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Chapter 1



At that time the entire great assembly of Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Upasakas, Upasikas, gods, dragons, yakshas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, kinnaras, mahoragas, beings human and non-human, as well as the minor kings, the wheel-turning sage kings, all attained what they had never had before. They rejoiced and joined their palms and, with one heart, gazed upon the Buddha.


This is the fifth, the Portent of the Rejoicing of the Assembly. Everyone rejoiced, everyone was happy.

At that time, right then.

What time was that?

It was just as the six kinds of earthquakes occurred. The entire great assembly, those present in the Dharma Flower Assembly, all the great Bhikshus, the Bhikshunis. The word Bhikshu has three meanings, 1) mendicant, 2) frightener of Mara, and 3) destroyer of evil. A Bhikshuni is a woman who has left home; the same three meanings apply.

There was once a Chan cultivator who cultivated and cultivated until he became enlightened. When he got enlightened he went to find a greatly virtuous lofty member of the Sangha to give him certification. The lofty Sangha member asked him, “What have you obtained?”

“I have obtained nothing,” he replied. This is like today when the passage from the Vajra Sutra came up in which the Buddha questions Subhuti, “Has the Thus Come One obtained anuttarasamyaksambodhi?”

The enlightened Bhikshu said he had not obtained anything and so the Sangha member asked him, “What enlightenment have you come to?”

He said, “I know that a Bhikshuni is a woman.”

The greatly virtuous one said, “Oh...I’ll grant that you are enlightened. You have truly become enlightened.”

Because the greatly virtuous Sangha member had gained the use of the Five Eyes: the Buddha Eye, the Heavenly Eye, the Wisdom Eye, the Dharma Eye, and the Flesh Eye, he knew that the cultivator had become enlightened and was not lying, and so he certified his enlightened. If any one of us were to say the same thing, would it necessarily mean that we had become enlightened?

Imitating others is not enlightenment. Imitating the words of others is not enlightenment. You must have your own individual viewpoint. To merely imitate the words of others is not an indication of enlightenment. The sentence which the cultivator spoke had never been spoken by anyone. He said, “Now, I know for sure that a Bhikshuni is something a woman can be,” and so his enlightenment was certified. If you were to say the same thing, it would not mean that you were enlightened, and no one would certify you. Why? Because you’d just be imitating someone else and it would not be something you enlightened to one your own.

Upasakas, Upasikas. Upasakas are male laypeople, Upasikas are female laypeople. There are two ways of explaining these terms. Translated from Sanskrit, Upasaka means “a man who draws near to serve,” and Upasika means “a woman who draws near to serve,” That’s the first method of explanation. Sometimes they live in the temples in which case they are not called “men or women who draw near to serve,” but rather “men or women who draw near to live,” which is the second method of explanation. Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Upasakas, and Upasikas comprise the Fourfold Assembly of Disciples.

Gods are those who live in the heavens, those who dwell in the Six Desire Realm Heavens and the other heavens.

Dragons are big worms. What do the big worms eat? They eat little worms. Since they eat little worms, the great golden-winged peng birds avenge the little worms and keep the score even by eating the dragons, the big worms.

Yakshas. Yaksha is a Sanskrit word. It means “speedy”; they are extremely fast and quick. It also means "bold and sturdy." These greatly powerful ghosts and spirits are extremely brave, healthy, and strong. The great yaksha ghosts and spirits can tip the mountains over into the sea. With one hand they can throw a mountain several hundred miles. They can move the mountains. We now have hydraulic jacks, but none of them can move mountains. The yaksha ghosts are so brave and strong they can throw them several hundred li with one hand and with the other they can catch them and bring them back. Would you say they were strong or not?

Gandharvas are the music-making spirits. Asuras: everyone knows them as the “wineless ones” or “the ugly ones.” They have the blessings of the gods but not the authority of the gods. They have no influence in the heavens. The male asuras look like one of the eight kinds of ugly monsters. They’re hideous; nothing could be uglier. The female asuras are very beautiful. To say nothing of people, when even the Jade Emperor sees them, his heart moves with thoughts of desire. That’s why he asked the asura king for his daughter’s hand in marriage and took an asura girl as his wife.

