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

Chapter 25: The Universal Door of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva
(The Bodhisattva Who Contemplates the Sounds of the World)

Sutra:

True Contemplator, Pure Contemplator,
Contemplator with Vast, Great Wisdom,
Compassionate Contemplator, Kind Contemplator,
May we constantly behold you with reverence!

Outline:

K2. Universal contemplation with mind karma.

Commentary:

True Contemplator, Pure Contemplator. True Contemplation is the Contemplation of True Emptiness. True Emptiness is no self, no others, no living beings, and no life span. There is no appearance of self, no appearance of others, no appearance of living beings, and no appearance of a life span. However, "no appearance" is not apart from appearance; this just means that right within the appearance itself, there is no appearance. Within the appearance of self, there is no appearance of self; within the appearance of others, there is no appearance of others; within the appearance of living beings, there is no appearance of living beings; within the appearance of a life span, there is no appearance of a life span.

There is a saying that goes,

The eyes see form, but inside there is nothing;
The ears hear defiling sounds, but the mind does not know.

It is perfectly clear that shape and form exist, and your eyes see them, so why do we say that inside there is nothing? It is because there is no attachment.

The Contemplation of True Emptiness is just likened to a great, perfect mirror. When things appear before a great and perfect mirror, they are reflected in it; when they leave, no trace is left. This is the Contemplation of True Emptiness practiced by Guanyin Bodhisattva.

Pure Contemplation is the Contemplation of Purity. Purity is the opposite of defilement. What is defilement? Anything you are attached to is a defiled thing. Anything that you have fond regard for is a defiled thing. Anything that you are greedy for is a defiled thing.

Within the Contemplation of Purity, there is no greed, hatred, or stupidity.

Take giving, for example. When most people give, they first have to think about it, "This person is related to me—as a friend, relative, or neighbor—so I will help him out by giving him something." You first figure it all out and decide to give only to the people who are closest to you, and you pay no regard to those with whom you are unfamiliar. This is called "taking care of one's relatives first, without having concern for any others; paying attention to those who are close and ignoring those who are distant."

In other words, you make distinctions. You are attached to appearances, and so your regard is not pure. But Guanyin Bodhisattva does not make distinctions between himself and others. He does not distinguish between relatives and those who are not related to him, or between those who are close and those who are distant. He simply gives.

There are three kinds of giving: the giving of wealth, the giving of Dharma, and the giving of fearlessness.

Of wealth, there are two kinds: inner wealth and outer wealth. It would probably be difficult for most people to figure out what is meant by "inner wealth," but most people would be able to figure out what is meant by "outer wealth." "Inner wealth" refers to things inside your body, and outer wealth refers to things outside your body.

The giving of outer wealth refers to the giving up of one's country, city, wife, or children. "This whole town belongs to me—I own it all—but I will give it away." In some cases, one is able to give away all one’s property and assets, or even one’s own wife and children. That is really putting everything down. That is true giving.

The giving of inner wealth means to give up one's body, nature, mind, and life to save living beings who are in need. The body refers to the entire physical body—head, eyes, brain, marrow, and so forth.

When Venerable Shariputra was trying to practice the Bodhisattva Path, someone came along and said that he really needed an eye to cure his ill mother. Shariputra then gouged out one of his eyes and gave it to that person. Who would have guessed that the person would say it was the wrong eye and then throw it on the ground? At that point, Shariputra retreated from the Bodhisattva Path—"It is too hard; I cannot do it." And so Shariputra was only able to relinquish half of his inner wealth; he could not quite part with the other half.

In general, the giving of inner wealth means giving up one's internal treasures—one's own wisdom and energy.

The giving of Dharma means to speak Dharma in order to teach and transform living beings. Of the three kinds of giving, this is the greatest. And so it is said,

Of all the kinds of giving, the greatest is the giving of Dharma.

