The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra
Chapter 11: Vision of the Jeweled Stupa
With Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
Just then the four assemblies, seeing the great jeweled Stupa standing in mid-air and hearing the voice from within it, all gained Dharma joy and marveled at this unprecedented occurrence. They rose from their seats, reverently placed their palms together and withdrew to one side.
G4. The assembly’s surprise.
Just then, right after the assembly heard the loud voice coming from the Jeweled Stupa, praising Shakyamuni Buddha, the four assemblies, the Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Upasakas and Upasikas. “Bhikshu” has three meanings and so it is not translated from the Sanskrit. It means “mendicant,” “frightener of Mara,” and “destroyer of evil.” Above, a Bhikshu seeks the food of Dharma from all the Buddhas to nourish his Dharma body. Below, he seeks food from living beings to nourish the life of his wisdom. Begging for food, he must beg from the rich and poor equally. What benefit does “begging for food” bring? It gives living beings a chance to plant blessings.
Living beings make offerings to the Triple Jewel in order to attain blessings and virtue. Unless they make offerings to the Triple Jewel, their blessings thin out and day by day they accordingly undergo more suffering. Many people do not know enough to make offerings on their own, so the Bhikshus beg for food to make them aware of this practice. Begging helps the Bhikshus to reduce their greed. It also helps lay people to give rise to charitable hearts. When Bhikshus beg, they beg in succession from one house to the next; they cannot skip over the poorer families and beg from the rich, hoping for better offerings. They must not discriminate in their begging. They have to beg equally from all living beings so that all have an equal chance to plant blessings.
The second meaning of the word “Bhikshu” is frightener of Mara. When Bhikshus leave home, the heavenly demons are upset. This is like when you come here to study the Buddhadharma, the demon kings use all their tricks to get you to quit studying because they do not like it one bit. If you leave home, the demons are even more unhappy. When Bhikshus step up on the Precept Platform to receive the Precepts, the three masters and seven certifiers represent the Buddhas of the ten directions and three periods of time who administer and certify the Precepts, ask you, “Have you brought forth the Bodhi mind?” And you say, “Yes.” Then they ask you, “Are you a great hero?” and you say, “Yes I am.” At that time, an earth-travelling yaksha takes the news to a space-travelling yaksha and the space-travelling yaksha flies up to the demon kings in the heavens and informs them that, among human beings, yet another one has left home to become a Bhikshu. When the demon king hears this, his palace quakes, like an earthquake. And the demon king is afraid. Thus, Bhikshus are called “frighteners of Mara.”
Thirdly, the word Bhikshu means “destroyer of evil.” Bhikshus break through all the evils of afflictions. People have afflictions that come with them at birth. When they are born, they lose their tempers and get mad and cry. Bhikshus break through affliction, and just that is Bodhi. They give rise to the Bodhi mind. Since the word Bhikshu includes these three meanings, it is not translated but is left in the Sanskrit. A Bhikshuni is a woman who has left home and the same three meanings apply. An Upasaka is a layman and an Upasika is a laywoman. The Sanskrit word Upasaka means, “man who is close in work,” as a layman works closely with the Triple Jewel. Upasika means “a woman who is close in work,” working closely with the Triple Jewel. These are the four assemblies of disciples.
Seeing the great jeweled Stupa standing in mid-air. Our Stupas are on the ground. Why was this Stupa in the air? What was it standing on? What was its foundation? How could it do this?
Well, what about the space satellites that orbit around and around? If people can invent these, how much the more so could they happen in the Buddhadharma. The Buddhadharma is a lot more subtle and wonderful than the dharmas of people. The jeweled Stupa is sort of like a space station. There is nothing strange about the jeweled Stupa in space, then. This represents that the Buddha dwells nowhere and has no attachments. How can one stand still in empty space? By not having attachments anywhere.
And hearing the voice from within it—they heard the wonderful, mighty voice coming from the Stupa—all gained Dharma joy. They were so happy, they forget all about their troubles, and marveled at this unprecedented occurrence. No wonder you asked how the Stupa could stand in empty space. Even the fourfold assembly who saw it with their own eyes thought that it was strange. “Gee! How weird! How can a jeweled Stupa stand there in empty space?” They rose from their seats, reverently placed their palms together and withdrew to one side. Because their minds were filled with awe and wonder, their bodies expressed reverence by withdrawing to one side. They stood up and withdrew because they did not understand it. They marveled at it, and wanted Shakyamuni Buddha to answer their questions about it.
