The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra
Chapter 15: Welling forth from the Earth
With Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
At that time Maitreya Bodhisattva Mahasattva and the countless Bodhisattvas gave rise to doubts in their minds. Puzzling over this unprecedented occurrence, they thought, “How could the World Honored One, in such a short space of time, have taught and transformed such limitless, boundless, asamkhyeyas of Great Bodhisattvas and caused them to dwell in anuttarasamyaksambodhi?”
G2. Doubts and a request.
I1. Narrator describes doubts.
When Shakyamuni Buddha had finished speaking his verse, Maitreya Bodhisattva again asked a question. Maitreya Bodhisattva is the Bodhisattva with the huge belly. His stomach contains all of space. He did not get that way from eating good food, however. His belly is simply like space and includes all of existence within it. This big-bellied Bodhisattva basically knows all there is to know and has complete understanding of everything. He does not need to ask people to explain things to him. But now he is confused. What is he confused about? About the verse Shakyamuni Buddha just spoke. Maitreya Bodhisattva does not understand it.
"Absolutely impossible," he thought. "These Bodhisattvas are so old. Shakyamuni Buddha has only been alive for a few decades. He is in his seventies. You are so young and these Bodhisattvas are so old. How can they be your disciples? That would be like a young person, twenty-five years of age, encountering an old man of over one hundred years and saying to someone else, 'Do you know that he is my son? That hundred-year-old man is my son.'
"And the old man agrees and says, 'Right, he is my father.'
"How can that be? A twenty-five-year-old father and a hundred-year-old son—who ever heard of such a principle? I cannot believe such a thing could happen. In the same way, Shakyamuni Buddha is only a few decades old, and all these Bodhisattvas are tens of thousands of years old. How can he have such old disciples?" He could not believe it. "What is going on here?" Maitreya Bodhisattva is skeptical, and all the other Bodhisattvas are doubtful as well. But for now, we are not going to worry about that. Instead we are going to talk some more about attachments.
I just said that the reason people do not become Buddhas is that they have false thinking and attachments, and someone gave rise to a doubt, thinking, "That is wrong!" I do not have any false thinking. I am old and have not ever had a false thought. What is more, I do not have any attachments, either. I am not attached to money, or a house, or property, or food, or clothes or anything at all!"
Perhaps, but you have not put down not being attached to anything at all yet. It is just that very thing that has kept you from becoming a Buddha! If you know that you have some attachments, then there is hope for you. But if you have deluded yourself into thinking that you have not any, then there is nothing that can be done, because in fact you have simply too many attachments!
"Too many? What do you mean?" you ask.
For one, you are attached to your physical appearance. You feel that you are good-looking. As ugly as you are, you still think you are beautiful. However ugly a person may be, he would not think he is ugly. He always feels, "Although my nose is not very pretty, I have lovely eyes, don't I?" Maybe he does not have good eyes, he cannot see well, but his hearing is keen. In general, a person always feels that he is in some way better than the next person. Even stupid people manage to do this by thinking, "I am dumber than anyone!" At least they have an awareness of what they are actually like.
The smart ones think, "I am smarter than anyone. I memorized that Sutra right away. You have been studying it for so long, and you still cannot remember it!" People like that are attached to being smart.
Smart people are attached to being smart; stupid people are attached to being stupid; dirty people are attached to being dirty. "This is just the way I am—a long-haired hippie." Hippies are attached to not cutting their hair. Those who are not hippies are attached to not letting their hair grow long. "Long hair is not good. I would not let my hair grow." Letting your hair grow is an attachment, and not letting your hair grow is an attachment, too. So what have you put down? Nothing at all. And yet you say you have put everything down. If that is not stupid, what is? People like that may claim to be wise, but I certainly do not believe them. I had better not say any more. If I say too much, I will upset people.
Poor people have the attachments of poor people, and wealthy people have the attachments of wealthy people. Honored people have the attachments of honored people, and lowly people have the attachments of lowly people. Whatever position a person happens to be in, he will have the corresponding attachments. Left-home people have left-home attachments; laypeople have laypeople's attachments. You have your attachments, and I have mine. Put them down!
