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Chapter 1


When Manjushri Bodhisattva was born, ten kinds of extraordinary events occurred which show that his merit and virtue was perfect and his wisdom was the foremost.

The ten auspicious signs that manifested at Manjushri’s birth were:

1. The room was filled with bright light. On the day that Manjushri Bodhisattva was born, his house was filled with a light that was unlike that of the sun, moon, stars, or lamps. This light represented the Bodhisattva’s light of Prajna wisdom. It indicated that this Bodhisattva had great wisdom which could dispel all darkness.

2. The vessels were filled with sweet dew. Sweet dew is an elixir of immortality found in the heavens. If you drink it, it will make you full. You can go without eating and not feel hungry. We ordinary people get hunger pangs if we skip a meal, because we have not obtained the nourishment of sweet dew. Guo Xian has not eaten for several days, and he is so hungry that he can barely come to recite the Sutras or listen to the Dharma.

However, he still forces himself to come to the lectures. See how he sits there with his head down and body hunched over? It’s as if his spine has gone soft. When I asked him how many days he had gone without eating, he said he didn’t remember. I asked him, “Has it been a hundred days?” He said no. “Has it been ten days?” He said no. I think it’s been about a week. Poor child! He’s so gaunt from hunger, yet he still grits his teeth and continues to fast. I feel sorry for him. Today and tomorrow he can drink some water, tea, orange juice, or milk. He can eat an apple, or an orange. He can take it easy. I don’t want him to starve, or else his mother will cry. It won’t do for my disciple to starve!

Although his teacher won‘t cry, he will be very pained at heart. So, don’t be so foolish, you hear? [Disciple: Yes.] All living beings have the Buddha nature, but because you haven’t had the response of being anointed with sweet dew on the crown of your head, you feel hungry and listless. Since you’re so weak, you can look for an apple to eat. You can eat one, or even two. I will allow it. It won‘t be considered stealing.

Sweet dew can make you full, and it can make you feel pure and refreshed. If hungry ghosts are anointed on the crown with sweet dew, their offense karma is immediately eradicated and they can go off to rebirth. “The vessels were filled with sweet dew.” Manjushri Bodhisattva uses sweet dew Dharma to rescue all living beings. When the gate of sweet dew is opened, all the hungry ghosts come in and get their fill.

3. The seven treasures well forth from the earth. The seven treasures are gold, silver, lapis lazuli, crystal, mother-of-pearl, red pearls, and carnelian. They are considered treasures because of their rarity. In this world, whatever is rare is regarded as a treasure. Things that are abundantly found are not treasures. Dirt, for example, is basically very precious, because people cannot survive without it.

However, no one cherishes it. If you tried to give people a handful of dirt, they wouldn’t want it. If you say, “This is the most precious thing and I would like to give it to you,” they take a look and see that it’s dirt, and they throw it on the ground. Why? Because dirt is found everywhere. Basically the earth is very valuable, but no one regards it as such, because it’s all over the place. Thus, it is not a treasure. Water is also a very precious resource without which we could not live. Not only people, but all living creatures depend on water for survival. So the Venerable Lao Zi said,

“The highest good is like water. Water well benefits the myriad things and does not contend. It dwells in places that people despise. Thus it is close to the Way.”

Water brings benefit to all things and beings, yet doesn’t claim any credit. It doesn’t say to plants, “It’s all because of me, water, that you are able to grow so large and have such gorgeous blooms. Without me, how could your blooms look so pretty? You really ought to thank me.” Water does not think like that. “It dwells in places that people despise.” Water dwells in the lowest places, where no one else likes to live.

Metal, wood, water, fire, and wood are all beneficial to people. Why don’t people conserve these things? Because there is so much. Since wood is everywhere, people don’t cherish it. Why do people prize gold? Because it is so scarce. Its scarcity is what makes it valuable. It is not found just anywhere. If you were to go to the Land of Ultimate Bliss, where the ground is made of gold, you’d find that dirt is valuable there, because there isn’t any. If you were to present someone there with a handful of dirt, they would cherish it the way we might cherish a piece of stone retrieved from the moon. It’s just a rock, but because it came from the moon, it is priceless.

