SUTRA OF THE PAST VOWS OF EARTH STORE BODHISTSATTVA
A Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
Spiritual Penetrations in the Palace
of the Trayastrimsha Heaven
This is the start of the sutra text. “Trayastrimsha Heaven” is Sanskrit for the Heaven of Thirty-Three. This is not the 33rd layer of heaven from the bottom up. It is in the middle with eight heavens in the east, eight heavens in the west, eight heavens in the south and eight heavens in the north. Four times eight makes 32. Thirty-two heavens surround the 33rd heaven in the center, making this heaven the Heaven of Thirty-Three.
The Lord of the Heaven of Thirty-Three is Shakra. Shakra is a god, which is a Dharma protector in Buddhist terms. The Lord Indra in the Amitabha Sutra is Shakra the god. “Na mo yin tuo la ye” in the Shuragama Mantra also refers to Shakra the god. Though a heavenly ruler, he is merely a Dharma protector according to Buddhism. Not only does he not rule, but he does not even have a seat; he stands by the door. This heavenly ruler is the omnipotent God in most people’s minds.
Right, he is omnipotent; he can manage things in the heavens and in the human realm. However, he is not too different from human beings because he still wants sex, food and sleep. His desires are lighter than humans though. Human beings are extremely hungry after going without food for a few days, uncomfortable and sleepless without sex for a few days; and lethargic without sleep for a few days. Lord Shakra, however, can fast for 100 days, 200 days, 300 days, or even a year without problems; he can also abstain from sleep or sex for a year without problems. Nevertheless, he has not let go of his desire.
Beings in the Trayastrimsha Heaven live for 1000 years, of which one day is equivalent to 100 human years. Think about it, how much longer is his 1000 years in human years? The Trayastrimsha Heaven is 80,000 yojanas in size. Its city walls are made of seven gems. Just the city mote itself is 60,000 yojanas in size. The city of the Trayastrimsha god is called the City of Fine Views. His palace is constructed with the most valuable gems. This is why he refuses to leave after becoming reborn there as the heavenly lord. All the buildings all around are constructed with gems.
No wonder his desire refuses to quit; it’s such a beautiful place, with such beautiful palaces. He is content just enjoying his heavenly blessings there and considers the place most delightful. He even tells all beings to be reborn in his kingdom. He welcomes anyone who would like to come to his world, a joyous world. He thinks he is being generous by welcoming people to come and stay. He does not realize, however, that he cannot end his own birth and death because he is greedy for and attached to this kind of happiness.
Having said all this, how did he become a god? Did he get promoted from an earthly god to a heavenly god? Every household in Canton makes offerings to an earth lord. Did he get promoted from an earth lord to a heavenly lord, or from an earth lord to a human lord, then a heavenly lord? No. Then how did he become the heavenly lord? During the time of Kasyapa Buddha, this heavenly lord was a woman. Do not think he is any big deal. Lord god was a woman before.
This woman set out to build a temple for Kasyapa Buddha. The circumstances that led to this resolve were that she saw a dilapidated temple with no roof or ceiling. The Buddha image in the temple was losing its gold gilding from the wind and the rain that came through. She was saddened by this and said, “Gee, the Buddha image is dirty to begin with, now it’s wind-blown and rained on. How embarrassing!” She made it her goal to rebuild this temple.
Since she did not have any money, she asked her friends and relatives, “I want to rebuild a temple but I am penniless. Could you all help me? Get more of your relatives and friends together so we can do charity and repair this temple.” Her friends and relatives agreed, “Okay, let us cooperate and build a temple.” Thirty three people were found. She is the founder while there were 32 others, mostly women too; though unverifiable in history. Even if there were men, there were very few. Men probably thought they were too great to build temples, so they let the women do it.
In any case, these 33 women finished rebuilding this temple, plus a jeweled stupa at that. Each person donated a little money and all their effort in building this temple and stupa. At the end of these 33 people’s lives, they were reborn in the heavens. Each person has one layer of heaven, so there are 33 layers for 33 people at this Heaven. The center of these heavens is the Trayastrimsha lord, Shakra. This is the origin of the Trayastrimsha Heaven.
What does “heaven” mean? It does not mean anything; if it did, it would not be called “heaven.” Why? Heaven is spontaneous by definition. The karma of these 33 individual created these heavens. Without these 33 individuals, there would not be the Trayastrimsha Heaven; that is why I say it does not mean anything.
The palaces here are the best and most beautiful models, like some of those Chinese imperial palaces; but these heavenly palaces are even more beautiful and wonderful.
Spiritual penetrations. The spirit is also known as the heaven’s mind. Penetrations is a type of wisdom. Penetrations are unhindered, and spirits are beyond the magical and the mystical. There are six kinds of spiritual penetrations, although these six are one and the same too. Furthermore, they could be nothing whatsoever because there was no spiritual penetration to begin with, or there was always spiritual penetrations. How can we say there was no spiritual penetration and there always was spiritual penetration? This is quite a terrific explanation.
Let us first explain the six spiritual penetrations individually: originally there was spiritual penetration and no spiritual penetration; originally there was one type of spiritual penetration and there was no spiritual penetration at all. The six spiritual penetrations are: the penetration of the heavenly eye, the penetration of the heavenly ear, the penetration of knowing others thoughts, the penetration of knowing past lives, the penetration of traveling freely, and the penetration of being free of outflows. The penetration of traveling freely is also called the penetration of spiritual states and the penetration of wishes fulfilled.
Speaking of the penetration of the heavenly eye— we are all people, but we are different. How are we different? Some people can observe the trichiliocosm as if it were an apple in the palm of their hand. Venerable Aniruddha had the penetration of the heavenly eye; he was foremost in the heavenly eye. The penetration of the heavenly ear, someone with this penetration can hear all the sounds throughout the human realm, the heavens and all of trichiliocosm. The penetration of others’ thoughts, someone with this penetration knows what you are thinking before you articulate it.
The penetration of knowing past lives: someone with this penetration knows everything you did in your past lives, both good and bad. The penetration of spiritual states: the spiritual here is what you mentioned earlier, a kind of inconceivable state. The spiritual and the wondrous are somewhat similar, so sometimes we use them together as one phrase to mean that they are unfathomably spiritual and wondrous, an incredible state. Penetrations are unimpeded; blockages clear up. For instance, walls obstruct, but puncture a hole in it and it is penetrated. Our ignorance obstructs the light of our inherent nature, if you can use your wisdom sword to pierce through, that would be penetration.
The penetration of no outflow. Why do we human beings not become Buddhas? It is because of our outflows. Why do we human beings not become Bodhisattvas? It is also because of these outflows. These outflows leak into the Triple Realm: the Desire Realm, the Form Realm and the Formless Realm. Not only do outflows lead into the Triple Realm but the nine realms too. What are the nine realms? The realms of the Bodhisattvas, Sound Hearers, Those Who Enlighten to Conditions, gods, humans, asuras, hell-beings, hungry ghosts, and animals.
The reason that the beings in these nine realms do not become Buddhas is because of their outflows. They would be Buddhas if they did not have any outflows. Where do these outflows come from? Ignorance. If you can shatter ignorance, then there would be no outflows. With ignorance not shattered, you will leak until you have nothing left. Very few people have the penetration of no outflows. Without outflows, you become liberated from the cycle of birth and death; the reason that you cannot become liberated from birth and death is because you have outflows. Having outflows is similar to a leaky bottle: fill it with water and it leaks; fill it with more water and it cannot preserve it. End outflows and you would have the penetration of no outflow.
Originally we do not have any spiritual penetrations means that we did not have any spiritual penetrations when we were ordinary people. At the level of the sages’ fruition, we have always had spiritual penetrations. Ordinary people do not have spiritual penetrations while sages do. Do sages get their spiritual penetrations from the outside? No, they have always had them. Did ordinary people lose their spiritual penetrations so that they do not have them now? No, they are in their inherent nature; but they did not notice them and discover them. They think they’re not there and consider they were always without spiritual penetrations.
It is not important whether we have spiritual penetrations. Do not think having spiritual penetrations is equivalent to enlightenment or arhatship, far from it. Do not be so easily satisfied. Getting just a smidget of gold and you think, “Oh, I struck it rich this time!” Other people with millions and millions of ounces in the savings do not even think about it, it is as if it does not exist for these millionaires. So what is the big deal with your one little ounce? Do not be content with little. One of the states of the Two Vehicles is that they stop in mid-course, being content with very little; this is not a Mahayana Bodhisattva’s sensibility. If you think you are so great because of your spiritual penetrations, then you think too small; you are still attached and satisfied.
A chapter is a form of classification.
Thus I have heard. At one time, the Buddha was in the Trayastrimsha Heaven speaking Dharma for his mother.
Thus I have heard. The Vajra Sutra, the Earth Store Sutra and the Dharma Flower Sutra are all starting to be lectured here, so “Thus I have heard” is said three times. “Thus” is a term that the Dharma thus spoken is credible. The Dharma that is not thus is not credible. This Dharma here is a Dharma that is “thus”. “Thus” is also a term for a seal of approval. This is the version that cannot be altered. “Thus I have heard” is one of the answers the Buddha gave to answer one of Ananda’s four questions. Before Shakyamuni Buddha entered nirvana, Ananda cried his heart out, forgetting everything.
Venerable Aniruddha did not have the Flesh Eye, only the Heavenly Eye, but he was especially cool and calm. He told Ananda to ask the Buddha four questions:
1. What words should be used at the beginning of each sutra after the sutras have been compiled to show that it is representative of the Buddhist Canon?
2. When the Buddha was in the world, the Buddha’s disciples lived with him. After the Buddha enters nirvana, with whom should we live?
3. When the Buddha was in the world, the Buddha was our teacher, after the Buddha enters nirvana, which venerable one should be our teacher?
4. How should we treat evil natured Bhikshus?
The Buddha responded at that time:
1. Use the four words “Thus I have heard” before every sutra.
2. Abide in the Four Types of Mindfulness. The Four Types of Mindfulness are about the body, feelings, the mind and the Dharma. Contemplate the body as impure; contemplate feelings as suffering, contemplate the mind as impermanent; and contemplate the Dharma as without a self. These are the Four Types of Mindfulness.
3. When the Buddha was in the world, the Buddha was our teacher. After the Buddha enters nirvana, we take the pratimoksa as our teacher. This is the master for all Bhikshus and Bhikshunis.
4. Give evil natured Bhikshus the silent treatment and ignore them.
“Thus I have heard” is to end the multitude of doubts. When the sutras were being compiled, everyone developed three questions immediately. These questions were raised when Ananda joined the sutra compilations (before which he certified to the fourth level of arhatship). No one opened the door for him and he entered the sutra compilation place through the crack in the door.
Although all the other participants who joined the compilation of the sutras had certified to arhatship, their memory was worse than Ananda. Ananda was a provisional manifestation in that life. He was the attendant to all the Buddhas in the past. When Shakyamuni Buddha became a Buddha, he was born. He became Shakyamuni Buddha’s attendant, who was being prepared for compiling sutras.
As soon as Ananda stepped onto the Dharma seat, everyone had three suspicions:
1. The suspicion that Shakyamuni Buddha came to life again.
2. The suspicion that a Buddha from another direction came.
3. The suspicion that Ananda certified to the fruit of Buddhahood. The great assembly developed these three suspicions until Ananda said the four words “Thus I have heard”, then these three doubts disappeared.
The purpose of using “Thus I have heard” for sutra compilations is:
1. to eliminate everyone’s skepticism;
2. to observe the Buddha’s last words;
3. to end arguments.
Since Ananda was quite young when the sutras were being compiled, some of the senior elders such as elder Kasyapa, Ajñāta-kaundinya, Subhuti, and others might say: “What kind of experience and knowledge could a young person like yourself have to compile the sutras? How will you compile the sutras?” If Ananda said he will write out the sutras, people would argue, “What you say is completely wrong. The Buddha did not say this.” But once Ananda said, “Thus I have heard,” no one fought. Why? Ananda heard this from the Buddha; Ananda did not make this up himself. This is to end arguments.
Four, to differentiate from the non-Buddhists. The thinking in non-Buddhist texts [at that time in India] is as follows: all dharmas are not apart from existence and void. Either everything is “existent” or “non-existent”. Existence and non-existence embody all dharmas. The non-Buddhist texts begin with the two words “ah” and “ga”. “Ah” is non-existence while “ga” is existence. To differentiate from non-Buddhists, the Buddha instructed on using the four words, “Thus I have heard” at the beginning of the sutras, which means, “thus is the Dharma that I, Ananda, personally heard from the Buddha.” “Thus” makes the condition of faith happen; “I have heard” makes the condition of hearing happen. Why not say one heard with the ears but say “I” have heard? It is because “I” represents all six senses in the body.
At one time. Why is not a specific year, specific month and specific day named? Why is the location where the Buddha spoke Dharma named? It is because different calendars are used around the world; January in some country is February in another country, or January in some country is March or April in another country. These dates are uncertain, so the Buddhist sutras just say there was such a time. If there were a fixed time, archeologists might use a lot of brain juices to do research. The Buddha did not want to waste archeologists’ brain juices and effort, so the Buddhist sutras used “at one time”. This makes the condition of time happen.
The Buddha makes the condition of the host happen. The Buddha enlightened himself, enlightens others and perfected enlightening conducts. He is a Buddha because “he perfected the three types of enlightenments and is replete with the myriad virtues.” This Buddha is the teaching host of the Saha World, Shakyamuni Buddha. Actually Shakyamuni Buddha became a Buddha millions and millions, even infinite eons ago. However, he saw that the time has come for living beings in the Saha World of Southern Jambudvipa and came and manifested as a Buddha so that all beings will become Buddhas, escape the cycle of birth and death. Dharmas spoken by the Buddha are unfailingly true, we must all accept these principles profoundly. If these words go in one ear and out the other, nothing will be gained by it. We must practice truly and honestly; reject even as much deceit as a hair’s breadth.
Was in the Trayastrimsha Heaven. This makes the condition of place happen.
Speaking Dharma for his mother. Shakyamuni Buddha went up into the Tryastrimsha Heaven to save his mother. Seven days after the Buddha was born, the Buddha’s mother Lady Maya passed away and became reborn in the Tryastrimsha Heaven. Maya is Sanskrit. It means “great magic” or “illusions”. The Buddha’s mother was the mother of a thousand Buddhas; she came to be every Buddha’s mother. As strange as it sounds, this is what happened. She came to be the Buddha’s mother and after the Buddha realizes Buddhahood, he speaks Dharma for her. This is similar to a drama.
Actually, if you understand this world, everything would seem like a play. This is the truth in life. Once you understand one true principle, you will understand other true principles. Most people do not know how to really watch life’s drama unfold; they only watch the content that includes sadness and joy, separation and union, joy and happiness, sadness and fear, love and hate, and desire. People who see all this realize that life is but illusion and transformation. “All conditioned dharmas are but dreams, illusions, bubbles and shadows. They are like dew drops and lightning, contemplate them thus.” When the Buddha taught living beings he was in the Samadhi of playfulness; he did not treat this as a big deal. Unlike most of us who are attached to this and that, left and right, up and down. Not everything is perfectly integrated and unobstructed; all states are but illusory and unreal. We are attached if this is not how we perceive states.
The role of the Buddha’s mother, Lady Maya is to be a thousand Buddhas’ mother. After every Buddha realizes Buddhahood, he will go to the Tryastrimsha Heaven to speak the Dharma for his mother. Every Buddha is this way. But a Wheel-Turning Sage King or Shakra has to request the Dharma. Who requested that Shakyamuni Buddha go and speak the Dharma in the Tryastrimsha Heaven? His father, a Wheel King. He told the Buddha, “You should go to the Triyastrimsha Heaven to speak the Dharma for your mother, save her.” The Wheel King requested Dharma from Shakyamuni Buddha; some sutras say Shakra did. Shakra is the lord of the Tryastrimsha Heaven, whose former incarnation was that poor woman who renovated a temple. Having renovated a temple, she became a heavenly lord. Some sutra texts say Shakra knew that the Buddha’s mother was in the heavens and requested the Buddha to speak the Dharma at the Tryastrimsha Heaven. Regardless of which version, the general idea is that someone has to request the Buddha to speak the Dharma.
What Dharma did Shakyamuni Buddha speak for his mother? Earth Store Bodhisattva’s Fundamental Vows Sutra. This is a Dharma on filiality. Everyone should be filial to their parents. Why? It is because our parents are our roots. By being filial to your parents, you douse your roots with fertilizer. If you are not filial to your parents, you will definitely have no future. Being filial to your parents means tending to your roots well and ensuring a bright future. As the saying goes, “Stable roots lead to lush branches; deep roots lead to luxuriant leaves.” For his mother, Shakyamuni explained this type of Dharma, which follows.
At that time, uncountably many Buddhas and Great Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas from infinite worlds in the ten directions assembled.
At that time, uncountably many Buddhas and Great Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas from infinite worlds in the ten directions assembled. Worlds throughout the ten directions are the dependent retribution while all the ineffably ineffable Buddhas and great Bodhisattvas are retribution proper. People are retribution proper, while worlds are dependent retribution. These are the two types of retributions. There are five ways to explain “at that time”. First, this refers to the times when the Dharma is about to be spoken, the time that the Dharma is being spoken, and the time when the Dharma has already been spoken. Here, it would be when the Buddha wanted to speak the Dharma, then when the Buddha was explaining this Dharma on filiality, and then when the Buddha finished explaining this Dharma on being filial to one’s parents. This is the first explanation.
The second explanation for it refutes the non-Buddhists. Non-Buddhists speak Dharmas that do not specify past, present or future; they are vague. This explanation contradicts the non-Buddhists by explaining a Dharma of the past, present and future. This is the second meaning to “at that time.”
The third meaning for “at that time” is a time for planting. Once the seeds are planted, there will be a time for ripening and harvesting. What happens after ripening? There is a time for liberation, which also occurs “at that time”. For example, someone who has never planted good roots, such as the elder who wanted to leave the homelife. The great arahats took a look at him though and saw that he did not do any good deeds in the last 80,000 great eons. They refused to let him leave the homelife. “Do not consider leaving home easy, it is all because of Bodhi planted in lives past.” People who are monastics now got to be monastics because they planted roots of goodness in the last 80,000 great eons.
Do not think one can casually become a monk or a nun. Telling those who have never planted roots of goodness to plant some, those who have never recited the Buddha’s name to recite, and those who have never recited mantras to recite is about planting roots of goodness. Once the seeds are in the soil, they will grow and mature. It is like farming, for instance, where seeds planted in the spring are harvested in the fall. If they ripen but are not harvested, it would not do any good. Liberation means when the seeds are collected. This also means telling those who have not planted good roots to do so; those who have already planted good roots to become monks. They are ripe when they are monks. Monks must become Buddhas, which requires certifying to the fruit and becoming liberated.
So listening to sutra lectures is not about listening to the sutra a couple of times and refusing to listen to any more. The more you listen, the more you have this type of knowledge. If you do not listen, you will not increase your knowledge of Buddhist studies.
The fourth is an explanation that there is a real teacher speaking the Dharma. Once a real teacher is in place, then the orthodox teaching is spoken, after that there is proper learning. If you do not study properly, even proper teachings are not helpful to you. You may want to study properly and the orthodox teachings are there, but you do not have a teacher who truly understands, then you cannot learn. So the fourth explanation on “at that time” refers to the presence of a real teacher, the orthodox teachings, and proper learning.
The fifth explanation of “at that time” is the time when the Buddha was willing to speak the Dharma and living beings were willing to listen to the Dharma. Listening to the Dharma and speaking the Dharma occur simultaneously; neither one is higher nor lower as long as the audience and the teachings click. Some beings come and listen to the Buddha speak this Dharma; the Buddha wanted to speak and living beings wanted to listen. They are equal. Above are five different explanations of “at that time”.
For this sutra, the “thus” is the fulfilled condition of faith; the “I have heard” is the fulfilled condition of “hearing”; the “at one time” is the fulfilled condition of time; the “Buddha” is the fulfilled condition of the host; the “Tryastrimsha Heaven” is the fulfilled condition of a place; and the “speaking Dharma for his mother” is the fulfilled condition of the assembly. Although the Buddha was speaking the Dharma for his mother, beings in the heavens and human beings also followed him.
Among those who always accompanied the Buddha, there were already 1,250 disciples of the Buddha alone. The lord of the Tryastrimsha Heaven, Indra, was the Dharma Protector, the Meal Host and the one who requested the Dharma. Although the Buddha was speaking Dharma for his mother, he was really speaking Dharma for the great assembly; therefore this line also fulfills the condition of the assembly. The above are the six conditions.
At that time, many, many Buddhas and all the great Bodhisattvas with lofty resolves throughout the ineffably ineffable worlds in space and the Dharma Realm of the ten directions gathered. See, all the Buddhas and the great Bodhisattvas gathered when the Earth Store Sutra was lectured, so people should gather too! All the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas throughout the ten directions also gathered as we now lecture on the Earth Store Sutra. Open your Buddha eyes and look, all the infinite and uncountable number of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas throughout the ten directions now gather to support this Dharma Assembly.
To praise how Shakyamuni Buddha is able to manifest powerfully great wisdom and spiritual penetrations in the evil world of the Five Turbidities.
All the Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas throughout the ten directions went to the Tryastrimsha Palaceto praise how Shakyamuni Buddha. . . Shakyamuni is Sanskrit. Shakya is a surname while Muni is a first name. The name Shakyamuni is his individual name. Buddha is a name common to all Buddhas. Each Buddha has his unique name, in this case, Shakyamuni. Shakya means “capable of being humane” while Muni means “still and quiescent”. What does it mean by “capable of being humane”? It means that he can save all beings universally with humaneness and virtue. “Still and quiescent” means unmoving, silent and scent-free.
Confucianism speaks of, “There is nothing more in quietude! No sounds, no odors.” This is an indication of having reached the original substance. Still and unmoving is Samadhi while capable of being humane is wisdom. How come the Buddha can rescue living beings universally with humaneness and kindness? It is because he has wisdom. Capable of being humane is to accord with conditions. Still and quiescent is unchanging. The Buddha never changes but always accords with conditions; accords with conditions but never changes. In this still and unmoving Samadhi, he immediately connects to responses.
All beings with all their variety of thoughts, regardless of how many, the Thus Come One knows and sees them all. The Buddha sees them all because he is capable of being humane; he knows them all because he is still and quiescent. Do not think that no one knows what we do, the Buddha knows everything. So if we are but ten percent sincere in our cultivation, we will receive a ten percent response; if we are 100 percent sincere, we will receive a 100 percent response. If you are millions upon millions times sincere, then even though Shakyamuni Buddha is there on that quiescent and unmoving fundamental enlightenment, he will connect with you immediately, providing you with a helpful response so that you will be successful in your practice soon. This is what it means by Shakyamuni Buddha.
The Buddha enlightens himself, enlightens others and has perfected conducts that enlighten. As it is said, one becomes a Buddha when “he has perfected the three types of enlightenments and is replete with the myriad virtues.” The three types of enlightenments perfected are: beginning enlightenment, fundamental enlightenment and ultimate enlightenment. “Buddha” is half of the transliterated Sanskrit word, “Buddhaya”. What kind of an individual was the Buddha? The Buddha is a greatly enlightened one. If every one of us cultivate according to the Buddhadharma, we will reach this kind of enlightenment, this kind of result. So Shakyamuni Buddha long ago said, “All living beings can become Buddhas”. Why? It is because they all have the Buddha nature, so as long as you are willing to work hard on your cultivation, you can become a Buddha.
. . . in the evil world of the Five Turbidities. . . The Five Turbidities are: 1. Kalpa Turbidity, this is an impure time and age. 2. View Turbidity, the views are impure. 3. Afflictions Turbidity, impure because of people’s afflictions. 4. Living Beings Turbidity, living beings are impure. 5. Life Turbidity. Our lives are turbid and impure. The Kalpa Turbidity means that we live in very filthy times.
