THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
Chapters: 1 * 2 * 3 * 4 * 5 * 6 * 7 * 8 * 9 * 10 * 11 * 12 * 13 * 14 * 15 * 16 * 17 * 18 * 19 * 20

The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra

Chapter 11: Vision of the Jeweled Stupa
With Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua

Sutra:

Shakyamuni Buddha, in order that the Buddhas who were coming might have a place to sit, then further transformed in each of the eight directions, two hundred myriads of nayutas of lands, purifying them all. They were without hells, hungry ghosts, animals or asuras. The gods and humans were all moved to other lands. The lands he transformed all had lapis lazuli for soil and were adorned with jeweled trees five hundred yojanas tall, decorated with branches, leaves, flowers, and fruits. Beneath each tree was a jeweled lion throne five yojanas tall decorated with various gems. There were no oceans, rivers, or streams, and no mucilinda or mahamucilinda mountains, no iron ring or great iron ring mountains, and no Mount Sumerus or any other kings of mountains. All became one Buddha land. The jeweled earth was level and flat, covered entirely with gem-studded canopies, and hung with banners. Precious incense was burned and heavenly, precious flowers covered the ground.

Then, the division bodies of Shakyamuni Buddha from the eastern direction, Buddhas in number to the grains of sand in a hundred thousand myriads of millions of nayutas of lands, each speaking the Dharma, assembled there. In like manner, in turn, the Buddhas from all the ten directions arrived and assembled there, taking their seats in the eight directions.

At that time, each direction was filled with Buddhas, Thus Come Ones, from the four hundred myriads of millions of nayutas of lands in each of the four directions.

Outline:

H3. Transforming 200 myriads of millions of nayutas of lands in each of the eight directions.

Commentary:

Shakyamuni Buddha had too many division bodies! There was no room for them all to sit, and so he “transformed the lands three times.” Here, in the Buddhist Lecture Hall, we have run out of room, too, and so we are going to transform a big lecture hall!

In order that the Buddhas who were coming might have a place to sit, then further transformed in each of the eight directions, two hundred myriads of nayutas of lands, purifying them all. They were without hells, hungry ghosts, animals or asuras. The gods and humans were all moved to other lands. The gods were all moved from this purified place into another less clean location for the time being. The lands he transformed all had lapis lazuli for soil and were adorned with jeweled trees five hundred yojanas tall, decorated with branches, just like in the previous passage of text, leaves, flowers, and fruits.

Beneath each tree was a jeweled lion throne five yojanas tall decorated with various gems. There were no oceans, rivers, or streams, and no mucilinda or mahamucilinda mountains, no iron ring or great iron ring mountains, and no Mount Sumerus or any other kings of mountains. All became one Buddha land. All the two hundred myriads of millions of lands in each direction became one single land. The jeweled earth was level and flat, without mountains or valleys, covered entirely with gem-studded canopies, and hung with banners. Precious incense was burned and heavenly, precious flowers covered the ground, much nicer than carpets! Everything was “jeweled” and “precious.”

Then, the division bodies of Shakyamuni Buddha from the eastern direction, Buddhas in number to the grains of sand in a hundred thousand myriads of millions of nayutas of lands, each speaking the Dharma, assembled there. They were in the midst of speaking the Dharma when they gathered in Shakyamuni Buddha’s assembly. Many Jewels Thus Come One had come, on the basis of vows he formerly made, to certify Shakyamuni Buddha’s speaking of The Dharma Flower Sutra. In order for him to manifest in the assembly, however, he insisted that Shakyamuni Buddha’s division bodies come to the Dharma Assembly as well.

In like manner, in turn, the Buddhas from all the ten directions. It started in the east, then went to the south, west, north, the intermediate directions, and up and down. They all arrived and assembled there, where Shakyamuni Buddha and Many Jewels Buddha were, taking their seats in the eight directions, on all sides of the two Buddhas.

