The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra
Chapter 1: Introduction
With Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
That night the Buddha passed into extinction,
As a flame dies once its fuel has been consumed.
The Sharira were divided up,
And limitless stupas built.
The Bhikshus and Bhikshunis,
Their number like the Gange’s sands,
Redoubled their vigor in advancing
In their quest for the unsurpassed path.
I5. similarity of propagating the Sutra after the Buddha’s extinction
J1. offerings and increasing vigor
That night the Buddha passed into extinction. The Buddha Brightness of Sun-Moon-Lamp on that day, at midnight entered Nirvana. As a flame dies once its fuel has been consumed. What is the fuel? What is the flame? The fuel, in the Small Vehicle, is said to be the body. They dying of the flame is the attainment of Nirvana with residue. In the Great Vehicle it is said that living beings are the fuel, the firewood. The dying of the flame means that when the firewood is gone, there is no more fire. The living beings are the firewood and what is the flame?
The Buddha observes the potentials of beings in order to dispense the teaching according to their needs. He looks at the potentials of the beings in order to bestow the Buddhadharma and teach and transform them. This is called:
Observing the potentials, dispensing the teaching;
Speaking the Dharma according to the person.
The Buddha speaks that Dharma-door which is necessary to use to teach a particular individual. If someone should be taught by means of the Dharma-door of the Three Storehouses, the Buddha teaches that Dharma-door. If someone should be saved by means to the Vaipulya Dharma-door, he uses that one. If someone should be saved by means of the Dharma-door of Prajna, the Buddha speaks the Prajna Teaching. If someone should be saved by means of the Dharma Flower and Nirvana teachings, he gives them those teaching. This is to “observe the potentials and dispense the teaching.” Taking a look at a person’s potential affinities and speaking the Dharma according to the person.
Here, the potentials are no longer present. Those living beings which were to be crossed over have all been taken across. The flame has died out, and the method is no longer of use.
As a flame dies once its fuel has been consumed. “As” means that this is an analogy. Don’t think it is really talking about a fire going out when the fuel is all used up.
The Sharira were divided up. After the Buddha had passed into extinction, all of that Buddha’s relics were divided up and limitless stupas built. Limitless high and manifest pagodas were raised.
The Bhikshus and Bhikshunis, the Bhikshu Sangha and the Bhikshunis. Bhikshu has three meanings: a mendicant, frightener of mara and destroyer of evil. Bhikshuni has the same three meanings.
What is meant by “mendicant”. Bhikshus go out on begging round carrying their bowls.
What is meant by “frightener of mara?” When Bhikshus ascend the platform to receive the Bhikshu precepts they face the Three Masters and Seven Certifiers, ten Bhikshus in all who represent the Buddhas of the ten directions in transmitting the precepts. At the time they transmit the precepts, they ask, “Are you a great hero?”
The new preceptee says, “I am a great hero!”
Then they ask, “Have you brought forth the Bodhi heart?”
“I have brought forth the Bodhi heart!” The moment that they say they have brought forth the Bodhi heart, the heavenly demons in the Sixth Desire Heaven get the news flash, and they shudder with fright. Their hair stands on end and they look at one another: “God! What are we going to do!!! This is terrible. We’ve lost a demon follower; the Buddha’s gained a Buddha-follower. If this keeps up, where’s it all going to end?” They are afraid and so Bhikshus are called “frighteners of mara.”
Bhikshu also means “destroyer of evil.” How do they destroy evil? People are all unaware of the evil within themselves and they don’t know that they should destroy it. To break through evil means to have no afflictions. When there are no afflictions, then genuine wisdom can come forth. So, here in America I have issued a very unfair law specifically to counteract afflictions and ignorance. Since this extremely unjust law has gone into effect, I have questioned my disciples a number of times and they say that they have had no affliction and no temper. “Why not?” I ask, and they say, “I don’t know.” The law may be unfair, but it’s extremely wonderful. It’s wonderful because it’s unfair. If it were fair, it wouldn’t be wonderful.