When a worthless bit of dirt from the Saha world is taken to the Land of Ultimate Bliss, it’s regarded as a rare treasure. The seven treasures are treasures because they are rare and not easy to obtain. Since Manjushri Bodhisattva has a limitless storehouse of treasures, at the time of his birth the seven treasures welled forth from the earth. There was an inexhaustible supply of them that could never be used up.

“Where are they?” you may ask.

They are at the place of Manjushri’s birth.

“Can I go there?” You should not be greedy. If you’re thinking of going there to take some of the treasures, perhaps the cost of getting there will exceed the worth of the treasures. So quit having such a false thought!

4. The gods opened the treasuries. The wheel-turning sage kings have seven treasures [a different list than the one given above], one of which is the guardians of the treasury, that is, gods who watch over their treasuries. The treasuries mentioned here were buried in the ground by people long ago and forgotten, so the gods opened them and exposed the treasures so people could take them.

5. Chickens gave birth to phoenixes. Basically of course, chickens only give birth to chickens. But at the time of Manjushri’s birth, they gave birth to phoenixes, a kind of auspicious bird. When someone sees a phoenix, it means something lucky is going to happen to them. In ancient times, Confucius once said, “The phoenix does not come. The river does not give forth the map. I should also stop.” Earlier, Fu Xi had drawn the Eight Trigrams in accordance with the drawings on the back of a turtle that came out of the river. Confucius says, “I’m going to stop. I don’t need to preach about the Way of virtue anymore.”

6. Pigs gave birth to dragons. This is even more unusual than chickens giving birth to phoenixes. Basically, dragons are born from dragons, and phoenixes are born from phoenixes. But at this time, the pig raised at home gave birth to a piglet that had dragon scales on its body.

7. Horses gave birth to unicorns. Horses ordinarily give birth to horses, but at this time they gave birth to unicorns. The unicorn can be considered a king of beasts, like the lion and the tiger. Unicorns are auspicious creatures. During the reign of Emperor Yao in ancient China, there were many unicorns and phoenixes and everyone could see them. Later, as living beings’ offense karma grew heavier, these auspicious birds and beasts were no longer seen. In “Huai Ling Jie” Confucius says:

In the times of Tang and Yu, unicorns and phoenixes roamed freely.
Those times are no longer; what have you come for now?
Unicorn! Unicorn! My heart grieves for you!

During the Tang dynasty of Emperor Yao and the Yu dynasty of Emperor Shun, unicorns and phoenixes often came to this world to roam and were seen by people. Confucius says, “The Tang and Yu dynasties are long gone, so why have you come? What do you seek? Unicorn, unicorn, I’m really worried for you.” When Confucius was born, a unicorn had come and given forth a precious book from its mouth. His mother had tied a string around the neck of the unicorn. Years later, Confucius saw a unicorn struck down by hunters and recognized it by the string around its neck as the same unicorn that had appeared at his birth. Seeing the unicorn struck down by hunters, Confucius knew that he did not have long to live. That’s why he sighed and spoke the above verse.

The seventh sign is that horses gave birth to unicorns.

8. Cows gave birth to white zai. The white zai is an extremely rare animal of white color. It‘s neither like an ox, nor like a horse, nor like a donkey, nor like a mule. It’s not like anything at all. It looks like a horse, but it has the hooves of an ox. It’s in a special category all of its own. It is also an auspicious animal.

9 The grain in the granaries turned to gold. I asked one of my disciples, “Of what use is gold? Can it be eaten? Grain can be cooked and eaten, but how can one eat it after it turns to gold?” He gave a very intelligent answer, saying, “If you exchange the gold for money, you can buy lots of grain.” I believe that. His answer makes a lot of sense. I didn’t understand before, but his answer has suddenly enlightened me. He also asked who was greedy, and I said I was. I’m greedy for all of you to become Buddhas quickly. That’s what my greed is made of. So I don’t want my disciple [the one who is fasting] to starve; I want him to become a Buddha faster.

