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 2: Expedient Devices
With Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua

Sutra:

Of the host of Hearers
The Buddha has declared me foremost,
And yet now with my own wisdom
I cannot resolve by doubts.
Is this Dharma ultimate?
Or is it the path to be walked?
Disciples born from the Buddha’s mouth,
With joined palms wait, expectantly.
Pray put forth the subtle sound,
For it is time to tell it as it really is.
The gods, dragons, spirits, and others
Their numbers like the Ganges’ sands,
Bodhisattvas seeking Buddhahood,
Numbering a full eighty thousand,
And, from myriads of millions of lands,
Wheel-turning sage kings have come,
With joined palms and reverent minds
All wish to hear of the perfect way.

Outline:

I3. Shariputra’s own doubts.
I4. Disciple’s doubts.
I5. Doubts shared by all and request.

Commentary:

Of the host of Hearers, in the assembly of Shravakas, the Buddha has declared me foremost. The World Honored One has said that I, Shariputra, am number one in wisdom. He says that I am the smartest. And yet now with my own wisdom. However, presently, I myself, thinking it over with my number one wisdom I cannot resolve my doubts. I am all confused. Although I am number one in wisdom, I am not living up to my position. Why? It is because I do not get it. That is why! I have given rise to doubts, and so as number one, I am all washed up.

Is this Dharma ultimate? Is this the ultimate, subtle, wonderful, extremely deep Dharma? Or is it the path to be walked? Or is it the perfect, subtle, and wonderful Way of Bodhi which the Thus Come One cultivated?

Disciples born from the Buddha’s mouth, all of the Bodhisattvas are disciples of the Dharma King. They are the Buddha’s true children. They are

Born from the Buddha’s mouth,
Transformed from the Dharma.

That is why the text says, “Disciples, born from the Buddha’s mouth.” With joined palms wait, expectantly. We place our palms together and gaze at the Buddha, waiting for him to speak this deep Dharma of real wisdom, this profound and wonderful Dharma.

Pray put forth the subtle sound. We all want the World Honored One to put forth the sound of Dharma for it is time to tell it as it really is. Explain the true, real doctrine.

The gods, dragons, spirits and others, all the gods in the heavens, and the dragons, and so on and the entire eightfold division, their number like the Ganges’ sands. So many of them! Bodhisattvas seeking Buddhahood, numbering a fully eighty thousand, and, from myriads of millions of lands, Wheel-turning sage kings have come. There are Gold Wheel-turning kings, Silver, Copper and Iron Wheel-turning kings—all four categories of Wheel-turning kings came. With joined palms and reverent minds. They have placed their palms together most respectfully because they all wish to hear of the perfect Way. They all want to hear about that wonderful Dharma-door the World Honored One cultivated and that perfect, complete Bodhi Way he attained.

Sutra:

At that time the Buddha told Shariputra, “Stop! Stop! There is no need to speak further. If this matter were spoken of, the gods and humans in all the worlds would be frightened and led to doubts.”

Shariputra again addressed the Buddha saying, “World Honored One, I only pray that you will speak it. I only pray that you will speak it. What is the reason? In this assembly are countless hundreds of thousands of myriads of millions of asankhyeyas of living beings who have, in the past, seen the Buddhas. Their roots are keen and their wisdom bright. Hearing what the Buddha says they will be able to revere and believe it.”

At that time, Shariputra, wishing to restate this meaning, spoke the following verses:

Dharma King, Supremely Honored One,
Do but speak; pray have no worries,
For, with in the limitless multitudes,
Are those who can revere and believe it.

Outline:

G2. The second refusal.
G3. The second request.

Commentary:

At that time, when Shariputra had requested the Buddha to speak the Dharma the Buddha told Shariputra, “Stop!” It cannot be spoken; it should not be spoken. It is ineffable, ineffable. “Stop!” He said it twice. “Do not talk about this Dharma.” Why not?