The same three meanings also apply to the word Bhikshuni.
Their number like the Gange’s sands, there were as many of them as there are grains of sand in the Ganges River. Redoubled their vigor in advancing. Seeing the Buddha pass into extinction, the Bhikshus and Bhikshunis cultivated as if their lives depended on it. They cultivated for their very lives. If they starved to death, then they starved to death. So they didn’t eat and they didn’t sleep. They cultivated all day long. “Redoubled” means that they worked twice as hard. When the Buddha was in the world they sat for twelve hours a day, now they sat for twenty-four. They were extremely vigorous.
In their quest for the unsurpassed path. Why? They had no one to depend upon. “The Buddha has gone; how can we not cultivate now?” So they forgot about their slackness and got rid of their laziness. All they had left was vigor in their quest for the supreme Buddha Way.
The Dharma Master Wondrous Light
Reverently kept the store of the Buddha’s Law;
For eighty minor aeons, he
Widely spread the Sutra of the Dharma Flower.
All of the eight royal sons
Taught and led by Wondrous Light,
Became solid in the unsurpassed path,
And met with Buddhas beyond all count.
Having presented them offerings,
They accordingly practiced the Great Way,
And in succession, became Buddhas,
Transmitting prophecies in turn.
The last of these, a god among gods,
Was a Buddha by the name of Burner of the Lamp,
A guiding master of all the immortals,
Who brought release to countless multitudes.
The Dharma Master Wondrous Light
Had a disciple at that time
Whose heart harbored laxness, and who
Was greedily attached to fame and gain.
Seeking fame and gain untiringly,
He often visited the great clans;
He cast aside his recitations
Neglected, forgot, and failed to comprehend them.
These, then, were the reasons why
He was given the name "Seeker of Fame."
Yet he also practiced many good deeds,
Enabling him to meet uncounted Buddhas,
And make offerings to all of them.
Accordingly he walked the great path,
And perfected the Six Paramitas.
Now he meets the Shakyan Lion;
Later, He will become a Buddha
By the name of Maitreya,
Who will broadly take all beings over--
Their number far beyond all count.
J2. benefits derived from propagating the Sutra
The Dharma Master Wondrous Light reverently kept the store of the Buddha’s Law. He reverently received the Buddha’s Dharma-Jewel, holding it, as it were above his head for eighty minor aeons, he widely spread the Sutra of the Dharma Flower. All of the eight royal sons, the eight sons of the Buddha Brightness of Sun-Moon-Lamp, taught and led by Wondrous Light. They bowed to the Dharma Master Wondrous Light as their Master, The Dharma Master Wondrous Light taught and transformed them so that they became solid in the unsurpassed path. They brought forth the solid resolve to seek the supreme way, the highest Buddha Way. And met with Buddhas beyond all count. They met a lot of Buddhas, an uncountable number of them. Having presented them offerings, they presented offerings to as many Buddhas as they met, they accordingly practiced the Great Way. They made offerings to the Buddhas and then followed them to cultivate and sought the Buddha Way. And in succession, became Buddhas. The eight royal sons in successive order became Buddhas, transmitting prophecies in turn. Not only did they become Buddhas, but they bestowed predictions upon each other right down the line. The first transmitted the prediction to the second and the second to the third, and so forth to the eighth. The last of these, a god among gods. The Buddha is called the God Among Gods. Was a Buddha by the name of Burner of the Lamp, a guiding master of all the immortals. He was a mighty master and guide of all the gods and immortals who brought release to countless multitudes. It is not known how many living beings he saved.
