The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra
Chapter 15: Welling forth from the Earth
With Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
At that time all the division bodies of Shakyamuni Buddha, who had come from limitless thousands of myriads of kotis of lands in other directions, sat in lotus posture on lion thrones beneath jeweled trees throughout the eight directions. The attendants of those Buddhas, seeing this great assembly of Bodhisattvas of the three thousand great thousand worlds welling forth from the earth in the four directions and dwelling in space, each said to his respective Buddha, “World Honored One, where have all the limitless boundless, asamkhyeyas of Bodhisattvas in this great host come from?”
Each of those Buddhas then told his attendants, “All of you good men, just wait one moment! There is a Bodhisattva Mahasattva named Maitreya, upon whom Shakyamuni Buddha has bestowed a prediction that he shall be the next Buddha. He has already asked about this matter, and the Buddha is about to answer him. For this reason, you may all hear about it.”
E2. Doubts of the Bodhisattvas in other lands.
In the previous verse section, Maitreya Bodhisattva expressed his doubts. Now the attendants that the Shakyamuni Buddhas have brought with them, their disciples, having seen this rare occurrence of the arrival of so many Great Bodhisattvas, have false thoughts and doubts, too: "Where did all these Bodhisattvas come from? Why have so many people come today? So many Bodhisattvas! Where could they have come from?"
At that time all the division bodies, whom Shakyamuni Buddha had sent to all the limitless lands, came here from limitless thousands of myriads of kotis of lands in other directions. Beneath jeweled trees throughout the eight directions: They dwell in the eight directions—east, south, west, north, southwest, southeast, northwest, and northeast. These are the four cardinal directions and four intermediate directions. They sat in lotus posture on lion thrones. Lotus posture is the most honored, most esteemed posture in Buddhism; so you students of the Buddhadharma should first know how to sit in the lotus position.
Each of the attendants of those Buddhas were seeing this great assembly of Bodhisattvas. Every attendant looked at these Great Bodhisattvas of the three thousand great thousand worlds welling forth from the earth in the four directions. In each of the cardinal directions, they issued forth from the ground and were dwelling in space, because the stupa of Many Jewels Buddha—the Thus Come One Many Jewels—and Shakyamuni Buddha were both in space. Each attendant said to his respective Buddha, "World Honored One." Here the title World Honored One here does not refer to Shakyamuni Buddha, but to all of his division-body World Honored Ones. There were limitless, boundless asamkhyeyas of Bodhisattvas in this great host. Asamkhyeya means a limitless number. There were limitless, boundless numbers of limitlessly, boundlessly many Bodhisattvas. "Where have they all come from, this great assembly of Great Bodhisattvas? How is it that we have never met them before? What place have all these Great Bodhisattvas come from?"
Each of those Buddhas, all those division bodies of Shakyamuni Buddha, then told his attendants, the disciples he had brought with him, "All of you good men. You youngsters! Just wait one moment. Do not make so much noise. You are not the least bit composed." Surely the Buddhas said, "Quiet! Do not make so much noise. Wait a minute. Do not be nervous. There is a Bodhisattva Mahasattva—there is already a Great Bodhisattva—named Maitreya. He is the one upon whom Shakyamuni Buddha has bestowed a prediction that he shall be the next Buddha. Maitreya Bodhisattva has been given a prediction and a name; he will follow Shakyamuni Buddha to become the next Buddha. After Shakyamuni Buddha enters Nirvana, then, in the future, Maitreya will be the next Buddha within the Buddhadharma."
In the world, there are proponents of externalist ways who claim to be Maitreya Buddha. This one says, "I am Maitreya Buddha; I have come. Do you recognize me?"
Another says, "Actually, I am the real Maitreya Bodhisattva."
That is the way it goes. One transmits a Way and another one transmits another Way. Each transmits a different teaching. There is "receiving perfection" and "reaping the fruition"—lots of kinds. In China alone, there are many phony Maitreya Bodhisattvas. People may say they are Maitreya Bodhisattva, but actually it is too early for Maitreya Bodhisattva to appear.
Maitreya Bodhisattva will come in the future. When will that be? I have talked about this before. Every hundred years the average human life span decreases by a year and the average height of people decreases by an inch. When the life span has decreased to the point that people live an average of ten years, it will begin to increase again at the same rate: every hundred years adds a year to the average life span and an inch to the average height.
When the average life span drops to ten years, people will be about the height of dogs. They would not grow very tall, and they will die by the time they are ten years old. People's life spans and heights will decrease each hundred years. But most people do not live to be a hundred, so we won't know how tall the people will be a hundred years from now. Also, you have to remember that this is an average, not a specific person's height and life span. You may want to argue that some people are taller than people used to be. But individuals do not count; we are referring to the average.
