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The Universal Door of Gwanshiyin Bodhisattva
(The Bodhisattva Who Contemplates the Sounds of the World)
Asuras are the ugly ones who love to fight. One of my disciples knows his dog is an asura. Many dogs are asuras. Horses can be asuras, too. The feisty horses, or mavericks, who like to make trouble in the herd are asuras.
Bulls are asuras out front. Look at the horns on their heads, put there just to fight! Bulls are asuras who used to wear iron helmets. When they got reborn as animals, they remembered they had those weapons on their heads, and so they end up with two horns. Chickens and roosters can also be asuras. The roosters are always fighting with each other.
Some insects, such as crickets, who fight to death with each other are asuras. During the Song dynasty, it was very popular to stage cricket fights. People would bet on them. Any other animals who like to fight--such as snakes, mice, cats, and so forth--are asuras.
Asura is a Sanskrit word and means "ugly." Asuras are hideous. Their lips are as big as a pig's. Their noses are as long as an elephant's. They have eyes like oxen, and little ears like mice. They are ugly. Perhaps they have a person's body and a pig's head, or a person's body and an ox's head, or a horse's head, or a tiger's head. But, while the male asuras are very ugly, the female asuras are very beautiful.
As I have told you many times before, the asura king had a beautiful daughter named Shachi to whom the Jade Emperor became engaged. Why did he want to marry her? The Jade Emperor still has a body with thoughts of desire. Because he has not severed thoughts of sexual desire, he likes beautiful women. One day, catching sight of the beautiful asura girl, he became enamored of her and asked the asura king for his daughter's hand in marriage.
After they were married, the Jade Emperor liked to listen to an immortal speak Dharma. Because he went to the lectures every day, the asura girl soon grew suspicious. "He goes out every day and never gets home until late at night. Most likely he is out playing around with other women."
Finally, she confronted him, "Just where did you go every day? You would not be conducting some improper business on the side, would you?"
"No," said the Jade Emperor. "I go to the lectures on the Sutras every day and that is why I am always home late. You should not be suspicious."
The asura girl, not believing he was going to the Sutra lectures, decided he must certainly be up to no good. She asked to go along, but the Jade Emperor would not allow it. Now, she had a certain amount of spiritual power and was able to make herself invisible.
So, one day when as usual, the Jade Emperor got in his chariot and headed for the lecture, the asura girl made herself invisible and rode along. Upon arriving, the Jade Emperor got out of the chariot and so did the asura girl. Then, she materialized.
"What are you doing here?" asked the surprised Jade Emperor.
"I have come to see what you are up to. I don’t really believe you are coming to listen to Dharma?" she retorted.
The Jade Emperor, in a fury, picked up his cane and struck his wife. The asura girl let out a shriek, and guess what happened? The immortal, who had never heard the sound of a woman’s voice before, was so enchanted by the asura girl’s lovely voice that he gave rise to thoughts of desire and could not continue speaking Dharma.
The Jade Emperor was even more enraged, and he scolded his wife roundly. This so infuriated the asura girl that she went directly to her father.
Previously, when the Jade Emperor was about to be married, he had invited the asura king to a heavenly banquet. After the meal was over, as a gesture of respect to his new father-in-law, he sent out his generals and troops to see him off. However, the asura king felt intimidated and was displeased at the Jade Emperor's show of power. Now his daughter returned with the report that the Jade Emperor was not following the rules at all.
"Every day he goes out with other women," the asura girl said. "And today, when I tried to talk to him about it, he struck me!"
At this, the asura king became enraged. “No wonder he tried to intimidate me at the banquet. He really has no respect for me or my daughter.” Then he mobilized the asura troops against the Jade Emperor.
Strangely enough, the Jade Emperor lost battle after battle and could find no way to overcome the asura king. Finally, he had no recourse but to ask the Buddha for help. The Buddha told him to instruct his troops all to recite "Maha prajna paramita!" As they went into battle, they recited the phrase--"Maha prajna paramita!"—and the asuras lost battle after battle until they were completely vanquished. That was the story of the asuras and the heavenly troops.
