During the Fifth Period of the Buddha's
teaching, both the Dharma Flower and Nirvana Sutras were spoken.
Since the former lasted eight years, and the latter only one day and
one night, together they are said to have been spoken in eight
years. The purpose of the Buddha's life was to speak
The Dharma Flower Sutra, called the "Wonderful Dharma".
The Dharma Flower Sutra is "purely complete and solitarily wonderful". Purely
complete means it is the Purest Complete
Teaching; it is not mixed with the Store, Penetrating, and
Differentiating Teachings. Thus The Dharma Flower Sutra is
most important in Buddhism.
It cannot be said that students of the
Buddhadharma who have not read, recited or heard The Dharma
Flower Sutra understand the Buddhadharma. Why? Because the goal
of the Buddha was to speak The Dharma Flower Sutra. If you
are a disciple of the Buddha and do not know this Sutra,
you, in fact, do not know the Buddhadharma. Why? Because you have
not understood the "Wonderful Dharma".
The Dharma Flower Sutra is like the
blazing sun in mid-heaven illumining all the mountains, rivers and
the great earth, all the myriad appearances, whether dark valleys,
tall forests, or inhabited places. Everything receives the universal
illumination of its light. Therefore everyone in the Dharma Flower
Assembly will obtain Buddhahood.
During the lecturing of The Shurangama Sutra did I not say:
"If people with scattered minds
Enter pagodas or temples,
And once proclaim Namo Buddhaya,
They all will accomplish the Buddha way."
Sakyamuni Buddha gave a prediction to all
mankind: "These people do not have to
turn their minds to one. If they enter pagodas or temples, and once
proclaim Namo Buddhaya, they all will accomplish the Buddha way."
Or perhaps they merely raise one palm, a most disrespectful way to
worship the Buddha, or slightly bow the head. They all will
accomplish the Buddha way.
If we bow to the Buddha and are mindful of the
Buddha, in the future we will certainly accomplish Buddhahood.
However, you should not give rise to arrogant self-satisfaction,
thinking, "If just raising one palm or slightly bowing the head
with a scattered mind accomplishes Buddhahood, then the merit
and virtue of my sincerity and worship must be great indeed." Although raising
one palm or bowing the head slightly in worship enables one to
accomplish Buddhahood, we who understand the Buddhadharma should add
more sincerity to our sincerity, and in our respect become ever more
respectful. To do this is to be heroically vigorous in Buddhism. You
should not arrogantly say, "He only raises
one palm or mindlessly nods his head to worship the Buddha, and yet
he accomplishes Buddhahood; I don’t have to cultivate, in the future
I will surely become a Buddha." Don’t be so self-satisfied.
The Dharma Flower Sutra is the Complete
Teaching of the Eight Teachings. It is also the Complete of the Four
Teachings. What are the Four Teachings? They are the Store（藏）,
Penetrating（通）, Differentiating（別）, and Complete（圓）Teachings. These four are
called the "Four Transforming Dharma Teachings"（化法四教）. The other Four Teachings are
called the "Four Transforming Deportment Teachings"（化儀四教）. Together they are called the
The Four Transforming Dharma Teachings and the
Four Transforming Deportment Teachings are analogous to
prescriptions and medicines. If you only get the prescription, and
do not use the medicine, then the sickness cannot be cured. If you
have a prescription and know which sickness it cures, then you must
use the medicine. After the medicine has been used, the sickness can
go away. Therefore the Four Transforming Deportment Teachings are
the Sudden（頓）, Gradual（漸）, Secret（秘密）and Unfixed（不定）Teachings. Together with the
Four Transforming Dharma Teachings these are called the Eight
Teachings. Of these, the Complete Teaching is full and perfect.
If a Sudden is added to Complete...Sudden
means immediately accomplish Buddhahood. It is not necessary to
wait. This character "tun"（頓） is not the "tun"（鈍） which means slow-witted;
it means immediately, suddenly. It means to spontaneously open
enlightenment. The Sixth Patriarch spoke the Sudden Teaching;
the Great Master Shen Hsiu spoke the Gradual Teaching. Gradual
means to cultivate slowly, step after step. Sudden means to spontaneously
open enlightenment; Gradual means to slowly, slowly open enlightenment.
The Secret Teaching refers to the secret
Dharmas taught by the Buddha; all mantras are secret teachings. Secret means "you
speak for one and another doesn't know." You speak Dharma for one person and he
knows, but another person doesn't know. You speak for that one and
this one doesn't know. Because there is no mutual knowing, it is secret.