The Dharma Master Wondrous Lighthad a disciple at that timewhose heart harbored laxness, and who, he didn’t think to be vigorous. What he thought about all day was being lazy. If he wasn’t thinking about sleeping, he was thinking about climbing on conditions and when he returned from climbing on conditions, he went back to sleep. When he was done sleeping, he ran back out to climb on conditions. All day long he was greedily attached to fame and gain, seeking fame and gain untiringly. He had no other task all day but to seek for fame and profit. “What kind of scheme can I cook up to let everyone know my name.” he thought. He advertised himself everywhere saying, “I am so-and-so, do you know me? I’ve got the most cultivation! Among those who have left home, I work harder than anyone. I recite Sutras and I bow to the Buddha. I get up at three in the morning and at midnight I haven’t gone to sleep. What am I doing? Cultivating the Way. If I’m not investigating Dhyana, then I’m reciting the Buddha’s name or bowing to the Buddha.” He was always bragging about himself and buying himself billboards, advertising signs, and putting ads in the paper telling about how hard he cultivated and how devoted he was to his work. That’s how he cultivated fame.
And what about seeking gain? Fame and gain together. If you have fame you’ll have profit and if you have profit, you’ll gain fame. He went around promoting himself, seeking for fame, afraid that people wouldn’t know his name. Once they knew, some of the blind ones said, “That monk is a cultivator. Didn’t he tell me so himself? We should all go make offerings to him!” and they all made offerings. Having sought fame, he got it and having sought gain, he got that too. He sought them “untiringly”. Why? Because he had an easy time getting what he wanted. He just asked and it was given. He sought, and it was found. However, when he got them he wasn’t satisfied. He received but it was not enough. He was still unsatisfied. The more the better! He was insatiable when it came to profit and reputation. He often visited the great clans. “Often” means that he went there three, four or five times a day. The first time he’s come back with perhaps five hundred dollars. Then he’d think, “I didn’t get very much. I’d better go out again.”
“I have plans to do such-and-such acts of merit and virtue. Give me a little more” he’d say, and this time they would give him a thousand, twice as much. “Great clans” are wealthy, made up of many wealthy people. When they see a monk coming to beg, they will give him as much as he asks for. If he got five hundred, he’d ask for a thousand. When he returned with his thousand he’d think, “I didn’t ask for enough. They’d have given me ten thousand if I’d asked for it,” and that night he would return saying, “I have completed my acts of merit and virtue and now I have yet another act of merit and virtue which must be done and it is extremely great. Give me but ten thousand dollars and I can complete the job.” The wealthy person hears him say this and he takes out ten thousand dollars and gives it to him. He gets his way very easily. He goes out again and again to beg for money and ends up spending his whole life begging.
He cast aside his recitations, because he was always out running around and climbing on conditions, if you asked him which Sutra he knew, he didn’t know a single one. If you asked him, “Well, what about the Shastras, ‘which one have you studied?’”--he couldn’t remember one of them. “Then what about the Vinaya?” He wasn’t familiar with the Vinaya, either. He had cast it all aside, he didn’t want to study. He didn’t study anything at all. Neglected, forgot, and failed to comprehend them. “Neglected” means that he puts them away. There were Sutras around, but he didn’t read them. He neglected them. Because he didn’t read them, he forgot and failed to comprehend them--that is, he couldn’t remember them clearly.
These, then, were the reasons why he was given the name "Seeker of Fame." He was known as “Bodhisattva Seeker of Fame, Fame-seeking specialist.”
Yet he also practiced many good deeds, although he begged and was forever climbing on conditions, still, he did a lot of good things. Sometimes, when he begged, he didn’t keep the money for himself, but used it to foster merit and virtue. He fostered merit and virtue doing all manner of good deeds, thus enabling him to meet uncounted Buddhas. Because of all the good he did, “borrowing flowers to give the Buddha”--he borrowed other people’s flowers to present as an offering to the Buddha--he nonetheless had a bit of merit and virtue himself. And make offerings to all of them. In the presence of the Buddhas he cultivated by making all manner of offerings.
Accordingly he walked the great path, he always accorded with living beings and sought the great, unsurpassed, great Way, and perfected the Six Paramitas. Because he did many good deeds, he perfected the Six Paramitas: Giving: He went out to beg and when he came back, he didn’t keep what he got; he gave it away. Morality: He cultivated the precepts, the regulations. Patience: If someone scolded him, he pretended he hadn’t heard it. How did he do that? His face was like rubber, as thick as an automobile tire. If someone scolded him, he paid no attention. If someone hit him, he just pretended it didn’t happen. He knew how to be patient.