There is no need to speak further. Say…let us not talk about this Dharma. Just forget it, Okay? If this matter were spoken of, that is, if I spoke the Dharma of true reality, the real wisdom Dharma, the ultimate Dharma, the gods and humans in all the worlds would be frightened and led to doubt. Why? If you speak to them of expedient devices, the provisional dharmas, they can accept them. If you tell them the real Dharma, they will not believe it. People all have this quirk: When you lie to them, they usually believe you, but when you tell them the truth, they do not believe you. If you tell them, “You should not have desire. You should not entertain thoughts of sexual desire” they are bound to doubt you. “I do not know if that is really the case,” they will say. “I mean, really, what is the point of having no sexual desire?” They think such behavior is extremely blissful. “What do you mean that if you cultivate you cannot indulge in such activities?”

And so some people call themselves Buddhists, but they do not teach people to cut off their thoughts of sexual desire. They cheat themselves and they cheat others. If the Buddhadharma rests with people like this, then it has truly become extinct.

It is really pathetic. If you tell people the truth, they are afraid and they do not believe you. Not only do they disbelieve, they slander you as well. “Hah!” they say, “He does not understand the Buddhadharma. He just speaks confusedly.”

Shariputra again addressed the Buddha saying Shakyamuni Buddha had decided not to speak the Dharma; he was not going to expound The Dharma Flower Sutra. Shariputra begged him to speak, however.

Basically, before speaking the Sutras, the Dharma should be requested. But in a country where there is no Buddhadharma, you cannot really wait around for someone to ask. I waited for five or six years. The chance did not come until the summer of 1968 when all of you Americans came here to study the Buddhadharma. At that time I quit waiting and started speaking.

Now, the Buddha will not speak. He says, “Stop!” I am not going to speak. Stop! I am not going to talk.” On the other hand, I say, “Do not stop! I am going to speak. I am going to speak every day.” Recently I said to a Tibetan, who visited, “The students of the Dharma here have obtained a taste of the Dharma’s sweetness and so they do not want to quit.” I, myself, find it extremely bitter. Why? I have to lecture every day and, on top of that, I do not even get paid! Hah! In China when people lecture on the Sutras, say on The Dharma Flower Sutra, they make a lot of money. Of course, I am just joking.

World Honored One, I only pray that you will speak it. He calls out, “World Honored One, please, please will you speak it? I only pray that you will speak it.” This shows his extreme sincerity. He has now asked twice.

What is the reason? Why do I ask the Buddha to speak this Dharma? In this assembly are countless hundreds of thousands of myriads of millions of asankhyeyas of living beings, that is a lot! Who have, in the past, seen the Buddhas. In the past they saw the Buddhas and in the present they see the World Honored One. Their roots are keen and their wisdom bright. They are very intelligent because, in the past, they planted many good roots. Hearing what the Buddha says, they will be able to revere and believe it. When they hear Shakyamuni Buddha say it, they will believe it. Please, Buddha, be compassionate and expound this extremely deep, subtle and wonderful Dharma.

At that time, Shariputra, wishing to restate this meaning, spoke the following verses:

Dharma King, Supremely Honored One, in the world and beyond the world, there is no one higher than you. I again ask you to speak this wonderful Dharma. Do but speak; pray have no worries. Do not have any second thoughts. Do not be concerned that people might not believe what you say. For, within the limitless multitudes, are those who can revere and believe it. There most certainly be those who will respect and have faith in this Dharma and who will not become doubtful.

Sutra:

The Buddha again stopped Shariputra, “If this matter were spoken of, the gods, humans, and asuras in all the worlds would be frightened and led to doubt, and those Bhikshus of overweening pride would fall into a big pit.”

Then the World Honored One restated his meaning in verse, saying,

Stop, stop. It must not be spoken.
My Dharma is wonderful beyond conception,
And those of undue pride who heard it,
Surely would neither revere nor believe it.

Outline:

G4. The third refusal.

Commentary:

The Buddha again stopped Shariputra, The Buddha had already said “Stop,” twice before. This is his third refusal. He said, “There is no need to speak about it. Why not? If this matter were spoken of, the gods, humans, and asuras in all the worlds would be frightened and led to doubt, and those Bhikshus of overweening pride would fall into a big pit. The Bhikshus are arrogant and self-satisfied. Why? It is because they have attachments. They are attached to the opinion that no one is equal to them, and so they are going to fall into a great big trap. They think they are clever and their intelligence and conduct far surpass everyone else’s.

Once people become slightly intelligent, not greatly wise, by any means, they tend to expose it wherever they go. They shine their light outwardly to show off that they are number one; they are unable to contain their light within themselves. If you have a lot of light, that means that you are intelligent but you do not display your intelligence. You keep it covered and hidden away.

