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Chapter 1



Further seen are all the Buddhas,
the lions, the sagely masters,
expounding on the Sutra scriptures,
of foremost subtlety and wonder.

Clear and pure is the sound
of their soft, compliant voices,
teaching all the Bodhisattvas,
numbering in the countless millions.

The Brahma sound, profound and wondrous,
fills those who hear with joy
as, within his world, each one proclaims the proper Dharma.
Through various causes and conditions,
and limitless analogies,
they clarify the Buddhadharma
to enlighten living beings.


H2. asking about seeing the Buddhas and hearing the Dharma


Further seen are all the Buddhas. The Buddhas are seen as well. The lions, the sagely masters. They are the masters among the sages expounding on the Sutra scriptures,the Great Vehicle Sutras which are of foremost subtlety and wonder. This is truly rare, #1, wonderful Dharma.

Clear and pure is the sound. The Buddha’s sounds are extremely clear and resonant. Of their soft, compliant voices. Their voices are both resonant and soft, compliant, delicate, and beautiful sounds, which pleases the ear and delight the hearts of the entire assembly. According to whatever kind of sound each person likes to hear, the Buddha’s voice takes on that quality.Teaching all the Bodhisattvas,the Buddhas teach and transform all the Bodhisattvas numbering in the countless millions. Their number in the countless myriads of millions.

The Brahma sound, profound and wondrous, the clear, pure sounds are extremely deep and fine. Fills those who hear with joy. The more people hear it, the more they enjoy hearing it. As, within his world, each one proclaims the proper Dharma. All the Buddhas residing in their own worlds, expound upon the proper Dharma, the genuine Buddhadharma. Through various causes and conditions,people are not the same. They have varying dispositions, and so when teaching the Dharma, the Buddha employs various types of causes and conditions to teach them and cure them of their differing bad habits and faults. And limitless analogies, limitless means that they can’t be counted. The Buddha uses numerous analogies to teach the Dharma, all for the sake of leading living beings to understand the genuine Buddhadharma and cultivate in accord with it.

So the text says they clarify the Buddhadharma. How do they clarify it? They use wisdom to brightly illuminate it. They use the bright light of wisdom to bring about the understanding of all the Buddhadharmas.

To enlighten living beings. They cause all living beings to gain increasing wisdom and Bodhi. It’s like digging a mine. The mine may contain gold, but unless you find a way to dig it out, the gold will not appear. The Buddhanature is inherent within the self-nature of living beings, but unless you explain it to them clearly, they will not understand their inherent Buddhanature and they will be unable to cultivate it.


To those who’ve encountered suffering,
weary of sickness, aging, death,
they speak about Nirvana,
which brings all suffering to an end.

To those possessed of blessings who’ve
made offerings to past Buddhas and
resolved to seek the superior Dharma
they speak of enlightening to conditions.

To those who are the Buddha’s sons,
who cultivate various practices,
seeking wisdom unsurpassed,
they speak of the way of purity.


H3. asking about the four-fold multitude


To those who’ve encountered suffering. Although common people suffer, the more they suffer the more they like it, and the more they suffer, the more suffering they encounter. Basically affliction is the cause of the suffering we undergo, but people don’t want to put their afflictions aside. They want to keep the communication link between themselves and their afflictions. They can’t leave them. They can’t separate from the causes of their suffering. The more they suffer, the more they must suffer. When their suffering reaches its extreme point, they fall into the hells, where they suffer eternally, never obtaining happiness. That’s the way it is with common people.

Those of other religions wish to end suffering, but they are unable to find a path which will lead them out. They cultivate and uphold methods of their religions but they are unable to end suffering. They continue to undergo suffering, and although it is not as intense as that in the hells, they may still run off and become hungry ghosts if they are not careful. Those of outside ways cannot ultimately put an end to suffering.

There are also people who are intelligent and clever and have a bit of worldly wisdom. They have a through understanding of mundane dharmas, but they do not understand transcendental dharmas. When they run into causes and conditions of suffering, they have no way to bring them to an end. Wishing to end suffering, they only succeed in running into more suffering. Do you know how they think? They think, “Perhaps I shall rob someone of his money and then I won’t have to suffer.”

