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Chapter 1


The Bodhisattva Jewel Accumulation. This Bodhisattva has accumulated many treasures. What are they? He has accumulated limitless, boundless merit and virtue. The merit and virtue which he has amassed is like a precious treasure--Dharma treasure.

The Bodhisattva Guiding Master. What is a guiding master? To guide is to lead. A master is a teacher. He is the guide and teacher of living beings and he shows them the Way. Now we have people who take tourists out on tours and they are called tour guides. The Bodhisattva Guiding Master leads people to return to the proper road, to return to the Buddha path.

Who does he lead? He leads those who have fallen into the hells. When people have fallen into the hells, they do not think to bring forth the Bodhi mind. As they undergo punishment and torment, they do not know to repent and reform. So the Bodhisattva Guiding Master uses all manner of expedient devices to lead them to bring forth again the heart of Bodhi and to cultivate the Way to Bodhi. This is the meaning of Guiding Master Bodhisattva’s name.

And other Bodhisattvas, Mahasattvas such as these, as the ones listed above, there were Bodhisattvas, Mahasattvas to the number of eighty thousand in all. When I lectured the Earth Store Sutra and when I lectured the Dharma Flower Sutra, I explained the Seven Qualities of a Mahasattva and I shall now give a test. Whoever remembers them should explain them for all of us: 1) They plant good roots, 2) They possess great wisdom, 3) They have great belief, 4) They understand the great principle, 5) They cultivate the great conduct, 6) They pass through great kalpas, and 7) They preach the great truth.


At that time, Shakra Devanam Indrah was present with his retinue of twenty thousand gods. Among them were the God Moon, the God Universal Fragrance, the God Jeweled Light, and the Four Great Heavenly Kings with their retinues, ten thousand gods in all. There was the God Comfort, and the God Great Comfort, with their retinues, thirty thousand gods in all.


D3. Other members of the assembly

E1. Desire Realm heaven gods.


At that time. At what time? At the time when Shakyamuni Buddha spoke the Dharma Flower Sutra, and the eighty thousand Bodhisattvas had all arrived at the Bodhimanda to join the assembly. The eighty thousand Bodhisattvas were great Bodhisattvas; they were the sons of the Buddha. The Buddha is the Dharma King and the Bodhisattvas are Dharma Princes. Therefore in the Amitabha Sutra it says, “Manjushri, the Dharma Prince...” In the Dharma Flower Sutra the great Bodhisattvas all were Dharma Princes.

The Buddha has three kinds of sons: 1) true sons, 2) initiate sons, and 3) uninitiate sons.

Who are the Buddha’s true sons? They are the Bodhisattvas, the Dharma Princes who are the Buddha’s external retinue as they protect and support the Buddha on the outside. The initiate sons are the Bhikshus and Arhats who act as the inner retinue. The uninitiate sons are the common people, living beings in general. They have not studied the Buddhadharma, and so they are “uninitiate”--they stand on the outside. One could also say that uninitiate sons are those within the Buddhadharma who, although they study the Buddhadharma, they have not certified to the fruit, and they remain on the level of a common person and are not at the position of the worthy sages.

The Buddha’s three kinds of sons include the Bodhisattvas, Arhats, and all living beings in the six paths. The beings in the six common realms and those in the three sagely realms, that is, beings in the nine Dharma Realms are all included among the Buddha’s sons.

Shakra Devanam Indrah is a Sanskrit word which means “able to do”. Able to do what? Able to be the heavenly lord. Shakra is the one many revere as “the lord on high” or “our father in heaven” or “the heavenly host”--in other words, God. He is the one whom the externalists worship. In the Shurangama Mantra he is referred to as “Yin tuo la ye.” “Yin tuo la ye”, the king is just Shakra Devanam Indrah.

Shakra is the ruler of the Heaven of the Thirty-three, the Trayastrimsha Heaven, which is the second of the six desire realm heavens. He is revered by the Chinese as the Great Jade Emperor, an emperor in the heavens. But he still ranks in the six common realms; he has not yet reached the level of the sage. In Buddhism he is regarded as a Dharma Protector. Although he protects the Buddhadharma, he is not even given a place to sit in the assembly of the Buddha; he has to stand.

If he doesn’t even have a seat in the assembly, why do so many people worship him? Why do they believe in him and regard him as the only true lord of heaven and earth?

Although he doesn’t even have a seat in the Buddhadharma and although he is forced to stand and act as a Dharma protector, within his own territory, he is the one and only mighty leader. There is an apt analogy for this situation:

There was a very small country village located deep in a mountain valley which had no communication with the outside world. The mayor often went to the big cities where he was recognized merely as a small town mayor. But to his citizens, country folk who had never been out, he said, “I am the world’s greatest ruler! Everyone must obey my commands. I am the emperor. I am the president. I am the world ruler.”