10. Elephants with six tusks appeared. As we know, elephants usually only have two tusks. At the time of Manjushri’s birth however, the elephants raised by his family grew six. tusks.

These ten auspicious signs occurred at the time of the Bodhisattva’s birth and represent the Ten Perfections of the greatly wise Bodhisattva Manjushri, which make him different from other Bodhisattvas.

If you want to meet Manjushri Bodhisattva, you should first remember these ten auspicious signs. Then when you see Manjushri, you can say, “Elder One, you are an old friend of mine, the teacher who understands me the best.”

“Why do you say that?” he will ask.

“Why, I know the ten auspicious signs that occurred at the time of your birth.” When you recite them for him, he will be delighted and say, “Yes, you are my old friend.” He won’t deny it, because you really know him. If you don’t know them, then although Manjushri Bodhisattva is not prejudiced, since you don’t recognize what he’s all about, he won’t draw near you. The greater your recognition of him, the closer he will be to you. The reason we want to know the realm of every Bodhisattva is because we want to be every Bodhisattva’s friend and brother. Every Bodhisattva is our good and wise advisor. Each one of you will be good and wise advisors of Bodhisattvas one day, so you shouldn’t look lightly upon yourselves.

The Bodhisattva Who Contemplates The World‘s Sounds. In Sanskrit the Bodhisattva’s name is Avalokiteshvara. In Chinese, it is Guanshiyin, “contemplator of the world’s sounds” and Guan Zi Zai, “contemplator of self-mastery”. We should all recognize this Bodhisattva. Because he is very compassionate, no one fears him and everyone knows him. This Bodhisattva is like a compassionate mother who grants the wishes of all living beings according to what they seek. There is a popular saying in Chinese,

Home, home, Guanshiyin;
Everywhere, Amitabha.

Guanshiyin Bodhisattva is Amitabha Buddha’s chief disciple. Amitabha Buddha is the teaching host in the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss. To his left stands the Bodhisattva Guanyin and to his right, the Great Strength Bodhisattva. They are known as the Three Sages of the Western Direction. When Amitabha Buddha steps down as teaching host, the Bodhisattva Guanyin will succeed him. Bodhisattva Guanshiyin will be succeeded by Great Strength Bodhisattva.

Because the Bodhisattva Who Contemplates the World‘s Sounds can manifest in countless forms to relieve beings of their sufferings, he is known as the Greatly Compassionate Guanshiyin. With a thousand eyes he views living beings tossing in the sea of suffering, and with a thousand hands he reaches down to pull them out.

The twenty-fifth chapter of The Dharma Flower Sutra deals with the Bodhisattva‘s miraculous powers. We shall wait until then to discuss them further.

The Bodhisattva Who Has Obtained Great Might. Whenever this Bodhisattva takes a step, the entire great trichiliocosm quakes in six different ways. This is why he is called “Great Strength”.

What are the Six Types of Earthquakes?

The first three refer to movement:

  • 1. shaking,
  • 2. rising,
  • 3. surging

The following three refer to sounds:

  • 4 banging,
  • 5. roaring,
  • 6. crackling.

These movements are much more severe than those which could be caused by our biggest bombs. However, unlike modern weapons which wreak havoc, the six types of quakes couldn‘t possibly hurt anyone.

The Bodhisattva Who Has Obtained Great Might is also known as the Bodhisattva of Boundless Light because one who sees the light of but one of the Bodhisattva‘s hair-pores will see as well the pure, subtle light of the Buddhas of the ten directions.

The Bodhisattva Constant Vigor. “Constant” means he never quits. He never quits being vigorous in his cultivation. There are two kinds of vigor: bodily vigor and mental vigor. This Bodhisattva cultivates practices to teach and transform living beings. He is not like some of us who may start a project and then as soon as the problems start to arise, abandon it in favor of taking a nap. The Bodhisattva Constant Vigor never sleeps, he just keeps working.

