The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra
Chapter 2: Expedient Devices
With Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
Suppose that non-retreating Bodhisattvas,
Their number like the Ganges’ sands,
With one mind thought to seek that wisdom
They also could not know of it.
And what is more, Shariputra,
That inconceivable, non-outflow,
Most profound and subtle Dharma,
I have perfectly obtained,
And I alone know its mark,
Along with the ten-direction Buddhas.
Shariputra, you should know
The words of the Buddhas do not differ.
In the Dharma spoken by the Buddhas
You should place the power of great faith.
When the World Honored One’s Dharma’s at its end,
The true and real must be spoken.
I tell the assembly of Hearers
And those who seek the Conditioned Enlightened Vehicle,
That I will lead them to cast off suffering’s bond,
And arrive at Nirvana.
The Buddha uses the power of expedients,
Demonstrating the teaching of Three Vehicles,
So that living beings, attached in many places,
May be guided to escape.
I3. The realm beyond description.
F2. Generally opening and revealing so attachments are loosened and doubts
G1. Clarifying that all Buddhas reveal the one actual teaching.
G2. Clarifying that Shakyamuni Buddha divides the one and speaks of three.
Suppose that non-retreating Bodhisattvas. The newly resolved Bodhisattvas, the Hearers, and the Conditioned Enlightened Ones were mentioned above. Sometimes newly resolved Bodhisattvas may retreat and lose their Bodhi-hearts. Hearers may become “fixed Hearers,” that is, fixed at the position of Hearer. Other Hearers are those who have retreated from the Great Vehicle; they brought forth the Bodhisattva heart, but then they retreated to the Hearer position. Some have brought forth the Bodhisattva heart, but do not as yet have any genuine samadhi power. Those are the newly resolved Bodhisattvas.
This passage of text mentions non-retreating Bodhisattvas. They will never retreat to the Two Vehicles. They cultivate the Great Vehicle Dharma-doors and will never again go back to the lesser vehicles. Their number like the Ganges’ sands. There were a great many non-retreating Bodhisattvas, let’s say…There are three levels of non-retreat:
1. Non-retreating position: This means that the Great Vehicle Bodhisattva will never go back to the position of either of the Two Vehicles.
2. Non-retreating conduct: This means that, in their cultivation, the Great Vehicle Bodhisattvas are always vigorous and never lazy; they advance with heroic vigor.
3. Non-retreating thought: Not only do they not retreat in their position or their cultivation, but they do not even have the thought of doing so.
With one mind thought to seek that wisdom. If they got together and investigated the Buddha’s wisdom, the real wisdom, they also could not know of it. Although they occupy a position from which they do not retreat, they still have not obtained the true, real wisdom. Their wisdom is merely provisional. They cannot understand the Buddha’s true, real wisdom.
And what is more, Shariputra. The Buddha further addresses Shariputra, that inconceivable, non-outflow, most profound and subtle Dharma, the real mark of all Dharmas, the true, real wisdom, the spiritual penetration of non-outflows is inconceivable. It can not be thought of with the mind or expressed in words. It is extremely deep, subtle, and wonderful. This Dharma is unsurpassed and also extremely deep, at once fine and subtle. It’s extremely wonderful and inconceivable. I have perfectly obtained. It is perfect, neither lacking nor in excess. And I alone know its mark. Only Shakyamuni Buddha can know the real wisdom, along with the ten-direction Buddhas. All those in the ten directions who have realized Buddhahood can know it. So it said above, “Only the Buddhas and the Buddha can exhaust the Real Mark of all dharmas…” The meaning is the same here.
Shariputra, you should know the words of the Buddhas do not differ. What all the Buddhas say is true, real speech; it is the same sound spoken with different mouths. The Thus Come One speaks the truth, speaks of what is, he speaks it truly and he never speaks falsely. The path of all the Buddhas is identical. Therefore the Dharma which the Buddhas speak is the same. The Buddha’s true, real wisdom can be known and understood only by the Buddhas and the Buddha.
In the Dharma spoken by the Buddhas, you should place the power of great faith. You should have no doubts, only faith. Faith is extremely powerful. Why do you need faith? It is said,
The Buddhadharma is like the great sea;
You can only enter it by means of faith.
