The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra
Chapter 10: Masters of the Dharma
With Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
“Medicine King, you should know that after my extinction, those who can write out, uphold, read, recite, make offerings to and explain it for others, shall be covered with the Thus Come One’s robes and shall also be protected and held in mind by the Buddhas present in other directions. These people have great powers of faith, powers of resolution and vows and the power of good roots. Know that these people shall dwell together with the Thus Come One and shall have their heads rubbed by the hand of the Thus Come One.”
H2. Praising the people.
Medicine King, you should know that after my extinction, those who can write out, uphold, read, recite, make offerings to and explain it for others. Shakyamuni Buddha says that while he is in the world a lot of people will be jealous of The Dharma Flower Sutra. To say nothing of what it will be like after the Buddha enters Nirvana. Although he says this still, “Medicine King, you should know after the Buddha enters Nirvana, those who can write out, uphold, read, recite, make offerings of incense, flowers, food and drink, and explain The Dharma Flower Sutra to other people, setting forth its wonderful doctrines, shall be covered with the Thus Come One’s robes.”
These five kinds of Dharma Masters shall be covered with the Thus Come One’s kashaya or sash. This is like when people recite the name of Amitabha Buddha and recite to the point of “reciting and yet not reciting, not reciting and yet reciting.” When they attain this state, they can see Amitabha Buddha come and rub the top of their heads and cover them with his sash. This means that in the future they are certain to be reborn in Amitabha Buddha’s Land of Ultimate Bliss. Now, if one can receive and uphold The Dharma Flower Sutra, the Thus Come One will cover them with his sash, too. What is more, they shall also be protected and held in mind by the Buddhas present in other directions. Not only will Shakyamuni Buddha cover you with his sash, but the Buddhas in the ten directions will protect you and keep you in mind at all times, lending you their support and helping you to develop great wisdom.
These people have great powers of faith. This “greatness” of the power of faith is not that which is spoken of in relation to “small.” It goes beyond the relative into the realm of the absolute. There is nothing that compares with the greatness of their powers of faith. The Buddhadharma is like the great sea. It can only be entered by means of faith. If you have no faith, you cannot get into the Buddhadharma. Of faith it is said,
Faith is the source of the Way
The mother of merit and virtue.
It nurtures all our good roots. If you have faith, you will have merit and virtue. If you have no faith, you will have no merit or virtue. If you have faith, you will be able to cultivate the Way. If you have no faith, you will be unable to do so. Therefore, faith is the most important factor in cultivation. If you can receive, uphold, read, recite, write out, and explain The Dharma Flower Sutra, that means you have great powers of faith. If you lack great powers of faith, you will not be able to do these things. To the word faith, we add the word “power” and this means that one has no doubts; one has only faith. Powers of resolution and vows. Once you have faith, you must set up your resolve and determination. With great determination, you then make “vows.” Those vows should be as solid as stone and as durable as iron. These are the vows you need, vows to receive and practice The Dharma Flower Sutra.
Faith alone is not enough if you do not wish to cultivate. And the power of good roots. Why are you able to have faith and determination in your cultivation? It is because of your good roots. The power of good roots refers to the seeds of Bodhi which were planted many lifetimes and many eons ago. Your good roots then grew day by day. If you had no good roots, you could never encounter The Dharma Flower Sutra.
You should know that these people who can receive, uphold, read, recite, write out and explain The Dharma Flower Sutra, shall dwell together with the Thus Come One—it is just the same as if you were living with the Buddha—and shall have their heads rubbed by the hand of the Thus Come One. This is called “getting rubbed on the crown of the head.” It is a gesture of the utmost compassion and fondness. The Buddha often rubs the crowns of living being’s heads. If he has affinities with someone, he will pat them on the head. In this way the Buddha infuses them with his awesome virtue and eradicates their obstacles. This is referring only to being patted on the head. It does not mean that he bestows predictions on them. If he does both, then that living being has a chance to become a Buddha in the future. When you cultivate, sometimes in meditation you might feel that there is something crawling around on top of your head, like maybe a little bug or something. When you have this feeling, what is actually happening is that the Buddhas of the ten directions have come to pat you on the head. You should give rise to even more faith and vows, and truly practice the Buddha Path. Why? It is because the Buddha is being so kind to you and helping you out, and if you do not give rise to great resolve, you will be showing ingratitude towards the Buddha.