Just then a Bodhisattva Mahasattva by the name of Great Delight in Speaking, knowing the doubts in the minds of all the gods, humans, and asuras and others from all the worlds, spoke to the Buddha saying, “World Honored One, by means of what causes and conditions has this jeweled Stupa welled up out of the earth and produced this loud sound?”
G5. The question of Great Delight in Speaking.
Just then a Bodhisattva Mahasattva. “Bodhi” means enlightenment. “Sattva” is a sentient being. A Bodhisattva enlightens all sentient beings. A Bodhisattva is an enlightened being among sentient beings, an enlightened one. A Mahasattva is a Great Bodhisattva. This Bodhisattva is not only an enlightened one among living beings who can benefit self and others. Bodhisattvas think only to benefit others and they pay no attention to whether or not they themselves receive any benefits. They teach, transform, and rescue all living beings, causing all living beings to leave suffering and attain bliss. So they are called Great Bodhisattvas. Bodhisattvas resolve to give up their very lives for living beings.
So Shakyamuni Buddha in past lives when practicing the Bodhisattva Path gave up his life over one thousand times to teach living beings. If living beings failed to respond to his teaching, he would even give up his life if necessary to save them. The Bodhisattva Path is not all that easy to practice.
You all remember the story about Shariputra who tried to practice the Bodhisattva Path, don’t you? He heard the Buddha praising the Bodhisattva Path as the highest path and so he thought he would try it out. He was the most intelligent of all the Buddha’s disciples and he had the best memory. When Shariputra heard about how fine it is to practice the Bodhisattva Path, he practiced the Bodhisattva Path. He made the vow to practice the Bodhisattva Path. While he was walking, he thought, “I will do what I need to do, no matter how difficult it is. I will definitely practice the Bodhisattva Path. I will give whatever it is that someone asks of me. I will give my life if one asks for it.”
As he walked along, he met someone who was crying while walking. “Why is this man sobbing while walking along? How strange! This man must be experiencing some difficulty. I will ask him how I can help him resolve his problem since I am practicing the Bodhisattva Path.” He asked, “Mister, or this gentleman, why are you crying?” “Oh, I have a problem that no one can help me with because it is such a difficult problem.” “Do not be so sure! I can help you! Tell me.” “Can you really help me? I believe you will refuse to help me. It would be useless to tell you about it.” “I am willing to help you regardless of how difficult the situation might be.” This man said, “My mother has an incurable disease. The physician said that my mother needs a human eye to treat her illness. I went to the herbal medicine shop for a human eye, but they did not have any. Since I could not purchase this eye, my mother’s condition will not improve!”
Shariputra said, “Do not worry! You just want one eye, I will give you my eye!” He took a knife and gouged out one of his eyes for him. He handed the man his right eye and said, “Now take it back for your mother to eat.” The man picked it up and looked at it, saying, “Ah! I do not want the right eye, I want the left eye. This right eye is useless. It stinks!” He picked it up, threw it on the ground, and crunched it with his foot. Shariputra said, “Gee, it sure is difficult to practice the Bodhisattva Path! Okay, I will no longer practice the Bodhisattva Path.” He then went to cultivate the Theravadan dharma.
You see how such an intelligent person as Shariputra could not cultivate the Bodhisattva Path. Once he said that he could not practice the Bodhisattva Path, this person immediately soared into the air. It was actually a god that came to test him. His eye that had been gouged out now was back as it had been. He felt as if he had been dreaming. “How this eye is back? Didn’t I gouge it out?” This is actually a state that he did not recognize, therefore he could not practice the Bodhisattva Path. However, it proved to be too much for him. When you practice the Bodhisattva Path, take care not to be like Shariputra!
