The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra
Chapter 10: Masters of the Dharma
With Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
Medicine King, I tell you now,
Of all the Sutras I have spoken,
The Dharma Flower is foremost.”
H3. Conclusion: praising the Sutra as foremost.
Why do I say that The Shurangama Sutra is the Sutra for developing wisdom and The Dharma Flower is the Sutra for becoming a Buddha? It is because The Dharma Flower Sutra is the Buddha’s Dharma body. It is the real body of the Buddha. It is the Buddha’s Reward body. The Buddha’s clear, pure Dharma body; Vairochana Buddha is also The Dharma Flower Sutra. The perfect, full Reward body, Nishyanda Buddha is also The Dharma Flower Sutra. The one hundred thousand million transformation bodies are also The Dharma Flower Sutra. Within The Dharma Flower Sutra you will find the Three Bodies of the Buddha, the Four Wisdoms of the Buddha, the Five Eyes and Six Penetrations of the Buddha as well. The Dharma Flower Sutra is the king of Sutras. So now, Shakyamuni Buddha is not afraid of taking the trouble to tell Medicine King Bodhisattva.
Medicine King, I tell you now: of all the Sutras I have spoken--from the Avatamsaka, through the Agama, Vaipulya and Prajna periods of my teaching—all the Sutras that I spoke. The final perfect teaching of The Dharma Flower is foremost. The Dharma Flower Sutra is number one among the number ones! Now that you are able to listen to it be explained, even so much as a single sentence, means that you are establishing affinities with The Dharma Flower Sutra, whether you believe it or not, or understand it or not. If you come here to listen to the lecture, you are setting up affinities in The Dharma Flower assembly. Hearing the Sutra should make you happier than eating the best of food. If this is the case, then you have affinities with the Sutra. If you believe in The Dharma Flower Sutra and understand this wonderful Dharma, the seed of the wonderful Dharma has been planted in you.
Originally, the wonderful Dharma is something that cannot be understood, but if now you understand it, or even if you do not understand it, the seed has been planted in you. You might want to get rid of it, but you cannot. In the future, when those 2,000 who study become Buddhas, all with the same name, you will be able to attend their Dharma assemblies. If you are vigorous, then sooner than that you will be able to hear The Dharma Flower Sutra and draw near to all the Buddhas. If you are vigorous, you might become Buddhas before Ananda and Rahula do. Why? It is because becoming a Buddha all depends on how vigorous you are. If you are vigorous, you go forward. If not, you fall behind.
Take Maitreya Bodhisattva, for example. He should have become a Buddha long ago. Ananda should have become a Buddha already too, but he concentrated on studying and set himself back behind Shakyamuni Buddha. Maitreya Bodhisattva was seeking fame and so he has not become a Buddha yet. Shakyamuni Buddha cultivated vigorously and became a Buddha, and Maitreya Bodhisattva will become a Buddha next.
His Dharma Assembly will be called Dragon Flower. So we say,
See you again in the Dragon Flower Assembly!
In the future we will all draw near to that fat Bodhisattva, Maitreya. If you want to meet this Bodhisattva, you can not only do so, but you can be him yourself. If your stomach is real big, then you are Maitreya Bodhisattva. If his stomach is real big, then he is Maitreya Bodhisattva. If their stomachs are real big then they are all Maitreya Bodhisattva.
You think, “A big stomach is a lot of trouble. It is real heavy when you try to walk around and when you eat you have to eat so much food.”
I agree. I had a big stomach for a while, and I always felt that my two legs could not quite support my body. Now, I have lost weight, and I do not eat too much. I really hate excess fat!
“Then why does one have to have a big stomach to be Maitreya Bodhisattva?”
Good question! “Big stomach” means that he is able to bear up, to be patient and yielding. He bears what others cannot bear, yields where others cannot yield. He eats what others cannot eat.
This is like when I told my disciple Guo Shun, “You must be able to eat what others cannot eat.” This does not mean that you eat all the good food before other people get a chance to eat any. It means that you eat the things other people do not like to eat.
To do what others cannot do means that you do humble and toilsome work that other people avoid. You do the dirty work, like cleaning the toilet. Even though we have sanitary toilets, they still are not as fragrant as the kitchens, right? I am telling it like it is. I speak Sutras for the common people! If you are a person, you can understand it. If you are an animal, you might have trouble! Ha!
So you bear what others cannot bear. Originally, if someone above you scolds you or hits you, you might be able to stand it. But let us say that someone beneath you scolds you or hits you and you can take it, then that is genuine patience. You cannot say, “I can stand it if my teacher scolds me, but I cannot stand it if my students scold me.” That does not count. If my disciples scold me, I bear it. I just think, “They are just my teacher. There is really no difference.” If you can stand being scolded by your disciples, then you have got some skill. Or suppose, your own son says to you, “You old man! To be old and not die is to be a thief!” Hearing this, you think, “I guess I am a thief. Oh, well, no big deal.” If you can be like that, you have got a stomach pretty much like Maitreya Bodhisattva’s.
