THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
Chapters: 1 * 2 * 3 * 4 * 5 * 6 * 7 * 8 * 9 * 10 * 11 * 12 * 13 * 14 * 15 * 16 * 17 * 18 * 19 * 20

The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra

Chapter 16: The Thus Come One's Life Span

Sutra:

“In all places, although the names by which I refer to myself are different and I may be older or younger, I also appear and announce that I am about to enter Nirvana. I also employ various expedient devices, speaking the subtle and wonderful Dharma and enabling living beings to bring forth happiness in their minds.”

Outline:

N2. Bestowing the teaching.
O1. Benefiting by both physical form and sound.
O2. Showing how beings rejoice at the benefit.


Commentary:

For the sake of those he should take across in all places, he personally speaks. Wherever he is, he personally speaks the Buddhadharma.

What is more, he will say his name, "although the names by which I refer to myself are different." In America he is called by one name. In China he is called by another. In Japan he has yet another name. In Germany, France, in all the places he appears, he goes by different names ,but the person is the same in all cases. And I may be older or younger. Maybe I am an older person, or a younger person.

I also appear and announce. I appear in a body and speak the Dharma. I say, "I am about to enter Nirvana." He tells his disciples, "I am about to enter Nirvana." Actually the Buddha has no birth or demise. Within Eternal Stillness and Light, he is always speaking the Dharma. I also employ various expedient devices, speaking the subtle and wonderful Dharma. He spoke the subtle, wonderful, inconceivable Dharma. What subtle and wonderful Dharma? That is what is being explained now. This is subtle and wonderful Dharma. You say, "What I hear is not so wonderful." That is because you are not full of wonder. If you are full of wonder, then what you hear will be wonderful.

And enabling living beings to bring forth happiness in their minds. Once they are happy, they feel that the Dharma is wonderful. Once you get angry and afflicted, the Dharma is not wonderful. You say, "What is all this talk—telling me to follow the rules? What I dislike most is following rules. The things I hold dearest are my greed, hatred, and stupidity. How can you tell me to give them up? This is really not wonderful. Not the least bit wonderful!" And so they are not happy.

But if you say, "Oh greed, hatred, and stupidity are not good things, and I should not let them be my daily companions. I should renounce them," then you become happy. That is called wonderful! Wonderful! Wonderful!

Sutra:


“Good men, the Thus Come One, seeing living beings delighting in lesser dharmas, beings of scanty virtue and heavy defilements, speaks for these people, saying, ‘When young, I left the home-life and attained anuttarasamyaksambodhi.’ In truth, however, I became a Buddha a long time before that. I speak in this way merely as an expedient to teach and transform living beings and to cause them to enter the Buddha-Way.”

Outline:

L2. Benefiting living beings in the present.
M1. Response.
N1. Manifesting his form.

Commentary:

Shakyamuni Buddha addressed them again, saying, "Good men, the Thus Come One, seeing living beings delighting in lesser dharmas." The Buddha observes the dispositions of living beings. Then he speaks the Dharma for them. When he sees living beings who like the Small Vehicle Dharmas, he teaches them the Small Vehicle Dharmas. If they like the Great Vehicle Dharmas, he teaches them the Great Vehicle Dharmas. That defines "delighting in lesser dharmas." Beings of scanty virtue and heavy defilements. "Scanty virtue" means no virtue in the Way. "Heavy with defilement" results from serious karmic obstacles. People of scanty virtue will not be able to believe the Buddhadharma if you speak it for them. Those with heavy karmic obstacles would not believe it either. One must have deep and thick good roots to believe the Buddhadharma.

The Buddha speaks for these people, saying, "When young, I left the home-life." Because he is speaking expediently to people whose foundations are shallow and whose good roots are scant, he says to them, "I left home when I was nineteen and attained anuttarasamyaksambodhi. After I left home, I gained the Unsurpassed, Proper and Equal Enlightenment. In truth, however, I became a Buddha a long time before that. If we were to talk of how long I have been a Buddha already, it has been a long, long time. The length of that time is like that analogy I explained before, of five hundred thousand myriads of kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeyas of world systems of three thousand great thousand worlds. Suppose someone traveled to the east across five hundred thousand myriads of kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeyas of lands, and there he deposited one mote of dust. Suppose, then, he continued in this way, traveling to the east, until all the dust motes were gone.

