The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra
Chapter 12: Devadatta
With Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
Then the seer Asita came and spoke to me,
Saying, ‘I have the subtle, wonderful Dharma,
Rare in all the world.
If you can cultivate it,
I will speak it for your sake.’
H2. Verses about finding a Dharma Master.
Then the seer Asita came and spoke to me, the king, saying, “I have the subtle, wonderful Dharma.” “Asita” means incomparable, which describes the length of his life span. His Dharma was also incomparable. No one could speak the Dharma better than he could. The Seer Asita--probably with the penetration of the Heavenly eye, or ear, or other’s thoughts, or past lives or whatever--knew that the King was ready to become a servant in order to hear the Dharma, so he decided to test him out to see if he really meant it.
It is the highest, supreme, subtle and wonderful Dharma. There is no dharma higher or more profound. It is the subtle within the subtle, the wonderful within the wonderful, rare in all the world. If you can cultivate it, I will speak it for your sake. If you can cultivate according to it, and not disobey me, I will tell you about it.
Hearing what the seer said,
My heart was filled with great joy.
I then followed the seer,
Supplying him with all his needs,
Gathering firewood, fruit and melons,
Respectfully presenting them at the proper time.
Because I cherished the wonderful Dharma,
I was neither lax nor tired in body or mind.
I diligently sought the great Dharma
For the sake of all living beings.
H3. Verses about receiving the Dharma and reverently practicing it.
Hearing what the seer said, my heart was filled with great joy. I then followed the seer, supplying him with all his needs. The king would gather all the things the seer needed, gathering firewood, fruit and melons, respectfully presenting them at the proper time. After a meal he would offer the seer fruit, very respectfully. Because I cherished the wonderful Dharma, I was neither lax nor tired in body or mind. I diligently sought the great Dharma for the sake of all living beings. I sought the supreme Buddha Way and I was never lazy. I did not seek it for my own benefit, but for the sake of all living beings.
And not for my own sake,
Or for the pleasures of the five desires.
Thus as king of a great realm,
I diligently sought to obtain this Dharma,
And accordingly achieved Buddhahood,
And now I speak it to you.”
H4. Conclusion: certification and exhortation to practice.
I sought the Dharma for the sake of all living beings and not for my own sake. It was not for myself or for the pleasures of the five desires, or out of selfishness or self-benefit. It was not out of greed for wealth, form, fame, food, sleep; or for forms, sounds, smells, tastes, objects of touch or dharmas. Thus as king of a great realm, I diligently sought to obtain this Dharma and accordingly achieved Buddhahood. And now I speak it to you. If he had said, “I am a king. You should give the Dharma to me,” he would have been successful. Even though he was a king, he was willing to be a servant for the sake of the Dharma. Because he was so sincere, and entirely lacked the mark of a self, he became a Buddha. Now he is telling everyone about his past cultivation and practice of the Bodhisattva Path.
The Buddha told the Bhikshus, “The king was I, myself, in a former life and the seer was the present Devadatta.”
F2. Putting together the past and the present.
G1. The assembly.
When he had finished speaking the verse, the Buddha told the Bhikshus, including the Bhikshunis, the Upasakas and Upasikas. The king who limitless eons ago gave up his kingdom and authority to his son and renounced all his treasures to follow the seer Asita as his servant, was I, myself in a former life. He was me, the present Shakyamuni Buddha. And the seer Asita was the present Devadatta, “fever of the gods.”
In the past Devadatta was Shakyamuni Buddha’s Good and Wise Advisor and his teacher. He taught Shakyamuni Buddha The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra. Shakyamuni Buddha was his servant and waited upon him in order to attain the supreme, wonderful Dharma. In the life in which Shakyamuni Buddha became a Buddha, Devadatta was no longer a Good and Wise Advisor. He was an evil advisor! He opposed everything the Buddha did. So you see, in one life, he was a good advisor, and in another an evil advisor. Devadatta stole 500 of Shakyamuni Buddha’s disciples. He came and manifested spiritual powers, which succeeded in confusing them into going off to study under him. Devadatta told them, “Shakyamuni Buddha says he has spiritual powers, but he does not have very big ones, really. His spiritual powers are not even as great as those of my disciples are! Follow me and see!” and he took five hundred Bhikshus off with him. When they arrived at his place he commanded them to all go to sleep for one hundred days. When Shariputra realized that 500 Bhikshus were gone from the assembly, he used his spiritual powers to get them back. At the end of the hundred days, when Devadatta woke up, he saw that the Bhikshus were gone. Using his spiritual powers in turn, he figured out they had been stolen back by Shariputra. That infuriated him and from then on, he exclusively slandered Shakyamuni Buddha and tried to destroy him.