At that time Maitreya Bodhisattva Mahasattva, that Great Bodhisattva, and the countless Bodhisattvas beyond reckoning gave rise to doubts in their minds. They became skeptical, puzzling over this unprecedented occurrence. "This situation is entirely too strange. There is no such principle as this." They thought, "How could the World Honored One, in such a short space of time, have taught and transformed such limitless, boundless, asamkhyeyas of Great Bodhisattvas? How can this be? The World Honored One is so young, and these Bodhisattvas are so old. How could the Buddha, in such a short space of time, teach and transform so many Bodhisattvas—countless, boundless, asamkhyeyas of them. And how could the Buddha have caused them to dwell in anuttarasamyaksambodhi, to abide at that level of fruition? This is entirely too strange."
Just then they spoke to the Buddha, saying, “World Honored One, when the Thus Come One was a crown prince, he left the Shakya palace and went to a place not far from the city of Gaya where he sat in the Bodhimanda and realized anuttarasamyaksambodhi. From that time until now, only forty-some years have elapsed. How, in such a short space of time, could the World Honored One have done such great Buddha work—using the Buddha’s mighty power and the Buddha’s merit and virtue to teach and transform such limitless hosts of Great Bodhisattvas so that they can realize anuttarasamyaksambodhi?”
I2. Requesting resolution of the doubts.
J1. The doubts.
K1. Speaking of Dharma.
L1. Doubting the far based on the near.
Just then they spoke to the Buddha, saying… Because of their thoughts, they immediately discussed this with the Buddha. “World Honored One, when the Thus Come One was a crown prince, he was in the royal palace. He left the Shakya palace. He ran away and went to a place not far from the city of Gaya. It was close to Gayawhere he sat in the Bodhimanda. He sat beneath the Bodhi tree, accomplished the Way, and realized anuttarasamyaksambodhi, the Unsurpassed, Proper and Equal, Right Enlightenment.
From that time, the time when the Buddha became a Buddha until now…” The Buddha was about thirty when he realized enlightenment. He had stayed in the Himalayas for six years, cultivating ascetic practices and eating only one grain of rice and one sesame seed a day. Five people had stayed with him. They were his parents' relatives, and they were cultivating there with him. But three of them could not stand the suffering. "We eat so little every day. How can we go on living?" And they ran away. Three left and two remained. These two felt that cultivation must entail suffering; there should be no enjoyment whatsoever. Feeling that suffering was mandatory, they did not fear the bitterness of cultivation.
Then a heavenly maiden came to offer a bowl of rice gruel with milk in it to the ascetic Shakyamuni, who was by that time nothing but skin and bones; he had no evident flesh or blood. Wouldn't such a person be pathetic-looking? On the eighth day of the twelfth lunar month, the heavenly maiden brought him some milk gruel. We know that it is all right for Buddhist disciples to drink milk, because our founding father drank milk at that time. The Buddha accepted the offering and drank it. When the remaining two cultivators saw that, they gave him a look and said, "He is not cultivating anymore. He is eating such a good thing. It will prevent him from being able to cultivate. Let's leave." And the two of them left as well.
We are cultivating here now, and no one wants to run away. If anyone does want to, he or she can just run, because at our Way-places the door is always open. If you want to come here, come. If you want to go, go. We do not stop anyone from coming, and we do not pursue anyone after they leave. We do not say "Do not come here," if someone wants to come; and we do not say "Do not go," if someone wants to leave. There is none of that here. We do things very naturally.
The five relatives and fellow cultivators of the Buddha eventually all left, until only Shakyamuni Buddha himself remained. Then he thought, "I am leaving too." He wandered for five years and then returned to the Bodhi tree, saying, "I am not going anywhere else. I have seen it all, I am going to sit under this Bodhi tree and accomplish the Way." He sat there and thought, "If I do not get enlightened, I am not getting up from under this tree. He sat for forty-nine days and then became enlightened and accomplished Buddhahood. Not long after he became a Buddha, he took a look at causes and conditions to see whom he should save first. He saw that he should go cross over the five relatives who had been cultivating with him. He looked to see where they were, and found that they had gone to the Deer Park. Thereupon he went there to speak Dharma for the five who became Bhikshus. These five perceived that Shakyamuni Buddha had become a Buddha, and upon hearing him speak the Dharma they immediately became enlightened themselves. The first to become enlightened was Ajnatakaundinya.
From that time until the present—from the time the Buddha realized Buddhahood until this moment—only forty-some years have elapsed. It has been just forty years. The Buddha realized Buddhahood at the age of thirty, and he spoke Dharma for more than forty years. That is not very long, not a long time at all. How could the World Honored One have done such great Buddha work in such a short space of time? How could he save so many people, so many Bodhisattvas? Impossible!