Because this kind of person has a small measure of intelligence, he knows how to cheat people. He catches someone off-guard and sneaks off with his wealth or takes it by force. In spite of the fact that he is “wise” other people also have wisdom. He may think he can get away with his clever tricks, but eventually he sets off a burglar alarm. The police get the call and take him to jail. If the crime is minor, his time may not be long; for a heavy offense, he may be in for a long time. He thus receives his retribution in the world of people.

What about the future? People like this cannot end suffering. Where do they go? In the future they may become animals. There are various reasons for falling into the hells or becoming an animal or a hungry ghost. It’s not just a matter of one kind of cause or condition. I’m simply mentioning some of them, but these are not the only ones. There are all manner of causes and conditions which can lead one to fall into the three evil paths and endure the suffering there.

Weary of sickness, aging, death.Fundamentally there are Three Sufferings, 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 suffering within suffering refers to the suffering pf poverty. The suffering of decay occurs when ones happiness starts to wear thin, and ones wealth eventually runs out. It is simply happiness gone bad. The suffering of process refers to the life process itself. One grows from youth to middle age and then to old age. The constant change in every thought is like the action of the waves on the sea. When the first wave disappears, the next one takes its place, and yet another follows it. No one can avoid the suffering of the life process.

The first of the Eight Sufferings is that of birth.

“But when I was born, I didn’t even know what was happening!” you say. “How could that be considered suffering?”

You didn’t know what was happening? It’s just that you don’t know that reveals the intensity of the suffering. It is a trauma you cannot even remember. Later on, just because of the suffering of birth, you will be forced to endure the suffering of old age.

What is the suffering of birth?

When children are born, they cry as if to say, “This world is truly full of suffering, suffering, suffering.” Although they suffer, later they forget. They get caught up in the flow of life and forget to look back. They start thinking, “This world isn’t so bad.” In the beginning they knew it was suffering, but after they are three years old, they forget their suffering.

Forget what suffering?

When a child is still in its mother’s womb, he feels like he’s inside a volcano if she eats something hot. If she eats something cold, he feels like he’s in the hells of ice. But there’s no way he can speak up and object to these problems. As he is born, he feels like he’s being squeezed between two mountains. What is more, while in the womb, the child was never exposed to the air, and the moment the air hits his body, he feels as if he is being slashed with knives. And so he screams and cries.

Having forgotten the suffering of birth, during his prime he doesn’t feel particularly troubled, but once he gets old, his eyes refuse to help him, his ears refuse to work, and so do his teeth, he can’t appreciate the taste of the food he eats. This is the second suffering, that of old age.

Getting old in itself is not all that bad, but once old, he can’t walk anymore and has to lean on a cane to get around. When he walks, his legs don’t listen to his orders. He may think to take a step, but his legs are lazy and refuse to move; it takes a great deal of energy to walk a single step. Would you say that this was suffering or not? Not many years before when he sent down another order, his six senses all obeyed promptly, but now they refuse to obey. But even that cannot be considered real suffering. If you have a bit of skill in being patient, you won’t mind it so much.

The suffering of sickness, however, is definitely frightening. Sickness is most democratic. From an emperor, president, king, or a great official to the lowest beggar, no matter who you are, if you get sick you will feel you have lost your freedom. Forced to stay in a hospital and follow the doctor’s orders, you’ll feel that sickness is terrible suffering. There are many kinds of diseases and many kinds of suffering to go along with them. But even these are not as extreme as the suffering of death. There is no suffering greater than that of death. Birth, old age, sickness, and death are all suffering, and birth and death are the extremes. Death and birth involve the same kind of suffering. Dharma Masters of the past have said that birth is like ripping the shell from a live tortoise and death is like skinning a live cow. Would you call this suffering or not?

Why do we study the Buddhadharma?

Because we wish to end birth and death and escape from the revolving wheel. So the text says, “Weary of sickness, aging, death”. The suffering of birth is included in these lines.

Not only do we face the sufferings of aging, sickness, and death, but there is also the suffering of being separated from what one loves.

“Ah!” you say, “I really love that person.” Maybe you are a man who loves a woman or a woman who loves a man. You love each other and it makes you very happy, but when you have to part, you suffer.

“I can avoid that kind of suffering,” you say. “We will simple never part! Wherever she goes, I will follow. If the one I love runs to the ends of the heavens, I will follow her there. If she runs to the moon, I’ll go to the moon. If she runs off to the sun, I’ll follow her there.”

You will? When she dies, will you go along with her?

“Yes.” You say defiantly.

