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Chapter 1



There were four kinnara kings: the Kinnara King Dharma, the Kinnara King Fine Dharma, the Kinnara King Great Dharma, and the Kinnara King Upholder of Dharma, each with his retinue of several hundreds of thousands of followers.


E4. the Kinnaras


There were four kinnara kings. Not only were there dragons present in the assembly, but there were also kinnara kings. Kinnaras are one of the Eight Classes of Supernatural Beings. The Eight Classes of Supernatural Beings include the gods, dragons, yakshas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, and mahoragas. “Kinnara” means “doubtful spirit”, because they resemble human beings, but they have a horn on their head.

Kinnaras are musicians in the court of the Jade Emperor (Shakra).

The Kinnara King Dharma. There was a doubtful spirit called Dharma who has many dharmas or methods of making music.

The Kinnara King Fine Dharma not only has many dharmas for making music, but they are extremely fine. His music is such that it impresses all who hear it.

The Kinnara King Great Dharma and the Kinnara King Upholder of Dharma. The Kinnara King Great Dharma makes music of magnificent sounds. His Dharma is great, and so are the sounds of his music. The music made by the doubtful spirit Upholder of Dharma leads people to bring forth hearts which delight in cultivating according to Dharma.

Fine Dharma’s music not only leads people to study and practice the Buddhadharma, but it also expresses the fine and subtle sounds of Dharma. The music made by Great Dharma expresses the greatness and expansiveness of the Buddhadharma. Upholder of Dharma’s music is not only delightful to hear, it also makes people want to cultivate according to the Dharma, to receive and uphold the Dharma.

Each with his retinue of several hundreds of thousands of followers. Each kinnara king was accompanied by a lot of followers, several hundreds, or several thousands, or perhaps several tens of thousands of them in their train.


There were four gandharva kings: the Gandharva King Music, the Gandharva King Musical Sound, the Gandharva King Beautiful, and the Gandharva King Beautiful Sound, each with his following of several hundreds of thousands of followers.


E5. the gandharvas


Gandharvas are also musical spirits in the Jade Emperor’s court. Hearing that the kinnaras and gandharvas are musicians, we should not become attached to the fact and say, “In Buddhism, there are the kinnara kings and the gandharva kings who make music,” and then use it as an excuse to study music. You should know that they made music for the Jade Emperor. It was not made within the Buddhadharma. After taking refuge with the Buddha, they became Buddhism’s Dharma Protectors and are listed with the Eight Classes of Supernatural Beings, some of which are ghosts and some spirits who protect the Buddhadharma. This is not a recommendation that you study music.

There were four gandharva kings. Gandharva is a Sanskrit word which means “incense inhalers” because they particularly like the smell of incense. When the Jade Emperor wishes to make music, he just burns some ox-head chandana incense, and when the gandharvas smell it, they come to make extremely fine music.

The first was the Gandharva King Music, a talented musician. The Gandharva King Musical Sound made even better music than the Gandharva King Music. The Gandharva King Beautiful. His music was exquisitely beautiful, not only melodic, but elegant as well. The Gandharva King Beautiful Sound was the last of the gandharva kings.

Each with his retinue of several hundreds of thousands of followers. There were lots of little gandharvas in their train, and also lots of little kinnaras--all came to hear the Buddha speak the Dharma.

Don’t be like a certain singer who goes around chirping like a bird and singing a song for everyone he sees. Don’t be like that. What is more, that person is always making excuses for himself to me saying, “Of the eighty-four thousand Dharma doors, this is one!” He says that making music is one of the Dharma doors, but he’s utterly shameless. He is attached to and caught up in music, and so he tries to snag others into becoming attached to it as well. It’s truly pitiful.


There were four asura kings: the Asura King Balin, the Asura King Kharaskandha, the Asura King Vemachitrin, and the Asura King Rahu, each with his retinue of several hundreds of thousands of followers.


E6. the asuras


Asura is a Sanskrit word which is interpreted “without wine” for they have no wine to drink. It is also interpreted as “ugly” because they have a very repulsive appearance. This applies only to the men, because the women are very beautiful. They are called “without wine”, because they have the blessings of gods but not the authority of the gods. Asuras may be found in the realms of the gods, people, hungry ghosts, and animals.