He will pass through limitless kalpas trying to teach one single living being and help him to bring forth the heart of Bodhi. He may instruct him in countless Dharma doors, but in all that time, he may still be unable to save him. Despite the fact that he has spent so much time and effort trying to save him, he will never grow weary or become discouraged. If we would like to save living beings, we should follow his example. If, in this life, we are unable to save someone, we should resolve to try again in the next life, or the life after, or the life after that, until we finally succeed.

On the other hand, if you notice that someone has been following you around, trying to teach and transform you, you should hurry up ant take their teaching to heart and bring forth faith. That person may very well be the Bodhisattva Constant Vigor who has gone to so much trouble life after life, just trying to teach you! You shouldn’t go on ignoring him. Listen to him!

Mental vigor means that you never become discouraged, you never think, “It‘s too hard!” and you never feel that there are simply too many difficulties involved in teaching and transforming others. Constant vigor is unflagging diligence.

The Bodhisattva Unresting. You may wonder, “Just what is the difference between Constant Vigor and Unresting? Aren‘t the two concepts pretty much the same? Why do we need two separate Bodhisattvas?”

Actually it is not known how many Constant Vigor Bodhisattvas there are. They are numberless. We also cannot calculate the number of Bodhisattvas Unresting there are. In other words, if you are constantly vigorous in your cultivation of the Buddhadharma, then you, yourself, are the Bodhisattva Constant Vigor. If you pursue your study of the Dharma without resting, then you are the Bodhisattva Unresting. It should be clear that there are an incalculable number of these Bodhisattvas.

“But what is the difference between the two?”

Although they are basically the same, if you want to speak of their differences, the Bodhisattva Constant Vigor continually enters the paths of rebirth in order to save living beings; the Bodhisattva Unresting passes through an enormous amount of time without ever becoming tired.

“Not getting tired” means that one does not fear fatigue. If one is bowing to the Buddha or reciting Sutras, one does not rest the moment one feels a bit tired. No matter what one does, one never rests. The Bodhisattva Unresting is always extremely busy, but he never gets upset because no one is helping him or because no one knows that he‘s doing good deeds. He would never advertise his own merit. There was a layman who used to come here and advertise his merit, praising himself for having worked for the temple or given money.

His propaganda didn’t get very far, however, because more and more Americans came to the temple and his English wasn’t very good. He was quite the reverse from Unresting Bodhisattva who, for as many kalpas as there are sand grains in the Ganges River, did not rest at all and never took a break. The days turned into months and the months turned into years; the years turned into hundreds of thousands of tens of thousands of millions of kalpas, and the Bodhisattva Unresting did not rest at all.

The Bodhisattva Jeweled Palm. Jewels refer to treasures, Dharma jewels. Palm is the palm of the hand. A Bodhisattva may be named after his practices or his original vows. What is meant by practices? They are the Dharma doors which he cultivated. What are original vows? They are the vows he made on the causal ground when he was just beginning his cultivation. Some Bodhisattvas take their name from their virtuous practices and morality; others take their name from their special powers and skills.

The Bodhisattva Jeweled Palm holds many different kinds of Dharma jewels in his palm. The first is the As-You-Will Pearl Dharma Jewel. With the As-You-Will Pearl, everything is “as your heart wishes” and you get what you seek. The second jewel he holds is the Lariat Hand and the third is the Jeweled Bowl Hand. The fourth is the Jeweled Sword Hand, the fifth, the Vajra Hand and Eye. The sixth is the Jeweled Pestle Hand. The seventh is the Bestowing Fearlessness Hand. The Bestowing Fearlessness Hand dispels all fear.

On the causal ground, the Bodhisattva Jeweled Palm cultivated the Forty-two Hands and Eyes of the Thousand-handed, Thousand-eyed Bodhisattva Who Contemplates the Sounds of the World. Thus he obtained the name Jeweled Palm, because all his palms hold all manner of gems and Dharma jewels. So he is called Bodhisattva Jeweled Palm.

The Bodhisattva Medicine King. Medicine King Bodhisattva and Medicine Superior Bodhisattva were explained in the Shurangama Sutra in the passage in which twenty-five sages each discuss the methods they used to obtain perfect penetration. These two Bodhisattvas were brothers.