“Well, isn’t that just being greedy?” you ask. No. It is wanting to avoid becoming arrogant and proud.

Arrogance is the attitude that “I am better than everyone else.” For example, “I am an Oriental and they are the very best. The yellow race is the most superior in the world.” That is arrogance. Someone else might think, “I am Caucasian, and the white race is the best. We are the most intelligent.” That is also arrogance.

One may be a Negro who thinks that the white and yellow races are inferior and that the black people are the most superior. That, too, is arrogance. Regardless of whether or not you are white, yellow, black, red, or green, no matter what race you are or what kind of person you are, you should not hold the view of arrogance. In China there is a saying,

Modest brings benefits,
But arrogance causes harm.

It is because of your arrogance that you keep hitting your head against the wall and are unable to study and learn from others. Arrogance is an obstacle to your learning. You cannot learn if your mind is filled with self-pride, because you think you already know everything. “What have I got to learn?” you think.

Those who study the Buddhadharma should not master one tiny bit of it and then think, “I know it all!”

What do you know? Those who have not studied the Buddhadharma have even less business being arrogant. It is really pathetic. They do not understand anything at all, but they become arrogant.

For example, last summer one of my disciples said that since he was a “special person” he did not have to study The Shurangama Mantra. When he left home I gave him seven days to learn it, and then extended the seven days to fourteen, but he still could not learn it. Now, he can probably recite it, I was very strict with him because he was fairly sincere. Why was he unable to learn it? It is because he was arrogant in thinking that he was special and did not need to study it. But just wait until the time comes when he needs to use it!

Arrogant people have a kind of power. They can read and remember Sutras at a fast rate. Whatever they do, they do very perfectly because they are smarter and quicker than others. Because of this, they get arrogant. They can do things better and faster than others. They study the Sutras fast, they study the Dharma fast, they cultivate and become Buddhas fast, they enter samadhi and give rise to wisdom fast. But take care not to become attached to a view of self and think that you are better than others. Do not put yourself on a pedestal.

The Bhikshus of overweening pride are in for a surprise. They are gong to fall into a big pit. They figure they know everything and so when they hear the real Dharma, they will not believe it. It is because they fail to believe. They will fall into the pit, a very low place. The “big pit” refers to the three evil paths, the hells, the animal realm, and the realm of the hungry ghosts.

Then the World Honored One restated his meaning in verse, saying, “Stop, stop. It must not be spoken. My Dharma is wonderful beyond conception. Because this Dharma is so subtle and wonderful, it is not easy to think about, not easy to talk about, not easy to believe. If the Buddha spoke this true, real Dharma, no one would believe it. And those of undue pride who heard it, the arrogant Bhikshus surely would neither revere nor believe it. They would not understand it. They would not believe it. They would not revere it.

Sutra:

At that time, Shariputra further addressed the Buddha, saying, “World Honored One, I only pray that you will speak it. I only pray that you will speak it. Presently, within this assembly are those who are my equal, hundreds of thousands of myriads of millions of them. Life after life they have been transformed by the Buddha. People such as these will surely be able to revere and believe you. They will gain security and great benefit within the long night.”

At that time, Shariputra, wishing to restate his meaning, recited the following verses:

Supreme and Doubly Honored One.
Pray speak the foremost Dharma.
I, the Buddha’ eldest disciple,
Wish you will but speak it in detail.
The limitless host here assembled,
Can revere and believe this Dharma,
For the Buddha has, for life after life,
Taught and transformed such ones as these.
With one mind, with palms joined,
We all wish to hear the Buddha speak.
Twelve hundred of us there are,
And more, seeking Buddhahood.
Pray, for those assembled here,
Speak of it in detail;
Having heard this Dharma,
Great will our rejoicing be.

Outline :

G5. The third request.

Commentary:

At that time, after Shariputra had heard the Buddha speak the previous verse, Shariputra further addressed the Buddha, saying, with great earnest faith, I only pray that you will speak it; I only pray that you will speak it. With firm faith I know that presently, within this assembly are those who are my equal. Like me, their faith is also firm and they wish the Buddha to speak this extremely deep and wonderful Dharma. “Those who are my equal” refers to those of the same rank, the Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Upasakas, and Upasikas. Hundreds of thousands of myriads of millions of them. Life after life, they have been transformed by the Buddha.