By the name of Great Delight in Speaking. He might not have been too welcome here, because he probably talked too much. We do not talk a lot here. But, he could come here if he wanted to. We could work it out. Knowing the doubts in the minds of all the gods, humans, and asuras and others from all the worlds, spoke to the Buddha saying, “World Honored One, by means of what causes and conditions has this jeweled Stupa welled up out of the earth and produced this loud sound?” It went straight up into the air and a wonderful sound came forth from it. Why? Please, teacher, be compassionate and tell us. We all have doubts about this matter.
Then the Buddha told the Bodhisattva Great Delight in Speaking: within this jeweled Stupa is the complete body of the Thus Come One. Long ago, limitless thousands of myriads of millions of asamkheya worlds to the east, in a land called jeweled purity, there was a Buddha by the name of Many Jewels. When this Buddha was practicing the Bodhisattva Path, he made a great vow saying, “After I have become a Buddha and passed into extinction, in any of the ten direction lands where The Dharma Flower Sutra is spoken, my Stupa shall appear there, that I may hear the Sutra and certify it, praising it, saying, ‘Good indeed! Good indeed!’ ”
G6. The Thus Come One answers.
H1. Why the Stupa welled out of the earth.
Then the Buddha told the Bodhisattva Great Delight in Speaking: Since you asked, I will tell you. Within this jeweled Stupa is the complete body of The Thus Come One. Which Thus Come One? Long ago, limitless thousands of myriads of millions of asamkheya worlds to the east, in a land called jeweled purity, there was a Buddha by the name of Many Jewels. When this Buddha was practicing the Bodhisattva Path, before he became a Buddha, he made a great vow. Those who practice the Bodhisattva Path should make vows. But you should not be like one of my disciples who made a vow to become an animal to cross over the animals! The pigeons here now probably made such a vow in the past! At any rate, I changed his vow to “become a living being,” making it not quite so specific. That is why you need a teacher! So when you make vows he can change them for you! Ha!
Saying, “after I…” He, too, uses the word “I,” but his “I” is not a selfish one. It is the “I” of “no I.” Have become a Buddha and passed into extinction, entered into Nirvana, in any of the ten direction lands where The Dharma Flower Sutra is being spoken.The Dharma Flower Sutra was Many Jewels Buddha’s favorite Sutra. He felt it was the most wonderful and inconceivable of all Sutras and so he wanted to make a wonderful vow. He said, “After I go to Nirvana, and people make me a Stupa, my Stupa shall appear there, where the Sutra is being spoken, that I may hear the Sutra and certify it, praising it, saying, ‘good indeed! Good indeed!’ Fantastic! Someone is lecturing The Lotus Sutra here. Great! I can hear it again.” That was his wonderful vow. Now, Shakyamuni Buddha is speaking about the vow he made limitless, uncountable eons ago. And now Many Jewels Buddha is manifesting and exclaiming, “Great, great! Wow, I made it to another Dharma Flower Sutra Assembly!”
After that Buddha had realized the Way, when he was about to enter into extinction, in the great assembly of gods and humans he spoke to the Bhikshus saying, “After my extinction, those who wish to make offerings to my complete body should build a large Stupa.”
H2. The cause of the Stupa.
Because of the vow he had made when practicing the Bodhisattva Path, later after that Buddha, Many Jewels, had realized the Way, when he was about to enter into extinction, into Nirvana, in the great assembly of gods and humans he spoke to the Bhikshus saying. Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Upasakas, and Upasikas are the Fourfold assembly. Some may think that after Many Jewels became a Buddha, he did not speak the Dharma and so he made a vow to protect the Buddhas who spoke The Dharma Flower Sutra. That explanation is not necessarily correct because here the text says, “Bhikshus” and Bhikshus are the ones he crossed over by speaking the Dharma to them. When he was about to enter Nirvana he told them “After my extinction, those who wish to make offerings to my complete body should build a large Stupa.” Using the seven gems, one should make a big Stupa.
By the power of his spiritual penetrations and his vow, throughout the ten direction worlds wherever anyone speaks The Dharma Flower Sutra that Buddha’s jeweled Stupa containing his complete body wells up from the earth before the one speaking and expresses praise by saying, “Good indeed! Good indeed!”
