The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra
Chapter 14: Happily Dwelling Conduct
With Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
The Five Coverings
1. The covering of greedy desire. This refers not merely to greed, but to greedy desire. Desire is the worst thing there is. We can also say it is the best thing there is. Everything has two sides, you do not want to just look at one side. When is desire the worst thing? When you are greedy for wealth, sex, fame, food, and sleep; and greedy for forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and objects of touch. When is desire the best thing? When you are greedy for precepts, greedy for samadhi, and greedy for wisdom. To “always delight in sitting in dhyana” is a kind of greed, after all. It does not hurt to have this kind of greed. If you are greedy to become a Buddha, or a Bodhisattva, or a good person, or a filial disciple, then that kind of greed in not bad. What makes me happiest is to have filial disciples. That is my greed. Your greed as disciples is to have the very best teacher, so you can study the Buddhadharma. Those kinds of greed are permissible. In lecturing the Buddhadharma one must explain it as perfectly fused and unobstructed. If someone says something is bad, I will show how it can also be good. If someone says something is good, I will show how it can also be bad. The first covering of greedy desire covers your samadhi and wisdom.
2. The covering of hatred. This refers to one's temper. Of temper it is said:
Firewood gathered in a thousand days,
Can be completely burned up by a single match.
The “single match” points to our tempers. You may accumulate a thousand days’ worth of merit and virtue, but if you lose your temper once, you burn up all that merit and virtue.
A spark from the fire of our nature
Burns up a forest of merit and virtue.
That is why hatred is so bad. But even though hatred is so terrible, I can tell you that it still has its good points. If you can hate things this way: “Why don't I cultivate?” “Why can't I control my temper?” “Why can’t I kill the poisonous dragon within me?” Could you say hating that way is not good? That kind of hatred is not bad! That is part of the skill of subduing yourself and returning to propriety. That is called the skill of practicing self-control. If you can make hatred work that way, it is not bad.
3. The covering of sleep. Sleep can also be very bad or very good. If you sleep too much, it is very bad. It causes you to become like a pig. You lose your intelligence. Too much sleep will make you stupid. So you wonder, “Is it all right not to sleep, then?” No, it is not all right not to sleep. When you sleep, your fatigue goes away. You feel rested, and so in that way sleep is not bad. You cannot sleep too much. If you are greedy for too much, then anything becomes bad. If you use just the right amount, then anything can be good.
For instance, if a person does not eat, then his stomach will have a battle with him. It will growl and ask, “Why haven't you fed me?” It will roar like thunder. If you do not eat enough you will have a thunder storm in your stomach from hunger. If you eat too much, you will get a tornado in your stomach, and you will have to go to the bathroom one-knows-not-how-many dozens of times. It will be like mountains crashing together, the earth ripping open and the waters of the sea flowing forth non-stop. Basically eating is a good thing, but if you eat too much it becomes a bad thing. If you do not eat at all, then that would not work either. That is how it is with sleeping, too. You should sleep, but not too much. If you do not sleep properly, it becomes a covering. If you sleep correctly, the covering will be removed. You will chase out the covering so that it is entirely gone.
4. The covering of restlessness. A person who is restless cannot sit still and cannot stand still and does not know what to do with himself.
5. The covering of doubt and delusions. “Delusions” refers to coarse delusions, subtle delusions, delusions as fine as dust and sand, and delusion of ignorance. If you give rise to doubt and delusions when cultivating the Way, it becomes a kind of covering. For instance, regarding the Dharma that the Dharma Master speaks, you think, “Everything the Dharma Master explains is expedient Dharma. It is unverifiable. Speaking the Dharma is like that—it would not stand the test.” That is a kind of doubt. “He tells us to reproach the five desires, but I see that he has not reproached them. He tells us to chase out the five coverings, but the Dharma Master himself is so greedy. He has not chased his own out, and yet he is telling me to chase mine out. Well, I won't do it.” Those are doubts.
Reproach the five desires! Chase out the five coverings! Regulate carefully the five matters! The five matters are things you have to do every day.