Now, the asuras have come into the world, and so there is fighting and conflict everywhere. Anyone who has a bad temper can turn into an asura, or perhaps even be one right now. If you can change your temper and cultivate patience, you can stay out of the path of asuras.
Garudas are the great gold-winged peng birds who formerly ate dragons; but now, thanks to the Buddha, they are vegetarians. They have a wingspan of 360 great yojanas. With one flap of their wings, they can dry up the seas and expose the dragons at the bottom. When they had eaten nearly all of the dragons, the dragon king went to ask the Buddha for help. The Buddha gave the dragon king a piece of his Kashaya sash, and he distributed one thread of it to each dragon. Due to the inconceivable, wonder functioning of the sash, the dragons were safe from their predators, the gold-winged peng birds. But then the peng birds complained to the Buddha, “Buddha, you have saved the dragons, but what about us? We live on a diet of dragons, and if we cannot eat them we will starve.”
The Buddha told the peng birds that they had to keep the precept of not killing.
“Not killing is all very well and good, but if we do not eat dragons, we will starve.”
“Do not worry,” said the Buddha. Every day when my disciples eat, they will send out some food for you.” And so we now have the custom of reciting the offering mantra before lunch and sending out a bit of food to feed the peng birds. They keep the Five Precepts and are one of the eight divisions of Dharma protectors. The garuda bird is a Dharma protector for Shakyamuni Buddha. It is often depicted as perching on top of the Buddha’s head.
As to food and drink, in Buddhism, the morning is the time when the gods eat. The Buddha eats only at noontime. Animals eat in the afternoon, and ghosts eat at night.
Now, ghosts basically can never find food to eat. They watch people eating and they try to snatch some of the food. When they hear the clatter of plates and silverware, they come running to steal food. But when the food enters their mouths, it turns into fire. This happens because their karmic retribution is so heavy that they cannot eat food. They mistakenly think that people use some kind of magic on the food and make it turn into fire, and so they get angry at people and fight with them or make them sick. That is why left-home people do not eat at night.
Since the gods eat in the morning, when left-home people eat breakfast, they send out some food for the gods. They also send out food for the ghost mother and her children.
This rakshasa ghost mother used to eat human children. Why was she called "ghost mother?" Because she had one thousand ghost children. She always led her own children to places where they could steal children to eat. They specialized in eating newborn children. As soon as a child was born, the ghost mother and her ghost children would devour it. This circumstance brought the great grief of lost children for many families. The families then went to the Buddha and asked for help.
The Buddha knew that the ghost mother was eating all the newborn children. So he took the thousandth one of the ghost mother’s children, her youngest one, and kept it in his bowl.
Upon returning home, the ghost mother discovered that her littlest child was missing. She went everywhere looking for him, but to no avail. “Where did he go?” she wondered. When she passed by the Buddha's place, she listened and heard her child crying. She then figured out that her little baby ghost was stuck underneath the Buddha's bowl. Without hesitation, she tried to seize the bowl to save her child, but no matter how hard she had tried, she could not budge it. Finally, she went back and got her other nine hundred and ninety-nine children, and all of them tried to use their ghostly penetrations to move the bowl. But still it could not be budged.
Then they all went to negotiate with the Buddha. "Buddha, why have you taken my little baby away and put him under your bowl? You are not being very compassionate, are you?" the mother ghost cleverly said.
The Buddha asked, “How many children do you have?”
“I have one thousand children,” she replied.
The Buddha said, “Among your one thousand children, you are missing only one child. Why are you so worried?”
“But I cannot bear to lose even a single son!” she cried.
The Buddha said, “You have eaten so many human children. How do you explain that?”
“Basically, I do not want to eat children. But I have nothing to eat. If I do not steal human children to eat, my children and I will starve to death.”
