas, and the Buddha Vehicle. Three carts are hitched and waiting for us. Whichever cart you want, you pick it out. You can't just listen to it; go and take your share. The Buddha has given us the three vehicles and we all have a share in it. If you want a Great White Ox Cart, he will give it to you. If you would rather have a deer cart, he's got one in stock. If you want a sheep cart, the compact model, that's okay, too. If you don't want any of them--then the Buddha has no way to save you.