The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra
Chapter 15: Welling forth from the Earth
With Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
The World Honored One, having recited those verses, then said to Maitreya Bodhisattva, “In this great assembly, I now make this announcement to all of you: Ajita! These incalculable asamkhyeyas of Great Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas, who have welled forth from the earth and whom you have never seen before, are those whom I taught, transformed, and guided in this Saha World after I attained anuttarasamyaksambodhi. I tamed and subdued the minds of these Bodhisattvas, causing them to bring forth the resolve for the Way.”
D2. The teaching proper.
E1. Opening the near to reveal the far.
F1. Generally opening and revealing to bring forth the question.
G1. General opening.
I1. Answering who their teacher is.
Then, Shakyamuni Buddha, the World Honored One, finished speaking those verses, and having recited those verses, then said to Maitreya Bodhisattva, "Maitreya Bodhisattva, I will now tell you. In this great assembly, I now make this announcement to all of you Great Bodhisattvas. Ajita! Pay attention to what I am about to tell you. These Great Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas, who issued forth from beneath the earth, are incalculable asamkhyeyas—one knows not how many—in number." "Asamkhyeya" is translated as "an incalculable number." Now there are incalculable numbers of Bodhisattvas who have welled forth from the earth. You have never seen so many Bodhisattvas as these before, right? Now I will tell you. "In this Saha World," refers to this world that we are "able to endure," the world "full of a myriad evils." It is also known as the world where the myriad sufferings merge together.
After I attained anuttarasamyaksambodhi, the Unsurpassed, Proper and Equal, Right Enlightenment, I taught, transformed, and guided these Bodhisattvas, and pointed out the Way to them, leading and guiding them. I tamed and subdued the minds of these Bodhisattvas. I caused those with afflictions to be without afflictions. I caused those with ignorance to be without ignorance. I caused those with delusions like dust and sand to get rid of their delusions like dust and sand. Those with view delusions and thought delusions also got rid of those view and thought delusions, the delusions like dust and sand, and ignorance. I tamed and subdued their minds, causing them to bring forth the resolve for the Way. I have caused them all to decide to cultivate the Way and to be resolved to practice the Bodhisattva Way. They have been brought to accomplishment through my previous teaching and transforming.
“All of these Bodhisattvas live in the space beneath the Saha World. They have read and recited all the Sutras until they have penetrated them thoroughly. They have pondered their meanings in detail and have been properly mindful of them.”
I2. Answering where they came from.
All of these Bodhisattvas, that is, the ones who have just now welled forth from the earth, live in space beneath the Saha World. Ordinary people cannot know of this state. If you obtain the Five Eyes and the Six Spiritual Penetrations, then the space you see will not be the same as the space that ordinary people see. You will see a profusion of the seven treasures pervading space. There are all kinds of palaces, all kinds of pavilions, and various Way-places; they are all adorned with the seven treasures. Within every palace, pavilion, and Way-place are Buddhas speaking the Dharma and Great Bodhisattvas listening to the Dharma and cultivating. That is what the Dharma Realm is like. The entirety of space is filled with the Buddhadharma.
The Bodhisattvas who have just now welled forth from the earth live in the space 168,000 yojanas beneath our Saha World. If you have not opened your Way-eyes, you will be unaware of this state. Once you open your Way-eyes, then when you want to recite a Sutra, there are Sutras everywhere for you to recite. When you want to cultivate a Dharma, there are Dharmas everywhere. When you want to cultivate the Bodhisattva Way, you can do it any time you want. And so this is a wonderful and inconceivable state. These Bodhisattvas reside in space. They have read and recited all the Sutras. They read and recite the Flower Adornment Sutra, the Shurangama Sutra, the Earth Store Sutra, the Vajra Sutra, and all the other Sutras in the Tripitaka. "Read" means to look at the book and read aloud. "Recite" means to recite from memory, without the book.