Asuras are of a hostile temperament; they relish fighting. They like to wage and win wars. In the heavens a group of asuras are especially war-like and are constantly battling with the heavenly generals and troops. As I have told you many times before, the Asura King Vemachitrin had a beautiful daughter named Shachi to whom the Jade Emperor became engaged. Why did he want to marry her? The Jade Emperor still has thoughts of desire as well as a body. Because he has not severed thoughts of sexual desire, he likes beautiful women. One day, catching sight of the beautiful asura girl, he became enamored of her and asked the asura king for his daughter’s hand in marriage. The asura king thought, “The Jade Emperor’s got a lot of power,” and he consented.

After they were married, the Jade Emperor liked to listen to an immortal speak the Dharma. Because he went to lectures every day, the asura girl soon grew suspicious. “He goes out every day and never gets home until late at night. Most likely he’s out playing around with other women.” Finally, she confronted him, “Just where do you go every day? You wouldn’t be conducting some improper business on the side, would you?”

“No,” said the Jade Emperor. “I go to lectures on the Sutras every day and that’s why I’m always home late. You shouldn’t be suspicious.”

The asura girl, not believing he was going to Sutra lectures, decided he must certainly be up to no good. The asura girl had a certain amount of spiritual power and was able to make herself invisible. She could be standing in one spot and ordinary people with mortal eyes, or even the Jade Emperor, with his heavenly eyes, couldn’t see her.

So, one day when as usual the Jade Emperor got in his chariot and headed for the lecture, the asura girl made herself invisible and rode along. Upon arriving, the Jade Emperor got out of the chariot and so did the asura girl. Then she materialized.

“What are you doing here?” asked the Jade Emperor in surprise.

“What are youdoing here?” she snorted.

“I’ve come to listen to the Sutra lecture,” he said.

“Well, so have I,” she countered.

Now, the Jade Emperor is still a common mortal; he’s not a certified sage by any means, and so he sometimes gets afflicted. This time, he picked up his lotus flower whip and lashed the asura girl. The asura girl was furious and went directly to her father.

Previously, when the Jade Emperor was about to be married, he had invited the asura king to a banquet. As a gesture of respect to his new father-in-law, he sent out his heavenly generals and troops to welcome him. However, the asura king was suspicious and was displeased at the Jade Emperor’s display of power.

Now his daughter returned with the report that the Jade Emperor was not following the rules at all. “Every day he goes out with other women,” she said. “And today, when I tried to talk to him about it, he struck me!” At this, the asura king became enraged. “Jade Emperor,” he stormed, “this means war! We’re going to fight to the finish,” and he mobilized the asura troops against the Jade Emperor.

Strangely enough, the Jade Emperor lost battle after battle and could find no way to overcome the asura king. Finally he had no recourse but to ask the Buddha for help. The Buddha told him to instruct his troops all to recite “Mahaprajnaparamita!” As they went into battle, they recited the phrase “Mahaprajnaparamita!” The asuras lost battle after battle until they had retreated as far as they could and were backed up into a lotus seedpod.

Why was the asura king unable to withstand “Mahaprajnaparamita!”? It‘s very simple. Before they recited it, they would win a battle and then lose a battle; after they recited the phrase the Buddha taught them, they won continuously. Previously, the asuras and the heavenly troops had been more or less equal in strength.

Neither side had any wisdom to speak of, and their battles were utterly chaotic. When the heavenly troops recited “Mahaprajnaparamita” they attained great wisdom while the asuras still had none. When those without wisdom fight those with wisdom they invariably lose. So the asuras were very stupid and the heavenly troops were very wise. When the wise battle against the stupid, sooner or later, the stupid ones always lose. Such was the situation between the asuras and the heavenly troops.

More than anything, asuras like to fight. We can take a look at the people in the world: whoever likes to fight is an asura. Asuras aren’t necessarily found only in the heavens. Human beings who like strife and war are transformation bodies of asuras. They liked to fight when they were in the heavens, and they continue to do so as people.

There were four asura kings: the Asura King Balin. Balin means “fettered” because he was tied up. Who tied him up? He was tied up by the heavenly troops.