Garudas are the big birds, the great golden-winged peng birds. You’ve all heard about him many times and perhaps some of you have even seen him. Some have only heard of him. Those who have seen him—what’s he like? The little Shramanera knows the great golden-winged peng bird.

Kinnaras are also music spirits in the court of the Jade Emperor. They have a single horn on their heads and so people doubt whether they are spirits or not and they are called “doubtful spirits.” They have their doubts about whether or not they are spirits, but ultimately are they spirits? There’s no way to decide it once and for all. However, they do make music for the Jade Emperor; they play guitars and things like that. But they are not like people because they have a horn on their head...the “doubtful spirits.”

Mahoragas are great boa snakes. They are extremely big.

Exactly how big are they?

They are a bit smaller than dragons. If you know how big dragons are you will know how big mahoragas are. But then there are big dragons and small dragons. There are also big mahoragas and small ones.

Beings human are people and non-human are those ghosts and spirits and the rest of the eightfold division.

As well as the minor kings, the wheel-turning sage kings. Had Shakyamuni Buddha left home one day later than he did, he would have become a gold wheel-turning king. Gold wheel-turning kings have a great abundance of blessings, because they beget a thousand sons and have seven treasures which are like the As-You-Will Pearl. Whenever they need money for their travel expenses, they just scrape off a patch of earth and take out as much gold or silver as they need. It’s all as-you-will according to their wish. They have a chariot in which, in a flash they can travel around all the Four Continents--a distance greater even than from here to the moon. It takes them no time at all.

There are four kinds of wheel-turning sage kings. The gold wheel-turning king watches over one set of Four Continents: Jambudvipa in the south, Purvavideha in the east, Apara-godaniya in the west, and Uttarakuru in the north. He rules them all.

The silver wheel-turning king watches over three continents. He does not rule over Uttarakuru but does rule over the remaining three. The bronze wheel-turning king watches over Jambudvipa and Purvavideha. The iron wheel-turning king only watches over Jambudvipa.

Someone may ask, “During the time of Shakyamuni Buddha, were such wheel-turning kings ruling?”

That’s a good question. There were none in our world at that time.

“Then where did they come from?”

They came from worlds in other directions. You shouldn’t take such a narrow view-point and see only a space as big as your own house. You have neighbors, don’t you? And there are the villages and the big cities. Don’t be like a country person on his first trip to the city. Although there were no wheel-turning sage kings ruling in the Saha world at the time of Shakyamuni Buddha, they did come from other worlds.

“What other worlds?”

It would take a long time to investigate that question and, right now, I don’t have the time.

“The entire great assembly” refers to all those assembled whom we just discussed.

Ultimately, how many were present?

Even the Buddha didn’t know; how could I tell you?

All attained what they had never had before. They rejoiced and joined their palms--everyone was joyful, just as now, those who understand me are laughing. Those who don’t understand what I am saying think, "What are they laughing at? What’s going on?” In their hearts, they want to laugh too, but they’re afraid they will laugh in the wrong place and so they don’t dare. Wait until the translation. Then they’ll laugh.

With one heart, gazed at the Buddha. This is the Portent of the Rejoicing of the Assembly. They all stared unblinkingly at the Buddha. Without turning their gaze away, they looked up at him.


Then the Buddha emitted from between his brows a white hair-mark light which illumined eighteen thousand worlds to the east, omitting none of them.


Then. When was that? The word “then” has the same meaning as “at that time,” which was the phrase used for the six quakings of the earth. It was not the same time, however.

Then what time was it?

It was at the time when the great assembly rejoiced and with one heart gazed upon the Buddha. It was at this time that the Buddha saw that everyone in the great Dharma assembly was rejoicing and so he, too, rejoiced. He rejoiced and emitted light and so this is the sixth, the Portent of Emitting Light. The Six Portents which have just been discussed took place in this world. There are also Six Portents which occurred in other worlds which will be discussed.

