The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra
Chapter 15: Welling forth from the Earth
With Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
“However, when Bodhisattvas who have just brought forth the resolve hear these words after the Buddha’s Quiescence, they may not believe or accept them. On the contrary, they may give rise to the causes and conditions for the offense karma incurred in destroying the Dharma.”
L2. For the sake of those of the future.
However, when the Bodhisattvas who have just brought forth the resolve… Although we believe the Dharmas the Buddha speaks, there are Bodhisattvas of the initial resolve. After the Buddha’s Quiescence—when you, Shakyamuni Buddha, have entered stillness in the future—when those Bodhisattvas hear these words—if they hear these principles, these statements—they may not believe or accept them. Maybe they would not believe the principles the Buddha spoke. They would not believe that these old Bodhisattvas have been taught and transformed by that young Buddha. On the contrary, they may give rise to the causes and conditions for the offense karma incurred in destroying the Dharma. Since they do not believe, they will slander the Dharma. If they destroy the Buddhadharma, they will create offenses. It is said, "Giving rise to delusions, they create karma and must undergo retribution." Because they do not believe, they are skeptical. Once they are doubtful, they create karma that will destroy the Buddhadharma. In the future they will fall into the hells or turn into hungry ghosts or become animals. They will create those kinds of causes and conditions.
“This being the case, World Honored One, we hope that you will explain in order to dispel our doubts, and so that those good people of the future who hear of this matter also will not give rise to doubts.”
K2. The request proper.
This being the case, because that may happen, therefore we now want the Buddha to explain. We hope that you will explain. We very much wish that the World Honored One will explain this principle to us, in order to dispel our doubts. Get rid of the doubts of those of us in the great Dharma assembly—the Bodhisattvas, Arhats, Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Upasakas, Upasikas—so that not only will you be able to dispel our doubts, but also those of the future, the doubts of good people, the good men and good women of the future, who hear of this matter. When they hear about this principle, they also will not give rise to doubts because the Buddha will have explained this clearly.
At that time, Maitreya Bodhisattva, wishing to restate this meaning, spoke verses, saying:
“In the past, the Buddha of the Shakyan line
Left home and drew near the city of Gaya
To sit beneath the Bodhi tree,
And it has not been long since then.”
I1. Verses concerning doubts.
J1. Speaking of Dharma.
K1. Based on the near.
At that time, Maitreya Bodhisattva, the Bodhisattva with the big heart and the broad girth, wishing to restate this meaning, wanting to reiterate the meanings he had just expressed, spoke verses, saying:
In the past, the Buddha of the Shakyan line. Maitreya Bodhisattva says that the World Honored One, Shakyamuni, in the past was born into the Shakyan clan, left home, and drew near the city of Gaya. You left the home-life and became a Bhikshu. Then, near the “ Mountain City” of Gaya, you went to sit beneath the Bodhi tree, became enlightened, and attained Buddhahood. And it has not been long since then. From the time the World Honored One became a Buddha to the present has been a very short time, not long at all.
All these disciples of the Buddha,
Incalculable in their number,
Have long practiced the Buddha Way
And now dwell in the power of spiritual penetrations.
Well have they studied the Bodhisattva Way.
Undefiled by worldly dharmas,
Like a lotus flower floating on the water,
They have welled forth from the earth.
All give rise to reverent hearts,
As they stand before the World Honored One.
K2. Based on the far.
All these disciples of the Buddha, all of these Great Bodhisattvas, disciples of the Dharma King, are incalculable in their number. Even using the wisdom of a Bodhisattva, there is no way to count how many there are. They have long practiced the Buddha Way. For a long, long time already, they have been practicing the Way of all Buddhas. And they now dwell in the power of spiritual penetrations. That is why they now have the strength of great spiritual powers. Well have they studied the Bodhisattva Way. They have excelled in their study and practice of the six perfections and myriad practices that Great Bodhisattvas cultivate.
Undefiled by worldly dharmas, they do not allow worldly dharmas to sully them. They cultivate world-transcending dharmas, pure dharmas, and they are not tainted by the defiling dharmas of this evil world of the five turbidities. Like a lotus flower floating on the water, they are like a lotus flower in a pool, growing up through the mud but remaining undefiled. Passing through the mud, it emerges pure and clean. They have welled forth from the earth. Now these Bodhisattvas have come from beneath the earth and welled up through its surface to abide in space. And they all give rise to reverent hearts. They are all very respectful of the World Honored One. As they stand before the World Honored One, abiding in mid air directly in front of the Buddha.
Such a thing is hard to conceive of,
How can it be believed?
The Buddha only recently attained the Way,
Yet his accomplishments are so very many.