At that time, each direction was filled with Buddhas, Thus Come Ones from the four hundred myriads of millions of nayutas of lands in each of the four directions. So the place was filled with the division bodies of Shakyamuni Buddha!

In this Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha transforms the lands three times, purifying them each time. Ultimately, what does this mean? Is this like, when we ask guests to visit us, we first clean the house and straighten things up out of respect for our guests? That is not the whole story. Then what does it mean?

The first transformation represents the severing of the delusions of views and thought.

What are the delusions of views and thought? Those who have heard lectures on the Sutras will know, but newer students will not be familiar with these terms. Some will hear this explanation and understand the concepts immediately. On the one hand, this means that they have wisdom. On the other hand, it might mean that they listened to Sutras in former lifetimes, and so in this life they understand them immediately.

View delusions refer to “giving rise to greed when faced with a state.” If you have cut off view delusions, then no matter what happens, you will be “thus, thus unmoving,” and you will not be influenced by it.

You might say, “Well, I have no view delusions!”

I do not believe it! Why not? Let me ask you, if you see someone eating something good, do you feel like eating some, too?

“No,” you say.

Ha! You are probably lying. It is for sure that if people see other people eating good things, they want some, too. Those who like to drink wine will get thirsty for some if they see someone else taking a drink! That is view delusion! In general, if you see wealth, you think, “I would like to have some more money!” and greed and delusion arise. The same applies when you see form, fame, food, or sleep. “Wouldn’t a nap be nice right now?” View delusion!

Thought delusion refers to “giving rise to discrimination when confused about principle.” This means that something is correct but you think, “The Dharma Master is just speaking expediently. It is not really that way, is it? It is, but they think it is not because they do not understand the principle in the first place. The judgments are way off. “The Dharma Master just keeps saying the same old thing over and over. There is nothing the slightest bit true about it.” In reality, every sentence is true, but because they have unclear thinking, they deny it and say it is all false. View delusion refers to confusion regarding things that are perceived. Thought delusion refers to confusion arising out of unclear thinking. The first transformation of the lands, then, refers to the severing of the delusions of views and thought.

The second transformation of the lands, purifying them, represents the severing of delusions like dust and sand. The delusions of views and thought are called “coarse delusions,” because they are easy to spot and recognize. The delusions like dust and sand are much subtler. Such delusions are as fine as dust and as many as grains of sand. We have many, many delusions of dust and sand in our eighth consciousness all day long. The delusions of views and thought are precipitated by the delusions of dust and sand, in fact.

Let us make an analogy. Your room may appear very neat and tidy to you most of the time, without a mote of dust in it. But when the sun shines into your room, you can see millions of millions of dust motes bobbing around in the air, up and down! They are only visible in the bright rays of the sun. The rays of the sun are like your inherent wisdom. With wisdom, you can see that you have so many delusions like dust and sand. The delusions of dust and sand are what cause you to give rise to so much false thinking. It seems to come out of nowhere, all of a sudden. These delusions are very, very subtle. Stupid people have no idea that they have false thinking all day long. They do nothing but indulge in false thinking, and they still think they are doing okay. They may false think about New York, about the skyscrapers and the stock exchange. He also hears the rise and fall of the stocks on Wall Street. False thinking here and there, they think themselves very clever.

Without buying a bus, plane, or train ticket, or driving a car, they can go all the way to New York! They think it is wonderful, but they do not realize it is just false thinking, delusions like dust and sand. They run around north, east, south, west, up and down, and do not need to spend a cent! In reality, why are you getting old? It is just because you indulge in false thinking! If you did not indulge in false thinking, you would always be young. Because you have so much false thinking, you use up all the “gasoline” in your mind, the fuel of your life. You use it all up on false thinking. Now that I have told you this, you should understand it. False thinking is the worst thing of all!

The second transformation of the lands represents severing the delusions like dust and sand.

