The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra
Chapter 20: Never-Slighting Bodhisattva
At that time the Buddha told the Bodhisattva Mahasattva Great Strength, “You should now know that if someone reviles, abuses, or slanders a Bhikshu, Bhikshuni, Upasaka, or Upasika who upholds the Dharma Flower Sutra, he will incur great offense retribution as described above. The meritorious virtues obtained through the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind gained by the upholder of the Sutra are also as described above.”
D3. Mentioning the blessings and offenses incurred through faith and slander as an exhortation to propagation.
F1. Recapitulating previous chapter's information on offenses and blessings.
Who is "Never Slighting?" He is a Bodhisattva. Is that his real name? No, it is actually a kind of nickname. He was given this name because he bowed to everyone he met. The arrogant Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Upasakas, and Upasikas gave him the name "Never Slighting."
"Get a load of him," they would sneer. "That is Never-Slighting Bodhisattva!" Do not think that was his real name. Actually, Never-Slighting Bodhisattva was Shakyamuni Buddha in a former life when he was practicing the Bodhisattva Path. At that time he bowed to everyone, and arrogant people would ridicule him, "Hey! It is Never-Slighting Bodhisattva!" He would always say to people, "I do not dare slight you, because you will all become Buddhas." And so the arrogant Bhikshus called him Never-Slighting. Even though the name was given to him to make fun of him, he accepted it.
We shall now use the Four Siddhantas to explain his name:
1. Mundane Siddhanta. Inwardly, Never-Slighting Bodhisattva embraced both the attitude of never slighting anyone and the wisdom of never slighting anyone. Outwardly, he practiced the conduct of reverence. In all circumstances he was reverent and respectful. So I have written a verse:
Everything is a test,
To see what you will do;
Mistaking what is before your eyes,
You have to start anew!
Never-Slighting Bodhisattva recognized what was before his eyes, and so he took up the practice of bowing to people. That belongs to the category of mundane Siddhanta.
2. Siddhanta for the Sake of Others. He genuinely practiced the conduct of not slighting other people. That was Siddhanta for the sake of others.
3. Siddhanta as a Cure. With his mouth, he expounded the teaching of never slighting. He always said, "I do not dare slight you, because you will all become Buddhas." That was Siddhanta as a cure for arrogance and pride.
4. Siddhanta for the Sake of the Primary Principle. He always held an attitude of never slighting others. That was Siddhanta for the sake of the primary principle.
At that time, when the Buddha had finished the chapter "The Merit and Virtue of a Dharma Master" and was about to begin the chapter "Never-Slighting Bodhisattva," the Buddha told the Bodhisattva Mahasattva Great Strength. When this Bodhisattva moves his hand or takes a step, the earth quakes in six ways. As long as he stays still, nothing happens. But as soon as he moves, even just to take a single step, the world experiences six types of earthquakes. The earthquakes represent the extent of his prowess and might.
The Buddha said to him, "You should know that if someone reviles, abuses, or slanders a Bhikshu, Bhikshuni, Upasaka, or Upasika who receives, upholds, reads, recites, explains, or writes out the Dharma Flower Sutra, he will incur great offense retribution as described above"—which is a monstrous retribution. How great? As big as Mount Sumeru. The meritorious virtues obtained through the purity of the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind gained by the upholder of the Sutra are also as described above. This is as described in the previous chapter. You should be clear that the offenses belong to the one who slanders, and the merit and virtue belong to the one who upholds the Sutra; do not misinterpret the text!
“Great Strength, once limitless, boundless, inconceivable asamkhyeyas of eons ago, there was a Buddha by the name of King of Awesome Sound Thus Come One, One Worthy of Offerings, One of Proper and Pervasive Knowledge, One Perfect in Clarity and Conduct, Well-Gone One, One Who Understands the World, Unsurpassed Lord, Regulating Hero, Teacher of Gods and Humans, Buddha, World Honored One.”
F2. Illustrating retributions for faith and slander in the distant past.
G1. The origins.
H1. The first Buddha.
I1. Period of time.
I2. The Buddha's name.
Great Strength, once limitless, boundless, inconceivable asamkhyeyas of eons ago, there was a Buddha by the name of King of Awesome Sound. "Asamkhyeya" means "uncountable," and so to conceive of the number of eons that have transpired is beyond the power of imagination. "Awesome" means that he had great power. The sound of his voice was such that when he spoke, the three thousand great thousand world system trembled. He had an awesome voice. When he spoke the Dharma, people would on the one hand be afraid and on the other hand really want to listen. Because they were filled with awe and respect, they did not dare disobey the rules, to say nothing of falling asleep during the lectures. They did not even dare move! They would sit and listen to the Sutra lectures as if they were in samadhi, on their best behavior, no goofing around, no fidgeting or being a fussbudget, no nodding off, or any of that. Why were they so attentive? Because of the sound of this Buddha's voice. It was not like when I lecture: I lecture the Sutra, and you sleep. "What did he say? I am kind of fuzzy. It is inconceivable, whatever it was." "Inconceivable" just means you have no idea what I said, because you were sound asleep. If you had heard it, it would also be inconceivable but in a different way. But I am not Awesome-Sound, and so when I speak the Dharma, you fall asleep. If it were Awesome-Sound Buddha lecturing the Dharma, no one would dare fall asleep.