He must have been using the Buddha's mighty power and the Buddha's merit and virtue to teach and transform such limitless, boundless multitudes of Bodhisattvas—a host of Great Bodhisattvas, so many of them—so that they can realize anuttarasamyaksambodhi. They should quickly have realized the Unsurpassed, Proper and Equal, Right Enlightenment. This is a case of "given the close, one doubts the distant." Basically, Shakyamuni Buddha accomplished Buddhahood not long ago. How has he been able to cross over so many older Bodhisattvas, Great Bodhisattvas?
“World Honored One, the multitudes of Great Bodhisattvas are such that if a person were to try to count them throughout thousands of myriads of millions of eons, he could not finish or reach their limit. For endless eons in the presence of limitless, boundless numbers of Buddhas, they have planted good roots and accomplished the Bodhisattva Way, always cultivating Brahma conduct.”
L2. Doubting the near based on the far.
World Honored One, the multitudes of Great Bodhisattvas. Maitreya Bodhisattva addresses the World Honored One again. He says, "Those in this assembly of Great Bodhisattvas are such that if a person—a mathematician, an expert in making calculations, someone exceptionally skilled in numbers—were to try to count them…Even if he were so proficient in calculating throughout thousands of myriads of millions of eons, perhaps throughout a thousand eons and so forth, recording to a billion eons, he could not finish counting them. He might use his most precise and complex knowledge of numbers and methods of calculation, but he could not count to reach their limit, the total number of Bodhisattvas. He would have no way to count to the end of all those Bodhisattvas. For endless eons, these Great Bodhisattvas were beyond numbering, beyond limit, so that even the very best mathematician would have no way to know their number. Passing through thousands of myriads of millions of eons, there would be no way to calculate their number.
In the presence of limitless, boundless numbers of Buddhas, these Bodhisattvas—definitely before limitless, boundless Buddhas—have planted good roots. They have planted many, many good roots and accomplished the Bodhisattva Way. That was why they have been able to accomplish the Bodhisattva Way and are always cultivating Brahma conduct. At all times they are vigorous in cultivating pure practices. At all times, they are not lazy.
“World Honored One, a matter such as this is hard for those in the world to believe.”
L3. Conclusion: the difficulty of belief.
"World Honored One," at this point Maitreya Bodhisattva again directly addresses the World Honored One, "a matter such as this, this kind of event, is hard for those in the world to believe." Worldly people are unable to believe this; in saying that it is difficult for worldly people to believe, he is making it imperative that the Buddha answer this question. It is not that I do not believe, it is that everyone in the world will be unable to believe it. Whether they are Bodhisattvas, ordinary people, or sages, they will all disbelieve this principle.
“It is as if, by way of analogy, there were a handsome man, twenty-five years old and with shiny black hair, who pointed to hundred-year-old men and said, ‘These are my sons.’ Then suppose the hundred-year-old men pointed to that young man and said, ‘He is our father, the one who begot and reared us.’ Such a thing would be hard to believe.”
K2. Setting up the analogy.
It is as if, by way of analogy, there were a handsome man. Now I will bring up an analogy that is going to be extremely hard for people to believe. What kind of analogy? This person is exceptionally good-looking and youthful. And with shiny black hair. He had no white hair; his hair was black. When one gets old, one's hair turns white; young people have black hair. That requires further explanation. Westerners may have flaxen hair when they are born; but that kind of blonde hair is not the white that comes with old age. But the Lotus Sutra was spoken in India, and an Indian's hair was most often black. When Indians became old, their hair turned white. Thus Maitreya Bodhisattva uses this description in his analogy. Twenty-five years old. A man like that would be about twenty-five. He—the man who was about twenty-five or twenty-six; let's not make it fixed—pointed to hundred-year-old men.
And the men he pointed to who were "a hundred years old" might have been one hundred and one years old, or maybe ninety-nine years old. This is also not fixed; let's not say it was exactly one hundred years. The twenty-five-year-old can be analogous to the twenty-five realms of existence in the triple world. The hundred-year-old can be analogous to the hundred dharmas. He pointed to the hundred-year-old and said, "These are my sons." He said, "Do you see how old I am? These hundred-year-old men are my sons." That was what he said. Can you believe it? The twenty-five-year-old youthful father has fathered hundred-year-old elderly sons. Could such an event occur in this world? You say it never could be? But then suppose the hundred-year-old men pointed to that young man and said, "He is our father. He is our youthful father, the one who begot and reared us." He says, "Although I am a hundred years old, nonetheless I was fathered by this young man." Such a thing would be hard to believe. How could you get anyone to believe such an event? It is impossible to believe.
