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Thus have I heard,
The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra contains twenty-eight chapters. The first chapter, “Introduction,” narrates the causes and conditions leading up to the speaking of the Sutra. Although the first passage of text of all Sutras is an introduction, this is the only Sutra that devotes an entire chapter to an introduction.
Thus have I heard. (Every Dharma Assembly must fulfill six requirements: faith, hearing, time, host, place, and audience.) “Thus” fills the requirement of faith. “I have heard” fills the requirement of hearing. (On Sunday during the lecture on the Vajra Sutra, the reasons behind these four words were already explained.) Dharma which is “Thus” can be believed; dharma which is not “Thus” cannot be believed.
Who is the “I” referred to here? There is the false self of the common person, and there is the divine self of non-Buddhist religions.
Here the “I” refers to the “false self,” not the true self.
You may ask, “Why does the text say, “I” heard? Basically isn’t it the ear which hears? Why doesn’t it say the ear heard?”
The ear is just one part of the body. The “I” refers to the entire body. Therefore Ananda said, “I have heard”.
Ananda spoke the words “Thus have I heard” for four reasons:
1. To resolve the assembly’s doubts.
2. To honor the Buddha’s instructions.
3. To put an end to disputes.
4. To distinguish Buddhist Sutras from the writings of other religions.
What doubts did the assembly hold? When Ananda compiled the Sutras and took the Dharma seat, he manifested the characteristics of the Buddha and thus caused the assembly suddenly to give rise to three doubts:
First of all, the Bodhisattvas, Arhats, and Bhikshus thought perhaps Shakyamuni Buddha hadn’t entered Nirvana after all, but had returned again to lecture on the Sutras.
Others thought, “This must be the Buddha from another place who has come to teach us.”
Still others thought, “Ananda has become a Buddha!” Otherwise, how could he manifest the thirty-two marks and eighty minor characteristics of a Buddha? How could he, surrounded by this dazzling purple-golden light, appear so splendid?”
But when Ananda took the Dharma seat and said, “Thus have I heard”, the three doubts were all resolved. The Bodhisattvas, Arhats, and Bhikshus then knew Ananda was saying, “This is the Dharma. It is thus. Thus it was that I personally heard this Dharma from the Buddha. It is not my own invention.”
The second reason the words “Thus have I heard” were used was in order to honor the Buddha’s instructions. When the Buddha was about to enter Nirvana, he told Ananda, “All the Sutras should begin with the words ‘Thus have I heard.’” And so when Ananda compiled the Sutras, he followed the Buddha’s instructions and used these four words at their beginning.
The third reason was to put an end to disputes. Ananda was one of the youngest of the Buddha’s disciples. If he hadn’t made it clear that the Sutras he was speaking were the Buddha’s and not his own, there would certainly have been objections. “You say you can speak Sutras? Well, so can we!” people would have said. But when Ananda said that the Sutras were not his own but were the Buddha’s, all the assembly, including his elders, his peers, and his juniors, had nothing to say. They were the Buddha’s Sutras. This silenced their objections and ended all disputes.
The fourth reason was to distinguish the Buddha’s Sutras from the writings of other religions. The texts of other religions begin their works with the words “A” or “O” meaning “non-existence” or “existence”, respectively. They say that all the ten thousand dharmas either exist or do not exist. The phrase “Thus have I heard” at the beginning of the Buddha’s Sutras sets them apart from the writings of other religions, which have a head but no tail, or a tail no head, because they advocate either existence or non-existence.
Ananda asked the Buddha about four matters before the Buddha entered Nirvana. The first concerned the compilation of the Sutras, and the Buddha replied that all Sutras should begin with the words, “Thus have I heard.” The second question was where the Buddha’s disciples should dwell, and the Buddha told them to dwell in the Four Applications of Mindfulness: mindfulness with regard to the body, feelings, thoughts, and dharmas.