If you do, then you’ll suffer. But if you don’t, you’ll suffer, too. Either way, you’ll have to suffer. It just doesn’t work out.

Then there is the suffering of being around what one hates. “I just basically can’t stand that person,” you say. Perhaps it’s even your own spouse. You may really be dissatisfied, but she follows you wherever you go. Or perhaps you say, “I can’t stand that friend of mine. I’ve got to get away from him.” But when you move to another city you make another friend who turns out to be exactly like the first. This is called the suffering of being around what you hate. Those with whom you have no affinity you grow to detest. But, the way fate would have it, when you leave that person and go somewhere else, you run into someone exactly like him. The person you left behind was half a pound and this person turns out to be eight ounces--no more, no less--exactly the same.

There is also suffering of not getting what one wants. You may want to get rich, but you’re always poor. You may want to become an official, but you are always a clerk. You may want a good wife, but you can’t find one. You may want a good husband, but you can’t find one. You can’t get what you want and you brood on it morning and night, causing yourself endless affliction. Why? Because you can’t get what you seek. Because you can’t get it, you suffer even more, to the point that insomnia strikes. You toss and turn; you roll over on one side, but you can’t get to sleep; you roll over on the other side, and you still can’t get to sleep. From dusk till dawn, you don’t sleep a wink. The next morning your eyes hurt, your body is tired, and you feel listless. Would you say that was suffering or not?

“I don’t suffer in that way,” you say. “I am not greedy to get rich, to become an official or to find a good wife or husband. I don’t want anything at all. I don’t hate or love anyone. So I don’t endure suffering, do I?”

Your body is still subject to the tricks played on it by the five skandas, form, feeling, thought, activity, and consciousness. They rattle around in your body, hopping back and forth all day long, driving you to the point that you haven’t even the time to take a breath. Form, feeling, thought, activity, and consciousness are the five skandas and no one can avoid the suffering of the raging blaze of the five skandas; it is the most suffering of all They speak about Nirvana, because of all these sufferings, the Buddhas teach the Dharma of Nirvana.

What is Nirvana? “Nir” means not produced. “Vana” means not destroyed. You must not be attached to the false shell of the body, the physical body. Don’t be attached, but seek instead the supreme Way and attain the happiness of Nirvana where there is no birth or death. Without birth and death you will have ended the three sufferings, the eight sufferings, and all the limitless sufferings. You will have attained the Four Virtues of Nirvana: permanence, joy, true self, and purity.

Which brings all suffering to an end.
If you obtain Nirvana, you will have exhausted the limits of suffering.

To those possessed of blessings, people who have cultivated the Way and made offerings to past Buddhas and who have in the past made offerings to the Triple Jewel. If you would like to avoid suffering, then make offerings to the Triple Jewel. In the presence of the Triple Jewel, perform acts of merit and virtue. However, when you do, don’t say, “I gave money to the temple! What did they spend it on?” You shouldn’t ask. You shouldn’t pay attention to how the offering is used. You plant your own blessings and don’t worry about what is done with your offering. If you make offerings to the Triple Jewel, do everything within your power to seek blessings and wisdom before the Triple Jewel.

How does one seek blessings? To foster merit and virtue is to cultivate blessings.

How does one seek wisdom?

Study the Buddhadharma, listen to the Sutra lectures, and read and recite Sutras. The text says, “To those possessed of blessings”. Why do they have blessings? Because, in the past, they made offerings to the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.

Resolved to seek the superior Dharma. They are determined to go on, to make progress, to seek the superior Dharma. Superior means “special,” a special kind of Buddhadharma.

They speak of enlightening to conditions.
The Buddhas teach them the Dharma of the Twelve Conditioned Causes:

1. ignorance which conditions
2. action, which conditions
3. consciouness, which conditions
4. name and form, which conditions
5. the six sense organs, which conditions
6. contact, which conditions
7. feeling, which conditions
8. craving, which conditions
9. grasping, which conditions
10. becoming, which conditions
11. birth, which conditions
12. old age and death.

Those of the Vehicle of Conditioned Enlightened Ones, one of the Two Vehicles, cultivate by means of the Twelve Conditioned Causes.

To those who are the Buddha’s sons,who cultivate various practices,seeking wisdom unsurpassed,they speak of the way of purity. The Way of purity is the Six Paramitas.