For a long time, these people have received the Buddha’s instruction and teaching. Those who have not received the teaching of the Buddha in the past will not believe the Buddhadharma when they hear it. If they have already received the teaching in the past, for many lives, then they will believe it right when they hear it and feel sure that it is something they can have faith in. The Buddha has many disciples because, life after life, he has taught and transformed sentient beings. The sentient beings also vowed, life after life, to follow the Buddha and study the Buddhadharma. When the Buddha was a Bhikshu, these people all took refuge with the Triple Jewel. When the Buddha gained the first stage of Arhatship, they left home. When the Buddha became a second stage Arhat, they followed him to cultivate the Way. Shakyamuni Buddha used the great compassion heart and many expedient devices to teach and transform his disciples. When the Buddha accomplished the fruit of Buddhahood, they all became Arhats because through successive lives they had received the Buddha’s teaching.

In this life, since Shakyamuni Buddha has already become a Buddha, we are becoming Bhikshus. Such causal affinities develop, life after life, we receive the merciful and compassionate instruction of the Buddha.

People such as these will surely be able to revere and believe you. No matter what doctrines the Buddha speaks, they will believe him. They will gain security and great benefit within the long night of time. We are dreaming and in our sleep know nothing. Shakyamuni Buddha, you speak the Dharma so we may gain great advantage.

When I was in Manchuria and Hong Kong, my disciples had great faith in me. No matter what I said, they believed it, and they had no doubts whatsoever. Even when I deliberately said something contrary to the doctrine, they still believed it. Those who had taken refuge for the first time did not have such firm faith. Those who had taken refuge for two, three, four, or five lifetimes did not have such firm faith; but others did. So, Shakyamuni Buddha had taught and transformed these people throughout many lives.

Shariputra has asked the Buddha to speak the wonderful doctrine and said that everyone would certainly be able to believe it. Even though he said that, still, later on, five thousand Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Upasakas and Upasikas got up and walked out. Shakyamuni Buddha is just about to speak the wonderful Dharma, and he says that he will explain it in great detail and five thousand people walk out. This can be compared to threshing rice. When you toss the rice high into the air, the wind blows the chaff away, and the rice grains fall down. The five thousand who left are like the chaff.

At that time, Shariputra, wishing to restate this meaning, spoke verses, saying, “Supreme and Doubly Honored One”. “Supreme” means that there is no one higher. “Doubly Honored” means that the Buddha is complete in both blessings and wisdom. Pray speak the foremost Dharma; we wish you to speak the true, wonderful, real Dharma-door, which is number one, without a number two. I, the Buddha’s eldest disciple, Shariputra, am the Buddha’s eldest disciple, wish you will but speak it in detail. I hope the Buddha will be compassionate and speak this Dharma to me. The limitless host here assembled, can revere and believe this Dharma. Why are they able to believe it? For the Buddha has, for life after life, taught and transformed such ones as these. It is because they have received the compassionate teaching of the Buddha and the nourishment of the milk of Dharma, they revere and believe it. With one mind, with palms joined, we all wish to hear the Buddha speak. Twelve hundred of us there are, and more, seeking Buddhahood. There are Pratyekabuddhas and Provisional Teaching Bodhisattvas. Pray, for those assembled here, speak of it in detail. Having heard this Dharma, great will our rejoicing be. Please be compassionate and speak to us. We will certainly rejoice.

Sutra:

Thereupon the World Honored One told Shariputra, “Since you have earnestly requested three times, how can I not speak? You should now listen attentively, think upon it well, and be mindful of it; I will explain it in detail for your sake.”

As he said these words, five thousand Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Upasakas, and Upasikas in the assembly rose from their seats, made obeisance to the Buddha and left. What was the reason? The roots of their offenses were deep and grave and they were of such overweening pride that they claimed to have obtained what they had not yet obtained and to have certified to that to which they had not yet certified to. With faults such as these they could not stay. The World Honored One remained silent and did not restrain them.

The Buddha then told Shariputra, “My assembly has now been cleared of its branches and leaves and only the trunks remain. Shariputra, it is excellent that those of overweening pride have left. You should now listen well and I shall speak it for you.”