The third transformation of lands represents severing the delusions of ignorance. When you break through ignorance, you see the Dharma-nature. I have explained ignorance before. It is the smallest, finest kind of delusion. It is the littlest one! It is that thing which you just cannot understand. You do not understand the Buddhadharma. That is ignorance. You do not understand why you were born, that is ignorance. You do not understand how you will die, that is ignorance. Whatever you do not understand, whatever you are confused about, that is ignorance, delusion. Bodhisattvas at the level of Equal Enlightenment still have one portion of “production mark” ignorance, which they have not broken through. If they break through this one portion, they realize Buddhahood, and certify to the Buddha fruit. Since they have not broken through it, they are called “Equal Enlightenment Bodhisattvas.”

How many portions of ignorance do we have remaining? Limitless and boundless amounts of ignorance! We have not broken through the delusions like dust and sand and the delusions of ignorance keep piling up behind them. The delusions like dust and sand arise with the aid of the delusions of ignorance. What helps ignorance arise? Stupidity helps ignorance arise.

Therefore, in The Dharma Flower Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha transforms the lands three times. The meaning behind this is to cause us to cut off the three delusions: 1) the delusions of views and thought, 2) the delusions like dust and sand, and 3) the delusions of ignorance.

The three transformations of the lands have yet another interpretation. It represents the power of the Eight Liberations, the Eight Victorious Places, and the Ten All-places. The power of these three sets of Dharmas enables us to turn away from confusion and go towards enlightenment.

The Eight Liberations, also called the Eight Castings Off the Back, are:

1. The liberation in which inwardly there is the mark of form and outwardly form is contemplated.

2. The liberation in which inwardly there is no mark of form and outwardly form is contemplated.

3. The liberation in which the pure body of wisdom certifies to the complete dwelling.

4. The liberation of the station of boundless emptiness.

5. The liberation of the station of boundless consciousness.

6. The liberation of the station of nothing whatsoever.

7. The liberation of the station of neither perception nor non-perception.

8. The liberation of the samadhi of the extinction of the skandhas of feeling and thought.

The Eight Victorious Places are:

1. The victorious place in which inwardly there is the thought of form and outwardly a small amount of form is contemplated.

2. The victorious place in which inwardly there is the thought of form and outwardly a large amount of form is contemplated.

3. The victorious place in which inwardly there is no thought of form, and outwardly a small amount of form is contemplated.

4. The victorious place in which inwardly there is no thought of form, and outwardly a large amount of form is contemplated.

5. The victorious place of green.

6. The victorious place of yellow.

7. The victorious place of red.

8. The victorious place of white.

The Ten All-places refer to the contemplation of: green, yellow, red, white, earth, air, fire, water, consciousness, and emptiness.

The Eight Liberations, Eight Victorious Places and Ten All-places are called the three samadhis. They are three types of contemplations used in practicing Dhyana.

The Eight Liberations are also called Eight Castings Off the Back because, by means of this contemplation, one turns one’s back on the states associated with the six sense objects and the five desires.

The Eight Victorious Places refer to the attainment of victorious knowledge and victorious views. Victorious knowledge means that your knowledge is correct. Victorious views means that your views are correct and you would not be upside down.

Those who cultivate Dhyana meditation must understand these states and then they can “break through the original investigation.” That means they can get enlightened. They break through their “hua tou.” The Venerable Master Hsu Yun said,

The home is broken up,
The people are gone;
It is hard to speak about it.

Empty space has also broken apart. There is no more empty space. This is describing such a state as one attains when one “breaks through the original investigation.”

The three transformations of the land apply to these Dhyana meditation techniques. The first transformation refers to the Eight Liberations. The second transformation refers to the Eight Victorious Places. The third transformation refers to the Ten All-places.

