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:

“Further, good men, the Dharma of all Buddhas, Thus Come Ones, is like this and is used to save living beings. It is entirely true and not false.”

Outline:

K2. Concluding that it is not false.


Commentary:

Further, good men, the Dharma of all Buddhas, Thus Come Ones—not just mine, Shakyamuni's—is like this and is used to save living beings. It is entirely true and not false. It is all true and real Dharma used to teach and transform living beings.

Sutra:

“It is as if there were a good physician, wise and well-versed in the medical arts and intelligent, who is skillful at healing the multitude of sicknesses. The man also has many sons—ten, twenty or even a hundred. Then, called away on business, he travels to a far-off country.”

Outline:

J2. The analogy.
K1. Setting up the analogy.

L1. The good physician cures his children—an analogy for benefiting beings in the three periods of time.

M1. He travels afar—an analogy for benefiting living beings in the past.

Commentary:

The Buddha now brings up an analogy: It is as if there were a good physician, wise and intelligent. A good doctor can cure all illnesses. He wisdom is astute and penetrating. Muddle-headed people cannot be doctors; one must certainly be very intelligent to become a doctor. A stupid doctor can "cure people to death!" But this doctor is intelligent and wise, well-versed in the medical arts, and someone who is skillful at healing the multitude of sicknesses. The man also has many sons—ten, twenty or even a hundred. "Ten" represents the Bodhisattvas of the Ten Grounds. "Twenty" represents those of the Two Vehicles—the Hearers and the Pratyekabuddhas. "A hundred" represents the Ten Dharma Realms times the Ten Suchnesses. Then, called away on business, he travels to a far-off country to heal someone, or to go on tour.

Sutra:

“Meanwhile, the children drink some poison, which causes them to roll on the ground in delirium.”

Outline:

M2. He returns—an analogy for benefiting beings in the present.
N1. The response.


Commentary:


Meanwhile, the children are not yet grown. It is a physician's home, and there are many medicines in it. The children get hold of some poisonous concoction and drink it. The children drink some poison thinking that it is a sweet-tasting drink. Children do not know any better. They cannot tell the difference between poison and something good to drink. They think it is a bottle of some kind of juice, and they drink it up. When it takes effect, the pain, which is unbearable, causes them to roll on the ground in delirium.

Sutra:

“Just then their father returns home. Because they drank the poison, some of the sons have lost their senses, while others have not. Seeing their father at a distance, they are all greatly happy. They bow to him, kneel, and inquire after him. ‘Welcome back in peace and safety. In our foolishness, we took some poison by mistake. We pray that you will rescue and heal us, and will restore our lives to us.’”

Outline:

N2. Bestowing the teaching.
O1. Appearing in person.


Commentary:

Just then their father, the good doctor, finishes his business and returns home. Because they drank the poison, some of the sons have lost their senses—they are totally oblivious—while others have not. Some of them still have some sense and recognition left. Seeing their father at a distance, they are all greatly happy. The children are delighted to see their father. They bow to him, kneel, and inquire after him. "Welcome back in peace and safety. We are really fortunate to be able to see our father again." Those who have not completely lost their senses speak up and say, "In our foolishness, we took some poison by mistake. We thought it was syrup or apple juice or cola or some such thing, and we swallowed it." Those who like to drink alcohol see the poison as alcohol. Who would have thought it was poison? "We pray that you will rescue and heal us, and will restore our lives to us. Father, will you save us, so we can go on living?"

Previously, the text said this is an analogy. Who is the good doctor? The Buddha, of course. The children are all living beings. Maybe these living beings live at a time when the Buddha is not in the world, or maybe the Buddha was in the world but has already entered Nirvana and gone to some other world. The father's leaving refers to the Buddha's entering Nirvana, so beings have no chance to meet him. When the Buddha goes away, living beings are not careful about "what they eat." It is said, "Living beings take food to be heaven." It is also said, "Desire for food and sex comes naturally." Children start drinking milk from the moment they are born. They do not know very much, but they do know how to eat. They suck their thumbs or their fingers; whatever you give them they put in their mouths. And so, acting on this instinct, the children here managed to poison themselves.