Shariputra said, “So be it, World Honored One. I wish joyfully to hear it.”

Outline:

D2. Detailed discussion: opening the three and revealing the one to sever doubts and awaken faith.

E1. Direct speaking of the Dharma.
F1. Actual speaking of Dharma.
G1. Prose.
H1. Consenting to speak.
I1. Complying with the request.
I2. Exhortation.
I3. Winnowing the assembly.
H2. Receiving the Buddha’s instruction.

Commentary:

Thereupon the World Honored One told Shariputra, “Since you have earnestly requested three times, how could I not speak?” You have repeated your request three times; how could I refuse to speak this Dharma to you? You should now listen attentively. Pay close attention and listen well. You should not fail to pay attention to the Dharma I speak. Think upon it well, and be mindful of it; I will explain it in detail for your sake. I will now delineate the true, wonderful Dharma.

After Shakyamuni Buddha said this, what do you think happened?

As he said these words, five thousand Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Upasakas, and Upasikas in the assembly rose from their seats, made obeisance to the Buddha and left. Although they were very arrogant, they still bowed to the Buddha before they left. What was the reason? The roots of their offenses were deep and grave and they were of such overweening pride that they claimed to have obtained what they had not yet obtained and to have certified to that which they had not yet certified to.With faults such as these they could not stay. They could not hear this wonderful Dharma. Such proud people had not attained the wonderful Dharma or certified to the fruits of Arhatship. Still, they claimed that they had done so. Although they had not yet become Buddhas, they said that they had done so. What they had not attained, they said that they had attained. They claimed to have wisdom they did not have. They said that they themselves were not bad at all. They said they were better than everyone else. These were the strange things they said. Consequently, they lost their chance to hear The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra.

The World Honored One remained silent and did not restrain them. He did not tell them not to go; he did not stop them. The Buddha then told Shariputra, “My assembly has now been cleared of its branches and leaves and only the trunks remain.” Here the analogy of the chaff and the grain may be applied. The grain has been separated from the chaff. The pure, real substance alone remains. All the extraneous matter is gone. Those people with offenses all have left; they are like the chaff, the twigs, and the leaves. Those people who remain all have blessings. They are the trunk, the basic true substance. They are the disciples who have faith. Those without faith are like the twigs and branches; they are insincere.

For example, one disciple here took the precepts and now has run off. He is like the five thousand who left. He studied the Buddhadharma for several months and figured that he and his brother had both become enlightened. He is just cheating the world.

Shariputra, it is excellent that those of overweening pride have left, because now they will not be able to exert their bad influence on others. You should now listen well and I shall speak it for you. Do not run off! I am now going to speak the Dharma for those of you who sincerely believe.

Shariputra said, “so be it, World Honored One. I wish joyfully to hear it.” We all wish happily and joyfully to hear the Buddha speak the Dharma, the true, real Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra.

Sutra:

The Buddha told Shariputra, “A wonderful Dharma such as this is spoken only occasionally by the Buddhas, the Thus Come Ones, just as the udumbara flower appears but once in a great while.”

“Shariputra, you should all believe that which the Buddha says, for his words are not vain or false. Shariputra, all the Buddhas speak the Dharma in accord with what is appropriate, but its purport is difficult to understand. What is the reason? I extensively speak all dharmas by means of countless expedient devices, various causes and conditions, analogies, and expressions. This Dharma cannot be understood through deliberation or discrimination. Only the Buddhas alone can know it. Why is this? All the Buddhas, the World Honored Ones, appear in the world only because of the causes and conditions of the great matter.”

Outline:

H3. The instruction.

I1. Explanation regarding all Buddhas in general and the Buddhas of the three periods of time.

J1. General explanation of teaching methods of all Buddhas.
K1. Praising the rareness of the Dharma.
K2. Verifying the validity.
K3. Opening the provisional.
L1. Opening.
L2. Explanation.
L3. Conclusion.
K4. Revealing the actual.
L1. Supreme Beings and supreme Dharma.
L2. Tells why Buddhas enter the world.

Commentary:

Shakyamuni Buddha had just informed Shariputra that he was about to speak the Sutra. Why? It is because he requested it three times. It was clear that Shariputra was sincere, and so the Buddha agreed to speak it.