The Buddha then told the ghost mother, “You are so frantic simply because I have put one of your sons under my bowl. How do you think the human mothers feel when you eat their children? From now on, you must not steal any more children to eat. You should take refuge with the Triple Jewel and uphold the Five Precepts.” The ghost mother relented and did as the Buddha said.
Then Shakyamuni Buddha told all his disciples to send out a portion of their food—maybe a few grains of rice—everyday for the ghost mother to eat, and to recite this verse:
To the great golden-winged peng bird,
The multitudes of ghosts and spirits in the desolate wilds,
And the rakshasa ghost mother and her children:
May you all be filled with sweet dew!
Sweet dew represents food that tastes very sweet and delicious. No matter how many beings there are, they can all get their fill. Thus the food offerings sent out in the morning and at noon are for the golden-winged peng bird, the multitudes of ghosts and spirits, and the ghost mother and her children.
Kinnaras are also musical spirits. They look like people except that they have single horn on their head and it is sometimes doubtful whether they are spirits or people. Kinnara means "doubtful spirit."
Mahoragas are big snakes. They are not skinny like most snakes; they are very fat. Natives of Guangdong Province eat the flesh of these snakes. But then again, sometimes the snakes eat people. People eat them, so they eat people.
During the time of Emperor Wu of the Liang dynasty, the Emperor's wife was called Madame Xi. Emperor Wu believed in Buddha and the Triple Jewel, but his wife was quite adamant in her disbelief, and she also had a vicious and jealous temperament. Because of her jealous nature and her disbelief in the Triple Jewel, after she died, she fell into the body of one of these snakes.
This snake could speak, and it addressed the Emperor, asking him to save it. "Do you know who I am? I am your wife. But because I did not believe in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, and because I did not revere the Triple Jewel, I fell into the body of a big snake."
Hearing this, the Emperor sent for Dhyana Master Zhi Gong to save her. While she was alive, the Emperor's wife could not get along with Dhyana Master Zhi Gong. But when he came to save her, she bowed to him and repented. Dhyana Master Zhi Gong then wrote the Repentance of the Emperor of Liang. He and other eminent monks bowed this repentance and crossed over the Emperor's wife. Because of it, the Emperor's wife cast off the snake body and was reborn in the heavens.
When the Buddha was in the world, the mahoragas took refuge with the Triple Jewel and so they are also Dharma protectors within the Buddhadharma.
“Non-human” refers to all kinds of animals.
If living beings must be saved in any one of the bodies mentioned above, Guanshiyin Bodhisattva will manifest in such a body and speak Dharma for them. He contemplates all the gods, dragons, and the eightfold division and manifests in the appropriate body to save them.
If they must be saved by someone in the body of a Vajra-wielding spirit, he will manifest in the body of a Vajra-wielding spirit and speak Dharma for them. The Vajra-weilding spirits are Dharma protectors.
Long ago, there was a wheel-turning sage king who had a thousand sons by his first wife. How could one woman have a thousand sons? She had a very long life. However, he was not satisfied with one thousand sons, and so he took another wife and had two sons by her.
The thousand sons made a vow, saying, "We are going to cultivate and become Buddhas. We do not even want to be wheel-turning kings. We will do it in order, and will draw straws." When they drew straw, Shakyamuni Buddha came up with number four, and so he was the fourth to become a Buddha. In the future there will be a fifth and a sixth Buddha. Now we are in the eon called "Worthy." The thousand princes from of old are to appear as the thousand Buddhas in this eon. Shakyamuni Buddha is the fourth Buddha in the Worthy Eon.
The two sons of the king's second wife also made vows. One of them vowed, "When each of our thousand older brothers becomes a Buddha, no matter in what order, I will be the first to go and request that he speak Dharma."
The second brother said, "You are going to request the Buddha to speak Dharma. I am going to make a vow to be a Dharma protector. Whenever one of my brothers becomes a Buddha, I shall go protect him." Thus, the Vajra-wielding spirit is just the son who made a vow to be a Dharma protector long, long ago, before the Worthy Eon.