Shakyamuni Buddha taught his disciples to eat vegetarian food and not to eat meat, but Devadatta tried to do him one better by telling his disciples not even to eat salt! Devadatta taught them not to eat, not even immortals. It made the food tasteless, but he felt he was one up on the Buddha that way. Shakyamuni Buddha taught his disciples to eat only one meal in the middle of the day, but Devadatta told his disciples to eat only once every one hundred days. This was supposed to mean he was higher than Shakyamuni Buddha. People that wanted to out do Shakyamuni Buddha studied with Devadatta. Because they were not in accord with the Middle Way, the more they studied, the more they got off the track.
Devadatta also committed the offense of shedding the Buddha’s blood. Once when the Buddha was walking beneath Vulture Peak, Devadatta pushed a huge boulder on top of him, intending to turn him into a pancake. The Dharma Protectors raced to the rescue and rammed the boulder with their vajra pestles to send it off in another direction. They knocked lose a small piece of rock however, which hit the Buddha on his little toe, breaking the skin, and causing it to bleed. Shedding the Buddha’s blood is one of the Five Rebellious Acts—unpardonable offenses.
He also killed an Arhat, another one of the Five Rebellious Acts, when with one fist he beat to death the Bhikshuni Lian Hua She was an Arhat that had certified to the fruit. He also broke up the harmony of the Sangha, and he encouraged King Ajatashatru to kill his father and mother. Thus he committed all five of the Five Rebellious Acts:
3. Killing an Arhat,
4. Shedding the Buddha’s blood, and
5. Breaking the harmony of the Sangha.
Even though he was an evil advisor, he was really helping Shakyamuni Buddha, in a backhanded way. When Shakyamuni Buddha lectured on The Dharma Flower Sutra, he gave Devadatta a prediction of Buddhahood. In the future Devadatta will become a Buddha. Devadatta was once Shakyamuni Buddha’s teacher, and now Shakyamuni Buddha has become a Buddha but Devadatta has not done so yet. In the Buddhadharma, whoever works hard and is vigorous becomes a Buddha. There is no “rank.”
It will soon be the anniversary of Guan Yin Bodhisattva, and we are going to liberate five hundred pigeons. Whoever wants to contribute is welcome to do so. It is up to you. No one can do it for you, however, if you want to contribute and gain merit and virtue, you may.
This year in Taipei, Taiwan at Hu Guo Lin Ji Monastery, the complete precepts will be transmitted. Last year when five Americans took the precepts in Taiwan their sincerity impressed the Taiwanese so much that this year they have changed the precept-taking ceremony from 32 days to 53 days. In China in the past the precept transmissions were always 53 days long. A lot of their procedures still differ considerably from the traditional manner, but at least the number of days is now the same. The disciples of the fourfold assembly! This year is the best opportunity for people who are willing to receive the Bhikshu precepts. It is also the best opportunity for those willing to receive the Bhikshuni precepts. It is also the best opportunity for those willing to take the Upasaka precepts and the Upasika precepts.
In cultivation, the busier you are the better. The busier the schedule is the less false thinking you will have. That is why in the Chan Hall you walk and sit all day without rest. Everyone should be forging a Vajra indestructible body! Do not be afraid of working too hard.
“It is because of my Good and Wise Advisor, Devadatta, that I have perfected the Six Paramitas of kindness, compassion, joy, and giving, as well as the thirty-two marks and eighty fine characteristics, coloring of burnished purple gold. The Ten Powers, the Four Fearlessnesses, the Four Dharmas of Attraction, the Eighteen Unshared Dharmas, the power of the way of spiritual penetrations, the accomplishment of equal, proper enlightenment, and the vast rescue of living beings, all this came about because of my Good and Wise Advisor, Devadatta.”
G2. Reward accruing through teacher/disciple relationship.
H1. The disciple’s accomplishment based on teacher’s help.
It is because of my Good and Wise Advisor, Devadatta, who taught and transformed me, that I have perfected the Six Paramitas. “Paramitas” means perfections. Thus the six are the completion, the perfect realization of giving, morality, patience, vigor, dhyana samadhi, and prajna.
The Four Causal Conditions of Giving
If you cultivate giving,
1. You can break through the causal conditions of stinginess.
2. You can adorn Bodhi. That is, you can enhance the enlightenment of your self-nature.
3. You benefit both yourself and others. You benefit yourself, because after you give, it makes you happy. You help others by relieving them of their hunger and thirst.