What is the poison? The poisons are the deviant sects and cults and externalist ways, the teachings of non-ultimate religions. If, after having taken the poison, the children know it is poison, then there is a chance they can still be saved. But if they have taken a lot of it and do not even realize that it is poison, thinking they have drunk the nectar of immortality or something similar, they are hard to save. Having taken it, they are senseless, but they think they will never die. They think they have been born into some heavenly paradise. They are so deeply immersed in their confusion that they do not even know they have been poisoned. The poison has penetrated all the way to their bones and marrow. So some have lost their senses, that is, they do not recognize true principle. Others have not lost their senses, and they are still receptive to understanding the truth.

The doctor's returning is an analogy for the Buddha's appearing in the world. The Buddha, having finished his work of teaching and transforming living beings in other worlds, comes again to this world to teach and transform living beings. He sees that these living beings have been poisoned by those of deviant cults and sects and externalist paths, and they are almost beyond help. Some of them, however, are fairly intelligent. When they see the Buddha, they are very happy. They bow respectfully to the Buddha and say, "We living beings are too stupid. Please be compassionate, Buddha, and give us some medicine to counteract this poison. We want to keep on living, not to die."

Seeing how pitiful living beings are, the Buddha uses various kinds of "medicines" to counteract their poisons. Some of them are happy to take the medicine, and they get well; they get rid of their deviant knowledge and deviant views. Others, however, do not wish to take the medicine. Thus they do not expel the poison which causes them not to believe in the Buddhadharma.

The Buddha is compared to a good doctor. But while good doctors save people, there are also inept doctors who kill people. These quacks represent the leaders of deviant cults and sects and externalist ways. They may say they are Buddhists, but they do not act like Buddhists. Or they may say they are Taoists, but they do not act like Taoists. They may say they are Confucians or Brahmans or any one of the ninety-six externalist sects.

There is a good story about bad doctors: Once King Yama ate too much and got diarrhea. He sent a young ghost to find him a doctor. The little ghost said, "I do not know which doctors are good. How can I tell? Which one should I get?"

King Yama said, "Stand in the doctors' doorways and take a look. Pick the doctor who has the fewest ghosts hanging around his door. He will probably be the best."

"Okay," said the little ghost, and he ran off to check out all the doctors' offices. Every single one of them had anywhere from three or four hundred to three or four thousand ghosts jamming their doorways. Finally he came upon one doctor's office where there were only two ghosts lingering by the doorway, crying, "He killed us with those drugs."

"This must be the best doctor," said the ghost. "I will take him to King Yama."

When King Yama saw the doctor, he asked him to sit down and take a look at him.

"I do not need to look at you," said the doctor. "Just take this medicine here, and you will be all right."

King Yama said, "But you did not even look at me! How can you give me medicine?"

The doctor said, "That is my method! Try it out. It never fails."

King Yama said, "Well, how long have you been a doctor?"

"I started my practice today," said the doctor.

King Yama grabbed the little ghost and took him aside. "Were there ghosts by his door?" he asked.

The little ghost said, "Only two!"

King Yama said, "Two ghosts on the first day! Two fatal cases! You probably do not have such a bright future; I think I will just keep you here with me, doctor." And so the doctor became a ghost. That made three ghosts in all.

From this we can see that it is not easy to be a doctor. In the West, people probably do not realize how many patients are killed by the drugs doctors prescribe. They give you medicine and do not even tell you what it is. The pills all look pretty much alike, and the syrups are also almost the same color. You don't really know whether it will poison you or not. There is no way to tell, and no one advises you.

This is one point where Western people lack wisdom. Doctors should explain to you very clearly what kind of medication they are giving you. Whatever your illness, they simply listen to your symptoms and prescribe something, saying, "Let's try it out." This is just using people as guinea pigs! Life is very cheap. Even the president has to obey his doctor. It does not matter who you are, when you go into the hospital, you have to do what you are told. "Do as I say! You had better listen to me!" The doctors are more dictatorial than the emperors of old. They might be responsible for people's deaths, and people would not even know. Would you say they were fierce or not?

Sutra:

“Seeing his children in such agony, the father consults his medical texts and then searches for fine herbs of good color, aroma and flavor. He then grinds, sifts, and mixes them together, and gives the compound to his sons to take.”

