Venerable Master, All Good Advisors:
My name is Guo Zi, Heng Jyun. After three and a half years, I'm quite surprised and glad to be back to create some affinities in the Dharma at the City of 10,000 Buddhas (CTTB). Having been back for ten days, I have heard many people come up on stage to ask some interesting questions during the evening lectures. There were some incredible answers too. Here, I would like to join in and do the same. I found an answer coincidentally in some of the tapes of the Venerable Master's earlier instructions. Perhaps this is the right answer.
Someone had asked, "In the praise of Avatamsaka (Flower Adornment) Sutra, there's a line, "One phrase encompasses all." Which phrase is it? This is a wonderful question. Wonderful because I have found an answer, though I don't know whether it's correct or not. If anyone wishes to research and read through this book, the answer is that, "All the principles in the Avatamsaka can be embodied by these three words: 'great means expansive'." If you're interested, you may look on page 112 of the fourth volume of the Venerable Master's commentary on the Avatamsaka Sutra Prologue [Chinese edition].
This is because these three words, "great means expansive" represent the great substance, great characteristics, and great functions of this Sutra. We know the states of the Avatamsaka Sutra are repetitive. Some people claim that there is too much repetition. If it's difficult for us to understand, why is there so much said? At times, it even feels cumbersome. However, the Venerable Master told us that the repetition has its meaning. If you understand, then you understand that the repetition represents the completeness of our self-nature, its inconceivable quality of being replete with everything. When we recite this Sutra, we should not be using our discriminating mind. If you are not skeptical, but rather, you believe in the words of this Sutra, then when your skill reaches a certain level, you will naturally understand the Sutra text. If we use the discriminating mind to think about this line, then think about that line, this passage and then that passage, and the relationship between this chapter and that chapter, then we're simply using the knowledge and perspective of common people. Especially with regard to the states of the Avatamsaka Sutra, only Bodhisattvas of the Ten Ground will understand. Therefore, no matter how we ponder and investigate, we will only have the knowledge and opinions of ordinary beings. From the perspective of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, these are all quite absurd.
Once someone asked the Venerable Master, "What year was the Buddha born?" The Venerable Master told him, "Why do you need to know? Once you know, you can only become a scholar, but you can't be liberated from birth and death." Every line in the Avatamsaka Sutra is a most supreme jewel of Dharma. Our roots of goodness and wisdom will grow if we are able to hear any of its sounds, and read or recite any one of its words. Each of the forty-two syllables in the Avatamsaka Syllabary can eliminate offense karma. I especially checked on the Venerable Master's instructions with regard to the Syllabary. Each syllable is an inconceivable dharma door. Just as beings of the Saha world have tremendous affinities with Amitabha Buddha and Medicine Master Buddha so that we may eradicate our offenses through bowing in repentance and reciting the names of these Buddhas, every one of the forty-two syllables also has this power.
We are now reciting the part on the fifty-three visits of the Youth Good Wealth. Once someone had asked the Venerable Master, "Why doesn't the Youth Good Wealth just finish asking all of his questions at once and get it over with? Wouldn't that be better? Otherwise, isn't it tiring to have to run around and ask this and that person? It's quite wearisome. Isn't it better to just ask them all at once?"
I don't know if you have had any similar thoughts. The Venerable Master responded, "It is because the Youth Good Wealth and these good advisors have affinities from the past; therefore, he has to learn from them one by one. There are steps to learning too."
That's why, along the way, he met Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, who taught him a dharma door and recommended the next Good Advisor to him. At this point, someone else also asked the Venerable Master, "Guanshiyin Bodhisattva's level isn't so high, there are others who are higher than he! If I had known, I would just be mindful of the next Good Advisor. Guanshiyin Bodhisattva isn't so powerful and his level is not high enough." The Venerable Master answered, "Since Guanshiyin Bodhisattva knew that the Youth Good Wealth had the causal affinities to be the other Good Advisor's disciple, he told him to go and learn from the other Good Advisor. That's the situation."
Every roll and every chapter the Avatamsaka Sutra becomes more and more profound. Its principles are elucidated so that we further understand how to cultivate the Bodhisattva path and become Buddhas. We understand the principles of this path even more perfectly. The chapters are all connected. How are they related?
If someone asked, "Is understanding the Avatamsaka Sutra equivalent to understanding other Sutras?" If that's the case, then it's easier to have just understood other Sutras rather than to understand the Avatamsaka Sutra.
The Venerable Master's response was, "The principles of these Sutras are all the same, but those of the Avatamsaka surpass all others."