The Shurangama Sutra says that dirt placed in a bowl of clear water loses its original function. What was the function of the dirt? It acts as a blockade. Dirt holds up people as they walk on it. Without dirt, we would fall into the sea. Since there is water under dirt, water holds the dirt. Below water is fire. Sometimes volcanoes erupt, a transformative function. Would the fire not be squelched by water? No, there is so much fire that water cannot put it out. If you want to understand this kind of principle, you must study the Buddhadharma more. The Shurangama Sutra says, “Earth loses its ability to block and water stops being clean.” That is turbidity. So this evil world of Five Turbidities is like water and earth mixed together, it is unclean. How? The Kalpa Turbidity, for example, has no time or is not clear as to what time it is.
View Turbidity. How can our views be differentiated clearly? They cannot. Can you divide up everyone’s views, categorizing some as my views and some as your views? Where do you draw the boundary between your views and my views? There are no boundaries or they are unclear, so things seem to blur together. This is the View Turbidity.
Afflictions Turbidity means everyone is afflicted. Your afflictions and my afflictions mix together and become unclear. Some say, I know these afflictions are mine and those afflictions are yours. If so, how come you can bring out my afflictions? If those were mine, you should not be able to bring them out; if your afflictions were yours, I should not be able to bring out your afflictions. Thus, we can tell that afflictions have no boundary and are turbid.
Living Beings Turbidity. Living beings are human beings in this lifetime but may become dogs in the next life and cats in the life after that. Maybe even rats in the life after that, then as insects that crawl all over the place. How can you draw such concrete distinctions? Living beings cooperate to start a large firm; our distinctions are unclear. You are either selling others or being sold by others in this large firm. We are all related. Is this not turbid? This is Living Beings Turbidity.
The Five Turbidities are extremely complicated. But Shakyamuni Buddha is able to manifest powerfully great wisdom and spiritual penetrations in this evil world that is one of the worst worlds. He can manifest inconceivably wondrous wisdom, the subtle, wonderful and inconceivable power of wonderful great wisdom, wonderful spiritual powers. Inconceivable means that it is unimaginable and unthinkable, subtly and wonderfully incredible. This is the great power of great wisdom, great spiritual powers.
They lauded how he regulates and subdues the obstinate beings so that they can learn what causes suffering and what brings bliss. Each one sent his attendants to pay their respects to the World Honored One.
At that time the Thus Come One smiled and emitted billions of great light clouds.
They lauded how he regulates and subdues the obstinate beings. What is subduing? People, and perhaps particularly the Chinese, enjoy delicious foods. They season our plain vegetables with five different kinds of flavors: sweet, sour, bitter, spicy and salty. Too spicy and people who do not like spicy foods will not eat that dish at all; too sour and those who do not like sour foods will not eat any of that dish; too bitter and most people do not like it; even when it is too sweet, some people will not like it. So the flavors must be balanced; each seasoning is just right, neither too much nor too little.
People enjoy foods that taste good. The same applies to the Buddhadharma. Some prefer this practice; others prefer another practice. Some prefer Christianity, while some prefer Catholicism; some prefer Islam, while some prefer Taoism or Confucianism. Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam are five major world religions. They are said to be five, but they are actually one. How are they one? According to the Buddha’s Dharma, everything is the Buddhadharma, all religions and their practices are included here. Catholicism, Christianity, Islam, Taoism, Confucianism are all included in all dharmas; none of them transcend all dharmas. No religion will say it has no Dharma or is beyond the Dharma.
Actually there is no Dharma outside the Dharma. All dharmas are the Buddhadharma; all cannot be acquired. No! You have really come home if you say, all dharmas are gone. I would not try to come up with a way to deceive you, telling you that you will get something good to eat. No! There is nothing. To begin with, there was nothing. How do we know? The Great Master Sixth Patriarch said, “The Bodhi was without a tree, the mirror without a stand. Originally there was not a thing, where does dust alight?” Since there was nothing to begin with, where will you find dust? Since there is nothing, dust cannot dirty it. All these dharmas are the Buddhadharma. People who understand know that all dharmas are the Buddhadharma.
There are right dharmas and wrong dharmas, ultimate dharmas and non-ultimate dharmas, good dharmas and bad dharmas. Cultivation requires practicing the ultimate dharmas. It’s like walking, if you have an airplane, you can definitely go from the Americas to Europe. How long would you have to walk if you were to walk from the Americas to Europe? Besides walking on land, you have to trek across the ocean too. When you get to the ocean, you have to take a boat, which is slow and takes a long time. It would be faster if you were to take a plane. This is analogous to cultivating the non-ultimate dharmas. You must cultivate for a long time before you can reach your home (Buddhahood). Cultivate the ultimate dharmas and you will reach your home soon. What are the non-ultimate dharmas? It is like all non-Buddhist dharmas that are somewhat helpful, but slow. Ultimate dharmas are means of cultivation that accord with the Buddhadharma.
Speaking of disciplining obstinate beings, Shakyamuni Buddha will not begin by criticizing anger to angry people. He would say, “Anger is not so bad. Afflictions are just Bodhi. Can you do that? It’s no problem that you are angry. Afflictions are just Bodhi; birth and death are just nirvana.” Make him feel as if it is not bad to have a temper. Although I have a huge temper, Bodhi is not small. So he tries and the more he tries the fewer afflictions he has and bigger the Bodhi. Afflictions decrease by the day while Bodhi increases by the day. It is Bodhi to reduce afflictions. Tell obstinate beings this kind of Dharma.
How does the Buddha speak to weak and fearful living beings? They have no will of their own, always afraid. They tremble from hearing a cat’s meow, leave their body from hearing a dog’s bark. They are afraid of any movement. So the Buddha said, “Do not be afraid. Study the Buddhadharma and it will help and protect you!” Speak credibly to fearful beings like you and it’s like comforting babies. Consequently, they will believe in the Buddhadharma. After they study the Buddhadharma, they will become more and more courageous by the day.
For example, I had a disciple who took refuge with me in Hong Kong. Before he took refuge, he was afraid of ghosts and dark nights. He was so frightened that he did not dare to step out the door when the night fell. Even though there were other people in the house with him, he was still afraid. He felt as if he was surrounded by ghosts, even though he does not see any. When he took refuge, I did not give him any mantra or dharma. But after he took refuge, he was not afraid of being alone, not afraid of ghosts or the dark. He was not afraid to be home alone at night; he was not afraid to go outside. This is how you help fearful beings. Tell living beings who like to cry to stop and be joyful instead. In short, living beings who are extreme must reach the Middle Way. This is the principle behind regulating others.
Regulate obstinate beings so that they can learn what causes suffering and what brings bliss. Obstinate beings do not care whether there is suffering or joy. What is suffering? What is joy? He does not care! Since he is obstinate, he is not afraid of suffering or happiness. Shakyamuni Buddha make obstinate beings know what is true suffering and what is true happiness. Exactly what is true suffering? Falling into the lower realms is true suffering. For example, it is true suffering to fall into the realm of the hells, hungry ghosts, or animals. What is true happiness? Becoming enlightened, certifying to the fruition of arhatship, and practicing the Bodhisattva path is true happiness. Actually there are so many kinds of suffering and happiness, but it is fine just for us to have a general idea.
Each one sent his attendants . All the great Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas throughout the lands of the ten directions did not come alone. Each Bodhisattva brought many attendants, perhaps one, two, three or four. Some preferred as many as several hundred, several thousand or several ten’s of thousands of attendants. Each person sent the attendants with him to pay their respects to the World Honored One. They went up to the Buddha and greeted him. What are their greetings like? They say, “Is the World Honored One healthy, at ease and happy? Are living beings easy to save?” World Honored One, are you free of any sickness? Are you free of any afflictions? Are you very happy? Are living beings easy to deliver [to the shore of perfection]? This is how they greet the World Honored One. At that time the Thus Come One Shakyamuni smiled a slight smile, not a boisterous laugh, and emitted billions of varieties of great, the largest light clouds and colorful clouds.
There was the light cloud of great fulfillment, the light cloud of great compassion, the light cloud of great wisdom, the light cloud of great prajna, the light cloud of great samadhi, the light cloud of great auspiciousness, the light cloud of great blessings, the light cloud of great merit, the light cloud of great refuge, and the light cloud of great praise.
After emitting indescribably many light clouds,
As said, there was the billions and billions of clouds of great light. Since billions and billions are numerous, he will only name ten. These ten represent the Contemplation of the Ten Vehicles and the Ten Dharma Realms. As said, the light cloud of great fulfillment. Shakyamuni Buddha released lit clouds of great perfection, which are symbolic of how the realm of Buddhas pervades the entire Dharma Realm. Perfection means that something is non-existent yet omnipresent, shining on all places without an exception of a dust mote. All of space and the Dharma Realm are covered by these great clouds of light. This is the realm of Buddhas, which is perfect.
The light cloud of great compassion. Kindness can bestow happiness while compassion can uproot suffering. This is the Bodhisattva path. Bodhisattvas conduct themselves to bring living beings’ every happiness and uproot living beings’ every suffering. Whatever living beings enjoy, give that to them. They like sweets, give them sweets; they like sour things, give them sour things.
When Universal Worthy Bodhisattva was the temple’s dining hall attendant, someone who stands by the table, serving and refilling food for monastics, he had all the seasonings with him, one bottle after another. You enjoy something sweet and he will add some sugar; you enjoy something sour and he will add some vinegar; you enjoy something spicy and he will give you some hot pepper. He had bottles all over his body. He carried all these seasonings with him because if someone wants something sour, he will pour something sour for him. But the person will complain, “Hey! I do not want that much! How come you gave me so much?” Someone says he wants something spicy but the Bodhisattva is afraid to pour too much so the person will not want it. He pours very little and the other person yells, “Hey! Some more! So little!”
Universal Worthy Bodhisattva has a hard time satisfying living beings. He gives a lot and they complain that it is too much; he gives a little and they complain that it is too little. See, it’s not very easy to be a Bodhisattva.
Confucius of China had this to say: “Only women and petty individuals are most difficult to live with.” Women and petty individuals are difficult to handle. How come? “Too close and they condescend”. Get too close to them and they become unreasonable and do not observe the rules. “Too far and they resent.” Stay a distance from them and they resent you. They are difficult to interact with. Confucius probably suffered in this way, so as an experienced expert, his words fit people’s understanding. Bodhisattvas are this way too.
Too good to people and it does not accord with the Middle Way. Too mean to people and that does not accord with the Middle Way either. So Universal Worthy Bodhisattva has a hard time satisfying living beings. The Bodhisattva path is difficult to walk. I am so considerate of you and you are so dissatisfied. This light cloud of compassion represents the Bodhisattva path.
The light cloud of great wisdom. This wisdom represents the realm of Those Who Enlighten to Conditions, those who cultivated the Twelve Causal Links and became enlightened. He needs great wisdom. What is great wisdom? He contemplates the Twelve Causal Links and knows that all things come into being and cease. Through this principle, he develops true wisdom from the Buddha nature. So the light cloud of great wisdom represents the realm of Those who Enlighten to Conditions.
The Twelve Causal Links are: ignorance conditions activity, activity conditions consciousness, consciousness conditions form, form conditions the six entrances, the six entrances conditions contact, contact conditions feelings, feelings condition love, love conditions craving, craving conditions existence, existence conditions birth, birth conditions old age and death.
This series involves birth (migration). There is also a series that involves ceasing: ignorance ceases then activity ceases, activity ceases then consciousness ceases, consciousness ceases then name and form cease, name and form cease then the six entrances cease, the six entrances cease then contact ceases, contact ceases then feelings cease, feelings cease then love ceases, love ceases then craving ceases, craving ceases then existence ceases, existence ceases then birth ceases, birth ceases then old age and death cease. Shatter ignorance and everything disappears. So Those Who Enlighten to Conditions contemplate and shatter ignorance first. Everything comes from ignorance. He shatters ignorance and real wisdom is born.
The light cloud of great prajna. Prajna is wisdom, which includes:
1. literary prajna, 2. real mark prajna, 3. contemplative prajna. Sound Hearers develop contemplative prajna from literary prajna; they reach real mark prajna through contemplative prajna. Since they reached real mark prajna, they certified to arhatship. These are the Sound Hearers Vehicle.
The light cloud of great Samadhi . Samadhi is Sanskrit that means concentration. Heavenly beings cultivate the ten good deeds at the highest level and reach the Four Dhyanas and the Eight Samadhis through this power of concentration. The Four Dhyanas are the Fourth Dhyana Heaven, Third Dhyana Heaven, Second DhyanaHeaven and First Dhyana Heaven. The First Dhyana is called the Ground of Leaving the Production of Bliss, the Second Dhyana is called the Ground of Bliss from Samadhi, the Third Dhyana is called the Ground of Leaving Bliss, the Fourth Dhyanais called the Ground of Purity from Letting Go Thoughts.
There are also the Four Stations of Emptiness: 1
. The Boundless Emptiness Heaven,
2. The Boundless Consciousness Heaven,
3. The Heaven of No Particular Place and
4. The Heaven of Thought Nor Non-Thought. Together these are the Four Dhyanas and the Eight Samadhis. These types of individuals have Samadhi and cultivate the highest among the ten goodnesses, which include the superior grade, the average grade and the below-average grade. These people will become reborn in the heavens if they take the Three Refuges and receive the Five Precepts.
The light cloud of great auspiciousness . Auspiciousness represents the human realm. People want everything to be auspicious. In Chinese, this means luck, such as wishing each other great luck around Chinese New Years in the hopes that good things happen. It also means auspiciousness, something lucky. Those who cultivate the average grade among the Ten Good Deeds, take the Three Refuges and receive the Five Precepts will become reborn in the human realm.
The light cloud of great blessings . Blessings and virtues represent the asuras. Asuras are in the heavens, the human realm, the animal realm and the hungry ghost realm. In short, they also have great blessings and virtue, so this kind of clouds of light shine on the asuras.
The light cloud of great merit represents the animal realm. The Buddha releases this kind of meritorious cloud of light so that all the animals will eliminate their offenses, leave suffering and attain bliss in the future.
The light cloud of great refuge. This represents the realm of hungry ghosts. The Buddha releases this kind of clouds of light so that all hungry ghosts will change from being evil to being good, reforming and renewing themselves. They will wish to take refuge with the Triple Jewel. Ghosts can take refuge with the Triple Jewel too.
And the light cloud of great praise. This represents the realm of hell-beings. The Buddha releases this kind of cloud of light out of praise. Beings in the hells who see these clouds of light will want to leave suffering and attain bliss, change for the better and set their sights on Bodhi.
These ten kinds of clouds of light represent the faculties of beings in the ten realms. Shakyamuni Buddha releases so many kinds of clouds of light so that living beings throughout the ten Dharma Realms will become Buddhas soon. After emitting indescribably many light clouds that are wonderful beyond words, then what?
He also uttered many wonderful, subtle sounds. There was the sound of danaparamita, the sound of shila paramita, the sound of kshanti paramita, the sound of virya paramita, the sound of dhyana paramita, and the sound of prajnaparamita. There was the sound of compassion, the sound of joyous giving, the sound of liberation, the sound of no outflows
He also uttered many wonderful, subtle sounds. He let out various kinds, not just one, but many different kinds of subtle and wondrous voices. These voices are not too loud and harmonize with one another. Wondrous means that it is clear. The Buddha’s voice is very clear, subtle and wonderful.
The Buddha speaks the Dharma with one voice; regardless of which type of living being hears the Buddha’s voice in speaking the Dharma, he understands. Even people of different countries hear him and understand what he says. The Buddha speaks with one voice, but the Japanese will hear him speaking Japanese; the British will hear him speaking English; the French will hear him speaking French; the Spanish will him speaking Spanish. Although these languages are different, the Buddha can make them appear in his single voice. He does not need translations into many languages. The Buddha’s state is inconceivable. That is why it is said that the Buddha explains the Dharma with a single voice and living beings understand it according to their kind.”
What are sounds? Sounds are drinks. Why? If you understand the sound, it is as if you drank it. Sounds are also hidden; some are louder and some are quieter, half hidden and half appearing. The Buddha’s state is incredible; living beings find his voice very different. You hear it as this kind of voice, and he hears it as another kind of voice. Although he utters one voice, but different beings will hear the voice differently.
How far can the Buddha’s voice reach? Mahamalgayayana was foremost in spiritual penetrations. He had tried to use his spiritual powers to cross as many worlds as sands in the Ganges River toward the East by looking for the sound of the Buddha’s voice. After traveling as many worlds as sands in the Ganges River, the Buddha’s voice was still as loud as it was when he was in front of the Buddha. So the Buddha’s voice is inconceivable.
The Buddha now emits so many kinds of voices, not just one kind. How many kinds in total? There was the sound of dana paramita. Dana is a Sanskrit word that means giving. We have said this many times before: there is the giving of wealth, the giving of Dharma, and the giving of fearlessness.
Although everyone understands, we can explain the meaning of giving in more depth now. Giving without being attached to the outer signs of giving is real giving. Giving while attached to the outer signs of giving will result in becoming reborn in the heavens. Giving without being attached to the outer signs of giving will result in retribution that is free from outflow. Not being attached means not remembering it. For instance, I gave someone some money and I keep thinking, “Ah, I will reap some fine retribution for making this donation.” In the end, there is either no reward or the mere reward of becoming reborn in the heavens, not the retribution free from outflows.
What does it mean by giving without being attached to outer marks? One must be empty in three aspects: there is no giver, nothing given, and no receiver. What is giving? What is being given? Recalling that there is a giver is a sign that there is a self; one cannot forget one’s self.
For example, I have a donation to contribute to building a temple, to building Buddha images or to printing sutras. This is an attachment. What is attachment? I am a donor; I can give $50,000. The gift, the $50,000 I donate, whether it is building a temple, building Buddha images or printing sutras, I earned some merit from contributing this gift. I am the donor; I offered a gift. Now along with the donor and the gift, there is a receiver. There is a subject and object to the receiver. The subject of the receiver is someone who receives that donation of $50,000. The object received is the gift the other party gave to me, making the other party the giver of the gift received. Without a giver and a gift, there would be no receiver and nothing received. These are the three aspects of emptiness in giving, which is about not being attached to the outer marks of giving.
Paramita is a Sanskrit word, which means to the other shore or arriving at the other shore. What other shore is this? Arriving at the other shore means we have succeeded with what we want to do, fulfilling our wishes and reaching our goals. For instance, we want to become liberated from the cycle of birth and death now. Birth and death is this shore while nirvana is the other shore. From this shore of birth and death, cross the currents of afflictions and reaching the other shore of nirvana, we arrive at the other shore. Wanting to reach the Buddha’s world of Constant and Still Light, we start walking toward our destination. When we reach our destination, we have arrived at the other shore, from this shore of ordinary beings to the other shore of sages. Certifying to the sagely fruit is also called reaching the other shore. We did not understand the Buddhadharma before but now we do. This is also called arrival at the other shore.
But that other shore consists of an ultimate and a non-ultimate shore. What is the ultimate shore? What is the non-ultimate shore? Ordinary people who certify to the first level of arhatship reach the other shore of first level arhatship, but not the other shore of the second level arhatship. When we certify to the second level arhatship, we reach the other shore of second level arhatship but not the other shore of the third level arhatship. When we certify to the third level arhatship, we reach the other shore of third level arhatship but not the other shore of the fourth level arhatship. When we certify to the fourth level arhatship, we reach the other shore of fourth level arhatship but not the other shore of the Bodhisattvas.
When we certify to the level of Bodhisattvas, we reach the other shore of Bodhisattvas but not the other shore of the Buddhas. When we certify to the level of Buddhas, that is the ultimate other shore, the final other shore. So this “to the other shore” can be explained at a very profound level and endlessly. I have only explained a few principles here. Once you understand the meaning of the other shore, expand and elaborate on it so that you reach the ultimate other shore.
Although I explain only a few principles for you, if you can expand and elaborate on these, such as getting insights on ten or a hundred principles from my explanation of one principle, then you are expanding and elaborating on the meaning.
Another example is our sutra lecture. We begin now and when we finish two hours later, we reach the other shore. That is paramita. Another example is we started with “Thus I have heard”, which is this shore. By the time we reach the end about how everyone is happy and left in full faith, it means we have reached the other shore. In short, when we reach our goal, we arrive at the other shore. Once you understand this other shore, you reach the other shore. Our biggest goal is to realize Buddhahood, attain anuttarasamyaksambodhi, the unsurpassed, equal, level and right enlightenment. This is our other shore.
The sound of shila paramita . Shila means clear and cool. It is clean and refreshing, which means the absence of heated afflictions. This is one interpretation.
There is another interpretation for it, which means prevention. There is national defense with its preventative measures and equipped armies that will strike other countries that do not observe the laws and try to attack us. This is national defense. Families have their preventative measures and individuals have their preventative measures. This is personal defense. What are we preventing? We want to prevent all evil deeds. Avoid any evil means doing no evil and doing all good.
There was a great layman in the olden days who pleaded with his senior monk to give an explanation on the Buddhadharma. This monk responded, “Do no evil and devote to all good.” The layman said, “Elder monk, I am requesting the Buddhadharma from you! Even three year olds understand this do no evil and devote to all good. How can you tell me this is Buddhadharma?” The old monk said, “Three year old’s may understand it but 80 year old’s cannot do it.”
All evil means each and every possible kind of evil. To me, each is one while every one is many. Many are one though. Why do you even do one evil deed? Do one, and you will do a second evil deed; do that second evil deed, and you will do a third evil deed; do a third evil deed and you will do a fourth evil deed, even millions and millions of evil deeds. All these are accumulated from one.
A mountain, for instance, is huge and it came from one dust particle. Many dust particle gather together to create a mountain. So how many is “many”? There is no applicable number, might as well explain it as one so that it is easier to understand. So do not do even one evil deed. This is called doing no evil. Doing no evil means not doing many evil deeds; but, this thing I am about to do is probably not included in all the evil deeds. I can do that. My explanation now prohibits the doing of even one evil deed, not to mention many, which is all the more prohibited. This is most critical, most wonderful. Do not do even one evil deed.
Devote to all good. This means doing every single good deed, whether the deed is big or small. Even if the deed is as minor as a piece of hair, as long as it is good, do it. If you do not do it, then you will miss that bit of the “all” good. “All” refers to the great function of the entire substance without any flaw or deficiency. I do not do only this kind of good deed but not the other kind. No, I use all of me. Avoid every evil and devote to all good. Goodness, whether numerous or few, major or minor ought to be done. But do no evil. You are mixed up if you do evil deeds regardless of how big or small they are. So this elder monk said, although three-year-old’s understand, 80 year old elders cannot do it. This is because you cannot perfect it.
Shila also means precepts. When the Buddha entered nirvana, Ananda asked the Buddha one of these questions, which is: When the Buddha was in the world, we had the Buddha as our teacher; after the Buddha enters nirvana, who do we take to be our teacher? The Buddha answered Ananda’s question, saying: monastic disciples should take the precepts as their master. The precepts talk about avoiding all evil and doing every good, which is to stop evil and prevent wrong-doing. So Shakyamuni Buddha talked about the shila paramita.
Precepts are most critical, number one. Earlier we said giving is the foremost important issue in cultivation, now we say keeping the precepts is. This is also a most important topic in cultivation.
Some people are wondering, how come there are so many first’s? There are no second’s in the Buddhadharma; all are number one. No matter which dharma it is, it is the foremost. Someone once asked me, out of the 84,000 practices of the Buddhadharma, which is number one? Which is the most lofty? The most wonderful? Guess how I responded? I said the Buddhadharma contains 84,000 kinds of dharmas, creating 84,000 number one’s, none of which is number two. Why did I say this? The 84,000 practices are antidotes for curing living beings’ 84,000 problems. Each being has his or her problem. The practice that cures his habit is number one.
For example, all the medicines include some that cure headaches, some cure pain in the throat, some cure pain in the eyes, some cure pain in the ears, toothaches, pain of the nose and the rest of the body parts. Which medicine is number one? It would be wrong to say the medication for curing a headache is number one and the medication for curing pain in the eyes is number two. Take medicine for curing a headache if that is what you have. That medication is number one. You have problems with your eyes, take medicine to cure the eye disease, then that medication is number one.
