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Vision of the Jeweled Stupa
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.
H3. What the four assemblies see and hear.
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.
The Buddha Many Jewels, in the jeweled Stupa, offered half of his seat to Shakyamuni Buddha, saying, “Shakyamuni Buddha, would you take this seat?” Shakyamuni Buddha then entered the Stupa and sat down in full lotus on half of that seat.
H4. The two Buddhas share the seat.
The Buddha Many Jewels, in the jeweled Stupa, offered half of his seat to Shakyamuni Buddha, saying, “Shakyamuni Buddha, would you take this seat? There is room for one more here. We can share.” Shakyamuni Buddha then entered the Stupa without further ado, saying, “Okay, I will take half,” and sat down in full lotus on half of that seat. He did not sit casually; he sat upright in full lotus.
The great assembly, seeing the two Thus Come Ones seated in the jeweled Stupa in full lotus on the lion throne, all had this thought, “The Buddhas are sitting up so high and far off. We only wish that the Thus Come One would use the power of his spiritual penetrations and enable us all to dwell in empty space.”
Shakyamuni Buddha then used his spiritual powers and took the entire assembly up into empty space.
H5. The four assemblies ask to be taken into empty space.
The great assembly, seeing the two Thus Come Ones seated in the jeweled Stupa in full lotus on the lion throne, all had this thought, “They are really good buddies! The Buddhas are sitting up so high and far off. We can hardly see them. They may be speaking loudly, but still they are so far away. We only wish that the Thus Come One would use the power of his spiritual penetrations and enable us all to dwell in empty space. We all want to go up into empty space. Wouldn’t that be great?” That is what they were all thinking.
Shakyamuni Buddha then, because he had the power to read the others’ minds, saw that these kiddies were just having false thinking and that if he did not take them up there too, they might start crying! So he used his spiritual powers and took the entire assembly up into empty space. They stood right there in empty space!
With a great voice he addressed the four assemblies, saying: “Who, in this Saha land, can broadly speak this Sutra of the Dharma Flower? Now is the proper time, for the Thus Come One will shortly enter Nirvana. The Buddha wishes to bequeath The Dharma Flower Sutra.”
F3. Shakyamuni Buddha announces his appeal.
With a great voice he addressed the four assemblies, Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Upasakas, Upasikas, saying, “Who in this Saha land can broadly speak this Sutra of the Dharma Flower?” This Saha World, one filled with myriad evils. “Broadly” means to speak it every day, like we do here at the Buddhist Lecture Hall. Why are we doing this every day? It is because at that time, when the Buddha asked everyone, we made vows. You said, “I want to lecture on it!” So, now when the world is so torn with war and strife and in such a dangerous situation, we still continue to lecture on the Sutra here at the Buddhist Lecture Hall. This is truly a case of “doing what is difficult to do.” It is very hard. We do not charge any money and most people are not interested or do not know about this Dharma Flower Assembly. If you want to study the Buddhadharma, and you do not come here to listen to the Sutra, you cannot be said to be really studying it. Today, I am telling you the plain truth. We are really upholding and practicing the Buddhadharma here.
Now is the proper time for those of you who want to propagate The Dharma Flower Sutra. Come forth! Make vows! Do not wait! Do not stare at each other and hold back. Hurry and make vows to teach The Dharma Flower Sutra. For the Thus Come One will shortly enter Nirvana. Shakyamuni Buddha says, “Not long after I speak The Dharma Flower Sutra, I am going to enter Nirvana. The Buddha wishes to bequeath, to assign, The Dharma Flower Sutra, to transfer the responsibility to someone.
We lecture the Buddhadharma at the Buddhist Lecture Hall, but it is really too bitter here. We get up at four in the morning, start reciting and then meditate and keep on working right through the day until nine at night. It is really an impossible schedule!
The problem is, if you insist that everything be “possible” you will not be able to investigate the genuine Buddhadharma. If you want to investigate the real Dharma, you have to take what you cannot take, and digest what you cannot digest! Then, there is hope for you. If you retreat the moment you run into some hardship or pain, then you are useless. To the ends of time, you will never master the real Buddhadharma. If you want to learn the genuine Buddhadharma, you must go where it is really “bitter.” The Buddhist Lecture Hall keeps the same schedule for cultivation, regardless of whether or not people come.