If you do not have faith, you will not be able to understand the doctrines within the Buddhadharma.
Faith is the source of the Way,
And the mother of merit and virtue.
It nourishes all our good roots.
Faith will nourish your good roots. Without it, they cannot grow. Faith is extremely important. If you listen to the Sutras, you must believe what they say. If you do not believe them, it is just as if you had not heard them. We should believe in the Dharma the Buddha spoke. If we do not, it is just as if we never even heard it.
When the World Honored One’s Dharma’s at its end. After the World Honored One realized Buddhahood, he taught the Storehouse Teaching, also called the “Half-word Teaching.” This is the Small Vehicle Teaching aimed at the Hearers. “But now,” says the Buddha, “I have spoken the Dharma right up to the very final stage.” The true and real must be spoken. I should reveal it all, without reservation. I should speak the true, real Buddhadharma, to teach the real wisdom Bodhisattvas. It is not like before when I spoke the expedient dharmas. I am speaking the real truth now. Previously I said that if you have some small faults, it is all right. You can gradually get rid of them. They are not important. It is okay. But now, you have really, really got to cultivate. You are not allowed even the slightest fault. You must work hard and be diligent in your cultivation. You must bring forth the heart of a Great Vehicle Bodhisattva. You cannot be like you were before, stalling around and procrastinating, putting off today’s cultivation until tomorrow and tomorrow’s until the day after. That is being like the Venerable Ananda who thought, “I am Shakyamuni Buddha’s cousin. With a Buddha for a cousin, I do not need to cultivate. He can give me samadhi and spiritual powers.” That was a real mistake. In cultivation:
You eat your own food, you fill yourself.
You end your own birth and death.
To end birth and death, you must cultivate on your own. No one can do it for you. They may say that they want to help you, but that is just an expedient device to lead you to resolve to cultivate on your own. If you do not cultivate on your own, you will not end birth and death, just as if someone else eats, you do not get full. You must do it yourself. Put your feet firmly on the ground and walk forward, step by step.
I tell the assembly of Hearers. The Buddha previously taught the Dharma-door of the Four Holy Truths to the Hearers. And those who seek the Conditioned Enlightened Vehicle. The Buddha also taught the Dharma of the Twelve Causes and Conditions to the Conditioned Enlightened Ones. That I will lead them to cast off suffering’s bond. With his compassionate heart, the Buddha wants to cause all living beings to separate from suffering and attain bliss, to end birth and cast off death. They must understand that Impermanence comes quickly. If you do not cultivate, but insist, “Wait a minute. Slowly, slowly…” you had best be informed that the Ghost of Impermanence is not polite. When the time comes for him to take you to see King Yama, he will not show you the slightest bit of courtesy. If you try to buy him off, to keep away for awhile, and let you live for a few more years, you cannot do it. The Ghost of Impermanence does not take bribes. He’s not like a greedy politician. In the world, with money, you can do the impossible, If you break the law, but have the cash, then “You did not break the law.” But the Ghost of Impermanence has no greed in this regard. Money means nothing to him. And arrive at Nirvana, arrive at the position of no-production and no extinction. The Buddha uses the power of expedients. The Buddha uses the Dharma of the Three Vehicles, the Hearers, the Conditioned Enlightened Ones, and the Bodhisattvas.
Demonstrating the Teaching of Three Vehicles. He instructs in the Three Vehicles for the sake of the One Buddha Vehicle. So, at the very end, the Buddha speaks the Dharma of the One Buddha Vehicle, the Dharma-door of real wisdom. So that living beings, attached in many places, may be guided to escape. Living beings, wherever they happen to be, get attached in just that place. They get attached to whatever position they happen to be in. Fathers are attached: “I am the father,” they think, “and you are my children,” and they become attached. Older brothers try to control their younger brothers. Why? It is because they are attached. They think, “I am the older brother and you are the younger brother. You should listen to my order.” Husbands stand on a “husband platform,” and wives stand on a “wife platform.” Monks even stand on a “monk platform,” and novices stand on a “novice platform.” “Look at me,” they think, “I’ve left home and you haven’t!” That is an attachment.