Please dispel the doubts of the assembly
And tell us how this can actually be.
K3. Conclusion: the difficulty of belief.
Such a thing is hard to conceive of. Now these Great Bodhisattvas, uncountably many of them, are abiding there before the World Honored One. This event is inconceivable and ineffable; people cannot understand it. How can it be believed? What is the principle here? How can you expect people to believe something like this? The Buddha only recently attained the Way. Why can't anyone believe this? Because the Buddha attained the Way only a short time ago. He is very young in his Buddhahood, yet his accomplishments are so very many. The living beings he has taught and transformed have all become Great Bodhisattvas, and there are so many of them. Please dispel the doubts of the assembly. We all hope the Shakya World Honored One will get rid of the doubts that plague us in this assembly and tell us how this can actually be. Tell us in detail the reality of this event.
It is as if a strong young man,
Only twenty-five years of age,
Pointed to hundred-year-old men
With white hair and wrinkled faces
And said, “These are my sons.”
And the sons also said, “He is our father.”
A father so young with sons so old
Is a thing hard for the world to believe.
J2. Setting up the analogy.
It is as if a strong young man. Why can't we believe this matter at present? We will bring up an analogy: It is like a young man, only twenty-five years of age, with a handsome face, who displays his youth—his hair is black and there are no wrinkles on his face—a youth in his twenties. He pointed to hundred-year-old men and said, "These are my sons." He told some people "These hundred-year-old men are my sons." Ridiculous! These hundred-year-old men with white hair and wrinkled faces that he called his sons were not adopted or purchased for a price. They were begotten by him. And the sons also said, "He is our father." The hundred-year-old men admitted that the young man was their biological father. A father so young with sons so old. The father is very young and the sons are very old—this is a thing hard for the world to believe. Wherever you go in the whole world, no one will believe this principle.
The World Honored One is also like this;
He has only recently attained the Way
And all these Bodhisattvas
Of firm resolve, neither weak nor indecisive,
Throughout limitless eons
Have practiced the Bodhisattva Way.
Clever in answering difficult questions,
They have no fear in their minds,
Patient under insult, resolute in their thoughts.
Resolute in their patience,
They are upright and proper, possessing awesome virtue.
Praised by the Buddhas of the ten directions,
Skilled in their ability to distinguish and explain,
They take no delight in being with the multitudes,
But always prefer Dhyana concentration.
Because they seek the Buddha Way,
They have been dwelling in the space below.
J3. Correlation with the Dharma.
Maitreya Bodhisattva says, “The World Honored One is also like this.” Now the World Honored One is being likened to a young father, and all the Bodhisattvas are being likened to old sons. Thus he says, "The World Honored One is also like this. He has only recently attained the Way. From the time the World Honored One became a Buddha to now was not a very long time. It has been a very short time. And all these Bodhisattvas—all these Great Bodhisattvas whose number is unreckonable—are of firm resolve, neither weak nor indecisive. Their resolve is firm. Their vows are exceptionally vast. Their cultivation is the six perfections and myriad practices. Their minds are not weak, and they are not afraid. They fear nothing. These Great Bodhisattvas have not cultivated the Bodhisattva Way during just this one short life span. They have been cultivating it from limitless eons past.
Throughout limitless eons they have practiced the Bodhisattva Way. Clever in answering difficult questions. They cultivate the Bodhisattva Way and open prajna wisdom. Therefore, no matter how difficult the problem, they can resolve it. Not only can they resolve it, they do so in a very astute and wonderful way. Their eloquence is without obstruction—they have the four kinds of unobstructed eloquence. Since they have unobstructed eloquence, they are able to answer any tough questions. They have no fear in their minds. Their minds do not experience fear.
They are patient under insult and resolute in their thoughts. Being patient is not easy. Without knowing why it is so, people like praise and dislike being scolded. It is very difficult to cultivate patience. You may be patient once, you may even be patient twice, but by the third time, you cannot take it. All of you who hear the Buddhadharma here every day should be able to make use of it. When the time comes, when a situation arises, you should recognize it. If you recognize it, you will not be turned by the state. If you do not recognize it, you will be turned by it. Not recognizing means not knowing. If you can recognize it, then you know it. That is why I say:
Everything is a test
To see what you will do.
If you do not recognize what is before you,
You will have to start anew.
A state comes up, and whether it is pleasant or unpleasant, you should recognize it. Do not consider encountering a favorable state to be as sweet as candy, and encountering an opposing state to be as bitter as huanglian. If you feel that favorable states are sweet and opposing states are bitter, then you are being turned by states. If in both favorable and unfavorable circumstances you can remain unmoved, so that not even your mind moves, then you can be said to have a bit of skill, of gongfu.
