THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
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The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra

Chapter 18: Dejoicing in Accord with Merit and Virtue

Sutra:

“Further, Ajita, if a person for the sake of this Sutra goes to a Sangha dwelling and, whether sitting or standing, hears and accepts it for but an instant, by reason of that merit and virtue, in his next rebirth he will acquire the finest elephant and horse carriages and jeweled palanquins, and will even ride in heavenly palaces.”

Outline:

I2. The merit and virtue of one who listens to the Dharma.
J1. Going to the lecture himself.


Commentary:


“Further, Ajita, if a person for the sake of this Sutra goes to a Sangha dwelling and, whether sitting or standing, hears and accepts it for but an instant, by reason of that merit and virtue, in his next rebirth he will acquire the finest elephant and horse carriages, which common folk ride in, and jeweled palanquins, which the emperor and the empress ride in, and will even ride in heavenly palaces, the vehicles of the gods.

Sutra:

“Again, if a person is seated in a place where the Dharma is being lectured, and when another person comes along, he encourages that person to sit and listen to it or shares his seat with him, the former person will, through his merit and virtue, in his next rebirth gain the seat of Shakra, the seat of a Brahma King, or the seat of a wheel-turning sage king.”

Outline:

J2. Sharing his seat.

Commentary:

Again, if a person is seated in a place where the Dharma, the Dharma Flower Sutra, is being lectured, and when another person comes along, he encourages that person to sit and listen to it, his merit will be great. He says, "Sit down and listen!" or shares his seat with him. If there is no room, he moves over and lets that person sit with him. The former person will, through his merit and virtue, in his next rebirth gain the seat of Shakra, he will be reborn as the Lord of the Heaven of the Thirty-three.

When you are listening to the Sutras, if people show up at the Way-place and they are not crazy or looking for trouble, you should invite them to sit down. Find a seat for them. If there are no seats, you can offer half your seat to them. Then in your next life, you can be the Lord of the Heaven of the Thirty-three.

If you are bowing to the Buddhas and someone new comes along, you can show him or her how to bow to the Buddhas. If there are no bowing cushions left, give yours to the newcomer. If you do not, he or she will think, "They are really selfish. They just watch over themselves. These people are not very hospitable," and leave.

Someone should watch over and care for the new people when they come to attend lectures or other activities. You have no way of knowing who the new people are. They might be Arhats or Bodhisattvas; you can never know for certain. If you take good care of them, then you will have merit and virtue. Even if they are just ordinary people, not Arhats or Bodhisattvas, you should still take good care of them.

He may gain the seat of a Brahma King or the seat of a wheel-turning sage king. One gains such great merit and virtue simply by encouraging others to listen to the Sutras or by offering them a place to sit.

Sutra:

“Ajita! If, further, a person says to another, ‘There is a Sutra by the name of Dharma Flower. Let’s go together and listen to it,’ and taking that person’s advice, the second person goes and hears it for but a moment, the former person’s merit and virtue will be such that in his next life he will be born in the same place as the Dharani Bodhisattva. He will have keen faculties and wisdom.”

“For one hundred thousand myriad lifetimes he will never be mute, his breath will not stink, his tongue will always be free from disease, and his mouth will also be free from disease. His teeth will not be dirty, black, yellow, or wide-spaced, not missing or falling out, not uneven or crooked. His lips will not be pendulous, twisted or pursed, rough, chapped, or covered with sores, or split. They will not be askew, thick or large, or black, and there will be nothing repulsive about them. His nose will not be flat, thin, crooked, or out of joint. His face will not be dark, thin, concave, or crooked, or in any way unpleasant.”

“His lips, tongue, and teeth will all be beautiful; his nose long, high, and straight. His face will be handsome, his eyebrows high and long, his forehead broad and even. Thus his human features will be perfect.”

“In life after life, wherever he is born he will see the Buddhas, hear the Dharma, and believe and accept the teachings.”

Outline:

J3. Encouraging others.