“Medicine King, in any place where this Sutra is spoken, read, recited, written out, or stored, one should build a Stupa of the seven jewels, making it high, broad, and adorned. It is not necessary to place sharira in it. Why is this? Within it already is the complete body of the Thus Come One. To this Stupa one should make offerings of all kinds of flowers, incense, beads, silk canopies, banners, vocal and instrumental music, honoring and praising it. If people should see this Stupa, bow before it, and make offerings to it, you should know that they are close to anuttarasamyaksambodhi.”
H3. Praising the place.
Medicine King, in any place, that is in all places regardless of where they are, where this Sutra is spoken, explained, read, recited, written out or stored, wherever the Sutra is, one should build a Stupa of the seven jewels, making it high, broad and adorned. You should not just make a small Stupa. Before, I told you the story of a dwarf, a man during the time when the Buddha was in the world. The little man is only three feet high but five feet wide. He looked strange, but he had a beautiful voice. Someone asked the Buddha how he could look so strange yet sing so well. The Buddha told him, “In a former life, limitless eons ago, a man was making a jeweled Stupa. This man objected, saying, ‘Why are you making it so high? No one will even be able to see the top, for heaven’s sake! Make it a little broader and a little shorter so everyone can see it and bow to it!’
As a retribution for his discouraging words, life after life he was born as a dwarf. So, if you see short people, you can guess that in a former life, they probably criticized the making of a Stupa. The reason for his bell like voice was because, when the Stupa completed, he hung a bell in the tower.” So after this, if someone is building a temple, you should not object to its size saying, “Why don’t you make a smaller one? There are not that many people in this area anyway.” In general, the higher and bigger temples and Stupas are the better. Stupas are defined as “high, manifest places,” or as “square graves.” Anyway, since he hung the bell in the Stupa, he had a lovely voice. This should illustrate that if we want a beautiful voice we should hang a bell in a jeweled pagoda.
It is not necessary to place sharira in it. The jeweled Stupa should be studded with lustrous jewels, which shine both day and night. If you have some sharira, you can put them in of course, but if you do not, you need not go all over looking for some to put in. Why is this? Within it already is the complete body of the Thus Come One. If there is a copy of this Sutra in the Stupa, then the true body of the Buddha is there. To this Stupa one should make offerings of all kinds of flowers, incense, beads, silk canopies, banners, vocal and instrumental music. To this jeweled Stupa, you should make offerings of flowers, incense, beads, silk canopies, banners, and instrumental and vocal music. We sing songs and chants in praise of the Buddha. We really have no way to express completely our reverence for the Buddha and our sincerity, so we just use songs which everyone likes to hear to express our appreciation of the Buddha’s merit and virtue. The Dharma is not cultivated to accomplishment by means of one method only. There are eighty-four thousand Dharma-doors. One can realize Buddhahood by the use of any one of them.
Honoring and praising it.If people should see this Stupa, bow before it, and make offerings to it or even nod their heads even just slightly or raise one hand as a gesture of respect, you should know that they are close to, they are not far from anuttarasamyaksambodhi, the Buddha fruit. So in the future we should all make a vow, a vow together to make a jeweled Stupa for The Dharma Flower Sutra. We should make it as high as possible—higher than the Empire State Building! It should be the tallest Stupa in the world. If we make a vow, then we can do it. It depends on how determined we are in our vow. Determination means you set your will to accomplish something, and you do not stop until you do. When I left home I made a determined vow. I said, “In the future I am certainly going to spread Buddhism throughout the entire world. I will bring Buddhism to every place where it is absent now. Not only will I spread the Buddhadharma, but I will spread the true, orthodox Buddhadharma.” Now, I have not fulfilled my vows yet. When there is Buddhism in all worlds, not just this one, then my vows will be fulfilled. It is not enough to have Buddhism throughout just this one world. All of you who make vows and are determined in them will certainly succeed.
The eighth day of the fourth month is the Buddha’s birthday (May 10,1969). It is the most important Buddhist holiday, so we are having a celebration and everyone should do word-of-mouth advertising, that is, tell all your relatives and friends. In the afternoon at 2:00 we are going to perform the Liberation of Life Ceremony. Why do we do this? First of all it is illustrative of “non-killing” and the compassion of the Buddha’s teaching. It is said,
If in this life you do not cage birds,
In the future you will not be put in jail.
