The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra
Chapter 19: The Merit and Virtue of a Dharma Master
“Moreover, Ever-Vigorous, if a good man or a good woman receives and upholds this Sutra, whether reading, reciting, explaining it to others, or writing it out, he or she will gain twelve hundred meritorious virtues of the tongue. All things, whether good or bad tasting, savory or unsavory, bitter or astringent, when they come in contact with his tongue will change into things of superior flavor, like heavenly sweet dew. None will not be flavorful. If he lectures amidst the great assembly, his sound will be profound and wonderful, penetrating their minds and causing them all to be joyful and happy.”
“Further, all the gods and goddesses, Shakra, Brahma, and all the gods, hearing these profound, wonderful sounds of his orderly exposition, will all come to listen. All the dragons, female dragons, yakshas, female yakshas, gandharvas, female gandharvas, asuras, female asuras, garudas, female garudas, kinnaras, female kinnaras, mahoragas, and female mahoragas, in order to hear the Dharma, will draw near him and reverently make offerings to him.”
“The Bhikshus and Bhikshunis; Upasakas and Upasikas; kings, princes, ministers, and retinues; minor wheel-turning kings; and great wheel-turning kings with their seven treasures, thousands of sons, and their inner and outer retinues will all ride their palaces there to listen to the Dharma. Because this Bodhisattva skillfully speaks the Dharma, the Brahmans, laypeople, and citizens of the country will follow him for as long as he lives, serving and making offerings to him.”
“Further, the Hearers, Pratyekabuddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Buddhas will always take delight in seeing him.”
“Wherever this person is, the Buddhas are right in front of him speaking the Dharma. He is also able to receive and uphold all the Buddhadharma and to put forth the profound and wondrous Dharma-sound.”
At that time the World Honored One, wishing to restate this meaning, spoke verses, saying,
“This person’s tongue is pure
And will never taste foul flavors.
All of the food he eats
Turns into sweet dew.
Using the profound, pure, and wondrous sound,
He speaks the Dharma for the great assembly
Using causes, conditions, and analogies
To guide the minds of living beings,
Who, on hearing him, rejoice
And make superior offerings.
The gods, dragons, yakshas,
And asuras, and so forth,
All with reverent minds,
Come to hear the Dharma.
This person who speaks the Dharma,
Should he wish with a wondrous sound
To pervade three thousand worlds,
As he wishes, he will be able to do so.
Wheel-turning kings, great and minor,
Their thousands of sons and their retinues,
With palms joined and reverent minds,
Always come to hear and receive the Dharma.
The gods, dragons, yakshas,
Rakshasas and pishacas,
Also, with happy hearts,
Always delight in coming to make offerings.
The god king Brahma, King Mara,
Self-Mastery, and Great Self-Mastery,
And all the hosts of gods
Always come to where he is.
All the Buddhas and their disciples,
Hearing his sound as he speaks the Dharma,
Are ever mindful and protective,
And sometimes manifest in person.”
F4. The tongue.
Shakyamuni Buddha is continuing to expound on these principles. Moreover, Ever-Vigorous, if a good man or a good woman, one who has taken the precepts, receives and upholds this Sutra, cultivating according to the doctrines contained in the Dharma Flower Sutra, whether reading, reciting, explaining it, the Dharma Flower Sutra to others, or writing it out, he or she will gain twelve hundred meritorious virtues of the tongue. Why does the tongue have twelve hundred merits? Because with the tongue one can speak the Dharma. Not only can one speak the Dharma, but one can speak the perfect Dharma, the Dharma which is perfectly interpenetrating, the Wonderful Dharma. That is why the tongue has such great merit.
However, although the tongue has merits, it also can make quite a number of mistakes. If you do not speak the Dharma, but instead say deviant things, then you have created offenses. The offences could exceed twelve thousand. The more offenses one commits, the more one tends to commit. There is double-tongued speech, frivolous speech, lying, and abusive speech. There are four evils of the mouth, and one can create limitless, boundless offenses in this vein. If you commit offenses with your mouth, your food would not taste good. If you want to know if you have committed offenses, check to see what your food taste like. If you have committed offenses, then even good food would not taste good, to say nothing of poor food. If the tongue has merit, all things, whether good or bad tasting, savory or unsavory… “Savory” means especially fine tasting, wonderful food, sweet dew food. “Unsavory” means really disgusting. Bitter or astringent—I do not mind bitter food; I like bitter things. I find a lot of sweetness in what is bitter. It is bitter first, then it is sweet. If you do no endure the bitterness, you cannot enjoy the sweetness. In China they have a saying about education:
After ten bitter years by the cold window,
One gains instant fame and becomes known worldwide.
Students in the old days were solitary. They did not form large classes. They studied day and night, and no one came to keep them accompany. You were on your own; no one even knew you were studying. After ten years of bitter study, you went for the examination. Because you studied so hard for ten years, you were really well-versed and had wisdom. You passed the test with flying colors and gained the top-scholar position, zhuang-yuan. Then everybody knew who you were. No one knew you before, and that was bitter. Now it is sweet.
