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 13: Exhortation to Maintain
With Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua

Sutra:

At that time the Bodhisattva Mahasattva Medicine King, and the Bodhisattva Mahasattva Great Delight in Speaking, along with a retinue of twenty thousand Bodhisattvas came before the Buddha and made the following vow: “We only pray that the World Honored One will not be concerned. After the Buddha’s extinction, we will reverently maintain, read, recite, and explain this Sutra.”

“In the future evil ages, as their good roots diminish, living beings will become increasingly arrogant, greedy for benefits and offerings, of increasingly unwholesome roots, far removed from liberation, and difficult to teach and transform. Still, we shall give rise to the great power of patience, read, and recite this Sutra, maintain and speak it, write it out, and make various kinds of offerings to it, not sparing our very bodies and lives.”

Outline:

D4. Chapter of Maintaining.
E1. Receiving and Maintaining.

F1. Twenty thousand Bodhisattvas offer up their vows to uphold the Sutra in this land.

Commentary:

This is Chapter thirteen of The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra. Its title is Exhortation to Maintain. The “exhortation” is to encourage people to receive and uphold, read and recite this Sutra. Originally, you may not have known anything about The Dharma Flower Sutra, but then someone tells you, “The Dharma Flower Sutra is the king of Sutras. If you recite The Dharma Flower Sutra, you will gain inconceivable merit. The Dharma Flower Sutra is wonderful beyond all words. There is nothing more wonderful. If you do not believe me, read it and you will discover how wonderful it is. When you hear this words, you think, “I will try it out,” and so you recite it. Once you have started, you cannot stop. You recite it every day, read it, write it out, and vow to uphold it.

Thus, if someone encourages people to read and recite this Sutra, such a one will gain limitless merit and virtue. From that you can surmise how much more merit is involved in listening to the Sutra lectures on this Sutra. Such merit is inconceivable! Great indeed! In this chapter, Shakyamuni Buddha and all the Great Bodhisattvas and Arhats exhort living beings to receive and maintain The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra.

At that time right after the Devadatta Chapter, the Bodhisattva Mahasattva Medicine King, the great Bodhisattva who specializes in curing illnesses, and the Bodhisattva Mahasattva Great Delight in Speaking, the Bodhisattva who enjoys lecturing on the Sutras more that anything else, along with a retinue of twenty thousand Bodhisattvas came before the Buddha and made the following vow: We only pray that the World Honored One will not be concerned. After the Buddha’s extinction, we will reverently maintain, read, recite, and explain this Sutra. Above, Shakyamuni Buddha was looking for someone to make a vow to receive, maintain, and propagate The Dharma Flower Sutra. Now, the Bodhisattvas are making vows to do just that.

In the future evil ages, no one will believe in the Buddha. If you lecture on the Dharma, no one will listen to you. The world will be filled with evil living beings that have no good roots at all. Day by day, their good roots will diminish, day by day, things will get worse. As their good roots diminish, living beings will become increasingly arrogant. Their virtue will be very scanty. You will not be able to find anyone with good roots, but you will encounter arrogant people all over the place. “Ha!” they will say, “Do you know what I am? I am the Buddha. Not only am I the Buddha, everybody is a Buddha!” That is the kind of unmitigated arrogance you will run into. They are totally unscrupulous and pay no attention to the rules and precepts. They do not understand a single Sutra that the Buddha spoke, but insist that they are Buddhas. What kind of a Buddha is it who does not know even the title of a single Buddhist Sutra? I really do not understand Buddhas like that. They are arrogant and think, “there is no one but me!” They are afraid that people will object if they say that they are Buddhas, so they cover for themselves by saying, “Everybody is a Buddha!” If everybody is a Buddha, what is the use of becoming a Buddha, anyway? If everybody were a Buddha, then we would not need to cultivate and realize Buddhahood. They end up convincing people that there is no need to cultivate. Such people are utterly stupid.

They will be greedy for benefits and offerings. Do you know why they insist that they are Buddhas? It is because they are greedy for offerings. They want people to benefit them. “Hey, let us make offerings to that Buddha!” That is what is happening with them. Of increasingly unwholesome roots, their evil roots will increase and they will become far removed from liberation. What is liberation? It is just the absence of any attachments. If you say that you are a Buddha, you have that attachment. It is no where near the totally unattached state of liberation. They draw near to attachment instead.

