THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
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The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra

Chapter 23: The Former Deeds of Medicine King Bodhisattva

At that time the Bodhisattva Constellation King Flower spoke to the Buddha saying, “World Honored One, how is it that the Bodhisattva Medicine King roams throughout the Saha world? World Honored One, Medicine King Bodhisattva has undertaken so many hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of nayutas of bitter practices, so difficult to practice.”

“It would be excellent, World Honored One, if you would please explain a bit. All the gods, dragons, yakshas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, kinnaras, mahoragas, humans, non-humans, and so forth, and the Bodhisattvas who have come from other lands, as well as the assembly of Hearers, on hearing it, will rejoice.”

Outline:

C1. Chapter on “Medicine King”—Master of Propagating Dharma.
D1. The question.


Commentary:

This chapter talks about the very bitter and difficult ascetic practices of Medicine King Bodhisattva. These are ascetic practices most people could not perform. He has already been certified to the fruit and become a Bodhisattva. Before, he was not called Medicine King Bodhisattva. He was called the Bodhisattva All Beings Delight in Seeing. When beings saw him they felt happy in their eyes, happy in their ears, happy in their noses, happy in their mouths, happy in their bodies, and, of course, even happier in their minds. Why? It was because this Bodhisattva developed affinities with all living beings and so they all liked to see him. No matter whether they believed in the Buddha or not, they liked to see him. And so he was called the Bodhisattva All Beings Delight in Seeing. When they saw him, their hearts felt happy. Even children loved to see him. Perhaps he always gave them candy. In any case, he never gave the kids hot peppers, so they liked him. Not only did people like him, but all the animals liked him too.

This Bodhisattva used his body as an offering to the Buddha. How did he do this? He did not cut off all his flesh and offer it to the Buddha for a meal, or lie in front of the Buddha on the altar as an offering. He drank a lot of fragrant oil, wrapped his body in oil-soaked cotton, set it on fire, and sat there like a human candle as an offering to the Buddha.

"Did it hurt?" you ask.

I believe it hurt, yes, but he could bear it. He could offer up his body to the Buddha. I also believe it did not hurt. Why not? Because he has already forgotten all about his own body. The light of the wisdom of his self-nature had come forth. He knew that the body is just a false combination of the four elements—earth, air, fire, and water, and so it did not hurt. In general, hurting or not hurting, he could give up his body as an offering to the Buddha. This is a genuine offering to the Buddha with nothing false in it at all. And so the text says, "This is true vigor." To say nothing of burning up our whole bodies, we could not even burn off an arm. Sometimes people burn off one, two, three, four, five or six fingers for the Buddha. But no one has ever burned off an arm.

"Okay, I will try it out," you say.

Do not try it out. First cultivate patience. When you have true samadhi power, you can do something like this. If you do not have true samadhi power, it is going to hurt, and it will be useless because you would not be able to practice true renunciation. Medicine King Bodhisattva practiced such difficult ascetic deeds.

Medicine King Bodhisattva made a vow to cure all living beings of their illnesses. No matter what sickness you have, he wants to help you, because he is very compassionate. His former deeds refer to the actions he cultivated in the past, the ascetic practices he undertook.

At that time the Bodhisattva Constellation King Flower spoke to the Buddha saying, "World Honored One, I heard about Medicine King Bodhisattva in the Shurangama Sutra Assembly, but there are a few things I have not completely understood. How is it that the Bodhisattva Medicine King roams throughout the Saha World? How is it that he has such affinities with the living beings in the Saha World? World Honored One, Medicine King Bodhisattva has undertaken so many hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of nayutas of bitter practices, so difficult to practice. He cures living beings’ illnesses. In past lives he must surely have cultivated many ascetic practices, making vows to save living beings from the pain of sickness. These bitter practices were beyond the capabilities of ordinary people.

It would be excellent, World Honored One, if you would please explain this a bit. You do not have to tell the whole thing; that would take too long. Just give us a general idea. On hearing this, all the gods, dragons, yakshas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, kinnaras, mahoragas, humans, non-humans, and so forth, and the Bodhisattvas who have come from other lands, as well as the assembly of Hearers, will rejoice. They all want to hear about the bitter practices of Medicine King Bodhisattva."