People with learning are attached to learning. “I am a professor and you are students. I should be your teacher.” That’s also an attachment.
Students have student attachments. “I am a student and if I don’t know something, it’s no problem. However, since you are my teacher, if I ask you a question you had better be able to answer it.” However, in American universities if the student asks a question and the professor cannot answer it, he just let it go by; he has not broken any laws.
In general, however, you have an attachment to whatever you do. In the hells there are hellish attachments. Among the animals there are beastly attachments. Among people there are human attachments. Among ghosts there are ghostly attachments. That is why the text says, “attached in many places. “ No matter where you are, no matter what role you occupy, you will have precisely that attachment. In a family, the older and younger brothers and sisters, and the father and mother, and the grandparents all have their attachments. In the county government—“I am the mayor and I have to manage the officials. You have to listen to my orders. If you do not listen, I am going to make it hard for you. I will get in your way and give you a bad time.” These are all attachments.
The Buddhadharma was spoken just in order to break the attachments of living beings. Once their attachments have been destroyed, that is, if you have no attachments, then the Buddhadharma is also ended; it no longer exists. Why does the Buddhadharma exist? It is just because you are attached. Without attachments, there is no Buddhadharma. The Buddhadharma is for people with attachments. When living beings no longer have attachments, the Buddhadharma is no longer of any use. Looking at it that way, it would be best if living beings had a few more attachments! That way the Buddhadharma would be of some use. Otherwise, the Buddhadharma would “retire.”
The Buddha teaches living beings how to escape from their attachments, to become unattached. Without attachments, everyone would be happy and blissful.
At that time in the assembly there were Hearers, Arhats with outflows extinguished, Ajnatakaundinya and others, twelve hundred persons, as well as Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Upasakas, and Upasikas who had brought forth the resolve to become Hearers and Pratyekabuddhas. They all had the following thought:
“Why, now, does the World Honored One repeatedly praise the expedient devices saying, ‘the Dharma obtained by the Buddha is so extremely profound and difficult to understand and the purport of his speech is so difficult to know, that none of the Hearers or Pratyekabuddhas can grasp it.’ The Buddha has spoken of but one principle of liberation and we have already obtained this Dharma and arrived at Nirvana. Now, we do not understand his intention.”
E2. Questioning arises from the doubts.
F1. The doubts are presented.
G1. Passage added by Sutra compilers by way of introduction.
At that time in the assembly means when Shakyamuni Buddha had finished speaking the verses. This passage of text was added when the Sutra was compiled by the Venerable Ananda. Ananda said, “At that time, in the assembly, there were Hearers, a vast number of those who had cultivated the Four Truths and awakened to the Way; they awoke to the Way upon hearing the Buddha’s voice, and so their vehicle is called that of Hearers. Arhats with outflows extinguished. Their outflows had been exhausted. The exhaustion of outflows is called the Penetration of the Exhaustion of Outflows. Obtaining this penetration is the state of non-outflow, which means the absence of ignorance and affliction, as well as the absence of all bad habits and faults.
The presence of outflows may be likened to a bottle with a hole in it. You can keep pouring water in it, but it all runs out. People’s bodies have many outflows. But now, their outflows have been exhausted; all outflows have been ended and the Penetration of the Exhaustion of outflows has been attained.
“Arhat” is a Sanskrit word that means “worthy of offerings,” “without birth,” and “slayer of thieves.”
At that time, among the Arhats, there was an elder by the name of Ajnatakaundinya, also Sanskrit, which means “understanding the basic limit,” or “the first to understand.” After Shakyamuni Buddha realized Buddhahood, he first went to the Deer Park to take Ajnatakaundinya across. In a former life, Ajnatakaundinya was the King of Kalinga. Shakyamuni Buddha made a vow that when he became a Buddha the first person he would save would be the one who had cut his flesh from every limb. Therefore, after he became a Buddha, he first went to the Deer Park to take the five Bhikshus across. That is why Ajnatakaundinya means, “the first to understand.” He was the first to certify to the fruit of Arhatship. “Understanding the original limit,” means that he understood his fundamental nature.