They have penetrated them thoroughly. Not one word do they read incorrectly. Not one sentence do they get wrong. Not one page would they forget. That is what is meant by "penetrated thoroughly": They have pondered their meanings in detail. In order to read a Sutra until one is familiar with it, one cannot stop at only reciting it. One must also reflect upon it and discern its meanings, ponder the wonderful meanings and principles in the Sutras. And they have been properly mindful of them. They are thoroughly attentive to the reading and reciting of the Dharma Flower Sutra. They are doing it right now. They are reading and reciting the Great Vehicle Sutras. At all times they have their minds on what they are doing; they do not forget the Sutras. They continually cultivate and study the doctrines in the Dharma Flower Sutra. And so these Great Bodhisattvas are those whom Shakyamuni Buddha in the past taught and transformed and brought to accomplishment.
“Ajita! All these good men take no delight in dwelling with the multitudes or in much talk. They always enjoy living in quiet places where they practice with diligence and vigor, never resting. They do not take up residence with humans or gods.”
K1. Explaining their dwelling.
Shakyamuni Buddha called again, "Ajita Bodhisattva, all these good men, so many Great Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas, take no delight in dwelling with the multitudes." They do not like being in places where many people are gathered. What is meant by busy, crowded places? It refers to within and beyond the Triple Realm. Within and beyond the Triple Realm are the five skandhas, and it is these five skandhas that "the multitudes" refers to. These Bodhisattvas have all illumined and viewed the five skandhas as empty, and so they take no delight in being with the multitudes. Their five skandhas are already empty. Nor do they like much talk. Since they have already transcended the Triple Realm, they have thoroughly comprehended all dharmas as basically inexpressible. There is nothing that can be said about them, and so they take no delight in talking. They always enjoy living in quiet places. They always like to be quiet; they like tranquil places. "Quiet places" represents the Truth in the Primary Principle. They are always within the Dharma of the Truth in the Primary Principle, and so they practice with diligence and vigor. They all have comprehended the doctrine of the Truth in the Primary Principle—the Dharma-door of no speaking, of no words. They practice vigor. They are diligently vigorous and not the least bit lazy, never resting. They approach the Buddhadharma with diligent vigor and do not rest. They never rest. For the sake of the Dharma, they forget themselves. For the Buddhadharma, they will forget all else. They do not take up residence with humans or gods. They do not live among people, and they do not abide in the heavens. Then where do they live? In space.
“They always delight in deep wisdom and have no obstacles. They also always delight in the Dharmas of all Buddhas. With single-minded vigor they seek supreme wisdom.”
K2. Showing how they uphold and practice.
They always delight in deep wisdom. What they like is profound and far-reaching great wisdom and great knowledge. They have no obstacles. Why don't they have any obstacles? Because they have wisdom. Why do you, as a person, encounter situations that you cannot see through and cannot put down? Because you have obstacles. Among these are (1) the obstacle of afflictions, and (2) the obstacle of what is known. With the obstacle of what is known, you think, "I know more than you." That is an obstacle. "I understand more than you do." That is also an obstacle. The obstacle of what is known is the fiercest obstacle. The obstacle of afflictions is very obvious, and so people quite easily recognize it.
There is also (3) the obstacle of karma: When one's karmic obstacles overtake one, one cannot take care of oneself. Perhaps one goes insane, or some other unusual thing happens. That is one's karmic-obstacles propelling one, oppressing one, and causing all kinds of matters that are not in accord with the Dharma to occur. There is also (4) the obstacle of retribution, that is, the retributions one must undergo.
The obstacle of afflictions, the obstacle of karma, and the obstacle of retribution all hinder one, but the worst is the obstacle of what is known. Before you knew, there was no obstacle. As soon as you know a lot, obstacles arise. You become arrogant. For instance, before you began to study the Buddhadharma, you did not have this obstacle. But after studying the Buddhadharma for a few years, you think, "I know a lot more Buddhadharma than you do." With that, you give rise to an obstacle. To begin with, we study in order to become free of obstacles, but many who study end up getting this obstacle.