Sutra:

The Buddha then told the Bodhisattva Constellation King Flower “Once, as many eons ago as there are grains of sand in limitless Ganges Rivers, there was a Buddha by the name of Virtue Pure and Bright Like the Sun and Moon, Thus Come One, One Worthy of Offerings, One of Right and Universal Knowledge, One Perfect in Clarity and Conduct, Well Gone One Who Understands the World, Unsurpassed Lord, Regulating Hero, Teacher of Humans and Gods, Buddha, World Honored One. That Buddha had eighty kotis of great Bodhisattvas, Mahasattvas, and a great assembly of Hearers, equal in number to the sand grains in seventy-two Ganges Rivers. His life span as a Buddha was forty-two thousand eons. The life spans of the Bodhisattvas were the same.

In his country there were no women, hell-beings, hungry ghosts, animals, or asuras, and so forth, and also no difficulties. The ground was as level as the palm of one’s hand, made of vaidurya, adorned with jeweled trees, covered with jeweled nets, and hung with beautiful banners. It was surrounded everywhere with precious vases and censers. There were terraces made of the seven gems, one terrace for each tree, the trees being separated from the terraces by a distance of an arrow’s flight. Beneath each tree sat Bodhisattvas and Hearers. Upon each of the terraces were hundreds of kotis of gods playing heavenly music and singing praises to the Buddha as an offering.”

Outline:

D2. The answer.
E1. Answering only about the ascetic practices.
F1. The origins.


Commentary:

Hearing the Bodhisattva Constellation King Flower's question, the Buddha then told the Bodhisattva Constellation King Flower, "Once, as many eons ago as there are grains of sand in limitless Ganges Rivers, there was a Buddha by the name of Virtue Pure and Bright Like the Sun and Moon, Thus Come One, One Worthy of Offerings, One of Right and Universal Knowledge, One Perfect in Clarity and Conduct, Well Gone One Who Understands the World, Unsurpassed Lord, Regulating Hero, Teacher of Humans and Gods, Buddha, World Honored One.

That Buddha had eighty kotis of great Bodhisattvas, Mahasattvas whom he had taught and transformed. And a great assembly of Hearers, equal in number to the sand grains in seventy-two Ganges Rivers. His life span as a Buddha was forty-two thousand eons. The life spans of the Bodhisattvas were the same. In his country there were no women, because all the living beings were born purely from lotus flowers, with pure bodies. Nor were there any hell-beings, hungry ghosts, animals, or asuras, who love to fight, and so forth, referring to the others of the eightfold division.

And also there were no difficulties--none of the eight difficulties. The ground was as level as the palm of one's hand. Why was the ground level? Because the people's hearts were level. When people's hearts are not level, there are mountains, valleys, ravines, and seas, and rivers. It is people's minds that create these things. If people's minds are level, then the earth is perfectly flat. It was made of vaidurya, and adorned with jeweled trees, covered with jeweled nets, and hung with beautiful banners. It was surrounded everywhere with precious vases and censers. There were magnificent terraces made of the seven gems, one terrace for each tree, the trees being separated from the terraces by a distance of an arrow's flight. Beneath each tree sat Bodhisattvas and Hearers. Upon each of the terraces were hundreds of kotis of gods playing heavenly music and singing praises to the Buddha as an offering, just as we sing the “Incense Praise” and other songs to the Buddha.

Sutra:

At that time, that Buddha, for the sake of the Bodhisattva All Beings Delight in Seeing, as well as for the host of Bodhisattvas and the host of Hearers, spoke the Dharma Flower Sutra.

Outline:

F2. Past affairs.
G1. The Buddha speaks the Dharma.


Commentary:

At that time, that Buddha, Virtue Pure and Bright Like the Sun and Moon, for the sake of the Bodhisattva All Beings Delight in Seeing, as well as for the host of Bodhisattvas and the host of great Hearers, spoke the Dharma Flower Sutra.

Sutra:

The Bodhisattva All Beings Delight in Seeing enjoyed practicing ascetic practices. Within the Dharma of the Buddha Virtue Pure and Bright Like the Sun and Moon, he applied himself with vigor, single-mindedly seeking Buddhahood for a full twelve thousand years. He then obtained the samadhi of the manifestation of all physical forms.

Outline:

G2. Cultivating offerings.
H1. Offerings in the present life.
I1. Cultivating and obtaining the Dharma.