And they are difficult to teach and transform. People like that are the hardest kind to teach, but still, the Bodhisattvas say, “we shall give rise to the great power of patience and save them, no matter how hard it is to do. How will we save them? We will read, and recite this Sutra for them to hear, maintain and speak it, write it out, and make various kinds of offerings to it. This includes bowing to the Sutra, writing it out in one’s own blood, or lighting incense to the Sutra. We will do this continually, not sparing our very bodies and lives. Even if it means giving up our lives, we still do it. When you see people lighting incense or lamps before The Dharma Flower Sutra, and practicing bitter practices or writing out the text with their blood, it is because in the past as Bodhisattvas, they made such vows.

You Americans have come to the Summer Session to hear the Chapter on the Jeweled Stupa. Who would have guessed that not only would you get to hear that chapter, you get to hear the next one as well! In the future you will hear even more. We just mentioned one chapter in the Summer Session announcement, but now you get to hear so many chapters and you do not have to toil to gain a great deal of advantages in studying the Buddhadharma. The Bodhisattvas, then, make vows to offer up their lives if necessary to propagate The Dharma Flower Sutra. This is an inconceivable state.

You are now listening to The Dharma Flower Sutra and some of you made vows before Shakyamuni Buddha saying, “In the future we are going to the English speaking countries to investigate The Dharma Flower Sutra. You can lecture the Sutra and we will listen to it, and living beings will bring forth the Bodhi mind.” Some of you made a vow saying, “It would be too hard to go there and learn English, so let us be born in that country and take it as our native language.” Many of you have a Buddha-light surrounding you and you have great causal affinities with The Dharma Flower Sutra, the Sutra for realizing Buddhahood. This is inconceivably, ineffably wonderful! I could never express in words how wonderful it is. The Wonderful Dharma of The Dharma Flower Sutra is not easy to understand.

I said that some of you had Buddha-light, and one of you thought, “That must mean that my light and the Buddha’s are the same!”

I was not saying that the Buddha-light was yours. I was saying that the Buddha’s light was shining on you. I am now lecturing the Sutra and the Buddha is putting forth light to shine upon you so that you can quickly get rid of your arrogance and stupidity. Now do you understand? Your previous insight was mistaken.

Sutra:

Then, the five hundred Arhats in the assembly who had received predictions, spoke to the Buddha saying, “World Honored One, we too, vow to speak this Sutra extensively in other lands.”

Again, those still studying and those beyond study, eight thousand in number, who had received predictions, rose from their seats, placed their palms together, and facing the Buddha made this vow, “World Honored One, we too, will speak this Sutra extensively in other lands. Why? The people in the Saha World are for the most part evil, arrogant, of scanty merit and virtue, hateful, turbid, flattering, and deceitful, their hearts untrue.”

Outline:

F2. The Hearers vow to propagate the Sutra in other lands.

Commentary:

Then, the five hundred Arhats in the assembly who had received predictions, from Shakyamuni Buddha, spoke to the Buddha saying, “World Honored One, we too, vow to speak this Sutra extensively in other lands.” It will not be here in India, or in China. We are going to other lands. Perhaps Chinese people will go to a Western Country. Perhaps westerners will go to China. Perhaps blacks will go to Caucasian countries, etc. They will lecture upon The Dharma Flower Sutra everyday whether or not people come to listen. Even if it is lectured in another language and regardless of whether anyone understands it, it will still be lectured. Even if they have to use a translator, that is how it will be.

Again, those still studying and those beyond study, eight thousand in number, who had received predictions, rose from their seats. “Those still studying” are those at the level of first, second, and third stage Arhatship. “Those beyond study” are those who have reached fourth stage Arhatship. They did not give each other a signal or anything; they all just stood up together with more precision than a drill team, placed their palms together, and facing the Buddha made this vow, “World Honored One, we too, will speak this Sutra extensively in other lands. We will lecture on The Dharma Flower Sutra every day. We will not ever stop lecturing it. It will continue like flowing water. Why? Why are we making this vow? The people in the Saha World are for the most part evil. They are full of offenses, arrogant, of scanty merit and virtue. Their main talents will be acting hateful, nasty-tempered, turbid, impure and flattering. When they see people with money they will butter them up like crazy. Deceitful means they do not tell the truth. I have met many people like this. Their hearts will be untrue. So, we are going to make vows to lecture The Dharma Flower Sutra and propagate it to teach and transform these evil living beings.