The Asura King Kharaskandha. Kharaskandha means “broad shoulder blades” because his shoulders were especially broad and he was very powerful.

The Asura King Vemachitrin. Vemachitrin was the asura king just mentioned who fought the Jade Emperor. Although he was terribly ugly, his daughter was remarkably beautiful. After his battle with the Jade Emperor, he ended up retreating into the seedpod of a lotus. His name means “sea water wave sound”.

The Asura King Rahu. Rahu means “obstructing and holding”, for when he raises his hand he can blot out the light of the sun and moon. One could explain his name in many ways. You might say he can obstruct afflictions; you might also say that he is obstructed by afflictions. If you say he can obstruct afflictions, then he has no afflictions; that’s one explanation. You could also say that he has been obstructed by afflictions so that all day long he gets angry and wants to pick a fight.

Each with his retinue of several hundreds of thousands of followers. Each asura brought along a great many followers.


There were four garuda kings: the Garuda King Great Majesty, the Garuda King Great Body, the Garuda King Great Fullness, and the Garuda King As You Will, each with his own retinue of several hundreds of thousands of followers.


E7. the garudas


There were four garuda kings. What’s a garuda king? Those of you who have heard Sutras explained, will know. Those who haven’t will know after I explain it. Garuda is Sanskrit. It means “the great golden-winged peng bird.” They are not born from eggs, but from the womb or from transformation. Their bodies are immense and they have a wing-spread of 300 yojanas, a yojana being 80 li, a li being about one third of a mile. When he flaps his wings, the entire ocean dries up, exposing all the dragons who live in its depths. The peng bird then eats the dragons, one by one, just like we eat noodles.

Chickens and birds eat worms, and worms belong to the same category as dragons. In fact, most insects recognize dragons as their rulers. The small birds eat small worms; the big birds eat big worms--that is the peng birds eat dragons. Dragons are simply big worms. Well, the peng birds had been eating the dragons for quite a while, until finally the dragons were on the verge of extinction.

The reason we don’t see dragons around in this world anymore is because, for the most part, they were eaten by the peng birds. If, however, the dragons became extinct, the peng birds would have nothing to eat and would also starve. This is why we don’t see many peng birds around either. As the dragons disappeared, the peng birds lost their sustenance and began to diminish as well. So, if we in the world have nothing to eat we will also become extinct.

Finally the dragons went to the Buddha pleading for help. “The race of dragons is facing extinction,” they said, “because we are truly no match for the peng birds. With their spiritual strength, they can cause the oceans to dry up with a single mighty flap of their wings. Because we have no place to hide, they are eating us so fast that soon the race of dragons will entirely disappear.”

Then Shakyamuni Buddha took one of his old precept sashes--not a new one--and said, “Take this back with you and give one thread of it to each dragon to wear, and the peng birds will not be able to see you.” The dragons returned and followed the Buddha’s instructions and sure enough, the next time the pengbirds flapped at the ocean, they saw no dragons on the bottom. When they figured out that the Buddha had helped the dragons, they went to the Buddha to argue their side of the case.

“You’ve helped the dragons,” they said, “but now we have nothing to eat and we’re going to starve to death. What’s to be done?”

Shakyamuni Buddha said, “You won’t starve. Don’t eat the dragons. After this, I will instruct my disciples to send out part of their meal for you to eat, every day at noon.”

This is why, when we perform the noon meal offering, when we send out a bit of food for them, we recite this verse:

The great peng, the golden-winged bird,
And all the ghosts and spirits in the wilds,
The rakshasa ghost mother and her children--
May they all be filled with sweet dew.

And we give the peng birds their food.

From that time on, the peng birds did not eat the dragons. Nevertheless, they had managed to eat most of them and now only a few dragons remain. There are only four or five dragons left, one in each ocean or so, and they are rarely seen. The great peng birds took refuge with the Triple Jewel, and you may have seen their pictures in various books.

However, although the peng birds are huge, they have spiritual penetrations and can make themselves small. They are more or less like the dragons in that respect. Dragons can perform transformations themselves and they are peng bird food, so of course the spiritual penetrations of the peng birds must be inconceivable. Don’t think that the spiritual penetrations of dragons are so special, because those of the great peng are even greater.