Now, the Buddhist Lecture Hall here is not large, that is true; but then the power of the Dharma is not small, either. On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, we have three different lectures speaking the Dharma. There probably isn’t any other Buddhist organization in America as busy as the Buddhist Lecture Hall, where people forget their very lives for the sake of the Dharma. During the day everyone has to work. Even I get involved in whatever work there is to be done, working to the point that my bones ache. But in the evening, no matter who is lecturing, you should all come and listen. First of all, this is supporting the Way-place. If a lot of people come to the lecture, then the atmosphere is good. So if you want to support the Buddhist Lecture Hall, you do not need to make a big donation; just come to the lectures! There are those who propagate the teachings by giving lectures on the Buddhadharma, those who do publicity for the lectures, and those who support the lectures and the Way-place. By supporting the Way-place and causing it to flourish, you are also supporting Buddhism and the Triple Jewel. This is everyone’s responsibility.

Up to now, most Westerners have had a pretty childish understanding of the Buddhadharma. They do not really understand it at all. For example, there are those in America who call themselves Elders, Dharma Masters, and priests. But if you ask them what Buddhism is all about, they do not know. You have studied the Shurangama Sutra for three months, and you understand quite a bit of Buddhism now. As to the giving of Dharma, you should take whatever Buddhadharma you understand and spread it among all people, to the point that you would not even mind going without food and sleep in order to speak Dharma. It was that way for me in the past. If someone wanted to study the Dharma, I would explain it to them even if that meant missing my lunch and sleep, until I could help them achieve a thorough understanding. I hope that all of you will be my transformation bodies and spread the Buddhadharma in this way—practice the giving of Dharma. There is much more value in spreading Dharma than in contributing any amount of money. So you should vigorously apply yourselves in studying the Dharma.

Now there are several of you who want to leave the home-life. This is very rare. You could say that we have begun something brand new in America—because for people to want to leave home to become Bhikshus and Bhikshunis is very unusual. We must establish a foundation, and each one of us should personally take responsibility for the future of Buddhism in the West. Don't just hang back and say, "Well, it has nothing to do with me. Buddhism is not my business, it is someone else's."

As far as I am concerned, as long as I have a single breath left, spreading the Buddhadharma is my personal responsibility. And if someone else wants to take responsibility for it, too—how wonderful! Do not shirk your responsibility; stand on your own, and take the task of propagating the Buddhadharma as your own. That is the first criterion for the process of giving Dharma.

The giving of fearlessness is the last one of the three kinds of giving. For instance, Guanyin Bodhisattva saves living beings from the seven difficulties, dispels the three poisons, and responds to the two kinds of seeking. That is an example of the giving of fearlessness. When people are in a terrifying situation and their very lives are at stake, if you appear in a fearless body to rescue them, then you are practicing the giving of fearlessness.

What does appearing in a fearless body mean? Well, suppose someone gets caught in a fire and is about to be burned to death; he has lost his sense of direction and cannot find his way out. And at that time, without any regard for your own physical well-being, you rush right into the blaze and pull him out. That is an extremely difficult thing to be able to do. That is an example of renouncing your own life in order to save the life of another, and that is an example of the giving of fearlessness.

Or perhaps someone falls into the sea and is just about to drown, and when you see this happening you are able to make a split-second decision without any regard for your own physical safety, and immediately jump into the sea in order to save that person’s life—that is also the giving of fearlessness. And you can extend this attitude to where you might find yourself in the midst of fighting armies and someone gets wounded in the front line—perhaps by gunfire, or by being hit by a shell—and he has right at the battlefront with his life hanging in the balance; if you can, with total disregard your own safety, without even thinking about whether or not you will live through it, go into the most dangerous spot imaginable in order to save that person’s life, that is also called the giving of fearlessness.

Or perhaps someone is persecuted by the government or is involved in some other kind of difficulty or circumstances where he is just about to be killed. If you can use any number of good and clever expedient means in order to save that person without any regard for the dangers involved, that is called “the practice of giving fearlessness.” In general, this means that whenever a person finds himself in a dangerous situation and you use courage, compassion, and heroic vigor to go in absolutely unafraid in order to save him, that is the giving of fearlessness.

You can also practice the giving of fearlessness in an indirect way, like Bodhisattva Guardian of the Earth. This Bodhisattva knew that people in a certain place needed a bridge in order to get across a river. If they tried to cross the river without a bridge, their lives would be in danger, and it would be a frightening experience for them. Since this happened in ancient times, he had to use primitive techniques. For instance, he could build a pontoon bridge of logs floating on the river with flat boards on top of them, so that people could cross the river without incurring any danger upon themselves. Of course, if there was a flood, their lives would still be endangered. However, they no longer suffered the fear of crossing that river.