Because he was their leader, they assumed that he was telling the truth. They didn’t know that above the mayor stood the governor, the senators, and the president, or perhaps the emperor. Why didn’t they know? Because they had never communicated with the world beyond their small isolated mountain village. As far as they knew, the mayor is the highest personage, the greatest in the world, and they all respected him and trusted him.

The Heavenly Lord is just like the small town mayor. Those who do not understand the Buddhadharma are like the poor mountain people who have never been to the big city and know nothing about the big, wide world. The country folk think that the mayor is the highest ruler and common people who do not understand the Buddhadharma only know that there is a Lord on High, a Heavenly Lord. They don’t know that above him are the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. They don’t know because the Lord doesn’t want his subjects to know, just like the mayor doesn’t want his citizens to mingle with the outside world because if they did, they would quickly realize that he was simply a small-time mayor, and they wouldn’t put quite so much faith in him. Shakra is that way, too.

Where did Shakra come from? Many, many lives in the past, Shakra was a woman. Not only was he a woman, he was a poor woman. Not only was he a poor woman, he was a beggar woman. One day, she came across an image of Kashyapa Buddha and noticed that its gold finish was cracked and peeling. She gathered thirty-two of her women friends together and they combined their efforts to raise funds in order to have the temple rebuilt and the image regilded.

The merit and virtue they acquired from this act caused them to be reborn as heavenly lords, each in her own heaven. The woman who organized the project was reborn as Shakra in the heaven in the center, located on the peak of Mount Sumeru. Her thirty-two friends were born as rulers in thirty-two heavens surrounding it, eight on each of the four sides, making thirty-three heavens in all. Thus we have the name “Heaven of the Thirty-three”.

Ultimately, how many heavens are there?

There are an uncountable number. However, the Heaven of the Thirty-three is located on the peak of Mount Sumeru and is the second of the six desire realm heavens. The Heaven of the Four Great Kings is located half-way up Mount Sumeru and is the lowest of the six desire realm heavens.

Shakra Devanam Indrah was present with his retinue, those of his own kind, twenty thousand gods, among whom were the God Moon, the God Universal Fragrance who is fond of fragrance and so emits fragrance from his person continually which perfumes the Dharma Realm. The God Jeweled Light is fond of jewels and consequently emits jeweled light.

The Four Great Heavenly Kings dwell in the lowest desire realm heaven. It is half-way up Mount Sumeru. One king dwells on each side. In the east dwells Dhritarashtra, “the king who maintains his country.” In the south dwells Virudhaka, “increasing and growing.” In the west dwells Virupaksha, “broad eyes”. In the north dwells Vaishravana, “erudite.” They are known as the Four World-Protecting Kings because they endeavor to protect living beings of this world from ghosts and spirits who would harm them.

Each with his retinue, ten thousand gods in all.They all came to the Dharma Assembly to hear the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra.

Although the God Universal Fragrance is fond of fragrance and the God Jeweled Light is fond of jewels, it’s not that they like these things for themselves. The God Universal Fragrance knows that all living beings like fragrance and so he emits a fragrance which pervades the world. If it wasn’t for the fragrance this god emits, the world of human beings would reek with an unbearable stench. The fragrance he emits wards off those foul odors.

The God Jeweled Light knows that all beings are greedy for valuable objects. He radiates a jeweled light to fulfill the wishes of living beings. Once their wishes have been fulfilled, they can bring forth the heart of Bodhi. The God Universal Fragrance does not emit fragrance because he likes to smell it but because he knows all beings like good smells. The God Jeweled Light does not radiate jeweled light because he likes jewels, but because he knows all beings like them. The gods emit fragrance and light because they wish to cause living beings to awaken to the fact that such inconceivable states do exist in the world, and so that they will then bring forth the supreme heart of Bodhi.

The God Comfort. Extremely comfortable, he dwells in the fifth of the desire-realm heavens, the Nirmanarati Heaven, which is the “heaven of transformational bliss.” The bliss in this heaven is created through transformation.

The God Great Comfort is from the sixth desire realm heaven, the Paranirmitavashavartin Heaven, “the heaven of the comfort derived from the transformation of others.” The gods of this heaven do not find their comfort within their own heaven, but they take as their own the transformations created by the other gods in the other heavens.

With their retinue, thirty thousand gods in all. So many! More than the gods above. Shakra only had twenty thousand. These gods had ten thousand more.