The Four Applications of Mindfulness:-
1. Contemplate the body as impure.
2. Contemplate feelings as suffering.
3. Contemplate thoughts as impermanent.
4. Contemplate dharmas as without self.
The first Application of Mindfulness is to contemplate the body as impure. Our bodies constantly perspire, no matter how often we wash them. If you don’t wash, they soon begin to stink. Impurities always ooze from the nine openings on the body. Tears and matter flow from the eyes. Wax accumulates in the ears. Mucus comes from the nose. Phlegm and saliva come from the mouth. These are all unclean. No matter how much you wash on the outside, the inside is still filthy. We’ve discussed seven orifices so far. Add excrement and urine from the eliminatory orifices and that makes nine. Therefore you should contemplate the body as impure.
Living beings burdened with heavy greed should cultivate the contemplation of impurity and view the uncleanness of the body. Greed here refers to sexual desire. Those afflicted with sexual desire should apply this contemplation to counteract lust. No matter how beautiful the woman or how attractive the man they are still basically unclean. Since they are impure, how can you cling to them? Understanding their basic impurity, you won’t keep longing for them, and your sexual desire will diminish.
The second is to contemplate feelings as suffering. Everything you experience, be it pleasant or unpleasant, moves your mind. When your mind moves, that is suffering. There are many kinds of suffering. There are the Three Sufferings, the Eight Sufferings, and all the limitless sufferings. The Three Sufferings are:
1. The suffering within suffering.
2. The suffering of decay.
3. The suffering of process.
The Eight Sufferings are:
1. The suffering of birth,
2. old age,
3. sickness, and
5. The suffering of being separated from what one loves.
6. The suffering of being around what one hates.
7. The suffering of not getting what one wants.
8. The suffering of the raging blaze of the five skandhas.
The Three Sufferings are present within the Three Realms: the Desire Realm, the Form Realm, and the Formless Realm. No matter what you feel, it is bound up with suffering. If you can understand this, you won’t crave pleasure and you’ll be able to avoid suffering.
The third Application of Mindfulness is to contemplate thoughts as impermanent. In our minds, when one thought is produced, the former thought is extinguished. When yet another thought arises, the preceding one perishes. Thoughts succeed one another like the waves on the sea. Thought after thought arises without cease, but they are all impermanent. Every thought is vain and unreal. Therefore you should contemplate thoughts as impermanent.
The fourth Application of Mindfulness is to contemplate dharmas as without self. What are dharmas? Generally they are divided into five categories. They are explained in detail in the Shastra to the Door of Understanding the Hundred Dharmas, by Bodhisattva Vasubandhu.
There are eleven form dharmas.
There are eight mind dharmas.
There are fifty-one dharmas belonging to the mind.
There are twenty-four dharmas non-interactive with the mind.
There are six unconditioned dharmas.
Altogether there are a hundred dharmas. Although there are so many dharmas, among them all there is no self. Therefore, you should not be attached to dharmas. The Vajra Sutra says, “Even dharmas should be cast aside, how much the more so that which is non-dharma?” When you have cultivated to the extreme limit where both people and dharmas are both empty, you must give up attachment to dharmas. If you become attached to the existence of dharmas, you contract the Dharma Attachment. There are two kinds of attachments, the Self Attachment and the Dharma Attachment. Before people have understood the Buddhadharma, they are attached to the self. Everything revolves around themselves. With attachment they become obstructed, deluded, and filled with dream thoughts.
Once you understand the Buddhadharma, you may give rise to Dharma Attachments. So the Buddha spoke the Four Applications of Mindfulness and taught us to contemplate dharmas as devoid of self. Contemplate all dharmas as having no self. Since there is no self, how could there be dharmas? Therefore you must contemplate dharmas as without a self.
Contemplate the body as impure; feelings, thoughts, and dharmas are also impure. Contemplate feelings as suffering; the body, thoughts, and dharmas are also suffering. Contemplate thoughts as impermanent and also the body, feelings, and dharmas. Contemplate dharmas as without self, and also the body, feelings, and thoughts. The Four Applications of Mindfulness are thus mutually related. The Buddha told his disciples that after his Nirvana they should always dwell in these Four Applications and never leave them.