There were four Garuda Kings: the Garuda King Great Majesty. He soars into empty space and fills the heavens and covers the earth with his majestic, awesome presence.

The Garuda King Great Body. Garuda kings are big enough to begin with, but this one is massive, bigger than the average garuda. Even he is not as big as the Garuda King Great Fullness. He’s so big that when he lands on the ocean, he displaces every drop of water in it, completely filling it.

The Garuda King As You Will. There was yet another garuda king called As You Will. As you like it, just as your heart wishes it to be, everything’s just the way it should be. If he wants to eat dragons they jump right into his beak. He doesn’t even have to flap his wings at the ocean to get his dragon meals because as soon as he thinks about eating a dragon they pop right into his mouth. He just says, “Here! Here! I want to eat you!” and the dragons obediently comply for the Garuda King As You Will.

Each with his retinue of several hundreds of thousands of followers. A great number of them all came to join the Dharma Flower Assembly.


There was Vaidehi’s son, the King Ajatashatru, with his retinue of several hundreds of thousands of followers. Each made obeisance to the Buddha’s feet, withdrew to one side and sat down.


E8. the humans

C2. Summation


There was Vaidehi’s son, the King Ajatashatru. Vaidehi is Sanskrit and means “consider”. Vaidehi had a son named Ajatashatru. Ajatashatru means “hated before birth”. Before he was born many inauspicious events took place. His name also means “fingerless”, because when he was born, his mother hated him so intensely that she bit off one of his little fingers.

Ajatashatru committed every evil deed including all of the Five Rebellious Acts--that is, unpardonable offenses. He 1) killed his father, 2) killed his mother, 3) killed an Arhat--a certified sage--4) shed the Buddha’s blood--one time he threw a rock at the Buddha and it hit him on the foot and drew his blood--and 5) broke up the harmony of the Sangha. Those of you who have read the Sutra of the Sixteen Contemplations will know the causes and conditions surrounding these events.

As a Prince, Ajatashatru was Devadatta’s friend. Although Devadatta was the Buddha’s cousin, he did everything he could to slander and ruin the Buddha, behaving in an entirely strange and sinister fashion. Knowing that the prince was heir to the throne, he cultivated his friendship and then persuaded him to kill his own father and mother so that the prince could become king. Then, as King, he could have the Buddha killed too and Devadatta would be proclaimed as the “new Buddha”. As the “new king” and the “new Buddha”, the two of them could then together rule the world. So, despite the Buddha’s awesome virtue, his own cousin was his bitter enemy.

Acting on Devadatta’s ill advice, the prince had his father imprisoned in a dungeon, surrounded by seven walls. One had to pass through seven doors in seven walls to get in. It was impregnable, stronger than even iron or brass. He denied him food and water until he was on the verge of starvation. Such were the prince’s commands and with the king in jail, no one dared protest them.

Because Vaidehi loved her husband very much, she managed to sneak in to see him. In those days, women wore head ornaments studded with hollow beads. Vaidehi filled the beads with grape juice. Wearing them on her head, she stole in to see her husband and gave him the juice to drink.

What kind of a son had they given birth to who would want to starve his own father to death?

When the king had drunk the grape juice, the two of them sat there in the jail cell and began to cry. The king thought, “Shakyamuni Buddha is a greatly enlightened one, complete with all-knowledge. He certainly knows how I have been suffering here in jail. He should rescue me!” Just as he thought of the Buddha, the Buddha knew, and he sent Great Maudgalyayana, his disciple, to speak the Dharma to him every day, and teach him how to cultivate and apply effort.

Vaidehi bowed in the direction of Mount Grdhrakuta, where the Buddha resided. Then the Buddha himself came to see her and she wept saying, “This world is too full of suffering. I don’t wish to dwell in it any more. I want to find a better world where I won’t have to undergo so much pain. My own son wants to kill me. What is the good of remaining in this world?” She asked the Buddha to point out a bright road for her rebirth in another world. The Buddha spoke the Sutra of Sixteen Contemplations which are sixteen methods of contemplation teaching one how to seek rebirth in the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss by reciting the name “Namo Amitabha Buddha.” Vaidehi and her husband cultivated that Dharma accordingly and later were reborn there.