In the ceremony, we release birds from their cages so they can be free to fly. Doing this insures that in future lives we will not be put in jail. Secondly, if you liberate creatures, others will liberate you. You may think, “I am no bird. I do not need to do this.” Maybe you are not a bird now, but you have forgotten about the times in the distant past when you were a bird. All of us, in former lives, have been everything there is to be. We have all been ants and mosquitoes. On a larger scale, we have been emperors, generals, everything! However, greed, hatred, and stupidity have covered up your self-natures so you cannot remember these things.
There are twenty days left until the Buddha’s birthday and everyone should get busy and advertise. Do not wait for the TV and radio to do all the work. You should all be TVs and radios. Spread the word!
“Medicine King, many people, both at home and left home, practice the Bodhisattva Path. If they are unable to see, hear, recite, write out, uphold, or make offerings to The Dharma Flower Sutra, know that these people have not yet skillfully practiced the Bodhisattva Path. If they are able to hear this Sutra, then they will be able to skillfully practice the Bodhisattva Path.”
H4. Praising the cause.
Medicine King, Shakyamuni Buddha continues, many people, both at home, that is laymen and laywomen, and left home, that is Bhikshus and Bhikshunis, practice the Bodhisattva Path. Both lay people and left-home people can practice the Bodhisattva Path.
What is the Bodhisattva Path? It means benefiting other people. It means benefiting oneself and benefiting others. It means being able to put yourself aside to help others, giving the advantages to other people and taking the disadvantages upon oneself. The Bodhisattva Path is like water: Water benefits all things but never boasts of its merit. All living creatures, whether they are born from wombs, eggs, moisture, or transformation, depend upon water for the maintenance of their life. Without water, they cannot live. But water itself does not boast of its merit saying, “I have helped you so much. My merit is great indeed.” Those who practice the Bodhisattva Path should be this way. Do not think, “I have helped living beings and so I have merit.” Lao Zi said,
“The highest goodness is like water. Water well benefits all things and yet does not contend. It goes to places people despise and so it is close to the Way…”
Water flows right into lowly places, places where no one would like to live. When you practice the Bodhisattva Path, you must give the merit to others and take the mistakes upon yourself.
“But then I will not have any merit,” you object. The more you give the merit to others, the greater your merit becomes. On the surface, you are giving the merit away, but underneath, in the realms of true principle, it remains yours. People who do not understand how to cultivate are always struggling to grab the spotlight, to be number one, and to make sure everyone knows who they are. People who understand true principle do not seek recognition. It is said,
“Good done for show is not truly good.
Evil done in secret is great evil indeed.”
Bodhisattvas do not want people to know about their good deeds. If they make mistakes, they do not care if people find out.
The Bodhisattva Path means benefiting oneself and benefiting others. It means benefiting others more than yourself, and even benefiting others at your own expense. Bodhisattvas practice the Six Perfections and the Ten Thousand Practices: giving, holding precepts, patience, vigor, dhyana samadhi and wisdom. In giving, you should give to other people. Giving does not mean to tell other people to give things to you! You cannot complain and say, “I am one of the Triple Jewel. How come nobody makes offerings to me?” Holding precepts also means that you hold them yourself. It does not mean that you go around telling other people to hold precepts. Patience means you yourself are patient, not that you tell others to be patient. Vigor also means that you are vigorous, not that you tell others to be vigorous and remain lazy yourself. You cannot think, “I have already become a Bodhisattva and so I do not need to be vigorous. I will just tell the new Bodhisattvas to be vigorous. I am an old Bodhisattva, so I do not have to be vigorous.”
As to dhyana samadhi, you must cultivate it yourself. You cannot pester people and say, “Hey! Why don’t you have any dhyana samadhi?” Finally, you yourself must have Prajna wisdom. You cannot tell others to cultivate it and fail to cultivate it yourself.
The Six Perfections are not to be practiced for one day. You must practice them every single day and never rest for even a second. Practicing the Bodhisattva Path means that you are busy working everyday. Busy doing what? Teaching and transforming living beings. Living beings are drowning in the sea of suffering. Unless you push yourself a little, how are you ever going to be able to save them all? There is no time for naps! There is no time for false thinking! So the text says, “Many people, both at home and left home, practice the Bodhisattva Path.”