Commentary:

"Ajita! If, further, a person says to another, 'There is a Sutra by the name of Dharma Flower. At such and such a Way-place, they are lecturing on the Sutra and having a Chan Session. Let us go to a lecture,' then the person who says this will gain many blessings."

In the previous passage, the person came to listen on his own. All you did was offer him a seat. By doing this you get to "sit in the seat" of Shakra, Brahma, or a wheel-turning sage king. Sitting in the seat must mean that you get to be Shakra, and so forth. In any case, you gain great merit and virtue.

Now in this passage, these people do not come on their own, you encourage them to come. They may be your relatives, your friends, or some people you round up from off the street. “Are you free? I know a great place where we can hear the Dharma. Let's go together and listen to it." And if taking that person's advice, the second person goes and hears it for but a moment, the former person's merit and virtue will be such that in his next life he will be born in the same place as the Dharani Bodhisattva. He will experience the same state as the "Uniting and Upholding" Bodhisattva experiences. He will have keen faculties and wisdom.

For one hundred thousand myriad lifetimes he will never be mute or gravelly-voiced. People who cultivate have very resonant voices, like copper bells. People without good roots sound as if they have a mouth full of tongues, and what they say is garbled. It is as if their tongues weighed several tons. It is hard to understand what they are saying.

His breath will not stink. Some people have bad breath, and nothing they do can cover it up. People who do not keep the precepts smell bad. They stink up an entire room!

His tongue will always be free from disease. You should not talk casually. If you do, your tongue might be short or get some illness and hurt all the time.

And his mouth will also be free from disease. Sometimes people's mouths hurt, bleed, or get sores. Why? Because they did not encourage people to listen to the Dharma Flower Sutra, or because they talked confusedly and scolded people.

His teeth will not be dirty. Some people, especially those who smoke opium, have black teeth. Some people have black teeth naturally, because they never encouraged people to listen to the Dharma Flower Sutra. You can tell by people's appearance what kind of virtue they have. If there are a lot of problems with their appearance, it is because they never encouraged people to listen to the Dharma Flower Sutra. However, if they do, their teeth will not be black, yellow, or wide-spaced. Their teeth would not look like kernels of corn. They would not have gaps between their teeth. Their teeth will be like the Buddha’s teeth, which are white, even, and close together. They will not be missing or falling out, not uneven or crooked.

His lips will not be pendulous.
When the upper lip covers the lower lip, that is called "heaven covers earth." It is an indication of a lack of virtue. If the lower lip covers the upper lip, that is called "earth covers heaven." It is really ugly. His lips will not be twisted or pursed, so that his teeth always stick out. When such a person closes his mouth, his lips do not come together. There are all kinds of people in the world.

His lips will also not be rough, chapped, or covered with sores. Some people have all kinds of sores on their mouths. It hurts when they eat. If they do not eat, they are hungry. Nor will his lips be split. Instead of two lips, some people have four, or six, or eight, as if cut with a knife. They will not be askew means everything is in the right place. For example, their eyes do not grow next to their ears, and their mouth is not where their nose is supposed to be, and so forth. His lips will not be thick or large, or black. This means his lips will be the right size. Some people have lips as thick as car tires. And there will be nothing repulsive about them. This person will have human lips, not pig lips, dog lips, or monkey lips.

His nose will not be flat, thin, crooked, or out of joint. It will be well-proportioned. Flat noses are unattractive. If a person’s nose is high and straight, then that is a good feature. A nose with a depression in the middle is the sign of a short lifespan. People with hooked noses tend to be hard to get along with. They may break off friendships for no apparent reason. No mater how well you treat them, they are not that nice to you.

His face will not be dark, thin, emaciated or puckered up, concave, or crooked, or in any way unpleasant. Unless one is naturally dark-skinned, one’s facial complexion should have a rosy glow to it. A dark or sallow face is not a good sign. Nor is it desirable to have a very long face. If someone’s face is “concave or crooked,” that means it is deformed and does not look quite human. As a result of listening to the Dharma Flower Sutra himself and encouraging others to do so, this person will have no disagreeable features. Everyone will be delighted to see him. In short, he will have a very pleasing visage with proper and full features.