King Ajatashatru killed his mother and father, created disharmony within the Sangha, killed Arhats, and shed the Buddha’s blood. These Five Rebellious Acts basically cannot be repented of. There is no way to save one who has committed them. However, later, realizing his mistakes, he stood before the Buddhas, wept bitter tears, and brought forth deep repentance. Because he completely reformed himself, the Buddha relieved him of his offenses. Thus he was able to attend the Dharma Flower Assembly. King Ajatashatru was the foulest and most evil of men, but he later reformed his faults and went towards the good. He came to the assembly with his retinue of several hundreds of thousands of followers, kings, great ministers, and the common people, all of whom came to hear the Sutra.

Each bowed his head at the Buddha’s feet, withdrew to one side, and sat down. The above mentioned gods, dragons, and the entire eightfold division, as well as all the people, bowed to the Buddha. Then they returned to their proper places and sat down.


At that time, the World Honored One, having been circumambulated by the fourfold assembly, presented with offerings, honored, venerated, and praised.


A2. Specific explanation of roots and branches of Sutra.

B1. branches division: opening provisional to reveal real (from here up to and including Chapter 14).

C1. intro. section (from here to end of Chapter 1).

D1. gathering of the assembly.


Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Upasakas, and Upasikas are the four assemblies of disciples. It may also be said they are 1) the initiating assembly, 2) the interlocutory assembly, 3) the influential assembly, and 4) the assembly which creates affinities.

Bhikshus, men who have left home, and Bhikshunis, women who have left home, are the two assemblies of left-home disciples. Upasakas are male lay people; Upasikas are female lay people. Together they make up the two assemblies of those at home. These are the four assemblies of disciples. Upasaka and Upasika are Sanskrit words which mean “men who draw near and serve,” and “women who draw near and serve,” respectively. They draw near the monasteries and the temples and the Triple Jewel to aid and assist them in their affairs. They make up the two “outer assemblies”--the Dharma Protectors.

Bhikshu has three meanings: 1) mendicant, 2) frightener of Mara, and 3) destroyer of evil. Bhikshuni also has these three meanings. They are the two “inner assemblies”--the Buddha’s retinue, the assembly which practices the Dharma.

As to the second set of four assemblies, the first, the initiatory assembly understands the Buddha’s purpose. Their causal affinities have already matured so that they initiate through their questions the Buddha’s explanation of points of doctrine. They have wisdom and the ability to devise provisional methods, that is, the wisdom to set up clever expedient devices. They are able to perceive the potentials of beings present and to know the appropriate time a given Dharma should be spoken. Then they take the initiative and ask the Buddha to speak Dharma, acting as the initiatory assembly.

The second is the interlocutory assembly. These are the ones whom the Buddha directly addresses in speaking the Dharma. For example, in the Vajra Sutra, Subhuti is the interlocutory assembly. In the Amitabha Sutra, Shariputra is the interlocutor, along with all the other Great Bodhisattvas and Great Arhats. The other Sutras all have their interlocutory assemblies as well. In the Shurangama Sutra, for example, Ananda is the interlocutor, along with the Twenty-five Sages.

The third is the influential assembly. Those in this assembly already understand the Buddhadharma and they do not necessarily need to hear it preached. These Great Bodhisattvas have already frequently heard the Buddha speak Dharma, but they still come to support the Dharma Assembly and act as an influence on the others who see them and think, “The Great Bodhisattvas have come to hear the Sutra,” and so they too delight in listening. Without the Great Bodhisattvas in the audience, they might have thoughts of disbelief. “Nobody comes to listen to the Sutra,” they might think. “Probably the Sutras the Buddha speaks are meaningless.”

But when the Great Bodhisattvas come to hear the Sutra, the Arhats, the Bhikshus, and Bhikshunis, Upasakas, and Upasikas see them and think, “The Great Bodhisattvas have come!” Their hearts grow faithful and sincere. They stare unblinkingly; their spirits are in rapt attention and they clean out their ears and listen respectfully. Their eyes don’t turn away; their spirits are fixed attentively, and they listen to the Buddha preach the Dharma as if they had just washed their ears clean--with the utmost reverence. Why? Because they have been influenced by the influential assembly which has secretly aided them in bringing forth the resolve to listen.