The Five Matters
1. Regulating one's intake of food. Have you ever gone without eating for a day? You say, “I have gone without food for several days.” That was when you were a starving refugee in Hong Kong, fleeing from the Japanese. At that time in Hong Kong, everyone was trying to escape the Japanese air raid and so many people were without food for several days. Some people even starved to death. Regulating your intake of food means not eating too much, and not eating too little. It does not mean that you decide to stop eating altogether and fast for a week, but then on the sixth day you find that you cannot take it any more, and so you eat—a lot. You eat so much that your stomach cannot contain it, and the food has to move out. The “Relocation Bureau” is incredibly busy, day and night. That is from not knowing how to regulate your intake of food. It is not necessary to fast, but you also do not want to be unrestrained and eat too much.
2. Regulating one's sleep. People's daily lives consist of such matters as eating and sleeping. But you have to know how to do them; otherwise there will be problems. Thus, with food and drink, you should neither go too hungry, nor stuff yourself. If you go to either extreme, you cannot cultivate patience. Your stomach would not be able to stand it. Sleep enough, but not too much. If you do not get enough sleep, you would not be rested. If you sleep too much, you will be too rested. Underdoing is just as bad as overdoing.
3. Regulating one's body. Do not let your body do no work, but do not make your body do too much work. Do as much work as you have the energy to do. That is because your body should do some things for the sake of others in the world; it should make its contribution.
4. Regulating one's breath. We should not breathe too slowly, nor should we breathe too fast, for breathing too slowly or too fast is not good for one’s health.
5. Regulating one's mind. The regulation of our intake of food, our sleep, our bodies, and our breath is done by our minds. How should one's minds be regulated? It should not be sunk into a torpor, nor should it be too high-strung and excited. You should keep it calm and quiet.
These three—reproaching the five desires, chasing out the five coverings, and regulating the five matters—are methods for cultivating and collecting the mind.
Therefore, Shakyamuni Buddha further says to Manjushri Bodhisattva, “This is called the very first range of association for Bodhisattvas.”
“Further, Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas contemplate all Dharmas as empty…”
K3. Defining “drawing near” in terms of what is neither stayed away from nor drawn near to
L1. A general statement about states of being and wisdom
Further indicates that the meaning being discussed above is discussed again. He says that great Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas who cultivate the Bodhisattva Way, contemplate all Dharmas as empty. “Contemplate” refers to the wisdom which contemplates, and the “emptiness” of all dharmas is the state that is contemplated. This refers to how the Great Bodhisattvas contemplate all states within the Ten Dharma Realms. The Ten Dharma Realms do not go beyond one single thought present in the mind. That single thought in the mind creates the Ten Dharma Realms. The Ten Dharma Realms include Four Sagely Realms and Six Common Realms.
The Four Sagely Realms
1. The Dharma Realm of the Buddhas. This is the highest realm. How does one become a Buddha? One must enlighten oneself, enlighten others, and perfect enlightenment and practice, and then one will become a Buddha. Enlightening oneself means that one gains enlightened understanding if all dharmas. When one understands all dharmas oneself, one finds them extremely wonderful and inconceivable, and so one wants to teach others to understand that subtle, inconceivable principle. That is what is meant by wanting to enlighten others. When both self-enlightenment and the enlightenment of others are perfected, one has thereby perfected both enlightenment and practice. When both enlightenment and practice are perfected, one is a Buddha. Buddhas are greatly enlightened ones. There is nothing they do not understand. They understand things that ordinary people do not understand; they have become enlightened in a way that ordinary people have not. That is why they are called the Greatly Enlightened World Honored Ones. All those in the world, and beyond the world, pay homage to the Buddhas. Yet the Dharma Realm of Buddhas does not go beyond one single thought that you and I are presently having.
2. The Dharma Realm of Bodhisattvas. It is really not easy to be a Bodhisattva. Bodhisattvas do things to benefit themselves and benefit others, and to enlighten themselves and enlighten others. But their enlightenment is not yet complete. Only Buddhas are completely enlightened. Bodhisattvas practice the Six Perfections and the Myriad practices. They practice giving, renouncing their heads, eyes, brains, and marrow; their countries, cities, wives, and children—both internal wealth and external wealth. “External wealth” includes all valuable material things that are external to our bodies. “Internal wealth” refers to parts of our physical bodies, such as our heads, eyes, brains and marrow. They all have to be renounced and given away.