For example, we have greed, hatred and delusion. By understanding the Buddhadharma and curing your greed, the Buddhadharma which cured your greed is number one. By understanding the Buddhadharma and curing your hatred, then that Buddhadharma which cured your hatred is number one. By understanding the Buddhadharma and curing your delusion, then that Buddhadharma which cured your delusion is number one. Living beings have 84,000 habits so the Buddha spoke 84,000 dharmas to cure those 84,000 habits. Whatever can cure your illness is number one; whichever ones fail are not number one’s. So there are 84,000 first places among the 84,000 dharmas.
The Vajra Sutra says, “The Dharma is equal and level, without high or low.” Since there is neither high nor low, I say the 84,000 dharmas are all number one. Is that not the Buddhadharma?
I lecture the sutras differently than others. Other people lecture and will definitely explain the “do no evil” as not doing all or many evils; they will not explain it as one evil. But since I do not know numbers, there are too many too count, I don’t know which is which, I figured since I can’t catch up, I might as well turn around and head back, meet up from another direction. For example, this person is a fast runner, so I will turn whenever he turns. I can never catch up by chasing after him. But if I turn around and wait for him at the other end, I meet up with him. See, this is the way I lecture the sutras too. Since there are so many numbers that I cannot figure out how many exactly, I will just talk about one. Not only do I understand this time, even children understand. This is how I lecture the Dharmas.
The shila paramita. Shila means keeping the precepts. There are so many people who keep the precepts whom I can talk about, but I will talk about one. Who is he? Vinaya Master Tao Xuan. Vinaya Master Tao Xuan was foremost in keeping the precepts in China and had achieved the highest level of understanding in the vinaya. Due to the way he upheld the precepts, he moved the heavenly beings to bring him food. He did not eat food in the human realm but ate food in the heavens offered by the heavenly beings.
Everyone knows that among the Chinese patriarchs, only Vinaya Master Tao Xuan received offerings from heavenly beings. The vinaya talks specifically about the principles of the outer marks of the precepts, the precept dharma, and comportment. The 3,000 comportments and 80,000 fine conducts. Where did these 3,000 comportments come from? They came from the four great comportments of walking, standing, sitting and lying down. Walk with dignified decorum, sit with dignified decorum, stand with dignified decorum, and recline with dignified decorum. Walk like a breeze, stand like a pine, sit like a bell and recline like a bow.
Walk like a breeze. This breeze is not a typhoon or a gale. If you walk like you are running then you have turned into a gale, if not a typhoon. Do not do that. Waft by like a light breeze that does not even stir up waves in the water. The light breeze is slow and does not blow over water and create waves.
Stand like a pine. Stand as straight as a pine tree. Don’t shirk back your neck and look lethargic or sleepy. Stand with your chest out and back straight. Looking down at the ground when you walk is like looking at the hells. Do not walk with your head too high up either. Let it be natural but straight. This is standing among the four great comportments. Also, don’t look around when you walk, glancing front and back. Looking left and right, the police will think this person must want to steal, to crack someone’s door open. They will pay attention to you. So don’t glance about.
Sit like a bell. Recline like a bow. Recline like a bow, with the right hand palming your chin and the left on the side of your hip, this is an auspicious posture for reclining. Curl your legs slightly like a bow.
There are 250 rules of comportment for each type of major comportments: walking, standing, sitting and lying down. There are 250 for walking, 250 for sitting, 250 for lying down and 250 for standing. These are very detailed so there are as many as 250 for each type. See, it’s not so easy. Add 250 for each type together makes a total of 1000. There are three sets of one thousand: one thousand for the past, one thousand for the present and one thousand for the future. These are the three thousand rules of comportments.
Since Vinaya Master Tao Xuan kept the precepts strictly and are replete with the 3000 forms of comportment and 80,000 minor conducts, which so moved the heavenly beings that they brought him food. When he cultivated he did not speak or laugh causally. You had to speak to him according to the rules of the vinaya for him to respond; if you did not, he would not speak. He did not laugh easily. But he did not cry, get angry or pout either. He was just natural all the time. He was not in any particular state of joy, anger, sadness or happiness.
What kind of a person does not have any joy, anger, sadness or happiness? A wooden person. A wooden sculpture has no joy, anger, sadness or happiness. He was not happy or upset; he did not cry or delight. But before joy, anger, sadness or happiness develops, that is just the Middle Way. People who keep the precepts keep to the Middle Way in every action and every move. Vinaya Master Tao Xuan kept to the Middle Way, so heavenly beings , including Lu Xuan Chang, were so moved that they brought him offerings every day at noon. Despite such heavenly offerings, he maintained one meal a day.
Vinaya Master Tao Xuan cultivated at Mt. Zhong Nan, a seemingly continuous mountain range linked to the Himalayas. I hear that Mt. Zhong Nan in China has many seasoned cultivators who cultivated and became enlightened there. There are many wolves and tigers there too, but they do not obstruct monastic cultivators; in fact they act as supporters of the Dharma. Vinaya Master Tao Xuan cultivated there, living in a straw hut while heavenly beings presented him with offerings.
At that time, Dharma Master Kui Ji had false thoughts, what was it? He said, “I have tried all the most delicious foods in the human realm, whether vegetarian or not; I have tried them all, but I have not tried food from the heavens. Vinaya Master Tao Xuan has heavenly beings bringing him offerings, let me go there for lunch.” For this reason, he went to Mt. Zhong Nan to see Vinaya Master Tao Xuan.
Dharma Master Kui Ji was a national master too. He was a very intelligent disciple of Dharma Master Xuan Zang of the Consciousness-Only School. At that time, 800 or 900 monks translated sutras together. He was a key player. In any case, he went there early for lunch, since Vinaya Master Tao Xuan only eats lunch. But he waited and waited, lunch time, afternoon, evening…no one offered any food. Both Vinaya Master Tao Xuan and Dharma Master Kui Ji did not have any food to eat.
Dharma Master Kui Ji loved to eat excellent food, so he could not tolerate going without food for a day. This was no small distress. “You say heavenly beings offer you food every day, how come there is nothing now that I am here? Did you brag? Did you lie?” Vinaya Master Tao Xuan said, “Say what you will. You may say I lie, but I know whether I lie or not.” Dharma Master Kui Ji said he lied but he did not argue back. Dharma Master Kui Ji waited until nightfall, so he spend the night at the straw hut because it got to be too dark to walk.
So there was a fat monk and a skinny monk. The fat monk was Dharma Master Kui Ji and the skinny monk was Vinaya Master Tao Xuan. Although Vinaya Master Tao Xuan ate heavenly offerings daily, he was not fat; although Dharma Master Kui Ji did not eat heavenly offerings everyday, he was very fat. He enjoyed eating, so he was always telling the cook to think up some excellent dishes.
Dharma Master Kui Ji did not meditate or investigate dhyana, but fell on the bed and slept. As soon as he fell as asleep, he was snoring thunderously. Vinaya Master Tao Xuan meditated and did not snore. Dharma Master Kui Ji lied there and snored in his sleep. Vinaya Master Tao Xuan was so disturbed that he could not enter Samadhi, so he was picking lice off of his body (Mt. Zhong Nan is very cold so cultivators have lice from not showering too often.) As the lice bit him, he picked the lice off of him. Because he kept the precepts, he did not dare to kill, so he slowly placed the lice on the ground. There was no light and nothing happening. Dharma Master Kui Ji fell asleep too, so he did not know at all. Vinaya Master Tao Xuan continued to meditate.
The next morning, Vinaya Master Tao Xuan told Dharma Master Kui Ji, “Hey! How come you do not cultivate at all? You don’t meditate, you don’t do any practice. You lie down and sleep at night, snoring loudly and talking in your sleep. I could not meditate or enter Samadhi.”
Dharma Master Kui Ji said, “Ah! You say I have no cultivation, but I think you don’t. You say heavenly beings bring you offerings but since I have been here, I have not seen any heavenly being. Last night, instead of doing your practice, you were picking lice. You picked two lice. If you had pinched them dead, then never mind; but you placed them on the ground. One fell down and died and the other broke two legs. The dead louse went to King Yama to sue you. King Yama was planning to send some ghosts over to capture you for questioning but I spoke on your behalf. I told him that you are a cultivator and hoped that King Yama will forgive you. I told those two lice to find their next birth. This is how you were saved from your troubles. And you actually tell me that I disturbed you, preventing you from cultivating? I think you have no cultivation whatsoever!” Vinaya Master Tao Xuan thought, “How did he know about two lice being thrown on the ground? There were no lights on or anything; how did he know?” He did not dare to argue because he keeps the precepts so he did not speak to people casually. He simply remained patient with what other people say about him; he did not argue back or defend. Later, Dharma Master Kui Ji said, “I’m leaving, you are just pretending to cultivate here. I am not going to wait for lunch today.”
By noon, heavenly being Lu Xuan Chang brought offerings to Vinaya Master Tao Xuan. Vinaya Master Tao Xuan, somewhat unhappy, said, “Why did you not bring any food yesterday?”
Lu Xuan Chang immediately knelt down and said, “Vinaya Master, it’s not that I did not make offerings yesterday but when I did, I could not enter your hut. More than a dozen miles radius around this hut shone with a golden light that was so bright I could not open my eyes. I could not see the roads in front of me. I asked the local earth Bodhisattva how come the golden lights were so bright up ahead that I could not proceed. The local earth Bodhisattva said, ‘Someone in the hut is a Bodhisattva in the flesh, a living Bodhisattva.’ I circled around a few times yesterday and could not come in, so I could not bring you offerings. Please forgive me.”
Vinaya Master Tao Xuan thought, “No wonder Dharma Master Kui Ji is a national master whom even the emperor believes in. He is a Bodhisattva in the flesh.” He did not dare to look down on Dharma Master Kui Ji anymore. So we cannot fathom the states of Bodhisattvas.
The sound of kshanti paramita. We have talked about two of the paramitas among the Six Paramitas and the Myriad Conducts in the Buddhadharma. There are four more. The third is kshanti, which is Sanskrit for patience. There is patience with production, patience with the Dharma and patience with the non-production of Dharma, something extremely wondrous and filled with joy. If you certify to the patience of non-production of Dharma, then you have really tasted the Dharma, really understood the wonder and the inconceivability of the Buddhadharma. By being patient, you can reach paramita; by being impatient, you cannot reach paramita.
The sound of virya paramita. Virya is also Sanskrit, which means vigor. Some people misunderstand vigor as being diligent with non-Buddhist practices. Actually, those who really understand vigor are diligent with the Buddhadharma. Diligent with non-Buddhist practices is merely about cultivating useless ascetic practices. There were many heretics in India. One practice that sought answer outside of themselves (externalist practice) was that they ate grass instead of rice; keeping the cows’ precepts, imitating cows.
Another externalist practice was to imitate dogs and keep the precepts of dogs. These externalists will not do what dogs refuse to do; they will reject any food dogs reject. They only eat what dogs eat. These are the cows’ and dogs’ precepts. There is another externalist practice of sleeping in a pile of ash. The human body is already unclean, but these externalists pile lots of dust on their bodies and cultivate in the dust. Another externalist practice is to sleep on a bed of nails to show that these externalists can tolerate pain and practice asceticism. These are examples of externalists’ useless ascetic practices. They think they are very diligent, but it is actually a deviant form of knowledge and view. It is not proper knowledge and proper view. This kind of diligence is useless.
Be vigorous in the area of good dharma rather than evil dharma. Being diligent with evil dharma is to go against the Way. Diligent in doing good dharma, such as bowing to the Buddhas, reciting the sutras, bowing in repentance, reciting the Buddha’s name are about being diligent with the body.
Then there is being diligent with the mind. What does it mean by being diligent with the mind? Always cultivate in thought after thought, never forgetting to cultivate the paramita of vigor but always forget your fatigue. Cultivating the Buddhadharma truly, that way you will not feel tired or hungry, you will not be bothered by anything that is not according with the Dharma. Why? You are diligent so you do not have any of these negative feelings. If you were not diligent, then you will experience problems. You will feel tired and lethargic; you figure you might as well go to sleep. This is not vigor. Vigor is primarily based on what you do, such as cultivating the path of goodness at all times and places. That would be the paramita of vigor.
Last summer when I lectured on the Shurangama Sutra, I explained a four-line gatha. Every monk or nun should remember this four-line gatha. When the Buddha was in the world, monastics recited this four-line gatha everyday. They did not forget it at any time. I said this specifically during the summer break. I even think laypeople should memorize it, not to mention how monastics should not forget it. This four-line gatha is:
Guard the mouth and gather in thoughts,
make no bodily transgressions
Never distress a sentient being
Stay far removed from unuseful asceticism
Practitioners like these save the world.
Guard the mouth and gather in thoughts, make no bodily transgressions. Do not speak casually or gossip. Watch over the mouth to prevent it from talking about this being good and that being bad, this being delicious and that being bad tasting. Gather in thoughts means to pull in all those thoughts so they do not run left to right. Make no bodily transgressions means not violating any precepts with the body. Always remind oneself that one is a left-home person. Do not violate the rules.
Never distress a sentient being. Do not bother or disturb any sentient being. Sentient beings include not only humans, even animals. It is wrong to make any of them upset. Monastics should not distress any sentient being.
Stay far removed from unuseful asceticism. Stay farther away from unbeneficial ascetic practices; but do the twelve dhutanga practices. Avoid those unhelpful practices that do not accord with the Buddhadharma. Do not study from heretics who dare say that they will become Buddhas in this lifetime. Cultivate according to the Buddhadharma. Do not observe the precepts of cows and dogs. Why would people do that? Externalists do these bitter practices that are so difficult they open their Heavenly Eye. When they open up their Heavenly Eye, they see a dog dies then enters the heavens; so they imitate dogs by keeping prohibitions that dogs do. Some other externalists see cows do that and imitate cows and keep the prohibitions that cows do. These externalists in India were short on wisdom. Although they cultivated various ascetic practices, none of these practices are helpful. So stay far removed from unuseful asceticism.
Practitioners like these save the world. People who cultivate like this can save the world, teaching and transforming living beings.
There is no such thing as being vigorous about vigor. Vigor is a dharma explained to us ordinary people. In fact, the six paramitas are all vigor and not vigor. Giving, keeping precepts, and being patient require physical vigor. Being in dhyana samadhi and developing prajna require mental vigor. In essence, there is no [separate category] for vigor. Vigor becomes a part of other paramitas, such as prajna etc. Giving more, you are vigorous with giving; keeping to the precepts closely, you are vigorous with the precepts; being patient more, you are vigorous in patience; being ever more vigorous, you are vigorous in vigor; meditating nonstop, you are vigorous in dhyana Samadhi; cultivating prajna, you are vigorous in wisdom; studying the prajnadharmas, you are vigorous in prajna.
There is no vigor to vigor, it in and of itself does not do anything. So not being attached to being vigorous is having real vigor. Attached to how you are vigorous in this and that, claiming that your vigor is without bounds, that your vigor applies to all six paramitas, then you are not truly vigorous. Truly understand the Buddhadharma and there is essentially nothing; there is something when you do not understand. Once you understand, there is nothing. You say, “I do not have anything now. I am not diligent either.” Not being diligent is also nothing. This is different from really understanding the Buddhadharma and there is not even real diligence. Why? It is because you are not attached.
If you do not understand the Buddhadharma and continue to be attached to your diligence, then that is no diligence. Since you really do not understand the Buddhadharma, you basically do not know what is diligence, not to mention being diligent. This is why you do not understand the Buddhadharma; if you really do understand, you still have to let it go. You still do not understand the Buddhadharma if you do not let it go. This makes people break all attachments to marks, thus becoming attached to nothing. Attached, you do not understand the Buddhadharma. This is vigor.
The sound of dhyana paramita. Dhyana is also Sanskrit, which stands for the cultivation of contemplation or quiet deliberation. Dhyana includes the Four Dhyanas, the Eight Samadhis, and the Nine Sequential Samadhis. There are also secular dhyana, transcendental dhyana, and the most superior form of transcendental dhyana. Secular dhyana are what we ordinary people cultivate. This includes the Four Boundless Qualities of the Mind and the Four Formless Samadhis.
We do not need to describe these states in detail, just work hard in your meditation and you will naturally understand this state. What is transcendental dhyana? Transcendental dhyana includes the Four Dhyanas and the Eight Samadhis, the Eight Superior Ways, and the Eight Liberations.
You are confused by these terms. This is like reading a menu, something may look good but before you put it in your mouth, you will never know the taste of it. Now you know why there are different dhyanas: secular dhyana, transcendental dhyana, the most superior form of transcendental dhyana, Thus Come One’s dhyana, patriarch’s dhyana and others. As long as you are willing to work on your cultivation, you will get a taste of its flavor in the future.
And the sound of prajna paramita. Prajna is Sanskrit for wisdom. Wisdom is also divided into secular wisdom and transcendental wisdom. Secular wisdom is worldly knowledge and intelligence. What are worldly knowledge and intelligence? For instance, advances in science, advances in philosophy and all types of information are worldly knowledge. A debater who can explain principles where there are no principles has worldly wisdom. T
ranscendental wisdom is about pursuing the Buddhist path diligently in thought after thought, studying the Buddhadharma continuously. Real cultivation of transcendental wisdom means contemplating the Buddhadharma while sleeping, dreaming, suffering from sickness and pain. So is secular wisdom and transcendental wisdom one thing or two? Originally they are one but it depends on how you use it. Apply it to the secular and that is secular wisdom; apply it to transcendental Buddhadharma and that is transcendental wisdom. Wisdom is not divided into two. Originally you were investigating the world’s problems, and you knew everything in the world is suffering, emptiness, impermanence and no-self.
Now let us use this kind of wisdom to investigate transcendental studies, which is transcendental wisdom. Secular wisdom and transcendental wisdom are not two. Most people enjoy a secular form of wisdom but not transcendental wisdom. Some people enjoy transcendental wisdom but no secular wisdom. How come? Some people are very intelligent but keep doing muddled things, things they should avoid; whereas the important things, the question of birth and death is left untouched and uninvestigated. Some people investigate transcendental questions but do not understand secular dharmas. We must “enter the world yet transcend the world; transcend the world and enter the world.” Travel freely between the secular and the transcendental. If you understand that, entering the world is transcending the world. If you don not understand, transcending the world is entering the world.
The ancients told us something very useful: “Intelligence results from anonymous good deeds; anonymous good deeds lead us onto the path of intelligence; try and play smart without believing in anonymous good deed, the smart ends up being misled by their smarts.” Why are we intelligent as human beings? It is because in lives past we did many virtuous deeds. What are anonymous good deeds? Anonymous good deeds are not broadcasted.
For instance, someone died and had no coffin, so I bought one for him and buried him. This was a good deed but I did not tell anyone about it. In general, one will help to do good deeds without letting other people know about it. Those who did a lot of anonymous good deeds are intelligent in this lifetime. Also if in past lives you read Buddhist sutras frequently, such as reading the Vajra Prajna Paramita Sutra several ten’s of thousands of times, you will be intelligent in this lifetime. Having studied a lot in the past, you will be intelligent in this lifetime too. So intelligence is a result of anonymous good deeds. Intelligence in this lifetime comes from cultivation and virtuous deeds in lives past.
Anonymous good deeds lead us onto the path of intelligence . You are intelligent because of your virtuous conduct. Virtuous conduct led you onto the path of intelligence.
Try and play smart without believing in anonymous good deed, Having forgotten in this lifetime, you do not travel the path of doing good deeds. You do not believe in doing anonymous good deeds or good deeds in general. You keep using your intelligence to commit crime. The smart ends up being misled by their smarts. Their intelligence ends up hurting themselves, why? If you were dumb, you would not do anything bad. Since you are smart, you know what other people do not know. You hurt somebody and the victim does not even realize that you are a bad person. This is called the smart ends up being misled by their wits.
For example, Cao Cau was someone most intelligent, more than even ghosts and spirits, but he did inappropriate things, though he did some good things too. He ended up being misled by his own intelligence. Of course he did have his accomplishments. After hearing this verse, people who would like to be intelligent should work hard at doing good deeds, contributing to humanity and avoiding harming others.
Let me add another supplement on the paramita of keeping the precepts. When the Buddha was in the world, two Bhikshus wanted to go and see Shakyamuni Buddha. After traveling a long ways without encountering any water, the two Bhikshus were extremely thirsty, so thirsty they were at the brink of death. One Bhikshu saw a human skull with some water and said, “Since we are so thirsty right now, we can drink the water in this skull.” The other Bhikshu said, “No! There are insects in the water, so we should not drink it.” “But look at how thirsty we are. Drink this water and we will not die of thirst and we will see Shakyamuni Buddha then! If we die of thirst then it would be impossible to see the Buddha.” “I would rather die from keeping the precepts and miss seeing the Buddha. I will follow the Buddha’s teachings even if I have to die for it.” The first Bhikshu drank the water in the ladle-like skull while the other did not drink the water and died of thirst indeed.
The Bhikshu who drank the water went on ahead to see the Buddha. When he got there, he asked the Buddha, “There were two of us who were extremely thirsty about halfway along the journey. We saw a human skull with water and I drank the water so that I did not have to die, so that I may come to visit the Buddha. My fellow cultivator was willing to die of thirst than drink that water because of the insects in the water. He would violate the precepts if he drank it. I drank the water and did not die; he did not drink the water and died of thirst. I get to see the Buddha.” Shakyamuni Buddha said, “You thought he died of thirst? Since that Bhikshu kept the precepts, I made it so that he got to see me first. He is already here listening to my Dharma talks. Although keeping the precepts is extremely difficult, I understand his sincerity. Although you get to see me, you did not uphold the precepts, so you are not so sincere. He has already become enlightened and certified to the fruition, but you still have to cultivate over time.”
This tells us how we must be sincere in doing the six paramitas of precepts, patience, giving, vigor, dhyana Samadhi and wisdom, as well as the myriad conducts. Insincere, we are casual and will not accord with the Buddhadharma. We must do what is true. So,
Guard the mouth and gather in thoughts,
make no bodily transgressions
Never distress a sentient being
Stay far removed from unuseful asceticism
Practitioners like these save the world.
This four-line gatha is something that monks and nuns should always remember. Act according to this gatha. It is extremely important to keep the precepts; do not be casual about it. Be a little bit casual and you miss the target, so cultivation requires sincerity and down to earth steps. Do not float along; do it honestly.
There was the sound of compassion. Kindness can bestow joy while compassion can uproot suffering. All beings hear this voice of Shakyamuni Buddha and leave suffering and attain bliss, liberated from birth and death.
The sound of joyous giving. Joyously give. Kindness and compassion, joy and giving are the four boundless qualities of the mind. We must be delighted when we give. Do not regret it after we give, for that would not be delight. Shakyamuni Buddhas uttered this sound of joyous giving so that all beings heard it and wished to give happily.
The sound of liberation. Liberation is a type of true freedom, unrestrained and unbounded. From what are we liberated? We are liberated from the suffering and afflictions of birth and death in the six paths of transmigration. Once upon a time a monk requested a prominent Sangha member to speak the Dharma. He asked, “Senior monk, how can we become liberated?” This prominent monk said, “Who tied you up?” The listening monk became enlightened instantaneously, “No one tied me up. I tied myself up.”
We are naturally liberated if we do not tie ourselves up. What does it mean by tying ourselves up? Here is where we should think things over. We are not at ease because there are things we do not see through and cannot let go. Ill at ease, we are liberated. If we can see through everything and let them go, then we are truly free, that is being unrestrained and unbounded, unhindered and unimpeded liberation that leave mixed up dream thinking far behind. Really let go and attain liberation; refuse to let go and there will be no liberation.
Shakyamuni Buddha spoke with this sound of liberation, so we should liberate ourselves too. Do not tie ourselves up and lock ourselves in jail forever. How come we bind ourselves and lock ourselves up? If you were not in jail, you would be liberated; since you are not liberated, it is as if you are in jail: you are not free to go east when you want to; you are not free to go west when you want to; you are not free to go south when you want to; you are not free to go north when you want to.