“Inexhaustible Intention! Guanshiyin Bodhisattva has accomplished merit and virtue such as this and, in all manner of forms, roams throughout the land, saving and liberating living beings.”
I2. General answer.
Shakyamuni Buddha finished telling about the various transformation bodies of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva and said, "Inexhaustible Intention! Guanshiyin Bodhisattva has accomplished merit and virtue such as this, and in all manner of forms, as mentioned above, roams throughout the land, saving and liberating living beings."
“Therefore you should all single-mindedly make offerings to Guanshiyin Bodhisattva. Guanshiyin Bodhisattva Mahasattva can, in the midst of fear, crisis, and hardship, bestow fearlessness. That is why in this Saha world, all call him the “Bestower of Fearlessness.”
I3. Encouragement to make offerings.
Therefore you should all single-mindedly make offerings to Guanshiyin Bodhisattva. Do not have "two minds," that is, do not have doubts. “One mind” means one mind of faith. If you have doubts, there is no merit and virtue, and no response. You should make offerings to Guanshiyin Bodhisattva with one heart. Guanshiyin Bodhisattva Mahasattva can, in the midst of fear, crisis, and hardship, bestow fearlessness. That is why in this Saha world, all call him the "Bestower of Fearlessness." He can remove all of your anxiety and distress.
The ninth day of the next month is one of Guanyin Bodhisattva’s anniversaries. He has three anniversaries each year: the anniversary of leaving the home-life, the anniversary of accomplishing the Way, and the anniversary of birth. On those days, everyone should create merit and virtue.
The entire Dharma Flower Sutra has seven rolls and over sixty thousand sentences. It is one of the most important Sutras in Buddhism. It is the Sutra for becoming a Buddha. You should contact all your relatives and friends and let them know about the lecture series. In America there are very, very few places where you can hear Sutras expounded according to the orthodox tradition. So we should pass the word around and write letters and generally let people know about the lecture series. By letting more people know about the Buddhadharma, you are protecting and supporting Buddhism. If you influence them to come to the lectures, you create the greatest merit and virtue. When they come and listen, they study the Buddhadharma and then have a chance to become Buddhas. When they become Buddhas, they will be Buddhas you “created.” If you can “create” Buddhas, you certainly do not have to worry about whether you will become a Buddha yourself.
Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, I shall now make an offering to Guanshiyin Bodhisattva.” He then removed his necklace of pearls, its value in the hundreds of thousands of ounces of gold, and offered it to the Bodhisattva, saying, “Humane One, accept this Dharma offering, this necklace of precious pearls.”
J2. Receiving a command.
K1. The offering.
Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva said to the Buddha, "World Honored One, I shall now make an offering to Guanshiyin Bodhisattva." Having heard the Buddha encourage all beings to make offerings to Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva decided to do just that. Even though Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva himself had already become a Bodhisattva, on hearing about Guanshiyin Bodhisattva's great merit, virtue, and awesome spiritual power, he still wished to make an offering, so as to nurture his own blessings.
He then removed his necklace of pearls, its value in the hundreds of thousands of ounces of gold, and offered it to the Bodhisattva immediately, without thinking twice. The beads were made out of the most expensive gems.
Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva presented the necklace to Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, saying, "Humane One, accept this Dharma offering, this necklace of precious pearls." "Humane One" is a title used among Bodhisattvas when speaking to each other.
Now, jewels basically are an offering of wealth. But why does Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva speak of it as an offering of Dharma? There are three kinds of giving: the giving of wealth, the giving of Dharma, and the giving of fearlessness. In making this offering, Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva did not consider his gift as worth a great deal of money. He just wanted to present the necklace to Guanshiyin Bodhisattva.
Why does the text say that its value was in the hundreds of thousands of ounces of gold? This was added by Venerable Ananda when he compiled the Sutra. Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva himself certainly did not mention that the necklace was worth so much money. He wanted to make an offering to Guanshiyin Bodhisattva and this necklace was something he liked. He gave it away as a token of his respect, to show that there was no notion of personal wealth between the two Bodhisattvas. Thus, although the necklace would appear to be a gift of wealth, it was given in the spirit of a gift of Dharma. This was sealing the mind by means of the mind.