Sutra:

The Buddha’s foster mother, the Bhikshuni Mahaprajapati, together with six thousand Bhikshunis, both those still studying and those beyond study, rose from their seats, singlemindedly joined their palms, and gazed at the Honored One’s countenance without removing their eyes for an instant. The World Honored One then spoke to Gautami saying, “Why do you stare at the Thus Come One with such a worried expression? Are you not thinking of saying that I have not mentioned your name in connection with receiving a prediction for anuttarasamyaksambodhi? Gautami, I included all of you when previously I conferred predictions upon all of the Hearers.

Now you wish to know about your prediction. In the future, within the Dharma of sixty-eight billion Buddhas, you shall be a great Dharma Master. You and the six thousand Bhikshunis who are studying and who are beyond study shall all become Dharma Masters. In this way you shall gradually perfect the Bodhisattva Path and become a Buddha by the name of “Thus Come One Upon Whom All Beings Look With Delight,” One Worthy of Offerings, of Right and Universal Knowledge, Perfect in Clarity and Conduct, Well-gone One Who Understands the World, Supreme Lord, Regulating Hero, Teacher of Gods and Humans, Buddha, World Honored One. Gautami! The Buddha Upon Whom All Beings Look With Delight and the six thousand Bodhisattvas will successively confer predictions for anuttarasamyaksambodhi upon one another.”

Outline:

F3. Bhikshunis ask for predictions.
G1. Predictions for Mahaprajapati and the six thousand Bhikshunis.


Commentary:

Above, the twenty-thousand Bodhisattvas, the five hundred Arhats, the eight thousand Bhikshus, both studying and those beyond study, all made vows to propagate The Dharma Flower Sutra. Just then, the Buddha’s foster mother, his stepmother, the Bhikshuni Mahaprajapati, rose from her seat. Her name is Sanskrit and means “Great Love for the Path.” She liked to cultivate more than doing anything else. She was the first woman to leave home and the leader of the Bhikshunis. She, together with six thousand Bhikshunis, both those still studying and those beyond study, turned their minds to one, rose from their seats, singlemindedly joined their palms, and gazed at the Honored One’s countenance without removing their eyes for an instant.

The World Honored One then spoke to Gautami saying, “Why do you stare at the Thus Come One with such a worried expression? Are you not thinking of saying that I have not mentioned your name in connection with receiving a prediction for anuttarasamyaksambodhi? Is that what is troubling you? Gautami, I included all of you when previously I conferred predictions upon all of the Hearers. Now you wish to know about your prediction. In the future, within the Dharma of sixty-eight billion Buddhas, you shall be a great Dharma Master. You and the six thousand Bhikshunis, who are studying and who are beyond study shall all become Dharma Masters. In this way you shall gradually perfect the Bodhisattva Path, drawing near and making offerings to sixty-eight billion Buddhas, bit by bit you will perfect the Six Paramitas and ten thousand conducts. When you have perfected the Bodhisattva conduct, you shall become a Buddha complete with the Three Kinds of Enlightenment:

1. Self-enlightenment,
2. Enlightenment of others, and
3. The Perfection of Enlightenment and practice.

You will be known by the name of “Thus Come One Upon Whom All Beings Look With Delight.” All living beings will take delight in seeing you. You will be One Worthy of Offerings, of Right and Universal Knowledge, Perfect in Clarity and Conduct, Well-gone One who Understands the World, a Supreme Lord, a Regulating Hero, a Teacher of Gods and Humans, a Buddha, World Honored One. You will be complete with the ten titles. These titles are common to all Buddhas.

Gautami! The Buddha Upon Whom All Beings Look With Delight and the six thousand Bodhisattvas will successively confer predictions for anuttarasamyaksambodhi upon one another. The first Bodhisattva will confer a prediction upon the second and so on down the line, until all six thousand have received predictions for the attainment of the Unsurpassed Proper and Equal Right Enlightenment.

Sutra:

The Bhikshuni Yashodhara, Rahula’s mother, then thought, “When conferring predictions, The World Honored One never mentioned my name.”