When the Venerable Elder Master Hsu Yun came down from Jiuhua Mountain, remembering that there was a bridge at a particular spot on the river, he went to that place to cross the river. But the river was swollen, and the bridge had been destroyed by a flood. Since the bridge was no longer there, he accidentally fell into the river. He floated in the river for a day and a night—bobbing up and down for a total of twenty-four hours. Eventually, an old fisherman caught him in his net. Thinking that he had caught a giant fish, the old man started to pull the fish out. But on closer examination, he discovered that his "fish" was, in fact, a person wearing a monk’s robes!

Nearby there was a little temple, and so the fisherman went to alert the left-home people there. The monks recognized the Venerable Master immediately. They then set about applying artificial respiration and bringing him back to consciousness. At that point the Master truly gained a "second life."

Having escaped death after nearly drowning in the river, the Venerable Master proceeded to Gaomin Monastery. He went there to participate in a Chan session, but he was still very ill and weak from his recent ordeal. However, he did not breathe a single word about his mishap, and so nobody knew.

The Abbot then asked him to represent him as the head of the session; but the Master Hsu Yun, knowing himself that he was too sick, refused. Now, refusing to an appointment by the Abbot was considered a breach of monastic discipline. And for this, the Master was beaten with an incense board. Still, he never said a word.

The Venerable Master was the foremost monk, the loftiest good and wise advisor in all of China, but he underwent tremendous suffering at Gaomin Monastery, where everyone looked down on him. "He is just a burden to us," they said, "totally useless."

Now, back to the Bodhisattva Guardian of the Earth. He fixed the roads and bridges. When Elder Master Hsu Yun went to Yunnan, he met a monk who spent all his time fixing the roads, and this monk did not speak. That, indeed, was a transformation body of Guardian of the Earth Bodhisattva. This Bodhisattva spent all of his time guarding the earth. If there were rocks or rubble on the roads, he would remove them to one side so that people would not step on them and hurt their feet. He kept the roads in good repair. Who paid him for all his hard labor? Nobody. Now, wasn't he stupid? Wasn't he just working in vain? Well, his working in vain enabled him to become the Bodhisattva Guardian of the Earth. He cultivated to the point that he was irreversible in position, irreversible in thought, and irreversible in practice. He obtained these three kinds of irreversibility—the state of non-retreat.

If we were to discuss the giving of fearlessness we could go on and on, because the topic is very vast. In general, any time another person is afraid, you should practice this kind of giving.

Suppose a person has not eaten in a few days and is on the brink of starving to death, so that he feels he may have to steal, even though he knows that is against the law. And then, when this person is really down and out, you see him. You see that he is sallow and so think that he can hardly walk and you ask him, “What is wrong with you, are you sick?” And the person answers, “I have not eaten for days.” And you say, “Well, why don’t you come home with me and have a meal?”

Do not be like the people of Tianjin who ask you if you have eaten [a common way of greeting someone in China] and when you say you have not, they say, “Well, (let’s) go home and eat.” It is not clear whether they are asking you to go to their home or to your own home. So, even if you were positively starving, you would not dare assume that they were inviting you to their home, so you say, “Okay, I will go to my own home and eat.”

If you provide food to the starving, clothing to those who are cold, and shelter for those who are homeless, then you are practicing the giving of fearlessness. On the other hand, people should not rely on others to provide for them day after day. There is a saying,

You can give a person a meal,
But you can't feed him forever.

Every able-bodied person should work to support himself. You should not think, "When it is time for lunch, I will just go find someone who cultivates the Bodhisattva path and ask him to practice giving." If you are really going through hard times and have nothing to eat, then it is okay. But you should not make it a regular practice. As long as you have the strength, you should stand on your own two feet and make a contribution to the world. Do not just live off the world's resources. Helping the world means benefiting others, not hoping that others will benefit you. Be self-reliant; do not depend on other people.