Commentary:

The Bodhisattva All Beings Delight in Seeing enjoyed practicing ascetic practices. Within the Dharma of the Buddha Virtue Pure and Bright Like the Sun and Moon, he applied himself with vigor. He was very vigorous and cultivated hard, single-mindedly seeking Buddhahood for a full twelve thousand years. So you have cultivated for two and a half years. How does that compare? From this passage we can see that one does not succeed in one's cultivation of the Bodhisattva path in a mere one or two years. He then obtained the samadhi of the manifestation of all physical forms. This means he could turn himself into all kinds of living beings in order to teach those kinds of being. To save a person, he could turn himself into a person. Seeing a dog, he could turn himself into a dog. He could manifest in the body of any kind of living being. That was the kind of concentration power he obtained.

To save evil people, he would turn into an evil person. To save a good person, he would turn into a good person. He could turn into any kind of living being in order to teach it. If you want to do evil, he will turn into an evildoer to save you. After the evil deeds are done, he will say, "This is not so great. Let us change from the evil and go towards the good." He will save you in that way. If he were entirely different, he would not be able to save that being. So if Chinese people want to save Americans, they should get reborn as Americans! A lot of you have done just, but you do not know about it.

Sutra:

Having obtained this samadhi, his heart rejoiced greatly and he immediately thought, “I have obtained the samadhi of the manifestation of all physical forms. This is through the power of having heard the Dharma Flower Sutra. I should now make an offering to the Buddha Virtue Pure and Bright Like the Sun and Moon, and to the Dharma Flower Sutra.”

He then entered that Samadhi, and as an offering to the Buddha, he rained down mandarava flowers and mahamandarava flowers from space. Finely ground, hard, black chandana also filled the sky and descended like clouds. And there rained the incense of ‘this shore’ chandana, six karshas of which are worth the entire Saha world, as an offering to the Buddha.

Outline:

I2. Thinking to repay the Buddha’s kindness.
J1. The power of Samadhi and the offering.


Commentary:

Having obtained this samadhi, his heart rejoiced greatly, and he immediately thought, "I have obtained the samadhi of the manifestation of all physical forms. I can appear in any form at all! This is through the power of having heard the Dharma Flower Sutra. It is all because the Buddha spoke the Dharma Flower Sutra that I have such spiritual powers. I should now make an offering to the Buddha Virtue Pure and Bright Like the Sun and Moon, and to the Dharma Flower Sutra.

He then entered that samadhi and as an offering to the Buddha, he rained down mandarava flowers and mahamandarava flowers—little white flowers and big white flowers—from space. Finely ground, hard, black chandana also filled the sky and descended like clouds. And there rained down the incense of 'this shore' chandana, that is, chandana from Jambudvipa, sixkarshas of which are worth the entire Saha world. Karsha” is a Sanskrit term of measurement. Six small pieces, in another word, are worth the entire Saha world. All of these were by way of making an offering to the Buddha Virtue Pure and Bright Like the Sun and Moon.

Sutra:

Having made this offering, he arose from samadhi. He thought to himself, “Although by means of spiritual powers I have made this offering to the Buddha, it is not as good as offering my body.” He then swallowed incense of many kinds, chandana, kunduruka, turushka, prikka, aloeswood, and resin incense. He also drank the oil of champaka and other flowers, for a full twelve hundred years. He smeared himself with fragrant oil, and in the presence of the Buddha Virtue Pure and Bright Like the Sun and Moon, he wrapped himself in heavenly jeweled robes and poured fragrant oil over himself. Then by means of spiritual penetration power and vows, he burned his own body. The light shone everywhere throughout worlds in number to the grains of sand in eighty kotis of Ganges Rivers.

Outline:

J2. Burning his body as an offering.
K1. Burning his body.

Commentary:

Having made this offering he, the Bodhisattva All beings Delight in Seeing, arose from samadhi. Basically one does not enter or leave samadhi. So why does the text say "arose"? It is because this samadhi was a state the Bodhisattva had attained. In this state there was no entering or leaving, but because he made an offering, he thought to himself, "Although, by means of spiritual powers I have made this offering to the Buddha, using the inconceivably wonderful power of spiritual penetrations, it is not as good as offering my body, my physical body. That would be even more true-hearted of me." He then swallowed incense of many kinds--chandana, kunduruka, turushka [olibanum], which means “white couch grass incense”, prikka, "clove incense"; very fragrant aloeswood, and resin incense which resembles glue and is also called “pine incense”.