There was the God King Brahma, ruler of the Saha world, as well as the Great Brahma Shikhin and the Great Brahma Brilliance, and others, with their retinues, twelve thousand gods in all.


E2. gods of the form realm heavens.


The Saha World. What is the Saha World? Saha is a Sanskrit word. The Saha World is the “sweet world,” the sweetest place there is.

“Dharma Master,” you say, “I’ve been listening to your lectures on the Sutras for a long time and you haven’t made a mistake yet. This time, however, you’re definitely wrong. ‘Saha’ is interpreted from the Sanskrit as ‘able to endure’ because it is a place where suffering is endured. If anything, Saha means ‘bitter’, not ‘sweet’.”

Really? Then if you know it is bitter, why do you cling to it? Why are you still unable to part with this world? Why do I explain Saha as sweet? Just because I see that you are unable to give it up. If you can’t bear to part with it, it must be sweet, don’t you think? If it were bitter, you would have let it go long ago.

You say, “Well, Dharma Master, if you put it that way, there’s not much I can say.”

There may not be much you can say, but I have something to add: this world is not bitter; it is also not sweet. It is a tasteless world--utterly bland. But, despite its lack of taste, it’s full of trouble. What kind of trouble? It’s real pain. So, Saha means “able to endure”, for in this world beings are able to bear a great deal of suffering, both internal and external. Externally, there are the Three Sufferings, the Eight Sufferings, and limitless sufferings.

They endure the Three Sufferings: the suffering within suffering, the suffering of decay, and the suffering of process. They endure the Eight Sufferings: the suffering of birth, old age, sickness, and death, the suffering of being separated from what one loves, the suffering of being around what one hates, the suffering of not getting what one wants, and the suffering of the raging blaze of the five skandhas.

So much suffering! And yet, they patiently endure it saying, “It is truly unbearable; how can it be endured?” Basically, it’s simply unbearable and yet still you are able to bear it, and what is more within this state of extreme suffering, you feel perfectly at ease in the Saha World. You can still patiently endure it; you are still unable to let go of this world. This is why I say that this is a “sweet” world. Most people think it’s as sweet as an apple. Actually, once they have tasted it, they know that this world is bitter, as bitter as huanglian, the bitterest of medicinal herbs. In fact, it’s even more bitter. Knowing the bitterness of this world, and yet still being able to bear and undergo it, is very difficult.

If you were able to take as much bitterness cultivating the Way, you would certainly become a Buddha. In Manchuria, my disciple Guo Shun said, “When I was a prisoner in a Japanese labor camp, I never had enough food to eat, I didn’t have enough clothes to keep me warm, and I never got enough sleep. If those who cultivate the Way could endure one half of the suffering endured by labor camp prisoners, they would most certainly accomplish Buddhahood.” After he left the home life, he ate only one meal a day, before noon, and never ate at other times. Day and night he sat in Dhyana, never lying down to sleep. Of all my disciples, he was foremost in the cultivation of ascetic practices.

Later, Guo Shun didn’t want to remain in the Saha World, and so he set himself on fire. After he had burned to death, his body remained sitting in full lotus posture. When the people went to examine him, they reached out and touched his body and it crumbled into ashes. This proves that he had samadhi power. If he had not had the skill to enter samadhi, the fire certainly would have caused him to jump. If ordinary people get burned, they invariably jump away. But when the fire had gone out, Guo Shun’s body remained in sitting posture and he hadn’t moved an inch--proof of his samadhi power.

So if anyone says that he has samadhi power and can enter samadhi, you can test him out. Burn him. If he doesn’t move, then he really does have samadhi power. If he’s still sitting there when the fire goes out, then his samadhi is genuine. If your samadhi power isn’t up to that, then don’t brag that you have samadhi. So I don’t dare say that I have samadhi power. If I said I did, I might get tested out.

The Saha world includes the three periods of time--past, present, and future, as well as space.

There was the God King Brahma, ruler of the Saha World. A ruler is one who is the boss. The God King Brahma is the king of the Great Brahma Heaven.

As well as the Great Brahma Shikhin. Shikhin is Sanskrit and means “crown curls”, because his head is covered with curls.

And the Great Brahma Brilliance--there was another god named Brilliance.

And others--more of them--with their retinue, twelve thousand gods in all.

More on the Three and Eight Sufferings.

The Three Sufferings:

1. The suffering within suffering. This is the suffering of poverty and distress. One may be poor and then follows the suffering of having no food to eat, having no clothes to wear, and no place to live. Would you call this suffering or not? It is suffering within suffering.