The Buddha emitted from between his brows, from the space in between his two eyebrows, a white hair-mark light. If you look at the Buddha images you will see a gem between the Buddha’s brows which represents the white hair-mark light. Buddha images are made of clay or wood and there is no way to show the Buddha’s white hair-mark, except to represent it with a jewel. The white hair-mark can extend very far or remain very near; it is somewhat like a glass tube.

Illuminating eighteen thousand worlds to the east. The east is associated with wood and the wood with birth.

The Buddha illuminated eighteen thousand worlds to the east. Eighteen thousand worlds are not too many; it’s still a calculable number. All of the eighteen thousand worlds received the universal illumination of the Buddha’s light. Omitting none of them: not one of eighteen thousand worlds failed to receive the light. This has been a discussion of the sixth, the Portent of Emitting Light.


Reaching below to the Avichi hells and above to the Akanishtha Heaven. From this world were seen all the living beings in the six destinies in those lands.


This begins a new section on the Six Portents in Other Worlds. When Shakyamuni Buddha emitted light, not only were portents seen in this world, but portents in other worlds also were seen reaching below to the Avichi hells. “Avichi” is a Sanskrit word. It means “unspaced.” In the unspaced hells there is no space in the sense that, if one person is in that hell, it is full, and if many people are in that hell, it is also full. There is also no break in the time spent in these hells. Both time and space are uninterrupted. It is not known how long one who has fallen into these hells must stay there. So it is called “unspaced.”

And above to the Akanishtha Heaven. “Akanishtha” is also Sanskrit and means “the ultimate form heaven.” In the realm of form, it is the highest heaven.

From this world, from the Saha World, looking eastward through eighteen thousand worlds, were seen all the living beings in the six destinies in those lands, the gods, people, asuras, hell-beings, hungry ghosts, and animals. These are the living beings of the six paths. Everyone could see them and could see very clearly and distinctly what retributions were being undergone by the beings in each particular path.

The living beings in the six destinies are those turning on the wheel of the six paths of rebirth. The turning wheel will be familiar to those who have listened to Sutra lectures, but those who have not will not understand this concept. So I shall explain it again:

What is meant by the living beings in the six destinies? The six destinies are:

1. the gods,
2. asuras,
3. people.

These are known as the Three Wholesome Paths.

4. the hells,
5. hungry ghosts,
6. animals.

These are known as the Three Evil Paths.

Asuras are sometimes classed in the Three Wholesome Paths and sometimes in the Four Evil Destinies, i.e., the asuras, hell-beings, hungry ghosts, and animals.

The gods are the beings who live in the heavens. How did they become gods? Through the cultivation of the five precepts and the ten good acts. The five precepts are the basic precepts which must be held by Buddhist disciples. They are:

1. no killing,
2. o stealing,
3. no sexual misconduct,
4. no lying,
5. no taking intoxicants.

One who maintains the precepts against killing for a long time will receive the reward of longevity. Why do some people live for so long and others for such a short period of time? Those who live long do so because they have received the retribution of a long life as a result of having maintained the precept against killing. Those who have a short life in the past enjoyed killing and have received the retribution of a short lifespan. Such are the retributions involved with the precept against killing.

Why should one maintain the precept against stealing? Stealing robs people of their valuables and their happiness as well. Stealing means that you secretly take other people’s things without their knowing. What kind of retribution does one receive for this?

In the future, you will not be able to keep your wealth for very long. You may have a lot of money and property, but it will soon be stolen away from you. You undergo this retribution because in previous lives you stole and robbed from others. You failed to keep the precept, and so in your present life you will be robbed of all your own wealth. If it lasts, that’s because you kept the precept. Those who remain wealthy and honored do so because they kept the precept. Those who do not keep the precept will not be wealthy and honored for long.

Sexual misconduct, lying, and taking intoxicants work in the same was as the two above. For example, if you don’t keep the precept against sexual misconduct and violate others’ wives, in the future others will violate your wife. That’s the retribution.

Lying works the same way. If you don’t deceive others, you will not be deceived by others.

You say, “In this life, I have not deceived anyone. Why have so many people deceived me?”

Didn’t I just explain it? Retribution is not a matter of simply a single lifetime. It involves the past, present, and future. You may not have deceived anyone in this life, but do you know how many people you deceived in your last life?