Freedom does not come from this stinking skin bag but this inherent nature. An inherent nature that enjoys freedom may live if one wants, die if one wants to at any time. One may die disease-free; one simply sits there and dies. This is true freedom. At that point birth and death is not up to fate but up to me. I may become born if I want to; I may die if I want to. I may live until I am 100, 1000, 10,000. I may not want to become born then I can always stay at our original home. When I want to live in this “house”, I live in this house. When I do not want to live in this house, I can move any time. There are two explanations as to why you might want to live in this house:
– Your consciousness, which is yin, is free. It may travel to New York, Europe, Australia or anywhere. You would know everything about that location but you cannot take anything with you. You cannot buy something in New York and bring it back to San Francisco with you. Why? Consciousness is in the yin realm. It can see New York but cannot do anything there.
– The other is that your inherent Buddha nature is free. The Buddha nature is yangand has great uses using the entire substance. Even when you are in San Francisco, you may reach your hand out and get something from New York. Is that amazing? Is that spiritual powers? This is a state of liberation without restraint or constraint, not impeded or obstructed. One trichiliocosm, for instance, can be as close as if it were in the same room. You can accomplish anything you want in the world. This is the yang Buddha nature. If you are liberated and free, then you will experience this kind of state. People with such states do not easily reveal themselves. Do not try to make me buy some German product for you because I can do it with my spiritual powers. This is forbidden. When the Buddha was in the world, he told all of his disciples not to use their spiritual powers. You have to leave this world if you use your spiritual powers. Since most people do not have spiritual powers, they will be shocked by your spiritual powers. In short, when you can do things as you wish, that is in the yang realm. When there are things you cannot do, that is in the yin realm and a function of the consciousness. Every one of us must be clear about this.
The sound of no outflows. What are no outflows? It is no ignorance. Without ignorance, there is no outflow. With even just a bit of ignorance, you cannot be free of outflow. Ignorance is the root of afflictions. Ignorance leads to numerous afflictions; the absence of ignorance spells zero afflictions. How come you are greedy? It is because of your ignorance. How come you are hateful? It is because of your ignorance. How come you are deluded? It is because of your ignorance. Ignorance is the root of afflictions. How come you have desire? Lust? It is also because of your ignorance. Since you are unclear at the start, you create all kinds of karma. Were you to have the sound of no outflows, you would be free from ignorance. Therefore Shakyamuni Buddha emitted all kinds of sounds to make all beings become enlightened through sound.
“The substance of true teachings here comes from purification through hearing sound.” The fundamental substance of Buddhism in the Saha World is in sound. We do the Buddha’s work with sounds, hence there are all kinds of sounds on proclaiming, praising and explaining.
…the sound of wisdom, the sound of great wisdom, the sound of the Lion’s roar, the sound of the Great Lion’s roar, the sound of thunderclouds, and the sound of great thunderclouds.
After he had uttered indescribably many sounds…
…the sound of wisdom. What is wisdom? Wisdom changes delusion; there is no delusion with the presence of wisdom; there is no wisdom with the presence of delusion. These two do not exist simultaneously. Let me tell you something else that is easier to understand. Wisdom is delusion; delusion is wisdom. Some say, I must be wise because I am deluded now. Let me use this delusion to be as deluded as I possibly can. If you can be as deluded as possible, you have real wisdom.
Some say, “Dharma Master! I do not believe this idea of yours: wisdom is delusion; delusion is wisdom. What I see is that deluded individuals always do muddled things, while wise people do things with a clear understanding.” Not bad, what you say is very much correct and what I say is very much incorrect. How? It is because delusion can turn into wisdom so I say delusion is wisdom. Since wisdom can also turn into delusion, I say wisdom is also delusion. A few days ago when I talked about “Intelligence results from anonymous good deeds” I made this principle very clear already. But I am bringing it out again. How come you would not be deluded if you were wise? It is because wise people have real freedom and have reached real liberation.
How is that? Wise individuals do not do muddled things. If you are deluded, you always do muddled things and avoid intelligent things. Deluded individuals are not free and are passive. Wise individuals are not passive, they have real will and wisdom. Regardless of what comes, they recognize the situation and proceed if it is a good thing to do and do not proceed if it is not a good thing to do. They have true judgment and true ability to select the right dharmas. Deluded individuals do not; they will do them even though they know something is clearly wrong.
For instance, we know that gambling is something bad but they think that they may have a chance in a million at winning and getting rich. This one thought of ignorance and greed led them to wish for riches; they end up losing all their assets. They still do not wake up after they lose all that. They think, I am just one step away from winning and getting rich. For example, a dollar something buys you eight numbers on a lotto ticket. If you select the matching set, you will win millions. But you lost by one number, so you buy again, thinking you will win for sure. Is that delusion? If gamblers can all win, then casinos will not make any profit.
Some people smoke opium. People say opium is a drug that is harmful but deluded individuals will try it. They try it once and they do not feel that they got anything out of it, so they try it once more, twice more, three times, four times, again and again. Once they experiment with it, they become addicts. They cannot do without it by then. Is that delusion? Someone perfectly sound is dictated by opium to drip snot and tears. One is comfortable all over so one has to get more money to buy this stuff to support oneself. Delusion made you not free. How come you are not free? Opium smokers believe smoking opium is a form of freedom and enjoy it, but is it freedom when you are not smoking it and crave it? Everything else is the same. Doing something that you should not do, is delusion and not wisdom. You will not be mixed up if you are wise; you would not do what you should not do.
The sound of great wisdom. Extremely wise individuals see straight to the bottom of things and do not discover problems only when things go wrong. They can forecast whether they can do something or not, perhaps the result will be unfavorable if they act. With great knowledge and great wisdom, they avoid doing muddled things. What is great knowledge and great wisdom? Investigating the Buddhadharma is great knowledge and great wisdom. Only people who investigate the Buddhadharma can be truly free, which is great wisdom.
The sound of the Lion’s roar. Lions are the king of the jungle. His roar frightens all the animals so that they cannot stand straight and are not prepared to run. Even ferocious wild beasts such as tigers and wolves are at a loss due to fear. All the bests hear his roars and their heads split open; they are frightened dumb.
The sound of the Great Lion’s roar. An average lion’s roar is severe enough, now imagine how the sound of a great lion’s roar may be heard far and wide.
The sound of thunderclouds. Sounds like thunderbolts in the clouds.
And the sound of great thunderclouds. This sound of thunder is even greater than the average sound, meaning that the Buddhadharma is like a great cloud in the sky that universally shines upon the great earth, providing shade everywhere. When thunder bolts, it is heard everywhere around the world, symbolizing how the Buddhadharma reaches all beings pervasively.
Rain will pour with clouds and thunder. Rain symbolizes the Buddhadharma universally nourishing all beings’ faculties so that everyone is nurtured by the rain of Dharma. The Dharma rain falls and bigger trees will receive more Dharma rain while smaller trees will receive less Dharma rain. Flowers and grass will also receive the amount of rain they need. The Buddhadharma is the same way. Living beings receive according to their needs. Every kind of Buddhadharma makes every type of being nourished so that they extend their wisdom life in the Dharma body and uncover great wisdom. After he, Shakyamuni Buddha, had uttered indescribably many, a number so large that cannot be said, sounds such as those described above.
Countless millions of gods, dragons, ghosts, and spirits from the Saha world and other worlds also gathered in the palace of the Trayastrimsha Heaven.
They came from the Heaven of the Four Kings, the Trayastrimsha Heaven, the Suyama Heaven, the Tushita Heaven, the Blissful Transformations Heaven, and the Heaven of Comfort Gained Through Others’ Transformations.
They came from the Heaven of the Multitudes of Brahma, the Heaven of the Ministers of Brahma, the Heaven of the Great Brahma Lord, the Heaven of Lesser Light, the Heaven of Limitless Light, the Heaven of Light Sound, the Heaven of Lesser Purity, the Heaven of Limitless Purity, and the Heaven of Universal Purity.
Earlier the Buddha emitted limitless clouds of great light and proclaimed various kinds of Dharma sound so that living beings will turn away from confusion and return to enlightenment, forsake deviance and return to the proper. Now there is this Saha world. Saha is a Sanskrit word for bearing patience or extreme suffering, which is in contrast to the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss. The world in the West is extremely blissful while this Saha world of ours is extremely painful. This is also called “bearing patience” because living beings can bear to be patient with this kind of pain.
Countless millions of gods, dragons, ghosts, and spirits from the Saha world and lands in other worlds, as opposed to the Saha world, also gathered in the palace of the Trayastrimsha Heaven, the palace of the Heaven of Thirty-Three.
They came from the Heaven of the Four Kings. . . the Four Kings are also called the Four Kings Who Protect the World. The Heaven of the Four Kings is situated in the center of Mt. Sumeru. The Trayastrimsha Heaven is at the top of Mt. Sumeru. Each of the four directions of this Heaven has a heavenly king. The heavenly king in the east is the Heavenly King Who Upholds Nations, the heavenly king in the south is the Heavenly King of Growth, the heavenly king in the west is Heavenly King Huge Eyes, while the heavenly king in the north is the Heavenly King of Erudition. Beings in the heavens where the four great heavenly kings reside enjoy a 500 year life, of which one day and one night is equivalent to 50 years on earth. The Heaven of the Four Kings is closest to us; they watch over to see who are doing good or evil in the human realm. This is the Heaven of the Four Kings.
The Trayastrimsha Heaven . We have already explained earlier that the Sanskrit word “Trayastrimsha” means the Heaven of the Thirty-Three. The lord of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three is also called Capable of Being God.
The Suyama Heaven is a place where neither sunlight nor moonlight reaches. So is it a dark place? No, all the beings in the Suyama Heaven radiate a light from their bodies so they do not need sunlight or moonlight. How come this heaven is called the Suyama Heaven? Suyama is again a Sanskrit word that means “fine divisions of time” because this heaven is so high that neither sunlight nor moonlight can reach it. So they tell time by the blooming and closing of lotuses. It is day when the lotuses bloom and night when the lotuses shut. The length of life in the Tushita Heavenis 1,000 years, of which one day and night is equivalent to 100 years on earth. The length of life in the Suyama Heaven is 1,500 years and the heights of beings there is one and a half miles. Heavenly beings in the Tryastrimsha Heaven are one mile in height and beings in the Heaven of the Four Kings are half a mile in height. The length of life increases by 500 years and the height of beings increases by half a mile for every layer of heaven. The higher the heaven, the longer the life of beings is there.
The Tushita Heaven. This is also Sanskrit and means “contentment”. This is the Heaven of Contentment. There are inner and outer courts in the Tushita Heaven. The inner court is where Maitreya Bodhisattva now lives, the outer court is where most heavenly beings dwell. The three forms of disasters cannot reach the inner court of the Tushita Heaven but the outer court of the Tushita Heaven will be destroyed by the three forms of disasters.
The Blissful Transformations Heaven enjoys a happiness that comes forth transformationally.
And the Heaven of Comfort Gained Through Others’ Transformations. Joy in this heaven comes forth transformationally from other heavenly beings. They can transfer the joys of other heavens to this heaven with their spiritual powers. Heavenly demons, not real spirits or gods, live in the Heaven of Comfort Gained Through Others’ Transformations.
The above are the Six Desire Heavens: The Heaven of the Four Kings, the Tryastrimsha Heaven, the Suyama Heaven, the Tushita Heaven, the Blissful Transformations Heaven, the Heaven of Comfort Gained Through Others’ Transformations. Why are these heavens the six heavens of desire? Heavenly beings still have lust and impure thoughts. When I was lecturing on the Shurangama Sutraduring the summer, I talked about these Six Desire Heavens already. I believe none of you enjoyed it so you returned it to me. So I am giving it to you again now.
The beings of the Six Desire Heavens have lust. Beings in the Heaven of Four Kings and Tryastrimsha Heaven engage in lust, similar to human beings. How come? They all have physical form. The beings in the Heaven of Four Kings and the Tryastrimsha Heaven also marry. There are couples and father and son relationships. What size is a newborn in the Heaven of Four Kings? The same size as a five-year-old in the human realm. And in the Tryastrimsha Heaven? The same size as a seven-year-old in the human realm. A newborn in the Suyama Heaven is the same size as a ten-year-old in the human realm. Newborns this size come out and sit on the knees of heavenly beings. Once they are born, they wait to eat a kind of natural, celestial dew that form spontaneously. After they are done, they become the size of heavenly beings, which is half a mile in height and 500 years in the length of life. This is the Heaven of Four Kings.
As it is said, “The Heaven of Four Kings and the Tryastrimsha Heaven engage in desire through embrace.” Sexual activity in the Heaven of the Four Kings and the Tryastrimsha Heaven is the same as the human realm. “Suyama through hand-holding and Tushita through smiling.” Sexual activity between men and women in the Suyama Heaven occurs simply by holding hands. The same way Westerners greet each other by shaking hands, for example. This gesture is enough to count as sexual activity between couples in the heavens. This is the Suyama Heaven. And the Tushita Heaven? Men and women engage in sexual activity just by smiling at each other. Heavenly beings of that place do not smile usually. Why? Their emotional desire is very light, nearly none. In the Six Desire Heavens, the higher the heaven, the lighter the desire.
How come we people have to eliminate desire and cut off love as we cultivate? Why do we want to be free of thoughts of desire? It is because the more thoughts of desire we have, the more delusions we have; the fewer thoughts of desire, the more wisdom we develop. Thoughts of desire belong to the Evil World of Five Turbidities. What are turbidities? Thoughts of desire are most turbid and unclean. Desire in the Heaven of the Four Kings is the same as emotions and desires in the human realm. Compare the Tryastrimsha Heaven to the Heaven of the Four Kings, it is still lighter, hence lust only requires shaking hands.
“Suyama through hand-holding and Tushita through smiling.” I have already talked about this during the summer. Let me explain it again, if I do not, you all forget. “The Heaven of Four Kings and the Tryastrimsha Heaven engage in desire through embrace. Suyama through hand-holding and Tushita through smiling. Bliss from Transformations through long stares and Bliss from Others through glances. These are the joys of desire in the six heavens.” They just smile at each other in the Tushita Heaven. We people think smiling is a good thing; smiling is not good. There is desire in smiles.
When you get to the Heaven of Suyama, people wish to cultivate and work hard, very few people shake hands. Shaking hands is equivalent to sexual activity between couples. In the Tushita Heaven, this consists of smiling at each other. In the Heaven of Bliss from Transformations, this consists of long stares between men and women. “Long” may be one minute or five minutes. They just look at each other for as long as one or two minutes. In the Bliss of Others’ Transformations, a quick glance will do it. No need to look long. This is the way sexual behavior between men and women work in the Six Desire Heavens. The higher the heaven, the lighter the desire is. If your desires were heavy, you would not become born in the heavens either. When you are in those heavens, you do not have much desire. This is the joy from desire in the Six Desire Heavens.
There are three heavens in the First Dhyana, three heavens in the Second Dhyana, and three heavens in the Third Dhyana. The three heavens of the First Dhyana are the Heaven of the Brahma Multitudes, the Heaven of the Ministers of Brahma and the Great Brahman Heaven.
They came from the Heaven of the Multitudes of Brahma. What is Brahma? Brahma means purity. Thoughts of desire in the First Dhyana Heaven are even lighter, so it is said to be Brahma. The Brahma Multitudes Heaven refers to how all the heavenly beings living there are all pure. These are the heavenly citizens of the Brahma Heaven.
The Heaven of the Ministers of Brahma. These are ministers in the heavens who came to their positions because of purity. They assist the Great Brahma Lord.
The Heaven of the Great Brahma Lord is where the Great Brahma Lord lives. He is someone who works very hard at his cultivation but he only knows to cultivate heavenly blessings and has not become enlightened or certified to the fruition. After cultivating to a point, he became born in the heavens and became a Great Brahma Lord. The Great Brahma Lord has the multitudes of Brahmans and Brahma Ministers supporting him. These are the three heavens of the First Dhyana.
The three heavens of the First Dhyana are called the Ground of the Bliss from Leaving Production. Leaving the cycle of birth and death behind, it is quite a delightful place. When we work enough to reach the state of the First Dhyana, we can see the Great Brahma Lord, the ministers and people of the Great Brahman Heaven.
When you reach the First Dhyana heavens, your pulse stops as you meditate. For most of us, we are dead if our pulse quits. You are in this state where your pulse and blood flow stop because your inherent nature has reached the First Dhyana heavens. This is not because you are dead but because you entered the First DhyanaSamadhi. This may occur for an hour, two hours, three hours, five hours or a day, two days, three days, five days, ten days, twenty days.
Although your pulse does not move, the body does not deteriorate. For most of us average people after death, our corpse begin to stink after seven days. If you can work hard so that you reach this state, then your body will not deteriorate no matter how long you are in Samadhi. This is about the three heavens of the First Dhyana.
The three heavens of the Second Dhyana are: the Heaven of Lesser Light, the Heaven of Limitless Light, the Heaven of Light Sound. How can we become reborn in the heavens? Eliminate desire and end love so there is no lust. With lust, we cannot become reborn in the heavens. Each heaven is one level higher than the one below. One heaven is higher than another is because it has less desire.
The heavens of the Second Dhyana include the Heaven of Lesser Light. Heavenly beings here have auras that are brighter than the lights in the Suyama Heaven. At the same time, among the three heavens of the Second Dhyana, the light of the Heaven of Lesser Light is comparatively weaker than the other two heavens. How come there is a light? It is because they kept the precepts purely or focused on keeping the precepts in particular when they were people. Those in the Heaven of the Multitudes of Brahma and Heaven of the Ministers of Brahma also observe the precepts but not so well. They are pure but they do not emit light. Those in the Heaven of Lesser Light not only keep the precepts well but emit a light. This is why they became born in this kind of heaven.
The Heaven of Limitless Light. The one earlier was lesser light, this light is limitless and boundless.
Above the Heaven of Limitless Light is the Heaven of Light Sounds. How do heavenly beings in the Heaven of Light Sounds speak? They speak with light. This is the science of optics that is found even in televisions, in that lights communicate. Heavenly beings in the Heaven of Light Sound do not speak. It is not that they do not communicate, but they do so with words. Some Dharma Masters criticize that the heavenly beings in the Heaven of Light Sound do not speak because they have no language or words, that is why they use light to represent language and words. No, if they do not know how to speak, would they not be mutes? How is that better than those who speak? Since those in the Heaven of Light Sound speak using light, it is not useful to be mutes there.
I say they have language, but they do not need language with words. They use light the way we use optics to write, something along the lines of optics. It must be that. It is not that they just speak with light and there is no language. No. To explain the Buddhadharama, compare the Buddhadharma with secular dharma so that it is clear. Some other Dharma Masters say that there is no language or words in that heaven; calling heavenly beings in the Heaven of Light Sound mutes really shows how these Dharma Masters do not understand. This is the Second Dhyana Heavens. People who meditate and reach the Samadhi of the Second Dhyana Heaven, the Ground of Joy from Samadhi, experience a state. What is that? Their breaths stop. This is the state of the Second Dhyana Heaven.
Having reached the state of the Second Dhyana Heaven does not mean your skills are most terrific. People who work hard ask yourselves now: have you reached this level? Did your pulse stop? Did your breathing quit during meditation? No. If not, then work hard. If you do not, then you cannot become liberated from birth and death. There is no more birth and death at the First Dhyana Heaven or the Second DhyanaHeaven. Hard work does not mean experiencing some minor states such as a vision of Dharma protecting Bodhisattvas or some others. Even if we see light during meditation, the state is still insignificant; do not be attached.
Perhaps during meditation, you begin to swing back and forth without wishing to. You do not want to move, but you do. When you do move, you cannot make it stop even if you want to. These are the six forms of earthquake at work, signs of the six senses. This is not real skill, so keep moving ahead and strive hard. Until you reach the states of the First Dhyana and the Second Dhyana, you cannot be lazy. Lazy and you cannot end birth and death, which makes your future quite dangerous.
It is not easy to become a monk. Lazy for one day, you dig into the hells. If you do not want to go to the hells, then work a bit harder. You say, “I feel uncomfortable as soon as I start to apply myself. It is really uncomfortable. The hells are even more uncomfortable. If you want comfort now, you will be uncomfortable in the future. If you do some hard work now, you will be comfortable in the future. Count this up and who knows how long you will be in the hells. There is no leaving the Unintermittent Hells where you suffer there all day. Why does someone end up suffering there? It is because one was very lazy as a novice. One did not work hard and did not study the Buddhadharma, so he suffers. One can hardly be at ease in the hells.
The Heaven of Lesser Purity, the Heaven of Limitless Purity, and the Heaven of Universal Purity. These are the heavens of the Third Dhyana. The First Dhyana is called the Ground of Bliss from Leaving Production, the Second Dhyana is called the Ground of Bliss from Samadhi and the Third Dhyana is called the Ground of Wonderful Bliss from Leaving Joy. In the First Dhyana, the pulse stops, in the Second Dhyana, the breath stops and in the Third Dhyana, thoughts stop. Although the Heaven of the Multitudes of Brahma, the Heaven of the Ministers of Brahma and the Great Brahma Heaven of the First Dhyana Heavens are already pure but there is no light yet. Not only no light, but the lights are very dim. At the Second DhyanaHeavens, there is light that is more pure than pure.
There is another crude analogy that compares this to the floor. The Heaven of the Multitudes of Brahma, the Heaven of the Ministers of Brahma and the Great Brahma Heaven are like the floor that has been swept once, but not yet waxed. Without wax, there is no shine. We are talking in worldly terms, about how there is no wax or sheen. When you wax the floor then it will shine, this is the Heaven of Lesser Light, the Heaven of Limitless Light and the Heaven of Light Sound. These are the Second Dhyana Heavens. The Third Dhyana Heavens’ Heaven of Lesser Light is like waxed floor, but it needs to be wiped to really shine. There may be some dirt or broom hair that has not been cleaned up and picked up, so there is light, but it is not clean yet. The Third Dhyana Heavens are clean, they are the Heaven of Lesser Purity, the Heaven of Limitless Purity, and the Heaven of Universal Purity. The floor is waxed and wiped until it shines with a bright sheen and there is no dust at all. If you do not understand the states in the heavens, then you will if you think about this metaphor of a floor. Pulse moves blood, when our pulse stops, that is purity. If breath stops, then there is light.
At the Third Dhyana Heavens, thoughts stop completely. Although the pulse stops at the First Dhyana Heavens, but there is still this thought. At the Second DhyanaHeavens, this thought did not end either. At the Third Dhyana Heavens, this thought stopped. He will not let one thought occur and another thought develop, that thought occurs and this thought develops.
There are 90 births and deaths in one kashana for one individual; in each birth and death there are 900 thoughts. We have so many thoughts in such a short time. At the Third Dhyana, thoughts stop. There is no first thought or a later thought. Here thoughts stop; this is a Third Dhyana state. Not only does pulse stop, breath stop, even thoughts stop. Sit for a month and you do not know whether it has been a month; sit for a year and you do not know that is has been a year. There is no sense of time or space. Sit and enter Samadhi here does not mean death. You can come back if you want to. Your thought stops, but (as you start thinking), “How come I am here meditating?” This thought is born, so you come back. The state of the Third Dhyana has no thought at all, which is purity.
Thoughts are like dust, leaving you impure. While you are still breathing, there is no light to speak of. Breathe stops and your light manifests. You will feel pure and there is light, when your pulse stops. There is real purity to speak of when thoughts stop. These are the Heaven of Lesser Purity, the Heaven of Limitless Purity, and the Heaven of Universal Purity. These are the Third Dhyana Heavens. The Third Dhyanais called the Ground of Wonderful Bless from Leaving Joy. Leave joy behind. We think it is good to be joyous; but these should be left behind so that we are not even attached to joy. This is the wonderful function from the Ground of Wonderful Bliss from Leaving Joy.