His lips, tongue, and teeth will all be beautiful.
He will have an attractive and upright appearance. Our tongues are relatively short compared to the Buddha’s, which could extend to his hairline. His long tongue indicates that he never spoke untruthfully. Our tongues are short because we have told many lies. If we continue to lie, in the future we will have even shorter tongues. Those who never lie have large tongues, but not in a way that garbles their speech. This is not referring to the kind of tongue that weighs several tons. His nose long means that he has a lot of blessings. It will be high, and straight. His face will be handsome—very pleasant to look at, his eyebrows high and long, the marks of blessings. His forehead broad and even is another good sigh. People with high, full foreheads are very intelligent. Thus his human features will be perfect. This person will have a full and perfect appearance.

In life after life, wherever he is born he will see the Buddhas, hear the Dharma, and believe and accept the teachings.
He will easily give rise to faith in the teachings.

Sutra:

“Ajita, look at this: If the merit and virtue gained from exhorting a single person to go listen to the Dharma is such as this, how much greater is that of one who single-mindedly listens to the teachings, reads and recites them, and in the great assembly explains them in detail to others, and cultivates accordingly.”

Outline:

J4. Listening and cultivating.

Commentary:

"Ajita, look at this: If the merit and virtue gained from exhorting a single person to go listen to the Dharma is such as this, enabling one to gain a perfect appearance, how much greater is that of one who single-mindedly listens to the Buddha’s teachings, reads and recites them, and in the great assembly explains them in detail to others, and cultivates accordingly." That merit would be great indeed!

Sutra:

At that time the World Honored One, wishing to restate this meaning, spoke verses, saying,

“Suppose a person in the Dharma assembly
Gets to hear this Sutra,
Even just a single verse,

And rejoices in accord, and speaks it to others,
And thus the teaching is passed on
Until it reaches the fiftieth hearer.

The blessings gained by this last person
I will now set forth in detail.
Suppose there is a great almsgiver
Who presents gifts to uncountable multitudes,
Of all the things they desire,
For a full eighty years.

Seeing them old and worn,
With white hair and wrinkled faces,
Their teeth sparse, their bodies withered,
He thinks, “They will die before long.

I should now instruct them,
That they may obtain the Fruit of the Path.”
Then he expediently explains to them
The true Dharma of Nirvana:
“The world is not a secure place.
It’s like foam, water bubbles, or a will-o’-the-wisp.
All of you should quickly
Produce thoughts of revulsion for it.”
The people, on hearing the Dharma,
All attain Arhatship,
Perfect the Six Spiritual Penetrations,
The Three Clarities, and the Eight Liberations.

The last, fiftieth, person,
Who has heard a single verse and rejoiced in accord with it,
Gains blessedness which exceeds that of the former,
Beyond the power of analogy to express.

If the blessedness of the one who hears it in turn
Is so unlimited,
How much greater is that of he who, in the assembly,
Was the first to hear it and rejoice.

Outline:

H2. Verse.
I1. The merit and virtue of one who rejoices in one’s mind.

Commentary:

At that time the World Honored One, Shakyamuni Buddha, wishing to restate and elaborate upon this meaning, spoke verses, saying: Suppose a person in the Dharma assembly gets to hear this Sutra; he will gain much merit. You do not have to hear the whole Sutra, just a single verse, or two, or three. He hears even just a single verse, and rejoices in accord and speaks it to others. He explains the wonderful Dharma and thus the teaching is passed on from the first person to the second, and continuing until it reaches the fiftieth hearer. The blessings gained by this last person, I will now set forth in detail. I will tell you about the merit and virtue gained by that last person. Naturally, the first, second, third, up to the forty-ninth person would have more merit than the fiftieth one.