The Unfixed Teaching refers to Unfixed Dharmas
spoken by the Buddha. "Dharma should be gotten rid of, how much the more so non-dharma."
There is no fixed Dharma. Unfixed Dharma is just Live Dharma, and Live Dharma
is being without attachments. In response to people instruction is
offered; in response to sickness, medicine is prescribed. You teach
and transform according to the person; you prescribe medicine
according to the person's illness. Opposing disease, give medicine;
in opposition to the problem, you speak Dharma. This is the Unfixed Teaching.
The Eight Teachings divide the Five Periods:
The Sunrise Period; Bright Illumination Period; Reflective
Illumination Period; Proper Illumination Period; and the fifth, the
Dharma Flower and Nirvana Period, when the sun is in mid-heaven and
people have no shadows at all. Those are the Five Periods and Eight
Teachings. Of Dharmas, which the Buddha spoke, none go beyond these
Five Periods and Eight Teachings. Just to hear the name Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower
Sutra, without even speaking of hearing it lectured, is
already to have planted good roots; the name is not easy to hear.
What is more, the Buddha both accomplished
Buddhahood and spoke Dharma for 49 years, lecturing Sutras in over
300 assemblies, all for the sake of The Dharma Flower Sutra.
When the Buddha first spoke The Avatamsaka Sutra,
the people of the two vehicles were unable to receive it, so it is
said, "For the sake of the great, speak the small." The Buddha then
did not speak the lofty, deep theories, but instead spoke the
shallow principles of the Agamas, a teaching delivered for the
people of the two vehicles. After the Agamas he spoke the Vrajna
Sutras; he went step by step. After the Vrajna Period, the Prajna
Sutras were spoken; he instructed people to give birth to wisdom.
Possessing wisdom you can obtain penetration of
the wonderful Dharma of The Dharma Flower Sutra; you have
reached the level of realization where you can hear The Dharma
The Dharma Flower Sutra is most
difficult to hear, most difficult to encounter. When Sakyamuni
Buddha spoke The Dharma Flower Sutra there were 5,000 bhiksus
who stood up, walked out, and did not listen. The Dharma, which the
Buddha spoke, was too unbelievable and so they got up and left. This
Sutra is not easy to believe. Before speaking The Dharma Flower
Sutra the Buddha said, "Cease! Cease! Cease!" Cease what?
It was just to say, "I won't speak! I won't speak! I won't speak
The Dharma Flower Sutra. Why? My Dharma is so subtle and hard to
conceive that these people will not easily believe. I will not speak
it at all." However, Maitreya Bodhisattva had to hear Sakyamuni
Buddha speak The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra.
Sakyamuni Buddha toiled bitterly for several
decades preparing to speak The Dharma Flower Sutra. Therefore
it is said, "For the sake of the actual, give the provisional."
It was just for The Dharma Flower Sutra, the Complete Teaching's
real mark wonderful principle, that he spoke the Agama,
Vaipulya and Prajna Sutras; All Dharmas
spoken in these dharma assemblies paved the road for The Dharma
Flower Sutra. It is like paving a road to Washington, D.C.,
America's capitol. When construction begins, the goal is to get to
Washington, D.C. After years of hard work, the road reaches
Washington, D.C. Although the road is finished, some people will not
want to go to Washington, D.C., and say, "You wanted to make a road;
now you have it. But I'm not going there." The retreating of the
5,000 Bhiksus was just like this.
Now that The Dharma Flower Sutra is
being lectured, surely all of the three thousand great thousand
worlds will emit light; all of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the
ten directions will be especially happy; and investigators of the
Buddhadharma will certainly steal some time in their busy schedules
to come study and listen to The Dharma Flower Sutra. This is
an extremely wonderful Sutra, and if we allow this opportunity to
slip by, then we will not obtain "the Wonderful". "The Wonderful"
not obtained, it will change into "not wonderful". All of us do not
want the "not Wonderful"; we should seek "the Wonderful". If we wish
to seek "the Wonderful", we must first do bitter work, and steal
time from our business to come and investigate the "Wonderful Dharma".
If you have a solid and enduring mind, come and
investigate this "Wonderful Dharma". The firm and durable mind is
necessary in order to understand completely.