4. In the future you will attain a great fruition. If you can give, in future lives, you will be wealthy and honored. The more you give away, the more you get. If you give, in the future you will be wealthy. However, you cannot give with the hopes that you will become wealthy, because that is too petty. You should just give and transfer the merit to Bodhi, seeking the unsurpassed Bodhi. Do not be attached to the mark of giving.
The Four Causal Conditions of Morality
If you cultivate morality,
1. You can cultivate all good dharmas and eradicate evil prohibitions. You cannot cultivate just one form of good. You must do all manners of good deeds. Your good deeds will cancel out the evil dharmas.
2. You will adorn Bodhi and gather in living beings. Since you adorn your self-nature’s Bodhi, you gather in and transform living beings, not rejecting any. You cannot think, “I have no affinities with that being, so I am not going to save it.” Whether or not you have affinities, you have to teach them all.
3. Your body and your surroundings will be peaceful when you are awake and when you are asleep. You are peaceful inside and out. You are peaceful in your self-nature and in your body. You will have no regrets or hatred. You will not want to harm any living creature. Instead, you will protect and support them.
4. In the future, you will receive the happiness of humans and gods, and also the bliss of Nirvana.
These four come about through the practice of morality.
The Four Causal Conditions of Patience
If you cultivate patience,
1. You will be able to take your impatience across.
2. You will adorn Bodhi and receive and transform living beings.
3. You will enable both yourself and others to be free of fear.
4. In the future you will not be hateful.
If you cultivate patience in this life, then your next life you will not have a big temper. Why do you have such a big temper now? It is because you did not cultivate patience in the past. If you cultivate patience, your household will be peaceful and your family members will not become separated from one another. Because of the merit and virtue you have gained through the cultivation of patience, you will not undergo suffering and hardship. In the future too, you will obtain the bliss of Nirvana.
The Four Causal Conditions of Vigor
If you cultivate vigor,
1. You can destroy your laziness and laxness. If you are not vigorous, your laziness will overcome you.
2. You will adorn Bodhi and gather in living beings.
3. You will increase in good dharmas. That is, your self-benefit will grow, and by not bothering other people, you will benefit others as well.
4. With great strength you will obtain the fruit of Bodhi.
The Four Causal Conditions of Dhyana
If you cultivate Dhyana, “thought cultivation” or “stilling thought,”
1. You will destroy your confusion. The skill of dhyana samadhi can subdue your scatteredness.
2. You will adorn Bodhi and gather in living beings.
3. You will be peaceful in body and mind. That is self-benefit, and you will not bother other living beings; that is benefiting others.
4. In your state of purity and tranquility you will gain Nirvana.
The Causal Conditions of Prajna
If you cultivate Prajna,
1. You will destroy your ignorance.
2. You adorn Bodhi and gather in living beings.
3. With wisdom, you will make yourself happy—that is self-benefit. As to benefiting others, if you have wisdom you can teach and transform living beings.
4. If you have Prajna wisdom you can overcome the “obstacle of the known.”
Shakyamuni Buddha relates that he perfected the Six Paramitas, because of his Good and Wise Advisor, Devadatta. He also perfected kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and giving. With “compassion” you relieve them of their suffering. “Sympathetic joy” is what enables you to take delight in causing beings to be happy. “Giving” means renouncing those things other people cannot give away. Kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and giving are the Four Unlimited Minds of the Buddha. They are said to be “unlimited” because there is no end to them. They are like flowing water—endless for the taking and inexhaustible in their function. Through the cultivation of the Four Unlimited Minds, one realizes Buddhahood. When you become a Buddha, your scope is unlimited in these four ways. You can use these to teach and transform living beings. They are limitless in the past, limitless in the present and limitless in the future. They include all three periods of time. They are used to cultivate the Path to Buddhahood, and to teach and transform living beings. Their power is exceedingly great.
To be kind means to be kind to others, and to bestow happiness upon them. It does not mean that others are supposed to make you happy!
To be compassionate means to relieve others of suffering, not to get rid of your own suffering. This is something we should all be clear about. To be joyful means to make others joyful, not yourself. To give means to fulfill others’ wishes and not just your own. Shakyamuni Buddha gave up his life thousands of times—renouncing what others cannot renounce. In teaching and transforming living beings he made them all happy and got rid of their suffering. This is what Shakyamuni Buddha did as his practice for many lives and many eons. I just spoke about the Six Paramitas practiced by the Bodhisattvas. Great Vehicle Bodhisattvas also cultivate Ten Paramitas. They are the above Six Paramitas plus:
The seventh is the Paramita of Expedient Means. This is to turn the affairs of the world into the Buddha’s work, to find ways and means of helping others expediently—to speak the Dharma expediently, that is provisionally. He is skilled in finding temporary dharmas, which happen to suit particular living beings at a given time.