Suppose there is a great almsgiver who presents gifts to uncountable multitudes, of all the things they desire. He gives gold, silver, lapis lazuli [sapphire of the ancients], carnelian [ammon stone], red pearls [rubies], mother-of-pearl, elephants, horses, carriages, palanquins, palaces, houses, and all kinds of things. He gives these things to all kinds of living beings—those egg-born, womb-born, moisture-born, transformationally-born; those with form; those without form; those with thought; those without thought; and those not totally endowed with thought, and those not totally lacking thought. He gives them the things they like for a full eighty years. Whatever they like, that is what he gives them. If they like gold, he gives them gold; if they like silver, he gives them silver. If they want horses, elephants, and carriages, he gives those to them, just as they wish.

Having given so many things to so many people for such a long time, he must certainly accumulate a lot of merit and virtue.

Seeing them old and worn. This means that the donor, having given all living beings the things they want for eighty years, then notices that they have gotten old. There they are with white hair and wrinkled faces, their teeth sparse, their bodies withered. He thinks, "They will die before long. I should now instruct them. I should teach them a method for transcending the world, a method for cultivating, so that they may obtain the Fruit of the Path—Arhatship or Pratyekabuddhahood."

Then he expediently explains to them the true Dharma of Nirvana, the method for crossing over from this shore of suffering to the other shore of blissful Nirvana. The world is not a secure place. It is all empty, false, and unreal. It's like foam, water bubbles, or a will-o'-the-wisp. It appears real, but on closer inspection, it is not. All of you should quickly produce thoughts of revulsion for it. You should grow sick and disgusted with the world.

The people, on hearing the Dharma, all attain Arhatship. They cultivate and reach Arhatship, and perfect the Six Spiritual Penetrations—the Heavenly Eye, the Heavenly Ear, the Knowledge of Past Lives, the Knowledge of Others' Thoughts, the Extinction of Outflows, and the Penetration of the Complete Spirit. They also gain the Three Clarities and the Eight Liberations. The Three Clarities are: the Heavenly Eye, the Knowledge of Past Lives, and the Extinction of Outflows.

The Eight Liberations are:

1. The liberation in which inwardly there is the mark of form, and outwardly form is contemplated

2. The liberation in which there is no mark of form, and outwardly form is contemplated

3. The liberation in which the pure body of wisdom certifies to the complete dwelling

4. The liberation of the station of boundless emptiness

5. The liberation of the station of boundless consciousness
6. The liberation of the station of nothing whatsoever
7. The liberation of the station of neither perception nor non-perception

8. The liberation of the samadhi of the extinction of the skandhas of feeling and thought

The last, fiftieth, person, who has heard a single verse and rejoiced in accord with it, gains blessedness which exceeds that of the former, beyond the power of analogy to express. The one who hears and rejoices in a single verse has more merit and blessings than the almsgiver by an incalculable amount.

If the blessedness of the one who hears it in turn—that is, the fiftieth person to hear the Sutra—is so unlimited, how much greater is that of he who, in the assembly, was the first to hear it and rejoice. His merit is even greater yet!

Sutra:

Suppose a person exhorts another
And leads him to listen to the Dharma Flower,
Saying, “This Sutra is profound and wonderful,
Hard to encounter in a thousand myriad eons,”
And suppose that person, persuaded, goes to listen,
And hears it for even just a moment.

Of the reward of blessings of the first person,
I will now speak in detail.
Life after life, his mouth will have no illness.
His teeth will not be wide-spaced, yellow, or black.
His lips will not be thick, pursed, or split,
Nor will his appearance be repulsive.
His tongue will not be dry, black, or short.
His nose will be high, long, and straight.
His forehead will be broad and even,
His visage upright and splendid,
So that all will rejoice upon seeing him.
His breath will never stink,
But the fragrance of the utpala flower
Will always issue from his mouth.

Outline:

I2. The merit and virtue of one who listens to the Dharma.
J1. Encouraging others.


Commentary:

Suppose a person exhorts another and leads him to listen to the Dharma Flower, saying, "This Sutra is profound and wonderful, hard to encounter in a thousand myriad eons." He will attain great merit. He says, "In millions of great eons it is not easy to encounter the Dharma Flower Sutra or to meet with a person who lectures on the Dharma Flower Sutra."