There is an account in Buddhism of their past affinities. Long ago, there was a Wheel-Turning Sage King who had a thousand sons. The thousand sons all made vows to leave home and cultivate. Accordingly, they are to become the thousand Buddhas of the present age, called the Worthy Kalpa. Of the thousand Buddhas, four have already become Buddhas, Shakyamuni Buddha being the fourth to appear in the Worthy Kalpa.

The Wheel-Turning King also had a concubine by whom he had two additional sons. The elder son made a vow to protect and support his thousand older brothers when they became Buddhas. Whenever a Buddha appears in the world, he acts as their protector.

The second son, seeing that his brother had vowed to be a Dharma Protector, vowed that whenever any one of his thousand brothers became a Buddha, he would be the first to make offerings to him, but not just once, he would continue to make offerings all during the time that Buddha dwelt in the world. And he would not make offerings to just one older brother, but to all one thousand of them, each as they became Buddhas.

After those Buddhas each enter Nirvana and the Dharma-ending Age descends, the younger brother has vowed to rescue living beings. Using various kinds of medicines, he cures the illnesses of living beings. At the end of the kalpa, there occur the three disasters of flood, fire, and wind as well as the disasters of war and pestilence. In epidemics, those who contract the disease will die immediately. But the Bodhisattva Medicine King has vowed to save all sick living beings. This is Bodhisattva Medicine King’s past life history. He devoted himself to curing the illnesses of living beings. Not only did he cure the illnesses which plagued their bodies, but he cured as well their mental illnesses. He cured the sicknesses of their hearts and bodies so that afterwards they could cultivate.

The Bodhisattva Courageous Giving. Courage is bravery. One must have courage in order to give. If one has no courage, one will be unable to give. The Ten Thousand Conducts take the Six Perfections as their mainstay, and the Six Perfections take giving as their mainstay. Thus, the other Perfections and the Ten Thousand Conducts are all included within the practice of giving.

If you give with courage and bravery, the merit and virtue you will obtain is inconceivable. If, in giving, you use an inconceivable spirit and energy, the reward you obtain will also be inconceivable.

For example, we may intend to give, but as soon as we have a thought of ourselves, our good intentions vanish. “If I give my money to him, what am I going to do? If I give away my clothing, what am I going to wear? If I give away my house, where am I going to live?” This is an example of a lack of courage. As soon as one thinks of oneself, one will lose one’s courage and fail to give.

Take for example, food and drink. You may have the thought to give it away, but then it occurs to you, “If I give this away what will I eat?” The moment you think of yourself, your courage dissolves along with the spirit of courageous giving.

The Bodhisattva Courageous Giving thinks to give and, without further ado, he gives. He thinks, “He’s in trouble. I’ll help him out. I’ll give him a hundred dollars to buy some clothes and something to eat.” He gives and that’s all there is to it. Once you think of yourself, you will lose your courage. This Bodhisattva gives with courage; he gives wealth, Dharma and fearlessness in the most vigorous and energetic fashion and so he is called the Bodhisattva Courageous Giving.

The Bodhisattva Jeweled Moon takes his name from the jeweled moon. The Bodhisattva Moonlight takes his name from the light of the moon which dispels the darkness of the night. The Bodhisattva Full Moon. These three Bodhisattvas, Jeweled Moon, Moonlight, and Full Moon take their names from firmly holding the moral precepts. As it says in the Shurangama Sutra, “Stern and pure in the Vinaya, they were great exemplars in the Three Realms.” The Vinaya is the moral code. The three Bodhisattvas held the precepts until their light shone as brightly as the full moon. Although the names differ, they all come from the pure holding of the precepts. In reality, the Bodhisattva Jeweled Moon is just the Bodhisattva Full Moon, and the Bodhisattva Moonlight is just the Bodhisattva Jeweled Moon. It is said,

Purely holding the precepts
One is like the full moon;
The body and mouth are pure,
With no flaws or errors.