So it is not enough just to recite the words of the Sutras! You must understand their inner meanings to enter into the Sutra Treasury and gain wisdom like the sea. As long as you simply recite them without understanding the principles, you remain on the outside, and cannot enter into them. Thus, you cannot gain wisdom like the sea and you remain caught up in afflictions and united to ignorance. You “eat” afflictions, “sleep” with ignorance and “meditate” with the coarse delusions, fine delusions, and the delusions like dust and sand. If you understand the Sutras, then you can leave them behind. Otherwise, you will be confused by them.

Sutra:

At that time, all those Buddhas each seated on a lion throne beneath a jeweled tree, sent an attendant to inquire after Shakyamuni Buddha giving them each a sack full of flowers and saying to them, “Good men! Go to Mount Grdhrakuta, to the place of Shakyamuni Buddha and ask, in our name, ‘Are you free from illness and distress? Are you strong and at ease? Are the hosts of Bodhisattvas and Hearers at peace?’ Then scatter these precious flowers before the Buddha as an offering, saying, ‘The Buddha so-and-so wishes that the jeweled Stupa be opened.’ ” All the Buddhas sent attendants in this manner.

Outline:

G7. All the Buddhas wish that the Stupa be opened.
H1. The Buddhas all make inquiries and state their wishes.

Commentary:

At that time, right after Shakyamuni Buddha had transformed the lands three times. All those Buddhas, all the division bodies of Shakyamuni Buddha in the ten directions, each seated on a lion throne beneath a jeweled tree, sent an attendant, a Bodhisattva from his own Buddhaland. Before it said that each Buddha brought a Bodhisattva with him as an attendant. Now, each Buddha sent his attendant to inquire after Shakyamuni Buddha, to go there and inquire after his well-being, giving them each a sack full of flowers and saying to them, “Good men! Go to Mount Grdhrakuta, to Magic Mountain, Vulture Peak, to the place of Shakyamuni Buddha, and ask in our name ‘Are you free from illness and distress? You do not have any afflictions, do you? Are you strong and at ease? You are not over-taxing yourself, are you? Are the hosts of Bodhisattvas and Hearers at peace?’

Hearers are those who awoke to the Way upon hearing Shakyamuni Buddha speak the Dharma. There also are the Conditioned Enlightened Ones who cultivated the Twelve Causal Links. The Hearers cultivate the Four Truths. What are the Four Truths? They are suffering, origination, extinction, and the Way.

We have already discussed the Three Sufferings, the Eight Sufferings, and all the limitless sufferings. Origination refers to afflictions. Extinction refers to the extinction of afflictions. The Way is the path to the extinction.

The twelve Causal Conditions cultivated by the Conditioned Enlightened Ones are:

1. ignorance, which conditions
2. activity, which conditions
3. consciousness, which conditions
4. name and form, which conditions
5. the six sense organs, which conditions
6. contact, which conditions
7. feeling, which conditions
8. craving, which conditions
9. grasping, which conditions
10. becoming, which conditions
11. birth, which conditions
12. old age and death

When born during the time when a Buddha is in the world, they are called Conditioned Enlightened Ones, because they contemplate the Twelve Causal Conditions and thereby become enlightened. When born at a time when there is no Buddha in the world, they are called Solitarily Enlightened Ones. They live deep in the mountains by themselves. In the spring they watch the white flowers bloom, and in the fall they watch the yellow leaves fall. They see that the ten thousand things are born and then die over and over, from emptiness to existence and from existence to emptiness, and in this way they get enlightened.

Here in the text, the term Hearers refers to Hearers and Conditioned Enlightened Ones. “Are the hosts of Bodhisattvas and Hearers at peace? Is everybody happy? There have not been any problems, have there?”

Then scatter these precious flowers before the Buddha as an offering, saying, ‘The Buddha so-and-so wishes that the jeweled Stupa be opened. We all want the Stupa opened so we can see the Buddha Many Jewels.’ All the Buddhas sent attendants in this manner. All the division bodies of Shakyamuni Buddha in the three thousand great thousand worlds, each of two hundred myriads of millions of nayutas of lands—that is counting the second transformation of the land. If you count the third transformation, which was also two hundred myriads of millions of nayutas of lands, that makes four hundred myriads of millions of nayutas of lands. Multiply that by the eight directions and you get thirty-two hundred myriads of millions of nayutas of lands!