Now if all these world systems, whether a dust mote was deposited in them or not, were reduced to dust motes, and if each of those dust motes represented a great eon, the time that has passed since Shakyamuni Buddha became a Buddha would exceed even that, as stated above. But I speak in this way merely as an expedient to teach and transform living beings. I am using expedient methods to teach living beings and to cause them to enter the Buddha-Way. I enable all living beings to renounce the deviant and return to the proper, to change evil into good, to turn from the small and go toward the great, and to bring forth the Bodhi mind. It is for this reason that I speak of having left home when young, having realized the Way, having spoken the Dharma, and having taught and transformed living beings.

Sutra:

“Good men, the Sutras proclaimed by the Thus Come One are all for the purpose of saving and liberating living beings. He may speak of his own body, or he may speak of someone else’s body. He may manifest in his own body, or he may manifest in someone else’s body. He may manifest his own affairs, or he may manifest the affairs of others, but all that he says is true and not false.”

Outline:

N2. Speaking the Dharma.
O1. The teachings of this lifetime.


Commentary:


Good men, the Sutras proclaimed by the Thus Come One are all for the purpose of saving and liberating living beings. The Buddha spoke the Sutras and set forth the Dharma-doors, in order to save living beings. Living beings have 84,000 varieties of afflictions. The Buddha taught 84,000 Dharma-doors to counteract those afflictions. The Buddha works like a physician curing illnesses. If someone has a headache, the doctor prescribes a certain kind of medicine. If someone has a sore leg, he prescribes another kind of medication, and someone with the flu gets yet another prescription. In the same way, the Buddha "prescribes" Dharmas.

To living beings plagued with much greed, he prescribes the contemplation of impurity. He encourages them not to be greedy, and he points out the impurity of desire. To living beings with big tempers, he recommends the contemplation of compassion. To stupid living beings, he prescribes the contemplation of causes and conditions. He uses these various methods to cure the illnesses of living beings. So the text says, "He may speak of his own body, or he may speak of someone else's body." He may speak of his own deeds or of the deeds of another Buddha. He may manifest in his own body, to personally guide living beings, or he may manifest in someone else’s body as a guide. He may manifest his own affairs, talk about his deeds from this and former lives, or he may manifest the affairs of others, relating the causes and conditions of other Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Hearers, or Arhats, as an inspiration to living beings, but all that he says is true and not false. There is nothing false in it at all.

Sutra:

“What is the reason for this? The Thus Come One knows and sees the triple realm as it really is. There is no birth or death, no retreating or advancing, no existence in the world or passage into quiescence. There is no reality or unreality, no likenesses or differences. He views the triple realm as not being the triple realm. Matters such as these, the Thus Come One clearly sees, without mistake or error.”

Outline:

O2. The reason for the Buddha’s skillful teaching.
P1. Illumining the principles of provisional and real to manifest the root.


Commentary:

What is the reason for this? The Thus Come One knows and sees the triple realm as it really is. His knowledge and views accord with truth and principle. The triple realm consist of the realm of desire, the realm of form, and the formless realm. For the Buddha, there is no birth or death, no retreating or advancing. There is no retreating into the triple realm and no transcending of the triple realm. There is no existence in the world, no birth or passage into quiescence, death. For the Buddha, there is no birth or death. There is no reality or unreality. Common people see the three realms as real. Whatever common people see, they take to be true. They consider even the false to be true. Those of the Two Vehicles contemplate all dharmas as empty marks. They see the three realms as flowers in space, that is, as unreal, nonexistent, and empty. Common people take the three realms to be real; those of the Two Vehicles take the three realms to be unreal. To the Buddha there is nothing real or unreal, just as all things are contained within empty space but do not obstruct empty space. Empty space does not obstruct the myriad forms of existence, and the myriad forms of existence do not obstruct empty space. This is the principle of True Emptiness not obstructing Wonderful Existence, and Wonderful Existence not obstructing True Emptiness.

There are no likenesses or differences. The Buddha is one, without any distinctions. He views the triple realm as not being the triple realm. He is not like ordinary living beings who view the triple realm as something they must transcend. The Buddha, unlike living beings, does not see the triple realm as the triple realm. To the Buddha, there is no birth, no death, and no triple realm. Matters such as these, the Thus Come One clearly sees. He is one who is truly awakened to all dharmas without mistake or error. The Thus Come One makes no mistakes.

Sutra:

“Living beings have various natures, various desires, various modes of conduct, and various ideas, thoughts, and discriminations. Wishing to lead them to produce the roots of goodness, he employs divers causes and conditions, analogies, and expressions to explain the various dharmas, carrying out the Buddha’s work without respite.”