I just said that at the Buddhist Lecture Hall we do not stop people from coming in and we do not prevent people from leaving. Now I will tell you that in some cases we prevent people from coming and we drag people out! How is that? If you come here to cultivate, you may come as you please, but if you come here to steal things, you are not welcome. If we do not turn away thieves, our most precious treasures will get stolen, even our Bhikshus and Bhikshunis might get stolen! So we do take some precautions. Thieves are neither welcomed or encouraged to stay. Those who come to cultivate are free to come here. Those who do not cultivate are welcome to leave. Thus, although we in general do not discourage or encourage people, there are instances in which we do encourage and discourage people depending on the circumstances. You should all understand this.
In our Way-place, loafers are not allowed to come in, but worthy ones are. Thieves are not allowed, cultivators of the Way are. A certain Elder Master at Gaomin Monastery in China once sent me a letter in a re-used envelope. Someone had written him a letter using that envelope; he turned it inside out and used it a second time to send a letter to me. The greatly virtuous monks of old were always very thrifty. They did not waste anything. They would not casually write a few words on a sheet of paper and then throw it away. That was why last time, when I wrote a verse on a sheet of paper and gave it to Guo Chyan, I asked him to cut it off and give the rest of the paper back. Why? It was not that I could not even bear to give up a sheet of paper. It is just that we should cherish the resources of this world. I hope no one will waste things. If you waste things, you would not have any merit and virtue, and you would not succeed at your cultivation. Therefore, cultivators should be careful in everything they do.
“The Buddha is also like this. It has really not been long since he attained the Way. On the other hand, the great hosts of Bodhisattvas have already, throughout limitless thousands of myriads of millions of eons, practiced with diligence and vigor for the sake of the Buddha Way. They are well able to enter, leave, and dwell in limitless hundreds of thousands of myriads of millions of samadhis. They have attained great spiritual powers and have long cultivated Brahma conduct. They are well able to practice in succession all wholesome dharmas, and their questions and answers are clever. They are jewels among humankind, extremely rare in the world. Yet, just now, the World Honored One said that only when the Buddha attained the Way did he cause them to first bring forth the resolve. By teaching, transforming, and guiding them, he led them toward anuttarasamyaksambodhi.”
“It has not been long since the World Honored One gained Buddhahood, and yet he has been able to do these great and meritorious deeds!”
K3. Correlation with the Dharma.
The Buddha is also like this. Above, the twenty-five-year-old young man was described as having hundred-year-old men for his sons. And the old men also admitted that the young man was their father. Maitreya Bodhisattva says that such a thing cannot happen. If you try to get people to believe this, no one will. Now he goes on to say that the Buddha is also like this; the Buddha is like the young man. It has really not been long since he attained the Way. From the time he attained the Unsurpassed, Proper and Equal, Right Enlightenment—the Buddha Way—until now has really not been long. At the most, it has been some forty years. That does not add up to a very long time.
On the other hand, the great hosts of Bodhisattvas have already, throughout limitless thousands of myriads of millions of eons in the past, practiced with diligence and vigor. They are extremely vigorous in both body and mind. They are never, never lazy. For the sake of the Buddha Way—seeking the path to Buddhahood. They are well able to enter, leave, and dwell in limitless hundreds of thousands of myriads of millions of samadhis. They are well able to enter, well able to leave, and well able to dwell in limitless billions of samadhis. What does "well able to enter" means? It means being about to enter the nine successive stages of samadhi. What does "well able to leave" means? It means being able to attain the Lion Sprint Samadhi. "To be well able to dwell in" means one further obtains the Transcendent Samadhi. This explanation is based on principles of the Storehouse Teaching and the Connecting Teaching.