In answer to the third question that Ananda asked [regarding whom the disciples should take as their teacher after the Buddha entered Nirvana], the Buddha said, “Take the Pratimoksha, the precepts, as your teacher.” All Bhikshus and Bhikshunis must cultivate in accord with the precepts. If you do not rely upon the precepts in cultivation, the Dharma will become extinct. If the precepts are relied upon, the Buddhadharma will remain in the world.
For every person who cultivates according to the precepts, Buddhism has just that much more light. If ten people cultivate according to the precepts, then Buddhism will give off ten parts of light. If a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand people cultivate according to the precepts and do not violate them, then boundless, limitless light will destroy all the darkness in the world. Therefore in cultivation, holding the precepts is essential.
As to Ananda’s fourth question, “How should we treat evil-natured Bhikshus?” the Buddha said, “Simply be silent and ignore them. There is no way to reason with them. All you can do is refuse to talk to them. They will become ashamed of themselves and may even come around to following the rules. The best method is not to argue with them.”
The word ‘thus’ expresses the credibility of the Dharma which is about to be heard. The Dharma which you may believe is ‘thus’. Dharma which you may not believe is not ‘thus’.
It accords with conditions, yet does not change.
It does not change and yet accords with conditions.
It is thus, thus unmoving;
The Dharma, clear and constantly bright--
Thus it is.
‘Thus’ also means it is ‘sealed with approval’. If you do things correctly, if you do things in accord with the Buddha’s heart, then it is ‘thus’. If you are at variance with the Buddha’s heart, then it is not ‘thus’.
“I have heard” is Ananda saying, “The Dharma which is thus is that which I personally heard the Buddha speak. It is not my own invention or my own creation. I heard it from the Buddha.”
Ananda was quite a bit younger than the Buddha. In fact, the Buddha left home when he was nineteen and accomplished the Way when he was thirty. Ananda was born on the day the Buddha accomplished the Way and, at twenty, he left home and served the Buddha. Therefore he did not hear the Dharma taught by the Buddha during the first twenty years of teaching. How then, was Ananda able to compile the Sutras if he hadn’t even heard those first twenty years of the Buddha’s teaching?
That’s a good question. Ananda was the Buddha’s cousin; he left home when he was twenty and made the vow to remember and record all the Buddha’s words. But since he hadn’t heard the first twenty years of the Buddha’s teaching, he requested the Buddha to repeat it all for him. So the Buddha, in secret, respoke all the Sutras to Ananda who, by means of his excellent memory, remembered them all perfectly. Thus, from beginning to end, all the Dharma the Buddha spoke went past his ears directly into his heart and was never forgotten. Therefore, it is said,
“The great sea of the Buddhadharma
flowed right into Ananda’s heart.”
Ananda was actually a great Bodhisattva who manifested provisionally as an Arhat. All the Sutras of the past Buddhas were compiled by Ananda. That is why, after his enlightenment, he was able to remember all the Dharma spoken by the Buddhas of the past. The Dharma spoken by all the Buddhas is essentially the same. For that reason, in the Dharma assembly of Shakyamuni Buddha, Ananda was able to entirely recall the Sutras he had been taught in the past, even though he did not hear them in this life.
At one time the Buddha dwelt on Mount Grdhrakuta, near the City of the House of the Kings, together with a gathering of Great Bhikshus, twelve thousand in all. All were Arhats who had exhausted all outflows and had no further afflictions. Having attained self-benefit, they had exhausted the bonds of all existence and their hearts had attained self-mastery.
A1. Thus have I heard - general introduction to the roots and branches divisions of the Sutra.
B1. At one time, the Buddha dwelt on Mount Grdhrakuta, near the city of the house of the kings - time and place Dharma was heard.
B2. Together with a Gathering of Great Bhikshus, twelve thousand in all. All were Arhats who had exhausted all outflows and had no further afflictions - audience.