Great Delight in Speaking! Because he has heard The Dharma Flower Sutra being spoken, the Stupa of the Thus Come One Many Jewels has now welled up out of the earth with these words of praise, “Good indeed! Good indeed!”
H3. The reason for the sound.
By the power of his spiritual penetrations and his vow. Having given instructions to his disciples to build him a jeweled Stupa, he uses his inconceivable spiritual penetrations and his inconceivable vows throughout the ten direction worlds. The ten direction worlds include the four cardinal points, the intermediary points, the zenith and the nadir. In each of the ten direction worlds, however, there are hundreds of thousands of myriads of worlds, too. In each of those limitless, limitless worlds, wherever anyone speaks The Dharma Flower Sutra. It does not matter where, just so a Buddha has appeared there and is speaking The Dharma Flower Sutra. That Buddha’s jeweled Stupa containing his complete body wells up from the earth before the one speaking. Even though he entered Nirvana so long ago, the entire body of Many Jewels Thus Come One still manifests in the Stupaand expresses praise of the Buddha who is speaking The Dharma Flower Sutra, by saying, “Good indeed! Good indeed! Great! I have now once again met up with the World Honored One speaking The Dharma Flower Sutra.”
Great delight in Speaking! I will tell you, because he has heard The Dharma Flower Sutra being spoken, the Stupa of the Thus Come One Many Jewels has now welled up out of the earth. He wants to come and listen to it with these words of praise, “Good indeed! Good indeed! Really good! Another chance to hear The Dharma Flower Sutra.” He says “Good indeed!” twice, and that is the big sound from inside the Stupa.
Just then, the Bodhisattva Great Delight in Speaking, by means of the spiritual power of the Thus Come One, spoke to the Buddha saying, “World Honored One, we all wish to see this Buddha’s body.”
F2. The division bodies gather from afar.
G1. Great Delight in Speaking asks to see Many Jewels.
Just then, the Bodhisattva Great Delight in Speaking, by means of the spiritual power of The Thus Come One. The Bodhisattva asks the Buddha, but why does the text say “by means of the spiritual power of the Thus Come One?” Why isn’t it by means of his own power? It is because, in this Dharma Assembly, all the states that appear are manifestations of the Buddha’s awesome spiritual power. Even this Bodhisattva’s questions about the doctrine came about through the aid of the Buddha’s spiritual power, lending him the wisdom so that he can ask these questions. Spoke to the Buddha saying, “World Honored One, Shakyamuni Buddha, we all wish to see this Buddha’s body.”
The Bodhisattva Great Delight in Speaking had heard the great sounds of praise coming from the Stupa for Shakyamuni Buddha, but he still had not seen the Buddha inside the Stupa. He could only hear him. He had not seen that Buddha’s thirty-two marks and eighty minor characteristics and so he was, frankly, curious. Actually, it was the Buddha’s spiritual power that caused him to ask. His question was asked on behalf of all. They all had doubts. “Such a great sound out of that Stupa! Is there a public address system in it? Is there a radio in it? Is there really a Buddha in there? We want to see that Buddha! Is that Buddha a special type of Buddha?” The gods had a lot of doubts, and they did not know for sure if there really was a Buddha in there. The Bodhisattva Great Delight in Speaking, because he loved to talk, asked Shakyamuni Buddha to tell him about it.
They were all like children who, overhearing their parents talk about a guest who is coming, want to know all about him. “We want to see him too! We want to see the guest!”
The Buddha told the Bodhisattva Mahasattva Great Delight in Speaking: The Buddha Many Jewels has made a profound and solemn vow: “When my jeweled Stupa manifests in the presence of the Buddhas because The Dharma Flower Sutra is heard, if there is anyone who wishes me to show my body to the four assemblies, then the division body Buddhas of that Buddha who is speaking Dharma in the worlds of the ten directions, must all return and gather together in one place. Afterward, my body will appear.
Great Delight in Speaking, my division body Buddhas present in the ten direction worlds speaking Dharma, should now gather together.
G2. The division-bodies should gather together.