And others, twelve hundred persons. Ajnatakaundinya had twelve hundred people with him.
As well as Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Upasakas, and Upasikas who had brought forth the resolve to become Hearers and Pratyekabuddhas. There was another group that had resolved to seek the Vehicle of the Hearers and Conditioned Enlightened Ones. As has been related many times before, the word Bhikshu has three meanings: “mendicant,” “frightener of Mara,” and “destroyer of evil.” A Bhikshuni is a woman who has left home and the same three meanings apply. An Upasaka is a man closely related in affairs to the Sangha and Upasika is a woman closely related in affairs to the Sangha. This means that they are lay people who draw near to the Triple Jewel.
Who all had the following thought: Each of them had this thought.
What did they think?
“Why now, at present, does the World Honored One, Shakyamuni Buddha, repeatedly praise the expedient devices?” He praises it again and again. The term here rendered “repeatedly” usually means “diligently.” Here, however, it means that the Buddha is not lazy in speaking the Sutra. He speaks it once and yet again, and praises it once and yet again. First he praises it in prose and then he repeats his praise in verse, and when he speaks the doctrine he takes it very seriously. He is not the least bit sloppy because it is very important and it is to be feared that people will not pay attention unless he very seriously praises the expedient devices and does so repeatedly.
Saying, ‘The Dharma obtained by the Buddha,’ the Dharma which I, Shakyamuni Buddha, have obtained ‘is so extremely profound and difficult to understand.’ No one knows how deep it is; thus it is extremely profound. No one can understand it; thus it is hard to understand. ‘And the purport of his speech is so difficult to know.’ The meaning of what the Buddha says is not easy to understand. ‘That none of the Hearers or Pratyekabuddhas can grasp it.’ Those of the Two Vehicles cannot understand this doctrine.
The Buddha has spoken but one principle of liberation and we have already obtained this Dharma and reached Nirvana. We of the Hearer Vehicle have completely attained the doctrine of the principle of liberation and rely on it to cultivate. We have already gained the bliss of Nirvana. Now, we do not understand his intention. The Buddha now says that his previous teaching was not ultimate, not final. It was not true and real. You have lectured us all into a daze and we do not know what this means. Ultimately, what is the principle? What is the Buddha’s intention? We have already got doubts. The Dharmas the Buddha spoke previously—were they incorrect? Then is what he is now saying correct? Even though they were incorrect, they still brought us advantages. We managed to certify to the first, second, third, and fourth stages of Arhatship. Now, if that is incorrect, then most likely the fruits we have certified to are false as well.
Everyone has doubts.
At that time Shariputra, knowing the doubts in the minds of the fourfold assembly, and himself not yet fully understanding, addressed the Buddha saying: “For what reason has the World Honored One repeatedly praised the foremost expedient devices of the Buddhas and the extremely profound and wonderful Dharma which is difficult to understand? From the past onwards I have never heard the Buddha speak in such a way. Presently, the fourfold assembly all has doubts. I only pray that the World Honored One will expound upon this subject: Why has the World Honored One repeatedly praised the Dharma, which is extremely profound, subtle, and hard to understand?”
F2. Request for help in resolving doubts.
G1. The first request.
I1. The doubts are presented.
At the time, when the fourfold assembly started to have doubts, the wisest of the Hearers, Shariputra, knowing the doubts in the minds of the fourfold assembly. He knew that all the disciples had doubts and that their minds were confused and muddled. But although he was so intelligent and wise, he did not understand the state of the Buddha either. So the text says, and himself not yet fully understanding, headdressed the Buddha saying: “For what reason has the World Honored One repeatedly praised the foremost expedient devices of the Buddhas in such a way repeatedly extolling and lauding them, praising the foremost expedient devices and the extremely profound and wonderful Dharma which is so difficult to understand?” It is so deep, so fine and subtle, so hard to understand, this wonderful Dharma of real wisdom.
From the past onwards, I have been following Shakyamuni Buddha now for over forty years. It took eight years to speak The Dharma Flower Sutra and one day and one night to speak The Mahaparinirvana Sutra. If you spread the palm leaves on which they were written out end to end, they would stretch across a distance of eight miles.