Outline:

P2. Sudden and gradual potentials.


Commentary:

Living beings have various natures. Each living creature has its own nature. Living beings are born from a complex set of causes and conditions. "Living beings" refers to all living creatures, not just human beings. Each person has a human nature. Each person also has a Buddha nature, a Bodhisattva nature, a Hearer nature, and a Pratyekabuddha nature. And so a human being has the nature of a sage and a common nature—a wisdom nature and a stupid nature. Some people claim, "I am number one." If you ask them what they are number one in, they say, "I am number one at being stupid!"

Someone else may claim to be foremost in intelligence. Another person might say, "I am number one at being neither stupid nor smart." Everyone is number one at something, because nobody wants to be number two. Men say, "Men are number one." Women say, "Ladies first." These are just attachments formed according to the different natures of living beings.

Dogs have dog natures. Cats have cat natures. Mice have mouse natures; they like to make mouse holes.

Today in the newspaper we saw an article in which some people were asked what animal they would like to be. One person wanted to be a deer; one wanted to be an eagle; one wanted to be a cat, another a dog. One of my disciples probably knows physiognomy. He said, "Look at their pictures. They each resemble the animal they would like to be." We can ask if any other people want to be animals, too. This is quite a piece of news for the West—people wanting to be animals. Some people in China do, too. Sometimes people can actually turn into snakes if they are too mean and nasty.

Living beings have various natures, and these natures are not fixed. If you would like to be a mosquito that sucks human blood all day long, it is possible. If you want to be a vulture that preys on other animals, that is also okay. Each living being has its own nature.

They harbor their own various desires. Living beings all have hopes and wishes. Some people desire leadership; some want to be officials. Some people desire to be scholars, still others wish to cultivate and study the Buddhadharma. That is a good desire, and you should not get rid of it. Others like to go out to a fine restaurant and eat good food. Some people like to drink wine. Some confused people have the desire to take drugs. Why would anyone want to take drugs? In their confusion they say, "It is not bad. When I'm high, I feel that there is no me, no others, and it is all free and easy contemplation: no emptiness, no form—see the Thus Come One!" So there are all kinds of desires.

Living beings have various modes of conduct. He likes to do this, and I like to do that. Someone says, "You want to study the Buddhadharma? That is really stupid." Someone who studies the Buddhadharma might criticize another person who likes music, "You are just following the desires of your ears, finding something nice for your ears." To people who like to see movies, he might say, "You are indulging the desires of your eyes." Living beings also have various ideas, thoughts, and discriminations. All these living beings have their differences.

And wishing to lead them to produce the roots of goodness, he employs divers causes and conditions, analogies, and expressions to explain the various dharmas, carrying out the Buddha’s work without respite. How are good roots produced? By doing good deeds. If you do evil, you grow evil roots. What is meant by "doing good?" If you were a thief, doing good would mean simply not being a thief anymore. Helping others is doing good, benefiting others and not oneself. For such an incredibly long time, every day, year after year he does the Buddha's work. He never stops for even a moment.

Now we are cultivating according to the Dharma Flower Sutra, and so we are extremely busy. We get up at four in the morning and go straight through until ten o'clock at night. We are all immersed in the Buddha's work every day. But be advised: It is better to chat less and recite the Buddha's name more. There is a saying:

Speak one sentence less of chatter,
one sentence more of the Buddha's name.
Recite until your false thoughts die and your
Dharma body comes to life.

Sutra:

“Thus since I realized Buddhahood in the very remote past, my life span has been limitless asamkhyeyas of eons, eternal and never extinguished. Good men, the life span I realized when formerly practicing the Bodhisattva path has not yet been exhausted and is twice that of the above number.”

Outline:

L3. Benefiting living beings in the present.

M1. Claiming to enter into stillness without actually doing so in order to benefit those of the future.

N1. In reality there is no cessation.

Commentary

Thus, since I realized Buddhahood in the very remote past, my life span has been limitless asamkhyeyas of eons, eternal and never extinguished. The Buddha's life span has no birth or death. Thus it is limitless and boundless nayutas of asamkhyeyas of eons: eternal in the Pure Land of Eternal Stillness and Light, not produced and not extinguished.

Good men, it has been such a very long time since I became a Buddha, yet the life span I realized when formerly practicing the Bodhisattva path has not yet been exhausted and is twice that of the above number. It is twice the number alluded to in the above-mentioned analogy, longer than the time since I became a Buddha.