To yield where others cannot yield means that you can give up the things others cannot. Say you have five million dollars and you give away five hundred thousand, that does not count. If you have five million dollars and you give away five million dollars, not worrying about whether you will have any for yourself, that is giving what others cannot give.
You think, “But that is really stupid!” It is by being stupid in this way that you can attain great wisdom. If you do not get that stupid, you cannot gain such wisdom.
If you can do these things, it is for sure that you will accomplish your Way karma. I told these things to Guo Shun, and he left home. He was never greedy for anything. In all the years he spent as my disciple, he wore the same set of clothes. He never had a quilted robe or quilted shoes, or anything at all. In Manchuria it is really cold, and he was not afraid of freezing, starving or dying of poverty. He had these “three fearlessnesses.” Later, he immolated himself—he was not afraid of fire, either. His immolation was not a political act of defiance against the government. He did not do it out of anger. He felt that the world was filled with too much pain. He wanted to take the pain of others upon himself and burn himself as an offering to the Buddha. He burned himself in front of the Buddha and dedicated the merit to living beings. So you see that the same act can have a very different motive and meaning, and serve a different purpose.
Someone like Guo Shun did indeed have a “big stomach.” We are not talking about his regular stomach, but about his capacity to be patient. It is said,
With his big stomach, he can bear
All the things in the world that are hard to bear.
He opens his mouth to smile,
Laughing at all the funny people in the world.
He just smiles an inconceivable happy smile, mind you, not a shrill cackle—and laughs at all the people in the world who are stupidly pursuing fame and profit. He should be crying, it is so pitiful, but he smiles instead. They are so upside down he has no way to save them, so he just laughs instead, and thinks of some way to help them. Besides, crying makes you stupid and smiling can give you wisdom.
So do not think Maitreya Bodhisattva got his big stomach by overeating. He manifests that appearance as part of his cultivation to teach and transform living beings.
At that time, the Buddha further told the Bodhisattva, Mahasattva Medicine King, “Of all the limitless thousands of myriads of millions of Sutras I have spoken, am speaking, or will speak, The Dharma Flower is the hardest to believe and the hardest to understand.”
“Medicine King, this Sutra is the treasury of the Buddhas’ secrets and essentials. It must not be distributed or falsely presented to people. That which the Buddhas, the World Honored Ones, have guarded from the distant past until now, has never been explicitly taught. This Sutra incurs much hatred and jealousy even now, when the Thus Come One is present. How much the more so will this be the case after his extinction!”
E2. Praising the Dharma maintained and showing method for propagating the Sutra.
G1. Praising Sutra-Dharma.
H1. Praising the dharma.
At that time, having spoken the above verses, Shakyamuni, the Buddha, out of great compassion, fearing living beings might not understand the Buddha’s doctrines as set forth in the Sutras, further told the Bodhisattva, Mahasattva Medicine King, “Of all the limitless thousands of myriads of millions of Sutras I have spoken, am speaking, or will speak, The Dharma Flower is the hardest to believe and the hardest to understand.” The Dharma Flower Sutra is difficult to believe and understand because it is just too wonderful. The wonderful Dharma is wonderful and “not wonderful” people do not believe in it. This Dharma is wonderful and so “not wonderful” people cannot understand it. It takes wonderful people to believe in and understand the wonderful Dharma.
It is also hard to listen to The Dharma Flower Sutra. All of you here are wonderful people. You sit and do not feel uncomfortable or drowsy, and you do not lose interest. Isn’t this wonderful?
It is not easy to believe the doctrines presented in this Sutra. For example, the above said that if you scolded the Buddha for an eon, your offenses, though great, would not be as great as if you had slandered one who upholds this Sutra for even an instant. This is not easy to believe. But if you are a wonderful person you will believe and understand it. Why can I lecture it to you? It is because I am a wonderful person. Otherwise, how could I explain it to you? This is something you could not disbelieve if you wanted to because it is too wonderful!
Medicine King, this Sutra is the treasury of the Buddhas’ secrets and essentials. Those of you who study Chinese, why do you learn it so fast? It is because by listening to the Sutras it is very easy to develop your wisdom. Once your wisdom has been opened up, you learn everything very easily. But do not look upon it as a very simple process. You do not have any idea how many lifetimes you have studied in order to have this accomplishment. This is not a matter of just this one single lifetime, by any means.
That I can lecture on the Sutras is also not a matter of one single lifetime. Who knows how many lifetimes I studied? I remember long ago, I would read The Dharma Flower Sutra until my eyes bled. Why did they bleed? It is because I did not sleep for many days. I just knelt and read the Sutra. The more I read it the more I wanted to read it and recite it. I forgot about eating and sleeping. When my eyes started to bleed, I did not notice, until the blood fell on the text. Then I knew, “Oh, those are not tears, those are blood.” Since my eyes were acting up like that, I had to rest. That is how I read The Dharma Flower Sutra.
You say, “Dharma Master, you are really too stupid.”
Right. If I were as intelligent as you were, my eyes would not have bled.
Perhaps you are laughing to yourself, “That is right. That is the way it is.”