All of you have studied the Buddhadharma for two or three years, and no one knew about it. Today you went out to lecture and spoke fluent English and Chinese. The Chinese people probably understood at least half of what you said, and the Americans more than that. “Oh, look at those Dharma Masters—the two Bhikshunis and three Bhikshus!” Having suffered some bitterness, now everyone knows who you are. “They can recite the Shurangama Mantra, the Heart Sutra and Amitabha Buddha’s name!” That is really rare among Western people. I dare say that outside of the Buddhist Lecture Hall, there is not anyone who can recite the Shurangama Mantra. That is certain, unless someone dropped in out of the heavens. Do you believe that? You had better believe it. If you do not believe it, I am going to insist that you believe it. Would you say that is fierce or not?
…when they come in contact with his tongue will change into things of superior flavor, like heavenly sweet dew, the heavenly medicine of immortality. Partake of it, and you will not die. Why do the gods have such long life spans? Because they take in the sweet dew Dharma food. It is really sweet, sweeter than apple juice, orange juice, or any other kind of juice. Would you like some? If you would, you had better study the Buddhadharma. Study for a while, and when I see that you are studying hard and are very obedient, that you believe with no doubts at all, then I will give you some sweet dew so you do not die. Then you will know what “wonderful” means. When you get some sweet dew, you can be young forever and live as long as the gods. None will not be flavorful. When food reaches the mouth of the Dharma Master who upholds this Sutra, whether it is good or bad, it will be very good. So even the most rotten food can turn to superior flavors. You can even drink the water someone has washed his feet in!
If he lectures amidst the great assembly. He uses his tongue, not his nose. He could use his nose, but it would not come out as clearly. He would know what he was saying, but the audience might have trouble. It is best to speak with your tongue and not your nose. You can also talk with your eyes.
“Now, that I do not believe,” you say.
I do not believe it either. No one should believe it.
His sound will be profound and wonderful, penetrating their minds and causing them all to be joyful and happy. It is profound and wonderful, and so you do not believe it. If the sound were shallow and superficial, you would have no trouble believing it.
You say that this is difficult to believe because it is profound and wonderful; as a result, you do not understand it.
It is profound and wonderful because it penetrates your mind. How does it penetrate? Profoundly and wonderfully. All are happy and joyful because it is profound and wonderful. Not knowing why, you are happy and laughed, and you make up your mind to come to the lecture again. Then you make a phone call to ask who is lecturing. Happy! Listening to the Sutra makes you happier than eating sweet dew.
Further, all the gods and goddesses, Shakra, Brahma, and all the gods, hearing these profound, wonderful sounds. In lecturing on the Sutras, even the gods hear it. They say, “There is a Dharma Master lecturing down there!” How can they hear it? Because the sound is profound and wonderful, an inconceivable state. It is heard in the heavens, and it is also heard in the hells—everywhere. Of his orderly exposition, will all come to listen. He expounds on the teachings in an orderly fashion, elaborated on them and following a logical progression. He does not forget any of the steps, but follows them in order, going right through the prose and verse.
And all the gods, dragons and female dragons, and all in the eightfold division. Saying “dragon” by itself refers to male dragons. “Female dragons” refers to the dragon girls. Yakshasand female yakshas, the speedy ghosts. Both the men and women are really ugly. The yakshas are so ugly that if you ever see one you will be terrified. They can scare you to death. Gandharvasand female gandharvas, the musical spirits from the court of the Jade Emperor; asurasand female asuras; garudasand female garudas; kinnarasand female kinnaras; mahoragas and female mahoragas, the big snakes, in order to hear the Dharma even though some of them are pretty ugly, will draw near him and reverently make offerings to him.
Because he speaks the Dharma with such a profound and wonderful sound, they all want to come and listen; they want to bow to him, make offerings of various articles to him, or perhaps offer heavenly sweet dew that they stole or “borrowed” from the heavens. However, if you steal things and then offer them to your teacher, that is wrong. Why? Because by your stealing, we both break the precepts. If I accept such an offering, I become an accomplice. I do not take such offerings. I do not have that kind of a disciple right now, but I am telling you in advance. Otherwise, if you have no way to make offerings to me you might think, “I will steal a little something. That way I will get a little merit.” There is no merit in that. Today, I am explaining this principle to all of you.
In China, in Hangzhou, there was an Arhat named Jigong who told his disciples to steal from their Dharma-uncles, that is, from his own Dharma-brothers. He said, “Steal from your friends, not from strangers.” But I am telling you not to steal from either one. The reason he told them to steal from his Dharma brothers is that he saw they were placing too much importance on money. They could not put it down, so he had his own disciples steal it away from them.