The Buddha, Shakyamuni, told the Bodhisattva Mahasattva Great Delight in Speaking: The Buddha Many Jewels has made a profound and solemn vow: You want to see the Buddha Many Jewels, but there is a condition. In a life long ago, before he became a Buddha, he made a very solemn vow. It is very wonderful. He said, “When my jeweled Stupa manifests in the presence of the Buddhas because The Dharma Flower Sutra is heard, if there is anyone who wishes me to show my body to the four assemblies. If there are those who wish to see me.
Then the division body Buddhas of that Buddha who is speaking Dharma in the worlds of the ten directions.” The Buddha speaking The Dharma Flower Sutra has division bodies who are in the ten directions speaking Dharma, too. Division bodies are transformation bodies. Shakyamuni Buddha has a hundred thousand myriads of millions of transformation bodies. Not only does Shakyamuni Buddha has them, all the Buddhas have them and they are the Dharma. Their division body Buddhas speaking Dharma in the ten directions teaching and transforming living beings, must all return and gather together in one place.
That is Many Jewels Buddha’s vow. All the transformation Buddhas returning to Shakyamuni Buddha is just the ten thousand returning to the one root. The root can transform into a myriad transformations and the myriads all return to the one root. One Buddha can manifest limitless transformation Buddhas all of whom return to the one Buddha. How could common folks possibly understand such a state? That is why this Sutra is called The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra. It is so wonderful people could not possibly figure it out!
Afterward my body will appear, when all those Buddhas gathered in one place, then I will manifest. Great Delight in Speaking, my division body Buddhas present in the ten direction worlds speaking Dharma, should now gather together.
Great Delight in Speaking said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, we also wish to see the division bodies of the World Honored One so that we may bow to them and make offerings.”
G3. Great Delight in Speaking requests a view of the gathering.
When the Bodhisattva Great Delight in Speaking heard about the inconceivable vows made by the Buddha Many Jewels in the past, Great Delight in Speaking said to the Buddha. “World Honored One, we, the gods and humans here along with the great Bodhisattvas and the fourfold assembly of disciples, not only wish to see the body of Many Jewels Buddha, but also wish to see the division bodies of the World Honored One, Shakyamuni Buddha. Since they are all getting together, we would like to see them so that we may bow to them and make offerings.”
What is meant by “bow”? It means to make obeisance to the Buddha. Some people say, “Buddha images are made of wood, clay, gold, silver, bronze, or iron and it is superstitious to bow to them. Since people made them in the first place, what good does it do to bow to them? What use is it? It is just superstition!”
It most certainly is not superstitious. We bow to the Buddhas first of all to help get rid of our arrogance. Secondly, it causes us to give rise to a yielding and gentle mind, so that we are not tough and stubborn. It also makes us reverent. The Buddha became a Buddha and people bow to him. Before he became a Buddha, he bowed to other Buddhas. Shakyamuni Buddha in a former life was a Bodhisattva called “Never-Slighting” and whenever he saw someone he would bow to them and say, “I dare not slight you because you will, in the future, become a Buddha.” After Shakyamuni Buddha realized Buddhahood, a lot of people bowed to the Buddha.
If you do not want to become a Buddha, but would rather be a hungry ghost or an animal, then do not bother to bow to the Buddha. Some people think it might be nice to be a dog and have someone take care of them and feed them; then they would not have to do any work. Some people would even rather be a pig, and get lots to eat! But such opinions are a bit too “smart.” They are so smart, in fact, that they are stupid! If you want to be an animal or a ghost, then you do not need to bow to the Buddha. But if you want to become a Buddha, then you should bow to the Buddha. It is said,
To bow once to the Buddha
Wipes away offenses like Ganges’ sands.
It wipes away your offense karma from limitless eons past, the heavy offenses of birth and death. If you do not bow to the Buddha, then when you become a Buddha no one will bow to you! Recently, one of my disciples complained that none of his students would listen to him. I said, “You cannot blame them. You never listened to your teacher, you know. It is not surprising at all that they do not listen to you.” But it is a hard lesson. I hope that all of you will follow instructions. Then in the future when you are teachers, your students will listen to you.
“I do not want to be a teacher,” you say. “I will just be an independent Arhat.”
If you do not want to be a teacher, there is really nothing to say. But if you do, then pay attention to the rules.