The Buddha told Yashodhara, “In a future age, within the Dharma of hundreds of thousands of ten thousands of millions of Buddhas, you shall cultivate the Bodhisattva conduct as a great Dharma Master, gradually perfecting the Buddha Path. In the world ‘wholesome’ you shall become a Buddha by the name of ‘The Thus Come One Complete With Tens of Thousands of Radiant Marks.’ One Worthy of Offerings, of Right and Universal Knowledge, Perfect in Clarity and Conduct, Well-gone One Who Understands the World, Supreme Lord, Regulating Hero, Teacher of Gods and Humans, Buddha, World Honored One. As a Buddha your life span will be limitless asamkhyeyaeons.”

Outline:

G2. Prediction for Yashodhara.


Commentary:

The Bhikshuni Yashodhara was Rahula’s mother. Rahula was the Buddha’s son. His name means “covering obstacle.” In the past he was a cultivator. One time he was meditating and a mouse started to gnaw at some wood. The noise disturbed him and so he plugged up the mouse hole. He left it that way for six day while he continues to meditate. When he suddenly remembered the hole he had blocked, he uncovered it because he did not want the mouse to die. Nevertheless, in this life, he was in his mother’s womb for six years as a retribution. There were other problems connected with his birth as well. For one thing, he was born six years after the Buddha left home to cultivate in the Snow Mountains.

Suspecting adultery, the people wanted to burn Yashodhara to death. Yashodhara said, “If this child is really Prince Gautama’s, then the fire will not burn me. If it is not, the child and I will burn.” When she entered the fire, it turned into a lotus and the two were spared. The Bodhisattvas intervened and saved her. The people knew they had judged her wrongly. Yashodhara did not conceive her child in the regular way, either. When she told the Prince that she wanted a son, he just pointed his finger at her and she became pregnant. Yashodhara means “flower-like” because she was as beautiful as a flower.

She then thought, “When conferring predictions, the World Honored One never mentioned my name.” The Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Arhats and everyone got predictions. Why not me, his former wife? She could not put this question aside and started false thinking about it. It was really bothering her, but she did not say anything. The monologue was internal, but the Buddha could read minds and so the Buddha told Yashodhara, “Do not be nervous! In a future age, within the Dharma of hundreds of thousands of ten thousands of millions of Buddhas, you shall cultivate the Bodhisattva conduct as a great Dharma Master, gradually perfecting the Buddha Path. In the world ‘wholesome’ you shall become a Buddha by the name of ‘The Thus Come One Complete With Tens of Thousands of Radiant Marks.’ One Worthy of Offerings, of Right and Universal Knowledge, Perfect in Clarity and Conduct, Well-gone One Who Understands the World, Supreme Lord, Regulating Hero, Teacher of Gods and Humans, Buddha, World Honored One. As a Buddha your life span will be limitless asamkhyeya eons, countless eons.”

Sutra:

At that time, the Bhikshuni Mahaprajapati and the Bhikshuni Yashodhara, together with their retinues, all rejoiced greatly, having gained what they never had. They spoke these verses in the presence of the Buddha:

“The World Honored One, our leader,
Brings tranquility to gods and humans;
Hearing this prediction
Our hearts know perfect peace.”

Outline:

G3. The Bhikshunis express their understanding.


Commentary:

At that time, the Bhikshuni Mahaprajapati and Bhikshuni Yashodhara, together with their retinues, all rejoiced greatly, having gained what they never had. They spoke these verses in the presence of the Buddha: the World Honored One, our leader, great leader of humans and gods, brings tranquility to gods and humans; hearing this prediction, our hearts know perfect peace. We are extremely comfortable and happy, perfectly at peace.

Sutra:

When they had finished speaking this verse, the Bhikshunis said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, we too shall extensively proclaim this Sutra in other lands.”

Outline:

G4. Vows of the Bhikshunis.


Commentary:

When they had finished speaking this verse, the Bhikshunis said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, we too shall extensively proclaim this Sutra in other lands.” We Bhikshunis can also expound upon this Sutra in other lands, propagating and explaining The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra.