You don’t know. You don’t know, and so when others deceive you, it’s because you deserve it.

As to taking intoxicants, drinking wine is not a major fault to speak of. The problem is that when you drink, you tend to drink too much. It turns you upside-down so you do crazy things. In Buddhism, drinking or taking any intoxicating substance is prohibited. Wine muddles the nature. When you’ve been drinking and you try to talk, your tongue is so big you can’t speak clearly. For that reason, Buddhism discourages the taking of intoxicants.

There are many principles involved in explaining the five precepts. The most important thing is that not only do we not kill with our hands, but we do not have thoughts of killing either; then we are truly keeping the precept of not killing. Stealing works the same way. Not only do we not steal with our hands, we do not have thoughts of stealing in our hearts.

It doesn’t matter whether the item is large or small, if no one has given you permission and you make use of other people’s things, you have broken the precept against stealing. As a small example: Say someone buys a bottle of wine and you see it and think, “What’s his is mine, and what’s mine is mine,” and you drink a glass. That is a violation of the precept against stealing. So, you have broken the precept against stealing and the precept against consuming intoxicants.

Now, you may think, “I don't drink, so I couldn’t break that precept.”

So you don’t drink wine? Well, you drink milk, don’t you? What about that carton of milk in the refrigerator that, paying no attention to the consequences, you opened and drank? Then, when someone asks you, “Who bought the milk?” all you can say is “I don’t know. I don’t know! I just drank it!”

Now, wouldn’t you say that was acting unreasonably? Although milk is not a big deal, if you drank it without the owner’s permission, you are guilty of stealing.

The same applies to other foods--things in general.

On the other hand, if someone steals from you, you should take a good look at yourself. “Why are they stealing my food? It must be that, in former lives, I stole food, and so in this life it has come back on me. Well, forget it.” That’s what the person who is stolen from should think. The person who stole it, however, can’t say, “I’m stealing your food now, and you can go ahead and steal it back from me next life.” How do you know you will have any food to be stolen in your next life? For all you know, you many not have anything at all in your next life, and then how could someone steal from you? So don’t harbor thoughts of stealing. If you didn’t buy it, you can’t use it as you please. If you get the owner’s permission, it’s okay. Otherwise, you can’t go around sneaking other people’s things.

If you talk about the fine points, to take even a blade of grass, a splinter of wood, a needle, or a piece of thread without asking is considered stealing. Sexual misconduct, lying, and taking intoxicants work the same way. Having explained one precept, you should be able to understand the rest of them. To say too much would waste a lot of time.

How does one get born in the heavens? Through holding the five precepts. Born in the heavens, one enjoys unlimited heavenly blessings. However, they eventually come to an end. When the Five Signs of Decay appear, one falls. Therefore, the heavens are not ultimate.

Asuras also foster merit and virtue, but they do it with affliction.

“How can one foster merit and virtue with affliction?” you ask.

When doing it, they concentrate solely on competing with others. They say belligerently, “I gave five dollars to the temple. How much did you give?” They pit themselves against everyone else. “You gave five? I’ll give ten. Oh? You gave ten? I’ll give twenty!” They fight to be number one, and in the future they turn into asuras. They have merit and virtue all right, but they compete to get it; it’s not done from their hearts.

They also fight for fame. They want people to say, “See? So and so is number one. He gave the most money.” Fighting for top billing is a sure way to become an asura. In the practice of the Buddhadharma, it is essential to have a true understanding of cause and effect. Then your efforts won’t get all messed up.

Some people even think, “Since I can’t get famous here, I’ll go somewhere else.” Then everyone thinks, “See so and so? He went all the way to New York to do acts of great merit and virtue.” That way everyone knows. These are the causes for becoming an asura; in the future such people will become asuras.

As soon as they start talking, they get angry. No matter what’s going on, they have to be number one. To do acts of merit and virtue without cutting off affliction is merely to perform meritorious and virtuous acts which have outflows. It is not non-outflow merit and virtue. You should do merit and virtue, but don’t insist that everyone recognize you as number one, or number two.