When you bow to the Buddha, you are bowing to the Buddha of your own self-nature. In the future, when you become a Buddha you realize the Buddhahood of your own self-nature.
And make offerings. This is very important. One makes offerings to the Triple Jewel, the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.
One might think, “Why should one make offerings to the Triple Jewel? Wouldn’t it be a better deal if the Triple Jewel made offerings to me?”
You may think it is a bargain, but you would really be getting the short end. Why, now, do you have such poor luck? It is because in the past you did not make offerings to the Triple Jewel. Why are you always short of money—no money for some nice clothes or a decent place to live? It is because you did not make offerings to the Triple Jewel. As a consequence, day by day your blessings grow thinner. If you make offerings to the Triple Jewel, your blessings will grow day by day. The Triple Jewel is the field of goodness and blessings for living beings. It is a place where living beings can plant blessings. There is a saying that goes:
Although a clay dragon cannot bring rain,
If you want rain, you must seek it from a clay dragon.
Although the common Sangha cannot bring blessings,
If you want to seek blessings, you must seek them from the common Sangha.
In China, when they need rain, they go to a Dragon King Temple and seek from the clay dragons. Usually it works! Probably you do not have this custom in the West. You may think, “It would have rained anyway!” But do you know for sure? Just how do you know it does not work? Your skepticism involves just as much guesswork as others’ belief, you know. The ordinary members of the Sangha, that is, those who have not certified to the fruit, cannot bring blessings. However, if you are seeking blessings, you must seek them from the common Sangha. People who have a lot of blessings in this life have gained them because in the past they made offerings to the Triple Jewel. People are poor because they did not make offerings to the Triple Jewel.
“I am not so sure I believe this,” you say.
Okay, but next life you will still be poor! It is your choice.
At that time the Buddha emitted a white hair-mark light in which were seen the Buddhas of the lands in the eastern direction equal in number to the grains of sand in five hundred myriads of millions of nayutas of Ganges rivers. All the Buddhalands had crystal for soil, and were adorned with jeweled trees and jeweled clothing. Countless thousands of myriad of millions of Bodhisattvas filled them. They were covered with jeweled canopies and jeweled nets. The Buddhas in those lands with a great and wonderful sound were speaking the Dharma. Also seen were limitless thousands of myriads of millions of Bodhisattvas filling those lands speaking the Dharma for the multitudes. Thus it was also in the south, west, north, the four intermediate directions, as well as upward and downward wherever the white hair-mark light shone.
G4. Emitting a light which shines afar.
Not only did the Bodhisattva Great Delight in Speaking want to see Many Jewels Buddha, he wanted to see all the transformations of Shakyamuni Buddha. At that time the Buddha, Shakyamuni, emitted a white hair-mark light. This hair-mark light is emitted from between the Buddha’s eyebrows. When it is emitted it is very subtle, but extremely brilliant. In which were seen the Buddhas of the lands in the eastern direction equal in number to the grains of sand in five hundred myriads of millions of nayutas of Ganges rivers. It did not shine into just one or two lands, but into limitless, uncountable, nayutas of worlds.
All the Buddhalands had crystal for soil. Unlike the ground of our Saha World, which is made up of dirt and pebbles. Before Shakyamuni Buddha opened the Buddha’s Stupa made of seven jewels, the fields changed three times, turning the dirt field of the Saha World into crystal. Crystal represents light, wisdom light—and were adorned with jeweled trees and jeweled clothing. Jeweled trees make living beings feel refreshed and shaded with protection. Jeweled clothing refers to patience and compliance.
Countless thousands of myriads of millions of Bodhisattvas filled them. What are the Bodhisattvas? They are just those who give rise to the Bodhi mind in every thought. They were covered with jeweled canopies and jeweled nets. The nets refer to the cultivation of the Precepts. The Buddhas in those lands with a great and wonderful sound were speaking the Dharma. Also seen were limitless thousands of myriads of millions of Bodhisattvas filling those lands speaking the Dharma for the multitudes. Thus it was also in the south, west, north, the four intermediate directions, as well as upward and downward, wherever the white hair-mark light shone. Why does the light first shine on the east? It is because it starts from the east.
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