C1. members of
D1. sound hearers
F1. well known
G1. Their category and number.
G2. Having attained self-benefit, they had exhausted the bonds of all existence and their hearts had attained self-mastery - Statement of their position and praise of their virtues.
At one time fills the time requirement. Since the calendar systems used in the various states of India and China were different, an exact date is not given, for that would lead to endless speculation among historians. What “time” was it? It was the “time” when Shakyamuni Buddha spoke the Dharma Flower Sutra. The “Buddha” fills the host requirement. To review, “Buddha” is a Sanskrit word meaning “the enlightened one.” The Chinese word Fo is a transliteration of only the first syllable, because the Chinese like to abbreviate.
There are three kinds of enlightenment.
1. Basic enlightenment. This is the inherent Buddha nature in all beings, our enlightenment potential which does not depend on cultivation.
2. Initial enlightenment is the resolve to study the Buddhadharma and actualize that enlightenment potential. Day by day, we become a little more enlightened. For example, each time we listen to the Sutra lecture, we understand a little more Buddhadharma. After ten days, we will understand quite a lot. Eventually we will come to understand it completely. When we understand it completely, we realize Buddhahood and that is the third.
3. Ultimate enlightenment.
There are also the following three types of enlightenment.
1. Self-enlightenment. Those who are self-enlightened are different from common people who are unenlightened. This refers to the Two Vehicles of Hearers and Condition-enlightened Ones.
2. The enlightenment of others. These are the Bodhisattvas who are different from the Hearers and Condition-enlightened Ones. These Bodhisattvas teach everyone the doctrines which they themselves have understood so that they can become enlightened too. This is the spirit of the Bodhisattva who benefits himself and benefits others. Those of the Two Vehicles only benefit themselves; they do not benefit others. They gain their own understanding, but do not seek to lead others to that same understanding. The Buddha called the people of the Two Vehicles “self-understanding Arhats”. He scolded them and said they were “withered sprouts and sterile seeds,” because they did not concern themselves with propagating the Buddhadharma.
3. The perfection of enlightenment and practice. This is the enlightenment of the Buddha. Although Bodhisattvas enlighten others, they have not perfected their enlightenment and practice. Only the Buddha has perfected both self-enlightenment and the practice of enlightening others.
Having perfected the three types of enlightenment and
Complete with the ten thousand virtues,
He is therefore called “The Buddha”.
Shakyamuni Buddha was born in India, the son of King Shuddhodana [the ruler of Kapilavastu]. His personal name was Siddhartha. He left the home life when he was nineteen, realized Buddhahood at age thirty and taught the Dharma for forty-nine years in over three hundred Dharma assemblies. His disciple Ananda was thirty years younger than the Buddha and he left home when he was twenty. He heard the Buddha’s teachings for only twenty-nine years. But the Buddha used his spiritual penetrations to respeak the first twenty years of his teaching to Ananda who remembered them exactly and then recorded and compiled them.
The Buddha dwelt on Mount Grdhrakuta, near the City of the House of the Kings. This fills the requirement of place. The City of the House of the Kings (Rajagriha) is also known as Shravasti, a Sanskrit word interpreted to mean “abundant virtues.” The citizens were wealthy in the pleasures of the five desires, and they possessed the virtues of erudition and liberation. The five desires can refer to the five defiling sense objects--forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and tangible objects--or to wealth, sex, fame, food, and sleep. There was an abundance of the states of the five desires in that kingdom. Erudition means the people were fond of studying, and liberation means they were carefree and at ease. Rajagriha was the capital city of Magadha in Central India. The city was surrounded by five mountains--one of which was Mount Grdhrakuta,“ Vulture Peak”, so named because it was shaped like a vulture.
Together with a gathering of Great Bhikshus, twelve thousand in all. Most of the Sutras list a gathering of one thousand twelve hundred and fifty Bhikshus, but there was an especially large gathering at the Dharma Flower Sutra Assembly.
Great Bhikshus are those about to certify to the fruit of Arhatship.