Not only the heavenly dragons and the eightfold division, but the Bhikshus and Bhikshunis; Upasakas, men who are at home, and Upasikas, women who are at home; kings—there are major and minor kings; princes, ministers, and their retinues; minor wheel-turning kings, who rule over a single continent. There are four kinds of wheel-turning kings: gold wheel-turning kings rule over four continents; silver wheel-turning kings rule over three continents; copper wheel-turning kings rule over two continents; and iron wheel-turning kings rule over one continent.
Great wheel-turning kings rule over the four continents of Jambudvipa in the South, Purvavideha in the east, Aparagodaniya in the west, and Uttarakuru in the north. Wheel-turning kings have seven treasures and a thousand sons. With their seven treasures, thousands of sons, and their inner and outer retinues, they will all ride their palaces there to listen to the Dharma, because this Bodhisattva, one who upholds this Sutra, skillfully speaks the Dharma.
Why do the gods, dragons and eightfold division and the wheel-turning kings all come to hear the Dharma? Because the Bodhisattva skillfully expounds on the Dharma Flower Sutra. He speaks it extremely well. The Brahmans—“Brahman” means one who cultivates pure conduct—laypeople, and citizens of the country will follow him for as long as he lives, serving and making offerings to him.
Further, the Hearers, Pratyekabuddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Buddhas will always take delight in seeing him.
Wherever this person is, the Buddhas are right in front of him speaking the Dharma. The Buddhas of the ten directions are always speaking Dharma to him. He is also able to receive and uphold all the Buddhadharma and to put forth the profound and wondrous Dharma-sound. Since he receives and upholds the Dharma Flower Sutra, he is always receiving the Dharma from the Buddhas of the ten directions. He can receive and uphold every sentence and every word of the Dharma Flower Sutra. He can illustrate the deep principles of the Sutra in a readily understandable and simple fashion.
At that time the World Honored One, Shakyamuni Buddha, out of extreme compassion, was not afraid to take the trouble to repeat these principles in verse. Wishing to restate this meaning, he spoke verses, saying: “This person’s tongue is pure. The person who receives and upholds, reads, recites, explains to others, or writes out the Dharma Flower Sutra will acquire a pure tongue and will never taste foul flavors. Since his self-nature is pure, foul taste cannot turn him, but rather his tongue turns the bad flavors into wonderfully fine flavors.
All of the food he eats, whatever it may be, turns into sweet dew or the finest flavor of ghee. Using the profound, pure, and wondrous sound. With an inconceivable pure and wonderful sound, he speaks the Dharma for the great assembly using causes, conditions, and analogies to guide the minds of living beings, to lead them toward the Buddha Way. He leads them to bring forth the Bodhi-mind and to realize the Buddha-fruit.
Who, on hearing him, rejoice. He speaks Dharma with a pure and wondrous sound, and the living beings who hear him are happy and make superior offerings. The gods, dragons, yakshas, and asuras, and so forth, all with reverent minds—the ugly asuraslike to fight, but the Dharma Master is so skilled at lecturing on the Dharma that they put aside their hatred and become reverent and filled with respect--come to hear the Dharma.
This person who speaks the Dharma, should he wish with a wondrous sound—he speaks the Dharma with a fine and inconceivable sound--to pervade three thousand worlds, as he wishes, he will be able to do so. His Dharma sound will immediately be heard throughout the universe.
Wheel-turning kings, great and minor. The great kings are the gold wheel-turning kings. Minor kings are the silver, copper, and iron wheel-turning kings. Their thousands of sons and their retinues. The wheel-turning kings have a thousand sons. How many wives do they have? It is not known; probably quite a few who, with palms joined and reverent minds, always come to hear and receive the Dharma. With properly respectful minds, they come to the Dharma assembly to listen to the lectures.
The gods, dragons, yakshas—the gods in the three realms, the dragons, and the speedy ghosts--rakshasas and pishacas. A rakshasa is a kind of ghost. The name rakshasa is a Sanskrit word. Translated, it means “hot-tempered and mean.” Pishaca is also one kind of ghost. The Sanskrit word means “energy and essence eating.” At night, they may attack a man by turning into a woman and trying to seduce him. If they attack a woman, they turn into a man, trying to make her have thoughts of desire. Then they feed off the energy. These ghosts are very fierce. That is why cultivators must keep their minds clean and proper. If they do not, the ghost will come and steal their treasures. Also, with happy hearts. Basically ghosts are never happy; they are always angry about something. The Dharma Master’s lectures are so wonderful that now they are happy and always delight in coming to make offerings. Not only are they happy, but they come to make offerings to the Dharma Master.
The god king Brahma, King Mara, the great demon king; Self-Mastery, and Great Self-Mastery, that is Ishvara and Maheshvara from the Self-Mastery and Great Self-Mastery Heavens; and all the hosts of gods always come to where he is.
All the Buddhas and their disciples, the Hearers and Pratyekabuddhas, hearing his sound as he speaks the Dharma, the Dharma Flower Sutra, are ever mindful and protective. They watch over the Dharma Master and his Bodhimandas, and sometimes manifest in person. There are times when the Buddhas of the ten directions appear to the Dharma Master.
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