Shariputra had been with the Buddha for over forty years and he had doubts. When the Buddha was in the world, some of his disciples believed in him, but some had doubts. However, they all wanted to study the Buddhadharma. They listened to the Buddha speak the Sutras and they cultivated under him. They never left him. That is why the twelve hundred and fifty disciples are called his “constant retinue,” In every Dharma assembly, Shakyamuni Buddha always had at the very least twelve hundred and fifty people as an audience. Even if they did not understand the doctrines he was explaining, they still investigated the Buddhadharma and came to listen. So the text says, “From the past onwards.” The word “past” tells us that Shariputra had been with the Buddha and never left him. He listened to the Buddhadharma every day and studied it every day.
I have never heard the Buddha speak in such a way. When you spoke the Dharma before, you never said such important things, nor did you keep praising and extolling so sincerely like this. Presently the fourfold assembly all has doubts. The entire assembly of disciples has given rise to doubts. They do not know where their confusion came from and they do not know where it is going. They do not know where to begin, which Dharma-door to cultivate. This is a serious problem and so I only pray that the World Honored One will expound upon this subject and elucidate this matter in fine detail to clear up the doubts of those present here. Please do not leave us as it was, standing at the fork in the road not knowing which way to turn. Why has the World Honored One repeatedly praised the Dharma, which is extremely profound, subtle, and hard to understand? Why? We do not understand and so we ask the Buddha to be compassionate and instruct us. We respectfully await the holy instruction.
At that time, Shariputra, wishing to restate this meaning, spoke verses saying,
Oh! Sun of Wisdom, Great Honored Sage,
Long have you waited to speak this Dharma;
I1. Doubts about the Two Wisdoms.
What is meant by the Sun of Wisdom? In this world, the light of the Buddha’s wisdom is like the light of the sun.
Great Honored Sage: The Buddha is the god among the gods, the sage among the sages. Thus, he is called the Great Honored Sage. Before the Buddha appeared in the world, the world was without the Buddhadharma. A world without the Buddhadharma is like a world without a sun. Without the sun, in the midst of night, we are in darkness. When the Buddha appeared in the world, it was as if the sun had ascended into space, dispersing all darkness with its light.
What does this mean?
Before the Buddha appeared in the world, the world was without true principle. It was not that true principle did not exist, but rather that no one understood it. True principle, of course, neither comes nor goes. However, if no one points it out, people who have been sunk in confusion for so long will not perceive it.
What is the confusion that people are sunk in?
The five desires: forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and tangible objects. These are the objects of the senses, also called the five desires.
Form: No one is able to see through and break his or her attachment to forms. People are attached to forms. Anything with shape and appearance is considered form, but among such shapes and appearances people select the good ones. People do not like the bad. They pick beautiful forms. Because they enjoy them so much, they sink, drunk with the objects of form.
Sounds: People like to listen to music, to singing, and perhaps even to the chirping of birds and the sounds of people talking in pleasant tones. This is to sink and drown in the objects of sound, drunk on the defiling dust of sound.
Smells: people also covet smells. If you eat one kind of food, you might smell another kind of food cooking and decide that you want it instead. After eating the other kind for a while, another aromatic dish may catch your attention and you will want to eat that. It is like being drunk on wine, sunk in the confusion of the defiling objects of smell.
Tastes: Today you may want to eat fish, tomorrow chicken, duck or beef the day after. But when you are eating beef, you think that it is not as tasty as lamb. Whatever is hardest to come by is just what you think would be the very best. Things you have eaten, you are tired of. This is because of greed and desire. To be caught up in the desire for food and sink into the stupor created by objects of taste is like being caught in quicksand. You just get one leg out and the other sinks in deeper. You never get out of the quicksand. So it is with the object of taste.
Tangible objects: People like to come in contact with all manners of smooth surfaces. They like to wear silk and satin fabrics which not only protect their skin but are soft and warm as well. Men and women become attached to each other as objects of touch and so sink into the stupor caused by defiling tangible objects as if stuck in quicksand unable to get their legs free. They just get one leg out and the other leg sinks right in.
Thus, people are unable to extricate themselves from the realms of the five desires.