These Bodhisattvas have no obstacles. No obstacles at all. It is said, "In every situation one is at ease." Everything goes your way, everything makes you happy. "At ease" means you are very pleased. Whatever the causes and conditions, whatever the situation, you are always very happy. They also always delight in the Dharmas of all Buddhas. They always want to study and practice all Dharmas—all the Buddhas' Dharmas—with single-minded vigor. They do not think about anything else. They are single-minded. What is that mind about? Vigor. They want to be vigorous within the Buddhadharma, not lax or lazy. They advance with single-minded vigor. Both their bodies and minds are vigorous. Why are they so vigorous? They seek supreme wisdom. They want to obtain the highest, most supreme, most ultimate wisdom: the knowledge and wisdom of a Buddha. That is ultimate wisdom.
At that time the World Honored One, wishing to restate this meaning, spoke verses, saying:
“ Ajita, you should know,
For countless eons,
All these Great Bodhisattvas,
Have cultivated and practiced the Buddhas’ wisdom.
I taught them all,
Causing them to bring forth the great resolve for the Way.
They are all my disciples.
I1. Verses about the prose passage.
J1. Answering who their teacher is.
Then, at that time, Shakyamuni World Honored One, concerned that living beings might still not understand this principle or that they had not heard it clearly, wishing to restate this meaning, spoke verses to answer again the question asked by Ajita Bodhisattva. He says, "Ajita, 'Invincible,' you should know, all these Great Bodhisattvas, who are now welling forth from the earth, for countless eons—from uncountable great eons in the past to the present time—have cultivated and practiced the Buddhas’ wisdom. In every eon, in life after life, at all times, they have been developing the Buddhas' wisdom, seeking the unsurpassed wisdom of the Buddhas. I taught them all. Didn't you ask who's teaching and transforming them? From the time they brought forth the initial resolve until now, they have become Great Bodhisattvas. And it has been me who personally taught them, transformed them, causing them to bring forth great resolve for the Way. I caused them to bring forth the great Bodhi Way-mind. I caused them to bring forth the Bodhisattva Way-mind, the Way-mind to seek the unsurpassed Way. That was how I taught them."
You see how Shakyamuni Buddha taught and transformed these Bodhisattva disciples, so that in this life, when he is speaking the Dharma, they all well forth from the earth, follow along and rejoice in the Dharma assembly, and act as the influential assembly. They influence the great assembly to bring forth the Bodhi mind.
They are all my disciples. These Great Bodhisattvas are all my disciples, whom I have taught and transformed.
Dwelling in this world system,
Ever practicing the work of dhuta,
They delight in quiet places.
Renounce the bustle of crowds,
And take no delight in much talk.
Study and practice the Dharma of my Way,
Vigorous always, day and night,
They seek the Buddha Way.
They dwell in the space
Beneath this Saha world,
Solid and powerful in resolve and will.
They are ever diligent, seeking wisdom.
They speak various wonderful Dharmas,
With no fear in their hearts.
J2. Answering where they came from.
Dwelling in this world system, they reside beneath this world in space. Ever practicing the work of dhuta: They are always practicing asceticism.
There are twelve dhuta practices:
1. wearing rag robes
2. possessing only three robes
3. begging for food
4. consecutive begging
5. eating only one meal and only at midday
6. eating a fixed and moderate amount of food
7. not drinking juices after noon
8. dwelling in an aranya
9. dwelling beneath a tree
10. dwelling in the open
11. dwelling in a graveyard
12. always sitting and never lying down
They rely on the Dharma-door of dhuta in their cultivation.
They delight in quiet places. They prefer to dwell in tranquil, pure places, where there are no extraneous noises to disturb them. They renounce the bustle of crowds. They stay away from places where there are many people. They tend to avoid noisy and confusing places that are not quiet. "Renouncing the bustle of crowds" also means renouncing afflictions. They cast off the afflictions of view delusions, thought delusions, delusions like dust and sand, and delusions of ignorance.
And take no delight in much talk. They do not like to talk. And this does not mean not talking for one day, two days, three or five days, or for a week and then talking even more to make up for it. They never like to talk.