He also drank the oil of champaka, of yellow flowers and other flowers for a full twelve hundred years. He then smeared himself with fragrant oil, and in the presence of the Buddha Virtue Pure and Bright Like the Sun and Moon, he wrapped himself in heavenly jeweled robes, made of the finest and most delicate material. He poured fragrant oil over himself. Then by means of spiritual penetration power and vows, he used the true fire of his samadhi to light himself on fire and burned his own body. The light shone everywhere throughout worlds in number to the grains of sand in eighty kotis Ganges Rivers. All the Buddhas witnessed his offering.

Sutra:

Within them all, the Buddhas simultaneously praised him, saying, “Good indeed! Good indeed! Good man, this is true vigor. This is called a true Dharma offering to the Thus Come One. Offerings of flowers, incense, beads, burning incense, ground incense, paste incense, heavenly cloth, banners, canopies, ‘this shore’ chandana incense, and all such offerings of various kinds, cannot come up to it. If one gave away one’s countries, cities, wives and children, that also could not match it. Good man, this is called foremost giving. Among all gifts, it is the most honored and most supreme, because it is an offering of Dharma to the Thus Come Ones.” Having uttered these words, they became silent.

Outline:

K2. The Buddhas’ praise.


Commentary:

Within them all, the Buddhas simultaneously praised him. All the Buddhas in worlds equal in number to the grains of sand in eighty kotis of Ganges Rivers praised him, saying, "Good indeed! Good indeed! Really good. Good man, this is true vigor. You are truly vigorous--vigorous in body and in mind. This is called a true Dharma offering to the Thus Come One."

When Great Master Zhi Zhe, third Patriarch of the Tiantai School, reached this sentence of text in his recitation, he entered samadhi. He obtained the dharani of a single revolution, which enabled him to understand all of the Sutras in a very short space of time. At that time he saw that the Magic Mountain Dharma Assembly was still in progress. Shakyamuni Buddha was still present on Vulture Peak speaking the Dharma Flower Sutra.

The Buddhas said that to offer one's body to the Buddhas is a true Dharma offering. Someone might say, "How can you say that to offer one's body is true vigor and a true Dharma offering? Even though he ate a lot of incense and fragrant oils, and smeared himself with scented oil, still this physical, flesh body, no matter how much it is submerged in fragrant oil, when set on fire, is going to stink. How could all the Buddhas like a stench like that and even praise him for it?"

The Buddhas did not like the stench. They were pleased with his true mind. In order to make an offering like that, you have got to have a perfectly true heart and be able to truly put it all down. One must have seen through the body as being empty and obtained non-obstruction. Having seen it as empty, one must then see through that very emptiness as empty. This is the attainment of great liberation. Having obtained great liberation is an ultimate kind of offering. This is a true Dharma offering, true vigor. You should not make the mistake of thinking the Buddha likes burned bodies as offerings. That is not it at all. The Buddhas praise him because he could see through it, and put down his body, that thing that cannot be put down. This is a true Dharma offering to the Thus Come One.

Offerings of flowers, incense, beads, burning incense, ground incense, paste incense, heavenly cloth, banners, canopies, 'this shore' chandana incense, and all other such offerings of various kinds cannot come up to it. Such offerings in no way compare with the merit and virtue gained from offering one's body. If one gave away one's countries, cities, outer wealth, wives and children, that also could not match it. In no way could it match the offering of your own body. This is truly great merit. Good man, this is called foremost giving--the very best kind. Among all gifts, it is the most honored and most supreme because it is an offering of Dharma to the Thus Come Ones. It is a causal condition for the accomplishment of your Dharma body.

Having uttered these words, they become silent. Nobody said a word.

Sutra:

His body burned for twelve hundred years, after which time it was consumed.

Outline:

K3. The length of time his body burned.


Commentary:

When the Bodhisattva All Beings Delight in Seeing, after eating incense and fragrant oils, consumed himself with the true fire of samadhi, which came about from the wonderful functioning of spiritual power, his body burned for twelve hundred years, after which time it was consumed.

Sutra:

When the Bodhisattva All Beings Delight in Seeing had made this Dharma offering and his life had come to an end, he was born again. In the country of the Buddha Virtue Pure and Bright Like the Sun and Moon, in the household of the King Pure Virtue, he was born suddenly by transformation, seated in full lotus.