The eighth is the Paramita of Vows. One makes vows to save all living beings.
The ninth is the Paramita of Power. One needs strength to arrive at the other shore—to attain paramita.
The tenth is the Paramita of Wisdom. This refers to provisional wisdom, the expedient wisdom used to teach and transform living beings. Great Vehicle Bodhisattvas cultivate these Ten Paramitas. The Four Unlimited Minds include the Ten Paramitas. Such explanations can go into infinite, endless detail.
The Buddha also perfected the thirty-two marks of a great hero. In the Three Storehouses Teaching, one cultivates morality and thereby attains the thirty-two marks. If you cultivate giving, patience, you will attain the thirty-two marks of a great hero. This is the meaning within Pervasive Teaching. The meaning of Separate Teaching is that you cultivate all dharmas and see that they are empty, then you achieve the thirty-two marks. According to the Perfect Teaching, one cultivates the Wisdom of the Way—Dharmas—to attain the thirty-two marks. The Buddha accomplished these thirty-two marks by cultivating blessings and wisdom in the past. If you are interested in studying the thirty-two marks, you can look it up in the Buddhist dictionary.
The Buddha also perfected eighty fine characteristics. The thirty-two marks and eighty fine characteristics belong to the Buddha’s perfect, full reward body, which is the color of burnished purple gold—gold of the best quality. He is replete with the Ten Powers and Four Fearlessnesses. The Buddha speaks the Dharma like a lion roaring, without fear. There are Four Fearlessnesses of the Buddha, and also Four Fearlessnesses of the Bodhisattva. The Buddha’s fearlessnesses have been explained before. The Bodhisattva’s fearlessnesses are:
1. Their memories are unfailing, and so they speak without fear. They know the marks of all Dharmas and never forget them. Because they remember all the doctrines very clearly, they speak the Dharma with eloquence. Using the medicine of Dharma, they speak Dharma without fear.
2. The Dharma is like medicine. They know which Dharma is used to cure which “illness” of living beings. One living being may have a great greedy mind, so they might use a small amount of greed and a great amount of giving to counteract his illness. This might be like giving a child a piece of candy and then saying, “You be a good child. Be filial to your parents.” Or perhaps you give the child a piece of candy and then teach him how to bow to the Buddha. Knowing the child is greedy for candy, you give him some and then cure his “illness” with the Dharma. Knowing the roots, dispositions, and desires of living beings, whether their natures are good or evil, and the quality of their mind grounds, one is able to speak the Dharma for them and decisively save them. It is said,
If you want to lead them to the Buddha’s wisdom,
You must first bait the hook with something they like.
You must give them something sweet first. If they have not studied the Buddhadharma, and right away you give them something bitter, they will run off. Say they do not know anything about Buddhism, but you start scolding them right off saying, “You are terrible!” and so on. If you do that, they will run away. Once they understand the Dharma, then even if you hit them or scold them, they still will not run away. It is all a matter of knowing the dispositions, natures, desires, and thoughts of living beings.
3. When confronted with difficult questions they speak the Dharma without fear. This means they can answer any questions put to them.
4. Endowed with the ability to resolve doubts, they speak the Dharma without fear. If you ask them about something you do not understand they can explain it for you.
The Buddha has perfected the Four Dharmas of Attraction. They are,
1. Giving. Living beings are very greedy. If you tell them to give right away, they will not do it. Tell them to give five dollars and you will scare them to death! So first of all you give them something! “But isn’t that rather calculating?” you ask. Perhaps, but it is for the purpose of saving that person. First you give him something and then you find a clever way to cross him over and teach him how to practice giving. Thus, giving is one way to attract living beings to the Buddhadharma.
2. Kind Words. Everyone likes to hear nice things. So you tell someone, “You have a good heart, and you are a good worker too.” You do not just walk up to people and drop a verbal bomb, or hit them over the head with an iron club so they run off in terror. In general, you have to tell them things they like to hear.
3. Beneficial Conduct. This means you benefit others and do things to help them.
4. Cooperation. If you want to teach someone, you might take up the same occupation and work beside him. For instance, he enjoys gambling. Living beings who gamble, care about nothing. Once he starts gambling, he will not listen to any Buddhadharma that you tell him. Instead, you follow him to the casino and stay there. When he is happy, your body turn into a body similar to his. Say you disguise yourself as a student to save a student. When the student sees you are just like him, he will trust you and believe what you say. You want to convert laborers, then you would help him with physical labor. He sees that it is not bad that you came to help him with work, so he will believe in anything you tell him. With these Four Dharmas you attract and convert living beings. Those of you who are working outside should save those with whom you share the same occupation, always using the Four Dharmas of Attraction.