There is, however, another kind of person who “shuns” fame. He sneaks around doing merit and virtue and then secretly tells someone, “Hey, I did five thousand dollars of merit and virtue over there, and no one knows I did it. I’m just telling you.” Really! They, too, are asuras, and they are even worse than the ones mentioned above. Why? Because they are yin asuras, not yang. On the surface it looks like they don’t like fame, but in reality their behind-the-back self-advertising campaigns are even worse. So if you bring forth the resolve to do merit and virtue, remember that if the causal ground is not genuine, the result will be distorted. When you are planting causes, if you do not plant proper ones, when the time come to reap the fruit, it will be deformed, bad. You’ll become an asura.

“What’s wrong with that?” you ask.

There’s plenty wrong with it! All they do is fight. Does that appeal to you?

As to the destiny of people, how does one become a human being? It is also through doing acts of merit and virtue, holding the five precepts, and cultivating the ten good deeds. They hold the five precepts and cultivate the ten good deeds on the lower level, however. Asuras perform them at the middle level, gods at the higher level. There are innumerable distinctions, but we won't go into them now. These are the causes of birth in the Three Wholesome Paths.

What about the Three Evil Paths? They come from greed, hate, and stupidity. Are you greedy? If you are too greedy, you’ll turn into a hungry ghost. Why are hungry ghosts hungry? Because, when they were alive, they were greedy for food. They always had to have a little bit more of whatever it was they were eating. If you like to eat “a little more” then you can turn into a hungry ghost and have nothing at all to eat. Why were they greedy for food? Because they had already had an awakening, an enlightenment. What were they enlightened to? To the fact that in the future they aren’t going to have anything to eat, that they are going to become hungry ghosts. “I’m going to turn into a hungry ghost! I’d better hurry up and eat all I can now,” they think. They’ve got a bit of skill in predicting the future. So it is with greed.

Hatred: Do you enjoy getting angry? Fine. Keep it up, and you will end up in hell. In hell, you won’t even be able to stand yourself. “I’ll just try out that mountain of knives,” you’ll say, and in a fit of rage you’ll throw yourself on it and get slashed to death. All because of anger. “Let’s just see how terrible those knives are!” Or you may throw yourself into the pot of boiling oil. “You guys wouldn’t dare jump, would you? Well, here goes!” and you jump. You’re so angry that you’ll dare to try out the hells, be they mountains of knives or pots of boiling oil.

That’s what happens when you give vent to hatred. I am telling all of my disciples: If you have a bad temper hurry up and change. If you don’t have a bad temper, don’t develop one. Don’t let this pass through one ear and out the other. It is extremely important. Don’t think, “It’s not big thing. The Dharma Master is just talking. It’s not for sure that if I have a bad temper I’ll fall into hell.” If you try it out and end up in hell, it will then be too late. You will think, “My teacher told me all along that this would happen. Now, I know he was telling the truth.” But then it’s too late. Now, do you still dare to get angry?

I have set up the law that if one person gets angry all three have to kneel for twenty-four hours. I did this because I am afraid you’ll all fall into hell. How can those who have left home get angry? There are now three Shramaneras, and if one gets angry the other two have to kneel along with him for twenty-four hours. No ifs ands or buts about it, no politeness at all. You have been warned in advance and no clemency will be shown. The best way to deal with it is simply not to get angry. Then my method will be rendered totally useless. If you get angry, my law goes into effect.

Kneeling for twenty-four hours isn’t really all that severe. On top of that, however, you will not be allowed to eat, drink, or go to the bathroom. How about that for firmness? Really strict! I set up this law several days ago, and now when I ask each of the Shramaneras, “Have you gotten angry?” they all say, “Nooooo!” I say, “Little shramanera, how is it that you have managed not to get angry?”

“Arrgh,” he says between his teeth, “I don’t know.”

He doesn’t know off-hand why he hasn’t gotten angry. Would you say this method was wonderful or not? Truly wonderful! Wonderful to the extreme. If you get angry you may fall into hell. Because I am afraid that you will fall into hell, I have established this severe law.

