Tonight I’d like to share some stories about Shakyamuni Buddha. They are from
The Shastra on Great Wisdom Paramita, Roll 27. This particular section of the Shastra is on the
Nirvana Sutra. I hope that these stories can inspire people.
We all know that the Buddha’s states are vast and profound like space. The Buddha not only demonstrated a very lofty character but also led others by his exemplary conduct. As a Sutras says,
The Buddha has cut off the habits of afflictions with the Wisdom of All Modes.” … “When the fire burns at the end of the kalpa, it burns everything in the Three Thousand Great Thousand World System into ashes with nothing left. This is because the fire has great burning power. The fire of the Buddha’s Wisdom of All Modes is also like this.
At the end of the kalpa, the fire will burn up the whole Trichilicosm with nothing left whatsoever. This is because the fire has great burning power. The Buddha’s wisdom power is also like this. It can burn away all the remaining lingering habits.
In one example, there was once a Brahman. He swore at the Buddha with all (500) kinds of harsh words. The Buddha’s facial expression did not change at all, nor was he moved at heart. As a result this Brahman became subdued. Then he praised the Buddha with all (500) kinds of words of praise. The Buddha did not exhibit a pleased expression, nor was he delighted because of this. This Brahman was subdued once again. With regard to praise or slander, the Buddha was not the least bit moved.
Another time, there was the woman Chinca-Manavika. She feigned pregnancy by placing a basin on her belly beneath her clothes. She then went around slandering the Buddha, saying that the Buddha had made her pregnant. The Buddha was not angered with her, nor did he show a happy appearance after the truth was revealed and things were clarified.”
When the Buddha was turning the Dharma Wheel, praises filled the ten directions, yet the Buddha did not become arrogant.
At another time when the Buddha was in the country of the Alavi, it was very windy and cold. The Buddha’s dwelling place had a lot of thorns. The Buddha sat in lotus posture and rested without feeling bitter about it. The Buddha was also once at the Garden of Happiness in the heavens during a summer retreat. He sat upon a padded stone. It was very soft and clean, yet the Buddha did not feel happy because of this. When the Buddha was receiving the offerings from those great heavenly kings, the Buddha did not regard them as wonderful delicacies. On another occasion when the Buddha was in the town of Veranja, he was only offered horse feed for his meals, but he did not dislike or detest it. When great kings made delicious offerings to the Buddha, he did not see it as great benefit that he deserved. When the Buddha once went on an almsround in the village of Sara, he returned with an empty bowl, without feeling that he had taken a loss that day.
When Devadatta at Mount Gridhrakuta (Vulture Peak) tried to kill the Buddha by pushing a big rock to crush the Buddha to pieces, the Buddha did not harbor hatred. When Rahula, the Buddha’s son, extolled the Buddha with reverence, the Buddha did not give rise to delight. When King Ajatashatru released five drunken elephants, hoping they would trample the Buddha to death, the Buddha did not fear them. He opened his palm and his five fingers turned into five roaring lions, which scared these five elephants out of their wits.
Because of this, the people of Rajagriha city respected and adored the Buddha even more. They made offerings of fragrant flowers and decorative beads to the Buddha. The Buddha did not become elated. There were then 96 kinds of practitioners of heterodox paths, which met together, plotting to defeat and shame the Buddha in debate. At that time, the Buddha emitted light from his navel and manifested his complete spiritual penetrations. Within the light, there appeared transformation Buddhas. The light caused those who practiced heterodox paths to be unable to move at all, how much the less to debate with the Buddha. When the Buddha saw those practitioners of heterodox paths approaching with malice, he did not retreat. After he subdued those people, he inspired the gods and humans to be even more reverential and to make offerings; seeing all these, his mind also did not puff up and get carried away.
Just as pure gold will not change its color after being smelted, the Buddha underwent all these kinds of ordeals yet his mind did not increase or decrease. Hence we know that all Buddhas have cut off all the habits of afflictions entirely.
We can also take a look at some of the Buddha’s disciples. Although they had certified to the fruition of sages, they still had some residual habits.
Because Ven. Nanda had the residual habit of lust, after he certified to Arhartship, when in the assembly he would always look at the women’s side first before speaking the Dharma. Shariputra still had the residual habit of anger. When Shariputra heard the Buddha tell him that what he was eating was dirty, he vomited immediately. Hence he refused to go on to receive the offering. Mahakashyapa, because his residual habit of anger, ordered Ven. Ananda to repent of his eight kinds of
dushkrita offenses [minor offenses in the Bhikshu Precepts] during the compilation of the Dharma after the Buddha’s nirvana. Then he said to Ananda while taking his hand to lead him out, “We are not going to compile the Dharma with someone like you who is impure, whose outflows are still not cut off.”
To sum it up: What do all of these stories and examples tell us? All of these stories I have spoken tonight are examples of the Buddha’s incredible patience. Among the Six Paramitas, the Paramita of Patience is the most difficult to practice. If we observe how other people do things and what they say, we can tell what kind of character, temperament, potential, and limitations they have. If one can have a major spiritual breakthrough based on patience, then one can lay down the foundation for becoming a great leader; for a left-home person, one can lay down a solid foundation for accomplishing the Spiritual Path so as to become a future Dharma King in the Saha World.
There is still one or two minutes left. I’d like to reflect on the Chan Session we have just finished. According to the tradition, those who participate in the Chan Session are meant to focus on their cultivation, rather than engage in other distracting matters. This year I was lucky enough that I could cultivate without being distracted. However, compared with other Dharma brothers, I was far behind them in terms of vigor. In the morning I sometimes still missed two or three sitting periods, while other Dharma brothers stuck it out without missing any period. They could get up at 2:30 in the morning. This, in a sense, shows a person’s patience, because, to practice what is difficult to practice takes a tremendous amount of patience. In this way, they serve as great examples for me to learn from.