There are quite a few people here this summer for the Summer Session, but even if there were only one person, we would still do things the same way. If ten thousand people came, we would still do things the same way. The Dharma here flows like running water, every day.
This year for Guan Yin’s anniversary we are going to set free five hundred pigeons in a Liberating Life Ceremony. Someone is thinking, “In the future they will turn into five hundred Buddhas or five hundred Arhats!” We should not have this kind of false thinking. We should just go ahead and set them free. Today you all saw the two pigeons, Seven Bodhi Shares and Twelve Links? As soon as they saw me, they flew over and landed on my arms. These pigeons were in the group of thirty-four pigeons that we released a while back. They were the only two who came back. They are quite radiant and very obedient. When I told them to “come upstairs” they climbed up on my arms! They are very good!
Several people now are thinking about taking refuge. However, you must be even more obedient than these pigeons! You cannot be worse that a pigeon! After this, if I tell you to do something, you cannot refuse. If you do that, your teacher who finds “everything okay” might find things not okay!
The World Honored One, wishing to restate this meaning, spoke verses saying:
“The sagely lord, World Honored One,
Although long extinct
Within this jeweled Stupa
Has come here for the Dharma.
Who would not be diligent
For the sake of the Dharma?
This Buddha became extinct
Countless eons ago and yet,
In place after place, he listens to the Dharma,
Because it is difficult to encounter.
In the past this Buddha made a vow,
“After my extinction,
I will go everywhere
In order to hear the Dharma.”
F1. Verses about Many Jewels.
In this section of verse, Many Jewels Thus Come One is praised for his vow. He vowed to come and listen wherever The Dharma Flower Sutra was being spoken. If the Buddha Many Jewels goes out of his way like this, how much the more so should we ordinary people make an effort to listen to it! Then the World Honored One, wishing to restate his meaning, spoke verses saying:
The sagely lord, World Honored One: this is praising Many Jewels Thus Come One. He is honored by the title “Sagely Lord.” “World Honored” means that he is the most honored both in and beyond the world.
Although long extinct, even though limitless, limitless eons ago he passed into extinction, went to Nirvana, within this jeweled Stupa has come here for the Dharma. He came to hear the Dharma. Basically, he had already become a Buddha and do not need to listen to the Dharma. Still, he came to listen.
Who would not be diligent for the sake of the Dharma since the Buddha is so diligent, not fearing difficult, not being lazy, why are we common folk not diligent in our quest for the Dharma? Why are we lazy? For example, you might know quite clearly that the Sutra is being lectured but still not come to listen. Or else one might come and listen, but refuse to believe it. Or, if one believes it, one may fail to practice.
Those who truly believe in the Buddha will always come to the lectures on the Dharma, regardless of how busy they are. Listening to the Sutra lectures should be regarded as more important than life itself. It is essential to listen to the lectures.
This Buddha became extinct countless eons ago and yet, numberless kalpas ago. In place after place, he listens to the Dharma. Wherever The Dharma Flower Sutra is being lectured, he goes to listen, especially when the Buddha speaks it. He manifests his jeweled Stupa in empty space to certify the speaking of the Sutra.
Why does the Buddha Many Jewels, already a Buddha, still come to listen to The Dharma Flower Sutra? Because it is difficult to encounter you could say,
Supreme, profound, wonderful Dharma
Is hard to meet in a million eons.
I now see, hear, and uphold it,
And vow to understand the Thus Come One’s genuine meaning.
Because it is so hard to encounter, Many Jewels Thus Come One has vowed to go and listen to it wherever it is being spoken.
In the past, this Buddha made a vow. Why after all these eons, did he come to certify the Buddha’s speaking of the Sutra? Because of a vow he made long ago. He vowed that “After my extinction, I would go everywhere in order to hear the Dharma.” The Dharma Flower Sutra is very difficult to encounter. When I become a Buddha, it is for sure that I am going to protect the Bodhimanda in which the Buddha is speaking The Dharma Flower Sutra. I will certainly go there and protect it.