In terms of the principles of the Special Teaching, what is meant by "well able to enter"? The Bodhisattva Grounds from the First Ground to the Tenth Ground are called "well able to enter samadhi." From the Tenth Ground one goes on and enters the Door to the Mysterious and Wonderful, and then turns the boat of compassion around and cultivate while doing the things that ordinary people do. Although one has certified to the level of a Tenth Ground Bodhisattva, one comes back and does the things ordinary people do. One manifests an appearance of being like ordinary people. That is called "well able to leave." When Wonderful Enlightenment is perfected, that is called "well able to dwell in samadhi."
If this is explained according to the principles of the Perfect Teaching, “well able to enter” refers to the Dharma Nature Samadhi. "Well able to leave" refers to the Foremost Shurangama Samadhi. "Well able to dwell in Samadhi” refers to the Kingly Samadhi.
The nine successive stages of samadhi are:
The Four Dhyanas:
1. the samadhi of the first Dhyana
2. the samadhi of the second Dhyana
3. the samadhi of the third Dhyana
4. the samadhi of the fourth Dhyana
The Four Samadhis of Emptiness:
5. the samadhi of emptiness
6. the samadhi of consciousness
7. the samadhi of nothing whatsoever
8. the samadhi of neither thought nor nonthought
Add to those (9) "the successive samadhi of the extinction of feeling and thought", and together they are called the nine successive stages of samadhi. They are cultivated to accomplishment little by little. If you can obtain the nine successive stages of samadhi, that is called "well able to enter Samadhi." If you can then obtain the Lion Sprint Samadhi, that is called “well able to leave.” Finally, if you can obtain the Transcendent Samadhi, the samadhi that transcends everything, that is called "well able to dwell in samadhi."
That is a very general explanation of "well able to enter, well able to leave, and well able to dwell in hundreds of thousands of myriads of millions of samadhis" according to the Storehouse, Connecting, Special, and Perfect Teachings. There are many, many different kinds of samadhis—hundreds of thousands of billions of kinds. Samadhi is a Sanskrit word. Translated, it means "proper concentration"; it is also called "proper reception." "They are well able to enter, leave, and dwell in limitless hundreds of thousands of myriads of millions of samadhis" is explained like that.
They have attained great spiritual powers. They obtained great spiritual powers—not small ones. Small spiritual penetrations are the penetrations of Arhats. Great spiritual penetrations are the penetrations of Bodhisattvas. And they have long cultivated Brahma conduct. Already very long ago they were cultivating pure practices.
They are well able to practice in succession all wholesome dharmas. They are also well able, step by step, to proceed from the shallow to the deep in cultivating and learning all good Dharmas. And their questions and answers are clever. Whatever anyone asks, they are able to reply to the questions in wonderfully clever ways. They are jewels among humankind. These Great Bodhisattvas are the most valuable and rare among humankind. Extremely rare in the world—in all worlds—they are exceptionally unusual. Yet, just now, the World Honored One said, Shakyamuni World Honored One said, that only when the Buddha attained the Way—now that you have accomplished Buddhahood—did he cause them to first bring forth the resolve. You caused those Bodhisattvas to bring forth the resolve. By teaching, transforming, and guiding them, he led them toward anuttarasamyaksambodhi. He taught and transformed them, pointed out the Way, and instructed them and led them. He caused them to be able to walk along the Way to Buddhahood, to anuttarasamyaksambodhi.
It has not been long since the World Honored One attained Buddhahood. Shakyamuni Buddha realized Buddhahood not very long ago. And yet he has been able to do these great and meritorious deeds! He has not been a Buddha for long; the time span has been short. How can he has done such a tremendously virtuous deed?
“We believe that the Buddha speaks in accord with what is appropriate, that the Buddha has never spoken falsely, that the Buddha’s understanding is complete and penetrating.”
J2. Asking for an answer.
K1. Clarifying the question.
L1. For the sake of those of the present.
Maitreya Bodhisattva says, “We Bodhisattvas believe the Buddha. We very much believe the Dharma spoken by the Buddha and that the Buddha speaks in accord with what is appropriate. The Dharmas spoken by the Buddha accord with what is opportune for living beings. The Buddha has never spoken falsely. Not a single sentence of the Dharma that the Buddha speaks is false or untrue. The Buddha's understanding is complete and penetrating. We believe in what the Buddha has understood and has awakened to, the principles the Buddha uses to teach and transform living beings. Those Dharmas are totally penetrating, without obstruction; all are principles founded upon the utmost intelligence. They are principles absolutely replete with prajna wisdom. We believe them all; we have no doubts.”
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