One day during winter break, my sister and I were driving from her house to Fremont. The ride was about 30-40 minutes. On our way, she mentioned that she would join the delegation to Taiwan, Hongkong, and Malaysia and that one of the requirements specified on the application form was the memorization of the “Essay for Bowing to the Avatamsaka [Flower Adornment] Sutra.” She had memorized it in Chinese and was working on the English memorization, and she wished me to do that as well. Thinking I had nothing to do, I replied, “Why not?” Therefore she would say one line at a time, give a brief elaboration, and ask me to repeat it three times. In this way, upon arriving home, I had already memorized one third of the text and was full of Dharma bliss. Even though I had not planned to go with the delegation, I finished memorizing the rest of the essay after I came back to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (CTTB), with the hope of following the ancients’ great vow and developing a share of my inherent wisdom.
If you have ever read or memorized this text, then you would know that it is easy to do because there are the familiar names of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and the verse to break open the doors of the hells.
In Taiwan there was a very famous line from an advertisement for coffee which stated: “Good things should be shared with good friends!” Individual happiness is not as good as group happiness. Therefore I suggest we can study and read this essay earlier for two reasons: to rejoice and participate in the chanting of the
Avatamsaka Sutra daily at 7:00 a.m., as encouraged earlier by a Dharma Master, and secondly, in preparation for the
Avatamsaka Sutra Recitation that will be held in June at CTTB.
As we know, the Avatamsaka Sutra, which is hard to encounter in hundreds of thousands of eons, teaches the practices of becoming a Buddha. After attaining this Sutra, Dhyana Master Shou Sui from Dahong Shan in Sui Zhou of Song Dyanasty regarded the
Avatamsaka Sutra as the “great treasure,” wrote this essay and made his vows. The Dhyana Master, a native of Yunyang in Hubei province, left the householder life at Feng Shan Aranya. He was a disciple who had inherited the Dharma from Dhyana Master Zhen Xie (Truly Rest) Qing Liao of Dahong Shan. He wrote a commentary for the Three Sutras Bequeathed by the Buddha which is still widely studied. Below is the “Essay for Bowing to the Avatamsaka Sutra” (English translated by the Buddhist Text Translation Society in 2003):
I bow to the oceanic, true nature of the Avatamsaka Sutra.
All manner of radiance pervasively shines from
the Honored One.
The myriad practices of Samantabbadra act as adornments,
And in the Treasury of the Dharma Realm, all is truly “thus.”
Nagarjuna personally went to the Dragon’s Palace
and memorized it.
Shikshananda of Khotan expounded it in detail.
The Unified Vehicle: a sudden and wondrous Dharma-door;
Its true and subtle doctrines teach us to see the Nature
and become a Buddha.
As my hands now hold it, my eyes now see it, and I
now recite it with my mouth and mind,
Surely there are great causes and conditions from the past.
So that upon seeing and hearing this Sutra, I give
my joyful support,
And resolve my heart on realizing Bodhi: I will ultimately
realize the Wisdom of Omniscience.
Homage to the teaching Host, Vairocana Buddha, the Kindly Honored One of the Flower Treasury world-systems, whose treasured verses’ golden words unroll the jade scroll of scriptures, where myriads of worlds blend together and a multitude of Buddha lands interpenetrate.
Ten billion, ninety-five thousand and forty eight words in all are the Unified Vehicle’s perfect teaching: The Great Flower Adornment Sutra of the Buddha’s Expanded Mahayana Teachings.
If one wishes to fully understand
All Buddhas of the three periods of time,
Simply contemplate the nature of the Dharma Realm:
How everything is made from the mind alone.
I vow to make offerings to and revere the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas
of the Nine Assemblies and Seven Places.
I vow to always realize and teach the Five Themes and Four
Divisions of the Avatamsaka Sutra.
I vow to unceasingly make offerings to the Bodhisattvas like dust
motes in the Tenfold Buddhalands of the Nine Assemblies.
I vow to always awaken to and propagate The Great Flower
Adornment Sutra of the Buddha’s Expanded Mahayana Teachings.
Moreover, I disciple___humbly vow that in every life, and everywhere,
My eyes will always see this Sutra,
My ears will always hear this Sutra,
My mouth will always recite this Sutra,
My hands will always write out this Sutra, and
My mind will always comprehend this Sutra.
I vow in every life, and everywhere, to always draw near to all
the Worthy Sages of the world-systems of the Flower Treasury.
May they always kindly gather me in.
I vow to realize everything that is taught in this Sutra.
I vow to be the same as the Bodhisattvas Sudhana,
The Buddha Vairocana.
I vow that by means of the meritorious virtue acquired from praising this Sutra and making these vows, that together with the Four Benefactors, those in the Three Realms of Existence, and all living beings in the Dharma Realm, I shall eradicate immeasurable faults and defilements from beginningless time, to the exhaustion of empty space and the Dharma Realm;
I vow that together with the Four Benefactors, those in the Three Realms of Existence, and all living beings in the Dharma Realm, I shall dissolve immeasurable enmity and injustice from beginningless time, to the exhaustion of empty space and the Dharma Realm;
I vow that together with the Four Benefactors, those in the Three Realms of Existence, and all living beings in the Dharma Realm, I shall accumulate immeasurable blessings and wisdom from beginningless time, to the exhaustion of empty space and the Dharma Realm;
We shall all roam through the seas of world-systems of the Flower Treasury; and together we shall enter the great field of Bodhi.