In Buddhism, everything is understood in terms of cause and effect. Even the Buddha’s son Rahula could not escape the laws of cause and effect. He plugged up a mouse hole for six days and as retribution had to stay in his mother’s womb for six years, and so he was called “covering obstacle.” Now, we are liberating life. Think about it; here are these birds. They have wings, but they cannot fly. We are going to let them go. Most people think that this is pretty stupid. Some people even complain that if we let them go, the vultures would eat them. They said that liberating life is not compassionate. But if we just let them rot in their cages, is that being compassionate?

It is better to have one thing less to deal with than to have one thing more to deal with in this world. As it is said, “Nothing is better than a good thing.” A good thing may be good, but it is even better if there is nothing going on. We try to be compassionate and liberate life, but some demon kings pop up and say we are not compassionate. We are liberating life, but they are taking life. How do we know they did not liberate the vultures. And they accuse us of not being compassionate! Even if it is not compassionate, letting them go is still better not letting them go. Then again, maybe they wanted to eat the pigeons themselves and they were jealous that the vultures got to eat them.

Actually, their criticism of liberating life is in effect giving us publicity. When they go on television criticizing it, more people will come to be in sympathy with us. You can go on television and use your unobstructed eloquence to debate with them, saying, “You liberated the vultures!” Good is good and evil is evil, and they both have their attendant retributions.

Sutra:

At that time, the World Honored One looked upon the eighty billion nayutas of Bodhisattva Mahasattvas.

Outline:

E1. Exhortation to maintain.
F1. Prose.
G1. The Buddha observes with his Buddha Eye.


Commentary:

At that time, the World Honored One looked upon the eighty billion nayutas of Bodhisattva Mahasattvas, the great Bodhisattvas.

Sutra:

All of these Bodhisattvas were Avaivartikas who turned the irreversible Dharma-wheel and who had attained all of the dharanis. They immediately rose from their seats, went before the Buddha, singlemindedly with palms joined, and thought, “If the World Honored One were to command us to maintain and speak this Sutra, we would follow the Buddha’s instruction and vastly proclaim this Dharma.”

Outline:

G2. Bodhisattvas ask for a command.

Commentary:

All of these Bodhisattvas were Avaivartikas.Avaivartika” is Sanskrit and means “not retreating.” They did not retreat in thought, conduct, or position. They were those who turned the irreversible Dharma-wheel and who had attained all of the dharanis, the Dharma-doors of uniting all Dharmas and holding limitless meanings. They immediately rose from their seats, went before the Buddha, singlemindedly with palms joined, reverent in body and in mind, and thought. “If the World Honored One were to command us to maintain and speak this Sutra, we would follow the Buddha’s instruction--all eighty billion of us--and vastly proclaim this Dharma.”

Sutra:

They further thought: “The Buddha is silent now and gives no command. What should we do?”

Outline:

G3. Reflecting on the meaning of the Buddha’s silence.


Commentary:

They further thought: “The Buddha is silent now and gives no command. He does not direct us to propagate this Sutra. What should we do?” Should we go ahead and make a vow or what?

Sutra:

Then all the Bodhisattvas, reverently complying with the Buddha’s will, and wishing to fulfill their own past vows, went directly before the Buddha, and uttered the lion’s roar, proclaiming this vow: “World Honored One, after the Thus Come One’s extinction, we shall circulate throughout the ten directions to lead living beings to copy out this Sutra. To receive, maintain, read and recite, and explain its meaning, to cultivate in accord with Dharma, and to keep it properly in mind—all through the awesome power of the Buddha. We only pray that the World Honored One although dwelling in another direction will lend us his protection from afar.”

Outline:

G4. Complying with the Buddha’s intent and making vows.


Commentary:

Then all the eighty billion Bodhisattvas, seeing the Buddha remain silent, did not know what to do. They thought it over and then reverently complying with the Buddha’s will very respectfully, assuming the Buddha wanted them to make vows. And wishing to fulfill their own past vows, went directly before the Buddha, and uttered the lion’s roar, proclaiming this vow. World Honored One, after the Thus Come One’s extinction, we shall circulate throughout the ten directions to lead living beings to copy out this Sutra. To receive, maintain, read and recite, and explain its meaning, to cultivate in accord with Dharma, and to keep it properly in mind—all through the awesome power of the Buddha. Our ability to cause living beings to recollect the Sutra is due to the Buddha’s awesome spirit. We only pray that the World Honored One although dwelling in another direction, in another land and another world, will lend us his protection from afar, keep watch on us and protect us and all living beings.

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