Sutra:

“As I now proclaim that I am about to enter the quiescence, I am not really passing into the quiescence. The Thus Come One uses this passing only as an expedient to teach and transform living beings.”

Outline:

N2. Announcing impending passage into stillness as an expedient.


Commentary:

As I now proclaim that I am about to enter the quiescence, I am not really passing into the quiescence. The Thus Come One uses this passing only as an expedient, this manifestation of entering stillness, to teach and transform living beings.

Sutra:

“For what reason? If the Buddha were to stay in the world a long time, those of scanty virtue who do not plant good roots, who are poor and lowly, who covet to the objects of the five desires, and who are caught in the net of schemes and false views, seeing the Thus Come One constantly present and not entering stillness, would become arrogant, lax, and indifferent. They would not consider how difficult it is to encounter him, nor would their hearts be reverent.”

Outline:

M2. The necessity of announcing the passing.
N1. The harm of not announcing the passing.


Commentary:

For what reason? Why does the Buddha, although he does not enter stillness, still announce his cessation? Why does he manifest production and extinction when for him there is actually no production or extinction?

If the Buddha were to stay in the world a long time, remaining long in the world and not entering Nirvana, those of scanty virtue who do not plant good roots would grow even more lazy. Those with heavy karmic obstacles would not plant good roots. They would grow dependent on the Buddha, thinking, "The Buddha is here. I do not need to plant good roots right now. I will get to it later." They would wait around.

That is why the Buddha manifests entering stillness. Once he has entered Nirvana and people see that they have nothing to rely on, they will get busy and plant some good roots. This is a very obvious principle.

When I was in Manchuria, I had a lot of disciples. I taught them how to cultivate, yet they did not cultivate. Some said they wanted to take their time. Others said, "I do not have time right now."

After I left Manchuria, I started to get letters that said, "So-and-so, your disciple in Manchuria, did not cultivate before, but now he is cultivating because his teacher is not here. He is working very hard now."

When I was in Hong Kong, my disciples were pretty relaxed about their cultivation. After I left, they realized how hard it is without a teacher, and they all wrote letters to me asking me to come back. I did not pay any attention to them, however.

People are like that. If you see something every day, you do not think it is important. When it is taken away from you, you realize how important it is. So the Buddha does no remain in the world for a long, long time, because if he did, people of scanty virtue would fail to plant good roots. They would just choose to wait instead.

Those who are poor and lowly also would not plant good roots or make offerings to the Triple Jewel; they would continue to be poor and miserable. Those who covet the objects of the five desires—wealth, sex, fame, food and sleep—would still not give them up. The affairs of the world are just that strange. The "have-nots" are greedy, and those who have everything cannot put it down. Shakyamuni Buddha, as a crown prince, had a surfeit of all the objects of the five desires, but he put them all down. People who have not had their fill of these objects are greedy for them. Whether a person "has" or "has not" is a matter of karmic retribution. If you do not have good roots and do no good deeds, you would not have a good reward. How can you get a good reward? Plant good roots and do good deeds, then you will reap a good fruit and gain a good reward.

The poorer people are, the greedier they are. People who have a little money are not as greedy. People who are wealthy and are still greedy might as well be poor.

It is said, "Good people do not hate; hateful people are not good. Noble people do not get angry; angry people are not noble." Sometimes sages get angry, but not really. It is just something they manifest according to certain circumstances. People who get angry are stupid. Truly rich and noble people do not take advantage of situations. People who like to take advantage of situations are poor people. Poor people are always looking for a deal, hoping to benefit themselves. Because they do not plant good roots, they are poor, lowly, and greedy for the objects of the five desires: wealth, sex, fame, food, and sleep or forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and tangible objects.

And those who are caught in the net of schemes and false views are greedy for the objects of the five desires. They are always plotting, thinking about how they can appropriate something they want or how they can hold on to what they have. They are opportunistic and take advantage of situations, using wrong knowledge and views. These schemes and false views are like a net that covers up one's genuine wisdom.

Seeing the Thus Come One constantly present and not entering the stillness, they would become arrogant and lax. They would not follow the rules, and they would act indifferent. If they see the Buddha every day and all the time, If he never enters Nirvana, they get tired of him.