There are three kinds of giving: the giving of wealth, the giving of Dharma, and the giving of fearlessness. Internal and external wealth can be given. Dharma can also be given. Having studied and understood the Buddhadharma, when you meet people, you can speak the Dharma for them. The giving of wealth can save people's lives. The giving of Dharma can save people's wisdom-lives. The giving of fearlessness is practiced when people are experiencing difficulty and fear. If you can comfort them and dispel their fears, then you are practicing the giving of fearlessness.
Bodhisattvas cultivate strictly upholding the precepts. They do no evil but rather offer up all good conduct. They practice patience and they cultivate vigor. Throughout the day and night, they are always vigorous. They also practice dhyana samadhi and wisdom. Thus they cultivate the Six Perfections and the Myriad Practices; they benefit themselves and benefit others. That is the Dharma Realm of Bodhisattvas, and yet the Dharma Realm of Bodhisattvas also does not go beyond a single thought in the mind. If in your mind you want to practice the Bodhisattva Way, and with your body you actually put the Bodhisattva Way into practice, then in the future, you will be a Bodhisattva.
3. The Dharma Realm of Those Enlightened by Conditions. Those Enlightened by Conditions cultivate the Twelve Causes and Conditions and awaken to the Way.
The Arising of the Twelve Causes and Conditions
1. Ignorance is the condition that brings about activity;
2. activity is the condition that brings about consciousness;
3. consciousness is the condition that brings about name and form;
4. name and form is the condition that brings about the six sense organs;
5. the six sense organs are the condition that brings about contact;
6. contact is the condition that brings about feeling;
7. feeling is the condition that brings about love;
8. love is the condition that brings about grasping;
9. grasping is the condition that brings about becoming;
10. becoming is the condition that brings about birth;
11. birth is the condition that brings about old age and death.
Those Enlightened by Conditions can be divided into two kinds: Those who cultivate the Twelve Causes and Conditions and awaken to the Way when a Buddha is in the world are known as Those Enlightened by Conditions. Those who cultivate the Twelve Causes and Conditions and awaken to the Way when there is no Buddha in the world are called Solitarily Enlightened Ones.
Solitarily Enlightened Ones work only at doing well by themselves; they do not want to benefit the world. Why do they want to “do well by themselves”? It is because they consider the whole world to be going bad, as well as all the people in it. They themselves do not want to be bad; they want to cultivate. Since they want to cultivate, they get far away from the defiled world. They separate themselves from all those other people. They go deep into the mountains into isolated valleys and over the months and years they never see a single person. They cultivate there in an aranya, a “pure and quiet place.”
As they cultivate, in the spring they see the myriad flowers blossom and consider it ineffably wonderful. In the autumn they watch the yellow leaves fall. They contemplate the trees: in the spring the leaves bud and grow, the flowers blossom, and then the fruit comes forth. In the autumn, the leaves fall from the trees. These cultivators find this entire process to be quite wonderful: the state of impermanence whereby things naturally come into being and cease to be. Because the myriad things are all impermanent, those cultivators search for what is permanent. Thus, they analyze the Twelve Causes and Conditions.
First, they investigate ignorance. Ignorance is another name for afflictions. If you do not understand something, you become afflicted. Once you get afflicted, you will want to do something. Once you do something and there is activity, then a consciousness comes into being. That is, when you behave in a certain way, there will be a shadow created. That shadow is consciousness. It can also be called a seed or an impression.
Ignorance refers to the mutual “unknown” that arises between men and women—that kind of emotion. Once that emotion based on enticement toward the “unknown” arises, activity will occur. Sexual intercourse will result. Once there is activity, a consciousness comes into being; a seed is fertilized. Once the fertilized seed exists, name and form come into being—it is called a fetus. Once there is name and form, the six entrances also come into being: eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind. With the forming of the six entrances, contact occurs; there is an awareness of contact. With contact, feeling is experienced. Once there is feeling, love arises. With thoughts of love, one wants to grasp what one loves and have it become one's own. With that becoming, there will be birth into another life, followed by death. Those are the Twelve Causes and Conditions.