Guanshiyin Bodhisattva refused to accept it.
Guanshiyin Bodhisattva refused to accept it. Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva had offered a valuable necklace to Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, but the latter refused to accept it. Why? Because Guanshiyin Bodhisattva had come to the Dharma Flower assembly to hear the Buddha speak the Dharma Flower Sutra, and as he had not received the Buddha's permission to accept offerings, he was polite and refused the offering.
Besides which, Guanshiyin Bodhisattva did not have any greed for such things. He would not say, "What a valuable necklace! I had better take it while I have the chance." To Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, there is no giver, nothing given, and no receiver. Offerings or no offerings, he sees them all as the same.
Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva had merit and virtue, but Guanshiyin Bodhisattva would not accept the gift.
Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva again said to Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, “Humane One, out of pity for us, accept this necklace.”
K3. Repeating the offering.
Seeing Guanshiyin Bodhisattva refuse the offering, Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva again said to Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, "Humane One, out of pity for us, accept this necklace." He was not half-hearted about it, like most people. Most people would just say, "Okay, if you do not want it, I will not insist. I will take it back."
No, instead, Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva got nervous and repeated his request. He said, "Greatly Compassionate and Humane Bodhisattva, please pity me, Inexhaustible Intention, and all the four assemblies of disciples. I want to make offerings to you, Humane One, on behalf of the fourfold assembly and all living beings. I am representing living beings in making this offering to you. I beg you to have pity on living beings and accept this offering."
The Buddha then told Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, “You should take pity on Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva and the fourfold assembly, as well as the gods, dragons, yakshas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, kinnaras, mahoragas, humans, non-humans, and so forth, and accept this necklace.”
K4. The Buddha’s encouragement.
Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva had made it clear that he was determined to make his offering, and Guanshiyin Bodhisattva had made it clear that he was determined not to accept it. "I do not want such a nice thing. I do not have any virtue. You keep it," he said. Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva started bowing and begging him to accept it.
Well, just at this impasse, Shakyamuni Buddha stepped in to intervene and present a solution. He, the Buddha, then told Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, "You should take pity on Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva, the fourfold assembly, as well as the gods, dragons, yakshas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, kinnaras, mahoragas, humans, non-humans, and so forth and accept this necklace. Since they have brought forth their true minds to present you with this gift, you should not refuse their offering."
Then, out of pity for the fourfold assembly, the gods, dragons, humans, non-humans, and so forth, Guanshiyin Bodhisattva accepted the necklace. He divided it into two parts: one part he offered to Shakyamuni Buddha and the other to the stupa of Many Jewels Buddha.
K5. Accepting it and giving it away.
Then, out of pity for the fourfold assembly--Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Upasakas, Upasikas--the gods, dragons, humans, non-humans, and so forth, Guanshiyin Bodhisattva accepted the necklace. He accepted it, but then offered it up right away. He divided it into two parts: one part he offered to Shakyamuni Buddha and the other to the stupa of Many Jewels Buddha. No wonder Guanshiyin is a Bodhisattva. Such a valuable thing, and he did not want it. Ah! He accepted his offering and immediately transferred his gift to Shakyamuni Buddha and Many Jewels Buddha.
Many Jewels Buddha became a Buddha measureless eons ago. He vowed that after any person became a Buddha, and then spoke the Dharma Flower Sutra, he would rise up out of the earth into space and go to that place to certify the Dharma Flower Sutra as the most perfect of Sutras.
Shakyamuni Buddha spoke the Avatamsaka, Agama, Vaipulya, and Prajna teachings. When he was about to speak the Dharma Flower Sutra, Many Jewels Buddha emerged to certify it. Now, Guanshiyin Bodhisattva gives half of the necklace as an offering to Many Jewels Buddha.