Stupidity: Do you like being stupid? Do you neglect your study of the Buddhadharma? If you don’t like being stupid, then study the Buddhadharma. Studying the Buddhadharma augments your wisdom and helps you to develop wonderful Prajna. If you don’t study the Buddhadharma, you will remain stupid and where will you go? Stupidity will take you off to the animal realm. Why are horses, cows, sheep, chickens, dogs, and pigs so unintelligent? Pigs, for example, are most unintelligent.

When they’ve eaten their fill they sleep and when they have slept enough, they eat again. Other than those two activities, they don’t have a third thing to do. Horses and cows do a little work, but they’re also very stupid. Why are they stupid? Simply because they did not study the Buddhadharma. Not only did they fail to study, but when other people took an interest in it, they said, “Hey, don’t study that stuff; that’s the dumbest thing you could do.” They say others are dumb, but they are the dumbest. In the future they turn into animals just because they didn’t study the Buddhadharma.

You say, “I can’t believe that. I’ll not study it and we’ll just see if I turn into a pig or a horse.”

Sure, go ahead and try it out. Once you’ve tried it out, you can come back and study the Buddhadharma. There’s no need for force. As long as you want to be an animal, the opportunity is there. You can do it anywhere, anytime.

The wheel of rebirth is serious indeed. Depending on what cause you plant, you reap the fruit accordingly. If you plant good causes, you reap good fruit. If you plant bad causes, you reap bad fruit. If you plant squash, you get squash. If you plant beans, you get beans. Let’s see what causes you plant. If you plant the causes of becoming a Buddha, you will become a Buddha. If you plant the causes of hell, you will fall into hell. You pick your own path.

The living beings in the six destinies are not just the few that I mentioned above. They are all of shapes and appearances, and they all appeared in the white hair-mark light of Shakyamuni Buddha.

The white hair-mark light of Shakyamuni Buddha represents the final principle of the Middle Way which does not veer off either side. It is also the Perfect and Sudden Dharma-door of the Dharma Flower Sutra. It is the principle of the Middle Way and the Real Mark.

This passage of text begins the manifesting of the Six Portents in Other Worlds. The portent is that of seeing the beings in the six destinies.

The Thus Come One’s white hair-mark can be extended or contracted, far or near. It’s like a cylindrical lightbulb that illuminates everything.

If you still cannot picture it, let me give a rough analogy: It’s like a flashlight or the headlights on a car. Turn them on and they shine across a great distance. When the Thus Come One shines the white hair-mark light, it shines not for just a mile or two, but into the eastern direction across eighteen thousand worlds.

“Does it only shine in the eastern direction?” you ask.

It’s like the flashlight. You can point it wherever you wish. If you want to you can shine it to the east, south, north, west, up or down, heaven or earth--wherever you like. In previous Sutras, Shakyamuni Buddha didn’t emit light from the white hair-mark. In the Shurangama Sutra Shakyamuni Buddha emits light from the flesh cowl, the “invisible summit” atop his head, as the text of that Sutra tells us:

“At that time, the World Honored One,
From the flesh curl atop his head,
Sent forth a hundred jeweled lights.”

The light from the “invisible summit” is not the same as the light from the white hair-mark.

To say nothing of being able to listen to the Dharma Flower Sutra every day as we do, to hear even a single word, a sentence, or an evening’s lecture, is to plant the causes of Buddhahood. Even if you never come back again to listen, the Buddha within you will not run off and you are certain to become a Buddha. But that’s in the future, not the present. How long will it take? It’s not for sure.

Those of you who now are hearing the Sutra all have good roots. People with good should study the Buddhadharma. Don’t slight yourself as worthless saying, “What has the Buddhadharma got to do with me?”

You should know that, outside of the Buddhadharma, nothing else has anything to do with you! Only the Buddhadharma has anything to do with you, and it relates to you in a very important way--it will lead you to become a Buddha.

You say, “I don’t believe it. How could I become a Buddha?”

It’s just your disbelief that will enable you to become a Buddha. Since you don’t believe you can become a Buddha--Ah!--in the future you will become one. That’s just the wonderful Dharma. Despite your disbelief--much to your surprise--all of a sudden--it will have happened!! The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra is just that wonderful.

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