Because the word Bhikshu contains many meanings, it is not translated but is left in Sanskrit. The three meanings of the word Bhikshu are: mendicant, frightener of Mara, and destroyer of evil.
1. Mendicant. Bhikshus do not prepare their own food. In the Buddha’s time, some of them maintained the ascetic practice of eating only once a day before noon; others maintained the ascetic practice of not eating after noon. When it was time to eat, they took their bowls into the city and begged from door to door and laypeople would give them offerings of food.
2. Frightener of Mara. When one who has left the home life is about to receive the complete precepts, the Precept Masters, consisting of Three Masters and Seven Certifiers ask him, “Are you a hero?”
He answers, “I am a hero!”
“Have you brought forth the resolve for Bodhi?” they ask.
“I have brought forth the resolve for Bodhi!” he answers.
The moment he answers the second question, an earth travelling yaksha ghost tells a space travelling yaksha ghost, who in turn informs the sixth desire heaven, where Mara dwells, saying, “Among people, such a person has left home. The Buddha’s retinue has increased by one and the retinue of Mara has decreased by one.” Hearing this, the demon king is jealous and frightened. Therefore Bhikshus are called Frighteners of Mara.
3. Destroyers of evil. Bhikshus destroy the evils of affliction and ignorance as well as the poisons of greed, hatred, and stupidity.
The assembly of Bhikshus who were Hearers, fill the requirement of audience. How many were there? Twelve thousand.
Every Sutra begins with these six requirements because unless all six requirements are filled, the Buddha will not speak the Dharma. For example there must be an audience to listen and a place in which to speak the Dharma. Thirdly, a host speaker is needed, a Dharma Master who genuinely understands the Buddhadharma. If you have an audience and a place but no one speaks the Dharma, you can’t convene a Dharma assembly. Next, you need a time, for example seven to nine in the evening. There must be a hearing, that is you need to come and listen. Otherwise, the requirement of hearing is not filled. If you listen but you do not believe it, then the requirement of faith is lacking. If you think, “I don‘t know what this Dharma Master is talking about . it. I don’t know if it is true or false,” then you lack faith.
You may think, “The Dharma Master speaks extremely well. He’s most articulate. The more I hear, the more I want to listen”, in which case the requirement of faith is met.
Now, in our Sutra lecture, this six requirements have also been met. First of all you must have faith, and then you can hear the lecture. In order for there to be a hearing, there must be a time and a Dharma Master who can lecture on the Sutra. Further, there must also be a place and an assembly that convenes. None of these six requirements must be lacking.
The phrase “together with a gathering of Great Bhikshus, twelve thousand in all” denotes the number present. The following phrases, all were Arhats who had exhausted all outflows and had no further afflictions; having attained peace and self-benefit, they had exhausted the bonds of all existence and their hearts had attained self-mastery, praise the virtue of the Arhats.
“All were Arhats”: The Sanskrit word Arhat has three meanings which correspond to the three meanings of the word Bhikshu. The Bhikshu is the cause; the Arhat is the fruition. Cultivation on the causal ground as a Bhikshu leads to the result of Arhatship.
1. One Worthy of Offerings. On the causal ground a Bhikshu is a mendicant. As a result, an Arhat is Worthy of Offerings, worthy of receiving offerings from men and gods, and both should make offerings to him. “Arhat” also means “One who should make offerings”--that is, one who should make offerings to the other Bhikshus. For example, when the Buddha was in the world, the Bhikshus and common people made offerings to the Buddha; but one time the Buddha transformed himself into a cultivator of the Way and made offerings to all the Bhikshus in turn.
2. Slayer of Thieves. An Arhat slays the thieves of ignorance and affliction, and the six thieves of the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind.
You may ask, “They have slain the thieves, but have they slain the non-thieves?”
Yes, as a matter of fact they have. Not only have they slain the thieves, they have slain the non-thieves as well.
Someone may wonder, “What are the non-thieves?”