The fourth is the assembly which creates affinities. They feel that they have no Dharma affinities with people to speak of, and so they go to the Dharma Assembly to create them.

What is meant by “creating affinities”?

In America, there are few Dharma Assemblies, but in China, Sutras are lectured in many Dharma Assemblies. People will buy candy and give each member of the audience perhaps three pieces, or five, dividing it between them; and then they all eat candy. Or they may buy cookies for everyone. First they offer them to the Buddha, next to the Dharma, then to the Sangha; they save some for everyone, giving it to them in order to create affinities. Others buy fruit or other things which people like to eat in order to establish this connection.

Why do they wish to create affinities?

It is because they feel they have no affinities with people. They don’t get along with their relatives, and their “friends” don’t care for them. Nobody likes them at all in fact and so they want to create affinities with others by giving them food or small gifts.

Some give money. In China, the audiences consist mainly of those who have left-home, not lay people. The lay people may buy cloth or other necessities to present as offerings to those who have left home. This is the assembly which creates affinities with those in the Dharma Assembly, the last of the fourfold assembly of disciples.

At that time the World Honored One, having been circumambulated by the fourfold assembly. In the Dharma Flower Assembly, the fourfold assembly was present in its entirety. What is meant by circumambulated? In Chinese it is made up of two words which means “to encircle” and “to wind around”. It means to walk around something in a circle as we did when we installed the Buddha image and then walked around it reciting “Namo Amitabha Buddha”. In Buddhism, as a matter of ceremony, one circumambulates the Buddha three times, keeping the Buddha to one’s right, in other words, a clockwise circle.

And after this, everyone should remember that when we have a gathering we should stand in line and progress clockwise in an orderly fashion when serving ourselves lunch. If everyone goes in opposite directions, collisions will occur and everyone will feel crowded and pushed. If everyone proceeds clockwise in an orderly fashion, no one will bump heads.

After the Buddha realized Buddhahood, people did not know how to pay reverence to him. So then some gods from the Five Pure Dwelling Heavens transformed into people and appeared before the Buddha. They circumambulated him three times to the right, bowed in worship, retreated to one side, and then sat down in order to serve as an example--to show the humans how to properly worship the Buddha. This is the meaning of “circumambulate”.

Presented with offerings, honored, venerated, and praised. Not only did they circumambulate the Buddha and bow before him, but they also made offerings to him. So many people! What did they give him? They presented him with an offering of a true, respectful heart. So it says, “honored, venerated”. Honored means that they put their five limbs--knees, elbows, and forehead--on the ground, prostrating themselves in worship. In Buddhism, bowing in this way is the highest form of paying respect.

They venerated the Buddha and they also praised him. We are praising the Buddha when we recite Sutras or verses, as for example, the verse in praise of Amitabha Buddha which begins, “Amitabha’s body is the color of gold. The splendor of his hallmarks has no peer.” Another verse goes:

In the heavens and below there is no one like the Buddha;
In the worlds of the ten directions he is without equal.
I have seen everything in the world that there is to see,
And there’s nothing in it that compares with the Buddha.

All the praises of the Buddha, the World Honored One, lauding him as most venerable, honored and esteemed, are spoken to praise and laud him.

To say a few more words about creating affinities: It is extremely important to do so, for if you do not, no matter how well intended you are towards someone they will be displeased with you. Why is this? Because no affinity exists between you.

Long ago, there was an extremely intelligent Dharma Master who could memorize the Sutras after simply reading them once. He was not as dull-witted as I am; I have to read them three times before I can remember them. He could remember them after the first reading. He could also lecture on all the Sutras; he did it so well that, because of his unobstructed eloquence, even the gods came to hear him.

However, although the gods came, no people came to hear him. Why did the gods attend? Because his lectures were just too wonderful. Why didn’t any people show up? Because he simply had no affinities with people. Since he was wise, he understood the reason, the workings of cause and effect behind it, and he went to live in the mountains. He bought a lot of rice and sat in the mountains and fed the birds. From morning to night he recited the Great Compassion Mantra and the Shurangama Mantra over the rice and contemplated all the birds thinking, “All the birds who eat my rice shall in their next life become people, casting off their animal bodies.”