They came from the Birth of Blessings Heaven, the Love of Blessings Heaven, the Abundant Fruit Heaven, the No Thought Heaven, the No Affliction Heaven, the No Heat Heaven, the Good Views Heaven, the Good Manifestation Heaven, the Ultimate Form Heaven, the Maheshvara Heaven, and so forth, up to the Heaven of the Station of Neither Thought Nor Non-Thought.
All those groups of gods, dragons, ghosts and spirits came and gathered together.
They came from the Birth of Blessings Heaven . What is the Birth of Blessings Heaven? Beings in this layer of heaven have ended the causes that led to suffering and abide in extreme bliss. He does not experience any suffering and is not attached to bliss. What does it mean by “He does not experience any suffering and is not attached to bliss”? Although pulse stops in the First Dhyana Heavens, he still experiences suffering and afflictions. At the Second and Third Dhyana Heavens, suffering and afflictions have not yet ended.
At the Fourth Dhyana Heavens, the Birth of Blessings Heaven, “he does not experience any suffering”. The seeds for suffering are no more. Although suffering disappears, is he happy? He is not attached to happiness, so “he is not attached to bliss.” He has left behind the suffering and afflictions of the First Dhyana and the sadness of the Second Dhyana Heavens. The beings in the Second Dhyana Heavens have not yet ended their sadness. When they reach the Fourth Dhyana, the sadness of the Second Dhyana is gone.
What are the causes of the suffering? They are desire. Desire is the cause of suffering. What are desires? Desires are the causes of suffering. Without desire, there is no suffering. Without lust, there would be no cause for suffering. Beings in the Fourth Dhyana Heavens do not have lust. All the desires are severed; they vanish. The gross marks all disappear, there is a kind of pure blessings and virtue. This is a quality in the Birth of Blessings Heaven, the first of the Fourth Dhyana Heavens.
Most people only know about the heavens, but how many? In the Buddhist sutras, there are all of the Six Desire Heavens, the three heavens of the First Dhyana, the three heavens of the Second Dhyana, and the three heavens of the Third Dhyana, and in the Fourth Dhyana? There are nine heavens. The Birth of Blessings Heaven is the first layer of the Fourth Dhyana Heavens because his pure blessings manifested.
The Love of Blessings Heaven. The blessings of this heaven are lovely. In this heaven, renunciation is perfected to a point that it is interpenetrating and unhindered. They can renounce what they could not renounce before and they renounce what they can renounce of course; they let go of what they could not let go before and let go of what they could already let go all the more. This is the perfection of renunciation. Pure in victorious understandings, he enjoys a blessing that cannot be obscured. It supersedes the bounds of heaven and earth. He gets his wishes to come true, and he can do as he pleases.
At this time, both suffering and blessing are left behind. There is no suffering or bliss. Although suffering and bliss have left, they do not obstruct existence of the Form Realm. They may enjoy the realm of existence but they accumulate merit for another pursuit, another goal. What is that? He hopes for the states enjoyed in the two heavens above the Love of Blessings Heaven: the Abundant Fruit Heaven and the No Thought Heaven. However, the Abundant Fruit Heaven is one of the Four DhyanaHeavens while the No Thought Heaven is where heretics live. Before reaching the Abundant Fruit Heaven, one may go to the Abundant Fruit Heaven or the No Thought Heaven. No Thought Heaven is a state of heretics, so it is easy to become diverted down the wrong path here. One can become born in the heavens and walk into the heretics’ heaven still.
What is the Abundant Fruit Heaven? The Abundant Fruit Heaven is the fruition for ordinary beings. All the Six Desire Heavens are fruitions that ordinary people reach. The finest state that ordinary people can reach is the Abundant Fruit Heaven. The Abundant Fruit Heaven leaves the defilement of the heavens below. They enjoy boundless and limitless joy in the Abundant Fruit Heaven; their spiritual powers also have endless fruitions. So it is not easy to become reborn in the Abundant Fruit Heaven. The wonderful accord is a vast amount of wonderful accord more than that of the Love of Blessings Heaven. They can cultivate to reach this fruit as they so wish. This is the Abundant Fruit Heaven.
The No Thought Heaven. At the No Thought Heaven, their thoughts cease but not forever, just 500 eons. His life is 500 eons so he goes through life without develop one thought, but in 500 eons, he develops one thought. During those 500 eons, for 499 eons he has no thought, but there is one eon where his thoughts cease during the first half but his thoughts occur in the last half of this eon. This is No Thought, where very time in his entire life is spent thinking. This heaven is totally occupied by heretics. Heretics reach this layer of heaven and think this is the ultimate heaven. He thinks that he will reach nirvana here. He stays here to cultivate but he will still fall. This is a place where heretics abide.
The No Affliction Heaven. Heavenly beings have no afflictions from views or thoughts. What are afflictions from views and thoughts? Views come from greed. Thoughts are discriminating opinions due to ideas not understood or not clear about. Without the delusions of view and delusions of thought, they do not have that type of heated afflictions. There is no suffering or bliss. In a state where both suffering and bliss have ended, they have no wish to fight, so their afflictions disappear. Cool and refreshed is the No Affliction Heaven.
The No Heat Heaven . Heat refers to heated afflictions. That heaven is very cool, devoid of heated afflictions.
The Good Views Heaven. What does this mean? Those in this Heaven enjoy views that are vast and far. They can see a long ways away.
The Good Manifestation Heaven . This is a very subtle and wonderful transformation that manifests all the joyful states.
The Ultimate Form Heaven . The heavens described above are all heavens of the Form Realm. This is the Ultimate Form Heaven.
The Maheshvara Heaven . Maheshvara is Sanskrit that means great ease. The Maheshvara god has eight arms, three heads and rides on a great white ox. He thinks he is very much at ease. The Maheshvara Heaven is also called the Great Heaven of Ease.
Among these ten heavens described above, the No Thought Heaven is where heretics and heavenly demons live whereas the other nine heavens are all Fourth Dhyana Heavens. The Fourth Dhyana is also called the Ground of Purity from Renouncing Thoughts. Earlier, we said that pulse stops in the First Dhyana, breath stops in the Second Dhyana, thoughts stop in the Third Dhyana, and the Fourth Dhyana? Thoughts are renounced. The Ground of Purity from Renouncing Thoughts abandons thoughts.
. . . and so forth, up to the Heaven of the Station of Neither Thought Nor Non-Thought. The Heaven of the Station of Neither Thought Nor Non-Thought includes the Heaven of the state of Boundless Emptiness, the Heaven of the Station of Boundless Consciousness, the Heaven of the Station of Nothing Whatsoever, and the Heaven of the Station of Neither Thought Nor Non-Thought. Since even consciousness is gone, it is called “no non-thought”. No thought is not nothing, there is still some thought, not necessarily no thought whatsoever. This is the Heaven of the Station of Neither Thought Nor Non-Thought.
All those groups of many gods, many dragons, many ghosts and spirits came and gathered together in the palace of the Tryastrimsha Heaven.
Moreover, sea spirits, river spirits, stream spirits, tree spirits, mountain spirits, earth spirits, brook and marsh spirits, sprout and seedling spirits, day, night, and space spirits, heaven spirits, food and drink spirits, grass and wood spirits, and other such spirits from the Saha and other worlds came and gathered together.
We talked about all those many heavens, ghosts and spirits, gods and dragons and others, but we are still not done. Moreover, sea spirits, river spirits, stream spirits…These are all the places with water. In the Buddha’s Longer Agama Sutra, it talks about where oceans, rivers and lakes come from. The sun releases heat, as heat boils there is perspiration, forming streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans. Not only do people sweat but earth sweats, trees sweat and all beings sweat. Under the blaze of the sun, things get hot, then perspire. No matter where the sun shines, it releases heat that is a blaze. Too much perspiration in the world creates lots of water that turn into streams and rivers. Water pervades all places throughout space and the Dharma Realm; there is water everywhere.
For example, the Shurangama Sutra describes how dew water comes to a crystal platter held toward the sky on a full moon night. This proves that water exists everywhere. Although it is everywhere, we do not see it sometimes because there is the inherent nature of water but no water in physical form. For instance, one quality of water is wetness and most places are extremely wet, which proves that water exists everywhere. Fire also exists everywhere. The nature of fire and water work together rather than in conflict. How come there is no tangible water everywhere? The universe and water are connected, but the Four Heavenly Kings have a pearl for avoiding water. Without this pearl, water would drown out this world, which is why water is not everywhere. This idea is very wonderful when explained.
What are oceans? Oceans are dark because look while submerged in the ocean and you cannot see anything. You cannot see anything in the huge ocean. You do not know how deep, how wide, or how large it is. This is the ocean that means big or obscure. There are many spirits in the ocean, one of whom is the dragon king. Among the other sea spirits, there is also one called Hai Ruo and one called Yang He. Hai Ruo the sea spirit is a type of beast and not a type of insect. It has 18 tails, eight legs, eight heads and has a human face. This is the highest ranking spirit in the sea. There are many other spirits. If you see any of these while meditating, do not be afraid. Sea spirits came to make offerings to you. Do not be frightened by its grotesque appearance.
How do you explain river? What is the difference between river and ocean? Rivers are larger than streams, oceans are bigger than rivers. Rivers are extremely wide but not very deep. Streams are not as wide as rivers. Oceans are the largest, being the lord of the myriad waterways. All the rivers, streams and lakes funnel into the ocean. It can accept all the waterways, no matter how many. Streams are different, they have to expand to other areas; oceans do not flow toward other areas. The Chinese character for “streams” means impartiality or imperial tribute. All the goods produced along the Yangtze River, the Huaihe River, the Yellow River and the Hanshui River are sent in as tributes to the Emperor.
There is another interpretation for the Chinese character “river” too, which is little known. It means “palms” of the hand. When the river is calm and has no waves, it is like the palm of a hand, even like a mirror. The water spirits, stream spirits and ocean spirits are all spirits in the water.
There are also tree spirits and mountain spirits. The Chinese character “trees” may be explained as production or birth because things grow in the mountains. It can be the word “in vain” in that it shoots the seeds of myriad things without hitting the target.
Earth spirits. Earth is explained as “the bottom” because it can grow all things and carry all things though it is at the very bottom.
Brook and marsh spirits. The Chinese character for brooks also means penetrate, in that brooks go through soil, to other places originally without water. Marshes are also places with water.
Sprout and seedling spirits. What are sprouts? Vegetation that grows to a certain height is called sprouts. Seedlings are seeds when they are being planted into the ground . As a part of the harvest, they are pits.
Day spirit. A spirit in charge of the day.
Night spirit. A spirit in charge of the night. The divide between day and night is midnight. After midnight, it is day; after noon, night begins. Although there is not officially the sun at midnight, yang energy has developed already. People usually experience lust from 3 a.m. to 5 a.m. because the yang energy emerges. Without lust, there is wisdom. Go down one direction, it turns into wisdom; go down another direction, it turns into lust. This is similar to the fork at the road to the Abundant Fruit Heaven and the No Thought Heaven. Maintain proper thoughts then you go down the direction that aids your wisdom; go down the other direction and your desire is helped. After noon is when yin begins. Lust develops at night too. Instead of moving down the path of lust, you would be moving down the path of wisdom. There is also a fork in the road leading either to yin or yang; it is up to you on how you will travel.
And space spirits. Who are space spirits? Space spirits refer to “shunyata” in Ananda’s verse before the Shurangama mantra. “Even could the nature of shunyata melt away, my vajra-like supreme resolve would still remain unmoved.” Do not just let what you hear go by thinking you are not greedy because you are not even greedy for the Dharma. Not being greedy for the Buddhadharma, you better not be greedy for worldly dharma either. If you are not greedy for the Buddhadharma but are greedy for worldly dharma and sit around counting your money all day, then that is a problem too.
Heaven spirits. Food and drink spirits. There are spirits to food too. Spirits supervise people’s food intakes, even if it is just one mouthful of water, one fruit or one food item for the day. If you believe it, it exists; if you do not believe it, it still exists but you just don’t know about it. It is a stupid idea to say that it does not exist unless I believe it. Whether you believe there is such a spirit, it exists.
There was a Duan Zheng Yuan in Beijing. Most people called him Master Duan. He met someone who was in charge of the amount of food, water, alcohol, sugar everyone takes in a day; it is fixed. How did he supervise all this? He slept everyday. His father was a commander or some type of officer of that sort, with 400 or 500 people under him. This son was 20 or 30 years old but did not work and slept all day.
The father was very upset, thinking, “I am 50 or 60 and I have to work to take care of you. You’re 20 or 30 but you do not bother to do any work at all. What use are you to the world?” He could not help but scold his son.
His son said, “You are an officer in the human realm but I am an officer in the underworld.” “What kind of an officer are you in the underworld?” “I allot the amount food and drinks each person takes every day.”
His father said, “What nonsense are you saying? People’s food intake has to be allotted? That does not make sense! Tell me what I am going to eat tomorrow. Assign something to me.” “Please wait, let me tell you after I sleep a while. I do not know right now.” His father was so angry: “How ridiculous! You assign my food?” When his son woke up, his son told him, “You will not have any rice to eat tomorrow.” The father howled with laughter, “A high-ranking officer like me has no food to eat? Then what will I eat?” His son said, “Tomorrow you will only get to eat one rotten egg and half a bowl of spoiled congee. That is your food for tomorrow.” “As rich and powerful as I am, how can I end up eating only rotten and spoiled foods?”
Early the next morning, he immediately began butchering chickens and ducks, preparing fish and meat, making a bunch of excellent dishes. When he was about to eat, his superior sent an order, wanting him somewhere immediately to suppress some bandits. He could not delay for one second. Leaving all the cooked food, not having touched any of it at all, he rushed off to beat the bandits. This battle was a total blur and chaos; he was attacking the bandits and the bandits were attacking him too. It was very lively. After all that trouble, they chased the bandits away.
They did not have food yet, so when they finally found a family, it must have been one of the poorest because they said they had nothing to eat. They searched for a long while, there was no rice, no noodles, and no vegetables. They only had a rotten egg and half a bowl of spoiled congee prepared for their pregnant woman of the house. They were willing to give up the food for the commander who wanted to eat now. The commander was so hungry and ate what he got immediately. Since his subordinates did not want any fine foods, they got to eat before the battle so the commander was the only one who did not eat. After he ate that rotten egg and half a bowl of congee, he remembered what his son told him yesterday. It was true that these were the exact things that he ate today. From then on, he knew that his son was an officer in the underworld, so the father let his son be. This is about a food spirit.
Grass and wood spirits. There are spirits to grass, spirits to woods and spirits to trees. Trees stand erect. The largest tree in Southern Jambudvipa is its tree king. When trees are big, they become villages for ghosts and spirits. Ghosts and spirits depend on these trees because they either suffer without these trees as dwellings or enjoy themselves living in these trees. Large trees are called villages for ghosts and spirits.
During the time of Cao Cau, the Three Kingdoms, everyone referred to a large tree as a tree spirit. Cao Cau did not believe the people and ordered the tree chopped down. thereafter he experienced headaches all the time. Later they requested Huatuo to treat him and the diagnosis was that he offended a tree spirit. Four Divisions Vinaya proscribes Bhikshus from chopping down any large tree because there are ghosts and spirits living in them. For example, there was a camphor tree at Nan Hua Monastery that requested to receive the precepts from Elder Master Hsu Yun. Elder Jin Shan of Nan Yu also had a tree that bore white fruits request precepts from him. There are many incredible examples of tree spirits requesting to receive the precepts.
I told you earlier that whether you believe in the spirits or not, they exist. It does not mean the spirits do not exist because you do not believe they exist. Most people will say what exists for them is what they believe and what they do not believe, does not exist for them. With these things though, they exist whether you believe it or not. For instance, there are gold mines in the ground whether you know it or not, believe it or not. You believe that there are spirits because you know whereas you do not believe there are these spirits because you do not know. It is not because these spirits do not exist but that you essentially do not have the knowledge and wisdom to know. We do not simply follow everyone else’s mistaken understandings.
And other such spirits, many others in addition to the ones mentioned here, from the Saha and other worlds came and gathered together at the Tryastrimsha Heaven to listen to the Buddha speak the Dharma.
There many natural and manmade disasters occurring in San Francisco now. Most recently a typhoon killed more than 90 people in the disaster area. This kind of disaster occurs because living beings’ evil karma ripened. Someone said around May of last year that seismologists predicted earthquakes, but I wrote a guarantee that: as long as I am in San Francisco, there will be no earthquakes. But I will not bother if I am somewhere else outside of San Francisco. I do not like earthquakes; I do not want people around me to fall over into the ocean. Why? I do not want to see the dragon king. I do not want to befriend the sea spirit with the eight heads, eight legs and 18 tails. Out of the eight heads, four are of male features and four are of female features. One body with eight heads of four couples is very strange. It does things strangely too; it is very special. I do not want to interact with it or let people who stay with me see it. I am not being selfish but because nothing good will be accomplished by visiting it.
Someone told me again this year that there will be earthquakes in March or April. Will I be another insurance company that offers guarantees this year? It is the same. In short, do not forget what I said last year: as long as I am in San Francisco that day, I guarantee there will be no major earthquakes, though not minor problems. During this Age where Dharma is on the decline, there are many natural and manmade disasters, so I hope everyone will recite Guanshiyin Bodhisattva’s name more, recite Earth Store King Bodhisattva’s name more. This way, San Francisco will be as stable as Mt. Tai, without major problems.
In addition, all the great ghost kings from the Saha and other worlds came and gathered together. They were the Ghost King Evil Eyes, the Ghost King Blood Drinker, the Ghost King Essence and Energy Eater, the Ghost King Fetus and Egg Eater, the Ghost King Spreader of Sickness, the Ghost King Collector of Poisons, the Ghost King Kindhearted, the Ghost King Blessings and Benefits, the Ghost King Great Regard and Respect, and others.
In addition . . . why “in addition”? It is because not only have so many Bodhisattvas and dragons and spirits of the eightfold division come to the Tryastrimsha Heaven, but there are also those from other lands. All the great ghost kings from the Saha and other worlds came and gathered together. Saha is Sanskrit for bearing with patience, meaning that living beings have to bear this kind of pain. That is why this is called the Saha World. Other worlds refer to the lands of other Buddhas. We are not limiting ourselves to the Saha World.
All the great ghost kings. Most people explain all as many. I am different from other people, how? I explain it not as “many” but as “few”, in fact, one. Some say my explanation is wrong because this means many, not few, or one. I would like to treat it as one. Why? It is because I am really foolish. I cannot remember when there are too many numbers. One is easy to remember, but two requires some thinking. How many is “all” if I treat it as many? It is innumerable, which is problematic, so I explain it as “one.” All is one and one is all; many is one and one is many. This is how I am different in explaining the sutras. All the great ghost kings in my explanation are one ghost king. Which one? The ghost king that I am talking about now. There is the Hateful Eyes Ghost King, the Ghost King Collector of Poisons, the Ghost King Kindhearted, and one after another. I do not mix them up. In Chinese, this “all” can also be an auxiliary word to mean “all those” or “all of one”. This is my unreasonable explanation of the Chinese word zhu ( 諸 ) as “one”. I am explaining this to you because if I do not, you disagree and think I lectured the sutras wrong. So now I explained it to you.
Where did this “many” come from? Look for its source. The many came from one or even none. Since “many” came from one, you might count from one. Remember one, you will know about two, then three. Deduce along this fashion, you end with one is infinity and infinity is just one. “One disperses into infinity; infinity returns to one”. We must return to one as we cultivate. What are we cultivating? We are cultivating this mind. What should we do with the mind? The mind must concentrate. As it is said, “Reach a singleness of focus and everything is achieved.” Reach that single one and there will be no problems. Cultivation is about cultivating this one, cultivating to focus your thoughts. Once your thoughts focus, you can uncover wisdom.
If your thoughts are no focused, then you are chasing for answers outside. If you can avoid letting a thought occur, that is even more wonderful. “Not one thought occurs and the entire substance manifests; the six senses move suddenly and they are covered by clouds.” Although the sutra text describes so many ghosts, if you do not even let one thought occur, there is not one ghost; not only one ghost, but not even one spirit, one Buddha or one Bodhisattva. There is nothing and yet that is when everything manifests. At this time, the Buddhas come, the Bodhisattvas come, Sound Hearers, Those Who Enlightened to Conditions, Pratyekabuddhas and all show up. Why? Because you are gone. If you were present, they would not come. This where it is so wonderful and truly inconceivable. This also applies to zhu.
At the same time, do not mistake zhu as merely “one”. Not even one came. All these great ghost kings but they are all gone. This world vanishes and this world vanishes, what do you have to worry about? No sadness and worries, no obstructions and impediments. By then, “The nature ends, the hearing is quiet and one is the universe.” The human nature, self-nature, and material nature end. By this time, you are heaven and earth; heaven and earth are you. You are all Buddhas; all Buddhas are you. You are not two and no different. Where is the you, I or he? How could there be so many marks of the self, marks of people, marks of living beings, and marks of lifespan? Since everything is gone, what do you have to worry about? All the distresses are cleaned up; by that time, it is purity without remainder. “Not one thought occurs and the entire substance manifests; the six senses move suddenly and they are covered by clouds.” See, such states are really wonderful beyond words.
Wonderful beyond words, so never mind the words. Let’s not talk about it. No! I like to talk so I will keep talking. Unspeakable, unspeakable. Who knows what is unspeakable? Speak on what? Speak about all the great ghost kings. All these great ghost kings are really mean. Ghosts are all mean. The ghost I am talking about here has very long legs. How long? I don’t know how long, they must be several yards. In general, even some professors in China do not recognize ghosts because their legs are so long that most people do not see where they are actually. This word “ghost” in Chinese is a homonym for “returning”. The Chinese has a saying about how dying is like coming home, returning to a place of offenses. Ghosts return to the hells, their home. Why do they believe the hells are their home? It is because they are lost. Let me try an English homonym for ghosts: “go”. They go to the hells. Why? Because they think that place is fun, the best. They run to the mountain of knives, trees of swords, woks of oil! They go and go, going to the hells, to the realm of hungry ghosts, to the realm of animals. So an explanation according to Chinese is returning while an explanation according to English is going. This is a simple explanation of mine. Now, where did this big ghost go? It did not go anywhere, it is in the hells.
They were the Ghost King Evil Eyes. This ghost has real long legs and mean-looking eyes. Evil eyes means when you see how ferocious his eyes are, you tremble.
The Ghost King Blood Drinker . He focuses on drinking living beings’ blood. He goes to drink blood anywhere it is found.
The Ghost King Essence and Energy Eater is Pisaca in Sanskrit. The line “pi sa she” in the Shurangama Mantra is this Ghost King Essence and Energy Eater. He enjoys eating people’s energy and the essence of the five grains. For instance, why do our essence and energy dissipate? It is because this type of ghost sucks your essence and energy away.
The Ghost King Fetus and Egg Eater eats undeveloped fetuses. This type of ghost eats placentas that fall off of newborns born earlier than expected. He also eats ghosts. How come he became this type of ghost? It is because in past lives, he used to like to kill. He will not even share the meat and blood he prepared with his wife, not to mention other people. He eats and drinks his own butchered game. Unwilling to share with others is a sign of stinginess, that is why he died and became a ghost king fetus and egg eater who eats such nasty things.
The Ghost King Spreader of Sickness goes around spreading epidemics, contagious diseases. Diseases occur because some ghost king spreader of sickness is distributing them.
The Ghost King Collector of Poisons is a good ghost and not a bad ghost. He will suck away any venom you contracted and cure you. This type of ghost is a transformation of Bodhisattvas who came to save living beings. He does not poison others; instead he sucks out your poisons, no matter who you are. This is a good intentioned ghost king.
The Ghost King Kindhearted is compassionate. Although a ghost, he enters among the ghosts to save them so that ghosts develop the Bodhi resolve.
The Ghost King Blessings and Benefits is the wealth fortune spirit who bestows and increases blessings.
The Ghost King Great Regard and Respect, and others. All so many ghost kings as described earlier came to the Tryastrimsha Heaven to listen to Shakyamuni Buddha explain the Earth Store Sutra.