Those of outside ways use the five desires in their teachings, and they do not lead living beings to break free of their attachments. Therefore, they live in a dark night, sink in confusion, in a stupor, in a state of dream-like confusion, and the entire world is pitch black. When the Buddha appeared in the world, it was as though the sun had started to shine. People were taught not to attach to the five desires, the defiling objects of sense. So the text says, “Oh Sun of Wisdom, Great Honored Sage.”
Long have you waited to speak this Dharma. “Long” means that he never spoke it before. Shakyamuni Buddha had been speaking the Dharma for a long time, but it was always the provisional Dharma. It was provisional wisdom. He has never spoken the real wisdom. Now, at the very end, the genuine real wisdom is being spoken for everyone to hear.
Speaking of your attainments of such
Powers, fearlessnesses, and samadhis,
Dhyanasamadhis and liberations,
And other inconceivable dharmas.
Shakyamuni Buddha spoke the Dharma for forty-nine years in over three hundred assemblies and from the very beginning right through to the end, he never spoke the real; he only spoke the provisional. Here, in the Lotus Assembly, he finally speaks the real wisdom. Speaking of your attainments of such powers, fearlessnesses, and samadhis, there are Ten Powers and Four Fearlessnesses. Dhyana samadhis and liberations: there are Eight Liberations, also called “Eight Renunciations off the Back.” And other inconceivable Dharmas, these Dharmas cannot be thought about with the mind or expressed in words.
Concerning the Dharma obtained in the Bodhimanda,
No one is able to raise a question.
I find its meaning hard to fathom,
And am also unable to ask about it.
So you speak unasked,
Praising the path you have walked
And that wisdom fine and subtle,
Attained by all the Buddhas.
All the Arhats, without outflows,
And those who seek Nirvana,
Have fallen into a net of doubts.
“Why has the Buddha said this?”
Those who seek Condition Enlightenment,
The Bhikshus, the Bhikshunis,
Gods, dragons, ghosts, and spirits,
Gandharvas and others,
Look at one another, perplexed,
And then gaze at the Doubly Complete Honored One.
“What is the meaning of this matter?”
“We pray that the Buddha will explain.”
I2. Doubts of those of the Three Vehicles and of those of the fourfold assembly.
Concerning the Dharma obtained in the Bodhimanda, the fine and subtle Dharma the Buddha obtained in the Bodhimanda, no one is able to raise a question. We do not know how to approach the subject because it is real wisdom, not the provisional wisdom of the Hearers. Those of the Three Vehicles cannot even ask about it. I find its meaning hard to fathom and am also unable to ask about it. Because no one understands it, no one is able to ask about it.
So you speak unasked, praising the Path you have walked and that wisdom fine and subtle, attained by all the Buddhas. You praise the true, real wisdom, the extremely profound wisdom, which is understood only by all the Buddhas in the ten directions and by Shakyamuni Buddha.
All the Arhats, without outflows, although they have ended outflows and are Fourth Stage Arharts, and those who seek Nirvana or they are Bodhisattvas of the Provisional Vehicle who seek Nirvana, or perhaps they are Pratyekabuddhas, have fallen into a net of doubts. Hearing the Buddha speak of the true, real wisdom, which is extremely profound, subtle, and wonderful, rare and foremost, everyone has doubts; they have fallen into a net of doubt. If one has doubts, one cannot cultivate the Way. As I have often said before,
Cultivators of the Way
Take care not to doubt.
Once doubt arises
It is easy to get lost.
If you have doubts, you will lose your way. So now, the Hearers, the Conditioned Enlightened Ones, and the Provisional Teaching Bodhisattvas—every last one of them—have fallen into the net of doubts.
Why has the Buddha said this? Why has he spoken such a frightening dharma? It has caused everyone to have fox-like doubts and to disbelieve, to be frightened and alarmed.