After the average human life span reaches ten years, it will begin to increase. Every hundred years, the life span will increase by one year and the average height by one inch; they will increase again. When the average life span has increased to eighty-four thousand years, it will begin to decrease again. When it has decreased to eighty thousand years, Maitreya Bodhisattva will come into the world. Therefore, these pretenders who say they are Maitreya Bodhisattva are mistaken. But you should also realize this: If you have conditions with Maitreya Bodhisattva, he can come now and teach and transform you; he can save you. There are no fixed Dharmas.
He has already asked about this matter. Maitreya Bodhisattva has already asked about what is going on here. And the Buddha is about to answer him. Shakyamuni Buddha is just about ready to reply to his question. For this reason, you may all hear about it. Do not make noise. Be quiet. Listen. Since Maitreya Bodhisattva has already asked and Shakyamuni Buddha is going to answer his question, if you listen, you will all understand as well. Do not be nervous, youngsters.
In the blink of an eye, the summer session has passed. Those of you who attended may feel it was very exhausting, and you may be tired. But you should know that although it may be invisible to you, your fatigue and weariness has actually created inconceivable merit and virtue for you within your inherent natures. Therefore, in these last few weeks you should certainly be heroic and vigorous. Do not relax as you did during the middle of the session. Be careful to speak less and to refrain from false thinking. Everyone should single-mindedly work hard at cultivating, investigating the Sutras, and sitting in Dhyana. Do this seriously. I noticed there was a period when you all slacked off in the middle of the session. If a single person indulges in a lot of talk, he disturbs everyone, making it impossible for others to cultivate. We should protect the group and not do things that cause people not to cultivate. If the great assembly does not cultivate, it then becomes your offense. Do you realize that?
I told one of my disciples not to look after money anymore. There was an important reason for doing this. It was not that he is muddled, and so I did not want him to deal with money. Although he may be muddled occasionally, sometimes he understands; he is not muddled every day. And although he sleeps all the time, sometimes he is awake; he is not sleeping all the time. And so why did I not want him to deal with money? It is because there is another more important responsibility than that of looking after money that I want him to take care of. Some people are thinking I want him to be the president. No, this time I want him to sit in Chan. That was because last year I thought that this disciple should become enlightened, but to date he has not done so and I have just let it go by. Basically I do not pay attention to these kinds of things. But recently I looked into the question of why he had not become enlightened. I found that it was because he had entered the money samadhi, and being in the money samadhi, he did not have any meditation skill. Because he had entered the money samadhi, there was no Chan samadhi. That was why he was not becoming enlightened.
I have instructed him that from now on he should practice sitting in Chan meditation; he should meditate every day. Every day he should develop his skill well, and he should become familiar with how to start and end the sitting periods. We have already announced the upcoming meditation session: a fourteen-week Chan session this winter. I want him to stay in the Chan Hall all the time and accompany all of you while you are working at your meditation skill. We are making several incense boards. If he does not apply effort himself, you can tap him. If you do not work, he can hit all of you, because he is so tall. If he does not work, you can hit him. This is called "striking up a Chan seven," [a Chan session], so you can strike each other.
And so his responsibility is to be the leader (weinuo) in the Chan Hall. He will not be allowed to leave the hall at any time. In a Chan session, we want to end birth and death. It is not something to take casually. It would not be like the summer session has been, with lectures on the Sutras, Dharma talks, and investigation of the Sutras. At that time, there will be "wordless speaking of Dharma," no one will talk. Perhaps there will be one or two instructional talks each day, but no more than that.
If I do not relieve him of his responsibilities involving money now, if I wait until it is nearly time to start the session, he certainly would not be able to stop his false thinking. That is why he has to start training now. From now on he should make a special effort. If he does not become enlightened this year during that session, I will not allow him to eat, only to drink water.
Shakyamuni Buddha then said to Maitreya Bodhisattva, “Good indeed, good indeed, Ajita, that you can ask the Buddha about such a great matter.”
C2. The explanation proper.
D1. Assenting with a warning.
Shakyamuni Buddha then said to Maitreya Bodhisattva, "Good indeed, good indeed, Ajita, that you can ask the Buddha about such a great matter." The attendants that the Buddhas of the ten directions brought with them, those Bodhisattvas, also had doubts, and each went to ask the Buddha whom he accompanied. They asked, "Where have these Great Bodhisattvas come from? Why don't we recognize them?"