Sutra:

Then, Shakyamuni Buddha seeing that the division body Buddhas had all assembled there, each seated on a lion throne, and hearing that all the Buddhas together wished that the jeweled Stupa be opened, immediately arose from his seat into empty space. All those in the four assemblies rose, placed their palms together, and single-mindedly beheld the Buddha.

Then, Shakyamuni Buddha, using his right forefinger, opened the door of the Stupa of seven jewels, which made a great sound like that of a bolt being removed from a large city gate.

Outline:

H2. Shakyamuni Buddha opens the Stupa.

Commentary:

All the Buddhas who were transformations of Shakyamuni Buddha sent their attendants to inquire after Shakyamuni Buddha. Then, Shakyamuni Buddha, seeing that the division body Buddhas had all assembled there. When Shakyamuni Buddha used the power of his spiritual penetrations to observe the situation, he saw that all the division body Buddhas had, in fact, arrived.

Each seated on a lion throne. Each of the division body Buddhas were sitting on a Lion Throne beneath a Bodhi Tree. And hearing that all the Buddhas together, all the division bodies, wished that the jeweled Stupa be opened, immediately arose from his seat into empty space. He got up and rose up into empty space.

All those in the four assemblies, Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Upasakas, Upasikas, rose, placed their palms together, and singlemindedly beheld the Buddha.

Then, Shakyamuni Buddha, using his right forefinger, opened the door of the Stupa of seven jewels, which made a great sound like that of a bolt being removed from a large city gate.

“Using his right forefinger” represents the use of the provisional teaching. “To open the Stupa” represents the “opening of the provisional.” “Seeing the Buddha” represents the manifesting of the actual teaching. This means that the former provisional teaching, the expedient teaching, is dispensed with so that the real actual Dharma-door can manifest.

Sutra:

Thereupon, the entire assembly perceived the Thus Come One Many Jewels seated upon the lion throne inside the jeweled Stupa, his body whole and undecayed as if he were in Dhyana samadhi. They also heard him say, “Good indeed! Good indeed! Shakyamuni Buddha! Quickly speak The Dharma Flower Sutra! I came here to hear this Sutra!”

The four assemblies, upon seeing a Buddha who had crossed over into extinction limitless thousands of myriads of millions of eons ago, speak in this way, praised it as something unprecedented, they scattered heaps of precious heavenly flowers upon the Buddha Many Jewels and Shakyamuni Buddha.

Outline:

H3. What the four assemblies see and hear.


Commentary:

Thereupon, right after Shakyamuni Buddha opened the doors of the jeweled Stupa. The entire assembly perceived the Thus Come One Many Jewels seated upon the lion throne inside the jeweled Stupa, his body whole and undecayed; it was in perfect condition. As if he were in Dhyana samadhi, meditating. They also heard him say, “Good indeed! Good indeed! Shakyamuni Buddha! This is just great! I have come here to certify this Dharma Assembly. I ask that you quickly speak The Dharma Flower Sutra! Hurry up and speak it. I came here to hear this Sutra! That is why I am here!”

The four assemblies, upon seeing a Buddha who had crossed over into extinction limitless thousands of myriads of millions of eons ago, speak in this way. He had entered Nirvana so very long ago and yet now he had come to this Dharma assembly to praise Shakyamuni Buddha and ask him to hurry and speak The Dharma Flower Sutra. Everyone praised it as something unprecedented. They were all really surprised! They had never seen such a thing before. They scattered heaps of precious heavenly flowers upon the Buddha Many Jewels and Shakyamuni Buddha, as tokens of their reverence.

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