2. The suffering of decay. One may have food, clothes, and a place to live, in fact one may live in a fabulous penthouse apartment--one may not only have clothes to wear, but one may own the most fashionable, beautiful garments--one may not only have food to eat, but one may eat the world’s rarest and tastiest delicacies, things no one else has ever tasted--but it’s all too good to last, and the good times are soon over. Perhaps one’s house catches on fire, or one is robbed, or has some kind of accident, and, although one once enjoyed wealth and honor, one’s happiness decays and falls apart. This is the suffering of decay.

3. The suffering of process. If one does not undergo the suffering within suffering or the suffering of the decay of wealth and honor, one must still undergo the suffering of process. From youth to the prime of life, from the prime of life to old age, from old age to sickness, from sickness to death--in every thought there is shifting and changing, like the waves on water which follow one another without cease. No one can avoid this process of aging which continues unceasingly. This is the suffering of process.

The Eight Sufferings:

1. The suffering of birth.

2. The suffering of old age.

3. The suffering of sickness.

4. The suffering of death.

5. The suffering of being separated from what one loves. Through circumstances, you may be forced to separate from that person whom you love the most, the one you cannot bear to be separated from. This kind of suffering is extreme.

6. The suffering of being around what one hates. Perhaps you really hate someone. “I can’t stand him,” you say. “I’m leaving. I don’t want to be around him.” So you go somewhere else and meet someone exactly like him, whom you hate just as much. You think you can just walk out and that will be the end of it, but wherever you go, you run into someone just like him. This is the suffering of being around what you hate.

7. The suffering of not getting what one wants. When you wish for something and long for it but there’s no way you can obtain it, that is suffering.

8. The suffering of the raging blaze of the five skandhas. This suffering is even more extreme than the above. The five skandhas, form, feeling, thinking, activity, and consciousness are never more than a step away. They are right with you, walking, standing, sitting, and reclining.

The five skandhas are like a raging fire, a blazing conflagration.


There were eight Dragon Kings: The Dragon King Nanda, the Dragon King Upananda, the Dragon King Sagara, the Dragon King Vasuki, the Dragon King Takshaka, the Dragon King Anavatapta, the Dragon King Manasvin, and the Dragon King Utpalaka, and others, each with his retinue of several hundreds of thousand followers.


E3. the dragons


Long ago, there were many dragons, and everyone could see them. In the present day, however, they do not appear. Why? Because there are too many people and the dragons out of fear do not dare show themselves. Dragons belong to the class of animals, but they are not like ordinary animals because they have spiritual penetrations.

What spiritual penetrations do they have? They can make themselves big or small. They can manifest so that people can see them, and they can also make themselves invisible by means of the transformations of their spiritual penetrations.

And how did they become dragons? You shouldn’t look down on them just because they are animals, for in previous lives, dragons were people who cultivated the Way. However, they were “quick with the Vehicle and slow with the precepts.” That is, they cultivated the Great Vehicle practices with vigor, but neglected the precepts. They cultivated the Way with great intensity, but they did not keep the precepts. They did not sever their thoughts of desire, specifically thoughts of sexual desire.

Because they did not cut off their thoughts of desire, they did not keep the precepts. Thus, although they cultivated the Way and worked very hard investigating the Great Vehicle Buddhadharma, because they did not keep the precepts and were very negligent about them, they fell into rebirth in the bodies of dragons.

On the one hand, because they didn’t keep the precepts, they were born in the bodies of dragons. On the other hand, because they cultivated the Great Vehicle and were very vigorous in cultivating the Buddha Way, they obtained spiritual penetrations, even though they were animals. I explained this principle when I lectured on the Shurangama Sutra, but I was afraid you might have forgotten and so I have repeated it. “Quick with the Vehicle, but slow with the precepts,” they fell to rebirth in dragon bodies.

There are those who are “quick with the precepts but slow with the Vehicle.” They keep the precepts very sternly but are not vigorous in cultivating the Great Vehicle Dharma. Such cultivators are born as humans, as wealthy and honored people. They are, however, not very bright. Although they are very wealthy and honored, they are very stupid. Because they uphold the precepts very strictly, they are wealthy and honored. Because they did not read or recite the Great Vehicle Sutras or investigate the Buddhadharma, they lack wisdom. Thus, they are rather stupid--not totally stupid, but not overly intelligent either.

Others are “quick with the Vehicle and quick with the precepts.” While making speedy progress in their cultivation of the Great Vehicle Buddhadharma, they keep the precepts well. They are extremely dedicated in their investigation of the Buddhadharma. Such people can perhaps certify to the fruit or, if they don’t certify to the fruit, they can be reborn in the heavens and enjoy divine blessings.