And so each of the Buddhas told his attendants: "Be patient. Listen. Just now, Maitreya Bodhisattva has already asked Shakyamuni World Honored One that question. Shakyamuni World Honored One is now going to answer. From their dialogue you will come to understand the causes and conditions."
"Then" refers to that time. Shakyamuni Buddha, the World Honored One, spoke to Maitreya Bodhisattva, saying, "Good indeed, good indeed, Maitreya Bodhisattva!"
"Good indeed, good indeed" has two meanings. The first "good indeed" means that Maitreya Bodhisattva's question was excellent. Why? Because he understood the Buddha's mind. Above, his question tallied with all the Buddhas' minds. The second "good indeed" means that his question was again excellent in that below it tallied with everyone's thoughts. It tallied below with living beings’ thoughts, with their minds. That was why "good indeed" was spoken twice.
Why is it said to be a "great matter"? Because it "discloses the traces in order to reveal the origin, and discloses the near to reveal the far. "Traces" are the imprints left by previous events. Revealing the origin means manifesting the way it basically was, manifesting the events of one's previous lives.
The Buddha also wants to disclose the near to reveal the far. In the past, this Dharma-door had never been spoken. This Dharma-door was not spoken during the Flower Adornment period, nor was this Dharma-door spoken during the Agama period. In the Vaipulya period, this Dharma-door was not spoken; and in the Prajna period, this Dharma-door was also not spoken. Only in the Lotus-Nirvana period was this Dharma-door finally spoken. It is only now, in the Lotus-Nirvana period, that the Dharma Flower is spoken. This is "disclosing the near to reveal the far," a subtle, wonderful, inconceivable Dharma-door. And, since it has never before been spoken out in such an open and obvious manner, this is a great matter. Furthermore, the "great matter" does not refer to the virtue of the nature, but to the virtue of cultivation. The virtue of cultivation through which one attains the level of fruition is extremely profound and far-reaching. This does not refer to the principle of the equality of the virtue of the nature. Therefore, this matter is a specific, not a principle. It is a great matter.
The Buddha therefore says, "Good indeed, good indeed, Ajita, that you have been able to ask the Buddha about this great matter."
“You should all single-mindedly don the armor of vigor and bring forth a firm resolve.”
You should all single-mindedly. The word "should" is an exhortation, an admonishment. "Each of you in this great assembly should be single-minded. Do not allow your minds to be scattered," he warns them. "If you want to listen to me explain this Dharma, you must be single-minded. Don the armor of vigor. Put on vigor as your armor. Vigor implies that one should not be lazy. This is a warning to you not to be lazy. Go forward with vigor. And bring forth a firm resolve; do not retreat. You should bring forth a determined resolve not to retreat."
The Thus Come One's genuine wisdom was perfected long ago. Long, distant eons ago it was perfect. Since it was perfected so long ago, he is able to expediently appear and teach and transform living beings. For the sake of the real, he bestows the provisional. He uses provisional, clever, and expedient Dharma-doors to teach and transform living beings. He has done this work of teaching and transforming living beings in the past, and he is doing it in the present. And so it is said that his teaching reaches throughout the three periods of time and benefits creatures in the ten directions. Thus the Buddha teaches and transforms those in the ten directions and the three periods of time. This is a state that those below the level of a Bodhisattva of Equal Enlightenment can understand. Therefore it is said to be inconceivable.
The Buddha takes advantage of the Bodhisattva's question to exhort and warn the great assembly. He tells them what they should do and what they should refrain from doing: They should be single-minded and not let their minds be scattered; they should don the armor of vigor and not be lax; they should bring forth a firm resolve and not retreat. This is how hee told the multitude in the Dharma assembly to think.
“The Thus Come One now wishes to disclose and proclaim the wisdom of all Buddhas, the power of all Buddhas’ sovereignty and spiritual penetrations, the power of all Buddhas’ lion sprint, and the power of all Buddhas’ awesome courage and mighty strength.”
The Thus Come One now wishes to disclose and proclaim the wisdom of all Buddhas. Shakyamuni Buddha said, "I, the Thus Come One, wish to disclose and proclaim the wisdom of all Buddhas."