You may be more intelligent than I am, but you are still my disciple. No matter how smart you are, you are still studying with me. I remember in the past, I read a lot of Sutras like that until my eyes bled. But you should not think that I was always a Dharma Master. I have done everything. I was an Emperor, and an official, all kinds of things. I remember it more or less. That is why I am not interested in being an emperor or a politician, or even a Wheel-turning sage king. It is too much trouble. If you can put things down then there is no trouble.
What is meant by “putting it down”? It means “everything is okay. No problem.” You are then a “wonderful person.” The more you listen to the Sutras, the more wonderful you will find them. If you cannot be like that, then you will have problems listening to the Sutras. You will sit there thinking, “This really is not very interesting. It is pretty dry, in fact. It is in Chinese and has to be translated and uses up a lot of my time. Wouldn’t I be better off out playing somewhere?”
“This Sutra” refers to The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra. If you are reciting the Vajra Sutra, you cannot say this Sutra is The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra. You cannot be like that. When it says “this Sutra” in the Vajra Sutra, that would be referring to the Vajra Sutra and not The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra. The Sutra in which the words “this Sutra” appear is just that Sutra. If it is in The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra, “this Sutra” refers to The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra. If it is in the Varja Sutra, “this Sutra” refers to the Vajra Sutra. If it is in the Amitabha Sutra, “this Sutra” refers to the Amitabha Sutra.
The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra is the storehouse of the secrets and essentials of all the Buddhas. It contains the most secret and essential Dharma of the Buddhas in the ten directions. All the Buddhas think it is the most esoteric of Sutras, and they do not speak it explicitly. It must not be distributed casually among people.
“If this is the case,” you wonder, “then why have so many copies of it been made to be given to people for study?”
It could not be distributed in the past, but now it can be. Do not be attached to no distribution and refuse to distribute it. A long time ago, the Buddhas all took this Sutra to be a treasure, and they did not want to pass it out to everyone. It was a Dharma treasure. This is like the Forty-two Hands & Eyes, a Dharma, which I teach only to my disciples. It is my secret and essential treasury. Or falsely presented to people. You cannot just explain it for everyone. The Buddhas felt this way about The Dharma Flower Sutra. They did not let everyone see it. They did not transmit it to people. Wouldn’t you say we had a great opportunity now? We get to know all these secrets.
That which the Buddhas, the World Honored Ones, have guarded from the distant past until now, has never been explicitly taught. Shakyamuni Buddha says, “The Buddhas of the past took The Dharma Flower Sutra as a secret treasury. Now that I have realized Buddhahood, I have never, until this time, spoken The Dharma Flower Sutra. I spoke the Avatamsaka, Agamas, the Vaipulya, and Prajna Teachings.
This Sutra incurs much hatred and jealousy even now, when the Thus Come One is present. How much the more so will this be the case after his extinction! Why haven’t I spoken The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra? Do you know? It is because most people would not believe or understand it. It would have been useless to explain it. What is more, in speaking the Sutra, the heavenly demons and those of outside ways would get jealous. If you try to propagate the proper Dharma, the demons get angry, because they do not want people to understand the proper Dharma. If people understand the proper Dharma, then their deviant dharmas became useless. Even Shakyamuni Buddha had to be very careful not to arouse jealousy by speaking the Sutra. Just before he was about to enter Nirvana, he went ahead and spoke it anyway, not worrying about it. “If they get angry or jealous, that is too bad. I am still going to speak it. The time has come and I am going to speak it.”
Just think how jealous people will get after the Buddha’s extinction. We should not be surprised that now, as we lecture it week after week, a lot of people get upset. The demon kings are uncomfortable that we are propagating the proper Dharma. They feel we are taking their clientele away from them. Their improper dharmas are no longer of use so they come here and get angry but it is no use. The deviant cannot overcome the proper, so they run away.
When Shakyamuni Buddha was in the world, a lot of outside Ways were jealous of the Buddhadharma. Now, in the Dharma-Ending Age there are even more outside ways. Some of them claim to have spiritual powers. They say that you can put them in the freezer for a hundred years, and they will come back to life. So what? What use were you during those hundred years? Did you benefit yourself or anyone else? Probably not. And what is more is that you might not be able to wake up after that hundred years.
There is another outside way where they worship fire. They light their wine on fire and then drink it saying they drink “fire wine.” People without much sense see this and think, “I saw it with my own eyes. If they did not have some kind of spiritual powers, they could not do this.” But not only do they not have spiritual powers, they do not even have ghostly powers! Obviously the fire will not burn in their stomachs because there is no oxygen in there.
There is another kind of outside way where they say they can walk on fire and not get burnt. It never occurs to people that they could probably do it too—if they walked fast enough! If you want to test them out, ask them to sit down on the fire! If you pour gasoline all over you and still do not burn, then you have some mastery, although that is not the ultimate either. If they do not burn, then you could say they had some skill. But even this is not anything special. It is just deviant magic. These days there are a lot of outside ways. There are some that claim they can drink fantastic amounts of water, even the whole ocean. What use is that? If they drank up the entire ocean, all the fish would dry up and die! That would be terrible. Murder! So, you need not study these outside ways.
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