At that time, Shakyamuni Buddha said to the Dharma Prince Manjushri Bodhisattva Mahasattva, “As you regard these Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, gods, dragons, ghosts, and spirits from this land and other lands who are now gathered in the Trayastrimsha Heaven, do you know how many of them there are?”
At that time. What time was that? It was when each ghost king went to Tryastrimsha Heaven to listen to the Dharma. What are ghost kings? They are leaders among ghosts. Whether these ghosts are good or bad, they are transformations of Bodhisattvas. Do not think ghosts kings are just ghosts. Ghost kings made vows in past lives to teach and transform living beings using various means. Some pulled in all beings using compassion; some used ferociousness to tame living beings. These are the two ways of disciplining and attracting.
Some beings developed their resolve for Bodhi when they met a compassionate ghost king who used gathering in to teach and transform living beings. Some beings met ferocious-looking ghost kings and developed their resolve for Bodhi, an example of teaching and transforming living beings with discipline. Since we understand that all ghost kings are transformations of Bodhisattvas, we know there is really no good or evil ghost king.
Where did good and evil come from? From every living being’s karmic retribution. When living beings’ evil karma matures, they see the Ghost King Evil Eyed; when living beings’ good karma matures, they see the Ghost King Kindhearted. Regardless of evil karma or good karma, when it ripens, it changes. When evil karma ripens, it turns into good karma; when good karma ripens it sometimes turns into evil karma. We will not be turned by good or evil karma if we were cultivating the Buddhadharma. We will only walk toward good karma and not turn to evil karma. We will not enter stray paths and end up at the mountain of knives, the wok of oil, and the tree of swords.
Why do we study the Buddhadharma? We want to flip heaven and earth over, shatter the universe. Why do we want to shatter heaven and earth? Heaven represents good karma while earth represents evil karma. Turn back the good and evil karma of heaven and earth, walk down the path of goodness and not the path of evil. Do that and the evil ghost kings would be rendered powerless, the good ghost kings would be unemployed or retire because they have no work to do.
I am very unhappy with recorders during my sutra lectures. Why? It makes some of refuge disciples dependent and lazy. No one is personally taking notes. I notice that everyone used to pay attention and write lots of notes and records everything very clearly, but now no one takes notes any more. People do not pay attention when they are listening; they forget when they read. Soon enough they return everything I said to me, forcing me into retirement. Since both good and bad ghost kings are useless, I as a Dharma Master am useless too. So I cannot make good ghosts and bad ghosts retire. If they are out of a job then I would be unemployed too. I would not have any sutra to lecture on. No lecturer, no audience. Without an audience, what is the point of being a Dharma Master?
At that time, Shakyamuni Buddha said to the Dharma Prince Manjushri Bodhisattva Mahasattva. Manjushri Bodhisattva is also called Wonderful Virtue Bodhisattva and Wonderful Auspiciousness Bodhisattva. Why is he called Wonderful Virtue? He was born with ten auspicious signs:
1. light lit up the entire room;
2. sweet dew overfilled the place;
3. seven gems welled forth from the earth;
4. hidden treasures magically opened up;
5. chickens gave birth to phoenixes;
6. pigs gave birth to dragons;
7. horses gave birth to chimeras;
8. cows gave birth to mythical beasts;
9. Millets in the granary turned to gold;
10. elephants had six tusks.
He is called Wonderful Virtue because he had these ten inconceivable wonders. He is called Wonderful Auspiciousness because he was born with these ten kinds of auspicious omens.
Actually this Bodhisattva is no longer a Bodhisattva but a Buddha. He became a Buddha in the past named the Venerated King Buddha of Dragon Seed. He became a Buddha in the past. Is he a Buddha now? He became a Buddha in the present too. What is his name as the Buddha now? He is called the Buddha of Accumulation of Treasures of Happiness Filled with Mani Jewels. His land is the World of Happiness in the north.
Manjushri Bodhisattva is the Buddha of Accumulation of Mani Jewels. According to the Lotus Sutra, Manjushri Bodhisattva is the master of Shakyamuni Buddha’s master. What does that mean? The Buddha of Light from Sun and Moon Lamps had eight sons, the youngest became a Buddha named Burning Lamp Buddha. Burning Lamp Buddha’s master is Dharma Master Wonderful Light. Who is Dharma Master Wonderful Light? He is Manjushri Bodhisattva. Shakyamuni Buddha was Burning Lamp Buddha’s disciple; he received the prediction for Buddhahood from Burning Lamp Buddha and became a Buddha in this life.
In terms of generations, Manjushri Bodhisattva is much more senior than Shakyamuni Buddha, being the master of Shakyamuni Buddha’s master. Now that Shakyamuni Buddha came to be a Buddha, Manjushri became Shakyamuni Buddha’s disciple. See how Bodhisattvas do not hang on to any outer signs at all; for them, there is big or small, high or low, various discriminations.
When I lectured on the Vajra Sutra, I often told you that “The Dharma is equal and level, without high or low.” Now that we are in this house lecturing on the sutras and explaining the Dharma, there may be my masters or disciples from the past. Now that you are studying the Buddhadharma, you will become enlightened and realize Buddhahood if you learn to have the Way, to possess virtue. Perhaps I will request you to be my master. The Buddhadharma is inconceivable, so the wonderful strengths of Wonderful Virtue and Wonderful Auspiciousness are examples. Once you understand, then “leaving all marks is all dharma.” If you do not understand, “Attached to marks you are wrong in every turn; falling into emptiness based on the unconditioned.”
I speak extemporaneously when I lecture on the sutras. Sometime my explanations shatter the heavens and sometimes quake the earth; but I do not care whether the sky collapses or the earth caves in. I do not care at all; there is nothing. All dharmas are without a self, without people, without living beings, and without life spans. So what does it mean by the Buddhadharma flourishing? The Buddhadharma declining? Proper Dharma? Ending Dharma? Everything is false. Some say, “Dharma Master, your talks confuse me.” I meant to confuse you. If you understand, you would not listen to my sutra lectures. OK, let me keep explaining this confusing sutra.
Bodhisattva Mahasattva. Mahasattva is a great Bodhisattva. Who is this great Bodhisattva? Manjushri Bodhisattva. Shakyamuni Buddha asked Manjushri Bodhisattva, “As you regard these Buddhas who have come to the heavenly palace, Bodhisattvas, gods, dragons, ghosts, and spirits from this land, this world, and other lands who are now gathered in the Trayastrimsha Heaven, do you know how many of them there are? Do you know how many Buddhas have come to the palace in the Tryastrimsha Heaven to listen to me speak the Earth Store Sutra? How many Bodhisattvas? How many ghosts and spirits? Are you clear on the exact number? Why do I ask you? Because you have great wisdom, true wisdom and wisdom that thoroughly penetrates the source of the Dharma. Now let me ask you, do you know how many? Tell me! Please respond.”
Manjushri said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, even if I were to measure and reckon with my spiritual powers for a thousand eons, I still would not be able to know how many of them there are.”
The Buddha told Manjushri, “Regarding them with my Buddha Eye, their numbers cannot be exhausted. Those beings have been taken across, are being taken across, will be taken across, have been brought to accomplishment, are being brought to accomplishment, or will be brought to accomplishment by Earth Store Bodhisattva [Ksitigharba] throughout many eons.”
Manjushri said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, throughout many eons I have cultivated good roots and my wisdom has been certified as unobstructed. When I hear what the Buddha says, I immediately accept it with faith. But Hearers of small attainment, gods, dragons, and the rest of the Eightfold Division, and beings in the future who hear the Thus Come One’s true and sincere words, will certainly harbor doubts. Even if they receive the teaching most respectfully, they will still be unable to avoid slandering it. My only wish is that the World Honored One will proclaim for everyone what Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva practiced and what vows he made while on the level of planting causes that now enable him to succeed in doing such inconceivable deeds.
Manjushri said to the Buddha…Earlier, Shakyamuni Buddha asked Manjushri Bodhisattva, do you know how many Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, ghosts and spirits there are? Manjushri Bodhisattva told the Buddha, “World Honored One, even if I were to measure and reckon with my spiritual powers for a thousand eons. . . Were I, to take one thousand eons, to estimate and guess that number using my spiritual powers and wisdom, I still would not be able to know how many of them there are. I would not know that number.”
The Buddha Shakyamuni told Manjushri Bodhisattva, “Regarding them with my Buddha Eye…Observing with my Buddha Eye…what is a Buddha Eye? A Buddha Eye is like a thousand suns that are omniscient, see and hear everything. The Buddha Eye has all possibly capabilities and is the manifestation of all wisdom. There are four other eyes: the Flesh Eye, the Heavenly Eye, the Dharma Eye and the Wisdom Eye. One verse describes them comprehensively:
The Heavenly Eye penetrates without obstructions;
The Dharma Eye contemplates the secular;
The Wisdom Eye understands true emptiness;
The Buddha Eye is like a thousand suns,
It is the same at the source but shines on different things.
The Heavenly Eye sees everything thoroughly and clearly, without any obstructions.
The Flesh Eye penetrates obstructions. What is the flesh eye? It can see everyone and everything. The Flesh Eye is not the eyes we typically use to see, there is another Flesh Eye. The Heavenly Eye and the Flesh Eye are on opposite sides. Not only can the Flesh Eye see things in the house, and outside the house, regardless of how far. As long as you want to, you will see it. If you do not want to see it, you will not see it of course.
Although you can see, it would be best if you do not. Why? It takes a thought to see one thing. It is better to have fewer thoughts than more thoughts. One less false thought is better than one more false thought. Using this Eye to see things and observe requires thoughts, but this kind of thought is somewhat different than most people’s thoughts. Although they are different, there is not much advantage to it. Even when you can see, you should not look. This is the Flesh Eye that penetrates obstructions. This means it can see through every item that blocks.
The Dharma Eye contemplates the secular. The Dharma Eye sees the secular truths, which are the typical worldly situations. If you open your Dharma Eye, not only do you not need to read sutras, all you need to do is open your Dharma Eye and all of space and Dharma Realm are sutras, limitless and boundless number of Dharma treasures. As long as you have the purity to the Dharma Eye, you can universally observe the true marks of all dharmas. This is the Dharma Eye that contemplates the secular.
The Wisdom Eye understands true emptiness. The Wisdom Eye observes emptiness. Secular truths are false truths because they are not substantive. Real truths are about the understanding of true emptiness. The Wisdom Eye understands true emptiness because it understands the true marks of all dharmas and true emptiness.
The Buddha Eye is like a thousand suns. The Buddha’s eyes are as bright as a thousand suns. It is the same at the source but shines on different things. Although it sees different things, it is one at the core.
Now in this sutra passage, the Buddha said that he observed with the Buddha Eye. He used the Buddha Eye and observed that all the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Sound Hearers, Those Who Enlighten to Conditions, Pratyekabuddhas, and dragons and spirits of the eightfold division. Their numbers cannot be exhausted. “I do not know the numbers in detail,” Shakyamuni Buddha said.
Those beings have been taken across to become Buddhas a long time ago by Earth Store Bodhisattva, all these Bodhisattvas are being taken across in the time when Earth Store Bodhisattva was on the cause ground, will be taken across are all the dragons and spirits, gods and all beings of the future, have been brought to accomplishment, are being brought to accomplishment, or will be brought to accomplishment by Earth Store Bodhisattva [Ksitigharba] throughout many eons.” Accomplishment in Chinese also means lush and lofty. The position achieved will be high, great and lush. It also means filiality. Most people cannot shoulder the word “filiality” in China. Who can? The emperor. Since ancient times, the emperor governed the world with filiality, achieving the loftiest virtues.
In this sutra, Earth Store Bodhisattva is already helping all beings realize Buddhahood. Now he is helping living beings be Bodhisattvas and will help all beings realize their highest role, Buddhas in the future. This idea contains three stages: 1. planting, as in planting seeds. 2. ripening, grains nurtured and irrigated grow from out of the soil. 3. liberated, as in liberation after being mature for a while. In other words, making beings who have not planted any good roots to plant good roots; making beings who have planted good roots grow; making those whose good roots have already grown to ripen. They are liberated when their good roots mature. There are three meanings to “accomplishment”.
Manjushri said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, throughout many eons in the past, since a long long time ago, I have cultivated good roots and my wisdom has been certified as unobstructed. I have already certified to unobstructed wisdom. Unobstructed wisdom is the Four Unobstructed Eloquences or the Four Unobstructed Wisdom.
The Four Unobstructed Eloquences are:
1. The Unobstructed Eloquence of Dharma. The dharmas spoken are very reasonable. Though it is one principle, it can be broken down into millions and millions of principles. Although they are millions and millions of principles, they can be classified into one principle.
2. The Unobstructed Eloquence of Meaning.
3. The Unobstructed Eloquence of Phrasing: words said really make sense.
4. The Unobstructed Eloquence of Delight in Speaking: one enjoys talking.
When I hear what the Buddha says, I immediately accept it with faith. Since I, Manjushri, cultivated Mahayana dharmas in the past, I believe instantaneously what the Buddha says. But Hearers of small attainment, such as Sound Hearers, Those Who Enlighten to Conditions and positions in the Theravadan tradition, gods, dragons, and the rest of the Eightfold Division, such as yakshas, ghandharvas, asuras, garudas, kinnaras, and maharagas and all beings in the future who hear the Thus Come One’s true and sincere words, will certainly harbor doubts. Look, as truthful as the Buddha’s words are, they are still skeptical, not to mention my disciples? Someone does not believe in my explanation of the sutras and wants to runaway. It is no wonder considering what Manjushri said about how all of the Eightfold Division does not believe and questions the Buddha’s spoken truths.
Some people think it is very normal to hear sutra lectures. Actually it is one of the most difficult and rare things to hear sutra lectures live, especially in the United States. How many places offer lectures following lines in the sutra text and explaining the meaning word by word? None, or extremely few, in Western countries. Although few, Westerners who hear the true Buddhadharma do not recognize it either because they do not understand the Buddhadharma.
For example, people who have never seen gold will treat gold you hand him as copper. Another example would be to treat diamond as glass. Similarly, explain the true Buddhadharma and because they do not recognize it they consider it ordinary and external, rather than internal. Actually, how can you understand the inner if you do not even understand the outer? You must try the two-prong approach. You cannot cultivate without understanding principles; you cannot understand principles if you do not cultivate either. Understanding and practice must correspond. Understanding means to understand the Buddhadharma and practice means cultivating according to the Buddhadharma.
When Shakyamuni Buddha explained this Earth Store Sutra, even Manjushri Bodhisattva raised his concern about Sound Hearers of the small attainments, Eightfold Division of god, dragons and others, and all beings in the future will not believe it. Since they do not have enough good roots, although they hear these honest words the Buddha articulated, they are skeptical for sure.
Even if they receive the teaching most respectfully . Suppose they receive the teachings, it is only temporary because their faith only last for a short period of time. For instance, some people take refuge like others, but they have no faith because their heads are full of deviant knowledge and deviant views. They do not understand the proper Dharma when you explain it to them. They do not know what they hear. They will still be unable to avoid slandering it.
While Shakyamuni Buddha was in the world, Manjushri Bodhisattva suggested: My only wish is that the World Honored One will proclaim for everyone what Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva practiced and what vows he made while on the level of planting causes. I wish you, World Honored One, will say a bit more about Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva, this great Bodhisattva. What practices did he cultivate and what vows did he make in lives past? We make vows. No matter the vows, we must fulfill our promises and do what we say we will. We cannot deviate from that no matter what kind of hardship or difficulty according to our vows. . . . that now enable him to succeed in doing such inconceivable deeds. This Earth Store Bodhisattva, however, achieves this type of inconceivable state.
The Buddha said to Manjushri, “By way of analogy, suppose that each blade of grass, tree, forest, rice plant, hemp stalk, bamboo, reed, mountain, rock, and dust mote in a Three Thousand Great Thousand World System was a Ganges River. Then suppose that each grain of sand in each of those Ganges Rivers was a world and that each dust mote in each of those worlds was an eon.
“Then suppose that each dust mote accumulated in each of those eons was itself an eon. The time elapsed since Earth Store Bodhisattva was certified to the position of the Tenth Ground is a thousand times longer than that in the above analogy. Even longer was the time that he dwelled on the levels of Hearer and Pratyekabuddha.
The Buddha said to Manjushri . Shakyamuni Buddha told Manjushri Bodhisattva, let me give you an analogy. “By way of analogy, suppose that each blade of grass, tree, forest, rice plant, hemp stalk, bamboo, reed, mountain, rock, and dust mote in a Three Thousand Great Thousand World System was a Ganges River. We are not talking about just one of each of these items, but all the grass, all the trees, eatable rice plants, usable hemp stalks etc. How many bamboos and reeds are there in a Three Thousand Great Thousand World System? Can you count all of them? You cannot.
Lots of dust motes become mountains. There are so many things in the Three Thousand Great Thousand World System. If each item was one, what would be the total? If every blade of grass counted as one Ganges River, then the number of Ganges Rivers that existed would be uncountable. Not only every blade of grass, but every tree, forest, rice plant, hemp stalk, bamboo, and reed too, to count as one Ganges River. One item is one Ganges River; two items are two Ganges rivers; three items are three Ganges rivers; four items are four Ganges rivers…The number of grass and trees are practically infinite, so there would be infinite Ganges rivers. This means that there are so many that the figure cannot be calculated. If each item were to turn into a Ganges River, how many sand grains would be in those Ganges rivers?
Then suppose that each grain of sand in each of those Ganges Rivers was a world. If every sand grain in all those Ganges Rivers were a Three Thousand Great Thousand World. And that each dust mote in each of those Three Thousand Great Thousand worlds was an eon. Then suppose that each dust mote accumulated in each of those eons was itself a great eon. The time elapsed since Earth Store Bodhisattva was certified to the position of the Tenth Ground is a thousand times or more longer than that in the above analogy. Even longer was the time that he dwelled on the levels of Hearer and Pratyekabuddha. Not to mention how long Earth Store Bodhisattva was Sound Hearer, how long he was Sravaka, how long he was a Pratyekabuddha. Earth Store Bodhisattva’s conduct and vows have been in existence for a long time.
“Manjushri, the awesome spiritual strength and vows of this Bodhisattva are inconceivable. If good men or women of the future hear this Bodhisattva’s name, praise him, behold and bow to him, call his name, make offerings to him, or if they draw, carve, cast, sculpt, or make lacquered images of him, such people will be reborn in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three one hundred times and will never fall into the Evil Paths.
“Manjushri, indescribably many eons ago, during the time of a Buddha named Lion Sprint Complete in the Ten Thousand Practices Thus Come One, Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva was the son of a great elder.
“Manjushri, Shakyamuni Buddha called out, the awesome spiritual strength and vows of this Bodhisattva are inconceivable. Which Bodhisattva is the Buddha referring to, Earth Store Bodhisattva. His awesome virtues, spiritual powers and vows are inconceivable. To save all beings with profoundly heavy offenses, he uses his awesome might to subdue them. He made these vows: Unless the hells are empty, I will not become a Buddha. Until all beings are saved, will I then certify to Bodhi. He wants to save all beings before he becomes a Buddha. If there is one being who has not been saved, he will not become a Buddha. This is why it has been so long and he is still not a Buddha.
When this being is saved, another comes; it never ends. Either that being is becoming born or that being is passing away; or that being is passing away and this being is coming into the world. There are ten times, a hundred times, a thousand times, ten thousand times more living beings becoming born than passing away. Let us calculate and see if there are more deaths or births in San Francisco right now. Deaths come after aging and sickness; whereas birth only requires ten months of pregnancy, a relatively shorter period of time. Since people have to wait a few decades to die, there are millions many more births than deaths, which makes Earth Store Bodhisattva’s work so hard that he cannot realize Buddha even now.
But does he regret it? He does not regret it. The more living beings there are, the more jobs he has. Without living beings, he is out work and he goes on to realize Buddhahood. There is not much to do as a Buddha either, so Earth Store King Bodhisattva looks for things to do when there is not much to do. He was very much at leisure but he would rather be busy all day saving living beings. This is Earth Store King Bodhisattva’s vows. Why did Earth Store King Bodhisattva make this kind of vow? He feels that he is one with living beings. If living beings do not become Buddhas, there is not much significance to his becoming a Buddha either. He is here waiting for living beings because his causes and conditions are about being one with living beings always. Earth Store King Bodhisattva’s vows can never be fathomed or understood. What we have talked about is just one small portion of his unimaginable and unspeakable vows.
If good men or women of the future hear this Earth Store King Bodhisattva’s name, praise him for his incredible vows, spiritual powers, and compassion. They introduce everyone to Earth Store Bodhisattva. You have heard this sutra, so you should introduce the compassion and vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva to every colleague, relative or friend you see.
Reflect too: Earth Store Bodhisattva makes vows like this, so what should I do? Should I make a tiny vow? Perhaps becoming a Buddha after I deliver one living being to Buddhahood? Perhaps becoming a Buddha after I deliver two living beings to Buddhahood? I do not make any great vows, just little vows; even that would mean that I have not wasted listening to the Earth Store Sutra. If you simply let it go by so that “the Bodhisattva is the Bodhisattva and I am me; he and I do not have too many connections”, then it is as if you did not hear it. For instance, men should make vows about saving their ex-friends when they have become Buddhas. Women should consider this: I had a dearest boyfriend before. Now that I am cultivating, I am going to make sure he becomes a Buddha first, then I will follow. Make vows like this. Avoid: “Amitabha Buddha takes his own, Mahasattvas cares about no others.”
Perhaps you say, “I am really young and have never had a boyfriend or girlfriend.” You have mom and dad. Make vows to save them so they become Buddhas. What if your parents have already passed away? You have siblings. No sibling? You can save your friends. Make vows targeting someone or some group. If there is no one else, you can say, “I will make a vow to save my Dharma brother so that he becomes a Buddha for sure.” You may laugh at me but I will tell you: if any disciple who has taken refuge with me does not become a Buddha, I will not become a Buddha either. I may not have vows as huge as Earth Store King Bodhisattva, wanting to save all beings so that they become Buddhas, I qualify it with those who have taken refuge and disciples who truly believe in me. If such people do not become Buddhas, I will wait for them. Even if they fall into the hells, I will go down to the hells to find them. This is not too bad either; it is quite great. It takes many lives of planting good roots to encounter a teacher like this.
Behold and bow to him, call his name. Recite the holy name of Great Vows Earth Store King Bodhisattva. As we explain the Earth Store Sutra now, my words, “Earth Store King Bodhisattva is really amazing” are praises. Incantations of “homage to the Great Vows Earth Store King Bodhisattva” are recitations of his name. Make offerings to him. Now that we have invited the elder Earth Store King Bodhisattva here, we make offerings by lighting incense for him daily, bowing to him, and making him offerings of fruits. Or if they draw a colored picture of Earth Store King Bodhisattva, not even on wood, but just a drawing of this Buddha image makes your appearance adorned and perfect. There are 32 hallmarks and 80 minor subsidiary characteristics to the Buddha. Draw a Buddha image and you will be better looking. Draw two, even better. Draw three, four, five…millions and millions, then you will have the 32 hallmarks and the 80 subsidiary characteristics. In general, drawing Buddha images and making Buddha images will make you very good looking.
Carve, cast, sculpt, or make lacquered images of him, such people will be reborn in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three one hundred times. One drawing of a Buddha image will lead you to become reborn in the Heaven of Thirty-Three for one hundred rounds. These one hundred rounds include not only births in the Heaven of Thirty-Three; someone who draws a Buddha image will first be reborn 100 times in each level of the Six Desire Heavens and the Eighteen Heavens of the Form Realm (the three heavens of the First Dhyana, the three heavens of the Second Dhyana, the three heavens of the Third Dhyana, the nine heavens of the Fourth Dhyana and even the Heaven of the Station of Neither Thought Nor Non-Thought in the Formless Realm and others) Before he is reborn in the Heaven of Thirty-Three 100 times, he has been born in each level of the Desire Realm, Form Realm and Formless Realm 100 times. This is a long time.