Why are all these disciples of the Buddha like that? Because they practice the teaching. Whatever Shakyamuni Buddha taught them, they cultivated in that way. Therefore the Buddha says, "They study and practice the Dharma of my Way. Because they study and practice what I taught them to cultivate, the Way I told them to practice and the Dharmas I taught them to cultivate, they are vigorous always, day and night." They cultivate vigor during the day and vigor at night. Day and night they are vigorous. Both their bodies and minds are vigorous. For instance, they sit in meditation regularly. They constantly bow to the Buddhas. They are always mindful of the Buddhas day and night—in the six periods of the day and night—and their vigor means using the cultivation methods the Buddha taught them. At all times, they cultivate. They are vigorous in all aspects of the Buddhadharma.
For example, living beings with excessive greed may be greedy for beautiful forms, for wealth, for fame, for profit, and for other such problematic things. Living beings with excessive greed should contemplate impurity. They should cultivate the contemplation of impurity. Most people's biggest desire is for sex, and so they should cultivate the contemplation of impurity. They should contemplate that no matter how handsome or beautiful a person is, the body is just a stinking skin bag after all. It is just a pile of bones carrying around a bunch of flesh. If you cut open the skin anywhere, blood will flow out and after a while pus will be formed. These stinking skin bags really have nothing about them that we should be greedy for or wish to become involved with. Besides that, the nine apertures are constantly excreting impurities.
Living beings with excessive hatred should contemplate compassion. People who like to get angry should cultivate the contemplation of compassion. Compassion means not getting angry at anyone. You should look upon all living beings as your own sons and daughters. You give rise to compassion toward all living beings. Stupid living beings should cultivate the contemplation of causes and conditions. They should see them as false, see them as empty, and contemplate the Middle Way.
Living beings with excessive stupidity should contemplate causes and conditions. Yesterday, a Dharma Master explained how Shariputra cultivated the contemplation of causes and conditions. He also said that living beings with excessive stupidity should cultivate the contemplation of causes and conditions. But now we must add one sentence: Shariputra was definitely not stupid. And so why did he cultivate the contemplation of causes and conditions? He did it because that Dharma-door was very appropriate for him. And so although he was someone with wisdom, he also cultivated the contemplation of causes and conditions.
It is not a fixed principle that only stupid living beings can cultivate the contemplation of causes and conditions and that intelligent people cannot cultivate it. That is not the way it is. Nor is it the case that we say living beings with excessive greed should cultivate the contemplation of impurity, but that if a living being does not have excessive greed he cannot cultivate the contemplation of impurity. It is not like that. If you are not greedy, you can still cultivate the contemplation of impurity; it will work even better for you. Living beings who are stupid can cultivate the contemplation of causes and conditions and become enlightened, and so if living beings who are intelligent cultivate the contemplation of causes and conditions, they can become enlightened even faster. So there are no fixed Dharmas.
Living beings with excessive obstacles should cultivate the contemplation of mindfulness of the Buddha. If you are obstructed in your efforts, then recite the Buddha's name. When you recite the Buddha's name, you do not have to use any effort; there is no need to meditate or to contemplate emptiness, falseness, and the Middle Way. You do not need to do any of that. Just recite the Buddha's name: "Na-mo A-mi-to-fo." Simply recite like that, and you will succeed.
Living beings who are excessively scattered should cultivate the contemplation of counting the breaths. In the contemplation of counting the breaths, you can:
1. count the exhalations, or
2. count the inhalation.
Either method will do. But if you count the exhaled breaths, then do not count the inhaled ones; and if you count the inhaled ones, do not count the exhaled ones. You count from one to ten, and then start over, going again from one to ten. That is called the contemplation of counting the breaths. If at night you cannot go to sleep and you start having false thinking, that is a good time to cultivate the contemplation of counting the breaths.
Start counting, and after a few exhalations, you will be asleep. Or you can breathe in a few times, and you will fall asleep. It is quite miraculous. As soon as you pay attention to your inhalation, your false thoughts cease, and you can go to sleep very quickly. Why are you unable to fall asleep? Because you are having false thinking. You think about this and think about that, and it prevents you from falling asleep. If you cultivate this contemplation regularly for a long time, you will very naturally have it in hand.