Those Enlightened by Conditions investigate this problem. They come to realize that when ignorance ceases, activity will cease. When activity ceases, consciousness will also disappear. Without consciousness, there will be no name and form. Without name and form, the six entrances will naturally not exist. Without the six entrances, no contact will be experienced, because there would not even be a physical body to know the contact. Without contact there will be no feeling. Without feeling, there will be no love. If love does not arise, then there will be no compulsion to grasp. Without grasping there will be no becoming, and without becoming there will be no birth. Without birth there will be no old age and death. They investigate these Twelve Causes and Conditions backwards and forwards, until they become enlightened. Thus, they are called Those Enlightened by Conditions. They can also become Bodhisattvas of initial resolve.
4. The Dharma Realm of Hearers. Hearers investigate the Four Truths and awaken to the Way. The Four Truths are suffering, accumulation, cessation, and the Way.
The Four Truths
a. The truth of suffering. There are three kinds of suffering, eight kinds of suffering, and limitless kinds of suffering. The three sufferings are
1. suffering within suffering;
2. the suffering of decay, and
3. the suffering of process.
1. Suffering within suffering occurs when one is poverty-stricken and experiences additional difficulties. One may be so poor that one has no food to eat and no clothes to wear. One has a small house to live in, but then the house burns down. One builds another house, and that one is washed away in a flood. That is suffering within suffering.
2. The suffering of decay occurs when what was good goes bad. When one is wealthy and honored, one does not have the problem of being poor; but wealth and honor do not last forever. One's wealth may be lost in a fire or stolen by thieves. That is the suffering of decay.
3. The suffering of process occurs as we go from being small to being adults, to being old, and finally dying. That process flows on unceasingly with every passing thought. A child grows into an adult; the adult becomes an old person; the old person finally dies. That kind of change is a form of suffering.
There are also eight sufferings, the first four of which are:
1. the suffering of birth;
2. the suffering of old age;
3. the suffering of sickness;
4. the suffering of death.
It is very painful to be born. It is also painful to be old. Sickness brings even more suffering, and death more suffering still.
Long ago there were three old men who gathered together to drink wine. One was sixty, one was seventy, and one was eighty. During their party, the youngest one thought, “These two friends of mine are really old and will die before long.” Then he said, “This year we gather for a banquet, but who knows who will not be here next year!” He was wondering who would be dead before the next year.
The seventy-year-old said, “You are giving us a lot of time. Tonight when I take off my shoes and socks, I do not know if I will be around to put them on in the morning!”
The eighty-year-old said, “You two have lots of time! When I breathe out this breath, I do not know if I will be around to breathe in the next one!”
Birth and death are impartial events. There is no politeness involved. It is just as the old-timer said, “When I breathe out this breath, I do not know if I will be around to breathe in the next one.” That is the suffering of death. The last of four of the eight sufferings are:
5. the suffering of being apart from those you love;
6. the suffering of being together with those you hate;
7. the suffering of not getting what you want;
8. the suffering of the raging blaze of the five skandhas.
That is the eight sufferings. There is a saying;
The old monk has a way to pacify his mind.
When the eight sufferings strike, he does not feel obstructed
If he gets caught up in the eight sufferings, he is not afraid; it does not bother him. Therefore, if you have samadhi power, suffering turns into bliss. If you do not have any samadhi, bliss can turn into suffering.
b. The truth of accumulation. Accumulation refers to afflictions. There are many kinds of afflictions: great afflictions, intermediate afflictions, and small afflictions.
c. The truth of cessation. This refers to Nirvana—the passage into stillness.
d. The truth of the Way. This refers to cultivating the Way.
Hearers regard the Four Truths in order to know suffering, to cut off accumulation, to aspire toward cessation, and to cultivate the Way. Right after Shakyamuni Buddha realized the Way, he spoke the Dharma of the Four Truths, turning the Dharma Wheel of the Four Truths three times to take across the five Bhikshus. When the five Bhikshus heard the Dharma of the Four Truths, they awakened to the Way.
The Hearers and Those Enlightened by Conditions are the Two Vehicles. Together with the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, they comprise the Four Sagely Dharma Realms.
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