The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra
Chapter 19: The Merit and Virtue of a Dharma Master
“Further, Ever-Vigorous, if a good man or a good woman receives and upholds this Sutra, whether reading it, reciting it, explaining it to others, or writing it out, he will accomplish eight hundred meritorious virtues of the nose. With his pure nose he will smell throughout the three thousand great thousand world system, above and below, inside and outside, all the various fragrances: the scents of the sumana, jatika, mallika, champaka, and patala flowers; scents of red, blue, and white lotus flowers; scents of flowering and fruit-bearing trees; scents of chandana, aloe-wood, tamalapatra, and tagara; and scents of a thousand myriad kinds mixed together, whether powdered, in lumps, or in paste. One who upholds this Sutra, dwelling in this place, can distinguish all of these.”
“Again, he can further distinguish the scents of living beings: the scents of elephants, horses, cows, sheep, and so forth; scents of men, women, boys, and girls; as well as scents of grasses, trees, thickets, and forests. All these scents, whether near or far, he can smell and distinguish without mistake.”
“Although one who upholds the Sutra dwells here, he can smell the scents of all the gods in the heavens, the scents of the parijataka and kovidara trees, as well as the scents of the mandarava, mahamandarava, manjushaka, and mahamanjushaka flowers; the scents of chandana and aloe-wood powder and various kinds of powdered incense; and assorted floral scents. Of all these heavenly scents, or fragrances arising from the blending of them, there are none he will not smell and know.”
“Further he will smell the scents of the god’s bodies, the scent of Shakra Devanam Indra in his supreme palace as he enjoys the pleasures of the five desires, or his scent when, from the Wonderful Dharma Hall, he speaks the Dharma for the gods of the Trayastrimsha Heaven, or his scent when he plays in his gardens, as well as the scents of the bodies of other gods or goddesses. All these he can smell from afar.”
“In the same way, up to and including the Brahma realms and the Peak of Existence, he can smell the scents of all the gods and at the same time smell the incense burned by the gods, the scent of Hearers, the scent of the Pratyekabuddhas, the scent of the Bodhisattvas, and the scent of the Buddhas. All of these he can smell from afar and know where they are. Although he smells these fragrances, his sense of smell is not harmed and makes no mistakes. Should he wish to distinguish and explain them for others, his memory will not fail him.”
F3. The nose.
“Further, Ever-Vigorous,” Shakyamuni Buddha continues, “if a good man or a good woman, one who keeps the Five Precepts and practices the Ten Good Deeds, or one who has taken the Bhikshu, Bhikshuni, or Bodhisattva precepts, receives and upholds this Sutra, receives it with his mind and practices it with his body, cultivating according to the doctrines found within it, whether reading it, reciting it from memory, explaining it to others, or writing it out very reverently, he will accomplish eight hundred meritorious virtues of the nose.” The eight hundred meritorious virtues of the nose are gained through recitation of the Dharma Flower Sutra. If he had not recited the Sutra, he probably would not have even eight merits, to say nothing of eight hundred!
With his pure nose he will smell throughout the three thousand great thousand world system, above and below, above to the Peak of Existence and below to the Avici hells, inside and outside. There are many suns and moons, limitless numbers of them. Since we are in our own world, we only see the sun and moon in Jambudvipa. There are other worlds with other suns and moons in them, but we have not gone to them yet, and do not know about them. Travelling to the moon does not count as going to another world; that moon is included in our world. If you go to another world, you would not see this one.
“Are the sun and moon in other worlds the same as the ones here?” you ask. When you get there you will know. The sun may be triangular; it is not for sure. Perhaps the moon will be square! When you get there, you will know what it is like. Before we get there, it is anybody’s guess. You should not be like the muddle-headed scientists who raise theory after theory after theory about what it is like, but never get there. They theorize themselves to death without ever going there to find out what it is really like. Their hair turns all white, their eyes go bad, their teeth fall out, and they go deaf, but they still have no idea what this world is all about. Just when they are on the verge of making their big breakthrough, they die. Then someone has to start all over again, and the same process repeats itself. Scientist have studied for so many years, and they do not have it straight yet. It is really pathetic.
All the various fragrances…
The summer session is over, but many students remain. Probably they sat in meditation so long their legs are permanently asleep, and they cannot walk away. That is one theory. There is another theory. Perhaps their legs are lazy and do not care to walk. Yet another theory is that their minds are too lazy to leave. Those who wanted to run off have not run off, and those who ran off have all come back. So there are a lot of people here. Everyone should help each other out in cultivation.