Outline:

H2. Offerings in his next life.
I1. Born in the king’s household.


Commentary:

When the Bodhisattva All Beings Delight in Seeing had made this Dharma offering and his life had come to an end, naturally he died. Then he was born again in the country of the Buddha Virtue Pure and Bright Like the Sun and Moon, in the household of the King Pure Virtue. He was born suddenly by transformation, seated in full lotus. Suddenly he was there, a little child.

Sutra:

He immediately spoke this verse to his father:

“Your majesty, you should now know:
I, cultivating in that place,
All at once attained
The samadhi of the manifestation of all forms.

Diligently practicing great vigor,
I renounced the body I cherished,
As an offering to the World Honored One,
In order to seek supreme wisdom.”

Having spoken this verse, he said to his father, “The Buddha Virtue Pure and Bright Like the Sun and Moon is still present from of old. Formerly, after making an offering to that Buddha, I gained the dharani of understanding the speech of all living beings. I further heard the Dharma Flower Sutra with its eight hundred thousand myriads of kotis of nayutas of kankaras, vivaras, akshobhyas and so forth of verses. Great King, I should now return and make offerings to this Buddha.”

Outline:

I2. Telling of his past deeds.


Commentary:

He immediately spoke this verse to his father. If he was born by transformation, why did he have a father? He was born into the King's house, and so he took him as his father. Actually, those born by transformation have neither father nor mother.

Your majesty, you should now know: I, cultivating in that place, in the presence of the Buddha Virtue Pure and Bright Like the Sun and Moon, all at once attained by cultivating the doctrines of the Dharma Flower Sutra, the samadhi of the manifestation of all forms. In this Samadhi I could manifest in any kind of body. Diligently practicing great vigor, I renounced the body I cherished--I burned it. I did this as an offering to the World Honored One, in order to seek supreme wisdom. I was seeking the Buddha's wisdom.

Having spoken this verse, he said to his father, "The Buddha Virtue Pure and Bright Like the Sun and Moon is still present from of old. Formerly, after making an offering to that Buddha, I gained the dharani of understanding the speech of all living beings. I could understand all the languages of living beings without even studying them. I further heard the Dharma Flower Sutra with its eight hundred thousand myriads of kotis of nayutas of kankaras, vivaras, akshobhyas and forth, of verses. The Sanskrit words here refer to large units of measurement, of which there are fifty-two in Sanskrit. Kankara is the sixteenth large number. Vivara is the eighteenth number. Akshobhya is the twentieth number. "And so forth" refers to the rest of the units of measurement. Great King, I should now return and make offerings to this Buddha. It is time for me to go back and make offerings to the Buddha Virtue Pure and Bright Like the Sun and Moon."

Sutra:


Just then he sat on a platform made of the seven treasures, rose up into space to the height of seven tala trees, went into the Buddha’s presence, bowed with his head at the Buddha’s feet, placed his ten fingers together, and spoke this verse in praise of the Buddha:

“How amazing and rare the countenance,
With its light shining in ten directions!
I formerly made offerings
To you to whom I now behold once again.”

When the Bodhisattva All Beings Delight in Seeing had spoken this verse, he then spoke to the Buddha saying, “World Honored One! World Honored one! You are still in the world!”

Outline:

I3. Going to the Buddha’s place.

Commentary:

When he had finished speaking with his father, just then he sat on a platform made of the seven treasures, and rose up into space to the height of seven tala trees. One tala tree is about seven feet tall, so that was about forty-nine or fifty feet in the air. He went into the Buddha's presence, bowed with his head at the Buddha's feet, placed his ten fingers together, and spoke this verse in praise of the Buddha:

How amazing and rare the countenance, with its light shining in the ten directions! I formerly made offerings to you whom I now behold once again.


"O Buddha! With your thirty-two marks and eighty subsidiary characteristics, your appearance is extremely fine. Before, when I was the Bodhisattva All Beings Delight in Seeing, I made offerings to you." After he burned his body as an offering, he was reborn and met the Buddha again.

When the Bodhisattva All Beings Delight in Seeing had spoken this verse, he then spoke to the Buddha saying, “World Honored One! World Honored one! You are still in the world!” The Bodhisattva was extremely happy that he could see the Buddha in a second lifetime. He felt as happy as someone who sees his parents again after being apart from them for a long time. That was why he called out the Buddha’s title twice.

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