If they are unable to see, hear, read, recite, write out, uphold, or make offerings to The Dharma Flower Sutra, know that these people have not yet skillfully practiced the Bodhisattva Path. They practice the Bodhisattva Path, but their foundation is not solid, and they have not perfected their practice. If there are those who practice the Bodhisattva Path and are able to hear this Sutra, then they will be able to skillfully practice the Bodhisattva Path. We are now able to hear, see, uphold, read, recite, and write out The Dharma Flower Sutra. The only thing to be feared is that you will not wish to practice the Bodhisattva Path. If you practice it, you will certainly perfect it. Once you have done so, the Buddha Path is then realized as well.
“If living beings that seek the Buddha Path get to see or hear The Dharma Flower Sutra and, having done so, receive and uphold it with faith and understanding, know that these people have drawn near to anuttarasamyaksambodhi.”
H5. Praising the fruition.
I1. The proximate fruit.
If living beings that seek the Buddha Path get to see or hear The Dharma Flower Sutra and, having done so, receive and uphold it with faith and understanding. Having heard the Sutra, they give rise to wisdom. Since they have wisdom, they then believe in and understand the wonderful doctrines of The Dharma Flower Sutra. Since they deeply believe and understand, they then receive it with their minds and uphold it with their bodies. You should know that these people, having come in contact with the Sutra in this way, have drawn near to anuttarasamyaksambodhi, they are very close to the Buddha-fruit, the utmost right and prefect enlightenment.
“Medicine King, it is like a person who is thirsty and in need of water. Although he digs for it on a high plain, all he sees is dry earth, and he knows the water is still far off. He continues efforts without cease and eventually sees moist earth and then mud. He is then certain that water must be close at hand.”
I2. Setting up the analogy.
The Buddha now gives us an analogy: Medicine King, it is like a person who is thirsty and in need of water. He is thirsty. His throat is so dry, it is smoking. To say nothing of tea, he would be satisfied with just a little water! Although he digs for it on a high plain, digging a deep hole looking for water, all he sees is dry earth. This refers to people whose ignorance, afflictions, view of self, and arrogance are as high as Mount Sumeru, it is very difficult. In the same way, arrogant and self-satisfied people who wish to cultivate, may cultivate and cultivate, but all they will see is “dry earth,”—that is, they will only attain to the stage of “dry wisdom.” “Dry wisdom” means that they have a small measure of wisdom, but it is not great, just small. They have not obtained the water of the Dharma nature; they have not truly opened up their wisdom.
And he knows the water is far off. He obtained a small amount of dry wisdom, a state that is somewhat inconceivable. When he sits in meditation, he thinks, “When I meditate I feel my self-nature is emitting light! I feel pure in body and in mind, no others, no self. This is not bad at all!” That is dry wisdom when you think, “It is not bad!” “Not bad” it may be, but one still has not truly opened up one’s wisdom. One has not broken through the black energy barrel—ignorance. One thinks, “Strange, how could I be in such a wonderful state? Surely I am to become a Buddha. It is not all a trick. I have now obtained something I never understood before.” One has seen a bit of “dry earth.”
And he knows that the water is still far off. The true wisdom of the Buddha, the water of the Dharma-nature’s wisdom is still far away. He continues his efforts without cease. This is the most important phrase! It means he does not stop cultivating. He continues his work mindfully and never thinks, “Today lotus, tomorrow peony.” He changes his mind. As the saying goes:
Sun it for one day.
Freeze it for ten.
It would be better if you just do not set it out to sun! This is like someone who cultivates for one day and then sleeps for ten. He continues his efforts without cease.” He cultivates without ceasing. He is forever vigorous day and night. He is vigorous during the day and vigorous at night. He is always vigorous 24 hours a day. He works hard on his cultivation, investigating Dhyana and meditating non-stop. “He continues his efforts without cease,” means that he is vigorous in the six periods of the day and night. He continues his efforts, day after day, digging and digging and eventually he sees moist earth, he obtains a bit of the water of the Dharma-nature, and then mud, he certifies to the first, second, third, and fourth fruits of Arhatship. He is then certain. Having certified to the fruit and attained some of the “flavor,” he is assured that water must be close at hand. He knows that he will certainly become a Buddha and gain the water of the Dharma nature.
There is a story about Confucius, the Chinese sage. Even though he was a sage, in his day he had to undergo a lot of hardships. When he was teaching in Xing Tan, present day Shan Dong , he had over 3,000 disciples. Of the three thousand, most of them would come and go their various ways, but 100 of them were his close followers and went with him everywhere. Shakyamuni Buddha had 1,250 close followers; Confucius had about one-tenth that many. At any rate, his followers went with him as he traveled from country to country, and so the hosts would have 125 or so mouths to feed.