Contemplator with Vast, Great Wisdom. Guanyin Bodhisattva uses the regard of great wisdom to cross over all living beings. Compassionate Contemplator, Kind Contemplator. The Bodhisattva also has universal compassionate regard for all living beings. The contemplation of compassion pulls living beings out of suffering; the contemplation of kindness gives living beings joy. This kind of joy is not temporary happiness, but an everlasting bliss that transcends the mundane. The Bodhisattva gives Dharma to living beings causing them to gain the true understanding of the Buddhadharma and thereby not do any more upside-down things. That is called the giving of happiness.

What is meant by upside-down things? Let me tell you truly and honestly—even though there are those who would not believe me. One such thing is getting drunk. People who are drunk think they have turned into gods. They stagger around bumping into things left and right and think it is great. It gets to the point that they are totally oblivious and cannot tell which direction is which. Wouldn’t you say that is upside-down? Under the influence of intoxicants, even a perfectly intelligent person can commit murder, arson, and all sorts of crimes.

When I was at the bus stop this morning, a drunkard came up to me and asked for money. When I smelled the reek of alcohol on his breath, I started walking away, but he followed me, determined to get some money. What for? To buy more alcohol. I guess he had not had enough yet. Isn’t that upside-down?

This reminds me of another incident that also happened at a bus stop. That time, a total stranger walked up to me and without saying a word, knelt down and kowtowed to me. Then he got up and walked off. Now, he was not bowing to me because he wanted money. I do not know why he did it. He did not know me, and I did not know him, yet among all those people he came and bowed to me. Who knows if he was a ghost or a spirit? It is really strange. He did not look drunk to me, so he must have been inspired somehow. Mostly it is ghosts and spirits who bow to me when they see me. But this person bowed to me very respectfully, and when he got up he kept his head lowered and did not dare look straight at my face. Perhaps there was a ghost on him who recognized me.

If drinking alcohol is upside-down, what about smoking? Smoking is even more so. Why? Your insides are clean to begin with. “Dharma Master, you are wrong. My insides are full of excrement and urine.” True, but that kind of uncleanliness is okay. If you smoke, you put smoke and tar in your body, and that is really unclean.

Have you seen the black stuff that coats the inside of a used pipe? When you inhale the smoke, your lungs get coated with that stuff too. You do not realize it because you cannot see it, but your lungs get coated with every puff you take, just like a mirror getting covered with layer upon layer of dust. Basically your insides are clean, but you want to cover them with filth. Isn’t that upside-down?

When people smoke opium, they feel so energetic and strong that they think they can ascend to the heavens right then and there. But after a while, they feel extremely uncomfortable all over, to the point that they want to crawl into the hells because they think the hells must be better than what they are going through. Wouldn’t you say that is upside-down?

There are many other upside-down things that people do. I hope people who smoke will quit smoking soon, and those who drink will quickly give up alcohol. Lazy people should learn to be a little more vigorous. Vigorous people, however, should not learn to be lazy. They should do more wholesome and virtuous deeds.

If you never do wholesome deeds, you would not accrue any virtue. Where does virtue come from? From good deeds. If you do as many good deeds as you can, you will naturally accumulate virtue and get rid of laziness. If you do not do good deeds, but you spend hard-earned money to go see plays or buy frivolous things, then that is called being upside-down.

If you spend your money on useful things, then you are not being upside-down. Wasting money on useless things is upside-down. So upside-downness takes many forms. Guanshiyin Bodhisattva points out your upside-down conduct and tells you not to be upside-down, causing you to obtain genuine and everlasting happiness. That is “kindness.” “Compassion” pulls living beings out of suffering. The Bodhisattva eradicates not only your present suffering, but your suffering in life after life throughout limitless eons. But you must have faith. If you have faith, Guanyin Bodhisattva will regard you with kindness and compassion. If you do not have faith, the Bodhisattva’s kindness and compassion cannot melt your cold stance. What is your cold stance? Just your lack of faith. If you have faith, you will unite with the kind regard and compassionate regard of Guanyin Bodhisattva. And when that happens, you can leave suffering and attain happiness.