Thus Come One. Riding on the Way which is “Thus”, he “came” to attain Proper Enlightenment. One Worthy of Offerings. A Buddha is worthy of offerings from gods and humans. One of Proper and Pervasive Knowledge. There was nothing he does not know. One Perfect in Clarity and Conduct. His wisdom was full, and his cultivation was perfected. He was called Well-Gone One because he could go to the very best place. One Who Understands the World. In the whole world, he was the one with the greatest understanding. Unsurpassed Lord. No one in the world possessed more knowledge and learning than he did. Regulating Hero, Teacher of Gods and Humans, Buddha. A Buddha has perfected the three kinds of enlightenment and is replete with the myriad virtues. World Honored One. He had the Buddha's ten titles, and so he was called the World Honored One.
“His eon was named ‘Apart From Decay.’ His country was named ‘Great Accomplishment.’”
I3. His eon and his country.
His eon was named "Apart From Decay," apart from all marks of deterioration and all unlucky circumstances.
What was the name of his country? It was not the United States, England, Italy, or Spain. His country was named "Great Accomplishment." Where was it? It was right where it was. If you want to go there, first you have to study the Buddhadharma. When you understand the Buddhadharma, you can go there. You would not have to buy a plane ticket, either.
* * * * * * * * * *
A couple held their wedding here at the Buddhist Lecture Hall today. I remember when my disciple Guo Rong had his wedding here, it nearly influenced one of my left-home disciples to return to lay life. Today maybe there are some lay disciples who will be influenced to leave the home-life. Why? That is an inconceivable state, but it is not too hard to figure out. There is another kind of state, which is that the single men and women will start getting anxious. Either they will think “I should hurry up and do this, too,” or else they will think, “I do not want to do that. I am going to take my time.” There are many different kinds of influences and situations. These are causes planted during the “limitless, boundless asamkhyeyas of eons” mentioned earlier in the Sutra, and they have come to fruition today. These are inconceivable causes and inconceivable fruits. But my telling you this is the same as not telling you.
You should not think there is really some inconceivable state here. Actually it is all very simple, but there were a few flaws. The parents of the bride had their seats, but there was no place for the parents of the groom to sit. That made it seem like the Buddhist Lecture Hall was not being fair. It also made you American monks and nuns look irresponsible and sloppy in the way you do things. I did not know who all the people were, but you all should have known and you did not. I think maybe the parents of the groom were a little upset about not being treated equally. In the future you should pay more attention to these matters. They may be details, but they make a big difference. If we had treated them equally, I am sure they would have been very happy. Some people are thinking, “It is not only the American monks and nuns who were irresponsible, the laypeople were also to blame. The laypeople should also take part of the responsibility for the things that were done wrong.”
“In that world, the Buddha King of Awesome Sound spoke the Dharma for the gods, humans, and asuras. To those who sought to be Hearers, he spoke the Dharma of the Four Truths to take them across birth, old age, sickness, and death to ultimate Nirvana. To those who sought to be Pratyekabuddhas, he spoke the Dharma of the Twelve Causes and Conditions. For the Bodhisattvas, in order to lead them to anuttarasamyaksambodhi, he spoke the Dharma of the Six Paramitas, which culminates in Buddha-wisdom.”
I4. Speaking the Dharma.
In the eon Apart from Decay, in the country called "Great Accomplishment," in that world the Buddha King of Awesome Sound spoke the Dharma for the gods, humans, and asuras. He taught the gods to cultivate the five precepts and the ten good deeds. He taught the asuras to cultivate precepts, samadhi, and wisdom and to put to rest greed, hatred, and stupidity. He did that because asuras do not keep the precepts or cultivate samadhi or wisdom. All they do is indulge in greed, hatred, and stupidity. These three poisons dominate all of their thoughts. They love to indulge in hating and in getting angry. They get greedy for something and then, if they cannot have it, they get mad. Once they get mad, they become foolhardy. Then they go around picking fights with people.
Why are the asuras greedy? Because they are never satisfied. If they do not have something they want, they scheme to get it. Once they've got it, they are afraid they are going to lose it. If they do not get it, they have afflictions. If they do get it, they also have afflictions. Either way, it is trouble, and so they are angry all day long. No matter what happens, they get angry. Once they get angry, they lose their wisdom, and as a result they lose their samadhi and their precepts. For the asuras, then, the Buddha King of Awesome Sound speaks the Dharma, saying, "Cultivate precepts, samadhi and wisdom. Put to rest greed, hatred, and stupidity."