Still others are “slow with the Vehicle and with the precepts.” They don’t cultivate the Great Vehicle Buddhadharma and they don’t keep the precepts. All day they are lazy as can be. Some who have not left the home life do not investigate Buddhism or practice it and are very lazy. There are even those who have left home who do not investigate the Buddhadharma and are extremely lazy. In the morning they sleep in until ten o’clock. Then they rise. And at night they retire early.

They say,

‘Tho the sun has risen three hundred feet the monk has still not risen;
But scheming for name and fame is not as good as doing nothing.

The sun is high in the sky but the monk is still sound asleep in bed. But seeking for name and plotting for fame is not as good as just being lazy and not doing anything at all. Laziness is better by far!

Lazy, they are slow with the Vehicle and with the precepts. They don’t keep the precepts and don’t investigate the Buddhadharma. They claim to have left home; it’s only a name because they don’t actually cultivate--they don’t work hard. They may be fond of sneaking off to take it easy. The minute there is work to do, they retreat. But if there is something good to eat, they are the first ones to sneak a bite. They are good at eating but lazy in doing. In this way they fall into hell; they run off to the hells. There, since they love to eat, they are free to eat from morning to night. What do they eat? Pills of hot iron.

You’d rather not work or study? You won’t have to do anything there at all, except undergo punishment. Perhaps you will be fried in oil, thrown onto a mountain of knives, on the sword trees, or into the cauldrons of boiling oil--you can have a taste of that. Why? Because you are lazy! We’ll see if you are still lazy once you get there. This is what happens to people who neglect both the Vehicle and the precepts.

In the Dharma Flower Sutra Assembly, there were eight dragon kings present. There were also a great many small dragons.

This reminds me of when I was in Manchuria, my disciple, Guo Shun, the disciple who set himself on fire, was quick with the Vehicle and with the precepts. He maintained the precepts and cultivated the Great Vehicle Buddhadharma. He built a small grass hut, about eight by eight. When he asked me to perform the opening ceremony, called “opening the light,” I went with several of my disciples, Guo Neng, Guo Zhi, Guo Zuo, and Guo Ying. That night, I stayed in the hut and ten dragons came by asking to take refuge with the Triple Jewel.

As the weather had been extremely hot and there hadn’t been any rain for a long time, I asked the ten dragons, “Dragons are in charge of the rain. Why haven’t you made it rain? And you want to take refuge?”

The dragons replied, “Before it can rain, we have to have an order from God Shakra, that is Shakra Devanam Indrah. Without his order, we wouldn’t dare just casually make it rain.”

So I said to the dragons, “You go and tell Shakra that I am asking for rain within a thirteen-mile radius of this hut. If you persuade Shakra to permit rain tomorrow then the day after tomorrow, I shall transmit the Three Refuges to you and accept you as disciples of the Buddha.”

Sure enough, the next day it rained in, as a matter of fact, a radius of just thirteen miles around the hut where I was standing. No rain fell outside of a thirteen-mile radius. On the following day, I transmitted the Refuges to the ten dragons. After taking refuge, they began to cultivate.

I gave the dragons the name “Hurry and Cultivate.”

Now, this may sound like a myth, but in reality there is nothing in the least mythical about it. It was my own personal experience.

Dragons can undergo an infinite variety of transformations by means of their spiritual penetrations.

There were eight dragon kings. Present at the Dharma Flower Sutra Assembly were eight dragon kings: The Dragon King Nanda, the Dragon King Upananda.The first was Nanda. Nanda is Sanskrit and means “bliss”. Upananda means “wholesome bliss”. These two dragon kings were brothers. In the past, they were very unruly. Later they met and were tamed by Mahamaudgalyayana. Now they have become Dharma Protectors who have come to the Dharma Flower Assembly to listen to the Sutra. The two dragon brothers, Bliss and Wholesome Bliss, guard Magadha, regulating the winds and rain and insuring good crops, benefiting the population greatly.

The Dragon King Sagara. Sagara means “ocean”. He is a dragon king who lives in the sea.

The Dragon King Vasuki. Vasuki means “many heads”. A single dragon body may have nine heads, twelve heads, fifteen heads--three or seven heads.

The Dragon King Takshaka. Takshaka means “putting forth poison”. He puts forth many lethal vapors.

The Dragon King Anavatapta. Anavatapta means “no heat”.

The Dragon King Manasvin. His name means “large body,” because he is very big.

The Dragon King Utpalaka, which means “blue lotus”.

And others, each with his retinue of several hundreds of thousand followers. Not only were these eight dragon kings present, but there were also a lot more. Each dragon king brought along a flock of dragon sons and dragon grandsons, lots of little dragons, several hundreds of thousands of them in their train.

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