Prior to explaining the meaning of every Sutra,
the Seven Classifications of Sutra Titles（七種立題）and the Five Esoteric
Meanings（五重玄義）are explained in accord with the rules of the T'ien T'ai School:
The Seven Classifications of Sutra Titles are
established by reference to a person, dharma, and analogy. They are
divided into three types: simple; double; and complete-in-one. In
simple titles, only one, a person, a dharma, or an analogy, is used.
In double titles, two together establish the name: person and
dharma, person and analogy, or analogy and dharma. The
complete-in-one uses all three together: person, dharma, and analogy.
An example of a simple title is The Buddha
Speaks of Amitabha Sutra（佛說阿彌陀經）. Both the Buddha and Amitabha are people, so it is said
that the title is established only by reference to people. The
Amitabha Sutra explains the Western Direction Pure Land
Dharma-Door to Amitabha Buddha's Land of Ultimate Bliss, therefore
the name "Amitabha Buddha" is used in the title. How did there come
to be a Land of Ultimate Bliss? Amitabha Buddha made 48 vows in the
causal ground when he was the Bhiksu Fa Tsang, all for the purpose
of crossing over living beings to be reborn in the Land of Ultimate
Bliss and ultimately accomplish Buddhahood. Therefore this Sutra, an
extremely important one, uses the name of Amitabha Buddha to represent it.
At the conclusion of the Dharma-Ending Age（末法時）, the
first Sutra to disappear will be The Shurangama Sutra（楞嚴經）, because it explains
all worldly principles-the 10,000 matters and 10,000 things-in great detail, and
"exposes the secrets of heaven and earth". After the disappearance of The
Shurangama Sutra, other Sutras will successively disappear, The Amitabha
Sutra being the very last to go. After the disappearance of The Amitabha
Sutra, what will be left? The Six character Vast Name, "Na Mo O Mi T'o Fo（南無阿彌陀佛）" (Namo-Homage to Amitabha Buddha). It will exist in the
world for 100 years, after which it will be shortened by two
characters leaving only "O Mi T'o Fo（阿彌陀佛）" (Amitabha Buddha),
which will then also last for 100 years. After that the entire
Buddhadharma will be cut off and completely extinguished. There will
be few people in the world at that time, since the Three Disasters
and Eight Difficulties1 will already have appeared. It will be
possible for the world to be extinguished. Therefore we should pay
special attention to The Amitabha Sutra, because in the
Dharma-Ending Age The Amitabha Sutra's Pure Land Dharma-Door
will be the most opportune for people.
Within the Dharma-Ending Age, however, there is
also a Proper Dharma Age（正法時）and a Dharma Image Age（像法時）. In a place where
there was previously no Buddhadharma, in a country where the
Buddhadharma had not previously been heard, there will be a new
beginning of the Buddhadharma which will be called the Proper Dharma
Age. The Dharma has just been transmitted to this country, and many
people here enjoy meditation and investigating the Buddhadharma.
Little by little they begin to practice the Buddhist customs, and so
it can be said to be the advent of the Proper Dharma Age.
The Nirvana Sutra（涅槃經）is an example of a
Sutra whose title is established by Dharma. Nirvana is a Dharma with
many meanings which include “not produced”, and “not destroyed”. It is the
Dharma of non-production and non-destruction.
An example of a title established by analogy
alone is The Brahma's Net Sutra（梵網經）. Brahma’s Net is the Great
Brahman Heaven King’s pearl-net curtain is cylindrically shaped and has
holes in it. Why is it called a net? It is like a fish net but it is
not for catching fish; it is an adornment. Because the Great Brahman
Heaven King likes his palace to be well equipped with magnificent and
beautiful adornments, he hung up this pearl-net curtain. In every
hole of the curtain is a light-emitting pearl, a luminous pearl.
Both by day and night they emit light. Each pearl is situated in
a hole; the lights mutually illumine and the holes mutually interpenetrate.
This is Brahma’s Net.
The Brahma's Net Sutra is the
Bodhisattva Precept Sutra. Why is Brahma’s Net used to represent the
title? It is just to say that the precepts are like light-emitting
pearls. If you are able to cultivate the precepts, you are able to
have light. Therefore it is called Brahma's Net Sutra.
In the double classification, an example of a
title established by person and Dharma is Manjusri's Questions on Prajna Sutra（文殊師利問般若經）.
Manjusri Bodhisattva is a person, and Prajna is a Dharma. It is a Prajna Sutra
called Manjusri's Questions on Prajna Sutra. Manjusri Bodhisattva is
the Bodhisattva of great knowledge and wisdom, and he raises questions on
Prajna. Wise people are able to inquire into Wisdom Dharmas
where people without wisdom are not able.