Asuras are those who love to fight. "Asura" is Sanskrit and means "ugly." They are deformed and hideous. Their facial features are all pushed together in their face. This is not the interpenetration of the six sense faculties, either. With the interpenetration of the six faculties, one's eyes can hear, one's ears can see, and so forth. Each faculty has the functions of all six. That ability is gained through cultivation. The asuras' eyes, ears, nose, and tongue are all pushed together into one place. For example, their eyes might be below their nose or their mouths might be in between their nose and eyes. They are so twisted and deformed that you can hardly call them eyes, ears, noses, or mouths.
Asuras are unreasonable, too. When they were people, they always glared and knitted their eyebrows together so that they stood up vertically instead of spreading across horizontally. Then, when they turned into asuras, their facial features all got lumped together. Their appearance is very ugly, and their minds are also ugly. Their hearts are not at all proper or kind. Rotten thoughts run through their hearts all day long. They are always trying to ruin everything. The one they dislike the most is the Jade Emperor—Lord God. When they see him, they are overcome with fits of jealousy. Asuras fight, scold, beat, and kill people all day long. People you see on the street who yell at others, beat, or even kill people—they are all asuras. Thieves are yin asuras; soldiers are yang asuras.
To those who sought to be Hearers, he spoke the Dharma of the Four Truths. What are the Four Truths? They are: suffering, accumulation, extinction, and the Way. Hearers are one of the Two Vehicles. The Two Vehicles are also called the Small Vehicle, because they are satisfied with small accomplishments. They do not care to go forward and seek the Great Vehicle. They obtain certification to the first, second, third, or fourth stage of Arhatship and think that they have finished their work in the Way. They think they do not need to undergo further existence on the wheel of suffering, the wheel of birth and death, and so they do not go forward to seek the Buddha Way. We say that, "Above, they do not pursue the Buddha Way, and below, they do not save living beings." They say, "Why do I need to save living beings? Save yourself! Save your own living beings within yourself." Because they awoke to the Path when they heard the sound of the Buddha's voice, they are called Hearers.
The Buddha taught them the Four Holy Truths, the first of which is suffering. How many kinds of suffering are there? There are limitless sufferings. We also speak of three sufferings and eight sufferings. These are just general categories, however. In reality, there are infinite varieties of suffering. You could never count them all.
"But where does suffering come from?"
Suffering comes from happiness.
"Where does happiness come from?"
Happiness comes from suffering. Without suffering, there is no happiness; without happiness, there is no suffering. So I often say,
To endure suffering is to end suffering.
To enjoy blessings is to diminish one's blessings.
What are the three sufferings? They are:
1. The suffering within suffering
2. The suffering of decay
3. The suffering of process
The first is the suffering within suffering. Originally, let us say someone is poor, but then on top of that he has no home to live in, no food to eat, and no clothes to wear. That is suffering added on to suffering.
"Poor people might suffer, but rich people do not!" you might say.
No, wealthy people also suffer. There is the suffering of decay when you lose what you had. Say, for example, a forest fire roars through an area of exclusive housing in a canyon and burns it to the ground. These people were not suffering from poverty by any means, but now they are poor. That is the suffering of blessings and honor gone bad.
"There is suffering in being poor and in being wealthy. Well, I am neither one, so I am not suffering, right?" you say.
You must also undergo the suffering of process. From a child you grow to be an adult; from adulthood you move onto old age. And you do not quite know how it happened. In thought after thought, there is change and decay. It never stops, like the waves on the sea. Moment by moment, day by day, month by month, year by year, the process continues. There is no way you can stop it. Birth, dwelling, change, and extinction continue ceaselessly. That is the suffering of process—the process of continual change. I can only speak of them in general. I'd never finish if I speak of them in detail.
There are also eight kinds of sufferings:
1. Birth. When people are born, it is like ripping the shell from a live turtle. It hurts! That is why children cry when they are born, they know it is suffering.
2. Old age. Old people know what it is like. Young people have no way of knowing, and they do not understand when you try to tell them. Once they get old and their eyes, ears, and teeth all quit on them, their legs and hands go on strike, then they know. Would you say that was suffering or not? You try to take a walk, and your legs would not move. You try to read something: "Hey, eyes, help me out here!" but your eyes say, "I am too tired." Your ears fall in with your eyes and go deaf. Then your teeth fall out. Your hands shake, so you cannot write. Would you say that was suffering or not? Why does that happen? Because you did not cultivate. The suffering of old age is very democratic; everyone must undergo it.