He continued to spend his days feeding all the birds on the mountain and the birds spread the word among themselves that there was food. The news passed down the grapevine and soon they came in great flocks to eat the rice. He did this for twenty years and then went back down the mountain and began lecturing on the Sutras again. This time, things were entirely different. The young people in the area flocked to listen to his lectures. Not only did they listen, but they were extremely respectful of him and honored him with five-point prostrations. They were obedient and did exactly as they were told, completely faithful to him.

And where did the young people come from?

They were the birds who had cast off their bird bodies and become humans. Because they had been nourished by the Dharma Master’s Dharma food and obtained such benefit, as people, they did not forget the kindness he had shown them and came to support him.

Here, we have three masters--four including myself--and when I lecture, I don’t care if anyone listens or not. But in the future if no one comes to listen to your lectures, you can go feed the birds. After you’ve fed them, there will be plenty of people to listen to you.

Because the Dharma Master created affinities with the birds, when the birds became people they came to hear the Buddhadharma. So everyone should pay attention to this point and seek to create affinities with everyone. This is why you should not lose your tempers or rage at people. If you do that, you will have no affinities with them and you‘ll turn into “loner” Dharma Masters. No one will believe in you and wherever you go, no one will make offerings to you. In the future, you may even starve to death, but it’s not for sure.

Today, I will explain “making offerings”. Offerings should be made with a true heart, with a sincere heart.

What is a true heart? And what is a sincere heart?

With a true heart, you give up that which you cannot give up. That’s the true heart. It means giving up that which you love most. If you can renounce it, that’s the true heart.

What is a sincere heart? A sincere heart is an unscattered heart. With a sincere heart, when you do something, you do it straightforwardly, with great earnestness. It also means to “turn your thoughts to one,” to have a single heart--not two hearts--when making offerings.

Long ago, there was a beggar who saw that everyone made offerings to the Triple Jewel, in order to foster merit and virtue. He thought that, although he didn’t have much money, he would use all the money he had to buy a pint of oil and present it as an offering to the permanent dwelling, the temple, the Triple Jewel--the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.

The Abbot of the temple had attained the Penetration of the Heavenly Eye, and when the beggar arrived at the temple gate, the Abbot was there to greet him. He escorted him back to the temple, inviting him to his own quarters, and was most attentive to him. He even asked him to stay for lunch.

Not long after that, another man who was very rich sent a lou of oil, about two or three hundred pounds, several hundred times the amount the beggar had given as an offering to the Triple Jewel. However, the Abbot merely sent the Guest Prefect to greet him and did not go himself. The monks and novices did not understand his actions and asked him, “Why did you go to escort a poor beggar who gave only a pint of oil and ask him to your own quarters to eat lunch, and then when someone else sent three hundred pints, three hundred times the beggar’s gift, you did not attend to him yourself? We are quite puzzled about this and would ask you, Abbot, please to explain.”

The Abbot said, “You don’t understand. The poor man who gave one pint as an offering used all the money he had to buy it. Would you say he was sincere or not? The one who bought three hundred pints was wealthy. He not only could have bought three hundred pints, but 30,000 pints or even more, and so for him, the offering was nothing special at all. The poor man with a true heart renounced that which is difficult to renounce. He exhausted his entire worldly resources to make the offering. If he were not a great Dharma Protector could he have done something like that? That is why I went to greet him and invite him to lunch. The other man was terribly wealthy and his gift of three hundred pints was just like one hair from nine cows. Why should I have looked after him?”

From this we can see that in making offerings to the Triple Jewel you must renounce what is hard to renounce and give what is hard to give, then the merit and virtue accrued is great. Those who are wealthy did not gain their wealth in this present life only. Because in previous lives they were able to renounce that which is hard to renounce and do what is hard to do, they are wealthy in their present life.

This is what the Abbot said to the novices and monks by way of explanation, and after that they understood the principle that when making offerings to the Triple Jewel, one must use a sincere and true heart.

Honored means one honors with the body and the mind. It should not be that the body honors but mind does not. Nor should it be that the mind honors but the body does not. Both the body and mind should honor, within and without--a unity. That is what is meant by “honored”. Venerated means not to treat with disrespect. Praise means to laud the Buddha with verses--ten million of them, telling how rare the Buddha is.

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