Now, the Buddha told Shariputra, “A wonderful Dharma such as this is spoken only occasionally by the Buddhas, the Thus Come Ones.” “Such as this” is a phrase that points to the Dharma. The wonderful Dharma is “thus.” Were it not “thus” it would not be the wonderful Dharma. So, the wonderful Dharma is just like that. It is just the wonderful Dharma.

It is just like what?

Not like anything. Were it like something, it would turn into something that is marked. Not like anything, it is the unmarked Real Mark of all Dharmas. The unmarked Real Mark is the genuine, real, wonderful Dharma.

The wonderful Dharma is only spoken rarely, when the proper affinities have matured, just as the udumbara flower appears but once in a great while. Udumbara is a Sanskrit word, which means “auspicious portent ( 瑞 應 華 —rui ying hua).” This flower blooms but briefly once every three thousand years; therefore, it is most valuable and rare. The wonderful Dharma is like this flower.

Shariputra, you should all believe that which the Buddha says, for his words are not vain or false. All of you Hearers, Conditioned Enlightened Ones and others, ought to believe the speech of the Buddha. What the Buddha says contains nothing false, nothing unreal. It is all true and not false. Take care not to become doubtful.

Shariputra, all the Buddhas speak the Dharma in accord with what is appropriate. Although it is wonderful Dharma that opens the provisional to reveal the real, the Buddha manifests the provisional for the sake of the real. For the sake of the true, real Dharma, he employs clever expedient devices and speaks the Dharma in accord with what is appropriate. He takes a look at the potential and then dispenses the teaching, speaking Dharma suited to the person being taught.

But its purport is difficult to understand. In the Dharma the Buddha speaks, one meaning is complete with limitless meanings; one word is complete with the wonderful principles of limitless words. So, one meaning encompasses limitless meanings, limitless meanings revert back to one doctrine. Therefore, its purport is difficult to understand. The doctrines are not easy to assimilate.

What is the reason? Why can’t they be readily understood? I extensively speak all Dharmas by means of countless expedient devices, various causes and conditions, analogies, and expressions. From the time I realized Buddhahood, I have used a countless number of Dharma-doors of expedient devices, for the sake of the real manifesting the provisional. I also use all kinds of causes and conditions to teach living beings. I expound upon all the Dharmas.

This Dharma cannot be understood through deliberation or discrimination. Although various causes and conditions, analogies and expressions are used to expound all the Dharmas, the Dharma itself is not easy to understand. You cannot use your conscious mind to understand it. You cannot use your sixth (mind) consciousness, the discriminating consciousness, or the seventh consciousness, the deliberating consciousness, to try and figure out the doctrines of the Buddha.

Only the Buddhas alone can know it. Only the Buddhas and the Buddha can know this Dharma.

Why is this? What is the principle at work here?

All the Buddhas, the World Honored Ones, appear in the world only because of the causes and conditions of the one great matter.

What are the causes and conditions of the one great matter? Each of us should think it over. What matter is our “great matter?” Shakyamuni Buddha manifested in the world for the sake of the causes and conditions of the one great matter. What great matter is it?

What is it? I will tell you: The great matter is not a small matter. Were it a small matter it would not been called a great matter. Do you understand? That is a very simple explanation.

There is still another very profound explanation, but you will have to think it over and discover it yourselves.

It is extremely wonderful. Wonderful to what level? Wonderful to the level that it cannot be thought about. It is just inconceivable. Previously, it was already explained that it cannot be understood through deliberation or discrimination and so now in thinking about it we are completely wrong. We are discriminating and that is also a mistake. Not discriminating, not deliberating--that is just the wonderful Dharma. I asked you to answer the question, but the question does not need to be answered.

“Then why did you ask it?”

Why should not I have asked it? If you can answer me as to why I should not have asked it, then I will not ask. Why is there no answer? It is because Shakyamuni Buddha has now entered Nirvana, and really only Shakyamuni Buddha is qualified to judge and answer to that question. I am not qualified to do so. So, the best thing to do would be to forget it. I believe that you all cannot forget it. Why can’t you forget this question? It is because it deals with the causes and conditions of the great matter. If it were the causes and conditions of some small matter, you would be able to forget it. But how could you forget the causes and conditions of the great matter? You cannot forget it.