3. Sickness. Sickness is also very democratic: Everyone gets sick, even the emperor. When the president gets sick, he has to go to the doctor or the hospital. You can be a king or a minister, or any other person of high position, but if you get sick you are going to suffer. Chinese people take herbal medicines, and that is bitter, too. Most people have experienced the suffering of sickness. What everyone has not yet experienced is the suffering of death.
4. Death. Death is like ripping the skin off a live cow: Do you think that hurts or not? It is just as painful when the time comes to die and the four elements return to their source. Can you imagine the cries of a cow if you tried to flay it alive? That is about how much it hurts to die.
5. The suffering of being separated from what you love. This is the fiercest of all. Say you love someone, and because of some special circumstance, that person has to leave you. Perhaps he goes into the army or off on business. Then you really suffer. It is painful but unavoidable.
6. The suffering of being joined with what you hate. You keep running into the very person you just cannot stand. That is very painful, too.
7. The suffering of not getting what you want. You may have hopes and wishes, but somehow you never fulfill them. This is the suffering of not getting what you want. A man might want to find a good wife, or a woman might want to find a good husband, but it is not easy. Perhaps you get to be thirty, forty, or fifty years old, and you still do not find anyone. What misery! Then you feel you have wasted your whole life. In general, not getting what you want is suffering.
"I am not concerned with birth, old age, sickness, or death," you say, "and I do not love or hate anyone. I do not wish for anything. I do not suffer, do I?" you ask.
Hah! Who would have guessed that right within you, the five skandhas are raging. This is:
8. The suffering of the raging blaze of the five skandhas. Form, feeling, thinking, formations, and consciousness—the five skandhas—turn you upside down, and they rage incessantly like a huge conflagration.
Those are the eight sufferings. I would like to lecture them in more detail, but time is not polite, so I have just spoken in general terms.
The second of the Four Truths is accumulation. Accumulation refers to the amassing of afflictions. There are twenty kinds of subsidiary afflictions. There are great afflictions, middle-sized afflictions, and lesser afflictions.
The third of the Four Truths is extinction. Cultivating the Way is the cause of the extinction of all suffering, and extinction is the attainment of the wonderful fruition of Nirvana. And the fourth of the Four Truths is the Way, the path that must be cultivated. The Buddha spoke the Dharma of the Four Truths for the Hearers to take them across birth, old age, sickness, and death to ultimate Nirvana, so that they can ultimately attain the wonderful virtues of Nirvana: permanence, bliss, true self, and purity.
To those who sought to be Pratyekabuddhas, he spoke the Dharma of the Twelve Causes and Conditions. Pratyekabuddha means "enlightened by conditions." Pratyekabuddhas are of two kinds. When the Buddha is in the world, they cultivate the Twelve Causes and Conditions and thereby awaken to the Way. When there is no Buddha is in the world, they cultivate by themselves and reach an awakening on their own, and so they are called Solitary Enlightened Ones.
The Twelve Causes and Conditions are:
1. Ignorance. Ignorance comes from lack of enlightenment. Once there is ignorance, then there is
2. Activity. Once there is activity then there is
3. Consciousness, the discriminating consciousness. Once there is consciousness then there is
4. Name and form. Once there is name and form, then there are
5. Six entrances—the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind. Once there are six entrances then there is
6. Contact. Once there is contact then there is
7. Feeling. With feeling there is
8. Love. Once there is love there is
9. Grasping. Grasping conditions
10. Becoming. Becoming conditions
11. Birth, which conditions
12. Old age and death.
The twelve links come into being in this way. If you reverse the list, you have their progression back into extinction:
1. When ignorance is extinguished,
2. Activity is extinguished. When activity is extinguished,
3. Consciousness is extinguished. When consciousness is extinguished,
4. Name and form are extinguished. When name and form are extinguished,
5. The six entrances are extinguished. When the six entrances are extinguished,
6. Contact is extinguished. When contact is extinguished,
7. Feeling is extinguished. When feeling is extinguished,
8. Love is extinguished. When love is extinguished,
9. Grasping is extinguished. When grasping is extinguished,
10. Becoming is extinguished. When becoming is extinguished,
11. Birth is extinguished. When birth is extinguished,
12. Old age and death are extinguished.
For the Bodhisattvas, in order to lead them to anuttarasamyaksambodhi, he spoke the Dharma of the Six Paramitas, which culminates in Buddha-wisdom. The Buddha King of Awesome Sound taught the Bodhisattvas about giving, morality, patience, vigor, Dhyana samadhi, and wisdom. These six are the Bodhisattva Dharmas of cultivation; they are Dharmas for benefiting yourself and benefiting others, for enlightening yourself and enlightening others.
Why are they called paramitas? Paramita is a Sanskrit word, which means "arrived at the other shore." Cultivating any of these six, you can go from this shore, the shore of birth and death, through the flow of afflictions and arrive at the other shore of Nirvana. The cultivation of these leads to the ultimate wisdom of the Buddha.
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