Manjushri, while dwelling here,
I see and hear such things as these,
reaching to a thousand million things;
such a multitude of them
which I shall now explain in brief.


H4. summation of preceding questions and beginning of next questions


Manjushri, while dwelling here,I see and hear such things as these.Like what? Like the things described above! Reaching to a thousand million things;such a multitude of themwhich I shall now explain in brief. All the many things I’ve seen I’ll now describe in general. I ask the Bodhisattva Manjushri to explain them to me in detail, but first I shall talk about them in general.


I see in other lands
Bodhisattvas like Gange’s sands,
through various causes and conditions
seeking the Buddha Way.


H5. asking about the cultivation of Bodhisattva practices

I1. general questions


I see in other lands. Maitreya Bodhisattva says, “I can see in other worlds Bodhisattvas like Gange’s sands, as numberless as the grains of sand in the Gange’s River through various causes and conditions, using all manner of causes and conditions seeking the Buddha Way. In seeking the Buddha Way, we must foster merit and virtue. Don’t think you can obtain the Buddha Way cheaply. See, Bodhisattvas in number as many as the grains of sand in the Gange’s River use all kinds of causes and conditions.

What does that mean, “all kinds of causes and conditions.”

It means to foster all kinds of merit and virtue, to cultivate all kinds of blessings and wisdom, and to study all the various Buddhadharmas. It’s not just one kind of cause and condition which is used in seeking for the Buddha Way.


Perhaps they practice giving,
with gifts of silver, gold, and coral
of true pearls, and of mani,
mother-of-pearl, carneilian,
of vajra and of other gems,
of servants and of carriages,
jeweled hand drawn carts and palanquins.

These they offer up with joy,
in dedication to the Buddha Way,
vowing to obtain the vehicle
foremost in the triple realm,
the one which all the Buddhas praise.

There are Bodhisattvas who
give a jeweled coach-and-four,
with rails and flowered canopies,
richly ornamented carriages.

Again are Bodhisattvas seen
who give their flesh, hand, and feet,
who even give their wives and children,
seeking for the utmost Way.

Again are Bodhisattvas seen
whose heads, eyes, and bodies whole
are offered up most joyfully,
seeking the Buddha’s wisdom.


I2. questions about the six perfections

J1. giving


Perhaps they practice giving, the first of the Six Perfections. What do they give? With gifts of silver, gold, and coral of true pearls, and of mani. The Mani pearl is also called the As-You-Will Pearl. Mother-of-pearl, carneilian. Mother–of-Pearl is a precious substance, white in color. It appears to have tracks in it, but when you touch it, it’s smooth. Carneilian is a red stone that loos as if it has blood in it.

Of vajra and of other gems. Vajra refers to diamonds. Of servants and of carriages. Perhaps they give their slaves or servants, or their jeweled hand drawn carts and palanquins. Carts refer to hand-drawn carts, such as the Imperial Chariot which the ancient emperors used to ride in. Palanquins are sedan chairs which are carried on the shoulders.

These they offer up with joy. They give with joy and delight. They aren’t like us. We give five, ten, or twenty dollars and think it’s a big thing. The Bodhisattvas gave away the seven jewels--such priceless things--and they did so happily. In dedication to the Buddha Way. They dedicated their gifts to attaining the Buddha Way.

Why did they wish to offer up such valuable things? “I give away these expensive things, those things which are the hardest for me to give. I give them happily in exchange for the realization of Buddhahood, in dedication to seeking the Buddha Way, the road to Buddhahood.” Vowing to obtain the vehicle. I wish to attain the Buddha Vehicle because it is foremost in the triple realm, in the desire realm, the form realm and in the formless realm. The one which all the Buddhas praise. After realizing Buddahood, all the Buddhas of the ten directions praise it in exultation.

Maitreya Bodhisattva addresses Manjushri Bodhisattva saying, “Within the white hair-mark emitted by the Buddha, the World Honored One, I see that there are Bodhisattvas who give a jeweled coach-and-four. They have exquisitely beautiful carriages pulled by four horses. The carriages are adorned with gems, with rails and flowered canopies. In the Land of Ultimate Bliss there are seven tiers of railings, too. The carriage-tops are made of flowers. Richly ornamented carriages adorned with beautiful things.