And suppose that person, persuaded, goes to listen, and hears it for even just a moment. Of the reward of blessings of the first person, I will now speak in detail.

Life after life, his mouth will have no illness.
The person who exhorts another to listen to the Sutra will never have problems with his mouth.

His teeth will not be wide-spaced, yellow, or black. Sometimes people have dirty teeth no matter how they try to clean them. That was because in past lives they never heard the Dharma Flower Sutra. If you have good roots, your teeth will be even and close together. They will be really beautiful.

The Buddha has forty teeth. Some Bodhisattvas also have forty teeth. In China, National Master Qing Liang ("Clear and Cool"), the fourth Patriarch of the Avatamsaka School, also called Cheng Guan, had forty teeth. His hands also reached below his knees. After this, pay attention. If you see anyone whose hands reach below his knees, that is very honorable. He could be an emperor. Having forty teeth is also a mark of nobility.

National Master Qing Liang also had double pupils, and his eyes emitted light at night. He was a transformation body of Avatamsaka Bodhisattva. After he completed the stillness, someone saw two youths flying through space and asked them where they were going. They said they were going to China to get two of Avatamsaka Bodhisattva's teeth so they could make offerings to them. When the man returned and reported the news to the emperor, the emperor ordered National Master Qing Liang's grave to be opened up. There they found that two of his teeth were missing. The two youths had taken the teeth back to their country to make offerings to them there.

His lips will not be thick, pursed, or split. Heaven would not cover earth, and earth would not cover heaven. The lips would not be all puckered up, either. Nor will his appearance be repulsive. His tongue will not be dry, black, or short. His nose will be high, long, and straight—a noble sign. His forehead will be broad and even—flat and smooth—with no bumps or depression. A prominent and broad forehead indicates great intelligence.

His visage upright and splendid, so that all will rejoice upon seeing him. They see him a hundred times and still do not get tired of looking at him. The more they see him, the more they want to look at him.

His breath will never stink, but the fragrance of the utpala flower will always issue from his mouth. His breath will always be fresh and sweet, like the scent of the blue lotus flower.

Sutra:

If he goes to a Sangha dwelling
Wishing to hear the Dharma Flower Sutra
And, hearing it but for a moment, then rejoices,
I will now tell of his blessings.
He shall later be born among gods and humans,
Acquire fine elephant and horse carriages and
Precious, jeweled palanquins
And will even ride in heavenly palaces.

Outline:

J2. Going to the lecture himself.


Commentary:

If he goes to a Sangha dwelling wishing to hear the Dharma Flower Sutra and, hearing it but for a moment, then rejoices and is extremely happy, I will now tell of his blessings.

He shall later be born among gods and humans. In future lives he may be born in the heavens or among people. He shall acquire fine elephant and horse carriages and precious, jeweled palanquins made of the seven treasures and will even ride in heavenly palaces.

Sutra:

If, in a place where the Sutra is lectured,
He encourages another to sit down and listen,
By virtue of his blessings, he will gain
The seat of Shakra, Brahma, or a wheel-turning king.

Outline:

J3. Sharing his seat.


Commentary:

If, in a place where the Sutra is lectured, he encourages another to sit down and listen, by virtue of his blessings, he will gain the seat of Shakra, Brahma, or a wheel-turning king. This kind of blessedness will create such a reward for him.

Sutra:

How much greater will the blessings be
Of one who single-mindedly listens
And explains the Sutra’s meaning,
Cultivating it as he preaches—
His blessings shall know no limit.

Outline:

J4. Listening and cultivating.

Commentary:

How much greater will the blessings be of one who single-mindedly listens. If one obtains such great blessedness by simply encouraging others to listen to the Sutra, how much greater are the blessings of one who listens to the whole Sutra with a single mind, and explains the Sutra's meaning, cultivating it as he preaches. Such a person expounds on the Dharma Flower Sutra and also cultivates according to its principles. His blessings shall know no limit. There is no end to the blessings gained by such a person. They are limitless and boundless.

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