Outline:

O2. Speaking of Dharma.

P1. The analogy drawn to the Buddha’s accepting the request and turning the wheel of sudden and gradual Dharma.

Commentary:

The good doctor sees that his children have taken poison. Seeing his children delirious and in such agony, the father consults his medical texts, which describes the properties of different medicines, and then searches for fine herbs of good color, aroma and flavor—not bitter, but actually very sweet—perfect in all respects. He then grinds, sifts, and mixes them together. This is the Buddha using various Dharmas to teach and transform those of the Two Vehicles. "Grinding, sifting and mixing" takes places during the Prajna period. Having passed through the Agamas and Vaipulya, arriving at Prajna is likened to "grinding, sifting, and mixing." And gives the compound to his sons to take. He has the children take the medicine.

Sutra:

“He says to them, ‘This is an excellent medicine of good color, aroma and flavor. Take it. Your agony will be relieved, and you will suffer no further torment.’”

Outline:

F2. The analogy drawn to the exhortation.


Commentary:

And he, the good doctor, says to them, "This is an excellent medicine of good color, aroma and flavor—good to look at, and very sweet to the taste. It is exceptionally fine medicine. Take it. Your agony will be relieved. Quickly take it, children, and you will suffer no further torment. Once you take this medicine, your illness will get better and all your pain and suffering will be relieved. They will disappear."

Sutra:

“Some among the children have not lost their senses. Seeing the fine medicine with its good color and aroma, they immediately take it, and their sickness is completely cured.”

Outline:

P3. The analogy drawn to gaining benefits.

Commentary:

Some among the children have not lost their senses.Seeing the fine medicine with its good color and aroma, they immediately take it, and their sickness is completely cured. After the grinding and mixing of the Prajna period comes the Dharma-Flower/Nirvana period. The Wonderful Dharma of the Dharma Flower Sutra is called "excellent medicine." The children's sickness being "completely cured" means they have broken through the delusions of views, the delusions of thought, and the delusions of ignorance. Having done that, they gain enlightenment and have no more illnesses.

Sutra:

“Although the others who have lost their senses rejoice in their father’s arrival, have inquired after his well-being, and have sought to be cured of their illnesses, they refuse to take the medicine. What is the reason? The poisonous vapors have entered them so deeply that they have lost their senses, and so they say that the medicine of good color and aroma is not good.”

Outline:

M3. He leaves again—an analogy for benefiting beings in the future.
N1. The analogy drawn to the harm of not announcing cessation.


Commentary:

Although the others who have lost their senses, who were badly poisoned and who have already gone crazy, rejoice in their father's arrival, have inquired after his well-being, and have sought to be cured of their illnesses, they refuse to take the medicine. They do not want the medicine that the good doctor gave them. The Buddha spoke the Dharma Flower Sutra, but they did not believe it. They were unable to believe, accept, and practice it.

What is the reason? The poisonous vapors have entered them so deeply that they have lost their senses. They are muddled and confused, and so they say that the medicine of good color and aroma is not good. They profess that if they take the medicine, they will not gain any advantage. They do not believe the Wonderful Dharma.

The Buddha, like the good doctor, speaks the Wonderful Dharma for living beings. He uses the most magnificent Dharma to try to teach and transform living beings. But if living beings do not believe him, the Buddha has no way to force them to believe.

Sutra:

“The father then thinks, ‘How pitiful these children are! The poison has confused their minds. Although they rejoice to see me and ask me to rescue and cure them, still they refuse such good medicine as this. I should now set up an expedient device to induce them to take this medicine.’”

“Immediately he says, ‘You should know that I am now old and weak, and my time of death has arrived. I will now leave this good medicine here for you to take. Have no worries about not recovering.’ Having instructed them in this way, he then returns to the far-off country and sends a messenger back to announce, ‘Your father is dead.’”

Outline:

N2. The analogy drawn to the expedient of announcing cessation.


Commentary:

The father then thinks, "How pitiful these children are!The poison has entered too deeply and has confused their minds, and they are unclear. Although they rejoice to see me and ask me to rescue and cure them, still, once I give them this excellent medicine, they refuse to take such good medicine as this. I should now set up an expedient device to induce them to take this medicine."