And will never fall into the Evil Paths. As long as you praise, behold and bow, recite the name, make offerings, or make different images of Earth Store King Bodhisattva, then you will never fall into the evil paths.
“Manjushri Bodhisattva, indescribably many eons ago. There is no way to say how long that is or how many eons that is. This is just as incalculable as the analogy used earlier for a long period of time: if each blade of grass, tree, forest, rice plant, hemp stalk, bamboo, reed, mountain, rock, and dust mote in a Three Thousand Great Thousand World System was a Ganges River. Then suppose that each grain of sand in each of those Ganges Rivers was a world. And that each dust mote in each of those worlds was an eon. Then suppose that each dust mote accumulated in each of those eons was itself an eon.
This number is bigger than and more difficult to calculate than the number representing the amount of force required to send a rocket to the moon. We are using math to calculate the force needed to shoot a rocket into a certain spot in space, to stop it, and to orbit it. After the exact figures needed for fuel have been calculated with mathematics, the rocket is shot into the atmosphere. This is calculable. However, no matter how advanced mathematics develops or how precise science gets, there is no way to calculate the number of eons that Earth Store King Bodhisattva has gone through.
During the time of a Buddha named Lion Sprint Complete in the Ten Thousand Practices Thus Come One, Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva was the son of a great elder. At that time, there was a Buddha in the world named Lion Sprint. Lions are the king among beasts. As long as a lion roars, all the beasts are frightened into paralysis and collapse or become numb. The name of this Buddha is like a lion. Sprint is an indication of the speed at which lions run. The Buddha is named Complete in the Ten Thousand Practices because he is replete with the Six Paramitas and the myriad conducts.
That elder’s son, upon observing the Buddha’s hallmarks and fine features and how the thousand blessings adorned him, asked that Buddha what practices and vows made him so magnificent. Lion Sprint Complete in the Ten Thousand Practices Thus Come One then said to the elder’s son, ‘If you wish to have a body like mine, you must first spend a long time liberating beings who are undergoing suffering.’
That elder’s son, upon observing the Buddha’s hallmarks and fine features…He saw the Thus Come One Lion Sprint Complete in the Ten Thousand Practices have 32 hallmarks and 80 subsidiary characteristics and a thousand blessings that adorn. How come he has 32 hallmarks and 80 subsidiary characteristics? It is because of a thousand blessings that adorn him. Cultivating the Five Precepts and the Ten Good Deeds turns into one hundred blessings. Each number turns into ten, making a total of one thousand. Each blessing accumulates so that there are one thousand blessings.
And this is how the thousand blessings adorned him. He asked that Buddha what practices and vows made him so magnificent. Seeing how perfect and wonderful the Buddha’s features are, he asked Thus Come One Lion Sprint Complete in the Ten Thousand Practices what practices did you cultivate before and what vows did you make before so that you have such features? Lion Sprint Complete in the Ten Thousand Practices Thus Come One then said to the elder’s son, ‘If you wish to have a body like mine, let me tell you, you must first spend a long time liberating beings who are undergoing suffering. When all beings who suffer are saved, leaving behind their suffering, then your appearance will be perfect; meaning that once you save living beings so that they become Buddhas, you become Buddhas.’
“Manjushri, that comment caused the elder’s son to make a vow: ‘From now until the end of future time throughout uncountable eons, I will use expansive expedient means to help beings in the Six Paths who are suffering for their offenses. Only when they have all been liberated, will I myself become a Buddha.’ From the time he made that great vow in the presence of that Buddha until now, hundreds of thousands of nayutas of inexpressibly many eons have passed, yet he still is a Bodhisattva.
“Manjushri Bodhisattva, that comment caused the elder’s son to make a vow. When this elder’s son heard Lion Sprint Complete in the Ten Thousand Practices Thus Come One say this that he made a vow. He said: ‘From now until the end of future time…The elder’s son refers to himself about how he went through who knows how many infinite eons until the end of future, that is why he says throughout uncountable eons. How can future eons disappear? They will not, which is why this number of eons is incalculable.
I will use expansive expedient means to help beings in the Six Paths who are suffering for their offenses, for living beings in the six realms who suffer and create offenses. Since every thought and every move of living beings in the Saha world are offenses and karma, they are the beings that offend and suffer in the six realms. The six realms are heavenly beings, humans, asuras, hell-beings, hungry ghosts and animals. I vastly established various, not just one, expedient practices.
Only when they have all been liberated, leaving suffering and acquiring blessings, realizing Buddhahood soon. Only when all beings have become Buddhas will I myself become a Buddha. If there is one being does not become a Buddha, I will not become a Buddha either. If yet a single being’s not accomplished Buddhahood, accordingly I also must renounce nirvana’s bliss.’ From the time he made that great vow in the presence of that Buddha, Lion Sprint Complete in the Ten Thousand Practices Thus Come One, until now, a period of time that lasted hundreds of thousands of nayutas, a very large number in Sanskrit, of inexpressibly, another very large number in Sanskrit many eons have passed, yet he still is a Bodhisattva who has not realized Buddhahood.
“Another time, inconceivable asamkhyeya eons ago, there was a Buddha named Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King Thus Come One. That Buddha’s life span was four hundred billion asamkhyeya eons.
“Another time, not just three great asamkhyeya eons, but much longer, inconceivable and unimaginable number of asamkhyeya eons ago, there was a Buddha named Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King Thus Come One. Enlightenment-Flower is the cause; Self-Mastery King is the effect; Enlightenment-Flower is the root; Self-Mastery King is the branch. This means that he cultivated the flower of enlightenment at the level of causes and certified to the effect of a king at ease. How do we cultivate the flower of enlightenment? With concentration? How do we realize the effect of a self-mastery king? It is also through concentration. Where the cause is concentration, the effect is concentration. Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King is the Buddha’s unique name; Thus Come One is a name common to all Buddhas.
That Buddha’s life span…there are three explanations for the Thus Come One’s lifespan according to the Dharma Flower Sutra. There are three others according to the Sixteen Contemplations Sutra.
First, the Buddha’s Dharma body is true and thus, inseparable from all dharmas. The true thusness of the Dharma body is not at all different from all dharmas. Noumenon as thus are life. This is difficult to explain because we accord with principles as they are. Principles as they are wisdom; wisdom is states. The Buddha’s states are wisdom; wisdom is just states. The Buddha uses wisdom to light up all states. States and wisdom correspond so that states and wisdom are non-dual. When states come, illumine it, then let it go. The Buddha recognizes and understands every state; he is not obstructed by states because he does not recognize them. Although states and wisdom are two, they become one when they have one principle as their span; wisdom as their life. This is an explanation of life span according to the Buddha’s retribution body.
In terms of the response body or transformational body, its span is 100 years in duration. A centurion lives a long span. The transformational body and the response body live out their span of life. This is an explanation of the three bodies according to the Dharma Flower Sutra.
According to the Sixteen Contemplations Sutra, it is a different set of explanations. How come? The sutras say that the response body makes appear coming into being and ceasing like everyone else. The Buddhas also appear to come into being and cease to be, that is the Buddhas come into the world, then enter nirvana. This is coming into being and ceasing. Making production and extinction appear has their beginnings and ends; as long as there is a beginning, there is an end. This explains the life span of a Buddha’s response body. And a retribution body? Once we acquire the Buddha’s retribution body, we have it forever. The life span of a Buddha’s retribution body has a beginning to it but no end.
What about the life span of a Dharma body? It is neither a long span nor a short span. Since it is impossible to say how long a Buddha’s Dharma body will last, it is neither long nor short. It has no beginning or end. This is one explanation of the Buddha’s Dharma body. I believe it is very difficult to understand this kind of terminology. This particular Buddha’s life span was four hundred billion asamkhyeya eons. This kind of life span refers to the life spans of the Buddha’s retribution body and response body.
During his Dharma-Image Age, there lived a Brahman woman endowed with ample blessings from previous lives who was respected by everyone. Whether she was walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, gods surrounded and protected her. Her mother, however, embraced a deviant faith and often slighted the Triple Jewel.
“The worthy daughter made use of many expedients in trying to convince her mother to hold right views, but her mother never totally believed. Before long, the mother’s life ended and her consciousness fell into the Relentless Hell.
“When her mother’s life ended, the Brahman woman, knowing that her mother had not believed in cause and effect while alive, feared that her karma would certainly pull her into the Evil Paths. For that reason, she sold the family house and acquired many kinds of incense, flowers, and other gifts. With those she performed a great offering in that Buddha’s stupas and monasteries.
During his Dharma-Image Age…There are three eras to the Buddhadharma: the age of Proper Dharma, the age of Image Dharma, and the age of Decline of Dharma. During the age of Proper Dharma, most Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, upasikas and upasakas all cultivate sincerely and certify to the fruition. This is the Age of the Proper Dharma. The Image Dharma? There are fewer cultivators. The focus is on the superficialities, such as repairing stupas and building temples. They are firm in building temples. People all enjoy doing merit by constructing Buddhist temples and Buddhist stupas; they enjoy pursuing blessings and not wisdom. This is the Image Dharma Age where people are solid in constructing temples.
The Proper Dharma Age lasts one thousand years; the Image Dharma Age lasts one thousand years; the Decline of Dharma Age lasts ten thousand years. We are now in the Age of Dharma on the Decline. People during the Age of Dharma on the Decline are firm in fighting. The Age of Image Dharma begins once Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King Thus Come One enters nirvana.
There lived a Brahman woman . Brahman is an externalist sect in India who cultivates purity. They are vegetarians, cultivate, and are celibate, so they are pure. Brahmans cultivate this kind of practice of distancing themselves but they do not have the essence, the ultimate principles. This is an ancient religion in India, and many similar religions of this sort remain in India.
Yoga, for example, is a variation of the Brahman teachings. The Brahman teachings in China is Taoism, which also practices purity. During the Image Age of Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King Thus Come One there was a Brahman woman who was endowed with ample blessings from previous lives. Although he was a Brahman woman, she had done many good deeds and many meritorious deeds in lives past. That is why she is endowed with ample blessings from previous lives.
Who was respected by everyone. Most people respect her. Why do most people admire her and respect her? It is because she did a lot of merit in past lives and accumulated blessings. Whether someone is good looking depending on his or her merit in past lives. One is perfect looking if one created merit in past lives. Without merit, one’s features are imperfect, or ugly. The Buddha has 32 features and 80 secondary characteristics. He is adorned with a hundred blessings.
What makes one hundred blessings? One thousand good deeds makes one blessing; 10,000 good deeds makes ten blessings; and 100,000 good deeds make 100 blessings. Shakyamuni accumulated 100 blessings so he enjoys his 32 features and 80 secondary characteristics. People’s looks develop according to causes and conditions in the past. Whether someone is beautiful or not depends on his or her past lives. This Brahman woman was respected by everyone; most people like to listen to what she says; and most people agree with the things she does.
Whether she was walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, gods surrounded and protected her. As I said earlier, now that we have tied the boundaries, even if anyone experiences any karmic obstructions such as being possessed, that obstruction will quit and not disturb one. Since the boundaries are locked down and you are here listening to the sutra, all the accounts temporarily quit. No one is allowed to come here to bother anyone or hassle anyone. You have to concentrate on listening to the sutra. The Dharma-protecting good spirits, the Eightfold Divisions of gods, dragons and others all protect her. Although she is protected, her mother, however, embraced a deviant faith and often slighted the Triple Jewel. He mother does not believe in the proper Dharma but believes in deviant dharmas instead.
What does it mean by believing in deviant dharmas? This is not necessarily about believing in heretics or cults. Actually, she half believes and half questions, believing in Buddhism today and question it tomorrow. She says she believes in the Triple Jewel, but “I have not seen any Buddha of the Triple Jewel, or the Dharma. Although there are sutras, it is no big idea. Sangha members, they are people too! Why should I respect some monastic? She is skeptical, which is faith in the deviant. She does not maintain any proper mindfulness, which is a deviant thought.
Without proper faith, your faith is in the deviant. For instance, some externalists say, “Give me one million dollars and I will sell you the role of an emperor in a future life.” You think about being an emperor in a future life, so you give them a million dollars. Actually, how can the role of an emperor be sold? How can you buy the role of an emperor? Perhaps you can buy the presidency in a modern democracy. “You are a woman in this lifetime and not a president, but I can guarantee that you become a president in a future life if you give me one million dollars.” Whether you become a president or not in the future, you will not be able to find him and get your one million dollars back. These externalists did not start an insurance company guaranteeing any of this. This is faith in the deviant. How can you buy a presidency with one million dollars? That does not make any sense.
Buying a presidency with one million dollars may be possible. How? I can lobby people to vote for me with that one million dollars. But you have to be an American citizen, not a foreign citizen [to do that in the United States]. Explanations based on deviant faith do not make sense. Give me one hundred dollars, one thousand dollars or ten thousand dollars and I will guarantee that you become a man instead of a woman in your future lives. You hear this and you think this is not bad, one million dollars buys a future life as a man is not too expensive. Since this is quite economical, you give some externalist teacher a million dollars. He puts the money in his pocket and goes off to drink, eat meat and play women. When he has done everything, you cannot get of your money back. I guarantee you that I will be a man in the future. This is no guarantee either; this is deviant. These are one or two tactics that swindlers use.
She often slighted the Triple Jewel. Since she believes in deviant dharma all the time, she did not believe in the proper Dharma. Deviant dharma consists of, “Why believe in the Buddha? You are a Buddha. Just give me 65 dollars and it will be fine.” Sixty-five dollars buys Buddhahood, that is a deviant dharma, deviant path. How can Buddha be purchased with money? You can become a Buddha, but you do not buy Buddhahood with money. You may use money to create merit; when you accumulate enough merit, then you realize Buddhahood.
Create merit while you cultivate, such as meditating. You should not refuse to cultivate. For instance, if Shakyamuni Buddha could have bought Buddhahood, he does not need to sit in the Himalayas for six years, sit underneath the Bodhi tree, see a bright start and become enlightened. When he was a prince, he had so rich, he could have very well bought Buddhahood. Buddhahood is not purchased with money. Slighting the Triple Jewel means looking down on the Triple Jewel, slandering and sabotaging monastics. Some Cantonese people slight the Triple Jewel because they cannot stand Bhikshus and Bhikshunis.
“The worthy daughter, the Brahman woman, made use of many expedients. Expedients are for provisional explanations for people who only have a rough understanding of the Dharma. In trying to convince her mother…Encouraging and enticing someone. For instance, children like candy, so you tell them, “I have a piece of candy. Follow me and I will give you the candy.” This is an enticement. This Brahman woman tells her mother something similar, “Follow me and study the Buddhadharma. The Buddhadharma is the best, it is number one.” But her mother does not believe her, encouraging and enticing her mother to hold right views, so that her mother will develop proper knowledge and proper views. But her mother never totally believed. The Brahman woman’s mother half believe and half doubt the principles she heard. Perhaps what you say contain some principle but may be not completely. Some of my refuge disciples, for example, do not believe certain principles entirely. Before long, the mother’s life ended soon.
Some think, it is best if someone is dead because he does not know anything; he does not want to eat, dress, sleep or work; he does not need to do anything. Although it is the best, it is also the worst. What is the worst thing? Death. If you do good deeds, you will become born in the three good destinies; whereas if you do evil deeds, you will become born in the three evil destinies, either hell, hungry ghosts or animals.
Yesterday a few visitors came to the Buddha hall and I told them about the responsibilities of soldiers. What responsibilities? I told them that there are Bodhisattvas and asuras in the military. Bodhisattvas in the army teach and transform living beings so that living beings do not kill too many people; whereas asuras in the army encourage living beings to kill more and more. They feel that the more they kill, the mightier they appear and earn the highest achievements. Bodhisattvas, in contrast, tell people not to kill but to help two countries to coexist peacefully by resolving their problems. They tell military men that they earn the highest achievements and highest ranking offices if they do that.
I told [these visitors] that they must emulate Bodhisattvas and not asuras. What are asuras? What are Bodhisattvas? There were two generals in China: one was Guan Yu. He killed lots of people, but he became a Bodhisattva after death. On the other hand, General Bai Qi of the Qin reign killed lots of people too, but he turned into an ox, a pig and a horse after death. Why? It is because he buried alive 200,000 soldiers who surrendered. He had the heart of an asura. Guan Yu killed bad people and not good people; he eliminated the violent and brought peace to the kind. In the end, one became a Bodhisattva and the other became an ox, a horse, a pig, and a sheep.
We have an American friend who is in the navy. He asked me, “Do you believe people will become animals after death?” At the time I said, “It is fine whether you believe people become animals after death or otherwise. Believe and you will become an animal if you deserve it; doubt it and you will become an animal if you deserve it. You will become an animal if that is what you should be after death; that cannot be changed. Do the deeds of Buddhas, you are a Buddha; do the deeds of Bodhisattvas, you are a Bodhisattva; do the deeds of humans, you are a human being; do the deeds of ghosts, you are a ghost; do the deeds of animals, you are an animal. You are what you do. This is not about doing what you believe but not doing what you do not believe. Whether you believe it or not, you will do what you must do. You will definitely not do what you should not do. This is not a matter of faith. One Chinese is thinking, “This idea is very lofty and profound. I will be coming to learn the Buddhadharma.”
Speaking of dying soon, each of us should think about our own deaths. Before long, the Brahman woman’s mother died and what about me? When will I die? Where will I go after death? Will I end up in the hells like the Brahaman woman’s mother? We listen to the sutras and for each part we hear, we must reflect instead of letting it go in one ear and out the other. That would be meaningless. Everyone will die. Do not believe what I said earlier about death being the best thing; do not believe that death is the worst thing either. People will die in the future, whether death is good or bad. Do good and it will be good; do bad and it will be bad. Earlier I said, “Plant good causes and reap good fruits; plant evil causes and reap evil fruits.”
The ancients had this to say, “Seeing the death of others, my heart burns like fire. It burns not for others, but I wonder when it’ll be me.” When I see someone pass away, my heart is blazing hot like it is on fire. I am not sad for the death of others, but I wonder how come he died? Soon it will be my turn. A few days ago, I talked about how there are more births than deaths, but deaths do come to each one of us in turn. “Seeing the death of others, my heart burns like fire. It burns not for others, but I wonder when it’ll be me.” Since you are not afraid of death, you may die soon, or now. Why do you not? This has nothing to do with being afraid or not, but whether the death is peaceful or unexpected. Unexpected deaths are accidents such as car crashes or plane problems, boat drownings and train crashes. These are all unexpected, accidental deaths. Die when you would like is a peaceful death. What if you do not want to die? You can cultivate for immortality.
Cultivators are liberated from birth and death. They may live forever if they want to; they may sit right down and enter nirvana right now if they do not want to live. With that kind of mastery, life and death is up to me rather than fate. No one is in charge of me; I am in charge of myself. If I want to die, I may die now. If I do not want to die, I may live forever. When we cultivate, we are cultivating this ability. When you have this ability, however, you do not want to remain in this world sometimes because this world is too turbid; this World of Five Turbidities is unclean.
Before long, her life ended and her consciousness fell into the Relentless Hell. Her consciousness is her Eighth Consciousness. After the Brahman woman’s mother died, her soul and consciousness fell into the Relentless Hell. What is the Relentless Hell? There time is relentless, life is relentless, and bodies are relentless. This refers to how this hell is full when one person is in it or many people are in it. We will explain the Relentless Hell in more detail later. What does it mean by “relentless”? Relentless means that it is uninterrupted and continuous. When you are in this hell, you suffer and yet your life continues, dying then becoming born, becoming born then dying. This is one function of this unchanging consciousness.
“When her mother’s life ended, the Brahman woman, knowing that her mother had not believed in cause and effect while alive. Her mother did not believe that good causes will result in good effects and evil causes result in evil results. Her lack of faith is an impure cause that will end in impure results. When the cause is wrong, the effect will be wrong too. Feared that her karma would certainly pull her into the Evil Paths. She considered the various evil karma her mother created and figured that her mother will definitely become reborn in an evil destiny. For that reason, she sold the family house and acquired many kinds of expensive and famous incense, flowers, and other gifts. With those she performed a great offering to the Buddha with incenses, flowers, lamps, candles, fruits, banners, canopies and many articles in that Thus Come One, Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King Buddha’s stupas and monasteries.
She saw an especially fine image of the Thus Come One Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King in one of the monasteries. As the Brahman woman beheld the honored countenance, she became doubly respectful while thinking to herself, ‘Buddhas are called Greatly Enlightened Ones who have attained All-Wisdom. If this Buddha were in the world I could ask him where my mother went after she died. He would certainly know.’
She the Brahman woman, saw an especially fine image of the Thus Come One Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King in one of the monasteries. As the Brahman woman beheld the honored countenance, the look of awesome virtue replete with the 32 hallmarks and the 80 secondary characteristics, of this clay statue, she became doubly respectful while thinking to herself, ‘Buddhas are called Greatly Enlightened Ones who have attained All-Wisdom, which consists of three types: the wisdom of the varieties of ways, the wisdom of all dharmas and the wisdom of all modes. If this Buddha were in the world I could ask him where my mother went after she died. He would certainly know where my mother went.’
I have a question for everyone to ponder. Although we should not think while cultivating, but everybody, consider this question: Did people come to this world to eat so that we live or do we live to eat?
“The Brahman woman then wept for a long time as she gazed longingly upon the Thus Come One. Suddenly a voice in the air said, ‘O weeping worthy woman, do not be so sorrowful. I shall now show you where your mother has gone.’
“The Brahman woman placed her palms together as she addressed space, saying, ‘Which virtuous divinity is comforting me in my grief? Ever since the day I lost my mother, I have held her in memory day and night, but there is nowhere I can go to ask about the realm of her rebirth.’
“The voice in the air spoke to the woman again, ‘I am the one whom you behold and worship, the former Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King Thus Come One. Because I have seen that your regard for your mother is double that of ordinary beings, I have come to show you where she is.’
The Brahman women thought: the Buddha is the wisest, enlightened being; unfortunately the Buddha has entered nirvana now. If the Buddha were in the world and my mother passed away, I would ask the Buddha where my mother become reborn. He would definitely know. “The Brahman woman then lowered her head and wept for a long time or just a certain period of time that is not necessarily fixed, as she gazed longingly upon the Thus Come One. She could not bear to leave the Buddha. For instance, there is no rope but now it seems as if there is a rope that tied her to the image, which is a longing. She did not want to leave the image of Thus Come One Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King.
Suddenly a voice in the air said…This is a time when the Brahman woman is concentrated in body and mind, without other false thoughts, other than the longing for Buddha and the thought of missing the Buddha nature. Her mind could be said to be pure at this time. At this time, a voice came out of nowhere. What kind of sound was it? ‘O weeping worthy woman, although your mother committed offenses, you have your good roots. This is why she was called a worthy woman. Do not be so sorrowful. Do not cry so hard! Do not be too sad! I shall now show you where your mother has gone. Let me tell you where your mother went. Do not cry.’
“The Brahman woman placed her palms together, faced the sky as she addressed space, saying, ‘Which virtuous divinity is comforting me in my grief? Which Bodhisattva is this? Which immortal is this? You are so kind! You relieve me of sadness with such compassion; you comfort me so that I am not sad or worried. Virtue is a kind of compassionate virtue. Ever since the day I lost my mother, when she died, I have held her in memory day and night. I thought about my mother day and night. But there is nowhere I can go to ask…Why do I miss my mother? My mother gave me this body, so I should be filial to her. My mother passed away before I fulfilled my filial obligations. This is why I am especially sad.
Actually, “The trees wish to be still but the wind does not stop; the children wish to care for their parents, but they are gone.” The trees want to stop swinging for a while, but wind blows them back and forth. The trees wish to be still but the wind does not stop. The children wish to care their parent, but they are gone. Just when I want to take care of my mother and be filial, repaying the kindness of my parents, they are gone. So it is said, “Father! Mother! Your kindness is so extremely great, it is higher than the heavens.” The grace of our parents is higher than the heavens and thicker than earth. “I am very ashamed and sad that I was not filial to my mother. I do not have a place to ask about the realm of her rebirth.” I do not know whether my mother went to the heavens or fell into the hells.
