Sutra text from last issue:The eightfold division is comprised of the gods, dragons, yakshas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, kinnaras, and mahoragas.
There are four kinds of asuras. Asuras have huge tempers. People who have big tempers are controlled by asuras. People with explosive temperaments who are always getting angry, whether they are right or wrong, are considered asuras. In the heavens, asuras are called "those without wine." Why is that? There is no wine to drink in the heavens. They are also known as "nongods" because they are not legal “citizens” of the heavens. They entered the heavens illegally. Asuras are one of the three good paths, but since they are illegal in the heavens, they are constantly at war with Lord Shakra's heavenly troops, hoping to overthrow Shakra (the Jade Emperor) and usurp his throne.
There are four kinds of asuras. They can live in the heavens and enjoy the blessings of the gods, but they do not have any authority there. Their status in the heavens is like that of illegal aliens in America, who live in America and can eat American bread and butter and enjoy American blessings, but who are not qualified to manage the country’s affairs or take part in the government. That’s the asuras.
Garudas are the great golden-winged Peng birds. They also have the ability to grow large or small, and to appear and disappear at will. Their wingspan is 330 yojanas. One yojana is 40 miles long, so you can see how long 330 yojanas must be! With one flap of its wings, a Peng bird dries up the waters of the sea so that it can gobble up all the exposed dragons--big, little, young, and old!
“Do they really have such great skill?” you ask. This is not considered great. Garudas have very great spiritual penetrations, and dragons used to fear them more than anything. But since the garudas have taken refuge with the Buddha, they live in peace with the dragons and don't eat them anymore. Chapter One of the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra explains the four kinds of garudas.
Garudas, that is, golden-winged Peng birds, have very great skill. Their spiritual penetrations and transformations are inconcievable. With one flap of their wings, they can dry up the oceans. With another flap of their wings, they can level the mountains by moving them into the ocean.
Kinnaras are called "doubtful spirits," because they look like humans, except that they have a single horn growing on top of their heads. They also make extremely fine music.
Mahoragas are spirits of huge pythons. The gods, dragons, and the rest of the eightfold division are former demons, ghosts, and goblins who reformed and became Dharma-protectors of Buddhism. So you see, bad people sometimes turn around and become good. As it is said, "The sea of suffering is boundless; yet a turn of the head is the other shore." Those who have committed the ten evil deeds or the five rebellious acts can still start anew and become good. Since the ghosts and spirits of the eightfold division felt bad about the harm they had done to Buddhism before, they vowed to protect Buddhism. This is a general explanation of the eightfold division of ghosts and spirits.
There were also beings human and non-human. People came to protect the Buddha's teaching and support the Triple Jewel, and so did other kinds of beings.
The immeasurable great multitude respectfully surrounded him, and he spoke Dharma for them. The countless beings in the Dharma assembly respectfully surrounded the Bhagavan as he spoke the Dharma for them, as well as for living beings of the future.
At that time, the Dharma Prince Manjushri, receiving the awesome inspiration of the Buddha, rose from his seat, bared one of his shoulders, knelt on his right knee, and, inclining his head and placing his palms together, said to the Bhagavan, "World Honored One! We wish you would speak about such Dharmas as the Buddhas' names, the great vows they made in the past, and their supreme merit and virtue, so that those who hear them will be rid of their karmic hindrances. This request is also for the sake of bringing benefit and joy to sentient beings in the Dharma-Image Age."
At that time, the Dharma Prince Manjushri. The Buddha is the Dharma King, and the Bodhisattvas are Dharma Princes. Since Manjushri, as a Bodhisattva of Equal Enlightenment, is due to achieve Buddhahood very soon, he is called a Dharma Prince, the son of the Dharma King. Receiving the awesome inspiration of the Buddha. He respectfully received the awesome spiritual power of the Buddhas of the ten directions and rose from his seat.
He bared one of his shoulders. He uncovered his right shoulder. Why did he do this? First of all, it was a custom in India, where the weather is extremely warm, for people to expose their right shoulders in order to let the hot air escape from under their clothes. In this way they could keep themselves cool. Secondly, uncovering the right shoulder is a way to show respect for the Buddha. When one uncovers the right shoulder, one is according with worldly conventions on the one hand and seeking the transcendental Dharma on the other. The real and the conventional are inseparable and do not obstruct each other. Manjushri Bodhisattva knelt on his right knee, and, inclining his head and placing his palms together, said to the Bhagavan—the World Honored One. This represents respect in both body and mind and the purity of the three karmas.
"World Honored One! We wish you would speak about such Dharmas. All of us in the Dharma assembly are of one mind right now. We all hope the Buddha will speak of such dharmas as the Buddhas' names, the names of Medicine Master Lapis Lazuli Light Tathagata and the Buddhas in the ten directions, the great vows they made in the past, and their supreme merit and virtue. Please tell us how they amassed such supreme merit and virtue when they were practicing the Bodhisattva Way.
...so that those who hear them will be rid of their karmic hindrances. When living beings hear of the Buddhas' vows and of their merit and virtue, offenses and karmic hindrances will disappear and they will return to purity!
This request is also for the sake of bringing benefit and joy to sentient beings in the Dharma-Image Age. We wish all living beings to be free from worry and suffering. In the Dharma-Image Age, people will build many temples and Buddha images, but there will be very few real cultivators. Manjushri Bodhisattva is requesting the Buddha to speak Dharma for those in the assembly, as well as for people in the Dharma-Image and Dharma-Ending Ages.
to be continued