When the karma of body, mouth, and mind is pure, all darkness vanishes. Thus, the three Bodhisattvas take their names from having cultivated the observance of the precepts.

The Bodhisattva Great Strength. The Bodhisattva Great Strength is especially powerful. His great strength is equal to that of the Bodhisattva Who Has Attained Great Might.

The Bodhisattva Limitless Unlimited Strength. Great Strength is not limitless strength. This Bodhisattva‘s strength surpasses that of the Bodhisattva Great Strength. Actually great strength is just limitless strength and limitless strength is great strength.

The Bodhisattva Who Transcend ed s the Three Realms. This Bodhisattva transcends the realm of desire, the realm of form, and the formless realm. How does he transcends them? It is by means of his great strength and also by means of his limitless strength. The Bodhisattvas Great Strength, Limitless Unlimited Strength, and the Bodhisattva Who Transcend ed s the Three Realms all cultivate the same practice, the Perfection of Vigor. They go forward with heroic vigor. How do we know that they cultivate vigor? Their great strength, limitless strength, and the transcending of the three realms are proof. The three names are actually the same.

Great Strength is Limitless Strength. Limitless Strength is the One Who Transcends the Three Realms. Without limitless strength, one could not surpass the three realms. So the three Bodhisattvas cultivate the practice of vigor and they have great, limitless strength and the courage and spirit to surpass the three realms. Therefore, they are always vigorous and they always go forward--that‘s what their names mean.

The Bodhisattva Bhadrapala. There are three ways of interpreting this Bodhisattva’s name. The first is “Worthy Protector”, the second is “Worthy Leader”, and the third is “Worthy Guardian”.

What is meant by “Worthy Protector”? This Bodhisattva is able to protect the Buddha’s work and so he is called “Worthy Protector”. He is one of the Great Bodhisattvas, one of the leaders, a leader of worthy people--a “Worthy Leader”. His name also means Worthy Guardian, for among the sages and worthies, he is able to guard and support living beings. Thus, the word Bhadrapala has these three meanings.

The Bodhisattva Maitreya. Maitreya means “compassionate clan”. He is also known as Ajita, “Invincible” because no heavenly demons or externalists can be victorious over him. Maitreya Bodhisattva dwells in the inner court of the Tushita Heaven and cultivates the “compassionate heart samadhi”. Everyone who meets him brings forth a compassionate heart. Because he is compassionate towards all beings, all living beings are fond of him and loyal to him.

Bhadrapala Bodhisattva cultivates the Perfection of Dhyana Samadhi. The Bodhisattva Compassionate Clan, or Invincible, cultivates the “compassionate heart samadhi”, which is also called “the patience samadhi”.

When Shakyamuni Buddha steps down as teaching host of the Saha world, Maitreya will succeed him. When will this happen? Many externalists say, “Maitreya Bodhisattva has come. Maitreya Bodhisattva has appeared in the world.” But they are talking nonsense. Why do I say this? Shakyamuni Buddha stated very clearly when Maitreya would come.

This present world kalpa is now in a period of decrease. Every hundred years, man’s average lifespan decreases by one year and his height by one inch. When man’s average lifespan is ten years, the period of increase will begin again and every hundred years man’s height will increase one inch and his average lifespan will increase by one year.

When man’s lifespan has reached eighty-four thousand years, the period of decline will begin again and when man’s lifespan has decreased to eighty thousand years, Maitreya Bodhisattva will appear in the world. He will come to teach and transform living beings in the “Three Dragon Flower Assemblies”. So those present day externalists who do not understand the Buddhadharma are simply indulging in confused prattle. The time of Maitreya Bodhisattva’s appearance has been definitely fixed.

According to the calculations within the Buddhadharma, man’s average lifespan at present is between sixty and sixty-five years. When the average lifespan has decreased to ten years it will begin to increase again. How much time will that take? Then, it will increase to eighty-four thousand years. How long will that be? Then it will again decrease until it reaches eighty-thousand years and Maitreya Bodhisattva will then appear in the world. So those people who presently speak nonsense are truly pitiable.

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