What is a favorable state? Suppose someone praises you, saying, "He really cultivates. He works hard! He is vigorous day and night. He never quits." Hearing this you think, "That is great. That is as sweet as honey." Your heart rejoices; you feel great. Now, let's suppose someone slanders you: "He is terrible! He is lazy, he is gluttonous, and he does not cultivate at all. He says he is a cultivator, but he never cultivates." You respond by thinking, "I do not want to hear this. How can he talk like that about me?" It is as bitter as huanglian. Huanglian, in case you do not know, is the most bitter of Chinese medicinal herbs. However, although it is bitter, if you have illnesses stemming from excessive fire and you take huanglian, it will get rid of your fire. It is an excellent medicinal herb, but it is very bitter.
You also have to consider where the state is coming from. For instance, if you are a cultivator, perhaps a left-home person, and you are scolded by your teacher, you think, "I would not argue or get angry or talk back. I will just act as if nothing were happening." That does not count as patience. Why not? Because where disciples are concerned, they should bear what should be borne and even bear the unbearable when it comes from their teacher. That cannot be classified as the cultivation of patience.
On the other hand, if, as a teacher, you can bear up when your disciples scold you, that means you have a little skill. If the disciples scold the teacher, and the more he is scolded the happier he gets, then he has some skill. Or suppose you are scolded by a beggar, and you feel as though it did not even happen, that can be counted as patience. But if a policeman scolds you, even if he is being totally unreasonable, even if it is unbearable, you still have to bear it. For example, you are out on the street looking around as if you might be about to steal something, and a policeman comes up and says, "Hey! What are you up to? Are you a thief? I am going to search you." You must be patient. Why? Because the policeman has authority, and you do not. And so you have to endure his questions. That does not count as patience. If an inferior bullies you and you can bear it, you have patience. At this point, I have thought of a story.
* * * * * * * * * *
What Do You Think Happened?
Long ago, Shakyamuni Buddha and his disciples were walking down the road in a particularly desolate place. For one hundred miles around, they had not come across a single person. The disciples asked the Buddha, "Why are there no people here?"
Shakyamuni Buddha sighed and said, "It is a very painful matter."
"What happened? Please tell us!" said the disciples.
Shakyamuni Buddha then told them how long ago, an old cultivator who had tremendous virtue in the Way lived in the area. He had been cultivating patience for one hundred years, and he had never gotten angry. It so happened that the king of the country lost faith in his prime minister and dismissed him, even though the minister had done nothing to deserve it. The prime minister was still attached to his desire for power and leadership: "What am I going to do? How can I get back my position as prime minister? Oh, I have an old friend who practices patience. He is a Patient Immortal. He will know a way! I will go ask him." Thereupon he went to see the old cultivator who was his friend. He told him the king had dismissed him from his position as prime minister, and asked if there was any method that would enable him to regain his position.
The Patient Immortal replied, "That is very easy. At present your destiny is inauspicious, but now you can take that inauspicious energy—that energy that has caused your downfall—and pass it on to me. Then you will be able to be prime minister again."
"How can I pass it on to you?" he asked.
"There is a method we can use. You take a clod of earth and throw it at my head. That will suffice to pass your inauspicious energy on to me. Then you will be able to continue as prime minister."
The former prime minister did as he was advised, and sure enough, on the very day that he returned, the king called for him and said, "Before I dismissed you as prime minister, but that was a mistake. Will you come back now and continue on as my prime minister?" Thus he was invited back, and he thought, "Oh, that cultivator is really capable! He really can make things happen." Thereupon he continued on as prime minister.
After a while the queen of the western palace was dismissed by the king. He removed her to the "cold palace," meaning she would not have the opportunity to see the king anymore. The queen of the western palace thought, "Before, the prime minister was dismissed, and he has regained his post. No doubt has a method. I will ask him." And so she called for the prime minister and asked him, "How did you go about getting your position back?"
"It was not my own doing," he said. "I went to an old cultivator I know, and he told me that I had unlucky energy. He said I should transfer that energy to him, and I would be back in office. So I did, and here I am."
"Do you think he would help me?" she asked.
"I will go ask him," said the prime minister. When he told the story to the old cultivator, the old cultivator said, "Fine, tell her to pour a cup of water over my head, and her unlucky energy will be transferred to me. Then the king will want her back again."
The queen of the western palace followed the instructions to the letter, and the king took her out of the "cold-palace" and invited her back. The Patient Immortal's method was most efficacious indeed!
Soon the country went to war but every time its troops engaged in battle, they lost. The king said to his first wife and to the prime minister, "We are losing every battle. What are we going to do?"