Those who seek Conditioned Enlightenment, the Bhikshus, the Bhikshunis, Gods, dragons, ghosts and spirits, gandharvas and others, look at one another perplexed. Everyone stares at everyone else. You look at me and I look at you and nobody understands what is going on. “Perplexed” means that they have doubts, which have not been resolved. In their hearts, they do not know what would be best. Should they go south or should they go north or should they go east or west? They have gotten to the intersection but they do not know which road to take. There they stand in the middle of the street, not knowing which way to go. They are perplexed. And then gaze at the Doubly Complete Honored One. They stare fixedly at the Buddha, not turning their gaze away for a moment. They stare up at him, because he is sitting high upon the Dharma-seat. They all tilt their heads back to gaze at him.
What is meant by the “Doubly Complete Honored One?” It means that the Buddha is complete in both blessings and wisdom. This is because he cultivated blessings and wisdom for three asankhyeya eons and perfected the fine marks for a hundred eons. There are eighty fine marks. An asankhyeya refers to an uncountable number. Here we are talking about not just one, but three uncountable numbers of great eons. How long is that? That time period cannot be calculated. How could you calculate an uncountable number?
One cultivates blessings by making offerings to the Triple Jewel, by drawing near to all the Buddhas, by making offerings to the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, to the Bodhisattvas, Pratyekabuddhas, and Arhats. For three great uncountable eons, the Buddha vastly cultivated the practice of making offerings. He did not make offerings to just one Buddha, but to very many of them.
One cultivates wisdom, first of all, by holding the precepts. Why? If one holds the precepts, one can give rise to samadhi. From samadhi, comes wisdom. If you have samadhi power, you will have wisdom power.
What is samadhi power?
Samadhi power means not being turned by any external states. Neither good nor bad can move your mind. Whether the situation that arises is favorable or contrary, your heart does not move. If you can have an unmoving mind, you will have samadhi power. Once you have samadhi power, then you can have wisdom power.
Shakyamuni Buddha cultivated blessings and wisdom. One cultivates wisdom by studying the Sutras; the study of the Sutras augments one’s wisdom. If you do not study the Sutras, you will not be able to increase your wisdom. If your wisdom is not increasing, it is decreasing. Therefore, you must study all of the Sutras, Shastras, and the Vinaya. Study the Tripitaka diligently; that’s cultivating wisdom.
If you only cultivate blessings and do not cultivate wisdom, what kind of fruit will you reap?
One who cultivates blessings and not wisdom
Is like an elephant wearing a necklace.
In the future you will be a big elephant, tall and strong, wearing a fine necklace. You will look striking enough, but you will not have any wisdom or intelligence.
One who cultivates wisdom and not blessings,
Is like an Arhat with an empty bowl.
If you just study the Sutras but do not do good deeds nor plant good roots.
But how does one plant good roots? Just by doing good deeds!
By not doing any evil and doing many good deeds.
This is to plant and tend your good roots. If you merely study Sutras and never do good deeds or help other people, you will be like the Arhat with an empty begging bowl. You may certify to the fruit of Arhatship, but when you go out to beg no one will make offerings to you. “So you have certified to the fruit?” they will say, “so what?” No one will make offerings to you because you did not cultivate blessings in the causal ground and so you have no blessings now.
I often tell you these two sentences:
To endure suffering is to end suffering.
To enjoy blessing brings an end to blessings.
You suffer? Why do you suffer? It is because in previous lifetimes you did not cultivate blessings and so you must endure bitterness now. If you can endure your present suffering, it will pass. If you do not undergo that suffering which you deserve, it will remain latent. If you take what you deserve, it will disappear.
If you have a bit of blessed retribution and you just spend your days enjoying yourself. You live in a nice house, eat good food, buy fine furnishings, the latest model car, or even your own airplane so that you can fly around as you please. You do not take even the least bit of suffering. You use up your blessings. Once they have been used up, you will not have any more. Once you have enjoyed all your happiness, you will have to undergo suffering. Do you know how much happiness you have coming to you? If you enjoy it all, you will end up suffering again.
Shakyamuni Buddha cultivated both blessings and wisdom, and so he is called the Doubly Complete Honored One, complete in blessings and wisdom.
What is the meaning of this matter? They stare unblinking at the World Honored One, and in their hearts they hope that the Buddha will explain in detail the meaning of his praising the wonderful Dharma. We pray that the Buddha will explain. All of us ask the Buddha to tell us in detail the principles involved here, to tell us the meaning behind all of this.
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