Strangely enough, when she spoke to space, The voice in the air spoke to the Brahman woman again, ‘I am the one whom you behold and worship, the spiritual being who relieved you of your sadness and worries, the former Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King Thus Come One. Because I have seen that your regard for your mother, how much you miss your mother, is double that of ordinary beings. Why is the Brahman woman able to move the former Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King Thus Come One to speak to her from space? This line of text makes it clear that it is because I see that you miss your mother more than ordinary people. For instance, other people miss their father or mother 100%, while you miss your mother 200%, double the average. You are so sincere that the way you think about your parent is different than most living beings. I have come to show you where she is even though I have entered nirvana. You have moved me so much that I have come to tell you.’
“The Brahman woman suddenly lunged toward the voice she was hearing and then fell, injuring herself severely. Those around her supported and attended to her, and after a long time she was revived. Then she addressed the air, saying, ‘I hope the Buddha will be compassionate and quickly tell me into what realm my mother has been reborn. I am now near death myself.’
“When the Brahman woman heard the voice in the air tell her that he is the former Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King Thus Come One, she suddenly lunged toward the voice she was hearing. She was very nervous. She seemed insane as she jumped toward the sky without regard for anything else. She heard the voice in the sky and wanted to get there to see the former Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King Thus Come One. She lunged into the air and hit herself.
This Brahman woman must not know any kungfu or other martial arts. And she then fell, injuring herself severely. She broke her arms and legs. The four limbs are in segments; the arms are in two or three segments while the legs are in a few segments. Her limbs were hurt, either broken or paralyzed. Those around her supported and attended to her. Perhaps at that time she had relatives and friends with her who went with her to make offerings to Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King Thus Come One. Perhaps these were monastics at the temple, such as Bhikshunis who saw this woman fall. Those next to her helped her up.
And after a long time she was revived. Since she fell so hard, she lost consciousness. She was revived after a while, waking up as if from a sleep. When her head cleared, she still remembers how she lunged into the air. Then she addressed the air, saying, ‘I hope the Buddha will be compassionate. My only wish now is for the Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King Thus Come One to be compassionate and pity me. And quickly tell me into what realm my mother has been reborn. Where did my mother become reborn? Why did she need to be told so quickly? I am now near death myself. Having fell like this, my body and mind are about to die soon.’
“Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King Thus Come One told the worthy woman, ‘After you make your offerings, return home quickly. Sit upright and concentrate on my name. You will soon know where your mother has been reborn.’ The Brahman woman bowed to the Buddha and returned home. The memory of her mother sustained her as she sat upright recollecting Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King Thus Come One.
“After doing so for a day and a night, she suddenly saw herself beside a sea whose waters seethed and bubbled. Many evil beasts with iron bodies flew swiftly back and forth above this sea. She saw billions of men and women bobbing up and down in the sea, being fought over, seized, and eaten by the evil beasts. She saw yakshas with different shapes. Some had many hands, some many eyes, some many legs, some many heads. With their sharp fangs, they drove the offenders on toward the evil beasts.
“Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King Thus Come One told the worthy Brahman woman, ‘After you make your offerings, return home quickly because you have hurt yourself badly due to the fall. What should you do once you get home? Sit upright even though you broke your arms and legs, and concentrate on my name, Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King Thus Come One.You will soon know where your mother has been reborn.’
The Brahman woman bowed to the Buddha and returned home. The memory of her mother sustained her, since she was so sincere in thinking about her mother, as she sat upright recollecting Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King Thus Come One. She sat up so straight, she forgot her pain and her broken arms and legs. “After doing so for a day and a night. She was not kneeling, she sat for 24 hours, simply reciting the Buddha’s name and nothing else.
At that time, she suddenly saw herself beside a sea. This was not a dream. This was a result of her utmost sincerity, her spiritual nature, her consciousness or her soul. In general, all these terms are one. The spiritual nature is the Eighth Consciousness in the individual. Since the Brahman woman sat for a long time, she forgot her pain and stopped everything except that one thought of the Buddha. Sincere in this thought, the Eighth Consciousness left her body. She suddenly saw herself by a sea. A meditator may see certain states because the Eighth Consciousness leaves the body.
If your Five Eyes are open, you will see ghosts, spirits, Bodhisattvas and Buddhas; you will not, otherwise. Cultivators’ spiritual nature (Eighth Consciousness) contains the Five Eyes within. If the spiritual nature leaves the physical body, the Five Eyes open so that they can see different states. This holy Brahman woman must have cultivated for a long time because even though the Five Eyes on her physical body did not open, her Eighth Consciousness left the body so that she can all of a sudden see herself by the sea whose waters seethed and bubbled. This sea water is not cool but boiling hot, surging upwards.
How many evil beasts are in this ocean? Never mind with that, just know that there are many and not few. With solid iron bodies these evil beasts flew swiftly back and forth above this sea, chasing one another. She saw billions of men and women bobbing up and down in the sea, being fought over, seized, and eaten by the evil beasts. What do these evil beasts do? They eat these men and women, such as swallowing one man or one woman in one mouthful. These most ferocious evil beasts have big mouths and big stomachs.
She saw yakshas , or speedy ghosts that fly and run swiftly, with different shapes. What do they look like? Some had many hands, some many eyes, some many legs, some many heads. One yaksha ghost may have several dozen arms, one extremely ugly and vicious yaksha ghost may have two arms but many eyes, one may have relatively few arms and eyes, but many legs and feet. One yaksha ghost may have many heads, whose mouths open up like a tub that can swallow several people with one gulp. Its teeth are like swords and knives.
With their sharp fangs that slice as quickly as swords, they drove the offenders on toward the evil beasts. What do yaksha ghosts do? The evil beasts look for things to eat. Since people are smarter, they sometimes run far away from evil beasts. Escaping though, they run straight into a yaksha ghost who blocks you so that you have nowhere to run and you are chased by enemies from behind. You have no route of escape and nowhere to go. You cannot even go and spend a night at a friend’s house!
Or the yakshas themselves seized the offenders and twisted their heads and feet together into shapes so horrible that no one would dare even look at them for long.
“During that time the Brahman woman was naturally without fear, due to the power of recollecting the Buddha.
“A ghost king named Poisonless bowed his head in greeting and said to the worthy woman, ‘Welcome, O Bodhisattva. What conditions bring you here?’
“The Brahman woman asked the ghost king, ‘What is this place?’
“Poisonless replied, ‘We are on the western side of the Great Iron Ring Mountain and this is the first of the seas that encircle it.’
“The worthy woman said, ‘I have heard that the hells are within the Iron Ring. Is that actually so?’
“Poisonless answered, ‘Yes, the hells are here.’
“The worthy woman asked, ‘How have I now come to the hells?’
“Poisonless answered, ‘If it wasn’t awesome spiritual strength that brought you here, then it was the power of karma. Those are the only two ways that anyone gets here.’
“The worthy woman asked, ‘Why is this water seething and bubbling, and why are there so many offenders and evil beasts?’
“Poisonless replied, ‘These are beings of Jambudvipa who did evil deeds. They have just died and passed through forty-nine days without any surviving relatives doing any meritorious deeds on their behalf to rescue them from their distress. Besides that, during their lives they themselves didn’t plant any good causes. Now their own karma calls forth these hells. Their first task is to cross this sea.
Or all the yakshasand evil beasts themselves seized the offenders. They beat and seize as if eagles catching chickens with their claws. These evil beasts and yakshas cooperate and capture the offenders. And twisted their heads and feet together. yakshas may do this to evil beasts, evil beasts may do this to yakshas and evil beasts and yakshas may do this to people. In general, all of them can be twisted so they look really awful. They are twisted into millions of different kinds of shapes so horrible that typically no one would dare even look at them for long.
“During that time the Brahman woman was naturally without fear, due to the power of recollecting the Buddha Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King Thus Come One. “A ghost king, one of the leaders among the ghosts, named Poisonless bowed his head in greeting to the Brahman woman and said to the worthy woman, ‘Welcome, O kindhearted Bodhisattva. What conditions bring you here?’
“The Brahman woman asked the ghost king, ‘What is this place?’ I don’t know how I got here either.
“Poisonless replied, ‘We are on the western side of the Great Iron Ring Mountain and this is the first of the seas on the west side that encircle it.’
“The worthy woman said to the ghost king, ‘I have heard that the hells are within the Iron Ring. Is that actually so? Is there really the hells? How come people do not believe there are the hells?’
“Poisonless answered, ‘Yes, the hells are here. The hells really do exist, it is not imagined.’
“The worthy woman asked, ‘How have I now come to the hells?’
“Poisonless the ghost king answered, ‘If it wasn’t awesome spiritual strength that brought you here, then it was the power of karma. You can come here due to two factors. One, you have the awesomeness, the spiritual power, or the virtue. Two, you fall into the hells because of the power of your offense karmas. Those are the only two ways that anyone gets here. If it was not for one of two things, one’s awesomeness or karma, one will not come to the hells.’
“The worthy Brahman woman asked, ‘Why is this water seething and bubbling, and why are there so many offenders cooking in this boiling water and so many evil beasts?’
“Poisonless replied Brahman woman, ‘These are beings of Jambudvipa, which means victorious gold for the reason that leaves on the Jambunadasuvarna trees fall into the hells and turn into gold. This kind of gold is most supreme and special, so it is called victorious gold. Our world is in southern Jambudvipa. Beings in southern Jambudvipa who, by merely stirring a thought, did evil deeds. They have just died and passed through forty-nine days, seven weeks.
To help a deceased individual, we must do some merit for him within 49 days after his death so that he may benefit. During that period of time, the offense karma of the deceased has not been confirmed yet, but after 49 days, their karma is determined the way the court decisions have been made, they cannot change anymore. If we were to recite sutras or mantras for the deceased, we can save them so that they reap the benefits.
After 49 days, the offense of the deceased is judged, so there is still merit from recitation of sutras, but they get very little merit, the impact of which is tiny though not completely nil. Without any surviving relatives doing any meritorious deeds on their behalf to rescue them from their distress, to save evil-doing living beings from their suffering. Besides that, during their lives they themselves didn’t plant any good causes, didn’t do good deeds. Now their own karma calls forth these hells. Their first task is to cross this sea. Naturally, they must first go to this great sea of suffering to endure the karmic retribution they deserve.
Ten thousand yojanas east of this sea is another sea in which they will undergo twice as much suffering. East of that sea is yet another sea where the sufferings are doubled yet again. What the combined evil causes of the three karmic vehicles evoke is called the sea of karma. This is that place.’
Ten thousand yojanas east of this sea is another sea in which they will undergo twice as much suffering. The suffering in the other sea is more much severe than this one. See how people are suffering as they evil beasts and yakshas chase them about in this ocean, were you to see the other sea, you would know that the suffering there is manifold compared to this one. East of that sea is yet another sea where the sufferings are doubled yet again. The suffering there is much more than the previous sea. What is the reason for the existence of these oceans? What the combined evil causes of the three karmic vehicles evoke…The three karmas are the karma of body, the karma of mouth and the karma of mind. There are three evils to body, which are killing, stealing, sexual misconduct. There are three evils to the mind, they are greed, hatred and delusion.
There are four evils to the mouth, they are frivolous speech, false speech, harsh speech and divisive speech. Frivolous speech consists of improper words between men and women. False speech refers to exaggerations and lies. Harsh speech means scolding people. Divisive speech means telling A about B’s faults and telling B about A’s faults. One says two different things. There are four evils to the mouth, plus three evils of the body, and three evils of the mind, making a total of ten evils. These ten evils are also called the evil causes of the three karmas, the seeds to creating evil.
How come there is this type of ocean with evil waters with so many evil beasts and yakshas? They come forth because of people’s evil causes. Plant good causes and reap good fruits; plant evil causes and reap evil fruits. People deserve what they get since they create their own offense karma. . . is called the sea of karma. The three oceans together make up the sea of karma, which are all created by the power of people’s karma. This is that place, the sea of karma.’
“The worthy woman asked the Ghost King Poisonless, ‘Where are the hells?’
“Poisonless answered, ‘Within the three seas are hundreds of thousands of hells, each one different. Eighteen of those are known as the great hells. Five hundred subsequent ones inflict limitless cruel sufferings. Following those are hundreds of thousands that inflict limitless further sufferings.’
“The worthy woman again questioned the great ghost king, ‘My mother died recently and I do not know where she has gone.’
“The worthy Brahman woman asked the Ghost King Poisonless, ‘Where are the hells?’
“ Ghost King Poisonless answered the Brahman woman, ‘Within the three seas are hundreds of thousands of hells. What is the sea of suffering? The sea of suffering is a conglomeration of living beings’ karma. Ocean is symbolic of a large number; there is not an ocean necessarily. It represents the accumulation of karma that is as limitless as the great sea. These three seas are created by people’s three karmas of body, mouth and mind. So Poisonless told the Brahman woman that within the three seas are the great hells.
Each one of the hells is different, replete with its unique setup. In other words, each person experiences a unique hell based on his karma. Hells are not existent and prepared before people passed way. The hells manifest based on each individual’s karma; each experiences retribution based on his or her offense karma. For instance, there is a hell of molten copper. Pillars of molten copper are hollow except for a blazing fire inside. What kind of individual falls into the hells? Licentious individuals.
Their power of karma makes these individuals see molten copper in the shape of people. Lusty men see molten copper and think it is a beautiful woman. As he runs forward to embrace the beautiful woman, he is scorched through to the skin and flesh that he is stuck. Lusty women see molten copper as an extremely handsome man or an old friend. She wants to get close without regard for anything, but when she does get close, she gets burned to death by the fire of desire.
After being burned to death, a clever wind in the hells that was mysteriously created revives the being in the hells so that he or she experiences the same retribution repeatedly, though he or she has forgotten the results and only remembers the benefits. He or she makes the same mistake and suffers the retribution there. This is how the molten copper hell works. There are many different kinds of hells, each with each unique features.
Eighteen of those are known as the great hells. Each hell has eighteen separate spots. Five hundred subsequent ones inflict limitless cruel sufferings. Following those are hundreds of thousands that inflict limitless further sufferings.’
“The worthy woman again questioned the great ghost king, ‘ O big brother ghost king, please instruct me out of compassion. My mother died recently and I do not know where she has gone. I do not know where my mother’s soul went, big brother ghost king, please be kind and tell me.’
“The ghost king asked the worthy woman, ‘When the Bodhisattva’s mother was alive, what habits did she have?’
“The worthy woman replied, ‘My mother held deviant views and ridiculed and slandered the Triple Jewel. Even if she occasionally believed, she would soon become disrespectful again. She died recently and I still do not know where she was reborn.’
“Poisonless asked, ‘What was the Bodhisattva’s mother’s name and clan?’
“The worthy woman replied, ‘My parents were both Brahmans; my father’s name was Shila Sudarshana, my mother’s name was Yue Di Li.’
“Poisonless placed his palms together and implored the worthy woman, ‘Please, Worthy One, quickly return home. There is no need for you to grieve further. The offender Yue Di Li was born in the heavens three days ago. It is said that she received the benefit of offerings made and blessings cultivated by her filial child who practiced giving to Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King Thus Come One at stupas and monasteries.
Not only was the Bodhisattva’s mother released from the hells, but all the other offenders who were destined for the Relentless Hell also received bliss and were reborn with her.’ Having finished speaking, the ghost king put his palms together and withdrew.
Ghost king Poisonless heard the Brahman woman’s question about where her mother has become reborn, which of the six destinies on the wheel of rebirth. “The ghost king asked the worthy woman, ‘When the Bodhisattva’s mother was alive, what habits did she have?’ The ghost king saw that the Brahman woman must be able to go to the hells because of the power of her awesome virtue and vows, so referred to her as a Bodhisattva. “What did your mother do when she was alive? What occupation was she in? How did she act?”
“The worthy woman replied, ‘My mother held deviant views. Although she was my mother, I cannot cover her mistakes. She held deviant knowledge and deviant views, which are the Five Sharp Servants in the areas of body, extremes, precepts, views and deviances. Deviant view of the body: She never accepted the shorter end of the bargain. She always thought about what was best for her body. For example, she wanted nutritious foods because she was afraid of poor health. She fed herself so well so that she was nice and round. She thought it was healthy to be chubbier. She was always planning things for her body: a good place to live, good food, and nice clothes. She spent all of her time on doing this type of calculations. How can this be good for the body? This is the view of the body that refuses to let the body get hurt.
View of extremes: All of her views were prejudiced. She disagreed with other people’s opinions about smoking being unhealthy. She thought smoking was the best and criticized you for not knowing the beauty of it. If you did, you would not quit. Her explanation seemed to make sense. Extreme views maybe ingenious explanations with faultless reasoning, but they are actually prejudiced.
View of precepts: She held deviant precepts such as finding non-vegetarian Buddhists fine. She found people who do not even touch salt as people with real skill. She teased Sangha members about how if they do not believe her, they should just try these deviant precepts. In general, she always found faults with something fine. There are no problems, but she will look with a microscope for some fault.
Deviant view. For example, everyone says it is right to be filial to our parents, but she would say, “Why? Parents procreate because they sought momentary pleasures, and you think they are good to you! Do not bother with your parents. They deserve to get old and die. The sooner they die, the better; otherwise there is just one more consumer alive.” She gave these big long explanations, arguing with you about filiality. She said it is wrong to be filial. Why be filial to elders? That is really stupid. This is a deviant views.
And ridiculed and slandered the Triple Jewel. She teased and criticized. When she saw people bowing to the Buddhas, she would say, “Ah, is that a Buddhist? Buddhists do everything! They are no better than anybody else; they still eat, drink, gamble and prostitute like everyone else. What good is it to believe in the Buddhas?” She piles a list of faults on Buddhists so that Buddhists seem like criminals who commit worse things than the Ten Evils and the Five Rebellious Acts. This is a form of ridicule. She slandered by saying Buddhism cheats people. She said the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha are all fake. The Buddha is made of clay, the Dharma is words on paper, and Sangha members are human too! How are they different from regular people? Why should you believe them? Why should you bow to them? You are so stupid. She scolded you hard so that Buddhists are embarrassed to the point that some are afraid to let others know that they are Buddhists.
One elderly man who comes to listen to the sutras on Sundays asked to take refuge with me a few years ago, but I never agreed. Why? It is because he said that he wanted to take refuge secretly so that no one knows. Taking refuge is not stealing, why should it be secret? I do not have any secrete refuges here, so I told him to think things over before taking refuge. It is so strange but he says that since he is a Catholic with long time Catholic friends who will call him a rebel if they knew that he believed in Buddhism. If you do not say so, you are deceiving them, that makes you even more of a criminal. He says that he is still getting some charity there. How can someone like this be a Buddhist? How pathetic!
Even if she occasionally believed . Perhaps and supposedly she believed, it was temporary and not forever. We must make vows to believe in Buddhism forever and not just temporarily like the Brahman woman’s mother. Temporary faith may last one hour then vanish. Some people’s faith does not last for more than two hours, at the most an hour or five minutes. They cool off after five minutes of faith. We must make vows to have faith forever. She would soon become disrespectful again. Perhaps for five minutes’ time, she will go along and bow to the Buddhas, take refuge with the Triple Jewel, and find a teacher. But as soon as she turns around, for no particular reason at all, she no longer wishes to pay respects to the Buddhas and believe in the Buddhas.
She died recently and I still do not know where she was reborn.’
“Poisonless asked the Brahman woman for more detail because she did not say her mother’s name. ‘What was the Bodhisattva’s mother’s name and clan? What was your mother’s surname? First name? Address? Say all this clearly.’
“The worthy Brahman woman replied, ‘My parents were both Brahmans. There are four castes in India. The Brahmans are the clan of purity; the Kastriyas are royalty; the Vaisyas are the merchants. The Caalas are the lowest caste including butchers, slaughterers etc. In India, butchers could not walk alongside other people but have to walk on the roadside alone. If they met members of the royalty, they cannot even walk on the same road. They are marked so that everyone can tell at a glance that they are Caalas, the lowliest of castes.
The Brahman woman is a member of the Brahman clan, a member of the elite. Both Indian and Great Britain were hierarchical, and that continues today. United States is democratic, people do not think hierarchically but equally. India was different; high class individuals could not converse with low class individuals. If you spoke with members of the lower class, nobilities look down on you, treating you as if you were worthless. Hierarchical thought harshly divides up people.
My father’s name was Shila Sudarshana. Shila usually refer to the vinaya, but here it just means cool and refreshing. My mother’s name was Yue Di Li, a Sanskrit word that is not formally explained in the Buddhist sutras, but let me add some commentaries now. Yue means favor and Di means emperor. Someone that emperors favor; in other words, this person was so pretty that even the emperor liked her. You may say that, there is nothing fixed about a person’s name. Since people’s names are not fixed, you may explain it however you want as long as it is reasonable, and especially if it is Sanskrit. Do not simply claim ignorance when you see things in the sutras you do not understand, research it with your wisdom. Once you uncover your wisdom, you will know. You may explain it in whatever way is reasonable; as long as you do not yell at people or say the negatives. Do not be so rigid.
“Poisonless placed his palms together out of respect and implored the worthy Brahman woman, ‘Please, Worthy One, quickly return home. There is no need for you to grieve further. Worry no more. Do not think about your mother with such sadness or miss her so that you cannot let her go. The offender Yue Di Li, a woman who committed offenses, was born in the heavens three days ago. How? It is said that she received the benefit of offerings made and blessings cultivated by her filial child, a daughter specifically, who practiced giving to Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King Thus Come One at stupas and monasteries. The giving includes offering alms to the Sangha and the assembly. Not only was the Bodhisattva’s mother released from the suffering of the hells, but all the other offenders like your mother who were destined for the Relentless Hell also received bliss and were reborn with her.’ Having finished speaking, the ghost king put his palms together respectfully and withdrew.
“The Brahman woman returned swiftly as if from a dream, understood what had happened, and then made a profound and far-reaching vow before the stupas and images of Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King Thus Come One, saying, ‘I vow that until the end of future eons I will respond to beings suffering for their offenses by using many expedient devices to bring about their liberation.’”
The Buddha told Manjushri, “The Ghost King Poisonless is the present Bodhisattva Foremost Wealth. The Brahman woman is now Earth Store Bodhisattva.”
“The Brahman woman returned swiftly as if from a dream understood what had happened . She went back and thought to herself, “Oh, I was by an ocean where I saw Poisonless the great ghost king, the evil beasts and offenders in the hells. I asked him where my mother was reborn and the ghost king says she became reborn in the heavens.” She knew that none of this was illusory but occurred because Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King Thus Come One’s awesome might helped to make it happen.
And then she made a profound and far-reaching vow before the stupas and images of Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King Thus Come One, saying, ‘I vow that until the end of future eons. When will the end of future eons occur? There will never be an end; hence the vows of Earth Store King Bodhisattva will never end either. I will respond to beings suffering for their offenses throughout all six destinies by using many expedient devices to bring about their liberation, allowing them to leave suffering and attain bliss.’”
The Buddha told Manjushri, “The Ghost King Poisonless who conversed with the Brahman woman, is the present Bodhisattva Foremost Wealth.
The Bodhisattva Foremost Wealth cultivated the seven sacred gems:
1. faith, a gem in cultivation.
2. precepts. The transmission and receiving of precepts are rare in the Age of the Decline of Dharma; but monastics must receive the precepts to be actual monastics.
4. renunciation. Giving is also a gem in cultivation.
5. wisdom, a gem in cultivation.
6. a sense of shame.
Usually remorse and a sense of shame go together; although they are separate here; they are necessary gems in cultivation. He is called the Bodhisattva Foremost Wealth because he has these seven gems of faith, precepts, erudition, renunciation, wisdom, a sense of shame and remorse.
The Brahman woman is now Earth Store Bodhisattva.” This is why we must emulate the former Earth Store Bodhisattva and practice filial respect on a wide scale, including the virtue of being filial to our parents and saving our parents.