An example of a title established by person and
analogy is The Thus Come One's Lion Roar Sutra（如來獅子吼經）. Thus Come One is Buddha,
the first of the names common to all Buddhas. Lion's Roar is an analogy for the Dharmas,
which the Buddha speaks. When the lion roars the 100 animals
tremble. Whether you are a wolf, leopard, tiger, bear, or whatever
bad animal, upon hearing the lion's roar, you behave, and the mice,
rabbits, foxes, birds and other small animals all tremble.
What is an example of a title established by
Dharma and analogy? It is this Sutra, The Wonderful Dharma
Lotus Flower Sutra. The Wonderful Dharma is the Dharma,
and Lotus Flower is the analogy.
The complete-in-one classification was explained in
the previous lecture, and The Great Directionally Expansive Buddha's Flower Adornment Sutra（大方廣佛華嚴經）was used as the example.
Students of the Buddhadharma, at the very least you must remember
the Seven Classifications of Sutra Titles and be able to explain them informally.
If you cannot explain the Seven Classifications of Sutra Titles, you are not a student of the
Buddhadharma. In the Tripitaka's divisions and categories, Sutras
occupy several thousand rolls, but none go beyond the Seven
Classifications of Sutra Titles. Therefore, when you study Sutras,
you should know what composes each Sutra's title and theme. If you
know this, you will be able naturally and deeply to enter the
Sutra store. If you can deeply enter the Sutra store, you will be able to
have wisdom like the sea. If you do not know the title and ask "What
is The Nirvana Sutra? I don't understand.” then of what use
will it be for you to study The Nirvana Sutra?
For example, you say, "I have an acquaintance
who is a very good friend of mine; we have a very deep friendship."
But when you are asked what your friend's name is, you reply, "Ohh!
That I don't know." What sort of good friend is this? If you don't
even know his name how can you claim him as your good friend?
Sutras are also like this. If you don't know
your friend's name, you will also not know where he lives; not
knowing where he lives, you will not know what he does. It is the
same with the meaning of sutras. If you do not know the Sutra's name
you will be unable to fathom the Sutra store, and thus will not have
wisdom like the sea. If you are unable to have wisdom like the sea,
you can study the Buddhadharma for a lifetime and still remain just
as much a dolt.
The Seven Classifications of Sutra Titles are
extremely important; if you know them it is possible to advance in
your study of the Buddhadharma.
These are the Five Esoteric Meanings:
- Explanation of the name（釋名）;
- Discrimination of the substance（辨體）;
- Making understood the principle（明宗）;
- Discussion of the function（論用）;
- Determination of the teaching（判教）.
How is the Sutra's name established? What is
its Dharma substance? If the Dharma substance is known, the
principle should also be known; what do its principle and tendency
speak of? Knowing the principle and tendency you should also know
the function; what is its function? After knowing its function you
should know its teaching appearance.
Why is it this way? Consider the description of
a person. First we have a name, perhaps Smith or Brown, How big is
Smith's body? How tall? How wide? How heavy? This determines his substance.
Is his body healthy or unhealthy? You must know
him. If he is healthy, what does he take as his principle and
tendency? Is he a doctor, student or laborer? Of what party is he?
Ahhh! You know he is a student who takes
studying as his principle and tendency. What use does studying have?
If he merely studies...when his studies are finished, does he
prepare to go to sleep? Hunnh? No. After studying he should develop
his function. If he studied science, then he should develop his
usefulness in science. If he studied philosophy, then he should
develop his usefulness in philosophy. If he studied engineering he
should be an engineer. If he studied literature or education, in the
future his function will be to teach. Each type of study has its own
function. If you know his name, his substance, his principle and
tendency, and his function, then what is his position? Ahh, he is a
professor, or a general manager, or a family advisor. In general
each has his position. This is to determine the future
accomplishments of his life. Sutras are also like this.
How does The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower
Sutra establish its name? It has been spoken in the Seven
Classification of Sutra Titles. It is just by means of Dharma and
analogy that it establishes its name.
- The Three Small Disasters are: war, plague, and famine.
The Three Great Disasters are: fire, water, and wind.
The Eight Difficulties obstruct one's seeing of
the Buddha and hearing of the Dharma. They are: birth as an animal; birth as a hungry ghost; birth in the hells; birth in Uttarakuru; long life in the heavens; being blind, deaf, or dumb; worldly knowledge and argumentative cleverness; and
being born when the Buddha is not in the world.