Immediately he says, "You should know that I am now old and weak, worn out, and my time of death has arrived. I will now leave this good medicine right here for you to take. You children who have ingested poison can use it. Have no worries about not recovering. Do not worry about not getting well. Just take the medicine, and you shall certainly recover." Having instructed them in this way, he then returns to the far-off country and sends a messenger back to announce to the children, "Your father is dead."

The Buddha's manifesting entry into Nirvana is also like this. The Buddha prepared all these Dharmas to be good medicines because he sees that living beings are so severely poisoned that they are unable to believe in the Buddhadharma. For that reason he sets up the expedient Dharma-door of entering Nirvana. In reality, the Buddha does not undergo production and extinction. The Buddha's state is one of no production and no extinction, no defilement and no purity, no increasing and no decreasing. His entering Nirvana is an expedient device for the sake of saving living beings.

Sutra:

“When the children hear that their father is dead, their hearts are struck with grief, and they think, ‘If our father was here, he would be compassionate and pity us, and we would have a savior and protector. Now he has forsaken us to die in another country, leaving us orphaned with no one to rely upon.’ Constantly grieving, their minds then become awakened. They understand that the medicine has good color, aroma and flavor. They take it immediately, and their poisonous sickness is completely cured.”

Outline:

N3. The analogy drawn to the announcement of cessation and its advantages.

Commentary:

When the children who have been poisoned hear that their father, off in some other country, is dead, their hearts are struck with grief. Although they have lost their senses, they understand that their father has died, and they are extremely distraught. And they think, "If our father was here, he would be compassionate and pity us, and we would have a savior and protector. He really cherished us. He was so good to us. He would have saved us from our sickness. Now he has forsaken us to die in another country. He left us and went somewhere far, far away. Now he is dead, leaving us orphaned with no one to rely upon. No one will save us now. No one will offer us support and protection." Constantly grieving, their minds then become awakened. They understand that the medicine their father offered them when he was alive has good color, aroma and flavor. They take it immediately, and their poisonous sickness is completely cured. They believe in the Buddhadharma and no longer believe in the dharmas of externalist ways. As soon as they came to believe in the Buddhadharma, they got rid of all their deviant knowledge and deviant views.

Sutra:

“The father, hearing that his sons have been completely cured, then comes back, and they all see him.”

Outline:

N4. The analogy drawn to the Buddha originally having no cessation.


Commentary:

The father, who really has not died, hearing that his sons have been completely cured, then comes back, and they all see him. Before long, their father returns. All the children who had previously been poisoned see their father.

Sutra:

“Good men, what do you think, could anyone say that this good physician has committed the offense of false speech?”

“No, World Honored One.”

Outline:

L2. The real benefits gained by the cured sons and the absence of false speech.

Commentary:

Shakyamuni Buddha called out again, "Good men." He was addressing the Great Bodhisattvas, asking them, "What do you think? Look into this. Could anyone say that this good physician has committed the offense of false speech? Could anyone rightly say the good doctor has lied? Did he not tell the truth?"

The Bodhisattva who had been questioning the Buddha replied, "No, World Honored One."

Sutra:

The Buddha said, “I, too, am like that. I realized Buddhahood limitless, boundless, hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeyas of eons ago. For the sake of living beings, I employ the power of expedients and say that I am about to enter quiescence. There is no one who can rightly say that I have committed the offense of false speech.”

Outline:

K2. The correlation with Dharma.


Commentary:

The Buddha, Shakyamuni, said, "I, too, am like that. The Dharma I have spoken is that way as well. I spoke the Agamas, the Vaipulya teachings, the Prajna teachings, and then the Dharma Flower/Nirvana teachings in the same way, just like the good doctor. I realized Buddhahood limitless, boundless, hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeyas of eons ago. For the sake of living beings, in order to teach and transform them, I employ the power of expedients and say that I am about to enter quiescence. I speak expediently, bestowing the provisional for the sake of the real, and say to living beings that I am about to enter Nirvana. This is like the doctor going to another country and then sending back the message that he has died. There is no one who can rightly, in accord with the Dharma, say that I have committed the offense of false speech." No one can say that the Buddha lied.

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