The Buddha has the Eighteen Unshared Dharmas. These Eighteen Dharmas belong only to Buddha. They are not shared by the Two Vehicles.
1. Faultless in Body. For limitless eons, Shakymuni Buddha has guarded the wisdom-life of his Dharma-body, without making a mistake. There are three offenses committed by the body: killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct. The Buddha has committed no offenses of the body throughout limitless eons.
2. Faultless in Speech. The Buddha speaks the supreme, profound, and subtle Dharma. With his mouth he does not commit the four evils of loose speech, false speech, harsh speech, or backbiting. When Shakyamuni Buddha extended his tongue, it covered his whole face! His tongue extended to his hairline. How did he get such a long tongue? He never lied, that is how. If you want to know who lies and who does not lie, take a look at their tongues! This applies to me, too! But even then, Shakyamuni Buddha’s tongue was not all that long. In The Amitabha Sutra it says that the Buddhas put forth “a vast and long tongue, everywhere covering the three thousand great thousand worlds.” That is long!
3. Faultless in Mindfulness. In his mind, he constantly keeps the thought to disregard his very body for the sake of the Dharma. His mind is not defiled by the three poisons of greed, hatred, and stupidity. Thus, he is faultless in mindfulness.
4. No Discriminations in His Perception. Throughout limitless eons the Buddha only sought the supreme Bodhi Way of enlightenment. He had not other false thinking. Therefore, in the present, he has realized the supreme Bodhi Way.
5. No Lack of Concentration in His Thoughts. Not only does the Buddha not have discriminations in his perceptions, but also in every life, he cultivated dhyana samadhi. Therefore, he attained supreme, wonderful samadhi, and his mind is not scattered.
6. Nothing Not Known and Yet Everything Already Cast Aside. The Buddha completely knows and understands all dharmas. However, he is not attached to any dharmas. Although he knows all dharmas, he has renounced all dharmas. He has put them all down. Because he has cast aside all dharmas, there are no dharmas whatsoever that he has attained.
7. Zeal that Never Decreases. “Zeal” refers to hopes and wishes.
“But shouldn’t one be without hopes and wishes?” you asked.
The Buddha’s zeal is not like ours. His zeal is not directed towards the objects of the five desires: wealth, form, fame, food, and sleep. The Buddha’s zeal is directed towards teaching and transforming living beings in every life. He is zealous in his wish to save living beings, to help them toward the realization of Buddhahood. This is the Buddha’s “hope.”
8. Vigor that Never Decreases. Vigor cannot decrease. Ever since the Buddha began to cultivate the Bodhisattva path, there was only vigor, never retreat. He only moved forward with vigor and never retreated. No matter what it is that you do, you must complete it and do it as well as you possibly can.
9. Mindfulness that Never Decreases. He is always mindful of the Dharma cultivated by all the Buddhas of the three periods of time. His mindfulness of the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha is uninterrupted and never decreases. If you merely are mindful and are not vigorous, it is not enough. If you are merely vigorous but are not mindful, that will not work either. You must have both, because they aid each other.
10. Wisdom that Never Decreases. His wisdom grows every day. It does not grow one day and shrink the next!
11. Liberation that Never Decreases. Day by day, he is more liberated. Day by day he gains more freedom and ease.
12. Knowledge and Vision of Liberation that Never Decreases. If one is liberated, but still holds to knowledge and views regarding liberation, that is not true liberation. One must also be liberated from the knowledge and vision regarding liberation.
13. All Body Karma Accords with the Practice of Wisdom. In all his bodily actions he is without stupidity or ignorance. His body karma is pure.
14. All Speech Karma Accords with the Practice of Wisdom.
15. All Mind Karma Accords with the Practice of Wisdom.
16. Wisdom Which Affords Unhindered Knowledge of the Past.
17. Wisdom Which Affords Unhindered Knowledge of the Future.
18. Wisdom Which Affords Unhindered Knowledge of the Present.
Only the Buddha has those Eighteen Dharmas. They are not shared with the Three Vehicles: the Bodhisattvas, Conditioned-enlightened Ones, or the Hearers.
The Buddha has the power of the way of spiritual penetrations. With his unlimited spiritual penetrations, the Buddha accomplished the Buddha Way, that is, the accomplishment of equal, proper enlightenment, and the vast rescue of living beings. All this came about because of my Good and Wise Advisor, Devadatta. Because of the powerful teaching of my Good Knowing Advisor, I have realized Buddhahood!
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