With a face like rubber, no matter who treated him impolitely, it was as if nothing had happened. He looked like a beggar and he begged for his food. Why do those who have left home take their bowls out to beg for food? They also want to adopt the style of a beggar and have no mark of self. No matter how impolite you are to them, they act as if nothing had happened.
Maitreya Bodhisattva’s stomach was like the sea; you could float a boat in it. His heart was the heart of a Buddha, extremely compassionate. He has a short verse which I have explained to you before, but will repeat for you now:
The Old Fool wears a tattered robe,
And fills his belly with plain food.
He mends the rags to keep his body warm.
And lets the myriad affairs just take their course.
Should someone scold the Old Fool,
The Old Fool just says, “Fine”.
Should someone strike the Old Fool,
He just lies down to sleep.
“Spit right in my face,” he says,
“And I’ll just let it dry.
That way I save my strength,
And you have no affliction”.
This kind of paramita,
Is the jewel in the wonderful.
Now that you know this news,
How can you worry about not attaining the Way?
The Old Fool is a very old man who wears ragged clothing. “When I eat,” he says, “I don’t use oil or salt. I eat until I’m full and then forget it.” That’s how he cultivates the practice of patience. He can endure hunger and thirst, heat and cold. So it says, “He fills his belly with plain food.” It may be tasteless, but when he eats it, it tastes just fine.
When his clothes rip, he patches them, to keep out the cold, and whatever happens just happens. It’s all taken care of according to conditions. They come, they go; they come, they go, according to the way things are, they take their course.
If someone starts scolding the Old Fool he just says, “I must really thank you! You’re a very good scolder; you’ve scolded me wonderfully well. I simply love to hear the sound of your voice scolding me”. That’s how he handles it. If someone strikes him, he just lies down. If you hit him again, he just goes to sleep. “Go ahead and beat me as you please,” he says. “Spit right in my face and I’ll just let it dry by itself. That way I don’t have to put out the energy to wipe it off, and naturally you’re not going to have any way to fight me because I’m just like a wooden statue, without feelings and without awareness.”
He says, “This kind of Paramita, this perfection to patience, is the jewel in the wonderful. If you know this news, how can you worry about not completing the Way?”
So although on the one hand it looks as if Maitreya Bodhisattva seeks name and profit, he also truly does the work and is not afraid of bitterness, of bitter practices in his cultivation. What are bitter practices? The more difficult something is, the more you should want to do it. You should do the things others cannot do. “The things that other people don’t want to do, I do.”
For example, wherever Maitreya Bodhisattva goes, he specializes in cleaning the toilets. That’s the dirtiest work there is but he does it exclusively. He gets up early, sneaks into the bathroom and cleans the toilets until they sparkle. He does the most difficult work, the things no one else wants to do. And in doing it, he’s not afraid of suffering. The more he does it, the more he likes to do it. So there he is, Maitreya Bodhisattva, with his big belly, always opening his mouth to laugh. He doesn’t fear suffering while he works. He’s not like us who type for a while and then feel that our hands ache, or print a few sheets and find it too much trouble. In the beginning, it was very interesting work, but after two and a half, not even three days: “Ugh! Too much trouble. Too much work!”