Why did he make such a strange vow? To manifest his jeweled Stupa when the Sutra is being taught? It was because this Sutra is so very important. It is said that The Dharma Flower is the Sutra for becoming a Buddha. Therefore, the Buddha Many Jewels vowed that in any land where The Dharma Flower Sutra was being spoken, he would always go and listen. He was not like us now. We have not even become Buddhas, and we neglect to listen to the Dharma! When do we ever expect to become Buddhas? Nobody could figure out when, because it is just way too far in the future—out of sight.
Someone is thinking, “Well, I always come to the lectures!”
Fine, but you do not listen.
Someone else is thinking, “But I listen! I listen to every word you say. But it is in Chinese and I do not understand it! The English translation is sometimes not always reliable, so I get about half.”
Someone else says, “I know Chinese and English! So it is for sure I hear it. I hear it, but I do not think it is all that wonderful.”
So I say, some hear it and do not believe it. Who would have guessed this very stupid teacher would catch these trains of thought?
Someone else says, “I believe it totally. I know it is an inconceivable state.”
So I say, you might believe it, but you do not practice it! You do not cultivate according to it.
Another disciple objects. “I hear it and then I practice it!”
Really? Perhaps for two and a half days. By the time the third day rolls around, you have forgotten it entirely.
Another very sincere disciple says, “From the time I started hearing the Dharma until now, I have put every principle into practice, unless I forgot about it. My memory is not so good, so even though I might want to practice, I sometimes forget.”
Those who want to practice forget, and those who remember do not want to practice. Ah! Just listening is not as good as practicing. And you cannot just practice for a couple days and then forget all about it. Wouldn’t you say that Dharma was difficult to accept? You can also say that living beings are just living beings, and they are extremely difficult to teach and transform.
They are hard to teach, but I do not care. The harder they are to teach, the harder I try to teach them. That is why I go right ahead and lecture on The Dharma Flower Sutra. If you listen, fine. If you do not listen, I will lecture for the tables and benches. If the tables and benches refuse to listen, then I will listen to myself. “Hmm! Listen to that. I am lecturing on The Dharma Flower Sutra. Doing a great job, too! Wonderful!”
See? Whether you listen or not, I do not get angry. I would not say, “You better listen to my lectures, or I am going to blast you a good one.” Not me.
Also, my division bodies,
Equal in number to the Ganges’ sands
Have come, wishing to hear the Dharma
And to see the extinct
Thus Come One Many Jewels.
Casting aside their wondrous lands
And assemblies of disciples
Gods, people, dragons and spirits,
And various offerings,
They have come here
To cause the Dharma long to abide.
In order to seat those Buddhas,
I have used my spiritual powers,
To move countless multitudes
And purify the lands.
Each one of the Buddhas
Takes his place beneath a jeweled tree
Like a lotus adorning
A clear, clean pond.
Beneath the jeweled trees,
There are lion thrones
Upon which the Buddhas sit,
Adorned with brilliant light,
Like great torches gleaming
In the darkness of the night.
Their bodies emit a delicate fragrance
Pervading the ten direction lands
All beings perfumed by it
Are overwhelmed with joy.
Like a great wind
Blowing the small trees.
By means of this expedient device,
The Dharma is caused long to abide.
F2. Verses about the division bodies.
Also, my division bodies, Shakyamuni Buddha continues, limitless Buddhas. They are equal in number to the Ganges’ sands have come, wishing to hear the Dharma and to see the extinct Thus Come One Many Jewels, who entered Nirvana long, long ago. Casting aside their wondrous lands, each division body casting aside his subtle, fine, country and assemblies of disciples. Basically, the Buddhas are especially close to their disciples. This is because living beings are just the Buddha’s heart.
Therefore, the Buddhas would not ever let go of living beings. The Buddhas, all cherish their disciples, like parents cherish their children. Some of you are thinking of visiting your parents, and your parents have even offered to pay your plane fare, round trip! This is because they cannot let you go! That is how the Buddhas feel about their disciples. I am rather lacking in compassion towards my disciples and not very good to them, however, I will tell you plainly.