What is real suffering? Affliction is. If you do not have any affliction, that is happiness. The reason you do not feel happy is because you have affliction. So Guanyin Bodhisattva can pull you out of your affliction and help you attain genuine happiness.

May we constantly behold you with reverence! You will continually gaze up at Guanyin Bodhisattva with respect. You wish to always look upon that virtuous and kind countenance. The more you look, the happier you become. For instance, bowing the Great Compassion Repentance is a ceremony to show your respect to Guanyin Bodhisattva.

It is said that Americans do not like to bow. They say, "Well, I believe in my own Buddha." Well, if you truly believed in your own Buddha, then there would not be any you—there would not be any "your own." It is just because you have not found your own Buddha that you cannot recognize an external Buddha when you see one. If you really believed in your own Buddha, it would not keep you from bowing.

Bowing—that is, kowtowing, a full bow to the floor—represents the most respectful of gestures. In Buddhism, this is a kind of formal courtesy. If you cannot even perform this kind of courtesy, how can you call yourself someone who believes in the Buddha?

There is a certain doctor who commanded respect from many people; but he himself told everyone not to bow to the Buddha. When others bowed to the Buddha, he would stand there like a wooden stick. That was because he had not really broken through the mark of his ego.

People refuse to bow to the Buddha because of arrogance. "Me? Why should I bow to the Buddha?" If you are self-satisfied and proud to the point that you cannot even bow, then how in the world do you expect to be able to study Buddhism?

Sutra:

Undefiled pure light,
The sun of wisdom that breaks through the darkness
Is able to quell calamities of wind and fire
As it shines on all worlds.

Commentary:

These four lines of text are ineffably wonderful. They can cure eye sicknesses. If you have problems with your eyes and you constantly recite this four-line verse, your eye disease will be cured. However, although your eye disease may be cured, you still have to go ahead and bring forth wisdom in order to be totally cured. If you do not have wisdom, then even though you may temporarily get better, your illness could crop up again in the future.

In general, if you truly believe in the power of the Sutra text, then Guanyin Bodhisattva's awesome spiritual strength will aid you and bring about an efficacious effect. But if you do not believe, nothing special will happen. There would not be any effect. That is why it is said,

The Buddhadharma is like a great sea,
But only through faith can you enter.

The verse says, Undefiled pure light. Defilement refers to dust, dirt, and unclean things. Being without any defilement means that you do not have any random thinking. For every random thought that you strike up, you add another layer of dust upon your original pure nature. The more polluted thinking you have, the dustier it gets.

Therefore, you need to "understand the mind and see the nature." That is what people who investigate Chan aim to do. To "understand the mind" is to be "undefiled." To "see your nature" is to see the "pure light" mentioned here. Your original mind is your permanently-dwelling true mind, the Treasury of the Thus Come One. Understanding your mind and seeing your nature simply means understanding your inherent Treasury of the Thus Come One.

The sun of wisdom that breaks through the darkness. The wisdom-sun means that wisdom is like the sun. The kind of darkness referred to here is a lack of faith, a lack of wisdom, a lack of vows, and a lack of a resolve to truly practice.

Darkness also refers to not studying or upholding the precepts, not cultivating the power of samadhi, and not developing the power of wisdom. If you do not study precepts, samadhi, and wisdom, you are walking a dark path. If you do cultivate according to precepts, samadhi, and wisdom, then you are walking on a bright path.

We can also explain it in this way. Your desire to listen to the Buddhadharma is the light. But someone might think, "I have listened for so many days and it does not really have much meaning. The Dharma Master has been sitting up there on that platform talking and talking about the same old thing. I have heard it over and over. He says that people should get rid of greed, hatred, and stupidity and should cultivate precepts, samadhi, and wisdom. I am tired of listening." Some of you feel tired of listening? That is darkness.

However, there are those of you who do not grow weary of listening. The more you hear, the more you want to listen, even to the point that you just listen to the sound of the Dharma Master's voice and the subtle and incredible doctrines of the Sutra. And when you finish listening, it is as if the Dharma Master were still speaking in your ear." From morning till night, I can hear the voice of the Dharma Master beside my ear speaking Dharma to me." That is the light.