Again are Bodhisattvas seenwho give their flesh, hand, and feet, who even give their wives and children.
Not only do these Bodhisattvas give valuable objects, but they can even give their bodies, their own flesh, their hands or feet, or their wives and children to others. Would you say that such giving was practicing that which is hard to practice? We give a little money or a small gift and feel extremely self-satisfied, even arrogant, and think that we have earned a great deal of merit. And yet here we see Bodhisattvas who can, if someone else needs them, give away their bodies, their flesh and blood, their hands and feet.

“But,” you say, “what use is there in giving away my body? If you give someone a body, they can’t eat it. Why give it?”

When Bodhisattvas practice the Bodhisattva Way, they may encounter someone who has a particular illness and needs, perhaps, a heart transplant such as those present day doctors perform. Or perhaps they need a liver, spleen, lungs, or kidneys. The doctors remove the sick organ and replace it with a healthy one. The Bodhisattva, seeing such living beings, will supply the needed organs.

The Bodhisattva will sacrifice his very life for another living being. Perhaps there is a living being who has injured his hand. Seeing this, the Bodhisattva will give his own hand to him. Te same goes for the feet. Maybe someone was hurt in an auto accident, his bones smashed and his legs crippled. Seeing this, the Bodhisattva will give his own feet to him. This is done in order to teach and transform living beings.

The Bodhisattvas will even give their wives and children. We are not talking about Bodhisattvas who have already attained spiritual penetrations; they are simply those who have brought for the Bodhisattva resolve. They simply have hearts full of giving.

What do they give?

They give that which is most difficult for people to give, their spouses. To say nothing of giving up one’s wife or husband, most people find it extremely painful even to be separated from them for a short period of time. They find this extremely painful. However, these Bodhisattvas, seeing that others need wives, will give their own wives away. There are many causes and conditions surrounding such giving.

In my book, Record of the Water and Mirror Turning Back Heaven, I wrote about the Abbot of the monastery where I cultivated, the Venerable High Elder Master Ch’ang-Ren. When he was cultivating the Way, he gave away his wife. How did that happen?

He had a wife, but when his father and mother died, he resolved to observe the practice of filial piety by sitting beside their graves for a period of three years. While he sat, his wife was at home observing “widowhood” and she didn’t like it one bit. She was a living widow. Her husband hadn’t died, but had gone off to observe filial piety. He did not return home. The living widow finally couldn’t stand it, and she went to the gravesite and insisted that her husband return home with her. She went once, twice, three, four and even five times, but he wouldn’t return home. His heart was sincere; he cultivated the Way with a sincere heart.

Now, those have sincere hearts are bond to encounter demons. It is said,

When the Way grows a foot, the demon grows taller by ten;
When the Way grows ten feet, the demon sits right on your head!

Because he was sincere and refused to return home, his wife thought of an ingenious plan. “So you won’t return home? I’ll just find some other man to spend my days with,” she threatened.

“Take up with some other man if you like,” he said. “I’m through with household affairs. I have renounced everything. I have put everything down! I pay no attention to such matters whatsoever.”

If he hadn’t truly been intent on cultivating the Way, when his wife threatened to find another man, how could he have endured it? But he said, “All right. Fine. If you find a man you like, someone you think you love, then go with him.”

“Go with him?” she said. “Okay, I’m going to go looking,” and she went back and found herself a man. Then she brought him with her to the gravesite and spoke to her husband, saying, “If you do not return home with me now, I’m going to marry this man!”

What do you think? Someone without genuine Samadhi power and a true mind of the Way would have gone home, don’t you think? But he didn’t go. “I’m going with him,” she said, and off she went. He gave his wife away and didn’t ask for so much as a cent in return. This is truly an example of Bodhisattvas giving their wives away seeking for the utmost Way.

Why do they do this? Because they seek the utmost Way. Bodhisattvas who seek the utmost way must be able to renounce that which is difficult to renounce. The harder it is for you to give it up, the more meaningful your act of renunciation becomes. It then truly counts as:

Seeing through it,
Breaking it open,
Giving it up and
Winning your freedom.

You can’t say, “I’m going to hold onto those things I can’t part with. Even if I could become a Buddha by giving them up, I still won’t let go of the things I love, or the people I love.” If you think like this, it’s because you don’t place importance on the Buddha Way. If you saw the Buddha Way as truly important, you would be able to put down absolutely everything. If the Buddhadharma was of primary importance to you, you wouldn’t become influenced by improper external circumstances.

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