Who told you to do it in the first place? Huh? When you started out, you didn’t find it troublesome, but after a while it gets tiring. That’s simply too stupid! Wouldn’t you say it was stupid? When you do merit and virtue, you undergo some bitterness. You can’t just do it for one or two days. No matter what people do--haven't I told you this before?--they should be solid, sincere and persevering? You should have these three qualities. Your resolve must be solid. No matter what kind of work you are doing, you must be firm. Sincerity doesn’t mean that you do it today and detest it tomorrow. You should think, “In the beginning, I liked it, and I will continue to like it.” That’s sincerity. Then, you must persevere. Anyone can work for two and a half, not yet three days. What’s hard about that? It’s no problem at all. The several decades we live as human being is not a long time. Think about all the great aeons Maitreya Bodhisattva cultivated the practice of patience, cultivated giving, cultivated morality, cultivated vigor, cultivated Dhyana Samadhi, and Prajna. All those great aeons were to him just like a single day. And we work for two and a half days and are fed up. Didn’t you know when you began, if you work, of course it’s going to be trouble. If you don’t want to be troubled, the best thing to do would be to go to sleep. That’s no trouble at all. Or go out and beg, climb on conditions. That’s no trouble either. When you get there say, “I am a monk. You should make offerings to me. I now need five thousand. Hand it over,” and they’ll give it to you. It will take no effort on your part at all. However, things that take no effort have no real worth or value and they create no merit or virtue to speak of because it is merit and virtue which you told other people to do. You didn’t do it yourself.
Therefore, you should be like Maitreya Bodhisattva. You should have his patience and vigor. It shouldn’t be the case that someone makes a remark and you can’t let go of it and start to cry, or that someone treats you unkindly and you lose your temper. When you listen to the Sutras, you must actually put into practice what you hear. If you don’t actually practice, what’s the use of listening to them? Every night you listen to the Sutras for two hours, and when you’re done listening, it’s just like the wind had been blowing past your ears; it goes in one ear and out the other. What’s the use of that? It’s utterly useless. You must truly, actually cultivate, do the work. If you have genuine wisdom, genuine wisdom, you should not just do such stupid things. And genuine wisdom is only gained in exchange for suffering. It is not obtained without the least bit of effort. It is not obtained without the slightest bit of cultivation, nor is it obtained by being afraid of bitterness, hardship or poverty. How can you get any wisdom that way? Then, if you are not afraid of these things and you cultivate for a long period of time, you can have some accomplishment.
Maitreya Bodhisattva cultivated the Six Paramitas perfectly. “Perfectly” means that he possessed all six of them.
Now he meets the Shakyan Lion; the Shakyan Lion is Shakyamuni Buddha. Later, He will become a Buddha. After Shakyamuni Buddha, Maitreya Buddha will succeed the Buddha-position. He is waiting to become a Buddha in the future. By the name of Maitreya, he is known as the Venerable Maitreya Buddha who will descend in the future. Who will broadly take all beings over. He will save all living beings, a great, great many of them. Their number far beyond all count. An uncountable number of them.
After that Buddha had passed into extinction,
The indolent one was you,
And the Dharma Master Wondrous Light,
Was I, myself, now present here.
J3. past corresponding with the present
After that Buddha had passed into extinction,who would you say “that Buddha” was? It was the Buddha Brightness of Sun-Moon-Lamp. The indolent one was you,the lazy Bodhisattva was you, you Maitreya Bodhisattva! And the Dharma Master Wondrous Light,now presently, I myself, Manjushri Bodhisattva, was the Dharma Master Wondrous Light.
I saw the Buddha Brightness of Lamp;
His light and portents were like these.
Thus I know the present Buddha,
Wishes to speak The Dharma Flower Sutra.
G1. about to speak The Dharma Flower Sutra
I saw the Buddha Brightness of Lamp. In the past I saw the Buddha Brightness of Sun-Moon-Lamp. His light and portents were like these. His bright portents were like the ones now manifest by Shakyamuni Buddha. Thus I know the present Buddha; because I saw it in the past, I know that now Shakyamuni Buddha wishes to speak The Dharma Flower Sutra.
The present marks are like the portents past,
Expedient devices of the Buddhas.
The Buddha now puts forth bright light,
To help reveal the real mark’s meaning.
All of you now should understand, and
With one heart, join your palms, and wait;
The Buddha will let fall the Dharma rain,
To satisfy all those who seek the Way.