At that time, he was lecturing all across the land, teaching his disciples of government and he became an official in the country of Lu. Within three months time he had things so well regulated that it was possible to leave gold laying in the street, and no one would steal it. He taught all the people not to be greedy. Also, at night you did not need to lock your door. America used to be like this too, very well governed. No one cared if they locked their doors or not. Now, that would never do. At the very least you have to have dead bolts on the doors. In any case, within three months, the country of Qi got jealous. “This is terrible. If this goes on, we are finished!” So they thought of a plan and made a gift to the King of Lu of concubines—sort of like present day movie stars. They could sing, dance, and do all kinds of things. The King of Lu spent three days and nights in their company, without showing up at Court for three days. Confucius was so disgusted at the degenerated behavior of the King and he left, taking his disciples with him. He talked to the other nobles, thinking they would employ him, but no one wanted to listen to him.
It is that way today too. If you try to tell people the truth, they do not want to hear it. If you tell them something false, they are delighted. Because Confucius always told the truth, he became very unpopular. They gave him a lot of respect, but they did not employ him. He was too “straight.” He would not let the rulers get away with anything.
He kept on travelling and came to the border of the countries of Chen and of Cai and ran out of offerings. No one gave him anything to eat, and he had no money or food. He was unwelcomed in both countries. After three days of no food, he was sick from hunger and could not even stand up. Confucius said, “What are we going to do now?” One of his disciples suggested, “Fan Dan has food!” Fan Dan was a beggar who stored the rice he had begged in a big barrel, like a grain silo. “Let us go borrow some from him.”
“Who shall we send? All of you are weak from hunger!”
Zi Lu bravely stepped forward. “I will go!” he said, “I am not sick. A little hunger does not bother me.”
“Okay,” said Confucius, “go ahead.” When Zi Lu reached Fan Dan’s place, he said, “Hey, Fan Dan, my brother, I am Zi Lu, a student of Confucius, and I have come to borrow some rice. Our group is stuck at the borders of Chen and Cai with nothing to eat. We know you have rice, and so we would like to borrow some from you.”
Fan Dan said, “All right, but only if you can answer my question.” Then he spoke a verse expecting Zi Lu to finish it for him:
What is more?
What is less?
What is happiness?
What is distress?
Zi Lu thought a moment and then said,
Stars are many.
Moons are few.
Marriage makes you happy.
Death makes you blue.
“No!” Fan Dan said, “That is not the right answer.” Zi Lu thought, “I matched it perfectly. What makes you say it is not right?”
“You do not make sense, you crummy beggar.” But Fan Dan did not shell out the rice and Zi Lu was not about to steal it, so he ran back to Confucius and said, “No luck. Fan Dan—that beggar—is totally unreasonable. He gave me a couplet to match. I gave a good answer, but he rejected it. He just did not want to give us the rice in the first place!”
Confucius said, “What did he say?”
Zi Lu said, “He asked me, in this world,
What is more?
What is less?
What is happiness?
What is distress?”
Confucius said, “Well, how did you answer him?”
“Stars are many.
Moons are few.
Marriage makes you happy.
Death makes you blue.
What is wrong with that? It is perfectly all right. It is great!”
Confucius said, “No, you are wrong.”
Zi Lu did not dare contradict his teacher. Confucius said, “You go back to Fan Dan and tell him this:
Petty men are many;
Sages are few.
When we get the rice, we are happy;
When we have to return it, we are blue.”
When Zi Lu said this to Fan Dan, Fan Dan nodded his head in approval. “Your teacher is much more advanced than you are. That is fine.” And he gave him the rice. They ate only rice, no vegetables, for several days. Then a tall black general showed up and ran into the garden intending to murder them. Zi Lu had eaten his fill and was feeling even more courageous than usual. He started fighting with him. Although he was strong, he could not outfight the big general. Confucius was standing in the doorway watching all this and he said, “You,” using Zi Lu’s other name, “Go for his throat.” Zi Lu got the hint and slit the man’s throat. As it turned out, it was not a human being, after all, it was a giant fish and it filled up the whole garden. Confucius and his disciples had rice and fish then, and none of them starved to death.
Zi Lu’s strongest point was that he was delighted to hear people criticize him and tell him of his faults.
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