They are vigorous day and night in seeking the Buddha Way. Because they want to seek the Buddha Way, they dwell in the space beneath this Saha World. They are solid and powerful in resolve and will. They are not lazy, nor do they retreat, nor are they scattered. They are single-minded in their cultivation. They don the armor of vigor and go forward to cultivate. They bring forth solid intent to cultivate and never retreat. They are not like we people are; we cultivate and use effort today, and then tomorrow we stop applying effort. They are not like that. The only exception would be if they were not cultivating a Dharma. If they decide to cultivate a certain Dharma, they will never retreat. They are ever diligent in seeking wisdom. They are always eager to seek wisdom. They speak various wonderful Dharmas. They speak all kinds of wonderful Dharma for living beings, with no fear in their hearts. In speaking the Dharma, they always send forth the lion's roar.
In the City of Gaya,
Sitting beneath the Bodhi tree,
I realized the most proper enlightenment
And turned the supreme Dharma-wheel.
Only then did I teach and transform them,
Causing them first to bring forth the resolve for the Way.
Now they all dwell in irreversibility,
And shall all become Buddhas.
I now speak the truth;
You should believe it with a single mind.
For endless eons,
I have taught and transformed these multitudes.
I2. General explanation.
In the City of Gaya. Shakyamuni Buddha says, "When I was in Magadha, in the City of Gaya…" " Gaya" is a Sanskrit word which means "mountain city." The Jetavana Grove [where the Buddha later dwelt] is only a few miles away from it. "In a place outside of the city of Gaya, I was sitting beneath the Bodhi tree in meditation."
When he first sat down to meditate, Shakyamuni Buddha made a vow. What was his vow? He said, "Once I sit down beneath this Bodhi tree, if I do not become enlightened, I will sit here forever. I will not get up." He meant he would not go anywhere else. He would remain seated in meditation under the Bodhi tree.
I realized the most proper enlightenment. Beneath the Bodhi tree, he sat seven times seven days—forty nine days. And on the night of the forty-ninth day, he saw a bright star in the sky and awakened to the Way. At night he saw a bright star, awakened to the Way, and at that moment, he became a Buddha. What does it mean to become a Buddha? When one becomes a Buddha, one is still the same as living beings. Buddhas are living beings; living beings are Buddhas. But Buddhas have already become Buddhas, and living beings have not yet become Buddhas. Buddhas are living beings who have already become Buddhas, and living beings are living beings who have not yet become Buddhas. When Shakyamuni Buddha saw that bright star and became enlightened, he sighed. Why? He said, "Strange, indeed! Strange, indeed! Strange, indeed!" He said it three times. It was said he sighed three times, saying, "Strange, indeed!" His meaning was: "It is very remarkable! Extremely remarkable! Really extraordinary!" What was so extraordinary?
He said, "All living beings have the virtuous characteristics of the Thus Come Ones." He said that the wisdom and virtuous characteristics that Buddhas have, all living beings have, too. They all have the seed of Buddhahood. They have the wisdom of a Buddha, the virtuous conduct of a Buddha, and the opportunity to become a Buddha. And so why haven't they become Buddhas? There's the problem. It is only because of false thinking and attachments that they have not yet been able to certify to and attain Buddhahood.
Why haven't we become Buddhas? Because we have false thinking. Why haven't we people become Buddhas? Because we have attachments. It is because of false thinking and attachments that living beings who should become Buddhas are obstructed. What obstructs them? False thinking and attachments. These obstructions hinder them, just as when a person walking on a road comes upon a blockade and cannot go forward. An example would be the wall between East and West Berlin, which keeps the East Germans from going to West Berlin and the West Germans from going to East Berlin. So, too, we people who have not become Buddhas have a blockade hindering us. What is the blockade? False thinking and attachments. If you have false thinking and attachments, you cannot open the wisdom of the Buddhas. Since you cannot open the Buddhas’ wisdom, you cannot become a Buddha. You have to let go of false thinking and attachments, and then you can become a Buddha.