Soon we will have a Guanyin Recitation Session. This is a very good opportunity. In China when they have a session, someone usually volunteers to sponsor it. American people do not understand about the merit and virtue involved in this, so no one has come forth to sponsor the session. The sponsor may offer to provide the food and then be the first to light incense every day. The one who lights incense first, right after the Abbot, gets the Buddha’s first glance. Now in China, at the very least, it costs you three to five thousand dollars to light the first piece of incense. Perhaps it will cost even ten thousand dollars. We do not do that in America, but those who attended the session should create some merit and virtue. At that time everyone ties up Dharma conditions with Guanyin Bodhisattva. That is the news for today.
The scents of the sumana, jatika, mallika, champaka, and patala flowers: “Sumana” is Sanskrit and means “in accord with one’s wishes.” These flowers may be yellow or white; they are fragrant and beautiful. “Jatika” is also Sanskrit and means “golden coin” because the blossoms resemble gold coins. The mallika flower is very fragrant. “Champaka” is translated as “yellow flower” or “golden flower.” “Patala” is translated as “multiple blossoms,” because it blooms again and again, repeatedly. Scents of red, blue, and white lotus flowers; scents of flowering and fruit-bearing trees; scents of chandana—sandalwood from Mount Oxhead, which when burned can be smelled for forty li [13 miles]. Aloe-wood is as heavy as metal or rock. It sinks in water and is extremely fragrant.Tamalapatra means “nature without filth.” It is also called “betony” and is a medicinal herb.
Tagara means “root incense” because the roots of this plant are very fragrant. And scents of a thousand myriad kinds mixed together, whether powdered, in lumps, or in paste. One who upholds this Sutra, dwelling in this place, can distinguish all of these. Powdered incense represents the one mind spreading to ten thousand good deeds. The ten thousand good deeds return to the one mind.
“Dwelling in this place,” means dwelling in compassion. He can distinguish all of these; he can distinguish all these scents just listed, very clearly. If millions of scents are mixed together, he can still tell them apart.
Again, he can further distinguish the scents of living beings, all the different smells of living beings, the scents of elephants, horses, cows, sheep, and so forth, the smalls of animals; scents of men, women, boys, and girls; as well as scents of grasses, trees, thickets, and forests. All these scents, whether near or far, he can smell and distinguish without mistake. Fragrances represent good and foul odors represent evil.
Although one who upholds the Sutra dwells here, he can smell the scents of all the gods in the heavens. He dwells among people, but he can smell the fragrances in the heavens. The scents of the parijataka.This is a tree that grows in Shakra’s garden. The Sanskrit meaning is “king of heavenly trees.” It is also very fragrant. And kovidara trees, also a heavenly tree. “Kovidara” means “a lot of fun.” As well as the scents of the mandarava (small white flowers), mahamandarava (big white flowers), manjushaka (small red flowers), and mahamanjushaka(big red flowers); the scents of chandana and aloe-wood powder and various kinds of powdered incense; and assorted floral scents. Of all these heavenly scents, or fragrances arising from the blending of them, there are none he will not smell and know.
Further he will smell the scents of the god’s bodies. The bodies of the gods are always fragrant. Some human beings are fragrant, too, if they wear perfume or something like that. But the gods are naturally fragrant. They do not have to put on perfume. Why are they fragrant? Because they keep the precepts purely. People who keep the precepts purely emit a fragrance. People who do not keep the precepts stink. A fragrance means that one has done many good deeds. A foul odor means that you have done much evil.
The bodies of the gods always emit a fragrance. When their bodies quit emitting a fragrance, it is a sign that they are about to die. You should not think that the gods live forever. The gods manifest five signs of decay when they are about to die. To say nothing of the gods, even the Lord of the Heavens will fall.
The first of the five signs of decay is that the flowers on the gods’ caps wilt. Gods wear flowered caps, and the flowers are always fresh and clean; they never get dirty. When this sign of decay manifests, the flowers wilt, the petals fall off, and their caps are ruined. As soon as the flowers on someone’s hat starts wilting, the gods all know, “He is about to die!”
The second sign of decay is that the god’s clothes get dirty. The clothing of the gods is not like ours; our clothes get dirty and we have to wash them. The gods’ clothes never get dirty, and they do not need to wash them. That is because it is very pure in the heavens, and there is no dirt there. When the five signs of decay manifest, suddenly they do not know how their clothes get dirty, stained and spotted.
The gods do not perspire, no matter how hot it is. In fact, it never even gets hot in the heavens. It is always cool and so they do not perspire. When the third sign of decay manifests, their armpits sweat.