G2. a dharma for teaching Bodhisattva
The present marks are like the portents past. Right now, the portents revealed by Shakyamuni Buddha’s white hair-mark light are like the ones previously seen at the time of Sun-Moon-Lamp Brightness Buddha. Expedient devices of the Buddhas. They are dharmas of expediency employed by all the Buddhas. The Buddha now puts forth bright light, the Buddha Shakyamuni emits the white hair-mark light from between his brows to help reveal the real mark’s meaning. He wants to speak the real mark doctrine of the Great Vehicle’s Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra.
All of you now should understand, and you should know, be aware, with one heart, join your palms, and wait. Put your palms together, focus your attention, concentrate, and wait for the Buddha to speak the supreme wonderful Dharma.
The Buddha will let fall the Dharma rain. The Buddha Shakyamuni is about to let fall the great Dharma rain, to satisfy all those who seek the Way. The rain reaches those of all three dispositions: those of superior, average and inferior dispositions, that is, the intelligent, the ordinary and the dull. It moistens both the bright and the dull. The Dharma rain is like the rain from the sky which is received in due measure by the flowers, grasses and trees each according to the amount it requires. The Buddha now speaks the Dharma, and those of the Great Vehicle disposition receive the Great Vehicle Dharma. Those disposed to the Small Vehicle understand the Small Vehicle Dharma. Common folk understand the doctrines of common people. The rain of Dharma satisfies all those who seek the Way.
Those who seek three vehicles,
Should they have doubts or regrets,
The Buddha will remove them now,
So that they vanish and none remain.
G3. of which the Buddhas are protective and mindful
Those who seek three vehicles, now, all of the Bodhisattvas, Sound-Hearers, and Condition-Enlightened Ones, the people of the Three Vehicles, should they have doubts or regrets, if you have any doubts or questions, the Buddha will remove them now. He will now answer your questions, so that they vanish and none remain. He will cause you not to have the slightest bit of doubt. He will resolve all of your doubts--they will vanish without a trace.
When people cultivate the Way, they must cultivate it. If they don’t cultivate it, there is no Way. Only if you cultivate, can there be a Way. Therefore, speaking in terms of cultivation, if you don’t cultivate, there are no problems at all. As soon as you begin to cultivate, however, the problems come. Why do they come? It’s because in former lives your actions resulted from a conflux of causes and conditions. Amidst these various different causes and conditions, there were a lot of “books” which you did not keep accurately. And because these books weren’t clear, in your present life, as soon as you begin to cultivate the Way, the demon king wants to do battle with you, to liquidate you. He causes you to feel that if the afflictions aren’t coming from one direction, they are coming from another. Afflictions come at you from the north, east, south, west, the four-points in between and from above and below--all ten directions. If you aren’t afflicted over people, you get afflicted over things. Hah! If you aren’t afflicted over things, then you get afflicted over animals. If you are not afflicted over animals, you are afflicted because of ghosts. If you aren’t afflicted because of ghosts, then you are afflicted towards the spirits. Ahh…even to the point that you get afflicted at the Bodhisattvas and angry at the Buddha! You even get angry at yourself!
Why does this happen?
It’s because in the past you were too muddled. You did things too unclearly and so now you run into all kinds of afflictions. Some people cultivate and make a vow not to become afflicted. Before they made the vow, there really wasn’t any affliction, but as soon as they make the vow, the affliction arrives quite promptly. Before they made a vow to eat only one meal a day, they didn’t feel particularly hungry, but as soon as the vow was made and they finish eating, they’re hungry, so hungry they can’t stand it. “I’m starved! I’m exhausted. I can’t even stand up and I can’t sit comfortably either.” It’s strange, very strange.
What is the principle involved? Well, when you go to school, after you have studied for a while, you take a test. If you pass the test, you can ascend a grade. If you don’t pass, you have to repeat the course. Cultivation is the same. If you cultivate the Way, the demons will test you to see, ultimately, if you can endure it or not, if you can bear it or not. I often tell you that you must:
endure what others can’t endure,
take what others cannot take,
eat what others cannot eat, and
do what others cannot do.
That’s how you should be. That’s the basic job of cultivating the Way and one who can do this can be considered a cultivator.
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