How did Shakyamuni Buddha become a Buddha? He put down his false thinking and attachments. In the beginning, he was in the royal palace surrounded by many pleasures. In the future he would have been the emperor; he would have been a wheel-turning sage king. But he put all that down. He did not want to be an emperor. He did not want to be a wheel-turning king. He renounced his lovely wife as well as the kingdom to which he was heir. He looked upon birth, old age, sickness and death as too much trouble, and so he resolved to leave the home-life, to cultivate the Way, and to end birth and death. Because he had cast out his attachments and false thinking, when he sat under the Bodhi tree for forty-nine days, he became enlightened. We people do not have that much endurance and patience. We are not that constant in our practice.
I often tell you to be firm, sincere, and constant, but you have not been able to do so yet. Without a constant mind, you have not been able to put down your attachments and false thinking. This is why we have not yet become Buddhas. Do you want to become a Buddha? If you do, then quickly put down your false thinking and attachments, and you will do fine.
“I realized the most proper enlightenment.” Beneath the Bodhi tree, the Buddha certified to Unsurpassed, Proper and Equal, Right Enlightenment. There is nothing higher than this Proper and Equal Right Enlightenment. This is a Buddha's fruition. Having enlightened and become a Buddha, one is certified as having attained the fruition of Buddhahood. And then he turned the supreme Dharma-wheel. In the beginning he turned the Dharma-wheel of the Four Truths; later he turned the Dharma-wheel of the Twelve Causes and Conditions. After that, he turned the Dharma-wheel of the Six Paramitas and the myriad practices.
At the very beginning, he turned the great Dharma-wheel of the Flower Adornment. When he saw that ordinary people could not accept this great Dharma, he turned the Dharma-wheel of the Agamas. Then he turned the Dharma-wheel of the Vaipulya, and next the Dharma-wheel of Prajna. At the very last, he finally turned the Dharma-wheel of the Dharma Flower. The Wonderful Dharma-wheel—the wheel of the Wonderful Dharma, the Dharma Flower—is the basic aim of the Buddha. His original intent was to speak the Dharma Flower. But seeing that living beings' faculties were not mature enough, that it was not time yet, he first turned the Agama, Vaipulya, and Prajna Dharmas, and after that he turned the Dharma Flower. When he spoke the Dharma Flower, the time was right. The time had come, and so he turned the unsurpassed Dharma-wheel.
Only then did I teach and transform them. At that time, I taught and transformed all the Great Bodhisattvas, causing them to first bring forth the resolve for the Way. I enabled them to bring forth the unsurpassed Bodhi Way-mind. Now they all dwell in irreversibility. These limitless, limitless Bodhisattvas all abide at the level of irreversibility. They are irreversible in position, in thought, and in practice. They abide in those three kinds of irreversibility. And all shall become Buddhas.
I now speak the truth; the Dharma I taught you before was expedient. It was spoken to prepare you for the full truth, which I am now speaking to you. You should believe it with a single mind. You should turn your minds to become one in order to accept this true Dharma. For endless eons, I have taught and transformed these multitudes. It is not just now, in this life, in this Saha World, that I have become a Buddha. I became a Buddha limitless eons ago. The Buddha is said to "not be born, yet be born; not cease to be, yet cease." Although he was not born, he manifested birth. Basically, he did not cease to be, and yet he appeared to enter Nirvana. In the Brahma Net Sutra, the Buddha says, "I have come to this Saha World eight thousand times." If you obtain the Way eye—the penetration of the Heavenly Eye—and take a look into how many times Shakyamuni Buddha has come into this Saha World, you will see that it is not just eight thousand times. It is not even eighty thousand times, or eight hundred thousand times, but limitless, countless times. So the Buddha is telling the real truth here.
These limitless, countless Great Bodhisattvas filling up the space of three thousand great thousand worlds are all those whom I taught when I was on the causal ground during my former lives as a Buddha. You asked under which Buddha they resolved to cultivate the Way, who taught them, and by what methods. They cultivated the Dharma-door of the Dharma Flower. They recited the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra. I am telling you now that I taught, transformed, and brought to accomplishment this great assembly.
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