What is the wisdom of all Buddhas? The Dharma Flower Sutra contains the wisdom of all Buddhas. It has the wisdom of accomplishing the Buddha Way. If you want to know the wisdom of all Buddhas, you should investigate the Dharma Flower Sutra. The power of all Buddhas' sovereignty and spiritual penetrations. He also wishes to disclose and proclaim, explain and reveal, the power of all Buddhas' sovereignty and spiritual penetrations. "All Buddhas' sovereignty " represents the virtue of true self—one of the Four Virtues of Nirvana. Spiritual penetrations represent the virtue of bliss on that same list. The power of all Buddhas' lion sprint. The Thus Come One wants to proclaim and disclose all Buddhas' power of the lion sprint. What is that power? Of the Four Virtues—eternity, bliss, true self, and purity—it represents the virtue of purity. The virtue of purity is the power of the lion sprint, because the lion sprint can expel defilement. Since it expels defilement, the lion sprint is the virtue of purity. "The power of all Buddhas' awesome courage and mighty strength" refers to all Buddhas' great power of awesome virtue and heroic courage. Shakyamuni Buddha also wants to proclaim and disclose all Buddhas' power of great awesome courage, which represents the virtue of eternity. Because they have perfected the Four Virtues, all Buddhas have the power to benefit living beings in the past, present, and future. Power refers to beneficent strength.
"Sovereignty and spiritual penetrations" means having entered the "ultimate dwelling place of compassion." The "power of the lion sprint" means "ascending to the ultimate throne of the emptiness of dharmas." "Awesome courage and mighty strength" represents the "ultimate clothing of patience." This is the same as "entering the Thus Come One's room, sitting on the Thus Come One's seat, and putting on the Thus Come One's clothes."
At that time, the World Honored One, wishing to restate these principles, spoke verses:
“ You should be vigorous and single-minded,
For I wish to speak about this matter.
Hold no doubts or regrets.”
F1. Verses of warning.
At that time Shakyamuni, the World Honored One, wishing to restate these principles in detail, spoke verses; he used verses to reiterate his meaning:
"You should be vigorous and single-minded," Shakyamuni Buddha said. "You in this great assembly and all the Great Bodhisattvas who have come from the ten directions, as well as Maitreya Bodhisattva, should be vigorous and single-minded. You should don the armor of vigor. Do nt be lax. Do not be lazy. Have undivided attention, become single-minded. Do not let your minds become scattered while you are listening to the Lotus Dharma I am about to explain for you. For now I wish to speak about this matter. Now I want to tell you about the causes and conditions of the great matter for which I appeared in the world. I want to tell you clearly about this matter. Hold no doubts or regrets. Do not give rise to doubts or fail to believe me.
The wisdom of the Buddhas is inconceivable.
Bring forth, now, the power of faith,
And abide in patience and goodness,
For the Dharma which from of old has never been heard,
You are now about to hear.
I am comforting you now,
So have no doubt or fear.
The Buddhas never speak falsely,
And their wisdom cannot be measured.
That foremost Dharma they have gained
Is extremely profound, beyond discerning.
As such, it should now be explained,
And you should single-mindedly listen.
F2. Verses of assenting.
The wisdom of the Buddhas is inconceivable. The Buddha said, "The wisdom of the Buddhas of the ten directions and of me, Shakyamuni Buddha, is inconceivable. You ordinary people cannot comprehend it. You cannot understand the wisdom of the Buddhas. Bring forth, now, the power of faith. All of you in the great assembly should get hold of the strength of your faith and abide in patience and goodness. You should concentrate on the paramita of patience and do the good deeds born of patience. Set your minds on patience.
For the Dharma which from of old has never been heard. You have never heard this Dharma before. It is only now that you will hear this Wonderful Dharma. You are now about to hear it. Earlier I spoke expedient, provisional Dharma-doors. I did not speak actual Dharma for you to hear. Now I want to speak the inconceivable, wonderful Dharma for you. You will all be able to hear it. I am comforting you now. I want to comfort all of you; you should become single-minded and vigorous. Bring forth a firm resolve to listen to this Dharma. So have no doubt or fear. Do not have doubts; do not become frightened. The Buddhas never speak falsely. The Dharma that the Buddhas speak is true, actual and not false. Now is the time to open up the provisional and reveal the actual, to disclose the near and reveal the far. I am going to speak the inconceivable Wonderful Dharma for you. The Buddhas never say anything that is not so. You should bring forth faith.
And their wisdom cannot be measured. The Buddhas speak true and actual words and their wisdom is incalculable. There is no way to express how much wisdom a Buddha has. That foremost Dharma they have gained. The Buddhas have obtained the most supreme Wonderful Dharma. This Wonderful Dharma for accomplishing Buddhahood is extremely profound, beyond discerning. It is especially deep, utterly profound. There is no way to determine how deep it is; it is beyond discerning. As such, it should now be explained. Although this inconceivable Wonderful Dharma cannot be discriminated, now is the time to explain it. And you should single-mindedly listen. All of you in the great assembly, including all of you Bodhisattvas, should become single-minded and listen to this Wonderful Dharma.
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