If you cannot forget it, what’s to be done? We should understand it. Although I talk about it back and forth I still have not told you what the causes and conditions of the great matter are. I will not stall around and keep you in suspense any longer. I will… Here, it is like… I hold up my closed fist and ask you: What do I have in my hand? Take a look! What is it?

You do not know? That, too, is a cause and a condition of the one great matter. See? What is in it? I open my hand—Nothing at all! The causes and conditions of the one great matter are also just like that.

The causes and conditions of the great matter are simply no matter at all. No matter, no affair, so Shakyamuni Buddha had to find something to occupy himself with. It was just for the sake of speaking The Dharma Flower Sutra that the Buddha mentions the causes and conditions of the one great matter.

And what is said in The Dharma Flower Sutra? It speaks of the wonderful Dharma. And what is the wonderful Dharma? Do not think! Once you think, it is no longer wonderful. In asking you about it, it becomes not wonderful. It can no longer be considered wonderful.

“Then what are we listening to the Sutras for,” you might ask. “Wouldn’t it be more wonderful not to listen to them?”

Who told you to listen? You do not have to listen if you do not want to. Go ahead. No one is forcing you to listen. You may want to quit listening, but you cannot. You say, “I can too! I have thought of a plan. I am going to take some drugs and get so high that I do not know anything at all. Then I will not be able to come and listen.

Hmm… that is a wonderful Dharma too. But there is another great matter that we should not forget. I just told you to forget it, and you could not, but this is something you should not forget. Since I have now encountered the causes and conditions of this one great matter, I cannot refrain from telling you. It is the great matter of everyone’s birth and death. Do you understand it or not? The problem of birth and death:

Do you know how it was you were born?

You do not know.

Do you know how it is you will die?

You do not know.

Such intelligent people, and yet you do not understand the question of birth and death.

Yesterday some tourists came and asked a very strange question. They said, “Why do you place oranges in front of the Buddha?” A lot of you did not hear it, but since it was a potentially useful question, I am repeating it again today. Who did they ask? They asked my tallest, and therefore highest, disciple. He stood there, taller than everyone else, so they asked him. But he messed up the answer; he was not clear. I was rather irked and said, “How come you cannot answer such simple question?” and I ran over to the Dharma-seat and stood up on the platform, higher than my high disciple. If I had not stood on the platform, I would have been shorter than he is. So I stood up and said quite loudly, “You ask why we put oranges in front of the Buddha? I will answer you. The Buddha likes to eat oranges!”

“Do you mean the Buddha can eat oranges?” they said.

Of course he can eat oranges. We people like to eat oranges, and the Buddha was a person who became a Buddha. Therefore, I believe that he likes to eat oranges. Besides I like to eat oranges. I give the things I like to eat as an offering to the Buddha. I give what I like to others. I know that what I like to eat, the Buddha also likes to eat. If I make offerings of oranges, he is certainly not going to get upset.

That is the general gist of what I said, although yesterday I did not mention the “getting upset” part. I said that he would not be displeased. Anyway, when they heard this it was a case of “seeing what they had never seen and hearing what they had never heard.” They had nothing to say.

The causes and conditions of the great matter refer to the great matter of birth and death. You should resolve this matter of birth and death quite clearly. Then you will have finished the great work.

There are the causes and conditions of the great matter, then, and there also remain a lot of small problems. If you want to understand the causes and conditions of the great matter, you must first understand the causes and conditions of the small matters. If you do not understand the causes and conditions of the small matters you will not be able to understand the causes and conditions of the great matter. Where do the causes and conditions of the small matters come from? They arise out of ignorance. Birth and death is the great matter. Why is there birth and death? It is because people are ignorant.

Once there is ignorance, then greed, hate, stupidity, arrogance, pride and doubt all pop out! If there is no ignorance, then all the little problems do not exist. If there is ignorance, then there are problems, there are birth and death. We should first become clear about the causes and conditions of the small matters. If you are clear about the small problems, you will be clear about the great ones. Just as small children grow up to become adults. The adults get old and die. If you do not understand the causes and conditions of the small matters, you will not be able to resolve the great matter. First of all, you must break through ignorance. When you have broken through ignorance, the causes and conditions of the great matter will automatically be ended.

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