This is similar to how, before coming to the Buddhist Lecture Hall, you thought, "I must quickly go and study the Buddhadharma." But once you have been here for a few months or a year, you run away. "Studying the Buddhadharma is not that great," you decide. "It is kind of boring. I would rather go where I can be free and not have to listen to lectures every day. It is too hard getting up so early and not resting until late." Before you came here, you were really looking forward to it. Once you have been here studying for a while, you become dissatisfied with the lifestyle, and you get lazy. Perhaps when you first arrived here, you were more vigorous than anyone. You got up earlier and went to bed later than anyone else. You listened to the Sutras regardless of what else was going on. In all respects you were vigorous.

They would not consider how difficult it is to encounter him, nor would their hearts be reverent. Because you are constantly in contact with the Buddhadharma and are always studying here, you are unable to think, "It is really difficult to encounter the Buddhadharma, especially now in the West. No one here in the West has ever really had a chance to study the Buddhadharma. How could I be so fortunate? Here I am so young, and I have met up with the real, true Buddhadharma. It has come here to the West! This is incredibly rare. I do not care if I eat or sleep, but I am certainly going to study the Buddhadharma. Not for just a day or a week or a month or two, but always, year after year, always remembering how rare it is. If I were dead I could not study the Buddhadharma. So now, while I am still alive I am certainly going to study it." Think how rare it is to meet with the Buddhadharma. Think of your grandparents and great-grandparents and ancestors for generations back who never had a chance to study the Buddhadharma. Now, all of a sudden, you have the chance! This is called "transcending your ancestors." Your ancestors never understood the Buddhadharma, but now here you are studying it.

You should not let the Buddhadharma that you are studying pass by like wind blowing in one ear and out the other. You should make an effort to remember it, and not forget it like the verse I taught you during the Shurangama Sutra session that none of you remembered:

Intelligence is aided by hidden virtue.
Hidden virtue leads one along the path of intelligence.
Failing to do good deeds in secret, thinking yourself clever,
You end up outsmarting yourself.

If you cannot remember the things you have learned, you are wasting your time. You should review your lessons every day, go over them each day. For example, before you go to sleep you can reflect, "The Shurangama Sutra lessons—the Youth Moonlight, what samadhi did he study? Was it the water-contemplation samadhi?" Also review your new lessons. Granted all this is false thinking, but this kind of false thinking is helpful in enhancing your Dharma body and wisdom life. The superior person takes the high road.

Do not review your bad habits, thinking, "I used to smoke marijuana. Should I try it again?" If you do, you have entered a demonic state; you have retreated. Do not have false thoughts like that. The things that you did wrong before, you should change. Once you have changed, do not slip back and do them again. Consider how difficult it is to meet the Buddhadharma. Young people who have been through traumatic experiences should especially bring forth real sincerity and consider how hard it is to encounter the Buddhadharma. Not only have you with your good roots transcended your ancestors, but in hundreds of thousands of myriads of great eons, it is not easy to meet the Buddhadharma. Shakyamuni Buddha's realization of Buddhahood actually took place uncountable eons ago. And you should know that we have been ordinary beings for an equally uncountable period of time. Think about how long you have wandered in a human body.

Although the situation of becoming a Buddha is, of course, not the same as continuing an ordinary existence, the time factor is similar. Although such a long time has passed before you met the Buddhadharma, consider this: In this world would you say that there are more people who encounter the Buddhadharma or more who do not? Figure it out for yourself. Even in Buddhist countries, many believe in Christianity, right? Even in Buddhist countries not everyone understands the Buddhadharma. Think about how many people do not understand it. They may appear to understand it, but they have not penetrated the doctrines at all. It is not easy to meet up with the Buddhadharma. Just consider how rare it is. "Nor would their hearts would be reverent." You should respect the Triple Jewel.

If the Buddha remained long in the world, people would not think of the Buddhadharma as rare, and they would not be reverent. Seeing that living beings were not being reverent toward him, the Buddha said, "It is time to go. I am entering Nirvana!"

Hearing that, someone is thinking, "Being a person and becoming a Buddha take the same length of time." They are happy and say, "That is not bad. I may not get to be a Buddha, but if I can be a person for such a long time, life after life, then I do not need to become a Buddha. I will just be a person, eat good food, wear nice clothes, live in a fine house, buy a good car, a plane—when I am rich, I will go for a vacation on the moon! That would not be bad at all."