The prime minister said, "I know what we will do. I have an old friend who is a cultivator. We call him the Patient Immortal. He has a number of dharma tricks. He will know what to do."
Upon hearing of this situation, the Patient Immortal said, "I live in this country; I should help out. The country is losing its battles. Very well, we are going to take the unlucky energy of the country and transfer it to me." Then he told the king, "Get a huge pot of stinking, dirty water to represent the unlucky affairs of the entire country and pour it on me."
That left the old cultivator smelling pretty bad, but nonetheless, the king began to win all his battles and eventually won the war. The king said, "That old cultivator has tremendous virtue." Once that announcement was made in the palace, the whole country knew about it. Soon people were lined up for miles, waiting to spit, throw dirt, or otherwise transfer their messes to the old cultivator. They all expected him to be patient, didn't they? He should just let the spit dry, shouldn't he? Day after day, first ten people, then hundreds, then thousands, tens of thousands, and finally the entire populace converged on the Patient Immortal. The Patient Immortal simply could not respond to them all properly, so up popped a false thought: "I cannot stand it! Why don't all these people drop dead?" What do you think happened? They all did! That was how great his spiritual powers were. As soon as he produced the angry thought of wishing them all dead, they all dropped dead on the spot. So now, for several hundred miles around, there are no people in this area.
It is not easy to be patient. But although it is not easy, we are still going to cultivate patience. Instead of speaking of it as difficult, let us think of it as easy. But whatever you do, do not get angry and think, "I wish they would all drop dead!"
They are resolute in their patience. Their patience is decisive. They definitely would not take it casually. They are upright and proper, possessing awesome virtue. Their physiognomy is regular, and their awesomeness is magnificent. Praised by the Buddhas of the ten directions, these Great Bodhisattvas are skilled in their ability to distinguish and explain. They are well able to delineate and describe all dharmas.
They take no delight in being with the multitudes. They do not like living in noisy places. They like still and quiet places. They prefer the mountains, but most of all, they always prefer Dhyana concentration. What makes them happiest is dwelling in Dhyana samadhi. They cultivate the samadhi of Chan meditation. Because they seek the Buddha Way, they have been dwelling in the space below. Because they want to cultivate the Buddha's unsurpassed Bodhi Way, they are living in lower space where no one bothers them. Probably people did not fly planes into that area or send rockets there. Therefore they are very much at ease in space, tranquil and pure.
Hearing this from the Buddha,
We have no doubts about this matter,
But we hope that the Buddha will, for those of the future,
Give explanations to cause them to understand.
For if they were to give rise to doubts
And fail to believe this Sutra,
They would thereupon fall into the evil paths.
Presently we have asked for this explanation
Of these limitless Bodhisattvas
And how, in such a short space of time,
You have taught and transformed them,
Causing them to bring forth the resolve
And to dwell on the Ground of Irreversibility.
I2. Requesting an answer.
Hearing this from the Buddha, we have no doubts about this matter. Maitreya Bodhisattva says, "All of us here in this Dharma assembly, we Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas, have personally heard the Buddha speak the Dharma of the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra. We have personally seen all the limitless Great Bodhisattvas well forth from the earth, and so we have no doubts about this matter. We heard Shakyamuni Buddha say that he personally taught and transformed these Bodhisattvas, and we knew it was really true, not made up. There was nothing to doubt in that analogy, but we hope that the Buddha will, for those of the future, speak. We do not doubt this, but living beings of the future, Bodhisattvas of initial resolve, whose roots of faith are not solid and whose good roots are not deep and thick, might fail to believe this. We now wish that the Buddha would explain this matter so that those of the future who have first brought forth the resolve will not doubt it. Give explanations to cause them to understand. Explain this principle to enable the Bodhisattvas of initial resolve to understand and be clear. For if they were to give rise to doubts and fail to believe this Sutra—if they do not understand and no one makes them aware, no one clarifies their thinking; if they were to fail to believe and had doubts—they would thereupon fall into the evil paths. If they do not believe in the Dharma Flower Sutra, in the future they will fall into the three evil paths—the hells, the animal realm, or the realm of hungry ghosts.
Presently we have asked for this explanation. We want Shakyamuni Buddha to bring forth great kindness and compassion, and for the sake of living beings of the future, speak of these causes and conditions. Tell the reason why these limitless Bodhisattvas have in such a short space of time been taught and transformed by you. How did the Buddha manage to teach all these Bodhisattvas in such a short space of time? How was he able to cause them to bring forth the Bodhi resolve and to dwell on the Ground of Irreversibility? By now, they have all obtained the three kinds of irreversibility:
1. Irreversible thought
2. Irreversible practice
3. Irreversible position
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