Right now, I suddenly remembered something that happened to me in Hong Kong. A certain laywoman came to see me, and after she saw me, what do you think happened? In everything she did, whether it was walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, she always saw me. What do you suppose she thought? She thought, "Oh, that Dharma Master is a demon! Otherwise, why would I see him all the time?" Here she was, able to hear a Dharma Master speaking Dharma at all times, and she thought he was a demon. I suppose that if she saw a demon, she would have thought it was a Buddha. So, she started slandering me and even wanted to strike me. Within a month, she contracted cancer and died. Basically, I wanted to save her, but she thought I was a demon. She refused my rescue. And that is the way people are; they think the true is false, and the false is true.

Guanyin Bodhisattva uses the Contemplation of True Emptiness to break through the delusion of views and thought.

The "delusion of views" is defined as "giving rise to greed when faced with a state." You get caught up with something that appears before you, and then give rise to greed and attachment.

The "delusion of thought" is defined as "giving rise to discrimination because one is confused about principle."

By means of the Contemplation of True Emptiness, Guanyin Bodhisattva breaks through the darkness of the delusion of views and thought. He brings forth the virtue of Prajna.

When Guanyin Bodhisattva cultivates the Contemplation of Purity, he breaks through the darkness of delusion like dust and sand, and is certified to the virtue of Liberation.

When Guanyin Bodhisattva cultivates the Contemplation of Wisdom, he breaks through the darkness of the delusion of ignorance, thus attaining the virtue of the Dharma-body.

When one is certified to the Secret Treasury of the Three Virtues, then Prajna, Liberation, and the Dharma-body will come about. One has to cultivate the Three Contemplations—the Contemplation of True Emptiness, the Contemplation of Purity, and the Contemplation of Wisdom—to be certified to the Three Virtues, and to cut off the delusion of views and thought, the delusion like dust and sand, and the delusion of ignorance. That was what is meant by "the sun of wisdom that breaks through all darkness." The wisdom here refers to these contemplations—the contemplations themselves are wisdom.

This wisdom sun is able to quell calamities of wind and fire. "Calamities" here refers to the three calamities of water, fire, and wind. Water floods the First Dhyana; fire burns through the Second Dhyana; wind destroys the Third Dhyana.

At the end of the kalpa [eon], the first of the three calamities appears. The heavens of the First Dhyana are flooded by water. One does not know where this water comes from—whether it comes from the stars, moon, heavenly rivers, or earth—but it rises up in massive waves, and not only does it drown humankind, it also drowns the gods of the First Dhyana Heavens.

Therefore, when the first calamity of water hits, almost everything is destroyed. Somehow a few people remain, and the population starts to multiply again. Eventually it gets overpopulated, people's offenses are redoubled, and things get very complicated.

Then the second calamity, that of fire, hits. This kalpic fire burns clear through the Second Dhyana Heavens. The gods in these heavens are burned by this fire. Why is it that fire can reach the Second Dhyana? It is because the gods in these heavens still have fire affliction, whereas the gods in the First Dhyana Heavens still have water affliction. The fire inside their intrinsic nature catches with the fire in the world, bringing about a huge conflagration. At that time seven suns appear in the sky. The mountains, rivers, and great earth all turn into burning coals, and people are charred to a crisp. Even the seas are all burned dry. The seas turn into dry land, and the land becomes high mountains. Then the high mountains become great seas. Many strange events occur between heaven and earth.

After the disaster of fire, a very long time passes, and those people who are left in the world propagate the species until once again the world becomes overpopulated. Then the third disaster, that of wind, hits. "Wind destroys the Third Dhyana." Not only does the wind rip through people's houses and buildings, but the mountains, rivers, and earth are all ripped to bits. In fact, the wind reaches up to the gods in the Third Dhyana Heavens. Even the gods cannot avoid this disaster. So there is a verse that goes:

In the Six Desire Heavens, there are the Five Signs of Decay;
The Third Dhyana has the disaster of wind.
Even if you cultivate clear to the Heaven of Neither Perception nor Non-perception,
It is not as good as going to the Western Land and coming back again.

Before I go on, I will explain what the five signs of decay are, because although some people have heard them, there are still others who have not. If you have heard them, it would not hurt to review them. If you have not, then listen closely.

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