In the Small Vehicle, the Hearers and Condition-enlightened Ones look upon certain things as not being thieves which at the Bodhisattva level are seen as thieves. These they have also slain.
3. One Without Birth. On the causal ground a Bhikshu frightens Mara, and as a result becomes an Arhat, One Without Birth. He is neither produced nor destroyed. At the Fourth Stage of Arhatship, one awakens to the Patience of the Non-Production of Dharmas; within the great trichiliocosm, one sees not the slightest dharma produced nor the slightest dharma destroyed. As it is an unspeakable, ineffable state, it can only be endured in the heart. Therefore, it is called the Patience of the Non-Production of Dharmas.
There are four levels of Arhatship. The First Stage Arhat is called a Shrotaapana. At the First Stage of Arhatship, birth and death have not yet been ended. It is called the “position of seeing the Way”. Shrotaapana means “stream enterer”. They have entered the stream of the Dharma Nature of the Sages and go against the stream of the six sense objects of the common person. The six sense objects are: forms, sounds, smells, tastes, tangible objects, and dharmas. Those who have certified to the First Fruit of Arhatship do not “enter into” forms, sounds, smells, tastes, tangible objects, or dharmas.
Forms: Because they have the power of concentration, forms do not move their minds. Whether or not a form is beautiful--no matter how nice looking it is--when they encounter it, their minds are not affected, and they do not “enter into” forms.
Sounds: Most people like to hear songs and music. First stage Arhats are simply not affected by sounds, be they good, bad, pleasant, irritating, right, or wrong sounds. They are not “turned by” sounds; they are able to “turn” the sounds. That is, they are in control.
Smells: Because they are turned by smells, people are fond of pleasant smells and are displeased by bad ones. If you are “fond of” or “displeased by” smells, you have thoughts of love and hate and are therefore affected by smells.
Tastes: Because we are turned by tastes, we like to eat a little more of the tasty foods and tend to avoid the bad ones. At the First Stage of Arhatship one is not affected by tastes.
Tangible Objects: Ordinary people are all greedy for objects of touch. Emotional love between men and women arises when one has not seen through and set aside the desire for objects of touch. People desire that their bodies come in contact with other bodies because they are not able to “turn” the objects of touch. Arhats at the First Stage are not affected by objects of touch. They are not greedy for beautiful things to touch or lovely things to hold onto.
Dharmas: There are many different kinds of dharmas. If you are attached to them, they are also defiling objects. First Stage Arhats are not attached to any dharmas whatever.
If someone claims that he has certified to the fruit, obtained the Way, and become enlightened, you can test him out. Invite him to lunch and present him with two dishes, one delectable, and the other nauseating. Then let him take his pick. But don’t tell him you are testing him or of course he will take the bad food.
But, in deliberately wanting to eat the bad food, he also betrays a susceptibility to objects of taste. Why? Because he really likes the good food, but he knows you are testing him and so deliberately he eats the bad food. He is still being turned and is merely putting on an act. If he is truly not turned by smells and tastes he won’t do any picking; he’ll just eat the good along with the bad because he makes no distinctions. This proves the cultivator has a bit of skill but it’s still not for sure that he has certified to the First Fruit. You cannot casually claim to have certified to the fruit; you must be able to prove it.
Second Stage Arhats are called Sakridagamin, which means “once returner”. First Stage Arhats must undergo seven more rebirths, but Second Stage Arhats are called once returners because they need only be born once in the heavens and once among men.
Third Stage Arhats are called Anagamin, which means “never returner”. They do not again undergo birth and death.
The First Stage of Arhatship is called the Position of Seeing the Way. The Second and Third Stages are called the Positions of Cultivating the Way, because they still have to cultivate.
The Fourth Stage is called the Position Beyond Study. They need study no more. At the position beyond study, birth and death, that is Share-Section, has been ended, but they still haven’t ended Change Birth and Death. There are two kinds of birth and death: Share-Section Birth and Death and Change Birth and Death.