That is a fairly intelligent plan, but you cannot guarantee that it will happen; there is no way to definitely know if you can do it. I said that we have been people for a long time, but that was just an estimate. Actually, during all this time, not only have you been a person, but you have been everything else as well. You have been up to heaven and met God, and entered the earth to see the one in charge of the earth. You have also roamed among human beings, meeting their leaders. You have been all around. In fact, you went to the moon a long time ago, too. You just forgot, just as you have forgotten a lot of things you did as a child. There are even times when you forget the things you do from one day to the next. In fact, sometimes by one o'clock in the afternoon you cannot remember what you did at noon. If you forget the things you do in this life, how much more likely are you to forget the things you did in your previous lives.

We say that the Buddha does not change but accords with conditions, accords with conditions but does not change. He is forever unchanging. But as a person, you can turn into something else anytime. You can turn into a cat, a dog, a little bug crawling around, or a pigeon flying through the air. Take, for example, the article in yesterday's paper in which people wanted to become animals—cats, dogs, tigers, lions, eagles, frogs, mice, and so forth. Everything is made from the mind alone; you become what you want to be.

"Well, I want to become a god. Can I do that?" you ask.

Yes, you can. You can be whatever you want. Whenever you have a wish and an intention, you can arrive at your aim. Based on this principle, if we want to become Buddhas, we can do so. If you do not want to become a Buddha, you would not. Being a person is very dangerous; being a Buddha is very peaceful. If you like danger, then do dangerous things. If you prefer peace and quiet and happiness, then do peaceful and happy things.

Sutra:

“For these reasons, the Thus Come One expediently says, ‘Bhikshus, you should know that it is difficult to meet with a Buddha appearing in the world.’ What is the reason? Those of scant virtue may pass through limitless hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of eons, during which time they may or may not see a Buddha. Because of that, I tell them, ‘Bhikshus, the Thus Come One is difficult to get to see.’ These living beings, hearing such words, will necessarily realize how difficult it is to get to encounter the Buddha and will cherish a longing for him. They will then plant good roots. That is why the Thus Come One, although he does not enter stillness, speaks of quiescence.”

Outline:

N2. The benefits of announcing the passing.

Commentary:

For these reasons, because of the doctrines just discussed, the Thus Come One expediently says… He uses skill-in-means in speaking the Dharma for living beings. "All of you great Bhikshus and Arhats, you should know that it is difficult to meet with a Buddha appearing in the world." In a hundred million eons, a Buddha may not appear in the world even once. What is the reason? Those of scant virtue, who do not have good roots, may pass through limitless hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of eons—such a long time, so many great kalpasduring which time they may or may not see a Buddha. If they have good roots, they may see a Buddha. If they do not, then throughout all that time—hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of eons—they will not encounter a Buddha. Consider how difficult it is! Because of that, I tell them, "Bhikshus, the Thus Come One is difficult to get to see." Those of few good roots and little virtue cannot see the Buddha.

Not only is it hard to meet up with a Buddha, it is hard to get a human body. When Shakyamuni Buddha was in the world, he reached down and picked up a handful of dirt and asked his disciples, "Would you say there was more dirt in my hand or on the great earth?"

The disciples all said, "Of course there are more dirt on the earth; there isn't very much in the Buddha's hand."

Shakyamuni Buddha said, "Those who obtain human bodies are as few as the particles of dirt in my hand. Those who lose their human bodies are as many as the particles of dirt on the earth."

One may not know this, but some human beings were previously gods, while some came up from the hells, others were animals, and still others were ghosts. You should not think that it is easy to become a human being. It is as rare as the dirt in the Buddha's hand.

Why do you lose a human body? Because you did not do a good job of being a person. Originally, you were a person, but you acted like a dog or like a being from the hells or like an animal or a ghost, and so you "moved house." You moved from the path of people to the path of animals. Then you moved back to the path of people. You just keep on moving house. But once you get to your "new house," you forget your old one. Why would a person decide he wants to be an animal? Because he has an animal-like nature. This applies especially to people who eat meat. You will start to smell like the kind of animal which meat you eat. Eventually you join up with those animals. It is not easy to be a person.

All these living beings, hearing such words, listening to the Buddha telling them how hard it is to get to meet with a Buddha, will necessarily realize how difficult it is to get to encounter the Buddha and will cherish a longing for him. They will long to meet a Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. And so when they encounter the Buddha, they are extremely happy. When they meet the Dharma and the Sangha, they are also exceptionally happy. They are like thirsty people who, upon gazing at the Buddha, have their thirst quenched.

They will then, simply by virtue of cherishing that thought of longing and thirst, plant good roots. That is why the Thus Come One, although he does not enter stillness, speaks of quiescence. In reality, the Buddha is presently on Vulture Peak speaking the Dharma.

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