Gods, people, dragons, and spirits and various offerings, they have come here to cause the Dharma long to abide. So the Buddhadharma can dwell in the world for a long, long time. The Stupa of the Thus Come One Many Jewels has manifested in empty space, and all the division body Buddhas of Shakyamuni Buddha have come here all in order to cause the Dharma to endure in the world for a long time.
In order to seat those Buddhas, I have used my spiritual powers to move countless multitudes and purify the lands, because I wanted each of the Buddhas to have a place to sit, I have moved all the countless beings of the hell, animal, hungry ghost realms. As well as moving the gods and asuras, somewhere else, to another land. In this way, the world is purified. There is no defiled energy in it.
I will give you an example. Let us say someone has a lot of cats and dogs that are not very sanitary in their habits and generally stink up the place. Let us say that an important guest is coming, so the cats are hustled off to their houses and the dogs are taken to the kennel. Then he cleans the room and sprays it with deodorizer, so it is all nice and clean. The same principle applies here in the Sutra. All the unclean beings have been moved away for the occasion.
Each one of the Buddhas takes his place beneath a jeweled tree like a lotus adorning a clear, clean pond. The Buddha purified the worlds three times, cleaning everything up real nice. And all the division bodies were sitting under their Bodhi trees like lotuses sitting in a crystal clear pond.
Beneath the jeweled trees, there are lion thrones upon which the Buddhas sit. The Bodhi trees are five hundred yojanas tall and the Lion Thrones are five yojanas tall. Adorned with brilliant light--they are a treasury of bright light. Like great torches gleaming in the darkness of the night. The world, which is in darkness, is illumined by the light emitted from the Buddhas.
Their bodies emit a delicate fragrance. People who cultivate and, life after life, keep the precepts, will always have bodies that emit the fragrance of a lotus. It will not be as strong as perfume. It is very subtle. Pervading the ten direction lands, all beings perfumed by it are overwhelmed with joy. They are delighted! Their tempers all disappear. They do not know where all their anger ran off too! Like a great wind blowing the small trees by means of this expedient device, the Dharma is caused long to abide.
To the great assembly, I say:
“After my extinction
Who can protect and uphold,
Read, speak and recite this Sutra?
Now, in the presence of the Buddhas
He should make a vow.”
F3. Verses about bequeathing.
G1 Three Buddhas’ (Shakyamuni, Many Jewels, and the division bodies) exhortation to propagate the Sutra.
H1. Searching for the person.
To the great assembly, I say, after my extinction, who can protect and uphold?
Shakyamuni Buddha said, “I am just about done speaking The Dharma Flower Sutra and am getting ready to enter Nirvana. After my extinction, who can protect and uphold? Who, of you in the four assemblies here can make a vow to support this Sutra, read, speak, and recite this Sutra? Now, in the presence of the Buddhas--me, Shakyamuni Buddha, Many Jewels Thus Come One, and all my division body Buddhas--he should make a vow. Make your vows now! Everyone makes one’s own vows. After hearing this Sutra, some of you may make vows to protect The Dharma Flower Sutra and support those who are lecturing on it.
The Buddha Many Jewels
Although long extinct
By means of his great vow
Utters the lion’s roar.
The Thus Come One Many Jewels,
As well as myself,
And the transformation Buddhas here assembled
Will know of this resolution.
All you disciples of the Buddha,
Whoever can protect this Dharma,
Should make a great vow
To cause the Dharma long to abide.
H2. The three Buddhas exhortation to hold the Sutra.
The Buddha Many Jewels, although long extinct by means of his great vow utters the lion’s roar from within the Great Stupa. The Thus Come One Many Jewels as well as myself, Shakyamuni Buddha, and the transformation Buddhas here assembled, who have gathered here, will know of this resolution. When you make your vow, we will all know what your intentions are. All of you disciples of the Buddha, whoever can protect this Dharma should make a great vow to cause the Dharma long to abide. Make this great vow so that the Dharma of The Dharma Flower Sutra can dwell in the world for a long time to come.