“Share” refers to our bodies. Everyone has a body, which is a certain size and weight and that is called our share. Everyone has their own particular lifespan. Change Birth and Death refers to the uninterrupted birth and death of the succession of thoughts which flow through the mind. Arhats have not ended Change Birth and Death. It is only at the Bodhisattva level that Change Birth and Death is ended. This has been a general discussion of the word Arhat.
The realm of the spiritual penetrations and transformations of Fourth Stage Arhats is an inconceivable experience, subtle and difficult to describe. Their spiritual powers are completely different from those of non-Buddhist religions. They have the Five Eyes and the Six Spiritual Penetrations. They can jump up into empty space and stand suspended right in the air. They can walk in the air too, and stand on their heads while suspended in space. They can emit flames from the top of their bodies and water from their feet, or they emit water from the top of their bodies and fire from their feet. They can fly and perform all kinds of miraculous transformations. In general, they can manifest eighteen different kinds of transformations. Because they have spiritual powers, they belong to the Four Sagely Realms: the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Condition-enlightened Ones and Hearers.
Once there was an Arhat who accepted a young disciple. As the two of them went out travelling one day, the disciple carried their belongings on his back. He thought, “There’s really nothing finer than the Bodhisattva Way. I am definitely going to study it and help all living beings.” Just as the disciple had that thought, the Arhat knew.
“Ah!” the Arhat thought, “He has decided to become a Bodhisattva. I am only an Arhat, so I should carry the baggage,” and he took the pack from the disciple.
As they continued down the road, the disciple began thinking of Shariputra. When Shariputra had tried to cultivate the Bodhisattva Way, he met a person who asked for his eye. Accordingly, he plucked out his left eye and gave it to him. However, the man said that he had no use for his left eye, he wanted Shariputra’s right eye. At that point, Shariputra’s Bodhisattva came to an abrupt end. “The Bodhisattva Way is obviously too difficult for me”, the disciple thought. “I’ll cultivate the Arhat-dharmas and take care of myself.”
When his teacher saw that his disciple, who had previously turned from the Small towards the Great, had now returned from the Great to the Small, and had, so to speak, shifted into reverse, he handed the pack back to him and said, “Here, I can’t carry this anymore.”
Pretty soon, the disciple’s Bodhisattva heart popped up again; he again turned from the Small to the Great, and the Arhat shouldered the pack again. Finally, the disciple’s curiosity got the best of him. “Why are you passing this thing back and forth like that?” he asked.
“When you bring forth the Bodhisattva heart,” said the Arhat, “I, as a mere Arhat, should rightfully carry the pack. When you retreat, I’m in no position to carry it and must return it to you.”
Hearing this, the disciple knew that his teacher was indeed extraordinary. He brought forth the Bodhisattva heart and diligently practiced the Bodhisattva Way. The Arhat had spiritual penetrations which permitted him to feel free wherever he went.
When the Venerable Ananda was about to compile the Sutras, he had not yet obtained the Fourth Stage of Arhatship, the extinction of outflows. The Arhats, who gathered to organize the convocation for compiling the Sutras decided that in order to take part one had to be a Fourth Stage Arhat. Consequently, Ananda, who was only a Third Stage Arhat, was left standing outside the door. They wouldn’t let him in and he was extremely upset. “I remember all the Sutras the Buddha spoke but now I can’t even attend the meeting. What am I to do?” He was so nervous--not angry, mind you, but nervous, that he certified to the Fourth Fruit of Arhatship. “I’ve certified to the Fourth Fruit,” he cried “Open the door and let me in!”
But the Arhats inside just said, “Really? If you’ve certified to the Fourth Fruit, you don’t need to have the door opened. Climb in through the keyhole.” Ananda did just that. So you see, Arhats don’t need to open the door to go into a room. If someone claims to be an Arhat, but still has to use the door, you can be sure he is lying. So Arhatship is not such a simple matter, as you can see from Ananda’s having been left outside the door when the Sutras were to be compiled.
“Having exhausted all outflows”: At the Fourth Stage of Arhatship one has exhausted all outflows.