The fourth sign is that their bodies stink. Usually gods emit a fragrance. The more good deeds they have done, the more fragrant they are. When people stink, they smell like animals. When gods stink, they smell like people! When the five signs of decay appear, they stink; they smell like people. Their smell drives away all the other gods.
The fifth sign of decay is that they cannot sit still. The gods usually sit all the time. In fact, when they “walk,” they do not actually walk, they just fly through the air in a sitting position in their palaces. It is a lot more convenient than our methods of air travel, too. They can go wherever they wish, and they do not need any gasoline. If a god wanted to go to New York, all he would have to do is think, “I want to go to New York,” and there he will be. How can he do that? With spiritual powers. This is an analogy; you should not think that the gods all want to go to New York. When the five signs of decay manifest, the gods cannot sit still. They sit down, and then they stand up. They sit down again and get up, and so on. They do not know what is going on, and they fall. They may turn into hell-beings, animals, hungry ghosts, or people. There is nothing fixed about it. You should not think that there is any security in going to the heavens. There is no security up there, no permanence. No one will guarantee that you would not fall. The gods, then, will fall.
The gods’ bodies are fragrant. This is a different kind of fragrance from that found in the human realm.
The scent of Shakra Devanam Indra in his supreme palace as he enjoys the pleasures of the five desires, or his scent when, from the Wonderful Dharma Hall, he speaks the Dharma for the gods of the Trayastrimsha Heaven, or his scent when he plays in his gardens. The five desires in the heavens are a bit different from those among humans, but the gods do have the five desires. The gods like to dance. They have parties all the time where they get together and dance. They do not dance in the same manner that people do, jumping around. They can dance in a sitting position, from which they can rise up into the air and fly around as they wish. You should not have thoughts of envy toward the gods for all the fun they have. If you do, it could be very dangerous. The Wonderful Dharma Hall is where Shakra lectures on the Dharma for the gods in the Heaven of Thirty-three. Lord Shakra is mentioned in the Shurangama Mantra in line twenty-seven “Na mo yin tuo la ye.”
As well as the scents of the bodies of other gods or goddesses. All these he can smell from afar. The gods represent movement; the goddesses represent stillness. Movement is yang, and stillness is yin. So this is a yin-yang fragrance. The Dharma Master or layperson who reads, recites, or writes out the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra can smell all of these very clearly.
In the same way, up to and including the Brahma realms and the Peak of Existence, he can smell the scents of all the gods and at the same time smell the incense burned by the gods, the scent of Hearers, that is, the fragrance of the Four Truths; the scent of the Pratyekabuddhas, the scent of the twelve causes and conditions; the scent of the Bodhisattvas, the fragrance of the six perfections and ten thousand conducts; and the scent of the Buddhas, that is, the scent of liberation and enlightenment. All of these he can smell from afar and know where they are. We say “afar” because we common people are in the world, but those of the Four Sagely Dharma Realms are in the land of eternal stillness and light. It is basically not easy for people to be able to smell the fragrance of the Four Sagely Realms. However, in the inconceivable state of the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra, no matter how far away one is, one can smell those fragrances. Smelling the fragrance, he can tell where the fragrance is coming from.
Although he smells these fragrances, his sense of smell is not harmed and makes no mistakes. Although he is able to smell all these scents, his nose does not suffer in any way, and he never errs in his discernment of these various scents. Should he wish to distinguish and explain them for others, his memory will not fail him. If he wishes to explain his own experiences along this line to others, he would not forget any of it. He will certainly remember very clearly and make no mistakes.
I have a news announcement now. We have lectured the first nineteen of the twenty-eight chapters of the Dharma Flower Sutra. I plan to finish it very quickly before the winter Chan session. On Sunday I will lecture twice: 12:30 to 2:30 in the afternoon, and evening 7:00 to 9:00. Monday through Thursday, I will also lecture in the evening. On Saturday my disciples will lecture on the Dharma Flower Sutra. I was going to announce this a few days ago, but I forgot. I do not know why I forgot, but today someone asked me about it so I was determined not to forget again. Besides, a lot of people have been calling up asking, “Who is lecturing tonight?” Now everybody knows what the schedule is, and you can listen to Sutras seven days a week. If you listen to the Sutras and the Dharma, you can become enlightened. At the Buddhist Lecture Hall, the Dharma is lectured like running water. The Dharma water flows every day. If you come to the lectures every day you will certainly be able to return to your originally existent wisdom.
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